Posts Tagged ‘East Leeds’

A Camping We Shall Go

March 1, 2018

A camping we shall go.
By Eddie Blackwell

It’s 1953 I’ve just turned 15 years old and the Summer Holidays from school have started. I’d only had three holidays since I was born in 1938. The first holiday was in 1947 the year Dad was demobbed. We went to Scarborough and spent Dad’s gratuity pay. We stayed at a boarding house over a Fish and Chip shop it was on a hill in Eastborough in Scarborough, which was not far from the Foreshore Road, and that beautiful sandy beach, there were Punch and Judy shows, Donkey rides and of course the old bucket and spade to make Sand Castles and Fortresses, we had Ice cream, candy floss and peppermint rock the weather was good. There were the Amusement Arcades and the penny slot machines, and the laughing Policeman, Dad and I spent ages watching and laughing at him it was a kind of infectious laugh that just came out and all your worries and problems just seemed to evaporate with the laughter, and you were happy that war was over your Dad was home and the future was before you. I remember one of these roadside photographers took a snap shot of me walking along by the lagoon in the Harbour that the rowing boats were hired from. Dad paid the man and the picture was posted onto you, I wish I could find it, black and white of course, but he’d caught me in the air, both feet were off the ground I was still in short trousers and I was loping along, I’d made a friend at the boarding house a young Lady called Shirley, she was in the background but she couldn’t keep up with me I was literally walking on air.
Food rationing was still on and the Men that were staying at the boarding house decided to go on an early morning fishing trip, so they hired a boat and off they went. They had a wonderful catch, Dad said the fish were jumping into the boat and they handed the catch over to the Lady of the house to cook for tea. The fish and chips that evening were delicious everyone enjoyed them, and one of the men said that was so good I could eat it again, (They knew they had caught far more than the fish that had been served for tea) and he said could I have seconds please, well that was it the Lady came in and said you’ve all had more than sufficient and she stormed out. Turned out they’d sold the rest in the Fish and Chip Shop. Every Family left the following day it was a matter of principle. Dad said we’d almost spent up anyway it was the Thursday of that week, and we packed up and came home. I remember carrying the case after we got off the Tram in York Road to walk up Pontefract Lane, passed the Princess Cinema, The Sheppard Pub, Charlie Atha’s Cycle Shop, then turning at Woolstons Chemist into Devon Street and home to number 29.
The next holiday was with the School to Interlaken in Switzerland and I’ll never forget that, it was a life changing experience. It was June 1949 I was in my 11th year Mum and Dad had scrimped and saved to finance it for me. We travelled over land by train across the Channel by Ferry onto Paris then through by train to Bern then by coach to Interlaken.
Interlaken is situated between two lakes Lake Thun and Lake Brienz. It’s a fantastic place and from the Hotel we were staying at you could see the Jungfrau and its snow covered peak. To wake up in the morning and see those mountainous peaks as you looked through the window is something you can never forget, it imprints itself in your mind and fills you with awe and amazement that such beauty can exist to lift your spirit out of your everyday life into another world where the Mountains are touching Heaven itself, we had a great time, Each day your Eiderdown was fluffed on your bed like an inflatable balloon, we’d never seen anything like it, we’d never had such luxury, and the food you could eat as much as you liked, and if you wanted something different to what was being served because you didn’t like it they would cook it specially for you. They were very spicy meals that were being served, and our Teacher Mr Child said he would give a prize at the end of the week to the one who ate the most.
Guess who won, well it had to be me, my Gran always said I had hollow legs so nobody else had a chance.
Each day we went on an excursion to a different location either by coach or by ferry We went across the lake then by road to Lucerne, saw the Bear pits in Bern, had snowball fights in the Mountains in brilliant Sunshine, went on the chairlift rides up the Mountains, up and down the Fenicular Railways all powered by clean Hydro Electricity then one night we were all awoken by a buzzing and were told not to open the windows it was the night of the June Bug, never did find out what kind of bug it was, but they were crashing into the windows making a heck of a racket then it all stopped as suddenly as it had started, peace and tranquillity had returned, except for Jack McAndrew’s snoring everything was quiet, then tap, tap, tap, on the Big French Widow, Mr Child and one of the Lady teachers had been out for a Drink and had been caught up in the chaos of the June Bug and got themselves locked out, so we opened the windows and let them in by this time Jack had woke up, and he said this is going to cost you Miss, we were told we would get a thousand lines if we were locked out. That’s only if you call out the Hotel Staff She replied, and I’ll speak to you tomorrow, now go to sleep like a good boy, a busy day ahead of us were going to the Jungfrau, and it’s an early start we leave at 9 am prompt.
The Jungfrau the highest mountain in Switzerland it has a cog railway that takes you to 11,332 feet, and they have what they call a snow blower that keeps the railway operating throughout the year. This snow blower was an old machine the cladding was made from wood, its powered by electricity and runs on the track it has two ginormous metal impellers at the front they fragment the snow and ice and blow it out to the sides of the track clearing the way ahead for the train to run on the track, we never saw it in action but you could imagine it tunnelling its way through. We were not very rich in those days and there were no mobile phones, so I didn’t have a camera to take pictures or anything, but it’s imprinted in my memory. I’m fortunate that there’s a Lady who lives at the end of our street was in the same class as me at school and she went on the same trip and has pictures of the waterfalls and the trips we went on. Happy days when you were young and innocent and the future was before you.
Oh I’m forgetting I did go camping with the Scouts to Low Water Farm near Clapham, in the shadow of Ingleborough. The first night we were raided by two Shire Horses who were in the field but our tents were those Ex-Army Bell Tents with thick guy ropes and deep wooden pegs, so they kept away from those, but the kitchen area was just about destroyed. The second day it started raining and we got washed out, a disastrous experience everything was wet through, so the Camp site was abandoned.
As I recall we marched from the Farm to Clapham and where housed in a Church Hall overnight, with palliasses and blankets to keep us warm. It was a strange place with huge carved wooden trusses that supported the roof but it was dry. We stuck it out then on the following day, we were given the option of staying on or going home but most of us decided to returned home. All in all I suppose I was very fortunate, many children of my age never had any holidays at all.
I had a friend called Harry Sharpe who lived in the next street which was Wykebeck Avenue running parallel with Halton Moor Avenue and we decided to go camping during the Summer Holidays of 1953, and we chose Malham Cove as the Ideal spot to spend our Summer break.
Frankie Laine was the top of the Hit Parade with “Girl in the Wood”, we had two Kit Bags full of tinned food a little 6ft-6in. tent that needed reproofing a primus stove and the other essentials and we were off, we went by train to Skipton then waved down a United Red Bus to take us to Malham, then we walked through the fields with our kit to Malham Cove.
We had no previous knowledge of camping, apart from my disastrous Scouting experience, so we were playing it by ear. The Cove was a formidable sight and a shallow stream meandered from the bottom which was reputed to be the source of the River Air, there was a small island in the stream and we decided that this was an ideal spot to pitch the tent, which we were to regret in the early hours of the following morning. We got the primus stove working, filled the kettle and made a pot of tea we agreed to take turns with the chores. Then we walked to the road and into Malham to get some bits and pieces, the Lady in the shop said we should go and see the Farmer and let him know we were camping in the cove, which we did. He asked where we had pitched the tent and we told him, be careful there he said the sheep climb in that area looking for feed, and they can dislodge rocks so keep well back from the face of the cove, I’ll look in on you when I’m passing but be careful and don’t do anything silly. It can be quite dangerous round there particularly at weekends when the Rock Climbers are about. Now go and see the Mrs she’ll probably have some cake or tarts on the go. Wow it was like home from home lemon curd tarts, still warm from the oven the Farmers wife was a lovely Lady and she wanted to know where we lived, and what were we going to do when we left school, she said she was born and bred in Malham and had lived there all her life, she had two young children a boy and a girl, one was in the infants school the other in the junior school, in the village, if you have any problems come back and we’ll help you sort them out, but be careful in the cove the waters can rise suddenly and the rock face is unstable.
We said we’d be careful and left with a bagful of goodies, the day was creeping on and Harry said I think we’ll have Irish stew tonight, and he set about opening a few tins. I primed and started the stove and away we went, would you like some rice pudding for afters Harry said… “I met a Maiden in the Wood and she said to me child” he was singing the song from the top of the hit parade and I joined in…“Remember me Oh Remember me. Remember for the rest of your life”… We were having a great time all was well with the World, we could shout and sing to our hearts content and nobody was saying be quiet. We had our Irish Stew and our Rice Pudding it was great, then I washed the pans and plates in the stream, the sheep were coming around to see what we were doing and the light was fading, so we decided to get ready for bed, we had inflatable lillo’s and sleeping bags and we settled down for the night. My feet were stuck out of the bottom of the tent but I was tired and I didn’t care I was comfortable and off to sleep we went, happy dreams.
In the early hours of the morning I woke up, and Harry was awake as well. My feet are wet I said, and Harry said I’m wet through, it had started raining during the night and the Island was no longer an island we were completely flooded out, it had been raining hard up on the Tarn and the meandering stream was now a torrent fortunately the rise was in the early stages so we recovered what we could and found higher ground, but a lot of our tinned reserves had gone, we made ourselves as comfortable as we could and dosed until it was light, by this time the stream was a raging torrent, and Harry said I can’t swim, don’t worry I said I have a Bronze Medallion for life saving and I’m a very strong swimmer. Eventually dawn broke and we made an evaluation of our situation, the tent and basics we’d managed to recover, so we re-pitched the tent on the higher ground above the water level, set up and lit the primus stove and made a cup of tea…. “She moved her tiny hands, and she made a little turn, she swayed in the wind, just like a graceful fern”… We were not deterred, but we did need some breakfast.
You OK Lads, I like the song, it was the Farmer I thought about you last night when it started raining, get yourselves over to the Farm and dry out the Wife will make you some breakfast, it won’t rise higher than that so your safe pitching there. The Wife loves music and that hit parade, but don’t go spoiling her I’ve got her just right, and off he went with his dogs, checking on the sheep and looking for eggs from his free ranging Hens. We were dressed and off like a shot across to the farm. I thought he’d be checking on you this morning the Lady said, he was worried about you last night when it started raining hard, the water rises unexpectedly when it rains up over the Tarn, I can see you got wet through, go warm yourselves by the fire, and I’ll make you some breakfast, it’s the most important meal of the day you know…“I vowed as she vanished, that when I was full grown, I’d have a girl just like her, to call my very own”…Bacon and eggs with beans tomatoes and Sausage, tea bread and butter you just could not fault it. I’m talking 1953 commercialization had not penetrated those rural areas and we were just two townies out of our environment
who needed help.
I’ve been hearing some singing coming from the Cove it acts like an amphitheatre, and echoes the sound down to the village, I love this modern music and that Hit Parade have you been playing music over there. Yes, we have a little radio and Harry took it from his pocket and turned it on, IT was a transistor radio his Dad worked in the Electronics Industry and this was the latest thing. Oh we’ve never seen anything like that around here it’s so small, and she pointed to the big box radio she had in the Corner of the kitchen, Harry said these will be all the rage next year, my Dad got it for me, but there not on the market yet, we asked if we owed her for the breakfast, but she said no it’s just nice to talk to someone from a big City and to hear what’s going out there. There was no power to the farm but they had a generator and a huge gas tank which provided for their needs, the roads were in good condition, but they did get cut off from time to time during the winter.
Off we went back to the tent, things were drying out slowly, but the sheep had been sniffing around in our absence, and we had to chase them off. We were amazed at the places they got to on the face of the Cove, we certainly couldn’t have climbed up there without ropes and harnesses, although we did try but deemed it was too dangerous and if you lost your footing and fell who knows
where you’d end up. We were still in good spirits the sun was shining and we had plenty to do, I was tidying around and making the tent ship shape Harry was sorting the rations and seeing to the kitchen, Harry said we’ve lost a lot of tins in the flooding we’ll have to go and walk down the bank and see if we can recover them, if we find any that’ll be your job because I can’t swim and you’re a strong swimmer, but the waters flowing quite fast now it could be a bit dodgy even for a strong swimmer like you, did I detect a note of sarcasm in that remark, no It was flowing fast and looked deep. We’ll take a rope with us Harry I’ll tie it on with a bowline knot, and if I get into difficulty you can pull me out, can you remember how to tie it
Harry said, yes you form a loop put the end through the loop around the back and through the loop again sorted I said it’s easy to tie and untie and it won’t slip. Mm was all he could say, then added well don’t blame me if it goes wrong. It won’t go wrong I said, and we may not need it anyway. I love this camping there’s always a new challenge, so your never bored.
Lunch was a sardine sandwich, we’d been lucky to have stored the bread in a sealed plastic bag which had protected it and kept it dry, we’d had a good breakfast and we were still quite full, afterwards we set off on our quest to recover any tins we could see in the river, I’d got my rope on just in case and Harry was hold of the loose end, come on boy he shouted pretending that I was a dog on a lead, so I growled back at him showing my teeth he laughed but took the hint, and didn’t do it again as we meandered along the banks of the river it started to widen out and form a stream which calmed it down and it became shallow, there’s one Harry was pointing and I went in a tin of Pears none the worse for wear in all we found several tins but the corned beef and Irish Stew were nowhere to be found and by this time we were approaching a little footbridge that crossed the river before it entered the village. We stopped there and returned to camp with our recoveries Harry said it’s not bad but it’s not good we’ve enough grub for tomorrow but then it’s tinned fruit with condensed milk, so we decided to stay another night then make our way home. We called at the farm and said we would be leaving tomorrow and thanked them for their help and kindness.
We arrived home the following day which was the Thursday, Mum said I thought you were stating for a week, yes Mum we were but we ran out of food. Did you enjoy it, yes it was great, what’s for tea I’m starving.
“and now I am a grown Man, and I’d marry if I could, but I can’t forget the memory of, that girl in the wood.
Remember me oh remember me. (big finish)
Thanks for another great tale, Eddie.


