East Leeds to Orkney


East Leeds to Orkney
This month we are regaled by John’s tale. East Leeds lad now living in Orkney
Here are pictures of the Orkney shore line and John’s cottage in Stronsay The two views are taken from exactly the same spot on the drive ; one facing SE to the sea and the other NW to the house.
permission to drool

Remember to ‘click’ on pictures to enlarge.

‘Memories of East Leeds’ by John Holloway (72)

A year or so ago I stumbled upon a website whilst searching for some obscure information. ‘East Leeds’ suddenly came up, then St Hilda’s School…..The Copperfields…..Cross Green Lane. My eyes lit up. Blimey, I thought, that’s where I used to live over 60 years ago! And I’ve never been back. I read on.
There was more – East End Park, ‘the paddy’, the ‘bug hutch’, ‘the Navvy’ (with its ‘Town Hall Steps’), and Knostrop. That was it – I was hooked. My mind went back to the 1950s – whatever happened to all my mates?

My family lived at 10, Copperfield Avenue in East Leeds and I had a lovely childhood there with my sister Linda – 5 years older than me. Suddenly in the summer of 1954 we were moving – all the way down to Gillingham in Kent. First day at school and disaster struck. I proudly showed all the lads in my class my collection of Cigarette Packets (THE thing to collect in Leeds in those days). Puzzled faces and a distinct lack of interest followed – they all collected matchboxes! Worse was to follow. I took my bag of marbles (taws) to school and searched for the holes in the grassy playing-field – vital for the game. Absolute disaster – no skilful flicking of thumb and forefinger to propel the marbles down there in Kent – they just rolled them along the gutter trying to hit each other’s marble. No skill in that! Nobody had heard of ‘I’m a’needa’ and all the other fineries of the ‘real’ game. As for my much-covetted cigarette card collection – even worse – their game was to throw them down onto the ground one at a time, trying to land their own card on top of the opponents card. Sacrilege! Mine stayed firmly in their sets held together with rubber bands! I wasn’t going to let all those famous racehorses, railway engines, and footballers etc become soiled! Whatever next? Well yes – on top of all that, they called me ‘Scottie’! None of the children knew the Yorkshire accent down there in the ‘deep south’ but I soon succumbed and within a few months I was talking ‘Chathamese’ – the local dialect in that part of the world. I was quickly loosing my ‘Yorkshireness’ – no more ‘corser-edge’ for me! I had arrived in a very different ‘world’ – most of the kids hadn’t even heard of John Charles, and the nearest Town Hall Steps were in front of a big building in Chatham – not in the railway cutting near Copperfield Avenue! In Gillingham I soon discovered that there was a bewildering network of alleyways everywhere, between houses and houses, and gardens and gardens. All I remembered from East Leeds in this respect was the ‘ginnel’ on the way to the butchers shop!


On leaving school I joined the Civil Service as a cartographer but craved a more adventurous outdoor life and after three years took up a job as Lifeguard at the local Swiming Pool in Giilingham which I ran for several years until the threat of closure loomed in the mid-seventies. At 33 and still having a sense of adventure, my wife Sue and I, along with our children, moved to Scotland – one year in Orkney followed by 6 years on Britain’s most isolated populated island – Fair isle – where we ran the shop and had some great experiences – 130mph winds and all! With the closure of the island’s two Lighthouses the shop became unviable and in 1983 we were back in Kent and back at the Swimming Pool for a few years.
The yearning for adventure took over once more when our daughter fell in love with an Orcadian boy during a family holiday, and in 1987 we found ourselves heading back north to Stronsay in Orkney where we have lived ever since, our main source of income until retirement being from our Birdwatching Holiday business and writing & illustrating bird books. But every so often Leeds comes to mind – often precipitated by a good result for Leeds United or the mention of Beeston or the Neville Hill railway sheds.


