Recollections of Ernest Allen by his son Brian

ERNEST ALLEN, BORN 17TH APRIL 1897.                          

The knowledge of my Father’s life is based on what I acquired in the short time I knew him and from what I learned from Mother, relatives and friends.      

He was born in Handsworth, Birmingham into a large and boisterous self-contained family. I believe it was a happy childhood during which he developed a keen and sometimes naughty sense of humour. He was musical and although never reaching “ maestro standards” was an adequate violinist and amusing pianist with a pretty grim singing voice!

I feel the latter attribute came from sibling jealousy, for he was a member of the Church choir, and developed a firm and lasting love of religious music.

He left school at 14 and joined the Caledonian Insurance Company as an office boy under the kind but steely eye of a Mr. Arrowsmith.    The kind but steely eye was evident in its wisdom for Ernest stayed an official of the company for the rest of his life. 

The earliest days he spoke of always entailed accounts of fun, music and much laughter, mostly with all or part of his large family.  The name of one friend, Mortimer Yapp cropped up many times, and his first self financed holiday to a Holiday Camp in Douglas I.O.M.  was in his company. (I have seen photographs of their tent). Of the other years of his youth I know nothing until his marriage in July 1916.   Rejected by the army on medical grounds of suspected nephritis  (although I saw no signs of kidney failure, he wore a flannel body belt for the rest of his life… keep his kidneys warm!)

He married with a weekly income of £2:10:6d ,seemingly adequate to rent the terraced “villa” in which he started his family of loving wife and two children.

On his return from summer holiday in 1928 he was directed to seek residence in Northampton, a market town with a shoe industry and great prospects for the aspirations of the new manager to which position he was now promoted.

However the joy, optimism and hope generated by the pleasure of raising his family of wife and two lusty boys in his first non-rented house, was tragically and abruptly dashed.   He had taken us all out on a pic-nic into the then unexplored countryside of the County; picnic over after a happy day, the car packed ready for our return; when Norman with no warning doubled up in agony. A nearly immediate stop at the Doctor’s house resulted in an ambulance taking Norman off to Hospital where by 10 PM he had been operated on and his parents told there was little hope of survival.   

Eventually, although when, I was not aware, life appeared to return to normal and he continued to make all around laugh and enjoy themselves.

I learned many years later, that he would periodically shut himself in his room with odds & ends of Norman’s belongings and sobbing could be heard through the door. I was never told so, but I believe mother gradually removed these things, for his secret grievings ceased and he talked proudly.again about his first-born.    

He lived an active domestic and social life caring for his family and business with dedication.  He was competent in the maintenance of house, garden and car, and in fact led a very comfortable modest life. 

However, it is only now, in my advanced years that I realise he  (and my mother must have experienced a great deal of self-sacrifice to finance my university training. I was not bright enough to gain any aid through my scholarship.     

When the ‘39-’45 war came, young men were taken from all non essential occupations, and the office became uneconomical to run alone, therefore Head Office joined all the small branches to the bigger ones and he was relocated back in Birmingham. 

Shortly after his return to City life, his chronic smokers cough became rapidly worse until he was sent for an X-ray, this revealed an advanced untreatable cancer.  He was losing weight, and became so breathless that his bed was removed to the dining room thus avoiding the stress of climbing the stairs to bed,   Shortly  he was confined to bed.

At that period of the war, district nurses were a rarity and Ernest’s old friend and G.P. Ben Herbert asked me, (in my final year) to give my Dad a nightly injection of Heroin, this I did until the last one, when “Uncle Ben” took over and managed to find some flesh into which to push a needle.

He died at 1 a.m. on the morning of December 8th 1945 in the presence of his brother Frank, who came straight to my bedside and woke me with the sad tidings. 

It may be of help to any reader of these notes to hear of my reflections during their compilation.  

Love for my Father was largely of a filial nature.   He was there, wasn’t he? Life was happy he made us laugh food was on the table, we went on holiday and so on, and at the age of 17-18 I was a man too!

In my arrogance I did not bother to find out about the man who provided all this for those he loved with unremitting dedication.

Brian Allen.



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recollections of the man by his son Brian