The Hobergs were also a family long associated with Osnabruck and since 1798 they had occupied the same house on the corner of the Johannisstrasse, with the wine merchant’s business in the same building. Next to this there was a dower-house of later date, with wine cellars connecting the two. The garden, which at my mother’s time was very large, with a small wood at the back, overlooked the Susterstrasse, so that Tony and Carl had been practically next door neighbours for many years. Carl, however, only came home for short visits and, although Tony, “Hobergs’ Russe”, no doubt jumped over the garden wall many, many times to run and play with the young Dyckhoffs, she only met Carl after she was grown-up, and they became engaged after quite a short acquaintance. This was on the occasion of Otto Dyckhoff’s wedding to Maria Ficker, in Quakenbruck. They telegraphed home “Durfen wir uns lieben” and on receipt of the parental approval, announced the glad tidings then and there. My father had to leave very shortly for England, but came again soon for a weekend to Osnabruck, arriving at the station, as he always did, in a magnificent frock-coat and silk hat.
The wedding took place at the Johanniskirche, and all Osnabruck was there to wish well to the young couple, and a handsome pair they were …Tony, tall and slender, with dark brown eyes, and Carl, very erect and stern, with flowing moustaches.
The first years in England must indeed have been hard ones for Tony. Nine years Carl’s junior, gay and light hearted daughter of a large and carefree family, idol of Osnabruck, she must at first have felt lost in the strange country, with its foreign tongue and unfamiliar customs. Worst of all, Carl was obliged to travel almost every year for the winter season to South America; even in the very first year, he sailed in the middle of December. They celebrated Christmas before he left, however, and a delightful festivity it must have been; Alfred, the son and heir, had been born on St. Nicholas’ Day, and Carl carried his wife and child downstairs to admire the first Christmas tree in their own home. In the spring, Tony took her “blue-eyed” baby to her parents, there to await Carl’s return, finding that his eyes had changed, unnoticed till then, to a deep brown.
Carl and Tony lived at Osna House, as they had named their first home, for five years, and here were born also Max, Hilda and Charles. Fred and Mac became an inseparable pair a sort of Max and Moritz, they were a vivid contrast in appearance, Fred having the traditional pallor and golden hair of the Dyckhoff:s, whilst Mac had the rosy cheeks and dark hair of his mother. Hilda, the only blue-eyed child in the family, had a glorious mass of auburn curls, whilst Charlie, the baby, had the flaxen hair that one often sees in Westphalia, but accompanied by the dark brown Hoberg eyes.
Carl and Tony’s great friends at this time were Willem and Clara Driessen, a young Dutch couple, who lived not very far away in Laurel Grove. My father had indeed known Willem since his earliest bachelor days in Manchester, and the friendship of the two families was to last throughout their lives. The Driessen children, four boys, Oscar, Willy, Eddy and Gusje, were about the same age as the young Dyckhoffs, and the prams in which the babies sat, Hilda and Charlie, Eddy and Gusje, were pushed side by side.
Shortly after Charlie’s birth my parents removed to 26 Palatine Road and it is here that they still live. Incidentally, this house was a great deal nearer to Laurel Grove and the two families saw each other almost daily, but-unfortunately the Driessens soon returned to Holland.
In 1907, my father left the firm of Hiltermann’s, with whom.he had been since 1885, to enter into partnership with Mrs. Witte in the firm of Beatty, Altgeldt & Co., which became Witte and Dyckhoff in 1914. This was the culmination of a life-time of hard work, and the final upheaval in his life of many changes.
Limefield, as the house in Palatine Road was called, was a red-brick, Victorian building of unprepossessing appearance. It was, however, well-built and comfortable with its lofty, square rooms, and stood in a large garden. Behind the house there were stables for hounds, six horses and two carriages, but these in our childhood never housed anything more romantic than hens and dogs. Beyond these there was a tennis-lawn and a tumbledown greenhouse and potting shed, and then a paddock and wild orchard, which did not belong to us until 1923, when my father bought the house and one-and-a-half acres of land with it. Bordered at first by fields in which cows still grazed, and other large gardens, our strip of land later became lost in a sea of small properties, flanked finally on the one side by as many as twenty-four houses, whose staring windows we endeavoured to blind with trees and tall hedges.
