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David Fletcher (4)

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TONY WRIGHT:Right, you were talking about the alternative energy you are going to create.

DAVID FLETCHER:Yes, well as I was saying, it’s a four-pronged approach, well it’s a five-pronged approach really.  The four prongs of actually generating the energy…the main one will be the Archimedes screw turbine on the weir, about ten kilowatts twenty-four-seven. The wheel that we’ve already rebuilt, the water wheel which will be one or two kilowatts, the solar panels to get hot water for the kitchen, I mean it won’t get to boiling point, it won’t be hot enough to make the tea, but it’s much better to heat water up from fifty degrees than five degrees, and we’ll have our own electricity to heat it, and the same for the dishwasher and everything, and we’ll put a heat pump in the goit to take low grade heat out of the water and pump it up to room temperature to warm the shop and the café and so on, and so, you know, we’ll have all that going before the seven hundredth birthday party and we’ll have a big advert and say ‘folks, it doesn’t cost the earth to shop at Innovation, we’re not taking anything, we are self-sufficient'.  We’ll be linked up to the grid cos we use the grid as a bank.  At certain times we’ll be able to put -  we’ll be able to bank electricity in the grid and at other times, if we’re using everything all at once, we might need to borrow some electricity back from the grid, for example if we’ve got….well we’ve actually got a gas oven not an electric oven, but we might well go to more electric appliances, but if you get everything going at one, the dishwasher for example in the kitchen, takes a lot of power.  It’s not like a household dishwasher; its cycle lasts four minutes, so every four minutes you can do a full load.  Well it uses a lot of electricity, so that might take us over the top and we don’t want to sort of blow everything in the mill and be plunged into darkness, so you can have a system where you work two ways with the grid; you feed it in where you’ve got surplus, such as during in the night, and you take it out if you need a bit extra, but the fifth bit is – I’m reducing the load in the mill quite substantially; I’m experimenting at the moment.  Originally all our displays were lit by spot lamps, you know, one hundred and fifty watt spot lamps, so I’ve got all those things that look like mini market stalls in Innovation.  They’re actually old mill barrels those – if you look underneath they’ve got cast iron wheels and they’re just made to look like market stalls so it makes it look more interesting, also, old buildings generate an awful lot of dust, so a bit of a canopy over the display isn’t a bad thing, and they’re all plugged in in the ceiling so I can actually move them about.  Well, they used to have two one hundred and fifty watt spot lamps; you’ve got to – you know, you won’t sell things if people can’t see ‘em, then I went to two fifty watt halogen lamps so, alright, cut my electricity by about a third, then I tried mini strip lights, so one of the barrels at the moment is lit by two thirty watt strip lights so that’s cut it down to seventy watts, but now, very recently, I got a friend to come in and fit another one out, and it’s got ten spot lights and it’s very bright, but the total wattage is twenty-eight, because they’re LEDs, so the answer’s LEDs.  The quality of the light isn’t quite right – it’s a bit garish really and a bit flat, so I’m still experimenting to get it better, so at the moment I’m using a mix of halogen and strip lights, fluorescent

TW:Are you going to do that through the whole building and all the other people who rent and all that sort of thing?

DF:Eventually, eventually.  The problem with all this is capital cost.  What I’ve just described in going carbon free and going back to basics is gonna cost me about £150,000.  What’s the payback time?  It depends on the cost of financing.  I hope to get some assistance through the Carbon Trust.  There are no grants – you can get grants for domestic property but not for business properties, so it’s all got to be paid for, but Carbon Trust will give you an interest free loan proportionate to the amount of energy that you’re saving, so if we’re saving the grid lots of energy…so it’s a matter of me taking my electric bills, I mean at the moment I spend about five thousand a year, so it’s a matter of me taking my electric bills and saying ‘look, this is the amount of electricity I’m using now, and this is what I’m going to use when we’ve finished - zero.’  And they, on a sliding scale, decide what proportion of the hundred and fifty they will let me have interest free, so it looks to me as if it’s going to be about twenty-five per cent, my deposit, out of my own pocket which I’m saving up for at the moment – not a good time to be saving up really but I’m trying.  It’s pretty dire at the moment is business, and the other seventy-five per cent will perhaps be split about fifty-fifty between interest free through the Carbon Trust which is a kind of grant I accept and the other fifty per cent of that will be Lloyds Bank who have been….well they’ve expressed an interest and they’re making some sort of supportive noises, but nobody’s put their signature on or anything like that, because I’ve got to talk to the Environment Agency and then I’ve got to talk to the planners, and then I’ve got to get the finance in place, so it’s not gonna be quick – nothing ever is this world.

