Today, our guest is …

IAN MOYES. Educator, businessman, grandfather and champion for the visually challenged. Today Ian talks a little about his family heritage …


My family background is shrouded in mystery.
Long before I was a twinkle in anyone’s eye, a baby girl was born on the 21st March 1899 the first day of spring. She was given the name of Hilda Benton and was the youngest of eight children. Shortly after her birth one of her older brothers brought home a friend by the name of Hector Harding, who was given the opportunity to nurse Hilda who was then only a few days old.

Little did anyone know at that time that by 1928 Hilda and Hector would be living in Rye Hill, Newcastle upon Tyne and be known as James and Hilda Taylor – Hilda was 29 and James was 39. Hilda gave birth to a daughter, also called Hilda in December of that year, just a few months after their arrival in Newcastle. No-one knows for sure why or how they came to be in Newcastle or why they changed their names.

Over the next nine years Hilda gave birth to another four children, two girls and two boys, Dorothy was the second oldest, then James followed by Moyra and then Brian the youngest. The family moved from Rye Hill in 1932 to Matilda Street in Benwell Newcastle upon Tyne.

As 1939 grew ever closer and listening to the news on the radio, they knew that Hitler was building his Air Force (Luftwaffe), Army and Naval forces in readiness for his invasion of Europe. When the war was finally declared in September of 1939, James and Hilda had to take the difficult decision to send Hilda and Dorothy to Wallington Hall in rural Northumberland for their safety, as the area around the Hall was of little interest to the German Luftwaffe’s bombing campaign. The only area of any great importance was that of the Raf airbase at Acklington which was quite a few miles north of the Hall.

Hilda and Dorothy’s clothes were packed and off they went to Wallington Hall with other children from Newcastle in January of 1940. But this adventure was to be short-lived as they were sent home three months later for repeatedly fighting with the other children over several things. As a result, they had to spend the rest of the war at home.

Throughout the duration of the war, James continued to work as a Master Butcher during the day. The story goes that he was not called up because of his trade and as a result, he became a member of the Home Guard.

The family had to grow up quickly during the war – living conditions in Newcastle were not good and there was food rationing, curfews, the blackout and spending nights in bomb shelters during air raids -either at the end of the street like the Taylor family had to do or if you had a garden you built your own shelter.

By the end of the war, Hilda was rising 17, Dorothy 14, James 12, Moyra 10 and Brian was 8. Hilda had left school in 1942 at the age of 14. The school leaving age did not change to 15 until the Education Act of 1944.

When Hilda left school, she was expected and did help her mother run the house cooking, washing, ironing and general cleaning of the home until she married in 1957. Upon leaving school in 1946 Dorothy gained employment at a local store called Wolfs on Westgate Road in Newcastle city centre as a trainee cashier. Over the next three years, she became a qualified cashier and by the age of 18 Dorothy was going out with one of the trainee managers.

What happened next? Well, there are two conflicting stories which one is true I do not know, and I will leave it up to you to make up your mind.

Dorothy’s version of events was that two doors up Matilda street lived Fred and Jean Gapper who had a nephew called Arthur Robert Moyes who was age 20 and doing his National Service in the Army. Jean asked her if she would write to him while he was away in the army and Dorothy agreed and so they began writing to each other. When he came home on leave, they went out together and after Robert’s National Service ended, he returned to his job as a trainee fitter at CA Parsons in Heaton, Newcastle and lived with the Gappers. Robert and Dorothy married on the seventh of June 1952, sixteen days after her 21st birthday.
Robert’s version of events was that he was visiting his Aunt Jean’s when he was 19 and saw Dorothy (aged 16) and they started courting then. In the mean-time, Dorothy had finished with the trainee manager from Wolfs. Robert of course knew nothing about him, and vice versa.
When Robert was twenty, he knew that he would be called up for his National Service and asked Dorothy, who was 18 by this time to marry him, she agreed but her father would not give permission for them to marry, and stated she had to wait until she was twenty-one and then she could make her own mind up. Whichever version you believe, they were married on the seventh of June 1952.

By June 1952 James had left school in 1947 to be an apprentice baker, once he had served his time, and became a qualified baker, however, he had to take time out to do his National Service for two years and served most of it in Aden.

Moyra had left school in 1950 and taken a job in another store in Newcastle city centre but she moved from job to job before falling pregnant in late 1953.

In 1954 at just 18 years old Moyra was placed into a home for unmarried mothers located in the west end of Newcastle, not far from where the family lived in Matilda Street. Then, on the thirteenth of July 1954, I entered the world, and as they say, the rest is history. Or is it…….?

History indeed although I think it’s more likely just the beginning of another chapter.


Do you have a similar story from those challenging times of the 1950s? If so, I’d be very happy to hear from you. Ian Moyes.

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