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Dave Robbins Part 3: Childhood Reminiscences

by Dave Robbins | Born and Raised in Bishopsteignton, Dave Robbins, People

As part of our “Born and raised in Bishopsteignton” series of articles, Dave Robbins relates his memories from growing up in Bishopsteignton in the 1960s and ’70s.

In this article he talks about his childhood reminiscences in his own inimitable manner (some mild bad language).

Dave has recorded a spoken and slightly embellished version of this article that can be listened to in its entirety while enjoying the images and text or in shorter bite sized chunks playable at intervals throughout the page.

Dave Robbins: Childhood Reminiscences (Full version)

19 minutes | Dave Robbins reads part 3 of his 'Born and Raised in Bishopsteignton' reminiscences in full, with added colour!

Photograph of the Bishopsteignton Pantomime 'Babes in the Wood'

Bishopsteignton Pantomime ‘Babes in the Wood’

womens institute members attending a village show in the 1970s

Women’s Institute 1970s

It seemed like almost every week there would be a jumble sale in the Village Hall during the 60s.  It would often be in aid of the Pantomime, Children’s Theatre or Womans Institute.  As Mum was often involved with many of these organisations, our house at 37 Fore Street would be, prior to the sale, full of unwanted broken toys, lots of colourless clothes and occasionally a discarded kids bike with a pedal missing!

Even as a kid I remember thinking ‘Who’s gonna want that?’ Different village folk would knock on the door and deposit useless ‘tat’ with us to the standard greeting from Mum ‘Oooh thank you my love’ …. you couldn’t move for jumble sale junk!

Occassionally Mum would buy a jumper or a pair of second hand shorts, or a skirt for Gaynor, my sister, before the clothes got to the sale.  She would always pay more than what she would have paid at the sale itself and we’d be dressed like the bloody ‘Bisto Kids’ for the next school year!

The jumble sale itself would attract punters from far and wide ….well Teignmouth.  Old ladies would catch the 2B bus (when it was able to drive through the village unhindered, without the dubious parking of modern day Bishop!).  These ladies would queue outside the hall, dressed in their long coats and ‘cloche’ hats, all invariably stood with folded arms, clinging to handbags, displaying faces like a slapped backside!  When the hall doors opened, any village child was well advised to stand well back.

Tea and biscuits were sold from the same little kitchen that exists in 2024 and by the end of the day the huge sums amounting to £20 or £30 were amassed.  As the adults cleaned up, us kids would run around the hall, sliding on the wooden floors until some old villager would tell us off.

Photograph of Eva Francis Harris (nee Gourd)

Village ladies, long coats and cloche hats

Photograph of Huntley Fete 1950s

Residents of Bishopsteignton attending a Fete


Photograph of Bishopsteignton Women's Institute

Bishopsteignton Women’s Institute

The unsold jumble would be picked up by Mr Roberts from Teignmouth.  He was the ‘rag and bone’ man, and in true ‘Steptoe and Son’ style, would stop outside the hall with his horse and cart and load it up ready for his slow trudge back home.

The resultant horse manure would then be shovelled up by keen village gardeners into metal buckets and taken home…  So as kids, rather than be stood exuding sulky demeanours using our mobile phones, as they do today, ready to unplug their parents life support machine in order to charge it up; we ‘Bisto kids’ would entertain ourselves by watching grown men shovel up horse shit!

Bishopsteignton Primary School turfed us out at 15.30.  Gaynor and I were trusted to walk home alone whilst many kids had thier Mums turn up.  Yes, mums.  To see a Dad outside the school was a rarity.

Kids would spill into the road as the 2B Devon General bus would take home the Teignmouth kids.

Football in the road was the norm after school, but if the winter darkness or the weather curtailed it, then sitting in front of the ‘telly’ was the next best thing.  Our TV was supplied on a rental, from a company called ‘Rediffusion’ and the TV repair man would come out and fix it when if broke down.  It wasn’t the dark ages, but the TV was black and white which was hopeless when watching snooker! 

After school TV programmes were Blue Peter, Captain Pugwash, Thunderbirds, Animal Magic, whilst the girls watched Black Beauty and the Lightening Tree.  But the scariest of the all was ‘The Singing, Ringing Tree’.  I think, part of the ‘Tales from Europe’ series…..  look it up …. we either had to watch that or watch Valerie Singleton on Blue Peter build a nuclear power station out of washing up bottles!

Bishopsteignton Community Centre 2021

Bishopsteignton Primary School

Devon and General 2b bus

Devon General 2B bus. With thanks to Devon General Society [1]

On a Thursday night the ‘Pools man’ would turn up …. Eric Rendle who lived in West Town Meadow.  Littlewoods Pools… where you selected which football teams would draw and if you won, you’d become a millionaire over night. N.B. We never won!

