"When I first came across to England from Ireland in 1945, I lived with Aunt Eva in Bradford. At that time dad worked as a face worker in the pit. He had given up his place in the Irish soccer squad so that he could make a fresh start for mum, me, and younger sisters Mary and Eileen in a new land. Until the colliery gave dad a rented property, mum and my two sisters stayed in Ireland and me and dad stayed at his sister Eva's house.
About two years later in 1948 when I was five years old, the five of us were re-united as a family unit. Me, mum,dad and my two sisters Mary and Eileen started off life in a beautiful country cottage with its own fields and chickens and ducks to supply us with plenty of eggs. I remember getting bathed in a tin tub which would be hung on the wall between use, but the water was never hot enough. We stayed in that country cottage for about four years until we were allocated a brand new house with an inside loo and bathroom on Windy Bank Estate. By this time mum had given birth to brothers Patrick and Peter. My two youngest siblings, Michael and Susan started off life on a council estate and they sadly missed the delights of our country cottage experience.
When I first became a father in my 30s, I recall taking my two eldest sons James and Adam to see the 'country cottage' of my youth where the Forde family had started off life together in England. Until then, I couldn't believe just how far the mind and memory was capable of stretching and distorting the essence of the reality we had once lived in. The 'country cottage' had been demolished during the interim years and in its precise place now stood one single garage that was capable of housing one ordinary-sized family car.The expanse of homestead land where our poultry stock used to freely roam turned out to be adjoining farmer's fields belonging to someone else in which our hens and geese daily trespassed.
It felt like raw and bitter realisation had instantly destroyed my precious childhood memories; leaving my treasured and idyllic early experiences crushed with the cruel sensation of butterfly wings being torn apart. I found it almost impossible to visualise just how a family of five children and two adults could occupy a dwelling comprising of one single room for a number of years in which we ate, slept and lived and which my childhood memories had previously retained as having been no less than 'a country cottage' with its own surrounding land.
And yet, I'd never remembered our happy country cottage and homestead this way. It hurt to learn that 'our land and country garden' wasn't really attached to 'our cottage', but were farmer's fields which surrounded it; fields that we encouraged our fowl to squat in and forage from. The chickens and hens were ours though, along with the exclusivity of the biological outside privy; a hole in the ground with a wooden sheltered surround. And please don't ask me about toilet paper as my recollection seems to recall such luxuries as being sheets of cut-up newspapers strung together like a paper concertina.
There have been so many times since that I've regretted returning to look at the 'country cottage' where we had lived so happily during the formative years of my life. If only I could go back to that day when I decided to take my two sons to show them where daddy had first grown up in West Yorkshire, there is simply no way I would have taken them. If only I hadn't starkly awoken from my childhood dream, that idyllic illusion would have fondly stayed with me throughout the rest of my life and would have happily accompanied me to the grave.
Instead of proudly showing my childrfen my romantic past, it would have been much better had I taken them to the park instead and bought them a big fat ice cream. They wouldn't have minded in the least and I could have carried the dream of my idylic country cottage with its extensive rural gardens where I once lived with me from cradle to grave. How cruel reality can sometimes be when the garden of childhood dreams is revisited by the twisted memories of an adult!" William Forde: August 23rd, 2014