Monday, 4 August 2014

My Memories, Living at the Cemetery Lodge, Darwen Cemetery Neville W Cordingley JP – D.O.B. 9th June 1934

I lived in the south lodge at Darwen Old Cemetery along with my father, Wilfred Cordingley who was the cemetery registrar and my mother May Cordingley until 1943 when my father died in Blackburn Royal Infirmary of peritonitis.
I have many vivid memories during my time living in the cemetery lodge. Many are the times I would take my pals playing in the cemetery and running wild, climbing trees and playing tricks on my pals in the three chapels that were situated in the Church of England, Nonconformist and Roman Catholic sections within the cemetery. Each of these chapels had a small reading desk behind which I would hide and, when my pals came looking for me, I would press the bell push on the underside of the reading desk to scare them. Perhaps that is when my family ‘christened me’ Neville the Devil. Sadly, these chapels no longer remain.
I also remember when we had severe snow in Darwen and my helping the grave diggers shovelling the snow away from the entire main roads in the cemetery so that burial could take place; I remember receiving a wage packet, just like the rest of the men. Another memory I have is sneaking up on the grave diggers when excavating the graves and kicking soil and clay onto them. They never caught me as I ran away before they could climb out of the graves, all I could here was. “Neville, you young devil”. In those days all the graves were dug by hand – no mechanical diggers.
My most vivid memory happened on Monday 21st October 1940. This was the day that a German bomber flew directly over the cemetery lodge. I remember this because I was off school this particular morning, To this day I cannot remember why I was off school. Because the sirens had sounded I was instructed to ‘get under the table’ along with my father and mother. Now, being nosy, I crept out and looked through the living room window when I heard the plane overhead. The plane was so low I could actually see the pilot. Of course, I received a spanking for not staying under the table as instructed.
Later that same day ambulances arrived, bringing the bodies from the Crown Street bombing. The Nonconformist chapel was used as a temporary mortuary. I received yet another good spanking when I crept up to see what was going on in this temporary mortuary. My vivid memory was seeing the grave diggers hosing down the entrance to the chapel and sweeping blood with stiff brushes.
The only other occasion bombs were dropped in Darwen was on Saturday 19th October 1940 when the top house in Alice Street took a direct hit. The house was completely demolished, apart from the outside toilet in the back yard which was untouched; there were no causalities. My wife, who lived across the road in Jepson St., tells me that her mother had made a jelly and left it to set on the mantelpiece in the front room. Her mother was very concerned that the jelly was OK.