Archive for the ‘East leeds’ Category

Back in leeds for the First Time in 63 years

October 1, 2018

Back in East Leeds for the first time in 63 years!

Before John’s tale, a date for your diary: The 2018 East Leeds Old Codger’s reunion will be held at the Edmund House Club, Pontefract Lane Leeds on Tuesday 6th Nov from noon for a couple of hours on.

By John Holloway

Finding the ‘East Leeds Memories’ site quite by accident two years ago did the trick – I was 9 years old when my family left Copperfield Avenue and I was determined to go back to have a look around the neighbourhood of my early years, well aware that it would be a very different ‘East Leeds’ and that I may not come across any of my old pals from childhood. I knew that my old school ‘St Hilda’s’ had gone – AND….. that the school building which replaced it on the same site had also been demolished some years ago! I suddenly felt very old! I was also well aware of the old saying ‘Never go back’. But things change – I was well prepared for disappointment.
With help and encouragement from Peter Wood and Eric Allen – both of who, I was soon to discover, were in my sister Linda’s class at school before she went off to Thorsby High School for girls – my wife Sue and I decided we would make a detour to Leeds on our way home to Orkney after our annual Holiday in Kent in November 2016, and spend a few hours in the Cross Green Lane area of Leeds. And what a treat it was!
Peter and Eric were waiting for us in the ‘Edmund House’ car park and instantly made us feel at home. We were right in the middle of my childhood ‘haunts’ – just 200yds from East End Park, and 100yds or so from my old house in Copperfield Avenue. We stepped out of the Taxi, and after warm hand-shakes and greetings, I took a long slow look around the immediate area. I was staggered! It all seemed so familiar – the mainly tree-covered East End Park looked the same (even the neat hedge around the bowling-green we later discovered); the curve of the railway lines past Neville Hill was still there, and further round to the right……yes, it was still there – the East Leeds Cricket Ground, tucked below the embankment up to the railway lines to the left, and Black Road to the right. I’m home! The only ‘landmark’ that had disappeared was the ‘Paddy’ railway lines across Cross Green Lane but hold on a minute, one major thing was missing – the whole of Taylor’s Farm to the east of where we stood. It now appeared to be one big industrial estate – no cows, no rhubarb fields! But hold on – one other important feature WAS still there – the recreation area including the football pitch where East Leeds used to play on Saturdays (and me and my pals after school for the rest of the week!). Wonderful. Peter Bradford (who I understand had a trial for Leeds Utd.), Ronnie Harvey, Graham Clarkson and Bobbie Taylor (all old school pals) instantly came to mind, and I do remember playing in goal for St Hilda’s School on the smaller pitch at the bottom of the sports field – with Paul Reaney (later to play at full-back for England) on the right wing. (Clever man Don Revie – he put his fastest runners at full-back and no ‘winger’ could get past them!).
Back in Eric’s car, our two hosts suggested a slow drive around the neighbourhood, and – once again – expecting the area to look nothing like it did in my youth, my first impression in the ‘Copperfields’ was that it looked almost exactly the same! There were a few porches added to the front of the houses, many of which had the same wooden fences to the small front garden as per the 1950s – and virtually no cars in the whole area – as per the early 1950s! It still looked possible to set up a washing-line right across the street as my mother and other neighbours did in the early 1950s, lifting it up with a ‘prop’ if a car or horse and cart should venture into the street. Looking up Copperfield Avenue, there was still the ‘gap’ in the houses along Cautley Road which gave us access to our favourite playing place – the ‘Navvy’ – yes, the one I fell down! Looking back down Copperfield Avenue towards Cross Green Lane, the only change seemed to be that one of our favourite ‘play areas’ (mainly marbles) to the right, had gone. It had remained the ‘bottom hollers’ (in fact a bomb-site from the war) until a small residential scheme was erected just a few months before our visit. Any chance of a quick game of ‘taws’ was foiled, but I looked down at my right thumb and forefinger which were already ‘tensed-up’, ready for the first ‘flick’ of the game. No exaggeration here – it just happened naturally. A sure sign I really was back in Leeds!
So all’s well with the world – the neighbourhood had hardly changed structurally and it appeared to be a very peaceful place to live, but standing outside my old house – No 10 Copperfield Avenue (at the front) and 10 Copperfield Drive ‘at the back’ – my mind went back to how everyone used the Copperfield Avenue entrance as their ‘front door’ for everyday use, whilst the ‘back door’ in Copperfield Drive was hardly ever opened except on Sundays. Everyone regarded the garden in Copperfield Drive as a place to relax (evenings and Sundays) and all the hustle and bustle of everyday life was confined to Copperfield Avenue. Driving a car up Copperfield Drive on Sunday was almost heretic, but traffic was hardly an issue in the whole area and we made good use of the flat road surface of Courtley Road for roller-skating – at any time of day!
As a young lad I had always thought that all the houses in the neighbourhood I lived in were fairly modern, like ours in Copperfield Avenue – built in around 1930 or so – but as we strolled towards Cross Green Lane with Peter and Eric I looked up at the houses and realised that those in Copperfield View were much older – perhaps Georgian or early Victorian? I then noticed a strange configuration of the windows at what appeared to be the ‘ends’ of each house in a row of quite substantial two-up and two-down houses. There are three windows (one above the other) in each house which do not ‘tie-in’ with a two-story house. Each house appears to have this ‘three-tier’ construction – some ‘inside’ the chimney stack and others at the gable end – outside the chimney stack. The chimney stacks would surely be the division between each household – other than the stacks towards the gable end of each row. The problem is far too complicated to explain in writing – hence the photos attached.(Myself aged 3 in Copperfield Drive – said windows along Copperfield View in back-ground, and one – taken at the same point from Eric’s car by Sue during our visit in 2017). If anyone can come up with an explanation please let me know! We have spent many hours during the long winter days here in Orkney trying to resolve the conundrum. (It is well worth ‘Google-earthling’ – ‘The Copperfields’ may have their own unique piece of historic architecture!).
Eric and Peter then gave Sue and I a ‘guided tour’ of virtually the whole area of East Leeds but I have to say that most of it was unrecognisable once we had passed the Cricket Ground heading eastwards. We did see the woods at Temple Newsam in the distance but everything seemed to be ‘new’.
Turning back towards Leeds through ‘Knostrop’ with Hunslet to the left was no more enlightening, but I suddenly realised that two things WERE missing – there was no stench from the Glue Factory where bones were rendered down – AND no huge fluorescent sign ‘Waddingtons’ where the ‘playing card’ factory formerly stood.
We had soon passed across Cross Green Lane and – after a quick look down the Navvy – now encased in chain-link fencing – we went for a slow look along Easy Road which I remembered as very ‘wide’.No ‘bug hutch’ Cinema in sight there but the area did look similar to how I remember it .
I quickly realised that my ‘sphere’ of activity as a lad in East Leeds was very small – virtually all between Easy Road and Cross Green Lane and I now wonder how on earth I managed to get all the way to Lady Pitt Place in Beeston every day for several weeks after school one year when my Mum was in hospital for several weeks. I caught the bus by St Hilda’s School into the centre of Leeds, changed to a No 5 Tram in Brigate (?) and got off near the top of Beeston Hill. My ‘nan’ there had Television (Wow! – Andy Pandey etc.) And I had beans on toast for tea every day. Sheer bliss. What else could a young lad of 7 or 8 want? I was back home by 7 o’clock, by which time Dad was home from work at Lever Bros Opticians. Great fun the Trams, and it is amazing that two brand new ‘single-decker’ Trams came into service in Leeds not long before we left for Gillingham in the early ‘50s.
There was still one more huge delight – and a real surprise – on the way back to the city centre to catch our train. The whole area directly before the brick railway viaduct was still a mass of flower beds – just as I remembered it as a lad. Not quite so colourful, being November, but an unexpected treat and a lovely ‘send-off’ as we approached the railway station.

So what was the biggest ‘change’ I noticed after 63 years away? The lack of small shops in the area around the Copperfields – no ‘Lightowler’s’ or ‘Mrs Woodward’s’ just round the corner. Where on earth would we get our ‘bubble-gum’ and ‘Dandelion and Burdock’ from today!

Sue and I would like to thank Peter and Eric for a wonderful 4 hours. Some people say ‘never go back’ – all we can say is: ‘It was worth every second!’

We hope to be able to come to the reunion this coming November. John & Sue Holloway.

2 photos to accompany text (at bottom?)

1) Myself in Copperfield Drive around 1947 (age 3?) note configuration of windows and position of chimney stacks on houses in the background (Copperfield View)

2) Same view in 2017 taken from Eric’s car, showing same ‘tier’ of three windows!

Great tale John Thank you

1) Myself in Copperfield Drive around 1947 (age 3?) note configuration of windows and position of chimney stacks on houses in the background (Copperfield View)

2) Same view in 2017 taken from Eric’s car, showing same ‘tier’ of three windows!

Great tale John Thank

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Good Old Snakey

July 1, 2013

Good Old Snakey

A love affair with two tatty old football pitches.

By Pete Wood

‘Snakey’ is a field but not just any old field Snakey is the field for generations of East Leeds lads. What with the football and cricket not to mention the courting we probably spent more happy hours on that pair of scruffy pitches than any other piece of ‘God’s good earth’

My early recollection recall ‘Snakey’ – proper name ‘Snake Lane’ – as being bounded by: Black Road, Red Road, Cross Green Lane and the winding track which was Snake Lane itself and from whence came its name. My own introduction to ‘The beautiful game’ was when my mam finally allowed me to walk up the tiny ‘Red Road’ from Knostrop to watch those great giants of the late forties who graced its pitches. St Hilda’s in their claret and blue squares and Mount St Mary’s in their white and green squares shared the bottom pitch Saturdays about. Bob Bates ran the St Mary’s teams for years, years and more years. Bob was ‘a prince among men’ I can see him now marking the pitch out in lime before a Saturday match – they didn’t play on Sundays in the forties. Bob was a tailor by trade and always well turned out. On windy days the lime would be blowing back into his eyes and a white residue would cover his good suit. He was the type of guy who really deserved the MBE.

The ‘Yew Tree’ in their blue and white vertical strips and the ‘Bridgefield’ shared the top pitch followed in the nineteen fifties/early sixties by teams from the East Leeds Working Men’s Club’s teams who did old Snakey proud in their black and white. Their lads lovingly christened it; ‘The Snake Pit’, not many teams took points away from the Snake Pit.

Rhubarb fields covered the areas later dominated by the school (that too now gone) and the industrial estate. This left just enough room for the two football pitches and beyond them the ‘Paddy line’? The bottom field was my own personal favourite, our school played its matches on there and on sports day we ran our races on there. Some older folk even referred to Snakey as; ‘St Hilda’s field’. I believe at one time the field had probably been under church ownership and they had held a big ‘Whitsuntide’ field day on there, annually.

I can still remember some of the names of that St Hilda’s open age team of the immediate post war period: Denis Wardle, Bill Sedgewick, Alfie Duckworth, Freddie Earnshaw, Chic Reynard, Kenny Cope and Jewel in goal. Sometimes the team sheet would be put up in the sweet shop window opposite the school. These guys were giants without shin pads and had to wear huge boots in order to propel the rock hard leather footballs, often stretched far too large by over inflation and a potential health hazard to the poor centre halves whose job was to head them away from goal. Do I just image that everything was so much bigger then? Certainly those huge leather balls made a mighty ‘thwack’ when they hit the woodwork. When you watched them play on very cold days your toes took an electric shock if the ball came your way and you took the opportunity to kick it back into play. On very cold days it was not unknown for the ball to sprout icicles. One particular day a tiny little chap in a flat cap was standing on the touchline – the poor old lad was only about five foot tall and must have been quite as cold as us kids, someone took a swipe at the ball and it caught him full in the clock eclipsing his head altogether, such was the power of the kick that it spun him right over like a Catharine Wheel. It’s an awful long time ago now but the sight of it has stayed with me all this time it looked so painful.

