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Elsie Duerden

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My first question is – can you tell me your full name and where and when you were born?

It’s Elsie Marie Duerden and I was born at 19 Pine Road, Todmorden; that’s where my mother and father were at the time, then they got a house down here and I came down when I were about three months old.

Whereabouts did you move to?

I couldn’t tell you.

In Hebden Bridge?

Oh yes it was Hebden Bridge, one of the streets, but I just don’t know which one.

What’s your birthday?

Fifteenth of the eighth twenty-four.

Can you remember anything about your parents – tell me about your parents?

My dad liked bowling and he were dead keen on it. My mother used to take me to the silent pictures and you could go in what was the Co-op – they had two or three halls upstairs and those were silent films. The talking films had just come out, or you went to the Picture House and I, ooh thought it were wonderful watching people talk. When you thought about it afterwards it were all so stilted, [laughing] and the clothes were shocking but I enjoyed it.

Can you remember any of the films?

No I don’t think so…I mean there were such as…they weren’t really good films. There were Laurel and Hardy and all those, Buster Keaton…

What work did your parents do?

My father was a cutter in the sewing shop you know, material – and my mother was a winder in the mill.

Which mill did they work for?

My father worked for Sutcliffe’s up Regent Street and my mother worked at a few, but one was Acre Mill before it was turned into an asbestos place; it was cotton up there, and she worked at CWS on Valley Road.

When you were young, what kind of games did you play?

We played at all sorts but my favourite one were tag. [laughing] You used to tie two doors together and then knock – I used to like that. You got some strong string and a boy that were older than you that could tie it tight – ooh they did get annoyed!

Did you ever get caught?

No, but they knew who we were because we were giggling! At school I used to like athletics, you know the games…

What kind of athletics did you do?

Running long races and then there were over the horse…. I think there were hockey but I can’t remember going in for that.

When you were at home, what did you do when you played out at home?

We all had a small bike each…then we went living up Birchcliffe in a bigger house and I always remember one winter I were about eight or nine, and it had snowed and snowed. Do you know Birchcliffe Road? Somebody gave us an old tin bath; there were just a pathway where people could walk and the snow were on either side of it, and we were coming down from the top to the bottom, four at a time – it took about three minutes to come down and about twenty minutes to pull it back up; we enjoyed ourselves. Living up there, there were the woods – you know you could play hide and seek, and there were a dam up there at the bottom, I don’t know what it were called, I think it belonged to a mill or something, and you could go swimming in it. Was that Nutclough Wood? I don’t know – there was a pub in front of it…on the main Keighley Road just as you get to the top. I think they’ve drained that dam now.

What school did you go to?

I went to Central Street.

Can you remember any of your teachers?

Ooh yes, Mr Glue was the headmaster, and there were Miss Moorhouse and a teacher that lived up here – I think he was called Mr Baldwin. In the infants there had a Miss Doran, she were the headmistress there and a Mrs Uttley, and every time she spoke, she must have had some rotten teeth because they whistled! I can’t remember the youngest one but there were three teachers there.

In those days they used to make dinners, but only for the children that came from the hillsides…and it did smell good when you were going home for your dinner; they might be having stew or fish or something like that you know.

Did you like your school?

Oh yes, I enjoyed it.

What was your favourite subject?

Maths, I always liked maths; maths and history, and I must have passed it on to my son because he did the same.

What was the school like in those days? Was it different to what it is now?

Oh yes, half the children – you don’t think of it at the time, but they used to come in clogs and hardly any clothes, everybody were very poor.

Did you wear clogs?

No, I objected. My mother said ‘what’s wrong with them?’ and I said ‘I aren’t wearing them’ and to have a bit of peace my father said ‘oh don’t buy them’.

**What did you wear instead? **


Did you live up Birchcliffe all the time?

Till I think I were about thirteen or fourteen. My grandparents lived on Regent Street and my grandfather were ill, so we came down so we could be near him. There used to be three houses on Old Gate and we lived in one of those.

Did you know the Greenwoods who lived there? It might have been after that.

No I don’t think so.

You talked about your grandparents- can you remember anything about them?

