Harry Cummings

Harry Cummings

Interviewed on

Listen to the interview:

Download a PDF transcript of the interview
(178.53 KB )

Adobe® Reader® required.
Get Adobe® Reader®


[Harry has a very strong Northumberland accent]

Okay, it’s recording now, so I just need to ask you first of all what your name is, what your full name is.

It’s just straightforward Harry Cummings.

Okay, lovely, and when and where were you born Harry?

I was born in Durham City on the fourth of January 1925.

Okay – can you tell me just a little bit about your family Harry?

Well I’d eight brothers – well seven brothers and sisters, and we lived in a two-roomed house; mother and father slept downstairs and the rest of us slept upstairs with a blanket or something across the room to keep the lads away from the girls, not for any other reason, just to keep them separate. Mother and father slept downstairs in a foam bed – there were very little else about the house about it just being a terraced house in a district of Durham called Gilesgate called what? Gilesgate. I don’t know that you’ll understand what I’m saying! No, that’s fine.

Durham itself I can tell you little bits about that – when we were children we used to go to…me mother and father and everybody’s mother and father used to go down to the cathedral with a basket to catch pancakes that were thrown off the cathedral top, and nobody ever got a pancake because we’d all have missed! [laughing] It’s quite true, and then there were another do they used to have there were the biggest in the world – The Durham Miners Gala, the biggest meeting of unionists in the world and that lasted all day – the pubs were open all day, never mind about now, they were then, and they used to get all the labour generally, and all the ambassadors speaking from all over Europe.

So was your dad a miner?

Oh no, me father used to work with an auctioneer in an auctioneer’s shop, me father wasn’t a miner. I’d one brother a miner, and there again it was nothing like today – we had never locked the doors, the doors were always open and the next-door-neighbours could walk in; I’d one brother, a miner, and he could be having – there was no pit head baths, we had a bath, a tin one, in front of the fire and they’d just walk in and say ‘ow do Bill’ and go talk somewhere else in the same room sort of doing.

So they didn’t mind that he was in the bath?

Nothing at all about locking doors, and nobody – I never knew of anybody having anything stolen; I could tell you something but I don’t think you’d dare put it on there, about the Mayor of Durham, but I’d better not.


I’ll tell you that after.

Durham itself like was a beautiful place, it is a beautiful place, and it is more so now.

And you went to school and everything up there then?

We went to school when we…the school was in the hills at Whinney Hill and just was above Durham Central Prison, there’s two prisons now but that was the only one there, and that was where they used to do the hangings; I think it were Pierpoint who would, where the hanging was, and the person who were being hanged had to have the….had to have the permission of the judge to hang them, and they also had to be there and Pierpoint use to, well he was generally, he’d been under the influence of drink all night, and he had to sign – nobody knows this I don’t think – he had to sign a thing to say that he’d more or less committed the murder himself, and the judges had to, you know – let him go about it. They also had – I can remember a plane always flying over when there’s a hanging – I don’t know her first name, but Banderouse was her next, and she used to have these ribbons flying behind the wing – ‘down with capital punishment’ – that is a long time ago.

I went to this school, we used to have to walk – this is lovely – two and a half mile to school every morning, there were no school dinners – we had to walk two and a half mile back for generally beans on toast, yes – and then no not walking about anywhere like they are now – and

So you used to go home at lunchtime and then go back to school?

No buses – well we couldn’t afford a bus. Me father’s wage was just about two pound a week in them days and when he died in 1959, there was only something like something like – I think he’d fourpence left in his…purse but he’d only got two pound fifty a week then, 1959.

There were various other things like – there were lot of things going off in Durham, but to me, it all finished, Durham when I went in the army.

So you left to go into the army did you then?

I left Durham in 1943, some time I think…I think it was the fourth of March 1943.

How old were you then?

Eighteen, and I went to various places over Europe. I kept coming back occasionally to Durham, but you couldn’t you know – you were in the army, so you just had to go back. I cam – I won’t say this bit – well I might as well – I came down to Hebden Bridge in 1947, and when I came, I came to visit somebody that lived up – I didn’t know where it was – up above Dodnaze, in I think it was called Manor House; it’s not there now. He was in the army with us and I came down to see him and it was in the winter. When I left Durham it was a bit rough, the weather, but when I got down here I was walking on wall tops to this house – I didn’t exactly know where he lived – I kept falling into – I’d only shoes on, I kept falling in, and I only came for a few days!

You said you were walking on wall tops because what – the snow was so deep?