That forties side looked so big they made the pitch look small and how powerful and hard tackling they were! The lads who play on Snakey today look big and powerful too. The strange thing is, that in between when our generation were custodians of old Snakey – and I played for six different teams on there – we didn’t seem to be big or the tackles hard at all! I suppose when you are actually playing you don’t notice the ferocity of the game.

Back to the forties – Snakey had two dressing rooms – one in the bottom corner and another at the top near to the prize-winning bowling green – infamously churned up one night by Peter Smith’s greyhounds. Both dressing rooms were made out of pink terra cotta tiles and inside a bucket of water provided the extent of the first aid kit and a half time drink. There was a drinking fountain springing out of the wall on the top dressing room, it had an iron cup chained to the wall, everyone and his dog drank out of that iron cup – can you imagine the germs? But I don’t think anyone ever went down with the plague. Without light the insides of the dressing rooms were as black as Hades. Three or four grass tennis courts ran parallel with the ‘Paddy line’ at the top but they were at the tag end of their lives as early as I can recall. The bowling green and the putting green are of course long gone as is the sigtht of the puffing Paddies: Kitchener, Dora, Jubilee and later Antwerp and Sylvia. Where are they now? The line of trees which shielded the bowling-green from the south-westerly winds are all but gone, the exposed ring system on their stumps hark back to the early fifties when the whole recreation ground was a thriving piece of paradise.

In early spring we had the odd special day for school sports day and Whitsuntide finery but for us Snakey was more than just an occasional day; it was the staple diet of our lives broken only by the odd intrusion for things like; The War for older lads and National Service for us, otherwise we played on consistently throughout the years from the age of about ten years old until well into our thirties.

We would play fifteen/twenty a side and more, if you turned up you were always sure of a game. It didn’t matter how good or bad you were nobody was ever turned away from old Snakey. We would begin by a couple of lads electing themselves as captains. They would toss a coin for first pick and then take it turns to select the rest. It made way for good equal and competitive sides and you got to know how good you were on account of how early on in the selection process you were picked; there was no hiding place for big egos with this selection process, especially when those who thought they were the ‘bees knees’ were left until nearly the last to be chosen. Lads turning up after we’d started would be paired up one for each side. Of course those turning up late had to deal with the fact that as all the players were atired in a rag, tag and bobtale aray of gear  it took quite a while to suss out who was on your side and who was the enemy. There was often a great gulf of difference in ability and often a full generation gap in ages. If you were a young ‘un you were likely to get ‘flattened’ but you didn’t worry and it was all good therapy and although we hadn’t benefit of a referee it was engineered that anyone who was consistently dirty would meet a sticky end. In the event of a foul we’d likely have a committee meeting. The score would begin to mount until it got into the late teens or twenties when it became easy to loose count of the score, someone would say, ‘What score is it?’ If you had a convincing voice you might say, ‘Twenty three – twenty two to us’, at which the outraged reply might go, ‘How did it get to that score, we were winning nineteen eighteen a minute ago?’ If it got too one-sided someone on the losing side would say, ‘Swap us so-and–so for so and-so, we’ve got a real load of old rubbish on our side.

We never knew when to pack in; we’d play until it was too dark to see the ball. Someone on the winning side might say, ‘We’ll finish when the paddy train gets to the goal posts’. Someone on the losing side wanting more time to draw level might disagree and they’d almost come to blows, we were very competitive about the score. I was daft enough to try to think up methods of how we could play on after it got dark (no floodlights then of course) like putting a light inside the ball. How sad is that. We were gutted when the ‘dark nights’ came along.

Occasionally we would have an ‘away day’ and play on Oxley’s pitch which was down Black Road or on The Railway’s pitch at Knostrop or perhaps on East End Park. There was as many playing on East End Park on Sundays as on Snakey. They had a similar set-up to ours; sometimes you would get professionals joining in, like Jackie Overfield or Mike O’grady. I’m sure their clubs would have been aghast at the injuries they risked for they were offered no special consideration and were just as likely to be kicked up in the air as anyone else – but after all we all know how hard it is to resist joining in when you hear the ‘thud’ of a football and see a group of guys kicking a ball around.

Periodically we would have phases were certain lads would get a team together and if you were lucky they might ask you to play for them. I recall Ron Ellis’s team, Eddy Pawson’s team, Vic Wilson’s team etc. You had to keep well in with these lads to ensure you were picked. The Falmouth and Bridgewater streets ran their own team called ‘The Buildings’. One Sunday afternoon that I particularly remember we had an away fixture – I think we were playing for Ron Ellis’s eleven that day and we had arranged to play a scratch team miles away up at Adel on the pitches called ‘The Bedquilts’. We must have been daft attempting to go all that way in mid-winter, it necessitated two bus rides and at that time of year it was dark by four o’clock! It was nearly dark by the time we arrived there. Anyway, we made a start, we didn’t have any proper kit just boots and socks pulled over the bottom of our trousers. I bet we hadn’t had more than a dozen kicks at the tatty old football when it burst and not having a spare we had to turn round and make the long journey home again.

When the school team had a match we’d get changed behind one of the goals. They didn’t even bother to open the dressing rooms for us and as for showers; they were things of the future. If it rained our own clothes got wet upon the ground but we didn’t care you were just so proud to be playing for the school. There was an extra bonus if you were picked for the school team; you were allowed to wear the team jersey to school on the day of the match, some lads managed to extend the time they wore the jersey to a week before they got told off. The first match I ever played for the school team was against Mount St Mary’s, it was in the intermediate age group; I’d be about ten. All the previous week I’d dreamt about us winning and me having a great game, when the day itself arrived we lost six nil and I was rubbish – I usually was. There were no cars to take us to away games – we had to go by public transport.

I suppose everyone who ever played on old Snakey has at least one magic moment, mine was scoring a freak goal from my own penalty area, I saw the ball comingCapture.PNG paddy

towards me and I just hoofed it back up in the air and it dropped over the head of the little schoolboy goalie in the bottom goal. In the professional game the pundits go wild if someone scores a goal kicked from their own half but even a school boy can get lucky with a kick like that, a really skilful goal is when a guy dribbles past half the team like Sedgwick, Monk and Whitehead could do on old Snakey and Eddie Gray did for Leeds United against Burnley in the 19760s. But I digress; this account is to be in praise of old Snakey.

In summer we played cricket on the same pitch as we’d played football, in fact we pitched the wickets on the bald patch in front of the bottom goal – it was the only level bit on the whole field. Such was the state of the ground the ball could either fly in any direction or just ‘grub’ – grub means when the ball sticks tight to the ground. You usually had ‘em with a fast straight ‘grubber’. We once won the School’s Cricket Cup playing on Snakey as our home ground. Ellerby Lane School were our main rivals that season and their lads were so confident they were going to beat us (they usually did at everything) that they didn’t even bother to pad up, but we managed win on that occasion in a low scoring game and managed to bruise a few shins in the process for their audacity in not wearing pads. There were a few really low scoring games on Snakey; like the time St Charles’s were put out for three runs and another time when Kenny Holmes of Ellerby Lane took four wickets in four balls – all bowled – I wouldn’t be surprised if they’d were all ‘grubbers’.

One of the stranger rules of school cricket at our level was: if a team managed to score fifty runs they would ‘suspend’ their innings and let the other team go in. In the unlikely event of the other team passing their score the first batting side could resume their innings at the end. If the game dragged on one could observe the bizarre sight of lads having to leave the field of play in order to satisfy their paper round. Anyway winning the cricket league entitled us to receive the Livingston Cricket Cup. When the trophy finally arrived at the school we were all excited and readied ourselves to have the team photo taken with the trophy. We were expecting a huge cup for our efforts and couldn’t believe it when the headmaster laughingly produced it from his inside pocket. It was about the size of an eggcup. To be fair; cricket never held the same magic in our lives as did soccer but it just about managed to occupy us on old Snakey between football seasons.

One game of football which stands out in my memory, was a game played for St Hilda’s in the open age of the Church League. It was the last match of the season and if we won we won the league. The league officials were there with the shield in order to present it to us in the event of our victory. I always thought parading a trophy before it was won was tempting fate and there was a good chance of that happening on that occasion for if we failed to win then it would be Methley who would win the league and their lads had turned up in force to cheer on our opponents, who happened to be Pudsey. Anyway kick off time arrived and only seven of their players had turned up, you could start a game with seven so naturally we were eager to get started and crack in a couple of goals before the rest of their lads arrived. This would surely have happened if it were not for the league officials becoming involved. ‘We’re sure St Hilda’s, sportsmen that they are, would not want to take advantage of this situation, so we’ll ask them to hold the kick off until the rest of the Pudsey team arrives’, said their spokesman. So we had to bite our tongues and wait for the rest of their team to turn up. This was not what we had in mind at all! Worse was to follow, when their team was at last up to strength we realised that they were about to play their first team who didn’t have a match and normally played in a higher league than ours. This change in our fortunes delighted the observing Methley lads who could now see the trophy coming in their direction. In the event it all ended happily for we managed to beat them anyway and had a great booze up in the ‘Bridgefield’ that night to celebrate our victory. Later we were presented with a further trophy for being ‘the most sporting team of the season’ on account of our willingness to wait for the opposition to arrive in such an important match. It’s a good job they didn’t know what we really had in mind.

So we progressed from being young lads who had to leave Snakey and go home when the church bells rang at half past seven into young men turning up in motor cars, still to play twenty a side on old Snakey but then retiring to the pub. I seem to remember ‘The Prospect’ being a favourite watering hole after training for many a year. By the time the sixties arrived Sunday morning football was in full swing. Playing on a morning usually meant the weather would be brighter than Saturday afternoon football, but occasionally there would be morning fog, we were so keen that the game wouldn’t be cancelled that I can recall running around waving my arms about trying to disperse the fog. Being Sunday morning it obviously followed on from Saturday night. Lads would turn up after having a heavy night on the town, there were certain lads who could spew their hearts up at the side of the pitch before the game began and still turn in a performance that I couldn’t have matched even if I hadn’t had a drink for a month. These are just a few of my personal memories, I bet every lad who played on old Snakey has his own nostalgic ‘Boy’s Own’ accounts.

As the years went by and I moved away from the district I imagined my love affair with Snakey had finally run its course until joy of joys by a stroke of luck my lad started playing for a club whose home pitch was Snakey. Quite a coincidence, I’d go along there and enjoy watching him play sometimes. Trouble was I became a bit outraged when they complained about the state of the pitch. ‘Pitch is rubbish’ they would say. Well bloody hell! They’re out of order. If Snakey was good enough for us and for those heroes who came before us then it was certainly good enough for them and the tripe they turned out. Anyway I would regularly go along and enjoy watching their matches, sheltering when it was a wild day behind the trees that still bowed away from the southwesterly wind. Sometimes I’d be seeing the game being played in front of me and sometimes my mind would wander off and I’d be watching those twenty a side games played a long time ago between lads whose worlds were still young and their futures still an adventure in prospect and I would ponder where were they now and did they too, spare a thought now an then for old Snakey?

The bottom pitch has gone completely now, sacrificed to the new East Leeds Express way but there is a beautiful new rugby pitch on the site of the ‘top pitch’ – all levelled off and complete with a barrier to keep spectators at bay. I’m still regaled to watch sport on there, occasionally, as the East Leeds Amateur Rugby League Club plays its matches on there and I watch in wonderment, along with my peers, at the size and fitness of the present generation. They are bigger and fitter than ever and the game is played at such a ferocious pace you wonder how you ever managed to play the game yourself – albeit a long time ago – and take all those knocks!

snakey today

Last month’s picture? Ellerby Lane School of course.

