Oral History

Mersea Museum has a collection of about 400 audio files. Many of them are from the early editions of the Talking Magazine which has been produced by Mersea Island Lions since 1978.
Just a few of them are available here...

Mrs Ida South retires from School
She had taught at the school for 39 years, and in her youth had attended as a pupil.
From Lions Talking Magazine No. 25, recorded 1980. 16 minutes.
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  West Mersea School 1959
Ida South is second from left in front row in this 1959 picture
The Clifford White Mersea empire
There were many sides to Clifford White on Mersea. Builders, builders merchants, timber supplies, brickworks, undertakers, insurance agents, house agents. Hardy Weaver worked in the office and was involved in all sides of the operation.
Hardy is talking to Dennis Chatters, recorded in 1981 in two parts on Lions Talking Magazines 41 and 43. 18 minutes and 19 minutes.
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In 1989 the Lions Talking Magazine featured an interview with Eric White, son of Clifford White. Eric talks about the various businesses, the Barfield Road site, and some of the development on Mersea. 12 minutes.
  Clifford White's yard
Clifford White's yard between Barfield Road and Melrose Road c1960
The waterfront scene
Harold Cutts talking to Dennis Chatters. Harold ran Wyatt's boatyard for many years. He talks about the changes in boats, waterfront characters, both local and visitors, the local Fire Brigade, and more...
From Lions Talking Magazine No. 56, recorded 1982. 18 minutes.
  Harold Cutts outside Wyatt's chandlery store
Harold Cutts outside Wyatt's chandlery store
Joan Vince remembers
Working on the buses during the War, the florist's job, pre-war Regattas, the MOLLIETTE, Ray Island. Joan was born in 1915.
Joan is talking to Dennis Chatters on Lions Talking Magazine No. 60 in 1983. 18 minutes.
  Joan Vince - 1934 Regatta Parade
Joan Vince on top of the cart in the 1934 Regatta Parade
Douglas Stoker dredging for brass
Douglas Stoker went oyster dredging, but he realised that, for a spell, there was more money to be made dredging up brass shells. This and other tales of the MOLLIETTE, laid up ships in the River, ferrying nuns to Bradwell, the start of the lifeboat in Mersea, the life cycle of the oyster.
Interviewed by Dennis Chatters on Lions Talking Magazine No. 62 in 1983. 26 minutes.
  Mersea's first Inshore Lifeboat
Douglas is 3rd from the left in this picture of Mersea's first Inshore Lifeboat
Johnny Milgate - school, yachting, WW1
Johnny Milgate was born 1890 and lived to 100. He was 93 when interviewed by Dennis Chatters for Lions Talking Magazine. Johnny was born in The Lane and went to West Mersea School. From school, he went sailing on yachts, and also on a sailing barge. WW1 saw him in the Navy on a variety of ships. At the end of the War he was married and went to work for the Council on Mersea.
Johnny says little about his life after WW1 on the tape, but his granddaughter says: He was a wonderful man and his garden produce was legendary in Mersea. As the eldest grandchild and a true Mersea girl having been born on the Island, the telegram he got from the Queen on his 100th birthday was passed to me and is one of my treasured possessions.
From Lions Talking Magazines 66 and 68 in 1983. 23 and 24 minutes.

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  Milgate Wedding 1960
Johnny Milgate is on the left of this 1960 wedding of his son George and Beryl Phillips.
Patricia Catchpole and her Riding Stables
'Catchy' came to Mersea from Norfolk with her family at the age of 11. Before the War she worked at the local private school and worked there as a pupil teacher during the War. After the War, she and Mr Neil started a riding school at Garden Farm. She moved on to a riding school on her own at the Hall Barn, and then to the Riding Stables on East Road.
Interviewed by Dennis Chatters on Lions Talking Magazine No. 73 in 1984. 26 minutes.
  Patricia Catchpole 1960
Patricia Catchpole in 1960.

Bill Clarry born 1883
Born 1883 and when these recordings were made, he was probably the Island's oldest resident. He talks about West Mersea Hall, Yorick Road being laid out, wheel tomb discovery, cricket field by St Peter's well, Glebe field being bought, Rectors, school, service in WW1, Ship Inn in the Lane.
Bill died March 1983. He was interviewed in 1980 on Lions Talking Magazine No. 24, 21 minutes, and 1981 on Lions Talking Magazine No. 32, 22 minutes.

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  Bill Clarry in 1979, West Mersea Medical Centre
Bill Clarry in 1979

Jack Saye - bus driver
A short extract with Jack talking about the buses. In Part 2 he goes on to talk about life on the island and in Mill Road when he was young. Samuel White's first shop; Fred Smith the baker; C W A Scott, the airman, returned from Australia, and his Flying Circus. Jack gives advice on how to drive a bus when you have 'had a few'. The local Policeman was Sergeant Wood - often asked Jack if he had seen any suspicious characters around.
Jack was talking to Dennis Chatters in Feb 1983 on Lions Talking Magazine No. 59. 22 minutes.

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  Day before West Mersea bus depot closed. Jack Saye on left.
The day before West Mersea bus depot closed in 1973. Jack Saye on the left.