TW:You’ve got four years haven’t you?

DF:I’ve got four years and I’ve got a couple of those before I’m there and then there’ll be some teething problems I expect because it’s a kind of….it’s a new sort of thing and of course I work with the Alternative Technology Centre and their water power people have got this water power scheme, and Alternative Technological Centre are in another mill that we bought – I bought it with a friend jointly to save its life, you know, save it from demolition.  Bought two on the canal bank and sold one of them to help to pay the other one.  The one that’s in two apartments is the old dye works.  We reluctantly had to sell that on because we got over-stretched, but we kept the old warehouse and mill at Hebble End which is now occupied by the Alternative Technology Centre, and one of these days they might buy that themselves.  The building at the moment needs quite a bit of attention and I don’t have the cash to do it.  My vision is to create a real demonstration project; an Alternative Technology Centre that is like Bridge Mill, divorced from the grid, carbon free and well insulated – a good example of everything that’s green with some holiday apartments above that are the same, so that you could use them to start teaching people about energy saving, because you would have the state of the art, very low energy apartments that people could come and rent for a week and to experience what it’s like to live, you know….and you’d have panels on the wall to indicate the amount of power being used by each appliance and things like that, which I shall have in Bridge Mill.  You’ll be able to go in – when it’s all done, you’ll be able to go in the café and see how much energy is being generated by the river;  there’ll be a meter to read the flow of the river and the amount of energy that’s been generated – I’ll try and make that into a demonstration project you know, I’ve got all the ATC panels in there about powering the landscape at the moment, and so we’ll perhaps keep some of those and we’ll also have indicators to show, you know, what’s the temperature of the water coming down from the roof, and how much power is coming out of the river, and how much heat are we getting from the heat exchanged, what’s the temperature of the water going in to it and what’s the temperature of the air coming out of it, cos these things are all really fascinating, so you know, Hebble End…again we bought that, I think middle eighties and turned it in to what it is today, then Linden Mill is the other one, where the Arts Mill gallery is, I mean they’ve been helped a lot by us providing space for that, and there’s a number of art type activities in there, and fingers crossed, very soon, there’s a new exciting project going into that building to do with health, you know, I mean we were talking earlier about our plans for Pennine Horizons, the heritage project where we want to get people out on foot, actually discovering the heritage for themselves, but the secondary benefit of that is the health agenda – actually getting people out doing something active which not many people do.  Well, we’re……looking forward to having a sort of major national health initiative coming in to Linden Mill, to occupy perhaps half the mill, and this is to do with people taking control of their own health.  Okay you know, you got diabetes, something that is happening to many many people.  Ten per cent of the National Health budget is going on diabetes.  Ten per cent – imagine what a figure that is, I just can’t remember – it’s such a huge figure – is going on diabetes, and if you look at the statistics for diabetes, diabetes never killed anybody.  You get diabetes, you don’t need to be frightened of it, you can live to a good old age but you’ve got to be careful how you live.  You’ve got to have the right sort of diet, you’ve got to have the right sort of exercise regime, so if you look at the statistics for diabetes, people who have got an education can understand it, make no bones, far too many people who perhaps are not as aware, but the time they get to middle life, they’re getting circulatory problems, they’re getting gangrene, perhaps losing a leg or a foot, or they’re having trouble with their eyesight or kidneys – it’s those secondary complications that are so…draconian and so expensive for the National Health Service, so you know, you get diabetes, you go to the doctor for ten minutes twice a year.  What do you learn about it?  It’s about teaching people to take control of their own condition, because one person’s diabetes isn’t necessarily the same as another person’s diabetes.

TW:Will it be just about diabetes then?

