|Archie was a colourful character who was born in Shenley on January 23rd 1870.
Both Archie and his friend, Joe Perry, were taught in Shenley School.
At the age of ten he was offered the chance to stay on at school for a further three years to become a pupil teacher. Unfortunately, his parents did not have the means to support him in school any longer so he was sent out to work as a labourer at Manor Farm.
It was while he was working for the Squire at Manor Farm that he played a crucial part in the first elections in Shenley in 1884. It was Archie who rode into Stony Stratford with the ballot papers, on Peggy, the Squire's mare. It was pitch black, pouring with rain, he had to encounter drunken men at the Old Bell, but that didn't stop 14 year old Archie from delivering his important mail.
In 1900 he married Gertrude Kitchener, the Infant School Mistress at Loughton School, and they had one son, Maurice. Archie took up employment in the offices at Wolverton Works and it was from there that he took early retirement after having a heart attack. Though he outlived Gertrude by many years and remarried after her death.
He died on New Year's Eve, 1959, at the age of 89, and is buried alongside Gertrude in the Loughton Cemetery
Verbatim Transcript interview excerpt - Archie on Christmas 1874 and schooling at Shenley
Archie - "I'm 89 years of age....and thinking back over the past Christmases I can remember one, very plainly in 1874, I was four years old and going at that time to Shenley School. They had about a hundred students there then...and Mrs Selby Lowndes who then lived in Shenley House, and her daughter, Miss Coopes decided that they'd give the children a Christmas tree.... which was a very remarkable thing in those days, in fact I think that it was the first one ever put up in Shenley School.
Well they got their gardeners and brought a huge barrel down to the school, and then cut down a large fir tree, that grew in their woods and came and fixed it up.....and it almost touched the top of the school. Well the day was fixed for it to be dressed out, and we were to have a tea that day ..and then the prizes were to be given. There was one for every child on the tree. We had our tea alright... the parents came, lots of them, and had tea with us ... and I and my little pal Joe Perry, we wanted to go out to the schoolyard .. we went out in the schoolyard and somebody slammed the door behind us .. it was a huge door and we couldn't open it. We kicked it ..pushed it and we hollered for all we were worth.
We worried away ...and so would anyone be because they were going to start distributing the prizes.
It so happened that one of the teachers came out and she found us in tears.. ..took us back to Miss Coopes. "Oohh" she said..."You.. you needn't worry", she said "your prizes are all here, they're alright, they've not been touched" ... and she said "I'll take you round and get them for you. Now what would you like?" ... she said to me.. and I said "er.. er a drawing slate"... She said "Splendid"... and she got her steps and went up and cut the drawing slate , so I was alright. And then she went and cut my little pal's prize, I believe it was a knife that he had ... and of course we were happy, we got our prizes, there's a thing.
There was a big fairy right on the top, but it was a huge thing...it was a huge tree, it could only just stand in the school.
It was all decorated out with green and red and coloured candles ... all over, it was one blaze of light. Well of course everything finished and then came the question about taking the big Christmas tree out to ...into the schoolyard ... where it was pounced upon by 20 or 30 big fellas. They tumbled over one another grabbing at the candles ... and some got their hair pulled (laughter). It was the first time they had ever seen a Christmas tree. 1874 that was but they thought that it was wonderful".