Going back to Leeds – I just loved school, and one of my first recollections of life in East Leeds is of the small camp-beds we had for a ‘lie-down’ at St Hilda’s School and the ‘Music and Movement’ programme on the radio in the hall which accompanied our late-morning exercises. My class was in the same hall when the death of King George V1 was announced over the air-waves.
But what of the rest of my class? Since leaving Leeds at the age of ten I have heard very little. My parents kept in touch with several neighbours for many years and in my mid-teens they passed on the news that two of my class-mates – Paul Reaney and Peter Bradford – had been given trials with Leeds United FC. I had played goalkeeper for St Hilda’s and was the ‘reserve’ to Paul at the Yorkshire Schools Sports in Roundhay Park where he came 2nd in the sprint (100yds?) two years running. I had often wondered who on earth could possibly have beaten Paul – he was so fast – but many years later I learnt that the Yorkshire age-group champion for those two years was his future team-mate at Leeds Utd – Paul Madeley. (Not surprising they were both brilliant full-backs!).
Others – most of who appear in the class photo attached, were: Freddie Dubber, Ronnie Harvey, and Graham Clarkson who all lived in my street; Gary Foxcroft – who collected autographs and lived in St Hilda’s Place, and Stephen Smart, Wilfred Binns, Raymond Batley, and Peter Robinson who all lived nearby. Kathleen Gale was the ‘top’ girl, but (‘fortunately’ – so my wife Sue says!) I cannot remember the names of any of the other girl’s in the photo. Phew!

Remember those great open backed happy buses? Anyone recognise themselves?

A good part of my out-of-school time was taken up with train-spotting – sitting atop the substantial stone-wall which ran along the railway at East End Park, and occasionally – on Sunday afternoons – sneaking into the Neville Hill shed to admire the engines around the turn-table. We were never sent out! ‘Health and Safety’ was not yet born! I can remember many of the regular engines which went by – Captain Cuttle, Ocean Swell, Geoffrey H Kitson etc. etc., and if the engine was too ‘regular’ we would shout ‘scrap it’ to the driver. The pullman train ‘The Queen of Scots’ was one of our favourites. Two of my pals – Dennis Garside and elder brother John (lived in a shop in ‘the St Hilda’s’) preferred the LMS engines to the LNER engines of Neville Hill, and occasionally we would go across Leeds to Ninevah (?) engine shed to collect train numbers of the LMS region. (Personally, I felt a bit of a traitor!).
Bobby Taylor was a good pal and lived at the farm in Black Road where I spent even more time than at East End Park. When we were not helping on the farm we would hunt for caterpillars among the rhubarb fields and fish in the small ponds nearby. The coaches to the ‘paddy’ railway were parked alongside the farm on Sundays and we would often climb up and sit in the small coaches which took the miners to work during the week. The only engine I can remember was called ‘Dora’ – a small saddle-tank. One of our favourite ‘games’ was to wait outside the farm – where the dustcarts heading for the rubbish tip slowed down – then jump onto the small platform at the back, and jump off again as the cart slowed down to go through the tip gates several hundred yards away! (Health and Safety again!!!). We then had the long walk back to the farm! One day Bobby and I were in one of his fields, messing about at one of the water troughs, I pulled the arm of the float up to let more water into the trough and I must have bent it a bit as when it went back down the water kept on coming into the tank and pretty soon it was flooding over the edges and running down onto the grass. ‘You’ve flooded the world,’ Bobby shouted out and I ran off home as fast as I could as he went back off to his farm. I lay in bed the night worried sick , Bobby’s words kept ringing in my ears – at nine years old I had no idea how the water was going to be stopped, it just kept coming, I really thought ‘I had flooded the world’. First thing next morning I dashed out into the street in panic and looked right, straight down to the field the trough was in (the one further away from Cross Green Lane then the rhubarb field) what a relief all was dry as a bone, although I could not see the trough of course; it was too far away. I had expected the water to be a least up to Cross Green Lane and everywhere eastwards to be underwater, what a relief!
Nearby we often went to watch East Leeds at the cricket ground, and on one occasion, one of my uncles visiting us from London claimed (and did so for many years!) to have caught out the ‘up and coming star’ we had all been told would be opening the batting that day. Well my uncle did catch the ball on the full – but he was well over the boundary among the crowd at the time! It was a six. And the batsman? The future Yorkshire and England star Brian Bolus!

