Hunslet

by

Hunslet

Our Neighbours across South Accomm Bridge

By Pete Wood

(Don’t miss some great little tales from my old mates near the end)

‘Click’ into pictures to enlarge them

When you passed over South Accommodation Road Bridge from East Leeds into Hunslet you passed from Leeds 9 to Leeds 10. But it was more than just a change of post code that we old East Leedsers met as we moved over the bridge on our way to work or leisure in industrial Hunslet in the 1940s/50s, for we moved out of our own albeit shabby Victorian/Edwardian housing stock into streets already in their death throes with demolition well in progress. A large percentage of the population had already been moved out into new estates particularly at Middleton and Belle Isle. Bit in spite of its decaying habitat I always perceived Hunslet to be full of character and the folk to have a wicked sense of humour and pride of place. I was annoyed that the demolition of that iconic old green suspension bridge which had stood for a hundred years with its great bowed parapet that Jimmy Thrush daringly crossed on his bespoke bogey, was demolished without any great notice of its passing, I would have liked to have recorded it before it went. There were tram lines still situated in Accommodation road and indeed there had sometime been a dedicated track for them but although trams didn’t cease running in Leeds until 1959 they had finished down South Accomm a lot earlier than that. So if you wanted to go ‘down Hunslet’ it was either on a bike, ‘Shanks’s pony’ or the number 64 bus.

South Accomm Bridge revised

It hurts me to have to admit that the lads from Hunslet, perhaps due to their hard environment, always seemed ‘tougher’ than us. When the Plevna lads or Pottery Field gang came over the bridge we didn’t get in their way and when we tried to cross the river by the lock gate at Knostrop the Stourton lads were liable to shower us with half bricks from their vantage point on the great green railway bridge (the swing bridge that never swung). The Stourton lads had plenty to be proud of, their school, tiny by modern standards, had a football team that won all the local honours and one year in the early thirties were crowned football school champions of all England. Please see photograph of the victorious team from the YEP. archives. Unfortunately the onset of WWII probably put paid to many of them having professional careers.

stourton football team

Within my own memory (born 1937) I recall that there were many other fine schools in the Hunslet area. My father, William Wood was born Hunslet 1903. He told me how he fell over the railway bridge in Beza Street and he had a great dint in his head, luckily he didn’t lose his hair so it couldn’t be seen. He had quite an adventurous life, my dad, as later, at age seventeen, he ran away to Liverpool to join the Royal Navy without parental consent. He went all the way from Hunslet to Liverpool by tram because there was a train strike ongoing at the time. It was quite possible to do that at the time alighting at the terminus of each conurbation and catching another tram at the next. Later he went to Egypt on the same boat as Lawrence of Arabia. Dad attended Low Road School and Later Jack Lane School. He told me how Hunslet Carr and Bewerley Street Schools and Hunslet Nash always had strong rugby teams and I remember myself how Hunslet Moor and St Josephs had good football teams not to mention the iconic Cockburn High School. And I recall with pride scoring my first goal for our St Hilda’s School team against Hunslet Lane School on Farmer Ward’s field.

the swing bridge that never swung

We lads from St Hilda’s school (on the other side of the bridge) ‘crocodiled’ down to Joseph Street Baths every Monday morning. We didn’t set off until after playtime, then with our trunks and towels rolled up under our arms – you were a geek if you had a shoulder bag in those days – we were off down South Accommodation Road, Atkinson Street, Goodman Street, Hunslet Lane and so to Joseph Street. By the time we got in the water it was nearly time to set off back. I think the girls from St Hilda’s attended the baths at Hunslet Lane School.  Many great lads and lasses enhanced our St Hilda’s and Ellerby Lane Schools when they had to leave South Accommodation Road Primary School and pass over the bridge at age eleven.

