Joseph William Bensusan (known as Bill) (No 22)

Bill was born on 26th November 1938 at the Mayday Hospital, Croydon, Surrey. Bill has compiled his own brief history, which we hope you will enjoy reading.

As much as I hate to say, I found myself in the care of Fegans due to a family break up. This was caused, sadly by my mother’s adultery. I found more details regarding this in the Fegans Archives.

After a stay with my paternal grandmother, my father took me to the Millbank office of Fegans. Captain Martin took David Lavery and me to Stony Stratford where I spent the next six years (1949 – 1955).

My sister Frances went to a girls’ home in London, close to the family home. My brother, John Reginald, followed me to Stony Stratford, after a stay in the young children’s home in Yardley Gobion. My remaining siblings stayed with our mother in the Crystal Palace area of London. I had little or no contact with my family from that time onwards.

Bill’s wife, Adele, and Bill

The first impression I had of Stony was its size, I was quite small then and seeing so many other boys, it was a bit overwhelming. My abiding memory of Fegans is the care and kindness of the staff. I was to learn later that this was not the case before Captain Flood arrived on the scene.

The only sad moment I had was when I was taken to Yardley to see my brother but could not take him back to Stony with me. I got over the disappointment and settled fully to life in Stony. By and large, life was comfortable and pleasant. Apart from a short period of homesickness I didn’t really miss my family, probably due to the fact I had been ‘shunted around’.

I remember being fed on a large variety of fresh, well cooked food. I particularly remember spuds, meat, greens and gravy followed by steamed pudding and custard. This was always a bit of a joke among the boys. Food was varied, although we always knew what Friday dinner was as we could smell the Haddock throughout the whole building. Oddly, I enjoy a bit of Haddock poached in milk to this day.

We were kept fit, and were encouraged to take part in all forms of sport. Apart from ‘made up’ games that we played, on offer was football, cricket, hockey, swimming and various track and field sports. We played ‘Penny on the Wicket’ when old boys came and we also dived for pennies thrown into the pool.

As for the staff that I well remember there was Captain Flood of course; he ran the place with firmness and fairness. There was Mr Coultas, known as “Charley” and “Jughead” for some inexplicable reason. Despite his firmness I found him kindly and gentle. There was Mr Davidson, one of the housemasters who tended to be quiet and unassuming and came in for a bit of ribbing from us boys when he became engaged to Nurse Gill Penn. Bob Alen was another housemaster, I didn’t have a lot to do with him, so I can’t say much about him. There was Mr Somersall, from Bermuda in charge of the Junior Wing, a very stern man, but I got on with him well enough. “Mum” Price ran the laundry where I spent a lot of time helping out. I also went to her Friday Bible Classes. Mr Fullerton had a marked influence on me as my Housemaster. He also ran the choir and told me at one time I couldn’t sing and threw me out. If he could see me in a local choir he would not believe it. I kept in touch with him for many years up to his passing away in Jersey while I, Mel and Mary, friends of long standing were on holiday with him. I currently sing in a choir for people with COPD which has helped me with my breathing. I have emphysema, mostly due to smoking and having worked in dirty atmospheres.

Days out: I remember going to Wicksteed Park and we had a ride on the train and went on various other equipment. We also went to London on two or three occasions, we even saw the 1951 Exhibition (The Festival of Britain). I also took part in an exhibition to highlight the work of Fegans and went on two trips to listen to Billy Graham.

We did the usual sort of household chores. Floors were scrubbed or polished. We worked in the kitchen doing the washing up and preparing vegetables. I had to look after the chickens too, collecting eggs, digging the ground over for them and cleaning the coops. This usually took up most of my Saturdays, but I enjoyed it.

The only mischief I will admit to whilst at Fegans, is, during the summer, I often went for late night swims after ‘lights out’!!

I was a reasonably average scholar, and I went to New Bradwell Secondary School, as it was then. On passing the requisite exams, I went on the Wolverton Technical School, now flattened and used as a car park. At least it was when I last visited Wolverton.

After leaving Fegans I went to stay with my father and the family he was living with. This lasted for about eighteen months but was not a happy time. Fegans found employment for me with a firm called Rely-a-Bell as an apprentice electrician. This fell through and when I was called up for National Service, I signed on for three years in the Royal Signals. I eventually stayed in for six years and finished my service on secondment to the Rhodesia and Nyasaland Federal Army. I worked for several years for the Zambian Government as a radio technician on airports. On returning to England I went to work for IBM. It was my intention to go back to Zambia, but I met Adele who I married and between us we raised three children.

Adele and I were married in a Church in Clapham, London. We had been married for 35 years when she sadly died from Cancer. We have two daughters, Carol and Linda and a son, Paul. I have been a widower for fourteen years now.

Our three children gave us three grandchildren, again, two girls and a boy. The children are in their 40s now and the grandchildren’s ages range from 13 – 22. My son Paul now lives in Glasgow, Carol lives with her husband and daughter in Shrewsbury and Linda lives nearby with her daughter Emma. Grandson Steven is in Bradford.

I am now living in a Council bungalow in Northampton with my dog, a Rhodesian Ridgeback called Molly.

Bill Bensusan

(May, 2016)

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