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James Ackroyd My Story

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James Ackroyd 1950 -

My Life Story (So far - I hope to be around for a while yet!)

A brief bio.

It all started around the 14th of January 1950. Which is a coincidence as that was when I was born.

I was born at my paternal grandparents house in the village of Edlington, almost 5 miles from Doncaster, UK in what was then the West Riding of Yorkshire and is now South Yorkshire.

My earliest memory is being given a pencil with a tassel and a picture of the new queen, Queen Elizabeth the 2nd, on the day of her coronation. Another early memory is of seeing a piece of metal fall from the sky. I found out later that an aircraft had crashed about 300 yards away and the piece of metal had come from the propeller! I'm pleased that it didn't actually hit me or I would have had some headache! Another early memory is of climbing a large tree at the age of 3 and screaming for help because there was a snake at the bottom of the tree. I found out many years later that the tree was in fact a dead stump about 3 feet high - and the snake was a large worm!

Another vivid memory was of my 'Big Granddad' (Ackroyd) taking me to town on the bus I was about 5 years old. This was probably the first time I had been into Doncaster. We walked around town, me holding his hand and I remember being amazed at seeing all the big shops and the trolley buses (locally known as trackless, as they had replaced the trams). As we approached the market place my granddad suddenly picked me up, then I saw two cows charging around causing a lot of panic with people running to get out of the way. (I found out later that the cattle had escaped from the cattle market, which at that time was right next to the 'covered in' market known as 'The Wool Market' This indoor market is still in operation and is at last being given a face lift.)

By this time we had moved to my maternal grandfathers house, just a few streets away. I was 5 years old when my parents James William and Lucy (Maloney) managed to get a home of their own.

I had started school at the age of 3 at Victoria Road Infants School but on moving into our new home I had to change schools and was transferred to the Hill Top Infants School. I remember it being a bit of a weepy experience as I'd left all my friends behind. However, Mrs Bell my teacher, held my hand for a few weeks until I'd got used to the change.

In the summer of the year I turned 7 I had to go back to Victoria Road, this time to the Junior School. Then 4 years later It was back to the Hill Top Senior School! I should have gone to Maltby Grammar School - That year the powers that be decided that instead of having the 11+ exam (which I would have passed with flying colours!) they would select the ten pupils (Maltby would only allow 10 per year) by teachers assessment. The 10 they selected had started junior school in year 2 (The reason for this was overcrowding due to many military servicemen returning to civilian life in the early 1950s) and therefore had 2 years in year 4. I felt at the time this wasn't fair and I still feel cheated even now I'm 57! I had to leave school at the age of 15 because the Comprehensive school system was not ready by then.

For the most part I enjoyed my school days and most of the time had a happy childhood. We lived just a few yards from Edlington Wood where, with my friends, we would spend many happy hours climbing trees and making rope swings. In spring time we would pick bluebells for our mothers and during Autumn (Fall) we would gather chestnuts and wholenuts. We also got up to mischief occasionally but don't tell my mum!

Sometimes we would take the dog for a walk up to Old Edlington and read the gravestones in St Peters Churchyard, many bearing the Ackroyd name (unfortunately some of them have now gone due to a road widening scheme some years back)

By the time I was 6 years old I had three brothers: Keith - 1951; Desmond - 1953 and Ian - 1956. I don't know where they came from because we didn't even have a cabbage patch! But we got on great with each other (most of the time) and still do thankfully.

Prior to leaving school at the age of 15, I had a Saturday job at a local supermarket, in the butchers department. I got to ride around the village on a bike delivering customers orders and helping out in the shop. After leaving school I decided to become a butcher and continued to work in the same shop (A branch of the Doncaster Co-operative Society). I enjoyed the job and progressed to 'Relief Manager' by the age of 18. This entailed working in many branches, running the shops whilst the regular manager was on holiday (vacation). I also relieved the mobile shops, which was great because I got to see places I'd never even heard of at the time.

Unfortunately, the Doncaster Co-operative Society was taken over by the national Co-op' the CWS and they decided to streamline the operation and around 12 relief managers, me included, were made redundant. I was none too happy as I was only 19 by now.

