Archive for the ‘Cross Green’ Category

The Pocket Watch and Route Noir

July 19, 2015

THIS MONTH TWO MORE GREAT TALES FROM ERIC SANDERSON

THE POCKET WATCH & ROUTE NOIR

 

 

THE POCKET WATCH

By Eric Sanderson

Long summer evenings in the fifties would find a group of us, anywhere between four and seven, on the playing field at the top of Snake lane. Very rarely had anyone any money, not a single penny, we mostly went out with nothing in our pockets.

Games of 3-a-side football, shots in, touch and pass or even cricket was played in fiercely competitive spirit for an hour or so. We then flopped onto the grass to recover and shoot the breeze over any and all subjects – most of which we knew very little about. The comparative merits of bikes was a favourite topic – Claude Butler; JRJ; Dawes etc’ We would argue over the minutiae such as the frame tubing, diameter of the rear stays, tires and (especially) the width of the wheel rims as well as the lustre of the paintwork. I hasten to add that none of us had the slightest chance of owning such a magnificent machine, but you could dream.

One evening Ronnie Cockill told us he had acquired a Smiths pocket watch from his brother Stan and that this model was regarded as the “toughest in the world”. This outrageous boost was widely scoffed at and the evidence, nay, the incontrovertible proof was demanded. Ronnie was extremely indignant at our scepticism and showed us his admittedly fine and robust looking example of horology. With some remaining unconvinced, Ron volunteered to demonstrate the watch’s credentials by hurling it as high as he could into the air and letting it fall to the ground – which he duly did. Sure enough it looked undamaged and continued ticking away like a time bomb. Fairly impressive but it was pointed out that its impact had been cushioned by falling into thick grass. The discussion continued to consider other ways for a more rigorous test, dispensing with placing it on the rail line for the “Paddy” train to run over it or throwing it against a brick wall as being perhaps too severe. A solution was finally agreed upon which, if passed, would satisfy all doubts, the following evening one of our group turned up with a Webley air pistol which belonged to his brother. It was a fearsome looking weapon obviously capable of bringing down a charging rhinoceros. The gun was tested against a nearby goal post, chipping the paintwork as well as burying the slug deeply into a nearby wooden post. We all felt this was going to provide a suitable examination of Ron’s claims. The agreed procedure was that the watch would be hung from a nearby sapping and we would each have two shots at it, one to the front face and one to the back of the case. All shots would be taken before the final examination so that if any damage resulted no individual could be blamed.

With great anticipation the test took place from a distance of about ten yards from the suspended watch. During the test the slugs pinged loudly when they struck the watch but there was no obvious damage from our distant vantage point and at the end the watch was solemnly passed around for detailed inspection by everyone. Remarkably, the watch continued to tick away merrily without a single mark, scratch or indentation to be seen. Honour was satisfied and Ronnie was justifiably triumphant. Secretly, we were all slightly envious of him owning such a remarkable timepiece which would surely last forever.

However, Ronnie’s joy didn’t last long because a few days later he lost his prized possession, probably when we were scrambling up and down the embankment to the “navvy” which we always used to access from the Bridgefield car park because under the bridge there was a small pond which was home to a number of attractive red bellied newts.

So if anybody happens to find a grime encrusted Smith’s pocket watch from the East End Park navvy, still ticking away, it may just belong to Ronnie Cockill.

ROUTE NOIR

Inevitable, after 50/60 years some of the fine detail in such memories can be a little hazy, certainly with my stories. Nonetheless, the thread and the main content remain faithful to the events at the time but apologies in advance to any whose recollections may be slightly different.

The Bridgefield Hotel was the origin of three roads running in a southerly direction from there. Cross Green Lane ran approximately south west with a sweeping left hand bend past St Hilda’s and terminated in those days at the Cross Green pub and the junction of South Accomm, East Street and Easy Road.

Halton Moor Road, always known as ‘Red Road’ because of its red shale surface (at least as far as the ‘basins’ more of those later) than roughly south east parallel to Neville Hill railway sidings and gradually petering out and terminating at Temple Newsam Road near the now defunct athletic track.

There was also another road called ‘Red Road’ by some. This ran along the bottom of the Snake Lane playing fields to Knostrop lane. I always considered this to be part of Snake Lane (but this may not have been strictly correct) and Halton Moor Road to be the ‘proper’ Red Road.

