William Thomas Miller (No 45 at Stony Stratford and No 6 at Goudhurst)
You will see from the heading that William lived in two Fegans locations and was born on 10th April, 1937 in Willesden, N. Kensington, London. He also spent a short time at Buxted. He tells us that his mother was always missing and his father was blind. His brother, John Michael and he, were in his own words, “uncared for and running wild”. Thankfully the Kensal Gospel Mission intervened. Their two sisters, Patricia (5) and Susan, 2 years old, were sent to a children’s home in Croydon. William and his brother were sent to Fegans Homes from 1949 until 1954.
One of William’s outstanding memories of Fegans were the Bonfire Nights. He also has a vivid memory of nearly drowning on a Sunday afternoon. He stepped onto a large piece of ice in the locks and fell into the water. He was saved from drowning by member of staff Derek Fullerton who made him run the 3.5 miles home, with his overcoat on to keep him from freezing!
William enjoyed playing football and remembers winning a match once and Mr Stanton took the team for a meal at the Cross & Keys in the High Street. Why was this so special to William? He scored the winning goal.
Harold Wright was a kind member of staff, William says. Mr Coultas was hard with the cane. The first black man William saw was Mr Somersal, he remembers him as a nice man. Captain Flood and Captain Martin were both good men, particularly when it came to sports.
William was taken with a friend, John Rogers for a day out in an open top 4-seater. He remembers the driver had one arm! His name is unknown, but it is thought he was a benefactor.
Yes, William did get up to some mischief and remembers pinching spring onions from the garden! He also remembers getting the blame when another lad stole some coconuts from outside a shop! He also ran away from Fegans once, but ran back…. some bullies beat him up!
There appears to have been numerous chores to be done, as William remembers cleaning up in the Sick Bay and clearing leaves from the drains in the Quadrangle. William recalls: “Bread and butter pudding was on the menu on Sunday lunchtimes after church. I hated it, I still do!”
William didn’t see himself as a good scholar. He says he tried, but as he had no schooling before going to Fegans he was always trying to catch up. Once, William was given six strokes of the cane for singing the wrong words to a song!
Obviously William is too young to have been involved in the War, but he remembers being evacuated to the Rhonda Valley in South Wales.
When it was time to leave Fegans for good, he worked on a farm in Chichester, milking cows three times a day. He was also a labourer on a farm on Thorney Island and had lots of odd jobs before becoming a plumber’s mate. He then qualified as a pipe fitter a job he worked at until retirement.
William happily created a family of his own after meeting Patricia Judge in 1960. They married in February 1961 in Tottenham High Street Register Office, he recalls the cost – 11s and 9p (in ‘new money’ I make that about 59 pence!). I’m sure William feels the cost was worth it, as they were married until his wife passed away on 11th May, 2007. They had a son and a daughter. Paul, their son is married with two children a boy and a girl. He works as a chef and now lives in Australia. Daughter, Susan Lesley also has a boy and a girl and works as a Sports Physiotherapist. Like William, she lives in Brentwood, Essex.
“Fegans saved me from an unhappy situation.
THINKING BACK….. I wish to thank Kensal Medical Gospel Mission, Kensal Road, London W10 and Mr Fegan Homes for giving me, John my brother and my two sisters Pat and Susan a chance of a new life.
I think at twelve years old I would have gone to Borstal. Things were getting bad, running around with the wrong people!”
William T Miller