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All About Katie

by Bernadette Weyde

I had a very good childhood with brothers and sisters and a good mother and father. We lived in Tynwald Street in Douglas where I was born in 1925. I went to Tynwald Street school but I could not start school until I was eight years old. This was because when I was one year old I contracted infantile paralysis; this was the name for polio.

We were living in Pulrose for a time but there were no buses running up there then so I could not get to school. I was the youngest of six children until I had to spend time in Nobles Hospital! My mother became pregnant again when I was twelve years old…and I think she was rather surprised. My stay in hospital lasted for six months while they stretched my leg. It was painful but what was much worse was that they gave me too much anaesthetic at the time of my operation and so I suffered very badly with asthma which is still my main problem today. I remember Doctor Macfarland put my leg in traction. I was fourteen when I left school because of my chest and having no transport to take me there and home again I was breathless walking. Never thought I’d live to be seventy six years old.

We shifted to Peel Road in 1939 and lived in the corner house of Peel Road and Athol Street. It had been the house that Archibald Knox had lived in. The house was directly opposite the railway station clock. We had to move again in 1950 because it had been decided to demolish this house and the one next door to us which happened in December 1951; so we moved from Peel Road to Springvalley where I lived until recently.

Going back to the time we lived in Peel Road, my three sisters would all dress up beautifully and go out dancing. I remember especially the lovely shoes they wore. They would try to persuade me to go along too but I was always too conscious of my problem leg. This I know was very foolish but at the time I was just too self-conscious about it and so from that time on I never went out of the house again.

As time went on my young brother, Frank, who was thirteen years younger than me, married and they had a baby boy called Alfie. When he was about two years old another baby was due to be born to them and so Alfie was left at our house to be looked after. Time went on and he remained with us for always. This was just as well because by 1977 both my parents had passed away and I would have been totally alone without Alfie.

Do remember I had not been out of the house in all those years from moving to Springvalley, not even into the garden; I just could not do it. This must seem very silly to many people as it does to me, especially when I think of my grandparents and great-grandparents travelling the world from the Isle of Man.

My great-grandfather was a sea captain with his own ship and sailed as far away as Australia with his wife and family on board ship. My grandfather was born on the ship as it sailed up the River Murray in Australia and was so named Murray Coole. His mother died on their travels when Murray was still a young boy and Captain Coole took his own wife’s funeral and buried her at sea.

The family eventually returned home to their house in Onchan, St. Catherine’s, on the road up to Hillberry. Old grandfather was left a great inheritance but sadly was a drinker and so eventually ended up signing away his fortune. Not before my own mother was born at St. Catherine’s. They travelled around the Island in a pony and trap and it seems such a shame that he turned to drink. My mother did call him ‘ol’ bugger’ and said he knew he had sold his birthright and would no longer have any luck.

My mother was named Grace Darling after the famous lady who helped her father rescue sailors from a storm. She was the eldest of six children born to my grandfather Murray Coole and my grandmother Edie.

Now back to the present and the way I came to find myself in Glenside (residential home). I had a fall at home – down the stairs – and had to be brought to hospital. From Nobles Hospital they transferred me to Newlands and after three months I arrived at Glenside, which I may say I like very much and could not be happier.

My nephew Alfie comes to see me often and is married with two great children who I look on as my grandchildren. On ‘Mad Sunday’ Alfie insisted on taking me for a run out in his car – me, who had never been out since a child – so we went and he drove me all the way around the TT course. We diverted to have a drive past Peel Castle and we went over the mountain – the FIRST time I have ever seen Snaefell!

That’s it for now, I will prepare for my next installment…lots more tales to tell!

(source: by Katie Jones from ‘Old Times’ (Shenn Traaghy); photo © MNH, courtesy of the imuseum, and shows the corner of Athol Street and Peel Road, where Katie lived and Archibald Knox)

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