Although four miles away from the heart of the city, our garden was, even thirty years ago, ravaged by the far-reaching effects of Manchester’s soot and grime. The soil was poor, the trees black, and the sun well-nigh unable to smile through the smoke-laden skies nevertheless, the garden proved a never-ending joy to us children. My mother, a keen gardener and a tireless one, worked wonders with the poor material, and in the summer months of later years it was a blaze of glory.
Shortly before my parents’ removal, Palatine Road, one of the main roads into the town from the South, had been widened and the picturesque horse-trams were replaced by electric ones. Horse-traffic, however, remained an inherent feature of Manchester life, even up to the present day. In the city, there were the lorries with their patient horses, waiting whilst the cotton bales were thrown from high warehouse windows; and on Palatine Road there were always carts going to market, through the night-hours, and the sound of their rumbling wheels and the slow jog-trot of the horses’ hooves was an invariable accompaniment to sleepless nights.
On the third day of May, 1907, Eric was born, and four years later I completed the family of six. Eric had a head of obstinate, red curls and dark brown eyes, whilst I was extremely plain, with heavy, straight “mouse-coloured” hair, as my brothers called it. Later in life I was immensely gratified by remarks on my resemblance to my mother, until one unfortunate day this consolation was also taken from me. Having been introduced to a girlhood friend of my mother’s with the usual formula “This is Tony Hoberg’s daughter, isn’t she like her mother” I was much discomforted to hear her exclaim in horror, “Good gracious, no, Tony was pretty!”
The first years at Limefield passed quickly and pleasantly, although they were not entirely devoid of worries. The children in turn fell prey to all the childish ailments possible; measles, chicken-pox, mumps and whooping-cough, and even pneumonia, which claimed Eric twice very seriously. Then, one wintry night, when my father was in South America, the beams of the nursery floor were discovered to be smouldering, but my mother and the nurse managed to prevent them from bursting into flames, working the whole night with damp cloths.
During my father’s absences, my mother would almost invariably visit her relatives in Osnabruck, usually taking the children with her. From these yearly visits and from our German governesses, we all learnt to speak fluent German.
In the summer there were grand holidays at the seaside; in the first years we were taken to St. Annes-on-Sea by the nurse, later to the Welsh coast by our mother and a German governess. One of these engraved herself on our memories by crying out in a loud voice, “I schwimm, I schwimm”, at every stroke of her feeble efforts to master this art.
These holidays were the most eagerly awaited event of the year, and I well remember the fever-pitch of excitement, as we set off for the station in two four-wheelers, waving wildly to one another. In the summer of 1914, we set off in the usual manner, this time going to Aber, in North Wales, accompanied by my mother, a Fraulein and a school-girl cousin, Margaret Hoberg. No sooner had we settled down in a house overlooking the station, than the first rumours of the Great War reached our ears. Unable to credit the disturbing news, we stayed in Aber, until the trainloads of troops passing our windows convinced us that matters were indeed serious, and we returned home in less than a week’s time.
The German cousin and our Fraulein remained with us until the Autumn, crossing the Channel, without great difficulty, one November night, in company with a handful of their compatriots. It was, indeed, a long time before anyone realised the far-reaching effects the war was to have; we, like everyone else at the time, thought it would all be over in no time. Only very gradually was the awkwardness of our personal position brought home to us; one heard of German shopkeepers, whose windows had been stoned, and such words as “Hun” began to be used. It became advisable to speak only English, and soon we forgot almost all our German, remembering only such isolated phrases as “sofort nach Oben”, always used by my father, as a preliminary to the direst forms of punishment! For some time, however, I, a little girl of three, used to cause my mother some embarrassment by speaking German loudly, in tramcars.
The four long war years, sad and difficult as they were, might have been a great deal worse. We were, fortunately, beyond all shadow of doubt, British subjects, my father was too old to fight and my brothers were too young. Fred, however, was already in uniform, as a member of the Officers’ Training Corps, and had chosen his regiment, only missing his commission by a matter of weeks. On the 6th of December, less than a month after the Armistice was signed, he celebrated his eighteenth birthday