Saturday Night Fever in Downtown 1950s Leeds

February 1, 2018

Those who have been lucky enough to travel the seven ages of man (and woman of course) will have no doubt encountered pleasure and sadly pain at every stage. We Have: The pre-school age, the school age, the teenage years, the age of responsibility – marriage kids etc, the comfortable late middle age, and the geriatric age. Unfortunately some folk fall off their perch at every stage but if you stay the course you can sit back in your arm chair and contemplate your seven ages and which of them shines out like a beacon? Why the teenage years of course, especially if you lived in 50s East Leeds and experienced ‘Saturday night fever.’
Let me set the scene for a typical 50s Saturday For we lucky teenagers.
Saturday afternoon would see us embroiled in sport, either playing football or rugby ourselves or at Elland Road, Parkside or Headingley. The girls probably engaged in retail therapy, haunting the records shops or perhaps a Saturday job? How would I know? You’d have to ask a girl – but of course there was a bouffant hair style to attend to for the evening. Around tea time we’d watch ‘The Six Five Special’ or ‘Oh Boy’ on the other side – perhaps an early episode of Dr Who – he seems to have been going on forever. Then it was time to get togged up for the evening: slick back the hair Tony Curtis Point at the front D.A. at the rear, crisp white shirt and slim Jim tie, drain pipe pants and long colourful drape back jacket and slip into the thick crape soled shoes. When you hit the town in a rig like that your heart soared as high as the town hall clock.
You would meet up with your special mates in your favoured city centre pub; ours was The Vine on the Headrow other favourites were: The King Charles, Ship, Pack Horse, Horse and Trumpet, Piccadilly Bar, General Elliot or the Guildford. I’m sure others can add to these. Gradually you became acquainted with like minded individuals from other areas of Leeds and beyond who were of an age and a disposition to enjoy Saturday night fever; you would bump into them regularly for a few years and then probably never again.
Then in semi-inebriated state we would drift into our favourite dance halls. You had to be in by ten o’clock and disguise the extent of your inebriation or you would not get in at all. Some would go to the Mecca, the 101, Mark Altman’s, The Central School of Dancing (near the Corn exchange), The Majestic, or our particular favourite The Scala. For us, while ever it remained open it was The Scala for us. The dance hall was located over a furniture shop at the top of a grand flight of stairs. Here we would be met by the sound of wonderful fifties music and the scent of gyrating bodies. There we would meet up with our friendly gang of teenage girls. They had much to put up with, what with our beery breath and clumsy steps but we can’t have been that bad they would be here again next week.
Charlie Marcos was the resident band. He was OK old Charlie he would play requests and a bit of ‘Dixieland Jazz’ to let us waggle our legs a bit. We would Rock ‘n Roll, jive, Be-Bop whatever was popular at the moment. Dance halls seemed to generate their own styles of Jiving, The Mecca had a neat style which was less frantic than that we preferred at the Scala.


In the intervals when Charlie’s band was having a rest They would play records – wonderful fifties ballads, this was the music I liked best of all it epitomised the age: A Blossom Fell, Little Things Mean a Lot, Teen Angel, Oh! Carol, Donna, Hold my Hand. Even today when I hear that wonderfully mellow tone of a fifties ballad: low key harmonisation with ‘do-whahs’ and then a higher harmonisation chiming in, I’m transported back to those wonderful fifties nights at the Scala dancing beneath the great silver glitter ball. Sometimes I swear I’m really there. I wish I could give you an example of that wonderful sound here – of course I can’t. We looked it up; technically it’s called ‘Oldstep Progressive’ I – VI – IV – V. No, that means nothing to me either but ask Alexa to play you ‘Earth Angel’. Alexa’s great, she’ll play it for you and you’ll get the message.
Of course there might be a few skirmishes, it was a rite of passage, only handbags at twenty paces, no knives no drugs. It was essential you were up to dance with your favourite girl before someone else got her for the ‘last dance’ which was always a waltz. ‘Can I walk you home? Perhaps a good night kiss and then the long walk home on your own in a pleasant haze, no taxis for fifties teenagers. But if you didn’t manage a girl to walk home the night was not over, all the East Leeds contingent would wander home together up York Road, Railway Street or East Street full of good natured pushing and shoving and good natured banter ready for next week’s Saturday night fever.
Postscript: The Scala closed its doors before we were ready to reach the next ‘age’ of our lives and none of the other dance halls seemed to quite fit the bill. A friend recently had business to visit that old furniture shop and he was directed to the upstairs room, the one that used to be the dance hall. He said it was dusty and empty except for odds and ends of stored furniture and looked all forlorn. If dance halls have a heart I wonder when everything is locked up on a Saturday night fifties music can be heard playing softly?

Don’t forget: somehow manage to listen to Earth Angel, preferably by Jonnie Tillitson or The Penguins, It’ll waft you back to 50s heaven!

If you shared those magical times please leave a comment.


September 1, 2017

Here’s another great tale from our favourite Aussie pom our East Leeds lass in Australia
Audrey Sanderson (nee Tyres).
Hit ’em with it Aud!


By Audrey Sanderson

Reading Eric’s recent stories of poltergeist and all things ghostly set me remembering when I and two friends used to go to the tea cup readers. At that time there was lots of tea rooms in and around Brisbane. Predicting the future through reading tea leaves and tarot cards was illegal so they called it tea and entertainment. They were as thinly disguised as the brothels of the time were. The tea rooms were not as blazenly advertised as the other form of entertainment was. Most were what is now called Mum and Pop cafés. The only cooking done was toasted sandwiches; no deep fried anything or vast menus to choose from. Simple sandwiches of ham and cheese, plain ham, canned salmon, chicken. No gourmet cakes but scones with jam and proper cream, sponge cakes, fruit cake, shortbread biscuits, all homemade and delicious.
You usually found these small establishments by word of mouth. All the sign outside the establishments said was Tea Room and opening hours. Some were tucked away in shopping arcades, some up a flight of steps and over the shops on street level. All of them were very discrete and very quiet when you walked inside. There were only about 6 small tables with 2-3 chairs at each one. Tables have pretty cloths with a very small vase of flowers in the centre and an ash tray.
Everyone spoke in whispers as you gave your order to the waitress. They served coffee but of course if you were having tea leaves read you obviously ordered tea. I got a fit of the giggles every time I went in to one of those places. All the secrecy and whispering when everybody from miles around knew what you were going to a tea room for.
One of my friends was a staunch catholic and was having doubt if she should be there or not. We told her she could wait outside on the footpath if she felt that way about being there and we’d tell her all about it when we came out. She got huffy and said that would be worse as she’d feel like a lady of the night. We were acting like adolescent kids. I said she could stand on the other side of the street on the corner and swing her handbag; she might be able to earn a few dollars and only charge half price because it was in the middle of the day. She didn’t see the funny side at all. She didn’t leave though and said she wasn’t going to confess where she’d been as like the sign said it wasn’t fortune telling it was entertainment.
So we sat and ate the sandwiches and cake, drank the coffee and waited for our turn with Mystic Meg or whoever was the soothsayer that day. When the tea or coffee was served you were given a small ticket, about as big as a raffle ticket at the local pub for a meat tray prize. You had to give the ticket to the mysterious one for him/her to get paid for the day’s work. It wasn’t actually a full day they opened around 10 a.m. and closed at 3 p.m.

Waiting was like waiting in a doctor’s surgery when I was a kid. You looked around at faces and calculated when it would be your turn. My catholic friend thought the ticket was the number they called out when it was your turn. My other friend, a seasoned tea room visitor told her to be civilised as it was not like a queue at the local delicatessen.
She told me to stop laughing or I’d get the lot of us thrown out. Have you ever tried to stop laughing when you have a fit of the giggles? It makes me want to laugh more. I had to keep looking at the table cloth and try not to laugh. When I looked up to take a quick scan of the room I nearly had convulsions. The others in waiting were all women with dead set serious faces. I thought any minute John Cleese was going to walk in.
Discretion was the thing at these places. You weren’t meant to listen in to anyone else’s readings and being a novice I assumed there would be another room used for revealing the future. We’d sat at the only vacant table and didn’t know the folding screen next to us was where the actual entertainment was. It wasn’t until a lady left the cafe´ and one of the ladies in waiting moved behind the screen that it dawned on me that am where the action took place. My first thought was My God! Could they hear what we’d been saying? What a bunch of idiots thinking no one could hear us. It stopped me from laughing anyhow. You couldn’t hear what was beginning said behind the screen so hopefully the previous lady hadn’t heard us.
Eventually after what felt like hours it was our turn. My catholic friend didn’t want to go first the other friend said she always went last if she goes with anyone else. Looks like I didn’t have a choice. I didn’t feel like laughing as I went behind the screen and sat down at the small table. The man sat opposite me was on the large side and asked if WE were having our cards read today. I didn’t play up by looking round to see if there was anyone else with me so I just said yes and handed him my ticket. He put it in a very nice beaded drawstring bag that was on the table. Talk about surprised. I thought card reading would be from an ordinary deck of card with Kings, Queens and Aces.
I had an aunt who used to say she could read cards when you chose one but it was from a deck of playing cards. These cards were enormous and had medieval pictures on them. What have I got myself into!! Wait ’til I get outside, that lunatic who talked us into going had said nothing about weird stuff. The man asked me to shuffle the cards. I’m no good at shuffling normal sized ones these went all over the table when I tried to mix them up. The man wasn’t impressed, gathered them up saying he would give them a good shuffle but I must handle the cards before he could read what was in store for me. I could see my immediate future as a quick exit and not embarrass myself anymore than what I had done. The cards whizzed through his hands and he handed them back to me telling me to do the best I could and not to drop them again. Great, being chastised by card shuffler and owner of a classy evening bag. I managed to shove some cards into spaces without dropping any and handed them back to him. He did a lot of hmmming as he looked over them and said they were pretty good. He was enjoying himself playing with the cards and pictures; he could have told me anything I hadn’t a clue what any of the pictures represented. He made a big t’do as he told me what it all meant. Can’t remember word for word what he said but it was about getting news from overseas. This happened ages before the internet and airmail letters took 6 days to arrive from England. He was on pretty safe ground as my Yorkshire accent is as strong today as it was when I lived in Leeds. I’d drawn a money card he said I told him it was probably bills that needed paying. He said no, it was money coming to me. As I don’t enjoy losing I don’t gamble so couldn’t see that happening. My love life was on the up and up and a man was coming into my life that was going to disperse all of my problems. O Goody can’t wait for him to arrive. A bit more about me and how I got on well with people and he could see an aura surrounding me which was very favourable as it was purple and that meant royalty. More Goody Goody, Prince Charming at last going to solve all my problems.
I went back to the others at the table and my catholic friend nervously went behind the screen. My other friend excitedly asked what he’d seen in the cards for me. I pulled a face, “News from my mother surprise surprise, a money gain and Prince Charming on a white horse is going to sweep me off my feet.” She clapped her hands together and said she hoped he told her the same. O Good. I get a man and she wants him, that’s no surprise at all she’s man mad.
Back comes my guilt ridden friend saying the man was a nut case and said he could see a wedding looming on the horizon. She was as mad as hell saying it had been a waste of money. I said not a complete waste she’s had some lovely toasted sandwiches, melt in the mouth cake and a great cup of coffee. It wasn’t listed you paid for the card reading as the cops would have raided them you just paid a little extra than other cafés charged for the eats and drinks.
When the 3rd. of our little group came out from behind the screen she hurried us out onto the footpath. “What’s the hurry? Are you babysitting and got to pick up the child from school?”
“No, hurry up and get in the car I’m going out tonight”
“Why didn’t you say beforehand we could have gone tea cup reading on another day”
“It’s because of the cards I’m going out tonight. Can’t you go any faster I’ve got to iron a dress?”
We asked what the soothsayer had told her. One of her cards was cupid or whatever the love card was and he said today was exceptionally good for her to meet people and it might mean a romance for her. Green lights all the way as far as she was concerned. I’d hardly stopped the car outside my place before she hopped out and got into her own car and sped off.
Us two went into my kitchen where I put the jug on for more coffee and asked if she was feeling any better than she was half an hour ago. She said not much as she was sure it would be her ex-husband getting married to the woman he’d left her for. I said she was well rid of him and could now sleep nights without wondering who he was philandering with and to forget the card reader. She said it was etched into her brain. I said nothing he told me was going to make a penny worth of difference and asked if she could see a purple light behind me. She asked what the hell I was talking about so I told her how the mystic one had seen a purple aura around me and said it meant royalty so in future she’d better brush up on her curtsies in case I got lucky.
She laughed a bit and said “Shall I tell you exactly what he said?” I said not if it was going to upset her. She said she wasn’t going to cry but if she told me maybe I could make better sense of it. I told her I knew absolutely nothing about fortune telling. The farthest I’d ever been into it was to read the stars in the morning paper and that was one size fits all.
Again can’t remember word for word but the card reader hadn’t said anyone was getting married he said what he could see was a lot of people celebrating a happy occasion and it could be a wedding. He’d put the idea into her mind and she’d assumed it was her ex that was taking the plunge. We talked about it for a while, could mean this, could mean that. I asked if he’d told her anything else. “The idiot asked if I was thinking of buying a new car as he could see something metal on four wheels “I said it might be a billy cart and laughed…she didn’t. I told her not to take it serious; it was good for a laugh and got us out of the house for an afternoon. Still serious “There’s something else. He said he saw a female who might cause a problem. It will be the new woman in the old fart’s life, she’ll try to cut my kids out of his will ” I said I’d be the female causing trouble if she didn’t stop being a pain in the neck ” Look on the bright side, you might get an invite to a party in the next week or two. If you do, ask if I can go too “She shrugged I’ve already got an invite to the twins birthday party. They are 8 next week, you can come along if you want, and you like entertaining kids “I said I’d give it a miss. They were holy terrors and always fighting with each other. She started smiling “You know what; I think I’ve solved what the tea cup reader meant. I’ve bought Josh a model of a racing car for his birthday and Rhonda a bride doll. He has such funny sayings and makes me laugh and she can be a little madam when she wants” Thank God for that. No more mention of ex husband and his paramour, weddings or new man in her life and no more guilty feelings of having her fortune told.