How about this building? Did anyone else meet their life’s partner here?brenda majestic

I’m sadened to announce the passing of Gerry Thrussell – he was a great guy. His tale is on here on february 2011

My Night Walk Folly

April 1, 2013

My Night Walk Folly
By Pete Wood

I’m going back a few years now as will be apparent from the number of pubs named here which are alas no more. It was at a time when I revelled on my Saturday nights in taking a bus from my home in Woodlesford – on the east fringes of Leeds – into the city centre. Once in the city centre I would have a drink in one or other of my favourite pubs and then set off to walk all the five miles back home calling in most if not all of the pubs on the way. I would start on bottles and make my way up to points as I got nearer to home.

I would always call in at The Adelphi just across Leeds Bridge, when there was a jazz band playing in the upstairs room I had to drag myself away for I was tempted to stay in there all night but ‘the way home was long and steep and I had miles to go before I sleep’. Next up would be The Crown Hotel on Crown Point Road then The Mulberry. Sometimes I would call in The Bankfield at the bottom of South Accomm, always the lively Wellington on Hunslet Road, sometimes The Red Lion but invariably I would always finish up in the Crooked Billet opposite the Stourton traffic lights where for many years Renee Johnson played the piano. I had to finish up in the Crooked Billet even through the last pub on my route should have been The John O’Gaunt at the top of the hill but the distance between The Billet and The John O’Guants entailed a twenty minute walk and I couldn’t spare twenty minutes of prime boozing time nearing last orders.
. (I wouldn’t like you to think I had a pint in all of those pubs all of the time or I would never have got up the John O’Gaunt’s Hill at all – I hardly drink at all now but those were my halcyon days). After being chucked out of The Crooked Billet I would roll up the three miles remaining to home in a pleasant alcoholic haze.
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These weekly forays suited me very well and I had many a good night in this fashion. Then one balmy Saturday evening in mid-summer I got a little bit too ambitious. I was having my city centre drink in the old Railway pub which was close to the bridge on Marsh Lane and a pub we frequented greatly in our iconic ‘Market District Boys Club’ days. Sitting there in ‘The Railway’ that particular Saturday night I thought to myself, what if I walked home Whitkirk way instead of through Stourton for a change? This was my first mistake: I didn’t appreciate just how far that was going to be. The Stourton way home was about five miles but through Whitkirk, Selby Road Bullerthorpe Lane etc. would have been nearer to eight miles
.
So, off I set up Railway Street heading for York Road. This was my second mistake as it took me well out of my way and lost valuable boozing time. Eventually I made it to ‘The White Horse’ but was disappointed to find it far quieter than it had been in the good old days. On to ‘The Dog and Gun’ then; risking life and limb crossing the manically busy York Road. By the time it was already quarter past ten. I’m running out of time I thought, it’s quarter past ten and I’ve only had three pints, better miss out ‘The Whitebeck’ and make straight for ‘The Irwin Arms’. This was my third mistake, the place was a real mad house, and I had a job trying to get served at all. Anyway, I found a quiet back room and lining another three pints up (as it was nearing eleven o’clock) I proceeded to make up for lost time and managed to get ‘well oiled’. Now at one point, I had to leave those lovely pints on the table unattended while I visited the men’s room. Was that my fourth mistake? Did someone slip something into my pints? I don’t know but anyway I had no choice, when you have to go you have to go! And you can’t carry three pints with you into the toilets can you?

Upon leaving ‘The Irwin’ I perceived there were at the time: two pizza places and two fish shops within a hundred yards, so I ‘filled my boots’ while contemplating my route home. It was now near to midnight; when the evening had been young I had initially envisaged my route home would be by way of walking home up Selby Road and the down Bullerthorpe Lane, now at this late juncture and me in my present state that route seemed an awful long way round – at least five or six miles would be still left to complete. On the other hand if I should cut straight through the Temple Newsam House Estate that would definitely cut out a mile or two. This was my fifth mistake; I hadn’t appreciated how dark that route was going to be. By the time I reached the last lamp, which was at the end of the street where Billy Bremner used to live – it was absolutely pitch black, I could hardly see my hand in front of my face.

Ten minutes later saw me stumbling through the cars parked in the car park of Temple Newsam House, which at that time of night is a haven for courting couples, who have no wish to be disturbed. My stumbling intrusions onto car bonnets etc. in the utter darkness brought many shouts of derision and much switching on and off of headlights; obviously they were taking me to be some perverted ‘Peeping Tom’, or perhaps the Temple Newsam ghost. Extracting myself from this potentially sticky situation it dawned upon me, that as there would likely be security guards on duty around the Temple Newsam House itself I’d better give the house a wide birth to the south or I might be taken for a burglar. This was my sixth mistake as I nearly decapitated myself on an unseen climbing wire, strung head high across the rose garden. While tottering down the hill to the east of the mansion and trying to stem the flow of blood from my forehead it came even to my befuddled mind that walking through a wood, after midnight, in total darkness, was not all that of a fantastic idea, there was the touch of the Gothic horrors about it all. It was at that point, my foot struck something solid and picking it up I saw it to be a nicely shaped wooden stake. In my present state I interpreted this as a sign from God that I was about to meet vampires but here was something with which to defend myself. (See what I mean about the possibility of my drink in ‘The Irwin’ being spiked?)

Somewhat fortified by the thought that I had a weapon to fend off the supernatural I pressed on into the woods but now with a growing awareness of my ludicrous situation: many a time I had read horror stories of folk being caught out in a wood miles from anywhere after midnight and thought, ‘a likely story’ and that anyone who was daft enough to put themselves into such a situation surely deserved all that was coming to them. Yet here was I in that very same ridiculous position and with blood pouring out of my forehead to boot: vampires like blood don’t they! Anyway, I pressed on, I could just make out my pale jeans making a good pace in the darkness. Occasionally I had to beat a tattoo on my thighs with the stake to send those who would make crackling noises in the bushes, scurrying on their way.

It’s a good job I was at least familiar with the layout of the terrain by day or I would have been hopelessly lost by now. I finally reached the brow of the hill where I could look back at Temple Newsam House in the west and forward to the ribbon of a pathway in front of me. The moon had made an appearance and gave the whole panorama a magical effect. It was quite uplifting after the gloom of the woods. I suddenly felt high as a kite and got this idea into my head I could fly (there must have been something in that drink). I became aware of a dream that I quite often have in which I flap my wings and I can take off. I thought this is it; this is the occasion I have been dreaming about all my life, now is the time I’m really going to fly! With that I ran down the hill and launched myself into the air. This was my seventh mistake; after I’d picked myself up I was coherent enough not to make a second attempt.

Eventually, I reached the road and the earthly dangers of a country road without a footpath and cars racing towards me on main beam, completely blinding me. No doubt the drivers themselves would be a bit startled too to see this wild looking bloke wandering about Bullerthorpe lane in the middle of the night with a stake in his hand, blood pouring from the wound in the forehead and now covered in dust from the flying incident.

Presently the lights of Swillington hove into view and I felt a great sense of elation – sort of akin to climbing Everest – well perhaps not quite that. Next morning when I awoke it took awhile to piece together, why I had a cut head and why there was a wooden stake at the side of the bed – but I had this over-riding feeling that I’d had a B…. GOOD NIGHT!

Last Month’s pic was of course Leeds Central High School for boys and Ralph Thoresby School for girls.

How about this month’s pic? ‘Lance corporal’ tram passing what Leeds edifice on the right?

lance corporal tram

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

Computer Games V Mucky Knees

November 1, 2012

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Am I an old fool to believe it was more fun to play out and come home with mucky knees than to stay indoors and play computer games?

COMPUTER GAMES V MUCKY KNEES

By Pete Wood.

Way back in the 1940s the door of our house opened onto Jaw Bone Yard, a spacious earth compacted area complete with stables, sheds and dens. It was a magical world brimming with all the possibilities for adventure. When I was about four years old my mother opened that back door and shoed my out to join six other kids already into their adventures. All she said was ‘Go play’. And from that day my life began.               

 

JAWBONE YARD: was the heart of old Knostrop and the centre of our activities. Seven houses backed onto that yard and out of the houses came seven kids, augmented by the lads and lasses from the ‘ABC’ houses, the Hall, the Lodge and sometimes too; our friends who joined in the fun from ‘The Top’; which were the streets which sat at the top of Knostrop Hill.  This was the gang and didn’t we have a ball! We played every game under the sun in that yard: cricket, rounders, kick-out can, speedway bowlers (hoops) and all the general schoolyard games.  The lads and the lasses all mucked in together. We played football with a tennis ball – you were lucky if you could get hold of even a tennis ball while the war was in progress, for just about everything being produced by the nation was to going support the war effort – so proper footballs were out of the question. The positive side to this was: it certainly taught us how to control a ball. Some of the lads became so proficient that they could ‘keepy-uppy’ with a tennis ball. Harold Sedgwick could even keep it up on his ankle! This all made it that, much easier when we finally did progress to play with proper footballs. Was life less dangerous for us than for modern day kids? Well, the Germans regularly bombed us by night and we had to walk the lonely lanes in complete blackness due to ‘The Blackout’ but we had a freedom that seems to be denied to today’s kids and life seemed to be blissfully happy.

We, who played in that yard, were fortunate in that one of the dads, who worked on the land at the time, would find balls that had been lost down drains and had ultimately found their way onto the land. He would bring them home and leave them in a grate where we would find them. Mind you a ball had a short lifespan with us, especially when we were hitting out at cricket. Balls would fly into the long grass in the adjacent field and become lost. You were out if caught one handed off a wall or if you hit the ball onto a house roof. In the case of hitting it onto a roof the culprit would be the one to climb onto the roof and retrieve it.  The ball would usually be lodged in one of the gutters so you had to climb up onto the roof, via a coal house, then it would be necessary for you to lean perilously over the edge in order to reach it. Like kids all over we were oblivious to the danger. It pleasantly amazes me that trivial incidents can still be brought to mind after half a century and a lifetime of other more important experiences have elapsed. For instance Keith Gale, a participant in our games, can bring to mind an incident, which occurred when we were playing cricket in the yard. On this occasion Gordon (Oscar) Brown was batting – we could never get him out he was like a limpet. Ball after ball he would just play a dead bat: ‘podging’ as we called it. On this particular day Gordon must have had a rush of blood to the head for he smote a ball mightily, it bounced first on a house roof and then onto a coalhouse roof, finally to be caught one handed by Peter Whitehead. By our rules we believed this to have been have been out, but good old Gordon wouldn’t budge, he stood his ground claiming that as the ball had bounced twice this did not constitute being out! The beautiful thing about this little tale is: that although Keith had been out and about for over fifty years carving out a life for himself, with all the toils and tribulations entailed that most trivial of incidents had not been erased from his memory.

Oh the games we played in that yard: there was one particularly daft game that we played where one of us would stand facing the stable wall and the rest would choose a film star’s name without letting on what it was. We would form a line across the yard about thirty yards back and the one facing the wall would shout something like, ‘VeronicaLake take two giant strides’ or perhaps, ‘three fairy footsteps.’ Then the person who had chosen that particular name had to execute the ordered manoeuvre without being seen. Should the one calling the shots turn and catch one of us in the process of moving then the name of the culprit would be shouted and they would be out. The first person to reach wall without being seen won.

At one time we had an old wooden wheelbarrow, we would take in turns to sit in the barrow with our eyes closed while some other member of the gang would spin it around and then set off in a series of changing directions. The idea was for the one having the ride to try and guess where they were. In the middle of the yard there stood a huge wooden shed, it had three large gates at the front to accommodate flat four wheeled carts. We would use the gates as the goals in winter or the central palings as the wickets in summer. We could shelter inside the shed when it rained and perhaps play with the large wooden boxes which were intended to transport the vegetable produce to market; cabbages, cauliflowers and especially rhubarb. The boxes could be fashioned into all manner of constructions, houses, cars, whatever we fancied at the moment.  Pauline (now Mrs Rushfirth) and  one of the gang, remembers a particular night when the bombs were dropping and the ack-ack guns from further down Knostrop were making the windows shake in the little cottages, and how her mam ran out to the shelter, which was across the yard and ran straight into a parked black car which was unseen in the dark. The shock was so great she thought she had been hit and shouted out, ’They’ve got me! They’ve got me!’  In the morning after an air raid we would hunt for shrapnel from the shell casing. Mam said to me, ‘Don’t go picking up anything nasty.’ I thought from her description she meant something like dog droppings but she really meant the ant-personnel mines the Germans were dropping.

