|Percy Hancock - recollections by Trevor Wedlake
Percy William Hancock, who died on 5th January aged 85, lived all his life in the house in which he was born, in Station Road, Wrington. Percy's father, who bought the house in 1913, was knocked from his bicycle by a car and killed as he rode out from Beam Mills, where he worked as a collar maker, one lunch-time in 1931.
Percy ("Perce" to all) went to work to help his mother, on Saturdays before he left school, at Sullivans the bakers at Cambridge House. This was a rapid way to discover all the villages and hamlets they served - places like Butcombe, Nempnet, Regil, Rickford, and Mendip, which, for many long-time Wringtonians, remain an unknowable labyrinth of swirling lanes.
As a teenager Percy discovered his talent for cricket, and following expert coaching developed into probably the quickest fast bowler Wrington cricket has produced. Like many other village boys of that era, on leaving school he cycled daily to work at Wake and Dean, the Yatton cabinet makers, where he stayed until 1939, when, like most of his generation, he was tailor-made for the army. He served in the infantry throughout the war, and embarked for France on the evening of 6th June, 1944 - D-Day - the day following his 27th birthday.
In his later years he would at odd times recall some of the gruesome incidents of his time in Europe. Demob saw him back in the village and in the building trade, for many years for the Yeates family - "Carpenters, Wheelwrights & Undertakers" - a few yards from his front gate. When Mr Yeates called it a day in 1960, Percy and his friend Mr John Mills went into partnership, and for the rest of his working life made his living in the local villages.
In pre-war years, Percy and his mother were keen pigeon and poultry fanciers, and Percy treasured a silver cup his mother had won in the Wrington Fur & Feather shows held in Organ Bros' printing works. Horse racing was another love of Percy's and until recently he regularly enjoyed a flutter. But many people will remember Percy best as an enthusiastic and accomplished gardener. He cultivated his long, immaculate fruit and vegetable garden until he was 83, and was always generous with the produce.
Percy never married, and in his later years, like his mother before him, he became rather reclusive. He sat much of the time in his little living-room watching the village go by, from behind the lace curtains. Little village news or gossip escaped him.
To a visitor, on the right day and in the right mood, he would relate tales of the old Wrington of his youth, three-quarters of a century ago: of Wrington when it was much more of a bike-pushing, horse-drawn, agricultural community, quietly self-contained; when most babies were born at home and everyone's death was marked by the tolling of the knell. They weren't all good days, he insisted, but he remembered them, and the people who lived them.
Last winter an ex-pat lady e-mailed the website from New Zealand for information of the village of Wrington in the 1930s and particularly for the name of the district nurse. One or two of us knew her name at once - her married name - whom she married, &c, but the name with which she came to the village, her maiden name, was beyond our memories. We decided to ask Perce. "I don't remember it at the moment," he said, "but I will." And the next day he did.
Percy William Hancock
born 5th June, 1917
died 5th January, 2003
In June, 2010, we received this email from Stuart Parry, via Simon Hancock:
"I have just found this item on your website on Percy Hancock, who worked for the Wake & Dean firm in Yatton, and I thought after reading about Percy how the internet has made the world a smaller place to be, but also how it can connect people through generations. Let me explain:
You see, in the late 1930s, when work in this part of the country (due to prewar recession) was very tight, my father decided that the only way for him to finish his joiner's apprenticeship was to leave home.
He had some relations living in Yatton and they had heard that he could find work in a local cabinet makers by the name of Wake & Dean. This would have been about late 1937 or early '38. He did enjoy working there from what I remember him telling me of his time there.
I remember that he was having a struggle to make ends meet on an 'improver's' wage, but all approaches to the workshop foreman to 'up' his money came to nothing. So one day, armed with his 'best-holed' work shoes, he made a direct approach to the boss himself, explaining his dire financial position, and proved this by showing off his worn-out footwear. On the presentation of this information he received a handsome increase in his wage, but only after the quality of his work had been scrutinised. At this time he was barely 20 years old. Percy Hancock and my father would have known each other I'm sure.
My father's name was Dennis Parry. He was born and brought up in a tiny village called Llanasa, near Prestatyn on the north Wales coast. During the time he was there he also played football for Yatton, and he was presented with a small cup as their side got into the league final - we've still got the cup.
He too went to war, in the infantry in Normandy. He also recalled some of the horrors of war, just as Percy had. He was wounded, and after about a year of treatment he was demobbed. Sadly, he died after becoming ill straight after his retirement - he was 68 years old.
I hope you find this little story of some interest to your readers in the community."