I'm still searching, with thanks to Barbie.This is something I wrote to the, “Bygones section of the “Derby Telegraph” early in the year.
The only response I got was off Barbie and she asked if I was going to post it here. This is for you Barbara,… perhaps someone knows Raymond Collins
IN 1934 two boys were born, one in Liverpool called Tonydw and one in Derby called Raymond Collins.
Both boys were born in the middle of the Great Depression of the 1930s, a financial crisis that only ended with the outbreak of the Second World War.
It was a difficult time for most families, with mass unemployment and kids galore. I say that because birth control was not widely practiced; there was no "Pill!"
Great Britain, formally a rural community, was now at the forefront of the Industrial Revolution, with people leaving the land and flocking to the cities to find work.
Lancashire, because of its wet and damp climate was ideal for the processing of cotton; dampness kept down the dust.
Cotton mills sprang up all over the county but not only was mill work noisy and soul-destroying but also wages were low.
Most families lived from hand to mouth. Lancashire and Yorkshire (a wool-processing county) bore the brunt of the Industrial Revolution and suffered the pain.
The start of war in 1939 saw the end of the Great Depression but obviously worsened the lot of the entire British population.
The men went off to fight the war and the women took over the work previously done by the men; all adults worked and, in the main, children, if not evacuees, were left to their own devices.
The absence of parents and lack of supervision saw many young boys "out of control". They played truant from school and did whatever they pleased – and so it was with Tonydw and Raymond Collins.
It reached a point where the authorities had to take control. Therefore, Tonydw, Raymond and others of their ilk were sent to juvenile reform schools, where they had to do as they were told.
Raymond arrived at St Vincent's Approved School, between Betis y Coed and Capel Curig, North Wales, just before I did in 1944; we became classmates and friends.
As you can imagine, being taken from all we knew and loved was heartbreaking for two ten-year-olds. We became good pals and comforted each other. There was no such thing as a computer, smart phone or Xbox. The radio was still a novelty and we wouldn’t have access to one anyway.
The only airplanes we knew of were those that came to bomb towns and cities of the United Kingdom, night and day.
Fortunately, Raymond and I had something fundamentally far superior than a computer. We had imagination that we used incessantly.
I told Raymond of a factory, near where I had lived in Liverpool, formerly Milner’s Strong-Box & Safe Company later to become Coach Builders Pearson’s, in Smithdown Lane.
However during the war they shipped Army lorries to the Middle East in huge wooden boxes.
I suggested to Raymond, that on release from St Vincent's, we should obtain one of these boxes and use it to sail to America.
We were so excited at the prospect of our intended voyage we spent all of our free time planning improvements, to make the box sea-worthy, before we sailed.
We planned two deck levels, a bathroom and piano. Why on earth we included a piano is still beyond me – a gramophone would have been more practical!
The adventure had started and we were planning. We became so engrossed conspiring and making plans that time just flew away until, one day in 1946, I was told to report to house-keeping.
Once there, I was issued with civilian clothes; two short-pants suits, two shirts, two singlets and underpants, two pairs of pajamas’, two pairs of socks and shoes. In fact, I got two of everything a young boy would need, including handkerchiefs.
I believed emphatically that I was going home.
Nobody actually told me so but all of the clothes implied it!
All of my Christmases had came at once, I was over the moon.
I never did get the big wooden box and Raymond Collins and I never sailed across the Atlantic in our double decked-wooden box, with piano.
I did sail the oceans of the world, as a merchant seaman, from 1950 to 1999, when I retired as ship's master (captain). I now live in Australia.
Raymond Collins, of Derby, was an important person in my young life. Our dream that never came to be, alleviated a traumatic period in my childhood.
Raymond and I helped each flatten the waves of yearning on my sea of anguish. He was my shoulder to lean on. I've often wondered what became of him and to discover the answer to this question is the reason for this letter.
I hope someone can resolve this question for me: Who is and where is Raymond Collins? He came from Derby and I hope and pray he is still there.
It's a great story. I found your article in the Derby Telegraph quite by accident. i googled St Vincent's, Betws Y coed to see where on the map it was, and hey presto....up came you!
I hope you find him, or his family and get some questions answered. Have you tried Facebook, is there a merchant navy site?
I'm on a mission now....