My dad, James William Ackroyd 1925 - 1996, helped me to get a job with Liverpool Victoria Friendly Society, collecting life insurance premiums but I only stuck it for around 6 months. It just wasn't me!

After that I got a job in a bakery in Doncaster, working long hours - 12 hour shifts, 6 days a week! I needed the money as I was getting married in the August of 1970. I'd been courting for over 4 years. Marian Johnson and I were married on August 8th 1970.

I remember setting of for our honeymoon in my Reliant Robin (Just like Del Boy's from the TV series 'Only Fools and Horses') with tin cans and old boots etc dragging behind (Someone had been busy while my back was turned). We hadn't booked anywhere intending to find rooms as we travelled. Our first stop was the 'Grand Hotel' in Leicester but it was full as there was an international cycling event being held in Leicester that weekend. However the hotel manager found us a room in another hotel and even supplied us with a limo' to take us there, so we could leave our car in their garage.

We continued our journey the following day stopping in Stratford Upon Avon for lunch before driving down to Devon. We stayed in Looe, Devon for a few days and the owner of the hotel took us to see the stock car racing and then bought us and the other hotel guests a fish and chip supper!

After Devon it was onward to Cornwall to stay with Aunt Hilda and Uncle Norman where we had a lovely time for the next week. Aunt Hilda, Uncle Norman my cousin Valerie and her husband Keith made us very welcome and gave us a grand tour of Cornwall...away from the usual tourist centres...it was fantastic.

After that it was back to reality and the 12 hour shifts! We stayed with Marians mum for a few weeks before we managed to get our own home in Edlington.

Our first son, Darren James, was born 16th May 1971 and Paul Robert Brendan, arrived on the 29th July 1972. Our third son would be born 12.000 miles away...

New Zealand 1973 - 1979

Whilst I enjoyed working at the bakery I didn't much like the 12 hour shifts! I used to dream about stacking bread (18 loaves to a tray - 18 trays to a rack - 324 loaves per rack).

I thought there must be a better life than this.

There was! And we found it in New Zealand in 1973. we'd been thinking of emigrating for some time....Marian's brother lived in New Zealand and I had an aunt (Aunty Ada, my mums sister) in Canada. Which would we choose? We did a bit of research and decided on New Zealand.

After a 5 week voyage which was fantastic for someone who had never been further than Cornwall, we arrived in Auckland, New Zealand.

On the way we visited Las Palmas; Cape Town; Perth (Fremantle) Australia; Adelaide;  Melbourne and Sydney. Then we floated into Auckland harbour - What an amazing experience.

Auckland was another world after Yorkshire! Marians brother Peter met us as we docked and as it was to be several hours before the hold was unloaded, he drove us to his home in Manurewa for a meal, which his wife Maureen had prepared. Pete and I then hired a van and went back to the harbour to collect all our worldly belongings!

Back at Manurewa, after a quick cup of tea, Pete took me around looking for a job....he obviously didn't want us free-loading. he he. I couldn't believe how much work there was available after the unemployment situation back home. After a couple of hours I'd got about 9 jobs lined up to start on the following Monday morning! (it was Friday afternoon). On the Saturday we went off again and found another 6 jobs plus one that phoned back (after saying I needed a heavy goods licence and therefore couldn't employ me) and told me they were willing to put me through a crash course to get the licence!

I decided to take a job in a supermarket's butchery department and it went well until a fortnight later when I was called into the managers office to be told that they couldn't accept my qualifications. I was told that other employees had complained that I hadn't served a comparable apprenticeship, so they had to let me go. Jealousy I suppose. I was feeling a bit low at this point but they gave me a months wage for the 2 weeks I'd worked there. So it softened the blow a little and I knew there was still plenty of work to be had.

I soon got another job and we settled in to New Zealand life easily. We stayed with Peter and Maureen for several weeks until we found a flat of our own in Onehunga, (Near to where the Mount Smart Stadium was built for the Commonwealth Games.) We had the flat for around 3 years. By this time we'd had an addition to the family - Gerald Anthony was born on the 5th of March 1975 - and we moved in to a 3 bed roomed house in Mangere. about 2 miles from Auckland International Airport.

