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The Story Of John Hornby 1901-1974

Author - John Haydn Barker Hornby, 2001. Edited and Published 2003 Copyright © Hubmaker
No part of this publication may be reproduced by any means without the prior consent of the publisher.

Chapter 12 - Civvy Street

My father was quickly out of the Navy in 1945, with the substantive rank of Lieutenant. His early de-mobilisation was because his agreed term of service had expired during the hostilities so he was one of the first away.

Like many many thousands of others he came home with his free "demob" suit, all his memories, a few "souvenirs", hope for a job, and a new life with his family.

I was 12 at the time, my sister Gloria 14; both at Grammar school and well into the routine. This life was all so new to him. Even sleeping in a bed rather than a hammock was an ordeal, and the 9-5 "routine" such a challenge (and probably a bore!) from the different irregular times of Naval life.

I remember him looking for a job, and through the Preston Ex Naval Men's Association he was offered various jobs at Preston Docks, including either managing the river Ribble dredging service, or skippering a dredger. I think this would have been an awful anti climax to his days on Her Majesty's Capital ships! In any case he was much more of a bosun, and had no navigation expertise or master's certificate. (Whether they were needed or not at that time for that kind of work I do not know).

Preston Ex-Naval Association
Preston ex-naval men's association, probably taken 1947/48.
John Hornby seated, 2nd from right.

Eventually he found a job which really suited him - PT instructor at Preston Technical College (now the University of Central Lancashire). He was always good with boys his motto was "keep em busy and stand no nonsense" and he was used to getting the best out of them. He revelled in the blocks, ropes and gear of the gym and practically re fitted it. He would be 44 years old at this time; still very fit; and quite capable of coping with the rough and tumble of the job. (One of his pupils was John Woodcock, who went on to be Sir John Woodcock, Chief Inspector of Constabulary, circa 1985-90).

His home life seemed satisfactory in most respects. He cycled a lot, buying a brand new Raleigh, about £17 then, and grew vegetables (on adjacent land), kept chickens, and in the winter did leatherwork, making dozens of handbags which he either gave away as presents or sold. He made some spare money this way, and by selling eggs at school. (I have tried to get hold of one of the handbags he made, but failed. I do however have a leather weights case which he made for me in 1954).

He was, of course, a smoker and I remember him growing and laboriously curing his own tobacco. It was something of a craze at that time among ex servicemen, but was none too successful because of the English climate. Also during these years he became very interested in the church and the village. He was a member of the Parochial Church Council all to do with the running and financing of St. Michael's Church, Hoole. He was also on the Parish Council, and as such responsible for the administration and effective spending of money allocated to the Parish by the County Council for minor works.

I recall the Parish Council struggling to find a place for the bus stop at the "Walmer Bridge" end of the village. Nobody wanted it anywhere near them because of the noisy buses, the litter, and discarded tickets. In the end, my father agreed to have the stop in front of our own house, "Markby Field", and he tidied up the mess. I always thought that was the way of a good Parish Councillor!

It was also through his initiative that the village got a village hall, or "community centre" as it would be called today. He was Chairman of the committee that found the land, the money, and provided the drive to see it through. It was called the Hoole Village Memorial Hall, the "memorial" being to Hoole men who died in the war. A large number of events were organised to raise money for the venture I remember at least one sports day. There were tennis courts and a playing field attached to the village hall, and I played tennis there for two years, and was secretary of the village tennis club.

Added to all this was his work with the Preston Ex Naval Men's Association (little more I think than a meeting/talking/drinking organisation which met at the Port Admiral pub in Preston (demolished in 1966) and the Sea Cadet Corps at their HQ alongside the river Ribble in Preston. This was a massive commitment. The corps was highly successful, trained many fine young men, and was very efficient at that time. I know it benefited from my father's expertise, smartness, and knowledge of the ways of the Navy; and in one year the unit received the coveted "efficiency" pendant for the best unit in the country. It is interesting to record that the inspecting Admiral was one J.E.H. McBeath, who was in 1923 an able seaman with my father aboard HMS Hood.

And this was not all. He was involved with the British Legion and the organisation of Remembrance Day Parades in Preston,and in the village. He worked in Civil Defence Training - a new war was still considered a real possibility.

He seemed to enjoy reasonably good health for a long time after he retired from the Navy, although he did have regular stomach troubles which he always blamed on poor water at sea and abroad.

When he became too old to successfully run the gym, he gradually became involved with all the non teaching work of the college. I remember he used to test concrete block specimens to destruction, using college equipment; and presumably report on these to a local company. Eventually he became in charge of all the non teaching staff; mainly catering and maintenance, and seemed to enjoy the role.

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