Well the snow was that deep, and…when I got there eventually, I’d a job to find him in the first place because I didn’t know his wife’s maiden name and as I read them out, they told us to go to the police station and then they said ‘go to the council offices and they’ve got a list’ and they kept reading these names out and they were all like foreign to me like – Sutcliffe, hundreds of Sutcliffes, Greenwoods and I said ‘no it’s none of them’ and it turned out her name was Greenwood, and when I got up there, I was only supposed to be two days and I finished up going to…going back a fortnight later ‘cos we had to dig ourselves out, and when I got back into the army I got a good telling off like you know, but the point is that that is the worst winter I can ever remember – 1947, and then it was the same year I came down, I found a job at Moderna in Mytholmroyd and I worked there for a while.

What were you doing there then?

I was a…well I was like a sort of assistant loom tuner you know – they were weaving blankets, well that’s about all they did weave, blankets, and there was a tuner on and I was eventually on night shift, working as a tuner. I was there a few year then I went to work at dye houses, which there were quite a few in Hebden Bridge district and then I went

So was that dyeing cloth?

That were dyeing corduroy, but all the corduroy came from, all the cloth more or less came from firms round here, but eventually it all came from Spain and Portugal, all these places closed round here – there were quite a lot used to weave cloth, there were quite a lot of dye houses and that was at Mytholmroyd, then I went working at another dye house and they were doing the same sort of thing, but dyeing it in bigger quantities, and then I finished up at…Sagar Richards at Luddendenfoot there – they built car parts for all over the world actually; they’ve nearly finished now. That was generally the idea of the working situation.

What brought you to Hebden Bridge to live?

No work at Durham.

Right, so you’d finished in the army and there was just no work there?

Yeh, before you went in the army you’d a choice. They generally asked if you wanted to be…work in a coal mine, you were called Bevan boys – Bevan was the Minister of Works or something, and I thought ‘well I’m no going down the mines’ – I’d been down them to have a look and I’ve seen people working in what you call a seam where the water runs underneath them, rats alongside them – as long as the rats were there, they were happy because there were no gas and they used to be lying in water with, well these won’t know what this is – pit yankers, like a pair of shorts and they’d be wet through and they were hacking coal with little…and I could never have thought about that; I could think about it but I couldn’t work there.

So you had no job set up for you when you left the army then?

No, before I went in the army I was working in the weaving shed, doing – I was only about sixteen when I started and when I finished I were eighteen; I was doing carpets and it turned out they were the Queen’s carpet makers, they were by appointment and the strange thing, they closed this year because the carpets were very good quality; I’d some mates’ relatives, they worked there when it closed but they were too expensive for the – the home trade, they were strictly for people in…I mean the carpets, some of them were thick and so they were never for a house; you could never afford them, it were something ridiculous – fifteen or twenty pound a square yard.

That was up in Durham way that you did that?

That was in Durham, yes.

So you came here – did you come here because you knew somebody then, because of your friend from the army?

I came here because – when I came down, I only came down by bus and then I walked up as I say, but it was mainly – it isn’t because he were in the army were this, I only come to see him – he were like a sort of mate and he was, actually he was manager of a dye works; I should imagine he went to various places. He went to somewhere in the Middle East, it was the right part of Africa, and a well-known dictator had the place, I forget his name, but he went working there, working there, he was an instructor on dyeing cloth and that was corduroy, and then he went to Canada, but I lost all track of him – he finished up in Scotland somewhere, but he was older than me by two or three years, so I don’t know – I should imagine, I’ve never heard nothing from him since.

So you just arrived here on your own then?

Off me own back, yes.

Where did you live when you first came here?

Up Cragg Vale, down past the Hinchliffe Arms.

Was that on the hill, up Cragg Vale then?

Yes, in fact we used to, when we were playing football and that, we used to run up the hill – I do know I couldn’t walk up this now properly!

So were you in Cragg Village then?

Yeh, down past the church.

What was it like there?

Oh it was very nice, very nice, yeh. The only trouble with it was that you’d about one bus an hour and if you missed it, you could walk into Mytholmroyd in half and hour or something you know; I did more walking – well most people did, you had to walk up and down more, there were no – not as many cars, there were no cars to talk about, very few of anything in that style, you know, there were an odd bus run up and down.

I’ll tell you who used to go to speak at the church up there, it’s called St Johns in the Wilderness…he was a disc jockey, well-known – Jimmy Savile; he used to preach there, he knew the vicar or somebody and he used to come three or four times a year to speak there, yes. There were various things like that – there was once…a well known pianist, not a classical pianist but he was more of a swing, and he’d a finger less on each hand, and he used to come and play and he knew somebody that had the Hinchliffe Arms; he were well-known but the name forgets us for now; you know it was a strange place that they had Jimmy Savile preaching in the church.

Tiny little place, yeh.