I got frequent mail from overseas I wrote to a lot of people. I never got any surprise money just my fortnightly pension and the only guy who takes away something I don’t need is the garbage man who comes every Monday. It’s a good job I didn’t hold my breath waiting for Prince Charming or any other form of royalty. Maybe the purple hue he saw round me was the sun reflecting on something outside and I was stood in the way.
The man mad one had a string of guys and the last time I saw her she was still looking for Mr Right. She did continue going weekly to tea cup readers, sometimes to different ones in a week until she found one that told her what she wanted to hear. She also had a dabble with séances and oiuja boards. I cried off going to them. I’m not that interested what the future holds. I didn’t fancy being in a dark room holding hands with a bunch of strangers waiting for something to happen. I’d been in an amateur theatre group for years and found out how to make illusions happen on stage. I enjoyed that as I knew all the people well. They had big egos but they wasn’t that weird.
She used to tell me things that had happened at séances and kept asking me to go with her. She was O. K. with the oiuja board when she first started going to the group that had one. She swore she never moved the upturned glass as it spelt out the names of the people round the table. It didn’t stay that friendly after a short time. When she told me it had whizzed all over the board spelling out Knives, Maim and Kill she said she was scared. I told her to stop going and her problem would be solved. She’s definitely not into violence she’s more the Mills & Boon type of person and happy endings. She continued with the séances for quite a while before she said she was fed up listening to dead people she wanted a man with some life in him.
The funniest one of all she told me about was one of the earliest gatherings she’d been to. She’d mentioned others of candles flickering when a spirit was present, smelling perfume or burning wood, mist floating around and cigarette smoke drifting by. Real amateur theatrics making that happen in a dark room.
But the one I remember most was the one which she went to where the Clairvoyant had managed to call up the spirit of a lady’s dead husband. He asked her if she was looking after the rose trees he’d planted and she said she did exactly how he’d showed what to do. An older man’s grandmother said she’d met some of the other relatives and they were all fine and at peace with everything. Then the woman went into a trance and started talking like a parrot. It squawked out a man’s name and a man at the table said he was there. More squawking and the parrot said how he wished he was back with the man and the man close to tears saying how much he missed him.

Tears were running down my face too I couldn’t stop laughing. She said I was rotten for laughing and didn’t I believe her. I said I believed what she’d told me but didn’t believe the Clairvoyant.
She said I should go with her sometime and see for myself. “Any how I believed it. You know how much I like pets I’m telling you Audrey it really was the parrots voice. It was lovely to hear it say he missed the man and he thought so too or he wouldn’t have been nearly crying. Why don’t you come with me? Is there someone from your past you’d like to talk to?”
I said I could ask Cary Grant if he was coming back.
“You actually knew Cary Grant!!!!” Sure, along with Errol Flynn, Robert Mitchum and Clark Gable. I asked if the Clairvoyant had found anyone for her to chat with.
“No you don’t ask her to find someone. You have to wait until she goes into a trance and then she asks if there’s anyone in the room called ???? And if there is she tells them what the spirit wants them to know”
“O.K. That’s how it works is it… How come the parrot got to talk for its self?”
“Sometimes that’s how it happens and I think that’s when she becomes a medium and they talk through her “I was finding it very difficult not to scream laughing. Years later I was reminded of what she’d said when I saw the movie Ghost. I also asked if they got a cup of tea and biscuits afterwards. She said no, as soon as the overhead lights go on everyone goes home. She said the woman was exhausted after going into a trance
” It must take a lot out of her doing all that Audrey I wonder if it’s hard to learn how to do it ” She was always getting crack pot ideas so I told her she was crackers enough without going into a trance and floating around the room. Told her she’d be floating around forever as she’d forget how to get out of the trance. She was always losing her glasses, car keys, and looking round car parks at shopping centres for her car.

Time moved on after World Exppo ’88 came to Brisbane. Countries from all over the world brought the best of their countries to show to everyone and also for them to see Australia. Brisbane changed forever. Not only Aussies going overseas to see other countries the rest of the world wanted to see us. Tourists poured into the country and multi story hotels popped up like mushrooms. Sacrifices had to be made and lots of the older small building was replaced with flash new ones. The end of the tea rooms which were replaced by side walk cafés and the word alfresco became trendy. Glitzy, glamorous but not half as much fun as the quaint discrete old fashioned tea rooms.

We Had to Eat Gravel!

February 1, 2017

We Had to Eat Gravel


When you look back along a reasonably long life you see that so many things have changed, most of the local pubs, corner shops and cinemas have closed down, open fires, decent ballads and lavies down the street are a thing of the past, church attendances are down, the coal mines are closed. The simple things we used to do in life have been usurped by modern technology. I find it hard to believe these changes have happened in just one life time. Perhaps most of all I remember how happily primitive general living used to be.

Do you remember that great old Monty Python sketch where a group of well healed old farts are sitting around in leather arm chairs supping their whisky and purporting how hard it had been for them on the way up, each one trying to outdo the last on the depth of the depravity they had endured in their early lives until it got brilliantly silly and towards the end one old fart said after the previous one had made maniacal claims.

‘Right, well listen to this then. We lived in a shoe box and all we had to eat was gravel!’

Not to be outdone the final guy said, ‘Shoe box! That would have been a luxury for us, we would have loved to live in a shoe box we had to live in the canal and every night our dad came home from work and murdered us.’


Well you know we East Leedsers who have been lucky enough to have had a reasonably long life can look back on times descending back to what now seems almost comic proportions of destitution. I’m going to put myself in the position of those old farts going back over my life. I’ll pretend to be different old farts getting more and more disadvantaged but really they will all be me and although it won’t be as exotic as Monty Python it will all be true.

Old fart number one. ‘When we were first married we never aspired to satellite television we just had a colour TV with the basic channels, no free view facility, just had an old dial  telephone on a land line, we were never  able to afford those magic mobile things that just about tell you what you had for breakfast.  And there were no ‘sat navs’ you had to know how to read a map. If your car wouldn’t start on a morning you had to swing it with a starting handle sometimes it kicked back and knocked your shoulder out Twenty pounds a week was a top wage – you could get a mortgage on twenty pounds a week we only had the one toilet of course and a galvanised dustbin.

Old fart number two. Colour television? You were lucky, we never dreamt of colour television. When I lived in Cross Green we had a 12 inch black and white TV which constantly rolled over and over and had one channel,  BBC one. We only had one electric plug to run everything off. We had no fridge or washing machine we had a keeping safe in the cellar to keep food going off and Mam washed our clothes in the sink.  If we wanted to telephone we had to go to the big red box up the road and I went to work for years on an old pushbike.

Old fart number three. ‘Television! We’d never heard of even black and white television. When I lived in Knostrop we didn’t even have electricity we had gas downstairs and nothing at all upstairs. You can’t run many appliances off gas so we had to make our own amusement. We had running water and a flush toilet but it was outside and froze up in winter. We had to sleep outside in an air raid shelter while the Germans rained bombs down on us. When it rained heavily, Knostrop being so low down in Leeds the water came out of the man holes instead of in and flooded us to the depth of about ten inches and floated everything about. Being a large old house I had a big bedroom but ivy grew on the inside as well as the outside walls, when I went to bed I climbed the stairs with a candle stick like Wee Willy Winky. The nearest telephone box was at the top of the hill so was school, where we always had to walk to on our own after the first day and where on a bad day we would expect to be smacked on our arms and legs by the women teachers and caned by the head master.



Old fart number four. Flush toilets! We would have loved a flush toilet. When I was evacuated to Aunt Nellie’s at None-Go-Byes Farm Cottage all we had was a dry toilet round the back that smelt terrible and was only emptied now and then when the midden men came round. We had no gas or electricity only oil lamps that smoked smelt terribly too. The only water was iron water from a tap in the yard. We had two bedrooms but you had to pass through one to get

To the other



there was no phone box at all you had to post a letter if you wanted to contact anyone and the post box was three miles away as was the nearest shop and bus stop. The Germans dropped flairs on us looking for the munitions factory. When the kids went to school they had to take their shoes off and walk in bare feet across the fields so they wouldn’t get their shoes muddy and be told off by the teachers.

Old fart number five. Two Bedrooms! We lived in The Humbug House, an old single story gatehouse. We never dreamt of having two bedrooms we had one room and one bedroom, neither gas nor electricity and it was so damp because it was below the water table that vegetation grew on the inside of the walls, I don’t remember what we did for a toilet perhaps we used a bucket?



Every word is true, it’s been a long road, when I look back and sounds as if it could have been unhappy but it never was. I never felt disadvantaged at any of those places.  Folk were all in the same boat getting themselves through the war, Mam and Dad were alive and love abounded. If I could go back to any one of those times I’d be there in a trice because I’d be young again and nowt fazes you when you’re young does it?


Comments welcome


Foul play at the Slip Inn

December 24, 2016


Foul Play at the Slip Inn – a fantasy tale of murder & mayhem
By Eric Sanderson

In the immediate post war years up into the ’60’s, the East End Park area of East Leeds was for the most part a comparatively tranquil place to live. However when the Slip Inn ( whose correct name was The New Regent but nobody called it any other than the “Slip”) opened it’s doors to the newly built concert room in the ’50’s & began staging live music, the area took on a livelier atmosphere & was a big attraction, drawing large, regular crowds of young people – many from outside the immediate area- & which inevitably turned rowdy at times.
One or two other establishments offered similar entertainment around the same time , notably The Prospect in Accommodation Rd & The White Horse in York Rd.

The following tale is one which to be truthful, is fictitious & which I had a bit of fun writing but why not put yourself in the front row & go along for the ride anyway ?. But a word of warning , every second you spend reading this piece of trivia may turn out to be
a second of your life totally wasted & wreck your sanity by reading such drivel.
I also know that there are a few historical timing conflicts but then, that’s the least of the nonsense.