Pauline remembers that big shed that bisected yard too and another game we played called ‘Escape’. Someone would stand on top of the granary steps with a torch or a bike lamp, shining it on the shed gates and moving it backward and forward and we would try to escape in the dark bits. Pauline recalls it as: quite frightening. We had obviously been brain-washed by watching prisoner of war films. .

There was another shed in the yard too, one in which sacks were stored – I believe the sacks must have been filled with soot for when we climbed about in there we’d get ourselves ‘black bright’. On other occasions we played whip and top, conkers, hula-hoop. We had phases when we played with potato guns, catapults or sped around the yard with bowlers in impromptu speedway races. We had dens everywhere, sometimes in the bushes where we could pull off the ‘green stick’ branches to make weapons. One type could be hollowed out for to use as a blowpipe while another ‘springier’ type could be fashioned into the bow for bow and arrows. Sheltering from the rain under a den’s green foliage is among   the sweetest experiences life has to offer. We all had nick names and virtually usad a language of our own. Now I’m told The Scout Movement has banned nick names as they may lead to bullying. Corr!

We were a bit light on girls but the ones we had were great, Pat and Pauline from the yard, Brenda and very occasionally, Lizzie, from the ABCs. Later there was Rita from the ‘New Hall Lodge’ all the rest were lads but the girls all mucked in and pulled their weight especially when we were collecting wood for the bonfires. You could tell which were the girls: they were the ones who practised their pirouettes when there was a lull in the game and did ‘crabs’ up against the wall with their frocks tucked in. Girls wore frocks or gym slips (no trousers or jeans) and we wore short pants ‘long ‘uns came along when we were about twelve but my mam said lads in long trousers looked like little old men hence she kept me in short pants to an embarrassing fourteen.

At one particular time everyone seemed to be wearing wooden clogs – I think they may have been an attempt to offset the problem of shoes wearing out too fast, or was it that being made out of wood they did not attract clothing coupons? Whatever, the idea was a fad and went out within a few weeks. Then of course there were the bikes, Denis Harrison had a bike on ‘fixed wheel’, it was unforgiving, if you put you feet on the ground before the bike had properly stopped it would punish you by trapping the back of your legs with its pedals; that was really painful. There was another bike which had a bell as big as a teapot and yet another, a butcher’s bike, which had you scared for the basket bit didn’t turn straightaway when you turned the handlebars giving the impression you were not going to make a corner. Peter Whitehead later organised ‘East Leeds Wheelers’ a proper cycling club. Meetings were held in a little building where the dustbins were usually kept. Membership to this club was quite exclusive and mainly taken up by a more ‘up market’ class of cyclist than us ‘yardies’, who rode ‘drop handlebar’ bikes and mostly lived at ‘the top’.

THE ABC HOUSES: As an alternative to playing in the yard we would often join the gang from the ABC Houses on their patch, they had lots of places on their doorstep to explore. There were two plantations; which we unsurprisingly called; the first wood and the second wood, the ‘Red Hills’- which were in fact red shale slag heaps from anold mine. This shale could be seen forming a good hardcore base for paths and minor roads throughout the district, tagging them as ‘Red Roads’ due to their colour.   The old mine itself: ‘Dam Pit’ was located between the two woods and would find us messing about dangerously in the brick filled shaft. Wagons from the pit would be left shunted onto a branch line allowing us to climb all over them. The lads from the ABC Houses always seemed to be more agile than us ‘yardies’ they could shin up the trees in the plantation like monkeys. We were allowed to cut down the dead trees for our bonfires but all we had to do it with was that which we called a ‘hunting knife’ so you can imagine it was a long job and oh those calluses.

SCHOOL: Now, alas, in my seventies, I pass our local primary school on the way to collect my morning paper. The surrounding roads are absolutely clogged with the cars of mums taking their kids to school (Chelsea Tractors) some of the kids seem to be at least nine or ten; they’ll be back again to take them home at 3.00.

With deference to busy working mams, who I know have to drop off their kids before going to their own place of work, I still have to hark back to, what happened to walking to school and giving kids space to learn responsibility for their own safety. I know there are a lot more cars around today and ‘strangers’ (there were always ‘strangers) but I recall that our mams took us to school on the first day at five years old and after that we were on our own and getting to grips with the world of lonely rural roads and busy crossings for ourselves and it made us responsible and street wise long before we were ten!

SCHOOLYARD GAMES: Once we had started school we were introduced to a host of new games either played in the schoolyard itself at playtime or immediately outside the school gates before school started. The staple diet for the boys was always going to be football, played twenty odd a side with a tennis ball and coats for goalposts. In summer cricket took over, the wickets being chalk marks on the wall and three or four balls on the go at once. The whistle for the end of playtime always seemed to blow when it was your turn to bat. I spoke to an old school mate at a reunion recently, he recalled playing football in that old school yard (we called it the field) and how a workman who had been mending the road outside the railings had come over with a whimsical look in his eye and said to him very sincerely: ‘Do you know lad, these are the happiest days of your life’. The old schoolmate said he’d remembered those words all through the years and he thought the old guy was just about right.
As alternatives to football and cricket and to suit the seasons, more individual games would be played. Ice on the ground meant a giant slide and everyone having a go, in the process causing the road to become like glass and a hazard to any unwary pedestrian.   At Whitsuntide, the girls, mainly, would play whip and top: colouring the tops with chalks, so they would make pretty pattern as they spun around. In the autumn it would be conker time and bruised knuckles all round for each time you missed your opponents conker you tended to hit your own knuckles (no namby-pamby ‘elf and safety then)  Each player kept a score of how many other conkers his conker had broken. For example, if your conker broke a conker that had, say already broken two itself, then you added his two to your score as well. Lads would try to make conkers harder by baking them or pickling them in vinegar. Sometimes they had become tiny hard things like the kernel of a walnut but provided they hadn’t broken away from the string hole they were considered to be still ‘live’. When a crack occurred the shout would go out, ‘It’s laughing!’ Last year’s conkers were like iron and would not be played against if recognised: ‘It’s a laggie I’m not playing against that!’ would be the cry.
Another game was played with cigarette cards or the big bus tickets of the day, which all had a sequential number on the back. In this game a lad would take a ‘wadge’ of cards or tickets of roughly the same thickness in each hand, and another lad would take a similar number in his hand and ‘bank’ on one or the other of his opponent hands. Then the bottom card or ticket would be turned over in each hand; if the lad had banked correctly on the wadge with the highest number he would win his opponents cards. If he had banked on the lower number then he would have to surrender his. As school bags were a ‘no – no’ in those old Victorian primary schools a lad’s pockets might well be bulging obscenely with his winnings.
Marbles or ‘taws’, as we called them, was another favourite game. There were several different types of marble: ‘allies’ (coloured marbles), ‘milkies’ (opaque marbles) ‘bottle washers’ (clear glass) and ‘stonkers’, which were made out of stone. Some lads had become real experts and had calloused knuckles to prove it. These experts would have a favourite marble, which they always used when playing – normally it would not be a pretty one but rather a gnarled old thing that gave give a good grip. Should they loose they would surrender any of their stock of marbles rather than give up their ‘player’. I recall some were so expert they could hit an opponent’s taw at three paces, firing from the knee.  The rules of the taw game we played were as follows: two lads would play with a marble each – more could play if required. A small hole was excavated in the earth and called the ‘knack’, the idea was to take it in turns to try and hit the other lad’s marble. After a hit, it was still necessary for the opponent’s marble to be not a ‘needer’; a ‘needer’ meant the opponent’s marble still ‘needed’ to be hit more than two shoe lengths away from the hole. Big shoes were an asset if you wanted it to be a ‘needer’, smaller shoes were better if you didn’t want it so. To complete the game it was then only necessary to roll your marble into the hole. If it missed then the other lad had a chance to ‘un-needer’ himself.
The girls had their own playground at our school (St Hilda’s) it was a concrete affair in an elevated position above our ‘dirt’ field.  From this lofty position they would carry out their skipping games: pitch, patch, pepper etc. Or dance around singing traditional schoolyard songs like: ‘The wind and the rain and the hail blows high, the snow comes travelling from the sky. She is handsome she is pretty she is the belle of the golden city; she goes a courting one, two three: pray can you tell me who it can be?’ Then they would shout some lad’s name, say: Tommy Johnson says he loves her.’ Then they would let out a great scream, silly beggars and then continue, ‘All the boys are fighting for her’ and so on.  The lad in question would probably be playing football in the field below and would blush to the roots of his hair but secretly be pleased – alas it was never I.  Sometimes, to the annoyance of the girls we would sing along with a much ruder version of the song.

 

AFTER SCHOOL: In the evenings after school we would be out again even in the dark nights of winter – no computer games for us. I think our absolute favourite game was one we just called ‘chasing’. We could play ‘chasing’ in all seasons; it was fun whether it was the light or the dark nights. To play the game; first a couple of sides were picked by the old ‘dip-dip-dip’ method, then one team would run off and after a prescribed period the other team would run after them and try to catch them before they could return to base. In the process of this game we covered miles and miles, over fields through woods, haystacks, rhubarb sheds. We had the lot at Knostrop. The area we covered was so vast that when I consider the game now it astounds me how we ever managed to locate individuals who had run and hidden often several miles away and sometimes in the dark too, but amazingly, we did.  When the game was over we would congregate around one of the gas lamps and talk. Sometimes there would be road works and a night watchman – perhaps we would sit with him for a while around his coke brazier watching the blue red flames and choking on the fumes. Maybe we’d tell a few yarns and then accompany the watchman while he checked his lamps.  Pauline remembers being scalded when one of the lads, tried to jump the brazier and knocked the boiling water from the big iron kettle all over her legs, causing here to miss school for a while. When we would finally come home in our frocks or short pants, happy but tired out by our games, it was then time to have our mams sit us down and wash our ‘mucky knees’ .

Which would I prefer – a computer game or my mucky knees back?

NO CONTEST

Alex had last month’s mystery building correct. It was of course The Parkie’s House on East End Park. Now for this month’s mystery building. What did we  better remember this building as? look out for another Audrey special next month.

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

                                                 ***********

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?

Tales from the Other Side of the World

February 1, 2012

        TALES FROM THE OTHER SIDE  ( of the world )

                       By Audrey Sanderson.

 

Audrey, East Leeds lass now settled 40 years in Australia, relives for us the traumatic upheaval of uprooting her young family from the familiarity, family and friends of East Leeds to start a new life in Australia.

A ten pound tourist is one of the nicknames for English immigrants.  A tourist implies a holiday.  While some       ‘ poms ‘ did treat it like a 2 yr. holiday thousands liked the place so much they decided to stay in this place calledAustralia.

It’s over 40 years since we stepped off The Castel Felice Ocean Liner owned by The Sitmar Line.

Why did we emigrate?  My husband was working 7 days a week and after paying tax on overtime we were ₤2 10/- better off than if he’d worked 5 days a week.  With 2 toddlers and a mortgage we never seemed to be getting any further forward than we were when we first married.  No child minding centres in the 60s.  If mother wanted to return to work a neighbour/ friend or grandma looked after the children.  My parents were elderly, husband’s parents lived too far away and all our friends were in the same financial position as us.  In the freezing winter commercial T.V. bombarded us with what a great life anyone could have inAustralia.  A neighbour of my mother-in-law had lived inSydneyfor 30 years.  She’d taken her 25 yr. old son back toEnglandto live to show him what her life had been like many years ago.  About the same age as my husband he and Les became friends before I met him.  The idea had always been at the back of his mind after hearing Les’s tales of growing up in a beach front house, easy going life style and couldn’t wait for his mother to get fed up with living in a tiny house and freezing winters so they could go back.

