The Twenties and Thirties
                               Home Page   Family History    Tall Family Start        20 June 2012

1.     Social Background
2.     Family Events
3.     Role, Harry and Edna in the Thirties

Social Background

Just one week, after the birth of the future Queen Elizabeth in 1926, a General Strike was called: 

"In support of the coal miners' rejection of pay cuts and longer working hours, every union stopped work on May 4. Trams, buses, gas, electricity, the underground--[subways], and other essential services halted, and a national state of emergency was declared.

But there was little violence, volunteers pitched in by the thousands, and a week later, the strike by four million workers was called off."

The description of the General Strike and the reasons for its short nature varies according to the political persuasion of the writer. It is, of interest, to note that the Chancellor of the Exchequer was Winston Churchill:

In 1936, 200 men marched 300 miles from Jarrow to Downing Street in an effort to alert the government to their employment situation.

The following description, written by Graham Citrine, reminds me of the society I lived in twenty years later. The description of playing in the streets and of swapping American comics rings true (Tarzan was much less ‘valuable’ than others, because it used serials rather than self contained stories.):  

"To live in the 1930’s, if one had work, was a good time to live. Prices were in general much lower than in 1914, while wages had certainly risen. ….. Cigarettes were 6d for ten, beer 4d a pint. Clothing was cheap - ‘Weaver to Wearer’ and the ‘50/- Tailor’ had shops in Grange Road supplying good cheap clothing to the people. For a ‘best’ suit, one went to Burton’s, where a tailor-made suit with two pairs of trousers and waistcoat might cost as much as £6/10/-). Ladies’ clothing was equally cheap - coats for winter at 39/11d, shoes 5/6d, silk stockings 1/6d (rather expensive and therefore a tragedy if they ‘laddered’ - for everyday wear, lisle stockings at 6d or 9d a pair were preferred). A week’s holiday in a boarding house in North Wales, full board for a family of four, was £4. Even the longest bus journey seldom cost more than 3d, and most people travelled by bus.….. In the whole country there were only about 2 million motor vehicles, and more than 80% of these were in the affluent South (£1 had buying power of £53.32 in 2001, 1/-=£2.67)

The …. streets were the children’s playground, and I am sure this will bring back fond memories. Games and pastimes seldom seen now filled playtime hours:- bowling a hoop through deserted side-streets, learning to roller skate in total safety, skipping (two mums would have a washing-line stretched across the street, they would turn the rope and six or more children would skip in it together - the skill, which I never achieved, was to run in as the rope was turning and get into the rhythm of skipping immediately), marbles (‘alleys’ in Birkenhead) played along the gutter; and playing two (or ever three) balls against the wall - chiefly for girls, who could master this skill much better than boys. With these were a whole series of rhymes and songs to be used whilst one was skipping or playing ball. I was tempted to include some here, but space does not allow it; but I do feel that these should be written down before they become forgotten - a series for a future magazine perhaps! Street cricket with its own very strict rules - one hand off the wall when catching was out; over a wall was ‘6 and out’ - the batsman having the task of retrieving the ball. Knocking and asking if one knew the householder, more daringly climbing the wall if one was unsure of reception; any unpleasant person would be punished by the ritual of ‘ringing the bell and running away’. A corner house was the traditional meeting place where games would be planned, sides picked (again, more rhymes for choosing who would be ‘it’). …

