Bryan Ashley

Bryan Ashley

Interviewed on 16.08.2012

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Brian grew up on several farms with his family before becoming a weaver, which he still does amongst other things. He has a keen interest in Northern Soul and loves to dance and was a motorbike enthusiast until he had an accident recently, which means he now has taken up walking. He has adapted his skills to learn nearly every job in his works.

[TRACK 1]

 

TONY WRIGHT:

This is Tony Wright, it’s the 16th of August 2012 and I’m talking to Bryan Ashley. Now the first question is, what’s your full name and where and when you were born?

 

BRYAN ASHLEY:

My name’s Bryan Ashley and I was born in Halifax Infirmary, but we were living at Lee Wood Farm at the time when I was born, so from the hospital I came on to Lee Wood Farm, Hebden Bridge.

 

TW:

When was that?

 

BA:

July 1979…..1949 rather.

 

TW:

Okay. Lee Wood Farm – is that at the bottom of Lee Mill Road?

 

BA:

No, you go up…….you go into Heptonstall and then take the bottom road and drop off to the right.

 

TW:

I know where you mean, yes. It’s on the way to…….it’s just past Slater’s Farm isn’t it?

 

BA:

Yes that’s right.

 

TW:

Yeah, right. So you were raised on a farm then really?

 

BA:

Well only partly because when I was four I lived on this street, Oxford Street

 

TW:

Oh right.

 

BA:

My younger brother was born when we lived here, which was eighteen months later, so he’s eighteen months younger than myself.

 

TW:

I see.

 

BA:

And I’m next to the youngest of six, so there’s quite a….my parents….I think my father would be about forty when I was born.

 

TW:

Right. What work did he do?

 

BA:

Well on my birth certificate he’s down as a bailiff but that would presumably be a farm bailiff, meaning looking after land, and that’s one of the reasons we moved with the different jobs that my father did……after living here we moved to Blackshaw Head and I lived on a farm again

 

TW:

Which farm?

 

BA:

Lane Side Farm, just about quarter of a mile out of the centre of Blackshaw Head towards Burnley; it’s just off to the left as you go

 

TW:

Is it near Davey Lane, is it called?

 

BA:

It’s past Davey Lane.

 

TW:

Oh right. So did you know the Cleggs?

 

BA:

Yes I know……Marjory Clegg, Neil’s….

 

TW:

She ran the milk….was it the milk she ran?

 

BA:

Yes, the milk woman, yeah.

 

TW:

Sorry to interrupt. Carry on.

 

BA:

No it’s alright……so…..I remember living in the farmhouse and having stone steps up, you know, that were sort of set into the wall. The first Christmas……one Christmas, because my sister by that time had moved out of Hebden Bridge and become a nanny so we used to get like luxury Christmas presents from my sister, and things like…..and eventually she went to work in the same job to the States, so we got presents that perhaps other children at school didn’t have…..like we had an Etch-A-Sketch years before they came out in England, because they were out over in the States a lot earlier, but that’s jumping the gun a bit; that’s later on in years….. but….we moved to Smith Lane Estate and when we lived at Lane Side my father worked for Associated Dairies; he used to go round collecting milk churns off the other farms but he also used to go round and he…..there was a butcher, when before all the Health and Safety rules and regs came out, you were able to go around to different properties and slaughter the animals on the properties for them, and maybe get payment in kind; we’d get half a sheep or whatever for killing…..slaughtering a few animals, so that would be food for our table, but we also had some livestock of our own as well; we had a shire horse called Tunis which was a big grey…..my brother, four years older than myself, was leading Tunis across the farmyard one day and it just stopped and Tunis shifted its footing and stepped on his foot, so you’ve heard of the silent scream, well I actually witnessed it on that day, because Tunis was a big horse and he weighed quite a lot, so it would have been quite painful at the time, and we each had different tasks to do on the farm as well, looking after animals and at one time my older brother again got given the care of a pig’s litter to look after and it were a bit of bad news for him because they started dying off one after the other, so only so many of them survived but you always get the runt of the litter which is usually the first one to die off anyway, so…….but this was all part and parcel of growing up on the farm and it was my father’s way of teaching him animal husbandry and things like that.

 

TW:

So what jobs did you have there?