The third road was known colloquially as ‘Black Road’ probably because of the contrast of its Tarmac surface with the red shale of the adjacent Red Road. Black Road is more correctly a continuation of Pontefract Lane which started at the Hope Inn on York Road but this section was never called any other name than Back Road or ‘Blackie’ as in ‘we’re going down Blackie.

For young boys Black Road offered by far the most opportunities for adventure and so the following few yarns will focus on the East Leeds version of the iconic Route 66. It ran roughly south east forming the southern boundary of Halton Moor and Temple Newsam Country Park. terminating at the junction with Bullerthorpe Lane near Woodlesford. Little traffic traversed this road other than the leviathans carrying the excavated material from Parkinson’s strip mining site, located between Temple Newsam and Woodlesford. They would thunder up the road discharging billowing clouds of dust and fine soil which is why, after rain, the road below Blue Bell Wood was covered in a thin film of treacherous sludge, hazardous to any bike rider and, I dare say any other means of transport. The open cast mining site is now completely landscaped and there are very few obvious traces of mining activity.

The Snake Lane playing fields at the top of the road and Cross Green Lane were the source of great pleasure to many with its football pitches, bowling Greens and tennis courts. We spent many hundreds of hours there, as was the picturesque East Leeds Cricket Club (what a gem that was) the site of many keenly fought cricket matches and pleasant afternoons.

The ‘Basins’ were further down and located between Red Road and Black Road. I’ve no idea how they came to be there but suspect they were some kind of ancient soaking pits. Perhaps others may know. Anyway, they were a series of partly spherical depressions in the ground about 25/30 yards in diameter and about 3 or 4 yards deep and they were great fun to whizz around on your bike at breakneck speed – just like the Wall of Death (almost) before skimming over the rim, wheels leaving the ground and into the next basin. Of course it didn’t always happen as smoothly as described, especially after rain and the surface was very slippery, often resulting in a tangle in the cusp of the basin. I guess these were early versions of BMX parks but without the manoeuvrability of modern stunt bikes.

Bike races down Black Road were a popular pastime for us and one summer evening, a few of us were at the top of Snakey where it met Black Road and participating in a few bike races down towards the Woodlesford end. One of the group was a lad called George Dawson who lived somewhere in the Glencoe’s during the early fifties and drifted in and out of our regular group. George had a top quality bike with a fixed wheel arrangement whilst I had bike with a derailleur type gear change and we challenged each other to a race, exchanging bikes with each other. Off we went fairly evenly matched down to ‘Red Walls’ or was it ‘Black Walls’? the bridge over the Wyke beck which then ran along from Halton Moor and beyond On the return run I hit a large pot hole (probably caused by the huge trucks mentioned earlier) at speed, which sent me spinning from his bike and skidding along the road for what seemed about 50 yards. My clothes were torn and I suffered considerable gazing, still carrying the scars to this day and it didn’t do George’s bike much good either. When I see bike crashes in today’s Tour de France it makes me shudder, bringing back unpleasant memories of that day. George’s first thought was to make sure I was OK and even through his bike was badly damaged. He was completely unconcerned, ensuring that I got home safely if somewhat painfully. He absolutely refused to accept any payment for repairs as it had been his ‘challenge’ but it must have cost a small fortune to put his bike back into shape. Unfortunately, we shortly lost contact with George because I believe he went to live in Australia. Bike racing also disappeared from my routine activities for a long time.

Another time we thought we had discovered a highly efficient way of collecting blackberries which grew in profusion further down Black Road. At the time it was possible to buy fireworks long before bonfire night and there was a particular vicious little banger called ‘The Little Demon’. Armed with a few of these we thought that tossing a few into the blackberry bush just a fraction of a second before the explosion, would blow bucket loads of berries from the bush and become much easier to gather. I have to tell you that this idea was a total failure, resulting in not a single berry being dislodged and a total waste of a week’s pocket money. Still nothing ventured, nothing gained.

