Midnight train to Blackpool

The Follies at Cleveleys Arena in 1936
The Follies at Cleveleys Arena in 1936
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NOW nearing the age of 90 – in July – Derek Fenton has been sorting through the memorabilia collected at his home in West Acton, London.

And his thoughts, looking at this 1936 photograph of the Cleveleys Follies, have turned to enjoyable holidays with his younger brother, when they stayed with their maiden aunts Ethel and Millie Donaldson, who lived at 8 St Andrews Avenue – having arrived by midnight train, then tram.

Derek said: “We made many visits to Fleetwood and Blackpool. My wife and I well remember our honeymoon in 1943, when the war was at his height. I still have the invoice from the Fleetwood sea front hotel. “It was during this visit that we found advertised houses being built for sale in Southall, one of which we later purchased at the princely price of £1,250.

“I was born in Darlington, Durham, but my mother, Gladys Donaldson, was a Fleetwood girl.

“My father was born in Bury, where he was a reporter, like his father, on the Bury Times.

“Later he met my mother – how I do not know – and I believe he worked on the Fleetwood Chronicle.

“They were married in Fleetwood and later moved to Darlington, where he worked with the Northern Echo.”

Derek said: “For health reasons, he retired from there, and they and myself moved to Hammersmith and became shopkeepers. Then my brother Ronald was born. After various moves, we went to Ealing, in London.

“I was living in Ealing when I left school at 14 and the first time my brother and I went to Cleveleys was 1935.

My brother was 11 and we stayed with our aunts. We travelled by ourselves on the midnight train to Blackpool and then went by tram to Cleveleys – doubtful whether we would risk similar journey at that age today.

“I met my wife Iris at the Royal Naval Hospital in Gillingham, Kent, during the war, and married in the Hospital Church in 1943 and had our honeymoon in Fleetwood, to get away from air raids.

“When I left school I had my first office job at 17s 6d (77.5p) per week, progressed, with one change, and eventually became managing director of an international industrial rubber company,” said Derek.

He added: “At the same time I became a voluntary member of St John Ambulance Brigade as a junior cadet and, climbing each rung of the ladder, eventually became Commander of London District.

“How I was able to combine the two roles I cannot now imagine.”