 

BA:

Well I was still relatively small so……but we used to help a little bit with the hay making and things like that, but also they were like fun times for us as well because you could go out in the fields and play……my older brothers were the ones that sort of did the main manual work, as I had a brother ten years older than myself and another one twelve years older, twelve or thirteen years older, so they were the main sort of ones that were helping……my brother ten years older than myself, I have a recollection of him having a moped at one time and riding that about in the fields and it was his transport up and down the hills as well…….and when we moved to Smithy Lane my father started work for the local Co-operative Society, and he drove the…….the wagon that did the grocery deliveries whose people are going to the
Co-op and ordering the week’s shopping and they can have it delivered by the grocery van, and that was my Saturday morning job at that time, but that was quite a few years later on.

 

TW:

Is Smith Lane in Colden?

 

BA:

Yes, that’s right, yeah. Just past Edge Hey Green, and then we eventually moved to Fairfield which is Station View, and that was a Co-op house next to the Co-op garage…..and then…..what would I be……I’d be……I was nine when I was at Smithy Lane…..I’m not sure how many years we spent at each different place, but I remember being about twelve to sort of leaving home at seventeen at Station View……my mother died when I was fourteen

 

TW:

Oh really?......That must have been a sad time then.

 

BA:

Well it wasn’t easy…..it was the year I left……just before I left school, so……she

 

TW:

Did you not have any aunties that could help out then?

 

BA:

No, my sister was living over in the States so……in retrospect I look back and it can’t have been easy for my father having three boys at home to bring up, and my oldest brother at that time got married and moved out………

 

TW:

Right. I’ll just go back a little bit to Blackshaw, that farm there….you say your dad worked for the dairies

 

BA:

Associated Dairies; what’s now ASDA.

 

BA:

Oh right, okay. But you used to do hay making, you had pigs, you had a shire horse and other sorts of things, so what kind of a farm was it? I mean obviously it was some sort of mixed thing, but what were all the different things that he did?

 

BA:

It were just…..we had a few milking cows……and we had the shire horses to work on the land to make…..for hay and stuff like that. It wasn’t necessarily a big farm, but it was like…..he’d be a tenant farmer for someone; I don’t think he’d actually own the property, he’d probably farm it for somebody else and then his main job I suppose would be collecting the milk off the other farms, so it would be like……on a large scale smallholding sort of thing, so…..and we had hens and things like that as well, partly self sufficient.

 

TW:

Had he always been a farmer then, your father?

 

BA:

He came from that sort of background; his father had a haulage business but it was when haulage was wagon and horse drawn vehicles, that’s our family heirloom…..is the order book from my grandfather’s haulage business; my older brother has that at the moment. I’ve never actually seen it, I’ve just heard of it! [laughing]

 

TW:

That must be quite a document that, really.

 

BA:

Yeah quite possibly, but……..I never knew my grandparents; they were dead before I was born, with my parents being older parents.

 

TW:

Were your parents from this area then?

 

BA:

No they were from Holmfirth and Delph and Diggle and all that sort of thing. Apparently before I was born they moved something like fourteen times, and that’s probably down to work again.

 

TW:

That’s a lot of moving. My life was a little like that; my father was in the forces and we always moved everywhere. You learn to…….make friends quickly, but you also lose friends quickly sometimes.

 

BA:

Yes. Well my brother ten years older than me was…..well he was born in Lancashire; I think he was born in January and it was a fairly bad winter, and I remember…..I don’t think my mother was so well at the time either as well as being pregnant, and they ended up in hospital over the hill so to speak, so they could have played cricket for Lancashire, but we had aunts and uncles and cousins…..the aunts and uncles have passed on now, but a cousin’s still in Mosley which is where my mother was from, and we used to have like an annual pilgrimage to go over for the Wake Walks and band contests, and we used to go over as teenagers when my father

 

TW:

How did you get there? Did you

 

BA:

We used to drive because we always…..had a motor on the road, so even after my mother had passed away we used to go over and visit, and of course invariably there’d be band contests outside a club [laughing], so we were able to enjoy a pint while we were watching that, and we was…….stood on the street with all the churches going past with the big Union and religious banners and the bands going past you know, all the brass bands; it was quite a good……something……childhood memories sort of thing.

 

TW:

Yeah, did you ever play an instrument?

 

BA:

No.

 

TW:

Anyone in your family?

 

BA:

No, my……my younger brother tried to get into the cornet but he couldn’t really pick it up; he didn’t hit the right notes so to speak, but he ended up……he can play the drums, so……because he was……got into deejaying at the youth club, and that was again, a bit later on in life when I got into it; that was as teenagers we used to go to the youth clubs; that was the way of socialising.

