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Memories of Fishergate campers
THE old log book is cloth-bound in red, and handwritten on lined paper yellowed with age.
It covers 15 years – from 1921 to 1934 – and is a record of the annual summer holiday taken by boys from Fishergate to a tented camp at Prospect Field (and later a more substantial wooden camp at Barker's Field) in Robin Hood’s Bay.
It is the photographs that are the most immediately striking thing about the book.
They show boys sitting around camp tables, hiking across moors, or taking a dip in the sea.
Most are accompanied by captions – and the book also contains several pages written in a neat copperplate handwriting, which describes the events and goings-on in camp.
The man who wrote those entries was Francis William Laycock – and he was a man with a lively, if rather dry, sense of humour.
One entry sets out the ‘characteristics of the Fishergate camper’. The camper was always generous, Mr Laycock noted, “particularly during fatigue duties when he is ever ready and willing to hand over his dishcloth to one whose need is greater”.
His everyday problems included “how to make a pillow with two bottles, a pair of wet shoes and the old school tie”; and “how to be deaf, dumb or blind according to circumstances”. And his imaginative powers were “so highly developed that the rest of the party are rumoured to have got up at 5am to fight for the privilege of serving his breakfast in bed”.
Mr Laycock, who lived in Hartoft Street in York, was a draughtsman and designer by trade. He started out working at Rowntrees, and during the Second World War went on to help design tractors and tanks in Leeds.
But long before the war, he used to regularly help lead the group of boys from Fishergate on their annual summer camp, says his son John, into whose possession the log book passed when his father died in the 1980s.
Fishergate then was a poor area, the younger Mr Laycock said – so the annual camp may well have been the only real chance the boys got to go away for a week, travelling to Robin Hood’s Bay by train.
The annual tradition had been begun in 1921 by a Mr HB Wrigley, but Mr Laycock’s father updated the camp log in later years.
As well as having a dry sense of humour, one of the many photographs is clearly overexposed and pitch black, the caption claims that it shows ‘midnight on the Hawkster Road’, Mr Laycock senior also a had a gift for drawing.
On one page are two beautiful ink-drawings of a hiker. A small poem accompanies them:
Limping, shambling, tottering,
Along the road he goes.
Each weary mile adds to the fun,
Fresh blisters ion his toes,
While frizzling 'neath a blazing sun,
The skin peels off his nose.
The log book, with its wealth of black-and-white photos and humorous asides, amounts to an affectionate record of a long ago tradition – and of a less greedy era in which a weekend in camp really was the highlight of a boy’s year.
The younger Mr Laycock, a Press reader who was brought up in Leeds and now lives in North Yorkshire, doesn’t know if any of the boys who used to take part in those camps are still alive.
But if they are – or if any of our readers remember their father or uncle telling them stories about their long-ago summers at the Fishergate camp at Robin Hood's Bay – we’d love to hear from you.
1934: The caption says “It’s a corner of heaven itself, though it’s only a tumble-down nest”
1927: The boys have a dip in Helwath Beck
John Laycock looks through the Fishergate camp log book
This feature prompted an email from Shaun Illingworth, in Australia.
Mr Illingworth, who lives in Perth, Western Australia, wrote: “My father, Laurence Illingworth, was born in 1909 and was a Fishergate Old Boy. He told me stories of these camps, although I can’t remember the years. He even mentioned a Christmas Camp on the clifftops at Robin Hood’s Bay.”
We’d still love to hear from anyone else who has memories of these camps.