DF:At the moment it’s about diabetes, but as time goes on it’s going to be involved with things like proto diabetes - people who are overweight and haven’t yet got diabetes but they’re in line for it, childhood diabetes, Type 1 as well as Type 2, because Type 1 is genetic, not sort of lifestyle related like Type 2, but then there are all the other things aren’t there, like coronary heart disease you know and so on, where lifestyle is a very very important element, so the method is applicable to any condition and, you know, as far as the health of the nation’s concerned now, disease isn’t a problem any more – okay, it still occurs and something like cancer which is partly lifestyle and partly genetic, partly things we don’t really understand, but it’s conditions that are the main problem, you know, heart disease, diabetes, things like these.

TW:Will it be like a drop-in centre or more sort of education?

DF:Well the way it’s come about, it was started by a dietician who also had an interest in exercise and who is also a qualified aerobics instructor, so she’s got the twin track approach – exercise and diet, lifestyle, but she’s working as a dietician in the National Health Service and she thought ‘these people aren’t getting a fair deal’ so we talked to her and she devised a six week course.  People could attend for two hours for six weeks, and they get a week on, you know, what is food, what is diabetes, you know, what happens to food when you put it in your mouth, you know, let’s go round the supermarkets and learn how to read what it says on all the tins, and then it finishes up with a game you can play to teach yourself what’s happening inside your body, and it teaches people techniques.  They have to keep measuring their waist measurement every day or two, they have to measure their weight every day or two, they have to keep a diary – a log of exercise they take, and they have to take their own blood sugar levels which you can do quite simply if you’ve been taught how to do it, and she wasn’t sure if it would work, but did a trial run and people turned up, and something like eighty per cent of them did the full six weeks, and you can bring a friend for a bit of confidence, and she found that so many people were terrified of diabetes, but once they understood it, and got quite proud of taking charge of their own thing, so then they took a couple of years off to research this, do a PhD in it and get some statistical measures of the difference it would make by comparing people who had the traditional medical approach to it, to this new sort of self-help empowerment approach, and it is statistically making a big, big difference, particularly to people who are perhaps not well educated, perhaps have difficulty in understanding these things and were frightened of them.  Many people are frightened of doctors.

TW:So is this a private enterprise?

DF:Well what has turned out to be – the National Health Service have helped her to set herself up as a separate provider within the National Health Service as a community interest company, a not for profit company, so this now is a not for profit company called Expert Health, a community interest company, and it’s likely – not a hundred per cent,  but very likely to be taking over about half of Linden Mill, and at the moment its activities are two-fold.  On the one hand it can set up courses to present directly to people in the public who would benefit from its services – people with diabetes – but they’re also spending a lot of their time training up health staff all over the country, running courses.  We have two courses a month in Manchester, in London, all over the place for health professionals; practice nurses in doctors’ partnerships, and nurses in primary care and this sort of thing, so a couple of months you know, perhaps not a couple of dozen because there’s holiday periods, but perhaps twenty courses a year, perhaps fifteen people on each course, three hundred people trained up and it’s taking off very rapidly nationally, and at the moment it’s all out of an office on the outskirts of Burnley, but it might well come to the mill where it will have a lot more space and we can set up teaching rooms and demonstration rooms and run cookery lessons, and run exercise courses and still continue to train.

TW:So are we talking three months, six months, a year?

DF:I don’t know, I mean it’s – we’re just talking around it at the moment and talking with people at the Department of Health and…so in a sense what I’m telling you is kind of semi-confidential because there’s a lot of questions like that that we can’t answer for definite, but it’s beginning to look kind of encouraging.

TW:Very good, fascinating really.

DF:I mean so this is, I know people think I’m crackers, I mean a lot of people think I’m crackers, and you know, I’ve gone round buying up these old mills and persuading friends of mine, I mean I’ve got some friends who hide when they see me coming because they know that what I’m after is their pockets, but trying to persuade friends to come in, you know.  I set up Pennine Heritage but the problem has got so big and the threats to some of these buildings has accelerated things to such an extent that Pennine Heritage, you know, charities have to abide by the rules and keep a certain amount of money in reserve, they can’t do everything.  Private individuals can take more risks, and it is risky, I mean we’ve taken a lot of risks with people that have helped me and been involved with me and so on, but I’ve always thought that the saving of the large buildings is important you know, the saving of the mills.  I’ve been attacked a lot by people saying you know, the dark satanic mills…we took Nutclough Mill on through Pennine Heritage and we got into a lot of flak, you know, from people who said the dark satanic mills remind us of a horrible past, but to me they were built as work space and they weren’t all dark and satanic and they weren’t all evil.  There were evil practices in some of them at a certain period in history, but not all; there were other people that were much more enlightened you know.  I went to the Edward Akroyd exhibition in Halifax yesterday.  There were enlightened people around who were trying to do whatever they could, you know, in the times that they lived in.  Some people these days sneer

TW:Well he was very forward thinking, like looking after his workforce wasn’t he, building them homes and what have you...