Back then, money was left on the doorstep outside for the Unigate Milkman and the newspaper man. Ignition keys were left in cars overnight.  Parking in Bishopsteignton was not an issue and H D Gourd coaches and lorries would regularly drive through without problems.

Photograph of Jeff Warren

Kids playing outside Gourds Coaches Radway Gardens

Photograph of Radway Street 1952

Photograph Gourd’s Garage on Radway Street


Gourds were based at Radway Gardens in the village and the buildings were used as furniture depositories.  Frequently, the lorries would unload, blocking the road between Radway Gardens and the end of Bronscombe Avenue and a little sign was placed at either end informing the public.  Nowadays, you’d need a traffic order, six months notice, a risk assement and a bat survey …… much simpler times back then.

I lived at 37 Fore Street for my first 22 years or so, with my Mum Sheila, Dad Dave and sister Gaynor next to Central Garage which is still there today.  Although, I think, there were a couple of previous garage owners whilst I was a baby in arms, my first recollection was a Mr and Mrs Codling.

Mr and Mrs Codling had a couple of grandsons Adam and Nicholas Helliker.  Adam and I were school chums for a time at Bishopsteignton Primary School and I do recall him having rather trendy straight long hair (remember folks this is Bishopsteignton … we locals were still pointing at aeroplanes back then!)  He left the primary school, before we us kids left for secondary education and we lost touch.  However, I discovered he worked as a feature writer for the Daily Mail, Sunday Telegraph, ‘hob nobbing’ with Madonna and Her Majesty the Queen.  He has recently specialised in media and communications advice for the a division of GCHQ and the Cabinet Office as well as having written several books.  I did email him a few years ago and asked him ‘how his life after Bishopsteignton Primary School could have gone so wrong!’  He did remember my Mum, Gaynor and I and has fond memories of the village, where he lived at ‘Hartland’ in Murley Crecent, for a while.


Photograph of Gaynor Robbins

Gaynor Robbins

Photograph of Central Garage c1958

Central Garage c1958

My sister Gaynor would sit outside the petrol pumps in a pedal car, wearing a boiler suit and the re-fueling was ‘attended’ service.  None of this self service stuff!

Once a week the Esso tanker would deliver to the fuel tanks that were down the lane beside the chapel.  As a child the tanker seemed huge and I would be occssionally be allowed to sit in the driver’s seat at about 4 years old.  Thus, began my introduction to the world of road transport.

Down the lane beside the Central Garage at the very end, lived an elderly lady ‘Miss McGowen’.  The name to me is shrouded in mystery as I can only re-call seeing her occasionally.  What is clearer is that Mr Pugh, who lived in Rose Cottage at the Clanage Street/Fore Street junction, kept his Heinkel ‘Bubblecar’ at her house.

As 5 or 6 year olds, my neighbour and playmate Phyllis Aldridge and I would run down the lane to ride in Mr Pugh’s car the 100 yards to the top of the lane. I do believe, the bubble car was yellow, with its strange front opening door and all the power of a hair dryer.

Jack Pugh and his wife ‘Biddy’ lived in Rose Cottage for a number of years.  Jack was an engineer by trade and bore a resemblance to actor Donald Pleasence and spoke in gentle tones.  As you walked through the front door of the house you could smell oil and when turning left, were engineering lathes and equipment and a huge metal scale model, steam locomotive and tender on a short section of a railway line.  I believe Mr Pugh (as we had to address him) displayed the loco and would set up a track at village events to give kids rides.

‘Biddy’ Pugh, with her equally gentle voice, would almost always be the prompt for the Bishopsteignton Players.

And to top it all, Mr and Mrs Pugh had ……….. a telephone!  A Black bakelite vintage dial telephone and a curly black cable.

Photograph of Sheila Robbins

Mr Pugh, Sheila and Gaynor Robbins and unknown boy on the local toy train – who was looking after me at the time?

Bishopsteignton, had its own telephone exchange on the corner by St John’s Church, back then, using only 3 digit local phone numbers.  Mum, used to use the phone once a week to call her sister in Birmingham and hand Gaynor and I the receiver to speak to our Auntie Phyl – Shirley 1551 – I can still remember the phone number!  It felt like you were talking to someone on the moon, despite the fact it was only Birmingham.

My dear Mum’s incredulity of distances that you could use a phone over, were still apparent when I would phone her when I was on long distance lorry driving.


‘Hi Mum’ ….