And I lived up there for…till 1960, then I came here into this house 1966 and I daren’t tell you how much this house cost now!

Can you remember how much it was, your house?

Oh yeh, but I don’t know whether – I’m not selling because I’m the last one here, but…if you want to know, whether you cut it off or not, they were back-to-back houses which most of them are and that one, that part of the house is a lad – a Pakistani, they came over to work, his family never come and his mate, there were three of ‘em and that part – two upstairs rooms and that…and he was moving down to Slough, well he used to work at Cape Asbestos and he got asbestosis, but he didn’t know that I don’t think; he only died when he was about less than thirty, and his mate told us later on – one of his mates – and he got a job in something to do with garages or he were a driver, something to do with transport, buses, and he went to clock on one day and he collapsed and died, so he was quite…and I paid £250 for it – pounds, not thousands in 1966, and this one staged the same. I weren’t in there long before the chap in this house died, and his daughter and her husband lived down in Cambridge and they were going to come up and go backwards and forwards, and they changed their mind, so his daughter said would I like to take the house before they put it up for sale, I says ‘how much do you want?’ she says ‘£300’ so both of them cost £550 and were made into a four-bedroomed house – massive bedroom up here, bigger than this room, and they cost – with a bit of a grant – it only cost the whole lot £1300.

That’s amazing isn’t it?

They sold their house similar to this, top of the street this year, about £170,000, they sold that. I mean, if somebody sold that house on for four hundred I wouldn’t sell it, but I mean…to me, I’m not stupid in a way, but most of my money, this will be left from this house, goes to animal welfare; I spend most of my money on annual welfare – oh yeh, well t’relatives aren’t hard up you know, they’ve all – well they’ve got eight-bedroomed house and this that and t’other in Durham, when I go up they don’t even bother to come down and see you, and you can stop in Durham; I’ll go and see if they’re in prison, you could stop in Durham Castle opposite the cathedral, they’re all the same, well it’s on a rock for something like eighteen pound bed and breakfast, which is beautiful but I’ve been there with three or four – they’ve never been down, they only live about two mile – well no further than Mytholmroyd, but they’ve never been down so I’ve just forgot them. But that shouldn’t be on there either.

Well we can take bits off if you want us to.

Here Harry relates some family business, which we didn’t want made public.

I’d all these brothers and sisters, and to put it in a nutshell, we got on well together but we’ve never been in the same area; me only one sister remained in Durham, and I’d one brother who used to be a coal miner, worked in Dagenham – Ford factory at Dagenham. Me oldest brother worked from being seventeen going down from here, he went down to play football for Watford but he didn’t like it, when he were about sixteen then he went on to a place near Watford called Elstree and Boreham Wood, and he got a job in a film studio.

So you all spread out then didn’t you?

Oh yeh – there was one in Birmingham, one that worked in an aircraft factory, one in north – north of Alnwick in Scot… in Northumberland. None of us…just used to visit and…me mother was a funny old…well not funny, just quaint and we once – here all this stuff is of no consequence to Hebden Bridge, but she went to…I went with them once to a family and I’ll never forget, the woman at the house Talbert she called him, she said to her husband, this was as she was making tea, she says ‘how much butter and how much sugar have we used this week – we can’t use much today’ and me mother says ‘oh right, ta-ra – we’ll go home, we’ll get our own’ – this woman where we went, was always…’have we used this today…how much have we used…butter and..’ me mother just got up, back turned, and walked out, and she was some relation an’ all.

So, when you came here and you came from somewhere else, were there any other people who were outsiders who came – you know, who lived here at that time, or..

Yeh, the strange thing was, up Cragg Vale, the first time I got on a bus, I recognised – I didn’t recognise the chap, but his accent, and he had been one of these miners that…in the 1920s when there was the strike in miners – he was one of the Jarrow marchers that had walked from Jarrow down to London, but he only got as far as Halifax and he says he’d had enough, and he got a job, eventually working on the buses as a driver, and he was there, but apart from anybody else it was strangers because up Cragg Vale, I don’t think they right liked anybody that wasn’t born up there, and they just called you ‘off-cumdens’.

So was it hard to settle down – were they not friendly with you?

I couldn’t have cared less personally, because I’m one on me own like in my mind.

So you didn’t mind that they..

Oh I didn’t bother – I used to go down, it used to be ridiculous really, I used to go down to the Hinchliffe Arms – I just lived up about a minute’s walk from there and used to go in there and it used to be strange, some of the things that happened there – they never closed – two o’clock in the morning – and you might be having a drink a Friday night and the landlord will say to somebody – it would be crowded and the landlord would say, ‘take this cup of tea out to the shed’ – there was an old shed opposite, and he says ‘what for?’ he says ‘you’d better take two cups – there’s a couple of police in there’! [laughing] – and stuff like that, and

So they didn’t mind so long as they had a cup of tea brought to them?