At first I wasn’t keen on the idea of leaving.  I had my life planned out or so I thought.  We had a semi detached house with big bay windows, 2 apple trees and flowering shrubs in the back garden with a creek running along the back fence line.  The front garden was typical of its day with a square of lawn edged by small flowering plants and a privet hedge.  We’d built a carport at the side of the house and had pink roses climbing up a trellis along the fence dividing us from the house next door.  We loved the house and the neighbours, shops, schools, a church and an excellent bus service a short walk away on theSelby Road.  We had lots of aunts, uncles and cousins and close friends.  I had visions of living in that house well into old age.  Never did like the freezing cold winters even as a child I didn’t particularly enjoy playing in the snow.  Great fun the first day when the snow was white and fluffy but not when it froze into a dingy grey icy blob.  It took ages to dress two toddlers in warm leggings, overcoats, thick socks and fur lined boots just to go to the shop at the end of the road for a loaf of bread.  When I could still put both of them in the pram it was like pushing a truck uphill trying to push it through thick snow.  Forget trying to dry the washing outside.  Within half an hour it froze on the line and when brought indoors again it thawed and was just as wet as when it came out of the washing machine.  The clothes airer became a fixture in the kitchen/ dining room.

The thought of permanent warm sunny weather was appealing sitting in front of a fire listening to the wind howling outside.  “It wouldn’t harm to go to Australia House and ask a few questions “said my husband.  So with the two children one Saturday afternoon we did just that.  Lots of friendly staff and lots of people like ourselves asking them questions.  We came home with lots of information and coloured brochures.  My husband wanted to leave on the next ship.  I had lots of ‘ what if ‘ questions.  After months of deliberating and frequent visits to Australia House we decided to put in an application for a £10 trip to the other side of the world.  After we’d been notified we had been accepted we started making plans to sell up.  We’d never mentioned any of this to parents or relatives.  My husband said his mother would say it was a good idea.  He never did see any farther than the end of his nose.  His mother always had an excuse if he did anything wrong, it was always someone else’s fault or told him not to worry everything would work out fine.  My mother I knew would rant and rave and say I was ungrateful for all the sacrifices she’d made since the day I was born.  Nothing new there I heard it all a million times.  I didn’t want to tell my Dad though I didn’t want to leave him behind.  The first sailing date we got was sometime in May.  We didn’t tell anyone until after New Year 1969.  As predicted the balloon went up with my mother screaming at me.  Dad and me both in tears, my two children crying also, they didn’t know what was going on but didn’t like everyone crying.  My husband said it was better for me to tell my parents and he’d pick me up from their house on his way home from work.  He was met with a stony silence and we went home.  I told him he could tell his mother on his own because I was sure she wasn’t going to be impressed either.  Used to getting his own way he said she would realise we had a better future inAustraliaand think it was a great idea he’d had.   Of course she would agree with him.  The following night he told her.  The children were in bed when he came in, very subdued.  “Does your mother still think you’re the best thing since sliced bread?”  He said she thoroughly agreed there was no future here for us but Australia is such a long way away and wondered how you are going to cope on your own not knowing anyone while I am out at work.  Same as I do now.  I organised, I made sure the bills were paid on time, I looked after the kids, I washed, ironed, cooked and cleaned, and he went to work.  “She said she’s got a few questions to ask you.  She’s going to ring you tomorrow.”  Of course she will…..after she’s phoned every living relative and told them she is being abandoned and things are not the same since she became a widow.  I’d heard all that a million times before as well.  She phoned when she thought I’d put the kids to bed for their afternoon nap.

What mad game did I think I was playing putting a mad idea like that into her son’s head.  I was never satisfied with anything, her son works his fingers to the bone, and I was taking away the only person she cared about and leaving her on her own.  I told her she was not on her own, she had a sister and 3 brothers and a heap of nephews and nieces constantly visiting.  It had been John’s idea and he talked me into it.  She didn’t believe me.  He would never abandon her if I hadn’t put the idea in his head.  What’s the point?  No matter what I say I’m always going to be in the wrong.

The house was put up for sale.  Plenty wanted it but couldn’t get finance.  We had to ask for a deferment of our sailing date.  Australia House wasn’t thrilled.  They’d advised us not to tell the real estate agent we were emigrating because they would keep dropping the price hoping for a quick sale.  We told the agent we were moving in with my mother-in-law.  We would have to if the house had sold quickly, she had 3 spare bedrooms.  I would have hated it but beggars can’t be choosers.  We got another sailing date in late June, the 24th I think.  We had 2 months to sell the house.  My mother-in-law was barely civil toward me my own mother constantly told me we’d hateAustralia.  I think she scoured the neighbourhood asking if anyone knew people who’d emigrated and didn’t like the new country.  Made no difference, Australia, Canada, South Africa she knew someone who knew someone who’d come back home because they couldn’t be to be parted from family and friends.  Too late.  The house was sold with one week to spare.  It was one of the worst weeks of my 27 years.  No fond farewells.  All the relatives said we should have visited them to say goodbye.  I had too much to organise to bother about what they thought.  We’d been married for over 4 years and never seen most of them since the wedding day.  My mother cried all the time she wasn’t calling me a traitor.  Mother-in-law ignored me completely.  The night we left on the sleeper train toSouthamptoncouldn’t come fast enough.

My mother-in-law and her neighbour came in the big black cab with us to the train station inLeedscity square.  She wouldn’t let the kids go, they were getting frightened with Grandma crying.  My husband was pushing the luggage into the sleeper compartment and I was holding onto my children’s hands trying to prise them away from Grandma.  The neighbour told her to let us get onto the train and we would all have a marvellous time inAustralia, it was a great country.  The guard started closing the doors.  Annie loved being drama queen and started wailing  ” My son, my son I’ll never see him again.”  Husband and two kids on the train, Annie blocking the doorway, I’m on the platform.  The guard told her to stand back and took hold of the door.  She wouldn’t move, I’m trying to tell the guard I had to get on the train.  He told her she was holding up the train and to get on or stand back.  More wailing from her as I’m trying to push past and managed to get a hand on the door.  The guard yelled at me to let go.  I yelled back ” It isn’t going without me ” and pushed with all my might.  Bang went the door, he waved his green flag, blew the whistle and the train started to move.  I never looked back.  I had two little kids to get ready for bed.  They’d never been on a train before so I told them we were going on holiday and going to have a big adventure.  They were fascinated by everything and soon settled down thank goodness.  My husband never had a problem sleeping and snored all night long.  The two kids were restless, tossing and turning in the cramped bunks.  I sat on the floor and cried my eyes out.  I could still feel my Dad’s arms hugging the life out of me and wished he was with us.  Mother and mother-in-law drama queens would wring all the sympathy in the world from everyone who cared to listen how we had taken their grand children away from them.  Was it really going to be everything the people at Australia House had told us it was going to be.  What if the kids can’t settle.  What will happen to us if he can’t get a job straight away.  How long will our savings last.  There had been a last minute hitch with the bank releasing the cheque for the sale of the house.  We’d had to leave the details with a solicitor and the address of the bank inBrisbanewhere to send the money.  He assured us the sale had gone through it was a minor detail and the money would be in our account when we got off the ship.  What if something happens to the buyers and their finance falls through.  Like a lot of other things we’d never done we had no experience of selling a house or dealing with solicitors.  We were very naive and very trusting.  These day I would say too stupid to be let out on my own.  I made damn sure my kids knew how to handle money, contracts, hire purchase agreements, and credit cards long before they left school.  All night these things occupied my brain.  I mentally gave myself a good talking to.  Stop feeling sorry for yourself.  Dad will always be with me in my mind.  The money will be in the bank when we get there.  Must be plenty of jobs otherwise they wouldn’t need so many people to fill the positions.  John will have to take any job and not be picky.  So long as money is coming in at first he can get choosy afterwards.  Please let my kids stay healthy.  No National Health, the man said we had to join a health fund as soon as we arrive as medical things and doctors are very expensive.

Dawn came slowly.  My head throbbed as if I had a massive hangover.  I washed the children’s hands and face and got them dressed.  A steward brought us tea, toast and cereal with a jug of milk for the children.  Sleeping beauty wanted a cooked breakfast.  I told him to stay in the bunk until the kids had eaten as there was no room for him to strut about.  ” The tea will be cold by then”  Tough, it’s not the Ritz.  I got dressed and took the kids into the corridor.  I was in no mood to listen to him whinging.  After 10 minutes back into the compartment we went.  He still wasn’t dressed.  ” If I was you I’d get wriggle on.  You have 15 minute before we pull into the station and unless you want to board the train to the quay side in your underpants and singlet I suggest you move quick bloody smart.”  Of course it was my fault because I’d made him stay in the bunk while the kids had been fed and dressed.  ” I’m not arguing, get dressed, shove everything into the overnight bags and be ready in 5 minutes.”  I made a last check we hadn’t left anything behind as the train pulled into the station.  I always did the organising but did expect him to help with the bags.  He gets off the train, started walking down the platform.  The steward helped lift the kids to the platform, took the two overnight bags and helped me to the platform too.  He looked around ” Are you on your own?  I’ll try to get a porter to help you ”  I thanked him for his help but said my husband would be coming to help as I had the tickets and he wasn’t going anywhere without us.  He came blustering down the platform telling me to hurry up.  The steward shook his head.  Right! New life style.  New beginning. Let’s get one thing straight.  I grabbed the lapel of his jacket ” You have humiliated me in front of the entire train full of people.  Pick up a bag, hold Martin’s hand, walk at his pace and head for the ticket barrier.  I presume you know where it is seeing as they wouldn’t let you through without a ticket.”  He wanted the tickets.  Not on your life.  He’d lose them.  No need to worry about the rest of the luggage it was all labelled and would be taken care of.  The platform for the train to the quay side was jammed packed.  We had to pick the kids up and carry them.  No reserved seats, you sat where you could get a seat.  We got two together and had to sit the kids on our knees.  Sat opposite was a lady and man with their chid sat on the husband’s knee.  My head was still throbbing and I wanted to go to sleep.  The lady asked if we wereAustraliabound.  I said we were and were they going too.  Her husband said he thought to entire train load wasAustraliabound.  She asked if we knew anyone inAustraliaand where was our final destination.  I said we didn’t know a soul and we were going toBrisbane.  She said they also were going toBrisbaneand she had a brother and sister-in-law who’d lived there for 3 years.  Very nice at least they would have someone to ask things if they didn’t understand anything.  We didn’t see them again once the train stopped.  Another mad scramble and queues a mile long.  We were English we were used to queuing.  Eventually we stepped onto the quay.  The ship was enormous.  A brass band was playing.  Hundreds of people waving to friends already on board, officials everywhere directing us where to go.  I made John carry the overnight bags while I held onto both kids’ hands.  Martin clutched his black and white panda, Linda a pink fluffy bunny rabbit, they wouldn’t sleep without them. I had a child on each hand, a large handbag over my shoulder and a fist full of papers, tickets and documents.  Still not bothering to make sure we kept together off strode the new £10 tourist towards the gangplank.  Same as at the train station, no ticket, no admittance.  I took my time.  There were hundreds of people behind me the ship wasn’t going to leave for ages.  I had to walk slow 2 and 3 year olds don’t have long legs.  They were not used to large crowds and lots of noise.  So long as I held onto them they weren’t scared.  The man in uniform at the gang plank kept looking at John as if he expected him to try boarding again.  Maybe with relief at getting us all to this point and knowing in a few minutes I wouldn’t have to check and re-check anything a dozen times making sure we had everything I started to smile.  The brass band helped too.  Both children were smiling and I thought ‘ It’s all been worthwhile ‘  reaching the gangplank John started to take the paperwork from my hand.  The uniformed man grabbed his arm and gripped it tight.  He let out a yelp.  I said quickly he was my husband.  The man scrutinised the thick papered travel document we’d been issued with.  We had to use that instead of passports.  He told John in no uncertain terms to stay with his wife and family and not create anymore problems we weren’t the only ones getting on the ship.  Gang planks aren’t made for toddlers and again we made slow progress.  Half way there two crew members came and asked if they could carry the children.  The kids loved it, they could see a lot more than other passenger’s legs they’d been looking at before.  I spoke to John over my shoulder   ” In future you’d better behave like Prince Phillip and walk two paces behind me and that way you won’t get lost or into anymore trouble.”  He didn’t answer but stuck to me like glue.