Oh yes, but I don’t think I’d better tell you! It’s nothing bad really – my grandfather had his own business taking bales of cloth; they used to weave it in their cottages years since and they used to take these bales of cloth to Halifax to the Piece Hall, to sell. He had this horse and cart and when he came back he’d always had a bevvy or two and the horse used to bring him back! [laughing] My grandmother, she went up the wall!

What were their names?


When did you leave school?

I think my gran…were only about seven; she went part-time in the mill, I should imagine my grandfather were the same but you see they had this business of their own so maybe he were helping.

So she left school at seven to work in the mills?

No, she didn’t leave completely, mornings I think she worked.

Do you know how much she got paid?

No, but I know what I got paid when I went in the sewing shop. I went in a few months before the Second World War started and…what did I get? Nine shillings when I’d been there twelve month.

What sewing shop was that?

That were Redmans on Valley Road.

So what age were you when you finished school?


Did you work in the sewing shop all your life?

Oh yes off and on, but when the war broke out…when it were time for me to register – you had to register at seventeen and three months and by the time I was seventeen and a half, which you had to be making either munitions or something, I were in the Air Force.

What did you do there?

I was a nursing orderly.

Whereabouts were you based?

Oh all over, one end of England to the other; I never managed to get to Scotland but we were near enough. The last one was Northallerton, well you could go up to Scotland on the train.

Did you like that?

Yes, I served four years and I don’t think I would have like to have missed it, I mean at the time you never thought of being killed or anything but you had some close shaves at times, when they were dropping the bombs.

Did any bombs come near you?

Oh yes, because I was based…the Bomber Command were all down the east coast and Northallerton were quite close to the east coast. There were a lot of Air Force stations, Canadians and all that down that side and they used to come bombing you know. You used to dive quick for the air raid shelter.

What was it like then, when the bombs came?

Well, you thought ‘will I come out alive?’ but you see with being a nursing orderly and some patients were so ill you couldn’t leave them so at times you had to be in the hospital and it was very dangerous.

Did you ever think of staying on and being a nurse after the war?

Well I did, but I was married to Tom by that time and…we wanted a child but it didn’t happen, or I would have gone nursing. I could have got two years knocked off the nursing for doing four years in the Air Force.

So you never had children then?

I had a boy, Michael.

What was your maiden name?


Did the Sutcliffes have nicknames?

Ooh, please don’t start!

[Elsie doesn’t want the following section to be published]

We had one, but to me it were very cruel.

What was it and why was it cruel?

Well, who is it…what’s she called?…Phyllis Henderson that lives here, she has a book full of them.

She was going to come down today, but she can’t find the book.

Thank goodness. Don’t put my name in.

So you don’t want to talk about that?

No. It were either my grandfather or my great-grandfather, he couldn’t pronounce his ‘r’s and…they had children in cradles in their gardens in those days gone by and this child had been crying nearly all day, and…he just looked up and instead of saying ‘rock ‘em’ he said ‘yock ‘em’…that’s it – instead of saying ‘rock ‘em’ and that name stuck; even today they’ll say ‘oh she’s one of yockems’. I think it’s dreadful, I mean some are very cruel names.

I thought most of the names were because there were so many like Greenwoods and Sutcliffes that they needed a nickname to tell the different ones apart.

Well probably they were you see because there were Sutcliffes, Greenwoods and Crabtrees; even Phyllis Henderson has said…’I don’t whether or not because some people might object’ so I said to Andrea when she were asking me, I said ‘well I shall object because…’

That’s fair enough – we’re not doing this to make anybody feel bad.

I mean one lot of Greenwoods – there were a lot of Greenwoods like the Sutcliffes -they used to call them Kellys because Mrs Greenwood, she were called Kelly before she were married and that’s how they knew them. I mean it’s wrong is that.

Did you have your son after the war?

Yes, a long time after….I lost a child and then we adopted Michael when he was seven weeks old; it were lovely. He died when he were twenty-three.

Did you continue to go into the sewing shops after your son grew up?

Well I went in the sewing shop part-time because you could work…when Michael was small and just starting school I could work from nine till half past three, so you know you could meet your children and they were wanting machinists in those days.

So was that – the people who owned the sewing shop, they allowed you to just to work those hours?

Yes, it were a regular thing in Hebden – I think every sewing shop did it.

How many days did you work?

I worked five days, and I were counting sewing shops up for you last night – I got to twenty-three!

Can you remember them now, or would you like to write them all down for me?