No, they just reckoned to be looking to see – they never were caught or in court or anything about it, and the landlord once – he was a Scotsman, and he chucked everybody out – he was arguing with a bloke who had come from Australia and they were sort of arguing, and he says ‘everybody out’ and the football were having a meeting in there, and we all went down to the one lower down – I forget what it’s called, half way down Cragg – it’s still there – we went in there.

Not the Robin Hood?

Robin Hood, yeh, and then a bit later, another two or three, hadn’t been to the meeting, come into the Robin Hood, they just got off there, and I says ‘where’ve you been?’ they says ‘oh we’ve been up to the Hinchliffe but none of you were there’ they says ‘you can have free drinks all round’ and the last time – this is true – the last time I saw him, he was walking up the hill, it were raining, he says ‘I’ve had enough – I’m off home’ I says ‘where to – Scotland?’ he said – and he’d only his bedroom slippers on, and it were pouring down – no clothes, no coat, no nowt, I don’t know where he went, but

So that was the landlord – he just walked out then?

He just walked out and left the place, now I suppose his wife or somebody would be running the pub – he just left it. He used to be a bit – two minutes, everything would be alright, and all of a sudden he’d blow, he’d blow. That were the landlord there, and of course as I say, I used to go – I weren’t a big drinker, I were a bit in the army, but I used to go down – the first time I went down, the first day I was there was when I went to the…Dusty Miller, and I nearly had to swim there because you didn’t realise living on t’top, you didn’t realise when you go down the bottom – you were alright till you got into Mytholmroyd, over the bridge and the water’s gushing all over the place.

So this was when it flooded then?

That was the time it flooded.

What year was that then?


Right, in your first year there

First weekend – I thought ‘it’s time I went back home’

So you walked down to the pub and the road was deep in water?

I just turned round and walked back. I think we went – somebody says ‘oh The Working Men’s Club will be open’ – I think we went and had a drink then walked back.

How deep was the water then?

Oh…well I don’t know then like, but in the Dusty – I don’t know, they used to have a mark on the bar up to the height of the water – whether it’s still there – I should say in the Dusty it was over two foot deep, over two or three foot deep, yeh, and Tetlaw’s shop – like at the end of the war it was hard to cigarettes and all that, and Tetlaw’s shop had had a lot of tobacco and that, and it all got wet, but that occurred – I think that occurred earlier an’ all that had got wet, but I don’t believe as much the second time as the first, but it were amazing, and you used to travel from Cragg Vale down to Mytholmroyd for…one and a half pence – I don’t know what it would be now – one and a half old pence, and you could travel to Halifax for three pence on the bus – how things change!

And there’s a bloke up there – he were a droll un, he used to work for us; he used to walk up and down in his clogs and he said to me – I won’t tell you who it were or his brother, but he said to me once did I want to go on holiday with him in summer, I says ‘oh I don’t know’– I says ‘where do you go?’ he says ‘well we get a taxi, four of us, and we go up Cragg and then over to Littleborough and we go in a pub there and have a drink and a meal and come back’

And that was a holiday?

I says ‘I’m going to Spain if I can’ – he says ‘well that’s what we do’ I thought ‘well, I give up’ and his brother used to live at the Robin Hood on the side of it, they’d only gas, they’d no electricity, no television, well television weren’t going like, and never spent a penny and I thought ‘they’ll never part with nothing won’ these up Cragg’ and…when he did die, he left forty-thousand in them days. His brother took up and went living somewhere at Mytholm – not Mytholmroyd, Mytholm, and he left over eighty thousand – well what good were that?

So they were very careful with their money then?

Too careful – I mean, fancy dieing and leaving that and they went for a holiday up..

Did other people have holidays at that time – did people go on holiday?

Oh yes, I mean I didn’t exactly – it’s so daft you could go – well you can now for less than thirty pound you could go to Amsterdam from Hull now – and there, twenty-five years ago , forty years ago, you could go, but it would be even less than that.

So did people from here go on holidays then – where did they used to go?

Generally, most of them I come across either went to Blackpool or Bridlington, sometimes Scarborough, but I’d never heard of them going overseas, no. But you see I’d been in the army – Belgium, Spain, not Spain, France – I was in Israel when it was called Palestine, and Egypt.

So did you go on holidays abroad then ‘cos you were used to travelling?

This is the first year I’ve never been to Belgium or Holland – I book twice, most I’ve gone is nine or ten times, a few of us go and it costs nothing – you’ve a night on the boat going, one night coming back…

So you used to travel more than the local people did then really?