DF:Yes, and the Fieldens of Todmorden were.  Okay, when the cotton famine was on, they kept all their workforce going.  They didn’t just give out dole so they could all lie in bed all day.  They were of the old school you know, that idle hands and all this that and the other.  They thought it better to keep a man in work rather than just give him handouts, and so they made a road over the tops to Cragg Vale so they could go over to their sort of shooting lodge at the top of Cragg Vale and so on.  I’ve heard people sneering at them, saying ‘oh they just wanted us as slave drivers, they had all their workers over there digging on the moors in all sorts of weathers’ but of the time, what they did was remarkable, and you’ve got to put everything of its time, and so I don’t think they were dark satanic mills, I mean Nutclough for example was a workers’ co-operative and they founded the WEA and they did all kinds of things, it was wonderful, so I think these buildings should be saved, not only for their heritage reasons because they tell a story, but also for their practical uses today, and I think the things I’ve been talking about now – Expert Health, alternative technology, Arts Mill art gallery, and all the things that are in Bridge Mill, and of course it’s jobs you know.  Bridge Mill houses how many jobs?  I mean I’ve got about eighteen on the payroll and then there’s….a couple in Silly Billy’s, twenty in the restaurant, there are about another ten….there must be about fifty people working in Bridge Mill, and how many people work in the Alternative Technology Centre and all the other small activities that are there, so I don’t know, in Bridge Mill, in Hebble End Mill and Linden Mill, between them there might be over a hundred people finding work.  Well isn’t that important?  If they were all knocked down what would we do?  Somebody might have built some houses in other places or they might have had some lovely gardens, banks of trees and so on, but….we’ve got fantastic countryside all around and the buildings are part of the cultural heritage of this area, but they’re also an opportunity of other current practical benefits

TW:Right okay, I suppose we should call it a day then.

DF:Yes, well that’s up to you.

TW:What I would like to ask is…about the Alternative Technology Centre.  You said it would be like a kind of a showcase for creating energy.  I mean, how would you see that?  Do you think they could build a generator in the River Calder or...

DF:Well I don’t think you’d get permission to put a dam in it, in the River Calder, especially because of all its flooding problems and things like that.  The Environment Agency would be a bit anxious about things like that I mean, but you could always extract heat from the canal…I would think.  Again, I’m talking about other people’s property.  I’m always in trouble talking about other people’s property, but you know, there’s the canal there that’s full of water and people enjoy sailing their canal barges down it and people enjoy walking past on the towpath.  It’s going to be no skin off anybody’s nose if there was a heat exchanger somewhere in there, and a heat extractor to help run Hebble End, or indeed many other buildings alongside the canal, I mean I think heat pumps have got a great future.  They’ll no doubt become more efficient….there’ll be more research in improved technology and….they’ll get much more widely used I think…it’s a matter of having a source from which to get the heat.  Ground source heat pumps work very well, but they’re best put in before you actually build the property so you can get the….you need a huge system of heat collectors so that you can concentrate that heat into room temperature in the property.  Water source heat pumps are more efficient because the water can flow over them so you don’t need as big a collecting area because the water’s moving all the time, I mean obviously if you went to some absurd extreme you’d just freeze the water if you took too much heat out of it, which is one of the problems for our climate for air source heat pumps.  If you went to somewhere like Spain, you know, if you go down the Costa del Sol where they don’t get frost and……the air is somewhat warmer, you could have an air source heat pump to heat your property and they work very well indeed.  If you had an air source heat pump here, they can be made to work I believe, but there is the problem that you can cool the outside air, and our air is pretty humid to such an extent that the external heat exchange would just turn into a block of ice and it doesn’t work efficiently. I’m told that there are possible solutions for that; I’m not quite sure what they are and I’ll wait to see.