Friday evening, which was probably the venue’s most popular time, always crowded, was buzzing as usual but one particular evening, just before Christmas and as the stage curtains were pulling back & the band were about to strike up, a gasp arose from the audience as the resident pianist – known as Light Fingers , for a good reason that didn’t include his piano playing abilities, was seen slumped over the keyboard with his face buried in a congealed, half eaten parcel of newspaper wrapped fish & chips. Oddly the other members of the troupe appeared not to have noticed, but were probably used to seeing him comatose as he only worked there to pay his bar bill. It brought a chill to the customers who were there expecting an evening of Christmas cheer & music amongst the brightly lit festive decorations.
The police were speedily summoned ,although their response was slow as the officers involved from Millgarth Police Station happened to be esconced in a nearby
bookies trying to recoup last weeks heavy losses . Reluctantly leaving the bookies as they were convinced they were onto a surefire winner to boost their Christmas backhanders, they jumped into their souped up Ford Granada & roared along Marsh Lane, up Shannon street past the coal staithe, tore into Lavender Walk & along Ascot terrace , fi- nally racing down Temple View Rd to screech to a tyre smoking halt outside the Slip. A little street furniture & a couple of dogs were the hapless victims of their reckless high speed journey, along with a few pedestrians diving for cover & needing rescucitation afterwards as well. Into the concert room strode sharp suited Det Sergeant Beauregard
Sidebottom, his immaculately tailored suit being marred only by the slight bulge from a couple of knuckledusters in his jacket pocket. He was accompanied by his assistant, Det Constable Euric Head who unsurprisingly appeared a little tipsy , having a legendary re- putation for imbibing copious quantities of Premium Bitter & claiming that his investi- gatory powers remained unaffected, even enhanced, except for his need for regular toilet breaks & for him to stick his head into the porcelain for a good barf . Both were well known to the local villainy, especially for their vigorous interrogation techniques so
there was an immediate scramble for the exits, many of East Leeds finest scattering in all directions , fleeing to the more remote regions of East End Park, Black Road or the dark alleyways & safe houses of Saville Green to lie low ‘til matters cooled down some- what.
A posse of bobbies tried to pursue them through the Glendsdales, Charltons & along Welbeck Rd but the pursued were fleet of foot & well used to outrunning the police foot- men .The unfit & mainly overweight rozzers were soon gasping for breath & quickly gave up the unequal struggle, repairing back to the Slip for the odd rejevenating pint of Hemingway’s Cloudfest Bitter to start their Christmas celebrations early.
On being briefed about the situation, D.S Sidebottom declared “I smell a rat”. Not so said several of the audience, it’s the miasma from a decomposing body. Some had spotted the pianist slump over the keyboard just as the stage curtains were closing at the conclusion of the previous friday night’s concert & just assumed he was in his usual drunken stupor. “That means the man must have been dead for almost exactly one week” ventured D.S. Sidebottom & glancing at his assistant murmured “that’s what makes a great detective – the ability to think on your feet & make complex deductions at the
crime scene”.
The D.S. immediately put those remaining or trapped in the room, around 150 or so, on lockdown & permitted nobody to leave, or even served with a drink ‘til someone had ‘fessed up. This brought howls of protest but unsurprisingly nobody owned up, so D.S Sidebottom placed all 150 in the room under arrest on suspicion of murder and/or complicity in the deed. Unfortunately, he had insufficient pairs of handcuffs to go
around so had to improvise by commandeering empty coal sacks from a nearby coalyard ( Wriggleworths – better known as “Lizzies” & just across the road from the Slip Inn) & placing them over the heads to blindfold the 150 suspects before frogmarching the lot down to Millgarth Police station .
There, devoid of any of the Christmas spirit goodwill towards all men, the interro- gation, conducted under the strictest human rights directives of course, commenced in due course but only after banging everyone up overnight, 25 to a cell on stale bread & water only and a prolonged waterboarding . As the suspects were gradually released, some appeared with bruised faces, black eyes & clutching bruised ribs – & that was only the women. Many of the men appeared with missing teeth & bandaged hands where fin- gernails had been ripped out. Not a great start to the festive season’s break.

The police pathologist, Dr Hugo Ruff-Trayd, was beginning to sober up when he
commenced the autopsy & apart from his badly trembling hands resulting in a few mis- placed slashes from his scalpel, managed to complete the autopsy without once falling over or throwing up onto the cadaver.
His alcohol blurred vision proved unable to discover any obvious clinical impedi- ment, declaring it was “death from natural causes, that is until it was pointed out by his recently released assistant, Dr Garth Vayder – “that is a load of old b******s there’s a b******g deep penetration wound between his f******g shoulder blades”.
Unable to control himself because of some genetic predisposition , his language skills unfortunately suffered & were often the cause of conflict between himself & their clients.
Aha, declared Dr Ruff-Trayd, this means a criminal offence has taken place & I’ll be required as an expert witness.
This finding unleashed the constabulary to widen their searches far& wide amongst local hostelries , the railway cuttings between Pontefract Lane, East Park Rd & all other
known refuges in the search for potential fugitives ,those with information which might lead to an arrest ( i.e. -a stool pidgeon) or the finding of a weapon. Not unaturally for the force in question, a few beatings, threats & late night forced entries were employed to speed matters along. Finally, the list of suspects was narrowed down to 24 but this was such a bonanza arrest list for the beleaguered W.Y. Police Force , that D.S. Sidebot- tom was assured of promotion at the earliest opportunity.
The main suspect was the 94 year old , tiny & frail widow Lawless solely on the grounds that she had not answered a single question put to her. The reason for that being because the interrrogation team had simply failed to realise she was stone deaf &
couldn’t hear a word said to her.
Meanwhile, the SlipInn Concert Room was declared a crime scene & closed for a full half hour whilst the forensic team did their work before packing up for a complimentary liquid lunch with pork pies from a nearby shop run by a zit faced youth who, unknown to his clientele, because of his inattention to the job & his total uselessness, used to end up doing disgusting things with the pies & sausage rolls. Dropping them onto the floor
& wiping them clean with his filthy , chest cold filled hankerchief was one of his more hygenic procedures, often resulting in his customers projectile vomiting liquids from both ends of their torso . Some said this was deliberate on his part.

The trial date duly arrived & the accused, all 24 of them charged with joint
& several responsibility, were to appear at Leeds Crown Court, before High Court
Judge, his Lordship Theopholus. P. Bulstrode – a man of jurisprudence known chiefly for his illiberal opinions, robust court discipline & harsh sentencing. He announced that
there was to be no time wasting, wanting the matter cleared up quickly so that he could get into the season of good will a.s.a.p.
Dr Ruff-Trayd was due to be first up to provide the court with his autopsy findings but was found asleep in the witness waiting room, clutching an empty absinthe bottle & requiring several bucket of cold water to be thrown over him and a gallon of strong
black coffee poured down his throat before he was deemed fit, although looking some- what dishevelled, to enter the witness box, much to the relief of his deputy who, suffer- ing from an almighty hangover , believed his inability to speak in any other than the most offensive expletives may have got him into troublewith the judge.
Naturally, His Honor was furious at the delay which meant his lunch break would be curtailed to a mere 2 hours & a measly half bottle of Navy Rum. His fury was plain to see with bulging eyes, neck veins standing out & his alcoholic red nose glowing like a rear stop light.
“You sir, are an incompetent, unprofessional fool & a drunkard to boot” bellowed the judge.
M’Lud enquired Ruff-Trayd’s counsel, “why so aggressive & insulting towards the ve- nerable Dr.”
“Because it takes one to know one” thundered the judge.

Newly promoted Det Superintendant Sidebottom – who now styled himself
Siddybotham as more befitting his new, higher rank and had taken to wearing even sharper suits along with equally lurid hand painted kipper ties , proceeded to out- line the evidence against the suspects , i.e. that they were present when the body was discovered & that they were all from East Leeds – Q.E.D. ,in particular the damning evi- dence against the incommunicative 94 yr old widow main suspect.
This was followed by defence “ counsel ” ( a self educated ex con & AA attendee who’d recently bought a second hand copy of “Idiots Guide to Litigation”) presenting witnesses to attest to the character & somewhat dodgy alibis of the 24 in the dock.
The judge quickly became bored & fell asleep to be awoken only by his own thun- derous double bass snoring. He immediately & grumpily declared he was suspending proceedings & would find all the accused guilty as charged on the basis of an ancient le- gal tenet of Common Law known as Excreta Taurus, because none had proven their in- nocence to his satisfaction & he was therefore redacting all defence testimony & pro- ceeding straight to sentencing.

However, before he could do so, the huge Cuban cigar he’d been secretly puffing behind the bench before he’d dropped off & was still burning, made contact with his vo- luminous scarlet robes which he’d only recently purchased cheaply on EBay . Unfortu- nately for him, they’d been manufactured in Hong Kong from a highly flammable mate- rial, soaked in Saltpetre to preserve their lurid colour and on which he’d spilled a large
tumbler of cognac as he fell asleep ,very quickly caught fire becoming a blazing inferno within seconds. The self immolation became complete within minutes & all that re- mained was a bareboned skeleton, slumped in the judges high chair but still clutching the Smouldering Cuban Cohiba with a cheap & nasty nylon Judges wig askew on the skeleton’s skull. Along with the tempting aroma of roast pork. Bang went his Yuletide orgy plans.

During the ensuing chaos, all the 24 accused managed to escape , the chief sus- pect, 94 yr old widow Lawless overcoming her burly minder by head butting him fol- lowed by a hefty kick to his groin & escaping the building by clambering through the high level lavatory window. Still dressed in her Santa Claus costume & jumping onto a high powered police motorbike she raced off heading South on the motorway but in the Northbound carriageway, creating havoc & multiple pile ups & so preventing the police from pursuing her .(they never thought about using the Southbound carriageway), reach- ing Southampton in record time where she managed to smuggle herself onto a tramp steamer heading for S.America. Hiding in the ships hold , she managed to find a few pal- lets of convenience food but was troubled by a horde of black rats which tried to share her food & gnaw at her ankles. She was able to keep them at bay however by a few well aimed shots from a Kalashnikov AK47 she discovered in a secret arms cache in the same hold & which the ships captain obviously intended smuggling into Mexico.
Once in Mexico,& after enjoying her brief period of notoriety, she decided to con- tinue her criminal career & ultimately became the dominatrix of a leading drugs cartel , striking up a relationship with a 23 year old Mexican drug smuggler toy boy & reaching a notoriety & villainy matched only in later years by Hillary Clinton.
All the other escapees, having fled the country quickly & so having little or no as- sets, developed successful careers as arms dealers, drug smugglers, timeshare salesmen
, unauthorised plastic surgery clinicians & illegal moonshine production. A few how- ever had to revert to type & resorted to the less savoury activities in which they were well versed .So far, all have managed to avoid extradition & subsequent jail sentences but
Chief Constable Siddybotham, now styling himself “Sidboam” continued to keep the case open.
The understudy pianist who stepped in immediately following Light Fingers demise was said by some to to have a knowing smirk on his face and curiously, had blood like stains on the lapels of his white Tuxedo jacket which proved to be resistant even to liberal ap- plications of “Vanish”. Nonetheless, Ch Cons Sidboam refused to investigate his fellow Freemason, even though he’d been a member of a notorious biker gang & covered in af- filiation tattoos before his damascene conversion to Freemasonry.
Bizarrly, shortly afterward he too disappeared suddenly to be replaced by a highly ac- claimed classical pianist – a strange choice & yet another mystery.
Nonetheless being a classical musician, he was a stickler for detail & perfection and con- cerned that his grand piano appeared to miss a few notes & seem out of tune. On raising
the lid, he discovered to his horror, a discarded white Tuxedo jacket & several half ea- ten, heavily tattoo’ed body parts.
The gruesome discovery, on the eve of Christmas, increased the tempo of the investiga- tion resulting in ever more officers being pulled away from the vital & pressing activites of parking tickets & raiding pubs that stayed open 5 minutes later than thy should have, unleashing them yet again to practice their ferocious intimidation on the locals.

Metropolitan Chief Commissioner Sidboam was determined to see a conclusion to his most famous case but, getting no result other than multiple claims for compensation for wrongful arrest & extreme brutality, meant that suspicion fell , & remains upon all the community, especially by association ,those who frequented the Slip Inn concert room. However, some believe that those who have no vices , often have very few virtues.
Lord Si’Bome subsequently lobbied for a judicial enquiry & felt the £20million spent was fully justified though has yet to reveal a culprit & conviction, the 120 year old widow Lawless still being his main suspect & remaining at large even though a 12
strong team of West Yorkshire’s finest spent 3 weeks at the 5 star Shangri La in Acapul- co , making searching enquiries as to her whereabouts. But they did come back with su- perb all round tan and a pretty hefty expense account bar bill.

The tragic loss of life of talented, hard working musicians, the spectacular demise of the illustrious Judge Bulstrode & the consequences of 24 escapees to ply their illegal trades in the seedier parts of the world’s stage is one thing but the frightening thought re- mains that a cannibal killer could still be stalking the highways & byways of East Leeds. Alas the Slip Inn no longer exists (as a pub) , it’s former glory long past &it’s ignomi- nious existence as a convenience store hiding the history of many a good night for lots
of us to remember. But I wonder how many would be happy to shop there for their Christmas turkey knowing the grisly acts which took place where the frozen food cabi- nets now stand ?
Rest easy but take care out there.

Mother Agnes’s School for Girls at Knostrop

April 1, 2016

One School We Haven’t mentioned: Mother Agnes’s School for Girls at Knostrop

This is the story I have been wanting to air ever since I started The East Leeds Memories site. Now with the help of Mr Fred Harding, son of Merle, one of the pupils and Mr Stephen Savage whose book on Agnes Logan Stewart is the authoritative work on the institution I am able to write this account. This story draws extensively on Stephen’s research including the pictures, but mainly on the the memories of four of the former girls who attended the institution: the sisters Rose and Doris and the twins Merle and Averill. This story needs to be written down as the St Saviour’s Home closed its doors in 1940, nearly three quarters of a century ago, and it is about to pass beyond living memory. This story is quite long but I hope you will stay with it. It is very doubtful that any member of that old school still with us will be ‘surfing’ this site but I’m sure there are some among us who may have had tales handed down from girls who did attend ‘Mother Agnes’s. If this should be so please leave a comment on the site at the end of the story so we can have a ‘follow up’. Please remember to ‘click’ on the pictures to enlarge.

