Posts Tagged ‘East Leeds’

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.’

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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.

knostrop-right-way-up

Knostrop

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

none-go-byes-cottage

 

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?

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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?

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Comments welcome

 

Foul play at the Slip Inn

December 24, 2016

A TALE FOR CHRISTMAS

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

sourest

.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

DANDY ROW
(DANDY ISLAND)

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.

12-08-2015 21;04;38

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

GHOSTS

July 1, 2015

GHOSTS

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 PASSING BY ROY MARRIOTT

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…

THE BED THAT MOVED

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

SMOKEY’S TALE

(‘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.

SMOKEY’S TALE

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

The Stepping Stones

October 1, 2014

The Stepping Stones

This month our tales are not really about Old East Leeds but as they are both by old East Leeds lads I hope that’s ok. They both concern adventures crossing stepping stones: Dave Carncross’ antics on the River Wharfe at Burnsall reminded him of his great friend and hero, Ricky Chappelow, who although a great lad had a tendency to be injury prone (see ‘My Hero’ tale in the archive for December 2011) Dave’s tale is followed by Eric Allen and Pete Wood’s perils on the stepping stones across the River Crimple near Harrogate.

Hope they make you smile

The next Old East Leeds Codger’s reunion will be on Tue Nov 4th 2014 around noon at the Edmund House Club Pontefract lane Leeds. All welcome.

DOING A CHAPPELOW

By Dave Carncross

During the school holidays we look after our two youngest grandchildren, Matthew and Lucy, while their Mum and Dad are at work.

Yesterday, we took them off to Burnsall for a picnic and an afternoon by the river. We walked up the river a good way until we got to the suspension bridge -this is an old triangular affair which is pretty wobbly and springy and quite novel to walk on.

Just before the bridge there is a row of stepping stones which cross the full width of the river. These have been deliberately put there and, in fact, are pinned to the river bed by metal rods right through them. My wife and I were resting at the side of the river and Matthew who is just 13 years old and very tall for his age ran at a great pace across the stepping stones. It was great to watch because he seemed so graceful and effortless and was going so quickly he seemed to be only stepping on every third stone or so.

Naturally, my mind went back to a time when I could have and definitely would have been doing exactly the same thing so I resolved to at least go over the stones but not running of course. If I am walking any distance, I always use my walking stick these days (ever since I had my knee replacement). So I carefully got onto the first stone and using my stick as a forward brace against each stone as I went proceeded in a stately and ,though I say it myself ,competent fashion appropriate to a gentleman of my advanced years. I got to the middle and stopped for a general look around realising that the water was pretty rapid and noisy at that point. I reached with my stick for the next stone and found what I thought was a dry secure position to use as a brace point and stepped confidently forward. The stick slipped and I plunged into the River Wharfe up to my waist in the gap between the two stones and ended up with one foot on the bottom and the other leg half on the next stone. I was not unduly alarmed but was aware that if I misjudged my next move I could end up completely under water. Anyway, I scrambled up successfully but realised that I had had to let go of my stick and damaged my right hand more than somewhat. I looked for my stick and saw it sailing merrily downstream about ten metres away towing my dignity with it line astern. For a brief moment I considered plunging after it on the basis that I couldn’t get much wetter but the thought occurred just in time that there might be hidden depths which I would most assuredly plumb if I tried.

I carried on to the far bank and returned over the bridge already mentally rehearsing my explanation as to how this mishap had occurred. I was conscious that the expressions on the faces of the onlookers had changed from expressing “good on yer, Grandad” when I first set out to cross to “silly old bugger” when I fell in. My wife`s initial concerns seemed to relate to my wallet, car keys and mobile phone in that order. Once assured that these vital signs had not suffered she noticed that the thumb of my right hand was bleeding copiously where the nail had been bent back and torn away from the nailbed. I am aware that this problem amounts to a phobia in the fairer sex so wrapped it up as tight as possible with a tissue. My main problem was that my two middle fingers had been bent back to an unfortunate extent and were turning purplish and swelling rapidly. Taken all round it could have been a lot worse but I didn’t feel that I had got away with it either.