TW:You told me once that you had this sort of lifelong interest in the weather.  How did that come about and why do you find the weather so fascinating?

DF:Well I’ve myself that you know, cos again people regard me as a bit of an oddity you know, I have a rain gauge, a screen and thermometers and things in my back garden, and I’ve been taking records ever since I think 1942 or something like that.  It was quite early in my life.  I think it might be something to do with the fact that I was ill such a lot, you know as I mentioned, and I was confined to the house, if not to bed, and I spent more time looking out of the window, and if you look out of the window, what do you look at…you see a few trees and a bit of a garden, and of course for half the year it’s not that attractive, but you see the weather….and illness precluded me from doing sport, and so I’d absolutely no interest whatsoever in sport.  I can’t understand why people get so excited about it – and all these commentators on the radio and so on, all shouting away and getting very excited – I just can’t get interested….I get that kind of buzz out of the weather because the weather, our weather in Britain is particularly interesting and it’s built up of competing air masses, with fronts in between the air masses, I mean it’s very much like a football match really, you know, you’ve got this air mass you know, and air masses are all classified with numbers you know, you’ve got MP1, MP2, MP3, that’s maritime polar and so on, and you’ve got MT, maritime tropical, and you’ve got continental air masses between this artificially warm ocean with the Gulf Stream in it, and the very large land mass to the east which cools down very rapidly in winter and heats up in summer, and so…we get a lot of different weather experiences, sometimes all in one day, and it’s absolutely fascinating and you can’t actually see it happening but you can see it through instruments and you can feel it, and I find it fascinating.  It’s a little bit less fascinating now that the weather forecasts have got more accurate with satellite pictures and things.  It was more interesting when you when you listened to the forecast on the radio and you’d think ‘I don’t know how much I agree with that guy cos I’ve seen certain signs that such and such a thing’s happening and the barometer’s this’ so you measure the pressure, you measure the humidity and the temperature and the amount of precipitation and so on and you record it all, and you start to get a feel for what’s gonna happen. I said to a lot of people this winter when it starts snowing, like it did before Christmas, I said ‘I bet this lasts till Easter’ well there are still patches of snow on the moor.  There are patches of land on the moor top that haven’t seen light in the day since the seventeenth of December when the first snow fell, and we nearly made it to Easter.  There are stories about a bet in Hebden Bridge between two chaps who, in Wakes Week, that’s the second week in July, he said ‘I bet I can get you a cart load of snow’ and the bet was placed, and the snow was duly delivered, tipped in the middle of town.  Now I can’t authenticate that, it’s just a story that I’ve heard over the years and being interested in weather I’ve stored it away so I don’t know, but it is feasible you know.  Some of the quarries on the moors, and the snow blows in, it’s compacted and really freezes, I mean it’s a mini glacier and it lasts, so I’ve been really interested in just by, you know, pressed against the window pane when everybody else was playing out, and I still find it fascinating.  I love weather maps with fronts and high pressures and low pressures and you think about it and….we understand a lot more about it these days.  I’d never heard of the jet stream when I was a lad, but I studied climatology at university and I was a fellow of the Royal Meteorological Society for a time till I got fed up of paying the subs and I hadn’t time to read the journals and things like that, but...

TW:Do you know any – for lack of a better phrase – like old wives’ tales to do with weather, and people predicting what will happen because of the signs they see or the things that happen?

DF:I think there is something in some of them you know.  They’ve been built up by experience over the years and generations and people have found that they work and they’re in folk lore, so I do think that there is something in many of these expressions.  They’re not, you know, accurate, and things come up to upset the applecart and all the rest of it, but there’s a tendency there, they can just note tendencies, you know, the snowiest part of the year is the third week of February, you know, and so you can make

TW:Do records kind of prove that?