Of course we recognise that Hunslet had once been a thriving township in its own right with a theatre and sporting venues before being included in the Leeds conurbation. Folk who were old when I was a young man would talk about Hunslet in its heyday when Waterloo Road on a Friday night could rival Briggate. Pawn shops would disgorge suits for the weekend revelries – no doubt to be re-pledged on Monday mornings and under bright lights anything could be bought from Tripe and pigs feet to hardware.

I worked at three Hunslet companies during my career and worked at a furniture manufacturing company in Anchor Street for twenty years. Just after I had started in the early 60s they were demolishing some houses round the back, Powell Street I believe, there was a couple of little pubs: The Robin Hood and The Harrogate somewhere around there and a tragedy occurred when those doing the demolition work did not realise an elderly couple were still in situ and when they severed the gas pipes the couple were unfortunately gassed and died.

It was while working there I was given a copy of poem called Old Hunslet by an elderly work colleague, I had, it pinned to my wall for years than alas, it was lost in transit to another company and I thought I would never see it again but lo and behold thanks to the Hunslet rememberedweb site I found it again. This is an excellent site which I highly recommend for those who seek more than just this oral history of Hunslet from an East Leeds perspective. I hope Ms Sheila Gamblin will not object to me recreating the poem here for our enjoyment.

Old Hunslet

Have you ever been to Hunslet or walked down Hunslet lane,

Mid the dirt and grime of Church Street or heard the folks complain,

Have you seen the little houses with breadcakes at the door,

And found a real Leeds welcome with the folks who live next door,

Have you been to Stillhouse Yard on a Friday night,

To fix the kids with boots or clothes by flickering paraffin light.

Have you walked past Tolston’s tripe shop and along to Penny Hill,

Or had a drink in the Garden gate – the pub that stands there still.

Have you been on Hunslet Moor or in the Anchor Pub.

Or visited the old Swan junction or been in the Liberal Club.

Have you ever been down Balm Road where the steel works used to lie

Now they’re pulling down old Hunslet and we must watch it die

 

 

And coming down it was. I made this sketch sat in the car one lunch time of Norwich Place – near the old Hunslet Lake in the 1960s/70s a stoic lady is still trying to dry her washing amidst all the devastation.

goodbuy Hunslet

‘click’ on picture to enlarge

Mainly I remember Hunslet in the 1940s/50s as being ‘the boiler house of the world’ there were so many great manufacturing firms: Coghlans, Fawcett’s, Bison’s, Kitson’s, Yorkshire Copper Works, Henry Berry’s, Clayton’s, Hudswell Clark’s – where my aunt worked on munitions – Fowlers and McLaren’s, they were joined so closely that it was difficult to see where one started and the other finished, I worked at McLarens and there was a tale that an officious guy caught two men loafing about and said, ‘Haven’t you two any work to do?’ whereupon one lad said to the guy, ‘Who are you then?’ and he replied, ‘ I’m the new works manager of Fowlers’ and the guy replied ‘Well….off then this is McLarens!’ Hunslet Engine Company struggled on into the 90s and I believe at the time of writing Braims, in some capacity and Lax and Shaw still continues Many of them had cricket teams and either played on the iconic ‘Miggy Clearings’ or had their own bespoke sports grounds – swept away as takeovers found sports grounds not conducive to a balance sheet even before the firms themselves became defunct. My own engineering apprenticeship was carried out with a bunch of great guys at Midgley and Sutcliffe’s (Richmond Machine Tools) on Hillage Place, we would pour over the tiny bridge across the railway to play football on Hunslet Moor at lunch time. Later the building became the car auction rooms. When the factory hooters sounded at five o’clock thousands would flood out of Hunslet factory gates on foot or on bikes, there weren’t many cars for us in those days.

Hunslet had many great pubs (there’s a list of them at the end). I remember one night in the Adelphi, there was a trad jazz band playing in the upstairs room, I was facing the door and it opened and in walked Peter O’Toole. Sometimes when you see a famous person in an unfamiliar situation you don’t recognise who it is at first but on that occasion I recognised who it was straight off. Of course being a Hunslet lad he was on home ground.