Carrier carts - Dennis Chatters and Bernard Cudmore
Before the bus came to Mersea, you took the carrier's cart or walked.
Bernard's father ran a carrier's cart and a mail cart to Colchester. Dennis talks to Bernard about the carrier business, some of the bigger users, early buses on the Island.
From Talking Magazine No. 13 recorded August 1979. 15 minutes.
  The earlier Victory at West Mersea
Common ground outside the Victory, where Cudmore's carrier carts started.

Mary Stevens - author of 'Old Spiery'
Mary Stevens wrote a book on Revd. Pierrepont Edwards (Old Spiery), who was vicar of West Mersea for 48 years. She talks at length about him and his personality.
Mary was Archivist at Mersea Museum and was interviewed in 1985 by Dennis Chatters on Lions Talking Magazine No. 86. 18 minutes.
  Mary Stevens
Mary Stevens

Allan Gray - farmer and councillor
Allan Gray came to Bocking Hall Farm in 1940, when it was almost derelict. He talks about the War, farming, day to day life on the Island.
Allan was interviewed in 1982 by Dennis Chatters on Lions Talking Magazine No. 56. 30 minutes.
  Allan Gray
Allan Gray

Victor Gray Little Wigborough - Down on the Farm
Victor Gray started farming at New Hall Farm, Little Wigborough when he left the Navy in 1946. Len Broadhurst talks to Victor about the farm and they go walkabout to see the conservation work that Victor has done.
Victor and Len's talk is in three parts, is from Lions Talking Magazines 62, 63 and 64 recorded in 1983.
18 minutes, 18 minutes and 11 minutes.

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  Victor Gray
Victor Gray and Gay Gordon
Elgar Frank Mussett
Elgar was born in West Mersea in 1920. He went to West Mersea School and then the Technical School in Colchester. Leaving school in 1936, he was apprenticed as a carpenter at Clifford White on Mersea.
With war looming, Elgar decided to do something more and went helping build flying boats. He moved on to Radar, and was part of a small party that moved out to Singapore. But, in early 1942 Singapore fell to the Japanese. Elgar and several others escaped to Sumatra and crossed the island to Padang hoping to be rescued. They were taken prisoner by the Japanese and moved to Burma to work on the Burma railway. Eventually the war ended and Elgar returned to Mersea, never to stray far again. He settled down to work as a carpenter for Clarke Carter.
Elgar is talking to Dennis Chatters, recorded in 1982 in two parts on Lions Talking Magazines 54 and 55. 25 minutes and 36 minutes.

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  Elagar Musssett yacht ELVER
Elgar Mussett with yacht ELVER

John Milgate
John was born in Smugglers Way, the Old City in West Mersea. From school, he went to learn the trade of shipwright with William Wyyatt, where several wooden boats were built in the years after WW2. 1956 John moved to London and worked as a shipwright with the River Police at Wapping, returning to Wyatts in 1969. Two years later he became a self-employed shipwright. He talks about the wooden boatbuilding classes he ran, rebuilding BOY GEORGE and PURITAN, and gives a brief history of the Shell Works at Peldon.
John passed away at home, 22 March 2020.
He was interviewed in 1996 by Stuart Devenish on Lions Talking Magazine No. 209. 18 minutes.
  John and Pat Milgate
John and Pat Milgate

Ken Mole
Ken was born in 1935 and lived in Coastguard Cottages until they were destroyed by fire in 1949. From school, he had a wide variety of jobs - yachting in the Mediterranean, caretaker at New Orleans, working at Bromans farm, where he met his wife Betty. An early job was working for Mr Ward, the carrier - he has now spent the past 22 years as a 'man with a van'.
When recorded Ken had been in Mersea Lions for the 16 years since it started and had just become President.
Ken was interviewed in 1994 by Albert Streeter on Lions Talking Magazine No. 190. 14 minutes.
  Ken Mole
Ken and Betty Mole - Lions exchange visit to Germany

Cecil and Jane Mussett
Cecil was born in 1930 and lived Barfield Road. He was the eldest of 4 brothers - his father worked in the brickyard. When he was 12 he started to work evenings for Vic Sams, growing vegetables in the garden of The Gables in Melrose Avenue. Vic Sams moved to Chapmans Lane, growing seed on the fields on the west side, and Cecil went to work for him. He gives a lot of detail on the two-year seed growing cycle.
Cecil married Jane Cudmore in 1953 - she had been living at Cross Farm in Cross Lane.
1974 Vic retired, and Cecil started a second career as a Postman, first in Colchester and then on on Mersea.
Cecil and Jane are talking to Brian Jay and Tony Millatt in February 2010. There are two parts, 35 and 23 minutes..

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Cecil Mussett Vic Samms
Cecil Mussett and Vic Sams

More ...
Mersea Regatta Past and Present - a 1994 talk by Ron Green
Tiddler Mole born 1911 - gardener, oysterman, more - interviewed in 1983
Freda Smith teacher at West Mersea School for 26 years - interviewed in 1996
Reg Hempstead - worked as a rigger at Clarke & Carter. Interviewed by Dennis Chatters and Reg D'Wit.
1884 Earthquake - Colchester, Peldon, Great Wigborough, Barn Hall ...

There are more audio files available on www.merseamuseum.org.uk
Click for the full list

CITiZAN made many recordings in 2018 as part of their Mersea Island Project
See searchingmersea.com
( Go to SOUND ARCHIVE on the menu to see and play the full list of audio files. )