 

TW:

Where was the youth club in Hebden then?

 

BA:

It was Hebden, it was on…..what do they call the street now….it’s between Crown Street and Albert Street….

 

TW:

It’s Charlton Street is it?

 

BA:

Yes that’s it, yeah

 

TW:

Youth House, that’s it – Youth House was it?

 

BA:

Youth House yeah, that’s it. The library’s connected….backs on to it, and that was on three floors, so….

 

TW:

What kind of things did you do there?

 

BA:

Well I did some art work because it was something I was good at…..painted the reception desk, the three witches of Macbeth, and repainted the main sort of……room upstairs; the wall originally had this……head with long flowing hair…….what they call it…..ultraviolet colours, when they had the ultra violet lights; I actually thought that was better than what we covered it up with [laughing], but it had been up for years and years; it was a girl’s face with long flowing hair of all different colours, but I designed a……..like a mechanical pop group sort of scene, so we had drummers with a cog head and a guitarist with a triangular head and stuff like that, you know, all different angular shapes……so….done up to look like a pop group; I designed that because at school I took art, it was my main subject.

 

TW:

Right. So did you carry that on then after school?

 

BA:

Only partly. I was actually at one time getting a little bit of tuition from…..forgotten now…..I can’t think of his name…..commercial artist anyway….Tony…..that’s it – Nightingale; Tony Nightingale’s father, I can’t just think of his Christian name now, but he did the sign for The Dusty Miller at Mytholmroyd, and I was given a bit of tuition but at the time it was a bit of an awkward time for me, for other reasons, so I never carried it on.

 

TW:

Right…..right….so when did you finish school then?

 

BA:

What was it…..1964 think it was…….yeah I was sixteen when I finished school

 

TW:

And did you go into a trade or get a job?

 

BA:

Yeah, I went straight into the weaving trade……because my older brother, ten years older again, because my brother four years older than me died in a motor cycle accident when he was twenty-two, so Bill my ten years older brother, he was foreman tackler at Hebden Estate Company which was at the bottom of Foster Lane, the ground floor of the Redman’s building…….run by Eric Moss, so I started there…..learning to weave with my sister-in-law. If she was working the six-two shift I was taught by her in the morning and then went into the warehouse in the afternoon and the other shift I had the afternoon with her, until I became proficient enough to get a set of looms….Northrop looms, which were the narrow looms….so they were 2,400 threads to….a strip of cloth.

 

TW:

Right. How many looms did you have to look after?

 

BA:

There’d be……what was it….ten I think it was in the first set that I had, and when it was humid you made good money because they ran well, but if it was dry that’s when it was harder work because the threads would snap and you’d have to keep on top of them all the time, and it was very noisy as well…..but I wore clogs to work, and the clogs were made at the cloggers by…..where the pet shop is just at the start of Old Gate there……..so he measured my feet and told me what size shoes I should be wearing….

 

TW:

What was his name…..can you remember his name?

 

BA:

No I can’t remember his name, no.

 

TW:

Right okay…….the cloth that you wove, what was it used for?

 

BA:

Well we did……twills and drills for trousers, denim for jeans, butchers’ pin stripe, so that was navy blue and white stripe, nylon pocketing…..but this was at different times, like we’d probably start off with the twills and drills mainly to start off, and then there’s different things come in, different orders come in in and things like that….they had…..they had battery filled looms and then they got….started in later years getting the Unifill ones which were the automatic ones, so….

 

TW:

So the warp and weft, did you buy any of them in or did you make all your own?

 

BA:

Well, the….we used to buy it in but they’d have spinners spinning it off the big cones onto the pirns that were put in to the batteries and we had another job that I did in later years, because I worked there….think I worked five years then I had a break for two years as a dustbin man, and then went back for a couple of years, so I did seven years in weaving….we had a bobbin stripper that took the last bit off so then we had a refill and I worked on the bobbin stripper at one point

 

TW:

Did you do tackling or anything like that?

 

BA:

I did warp gating, which was…to put the new warp back into the loom, lift it in, and lift all the gearing through and get it wound round the rollers so it was tight and put the chains to tack it if need be, if they need a different weave, or if not leave them the same and get it running again, and then I also was a crash hand at one time, which if the shuttle got……if the loom went wrong it got jammed up and the shuttle went ‘bang!’ and made a big gap in the threads, you had to know them up and pull them through one at a time, so you’d sit at the front of the loom and pull it all through

 

TW:

That’s a slow job isn’t it?