About three quarters of a mile down the road from the Bridgefield, a rail spur ran from the ‘Paddy line’ to Neville Hill and a track on the RHS lead to an army camp which was used during WW2 to house POW’s and I think the local defence and Home Guard. There was also an Ack Ack battery stationed there. It was later used by the TA. The prisoners, which I believe were mainly Italians seemed to roam freely and a number of them stayed after the war, merging with the Italian contingent in the community. Part of the army camp was an armoured car testing circuit, which consisted of several deep water filled troughs with intervening humps and hillocks. These troughs teeming with frogs, newts and small fish were a magnet for young boys with fishing nets. On occasions a team of TA soldiers would bring a couple of tanks and put them through their paces around the circuit and once or twice they even allowed us onto the turret for a thrilling ride. However, I dread to think what happened to the wildlife in the water troughs as these armoured beasts splashed through them, churning up anything in their path with their powerful crawler tracks.

‘The Gorge’ was a cutting through a granite or sandstone outcrop near to the Woodlesford end of the road, about 10/15 foot high and about 100 yards long and topped by a line of trees, some of which were horse chestnuts. The sandstone rocks provided many a good hand and foot hold for clambering up for the ‘conker’ trees in September, when the conkers trees came into their prime. As it was a couple of miles from the top of Black Road it was a very long round trip to walk and as such meant that the conker crop would be pretty much intact, enabling a good harvest.

Just around the corner, up Bullerthorpe Lane, the rear entrance into Temple Newsam Park lead into through fairly dense woods. Within them was a pond which was absolutely stuffed with fish which would fight to jump out onto a simple fishing rod or line. Fishing competitions would often yield 30 to 40 catches EACH of fish measuring up to three or four inches long. They were all returned of course to ensure sport for another day.

That which we knew as the Bluebell Wood was in fact properly called Bell Wood and bordered the southern edge of the Temple Newsam golf course. I seem to remember that access to it from Black Road meant crossing private farmland patrolled by a warden who seemed to find the presence of young boys inimitable to peace and harmony. So it was a bit of sport to scamper across the farmland and dodge the bad tempered warden in order to meander up Dog Kennel Hill to the mansion house at the top, taking the short cut home via Halton Moor Road (Red Road)

The final little yarn of this story concerns the illegal and dangerous practice of what we called Paddy Hopping. At times when we were trudging back up the road, the Paddy would often pass by, usually slowing down and sometimes enabling us to jump up and cling to the back of the last wagon. We would dismount quite easily as it approached Cross Green Lane as it had to stop there prior to discharge the passengers or to cross the road when going to the coal staithe. Makes you shudder just to think of it these days but then, what a laugh!

Roaming far and wide was an everyday occurrence for many, just think what today’s youngsters are missing.

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Catapulted to Purdition and Dead and Buried

September 1, 2014

This month another great double header from Eric Sanderson:
Catapulted to Perdition
&
Dead and Buried.

CATAPULTED TO PERDITION

Home made catapults were a popular weapon amongst boys in that era. Made from a carefully selected forked branch, usually cut from a nearby convenient tree and fitted with two strands of 3mm square rubber made for a powerful device, easily capable of firing a stone 40 or 50 metres at high speed. A key design feature, learned from bitter experience, ensured that the forks were made long enough to avoid hitting your upright, steadying thumb when firing the projectile. Those ignorant of this crucial requirement, frequently ended up with a blackened thumb nail from which it took several weeks to recover
One summer day, a few of us had manufactured new catapults and, armed with pockets full of pebbles ( their spherical shape having better aerodynamics and so flying further & faster), decided to venture into Knostrop looking for exciting targets.
Near the top of Knostrop Lane, a small tin shack was located on the railway embankment and seemed a good candidate for target practice, having a couple of small windows and a roof which would rattle when struck. What we didn’t realise was that this was the retreat for the Railway Police and, at the time, a member of the said constabulary was in residence, probably enjoying a well earned break with a mug of hot sweet tea, a cheese butty and the Daily Mirror.
His tranquillity was brutally shattered by a fusillade of high velocity projectiles, peppering the outside with an ear splitting racket , smashing the windows and ricocheting around the inside like a swarm of angry hornets.
During a brief reloading pause, the officer emerged , helmet askew , ( he’d probably dived to the floor when the bombardment had started) roaring his anger at our intrusion into his reveries.
My guess is that he’d probably initially thought it was an assault by an abandoned German Commando group , unaware that the war was long over. Their objective being to close the valves to the Knostrop sewage works, causing a huge backup and inundating Leeds in a deep layer of S***, bringing the City to a standstill & thereby delivering a major blow for the war effort.
I could be wrong with this explanation, there could have been a more devious one.
Anyway, as he descended the embankment, no doubt intent on inflicting savage retribution upon his tormentors, we dashed off down the lane, easily outpacing the hapless constable.
After a couple of hours roaming the plantations, unsuccessfully trying to target a few squirrels, back we trudged up the lane towards Cross Green. BUT, we hadn’t counted on the cunning of the wily police officer because as we wandered back , with the earlier attack now completely forgotten by us, PC Plod was waiting and , unseen by us ,surprised us by promptly grabbing one of us with his ham sized fist.
By this time his anger had all but disappeared and, as we all owned up to the misdemeanour, a good telling off was the limit of his immediate retribution, but not before putting the fear of god into us all and confiscating our fearsome weaponry.
He further demanded our names & addresses in order to inform our parents which happened a few weeks later, just when we’d convinced ourselves that we’d got away with it.
This time, the consequences were much more severe, commencing with a regimental b*******g from my father, followed by a couple of weeks in disgrace and suspension of my weekly pocket money ‘til it was deemed I was sufficiently contrite.
A kind of suspension between a normally happy existence and everlasting misery. Perdition indeed.

