Ray has forwarded his own story. Please enjoy the read….
My full name is Raymond Joel Leonard Finnie and my Fegans number was 3. I was born on 15th October, 1939 in Salisbury, Wiltshire. I was taken to Mr Fegans Homes when I was a boy by my father, who was an old Fegans boy himself. He was there in 1917.
I arrived into the Fegans family in 1946 at Stony Stratford and was transferred directly to Yardley Gobion, where I lived until Christmas 1950. I then returned to Stony until 1955 and my last six months were spent on the farm at Buxted.
I had no relative at Fegans, however, I was aware that I had two half-sisters and half-brother when I arrived. Later, I found I had another elder half-brother in Canada. This is all explained in my auto-biography ‘I Survive Despite’.
I have many outstanding memories of Fegans and also memories of Junior School at Yardley and Secondary School at Stony, both outside the home. This meant I was being schooled with the local boys and girls, who led their lives in the community.
I slept in a bed next door to a boy who became terminally ill when we were on holiday in Hastings. He went onto hospital and returned to Yardley a while later. A year or two following this, he died. This boy, Brian, had a brother Laurie who was also at Yardley.
On the whole I believe we ate well whilst in the care of Fegans. However, I could not eat fish and still cannot touch it! I remember getting caught giving my fish away and being forced to eat it. It made me physically sick!
We were kept busy in our sports lessons and in spare time. At Stony most indoor and outdoor sports were provided for keeping us fit, and we even had our own swimming pool. There were numerous clubs; Philately, Meccano, Model Trains and we played many board games. Of course there was Bible Study Club too. I particularly excelled in playing football. (After all I had to live up to my nick-name…..) At school many did not know my name was Ray as I was simply known as Tom, after Tom Finney, the Preston North End and England Right-Winger. I also loved to play hockey, cricket, tennis and badminton.
At Yardley, who cannot forget Sister Mary and Margaret Hayes? I clearly remember the cook Miss Pritchard and one teacher at school ‘Miss Reece’ who used to come to the school in a Triumph Mayflower car. The Fegans boys I remember include Tom McClean, Frank Pattern and David Mackintosh. David’s brother Jimmy, Frank and I were able to meet Tom McClean at Eamonn Andrew’s ‘This is Your Life’ in the I.T.V Teddington Studios. This show was not transmitted until after Eamonn Andrew’s death. I was able to meet Tom in Scotland in 2012 and 2015 (see photograph) and we keep in regular contact. I’m also in touch with Georgina (nee Brown) from the school at Yardley.
I remember most of the staff at Stony and I will name a few here: I was in Carey House with Mr Sculard, and later Mr Lawson. Livingstone House was Mr Davidson and Liddle House Mr Fullerton who was also Choir Master. Mr Sumersall, Mr Coultas, Mum Aulger, Mum Flood, Tom and Pat Flood, and of course Captain Flood. Additionally, Mr Mitchell the engineer/maintenance man who lived outside the home in Calverton had two daughters. One was Betty who was in my class at the first Junior School I went to in Stony.
From Stony each year, we all went to the Methodist Central Hall by Westminster Cathedral. One year I sang on the stage in an Octet. We sang ‘Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring’. There weren’t many words, but the organist had a field day! It was MOST enjoyable. We also visited Wicksteed Park, Kettering, on a couple of occasions.
Duties for us boys were allocated seasonally. On two occasions I did House Duty (looking after the staff), serving breakfast, tea and clearing the table and washing up etc. Only boys that went to Stony School were able to take on these duties. All other boys went to school on a bus and left too early.
I did attempt to smoke some tea leaves, which I obtained whilst doing House Duty. I had kept the tea in a Wallet, which I hid in the lining of my jacket sleeve. A year or two later I was asked to report to the office at evening assembly. I had no idea why. It transpired a member of staff had found the tea, inspecting the clothes in the locker rooms. I was asked to explain how and why I had the tea. I simply ‘owned up’ and was given (a wonderful phrase I will never forget) ‘the benefit of the doubt’! No, I didn’t get the cane!
At school I didn’t sit exams, but never-the-less did fairly well at Maths, Technical Drawing and Geography. On two occasions I spent a week of lessons at Shortenhill – Bucks’ Education Campus at Chalfont St. Giles. Once to study the Geography of the locality and the other to learn our roles for the forthcoming nativity play.
A bit of mischief went on one night time whilst at Shortenhill. This tale I have been reminded of when I’ve attended school reunions in 2013 and 2015. Six or seven of us boys, decided to raid the girls’ dormitory. We clambered in through the back door and whatever windows were open. A teachers’ room was partitioned off with an opening over the top. Whilst chatting away, the noise and subsequent commotion was interrupted, when a teacher asked “Will you girls be quiet and go to sleep?” (I thought she said ‘boys’!!) Anyhow, I simply dived into one of the beds, while all the other boys left via the windows and scampered back making even more noise. I was approached by our teacher, Mr. Richards, later, who commented “I hope you haven’t got to answer for activities last night in nine months time” I just wondered what he could be talking about…
Ray Finnie with Tom McClean
Ray currently lives in Enfield, North London.
Ray J. L. Finnie