 

BA:

Yeah, but I did that after…..because I was a motor cyclist, I had an accident and……as a pillion passenger and did my knee in, that’s one of the jobs that I could do, and just sit there and thread it through.

 

TW:

I see……I see, yeah…..so what made you leave weaving?

 

BA:

I got fed up of it! [laughing]….that and…..I was working, and the job I’d gone back to…..I’d gone to sort of get a more skilled job which was knotting and twisting, but it was a very tedious job which was….it was a static machine and actually locked in the cast of the machine, it said ‘made in so-and-so in’…….I think it was 1939, and I thought ‘I’m working on outdated machinery in something that’s also dying a death’ and then like I say with it being tedious as well, and a friend said that there was a job going where he worked which was light engineering, it was actually twenty pence a week less which sounds nothing now but it was quite a bit then, so I thought I’d have a go at that and I’ve been doing that for forty years next year, for the same firm.

 

TW:

Which firm?

 

BA:

That’s Rochdale Metal Units at Todmorden, and they’ve moved premises three times

 

TW:

And what jobs do you do there then?

 

BA:

I’m a finisher, precision finisher and fettler, but I’ve also worked all through the shop floor as….

 

TW:

So were you like a supervisor as well over other people?

 

BA:

I’ve been a supervisor when we’ve been busier than we are now; I’ve had up to three people working under me but at the minute there’s just me – I supervise myself – but I also, because of how work is at the moment, I…..I run all the machines and like we do….we make supermarket shelving and shop display units, so as one guy retired the other year, I’d learnt how to do his job so when I’m quiet in my department I go and do……run the tube punching machine and the automatic saw and that keeps me busy, or do other things if necessary, like riveting or putting hank bushes in or whatever……whatever’s required really, just to help out.

 

TW:

I mean, the economics of today are very difficult aren’t they? I mean, how is your business doing, that shop…

 

BA:

We seem to have been versatile enough to cover most stuff; we had…..last year we had a bad period, the worst we’ve ever known it and we were on short time; we lost a day over the week in hours, so we were sort of losing eight hours a week, so….and there wasn’t a lot of work about; this year, still nothing guaranteed, but…..at the middle of the month for the last three months it’s picked up, but you can’t always guarantee it at the start of the month. At the minute we’ve got a £70,000 order in so we’re busy, but it’s still not always guaranteed to be me working in my department; I’ll be working on it in some other department, so it’s being versatile is the key really, having a versatile work force.

 

TW:

Do you think the management is forward looking then and trains people up or…..is it just luck of the draw that it’s gone good for you?

 

BA:

I think that [phone ringing]……….

 

TW:

Oh hang on, sorry about this……right, go on then

 

BA:

I think to a certain extent…..because the son’s taken over from his father for the day to day running, which is Michael Cox, his father’s Warren Cox….so he was forced into retirement due to ill health, and his son’s a bit more progressive that way, but they’ve been lucky in lots of respects, so having a steady work force, people that have worked there for a long time that are capable of…..well they’ve got the skills, they’ve got a good skill base so over the last……ten years we’ve maybe lost a dozen people, some through natural….through retirement and…..they only made I think it was two redundant, so they’ve done quite well on that basis.

 

TW:

Yeah. How many people work there?

 

BA:

Initially there were, including office staff, there were forty people but now there’s just under thirty now I think.

 

TW:

Right…..right, so you’ve been there forty years, and presumably like you say you can do all these different jobs; have you volunteered to learn that work, that different kinds of work or have you been asked to do it, or how has that worked out?

 

BA:

I just said ‘I’ll have a go at that’ or they’ve sometimes suggested that, you know, ‘would you do this’ and I’ve said ‘yeah’ and sort of if I haven’t known how to do it just by seeing somebody else while I’ve been working, I’ve gone and they’ve trained me up to do it.

 

TW:

Right. Did you do the lip reading when you were a weaver?

 

BA:

Yeah I learnt to lip read a bit, yes.

 

TW:

How did you learn to do that?

 

BA:

It’s just……it’s just a case of having to [laughing]

 

TW:

Right, did you use hand signals as well or anything like that?

 

BA:

Not not really, not hand signals, unless it’s something fairly obvious like if you wanted a spanner or something [laughing]…..what would I be…..yeah, from leaving school until I was….twenty-two I was a weaver.