My dad, being a Hunslet lad too, introduced me to Rugby league at Parkside in the ‘Alf and Walt Burnell’, era.

Hunslet Rl

We walked all the way there and back from East Leeds. At Parkside apart from the rugby there was also cricket and a dog track and the site of the famous Hunslet feast that annually would draw back old Hunslet residents. And although we then resided on the other side of the bridge he would regularly take us on Saturday nights to the Regal or the Strand cinemas. When we were a bit older we crossed the bridge on our own to visit the Premier Cinema in South Accommodation Road. The Premier was even down market on our own Easy Road ‘bug hutch’ we sat there on wooden benches and if I recall there was sawdust on the floor but it was only five pence (old money) and there always seemed to be lots of pretty Hunslet lasses to interest we eager pubescent lads.

Concrete seems to have taken over from character in Hunslet now but I still manage to have annual reunions with my old apprentice mates when the conversation invariable comes around to old Hunslet, when it was the ‘boiler house of the world’. Then as we are all over seventy and five of them are Hunslet lads I persuade them to tell me tales of old Hunslet

Barrie remembers: Maria, she lived in Varley Square just off Church Street. Her job was to go round Hunslet’s Anchor Street, Carris Street, the Askerns’s and Gordon Road knocking people up for work from 4 a.m. onwards. She used a clothes prop with a couple of socks on the end so she wouldn’t break the windows, all for six/nine pence a week. She was a right character not to be crossed. A case of déjà vu Maria also looked after a lad who fell off the same Beza Street Bridge as Pete’s dad. It must have been a favourite bridge for tippling off but this lad, Alec, was quite seriously injured but happily, he recovered and years later became my next door neighbour.

Gills (milk man): he had a house at the top of Anchor Road. He only had a small round but he was very reliable. He delivered milk from a milk churn on a special barrow. He poured milk from a ladle into a jug or similar. He delivered to my gran If she went out she would leave a jug on the window sill – large for two gills small for one gill. She covered the top of the jug with a lace cover with coloured beads round the edge to stop flies getting in. The jugs were safe from theft in those days.

Eddy Remembers: When we worked at Richmond Machine Tool Co on Hillage Place we didn’t have much time to get home for dinner and back, so Curly Lonsdale and I we were off on our bikes down Hillage Road, and down Anchor Street. A lady had been hanging her washing out – she had taken the washing in but left the line across the street; Curley ducked underneath it, but it caught me around the neck and pulled me off the bike buckling my wheel.

Brian, who attended Hunslet Nash, remembers a school teacher throwing the heavy board rubber at a lad; it hit his head and bounced out of the three story window. The teacher then blamed the lad for the loss of the rubber and made him go look for it. It took him three hours searching before it was found.

Gerry Remembers: the School Dentist in Bewerley Street. You went on your own; mams didn’t take kids to the dentist in those days. The waiting room was a place of purgatory. You slid along wooden benches listening to the screams from the inner sanctum moving to the front when it would be your turn. Often kids lost their nerve when it was there turn next and went to the back of the queue again. When you got into the surgery they put a horrible green mask over you face and a metal clip into your mouth to keep it open, if you needed the drill it was a foot treadle affair. When they had finished with you, you passed into another room with a line of sinks where kids were spitting blood. Everyone moved up a sink to accommodate the new arrival

On my way home from school Gerry said I had to pass a little yard where a guy kept ducks and chickens. One day I spotted two duck eggs could be reached under the wire. I pinched them and took them home. Mam gave me a right telling of for stealing – but we still ate the eggs.

Barrie Remembers: A foot coming through the ceiling at Hunslet Nash belonging to a lad who was foraging in the loft for bird’s eggs or something. Of course he shouldn’t have been up there in the first place but he was caught bang to rights because everyone recognised the shoe. Another time in Hunslet Church when they were ringing the bells one lad didn’t let go of the rope and it took him up and he hit his head on the ceiling where the rope passed through a hole.

