"I was born at Cenacle Cottage which had a street address of 20 Childwall Road; Wavertree in the early part of 1933, for the benefit of those who were not around at that time, Cenacle Cottage was the gardener's residence, which was located in the grounds of the Cenacle Convent, whose main entrance was located in Lance Lane. The grounds of the convent were very extensive extending east from Lance Lane to the rear of the houses in Woodsorrel Road and south from Childwall Road to the rear of Tulip Road.
"The garden was maintained by my father and an assistant gardener and consisted of a very large vegetable garden, which was required to produce vegetables all year round for about 100 nuns and novices, who lived at the convent. There was also a large orchard with rows of fruit trees of every description and many of the pathways in the vegetable garden were also lined with fruit trees, needless to say there was always an abundance of fruit available and in the spring the blossom was a sight to behold.
"In addition to the vegetable garden and orchard there was a large enclosure, which was maintained by the nuns and where hens, ducks and geese were housed to provide eggs and fowl for the convent table. Separating the garden from Childwall road were four tennis courts and a tennis pavilion for the use of novices, visitors and guests of the convent. Extending from the north boundary of the vegetable garden to the main building of the convent was a lawn the size of a football pitch with walkways on the eastern side, flanked by Rhododendron bushes and Roses on the western side. An eight-foot wall, which enabled the nuns to meditate unobserved in the peace and tranquillity of their surroundings, surrounded this area.
"Incidentally the transformation from a bare field to such a practical and idyllic setting was instigated and completed after many years toil by my father John Alfred Neill aided and abetted by his elderly Irish assistant known by us children only as Paddy, with regard to Paddy an amusing incident springs to mind which occurred during the blitz in 1941.
"It had been reported on the radio that during a raid on Liverpool the previous night a German plane had been shot down and residents were warned to be on the lookout for the pilot who had bailed out and had as yet not been captured. That night my father, who at that time was aged 75, heard someone moving by the potting shed at the rear of the house and he immediately assumed it could only be the missing pilot. Arming himself with a fire rod which had a heavy brass handle, he crept out of the front door to apprehend the pilot, aided by the darkness he crept up behind the intruder and using the heavy ended fire rod as a club, hit the intruder on the head knocking him out cold. My father then proceeded to drag the unconscious pilot through the darkness to the cottage. Once inside when turning on the hall light, to his horror instead of a German pilot lying there, he found that he had captured Paddy, who resplendent in his ARP uniform and steel helmet, was doing his rounds checking for houses that were showing ights. Fortunately no damage was done thanks mainly to the steel helmet that Paddy was wearing, though it did cost my father many a bottle of Guinness at the Coffee House.
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