 

TW:

Yeah, right……could you see it coming then, that weaving was going out of fashion or

 

BA:

I suppose that would be putting more on myself than I probably had at the time – probably not, no, because it was a few years before it actually died out, but I’d sort of jumped ship prior to that so it would probably be three or four years before that, but my older brother carried on when the weaving trade…..as one shed shut down he moved to another; he moved to the Co-op weaving shed and then he ended up being the weaving manager at Pecket Mill which was the last producing one, and when that closed down and became a warehouse for imported cloth, he was the warehouse manager and then he retired from that mill.

 

TW:

Oh right. Well there’s…..Calder Weaving in Mytholmroyd are still weaving aren’t they?

 

BA:

Yeah, but that’s a different type of stuff; that’s electric blankets and stuff

 

TW:

Right, yeah, interfacing and things like that; they do they Barbour stuff is it?

 

BA:

Yeah, it’s not cotton as we used to do…..my older brother said when they went up and smashed the looms up, the weavers were in tears because they were like…..they were their children almost, they’d looked after them for so many years.

 

TW:

They didn’t want to sell them to other parts of the world then?

 

BA:

Presumably not, no. When you think it’s……all the cloth that they were putting in the warehouse was produced abroad, and then of course they closed that down and turned it into apartments then closed the dye works down to move the warehouse in where the dye works had been, Brisbane Moss…..this was all the same company because it was a big company

 

TW:

Yeah, it was like a combine…..well we might come back to some of that but…..you’re also a great walker aren’t you?

 

BA:

I am in recent years…….when I stopped being a motor cyclist….I still enjoyed the countryside so…..and I….decided to get into walking; I always enjoyed walking, and I used to walk with a friend who’s a taxi driver and a neighbour said ‘when you’re not walking with your friend or a ex-neighbour from Eton Street, come with us; we meet across from The Trades Club so…..I didn’t know that they were actually The Trades Club walking group for about two years, until I actually went in for a shandy with them one Sunday afternoon, and I’d never been in the place even though I’d heard of it

 

TW:

Oh really? All those years….right. I would have thought you would have been a paid up member!

 

BA:

Oh well, there’s certain people in Hebden think it’s the centre for the great unwashed…..it’s a bit of a misconception because there’s some really good people that go in there….I can see where that comes from because it is a bit grungy but……like I said, there’s good sides and bad sides to everything

 

TW:

That’s true, yeah……right……

 

BA:

So I’ve been walking with them for maybe twelve years now

 

TW:

So…..where do you go on your walks?

 

BA:

Well virtually anywhere that we start off from here, usually from The Trades, only occasionally we’ll go….we’ll walk ten, twelve miles…..the other weekend we walked over to Luddenden Valley and Castle Carr and back again, but we started off by going up to Old Town then up onto the moor above Old Town as far as Fly Flatts and then swung round by Luddenden Valley…..went down the far side of it and came up through….by Castle Carr and back on the Calderdale Way, and other times we’ll go up…….Stoodley Pike or the Blackshaw Head hillside and occasionally without the walking group I’ve walked to Haworth and then caught the bus back, go on the Pennine Way, things like that…..it depends who’s leading the walk as to which direction we set off in a lot of the time, because Tom Greenwood does lead the walk fairly regular but other people do occasionally lead walks as well, so we won’t go to Blackshaw Head then! [laughing]

 

TW:

Why! [laughing]

 

BA:

It’s a bit of an in-joke is that one, because Tom was brought up in Blackshaw Head and there seems to be this hidden magnet that draws him that way.

 

TW:

Right. I did interview him about his working life. He’s a very strong union man isn’t he?

 

BA:

That’s right, a Socialist.

 

TW:

Yeah. Did you ever get into any of that type of thing?

 

BA:

No, I’m not politically minded really, like I’m not really religious, even though we did go to Sunday School. When we lived at Smithy Lane we went to Stone Hey Gate Sunday School from there, which is Methodist I think; I think we…..my mother was C of E I think and then when we came down to Hebden Bridge the second time we went to Salem Sunday School, but then they split me and my younger brother up so we both left

 

TW:

Really?

 

BA:

Yeah!

 

TW:

Why did they split you up?

 

BA:

We were different ages.

 

TW:

And that was the only reason?

 

BA:

Yeah…..

 

TW:

Oh I see…..it’s sort of unusual because…….the church around here was very very strong wasn’t it?

 

BA:

Yeah

 

TW:

And they were quite politically minded as well, and you just stayed out of all that…..was that just because there was…..your family weren’t that interested so you didn’t follow on?

