When We Didn’t Have Much Brass

by

Thanks to this excellent site provided to us by wordpress we have now managed to publish more than eighty tales. In the process it has been necessary to widen the subject matter sometimes beyond our East Leeds mandate. So for this month’s offering I return to our roots for a few basic East Leeds tales of the first half of the 20th century. They are snip-pets I have collected over the years and unfortunately I cannot contact the authors for their approval as some I don’t know and sadly others are no longer with us but I’m sure they would approve of us sharing their tales of a time;

‘WHEN WE DIDN’T HAVE MUCH BRASS’
By our old East Leeds Mentors

Joyce's Parants Butchers shop

Joyce’s Tale
My maiden name was English and I was brought up by my grandparents, Mr and Mrs Hillyard at number 101 Cross Green Lane (by the bus stop). I lived with my grandparents because mam and dad had two butcher’s shops: one was next to the Maypole in Upper Accommodation Road and the other was opposite St James Infirmary in Beckett Street. You will see the picture was taken around Christmas time but not many turkeys or even chickens were on display it seems in those days. My grandmother would say that the poor people from the Bank area would come up Ellerby Lane to the shop but could only afford rabbits or if they were lucky a piece of pork for their Christmas dinner. Grandma said she would tell the women with prams to wait outside while Pa went into the shop and then she would fill their pinny pockets with carrots and onions ‘buck shee’ to help feed their families.

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John’s Tale
Seeing the picture of the Bourne Chapel March with the big York Road School in the background brings back memories. I attended that school but on the outbreak of war the building was taken over as an ARP station. All around the base it was sandbagged to a height of 10-12 feet. Next to the school on York Road it was a shop selling fruit and veg; it was owned by a Mr Jordon. We used to put our arms through the bars and knock on his window at the school break and he would come with apples and other fruit for us to purchase. Down the road from the sewing machine building was Bolton’s fish and chip shop – it faced straight down Shannon Street. On the same block was a barber’s shop; tupence for a haircut! My father worked at Temple Newsam pit which part of the Waterloo main Colliery. I used to meet him off the paddy train and ride on his bike to Great Garden Street. We lived opposite the Providence pub. He was killed in a roof fall on the 5th of March 1937.

York Road School

York Road School

Mr Farman’s tale
My grandfather used to live in Walkers Place. They were all one up and one down, he told me the water closets – as they were called – were a long way down the street and I can remember Grandfather calling out to a neighbours as she was carrying the slops down the street, ‘Sup before slop, Lizzie’ Also in the street was Bradley’s coal yard. I remember you bought coal and they loaned you a barrow to wheel it away in. My father was a maintenance man at Waterloo pit. I can see all the miners now packing the wooden trucks, all with black faces, no pit baths in those days, only the tin baths in front of the fire at home, I also remember the 1928 collier’s strike when mounted police were charging the strikers at the coal staithes on the corner of Easy Road and Cross Green lane.
I left school at fifteen and was accepted at Duffield’s as an apprentice printer. Starting at 10/- a week I was not happy there as it turned out the boss was a slave drier. You couldn’t talk or sing. Everything was done at the double. He even stood at the time clock and if anyone was five minutes late he would say ‘We’ve done without you for five minutes – you can go home for the day.’ As soon as you came out of your apprenticeship and came onto full money £4 a week you got the sack and there was no unemployment pay.