St Saviour’s colloquially known as ‘Mother Agnes’s’ was an institution set up in Knostrop, East Leeds, by Agnes Logan Stewart in 1872 for girls from broken homes. Agnes Stewart was a lady of independent means and boundless energy. She set the institution up for girls from her own resources and staffed it mainly with sisters in holy orders. She wore the habit of a sister herself but was not actually in holy orders. She later was also responsible for setting up St Hilda’s School for boys in Cross Green Lane, also in East Leeds.

mother agnes for blog

My own mother, born in 1906 attended the school as an ‘out girl’ along with lots of local girls who could have a private education for six pence a week. I still have a bible given her by the sisters on her twelfth birthday. I wish I had asked Mother more about the school but when you are young you are always busy, busy, busy and when you come to realise you should have asked more it’s too late and they are lost to us.

The memories I am able to provide here are however of a much later date, shortly before the Home (they liked to call it a home not an orphanage) closed down completely in 1940. The actual private school had ceased in 1924 after which the girls’ educational needs were transferred to St Hilda’s School on Cross Green Lane.

knostrop institute 1920

The major memories recorded here are those of Mrs Doris Harris (alas now deceased) who was a resident in the home in the late 1930s for seven years This is an abridged version of Doris’s story as the full version is too long to put on this site. Doris was born in London in 1929 her sister Rose was born a year earlier. The story which Doris’s children encouraged her to write begins when men in white coats took their mother away in an ambulance and Doris and Rose were left cold and alone.

st saviour'sme colour


Doris’s memories

.           Rose and I went to these people in black, with black hats on (nuns I later found out). Then it was a long train ride. I had something to eat in a box but I wanted my mum. I couldn’t eat. It was getting dark going through lots of tunnels, and it kept stopping and starting. Then the door was opened. We were in Leeds in Yorkshire and it was very dark; then a lady in black lifted me out and put me in a car. Rose was already inside. Then there was a high wall and a gate opened. Then a lady with white hair who we got to know as Sister was standing there. I was given a cup of white stuff to drink. I had never tasted milk. It was warm nice milk and I was put by a fire to get warm on my own. This of course was a children’s home. The home was called St Saviour’s C of E Children’s Home. As new girls arrived at the Home older girls were given the job of caring for the new younger ones. My carer was Hazel, who was about eleven. When I got there she helped me make up my bed and made me hurry up so we could spend more time in the playroom. She helped feed me. Not long after we got there we were taken into a room, put on a chair in the middle of the room and had all our hair cut off. I cried so much that Sister sent for Hazel. She took me to the playroom and read me a story. After that we always had our hair cut before it could get long. The whole time we were there our hair was cut like boys.

As the days went by I soon learned the routine: when a bell rang everyone did something. Everything went by the time the bell rang. We had to know what to do by the bell. The first one was at 6 a.m. on a morning to get out of bed, perform on our potties on the landing and then go out and wash, clean our teeth, dress. Next bell was at 7.30 a.m. By then we should be downstairs in the playroom. This was the time to go to the chapel for morning prayers. At 8 a.m. the bell was for breakfast in the refectory. The 8.30 bell was to be ready for school. At 12.30 we had dinner, at 1.15 back to school. At 4.30 p.m. it was tea time at 5.15 it was bath time and at 6.30 it was lights out until morning.

I must tell you about our clothes. Our sheets, nighties, knickers, and school dresses were made of men’s serge suiting, which was rather rough. We think this came from the mills around us. We were each given a number to use on our toothbrushes, flannel and clothing; mine was 19. The house we lived in was quite large and the grounds were all round. In the grounds we had a large rhubarb patch stretching the whole length of the garden about 50 feet wide. At the back of the house was a large yard where the chickens ran free. This went half the width. We had about thirty chickens; they had the free range of a large piece of the back garden. In the spring there were little pens for the baby chicks with a mother dotted here and there.

Then there was a high fence. My dormitory had eight beds and a very big window. After lights out we got out of bed and played in the middle of the floor, listening all the time in case anybody came. There were eight helpers: Matron Terry, whose room was next to our dormitory, then Sister’s room on the next landing. The rest of them were at the back of the house, but were often sent to check on us if they heard any noise. More fun was had playing hide and seek under the beds, in the wrong beds, dares to run out onto the landing. Then we would hear the goods trains passing the windows all day and evening. We would count the wagons and say what was on the sides: NE, LMS, GWR and SE.

School was the place I did not like. I was three when I first went there. Hazel took me in a pushchair. Because I couldn’t count I had a dunce’s cap put on my head and had to sit in a corner with my face to the wall. [This must have been St Hilda’s School]

st hilda's school for blog

Rose’s Memories: I have some very happy memories of the area and St Hilda’s School: Miss Powell, Mrs Duckworth and Mr Child. My favourite teacher was Mr Hardman in the juniors. My school mates in the infants were: Sylvia Hill, Peter King and Stella Couplan and a girl with the surname of Thistlewood. At Christmas we had a very large Christmas tree set up in the infant’s hall. The partitions were rolled back so everyone could see it decorated up with candles and celluloid toys, one year one of the candles caught the toys alight and we all had to run out. The candles were not lit the next year. There was also a small bag of sweets for every child donated by a named benefactor – I can’t remember his name. I liked Mr Child (he was always suffering from being gassed in the First World War. He left me with the memories of a very kind man if he asked a question and not many put their hands up he had a favourite saying: ‘Come on you half baked tea cakes. Put your hand up and if I pick on you and you don’t know I will tell you.’ And he always walked about the classroom with a huge bunch of keys – rattle, rattle, rattle. In the juniors there was Miss Fewster – not my favourite. The next class up was Mr Hardman. Everybody liked him. He had a voice that held everyone’s attention. It could be a story or poetry he brought everything to life.

On the way back to the home from school we would cross over Cross Green Lane and into the road at the side of the rhubarb triangle field On the left there was the blacksmith, he was ways busy in those days horse and carts was still a lot of transport system. In the winter when there was frost about the horses had trouble sliding about on the cobbles. Then further down the road past the cottages, then the ESSO oil works to Saviour’s Home (the institution). Then the Gurneys Gate House then further down past our wall and round the corner was the house we used to call the ‘haunted house’ [The Humbug House] as one of the children had looked over the wall from our garden and seen a window open and something white moving about. They say the Home closed in 1939 but in fact we left in July 1940. A group of us from Saviours would go for a walk on a Saturday afternoon past the waterworks over the fields and into the woods. Sometimes we went all the way to Temple Newsam it was occupied then and sometimes we would go inside and hear tales of the ghostly ‘Blue Lady’.

I wonder if they still have Children’s Day at Roundhay Park? I got a mention once for my good hand writing (not any more) arthritis has taken its toll but I’ll be ninety in a couple of years.

I was at St Saviour’s for seven years and we were treated very well, always well fed and well clothed, holidays by the sea every year for one month at a time About 1990 I had been on holiday in York and coming home on the motorway I said to my husband shall we go to Leeds and see the Home? We had no bother finding it but being Sunday morning no one was about. I was so sorry to see such a lovely home and the drive up to the front door full of barrels I wished I hadn’t seen it but my memories of the grand entrance up to the front door remain.

I have enjoyed writing this – hope you enjoy the read. Rose Williams (formally Harris).

Back to Doris’s Memories

In the refectory at meal times the children (all girls) about 25 of us sat at long tables down two sides of the room. A large round table was in the middle for the staff, and Sister would go onto a platform by the big bay window to say prayers and tell us anything she thought would interest us. She told us all about General Gordon of Khartoum; she was his god-daughter. She told us about when she went to Africa as a missionary and nurse and about all the starving people in the world and the depression. She always asked if we liked her food. We only ever had milk or water to drink. We had porridge or egg for breakfast, meat and veg for dinner, stewed fruit for pud, bread and dripping or butter and jam and cake for tea, hot milk in the winter cold milk in the summer. On Sundays we had two sweets and an orange or apple in the afternoon.

The gardener, Mr Gurney, sometimes asked us to help with the school garden. When we went for a walk we were always told to look round us to see if there was anything different. We usually went out of the gate, crossed the road and through a path next to the farmer’s field, then along the bi-pass with all the horses and carts on. There were very few cars, just a few buses; we would sit down for a rest by the side of the road among the daises. Sometimes for a treat we went under the bridge by the river [Gibraltar Lane?] We had to have two staff than as our ages, were: 18 months to eight years. It was a good job we had two staff for one day Lydia, aged three fell in the river. Miss Rees put down her bag and jumped in to get her. Two men working on a boat had seen Lydia fall in and they jumped in as well, Lydia was lifted out dripping wet and crying. The men went back to their boats and Miss Rees was soaked, her shorts were sticking to her legs. Then we all held hands and carried on walking. By the time we got home we were all dry.

When we went out there was always eight or nine of us; people stared at us, we just held hands tight and walked on. We heard them say, ‘Poor little orphans’. Their children pulled faces at us and tried tripping us up or kicking us. We just got closer together and the helpers got round us until their parents took them away. We got called lots of nasty names at school and church but Sister always told us to just walk away from them. The boys were best as they were much kinder and punched the girls for us.

In the classroom when I was eight or nine I always sat next to a boy. None of the girls would sit next to me as I was from another world. They did not understand us, even some of the teachers didn’t seem to understand us. Some treated us like babies without any brains others just tried to pretend we were not there. But we got used to it all, OK we were different from them, we had short hair, we had special clothes and we talked together. There were 25 or so of us, we had plenty of food to eat, central heating and water for baths from the taps. A lot of them didn’t have much food, none of them had proper heating or lighting and many had to go out into the garden to the toilet. We lived in a big house behind a high wall and big wooden gates.

When things got too bad Sister sometimes opened the gates and let some people in to see how we lived. When I was about six I was once invited across the road to a cottage for tea. They had three monkeys in a cage by the table; they stretched their arms out and took the food off my plate. I jumped up and ran out and had to ring the gardener’s bell to be let back home. I was very frightened, Mrs Gurney called Sister and she took me to her room, sat me in the big armchair and Miss Clouting, the cook, brought me some warm milk.   Sister told me she went to see Mrs Smith and I wouldn’t have to go there anymore.

The only times we had to be quiet was for meal times or chapel. In the chapel we had a long narrow carpet to kneel on. We would pick bits off it and roll them into balls to play with when we got bored. I never knew how my clean clothes got into my basket under my bed and the dirty ones went but they did about twice a week in the winter and every day in the summer. You see in summer we spent all day outside getting as dirty as we could, even at school we got dirty. I often leaned on the rails watching the horses and on market days the cows and sheep going along the road. There was a farm across the road from the school. He had chickens and geese. If we asked him nicely we could go and pick his daisies, they were longer than ours and we could make them into daisy chains. Sometimes he asked an older girl if someone would like to collect some of the apples and pears. The ones that had fallen to the ground didn’t taste very nice but I think we had them made into pies.

Christmas time was good. We were each given sixpence to buy Christmas presents and were taken to Lewis’s in Leeds at a time when the store was not generally open, to make our choices. I always bought my sister a pencil, a rubber and a notebook and a card for each member of staff. On Christmas Day we all went to church in the morning, then home for Christmas dinner, pudding, and nut and fruit juice to drink, and then into the big hall where we normally went on rainy days but now decorated with a big Christmas tree. The sisters came in all dressed up with Father Christmas carrying a big sack. Everyone had a present from the bag and one off the tree. Then all the sisters joined in the games. Then the carol singing – all the children had tinsel crowns and the older children had candles. Then we went back to the refectory for tea with Christmas cake. When we got to bed Matron Terry read us a Christmas story.

We were not always goody-goodies – like all children we were naughty and watching 25 children in a huge house must have been difficult. We often had fights and if they got bad we were separated and made to sit outside Sister’s room holding hands until Sister said we could go up. We often hurt each other; my sister had very bad eyesight. She took off her glasses to wash her face and once when she said the shoes that I was cleaning were not shiny enough I sat on them and broke them; I was aged seven. Then I stood at the door shouting at her. She slammed the door on my hand and took the top of my finger off. I went to Sister who poured Iodine on it and made me sit outside her room until it stopped bleeding.

Sometimes we were called into the small wooded area in the garden where we had rope swings on the trees. Mrs Rees told us there was treasure buried there, so we got sticks and searched for it. Sometimes we sneaked in there when we were not supposed to. If the gardener caught us we had to help him weed the garden. Always when we were naughty we were punished. We didn’t like washing our faces twice or watching the others play and not been allowed to play ourselves.

