Robert Oliver (No 2)
Robert was born on 25th September, 1939, in Hackney. At just a few weeks old, his mother put him into a Workhouse. It is believed there was some hope that he would be adopted, but this sadly fell through when the prospective parents and authorities learned of his mother’s lies and her submission of false information.
Robert was in the care of Mr Fegan’s Homes for ten years. His Fegan’s journey started at Yardley Gobion in 1946 and after four years he was moved to Stony Stratford and spent the final two years at Buxted. Following this Robert moved in with a family and worked on an apple and sheep farm. He recalls “I went into a family environment; it was a very happy time”. He was made redundant in 1985. Keen to use his skills, he worked as a self-employed gardener until he retired.
Robert had four younger half-brothers and half-sisters. He was aware of their existence, but he recalls that his mother refused to tell them about him. Apparently she made many promises, but they weren’t fulfilled. Robert didn’t marry, and says “No girl fancied me enough to commit – WISE GIRLS – ha ha”. However, the daughter of the family he was ‘put out’ to when he left Fegans, regards him as her brother. All her offspring call him ‘uncle’ which he finds “rather lovely”.
Robert recalls his Fegans days; he was ‘No 2’ and says he will never forget – second on the left, going into the wash room. He admits to not being a good scholar and was too busy winding up the teachers!! When asked what mischief he got up to, he suggested that we would need ten foolscap pages to write it all down!
Robert’s memories of some of the staff at Fegans:
Captain E. P. Flood A sheer genius with boys…… utmost respect.
Mum P. Flood. The hardest working woman I have ever seen.
Mr. P. Coultas So strict, but very fair, could spot you a mile away if you were up to mischief!
Mr. A. O. Davidson Replaced Mr Coultas as my Housemaster …
Robert recalls the boys had ideas of giving him the run-around, but with no luck!!
Captain Flood took Robert and another lad to see Luton v. Bournemouth in about 1952/53. It was the first time Robert had seen a professional football match and he recalls it clearly as a ‘memorable day out’.
Life wasn’t always easy at Fegans as all boys had their chores to do. In Robert’s words: “You name it, we did it”. He remembers scrubbing the passage which was about 100 yards long EVERY morning, BEFORE school! There were ten boys doing this, but what a chore!
There was however time for games and Robert remembers playing football, cricket, hockey, table tennis and swimming in the orphanage pool.
There were some sad experiences: Robert recalls Mr. N. Bennett as being a ‘vile and abusive man’. He belted a young boy of about 8 or 9 from the top to the bottom of the stairs with a 3 inch buckled belt. The child was naked too and Robert remembers the screams of sheer terror which he will never forget. He also recalls Mr G. Moore, who was ‘inept and useless’! At Buxted, Mr Moore received a message from HQ to cut down on the use of electricity. Robert and his colleagues would finish work at 5pm in the winter and the ‘mains’ would be turned off at 6pm – maybe not such a good idea!
Robert now lives in Northiam, East Sussex and his outstanding memory of his time at Fegans is “the camaraderie, which still remains today, among the boys who are left”.