Bernard O’Donnell

Bernard was born in Hulme, Manchester in 1932. He describes this area of Manchester at this time as a slum, and very poor. When Bernard was two the family moved to Longsight which was then a new estate and they stayed there for three years until moving to another, bigger house in the same area.

He is one of a very large family, and lived with his mother, father and 8 brothers and 3 sisters. His mother, who was one of a family of 18, worked to look after the family, and also used to take in washing for sixpence a day. His father didn’t work, as he was in ill health due to a stroke. Sadly he died before Bernard turned three and his evacuation is marked by the death of his father and the fact he was leaving his mother behind. His brother Wilfred, who was evacuated with him was “absolutely precious” to him.

He attended St. Robert’s in Longsight and, like many of the children there, was evacuated to Coton in the village school (now Faber School). He was actually evacuated a few days before the war broke out, as he can remember the declaration announcement came over the radio when he was already in his billet home. He didn’t have very much with him on the day apart from his gas mask, a toothbrush and a solid block of Gibbs dentifrice. Here he talks about the journey, on which he was given a bar of Cadbury’s chocolate: 

Dying to pee Transcript of Bernard’s 1st audio clip 

So, at either Oakamoor or AltonTowers, they alighted the train and were taken to the Faber School where they were chosen by the locals. His brother stayed with Bernard telling them: “I’m not going anywhere without our kid”. In the end, they were taken by car to Mr. and Mrs Allen’s cottage. This was on Coton Lane and called Wood View. The house had no electricity or running water, and it took him a while to get used to being in the countryside. Click on the link below to hear him talking about this (a transcript follows):

being in the countryside Transcript of Bernard’s audio clip

Both he and Wilfred really enjoyed their stay with the Allens.  They were treated to fresh fruit and vegetables grown in the back garden by Mr. Allen and Mrs Allen’s freshly-baked scones and beautiful fruitbread. However, after about a year, Wilfred turned 14 and was ready to start work, and their mother wanted Bernard to return home with him. He believes the Allens (who had two grown-up children), were very sad to see them go.