There was reading - the library was free - and there were the comics. For young children, ‘Tiger Tim’s Weekly’, Enid Blyton’s ‘Sunny Stories’, the famous 1d comics of the previous century - ‘Chips’, ‘Comic Cuts’, ‘Funny Wonder’, but now joined by the 2d comics ‘Film Fun’, ‘Radio Fun’, and a whole series of D.C. Thompson comics - ‘Hotspur’, ‘Rover’, ‘Skipper’, ‘Adventure’, ‘Wizard’. Looking again at my copies I marvel at the amount of reading matter - at least 26 pages of close print, three columns to the page, with the most wonderful stories - ‘Buffalo Bill’s Schooldays’, ‘The Traitor of the Team’, etc. For girls there was ‘Peg’s Paper’, ‘The Girl’s Crystal’, again 5 or 6 stories, very few pictures. In 1937 came ‘The Dandy’ and in 1938 ‘The Beano’ -both still in print, but not as they were. Each had at least six small-print stories, plus the cartoon characters who have entered our culture - ‘Keyhole Kate’, ‘Desperate Dan’, ‘Hungry Horace’, ‘Lord Snooty’. Nobody was rich enough to buy all these comics; instead, all of one’s gang bought one of them, read it, then began the system of ‘swaps’ - by the time all comics had been circulated the next editions were on the market. American comics could also be bought at the Birkenhead Market and I was fortunate in having an aunt in America who regularly sent me the garish comic books - ‘Batman’, ‘Superman’, ‘Captain Marvel’ - these gave me an awesome status in the swapping trade!" Abstracted from the web in 2002
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Family Events

Bert Tall married Elsie Lickerish in 1922 and bought no. 53 Stanley Rd., from his father. Bert and Elsie had four children Grace (1923), Dennis (1925), Eric (1927) and Gordon (1931) The fact that Percy worked for the railways explains why the family regularly spent their week’s holiday at the end of August/beginning of September at Yarmouth. To reduce costs they took their own allotment vegetables with them! Confirmatory entries in Doll’s diary :

Dad & Mother and the kids went Yarmouth on Aug. week and left Reg. & Violet on there own for a week & they never sent us a card 1926.

Mother, Dad. Edna and Harry went Yarmouth on Sep 10th 1927

Mother and Dad brought me a handbag back from Yarmouth on Sep 17 1927

Other entries in Doll’s diary state that :

For a working class woman her political views are surprising:

"Voting day Labour wins in Wellingboro’ worst luck on 29th Oct 1924"

Saturday three photographs to be framed on November 1st 1924. One of Gracie , one of group of 3 with Reg Edna and I and one with me with fur. We left work at ten o’clock while half past one and then had to work time out while quarter to six every night for a week. Doll’s diary.       The photo of Gracie has been lost, but these are the other two.

       Doll                          Edna                            Reg

              Doll in Fur Wrap

Dad got his wireless fitted up to lessen in on Oct 3rd 1925"

Societal differences and attitudes are evidenced. Courts acted quickly and punished severely:

"Norman Thorn found guilty of murdering his sweetheart Elsie Cameron on 16th March 1925 - found on Jan, but was killed on Dec. 5th or 6th. Norman Thorn was 24 and Elsie was 26....

Norman Thorn hung for murdering his sweetheart Elsie Cameron on April 22 1925."

Doll married Eddie Robinson in 1925. Their first child, William, died at birth

"I gave birth to a lovely son on January 13th 1926 at ten minutes passed nine at night (he) died on January 25th. buried on Jan. 18th 1926 his name was William Edwin he was a lovely baby."

The 1926 National strike only touched the family:

"I finished work this dinner time May 5th 1926 owing to the strike ….Dad on short time since the strike and 3 day week. May 1st 1926. Eddie’s dad was out of work for 15 weeks owing to the miners and now he is out again owing to the foot & Mouth trouble with the cows on Oct 1926."

Doll and Eddie’s only other child, Jill, was born in 1937.

Having lost a brother at Passenchdaele in WWI, Doll’s views, as a married 28 year old, of the WWI Field Marshal Haig seem very surprising:

"Earl Haig died sudden on Jan 29th midnight 1928 aged 66 a strong good soldier and a lover of every soldier and sailor. B uried in Scotland his native place on Tuesday Feb 7th 1928."

The rest of Doll’s diary illustrates her support for the monarchy, which my father Harry also shared, and provides detailed records of births, marriages and deaths.

Reg married Violet on March 2nd 1929. "He never told us so we never got them a wedding present but all the same we wish them the best of luck (Doll’s diary).  Reg and Violet subsequently adopted a boy named Walter.