General Banter: A guy walked into the Omnibus pub looking down in the mouth. His mates asked him what was the matter and he said his father had died that morning. They said he shouldn’t really be in here but he said he was trying to drown his sorrows. So the guys bought him his beer all night but just before closing time his dad walked into the pub. Then there was the guy in the Friendly pub in Holbeck he had a ‘Bobby Charlton’ type comb over which he used to keep in place with black boot polish. An old rugby league player had the Spotted Ox pub. He wouldn’t stand any nonsense from miscreants. On one occasion a guy continued to misbehave and the land lord had no option but to throw him out. He caught hold of his collar and the base his jacket and ran him into the door, they bounced back so he ran him into the door again after the third time one of the regulars said, ‘Alf the door opens inwards.’

Thanks to: the Yorkshire Evening Post, Hunslet Remembered, Leodis, Hunslet R.L.F.C.

Hunslet pubs

 

 

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10 Responses to “Hunslet”

  1. aussiepom Says:

    I didn’t know Hunslet very well but your memories of it seems like it was a very friendly place like East End Park was. I’ve seen lots of engines and farm machinery in the Queensland outback with the Massy Ferguson Hunslet name on them. Some are ancient machines and still going strong.

  2. Eric Says:

    Never knew there were so many pubs in Hunslet but I guess quite a few of them have bitten the dust by now, like many other areas.
    Some of those old names, Fowlers, Hunslet Engine & so on were world renowned Co’s in their heyday & Hunslet was fortunate in having so many of them in such a comparitively concentrated area.
    Another enjoyable stroll thro history.

  3. Sheila Says:

    My goodness this brought some childhood memories back. I went to Bewerley Street Juniors, leaving there to go to Matthew Murray when I was 11yrs old, (1967). I lived in Mario Street and the Beaulah pub was just round the corner, being well frequented by my mum and dad!. We were rehomed to another part of Leeds as Mario Street was next to be demolished. Oh the fun we children had playing in the rubble and soon to be demolished buildings. The “Big lads” built a helluva bonfire one year from old doors and the inside of the bonfire was even furnished LOL. 3 fire engines attended when it was lit that Nov 5th.

  4. Malcolm Nicholson. Says:

    In reply to Sheila I lived in Dow Street off Moorcrecent Road. We went to Bewerly Street fish shop and my Aunty worked in EM-VEE on Dewsbury Road. I delivered papers in Marrio Street and that’s where Peter O’Toole lived. Happy days.

    • jrobertdyson Says:

      Hello Malcolm

      Have you seen my blog on the East Leeds Web Site you will recognise the people I am talking about, when we had the shop in Moor Crescent Road Leeds, and played Beddy Lisha.

      Kind regards

      J Robert Dyson

  5. Norman Thrush Says:

    Jimmy Thrush was my dad Ted Thrushs youngest brother,I didnt
    know him very well,he worked on Leeds Market in later life.

  6. J Robert Dyson Says:

    In 1950 my parents and I, a most disappointed ten year old sadly left our terrace house in Castleford, the house in which I was born, to live in a onetime converted green grocery shop and house in Moor Crescent Road, Hunslet Leeds which had once been a back to back house, a familiar type of construction found in many areas of Leeds and in many other parts of the country as well, the intention of the move, was for Mum to manage the shop, and for father with his horse and cart to hawk green grocery around the streets of Hunslet, so Molly our horse had to move as well, but she had to come under her own steam pulling the flat cart from Castleford.

    I had to say goodbye to my beloved Temple Street, Castleford School and my excellent class teacher Mr Martin and all my school pals, who were soon to be in the process of preparing for the eleven plus examination Why on earth did my parents not consider this important aspect of my schooling when preparing to leave Castleford at this crucial stage of my education, had they purposely wanted to sabotage my eleven plus chances they could not have picked a worse time than they did.