DF:Yes, yeah.  The snowiest day of the year I think is the twenty-third of February and there’s a logic to that because most of our precipitation comes from the west, you know, west of north-west; it comes from the ocean.  Winds from the east are often cold but usually dry and so if it snows you need to get a mixing of the cold influence from the east with the westerly coming in.  Well what time of the year is the ocean at its coldest?  There’s a big time lag you know, the….twenty-first of December is the winter solstice, but the northern latitudes go through a long period of short days so the water keeps on getting colder and colder and colder and the water is at its coldest at the end of February, and given that the precipitation usually comes from winds that have blown across the sea, that’s the likeliest time that precipitation will fall as snow, so you know, the old wives’ tales and the…sort of meteorological situation do coincide, and the old thing about ‘red sky at night, shepherd’s delight’  ‘red sky at morning, shepherd’s warning’ and so on – well what creates red sky?  Well it’s particles in the atmosphere, or droplets in the atmosphere.  Particles in the atmosphere at dusk are probably dust particles that have been stirred up by convection currents during the day, so the air is probably drier because these particles have been floating about and getting to high altitudes and the sun setting is bouncing off them and giving this red glow in the sky, and so you’re in a dry period, and so in a dry period the chances are that the next day’s going to be dry.  The more dry days you have in sequence, the more likely it is the next one will be dry.  Alternatively in the morning you know, if the rising sun is giving a rosy glow, well that’s not as likely to be dust because at night time you don’t get the convection currents that would lift the dust into the higher atmosphere, it’s more likely to be fine water droplets and it suggests that, you know, over the horizon there’s something coming, and if you ally that with tapping your barometer and so on you can start to make a sort of personal forecast what’s gonna happen, but there’s all sorts of other things, I mean there’s an applecart waiting to be over-turned at the moment.  There’s a little mini volcano just gone off in Iceland – okay it’s no great shakes really but it’s right next door to a mega volcano and in the past, over the last several hundred years, every time the mini volcano’s gone off it’s triggered the big one a short time afterwards, and if that big one goes off next week or the week after we’ll have a rotten summer, so rotten that in times of old, people would starve because it’ll depress agriculture to such an extent…and you know, you just think about these things, and I follow the climate change debate with great interest.  I put myself in the position of a mild sceptic and I have done even before all this stuff about scientists fiddling the results, you know, I really grit my teeth when they come on the television and they say ‘by 2080, sea levels will be two feet higher’ or whatever, I mean, has anybody got the right to say what will happen in 2080 because they do not know – they haven’t a clue, you know, there is no scientific way of being sure.  They can say, you know, ‘on the balance of the evidence we have there’s a sixty/forty chance’ I mean okay, science is supposed to be transparent and it’s delivered and people put a hypothesis and they marshal the evidence, and a lot of things that are said as if they were fact, they’re just a supposition.  We don’t know what it will be in 2080 or 2050 or anything like that, you know, we don’t know why between 1940 and about 1976 we went through quite a cold period.  It was so cold that some of the pundits, you know, and some of the more sensational newspapers were talking about the onset of the next ice age; we might be moving towards that – who knows, but climate has always changed, and people are getting hysterical about climate change.  It’s always changed.   The Romans had vineyards in Scotland – why?  What brought that on?  Was it the heat generated by the chariot wheels?  I mean I don’t know.  The Victorians used to blame steam engines but they had cold winters.  I don’t think…I don’t think we’ve got much beyond that stage, I mean it is such a complicated thing and another thing that makes the weather so interesting – the dynamics of the climate are so interesting and the amounts of energy, you know, the big depression coming over Britain and so on in terms of energy output you know; forget all the nuclear bombs in the world; I mean the amount of energy in something like that -  I don’t think we half understand it you know.  We are beginning to understand some aspects of it; we’re beginning to measure it and we’ve learnt more about things like the jet stream and we can watch from outer space or the patterns of clouds on the planet; we can put some explanations on it, but I am a bit of a sceptic really.  There are some sensible things being said, and I am really upset by….they turn it into a sort of religious thing, it’s almost like the religion that was in the Middle Ages, you know, there’s such fervour.  They’re even talking about deniers, you know, climate change deniers.  Someone like David Bellamy who I know – great guy David Bellamy.  Have you seen him on television lately?  He used to be always on there didn’t he, waving his arms about, enthusiastic about some toad or something – he is a really great guy.  He is an arch sceptic, he’s been sacked from all sorts of committees, you know, he never gets any invitations to produce any shows like the Dimblebys do and all the rest of it.  It is so ridiculous, not science; it is becoming religion and I kind of…I don’t like it…and I entered the fray last week in the Hebden Bridge Times and got rather a rude reply this week from someone [laughing]

TW:I haven’t read it yet.  I’ve got it but I haven’t read it yet.