DEAD and BURIED

jug

Don’t be alarmed, this is not a lurid, macabre, Bram Stoker inspired tale, it’s simply recollections of a few occupations which were around in our youth (and before) but which have now disappeared altogether or at least, have become an endangered species.

One which comes to mind is the “Knocker Up”. This was a person who, for a small sum would, at an agreed time, rap on the bedroom window with a long pole. Why on earth people would use this service instead of an alarm clock, which were readily & cheaply available, baffles me, but then so does most things. What’s more, the loud rapping noise used to waken not only their clients, but half the surrounding neighbours as well.
Which reprises an old joke, about someone boasting he didn’t need a clock to tell the time, his trumpet always did the trick. Asked how that worked he replied he would simply stick his head out of the window & start playing his bugle. Without fail, someone would shout “what idiot is playing the trumpet at 3.30 in the morning”. !!
This peculiar activity ( the knocker up, not the bugler) seemed to disappear in the late 40’s or early 50’s and nowadays , being “knocked up” has an entirely different construct, not to be confused with being raised from your slumbers with a sharp rap on the bedroom window pane .

The Chimney Sweep was a common or garden sight in those days, walking around from job to job with his bundle of poles and soot collection bag, but whose occupation quickly passed into history with the introduction of the Clean Air Acts.
He was quite possibly a close neighbour but you could never tell the true identity of the man because his face was always blackened with soot.
Failure to have your chimney periodically swept could create a “chimney fire”, requiring the services of the fire brigade (as it was then called), resulting in a sorry mess as they pumped water down the chimney to quench the glowing soot.
It was always a wonder to me just how the sweep managed to contain the falling soot and preventing it from forming a dense cloud of soot inside the house and yet not keep it from covering his face, but I suppose that’s one of the tricks and mysteries of the trade. I do recollect though, a close neighbour once attempting the job himself , thinking he’d save a few bob but with disastrous results, a soot laden fog billowing from the house and a thick layer covering every surface, nook and cranny which took an age to properly clean up, and which he never lived down. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the first (or the last) of this person’s DIY disasters.
Another thing always puzzled me. How was the soot disposed of ?. I don’t recollect ever seeing any signs of fly tipping but perhaps there was some by-product such as black-lead polish or a colouring agent for Black Pudding.

Even the ubiquitous Milkman is now a rare sight but which used to be an almost continuous presence on the landscape. The rattle of metallic milk crates and clatter of empties being collected and deposited into those crates was a familiar sound and probably used to wake up as many as the “Knocker Up”.
They also used to carry on their vans & trucks, large conical shaped urns from which they ladled milk into customers own jugs. I don’t remember if this was a different sort of milk or just a draught (and cheaper ?) version of the bottled variety.
The Co op milkmen though , used an electric trolley cart, travelling at walking speed , being much quieter and with less rattling than the stop start jerking of the vans and trucks . I think they also started using plastic crates to deaden the noise.
The growing presence of ’fridges and supermarkets with their long life varieties of milk put the traditional milkman under a lot of pressure requiring them to diversify into supplying eggs & other dairy food in an attempt to survive. Unfortunately for them, many didn’t survive such that here’s another everyday occupation serving the local community which has largely disappeared.