No I can’t write with my…to start at the top at Bridge Lanes, there were one called Hirsts then half way down there were another one calledHelliwells, and then you came down Market Street and there was Melbourne and Dewhirsts…oh and then Blackburns. Then going on Old Gate there were one called Pickles’s, then…I’m going round Hebden now…when you got off Old Gate there was one and I can’t remember what it was called but it were over a….they work with iron – what’s it called? An ironmongers? A blacksmiths?…[pause]I’ve forgotten…there were a big one…oh there were about three in Hebden, they employed a lot of people…engineering? That’s it. There were one over there as well…and the are you going down Hangingroyd Road now?…yes, or is this still Old Gate? I’ve got to Old Gate, but on Hangingroyd Road there were one called Crowthers…how many have I got to? About six or so I think. Anyway, after that you went on Hangingroyd Lane and there were Sutcliffes…and Astins, another one called Browns where when the war started they took that place over for the soldiers.
The you went further on there were three little ones – Greenwoods…and I can’t tell you the other and a there were big one called Hoyles. You went a bit further and there were Redmans, then we turn back, we go up the road and there were CWS sewing shop, coming down the road there was one…I don’t know what they called it, there was one on Albert Street at the beginning and one right at the bottom as well but I’ve forgotten the names.
Where else were there one? [pause] Then you came back and…there were one up Crown Street…over the shops. [pause] I can’t think of any more, but I know I counted twenty three.

The one on Crown Street – which shop is it now…do you know?

Well I think they’ve made it into…there’s a bookies underneath…and what was the sewing shop I think it’s now a hairdressers and something else, I can’t remember what.

By Cheetham Street?

Yes…oh and I know where there were another…can you remember the Co-op? Well they used to have a meat shop and some other building, and over the top there were another sewing shop there above the Co-op.

So there were lots of little sewing shops above other shops?


I thought they just had big ones, I didn’t realise they had smaller ones.

Oh some of them, I bet some of them didn’t employ above a dozen. It were a right going business you know.

Were there any characters around in those days?

Oh yes there were…do you remember…well they called him William Holt but we always knew him as Billy Holt. I always remember, I was going on to see my grandmother one night, I’d only be about eight or nine and my mother came flying after me, she says ‘come on, we’re going round the back.’ I didn’t know what she were talking about [laughing] and it were Billy Holt, he’d joined the Fascists and he’d gone into the Hole in the Wall and…he’d been spouting about the Fascists. He had about four or five men with him and they were walking with a black shirt on a stick; all the men from the pub you know, they went a lot more than they do now, they were chasing them all on Old Gate – I kept peeping round and my mother kept pulling me back! I always remember that, and then later on in life he came respectable and I worked with two of his daughters, and he wrote some good books.

I’ve read one of them. Was there anybody else like that about?

Well there were another one – he used to be the chimney sweep, what were he called? He were always drunk and you always got t’same song – ‘Nellie Dean’ – he lived near us and he used to be coming from the pub about eleven o’clock every night with ‘Nellie Dean’. He played in the band – you know, the brass band, and he’d a great big drum but he never knew if he hit t’right note or not!

Can you sing ‘Nellie Dean’ – can you remember the words?

Ooh no – it was something like ‘there’s an old mill by the stream, Nellie Dean’…and he didn’t have give it ‘Nellie Dean’ you know! [laughing] You forget…

Did you do things on special days, like at Wakes Week…?

Oh yes, we always managed to go away for a week, generally to Blackpool or Morecambe, we couldn’t afford….not like going abroad now.

Who went?

Well my mother and father and myself then…when I got older a friend went with me and it were always Blackpool then, because there were a lot of things to do even though there was a war on, all the entertainment was there, still the dance halls and everything.

Did you like dancing?

Oh yes. I was in the St John Ambulance cadets, that’s how I got in the Air Force, and we used to have things going on there.

What did you do at Christmas?

Christmas…well, everything had to be closed by twelve in the war and…they used to have a midnight dance on Christmas Eve in the Co-op because that was the biggest place. You had to get a ticket by October [chuckling] if you wanted to go because everybody grabbed them, then there were an Ambulance Ball and that were New Year’s Eve; all the money went to the St Johns Ambulance. During the war the St Johns Ambulance and the Red Cross went together and it were always called the Red Cross then.