    On the good side in our new neighbourhood, there were so many lads and lasses behind every door, many of them my age, and the mutual acceptance of my new friends could not have been happier. One of my mates was Geoff Schofield his home was only a stone’s throw away from our shop, Geoff was a sports all-rounder, captain of the school soccer and cricket teams, and had the school played rugby league he would have excelled at that as well, eventually when he grew up he became the proud father of the Rugby League legend Garry Schofield who still is the most capped Great Britain player of all time.

    Garry Schofield the former Leeds & Great Britain great, talks to Brian Carney about his career in Rugby League. https://youtu.be/0qlXYxUhuh4 https://youtu.be/TiVPID8wIEw Garry was renowned for his ability to score interception tries, although he did not usually attempt to make these interceptions until around 55 minutes into the game, by which time the opposition used to think he was not going to make any attempts on that occasion, how wrong they were, another of his skills was the chip ball, he used to chip the ball over his opponents heads, and run at top speed to regather the ball, and on many occasions to continue his run which often resulted in a try.

    My other friends did not have such a famous background as far as I knew but one of these included George Wainwright with whom I boxed one evening at the St. Peters Youth Club only for the fight to be stopped in the third round in George’s favour, as I had sustained a slight cut on the inside of my mouth, I felt I gave as good as I got, but I know Youth Club Leaders have to be ultra-careful. The only problem with boxing was you had to ensure a Youth Club Leader was in attendance, which was not always possible, therefore I spent most of my time playing table tennis where I won a free weeks holiday at the Butlin’s in Skegness when I was voted the most promising player of the week.

    With my Hunslet Friends we played a new game to me called “Beddy Lisha” which comprised, dividing the number of boys and girls who were present, into two teams and because there was no shortage of competitors we had around twelve in each team, and one team had to catch the others by hitting them gently three times on the back, after which they were regarded as caught and they were then confined to the compound. During one particular game all of my team mates except me had been caught, so I had to run dodging any of the catchers along the way, and touching the wall which represented the compound, and at the same time shouting “Beddy Lisha” which automatically released all my confined team mates, who then had to be caught all over again.

    We never wanted to go home we would play Beddy and have competitive wrestling matches, and on the lighter nights we would play cricket and rugby league and soccer. Compare our busy schedules with the youngsters of today who persistently complain that they are bored, and they have all the amusement facilities money can buy, I never ever heard any of my pals say they were bored, if our night time playtime period had been twice as long, we still would not have been bored.

    We had a lovely dog called Lassie, who looked like an attractive black Labrador, only with shorter legs, she certainly was a well-proportioned beauty who thought the world of me, the lads used to pretend to rough me up in Lassies presence only to be set upon most fiercely, by my black protector. I remember one of my pals Paul Cavalli a boy of Italian decent whose parents had an ice cream business and owned the Craven Gate pub 40 yards from our home, Paul tried his hand at roughing me up one day only to be chased up a tree by my four legged friend, although Paul had everything but his bottom out of harm’s way, but Lassie could jump higher than he bargained for when she tore the seat out of his trousers. Sadly Lassie ate some poisoned meat, and although an old gentleman who lived a few doors away from us, made her sick by putting a handful of salt down her throat, his efforts were sadly in vain, I had lost one of the dearest friends I had ever had, and I don’t mind admitting my eyes are streaming with tears as I am recalling this lovely pal I once had.

    • jrobertdyson Says:

      The pen is mightier than the sword

      It never occurred to me to ask my new friends which school they went to, I just assumed the lads all went to Hunslet Moor School which was a five minutes’ walk from our home, so one morning my Mum and I set off for me to enrol at Hunslet Moor School, we met the very nice headmaster Mr Cox who explained that I was not quite old enough for his school, and suggested that I attend the Jack Lane school in the interim, and he would take me there if I wished, so my Mum walked back home alone, and I walked alongside Mr Cox who was pushing his bicycle for his return journey.

