Archive for the ‘East Leeds Cricket Club’ Category

East Leeds to Orkney

April 1, 2017

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

Remember to ‘click’ on pictures to enlarge.

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

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

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

*

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

*

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

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

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

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

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

John Holloway ‘Castle’ Stronsay Orkney KW172AG Scotland

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

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The Pocket Watch and Route Noir

July 19, 2015

THIS MONTH TWO MORE GREAT TALES FROM ERIC SANDERSON

THE POCKET WATCH & ROUTE NOIR

 

 

THE POCKET WATCH

By Eric Sanderson

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

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

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

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

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

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

ROUTE NOIR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Defence of Our Old East End Park.

October 1, 2011

In Defence of Our Old East End Park

In the next couple of month’s the champions of our Old East Leeds will be replying on this site to a circulating book with the title: Urban Grimshaw and the Shed Crew by Bernard Hare. The author portrays our area in the 1990s as a very dark place filled with crime and drug abuse – and the resident ‘Easties’  are describes in the credits by Christopher Cleave of the Sunday Telegraph as,

‘A true story of a terrifying joyride through Britain’s hell-bound underclasses.  

 

Was this the legacy we set down for them in the 1940s/50s? Were we ever an ‘underclass’? Whatever happened between the fifties and nineties? Read it and weep – or better still leap to its defence with your comments as I hope our champions across the world who enjoy this site will strive to do in the coming months.

 

In the meantime here are a couple of tales of East End Park in better times. Stan Pickles sets the scene in the 20s and 30s and Eric Sanderson in the 40s and 50s.And I take a nostalgic Sunday afternoon stroll around the park today.

 

 

 

Remembering East End Park in the 20s and 30s

By Stan Pickles

East End Park  had a little duck pond with railing around it, which was so attractive with mothers and young children throwing titbits for the swans and ducks to dart after. The flower gardens, the grass with its neatly cut verges and the lovely landscaped floral arrangements all combined to make the park a delight for everyone. All presided over by Dolphus, the ‘Parkie’ who kept a lookout for any mischief-makers and woe betide any troublemakers.  You will note I didn’t say ‘vandals’. There were no such people in that day and age.

Recollections of the ‘monkey walks’ in the 20s and 30s when young men and girls paraded up and down in innocent flirtation come to mind. Our walks began in East End Park on Sunday afternoons, when we paraded up and down the main drive past the little duck pond and beautiful landscaped flower gardens. The park was always a picture with its newly painted forms in a lovely green and the lawns a ‘sight to behold’. Always on the lookout for our favourite girls strolling by, we would sit around talking of the films we had seen the previous night at the Shaftsbury, Princess or Regent cinemas or in noisy argument about the rugby match at Headingley on Saturday afternoon. Of course, when the girls came round the conversation changed and there were other things on our minds.

Often we would make for the big area of grass near the bandstand to join the crowd lounging about and listening to the band rendering overtures from: The Maid of the Mountains, The Desert Song, The Merry Widow and all the rest of the popular music of the times. Just before we left to go home for tea we would have the last half-hour enjoying an ice cream or a bottle of pop with the girls and our last chat. On leaving the park our parting words were usually: ‘See you up the Beck tonight.’ For the ‘Monkey Walk up Killingbeck was our Sunday night rendezvous. It was always well packed on the paths between the Melbourne and the Lion and Lamb, boys and girls chatting up within the range of the old gas- lamps. All though our teenage years we looked forward to being: ‘Up the Beck’.

 

Remembering East End Park in the 40s and 50s

  East End Park- a Neighbourhood Gem.                                  By Eric Sanderson.

Those familiar with East End Park will be remember its extent and facilities – always very well maintained by a team of groundsmen and patrolled by a very strict “Parkie”.

From the wide, sweeping lawns, well used tennis courts, bowling greens and beautiful Rose garden to the extensive football pitches, garden allotments and large children’s playground complete with paddling pool/model boating pond, it was a paradise. There was even good train spotting facilities for those so interested as the Neville Hill sidings ran alongside the southern edge of the park.

A wide tree lined avenue crossed the park fromEast Park  Parade Railway Bridge to link up withVictoria Avenue at the other end. At each end was a huge set of wrought iron gates which were always locked & I never saw any traffic passing through. Indeed, it was prohibited to ride your bike within the park boundaries in those days.

During the late forties & early fifties, it was even forbidden to walk on the grass and the lawns were littered with signs enforcing this.