Were you a church-goer?

Oh yes, and I still am.

Which church?

I go to the Good Shepherd down Mytholmroyd.

So you’re a Catholic?


Did you go to the Cathocism or Sunday School?

Yes, it were when it were St Thomas’s you know, where they’ve built those new houses at Fairfiield? Yes. To me, going to Mass was just as normal as getting up and going to work.

Can you remember any of the fires in the mills?

The only one I can remember was when Michael were about six and there were a fire on Stubbing Holme….I don’t know what the mill made, but it certainly burnt it all down.

Did you watch it?

Well I took Michael down because we lived over Fairfield then, and I just stood up on Horsehold Road with him so he could see it, but he were more interested in the water spraying on than anybody being burnt!

Can you remember the floods?

Oh yes – I got a house on Old Gate, in fact I rented it from the same landlord as my mother. I’ll tell you where it was – now, they have a garage that goes underneath the house. When we rented it, it had been a little sweet shop, an old man had run it but you see…coupons and one thing and another, he’d just let it go so I got that house and made what had been his sweet shop, I made it into a kitchen and I had the living room above. Tom had only been home a week from abroad and my mother were knocking at the door at seven o’clock that morning, saying ‘get up – thee river’s rising rapidly’ and we got up and by the time she’d got back home into her own house – they’d got the furniture up – they couldn’t get out, you know the river was that high, and they got out through the attic window, walked on the back and dropped down into our yard which were above water level.

Amazing – did that sort of thing happen a lot?

No, I only remember that. I know the water could just come across but no damage like that.

Can you remember Buttress Brink in those days?

Oh yes what was that like? do you know, I don’t think I’ve ever been in above one house on there – those houses were lovely and warm and the stone was thick and everything but you see they were all higgledy-piggledy and I suppose when these ‘know-it-alls’ said they had to come down, they pulled some decent houses down and put in what people called tin houses, they were part metal – that were up Dodnaze.

So they moved the people from Buttress up to Dodnaze? Oh yes, unless they got a house on their own.

Was it council then?


What kind of social life did you have when you were a young woman?

We often…well, my teenage…and like thousands before me, it were spoilt with the war at seventeen you’re in the services and I were twenty one when I came out, and I were making a home for Tom and myself then, going round all the second hand shops because you had to have coupons for everything.

What kind of coupons did you get?

Well one coupon said I could have three sheets – three sheets! And another said I could have about four yards of curtain material – well I mean, I ask you! In fact, my mother found me some really nice bedspreads and we turned them over into curtains for the bedroom…you had to have coupons for a three-piece suite and you could either have a dining room suite or a three-piece suite but you couldn’t have both; you hadn’t enough coupons. There were coupons for everything, clothes and the lot.

Did you get those once a week, once a month, how did that actually work?

Oh those coupons…you got for food, you got a book that did for twelve months but you only got one lot of those coupons I’ve been talking about for furniture, sheets and things like that you only got one lot of coupons and it had to do…unless you went on the black market…was there a big black market? Well there was round here where the cotton was – I got sheets and blankets and all sorts. I suppose you could sew them yourself once you’d got the material. Yes.

Has Hebden Bridge changed very much – what’s the biggest change?

Well…I used to like it when it were a quiet little…you know, backwater really. Even if you didn’t know the people that you met when you were going to work or coming back from work, or going to school for your child, everyone said ‘Good morning – nice day’ but there’s none of that now. I used to like it when I was coming from nine o’clock mass on a Sunday morning, because there were always you know these big mill chimneys throwing smoke out, but on Sunday there wasn’t and as you looked down the valley you could see little curls of smoke of their own fires, and do you know I used to think when I looked at that ‘I wouldn’t live anywhere else.’

Is there anything else that’s changed – maybe some good change?

Well yes, I mean a lot of it’s been for the better, the way they’ve done the roads and everything but…and there’s a lot more people living here – mind you, they have to live somewhere haven’t they? It’s not the same – it isn’t a friendly town now.

Do you think younger people have the same sort of values as you had?

No, I don’t think so.

What’s the difference?

