Page Updated:- Sunday, 07 March, 2021.

From the Folkestone Herald Published 30 March 2000

Alec’s dream.

AN OLD Folkestonian now living in Hull, Mr Alec McGarry, 84, loves his old home town and he has a dream. That dream is that one day someone will take over where that great fighter pilot Sir Douglas Bader left off and try and get official recognition for the men who were engaged in building up the coast’s defences when Britain faced a real threat of invasion, in the early part of the Second World War.

“Sir Douglas Bader was so impressed with all the defence work that the construction workers did, that he wanted to know, after the war, why these men had not been awarded the Defence Medal.

“He came down to the fighter aerodromes at the time of the Battle of Britain and saw how the men worked all hours to fill in the bomb craters and keep the airfields operational.

“After the war this brave man began asking why these men had not been awarded medals and started to campaign on their behalf.

“But, sadly, the great man died and there was no one to carry on the fight for the award.

“I do hope there is someone in this part of the world, perhaps Mr Michael Howard MP, who might be able to start the ball rolling again.

“It will help honour this great man’s work. How he would have liked to see justice given to these men,' says Alec.

“I think I could write a book about all those times. The memories will stay with me all the rest of my days - How could we ever forget! I am now 84.

And he recalls how building workers like him were issued with a printed card to show they were essential workers.

His was headed: ‘Borough of Folkestone: This is to certify that A.C.R. McGarry, of 19 Taylor Street, Folkestone is an essential worker, and must remain after general evacuation. - Signed Alfred Beesley, Chief Constable.'

On the reverse it stated ‘This order is served under powers given to me by the Regional Commissioner under Defence Regulations etc etc and will be strictly enforced, under penalty. Alfred S Beesley, Chief Constable, July 1940.’

“It meant,” said Alec, “that there was no way we could leave Folkestone without authority."



As I wrote last week, Alec worked for Otto Marx who, he said, built all the defence works from East Cliff to Dungeness Point — East Cliff, the harbour, Sandgate, Hythe, and Dymchurch and so on.

“There was only one man that could have got this vital job done, and that was Otto," he said.

“He had a big Daimler saloon car and would visit all the sites being worked on. He would start and finish the same time as us. He commanded a great deal of respect from us all. He knew how to get the best out of everyone that worked for him.”

A man who likes to sing while he is working, Alec had the nickname of “The yodelling brickie” on the building sites. And, he said, “When Otto Marx heard me he always wanted to know how I learnt to do this!”

Alec's mother, Maud Agnes McGarry (nee Crawford) married twice and he has four step-brothers, Joe, Hugh, Mick and Bernard. Sister Eileen and step-sister Angie have both passed on, as have his mother and step-father.

Alec did a four year apprenticeship as a bricklayer with Albert J. Cook, of Tram Road, before working for Otto Marx. He left Folkestone in September 1942, recruited by building contractor George Stone, along with mate Johnny Andow, to work on building repairs in London and Coventry after the devastating wartime attacks on those cities.

Alec says it sticks in his memory how much the town used to depend for trade on the local military garrison.

“There was Shorncliffe Barracks, Risborough Barracks, Napier Barracks, Somerset Barracks, Ross Barracks, Moore Barracks and the bases of the RASC, Royal Engineers, Royal Army Medical Corps and the Royal Military Police.

“I also remember some of the regiments that were stationed here. The King's Own (1924-28), Sherwood Foresters, The Buffs, East Kents, Manchester Regt, The Inniskillings, 13/18th Hussars, 11th Hussars, The Greys, Seaforth Highlanders, East Surreys and the Royal Artillery.

“You had men from all over the British Isles, but there was seldom any trouble. They were fit and were a pleasure to have around. I remember they liked to frequent the Victoria and White Lion public houses.

“Local people relied so much on the barracks for shop and other trade and civilian jobs. And then there was all the activity, with sporting and other events, such as the hospital gala and Sunday church parades at Napier Barracks, I particularly remember,” says Alec.

“We didn’t need money then to watch sport,” he said ruefully.

He remembered the Garrison Churchyard at Pond Hill and how schoolchildren took flowers to put on the graves of brave soldiers who gave their lives in two world wars.


And he couldn’t forget how they used to help the blind and wounded men who were cared for in a home at the bottom of Military Hill and Sandgate Hill.

“We used to go and help take these brave men up on to the Leas, as Sandgate Hill was too steep for them with their invalid chairs.

“We used to hitch up donkeys to these and pull them up to the top of Sandgate Hill and then take the donkeys down again and bring some more up. How we enjoyed this!”

Alec apologises for his writing because he says he has a lot of trouble with his eyesight these days. But there’s not much wrong with his memory, it seems, because he has written pages and pages recalling days gone by in Shepway. “I could write a book!” he told me.