 

BA:

I never really had strong political feelings even though…..having said that, I’ll probably never vote Conservative [laughing]……I’ve always been sort of a bit Labour minded that way I suppose

 

TW:

Well I suppose it’s support of the working man

 

BA:

Yeah

 

TW:

Right

 

BA:

Even though I consider myself a bit of an outsider as far as politics are concerned, I can still see what’s going on in the world and sort of to my mind, Labour’s swung nearly as far right as Conservatives used to be nowadays; I’m not totally blind to it all because you’re living in the world, you’ve got to know what’s to going on around you.

 

TW:

Yeah…..so you live on Eton Street; how long have you been living around here then?

 

BA:

I don’t log years up, but….over thirty years

 

TW:

Oh really, so you’ve been here a long time.

 

BA:

Yeah.

 

TW:

So when the field at the end was….was a dye works was it?

 

BA:

There was a mill there originally but not when I lived here

 

TW:

Oh it’s been gone that long, yeah

 

BA:

It’s been gone a long time as that mill.

 

TW:

Oh right. Were you affected by the floods recently?

 

BA:

Only it came up in the cellar but it didn’t get into the living room, and…..it just…..my electrics were under water

 

TW:

Oh really!

 

BA:

Yeah……but it never went off.

 

TW:

It didn’t go off!

 

BA:

No [laughing]

 

TW:

Is that right!

 

BA:

No, it didn’t go off! The board came off the wall but the electrics didn’t go off.

 

TW:

That’s amazing.

 

BA:

They got the emergency crew out to put the board back on the wall…….and they just said ‘oh you need to get in touch with the provider and…..you need a new meter and you need your own electrician to look at the fuse box’…..the providers didn’t have any crews out in the area at the time, so they said ‘change your provider – that’s not good enough’

 

TW:

I think he’s right! [laughing]

 

BA:

Well he took two contact numbers off me and I said ‘don’t phone my mobile because I don’t carry it on me while I’m working, you’ll have to ring my works number’ so they rang my mobile and obviously didn’t get an answer, and they haven’t rung me since, and it’s now a month ago……..

 

TW:

That’s not very good is it?

 

BA:

No.

 

TW:

Have you changed it since?

 

BA:

No, I was gonna wait until they changed the meter before I dumped them!

 

[laughing]

 

BA:

Because if you get a new provider and then say ‘by the way my meter needs changing’

 

TW:

Yeah, they might be a bit….not like that so much, that’s true………well…..I’d like to talk to you about Hebden Bridge generally, I mean it seems like for a lot of your youth you lived on the tops and then you came down into Hebden……I’d like to talk about how it’s changed for you because……..some of it’s probably been good and some of it’s probably been bad, and I just wondered what your take on what’s changed and why it’s changed and what you think about it really.

 

BA:

……well in my younger days Hebden Bridge was very black……all the buildings were black because of all the coal fires and things like that, and then they had the big clean-up campaign, all the sand blasting and everything like that; it does look better…..and with certain buildings disappearing it’s opened up….like Market Street’s got a lot more light in it because they got rid of Melbourne Mill one Sunday afternoon….came along before they could get a preservation order on it and knocked it down; my mother had actually worked there and my brother who was killed in a motor cycle accident, he worked there at one time as well; my mother worked up in the canteen…….and it was a big building; I remember sitting on the top floor where the canteen was and spotting the car numbers as they went past on Market Street but like I say they knocked that down and now we’ve got a Co-op supermarket there……as far as people are concerned, we had a period that was…..when a lot of the hippies moved into Hebden Bridge, and Hebden Bridge had a free paper at the time……it was called Valley Press or something like that

 

TW:

Oh really? I didn’t know that, yeah.

 

BA:

There was a free paper about…..and there was a health food shop Aurora Foods on this end and then the other Hebden Whole Foods opened up about the same time but all his stuff was pre-packaged…..I know the guy that had that shop actually, and how it got boarded up windows and stuff, but he…..bought it off the original owner; he bought the shop next door to it which was…..for a short time Clark’s Candy Box which died a death; he bought that intending to turn it into a computer shop – it would have been ten years before anybody else had actually done it, and he never got round to doing that - he bought the health food shop next door….and I’m chatting to this big bloke outside the shop one night and the guy that had the shop called John just said ‘do you wanna buy the shop off me’ so he took that on for his mother and opened it up and restocked it with all this pre-packaged stuff, so I thought ‘well if people want health food, they can go to Aurora Health Foods and buy it by the pound and not pay exorbitant prices for it’ – like soya flour and stuff like that, but give him his due, he’d boned up on all the other stuff, all the technical side of it, and ran it for quite a few years…..and subsidised it…..anyway I digress….