We were shown to a cabin on B deck.  Very compact with 4 bunk beds, a baby cot and a small sink with a mirror above it.  The young man said the cabin was for the lady and two bambinos, the gentleman had to follow him.  We were told this may happen if the ship was full.  Our suitcases were in the cabin so I pushed them under one of the bunk beds.  A knock on the door, another steward with a lady a few years older than me.  She introduced herself said she had a husband and 2 teenage sons who had had to join the deck with men only cabins.  Another knock on the door yet another stewed and a pretty girl of about 19.  She was very shy explaining she was travelling with her parents who had a cabin for 2 so she was in with us.  We all wanted to go up on deck to see the ship cast off.  Lots and lots of noise, people shouting and waving to friends on the quay, streams thrown from every direction and the band still playing.  It was all very exciting, like something out of a movie.  Until……The gap between quayside and ship grew wider, the noise of the engines louder, the band music got fainter and the sounds from the people on deck was a lot of muffled crying, not very many smiling faces as we watched the shore getting farther and farther away from us.

The Australians returning home were a jovial lot  ” Come on sport cheer up.  You’re going to the land of plenty.  You won’t recognise us 6 months from now.”  It wasn’t said to anyone in particular, just a general comment.  I tried to smile, they meant well trying to cheer everyone up but their cheerfulness made some women cry more.   We had to free ourselves of millions of streamers and try to find our way back to the cabin.  John had to get his clothes and towels to take to his own accommodation.  He was not thrilled at all having to share a large cabin below the waterline with  5 other men.  I told him not to complain we had been told it could happen.  I then had to sort out our sleeping arrangements.  The baby cot was supposed to be for Linda.  A new born would have been hard pushed to sleep in it.  When I asked the steward if there was a larger cot he said it was a standard size for children under 2 yrs. of age.  She was 1 yr. 11 months.  I asked if I could have another pillow and I would put Martin at one end of the bunk and Linda at the other.  Like every other mother with small children hoping they didn’t start crying in the middle of the night and keep everyone awake.  All the children adapted far quicker to their new surroundings than any of the adults.  After 2 days we were getting used to the regulations of the ship and made friends with the people we shared a dining table with.  I still swap Christmas cards with one couple who shared our table and we now write about our grand children.  They didn’t stay inAustralia.   On the voyage we bumped into the couple who had sat opposite us on the train on our way to join the ship.  They were friendly with the other couple who shared our dining table.  We kept in touch after we got toBrisbaneand although we don’t live near each other now we still phone and of course now we are smart old ducks we email each other.

We missed seeing the first man walk on the moon surface.  I think we were in theIndian Oceanwhen it happened.  it was like being in our own little world.  Nothing to see but water in any direction.  It made me stop and think what it must have been like for all those brave men who had sailed in uncharted waters hundreds of years before in smaller ships than the one we were on not knowing what to expect.  We had as much food as we could eat, hot showers, lots of crew to look after us, a movie theatre, swimming pools, lots and lots of entertainment.  Not a lot of privacy but Hey we were receiving 5 star treatment and it had cost us £20 for a family of 4.

Linda had her 2nd. birthday on the ship just before we arrived inAustralia.  Sitmar the Italian shipping line looked after all the passengers very well.  They made a birthday party for her and all the kids at the table received big presents.  I’d asked the purser if I could pay for a birthday cake and have it served at the evening meal.  Children under 12 had separate meal times and all the kids on their table were about 3 to 7 years old.  After the main meal, just before desserts were served all the lights were dimmed and the happy birthday tune came over the loud speakers.  The maître d’ held a cake with lit sparklers and walked the entire length of the dining room followed by 10 waiters all carrying brightly covered large packages and all singing ‘ Happy Birthday ‘  The parents loved it.  Some of the real little kids were scared because it was dark.  Linda was one of the scared ones and I had to hold her in my arms.  We didn’t realise it was for her until they stopped at the table.  The crew, being Italian adored all the kids.  My eyes were popping out of my head I hadn’t expected anything like this.  I thought a simple sponge cake with two candles for which I was more than happy to pay for but all this!!!  How was I going to afford it.   The dining room lights went up and the rest of the kids with help from the waiters started opening presents.  I think the crew enjoyed it more than the kids.  The next day I went to see the purser again.  I thanked him for the party and embarrassed asked how much it was going to cost me.  Not a sophisticated ocean traveller was I.  Big smile ” Madam, Madam, we treat all our passengers like family.  Your little girl had a birthday we gave her a party.”  Still embarrassed I said ” We are immigrants not full paying passengers.”  ” No Madam.  You are a passenger like all the others.  We do not have personal details, everyone is treated the same. Only on this voyage are you an immigrant.  I too was once an immigrant.  You will do very well inAustralialots of others have.  It was our pleasure to see all the children having a good time.” I could have kissed him.

On August the 5th. We disembarked onHamiltonWharfunder a cloudless bright blue sky inBrisbane.   This is it, our new country.  Very excited to see what it looked like we’d been on deck since 5 a.m. watching as the liner edged its way into the mouth of theBrisbaneRiver.  Couldn’t see much as it was still dark.  As we’d stopped in all the major cities sincePerththere was only about 200 immigrants left to disembark.  The rest of the passengers were either Australians returning to Brisbane or passengers going back to Southampton who had joined the ship at the various ports we’d called at on our way round Australia.  Some were immigrants returning and wanted to tell the new comers they wouldn’t like Oz as Aussies didn’t like poms.  We had been warned this would happen but it was up to ourselves whether we made a go of it or not.  You can’t please everybody and we’d had plenty of time to change our minds long before we put our house up for sale.

Once we’d arrived I knew why some were called whingers.  ” It’s not like it was back home ” I heard lots of times on the immigration camp where we were housed.  From the wharf to the camp we travelled by coach.  Granted the bus was not exactly modern but it got us to where we were going.  The houses? were certainly an eye opener.  Not a house at all but army huts as used by the Australian army.  Not the Ritz but clean and a roof over our heads.  All the packing cases and cabin trunks with our worldly possessions were stored in a locked building.  We were shown to our house? and told where the facilities were.  The canteen, shower block, toilets and laundry room a short walk from our little wooden house.  From the outside I thought our accommodation was small.  Smaller still when I realised it was for two families.  Our neighbours in this little semi were German.  They didn’t speak English, we didn’t speak German.  We smiled and nodded a lot to each other.  My son was 3, my daughter 2 yrs. old.  We had lived in a quiet cul-de-sac inLeeds.  The house we sold was a semi but of the big bay windows, nice garden with apple trees and a creek running along the back fence variety.  Our new semi had paper thin walls.  I’m not exaggerating you could hear the people next door breathing during the night.  The first night none of us slept.  We’d had lots of information from the people at Australia House inLeedsbefore we left.  What they didn’t tell us was there is no twilight inQueensland.  August was still winter time and the sun sets around 5:15 – 5:30 p.m. By 6 p.m. total blackness.  We’d packed our entire household belongs into crates etc. the only thing not packed was a torch or a flashlight.  All meals were plentiful and free but had to be taken in the canteen.  Daylight when we went into the canteen at 5 p.m. pitch black when we came out.  We got lost on the short walk back home.  We also found out immediately the sun goes down the mosquitoes come out to feast.  We were getting eaten alive.  One moaning husband carrying small son, one scared wife carrying crying small daughter.  We did find our abode then had to venture out again to the shower blocks to bath the kids and dress them in pyjamas.  Showers of course, no baths.  My little girl screamed the place down.  She didn’t want to go in the room where it was raining.  Great.  We’d been inBrisbane6 hours and already had got lost, eaten alive by insects, living in the back of beyond and surrounded by all nationalities who couldn’t speak English.  I turned the shower off and tried to quieten her down.  She’s stopped screaming but was now sobbing.  Of course with all the noise other women had come running.  Lots of sympathetic looks but no conversation.  A young woman with a Scottish accent asked what was wrong with the bairn, was she ill?  In my thickYorkshireaccent I said she was used to having a bath, not a shower and thought it was rainwater.

” Come with me hen.  I’ll show you what I did with mine when we first arrived.”  She took me to the laundry room.  All those years ago it was common practice to have deep concrete trough like sinks in laundries.  So Linda had her first bath inAustraliastood up in a concrete tub.  Her mother had a quick wash as I couldn’t leave her with a complete stranger while I had a shower.  She really would have screamed the place down.  No entertainment on the camp.  It wasn’t Butlins of the outback.  No radios, no T.V.  Everything was silent by 8 p.m.  Everything that is except for the nocturnal wild life.  Something else the people at Australia House forgot to mention.  Wacol, the name of the suburb was way-out on the fringes of the city back in 1969.  Nothing but trees.  In this day and age Mr. and Mrs. Average couldn’t afford to buy in a suburb like that.  Back then I wished I could have heard a corporation bus or a train passing by on a main road like we had when we lived inDunhill Crescent.   Too late now, you’ve burned your bridges.  I seemed to be waking every few minutes of that long first night.  Owls hooting, fruit bats screeching, possums landing on the roof and when it was silent I could hear the family adjoining our wall breathing and snoring.  I didn’t know what the furry or feathered nocturnal visitors were until I asked someone in the canteen the next morning.  That’s also when the whinging poms introduced themselves.  The idea of the immigration plan was to get people working as soon as possible.  Every day for a few hours there was qualified people to answer your questions.  Employment being top priority, then houses, schools and transport.  Only one parent went to the hall where the professionals were, usually the husband and Mum stayed around the camp looking after their children.  My husband armed with references etc. went to the hall and I with the other women and children.  I was like an avalanche.  I don’t know where they lived in the camp but they all seemed to know who was English, French, German, Italian or Greek.  Little groups of them singled out the new arrivals.  First question ” Where did you live inEngland?  What does your husband do for a living.  How many children do you have.”  When I’d answered them first one then another told me how we could stay on the camp for 2 years, not pay anything and then go back toEnglandwhen you’d saved enough for the fares.  I hadn’t been here 24 hours yet.  Some had been there on the camp for nearly 2 years.  I asked if they didn’t want to move out and get a place of their own.  Why? they said ” The government is giving us board and lodgings.  Why would we want of go to work when we can have a nice long holiday?”  I asked what they did all day and did their children go to school.  Because they said they had no money the government paid for the schooling and all kids went on the school bus, again provided by the Australian tax payer.  It was nudge, nudge, and wink, wink “Once your husband gets out and about there are heaps of casual jobs he can pick up for cash in hand wages.”  I felt like reporting them to the authorities.  I wasn’t a banner waving, jump on a soapbox kind of person but they’d come here for next to nothing, their children were getting educated, they’d lived rent free and 3 meals a day for nearly 2 years and thought it smart to cheat by not declaring wages.  I couldn’t get away fast enough.  These people had cars.  Didn’t the authorities wonder where they got the money to buy petrol or new clothes?   One very naive little woman grew up very fast.  My husband got a job in the city but had to travel by train.  The nearest train station was 1 mile from the entrance to the camp.  As new comers we were on the outer limits of the camp, another half mile for him to walk.  Not a happy chappy at all.  We stayed on the camp 2 weeks before getting a flat in the city.  There again the immigration department was very good to us.  They stored all our packing cases etc. until we were established.  I couldn’t leave the camp fast enough.  My two littlies couldn’t handle the noisy canteen and were not eating at all.  Plenty of food for everyone but no chef.  Anyone who said they could cook got the job.  Very conventional when it comes to breakfast and still am.  Bacon, eggs, beans on toast type of fare not stewed up mincemeat on toast or fried fish or savoury boiled rice to start the day.  We had cereal and fresh fruit but hardly a staple diet for two toddlers.  You never knew from one meal to the next what was going to be dished up.  Greek and Italian food is very nice in moderation and also we were not talking haute cuisine.