On saint’s days we went to St Saviour’s Church about a mile away. We would walk there and back. Sometimes the local vicar came to our chapel for a service or to baptise new children. If any of us were ill he came to see us in the infirmary. The infirmary faced the railway and the sister’s always let the train drivers know if we were ill. They played a tune for us on their whistles and waved to us as they went by. I seemed to spend a lot of time in the infirmary. There we had white sheets and nighties. One day when I was seven another doctor came to give me a vaccination. He pulled put a long needle and told me he was going to put it into my arm and out the other side. I cried; Matron Terry held my arm and then laid me down with a teddy to sleep.

We never knew what a mum and dad were like and although we had the material things we needed we never had any love but we were happy. On our birthdays Sister stood on the platform and wished the birthday girl happy birthday and the birthday girl went up and stood beside her while everyone clapped. Sometimes parents came. When it was Daphne’s birthday, in about 1938, her mam came and gave her candles and matches, a silly thing to do. That night after lights out she gave us the candles in bed and lit them. Then we heard someone coming upstairs, so we blew the candles out but there was a bright fire light in the dormitory. We were frightened and thought someone had set the bed alight. Audrey, a helper, came running in and shut the window. A big factory on the other side of the railway was on fire and smoke was coming in through the window.

One day in 1939 someone had phoned Sister and she took us out into the garden. Then we heard it, it was an air ship coming over very low. The people inside waved to us as they went by. Then it circled round and went by again. Being a large group of children we had the advantage of attracting things like this. In the winter, as we were in a valley the snow often came higher than the windows, so we couldn’t go to school until the gardener and the older girls and staff dug us out. There was no central heating in the individual classrooms at school. There was a coal boiler though that warmed the big room and the milk. The school was at the top of the hill. The playground sloped down and the boys made long slides in the snow from top to bottom. There were railings and then a drop into the field so young the young children went into the field to play because it was so slippery. [It obviously was St Hilda’s School]

Nearly all the children had a parent to visit them and take them out but the twins (Averill and Merle) had no one, so once a year Sister took them out for the day.


Averill and Merle too returned for a nostalgic visit to the Home and there was article in the Yorkshire Evening Post in the 1990s

orphanage pic part

After an absence of almost 50 years, twin sisters, Merle Harding and Averill Thomas, recently visited the Leeds orphanage where they had spent the first years of their lives. The sisters whose maiden name was Williams were evacuated from St Saviour’s orphanage at age six in 1940 and write: The present owners of the Home which of course is no longer used for that purpose are: T.H. Fielding and sons, they kindly allowed us to visit their premises and in fact Mr. Don Fielding and his wife with typical Yorkshire generosity spared us over two hours of their time to take us round their big old house.

We had a wonderful day down memory Lane with a trip which began with us going to St Hilda’s Church where Father Nunn showed us round – much of it still unchanged since we were children. We saw the site of the recently demolished St Hilda’s School and recalled the names of two of the teachers: Miss Powell and Mrs Duckworth and just a few of the children who attended the school back in 1939 came to mind: Mavis Hill, Noel Jarrett and a little blond girl with curls called Molly, who lived near the school.

The area around St Saviour’s Home has changed dramatically with new roads and an industrial estate being built but we understand the home itself had preservation order on it and is basically the same as we saw it in 1940 apart from the gardens [preservation order or not it’s gone now and a window making factory on the site]. Some of the paintwork in the rooms is still recognisable despite the premises being used by the Home Guard during the war and we even went into the chapel and saw the original pews and the organ. [When in the ownership of the Fielding family they always strived to keep the chapel sacred].

When we lived there with some 16 to 20 girls Miss Mary Rudge (pictured) was in charge she was always known as Sister Rudge, The daughter of a general in the Indian Army she was a god daughter of. Gordon of Khartoum, a great family friend and devoted her life to helping girls who had no families. She had a close connection with a religious order based in St Leonard’s on sea in Sussex and we visited her there shortly after the war. She died in the summer of 1960 with only two elderly ladies and my sister and I at her funeral, a lonely and sad passing for a great lady.

We also remembered on our visit to Knostrop, Mr Gurney and his daughter Marry who lived in the lodge, now also demolished, also Mr and Mrs Armitage who also lived the grounds too and understand Mr. Armitage he is now aged 90 and living in Wetherby.

So many memories were evoked by our return and we wondered how many of the children we knew at the orphanage and at St Hilda’s are still alive. In those days we wore shorts like boys and had our hair cut like boys too.

Is there anyone who can recall these memories, we would love to hear from them. We moved to Wales in 1940 and this was our first visit back.

(At the time of writing the twin sisters are still living in Wales)

st saviours composit pic


Back to Doris’s story

Sister sometimes went to visit someone in Brighten and then it seemed she was gone a long time Matron Terry was in charge when Sister was away, she didn’t seem to be quite in command as Sister was and we seemed to get away with more tricks. [I like the sound of Sister!]

When we got back from holiday one year, I’d be about eight, Sister seemed to be telling us about a man called Hitler, but we didn’t understand. That year at Christmas we went to church and we had to pray for the people Hitler had hurt and it seemed terrible. In assembly at school the headmaster said prayers for all these people. Lots of aeroplanes were going over all night and day and lots more goods trains going both ways.

I was now the next in line to be a carer. Just after Christmas a new baby arrived, it was early in 1939. She could just walk. Her name was Elizabeth. Sister called me into her room and said that even though I was still in the young dormitory I was old enough to be a carer. My carer, Hazel, was holding this little girl, she had big blue eyes just like my doll. Sister said Hazel would help with her too as I mustn’t carry her. We took her down to the play-room; it was too cold to play outside. She liked crawling around on the floor and all she could say was ‘Mummy’. We soon taught her to play she liked the rocking horse. When I had to feed her it was before my dinner was ready. She spit it out so Sister gave me warm milk for her in a cup and soup on a spoon. She wet her knickers sometimes. As Hazel had left school now she looked after her while I was at school; I had to make her bed while Hazel stood on the other side helping. I had to wash her and clean her teeth in the mornings and of course get her potty trained. By the time summer came she was cleaning her teeth and making her own bed, so I played with her more. I took her into the lobby on Saturdays and let her help clean the shoes and showed her how to slide down the banisters when the sisters weren’t looking; how to pick up stones in the yard and make spider houses – no spiders ever went in! She wanted to eat earth, I told hazel and she told me to keep putting toys in her hands so she couldn’t pick up earth, or to play ball with her. Then it was holiday time again, off we went to Whitby. Hazel stayed by Elizabeth and me. Elizabeth wanted to look out of the window. She had seen horses and cows before but sheep were new, she thought they were dogs. When we went up to Sleights she was put into old clothes so she could eat bilberries and pay with the sheep. She soon started making their noises, she sounded so funny.

[What a beautiful relationship must have developed between the carers: Hazel-Doris-Elizabeth. I wonder if they ever met up later in life?]

At the end of August we came back from holiday and went to church. On the way home we passed the refectory window to get to the door. Sister was leaning out of the window; she told us the war had started and to hurry into the refectory as soon as we had taken off our coats. Then she said we must get the benches out from the tables and sit in a circle round her, as she wanted to talk to us. She said we were at war with Germany and showed us on the map where Hitler had invaded. She said she did not know what was going to happen but that she would tell us everything we needed to know. A policeman came to speak to us in the afternoon; he told us what was good and what was bad. He said he had spoken to Sister and it was decided that Sister’s hall downstairs was the safest place from bombs, so if there was an air raid we were to go in there until the all clear. We didn’t quite understand but he said someone would take us there and bring us back. My father arrived but he was helping saw up wood to go on the windows. The older girls helped take food and blankets to Sister’s hall. We had all gone to bed and there was still noise from downstairs when we went to sleep.

Quite suddenly in the middle of the night, Sister, Matron Terry, and Audrey came in the dormitory and told us to get dressed. We all went downstairs; it was still dark all the others were there. We sat on pillows with blankets around us. Miss Rees had gone outside with father to see what was happening. Then quite suddenly this noise started outside. I was nursing Elizabeth and we were all crying – it was so loud. Sister said that’s the All Clear, now we can go back to bed. The next day we stayed in bed late.

While I was at the home Sister always told people that I was kept with the younger children because I was a delicate child and she often asked me if I was happy with the younger ones. I said I was happy.

This is the end of Doris’s life at the Home in Knostrop. Her next entry, not for this account, concerns her life back in London with her father and the cook from the Home who became her stepmother. Unfortunately she speaks of beatings for not being able to keep up to their requirements. All in all I find it hard to read this account with a dry eye.

Fielding’s no longer own the site of St Saviour’s Home. There is now a window producing company on the site. All the original buildings are gone except the pointed roof building which was Mr Armitage’s house, the square building behind which I’m told was the old school room and some of the boundary wall. While Messer’s Fielding were in charge of the site they always kept the chapel sacred and the bell which used to summon the girls to their various duties in carefully maintained in their own home. Sadly we have lost Doris but I have recently been in contact with Rose and the twins Merle and Averill and I am happy to report that at the time of writing they are still very much with us and in spite of a strange start to life they have all had satisfying careers and raised their own fine families.

Thank you ladies for sharing your memories with us.

St aviour's Home map



Where Did All Our Tuskey Go?

January 1, 2016

Where has All Our Tuskey Gone?

When we were young and had no care
Tuskey (rhubarb) sticks grew everywhere,
One has to wonder where they’ve gone?
Under concrete, every one!

In an earlier tale Sid Simpson relates our typical ramble from East End Park to Temple Newsam: When we were young boys a few of my schoolmates and I would meet up and go on an adventure to Temple Newsam. We were all pupils of Victoria School, York Road and about ten or eleven years old at the time, money was always scarce for us which meant to get to Temple Newsam we always had to walk. The easiest way to Temple Newsam was either down Black Road, which was the longest way, or down Red Road which was the shortest way. Four or five of us would meet up and set off on our way. Black Road and Red Road formed a triangle near to East Leeds Cricket Club. In the triangle was a field of wild rhubarb (tuskey) we would nearly always stop at this field to have our sweet. The tuskey grew so tall and the leaves were so huge we could sit underneath and keep dry if it rained. Out would come the sugar – for those who had been able to pinch some from home – and we would eat our fill. We avoided the thickest stalks as they were the


.rhubarb sheds
Molly & Peter Smith working in the rhubarb sheds in wartime.

When we rambled the area in the 1940/50s tuskey seemed to grow out of every nick and cranny all the way from Cross Green Lane eastwards to Temple Newsam, Knostrop, Skelton Grange, Thorpe Stapleton, Newsam Green and then on to Morley and Wakefield which formed the golden triangle of rhubarb growing. Rhubarb flourished it was said because the soil in our area liked the soot which fell from industrial Hunslet. So Rhubarb growing flourished due to the legacy of the previous phase in the history of the use of the land use which in our case was coal mining. The land itself is timeless but the nature of its use changes through the years and each phase leaves its fingerprint on the next hence soot produced from the industry that used the coal in the mining phase helped to grow the rhubarb in the next phase – the market garden phase. Academics call this process ’Synthesis’.
Taking an historical snap shot of area eastward to Thorpe Stapleton the earliest settlement recorded is probably the exposure of a Viking long house near Skelton Grange. This places it earlier than the Norman Conquest and this is substantiated by the Danish name ‘Thorpe’ –Thorpe Stapleton, Knowsthorpe etc. After ‘The Conquest’ William gave large tracts of land south of Leeds to his loyal military commander, Ilbert de-Lacy, who had successfully engineered the crossing of the swollen River Aire for William’s army on its way to York.
In the 13th/14/ century large areas of land were the property of ‘The Lords of the Manors’ and the so called ‘breadbaskets’ of Leeds and district were at Woodhouse in the north and the fertile area of Knostrop in the lower Aire Valley in the south. The Lord of the Manor of Leeds was at great pains to stop Knostrop falling into the hands of The Abbott of Kirkstall who was mopping up fertile land wherever he could. At Knostrop the fields were worked by ‘villeins’ no not ‘ villians’ they’re the ones the police are after. Villiens in this context were known as ‘bondsmen’ not slaves and yet not free men, they were the bottom of the pile in the social order, they were obligated to serve The Lord of The Manor and cultivate his land without any payment. For this they were allowed to live in a small cottage on the master’s land and have use of a small strip of land to grow their own food. They had to ask the lord’s permission for their son to become a monk or for their daughter to marry. In addition they had to supply 4 hens and 40 eggs to the lord at Christmas for his table. (Burt & Grady The Illustrated History of Leeds, 1994)
The Black Death Plague which devastated Britain in the 14th century was a two edged sword, it killed 40% of the labouring population but labour became a scarce commodity so those that were left were able to negotiate better terms for themselves and heralded the end of the ‘bondsman’ era. The legacy of this age was that it left us with the great estates and grand houses at Thorpe Stapleton (12thcentury), Swillington Hall and later the Elizabethan/Jacobean Temple Newsam Estate, still available for our 21at century leisure.
The next phase to dominate our land area was the winning of coal to service the industrial revolution. Coal mining was recorded in Knostrop as early as the 16th century but it really got underway with the sinking of Waterloo Pit – the first sod of which was turned on the eve of the battle of Waterloo in 1815. By 1825 there were seven pits a complex of wagon ways and an iron works in the area. A pit village, aptly named ‘Waterlooville’ built by Fenton to service his collieries and had two streets a square and a school between the river and the canal near Thorpe Stapleton is now completely disappeared. (Click to enlarge)