G and E Swoffer

G. & E. Swoffer were wholesale fruit merchants and millers and had the old Horn Street mill and premises in Dover Road. Descendant Brian Swoffer, told me about the firm which will be featured in Memories.


Chiton Football 1957

MEMORIES reader Mr M. L. Blackman, of 16 Cobden Road, Hythe has sent me this soccer picture, believed to date from 1957 and to have been taken at the Stanley Road, Cheriton sports field. He says a friend believes the player kneeling, bottom left, is Barry Shaman and wonders if any one can help identify the others and provide any other details.



Salvage cash for local boatmen after collision.

A FOLKESTONE boatmen, who got 200 were among the parties who were granted costs following salvage of the Swedish steamer Lisa and its cargo, in the Channel in December following collision with the railway steamer Mabel Grace. She was towed to Dover and beached. For years the young urchins of Folkestone had fun and eked out their families’ meagre income by ‘gleaning' coal from the harbour sands that had fallen during unloading of ships. Sometimes port workers took pity on them and ‘accidentally’ dropped the odd lump for them. The gleaning was even seen by some as an attraction and It earned a mention in English’s Folkestone guide book. But a test case In court proved that the coal belonged to the consignee and to glean was theft. A Hythe committee which collected funds to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee backed a proposal by Mr R T Deane that the money should be used to buy a clock for the tower of St Leonard's Church. Insufficient funds had been raised to lay out Corporation fields as a public park. The plan required approval of subscribers and a meeting was being held at the end of March.



Dover Patrol raid on German U-boat base in amazing film.

THE Central Picture Theatre showed the remarkable film Zeebrugge, said to be a dramatic reconstruction of the epic British raid on the German held port by the Dover Patrol on St George's Day, 1918, in which many local men took part. The film included actual footage taken by the German U-Boat officers during attacks on British merchant ships. This propaganda footage was Intended by the Germans to reach New York where it was hoped it would keep America out of the European war. But the U-Boat carrying it was captured by the Royal Navy! It Is said the first public showing in London was attended by the King and Queen - making their first ever cinema visit! A public meeting was held at Capel Court, Capel to discuss the next step in the fight, backed by local farmers, to get a mains water supply for everyone, a battle that had been going on for 20 years, it was stated, but which had got nowhere. Some people were happy with their wells and supply of natural rain water and didn’t want to meet the cost of piping In a supply via the rates. Another snag was no one knew the cost. It was decided to write to the Rural Council urging action and saying a proportion of villagers were prepared to make rate contributions. Later it was agreed to send a deputation to Folkestone Water Company.



Move to boost tourism via Flushing steamers.

THE Mayor of Folkestone and the chairman of the Chamber of Commerce welcomed the Burgomaster of Flushing, M D Kolff, together with the president and the manager of the Flushing Tourist Development Association when they paid an official visit to the district. Their purpose was to boost the number of passengers travelling on the Zeeland Line service between Folkestone and Flushing, which was revived the previous year. It was agreed to Include leaflets about the service in the town's official guide book. The service ran between July 8 and September 18 with sailings from Folkestone at 11am on Mondays and Saturdays and return trips on Sundays and Fridays. One Idea put to the visitors was that some round trips might be organised, for long weekend excursions, passengers to go out via Dover and Ostend, then to Bruges, and by coach to Flushing, returning on the Zeeland Line to Folkestone, the suggested return fare being 6. Folkestone CC was looking forward to a great year of cricket having one of the largest ever memberships. 40 all-day games were lined up. Hythe & Saltwood Branch of the Anglo-Netherlands Sports Association agreed to take part In a sports meeting In Zandvoort, in spite of a disappointing response from local clubs, either due to prior commitments or low funds.



Council calls for massive road investment in town.

SHEPWAY Council prepared for top-level talks to persuade the Government to spend millions of pounds on roads in the district as concern grew over the build-up of traffic expected following the scrapping of the Channel Tunnel. Meanwhile local traders along the route of port traffic threatened not to pay their rates until road improvements were given the go-ahead. The 18-national Council of Europe was reported to be looking at ways to continue the Chunnel project. The Herald hit out at Shepway’s holiday guide which, It said, was “ill-devised, lacked for money and time," and that the photographs “lack the 1975 image.” Compared with those of other resorts it was “drab, uninformative and unimaginative." It had to be remembered the district was trying to attract tourists not only but from Europe, said the editor. Although weather had been ‘unseasonable’ the trouble was it had not been cold enough for fish to be plentiful fishermen complained! And their livelihoods were at stake it was admitted by a Kent Fisheries officer. Already four Ramsgate boats had been ‘withdrawn’ because owners could not maintain payments under a loan and grant scheme. The possibility of introducing “Silent Rider” electric powered buses in the area, capable of 40mph and of climbing steep hills, was a raised during a meeting of the Chartered Institute of Transport at Canterbury.


If anyone should have any a better picture than any on this page, or think I should add one they have, please email me at the following address:-