We had a great time in New Zealand for most of the time we were there. We toured the length and breadth of the country and Marian's mum came to stay with us for 6 months after she retired. We enjoyed showing her around New Zealand. But all good things come to an end and we decided to return to the UK in 1979. I think Marian was home sick and certainly missed her mum and dad. And to be honest I think being at home for long periods with a young family didn't help. Also for quite a while I was hardly at home as I had 2 full time jobs for a few years! (I now refuse to work overtime as family is more important than money!)

We flew back from New Zealand (my first time flying!) everyone that came to see us off at the airport thought I was tearful because I was leaving - Don't tell anyone but I was terrified of getting on the plane! However it was a truly amazing experience. We travelled on an Air New Zealand DC10 to Los Angeles, calling at Honolulu Airport to refuel and go through customs. We had a 2 night stop-over in Anaheim, near Los Angeles where we took the boys to the original Disneyland and Knott's Berry Farm which is a themed park to rival Disneyland.

We arrived at Los Angeles Airport after our stay, and had some US money to get rid of, so we had a look around the airport shops. I bought a newspaper and on the front page was a story about an Air New Zealand DC10 crashing in Antarctica! - They only had around 4 of these aircraft at the time - was it one we'd flown on just a few days earlier. I was even more terrified of the next stage of our journey!

The second leg of our home-bound journey proved to be very enjoyable. We were travelling on a British Airways Boeing 747 and there was plenty of leg-room. After leaving LA we flew over Las Vegas and could see the lights of the casinos, then heading north we were over the Rockies for some time. We could see the lights of several towns in the mountains. Nothing much to see over Canada and the Great Lakes but the pilot called over the intercom for us to look out the window to see the lights of Reykjavik - Iceland. It wasn't long before we were flying over Scotland - just as the sun was coming up. I have to say that the sight of Britain from the air was fantastic, especially after being away for over six years. From up there it certainly is a green and pleasant land.

The flight from Scotland, down the centre of England seemed to be in slow motion - everyone was looking out of the windows - then we seemed to float down, just like a feather, we were back on English soil!

Note: It's some time now since I updated this story of my life and for several months now I've been begged, bullied and finally cajoled into adding another chapter of my life! So here goes:

(Although it was nice to be back in the UK and to be able to visit friends and relatives, I missed New Zealand so much.)

Arriving at Heathrow after a long flight, we managed to get through customs within seconds as the officers were all busy checking the luggage of Ian Drury and the Blockheads and their entourage!, who had been sitting near us on the plane. We were met by Marians brother Christopher Gerard (Sorry Chris, couldn't resist!) who somehow managed to get five of us plus himself and ten massive suitcases in his car! Wish I'd taken photo's now.

Correction! (The old grey matter's not what it used to be:-)


Great so far ! Just a slight correction needed here though. It wasn't  6 being squashed into the car on your arrival back in the UK - it was 7 !!!!  It was into our red Vauxhall, and I made number 7. It was a squash as we also had Gerald's giant Tigger ( which he kindly gave to David when he got here - and I still have it to this day!)  I remember you finished off the bottle of Brandy the night of your return - it was the bottle you started the night before you left UK shores for NZ. - I saved it for you. Hey! No mention yet of Trigger (our dog) whom you left behind and who was still around on your return. - also he's the g-g-grandad of all those rough looking black dogs you see these days in Edlington!!

catch you later


We travelled back to Doncaster to our new home which was a small two up and two down terraced house in Balby, just outside Doncaster, courtesy of Marians cousin Paul. We later bought a house on the other side of the road. This house was a little bigger, it had two loos! although one was in the back yard. It was the only loo in the street with central heating! I plumbed the outlet pipe from the tumble drier into the outside loo! Nice and warm when drying the washing .....(but it made the paper quite soggy:-)

I'll take another break here. The next segment has a sad ending which many of you will know about. Watch out for 1979 - 1984!  To be continued

It's now January 2009, almost two years since I started writing this story. I took the page offline because I didn't want to have to think about the 'turbulent' period in my life. It's not easy:-(

Marian and I were drifting apart. I think it started before we left New Zealand. At the time there was no one else involved. We simply didn't share the same interests (any more). I think religion played a small part in our break-up, Marian is RC and I am C of E.