Stan’s Tale
I remember going to Hutton’s, the druggist, in Dial Street for one pennyworth of gunpowder for Mother to clear the flues under the set-pot. I liked this operation – Mother would wrap the gunpowder in a big wad of newspaper and place it in the fireplace under the set-pot and after lighting the ends of the paper she would put the long brush pressed tightly against the door and wait for the big bang, accompanied by a cloud of smoke from the fireplace. That was exciting for us kids.
Another job was for Dad to change the flimsy gas mantles after one of us had knocked them off. They were very flimsy after they had been in use and easily broke. The little corner shop (Gozzard’s) sold them in a tubular box and it was a masterpiece to fit them into position. I can see Dad now, standing on the table with his tongue partly out, placing the flimsy fibre over the stick and fitting it gently into position. Then the moment we kids had waited for. A light was placed at the foot and the mantle blazed nearly up to the ceiling. Then the glass was put back into position and all was ready for use again, with a warning from Dad to be careful in future.
Another big day in our lives was the day we got our ‘long ‘uns’. In those far off days until we were about sixteen years old we showed our knees in short pants and sported a fancy pair of socks with coloured tops turned down at the knees. It was usually a Sunday morning when you would be given your last inspection by Mother and with neighbours at the ready you stepped out into the street. As you passed they would call, ‘You do look nice! You’re a man now! How does it feel?’ of course then you would have to stand a real rigging. Yes we fellows have come a long way since those ‘britching days’.
Until we were about three years old in fact we were dressed like girls then all at once you were changed into a little boy, at first with short trousers, coloured jerseys with a fancy collars and a tie to match. It was a big day for you when at last you got your ‘long ‘uns’
Sundays were very different between the wars, the older folk would be seen taking bunches of flowers to the cemetery whilst teenagers would gather in the lovely parks and do a little ‘flirting’. After tea we would listen to gramophone records playing the latest tunes, play cards or perhaps dominos with a little flutter of a halfpenny a game.
I would like to give a special mention to my mother who died in 1943 – when I was thirty years old. She died as a result of TB in Rothwell Hospital after much suffering at the age of fifty-four. She had worked hard all her life to bring up her family: she never managed to eat the same meals she cooked for us. Many is the time after dad had gone to work I would go to the a little confectioner’s shop off Ellerby lane for a custard or a curd tart which she would eat along with a pot of tea and then back to the washtub. I often think of Mother with love and wish I had been kinder to her.
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Sally’s Tale
At thirteen I went to work at Lister’s Mill. Half a crown a week and me mother gave three pence pocket money, that’s what I got. In the war [WW 1] when Barnbow were there – I worked at Barnbow and I drove a horse and four trolleys full of shells right up to the station. I was there when the war finished and I were there when explosion come. We were on afternoons and it went off at two o’clock, and me and my sister came back home.
Then in the Second World War I worked at Ellerby Foundry with a hammer and chisel for five years. We didn’t get as much as the men – I had about four pounds a week. I stayed at the foundry while war were over and then when war were over I got my old job back the Black Dog Mil, because they didn’t want us women anymore. The men come back do you see?
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Maud’s Tale
The best bit of fun were at pawn shop – top of Ellerby Lane. One poor women, she had nowt to take, see, but she’d been to butchers and got half a side of lamb. True tale this. It’s a long time ago but it’s true. She got this half side of lamb from the butchers and wrapped it up and the pawnbroker man was so used to seeing her he never used to examine her parcels. So he gave her the same as last week and put her parcel on the shelf. Well, weeks go on and all of a sudden the gasman comes up. ‘Summat wrong with the drains.’ Well they had all the pavement up and everything. They were that bet with it. Then one day this pawnbroker, he was looking around and he says, ‘You know I think it’s coming from here,’ and it were lamb on top shelf. So she daren’t go there anymore and had to go to one up Richmond Hill.
We always had tingaleri man. Aye but I loves a bit of good music. We’d have a penneth of chips and be sitting outside singing Pasadena with the tingaleri, up Ellerby lane, where the grass is greener. And there would always be a couple of lovers under the shop window. You know but we were lovely when we were young weren’t we? We didn’t have scraggy hair did we? And we didn’t wear breeches.
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Not sure of author
My dad used to make coffins in the attic. There was only one thing Dad didn’t like and that was wearing top hat and tails. He liked all the other parts. He liked making the boxes and the tassels but when it came to going with ‘em he didn’t like that. They used to wear that hat and the old frock tailed coat with the buttons on covered in cloth. This black coat was shiny and so was the hat. He let Johnny go, his mate. And he looked after a firm that were called Binn’s undertakers for a long time – that were down South Accomm. As a boy I used to sleep up in the attic with the coffins, In fact we had a habit of getting in there and sitting in the coffins with two pieces of dowelling and telling myself I were in a rowing boat. Till one day Johnny Walker put the lid on me. And I never went in a coffin no more after that. He shoved me in and put the lid on.
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                                                                                                           The cost of a funeral in 1903

The cost of a funeral in 1903

Hilda’s Tales
My best job were on the trams, Oh it were a lovely job were that. I were out at Torre Road but we went to Lower Wortley, Upper Wortley Temple Newsam and then back, including Halton and Cross Gates. I remember once going to cross gates, you know we used to look outside when we were upstairs to make sure everyone had got on. Anyone used to ring the bell to save us having to run downstairs. And this were about half-past seven in the morning – we had long wooden ticket racks then and I dropped mine out of the window. I gave him five on the bell to tell him to stop but he thought I were telling him I were full, so he went off hell for leather and I’m there ringing the bell all the way. When we got to Nell Bend there was this tram coming the other way realized what was the matter and told him to stop. They had to get somebody in a taxi to take me to get my ticket rack back.

