John W Young
In 1956, The Guisborian posed the question ‘Who is the oldest old boy?’ A year later, a contender was identified as Mr J W Young of E.Islay, Santa Barbara, USA.
John had enrolled at the School aged 12 on 15 January 1886 and left in 1889. He remembered the ‘old’ school before it was pulled down, went to school when it was ‘down-town’ and was one of the first pupils in the ‘New School’ as it was then known with Rev. Eves as Headmaster.
In 1958, following an approach from his nephew, also an old boy of the School, Mr Young wrote an article for The Guisborian, an abridged version of which is reproduced here.
My Journeys Through Life by John W Young
Walking the path between the Church and the old alms houses to the Applegarth, the old Grammar School was still standing at the east end, near the “old Abbey”. Old people still lived on charity in the alms houses and the old school was vacant. Around 1885, all the old, picturesque houses and the school were torn down to make room for the new school. There were a few weird tales at the time the foundations were excavated as it was said that it was part of an old burial ground.
In my 13th year, less than a dozen boys gathered at the Club House on the south side of Westgate to meet our new Headmaster, Rev RD Eves, and we attended class there for three terms.
The boys enjoyed a certain amount of disorder and excitement during the transfer to the new school. Mr Eves organised a library and later a museum. He also had a board hung so that the boys could carve their initials, thus protecting the old black oak desks. During the first term many new boys joined us. In the spring and summer, the Headmaster would take the boys for a walk towards Highcliff Woods and talk about ferns, trees, birds’ nests etc. Other times we had paper chases usually up towards the moors.
For most of my time, I was at the bottom of the class and I sketched ships and guns in the school books! Although the report cards that reached my home were not flattering, I received the prize for drawing each year. I still have a book, bound in leather, printed in 1887 and engraved with the seal of Guisborough Grammar School. The flyleaf carries the inscription “Prize for Drawing awarded to John W Young. Robert D Eves, M.A Headmaster”. Classed as drawing were free hand, geometry and maps.
I left School in 1889 and in August 1891, aged 17, was one of 8 apprentices aboard the square rigged Clipper Ship Eulomene when she left Sunderland for Pirie, Australia.
Having read much of the Bush, I wanted to travel therein and went up the west side of the Flinders Range towards Port Augusta. At Port Augusta, I contacted a camel train bound for Mount Eba sheep and cattle station. The train had about 20 camels and averaged about 30 miles each day. It was Spring ‘down under’ and enjoyable camping each night.
At Mount Eba, my job was to help cut out cattle for butchering at the home station. It was getting close to shearing time and the 24 shearers and roustabouts had to eat. 60,000 sheep, 800 head of cattle and a number of horses ran on the Mount Eba station. My cow pony was a well-trained animal and my Australian saddle was far superior to the English makes of that period and much easier riding.
Next, I rejoined the Camels travelling the North East Track. Later, whilst herding a small mob of horses at a small lake, a Bushman came to my camp. He was heading for the Barcoo River and the Queensland border. I decided to leave with my new chum and headed towards Queensland. We eventually sighted the Barcoo River and travelled to Lake Ethania where a Lutheran mission was located and the aborigines were numerous. As white men seldom went through that section we were welcomed to their hospitality. My partner told me he was going through some dangerous country to a gold mine near the McDonald range of mountains so I left my companion and started out alone back tracking to the coast.
A few days later I met up with 2 bullock wagons heading south and was glad to contact food and company. On our arrival in more settled districts, I stopped off and went to work with a farmer. His homestead and family life were enjoyable especially after 5 months of wild bush travel. This section of the country had a railroad and later I got a passage back to Port Pirie.
On arrival at Port Pirie, there were many ships at the docks waiting fair wind for clearing Kangaroo Island. Among them was one that caught my eye; she had had 40 years of service on many trade routes, flew the Norwegian flag and had a striking figure head. The Skipper signed me on and we sailed to Port Augusta before heading to sea, bound for Falmouth. After 128 days, on a bright morning in June, we entered Falmouth harbour and from there we later made fair weather round to Hull where I left the ship.
I was then one of the crew of the Danish Monarch for several months. She was from Hartlepool and we chartered many cargoes to European ports. The November gale of 1893 caught us off Elsinore in narrow water. We were bound for the Gulf of Bothnia and we fought almost to standstill in a blinding snow storm. It was a dangerous position as in those days many small craft traded in and out of the Baltic.
After a few months at Newstead Hill in Guisborough, where times were hard and money was scarce, I had the urge to go to the USA. I got a passage to Philadelphia and a letter of introduction to a farming family who at one time lived at Lumley House in Danby Dale; they had a homestead in western New York State. After a few months on the farm, in 1895 now aged 21, I had the opportunity to learn the machinist trade. My desire was to be an engineer and for 40 years I stayed in that line of work.
Before the First World War, I took my family to California and times were still tough. However, I wangled a job with the Pacific Electric Company in Los Angeles, remaining there until the war broke out. Then, I went to work at Mare Island Navy Yard. After 12 years, I was sent to Cavite Navy Yard in Luzon P.I and during my 8 years there, visited China, Japan and some of the Pacific Islands. Having reached the age limit in 1936 I had to retire and lived in Taos, New Mexico until 1939.
In 1939 we made a trip to England where we lived with my sister at Hawnby and did lots of tramping over the Yorkshire Moors, then came the war and dust from artillery wheels, captive balloons and black-outs. We returned to America on the Dutch liner Viedam meeting the first American convoy mid-ocean. We landed at New York and drove down to Florida. After a few months, we started overland to California and lived at San Diego for several months. At the time of writing we are living at Childress in Texas.