Henry Bright was born at the Post Office at Merton the son of Zillah & Thomas Bright on Nov 21st 1885 their only child. I was born in 1918 and I was only 7 or 8 when around 1925/26 my Father was struck down with a heavy stroke which left him paralysed completely down his right side. Before that he was extremely active and very clever in so many ways. During the 1914-18 War he worked in Vickers Armstrong Erith, Kent for 3 years, I think on lathes, turning out shells etc. My Mother went to see him and saw the Zeppelin that came over and I think was brought down.
From the time he came home, he travelled a lot to Tintagel and Trebarwith Strand, also around Devon taking photographs. He stayed with either friends or distant relatives in Tintagel at Trehane, they were called Tremaine and some of them came and stayed with us also. (I also stayed with them when I was able to drive myself) He cycled at first, and then I think had a grey Ford van. He built his own camera, a big contraption, standing on 3 legs and used to put his head under a big black cloth and look through the lens. He took a lot of photographs around Heanton Satchville of the young people who worked there, the cars and chauffeurs, one I recall was called Bolton, also of the old Lady Clinton (I never saw any of the old Lord Clinton) Also he took the picture of Lady Clinton with her first baby and I believe some of the library. He did french polishing for her Ladyship! And they held functions there with dancing and I was told she had a firm down from London to French polish the floor and she ran her foot along it and said it was no good and sent for Harry at once, he had to do it at once. I think he got on well with her and was a bit of a favourite for he was often at Heanton doing something, I imaging in the repair line.
The photographs Dad developed and printed himself, they were
on glass in small wooden frames that undid with metal clasps
at the back of the frame. The plain card was put into frames
and were stood on the seats in the front porch, and had to be
constantly looked at to be sure when they were not under coloured,
all in Sepia. I seem to remember the card connected with the
letters P.O.P. After they were ready we took them out of the
frames, and we had 2 or 3 big pieces of very thick glass, which
had to be thoroughly cleaned. First washed and dried, then would
it be French chalk put on and I well remember the pinkish red
pure silk handkerchief that the glass had to be really polished
with. Then I think we laid the photos on and to get them stuck
on the glass it was somehow wet and there was a piece of oil
cloth specially prepared in a solution and a roller and we had
to roll off the surplus water and again I think they went into
the porch and when they were glazed and ready they would just
pop off and where ready for sale. At the end of the passage
going into the post office at Merton Dad had made a flattish
glass case where the photos were displayed for sale, 2d each.
There were many photos taken of churches and chapels and I know he fitted some with acetylene gas lighting though he never did Merton Church or Chapel. We had acetylene gas in our house and after Dads illness it was my job to keep the generator working, cleaning out the old carbide from the trays in the bottom and putting in lumps of new, then setting the tap to turn at the right speed to drip on the to the new carbide. We children used to play houses and make mud pies in the top of old shoe polish tins, and use the white water which came out of the carbide trays as milk, pretend of course!
Dad laid the foundations of the garage as it now is but in different parts at one time. First that I remember was a long wooden part nearest the houses where there was a bench and where the dark room was for his photography, developing etc. Then I think was the engine house which was connected to the main part of the garage and where we used to charge accumulators. As I became older I had to start the engine by turning the wheel till it started and I was told how to hold the handle, so that if it kicked it wouldn’t break or damage my hand. We charged 6d each for smaller ones and I think a shilling for larger ones. I was shown how to use the hydrometer to test the acid and distilled water content to the right amount, more luck than knowledge sometimes I’m sure! The he must have built the whole garage, because it was him or through him that the inspection pit with wooden slats was built and his lathe was always there as long as I can remember and a long workbench what is now at the back of the garage, I assume. I remember foundations dug out and blocks laid taken from the garden for something else to be built but it was never finished – probably due to his stoke. I’ve heard it said that Dad would leave digging and mend anyone’s bicycle or whatever in exchange for someone to do a bit of digging for him! Earlier there was no forecourt, where it s now was the neighbours garden with a hedge and the entrance to the garage was a sort of lane and the petrol pump was out on the corner. It was the old fashioned sort which had to be turned by hand and watch the clock going around and stop turning when you got the amount the customer wanted and then leave to drain out the hose. I learnt to drive at 17 yrs and had good practice in reversing in and out of the garage back to the hedge, forward and back several times, before getting the car straight to drive out the lane. As far as I know it was after I married Jack Ball that we had the more solid garage built. Jack and I built the little garden and forecourt wall in evenings by hand.
Next to the garage towards the road was a shed where Richard Cudmore used to make bots and shoes. I spent hours watching him and was allowed sometimes to hand him the sprigs and hobnails. I loved the smell of leather and was always interested in seeing anyone construct anything. Later when Richard dies the shed was pulled own, it was adjoining Burrows orchard.
At one stage my Dad & Uncle Jim who was living with us used to go to Eggesford Station very early to fetch the mail from off the train and bring it back to Postmaster Lyne at Dolton P O and for Merton P O which first Dad’s Mum ran we had 3 postmen to deliver the Merton mail.
Dad married Louisa Annie Balch at Merton Chapel on Dec 30th 1915. She was the eldest of a family of 10, I think not too acceptable to his Mum Zillah for her only son! Also being a farm workers daughter, but she made him a most wonderful patient wife.
Dad had a man Fred Mitchell from Petrockstowe working for him, when they went around fitting the lighting in churches and chapels. When I drove, I had to go around delivering drums of carbide. He also made wireless sets and when he was ill, couldn’t of course, until after many months maybe couple of years, he used to get me helping him. I well remember fixing condensers, valves and soldering bits of wire together with the hot soldering iron, heated in the fire, and stick of solder. We managed to get a lot of oscillation, but always in the end, received words and music. I think he made Lady Clintons first wireless set.
We had a dark red Aerial car with fold down hood and celluloid side screens to put up when it was wet, and what a job it was getting up hood and putting these side screens in the correct slots. It wouldn’t take the steep corner going up Beaford Hill, one or two had to get out and walk that bit. Dad couldn’t of course. A man called Dillon Symons would drive. He spent a lot of time with my Dad. His Mum and Dad kept the village stores.
By Mrs Margaret Ball, (March 2008 aged 90) who ran Merton Post Office until they moved to Kilkhampton Post Office in 1964 and The Hunt Family took over Merton P.O.