Then there’s the Lamplighter, who used to go round carrying his short triangulated ladder, checking the street gas lamps, replacing the elements and firing up the lamps at lighting up time.

The Coalman who delivered coal to almost every household , humping hessian sackloads of coal is no longer with us, nor is the mobile Knife Grinder who made periodic visits to sharpen up your kitchen hardware, although why people didn’t use a simple “Butcher’s Steel” is a bit of a mystery.

Even the local Butcher, Fishmonger & Tripeshop no longer remain in the numbers they once did, if at all, once again put under great pressure by the supermarkets. Although it could be that the local butcher is making a bit of a comeback and even the supermarkets are offering a similar service as an alternative to the pre packaged product.
Many of these had their own delivery boys who’d trundle their round on a heavy ‘bike fitted with a large wicker basket over the front wheel. They must have been a beast to control and it wouldn’t be surprising if many a tumble took place, especially in wet/icy weather.
The horse drawn carts which toured the streets offering fruit & veg, pots & pans and other hardware have become extinct along with so called Rag & Bone Men who collected old clothing and other types of unwanted goods in exchange for a few coppers.

Street entertainers, Ice Cream vendors , that is the ones, usually old Italians, with the highly decorated hand pushed carts and a big block of ice in the bottom to keep the ice cream from melting, not the Mr Whippy type of today, were to be seen regularly.

Ringtons horse drawn tea wagons were regulars , although they’ve recently been seen again (this time in small vans), along with all the other street vendors, all long since gone. But in their day , many of these tradesmen were often very persuasive salesmen and people had to learn to immunise themselves from the wiles of the wafflers and peddlers of snake oil or finish up forking out for something they didn’t want or need.

All of these absent or “dead& buried” occupations , and there’s probably many more, helped form the rich pattern of the communal life with the individuals knowing and being known by large numbers of the community.
Nowadays, very few would probably want to do some of those jobs but can their disappearance be said to have enriched the landscape ?. But that may just be “Grumpy Old Man” syndrome, thinking that things are never as good as they once were and by continuing to view a world of more than 50 years ago the same as we did when we were much younger, could mean we’ve wasted many years of our lives.

Great tales, Eric : I can picture you catapulting that railway policemen’s hut and a constable emerging with his hat askew, brilliant.

I had a walk around Manston Park at Cross Gates this week and I was delighted to see they had erected a memorial plaque and pictures of the ‘Barnbow Lasses’ 35 of them lost their lives in an explosion when they were filling shells on the 5th of December 1916.

Please see pictures remember to ‘click’ on them to make them bigger.

barnbow lasses black

barnbow lasses white

ALISTAIR’S TALE

January 1, 2013

ALISTAIR’S TALE
Alistair is a true Scot who now lives in America but in the late 1940s/early 50s we had the honour of having him as part of our little East Leeds gang.

Exile from Fife to East Leeds
And
An introduction to cricket
By Alistair Duckworth.

When I came to Leeds at the age of 10 in 1946, it was to enter a very different world from the Fife of my childhood. In chauvinistic Scotland, the English were the auld enemy. At school in Cellardyke my friends and I compelled a new pupil from England to forsake his allegiances. We made him admit that the thistle was better than the rose, that Wallace and Bruce were the true heroes of history, that Bannockburn was the greatest victory of all time, and that the saltire of St Andrew was a superior banner to the red cross of St George. We even made him agree, against all evidence, that the Scottish football team was better than the English team and–incredibly!– that Wullie Waddell was a better outside right than Stanley Matthews. When one day my mother casually told me that we would soon be leaving for England (so that my father, on leaving the Royal Navy, could find employment in Leeds), I was horrified, believing it would now be my turn to give up my most fervent beliefs.

Of course, nothing of the sort occurred. In Leeds I learned that though the Scots were aggressive towards the English, the reverse was not true. Coming from cold, bleak Anstruther, where fights were common in the schoolyard, to warm and friendly Leeds where fights, as I recall, were nonexistent, was a revelation. My father was from Leeds, and I had visited the city at an earlier age, even attending St Hilda’s school (Mrs Duckworth’s class). But the change was great nevertheless—from a Presbyterian kirk to a high Anglican church, from John Knox and Calvinistic austerity to Pusey and Anglo Catholic ritual, from fishing village to industrial city, from bracing ozone to pea-soup fogs, from the “taws” as an instrument of punishment to the cane.

