Archive for April, 2008

My Early Life in East Leeds by John Gibbins

April 1, 2008

My Early Life in East Leeds by John GibbinsJohn revisits his early years in East Leeds particularly at Ellerby Lane School Edgar Street Woodworking Department The Market District Boys Club and Newbourne Methodists Chapel.  


                                                The East Leeds I Knew  (John Gibbins)

Early memories:

These include many unforgettable characters of our youth.

Big Ernie at the Princess, who bawled so loud (and put the spotlight on any miscreant)

Charlie Atha, who could find any part needed for your bike from within his grotto.

The sisters who ran the Easy Road Cinema were such sticklers for correctness; they would turn away anyone who gave a bit of backchat. One then had to forgo the dubious privilege of placing one’s bum (for two hours) onto a wooden plank at the cheap front end.

A lasting memory: Our class at Ellerby Lane (circa 1954) would traipse each week across York Road to attend the woodwork/metalwork centre. Passing on route our beloved municipal baths and library – the façade of which is all that remains today.

The woodwork centre was situated close to the dreaded school dentistry at Edgar Street – too painful to ponder. The instructors at the centre were Mr Whittle and Mr Hardy. I remember them both with mixed feelings. One day (during an unscheduled break) Tommy Bradbury and myself were deeply engrossed in the well-known and absorbing exercise of ‘wooden mallet juggling’. Mr Whittle witnessed this and promptly requested I furnish him with my current project – a stool. (Tommy kept his head down). Mr Whittle then preceded to ‘bounce’ my work against the hard surface of the floor. After three attempts the pride of my labours disintegrated; was crestfallen. Would have much preferred a caning instead. Somehow I sensed that the saintly Mr Hardy had later interceded on my behalf and that a quiet word with the volatile Mr Whittle – was had. Attending class the following week Mr Whittle took me aside explaining that he wished me to take on a special project that had not before been attempted. It was another stool, but much larger than my previous project, with a shaped seat.

I have it to this day, and looking at it now after all that time, brings back these memories.


Looking at the faces around our table at the local hostelry most Sunday lunchtimes, the thought occurred as to the various origins of our development. Many different former schools are represented each week: ex-pupils from Mt St Mary’s, Victoria, Ellerby and St Charles are present.  The common thread that drew us together from those diverse starting points was the Market District Boy’s Club.

‘The Market’ was as a magnet; it’s influence-drawing urchins from all areas of East Leeds. When a force for good is active within a community, everyone benefits. Friendships were formed and forged there, being sustained long after that wondrous institution ceased to exist. Now, whenever using my bus pass travelling into town, the aging senses wander towards long ago events: clambering aboard the tram subsequent to another epic played out upon the hallowed field of the Shaftsbury. (We are either elated or dejected) casting mud enrout, normal passengers don’t seem to mind but the cleaners will curse us later….

Awake again, brief glimpses by the railway arches from York Street, fleeting view, towards the site of our once Mecca – ‘slow down driver’.

Fond and lasting memories abound

The Quarry

The Quarry was bounded by Clark Lane, Kippax Place, Easy Road and the ‘Clarks’.

The name is a mystery to most; perhaps maybe someone could define it (a long gone mine working?) It was a magical place overflowing with commerce and crap. Pig rearing, rats galore, mud pie makings. The most inappropriate area for infantile upbringing imaginable – but we loved it.  It was grotty, horrible, ugly – it was ours – on our doorstep. One couldn’t imagine life without it. Eventually the Council ended it all. Rats migrated to adjoining address and the world was poorer.

From Zion to Garforth (and back)

How we looked forward to our trips to the far side of the world! It was of no concern that the transport consisted of wooden benches borrowed from the Sunday school and strapped onto uncovered lorries – we didn’t know any better. This was high living indeed. People waved along the way – no reason; happiness apart. We played in the field of the farm, jumped about in the hayloft of the barn.

Ran races

Drank Tizer

Scoffed cake

A lovely time was had by all

Home again on the bumpy ride

Sleep snugly until tomorrow

Times to treasure

East Leeds Commerce

Where is the post office my wonderful headmaster Mr Lilliput directed me to each week with the dinner money takings? Wasn’t it across from the Spring Close pub in Ellerby Lane? What about the sweet shop on the other corner where we refuelled on liquorice sticks? Who moved these precious establishments? The proprietor at the post office was a most gracious lady, accepting the school’s pennies amicably, ledgering the transaction and furnishing receipt. That I was trusted to hand over the dosh made me feel privileged.

Looking at my ancient Yorkshire Penny Bank deposit book, consisting of my paper round earnings duly saved, I’m mindful of these early fiscal dealings.

Ex school monitor Ellerby Lane.

Farewell Akela

A recent gathering took place in the spring sunshine at Newbourne Methodist Church Richmond Hill, We were there to acknowledge the passing and celebrate the life of Vera Jobbings.

            Vera’s whole adult life was immersed within the Scouting movement. After the war Vera married George Jobbings and resided for some while in Kitson Street. Together they organised and ran the 1st East Leeds Scout Group. George, being the scoutmaster and Vera the mistress.  I never did graduate to the Scouts as my as my elder brothers had, they played the drums during our Sunday parades. How envious I was, being confined to my flag carrying duties in my cub uniform. There were so many happy times during our wolf cub days. Vera’s life was devoted to the group and her enthusiasm infected all within her circle of influence – nothing was too much trouble. She worked hard to ensure that we earned our badges. I well remember the occasion when she walked us down to a public telephone box by York Road. After explaining the mysteries of buttons ‘A’ and ‘B’ we were furnished with a few pennies, given a number to dial and instructed to converse with the distant voice at the other end. I have forgotten which badge we were hoping to attain by this exercise; anyway it was a new experience for most of us, tin cans and string being the normal method of communication. As indicated, I didn’t make the transition into the Scouts, perhaps other interests intervened? It is almost fifty years since I last saw Vera, yet fond memories of our cubbing days are as vivid as ever