‘Hello my love. Where are you?’

‘Uxbridge, Mum’

‘Oh my GOD! Are you all right?’

‘Fine Mum.  I’m in Uxbridge not Auschwitz!’

‘Oh, my Godfathers!’

Other kids activites in the village would be playing Pom-Pom a kind of hide and seek game which often took place around the seat outside The Old Commerical (back then ‘The Commercial’).

Names I can remember of the kids were: Steve Heal, Valerie Heal, Dave Cummings, my sister Gaynor, John and Chris Dyer and various others.  We would end up hiding in the pub car park and getting told off, climbing over garden walls and despite signs on the doors of the electricity sub station, warning of potential ‘instantaneous death’, Chris Dyer would stand on the top of it proclaiming his immortality!

Subbuteo was a football game all us boys would play at each other’s houses.  Minature football teams all in different coloured football strips, with a green roll-out pitch and goal posts with nets.  I can remember myself, Steve Heal and Dave Cummings using a school exercise book to record the FA Cup results that we played out in minature.  The only thing that wasn’t realistic was the ball which if to scale was about 12 ft high!

Dave Cummings lived at 13 Clanage Street with his Mum, Dad, Steve, (known as Joe) and his brother Roger and sister Karen.  At Christmas Mrs Cummings would always display a Christmas snow scene in the window as a precursor to the Yuletide festivities.  I am sure many Bishop kids would remember standing and staring at the display, physically feeling the exitement of Christmas.

Dave and I would often play with our diecast Corgi, Dinky and Matchbox lorries and coaches (Dave’s Dad was a coach driver for Royal Blue Coaches).  We would sit in the road, yes … in the road and play around the wooden telegraph pole opposite 13 Clanage Street until disturbed by a passing vehicle.

On many a summer night in the early 1960s, whilst playing, we would be interupted by a real life coach.  Back then local coach companies would conduct ‘mystery tours’, for example, start at Exeter, visit Bishopsteignton, usually to the Ring of Bells, where the coach could park on Shute Hill.  The coach would then return to Exeter.

The words ‘Mystery Tour’ would be displayed in the destination blind of the coach and 41 (always seemed to be 41) passengers  would flock into the ‘Ringers’.

Photograph of Gourd Coaches

Gourd Coaches trip. ”Royal British Legion outing with 4 of Gourds coaches mid 1950s. Green and cream liverey. Dougie Gourd far left.’

As kids we would follow the coach which had come down form Haldon, past the cemetery, down Smith Hill, past the Commercial Inn and us street urchins playing in the road, as it then weaved its way past the Manor Inn to park on Shute Hill.

If we were lucky, older village folk would tell us, “Look out you boys, there’s a ‘sharra’ coming!”

‘Sharra’ was a slang term for ‘Charabanc’ (pronounced ‘Sharra bang’), a term you don’t hear much now and many a ‘Sharra’ trip came through Bishopsteignton until street parking of cars in the village brought it to an end.

We kids would watch the punters disembark the coach ………… mainly couples; the men would wear suits often with ties, if not wide open collars.  If they took their jackets off, braces would hold up their baggy trousers; hair would often be ‘Brylcreemed’, with the almost obligitary ‘Woodbine’ fag hanging out their mouths.

The ladies wearing their best shoes, would wobble off the coach, in their best dresses and true 1960’s style horn-rimmed spectacles.

I can still remember the different coach company names that ‘traversed’ and on many occasions ‘reversed’ through Bishop; Greenslades, Grey Cars, Wallace Arnold and our very own Gourds coaches.

If we waited outside the pub, we woud see the best times of people’s lives … locals mixing with the folk off the ‘Sharra’, beer and cider flowing, ladies with their Cherry Bs or Babychams and sing songs taking place.  A fabulous time that I would embrace as I got older.

The poor old drivers would sit outside the Ring of Bells on a summer’s night adorned with the white drivers hat and the round black, red and white PSV badge proudly displayed, constantly looking at their watches.  A hat would be passed around as the traditional ‘whip round’ for the driver until he shouted, ‘Everybody back on the coach, please!’

I remember vividly stood as a 6 or 7 year old, watching men and women that seemed ancient, but were probably mid 30’s or 40’s singing and shouting and dancing back to the coach through the cow shit past Shute Farm entrance!

Most those people are surely not with us now – so enjoy the moment!

Photograph of Shute Farm, Bishopsteignton

Shute Farm, Bishopsteignton

Read more of Dave’s and other stories in our Born and Raised series


1. Devon General Society perpetuates interest in the Devon General Omnibus & Touring Co. Ltd. and its successors. They have over 200 members.