Any way here we were back in old Blighty, we got the boys settled into new schools and life was getting back to normal.

I got myself a job managing a butchers shop with the Co-op. I didn't stick at it too long as I couldn't get on with the area manager and his methods.

I found a job managing a butchers stall in Doncaster market which I enjoyed very much and got on well with the other stallholders.

Unfortunately the butchery trade was suffering from the same fate as the 'Corner shops' and were being pushed out by the supermarkets. So in 1982 I decided to go back on the buses.

I'm still there, not exactly enjoying it but it's a job with a regular wage! (I retired at age 65 in January 2015)

1985 and Marian and I divorced! Sad, but probably the best for both of us. We both re-married within a year or so and have been much happier since. (Even though I said at the time of the divorce "Never again!")

I moved out in 1984 and got myself a flat in Edlington (back to my roots!). It was around the time of the miners strike (84 - 85) The flat overlooked the 'Coal Wharf' and I used to see young men trying to find spilled coal to heat their homes. It was not only a sad time for me! it must have been terrible for the miners.

It wasn't long before Marian allowed the boys to visit at the flat so I could keep in touch with my sons.

Working on the buses I had lots of friends and colleagues and I was a member of the pool team at work.

A few months after Marian and I parted, there was a national 'PSV' pool tournament. These games were always popular and apart from the team we always managed to fill the coach. The tournament was held at Coventry and in between games I chatted with friends. I notice a couple of followers sat chatting, Carol and Mandy who were clippies (conductresses). I sat with them for a while and Carol and I seemed to 'hit it off' - So much so that we were married the following year! At the time of writing we have been married for twenty three and a half years. (Just celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary October 2015) Some pool match eh?

In August 1987 Carol and I became the proud parents of our daughter. Until now we had both had only sons. Carol had two boys and I had three. Carol Ann, named after her mother because I was so proud of her, was a very beautiful baby. She quite obviously had plenty of my genes!!

Carol Ann or Caz as she is now known to her brothers and friends was the most pleasant girl you could wish to meet. Always helpful and caring and a credit to Carol and myself. UNTIL SHE TURNED INTO A MONSTER! sorry - teenager!

Thankfully the metamorphosis was complete before she reached twenty! And she is a mother herself with two (now 4 2015) beautiful children! (Two more grandchildren!!) (Edit: FOUR children now) She has a wonderful partner and he can cook! (Edit...HAD He's flown the coop!) And what a cook. We recently went for a meal to celebrate 'Mothers Day' and it was like entering heaven. I can't wait until Fathers Day:-)

A couple of years after we married, Carol and I became interested in family history. Discussing this with family members my brother Ian told us of a letter he had received from someone called Kent Ackroyd in Canada. Kent had sent this letter to lots of Ackroyds in the hope of trying to find out more of his family history.

Well Ian had kept this letter and forwarded it to us via email. We tried to contact Kent but his telephone code had changed since Ian received the letter. Eventually Carol managed to track him down by letter and found that Kent was in fact a distant relative of mine and so started the great family history story that has kept us busy to this day.

It's a fantastic hobby and we would recommend it to anyone. Meeting long lost relatives and finding distant cousins you have never heard of is absolutely unbelievable!


You'll notice from a couple of edits I have now fast forwarded to 2015. I officially retired in January 2015 but actually finished work on November 2014 due to accrued holidays. Carol and I are still together after over 30 years and happier than ever.

Whilst I tend to work on my websites, Carol, who retired several years before me still enjoys her family history. So much so that she is now on the committee of the Doncaster Family History Society. When ever we travel around the country, one of the highlights for Carol is to tour the local graveyards! Especially if there is someone connected to our family buried there. She is very much the one to go to for our friends and relatives when they are looking at their own family history.

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