Well, you shared more because we hadn’t much. If someone said ‘oh I haven’t a pair of nylons or a pair of tights’ you’d say ‘well you borrow mine’ – you wouldn’t get that now. When you’re walking on the street they aren’t Yorkshire voices, they’re all Southerners, well a lot of them, but they are very nice, the majority of them. It tickled me – I was in the Co-op in my wheelchair [doorbell rang]…and this young woman were in front of me and I thought ‘her shoes are dirty’ – she had trousers on and I thought she had a skirt on, then when she turned round she’d tied a dress round her waist and at t’back she had trousers and at t’front she had a dress. [laughing] I thought ‘well that says it all!’

Can you remember any old Yorkshire sayings?

No not really…my grandfather and my gran, they used to come out with all sorts but I can’t remember them all but I can’t remember what they said you know.
One was ‘sithee, ere y’are’ which meant ‘here you are’. I don’t know what language that sounded like!

Do you think you had any special talents?

If I’d known I wasn’t going to have a child so soon I would have continued doing my nursing. I were always very good at maths so I might have gone in for book-keeping or something like that because they were very keen on night schools in those days just after the war, to get people who were in uniform back into civvy life really.

Did you ever go mumming?

No I didn’t no, they used to terrify me [laughing] when they’d come to t’door and you opened t’door and they’d come in mumming with these black faces; even when I were grown up I used to lock the door and I wouldn’t answer it.

Did you ever do Maypole dancing?

Yes, but it were at school you know.

What was that like then? How did they organise it?

We hadn’t really a correct Maypole, it were just one that were…a long piece of wood with all these ribbons on and we used to dance in and out so they all wound round this pole and it were very nice if it came off.

Was there music that went with that?

Oh yes, yes. And songs as well? Oh yes, but don’t ask me what they were – I’ve forgotten.

When you got it all wound together, did you just drop it, or did you dance backwards?

If you’d tried to undo that you’d have been at it all night; I don’t know what happened to it really.

Did they ever tell you why they wanted you to do that?

Well it was a tradition really, and the same as like on Good Friday when they do that St George and the dragon; that’s all tradition, going back hundreds of years really.

Do you remember that from when you were young?

Oh yes.

Did you know anybody that was in it?

Well they looked like men to me, but they were mostly boys from the grammar school you know.

Did they used to ask for money?

Oh yes, they came round and t’money generally went toaa good cause, either the hospital or something like that you know.

What do you think of the Pace Egg?

I liked it, I like Hebden.

Can you remember any of the shops down Market Street?

Oh yes, yes. You’d no need to go anywhere only up Market Street – you got everything you wanted, clothes and the lot.

Can you remember what some of them were?

Starting from the bridge, you know, the bridge over the river, there was…a shop that sold all cloth for dresses and things, and then there was another shop that sold bedding and ladies’ tights and…there were a shop that did the same really, there were three all close together. Across the road there was a painter and decorator and he also had a shop, and you could buy your own paper, you know – wallpaper; next to him was a cake shop, then there were a newsagent’s, and then a jewellers…a shoe shop – I’ll go up one way and I’ll come down t’next – a shoe shop and a newsagent’s…then there was a shop that sold hats – well you never see that now do you? There is one now, there’s a new one now she used to sell some nice hats…then I think the last shop, I think it were…I won’t be certain about this, but I think it were a greengrocers. Then the next one, there was a street that parted them; you went to Central Street School up there and there were a tailors – he had some lovely suits – Websters grocery store and they had a café over there, and then next to Websters [chuckling] there were Duckworths – from the ridiculous to the sublime…who else? Oh and then further up there were a shop that sold pots and pans and things, another cake shop, a then a children’s outfitters, you know – baby clothes shop, now what happened after that? Oh, there were another grocery store – two together. You cross the road again, still up the left hand side, where Melbourne was – that was their weaving shed then, at the side of them they had a sweet shop and if you were going on a coach, you could book a coach there, then there were a barber’s, and you cross the road again and there was this cake shop, he had about three that man and his bakery were there right at the bottom of Bridge Lane. There were a chemist, another shoe shop across the road – coming back now – there were a ladies outfitters and it were really nice, a greengrocers, another shoe shop…another jewellers, a butchers…after that what came then?…oh, a tripe shop [laughing], there were another shoe shop again, and there were a fish & chip shop where you go and could sit in, then after that another bakery…ooh you are wearing my brain out!…it were a nice bakery, then there were a tobacconists – you don’t see those now do you? And then next to the tobacconists was a dentist, then after that there were a shop that sold prams and toys and things, another grocery store…then a ladies outfitters again, another shoe shop, another butchers, then there were a bank, then there were another greengrocery store and you’ve got about all the shops, but you could see that you could buy everything there; you didn’t need to go off Market Street. I must admit the clothes that they sold were good and the shoes were good – you know they were modern as well as…were they a fair price? Yes they were.

