Ralph Cook

In 1805 the Cooks came over from Tolpuddle in Dorset in search of better living conditions. From an early age I lived with my parents and sister,Valerie, in Red Cottage, Brook Green, where I still live. In the early 1950s there were very few children of my age in the village and I mostly remember working and having fun at Compton Farm, my mother’s family home. I learned how to build go-karts and get old car engines (with or without much car body) working well enough to race around the farm and over the Downs.

I remember Mr McMasters, who lived on the Green in the 1950s. He was a jovial character who was often around, he was the managing director of  Slazengers. Next door to us in Chine Cottage were Bill and Alec Ballard and their mother, Rose, who was a very friendly out-going woman and very protective of her ‘boys.’ This protectiveness may well have been the result of what happened when Bill was young. The family lived at Pitt Place, Mottistone, where the father worked on the farm. One night in 1905, when Alec had just been born, their father died suddenly of diptheria. The story goes that the landowners, feeling that Rose, as a widow, could not afford to look after both boys and should send Bill to a home in London. Bill would have been about five  years old then. When I was young I remember noticing that he had been taught in metric measurements, so it must have been a very good place and the landowners probably paid for it.

Anyway, after a while, Rose walked all the way to London to bring him back to Brook. Bill worked at Compton Farm for the Chekes and then worked as a builder. As a young man he went courting with the girl who became Bob Cassell’s wife. It didn’t work out, so, as he would say, ‘that was it with women.’  Alf Woodford and the Ballards told me how the Green got nicknamed ‘France.’ It was because we were on the sea side of the Military Road and we were independent of the landowner for fuel, building materials and food.  Living on the Green meant we were in the front line for ‘imports.’ When valuable cargo got washed ashore, if it was below high tide mark, i.e. the cliff at Brook, it was Crown property so no landowner could claim it.

I also remember that when Alf Woodford fished out of Brook Bay no other fishermen would come into the Bay as they would not poach another man’s livelihood.