In Leeds, I was introduced to fascinating new games that changed with the seasons: conkers, top-spinning and marbles (another kind of taws) for boys; jacks and rope-skipping accompanied by songs for the girls. I encountered boys with amazing skills. “Bools” in Fife had been a mild affair played on a concrete surface with vividly coloured glass marbles. Taws at St Hilda’s was played on a dirt surface with stone-hard, dirty-white marbles that had little aesthetic appeal. But in the knuckles of Harold Sedgwick, the game was played at a level of skill that had to be seen to be believed. Rather than rest the marble on the middle joint of the index finger and propel it with his thumb nail, Harold (in a way I could never repeat) lodged the marble between the knuckle of his thumb and the point of his index finger. He could then propel it with astonishing speed and accuracy at the target marble, which would be sent into the middle distance far beyond the circle drawn in the dirt. Harold’s marble, meanwhile, would stay, rapidly spinning on its axis, in the spot once occupied by his opponent’s marble.

Leeds at that time was a dirty city with more than a passing resemblance to Dickens’s infernal Coketown in Hard Times. Born in rural Fife, I at first missed grass, trees and fields. Stone-slab pavements and tarmac or cobbled roads seemed to cover the earth everywhere. From the soot-covered windows of our red-brick house I saw a Lowry landscape of chimneys belching out smoke and carcinogenic particles. The actuaries put the early 60’s as an average life expectancy for men. Soon, however, I found that fields existed, only minutes from St Hilda’s church. To the east Snake Land had two football pitches, a bowling green and tennis courts. And to the south was the village of Knostrop, which time seemed to have passed by. At the bottom of the hill leading from Cross Green Lane, and close to the River Aire, the hamlet was, I believe, a part of the Temple Newsam estate. Its Jacobean hall was still precariously in existence and inhabited by a man named Benn.

Looking back on the place, I see Knostrop as a cross between Cold Comfort Farm and a Grimm’s Fairy Tale landscape (it had a “humbug house”). But I enjoyed going down to this other, rural, world. In the autumn we gathered chestnuts to pickle into conkers. We also played rugby in the pond field next to the old hall. Jack, Benn’s dog, would accompany us. He was the wicket-keeper when we played cricket and the goalkeeper when we played football. But he disapproved of rugby. The ball was the wrong shape, and he was left with nothing to do. Jack is long dead, and so is Knostrop, swallowed up by industry and business parks. But it has an enduring existence in the published memories, written and collected by Peter Wood, an old friend at St Hilda’s School.

An Introduction to Cricket

When I came to Leeds, I was introduced to cricket, a game not often played in Fife and never with the skill and enthusiasm displayed by my new friends in the summer of 1947. When we had time, we played with stumps and a proper cricket ball (but not pads) on a grass pitch at Snake Lane. More usually we played in the streets (still mostly free of traffic) with a tennis ball or a solid composition-rubber ball. If a box or similar object were to hand, it would serve as a make-shift wicket; if not, a man-hole in the tarmac would do just as well. Someone would supply a bat, sides would be selected, and the match was on. On Sundays we played outside St Hilda’s church both before and after Sunday School. I was surprised by the lack of bickering over “out” decisions. A catch was obvious, of course, but appeals for lbw, if credible, would be accepted by the batsman without demur, and if he were beaten by a ball that passed over the manhole within the imagined dimensions of the stumps, batsman, bowler, wicket-keeper and fielders would generally concur that it was an out. A basic fairness prevailed.

Cricket was a topic of much interest in my father’s family, particularly to my Auntie Alice, who followed the fortunes of Yorkshire and England throughout a long life, at first on radio, later on TV. From my father and my aunt I soon acquired a strange new vocabulary; I learned about cover point, long on, and silly mid-off, about off drives, hooks and late cuts, about yorkers, googlies and chinamen, about in-swingers and out-swingers. I came to understand the importance of the weather in determining whether the pitch at Headingley would be favorable to batsmen or bowlers on a given day, and if to the latter, whether it would be best to use fast, medium-fast, or slow bowlers. If slow bowlers, the question would then be debated whether to use an off-spinner or, much more dangerously, a leg-spinner.