The big move.

The daughter of my mother-in-laws neighbour had lived inLondon.  My husband had met her long before I met him. We didn’t know they had returned to OZ until they managed to find us.  We were still on the camp when I met them for the first time.  Originally fromSidneythey decided to try living inBrisbaneand were renting a house close to the city.  They were a sociable couple and made friends easily.  They knew an elderly couple who had an enormous house they’d converted into flats.  They didn’t object to small children so long as we didn’t have any pets.  We moved into a fully furnished 2 bedroom flat with a big lounge, small kitchen and joy of joy a bathroom with a bath and a shower.

Brisbaneis a very hilly city and two ways of getting to the local shops.  The owners who lived on the premises told me the quickest way was straight down the long street and I would be there.  They of course had a car.  I had two toddlers with short legs not used to walking in the heat of the day.  Down this long steep hill, up the other side and we were amongst lots of small shops.  No big shopping centres back then.  I bought milk, bread, a few veg and meat.  I walked back the same way and we all had a sleep once we got inside the flat.  When my husband came home from work I said we would have to do a big shop on the weekend and catch taxis.  There was no way I could make two little kids walk that distance every day to buy bread and milk.  Margaret and Eddie came to see if we had moved in O.K.  Eddie called me a numbskull and showed me the other street to walk to the shops.  Flat as a pancake and the top end of the street with more small shops.  We were all very relieved and I had the best nights sleep since arriving inBrisbane.  Then the real living in a new country started.  I had to learn to call food by different names, know what cut of meat to ask for, what kind of fish to order in a snack bar.  And yes, the shops were not like they were inEngland.  No good asking for a piece of beef for roasting, blank look from butcher.  In the snack bar you don’t ask for fish’n’chips.  There is a list of all the fish they sell and it’s all warm water fish.  Beautiful once you know what to order but for a lass who only got cod or hake from the local chippy not much bloody good.  What the hell was sweet lip, snapper, golden perch and prawns the size of a small crab.  Didn’t take me long to sort out what was what in the fish department, yummy, yummy.  The meat was something else.  Apart from a Greek fruit shop owner all the other shop keepers were very friendly and patient with me.  The first ‘ joint ‘ of beef I roasted was as tough as old boots.  No idea where on the animal it had come from.  It looked very lean and smelt delicious while cooking.  The roast potatoes and carrots were done to perfection as was theYorkshirepuddings.  Didn’t know any other way to make a roast dinner so did it the way I’d always done it.  Could not work out why the meat was so tough.  Couldn’t afford to throw it out so chopped it up and made a stew with it the next day.  Everyone enjoyed it.  I tried a different butcher shop hoping for better meat.  One of the first things that made my eyes pop was fruit and butchers shop windows packed to the maximum in every city the ship had stopped at on our way round Australia before getting to Brisbane.  Before selling up and leaving my local shops had a few joints of meat, a tray of sausages, and plenty of plastic parsley decorating their windows.  The Green Grocers window had a small amount of apples, oranges, tomatoes and a few veg on white cardboard trays.  The fruit shops here were like an Aladdin’s cave with lots of bright coloured fruit I’d never seen before.  Veggies with strange names, giant sized pineapples and coconuts.  I’d only seen proper coconuts at fair grounds where you tried to knock them off their perches with a wooden ball.  I looked in the butcher’s window and thought I saw a piece of beef similar to the one I’d bought before.  The name of it meant nothing to me.  I could tell the difference between pork, lamb and beef but not the names of the cuts.  I asked the friendly butcher why two pieces of beef looked the same but had different names.  He smiled ” I married a lass fromYorkshire, she didn’t know either.  Which one have you tried?”  I pointed to one.  ” How did it turn out?”  I could tell he knew I’d done something wrong.  No good getting huffy I’m never going to find out if I don’t ask.  I don’t think the immigration people cover questions on how to shop.  ” That’s called silverside and the one next to it is topside.  You boil one and roast the other ”  I could feel myself going crimson.

” Never mind dear.  Never be afraid to ask.  Us butchers are a friendly lot.  Only too happy to show off and tell you how to cook what you buy from us.”  He gave me little booklets that were on the counter.  All the cuts of meat for lamb, beef and pork with diagrams where on the beast they came from and what was suitable for roasting, grilling, stewing and of course barbecuing.  I studied those little books as though they were a life line.  You could also buy a complete side of an animal.  All butchers advertised it on their windows.  The most economical way to buy meat but you needed a large ‘fridge or a large family to buy it that way.  In the flat we had an old fashioned ‘fridge with no storage space in the door.  Buying meat in bulk would have to wait.  I did ponder on how I would chop it up if I did purchase a whole side of a beast.  I didn’t ask the man, I’d save that for when we moved into our own place and could afford a large ‘fridge.  We’d lived in the flat a few weeks and I’d bought groceries I was familiar with.  Longing to try some of the bright coloured fruit I ventured into the Greek fruit shop.  The shop keeper was Greek not the fruit.  His accent was difficult for me to understand, he was a man without much patience.  I knew how to cut up a pineapple but no idea what a rock melon or paw paw was.  The butcher had said I had to ask, so I did.  ” What is this yellow thing with black seeds?”  All smiles he said it was a paw paw.  My fault, I should have asked if it was fruit or veg I asked ” What is it?”  He gave me a funny look ” Mad’ am ’tis a paw paw.  Look it say paw paw, that’s what is… paw paw.”  Trying a different tack ” What do you do with it?” meaning do you cook it. peel it or what?  ” Mad’ am You Eat it.  You wanna buy or leave my shop.”  Charming I’d never been asked to leave a shop or shouted at because I didn’t understand.  An elderly lady customer yelled at him ” Pull yer neck in.  When you first came here you couldn’t spell paw paw and I showed you how to cut it open for display.  Stupid bastard cut it across instead of down.  Give the girl a chance.”  My God!  It sure isn’t like this back home.  I thought he was going to throw everyone out of his shop but they all started laughing, the owner included.  She took me in hand ” Anything else you want to know?” and started telling me what various fruits tasted like and if they needed cooking, sugar added and how to serve them.  She asked how long I’d lived here.  I coloured up again ” Is it that obvious? I’ve been here two months but only recently dared to try new fruit and veggies.” She laughed ” Your accent is as thick as Yorkshire pudding, only she called itYorkshirewith emphasis on the I.  You’re as white as a lily and your beautiful children are dressed all wrong.”  I bristled, have a dig at me. Leave my kids alone.  She said they had lovely clothes and looked very sweet but to get rid of the Crimpaleen  material  because in the summer it holds the heat and they’d sweat like pigs.  Me, in all my innocence ” Does it get hotter than this in the summer then?”  She laughed until tears ran down her face ” O you poor cow, you don’t know what your in for ” and laughed her head off again.  She was right.  I did buy the paw paw.  Peeled it, discarded the black seeds, chopped it up and sprinkled sugar on it.  Me and the kids loved it.  The husband didn’t like anything unfamiliar so I told him a was a new kind of peach.  He didn’t like the smell of it so I told him parmesan cheese smells as if something has died but it tastes lovely at least give it a try.  He was never over fond of paw paw but it was years before he found out it wasn’t a kind of peach.  My biggest disaster was in the new veg department.  I’d heard of pumpkins being fed to cattle inEnglandand only ever seen one in the Cinderella pantomime when it was turned into a coach by magic dust and a drum roll.  I did ask Margaret and Eddie the friends of my husband how to roast it.  Margaret said ” You can roast jacket potatoes can’t you?  Just roast pumpkin the same way.  It doesn’t take as long but there’s nothing to it.”   I bought one about the size of a soccer ball.  So far so good.  As I was going to bake it whole I put it in the oven first.  Only a small oven so I cooked the rest of the veg on top of the stove.  Grilled lamb chops, steamed veggie, mashed potato and the pumpkin for dinner.  Everything else was cooked, the pumpkin wasn’t.  It had been in the oven an hour and was still as hard as when I’d first put it in.  We finished the meal, the pumpkin still rock hard.  I left it in the oven and switched it off.  Margaret came round the next day ” How did the pumpkin go?”  I said I must have done something wrong it was still rock hard and had been in the oven for about 3 hours.  She started smiling ” Tell me exactly what you did.  Nobody can ruin pumpkin unless it’s burnt to a crisp.”

” I scrubbed it clean, then dried it, then smeared cooking oil over it and put it in the oven.”  Prolonging the agony ” Are you sure that’s all you did?” and starting to laugh.  ” Yes, that’s what you told me to do, cook it like a jacket potato and that’s how I cook them.”  She slid out of the lounge chair, was holding her sides screaming laughing on the floor ” Gee you’re priceless.  Been here 2 minutes and found a way of ruining a pumpkin first go.  Didn’t you think to take the top off and scoop out all the seeds an fibres before sticking it in the oven?”  What seeds? What fibres?  ” You told me to do it like jacket potatoes.  I don’t chop tops off and there are no seeds in potatoes.”  She screamed laughing for ages and re-told the tale for years.  It’s a good job I have a sense of humour the amount of times that tale has been told.

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Well done Audrey. Perhaps we will revel in more of her memories later. In the meantime over 3,000 of you Australians accessed the site last year surely there must be some other £10 poms with memories to share with us on this site? Why not leave a comment on the site or contact me personally on:

peter_wood@talktalk.net

My Hero

December 1, 2011

Dave Carncross has kindly allowed us to peep with respect into his epitaph of a true East Leeds Legend – Richard Chappelow.  In our old East Leeds society the virtues we admired most of all were to be brave and to be tough. Rick had both in abundance.  That he was a little injury prone only added to his charisma and made us love him the more

My Hero

By Dave Carncross

By the time we were ten years old or so, we were all veteran cinema-goers – the main venues being the Easy Road Picture House, the Star and the Princess. We liked anything which involved soldiers, cowboys, cartoons and comic book characters. We all had our own favourite film heroes but I had a real one much nearer home – next door but one to be precise. His name was Richard Chappelow.

The Chappelows were a lovely family. Jenny was like an extra sister. She was the same age as me but always seemed older. She was fiercely intelligent and always seemed to regard me with an amused tolerance and affection – as though I was a big, daft dog or something. David was the eldest and a really nice lad. Richard was, well, just Richard. Their Dad, Alf, left them when Richard would have been about thirteen years old and I never heard any of them mention his name again. May, their mother, had an uncanny resemblance to the film star June Allison and was just as nice. She went on in later life to write a few romantic novels and got them published. Jenny married another good local lad, Jim Croll, had a family and found the time to get a BA degree in her thirties through the Open University. David married and ended up inAustraliaalthough I think he had a spell inSouth Africafirst.