When we were rationed during the war, they gave us some ration cards. And one day my sister was washing step, you know and she says, ‘Mother this scouring stone is awfully hard!’ and mother said, ‘Silly B…. It’s cheese!’
During the war there were a barrage balloon came over Leeds and it had deflated at one end you know and there were rumours that the Germans were going to invade England. We were all frightened to death that there were going to be an invasion. And my mother used to get up right early and she gets up right early this morning and looks out of the window and over the town and you can see from the Bertha’s this balloon. She went over to my sisters and she says, ‘Get up! Get Up! Gerrup! They’re here, they’ve invaded us!’ She went in house and got her little poker out, she says, ‘They’re in the passage – come out! she says, ‘I’ll kill you stone dead – I’m not frightened of you!’ and my sister got up and said, ‘What’s up!’ she says, ‘What’s up!’
‘You – you’ll die in your beds, you.’ Mother says. ‘They’re here – they’ve invaded. Look you can see the balloon, they’ve dropped out of that end – look!’

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Last week’s picture was the old ‘Fish Hut ‘pub on Ellerby Lane. Now, alas, derelict.

Here is something a bit different this month. Can anyone find an earlier tree graffiti carving than this: 1891? At the time this was carved man did not have powered flight and Victoria still had ten years left to reign.

tree for blog

Seen in the old Newlands Estate near Stanley Ferry.

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6 Responses to “When We Didn’t Have Much Brass”

  1. Douglas Says:

    What a fascinating collection of stories and insights about the old days, World War 1 war works, sides of meat in the pawnbrokers, old wooden tram ticket holders, and flimsy gas mantles – I have a suspicion that they were made from asbestos. I must say, I have to wonder about the veracity of the rotting half side of lamb in the pawn shop, and then dug up pipes to locate the stink, but it is jolly good story, and folk needed a lot of good stories to make life bearable in the days when there wasn’t too much brass in your pockets. Thank you to all those with names and those unknown authors, and the compiler of this collection.

  2. aussiepom Says:

    So many thanks to Pete for starting East Leeds Memories blog and also many thanks to WordPress for providing this excellent site that we all look forward to reading each month.
    Living thousands of miles from Leeds these days i am soon transported ack to those terraces houses, cobbled streets and vivid memories provided by everyone who writes their stories.
    I never saw anyone clear the flue with gunpowder Which i imagine was very exciting to watch but I do remember my Dad changing the gas mantle at my Grandma’s house. Her house in Devon Street must have the only house in Leeds to never have electricity installed. Garn didn’t ” hold with fancy new fangled stuff ” and the house still only had gas power when she left in the 1960s to live at 14 Charlton Place, 3 houses from number 20 where Mum and Dad lived.

  3. Eric Says:

    Got to agree with both Douglas & Audrey’s comments. Gunpowder explosions to clear the flue sounds very scary & it’s a new one on me – not a practice to be recommended I would think.
    A rotten lamb carcass at the pawnbroker’s ?. Hilarious but possibly “imaginative”. Still, most yarns would be dull without a touch of hyperbole.
    A great little montage Pete and, as you say, back to the roots

  4. Dave Carncross Says:

    Never tried the gunpowder in the setpot. Good job Rick Chappelow didn’t ever try it either – with his luck we’d have finished up in orbit.
    Do. You remember giving the old street gaslamps a swift kick to light the lamp sooner than usual. Worked every time. I am still chuckling to myself about mr Farmans tale about the foreman at. duffields being a slave drier.. Lovely mental picture of all the apprentices hung out to dry across the factory yard. Great stories well told.

  5. Eric Says:

    I can confirm Mr Farman’s experience of Duffields. Both my father and grandfther worked there for many years, my father starting there from school around 1930/31.I don’t if it was the same foreman but the habitual character of the place was just the same.Not only couldn’t you talk or sing, even whistling or smiling was frowned upon.The place was was overrun by huge rats and my father used to say you needed to be careful where you placed your lunch otherwise you’d find yourself sharing it with a rat.
    On the other hand, ,he always said the Company was very good to him during the war and regularly sent food parcels to my mother with things which were hard to come by.Father worked there ’til around1960 by which time there’d been many changes and they shortly moved to new premises on Kirkstall Rd

  6. peterwwood Says:

    Just seen in David Thornton’s The Story of Leeds: On Thursday 16th May 1940 a barrage balloon broke away from its moorings and drifted across Leeds causing havoc. It tore up a lamp standard and wrapped itself around the tower of a hospital, demolished a number of chimney stacks and store off the slates from a number of houses before it was finally brought down by the RAF men and taken away. Its journey ended in Sheepscar North Street. Could this be Hilda’s balloon?

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