pit map correct size

I have constructed a map of all the named pits in the area from a variety of sources. It has to be pointed out that this map shows the existence of coal shafts across the extent of the mining years, and not all in production at any one time. Some of the land owners who made vast profits from allowing be coal to be mined under their land became too greedy and in the case of Swillington and Methley Halls they allowed coal to be taken from directly below their grand houses and the subsequent subsidence resulted in the Halls themselves having to be demolished. The legacy we have from the coalmining era is the danger of old shafts opening up the odd bit of railway line the red shale from Dam Pit, located between the two plantations at Knostrop which furnished us with the red shale for Halton Moor Road (red Road) and the narrow red road which ran from Black Road past the end of Snake Lane, and down to Knostrop. Of course and the pit hills now landscaped at East End Park which were great for our sledging forays.
So to the market Garden phase the source of our lovely ‘tuskey’ The land left after the mining phase was not the uncluttered fertile fields of earlier and more suited to small farms and particularly market garden enterprises we remember Allinson’s, Austin’s, Craven’s, Tillotson’s, Horner’s, Bickerdike’s, and Grumwell’s etc. Cabbages, cauliflower, Swedes and turnips were the staple diet of these small holding and of course rhubarb (tuskey) it grew wild in the fields where it was allowed to ‘bolt’ for a couple of years and then split and taken into low dark forcing sheds where it shot up to provide the lovely pink stalks for market. The legacy from this era is the odd tuskey root lurking in some forgotten corner or those taken and cultivated in private gardens.
So, moving to the 21st century. The army camps erected in the 1940s to house Italian Prisoners of war and our soldiers to guards them have gone and finally the open cast coal mining that followed the deep mines and blighted the area for most of our lives have also finally been exhaust but in their case they have left us a favourable legacy in the form of St Aiden’s Country Park – a huge pleasant area for water fowl and wild life and thankfully for us to roam. I thoroughly recommend St Aiden’s for a pleasant Sunday morning stroll either just a mile around the lake or a longer three miler around the perimeter But generally I see this as ‘the concrete age’. Personally I’m not a great fan of concrete, concrete production accounts for 5% of global carbon emissions and flattens everything in its path. I suppose it’s a necessary evil. The Cross Green Industrial Estate enveloped all of Knostrop, which has no inhabitants now. Skelton Grange Power Station Built in the 1950s has already been and gone.
To replace our lovely old primary schools: St Hilda’s Ellerby Lane and Victoria etc, a new school was built in the late fifties/early sixties first called, Cross Green School but later morphed into ‘Copperfield’s School’ with the slogan ‘Roots to Grow Wings to Fly’. It has already flown away leaving as its legacy a few Tarmac patches where the tennis courts used to be and a habitat for travellers’ horses. Black Road, our gateway to Temple Newsam is now an urban motorway with factories all the way down, engulphing Austin’s farm where we turned left for ‘Temp’. A huge incinerator is being constructed at the time of writing and there is a 300 foot plus wind generator to service the sewage works. Don’t look at this picture of today’s Black Road if you want to keep our great old Black Road in your mind’s eye. But hey! East Leeds Cricket Club stills stands proudly at the top!
Pity this generation of kids and those who follow on who will never have the pleasure of walking down Black Road to Temp and to feed on wild tuskey. They don’t know what they’ve missed

black road

Black Road today


Dandy Row (Dandy Island)

September 1, 2015


A visit to the mysterious Dandy Island was always an adventure, with no little danger for us East Leedsers in the 1940s.Mr Leslie Fielding has supplied these excellent pictures of the enigmatic Dandy Row and Mrs. Maurine Fielding (nee Horn) fills in the provenance
Remember to ’click’ on pictures to enlarge
But first I want to sketch you a picture of the Waterloo ‘paddy line’ system that allowed us access to the island. While working on this sketch it became apparent to me that anyone new to the area today would have no inkling of how it used to be when we were kids in the 1940s. All the ‘paddy lines are gone, so too the ABC houses, two of the bridges and even the huge Skelton Grange Power Station has been and gone since the early fifties; so you couldn’t get to Dandy Island by our daring routes now even if you wanted. But then it doesn’t matter that the bridges are down Knostrop has no inhabitants who would wish to cross now and today’s kids are into i-pods, tablets and lap tops, whatever, which give them virtual adventures but not the real life ‘daring do’ adventures we had.

dandy sketch revised

From the sketch it can be seen that there were at least four coal staithes where the paddy trains from Waterloo Colliery disgorged their coal, There was one at the bottom of Easy Road, one at Hunslet Goods Yard, presumable one at Neville Hill for a branch line went there and one on the canal bank on Dandy Island . This was obviously defunked even as early as the 1940s as the bridge that crossed the river in order for the train to reach the canal bank was devoid of many of its sleepers and probably only held up by the train rails themselves leaving gaping gaps to the raging torrent bellow, these we leapt over with the abandon of youth but our parents would have been horrified if they had known what we were doing. There was another way to access the island for us which was no less dangerous, probably more so. This was by walking across the weir, which was alright when the water was low but the weir was somehow controllable and water could be released which would wash away an unwary crosser. Even when it was low when crossing it could become a torrent when you wished to return that way marooning you on the island. From this it can be seen that a visit to Dandy Island was an adventure albeit a dangerous one and not for the faint hearted. On one occasion a couple of miscreants stole a chick from a bird’s nest they had found and bore it home in triumph at which their aunt went ballistic and made them take it back to the nest immediately, which meant they had to dice with the weir or the bridge four times that day. One of our number who lived in the cottages at Skelton Grange would ‘island hop’ Dandy and the locks at Knostrop on his way to visit the cinemas in Hunslet. I dread to imagine what it must have been like returning by that way in the dark – obviously he wouldn’t have been able to use the weir in darkness but on one sad occasion he remembers seeing them pulling a body out of the river on his way home.
Once on the island the western end seemed quite desolate and unwelcoming the soil was deep black from the river often overrunning it and you wondered if it would hold your weight, strange roots and vegetation abounded and then we always had the feeling we were trespassing, which we surely were. But if you could make it passed the mill, which was a putty producing mill at the time spewing out loads of white ‘gunge’ you were then into the eastern end of the island which was a different proposition, quite a green and pleasant land in fact and there we would encounter the enigmatic Dandy Row. Who lived there? How did they Exit the island? Where did the children go to school? Mrs. Maureen Fielding (nee Horn) has some of the answers, pictures provided by Mr. Les Fielding.

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It was the Horn family who operated Thwaite Mills and Maureen lived in one of the cottages in Dandy Row until she was eighteen. Maureen’s grandparents lived in that which is known today as the ‘Mill Owner’s House’. Maureen’s father was the highly skilled millwright and engineer who maintained the whole of the mill including the two waterwheels single-handed. The fact that the mill is now the water powered, working, Thwaite Mills Museum – is a testimony to the quality of his workmanship. Maureen’s uncle saw to the business activities and also lived in two adjacent cottages (made into one) at the other end of Dandy Row.
The residents and of course the mill traffic used to exit the island close to mill house where the canal narrowed slightly and it was served by a hand operated swing bridge during the working day by a gentleman called Billy Beck who occupied a cabin alongside the bridge and he would open and shut the bridge to allow pedestrians and traffic to cross and close it to allow boats to pass through. Of course a lot of supplies for the mill used to arrive at their wharf just before the bridge and the barges were unloaded by the steam crane which is still there today.
Thwaite Farm and the surrounding rhubarb fields, which were run by the Wade’s family and their fields stretched as far as the Ida’s, which were the streets next to Stourton Primary School on Pontefract Lane, another community now totally obliterated to provide storage for a sea of shipping containers.
Mr. Leslie Fielding has supplied three great pictures of Dandy Island. The top picture is of Dandy Row Cottages. Because this picture was taken from the other side of the canal it appears as if the cottages were adjoining the power station. However they were situated on Dandy Island with the river flowing behind the cottages and in front of the power station. There were eight cottages in the row and each had its own small garden area at the front and its own entrance gate. Although the cottages and the mill were so close to the power station they were never connected to the mains electricity supply.
The lower picture shows the steam crane and wharf where the barges used to dock when bringing in supplies to the mill, together with the narrow private access road to the cottages along the water’s edge. This picture was taken standing on the hand operated swing bridge which allowed access to the mill from Thwaite Lane. Just above the gable end of the first house on Dandy Row can be seen Skelton Grange Farm, which was on the other side of the river.
The third picture is of Thwaite House – nowadays referred to by museum staff as the Mill Owner’s House. The front downstairs room shown to the left of the entrance steps was used as the office for the mill and the rest of the rooms as family accommodation.
All three pictures were taken by Mr. John Horn (the engineer for the mill).
The original mill at Thwaite was built in 1641 and rebuilt in1823-25 along with the Dandy Row cottages. Dandy Row was demolished in 1968.

dandy row crain

dandy row large

dandy mill owners hous


July 1, 2015


Here are a couple of strange stories from two of our old stalwarts who have contributed to our tales in the past: Roy Marriott and Stan Pickles. You will have to make your own minds up


Roy asks me to explain that this tale The Passing was told to him by a friend and while it has gathered a little ‘atmosphere’ for affect in essence this is how the tale was told to him as being the truth.


Stan who alas is no longer with us but we rejoice in the fact that he lived to be a hundred, has a Italian adventure to relate.

And have a look at the end the good works that Audrey Sanderson our favourite Aussie Pom, is getting up to down there in OZ.



The night was cold, the clinging cold that fog brings with it. Flickering fingers of light from the gas lamps were unsuccessfully trying to penetrate the gloom. Hardly a soul stirred – sounds however small were magnified to phantom proportions. Two figures moved slowly, holding onto each other as though loss of contact would lead to loss of each other.

Hilda and Jane wished that the arrangements that they had made earlier in the week to call on their dear old friend, Mrs Briar (she preferred to be called Gertie) had been made for the weekend, during the day and not on this particular Thursday evening. The fog had thickened to such extent that all the tram cars had stopped running as they made their way to Gertie’s house that was located in one of the streets that backed off Dial Street. One thing was certain, whatever the weather these two ladies had no intention of worrying Gertie by not turning up as planned, but they could not have chosen a worse night. Their route took them along many cobbled streets, over the canal bridge and through a labyrinth of back to back houses and ally-ways the uneven cobbles caused them to stumble as they picked their way along. A sleek shadow, hardly recognisable as a cat startled them as they passed the narrow entrance leading to the rag merchant’s yard – its cry that of a lost soul hung in the still air. The women clung to each other, only a few more steps and they would be clear of the dingy back streets and into the avenue which took them past Zion Chapel

The day previous old Mrs Briar had mentioned to her widowed daughter, that she would be having visitors the next day from a couple of ladies who lived on the other side of the city.

‘There’s one thing you can be sure of Iris,’ she had said, ‘if they say they will come – they will come!’ Gertie was looking forward to the impending visit she thoroughly enjoyed their company, reminiscing – going over happy times they had enjoyed together in the past, often laughing out loud when one of them touched on a particularly humorous event. That is not to say that Mrs Brier didn’t enjoy having her daughter and grandson living with her since the sudden death of her son in law five years earlier but having her friends to visit was something special.

‘I think I will wear my black lace dress,’ Mrs Briar had said, ‘while it still fits me.’ She giggled.

‘Shall I get it down for you so that you can try it on and I can brush it off for you?’ Iris looked warmly at her mother who in turn smiled and nodded.

A short time later, having had her dress brushed down, she bade her daughter and grandson goodnight and made her way upstairs laying her dress across the bottom of her bed

During the night Mrs Briar passed away, her grandson found her smiling blissfully on the Thursday morning. He hurried to his mother’s room.

‘Its Gran,’ he said ‘she won’t wake up.’

Iris wrapping a dressing- gown around her hurried to her mother’s bedside.

‘Oh Edward she looks so peaceful now, leave the curtains drawn,’ she said, tears welling up in her eyes and streaking her cheeks. ‘Grandma has gone to heaven.’ Edward threw his arms around his mother and he too cried uncontrollably.

Later in the day the old lady was laid out in her black velvet dress. The events of the day blotted out all thoughts of the two ladies who were due to visit that evening. The fog came down that night and the curtains which had been drawn all day now carried dancing shadows from the coal fire. Both mother and son sat quietly thinking about their sudden loss. Iris looked about the room her eyes resting momentarily on various objects collected over the years. The fire suddenly crackled, startling Iris and bring her out of her reverie and then another sound or was it imagination? Both mother and son looked at each other – had they heard something or was it really their imagination and yet both felt it was not – they had heard the bed creak or was it the floorboards upstairs?