      We passed the Middleton Railway lines, which Mr Cox advised was the oldest working railway in the world. The Victorian era is known as the golden age of railways, but Middleton Railway, which has already celebrated its 250th anniversary, was operating long before other well-known lines. Middleton is a heritage railway which runs a passenger service and maintains The Engine House, home to a collection of steam and diesel trains. Major Leeds locomotive builders including Kitson & Co and the Hunslet Engine Company are represented in two and a half centuries of railway history.
      The Middleton Railway was established by an Act of Parliament in 1758 to transport coal from Middleton collieries to the factories of Leeds.

      The line was originally used by horse-drawn wagons. Soon, an alternative method of transport was needed because of the high costs of horses and fodder, caused partly by shortages from the Napoleonic War. Experimental locomotives were tested on the line and the world’s first commercially successful steam locomotive, designed by John Blenkinsop, entered service in Middleton in 1812.

      Today’s railway runs from Moor Road Station to Middleton Park, an ancient woodland that was once part of the local coal mining industry. Middleton Railway has interactive presentations and hosts a programme of events throughout its season, which runs until December. One of the most popular engines is Sir Berkeley, which featured in The Railway Children. Look out for the circular depressions on the ground at Middleton Wood. These were bell-pits from early coal mining.

      We eventually arrived at the Jack Lane School, where Mr Cox introduced me to Mr Robinson my new class teacher, and when I looked at my classmates, I was amazed when I saw three of my neighbourhood friends in the class, and I was even more surprised when I was asked to sit in the vacant seat next to Geoff Schofield who lived 30 metres from our shop, there was also George Wainwright and Malcolm Nicholson in the class so that wasn’t a bad start to my new school, was it, with three friends already.

      Surprisingly I met Mr Cox again a short while later, during one of his periodic visits to the Jack Lane School, where it appeared he was simply showing his face, and checking on the general progress of the class, and he concluded his general inspection by asking the class a question, which I was the only one able to answer. Mr Cox said fancy only the new boy knew the answer.

      From that moment on, the humiliated Mr Robinson absolutely hated me with a vengeance and used to refer to me as Castleford the town where I was born and where I had recently come from, I found several days of these insults most upsetting, so much so, that I went home in tears one lunchtime, although my father a most insensitive man did nothing but laugh at my dilemma, “That’s nowt” he said in his broad Yorkshire Dialect, so I turned around and went back to school, without my father’s support, in time for the lessons which began after the lunchbreak.

      I certainly would have intervened had my son come home from school in similar circumstances, considering Mr Robinson simply needed telling to address my son correctly in future or I will take this matter further. Some fathers I know, or have known would have finished with the threat “Or I will punch your ******* lights out”.

      Was Mr Robinson a qualified teacher? Or was he what they used to call a dilutee teacher as a result of the manpower shortage caused by the second world war, he certainly showed little interest in his role as class teacher. Who but someone with no interest in the pupils welfare at all, would have simply sent the, soon to be eleven plus candidates into an empty classroom to do their own pre-exam preparation, the best they could, without any previous years exam papers or any guidance or teachers input whatsoever.

      During the end of a school day Mr Robinson sometimes used to behave like a Regimental Commander, by requesting all the pupils in the class to vacate their desks which each accommodated two boys, and each had a two seater hinged seat which was designed to fold into an upright position, to allow the pupils to rise from a sitting to a standing position, while still occupying the same space, and to reseat themselves at the double desks the pupils had to fold down the two seater hinged seat, upon which to sit. After standing in the aisles the pupils were then requested to sit down again, and this standing and resitting exercise, was repeated ad nauseam until Adjutant Robinson felt we had complied with his ridiculous pseudo military requirements.

