ID: COR2_013 / Ron Green

TitleA Mersea brickie for sixty-five years and counting

I left West Mersea Council School at Easter 1946 at the age of fourteen to start work with local builder Clifford White & Co. I was to do a bricklaying apprenticeship but was u ble to start officially until aged fifteen. I started on a new bungalow being built in Fenn Farm Lane, East Mersea where my father,Les Green, also a brickie, was foreman, so in fact, I was bricklaying on my very first day.

In my six years with the firm we did everything, unblocked drains, swept chimneys and even dug graves. Clifford White was also an undertaker.

Les Green and his son Ron Green on West Mersea Church tower during repairs in the winter of 1951/52.

Today I often stand looking out of the window of our Museum's new Resource Centre up the West Mersea Church Tower and remember back to the winter of 1951-2 when we removed the top of the tower, roof, battlements weather vane -_ the lot, and renewed it. My dad was also foreman on this job and I still marvel at what he did with the primitive gear we had. The large post still supporting the weather vane, was a huge baulk of timber salvaged from Tollesbury Pier. There were also steel girders to be got to the top. This was all done without the aid of machinery but with wooden blocks and ropes. A few years ago the tower once again saw extensive work and I gained permission to go up to see how our work had fared over 50+ years. The men accompanied me and were full of praise at what we had done and everything remained in good condition. After six years with Clifford White I had to do my National Service, two years in the Royal Engineers where I again did some bricklaying gaining a first class certificate which brought a nice little bit extra to pick up at pay parade. I managed to get home most weekends and started seeing Miss Wendy Cock. Shortly before demob her father Glennie Cock asked what I was going to do when I came out, I said I assumed I would go back to Clifford White, at which he asked if I would like to come and work for him. I quickly considered the offer and so started six years with the more go-ahead firm of G.A. Cock, building individual bungalows mainly on the island. After a few weeks I was sent with a mate to brick up a bungalow in High Street North for Clem Smith. The jobs followed the usual pattern. Les Tucker the general foreman would go on site and set the job out with wooden profiles. A site hut would be dropped off together with some old sheets of tin to make a toilet. A Brickie and mate would be given a drawing and started to dig with forks and shovels. No JCB's around. We were left to order materials and run the job ourselves.

I was in charge of building the bungalow at Peldon Garage for 'Badger' Martin, since demolished. We saw nothing of our boss for weeks at a time. He was quite happy to let us get on with it.

Towards the end of the six years, Wendy and I had married and with two young children I felt I needed a change. I had heard of good money being earned with piece work gangs in Colchester. I had a word with neighbour Bert Hempstead who was a truck driver on the new Greenstead Estate in Colchester which was in the early stages and he fixed me up with a job with the Colchester Borough Council Direct Labour Scheme. After a few months one or two people had asked dad (who by that time was working for G.A. Cock) and me if we would build them a bungalow.
So I left Greenstead after 10 months. When I went to the office to sign off the General Manager Mr Thompson wished me well saying if it doesn't work out there's always a job for you here. That was very good to hear.

Dad left G.A.Cock and my carpenter brother John came in with us and we started under the title of L.J.Green & Sons. As it happened our very first job was for none other than Glennie Cock, bricking up a bungalow in Fairhaven Avenue, one of several we were to do for him.

Sadly dad passed away in 1971 and John decided to retire a few years ago leaving me on my own. I still enjoy my work and I'm never happier than when I have a trowel in my hand.

Six years ago I designed and built a new toilet for the disabled in our Museum and more recently I enjoyed laying the bricks around the entrance lobby that people had bought to have their names added and to raise funds for the new building.

Published in Mersea Courier No. 503, 15 April 2011.

AuthorRon Green
Published15 April 2011
SourceMersea Museum