We set off walking back downstream – my shoes squelching with every step. My left trouser leg was two tone because part of it was still dry so it was obvious that either I had been in the river or was alternatively tragically incontinent. The riverside path forms part of the Dales Pathway and is well used so I was never short of cheery walkers enquiring about my “paddling”. It wasn’t a very warm day so I was hard put to share their merriment and was thinking that my condition brought a new slant onto the expression “chillin` out with the kids”. We had done about quarter of a mile or so when my wife spotted my stick floating in a becalmed stretch of the river. Matthew soon had his shoes and socks off and, with the aid of a very long piece of tree branch which his sister had found, managed to bring it to the edge. I would think the odds against finding it again must be as high as winning the lottery.

I was well pleased naturally but felt obliged to remonstrate verbally with the stick for collaborating in my dunking. Since this was attracting the interest of other walkers I thought it was best to carry on walking and got back to the car without further incident. My fingers were now like over- inflated pork sausages and I had some pain when gripping the steering wheel. It seemed to take a lot longer to get home than it did to get there.

 

The Stepping Stones Over the Crimple

By Eric and Pete.

The guidebook clearly stated: beware of the stepping-stones across the River Crimple; they are libel to be slippery and dangerous in winter. They were indeed; I took one look and didn’t like what I saw at all. Eric, my walking companion, who was the proud possessor of a walking stick proddled about testing the depth of the water; as proddlers with walking sticks always tend to do. The problem was: there were a couple of a major gaps between the stones, which must have been all of four or perhaps even five feet wide. Sure there were a couple of tiny stones, now underwater, bisecting these ‘giant leaps’ which would have probably served all right in summer when the water flow was low but this was mid November, we’d had a lot of rain and the water was now gushing through in a raging torrent.

Eric, with his stick was making unnecessary progress over the stones towards one of these chasms. ‘Let’s go around the road way.’ I pleaded, ‘It’s only about a mile further according to the book.’ But proddlers with walking sticks are never satisfied until they have caused injury or mayhem. He proddled into nothing with his stick and was in up to his knee, miraculously pirouetting on one leg and narrowly avoiding a full-length fall into the icy water before managing to hoist himself, soggy leg and all onto the next stepping stone and screeching in mortal anguish from the cold all the way to the other side.

This dismaying sight made me less keen on making my own crossing than ever. However another problem now confronted us in that he was on one side of the river and I on the other. There was no chance of him coming back and I preferred dry land on this side. Stalemate! Contemplating our position I saw we had a dilemma in that neither of us had done this walk before and if I now went round the road way and he carried on from the stones we had no idea where we might meet up: if at all. On the other hand the gap between the stones looked awfully wide and the stone to land upon looked green and slippery. I mentally saw myself, jumping, landing on the catching stone and tippling backwards and slightly to the left to go full length into the deepest part of the river – probably smashing my knee in the process – finally I’d have to drag myself the many miles back to the car, injured and soaking wet. ‘I’m going around the road way,’ I shouted across while at the same time making the same mistake that Eric had made – in that even as I spoke I had advanced to the very stone from which Eric had made his desperate attempt. Meanwhile, our accompanying dog crossed and re-crossed in the river itself, barking and obviously wondering what all the fuss was about. Eric had by now retraced his steps to the stone immediately next to his side of the chasm and held out his stick in a futile attempt to aid my crossing. At this point I made the amazingly fearless but foolhardy decision to shout: ‘OK I’m going for it – catch me.’ But his big feet were taking up almost all the catching stone, especially the part where I was aiming to land. ‘Shuffle back a bit,’ I said you’re taking up all the b… stone!’ So I leapt, a great majestic leap, instinctively he made a grab for me. ‘Whooa!’ we swayed backward, we swayed forward, we swayed to the east we swayed to the west; a great battle between man and the forces of nature was being played out, observed by none but the bemused dog. For many seconds our fate was in the balance but gradually the swaying became less frantic, the ship was steadied; the day won and the two intrepid walkers, one limping and with a wet leg the other thankful for his deliverance and of course, a wet dog, waddled off to face other of natures trials.

***********************************************************

Look, they’re building a ruddy great incinerator on our lovely old ‘Black’ Road.

