!946 – 50, THE NEW FAMILY

Economics, the queue for housing, the fact that I was unemployed and we were now three rather than two, all conspired to ensure that we stayed with Sophie’s parents and their other limpets.. In the first instance, of course, Linda’s condition had been the overriding consideration and then, somehow we got into a rut and never again parted from the family bosom.
We had put our names our down for a prefab on the Westland Road, corrugated asbestos dwellings with all mod cons, built rather on the lines of a railway carriage, but none the less better than most accommodation we were likely to be able to afford.
James was the head of the household, a position he clearly shared with Liza, this was not an autocracy, we all had an input and equal rights, all but Linda, she was special to us all. Jimmy worked as a Leading Plater, in the shipyard, a job where both skill and strength were called for and one where the pay was probably higher than most other trades.
He was a quiet man, never given to raising his voice or the exhibition of temper. I only remember once when his calm even tenor was disturbed and I believe I was the only one in the family he told of what had happened. The squad of platers James led operated on a semi-contract basis, paying themselves out of the kitty in an agreed fashion. Apparently some young buck who had only recently joined his squad was throwing more than his weight about and required to be taught a lesson and it fell to Jimmy to do the necessary. James was more than capable, he was strong, tough and had been a sportsman for much of his early manhood, playing football for the local team, the Crusaders, and running in cross country races, but psychologically I believe it took a lot out of him, it was not his way.
There was never any doubt in anyone’s mind that James was the bookies friend. He would enter competitions in newspapers, convinced he had all the right answers and if he was wrong would go to great lengths to prove why the adjudication was correct and it was he who had been wrong,. He had a passion for the horses and it was a family joke that he would go over to England to Aintree or the Derby, with a fortune and lose it all. No one objected, the family never went short and if they thought it a waste, they kept it to themselves. As far as Liza was concerned, he earned his money in a tough job, he gave what was needed, what he did with the rest was his own business. These days, probably a unique outlook, but not uncommonthen, among the wives of men in similar circumstances..
James loved to do the Football Pools and had copious records related to practically every aspect of the previous results. There was no doubt in his mind that he would strike it rich one day, in spite of having won the Treble Chance Pool on about five occasions and netted no more than 80 pounds, gross. Being Jimmy, he was planning for the family, the whole family not himself. I believe that he was so contented with his life as it was that he would have found excessive wealth an encumbrance.
On Saturday nights he and I had a ritual. In those days there was a newspaper published by Bairds called the Ireland Saturday Night which was a melange of sport, entertainment and titbits of anecdotal material, and was the bible for James when it came to preparing for the onslaught on the Pools for the following week, only supplemented by the back pages of the News Of The World, the following day. The ritual was always the same – at about eight o’clock, there was no television in those days – we would set out ostensibly to buy the ‘Saturday Night’, but in fact we were off to a local well- known hostelry call the Shafstbury Inn on the Antrim Road. There we would set them up, turn about.
Jimmy would have a John Jameson Irish and a pint of draft Guinness, while I was content with a pint of the latter. He would drink his whiskey, shake the remains into the beer and then slowly and deliberately we would lower the pints. It was on these occasions I began to know the man, respect him, and I believe we became very close. He would tell me stories of the troubles in the twenties and thirties..
When ERNIE bonds came out James, the gambler, had to buy a few, but he received nothing until the day he died. On that day his number was up in more than one sense, he won two hundred and fifty pounds, although he was never to hear of it because notification only came the day of his funeral and if the draw had been made a day later, his family would never have profited..

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