      On one occasion Geoff Schofield and myself who both sat together in a double desk, thought we would save time, by not lowering the folding seat, and pretending to sit on an imaginary seat instead, and we remained on this pretend seat, simply by using the muscles in our legs to hold us in the sitting position, only after a short while the muscles in my legs were aching so much they were becoming painful, so whether Adjutant Robinson knew what we were up to and purposely made us maintain the sitting position, far longer than he usually did I don’t know, but by now my painful legs were becoming unbearable and I began laughing at our pretence and my predicament.

      This was the reaction my sadistic teacher had been hoping for, when he shouted come out Castleford, and bend over. Now I had seen a piece of Oak timber on his desk which I had noticed before our confrontation and this must have measured at least 400 mm x 50 mm x 25 mm, when I was asked to bend over I thought to myself, he is surely not going to hit me with that piece of Oak is he, but yes he certainly was, and he did.

      The pain caused by that wicked mentally undeveloped man was excruciating and went far beyond corporal punishment, as well as physical assault, but instead what could be more adequately described legally as Battery. This vindictive spoilt child of a man, who was so ill-mannered and in-sufficiently educated to adequately address a pupil correctly, as well as being totally ignorant of protocol and etiquette, his childish attempts to upset me with his verbal torments, which he possibly thought were insufficient punishment so he decided to add Battery to his list of misdemeanours. Together with his use of an offensive weapon, what would the Education Authorities have said, even in the 1950’s had they been shown the Oak Weapon this bully of a man had used on the bottom of a child half his size.

      I knew without looking that a shocking bruise would have developed where I had been hit and had I had parental approval I would have shown this to Mr Cox the headmaster or possibly even the police, although it is true, The pen is mightier than the sword, as I had shown no visual signs of distress at either the verbal or physical assaults I had suffered at the hands of this coward, but his verbal abuse caused me the most pain.

      Had my father intervened when I first complained about this teacher I am sure this beating with an offensive weapon would most definitely not have occurred

      • J Robert Dyson Says:

        The Day I Tackled Colin McBride

        It was 1950 when as a ten year old I found myself on the opposing team to the one in which Colin McBride was playing, Colin played on the wing for Hunslet schoolboys in both the under 13 and under 15 age groups, I was not aware what his age was at the time, but I remember he was in his final class at school which was three classes above mine.

        Those of the male sex will recall the onset of Puberty and how it varies in most boys, but I think in Colin’s, case it must have begun very early in his life because my twelve team mates and I were not facing a boy on this occasion, but most definitely a man as he was certainly well past his adolescent years.

        Most of my own development occurred during the twelve months period between 15 and 16, at 15 when I started work, I was five foot seven inches tall, and when I was 16 my height had increased to six foot two inches, the same as it is now, I knew this most accurately because my mother had to take up my first pair of working overalls and then let them down again twelve months later.

        Had Colin and I been playing schoolboy rugby as we both did at different age groups for Bewerley Street School, we would not have been allowed to play in the same game, but this game was different, it had been organised by us lads after school, to be played on the grass surface of Hunslet Moor, with jackets and jerseys for try lines.

        Although I played Open Side Prop for the school, in this game I finished up playing at Full Back, and spent most of this game watching the action of others in midfield, and in Colin’s case, although he was a speedy winger he was occupying one of the midfield positions.

        Suddenly around thirty yards away, there was Colin with the ball under his arm, running towards me at breakneck speed, with no visible attempts made by any of my team mates to stop him, I won’t say they were running out of his way, but their tackling was not what you would call very effective, now although I was a relative novice to this rugby league game, having recently moved to Leeds from a Castleford school which played soccer, I believed when tackling someone front on, it was preferable to position yourself directly in line with the direction in which they were heading.

        I crouched down to face Colin, with my arms outstretched to encircle his lower body, my head to one side of this rampaging Juggernaut, who on impact, I felt the power in one of his piston like knees imploding on my shoulder and chest, knocking the wind out of my lungs, but after his motion ceased with the tightening of my arms around his legs, I knew he was mine, as he thudded to the ground behind me, accompanied by the gushing sound of exhaled air, as his upper body hit the ground, what an achievement boy against man, it felt good.