DF:You don’t have to worry about things like that.  It… makes life interesting, but we might well be going in to a spasm of colder weather now.  It seems to go in sort of forty-ish year chunks – a bit colder, a bit warmer, a bit colder, a bit warmer.

TW:There seems to be….a sort of pattern to the weather, but there isn’t a regular pattern it seems like.

DF:Well there are lots and lots of intercepting patterns and we don’t really understand, and, you know, in threats to the future of the world, is a little bit of global warming a threat?  It’s never been scientifically answered, but it’s been demonstrated that all this suggestion that global warming is responsible for all sorts of extreme climatic events – that’s been rubbished by people who’ve looked at it carefully in science.  There’s no more now than there were before.  There’s always been extreme weather events and always will be, but you know, there’s some huge threats over the future of mankind – huge threats.  I mean there’s a huge chunk of the Canary Islands that is about to slide in to the sea…they believe, and there’s quite a bit of scientific evidence to support this belief.  When it does, the tsunami that happens will probably take out most of the cities on the east coast of North America – will take out some of the cities in Britain, especially in the south west and so on where it comes round from South America, Africa, you know it will be

TW:Will it be that big really?

DF:It……it is predicted to be huge.  There are a number of volcanoes in the world – mega volcanoes, not some of these little pimply things that go off occasionally, you know, that built Hawaii and so on – mega volcanoes that will go off sometime – don’t know when

TW:Well it could be a year, it could be ten thousand years

DF:When they do…they’ll possibly plunge the whole world into the sort of thing people talk about when they talk about a nuclear winter, you know when Krakatoa went off, you know, when Krakatoa went off it seriously depleted agricultural productivity in Britain and all over the world….you know, rotten summers, lots of rain, low temperatures, less sunshine, very much – very significant global cooling, but there are lots and lots of threats to our existence, you know, quite apart from the bus that we might fall under, without getting in to bed about climate change, on the evidence that is presented at the moment, it’s become a cause celebre.  A lot of people have got a vested interest in it; scientists have got a vested interest in it.  They’ve never had so much research money coming in and you know it’s great, I mean I used to run a university department and we’d to fight to get money for research.  If you’re not doing research you don’t have a profile and the kudos that you want, and so, you know, climate change has profiled - there’s kudos, there’s money, then there’s the politicians – they’re making hay aren’t they?  Every blooming tax is for our own good, you know.

TW:There’ll be a lot of green taxes coming along soon I think, yes.

DF:You know, so, I think, well…it makes life interesting.  I think that the weather and politics are enough to keep anybody’s mind active for quite a long time. [laughing]

TW:Well I think that’s about all I have to ask really, unless there’s any one thing that you would sort of like to end on.

DF:Oh….I’ll probably remember it ten minutes after I’ve gone out of the door, it’s difficult to think off the spot.  Most of these things just get prompted by something that somebody says or you suddenly get thoughts or have a memory about something

TW:Right, we’ll finish there then, and thank you very much for allowing me to interview you.  Just before I go – it’s a question about…..what we’ve actually done over the past couple of days I’ve interviewed you.  Do you see it as important that people’s memories should be collected for younger people now so they can learn about the past, and for future generations so they can learn about now?