Of course , these two prohibitions provided endless opportunities for a bit of harmless fun & to tease the Parkie, who as I remember was a feisty little chap who always carried a stout stick with which he could whack any errant youth who happened to cross his path. In those days, he would think nothing of such treatment & most parents felt he was fully justified in exerting such discipline.

We would run across the lawn, shouting from a safe distance, to attract his attention and then disappear into the hills before he could catch up with us.

These “hills” were another attractive feature with winding, foliage lined footpaths through perhaps a couple of acres of elevated landscape giving fine panoramic views over south Leeds & beyond.

At other times, we would sweep along the avenue on our bikes, much to the parkie’s rage but he could never catch us until one day, he managed to put a savage & final stop to this particular piece of sport.

As one group whizzed through and passed him standing in the middle of the avenue, he jabbed his aforementioned stick into the wheel of one of his tormentors. This brought the offending cyclist to a sudden halt and accompanied by a hefty cuff around the head brought the practice to an immediate & abrupt end.

            The undulating terrain of the park provided many grassy embankments and slopes & many’s the time we were laid back, taking in the sun & gossiping whilst watching Skelton Grange Power Station being erected.

Yes,East End Parkwas truly a gem in those days and many an idyllic summer day was whiled away within its treasured grounds.

A Stroll around East End Park Today

By Pete Wood.

I am happy to relate thatEast EndParkhas lately had a spruce up and is now looking in fine fettle. The children’s play area has had a make over as have thebowling greenfacilities and the tennis courts’

I love a wander around the old district on a quiet Sunday afternoon.  I park as near as I can to the site of oldSnake Lane. There is a beautiful new rugby pitch on the site of ‘the top pitch’ all level, railed and well grassed – far superior to that of our old ‘Snake-pit’ days. If it’s the rugby season the East Leeds Rugby Club may be playing a game on here that I can stop and watch for a while, or if it’s summer perhaps East Leeds Cricket Club will be playing at home. Well done East Leeds CC – top in the longevity league amongst the East Leeds Institutions – still batting away after all these years.

Continuing my walk I find the Copperfields standing much as always but the line to the coal staithe has gone along with the ‘MonkeyBridge’ and the ginnel. Daredevil lads still scale the precipitous navvy but now with the aid of ropes. Several of the streets in the Cross Green’s and St Hilda’s have been removed leaving grassed spaces in between giving a less cluttered look and the housing stock has been renovated. The Charlton’s, Glensdale’s, Londesbro’s and Garton’s are tidy but metal grating door securities are much in evidence.

The ‘watering holes’ have been severely culled. The Bridge field, Black Dog,Waterlooand Prospect pubs are down. The Cross Green, Hampton, and Fish Hut are closed.  The Spring Close and Cavalier are open but ‘to let’ and the slip is a supermarket leaving the Shepherd and the Yew Tree to stagger on alone. The old school buildings of St Hilda’s,Ellerby Laneand Victoria are no more. TheEast EndParkSpecialNeedsSchoolis ‘last old school building standing’ but put to a different use. I believe there are bits of old Mount St Mary’s Primary School in the old Victoria School yard and bits of old Victoria Primary on the Shaftsbury playing fields. There is a modern All Saints Primary School near toYork Roadand a Richmond Hill Primary near to the site of the old Zion Chapel. Mount St Mary’s still flourishes as a major college. The Easy Road Picture House of course is long gone; the Princess is a fish and chip shop, the Regent a tile warehouse the Star a health gym and the Shaftsbury a shell.     

            So I wander onto the park itself. The Parkie’s House remains unchanged. Sometimes there is a bowls match in progress, I set myself down in the bowling-green and watch for a while. Better still if there is a brass/silver band playing near the tennis courts. I settle myself down beside a tree and listen to the band and let my mind drift back to a time when the park had a proper band-stand or when we chased the girls on here, diced with death on the mighty long-boat on the way to Cleggy’s woodwork department at Victoria School on Friday afternoons, or perhaps the times we played tennis, sometimes with the hell of having only one ball, or played football a hundred a side on one of the three football pictures near to the railway on Sunday afternoons. I remember on one occasion when the referee did not turn up for a formal match that I had to referee the game myself – timing the game by the clock on the old engine shed in lieu of a watch and waving a handkerchief in lieu of a whistle.

My life unfolds before me and I’m thankful to have spent some of the best bits of it here on good oldEast EndPark.

               Brass band near tennis courts                                 Parkie’s house still stands