        As I was getting to my feet after this tackle, I was faced with a nod of approval from my father who was watching the game from the touchline, it was the first and only time he had ever watched me play rugby or anything else for that matter, and his nod of approval was something he did not give too often.

        Another rugby story involved me as Open Side Prop and my school team mate Trevor Foster who played Field Side Prop both being sent for trials, with a view to playing for Hunslet schoolboys under 11, we were sent by our class teacher and sports master Mr Harry Jepson who was later in life to be awarded the OBE and become the president of the Leeds Rhinos, Harry sadly died at the age of 96 on the 29 August 2016.

        Trevor and I were both instructed to report at 4.45 pm to Mr Latham at Farmer Wards Field Middleton, this was the ground we used to play all our school home matches on, Mr Latham was another Bewerley Street Sports Master.

        When we arrived, we met all the lads who had been selected from the other Hunslet Schools, who annoyingly had been there since 4.30 pm, and the team had already been picked, we explained to Mr Latham we were both Prop Forwards, but he said we are two wingers short so you will both have to play on the wing. A prop forward on the wing, you must be joking.

        So the whistle blew and I am presumably facing an experienced winger, who with the ball under his arm ran directly at me on three separate occasions, only to be tackled fairly and squarely each time. My opponent had obviously been giving his dilemma some thought, because he decided next time he would initially run straight towards me and then sidestep to my right, instead of running straight into my arms, so on the fourth occasion, when he set off towards me I thought this was simply a repetition of the three earlier tackles I had made.

        Although I knew I had been duped when he began his body swerve to my right, so I had to dive to my right, to grasp him around the ankles, and at the point of contact I must have inadvertently had my mouth open, because when this closed I had a distinct taste of his boot leather in my mouth, a taste I can still remember to this day, when I think about it.

        Had I been the best under eleven wingman in the whole City of Leeds, I would have had extreme difficulty demonstrating my attacking prowess without the ball, my wingman opponent in the trial game had the ball on four occasions, and although I ensured he didn’t get very far with it, I did not even know what the ball felt like.

        Although I had done all that was possible to do defensively I was disappointed not to have had the ball, because I would have enjoyed giving my opponent a taste of his own medicine, with perhaps a bit more on top.

        We were then instructed by Mr Latham to change jerseys and I was told to play at fullback, remember in those days, the fullback stayed at the back instead of joining in with the attack as they do today, disappointingly I never had the ball in my hands again, neither did I have the opportunity to tackle anyone, there was just no one breaking through, therefore no-one to tackle.

        I can’t remember how Trevor Foster got on, but like me he was understandably not included in the Hunslet Schoolboys under 11 team, but of course we were both playing out of position how could two responsible people like Messrs Jepson and Latham have got our starting time so radically wrong.

        Although it was a honour to have had trials for the Hunslet Schoolboys under 11 team it wasn’t a fair trial, considering the enormous difference between a wingman and a prop forward, where are you now Mr Latham do you remember how unfairly Trevor Foster and myself were treated on that lovely sunny day on Farmer Wards Field?

  7. peterwwood Says:

    Farmer Ward’s field rings a bell. You got to it of Middleton Crescent past the Cockburn fields. It was a football pitch when I played on there for the first time and I scored my first goal for St Hilda’s School against Hunslet Lane. I would think that would have been about 1948/49.. There was a railway line crossed just bellow that field that ran all the way from Neville Hill. Later our Company team played on that pitch because all the pitches on Middleton Clearings were taken . Now only half of Middleton Clearings have football pitches and they have planted trees on the rest. A little boast: I once scored 12 goals in a match on there when our team Market District Boys club beat West Hunslet Mission 38 nil and our goal keeper got sent off for ungentlemanly conduct as he sat down because he never got to touch the ball

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