Iicinerator

Bernie’s Tale

September 1, 2010

Bernie’s Tale
Bernie Finn has recently returned to Yorkshire having spent thirty three years in Australia. Bernie tells us great tales of life in the Glensdales and at Victoria School, York Road, Leeds, in the 1940s.

The Air Raid
During the war when air raids were in progress my family, along with lots of others, took refuge in ‘The Slip Inn’ cellar. At the time our family consisted of: baby me, my mother, two aunts, and my grandmother (my father was killed in France two weeks before I was born). I had a carry bag crib thing which also had gas protection. So when the sirens sounded, I along with whatever necessities I needed was placed in the carrier bag. On this particular night off goes the sirens and on comes the usual ensuing panic and the fifty yard flight to the Slip. Apparently it was very much shoulder to shoulder in there and the warden, when there was one, would shut the door when it was full. Well they had been in there for a while when someone says, ‘Bernard’s quiet tonight’ (me). A glance in the bag showed that everything was in there for me but no me. So my mother is off like a shot fighting her way to the steps leaving the girls to argue who was to blame. When she gets through she then had to fight the warden who said he was not allowed to open the special door until the all clear. Anyway she got out of there with the help of the others with him shouting after her, ‘I can’t let you back in’. I’m told he ended up with a bloody nose but nobody knows from whom.

So to put this into perspective, there was little me at the tender age of about one year old left alone to defend the area from attack until reinforcements arrived (my mother). I did a good job too not a single bomb got dropped anywhere near the area that night. I will never understand how come I wasn’t decorated or got a commendation or something. I was just one of the many unsung heroes of the war I guess.

The Slip Inn
The Slip was always part of my life for different reasons I saw it grow as I grew. The only time it upset me was when they extended it and built a concert room. The original (New Regent) was quite small and the local kids were quite mad because we used to have our bonfires on the vacant land they used for the extension. Later on in life I became a patron and loved it for the entertainment, it provided a second home for me in the1960s. It was one of the first places I visited when I returned after 33 years in Oz. I didn’t find it a nice place at all, it was very run down and the concert room was closed off. I took a nostalgic walk around the area few days before my 70th birthday and it was all boarded up but at least I got to see it again unlike my old school (Victoria) which was already demolished.

[At the time of writing I believe The Slip is open again for business]

The Dreaded White Line
In the Victoria School playground there was a white boundary line which ran from the toilet block to a recess in the corner of the main building; this was to stop us fraternising with the girls. There was a set of cricket stumps painted on the wall in the recess and hitting the ball against the wall meant it would go into the girl’s playground and so a good chance for interaction. It also formed a convenient meeting spot out of the vision of the teacher on playground duty. Anyway crossing the line during playtime carried very serious consequences. I had the dubious honour at one time of having most punishments for playground infringements. The toilet block was one building but divided in two for boys and girls. I got caught once climbing over just for the devilment of it. I got caught by a teacher who shouted, ‘What’s the weather like up there Finn?’ I also recall a grave injustice of one punishment. I was doing a ‘Johnny Cash’ … walking the line, sort of showing off I suppose. A group of girls pulled me in… for using that as an excuse I got a double whack. Happy days but gosh we hated that line.

When the War Was Over

July 31, 2010

WHEN THE WAR WAS OVER.
A night to remember was the night when the lights went on again in Leeds. We had never seen neon signs or shop windows brightly lit before. Thousands of people assembled in the centre of Leeds for the big turn on. Members of the family took me to witness the event first hand. We walked down into town and had been promised a lift back in a big car – it was to be a Humber, I was looking forward to having a ride in the Humber more than seeing the lights go on, of course I didn’t know what to expect never having seen lights on this scale before. In the event there were so many people milling about that wherever the car had been parked it was completely swamped by the crowd, we never found it. So we had to walk all the way home again but the night was indeed memorable: Vicar Lane and Briggate was so crammed with folk we never got as far as City Square and when the lights all went on together at a given signal it was certainly a sight to behold.

