This one of a series of articles which appeared in the 2003 editions of the Hayling Islander. These were to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the closure of the Hayling branch line. Reproduced here with the kind permission of the editor of the Hayling Islander.
RAY WOOLGAR was station master for Hayling until the closure of the Island branch line on November 3, 1963.
This well known and much liked man had spent 21 years in the Royal Marines befor beginning his rewarding career on the railway, the largest part spent on the fondly remembered Hayling Billy Line. With war in progress, Ray, a Royal Marine, married Hilda when she was 21 and in 1941 the couple moved from Southsea to Hayling’s Sea Front Estate to escape from the bombing.
A later move to Kings Road led ray to discover and nurture an interest in gardening, where his vegetable harvest became the envy of many.
The Kings Road area had formally been a huge potatoe field, with primroses growing thick along the roadside right up to the Yew Tree Pub. Hilda’s daughter, Pam, well remembers happy days gathering them into posies and tying them with wool to sell.
With 3 children to bring up, Pam, Mick and Rodney, who attended the Island school at Mill Rythe, life was busy and happy and all remember Ray as a loving, caring Dad.
Ray’s railway life meant shifts and duties which were split between Langstone Bridge Toll Gate and Bedhampton Halt. Sunday duty at Bedhampton often saw Hilda, or one of the children, cycling up to the Halt with a freshly-cooked dinner in a casserole, where they would chat and wait until Ray had eaten, before cycling home to wash up.
Once appointed Station Master for Hayling Island, Ray had found his piece of heaven on earth where he was proud to be Jack of all trades.
“Ray was so full of fun,” said Hilda. “He was never happier than when a train full of children arrived, excited and ready to enjoy a day on the beach.”
One particular highlight was when the whole team from ‘The Grove family’, an early television soap, chose to film a holiday episode on Hayling Island.
Ray was called upon to take the ‘family’s’ suitcases from the train and carry them as though they were really heavy!
Along with friends Alf Ribshner, who worked Ray’s opposite shift, Douglas Todd, signalman and Mr Brooks, taxi driver, the four made up ‘The Team’ as far as Hayling Island’s railway was concerned, playing cards as well as numerous tricks on one another in between the tasks of the day.
Thanks to Ray’s Royal marine background, he and Hilda enjoyed a full and varied social life both on Hayling and in Southsea. Competent darts players, they travelled all over the South by coach with their team (based at the Shades pub). Hilda giggled as she recalled an incident from earlier years when Ray enjoyed a midnight swim with friends after an evening at the Olive Leaf. We were rounded up by a man with a pistol who thought we were Nazis! “I supose it was a bit naughty of us,” she said, though obviously not regretting one moment!
The whole family remember with great sadness the final day when Hayling station closed on November 3, 1963.
Following the closure, Ray continued to work , but this time as Station Master’s Clerk at Havant, alongside Station master Lambert, for whom he had the greatest respect.
In later years, Ray and Hilda moved to a bungalow on Havant Road and, on retirement, Ray, Hilda and a small group of friends attended a ceremony in Woking, where Ray was presented with a painting and Hilda with a crystal necklace.
Ray died ten years ago, aged 80, but Hilda is still a lively, twinkly 90-year-old who does all her own gardening and makes an excellant range of fine country wines.