Richard was without doubt the toughest, most resilient lad I ever met in my entire life. This is not to say he was a hard case, far from it, he was a gentle, good natured, easy-going sort and universally popular. We junior males in East Leeds at that time always set great store by not being perceived as being `soft` and tried to take the knocks as they came without any outward show of being hurt. This was not always easy even for kids who only had to endure their own fair or average share of misfortune. The difference with Richard was that, if there was an accident waiting to happen, it would invariably be waiting for him. Whatever occurred, he would always behave the same, never cried or whinged and had seemingly bottomless reserves of mental fortitude. When anything happened to him and bear in mind that I had plenty of practice, I would closely watch his face for any sign of normal frailty but never saw any.  Perhaps a tightening of the jaw muscles or a momentary closing of the eyes would be all that escaped his iron control. I was always amazed and mightily impressed by how he dealt with the `slings and arrows` which were constantly besieging him and I always knew for an absolute certainty that I would be found badly wanting in similar circumstances.

The first time I ever visited the dreaded `Dispensary` on North Street it was just to keep Richard company while the medics reassembled whatever part of his anatomy had been damaged that particular day. We were greeted by a groan from the Sister of `Oh no, not you again Richard !! ` He was a regular client there and was probably on first name terms with most of the practitioners there as he was at the LGI and St. James` casualty departments as well.  If we’d had such things then, it might have proved cost-effective to assign a personal paramedic to follow him around at all times. Perhaps a prescription for a full-body suit made of Kevlar for protection against impacts of all kinds, fully wired to afford insulation against electric shocks and corrosive chemicals would have come in handy. There must be many doctors who served their apprenticeship repairing bits of Richard. It wouldn’t surprise me if he had been invited to their graduation ceremonies, been made Godfather to their children and attended the odd retirement party or two.

We decided to paddle in the small lake atRoundhayParkone hot summer’s day just next to the sign forbidding us to do exactly that. Nothing happened to any of us except Rick. He stood on a broken milk bottle which cut deep into his foot damaging a tendon in the process. He had an operation and finished up with a plaster cast right up to his knee to hold his foot in a downward direction. To have to wear a `plaster` was like being the given a Queen’s Medal for Gallantry and all the lads were deeply envious. He kindly allowed us to draw on it and sign our names. Rick had always been very fleet of foot and, although the operation left him slightly flat-footed for a while, it didn’t seem to affect his running speed at all. He was still quicker than me even flat-footed. Mind you, he was quicker than virtually everyone else inEast Leedsat that time. I even tried running in a similar manner just to see if my sprinting improved but it didn’t.

Once, during a stone fight on t`ollers, we were sheltering behind our brick barricade sorting out fresh ammunition. I ventured a quick look over the parapet and saw a roofing slate scissoring through the air towards me and ducked instinctively as you would do. The slate sliced a neat furrow along my scalp but Richard had bobbed up behind me and it hit him dead centre in the forehead with a dull thud. I had a very satisfactory, showy but superficial cut which bled impressively but didn’t hurt really. Richard, however, went off to renew acquaintances with his old contacts at the Dispensary and added further to his ever-expanding stitch collection.

One dark winter’s night, we were engaged with loads of the lads in a vigorous game of Relieve –Oh when he took a bad fall on the cobbles. He got up holding his arm and immediately asked me to go home with him.  For him to ask for any sort of help was a first so I asked him why and he said “ I’ve dislocated my elbow“. I asked how he knew and he said “ I’ve done it before“. We walked back to his house but his Mam and Dad were at the pictures and his brother David didn’t believe him. We went to our house and my Mam took one look at his ashen face and told my Dad to ring for an ambulance. The ringing had to be done from the local call-box so we all went down together and waited for what turned out to be a car driven by an ambulance driver. Dad had to go to work (on nights) so I went to the LGI with Richard by myself. Bear in mind that I was about twelve, he was a year or so older and it was about 10pm by this time. The doctor in Casualty had a quick feel through his jacket and said `X Rays – wait here`. Rick said `Carny, quick get me shirt off! ` I asked why and he said `cos me vest’s black bright`. I managed to get his shirt and vest off and nearly fainted when I saw his arm at the elbow. It looked as though the bones had been moulded into a figure of eight and it was grossly swollen. I think by then that I must have looked as bad as he did. The doctor reappeared and ushered him off into the next room leaving me profoundly glad to follow his instructions to sit there and wait while they put the arm back into place. I heard the odd muffled, stifled whimper and they came back about 20 minutes later and Rick’s arm was in a sling. He already looked better and we were just deciding what to do next when Rick’s Mam arrived so we all went home together – me with the offending vest still stuffed up my jumper.

During the school holidays us kids were more or less free agents because our parents were all at work. In some ways I think we very quickly became aware that we were responsible for ourselves and the independence from virtually constant supervision that prevails in these days made us better at risk assessment in general. From the age of about eleven, we used to go all over on our bikes – Otley. Ilkley, Wetherby, Collingham and the like and never gave it a second thought. I often wonder if my Mam and Dad ever really realised just how far afield we wandered.

Collingham was a favourite venue for swimming. We used to go to one of our secret places which was reached by much fence climbing and running crouched down like Indian trackers alongside hedges, all the while dragging our bikes along. It just occurred to me now to wonder how we knew how to get there? Perhaps it was received knowledge passed down from generation to generation of East Leedsers. We used to sneak our swimming trunks out from home and, if we were lucky, a towel as well. If no towel, it was get dried the best way you could – usually on your shirt or wait until the sun did the job for you. Fate decreed one day that it was time for Rick’s next accident. He told me he would show me his newly acquired racing dive technique and prepared to launch himself off the bank. Now, swimming and diving were the only athletic pursuits at which I was definitely better than him so I stopped him, pointing out that the water was far too shallow at that point. He wouldn’t have it, argued that a racing dive only took you just under the surface and launched himself out energetically almost parallel with the surface. He seemed to stop dead as soon as he hit the water and I heard an unearthly, gargling underwater shriek at the same time. He stood up slowly, turning towards me with the water lapping gently just under his knees. He looked as if he had just been wrestling a wolverine or had had a lively encounter with a honey badger which was particularly out of sorts that day. All down the front, from forehead to feet, he was one giant graze – spitting out a mouthful of bloody gravel through busted lips with small stones dropping at intervals into the water from his numerous lacerations. In a very matter-of-fact voice he said `You were right about that, Carny` and retired to lick his wounds. We always thought it was best to leave him alone at these times as long as we were sure he hadn’t actually broken anything again. Later on he came to the conclusion that the water should have been deep enough but that he’d made a minor miscalculation on his angle of entry.  I felt that `minor miscalculation` didn’t quite cover it – a bit like setting off due west fromLiverpooland somehow managing to miss Ireland but we didn’t fall out about it.

In brief, there were the times …………………

When he was wrestling with his elder brother David and brought his head up sharply so that David’s top teeth cut a perfect semi-circle into his forehead.  He explored that wound with expert fingers and pronounced conclusively that it didn’t need stitches.

When, in our early 20`s, we were both playing for one of the Leeds and District rugby league open age teams. He was a marvellous player and completely fearless as always. He was at full back and came weaving through at pace after collecting the ball from a kick through. Suddenly, without being tackled, he hopped to a stop and put the ball down carefully. He sat down on the pitch, rolled down his elastic knee bandage and there was a clean cut right across his kneecap. We had no idea how it had happened but, of course, stitches were involved again. The following Thursday night at training he turned up complete with his bag containing his playing kit. I said there was no way he could train with the stitches still in but he said he was having them out on the Friday and wanted me to take his bag home with me so that he could play on the Saturday without his wife knowing. As it happened, there was no game because the ground was too hard due to frost.

We decided to make some toffee. It was his idea and we were in his house alone during the school holidays. I didn’t know how this was done but he said he’d seen his Mam make it and produced a jar of treacle and a bottle of vinegar. I liked treacle and was all for eating it straight out of the tin with a spoon but he went ahead and mixed it with vinegar into a stiff paste somehow. This was spread into an old enamel baking dish. Their old black cast iron range oven had a gas element at the back and he tried to light it with a taper made from newspaper. The time lapse between turning the gas on and reaching in with the lit taper was too long however and there was an almighty bang and rattling of the cast iron oven plates as it exploded. It blew Rick backwards clean over the sofa. He scrambled up and shocked though I was I remembered to turn the gas off. His eyebrows, eyelashes and the front of his quiff had disappeared and his face was studded with grime and tiny pieces of rusty cast iron but he was still clutching the taper. He had a good swill in the sink and, after tidying up as best we could, he felt that we might have gotten away with it. Looking at his new bland, featureless face with its faintly curious expression and unique hairstyle to say nothing of the remains of the treacle mixture here and there on the wallpaper, I wouldn’t have put money on it but kept my thoughts to myself.

I was stung on the index finger of my right hand by a wasp in 1997. I remember it quite clearly because it was the first time in my life it had happened and was very painful. Being 57 years old at the time, I managed not to cry (well, not much anyway). During the summers of our childhood, it was a daily, sometimes hourly occurrence for Richard to be attacked by wasps, bees or any other insect which liked biting or stinging people. The cure then was to apply a dolly-blue bag or a dock leaf. I personally thought a mainline injection of morphine might have been more effective but the stings didn’t seem to bother Richard much or indeed at all so maybe he had developed some level of immunity over the years.

Richard’s brother, David, had a beautiful J.T. Rodgers` racing bike. Metallic blue with chromed forks. Richard was under a permanent but ineffective instruction never to ride it. Came the time when we crashed together at speed attempting some intricate manoeuvre and the lightweight alloy front wheel of Dave’s bike was buckled into an `S` shape. As usual, Richard was impervious to the cuts and miscellaneous contusions which he and I had suffered but we both realised the enormity of the problem we now had with the wheel. I had a spoke key at home but had no idea how to use it. By trial, many errors and intense concentration we virtually dismantled the wheel and rebuilt it. Few things in my life have given me as much satisfaction as seeing it spin straight again when we put it back on the bike. Dave never found out (unless he ever reads this).

There was a time when he had his chest heavily strapped to the point where it was difficult for him to breathe. I can’t remember now how he had broken his ribs and I’m tempted to invent some bizarre set of circumstances which brought this about such as being run over by the cricket pitch roller or a chance meeting with a water buffalo which had escaped from a private zoo somewhere. It was probably something more mundane such as being head-butted by the Co-op milkman’s horse.

I have dismissed the assortment of broken fingers, cuts, bruises, torn ligaments, broken noses which adorned Richard’s daily existence as being too trivial and numerous to mention. Falling in rivers, out of trees, trapping toes; fingers etc were just an everyday thing for him and not worth recording here. These things happened to all of us but not as frequently as they did to Richard.

Richard left school at fifteen. I had another two years to do because I was about eighteen months younger than him and also at grammar school leaving at sixteen. He joined Andrews Flooring and Tiling as an apprentice. I did think that entering a trade which inevitably involved working with sharp, pointy metal tools, glassy materials and powerful abrasive machinery might just be tempting fate a bit too far but, as far as I know, he stayed at that company which is still on the go for the rest of his working life. Perhaps he used up all his accident quotas in his earlier days. We lost touch completely by our mid-twenties. In those days, National Service, moving to another area ofLeedsand employment or social patterns could mean you would just never bump into each other again.

Rick died a good while ago from a lung complaint, I believe. Jim Croll, his brother-in-law, told me that the doctors never seemed entirely certain what the illness actually was. With Rick’s luck it would have been a unique alien ailment brought to Earth from the Andromeda galaxy by a speeding speck of meteoric dust which managed to travel for 2.5 million light years just to hit him and him only. Mind you, I don’t think he would have been much help to the Doctors in that he wouldn’t have allowed himself to tell them just how rough he felt. There was a marvellous series of comedy TV programmes many years ago called “Ripping Yarns“ and Michael Palin was the star. In one episode his character caught bubonic plague and was covered in running sores and scabs. He passed it off as “Nothing to worry about – just a touch of the bubos“. Through my laughter I thought of Rick immediately. That was him to a T. My hero.

 

 

 

                      And anyone who knew Rick would concur with that!