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Madge and Stan Barker's
story of the 1953 flood


The old people who had experienced floods (there was a bad one sixty years before, in 1897) said 'Oh no, there wouldn’t be a flood because the wind had been off the land for three days'. But then, all of a sudden, wind tide and moon combined; it rushed down from Scotland apparently and it built up as it came, and then the wind changed and it just brought it on. We had only been married two years in 1953, and we were still living with my parents in the post office.
That particular night, my husband walked along with my Dad to empty the coin box in the telephone kiosk, and when they were just near it, my husband said ‘Water!’ and my Dad said, ‘Flood!’

When we left the box, it was still stood up. We hadn’t time to mess with the cash box, we left it and dashed back. My father-in-law, Fred Haylock, went indoors and I went into the garage to get the cars out. I’d chosen that time to take the starter out, to clean the brushes, but she started first turn with the handle. I couldn’t open the doors for the wind, so I just revved up, let the clutch out, and battered the doors down. I went up over them! I got the two other cars out, the Thomases’ as well, and left them up the hill. When I got in the post office again, I found my father-in-law Fred wandering about inside in the water. The ladies were upstairs. We had to get out. The front window broke with a bang and the water came along the top of the counter in a rush, and then we went through to the passage. It was coming at the rate of knots: the water had circled the house and was coming in fast at the back door bringing floating objects with it. There were all sorts come through, toilet buckets wizzing past! (That big fridge was on its back the next day, up on the bank behind, and my trailer with my plumbing stuff was up there too.) The only way out was the back window. Fred was a bit devastated; he had managed to get himself up into the window frame and I found him stuck there. He wouldn’t go. He hovered in the middle there, unable to go out or get back, and all the time the electrics were flashing and going out, things were coming off the shelves, and I thought: Right! Best be out of this quick. I put my boot in the middle of his back, popped him out like a cork out of a bottle and followed him right quick and took him to higher ground (where the Galvin’s bungalow ‘Iona’ now stands). I left him there and went back for the ladies.

We were upstairs, my Mum and I, and what with the noise of the wind and everything, I didn’t know where they were and I honestly thought they had drowned. What did the damage, was these poles floating around. They were putting poles and things on the beach, knocking them in, and they got half-way through the job— the sea got hold of them, they were long timbers.
The stairs had gone and we had to save ourselves and the dog, and the only thing was to jump out of the back window. How I got my Mum out of that window I don’t know. Stan was there and he’s quite tall, so I was all right, but my Mum was a bit of a dead weight.




Well, Madge lowered her mother from the top window. She was a heavy little person—but anyway out she went. I could reach her legs and down she came, but she stumbled and fell and went under. I straddled her and hauled her out. Madge’s poor father lost his boots and down he went. I had more trouble with him than with her mum!

Above: After the flood, the fridge has been brought back inside, though the room it was in at the back of the post office, is swept away.

They’d dug all the garden then and it was very soft and down she went—there was about three feet of water behind the house. My sister Kathleen and her husband were in the cottage next door going towards Purdy street, which my Dad bought for £100. They’ve got windows on the outside of that house now, but there were no windows then. They were upstairs. They both had ‘flu, and the water was at the top of the stairs and they didn’t know how much higher it was going to come. They saw something floating outside the back window and realised it was the big industrial shop fridge, which had been in a room built on to the back of the shop. he walls were thinner than the rest of the house and couldn’t withstand the flood [see below]. Afterwards, the stuff inside the fridge was quite edible .I don’t think we ate it though! The Woodhouses nearby (in the house which is part of ‘The Pightle’, where Hermia Eden now lives) had got up in the roof, but had nowhere to get out and, like us, they didn’t know how much higher the water was going to come. They had to knock a hole in the end of the house. Me and my husband couldn’t help them because we had my Dad and Mum to look after. We got them up to my husband’s shed, which was on higher ground, and we got my mother into a pair of my husband’s overalls which were in the shed, and led them up through the hedge to Miss Cobbold’s house. But her sister, who was in it while she was away, said ‘I’m sorry, you can’t come in because it’s not my house,’ which was understandable, but when we said we were desperate, she let us in. My poor parents were given a single bed for the two of them, and we sat in front of the fire all night. For the next few days we stayed there and had a mattress on the floor. Then we went up Cross Street and stayed in ‘Sunny Croft’ next to Jim Radley’s Pear Tree Cottage.
Where Catriona Court now stands, there was an old army camp, and we lived for six months up there in a borrowed caravan.