James also remembers his Fegans number…. 75. What a memory he has. He was born in Glasgow on 21.12.1940 and now resides in East Sussex.
James was one of four brothers placed in the care of Fegans at Stony Stratford. Their mother couldn’t cope with her five boys and one girl. She continued to look after her eldest son and her daughter. Her husband had died in Korea whilst serving in the British Army.
James was at Stony Stratford from 1953 – 1955.
Sadly, James was 12 years old when his father died in the Korean War. His eldest brother and sister had just left school. Brother Dave was nine years old, John was six and George was four, when they all joined the Fegans family. Their father was buried in the British Military Cemetery in Hong Kong.
James remembers his arrival at Stony Stratford. He was with his brother David. They arrived at teatime. Captain Flood had brought them by car from London. He recalls the staff being very kind and friendly. He remembers Mum Flood in particular.
I quote James at this point: “My one outstanding memory of being in the Fegans Home was that it was there that I first heard the Christian Gospel; gave my life to Christ and embraced the Christian message enthusiastically. My Christian faith is still strong today”.
James recalls struggling at school. He could not read when he arrived at Fegans. He found it embarrassing at first. He remembers one teacher helping him – Miss Shakshaft. He says she was very patient and he soon began to catch up.
James remembers his first breakfast; egg and bacon and a Sunday Roast for lunch. “At home with my mum and family, we never had breakfast. It was a struggle for my Mum to feed six children with very little help from the Army or the Government”.
James didn’t know how good he was at sport until he arrived at Fegans… He played football, cricket, hockey, and went swimming, and on his first Sports Day, won most of his races and was presented with a small box of liquorice and all sorts of other fantastic prizes.
Teachers: Captain Flood… he was in charge, and James recalls him as a very fair man with good discipline, and also a good sport. Alistair Davidson was a lovely man with a kind heart and was James’ House Parent. James stayed in touch with him and his wife Gill as they helped him with his Christian faith; he loved them both.
James remembers going on day trips; particularly to a farm at Lechampstead in the summer. He recalls having scones (an obvious treat), general fun on the farm and a barbeque. He particularly remembers Mr. Davidson demonstrating vaulting over a stream. Sadly the pole snapped in half and Mr Davidson fell in the stream. How typical for boys to remember his unfortunate mishap!
James remembers the chores clearly too. He recalls they had to make their own beds and had to scrub the stone floors in the hall. His most vivid memory is washing up after meals, for 100 boys!
Of course like most of our old boys, James has memories of getting into mischief…. Scrumping apples, pillow fights in the dormitories, and fights in the playground and at school. He even remembers fighting with another boy at school and receiving six of the best, from the cane.
James says he started off academically quite poor, but after his first year at the Bradwell School he did catch up with everyone else, with the help of many teachers. At 14 years old he was made a Prefect. He left school at 15 and was told if he had stayed another term, he would have been given the honour of becoming Head Boy.
When James left Mr Fegans Homes, he went to the Isle of Sheppey to live with his Mum, but sadly it didn’t work out. After a few months, he went to Fegans Farm at Buxted for roughly 18 months. “I loved farming” says James. He also attended the local Baptist Church where he met his future wife.
On leaving the farm at Buxted, in East Sussex, he was placed on a farm in neighbouring West Sussex for about a year. His girlfriend’s father had a gardening business and James then worked for him for two years. The business had to be put up for sale due to ill health and James bought it when he was just 18 years of age. He reports that the business grew successfully, and even expanded into road surfacing, employing many people over the following decades.
James fondly recalls marrying Jenifer Wickham. They both attended the local Uckfield Baptist Church. Jen was the organist and James led the Youth Group. They were married at that Church in 1960, and James recalls some of staff from Fegans attending the wedding. Both of Jen’s parents were also strong supporters of Fegans and had no idea that one day their daughter would marry one of the boys.
“Sadly in 2000”, James recalls, “my wife (Jen), my best friend, died”. They had been very happily married and God had blessed them with five daughters and now ten grandchildren.
More recently, James has remarried his lovely new wife, Christina, who is also a committed Christian.