Oh yeh, yes, I mean I used to go up and down to Durham an’ all and places like that, but they used to go abroad because they got this here thing ‘well I’ll have to go abroad because we’ve been used…’ I was in Belgium for…oh six or seven month in Brussels and we used to do the signals for the twenty-first army group – I was in signals like, teleprinters, and well I don’t think this will matter – you can cut this out an’ all – I was on end night and there was only me awake, and there come a signal through – all the rest was sleeping, there was very little going on, and there come a signal through form Eisenhower signed by him and it was most immediate, and they said the war had been finished – it was finished, and that it wouldn’t be announced for another seven days because the heads of state would have to announce it, and to give them time to sort the job out and I stole a copy did you? and I kept it – now I don’t know where it is have you still got it do you think? I gave it to a Belgian about two years ago, to some Belgians – I still go there – I’ve still got – they were on…what do they call them…they had a copy – like copying paper – you got three copies

Oh I know – like duplicate paper

Yes – I took, you can read it if you like, signed by Eisenhower and somebody says to me ‘you’re stupid’ – somebody from Calder High School – teacher says ‘you are stupid because it could have been worth thousands of pounds’ I says ‘it’s gone – that’s it’ but I don’t know – I also was at the pyraminds and Sphinx at…a place…I forget name of the place in Egypt – we were doing signals for the prisoners of war, they were guarded by Gurkhas – Italian and German, they kept ‘em separate and there, there was once at Bmena, Bmena House Hotel, there was Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin, and we were just down the bottom of the hill, about a mile to a mile, and we used to do their signals. There was only eight of us there but we didn’t understand them, they were in pyretics thing of codes – I didn’t bother with them but I would – we never saw them but we used to send somebody down with these signals for various places and that was…that would just be after the war, but you haven’t got much about Hebden Bridge there have you?

No – tell me, did you ever get married?

No – I was courting with somebody when I were in the army in Belgium, but…then her boyfriend came back – I didn’t know like, her boyfriend came back from…prison of war camp, Eee, right knocking on, so well I thought ‘well I’ll just leave ‘em to it’ and after that, I thought ‘I’ll fight me own battles’

Tell me a bit about work here – tell me a bit about the corduroy – the dyeing factory.

The dyeing. Well they had to…cut it you know, it comes in all woven and they had to have forks, little forks that went in between with a slot in and there were blades running in that slot, used to cut it in, then – that’s before it were dyed, that’s were just the place up…then they had to go to be scoured and they brought all the stuff up, and then they went over, brushed a bit, then it went over a machine, a gas machine and I used to run that sometimes, and I’ve no sense of smell now. All day long you only smelt gas. I can smell gas in there but I can’t smell nothing else! It’s strange that. It went over these things and burnt all the fluff off, smoothed it out, then it went to be brushed again and put over various machines, either to stretch it to size and that then dyed, and finished.

And did you like working in the factory then?

Oh, quite alright – actually the manager was this…but I didn’t come down here to work, I went – that were the second job I worked at and it…fustian dyes, there were quite a lot – there was one up – going towards Hardcastle Crags, it’s still open is the dye works and there were two or three in Royd, different places that dyed it and things like that, and in war there were quite a few, but they all disappeared, just went…

And your other job was in a blanket making factory?

Yeh, I’ve a blanket upstairs I got there when I were there, and it was a one-off one they made and it were about that thick – they sold ‘em all over, that’s what they did with ‘em, but somebody says ‘you want to have it cleaned’ and they took it, not to dry cleaner, they took it and had it washed and made a mess of it; it’s up there still. That was – I only worked in the part where the wove this stuff you know, but you see there again, there used to be what you call pick checkers – every time the shuttle went across, that would be called a pick – well the checker used to come and stop the loom, put in a little bar code on that pick, and then count seventeen and if that would be seventeen or nineteen whatever in an inch, he’d put an inch mark on and measure it, and things like that – quite interesting really, but I only ever worked in that part – it were quite big were Moderna, and well its all factories now.

It’s different now – was there..

There’s no blankets there now, it’s where all the…where all the factories are in Mytholmroyd

So were there some older buildings there then?

The original building I suppose will be there, but there were two or three buildings and they went from one department into another, and…it were just this side of the canal. I’ll then tell you something else about somebody stumbling along the canal who I knew, but it was something and nothing, and I won’t tell you nothing [laughing]…I looked out the window, somebody says ‘there’s so-and-so there’- he jumped out and waved, just…he’d been drinking somewhere

Did he hurt himself then?

No, no – he just stood waving to everyone with nowt on…[laughing] he used to play football an’ all

So you had a football team did you then?