It was almost mandatory to visit the ‘pictures’ at least once a week and I remember the wooden benches in the ‘Bug Hutch’ (in Easy Road?) where it was easy to squeeze in a pal who turned up late, but far more important than watching the ‘flicks’ – as we called them – was our regular Sunday morning trips to the Star Cinema on York Road where there would be a pile of empty cigarette packets from the night before, swept out into the yard. Perfect for us collectors, and we would sometimes find a rare brand – Sobranie, Camel, Lucky Strike etc. etc. which we gathered up eagerly for our collections. The tall padlocked gates to the yard were no obstacle for us!
On Sunday mornings my dad often took me fishing in the ponds (reservoirs?) at Cross Gates – the end of the tram-line, and my mother would take us for walks along the river at Wetherby in the holidays. Temple Newsam was an absolute must for all of the family, especially to see the flowers in Spring. The only other times I ventured out of Leeds – other than holidays and the occasional bus outing – was to go to Aberford with the Cubs for a week-end camp. We all went off – gear and all the boys – in the back of a small open lorry. It was great fun, with one of the lads telling us a short story every evening which always ended in his inimitable phrase – ‘Carbolic Soap to cool you down’. There were the ruins of a stately home close to our camp and it was a big ‘dare’ to go in to see if we could see the Barn Owls said to live in the chimney. Very ‘spooky’! One particular incident which still shines bright and clear in my memory regarding the camps is the time we found a baby Jackdaw which was clearly too young to be out of the nest. It seemed to have no fear of us and I put it on my shoulder (pirate fashion) and proudly marched back to camp to show Akela (the troup leader). Everyone gathered round to look at the bird which promptly turned its back towards my head and relieved itself right into my left ear! I can feel that strange ‘liquid warmth’ to this day!
Back home in Copperfield Avenue – and perhaps the highlight of the year – was the bonfire in the middle of the road on 5th November. Wood was collected for several days beforehand (chumping) and stored in people’s gardens and garden sheds, and the night before the fire (‘MIckey Night’) it had to be guarded throughout the night to prevent it being ‘moved off’ to another bonfire nearby!
Looking back, it is hard to believe that the streets were still lit by Gaslight at the time – and one of our favourite tricks was to kick the cast-iron ‘post’ – opposite No 10 – in order to get the light to come on a few minutes early. It always worked. Weren’t we naughty! Perhaps – but we were certainly happy.

Thanks John and Sue for your great contribution to our East Leeds Memories
Hope to hear from you again soon

John Holloway ‘Castle’ Stronsay Orkney KW172AG Scotland

I would love to hear from any old class-mates from St Hilda’s School

10 Responses to “East Leeds to Orkney”

  1. Doug Farnill Says:

    Thank you John. Sorry I did not go to St Hilda’s, but to Richmond Hill and then later to Ellerby Lane. But my mam and dad went to St Hilda’s school, around 1910-16. But, I really enjoyed your story and memories of taws and cigarette cards.

  2. peterwwood Says:

    I lover it when somebody new finds us. And look at that happy bus picture, we were all happy then why can’t life stay like that? Thanks for your tale, John.

  3. aussiepom Says:

    Such an interesting story John. Familiar names of your school mates too. Paul Reaney was a mate of my younger brother Norman while they were still at school. Can’t remember why St. Hilda’s school was closed but a lot of kids came to Ellerby Lane school in the 50s. John Garside belonged to Richmond Hill Methodist Church youth club around that time as well. Norman also collected train numbers and had notebooks full of them. Ah! The stone railway wall that was at the bottom of our street ( Charlton Place ) keeps popping up in lots of our stories doesn’t it. It was still there in 2012 when I visited Leeds. If only I would have still been able to climb up on top of it as so many of us kids did I would still have fell guilty after being told by my Mum not to do it and if she found out I had I would get a belting. The scenery surrounding your house looks wonderful. Do you still write books on bird watching? My friend Jenny and her husband would be most interested as they too write for a magazine and do surveys for a wild life group in areas around Brisbane. Did you keep your cigarette cards? they could be worth a tidy sum now.

