John Marsh remembers war-time Dockray 

John moved to Dockray with his mother in 1944, primarily to be safe from the war. He remembers the war years and also his return visit to Dockray in 1958, aged 16. He has fond memories of the warm welcome he and his mother were given by Jimmy Donaldson and his family, whose farmhouse was near where they lived.

I was first in Dockray in 1944 at the tender age of two. My mother and I moved there from Southport primarily to be safe from the war. I presume another factor was that my father had been conscripted into the RAF and was sent for training to the base at Silloth, on the coast but not so far from Dockray. We lived in a semi-detached house, one of several still there, on the main road down to Ullswater. The house had an extensive front garden and across the road was the Aira Beck. Apparently, I used to say “I’s goin t’beck t‘feed ducks.”

My mother and I spent a lot of time at the Donaldson’s farmhouse behind their Temperance Hotel. Jimmy and his family were very hospitable. I was free to roam so one day was found playing on top of the manure heap! In the summer hay was harvested from fields down the road and I got to ride on top of the horse drawn hay wagon back to the farm.

Dockray, our house, on the left

I remember, or have been reminded of, several other things from this time. Beside the road, just down from our house, was a small shop which, I think, also served, as a post office. One day my mother and I went there. Ahead of us was a rather large middle-aged woman and I could not resist slapping her backside! My mother was horrified and embarrassed, and no doubt chastised me deservedly. Very occasionally we took Mandle’s (spelling?) bus from Dockray to Penrith for shopping. On the days this bus did not run, we had to walk down to Ullswater, or go over to Troutbeck to catch a bus.

When the war was over my mother and I left Dockray and rejoined my father who had resumed work in Liverpool. We later had several family holidays in the Lake District but stayed near Ambleside.

In 1958, at the age of 16, rendered independent by a bicycle, I returned with a friend to Dockray. We stayed at Donaldson’s Hotel and renewed my acquaintance with Jimmy’s family, as seen in the photograph taken in front of their farmhouse. The visit was also memorable because it was there that I got sent my GCE results and found that I had done quite well and would be continuing at school. We celebrated with a beer in the Royal Hotel, then a very rustic establishment largely serving locals.

John returns to Dockray in 1958, aged 16, and visits the Donaldson family

Despite living in Canada since 1963, I have been back to Dockray several times, once to show my wife where I had lived during the war. This time we stayed at the Royal Hotel, now much more luxurious than on my first visit. We enjoyed walking around the village, seeing Aira Force and taking a boat excursion on Ullswater.