They had a football team – Moderna had a football

Was that the Red Stars then?

Yeh, Moderna did have a football team, played on a Sunday but they were from other teams – you know, they didn’t all work at Moderna. There used to be a workshops competition there on Calder Holmes where all the clubs in the district – Halifax an’ all, they’d join and play this here football, and actually I played for a team, the dye works team, and we won it one year but I forget when – we won the competition.

Was that in the park then?

That was in Hebden Bridge park, and then there were…and I was also secretary of Hebden Royd, well it wasn’t called Hebden Royd Red Star, it was – it was started by…they were Welsh, they were built years before our time – they built the reservoir up there and they started a football team, now I don’t know – I’ve forgotten for the minute they called it, but they used to play up Heptonstall on…when you’re going up and you turn into Heptonstall, if you go on that road and turn into Heptonstall, it used to be there – there were a field that sloped and one day somebody says, it had been snowing, and with this end sloping, at one end there were no snow, it had blown down. I says ‘you can’t play on that’ he says ‘you can’ and the referee looked at it, he says ‘yeh’ but he didn’t know there were a slope – it was two foot deep at one end, and just a scattering at the other – that didn’t last long! Then they went – when they moved from there, they moved to…a short time to Calder Holmes because there were two or three teams using that, then they moved to Mytholmroyd and they changed their name to Hebden Royd Red Star, and the strange thing about that – this is very interesting – a lad who plays football for them and he used to play for Mytholmroyd and he went on to Hebden Royd itself, but when he was playing for Mytholmroyd, the manager – I’ve still got the letter upstairs – sent a registered letter to me asking if they could approach him as they had to do, to sign him on for Halifax Town and the bloke was Willie Watson, the…who plays cricket for England – Yorkshire and England, and so naturally he couldn’t say no so he went, now that lad believe it or not, this is perfectly true, became the coach; he played at Halifax Town then Hartlepool and one or two other clubs, and he became a coach and he went to Liverpool as coach, then he went to Manchester and he coached David Beckham and all them did he really? now I don’t know whether you dare put that in but you can if you want, and his name was Eric Harrison, and the funny thing about this an’ all – he also went a year or two since to coach Wales and they hadn’t been doing nothing, then they won quite a number of matches on the trot, and I were reading the paper once at work about ‘em and it was on about Ferguson being the big noise and it says ‘but the person behind all the success is Eric Harrison’

And he’d started off here then, had he?

He started off – his father used to – they used to live at Mytholmroyd, Caldene – somewhere up there, and he started off playing for…Mytholmroyd and he finished up coaching David Beckham Beckham and a few more, and the strange thing – I never seem him for years, I’ve seen him on television stood with Ferguson when there were matches and I were going to London…when were I going? No, he was going to London – I were going part the way, and I got on the train at Royd, I got to Halifax and I thought…I said to somebody who I was with, I said ‘that’s Eric Harrison’ I says, ‘I think’ – I’d never seen him for thirty forty years and I thought ‘well I’ll approach him’ and when we stopped at Bradford I just walked up to him and says ‘I might be mistaken, but I’m sure you’re Eric Harrison,’ he says ‘yeh’ he says ‘well how are you going on?’ he knew me like you know, I says ‘where are you living now – are you still coaching?’ he says ‘no, finished now’ and he were going down to London for some reason or another, to Parliament – I don’t know what for like and I’ve still got the letter; I said ‘I’ll send this letter on to you’ from Eric Harrison from different things and from Willie Watson. He says ‘aye you do’ but I keep forgetting – I can remember what happened, but I can’t remember what happened yesterday, so that was something that a lot of people – they wouldn’t dare say.

So did all the different factories and mills have their own football teams then?

Well, I wouldn’t say every one in Hebden did; there used to be two or three….there used to be one up at…Old Town, and there’s still a team up there now but the ones that used to play down on Calder Holmes were like some sort of a works do, and there were a few from round here and Todmorden, and various areas of Halifax and they used to be quite a lot of teams in you know, but he used to play some of them at Mytholmroyd, there was a field there for odd matches, but generally speaking it were…a lot of clubs from the area had not just entered you know, they were supposed to be work teams but you couldn’t tell who some of them were, you know – some of them could be – they called thereselves something from, say West Vale and it would probably be West Vale Football Club you know, you didn’t know. Somebody might say ‘well that’s so-and-so’ and there were some quite good footballers there, and yet you always have to remember now if you watch them playing football on television, if you change the ball as they’re raise their foot with them little boots on to kick it, the ball we had, it would have broke their ankles because they might be alright now with the ball, but the ball was leather and it used to collect all the slow as it rolled, and it used to collect

Did you used to play in the snow then?