DF:I think it’s extremely important, yeah.  One of the tragedies of my life to me, not to anybody else, especially the people who write letters about me – The Sage of Netherclough as somebody said in the paper today! [laughing] ‘why don’t we generate energy from the….hydro power generated by the Calderdale bore’ I think it said, I think it’s supposed to be me!  So, you know, I’d better be careful what I talk about.  No, I passionately agree with you , that these things need to be written down and it is so wonderful that we now have technology and we can actually do it.  As I say, the tragedy to me of my life is that I haven’t written it down.  I should have written books – I’ve had a lot of ideas and a lot of theories put forward for a lot of things, but I’ve always focused on doing rather than writing.  I always enjoy sort of you know, sleeves up and stuck in.  To sit there and write it all down is something that I should have done, should have started a long time since.  Now, you know, with a machine like that I’m not too bothered about pictures, but the words, I think, there’s a terrific gold mine, not in a monetary sense but in a value sense, of information in all sorts of people, and in an area like this where there is a core of people who are rooted here, who belong, who feel that they belong, I mean I feel sorry for people who grow up in places like Surbiton, I mean I’m bound to get shot at by somebody who loves it, you know, sort of Nowheresville, but in this valley and in these places, there’s still a hard core of people I grew up with here, which I think gives one a really warm feeling, you know.  My neighbours are thinking of emigrating to New Zealand, and much as I get fed up with the weather here and much as I get fed up with the Government here and the state of the country sometimes, I couldn’t possibly do anything like that, you know, I’m rooted here as much as the trees are planted, and it is absolutely wonderful.  I’ll give you a ‘for instance’ on this.  One of my daughters had her fortieth birthday a year or two ago; they’re still little children really but they pretend that they’re in their forties, and they rented a field on Anglesey and we all went over there for the fortieth birthday, with tents and caravans and camper vans, and I borrowed a camper van from a cousin and went over there, and sat at the edge of this field and watched everybody arriving and they’re all coming in, in mostly old cars and vans with surf boards on the roof and bicycles on the back and an old caravan behind, and they’d all circle the field and find a place to stay, I mean it began to look like a sort of wild west wagon train, with everybody coming in and sitting in a circle and then some of the lads got out a big contraption and they hung a whole pig on it and they lit a bonfire, turning the handle you know, and there was everybody there.  There were four generations of Hebden Bridge…..people who’d known each other all their lives and, you know, it was such a relaxed and pleasant occasion; it was memorable, I mean that’s something that should have been filmed, you know, the pig roast and everybody, the little babies…to….sort of people like me and some older, and it was just wonderful, you see I…my father came to live here, I think I told you, it’s on the other tape, from Barnsley and everybody from Barnsley went down the pit, and he got his scholarship to the grammar school and so they put him in the office instead of underground and then he….got the job to go out on the roads selling the coal, and then one of his customers said ‘why don’t you buy my business?’ so he settled here, and at that time there were three coal merchants in Mytholmroyd and there were three coal merchants in Hebden Bridge, and then with the advent of the Clear Air Acts which were very much needed; my father and I used to fall out like kids over the Clean Air Act, but it was also convenience you know.  Gas fires were getting a lot better.  The old gas fires were stinky things and gas was so much easier, turning on when coming in from work.   The women were working so it was so much easier and everybody came home just to put a gas fire on and then, because of the advent of central heating, it was an absolute revolution you know, I mean gosh, being warm in a bedroom!  So it changed people’s lives completely, and smokeless fuel wasn’t really as nice as coal you know, you’d get a big cob of coal on the fire and you’d proddle it with your poker and the flames come up and you all crowd round it and your shins get burnt, your back’s freezing, so the amount of coal being sold to private houses dwindled and gradually the three coal merchants in Mytholmroyd coalesced into one, which was my father’s little business, and the number of people working with him mizzled to about three, and the same thing happened in Hebden Bridge with Matthew Sheard’s and I was in the same form at school as Donald Sheard.  Donald took over the Sheard’s business when his father retired.  I didn’t take over one when my father retired; he didn’t want me to, so…..eventually those businesses merged and then there was just one, and it was called Sheards, and Donald Sheard’s son went off and graduated but came back and ran it, and he is now the father of my grandchildren with my daughter Heidi and they live in Cragg Vale, and you know…. it’s just a complete little story and that is replicated and they’re friends with the kids of people that I’m friends with, and we got a visit, well we get a lot of visitors, we get people from all over the world coming to stay, and we once had some people from way away and they came and stayed with us, and we went out for a meal, and we met up with other friends – old school friends, I mean I went to school with most of the core population of Hebden Bridge which is now a dwindling minority and we all went back to our house, and then sort of about eleven o’clock at night you know, and the pubs had shut, we were invaded by the next generation down who came in and started drinking all my own stuff, and then, you know, a banter developed between the two generations, and these people were from Surrey and were absolutely amazed.  ‘how do you know their children?’  No, first of all they said ‘how do you know all your friends’ children so well?’ And how do your friends know all your friends children, so well.’ I said, ‘well, you know, those two they’re mine and she’s from them and he’s from over here and that ones the second cousin of so and so. It’s a kind of nice tribalism, not without its spats. It’s good and it’s disappearing and so it’s great. I think what you’re doing is extremely valuable.’ 

TW: OK, thank you for that.


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David Fletcher 4 trans

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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