But it was not only the terminology of cricket that made it fascinating to me. The history of cricket was also a common topic of conversation. The Duckworth adults knew about the great players of the past stretching back to W. G. Grace and Jack Hobbs, and held strong opinions about the best opening partership (Hobbs and Sutcliffe), the best all-rounder (Wilfred Rhodes, a Yorkshireman, of course), and the best fast bowler (grudgingly conceded to be the Australian Lindwall). They told me about England’s controversial (“bodyline”) tour of Australia in 1932-33, in which the fast bowler Harold Larwood had aimed “bouncers” at the bodies and heads of the Australian batsmen. In an attempt to disarm persistent Australian criticism of England’s tactics, the MCC banned bodyline bowling and called on Larwood to apologise. Larwood refused on the grounds that he had been told to bowl in this way by the team’s captain, Jardine. Jardine, in common with all captains of England until Len Hutton, was a gentleman amateur, whereas the working-class Larwood was a professional. In consequence of his refusal to apologise, I was told, Larwood was never picked for England again. For my father, uncles and aunts, this was a deplorable action on the part of the establishment.

In the late summer of 2009 the Enland XI won the test match over the Aussies at the Oval and by so doing regained the Ashes. Living in Boston, Massachusetts, I was only able to follow the state of play on my lap-top. Even so the thrill of England’s victory was palpable. I was taken back to England’s Ashes victory in 2003, which my wife and I followed on TV while living in London (my wife was in Trafalgar Square when the England team, featuring a very drunk Freddie Flintoff, appeared on the top-deck of an open double-decker bus). Even more evocatively, I recalled an earlier series, the tour of the Australians in 1948. At that time I was a fervent fan of Yorkshire and England. Len Hutton, master of the cover drive, was my hero. And when matches against Yorkshire were not at issue, I could also enthuse about Cyril Washbrook of Lancashire (who opened with Hutton), Bill Edrich of Essex who came in number three, and the dashing Denis Compton of Middlesex, who came in number four.

When my aunt Alice asked my cousin Peter and me if we would like to go to see the Australians at Headingley, I was ecstatic. That summer the Aussies had a formidable cast of players: the legendary batsman Donald Bradman, who had played in the bodyline tests, the charismatic all-rounder Keith Miller, the fast bowler Lindwall. We went on the fourth day and were allowed to sit on the grass next to the boundary opposite the pavilion. Australia’s first innings’ tail was quickly dismissed in the morning, and then Hutton and Washbrook opened England’s second innings. They made an excellent 129 for the first wicket. By the fifth morning, whenYardley declared at 365 for 8 wickets, Australia were left with what seemed to be an impossible target of 404 runs for victory. But Bradman and Morris made a very fast and record-breaking partnership of 301, and Australia won the test, with Bradman scoring 178 not out at the end. I did not see Bradman bat, but he was in the field on the fourth day, not far from where we were sitting, and as captain he could be heard directing the fielders where to position themselves.

In the final test at the Oval, Bradman needed only 4 runs to end his career with an average of 100 per test match innings; ironically, he was bowled out for a duck. No subsequent batsman, however, has come anywhere close to his Test Match batting average.

A great tale, Alistair – thanks for letting us use it.

Did you guess last month’s picture? I know many of you did. It was of course the remaining front façade of York Road Baths and Library

Now for this month’s pic – a power house for boy meets girl – especially on Sunday nights in the 1950sStar York Road

Kenneth’s Tale

June 1, 2012

Kenneth’s Tale

I saw a gentleman looking reverently at St Savour’s Church. He looked the age of one who could have enjoyed good old East Leeds in its heyday. I unashamedly mugged him for his memories and he was kind enough to send me this account 

Kenneth, who attended St Saviour’s school wishes to point out that any old school mates will know him as: Kenneth Hawkins, as he only took on the name: Heptinstall, after he had tragically lost both parents and been legally adopted by his grandparents close to the time he left school.

 

                          The Memories of Kenneth (Hawkins) Heptinstall

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I was a pupil at St Saviour’s School and I would walk to school along the Low Fold, which was a path that ran alongside the river from the old Suspension Bridge whereSouth Accommodation Roadcrossed the river, to come out inEast Streetclose to school. In the early days I would enjoy watching the horses towing the barges along the river by means of a long rope Later the horse gave way to tugs which pulled several barges loaded with goods of one kind or another.