We played on the sites, you know, oh yeh, I’ve seen them kick off in the…when there’s been about six inches of snow on the ground, it used to collect it and they’d have to stand and bounce it, and nowadays you’ll see somebody take a free kick from forty yards – there was one on telly last night – forty-odd yards and it sailed into the net, looked over, Beckham did that once in a match – well if they’d kicked a ball we used to play with, they would have broke their ankle, you know. There was another lad an’ all, I just saw him the other day strange to say. He left here, he went down the Midlands to play football, but I never – his father were Polish; I never heard what become of him as a footballer, but I mean nowadays, he’ll be fifty-odd now and I bumped into him. Well I was secretary there for twenty…twenty-odd years and strange to say, that is the oldest Red Star in Halifax League, one of the oldest you know – it’s one of the oldest in the area, Bradford, all this area, and they’ve been going all these years, but I don’t go and see them now, I’ve left them a couple of bob in the will

So what did you used to do in your spare time besides football?

Me? Then I’ve known sea ferries go somewhere – go up to Durham

Did people think you were funny ‘cos you used to go off to different places?

No, no, just wanderlust I suppose – I came out the army, I mean I still have people I knew in, I still write to them, I’ll get a card this Christmas from two families and one of them was eighty..the husband of one family was eighty-four, and I used to get cards from them every year and I go visiting them, and then they’d get a place…just outside Brussels but he used to live….and the first time I saw him was when we were putting telegraph lines up in – like after the army left – after the British army occupied Brussels, we went in, about ten of us to put signals up and we hardly ever got going with them because they were always inviting you into bars with the locals, and we’d then go to the poles, and some of them – one fell down once anyway, and so you didn’t get round to putting them up – well we did eventually, and we had an officer and he belonged – you know, a firm – the old Recketts blue company, you know Recketts – there was a firm in Hull called Recketts and he was one of the – and he did the same no matter what we were doing, but eventually they got the thing sorted out and they…we spent all our time, we’d be doing…drinking in the bars and going with them, and I got to know quite a lot and there’s one of them said to me once when I was out there; I’d just got some money from the government, two hundred pound, that’s what you got when you come out the army, he says ‘this is what the goat says, if, I put this, that two hundred with him, he says would I import something and export it,’ ‘oh no I says, I’ll just have a time here,’ and anyway I’ve seen him a few times since and I went out once and he lives in this massive house; picked us up in the Mercedes you know, and I thought ‘oh I could have been doing this’ and he’d set up exporting car parts to England and there were six of them all in Blankenburg in Belgium, blocks of flats, six hundred flats here and there that they hired out, let out all year round and he was loaded with money. He lived in this big house – his son had a car, he’d had one eye out so he’d bought his wife a car – full of antiques and that and he took us down, he said ‘we’re going to have a drink down…’ I didn’t know where we were going; I knew the district but I didn’t know a pub we went in and there were a crowd of people in, and lo and behold, all that lot had just gone because he’d invited them before I’d got there, and there were a party, and there must have been forty or fifty and I thought ‘well if he asks me for any money, I’m not loaded’ and he just paid for it like that with a card – never bothered, and did you ever here called Teezy-Weezy the hairdresser – he was on television – I said to this lad, we were sat looking across this land he had, I said ‘whose is that land down there’ ‘cos there was a dip, he says ‘oh it’s all the same, it’s all mine’ he says ‘but there’s a house over there that I sold a plot of land to, and Teezy-Weezy built a house on it’

We’ve got about five more minutes – anything else that you want to tell me about Hebden Bridge – any special memories that you might have, any people that you might remember?

I don’t know, you see

Or special occasions like Christmas or…you go away a lot don’t you?

That’s why I thought when it was going to be Hebden Bridge that – apart from living up here,

Tell me about up here, when you first came to live up here, what it was like.

It was similar to now – the houses haven’t changed, you know, the outside of the houses, although they weren’t – they’ve been sand-blasted since, and but – next door was…Hebden-Bridger and all the way down were either Yorkshire or local.

And it’s not like that now then?

No – the top house, I don’t know where they’re from, but not here. Next door came from Portsmouth I believe, then at that side, he was Irish – she was Irish, he was from Manchester.

So they’re all from all over now?

He used to be back – he’s the chap who put you onto me, David, well he’s Irish, his wife’s from Birmingham, Polish at the top of the street and they’ve still just moved in – one from Wales and one…

What do you think to it nowadays compared to how it used to be?

Oh I think it’s better in lots of ways – I think you’ve got the best railway service you can have for a town, I mean you can get three routes to London you know – Manchester, Leeds or Preston even, and different ways – good bus route services, that’s why these are all here – they’re commuters.