Sadly, in 1933, Bert’s eldest son Dennis drowned in the Ise brook. On April 20th the local newspaper included a report of the Coroner’s hearing:

"Kenneth Sturgess said he and Tall and their two younger brothers left home in the early afternoon to go and play.
The Coroner: Where did you go? – Down Nest fields.  Did you go over the railway bridge and down the slope by the side of the railway? – Yes.  And all four of you went down to the river? – Yes.
There was a tree partly fallen across the river, did you get on that? – I was just going to get on it and Dennis fell in.  Was he standing on the tree? – Yes.  Do you know how Dennis fell in?  Did you see him miss his footing, or did the tree break? – He slipped.
Did you see what happened to him? – Yes he floated a little way down the stream and then went under. What did you do? – I went and told some men.    ….
The Coroner asked the boy if he had been on the tree before and he admitted that both Tall and himself had walked along the trunk that afternoon previously.
The Coroner: Was there anything to hold on to? – No.  Could you get across to the other side? – No.  Did he call out when he fell in? – No.  Just simply disappeared? – Yes.  Had your father told you not to go near the river before this happened? – Yes.   And Dennis knew he ought not to have gone? – Yes.

…..the coroner recorded a verdict of accidental death by drowning.

In 1935 Bert and Elsie’s youngest child, Gordon, died of diphtheria. It is probably not surprising therefore that with the death of two children, their marriage ended in divorce. Both partners remarried - Bert marrying Mabel Bird, a woman with a young son and daughter, in 1938. The couple had two children a boy who survived for only a short time and Ann (1942).
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Role, Harry and Edna in the Thirties

Harry the youngest boy was, according to both his brother Role and sister Edna their mothers’ favourite son. One day, Role commented that, their mother failed to remove a caterpillar from Harry’s lettuce, after it had been eaten Role gleefully told him. Harry’s reaction must have been extreme, because decades later both described the same episode - Dad disgustedly added, that Role saw no harm in eating the maggots in blackberries! Edna joined the Girl Guides and all three were were active members of Wellingborough Cycling Club - the centre of social activity.

An invitation to a hundred miles race and a club card both retained by Role are shown below.

North Road Cycling Club





Saturday, 22nd September, 1928


The race will be run in accordance with Road

Racing Council recommendations.

Competitors must ride entirely alone. If two or more

Competitors get together they must neither pace

each other, nor ride alongside, nor take any

shelter from each other, but must each make his

own running entirely without. assistance.

Competitors must not ride with bare knees or legs but

must be completely clothed from the neck to the

ankles, and the costume must include a jacket

Punctual starts will be insisted upon.

The decision of the Committee shall be final so far as regards the right to an award

Name                   R S Tall


Number: 23 Starting Time 7-23 am


(formed 1926)


Season 1933


April 30

May 7

May 28

June 25

July 6

" 9

" 23

" 30

Aug. 20

Aug. 20

Sept. 3

Oct. 15

Nov. 6





Track Championships








Rough Riders

25 miles

25 miles

30 miles

100 miles

½ & 5 miles

12 hours

25 miles

25 "

50 "

10 "

25 "

1 "

Course selected

The 100 miles event is being run in conjunction

with the Highgate 100 and the 12 Hours with

that of Luton Wheelers. Forms for these

events, apply acting Secretary

North Road Cycling Club: The 100 mile race times in the preceding 3 years were: 5h 10m 22s, 4h 47m 55s, 5h 1m 10s. The first race was in 1886 (7h 3m 44s) the race was not held between 1915 & 1918. Of the 46 cyclists – Role was the only one from his club. The first cyclist set off at 7.1 am, the last at 7.46 am. The club name refers to the A1.

Role Tall married Nell in 1932 and the couple had a daughter, Rita, in 1935.

For most of the year anything up to 80 to 100 cyclists from Wellingborough Cycling Club (Percy Hulatt’s recollection; 40 according. to Edna's husband) would go racing or cycle touring on Sundays, see group photo above and the three photos below..   The men would set out in the morning and arrange to meet other members of the club at a pub for a meal.   They would carry their dinner and the pub meals would be booked in advance by the club secretary - a pot of tea would cost 6d (2.5p), and meals 1/3d or 1/6d (7-8.5 p). The group might cycle 100 miles; cycle to Matlock or go punting on the river at St.Neots.