 

TW:

No no, this is interesting really because, I mean I’ve lived here twenty-five years now and that Candy Box….it’s…..it’s never been anything; it’s always been closed in all those years that I’ve lived here, so I don’t know anything about it at all you see

 

BA:

Clark’s Candy Box….I can’t remember the guy that opened it up but it was a chocolate shop, but it was doing so well, he ended up selling second-hand records and potatoes or anything he could sell outside the front of the shop, which shows his chocolate shop wasn’t doing very well doesn’t it, and then he eventually sold it to Ian who’s still in there now, and Ian had this…..Ian was suit and tie and short cropped hair….and he used to go into firms and……show them how to use…..how to programme computers; he was working for a computer firm and he used to go into different places to show them how to use…..and he had taught computer programming at the Poly previously, and he went….Ian changed as he went on through years and became a long-haired…..multi-coloured sort of person who was a bit of a Bohemian if anything else [laughing], but he’s…..he’s a hoarder, so the shops are just full of stuff, so he never gets round to actually finishing…..

 

TW:

So do you know him well then?

 

BA:

I know him well enough yeah; he’s full of great intentions but nothing comes to any fruition I’m afraid…..when I first met him he had over a dozen cars all around Hebden Bridge….classic cars, rotting away; he had…..three Triumph Heralds….Morris Minor pick-up with the barrel for the petrol tank on the back….two Vauxhall Crestas……and a Triumph Spitfire, to name just a few…..some in friends’ garages, some in car parks and he kept moving them around a bit like…..one of those games where you move the squares…….

 

TW:

[laughing]…..well……

 

BA:

But it was known as Las Hebden Bridge in the hippy period because….sort of….everything sort of went on in Hebden Bridge.

 

TW:

Right….so were you ever part of that hippy movement?

 

BA:

Not really…..I was a motor cyclist; I didn’t consider myself a rocker or anything like that, but my….when I had old British bikes, like BSAs that I had, the guy that used to mechanic them for me was a local hell’s angel which was Dave Fossett, so I used to go round, and he was a good engineer and he’d service them for me or if it was something more serious he’d do them up for me

 

TW:

Right, I see…..right….

 

BA:

But that’s a bit of another side to it, and like the youth club….I carried on with the youth club thing; the youth club was like the socialising aspect of my teenage years, but you could go to youth clubs until you were twenty and I wasn’t that much bothered for like….drinking; I didn’t care that much for beer, I used to drink shandy, so even when I was old enough to drink I’d just go into a pub and have a shandy and be quite content with that, so that was alright for…..I wasn’t necessarily drinking and driving, but I carried on until I became a Deputy Youth Leader at twenty-two which was at Luddendenfoot Youth Club, because there wasn’t just the one youth club; there was Styal Youth Club at Todmorden and Bar Street at Todmorden, and Scout Road School at Mytholmroyd was Mytholmroyd Youth Club, and then Kershaw Estate was Luddendenfoot Youth Club…..and then there was the YMCA at Halifax, and then Bordy Coffee Club which was just up the street from the YMCA Halifax, which was a cellar bar which just sold frothy coffee which all the bikers used to hang out there, so you’d go down there on a Sunday afternoon, or you could have a run over to the Tomato Dip which was on the Skipton Road……which was a good run, and that was a twenty-four hour café and so there were bikers there like any time of night or day

 

TW:

Was that between here and Skipton?

 

BA:

Yeah….the Skipton bypass goes past it now; it’s between Keighley and Skipton, on the old Skipton Road

 

TW:

Oh I know where you mean

 

BA:

It was……The Cobbled Haddock it was called then when it had an upgrade to a restaurant [laughing] as The Cobbled Haddock and then it became The Alcove night club….and I don’t even know if there’s a building there now.

 

TW:

Right. Was ‘Nicky’s Café’ still around

 

BA:

Nicky’s Café ….I remember as a teenager; I never went in it, and I’ve been surprised to look at the photographs and see that it was quite a tall building actually; I only remember the window having ‘Vimto’ across it…..a big advertising logo on the window, and that was I remember, the teddy boy era which would probably be

 

TW:

A little bit before your time really because you were still….you were what…

 

BA:

I was a teenager when teddy boys were about….I have like a picture in my mind of teddy boys walking over the hump back bridge in Todmorden, so you know like you get these snippets in your mind’s eye so to speak…….because my brother that was four years older than myself, David, he had the ice blue drainpipe jeans and the winkle-pickers and stuff like that; he was like I say, he was just that bit older than me.