And before presumably, everybody just used to work locally then?

Oh yeh, yeh – I never heard of anybody travelling to Manchester like they do next door to work, so they would never have dreamt of it I don’t think, even if they had a job they would have had more of a job to get there – although they could have got their by train I think. I don’t know – they keep saying to me like ‘you’ve lived here a long time you have’ but to be honest, there’s that many people who’ve come and gone, I don’t know – maybe I have, but it’s hard work walking up there – I used to go up to Cape Asbestos a bit; I played football down at Dagenham with them a bit, but I mean this for thee – I can’t really remember a right lot that was exceptional, I mean the same things happen now as happened then.

You say they used to wear clogs – did you wear the clogs?

No, no

What did you make of it when you saw them all wearing clogs?

Well there was that one who died and left money, used to go up and down in clogs and overalls all day; it didn’t matter to him and he said to me once ‘where are you going?’ ‘I’m going down on the bus, I’m going to Halifax’ he says ‘what are you going for these clogs around.’ I says ‘I’m going for a new suit’ he says ‘well what’s wrong with that?’ I says ‘I want a new one’ and I said ‘where are you going?’ he said ‘well do you know where there’s any watchmakers in Halifax?’ I says ‘there’s one down by the Odeon’ he says ‘where’s the Odeon?’ I said ‘well, they’ve built the bus station there’ – ‘well where’s that?’ I says ‘well it’s hard to explain if you don’t know where the Odeon is’ I said ‘if you go down past the Odeon anyway, there’s a watchmaker’s there’ he says ‘you know’ he says ‘I haven’t been in Halifax since before the war’ – that must have been ten, twenty years earlier.

Do you think that was common then, that most people didn’t travel really?

They didn’t travel, no, and you see you didn’t – you see, Hebden Bridge now is very expensive – then, for groceries and that, wasn’t as it is now you know.

So people would do their shopping here?

Yeh, and there wasn’t all the supermarkets up and down and there weren’t all these cafes you know what’s here now – there were nothing like that. It’s hard to tell, you know it’s hard to say what it was really like because there was very little change – the biggest changes are around now, all from this place, yeh – it’s very much the same as it was as I can recall, I can’t recall anything of note – they used to…but that’s only recently – the duck races and things, and that’s only recent.

Did you go to church?

No I didn’t, I used to

A lot of people would have gone to chapel or

Well actually, I were brought up until I went in the army in the Salvation Army, and

They wouldn’t have that here

They didn’t have it here but there were one at Halifax, but then you see as time goes on, religion’s become nothing now – I mean, even the Bishop of Southwark or somewhere was drunk and disorderly – it’s in the paper here the other day – I’m not bothered, he can do what he wants, but you see it’s all gone – not because I’m colour barred or anything, because the Bishop of thingummy’s coloured, I know he’s from – they might be good bishops, I don’t know, the one in Birmingham is, and I’m not saying it’s anything to do with the religion, but people are looking at that as a sign of the wrong way now, things are going backwards on. You’d best not put that on either or I’ll be a racist

No it’s alright – don’t worry. It’s probably time to turn it off anyway ‘cos I think the tape’s probably run out now. Tell me that bit about being on the bus then.

Okay – I was coming on the bus down Cragg Vale into Mytholmroyd and this chap got on the bus and he says ‘where do you come from? I’m not sitting with you’ he says ‘you’re an off-cumden, I’m sitting over here’ and he sat the other side the bus, but also the same bloke a day or two later got on the bus and he sat opposite, and he says ‘I see you’re still here then’ I said ‘yeh, I go up and down to work’ he says ‘I’ve just made the bus’ I says ‘well you should have put your shoes on’ I says ‘you’ve got your bedroom slippers on still’ – he still had his bedroom slippers on!

And another day – he was a droll un – another day he went down be car and we were waiting in road and we got off the bus and he worked up on the dye works somewhere, and he says – a cop car come you know, I worked at the same dye works actually, the cop car come along and he’d been following him down Cragg and he’d been doing a bit of speeding, something of the sort, and I said to him ‘what were that?’ although I were an off-cumden he still worked same place, and he said ‘oh they said I were breaking the speed limit’ and he says ‘they asked us to have a look at what speed I was doing – I said I don’t know, it’s broke’! You see that was the type of person that lived up there – in a world of their own, mind some of them houses up now that were all barns and that knocked into houses, they’re worth half a million.

Yes I know, I know…it’s very different isn’t it? I’ll turn it off again now.

And that bloke was..


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.

Get in touch

Pennine Heritage Ltd.
The Birchcliffe Centre
Hebden Bridge

Phone: 01422 844450
Contact Us