Petrol had been unavailable for private motoring during the war and in the immediate post-war period but their came a point when a very basic ration became available. It was an exciting time to see people bringing dusty old motorcars out of garages where they had been ‘moth balled’ for the duration of the War. Ford eights, Ford tens, Morrises, Standards, and Hillmans. It was brilliant to see them taken off bricks and polished up. My dad had a three-wheeler Morgan; he’d kept it in a garage in Yates’s yard. I’d never seen it before; it had two wheels at the front and one at the back and shaped like a boat. Some of the controls were on the steering column, doing away with some of the pedals. All in all it was a bit of a ‘boneshaker’ and I was disgusted that it could only do about fifty-five miles an hour flat out. In fact the fastest I ever saw it go was when my dad used to turn the engine off and let it free wheel down hill to save petrol, it once got up to sixty miles an hour coming down Garaby Hill in this manner, nearly bouncing itself off the road in the process. We kids believed a car’s top speed to be all-important. We would peep through car windows at the speedo and whatever was the top speed on the speedo we thought was the top speed achievable by the vehicle ‘Look at this car ’ we would whistle, ‘It can do a hundred miles an hour!’ of course that was only the clock the car itself might only be capable of half of that. At the time I wished we’d had a proper car, one with four wheels and that could do eighty miles an hour, but gosh, how I wish I had that old Morgan now it would be worth a fortune!

When the War was over the lads came home, everywhere seemed to be a hive of activity.
They were each issued with a ‘demob suit’ – usually black or blue pin stripe, a pair of black shoes and a trilby hat. You could spot demobbed lads a mile off; they still all looked the same even though they were now out of uniform. They were also given ‘demob pay’, although I would guess it would only be a pittance. The ones who had been prisoners of war though and had not been paid for a lengthy period were probably due a tidy sum. A few started up in their own enterprises by buying out army surplus goods with their lump sums, some of these eventually grew into successful business empires. It was the age of the ‘spiv’; some of these guys could put their hands on anything that was in demand at the time and turn it into a profit.

A few of the lads who had been prisoners of war had learned the doubtful art of making whisky stills – quite illegally of course. Nevertheless, we had one going in our washhouse. An uncle of mine and a lad newly demoded opened a garage in the grounds of the Old Hall. It smelled of oil and old leather and was filled with motorbikes with magical names like: Norton, Triumph, Ariel, AJS, Panther, Matchless, BSA and Velocette. After a night working on the bikes they would retire to ‘The Fish Hut’ pub or ‘The Black Dog’ and sink a few pints and I would think what a great life, I’m going to have a crack at that when I’m old enough. And so I did, but somehow those glamorous times of the 1940s could not be re-created.

Things gradually returned to normal after the War, eventually we kids just got beyond the stage of playing out, we were ready to ‘spread our wings’ and there didn’t seem to be another generation of kids coming along to take our place. In the 1960s the houses of Knostrop, which would have sold for telephone number prices in today’s housing market had their woodwork stripped out and burned, and the houses themselves, bulldozed into the ground in order to make way for a concrete industrial estate. Ironically the building, they erected on the very spot where they had torn down our yard went down to the ground itself in a fire estimated to have cost a million pounds. No! It wasn’t me – honest! But could we have ever imagined that our old yard could be the site of anything worth a million pounds?

Pauline as the last of the gang to leave the yard is honoured by having the last word.
‘I was the last of the gang to leave Knostrop; I was in my late twenties. We had to leave owing to re-development. I remember the day we left our lovely old cottage, the only home I knew and loved. I burst into tears I couldn’t help it, I was so unhappy to be leaving. It didn’t seem to matter that we were moving to a new home with hot and cold water, bathroom, indoor toilet, central heating and easy access to town and the shops. I had never been used to mod cons so I didn’t miss them.

The older inhabitants of Knostrop were turfed out of this semi-rural ideal to more modern urban living. But modern conveniences do not necessarily make up for a friendly rural community. ‘You could take the folk out of Knostrop but could you take Knostrop out of the folk!’ Some of the older ones found it difficult to settle and perhaps passed away earlier than they should. Such is evidently the price of progress – and Knostrop – like the War, lives on only in our memories. But when we are gone – who will remember Knostrop then?