While they were still pondering they heard a sound outside and then a knock on the door. Edward’s mother stood and draped a cardigan around her shoulders – she walked hesitantly to the door and opened it to limits of the chain. ‘Who’s there,’ she called.

‘It’s Jane and Hilda,’ replied a voice. We’ve come to see your mother.’

‘Oh dear,’ said Iris. ‘Oh I’m so sorry, I should have let you know.’ As she spoke she drew back the heavy curtain from behind the door, removing the chain and pulling open the door. The two middle aged ladies bathed in fog were standing on the doorstep now and illuminated by the light from the fire-lit room.

‘I should have let you know,’ Iris said again – ‘I’m sorry you have had such a cold wasted journey. My mother told me you were coming to pay her a visit, but…’ she sobbed holding a handkerchief to her lips. ‘My mother passed away last night – she’s laid out upstairs in her favourite black lace dress.’

Hilda and Jane looked at each other and then at Iris.

‘But we’ve just seen her at the window upstairs!’ they said.

Imagination or not they all heard the sound of laboured footsteps dragging across the upstairs floor…


By Stan Pickles

Whilst on a tour of Italy in 1968 we had a remarkable experience. My wife and I were completing our thirds day’s travel and we were staying overnight at The Hotel Posta in the small town of Reggio Emilia, in northern Italy. Leaving the lounge for our bedroom after having a lovely meal an old lady in black stopped me and said, ‘I hope you enjoy your stay here.’ I took it she was the proprietor and with a smile I departed.

Our bedroom was large with antique furniture and had twin beds set against the centre wall. We turned off our bedside lamps and being ‘deadbeat I was almost asleep when my wife said. ‘Hey, did your bed move?’ In fact I had felt my bed move but thought it was my imagination. My wife asked me to put on the main lights so I got out of bed and found nothing wrong

After changing beds with her I was soon off to sleep. Then I had a most lovely dream (so I thought). At the foot of our beds a long table was laid out with everything in food and wine you could imagine. The room was full of ladies and gentlemen dressed in old time finery – the women in crinolines were dancing and dining to gentle music. The lady we had seen on the way to our bedroom came to my bedside and said, ‘I hope you are resting and we are not disturbing you.’ I assured her we were enjoying it all and the merrymaking went on.

The next morning my wife asked me if I had heard a band playing during the night and the sound of laughter. I then told her about my dream. That had me wondering, was it a dream at all? Were the beds being moved around to make way for the party?

However, I will leave it to you, was it dream or wasn’t it?

italian pic for blog

And finally a poem from Roy /Ronald

 looking back to tomorrow

audreys pearly

Please remember to ‘click’ to enlarge pictures.

Smokey’s tale

April 1, 2015


(‘Are Smokey, ‘E wer a great dog’)

Those of us who have had our three score years and ten have seen many changes to society: the demise of back street boozers and there dinner time ‘dommy’ schools, illegal bookies, holiday’s in Blackpool, a pint o’ mixed, falling church attendances and the loss of suburban cinemas. When I think back to Friday dinner times in East Leeds in the 1940s/50s when folk had an hour to get their meal down and be back at work or school inside an hour the fish and chip shops could turn a queue of thirty round in the same time it takes now for a guy to make you a cup of espresso coffee!

But I digress this tale is about the demise of something vital to this tale: mongrel dogs. To own a dog in the 21st century is an expensive hobby, particularly the initial purchase cost, astronomical vet’s fees, insurance and kennel fees etc. So if folk are going to the expense of having a dog they usually go in for the breed of their choice or a designer dog bred from two pedigree lines. This aligned to dogs not being allowed to roam on their own and seek out their own partners has drastically cut the mongrel population. This obviously cuts down pavement fouling and nuisance and is generally a good thing. But you know mongrels are usually great, they are as tough as old boots and don’t normally have in bred diseases and neurotic hang ups. You get bits of all sorts ’Heinz 57 varieties’ they were nick named but diversity gives strength and you hardly ever had to take them to the vets and when you did it was just a coin in the box at the P.D.S.A. You opened your door on a morning and let the dog out and it just got on with the business of being a dog and how they enjoyed it! We had such a dog when I was a lad, I’ve had lovely pedigree dogs all my life but there was never a dog that could match the heart of that little mongrel. As you read this I imagine some may feel we were reckless with old Smokey’s safety but it was a different world then, we folk were products of our time and Smokey was no ordinary dog and I bet he had the best life a dog ever had. So please forgive us.


As Smokey was a dog and couldn’t write very well I’ll have to tell his tale myself. He arrived when I was about six or seven with just his head peeping out of my aunt’s coat and we had him right up to my national service call up. He came the same night as Hunslet feast, so it was double joy for me that day. I recall hitting my head on a lamppost on the way to that feast my mind was so full of that little dog. ‘Can we call him Smokey?’ I asked. Smokey it was and what a dog he turned out to be! The folk across the yard from us got a dog shortly after and called him Smokey too. Smokey must have been the ‘in’ name for dogs that year. It would be about 1945, the war was just about over; there had been a film about a horse called ‘Smokey that year and that was probably why it was such a popular name. It wasn’t a fantastic arrangement though for when you went to the door and called out for Smokey two dogs would appear. A natural compromise seemed to be reached when their dog became known as ‘Black Smokey’. Previously to Smokey’s arrival, I had always shared other people’s dogs. They would be waiting for me when I went out to play, I would throw stones for them and more or less just let them be with me. I was a ‘dog person’ and they knew it. He got off to a bad start, our Smokey. First, he caught the hairless part of his stomach on the hot flat iron, which had been standing in the fireplace and it burnt him badly. Then he contracted: worms, eczema, and distemper. The latter nearly caused his demise before he even got started. We took him to the PDSA on Dewsbury Road where they recommended he be ‘put down’ as he would never be properly right and never make anything of a dog now etc. My Aunt Edie said we would take him home and think about it. I was in tears so was my mate who had come along with us. But nobody had reckoned on the heart of that dog, he was only a little ginger mongrel with a bit of Irish terrier in him – but he had a heart like a lion. He pulled through on his own and I don’t think we ever had to take him to see the vet again in his long life and he turned out to be just about the best dog a lad ever had. Things have moved on a pace since the ‘forties, practices which were commonplace then would be frowned upon today. We lived in the semi-rural area of Knostrop and it was normal for folk to just open their doors and let a dog be about the business of being a dog. Free to roam though it has to be said our Smokey did develop a lot of bad habits, one of his worst was chasing cars, he would yap away at the front wheels, try as we could we were never able to properly break him of this; it’s a miracle he never got run over. And fighting, he’d fight anything up to goat size and he’d usually win, except for a bull terrier that lived down the road, he got a bloody nose more than once from him but he’d always go back for more. As if this wasn’t bad enough he took a dislike to people who wore black. This wasn’t wise of him for policemen wear black and so do the clergy. A lasting memory is of Father Tregear, curate at St Hilda’s Church, who stood six feet four and weighed in at nineteen stone, turning a circle in the middle of Knostrop Lane with Smokey swinging around three foot from the ground, his teeth clasped onto the hem of his cassock. He had to wear a muzzle for a while after that but he took it all in his stride and even continued to fight other dogs while he had it on. People would eye him sideways while he wore the muzzle, I suppose they must have thought he must be fierce, but he was nothing of the sort, he was great with kids and the best pal you could ever hope to have. If I pulled a face at him he’d go bananas, if I moved an inch he’d be on his feet. He did howl a bit when I was practising plying the clarinet, but that was a hoot for the rest of the family When we were on holiday from school he would go everywhere with us, woods, fields, ponds – if we were on bikes he would keep up with the bikes. In addition, he could perform every trick in the book on demand. If you threw a pebble for him amongst a pile of a million pebbles he’d come back to you with the correct one you had thrown. When we went back to school (St Hilda’s Cross Green Lane) after the holidays he couldn’t handle it and as soon as Mam let him out he would be off up to school where he would sit by my coat in the cloakroom, sometimes he would pull the coat onto the floor and lay on it. When the classroom door was opened he would be in and searching among the desks for me. At first, it was a novelty and the teacher had the class writing an essay on ‘Smokey’. Afterwards I had to stand at the front of the class for a question and answer session on him. I can remember the kids asking me all sorts of daft questions about him that kids do: like can he climb a ladder etc? The teacher, Miss Busby, told them not to be so silly. After a while the novelty wore off and he became a nuisance – he was disrupting the class and he got so he would guard the door and not let people in. It came to a head one day when he wouldn’t let the school inspector in and the teacher told me not to let him come anymore. So I had to ask Mam to keep him tied up during school hours, this kept his visits down but never stopped him completely and I’d get into a panic when he’d managed to escape by chewing through the rope or something and I’d feel his wet nose under the desk seeking me out. On these occasions now I would have to take him home, tearfully rebuking Mam for letting him free – but she couldn’t keep tabs on him all the time he was quicksilver, if no other avenue was available he’d even jump from a bedroom window into a flower bed as a last line of escape. We lived in an old rambling house with neither gas nor electricity and the toilet was a huge brick built thing out in the wild garden. I hated it on the few occasions I needed to use the toilet after being in bed. I had to feel my way down stairs without any light – I was not allowed to light a candle in case I burnt the house down, when I got into the kitchen I would try to coax Smokey out of his nice warm corner near the oven range to come with me, he wasn’t well pleased to be disturbed but he always came with me. I was in my phase of being scared of vampires and our dark garden and huge toilet seemed an ideal lair for them. On one occasion while I was seated in-situ Smokey gave a great howl and the hairs stood up on his back I was off like a shot I thought Dracula and all his mates were after me

smokey and me
(Remember to ‘click’ on pictures to enlarge)

If you met up with him outside there was no way of getting rid of him. He was a real lad for the ladies, so often he would stay out all night. Sometimes when he was returning from a night on the tiles he would meet a member of the family on their way to work, on these occasions he would cross over the road and look sheepish, he knew he was not supposed to stay out all night. Then he would latch onto the person and follow them at a respectable distance, no matter what you did you could not shake him off, and of course it was the norm for people to be too late to take him home again. You could throw stones for him to chase, you could throw stones at him, but you could not shake him off. If he was still with you when you arrived at the bus stop you were in deep trouble for buses were open at the back at the time and when the bus came there was nothing to stop him jumping on with you – bar the conductor of course, but generally they weren’t keen on trying. The remedy was to call him to you as if you were going to give him a stroke, then just as the bus was coming, you grabbed him, picked him up, he wasn’t very big, and dropped him over the adjacent vicarage wall. Then he would have to run around to the gate by which time you would hope to be on the bus and off. But he wasn’t beaten even then, he’d chase the bus to the next stop and if there were a few people waiting to board the bus he’d be on between the conductor’s legs. Then, believe it or not, you had to lose him amongst all the legs in the busy centre of Leeds. You would imagine that this would be a most reckless course of action requiring the aid of the RSPCA to find him for again for you and it surely would have been for any other dog I’ve ever come across but not our Smokey, he would just be a little later arriving home that morning and due for an even bigger telling off. He never, ever, became truly lost and far too smart to get captured and taken to the pound. His roaming was legendary; people would report seeing him all over the city of Leeds, even in the Quarry Hill flats, which were miles away from his home in Knostrop. He once turned up in my Aunt Doris’s shop in Becket Street, which was almost on the other side of the city and through an absolute warren of streets. Aunt Doris told of how this dog came into the shop and she had said to her sister, ‘Isn’t that dog like our Smokey?’ Upon hearing her voice he went potty, it was Smokey. At least he got to walk home with them on that occasion. The same problems arose if he caught up with you on the way to the cinema. If you threw a stone for him to try and be rid of him his pride made him follow it although he knew it was a ploy to lose him. Even if you made it into the queue, he would come and smell you out and should you make it into the cinema itself you still weren’t safe. One night he got into the Star Cinema on York Road, you could hear the commotion, voices complaining, ‘Who belongs to this ruddy dog? On such occasions you would keep quiet and hope he would eventually be ‘chucked out’ if he did, he would still be waiting for you when you came out at the end of the film. At about the age of thirteen we moved away from Knostrop and Smokey continued to live with my aunts. After that he made a regular shuttle service between the two houses carrying notes in his collar. The lad had one or two near squeaks in his eventful life: once he jumped into the filter beds at the sewerage works thinking they were solid ground, it was a good job I was on hand to lean over and pull him out. Another time someone unthinkingly threw a stone into the Sludge Lagoons at Skelton Grange Power Station: Smokey went after it as usual. The sludge lagoons were just a white crust covering the black sludgy water, anything which went in there didn’t come out again but the lad just managed to get back with the crust breaking up just a few inches behind him all the way back to safety. As I got older, new mates coming along quickly came to adore him – luxury home or park bench he didn’t care where as long as he could be with you and it would be him you’d want along too. He managed to avoid all the hazards and pitfalls he set himself in life and died of natural causes at the age of fourteen – a goodly span considering his lifestyle. Wouldn’t it be great if there is a heaven and he’s up there waiting for me! I wonder how many of these kids from Miss Busby’s class remember Smokey?

m b's class for blog