Brian Albert Noel
Brian was born in New Brunswick, Canada, on 17th August, 1949. Despite being born in Canada and coming to England, during which time, he spent a few years in the care of Fegans, Brian now lives in Nova Scotia, Canada. For Brian’s story and his memories of his time at Fegans, please read on.
Brian’s mother was a British War Bride and settled into married life in Canada with her new husband. His father died when he was three years old and his mother returned to England with her four children. Soon after, she became seriously ill and all the children were initially taken into care in Surrey Council’s children’s home. From 1957 until 1961 Brian was at Buxted.
Brian’s older brothers, Tim and Micky spent the same amount of time at Fegans, but his younger brother Danny was only with Fegans for nine months; he then went to live with their maternal grandparents.
They weren’t schooled in the home, but went to Buxted Junior school and then Uckfield Secondary School . Nobody bothered them at school; “There were too many of us, and we stuck up for each other” recalls Brian. Regrettably he has lots of sad memories of being at Fegans and says the council home was a much happier place to live in. Brian doesn’t, however, elaborate on all his sadness.
On a positive note, the food at Fegans was ‘very good’, says Brian. His favourite was called Fegans’ Pie. It was a meat and vegetable pie which he has tried many times to make; all his efforts have sadly been unsuccessful! He says he and his brothers all missed fresh eggs because they never had them and recalls not having fresh milk, but something called Milak instead.
All the Noel brothers were very athletic and played in the school’s football teams. They also had a team at the home in Buxted and they played against other local teams and another Fegans Home team. In the summer they also played a lot of cricket.
Brian remembers a few of the staff: “When we first arrived, Mr. Moore and his wife were head of the staff.
Mr. Moxham was an assistant staff member. Mr. Davidson and his wife were preparing to take over from the Moores. Mr. Moore and his wife were very nice people, even though I did manage to get caned by him in the three months that I was there with him. The Davidsons then took over. I found Mr. Davidson to be a very mean spirited man whose motto was ‘spare the rod and spoil the child’. I found his wife was of the same nature unfortunately. Mr Moxham was a mild mannered ex-boy, who made our lives as decent as possible and who very reluctantly would strike a boy.”
Brian recalls that the boys were taken on numerous trips, often to the seaside. He remembers Brighton, Seaford and Margate as some of his favourites.
It wasn’t all fun and games though! Every day of the week there were jobs to be done. These would take about forty minutes, before breakfast, and would change very week. Some of these jobs Brian remembers were cleaning out the washrooms, cleaning the living room and helping in the kitchen. Helping in the kitchen was a favourite by the sound of things. Brian remembers twice a week going to the farm next door to pick up the milk container (for the staff!). The farmer would allow the boys to take a skim of cream off the top with a ladle. It was “the most wonderful taste I can remember in my life”. On a Saturday, chores continued and when they were finished, everyone headed out to the garden to do the weeding and other duties until lunchtime. He does remember having elevenses, usually lemonade, which was “very nice stuff”.
Brian was cautious about getting into too much mischief; “the punishment for getting caught, doing even minor stuff could be quite severe”.
Brian admits to being a decent scholar, but a little lazy. He recalls he was usually in the top five of the ‘B Stream’, but was more interested in the Football and Cricket teams. He got away with not working very hard, because out of the 24 – 28 boys at Buxted at any one time, there were usually at least four or five who really struggled at school, and most of the emphasis was in helping them out.
Brian joined the Army for six years and following his lifelong love of physical activity, was a PE Instructor.
When Brian left Fegans he went to live with his mother, who by this time was well enough to look after her children. Brian was twelve, and the family lived in Claygate, Surrey. He quickly made friends with a group of boys who to this day remain very good friends, although they have lived in different countries for the past forty years. When Brian was 24, his older brother Micky, decided to move back to Canada and Brian followed some three months later. This was in 1973 and they have come back to Claygate usually once a year to visit their mother and those special friends. Sadly his mother passed away a few years ago.
Upon his return to Canada, and having spent time in the Army, Brian was unsure of what he wanted to do for a living. He answered an advertisement in the paper asking for a trainee miller. He got the job and over the course of the next forty years worked his way up through the company: trainee miller, miller, senior miller, head miller, plant superintendant and plant manager. He retired in 2014.
Brian married Diana thirty five years ago. They met and married in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The have one daughter, Jennifer who teaches Law at High School in Nova Scotia. She is married but has no children to date.
Brian’s oldest brother Tim died six years ago, and Micky and Dan live in Alberta, Canada. Micky retired three years ago, having had a very similar working life as Brian, being the plant manager of an Oat Mill where Brian had worked in a Flour Mill. Dan is still working as a miller in his local mill.
(As I type this up, I personally think these men should have had a different surname, maybe Miller would be more appropriate!!)