A FORMER serviceman who had little stability in his early life and moved home countless times to avoid the long arm of the law - partly due to the inability of his father to go straight and settle down - has put pen to paper and chronicled his experiences.
Ray Sheasby’s parents were regularly in and out of jail but thanks to gritty self-determination he survived on his wits. And, in later years, a strong sense of knowing right from wrong, a willingness to learn quickly - and his love of animals - carried him through.
But despite his at times seemingly insurmountable childhood difficulties and a desire to escape civvy street and join the army, the 82-year-old reckons he has been lucky.
Sales of his newly published book entitled I am a very lucky man: I came to believe in a greater power than myself will, he hopes, raise funds for the Royal British Legion.
Ray was born in Rugby, Warwickshire, and after many years travelling, including in Gloucestershire and Worcestershire, he settled at Guiting Power in the Cotswolds 25 years ago.
I didn’t think given my background people would want anything to do with me – or that there would be such interest.”
Unable to read or write in his pre-teens, he got by thanks to his ability to lip-read but was expelled from school for fighting and often relied on his skill for catching rabbits to provide food for the table.
He will be forever grateful to National Service and in particular to Sergeant-Major Bowater from the Scots Guards who, he says, “made a man out of me” prior to serving with the Welsh Regiment in Korea.
Ray freely admits life was far from easy as a child with very little money in his pocket and few clothes, especially as his father had a great liking for pubs and alcohol and was often ‘on holiday’…However, it later became clear he was behind bars of a different kind serving time for dishonesty.
“We had to travel to keep away from the police,” explained Ray. “I could not go to school when I had the arse out of my trousers and was not welcomed in many places.
“We just moved from lodgings to lodgings until they got fed up with us and chucked us out. My father had a drink problem. He was not far off being an alcoholic.”
Although he admits to being light-fingered in his younger days, Ray generally kept on the straight and narrow although he did spend time in a remand home for stealing a pair of shorts from a swimming baths.
But the turning point came when he took a life-changing decision and found religon, worked hard, eventually becoming a farm manager. He retired as pig man for Hartpury College in Gloucestershire.
The 120-page book, published by Frontier Print and Design, of Cheltenham, costs £10. Copies can be bought from Guiting Power post office or by contacting Ray on 01451 850661.
He has sold 25 copies so far. After covering costs he hopes to make a donation to Bourton-on-the-Water Branch of the RBL where he is a committeeman. His friend and fellow ‘old sweat’, branch president John Finch, suggested he should get the book published after seeing his hand-written efforts towards the end of last year.
“People who have bought the book tell me they can’t put it down once they start reading it,” added Ray, who has three daughters, a son and six grandchildren. “I didn’t think given my background people would want anything to do with me – or that there would be such interest.
“It’s amazing. Maybe I’ll have to write another book.”