In winter Harry and his friend, Percy Hulett, would walk for miles, go to dances. (Recollections of: Role Tall, Edna's husband and Percy Hulett).

Bernard, Bert’s stepson, recalled looking over the adjoining wall and seeing Harry cycle-training on ‘rollers’ in the back garden. A range of photographs and a few medals are retained by the family.

"My Brother Roll won two cups for racing in 1928, received the cups in Jan & Feb 1929."                (Doll’s Diary)

Harry was very proud to match his elder brother Role and win the Simpson Memorial Trophy in 1934. The cup was a series of races organised by Northampton cycling club. To win the cup one had to be overall best in two 25 mile, a 30 mile, 50 mile and a race known as the three‘8’s  (a race between Towcester,  Weedon  and Northampton taking about 1 hour). 

Mass starts for cycle races were not allowed, the races were time trials: The cyclists setting off at 1 minute intervals. On one such race to Peterborough Harry came first and his sister Edna, cycling on a tandem with her future husband,  was the first lady to finish. According to Role the races would start at 8 am and the racers would usually carry a spare tyre and inner tube on their backs, the wheels were ‘fixed’ (i.e. if pedals turned in reverse the wheel would do likewise.)

Racing:   Photos of Role, Harry and Edna, the latter two at the beginning of a race or timed trial.

Only the two cycling medals on the right were in Harry’s possession when he died. From the number of medals held by his friend Percy Hulatt, and Harrys wining of the Simpson cup he clearly won far more. Some of which he gave to his sister Edna. 

Note the hall marks on the medals

Medal on the left: Tandem race with Percy Hulatt of 30 miles on the 19th May 1936. Time 1 hour 15 minutes (24 mph) obtaining second place.
Medal on the right
: a 25 mile race on the 24th March 1935. Time 1 hr 14 minutes and 44 sed at 20 mph obtaining second place.

One year Harry, Role & his wife , Edna & her husband and a friend Sidney Spademan went on a cycling, tenting, summer holiday to Landudno North Wales. The two couples used tandems. They walked up Snowdon. The return journey of 177 miles was, according to Role, completed in a single day finishing at Role’s house.

In 1933 Percy was debilitated by a stroke.

His funeral and death five years later is reported in the local newspaper, listing family and wreath inscriptions and the fact that he was a member of the Wellingborough Working Men’s Club. To a dear husband and Father from your broken-hearted wife and son, Harry – Son: Bert, Mabel and Children; Dad: Reg, Violet and Walter; Role, Nell, Rita; Doll, Eddie and baby Lill (Jill!). Edna, Jack and Pat; Grandad: Arthur and Joan. Uncle: Doll, Charlie & Children; Fred, Flo and Gladys ; 14 Abbey Rd.; William, Polly, Mary (William Orme?) ;Mr & Mrs Mynard; Mr & Mrs Banyard, W.M.C. Wellingborough

Admin & Probate Index for wills: 1938:
Tall Percy
of 51 Stanley Rd., Wellingborough Northamptonshire died 31 March 1938. Probate London 25 April to Annie Tall widow. Effects £532.4s

Certified Copy of Entry of Death


Registration District Wellingborough


Year: 1938 Sub-district of: Wellingborough in County of: Northampton


When & where died

Name Surname



Rank or Profession

Cause of Death

Name & Address of informant



31st March 1938
51 Stanley Rd. Welling-borough

Percy Tall


66 Years

Railway Engine Driver

1 a. Cerebral Haemorrage
b. Arterio-Sclerosis 51 Stanley Rd. Wellingborough Certified by Imurray Strang M.B.

H.O.Tall Son present at death


(Grave: enter graveyard from Croyland Road, turn immediately right. Grave is on the right hand side, two graves beyond the cemetery office.)

Annie continued to live at 51 Stanley Rd.,until she died. It was only then that the remaining £300 of the mortgage was paid off. Annie’s will refers to payment of £300 mortgage by her daughter Doll & receipt to Mrs.D.M.Robinson for £3.5.6 from Parker & Son solicitors "in relation to your mortgage to the Wellingborough Co-op Society Ltd.". Doll lived at the house until her death.


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