            The part of East Leeds where I lived in from 1924 to circa 1936 seemed vast to me as a child. It included the Bank area, Cross Green,Richmond Hill,East EndParkand other areas in the vicinity. There was much poverty about but to us children the streets, yards, ginnels, and bits of spare ground were there for our enjoyment, we used them to the full. The area had lots of small shops and a few large ones such as the Co-op, Gallons and the Maypole but nothing like today’s supermarkets etc. Churches seemed to dominate the area: St Hilda’s, St Saviour’s, Mount St Mary’s, All Saints as well as the chapels. There were schools to all the churches, some other schools were non-church schools such asRichmond HillandEllerby Lane. Scouts and Girl Guides were part of the churches, with Boy’s Brigades belonged to the chapels. One of my memories was of the Boy’s Brigade marching from the chapel to the bottom ofEllerby Laneon a Sunday after the service and we children would march alongside them on the pavement.

            There were also lots of pubs: The Black Dog, fisherman’s Hut, Cross Green, Spring Close, The Hampton, Prospect and Yew Tree. The landlord of theHamptonat one time was Dolly Dawson who was a member of the famous Hunslet Rugby League team. There were several cinemas in the area: Easy Road, Princess, Victoria inYork Road, and the Premier inSouth Accommodation Road– the Victoria later became: The Star.

            I was christened at St Hilda’s but I attended St Saviour’s school. It was a good school and I thought the teachers to be strict but dedicated. Being a mixed school there were separate classes for girls and boys but being a church school we started together for assembly, prayers, hymns and scripture lessons. Mister Ridley was the headmaster; we did plays under his guidance. He was in amateur dramatics and I think he thought doing plays would give us the confidence to speak out. Other teachers also became involved. There was one gentleman called Mr Smith who was a top man at Ringtons Tea and he too had been a pupil at St saviours School. He knew that children that attended the school were from poor backgrounds and twice a year: Christmas Day and Empire Day (which was celebrated in those days) he would send round sweets and on Empire Day a medal bearing the king’s head. In one of the plays we did we were Sikhs and all in Indian dress. The girls helped with the costumes and the boys with the scenery. When Children’s Day came along a van was hired, the scenery from the play was erected and placed on the vehicle then we dressed in the costumes and a sign advertising Ringtons Tea was displayed around the sides of the vehicle. We then joined the parade from the city centre up toRoundhayPark.   

            When St saviours Church was built the tower was left off, we were left to believe that his was due to the ground being on a hill making the foundations risky. We were also told it was due to lack of money, which I think was more likely. However the tower was added in the thirties. I was told it was Mr Smith of Rintons who provided the money. When the church was built it would have been in grey stone but due to fogs and industry it became dark, the tower stood out after being added as it was in the original grey but as can now be seen, due to air conditions over the years this now looks no different.

Some of the things I remember

People putting bread cakes on the windowsill to cool, lines of washing hung across the street that was hauled up when horse and carts came along the street, men walking up the streets cap in hand singing, a man with a tingaleri who sometimes let us wind the handle while he went and knocked on doors for donations, Walls ice cream carried on a three wheel bike. Sometimes if we helped push him up the hill he would cut one of his triangular ice creams in two for helping. Some of the lads had bogeys made of a short plank and four wheels, the front held on by a vertical bolt which enabled it to be steered. Also a steel ring like a large wheel which we rolled along pushed by a steel rod shaped like a hook which fitted round the rim and enabled it to be pushed and steered whilst running alongside it. Marbles or ‘tors’ as we called the game  played ideally on cobbled streets, along with football, kick out can and numerous other games – hide and seek known locally as ‘hiddy’ and ‘tig’ around the streets sometimes dividing into two teams. The girls had their own games: skipping and hopscotch being just two.

            If we managed to go toEast EndParkthere were football pitches. The first one inside the park was a cinder pitch which didn’t do the legs much good! There were policemen patrolling the area. One had the name ‘Bobby Rocking-Horse’ because of the way he walked, rocking from side to side!  Men in the area used to gamble – tossing coins – as it was illegal the police used to raid and the men used to run through passages and into people’s houses. Those who were caught were taken to the police station in a van known as the ‘Black Maria’

            In the mid thirties we had slum clearances when we were moved on to new housing estates. It was nice to have hot water, bathrooms and gardens. I still had a couple of years to go until I finished school so I used to travel so far on the tram and walk the rest.

Great tale, Kenneth. Times were not always easy but how many of us would not want to be back there if we could?