Interview with Colin Durham
Interview with Mr Colin Durham recorded in Meopham on Friday 2 August 2013. The interviewer was Roy Cook.
He stated that he was Colin Durham, born in Northfleet in Victoria Road, Perry Street on Friday 13 August 1933. He weighed 13lbs at birth. The family lived in Clarence Place, Gravesend near Windmill Hill throughout World War II.
He moved to Meopham in 1967 but had started visiting the village in 1942 whilst visiting school friends.
His mother had been a housewife and his father had worked for the Port of London Authority.
He had started Primary school in Clarence Place and had transferred to Gravesend Grammar School in 1943 until 1949.
Usual activities nothing specific, later he owned a bicycle.
His main interest, had been and still was, all forms of historical transport from airships to bicycles, buses, vintage cars, trains etc.
On leaving school, after his matriculation, in 1949 he was employed by a local Trustee Savings Bank in Harmer Street, Gravesend for £2.1s.6p per week (£125 pounds per year).
He moved to his present address in John’s Road, Meopham in 1967. Since then the shops and trades have changed, including the loss of two banks, and the traffic has considerably increased.
He stated that at one time there were two buses an hour direct into Gravesend and now there was only one which travels indirectly through Cobham and Shorne to Gravesend. There used to be regular steam trains stopping at Meopham until the total electrification in 1959, although there had been electric stopping trains in 1939.
He thought that, apart from some jobbing work, there had only been Agriculture or Retail.
World War II
His memories suggested that Meopham had not been really affected although he recalled a V1 (or Doodle Bug) falling behind Meopham Green. He thought it was one of the last as it had apparently been launched from an aircraft and not launched by a ramp in Germany.
Major events (3)
He had been on the Committee for the annual Meopham Make Merry which had ended some years before due to lack of support.
When again asked about his working life, he said that having joined the TSB in 1961 he moved to the Coutts bank in London until 1979. He then retired and started his own transport business with open-topped buses. He said that he had owned three at one time and has hundreds of photographs. He claims to have owned over 300 vehicles over the years.
Meopham Make Merry
He remembered that it had ceased 10-15 years ago.
His memory of the event was long tiring day spent lining the route when he was a National Serviceman in the Army based in Canterbury.
He is not involved with the Church or any local interest groups but is a member of numerous organisations dealing with historical transport. He named the Historical Vehicle Society, their interest being buses and lorries, The Jowett Car Club, which most people remember for the Jowett Javelin, a post war car that drove the Company into bankruptcy. But the Company had started in 1906 and had made their name before the War with a popular small 7hp car called a Weasel, one of which he still owned. He is also interested in mechanical music, fairground organs and Victorian music boxes and he belongs to the Musical Box Society of Great Britain and still attends meetings.
He is unaware of any local well known farmers or landowners.
He stated that his current bungalow is not the original building on the site. His first house had been an early form of prefab, a timber frame with asbestos cladding which had arrived by lorry in a kit form in 1930. He has recently remarried and his wife did not like the previous building so it was demolished and the new bungalow was built. He believes that the previous building was one of the oldest of its kind still in existence.
When he was asked was he still involved with transport in the Village, he said that he was the Chairman of the Welfare committee whose main function was the running of the Village Community Bus service. It had two routes – on Tuesdays and Fridays it ran from Meopham, via Harvel and Longfield into Gravesend and on Thursdays it ran via Sole Street and Cobham to Gravesend. In addition, the previous Saturday he had organised a vintage bus tour around Gravesend. He explained that in the early 80s he had, with a friend, acquired from a scrap yard in Billingshurst, Sussex, a 1935 Leyland Cub 20 seater ex London Transport bus. There were actually four, they had two and another friend in Maidstone had the other two. They had made one good us out of the two but did not finish the build and sold the bus to the Ensign Company in Grays who spent another £250,000 on its refurbishment. It was this bus he had been loaned last weekend to run the old routes from the Northfleet Garage. When asked how much they had originally paid, he replied “about £500 for the two”.
He had not noticed many changes, only the building of more houses.
He repeated that Meopham used to have two buses an hour. One was a shuttle between Meopham Green and Gravesend and the other Route 122 from Maidstone via Gravesend to Brighton. This was considered the longest route in the County but was ended in the early 90s. Now there is only one bus every hour. The train service is much better, where there used to be only one train an hour with one extra at peak times, now there are two fast and one slow every hour. He considers Meopham and Longfield has possibly the best service in Kent enabling passengers on the fast train to make about a 30 minute journey to Victoria.
He continued by explaining that he used to save 7s 6p from his wages and over two years he finally accrued £50. At that time, cars being expensive, small engine had been developed to fit in the rear wheel to motorise a bicycle. To celebrate after he was demobilised from the Army, he used his savings and purchased from Ted Clarkes Garage, in Wrotham Road, a new bicycle fitted with a Cyclemaster 25cc engine in the back wheel for the total sum of £49.19s.6p, leaving him 6p. He still owns the bicycle with two others.