Did you ever go into Nicky’s café? I think it was Marshalls at one time.

No I don’t think so, no.

I’m just wondering if you know any jokes?

No, I don’t think so. [laughing]

Did you ever get the divvie?

Oh yes, from the Co-op, it wasn’t much but they used to queue up for it, and I know one woman said to my mother – I were with her and I’d be about nine or ten – they paid it twice a year I think it was – she says ‘there’s only two Fridays we get steak for us tea.’ She must have bought best steak and onions, you know, and my mother says ‘what do you normally get?’ and she says ‘Chips.’ [laughing] But you know things were hard in those days…they were

What about the transport – the buses..?

Oh they were quite good. Donkeys years since the trams still ran from Halifax to Hebden and there were the buses; I can’t remember it, but my mother said Todmorden buses were only allowed to run as far as Thistle Bottom, they wouldn’t let them run into…so when my dad were courting my mum, he had to walk from Thistle Bottom- anyway they finally sorted it out; I always remember those buses, and they had some open-top ones.

What do you think you parents or grandparents would say about times today?

Well my grandmother would have gone spare, she would – she were very strict, well both of ‘em were. My mother’s mother were, but she weren’t as bad as my dad’s mother. He hadn’t to read a paper on a Sunday; she went to the Methodists, trail my poor aunty with her, my father wouldn’t go! He hadn’t to read a paper, he had to sit in silence – ooh it were wearisome, it were really. But I’ll tell you what – she were a jolly good cook.

What sort of things did she cook?

She sometimes made all her own bread…oh I used to like it when she’d baked…and cakes and things…she spent a full day baking, and it was one of those little ovens you know at t’side of your fireplace; you lit your fire then you put your coal on – she could cook though, yes.

Did she have a special day for doing that?

Yes, it would be Tuesday if she were going to do it, and she made enough bread; that bread was just as fresh in a week’s time.

How did she keep it fresh?

Well they had a…those bread things…they stood about [that high], like Ali Babas…with a lid on [laughing], but her bread were lovely.

What did you have on your bread?

Well you generally had it with bacon on, sometimes you had jam or marmalade, something like that – home-made jam; everything were home-made.

Did you pick berries for her?

Oh yes, we used to go and pick blackberries or bilberries because up Birchcliffe you know, there were no houses hardly, it were all a field, and there were lots of bushes you know – black berries, bilberries…[pause]

Is there anything you’d like to talk about that I haven’t asked about?

No I don’t think so.

Can you…the first house that you can remember, is it the one on Birchcliffe?


What was I like – how many rooms did it have, what was it actually like?

Well it only had three rooms, but at the side of it there were…well they called it a cupboard, but it were wide enough to put me a single bed in, and I slept in there – my parents were in the main bedroom – and then as I got older they had to find another house with a proper bedroom for myself so that’s why we came down on to Old Gate.

What was the house at Old Gate like?

Oh it was nice, right thick stone was the wall and it had a decent kitchen, and a nice living room, two bedrooms and a good attic.

Did you have a bathroom?

No, but my mother had a bath put in the kitchen and…a big water geyser – whatever they’re called – over it so we could have baths, and when we didn’t use it, it was like a table top nearly that came over it so she could use it you know, for putting things on. We don’t know we’re born now, do we? It’s very different now isn’t it? Yes…

Do you miss those days in some ways?

In a lot of ways yes, but I wouldn’t have liked to try to live on what my mother and father earned. My mother used to go…one time she went back to Tod, winding – they asked her to go back, if she’d go, and she were only paid twenty five shillings a week, and she were working Saturday mornings and she had her bus fares to pay. I think my father were earning two pounds five shillings a week – well, I ask you…it’s not much is it? No. They must have had a struggle…

What do you think about what we’ve just talked about?

Well it’s just been natural hasn’t it?

Do you think it’s important that younger people hear what life was like?

