I was teased at school... then came a day that changed my life
I WAS born in 1940 in Providence Place, Bedminster, a cobbled square with houses all around. It was at the top end of East Street, on the left hand side. When I was six weeks old, however, the houses in the square were declared unsafe and we were forced to move.
On the advice of my uncle Bert, who had told my dad that there was an empty house next door to him available to rent, we went to Southville.
So there we were, all settled into a three bedroom terrace property – mum, dad, my two-year-old sister, grandad and me.
The house, which was in Upton Road, had no bathroom, just one cold tap over the kitchen sink and an outside toilet.
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Our tin bath hung on the back wall on two nails. I didn't leave that house until I was 28 years old.
My parents were from ordinary backgrounds, my mother coming from a family of eight children and my father from one of nineteen.
When my dad was 15 he left home, lied about his age and joined the Army.
That was just two months before the start of the First World War and when it ended, with no work in Bristol to come home to, he went to South Wales to work in the coal mines.
Dad was a deep thinking man, a smoker but non drinker who was quite content with family life.
His favourite pastime was watching football on a Saturday at Ashton Gate, supporting Bristol City FC.
Dad and I used to walk to the ground with four of my uncle Bert's offspring – three boys and a girl – who lived next door.
My mother's brother, uncle Arthur, a founder member of the supporters' club, had a full-time job as the club's secretary.
Another of my mother's brothers, uncle George, and his wife, Dorothy, were managers of the canteens around the ground.
Purely on a voluntary basis, dad would sweep the main stand from end to end every Sunday morning.
I went to Ashton Gate Junior School, which was at the bottom of the hill, just behind the Wills factory, where my mother worked part-time.
Having ginger hair I was teased a lot at school, getting into fights and earning the name of troublemaker.
Then, in 1950, when I was ten, came a day that changed my life.
On Christmas Day we had got up late and then spent the morning playing with our new presents.
Mum and dad then decided that my sister, Margaret, and I could get washed in the living room, in front of the electric fire, before getting dressed ready for Sunday School.
I was the first to wash, removing my spectacles and then leaning forward to see the time by the little clock on the mantelpiece.
I had forgotten that I was wearing my mum's dressing gown, which billowed out as I moved.
Then I saw flames dancing in front of my face and started to call for help. I heard my mother say to my sister "Go and see what your brother wants".
She came to the door, saw the flames, screamed and ran outside.
My parents then came in and started to move the furniture so as to wrap me in a rug.
Knowing that it would take some time, I ran out to the kitchen thinking that I could roll on the grass in the garden. But then, realising that it was not such a good idea, I ran back into the living room.
Then I heard a "swoosh" and there was dad standing there with an empty bowl of water in his hands.
The whole event had taken just a couple of minutes.
Somebody ran up the road to phone for an ambulance and when they carried me out on a stretcher I looked at my arms and saw that the skin had turned yellow.
I was taken to the BRI where they dressed my wounds as best they could before taking me to a ward at the top of the building. As I was being wheeled into the operating theatre I heard someone call out, "Good luck, Dave, all the best".
I looked over and saw my dad in the bed opposite – he had burnt his arms trying to save me. After that I remember nothing as I was in an induced coma for two months.
"Your son has been burnt too badly, you must expect the worst" they told my mother.
"We can keep him comfortable and out of pain, but you must expect him to be gone by the morning".
Mum was allowed to stay the night and put into a room in the underpass, below the road outside.
After two days she was in such a state that she walked out of the hospital and was found lost and crying by two coppers, who drove her home from Staple Hill.
Our neighbours showed mum some newspaper headlines, one of which read, "He was a flaming torch".
I even had my photo on the front of the Daily Mirror.
As I went for another operation she was told: "Please don't go building castles in the sky – we have a long way to go."
When I came out of my coma I found I had received a lot of get well cards and letters, mostly from people that I didn't even know, and visitors, such as the head of Bristol's Boy Scout movement. One day I was told to listen to the radio at 7.30pm and heard Billy Cotton, who was playing requests, mention a boy from Bristol who was making a recovery after being badly burned.
"This is a request from me to him – so, David, I hope you soon get better – this is just for you." said Billy as he played the song 'Lavender Blue'."
I found out later that he had also written a three page letter to my mother, which was much appreciated. One day dad said to me: "David, how would you like to have some Bristol City players visit you?"
"That would be smashing," I said.
Dad was very pally with the Bristol City captain Dennis Roberts as they had done fire watching together during the war. True to his word Dennis arrived to see me, along with top goal scorer, Don Clark.
The following week Dennis visited again, this time with Alex Eisentrager, a fine German player who had been a prisoner of war but settled here and married a Welsh girl.
When I finally came out of hospital the Bristol City chairman, Harry Dolman, presented me with a cheque.