    • John & Sue Holloway Says:

      Thanks so much for your kind comments – please do get in touch by e-mail – I am so glad we came across the web-site on East Leeds.
      John & Sue Holloway

  4. edward blackwell Says:

    That’s a great tale John thank you for sharing it, I too saved the cigarette packets, I used to like finding the ones that were not so popular like, The Three Castles and Passing Clouds are a couple I recall. We had a daughter who lived in the Copperfield’s for a couple of years back in the 80’s so I know the area reasonably well, however nothing ever stays the same went that way in the car some time ago now, and got lost, finished up on the motorway heading for Sheffield.
    I remember the old BBC Radio 4, Shipping forecast always seemed to mention Fair Isle and Forties and they were usually gale warnings so Your right in the thick of it, but I’m sure you also have good weather. It’s a good tale I enjoyed it…

  5. Eric Says:

    An enjoyable reminiscence of places & things familiar to many of us from that era. Your foray into the remote parts of Scotland is an interesting example of the diaspora from East Leeds, others moving to the U.S.A ; Canada; Australia; N. Zealand; Tasmania & almost anywhere imaginable.
    However, can’t say I envy you the shrieking 130mph winds – hope your roof tiles were well battened down.
    My younger brother, who went to Victoria, was also one time friends with Paul Reaney who never seemed to be not kicking a ball , often against our gable end. If I remember correctly, he lived at that time in the Charltons or East Parks so I wonder how he found himself going to St Hilda’s – possibly because it was church based.
    The lad in the middle of the back row in your school photo looks as though it’s PR , at least as I remember him.
    A good tale which I’m sure will be enjoyed by many

  6. David Carncross Says:

    Great stuff John. Apart from different names, your tale would be very little different to mine as far as East Leeds is concerned. I was an Ellerby Laner until I passed my “scholarship” and went to Leeds Moden up at Lawnswood. You certainly haven’t been afraid to try new things. My brother went to Australia in the sixties but I never really had a hankering to venture any further than Adel where we are now. Makes me feel like a bit of a stick in the mud. If you are on Facebook you might try joining the Leedsface group or memories of Leeds group. A word of warning though – be prepared for lots of old photos which will stop you in your tracks.

  7. marlene Egan Says:

    I really enjoyed you tale John l went to Richmond Hill and Ellerbylane then crossgreen as it then became l remember all the places you mentioned unlike you l haven’t moved very far just to Horsforth lived here for 30 years ,the memories are great

  8. peterwwood Says:

    HERE’S SOME MORE STRANGE GOINGS ON. My last job was working for Wakefield Council and our little section was housed in a detached house called Pinda’s Lodge. It had been the home of the manager of a detonator factory. My office was in what had been an upstairs bedroom. Often I would hear footsteps coming up the stairs and going into one of the other bedrooms, when I knew the person who worked in that bedroom was out I would invest6igate and usually find there was no one in there. The toilets were down in the cellar and One night I was the last one in and ready to lock up when I heard someone go down there so off I went down there to warn them i was about to lock up and again nobody there. Sometimes if you were first in on a morning, you opened up and had to sign in on a book on these occasions I could feel the hairs on the back of my neck bristling as if someone was standing behind me. The cleaners who claimed they had seen an aperition climbing the stairs would only work in pairs.When I met a guy who had worked in Pinda’s Loge at an earlier date he asked me if I had come into contact with the ghost yet before I mentioned it to him. I intend to go back there someday and see if they are still experiencing ‘The Ghost’?

  9. peterwwood Says:

    Sorry that last comment was meant for the next tale on the paranornalt

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