Yes I do in a certain way, because I wouldn’t like to think that my son, if he’d lived, I wouldn’t have liked to think he’d have to go in one of the services – I think that’s the way it’s going now. They were talking about, last night, they were showing some that had been in they army – there were paratroopers and all sorts – and they were living on the streets in London. Did you see that programme? I did – it’s criminal really I think. Well I thought it were dreadful when I saw it. It’s a shame.

If you had any advice to give to younger people, what would you say to them?

Go out and have a good time [laughing] and let tomorrow look after itself.

Did you have any brothers or sisters?

No, I was an only one.

In the sewing shop, what job did you actually do?

Well as I told you, the war had just started therefore we were making uniforms, great coats and duffle coats for the Navy you know, and after the war, well they all went back to casual jackets and trousers; they were a lot lighter to handle.

Was it piece work?

Oh yes.

How many did you do?

Oh don’t ask…[sadly] they partitioned it off and I were putting flies on, and I had to put a hundred flies on for fifty-four pence.

How long would that take you?

Oh it didn’t take me so long – I did ‘em right, but oh you’d got them back, I mean we used to make for Marks and Spencers and if you hadn’t twelve stitches to the inch you got them back. They used to come…oh they made for the railway as well, and oh that fella that came from the railway, he were dreadful – a real monkey and him from Marks and Spencers weren’t much better but at least he were more tolerant than him from the railway.

To do a hundred, would that take you a day or…?

Oh no, it took me twenty or twenty-five minutes to do a hundred? Yes. That’s good going! Well I was trying to make my wage up. There’s a carer here, she worked at Redmans but she worked at Mytholmroyd and she says…she were a lot younger, she’s about fifty I think, and she says ‘Oh…in that sewing shop, it were heads down and bottoms up’ now what did she do?…oh she had to sew five thousand tabs on that told about…it said Redman Brothers…five thousand a day, and that’s not so long since.

How did you meet your husband?

At the Co-op dance hall, dancing.

Did you ever go on the monkey run?

Oh yes – it were a Sunday night pleasure were that.

What was it like?

It were just meeting boys and girls and having a chat, you know- maybe they’d say ‘would you like to go to the pictures next Saturday?’ or something like that, but it were just a nice thing really, but when the war…they kept it going for a while after the war started but it kind of gradually dropped off because I mean most of the boys of my age had been called up you know.

Do you know why they called it that?

No I don’t [chuckling]

Did you ever do anything special on birthdays?

Oh yes, we used to…well when I were working, there were four of us went dancing together…take them out for a meal you know, I mean there again there weren’t much you could have.

Would you take them out somewhere in Hebden?

Yes or maybe Halifax, then we’d go to the pictures for a change.

What did you husband do – what was his job, I can’t remember?

He was a baker. Then when he went in the Air Force – he were always good with his hands – he ended up as an engine fitter you know, he were a flight mechanic to start with and then he worked his way up.

Did he go back to baking later on?

No, he went…when I got that house down here and he…where did he go?…oh, he went to F & H’s you know, the wood place – he worked there for a long time. [someone came in to sit down -Colin]. Colin… I used to sit in the next desk to him at school? Yes [laughing]. He hasn’t heard you.

What was he like?

A pest! [whispering, laughing]

You know the road that…you can come in at the bottom, there’s a gate – what’s that gate like? Is it one of those that you go like that? You push it backwards and forwards – it’s not a full gate, it’s two halves. But it would open out? Yes. because last week they were tarmaccing all that where you come down with your car and I have a wheelchair taxi that comes for me to take me to Mass on Saturday night and I stopped him coming because I didn’t know what that gate were like – I’d never seen, you know. No, it’s alright now, but they’re finished here now. Yes, it were only Saturday, and Saturday’s the night I go, ‘cos he couldn’t put me in for Sunday morning – he has a lot of bookings.

Was there any of that that you would like to not let me use?

Oh you can use it all except that about by-names.

Okay – what I’ll put here is…there’s a restriction


About Us

Wild Rose Heritage and Arts is a community group which takes it's name from the area in which we are located - the valley ("den") of the wild rose ("Heb") -  Hebden Bridge which is in Calderdale, West Yorkshire.

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Pennine Heritage Ltd.
The Birchcliffe Centre
Hebden Bridge

Phone: 01422 844450
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