 

TW:

Yeah…….I was going to ask you about characters, the various kind of what you would call a character….there used to be a lot of people about that people called ‘oh he’s a character’…..and you don’t see many of them these days, and I just wondered if you could think of anybody like that, that you might

 

BA:

Well there was……an old guy that my father knew called Dow Pilling [sp] and ….he as always saying……he must have been quite elderly then, but my father used to say how fit he was; he could jump into the back of a Land Rover with the tail gate still upon Bridge Lanes which is quite a steep hill, so he must…..for an old bloke to jump over the tail gate of a…..into the back of a Land Rover on an incline, he must be fairly fit, and then people I remember…..like John Peel, the farmer, who may have heard of him

 

TW:

I’ve heard the name, yes

 

BA:

And he was a real character; he used to be always on about the price of hay, and……

 

TW:

He liked a pint I believe

 

BA:

Oh yes, and…..rum and black [laughing]….they used to drink in The Woodman….I saw him on a bus coming…..as I was coming home from work; he got on outside The Wellington, The Duke of Wellington pub, and he a piece of baling band round his leg and I said ‘what have you done with your leg John?’ and he pulled his trouser leg up, and his leg was black and blue and it didn’t look good at all, and he’d fallen down the steps coming out of The Woodman......and he was a bit worse for wear to say the least, and……I said ‘you want to get to the doctor’s with that’….. ‘no they’ll send me to hospital and you don’t get out of those places’…so he wouldn’t go and this was his cure, this sort of tourniquet was stopping the poison getting further into his body, but I don’t know…..it was going the wrong way by the look of it……..but he used to be a great one because one of his…..I remember one day just saying to me….. ‘young chaps today have got faces like bull’s pizzles’…..it’s funny how things like that stick in your mind

 

[laughing]

 

but…..he liked the ladies; he had an eye for the young ladies

 

TW:

Oh did he?

 

BA:

Yeah…..he used to get up and dance, with his stick…

 

TW:

Was he a good dancer then?

 

BA:

No he just used to do his own thing!

 

[laughing]. If there was a young women about he’d dance about……life in the old dog yet.

 

TW:

Yes……well it makes me think……the language sort of, the dialect and the accents; they must have changed a lot about

 

BA:

Well yeah, my father because…..I supposed it’s a bit of a mix of Yorkshire and Lancashire, but he good lay it on really thick if he wanted, and because….when I got married, I married a girl that had lived in Scotland for a lot of her life, he used to put this broad accent on, and of course when he did that she hadn’t a clue what he was talking about [laughing] so it was a bit pointless really, it sort of defeated the object, but there’d be certain sayings like….he had a little booklet, he had The Yorkshire Yamma and it had things like ‘tintintin’ [it i’nt in ‘tin] which is ‘it isn’t in the tin’, right, when it’s written down it looks even stranger, but my father was always coming out with stuff like ‘ya wooden ‘eaded little buggar’….right….. ‘tha mu’nt do that’…….which is all part of this…..I’ve lost a lot of that, like only occasionally I think I’ve got any sort of an accent at all, but it’s other people from other area can tell I’m from North Yorkshire, or West Yorkshire.

 

TW:

Oh right……

 

BA:

But I think…….in a way of speaking, literally, it was in my father’s era there was a lot more accent to the way people talked but there’s even a change in the vocabulary between here and Todmorden, because they use words there that we don’t use here, and so I got a bit of a crossover and Rochdale again, they’ll say…..when they say ‘goal’ as in football they say ‘gawl’…..whereas we say ‘goal’…..like in Burnley it’s ‘boook’ ‘coook’ and ‘loook’ - rather than ‘book cook and look’……that’s Lancashire is ‘boook’…….that’s the sort of thing that interests me as well, accents and variations….. as well as history…

 

TW:

Because you don’t really hear that much now; you get a lot of….southern accents these days

 

BA:

Yeah, that’s to paraphrase, the local accent is southern because a lot of people have moved up from the south, you know, because of the way the housing market’s been; they’ve been able to sell their property down there and come up here and buy something with a good view or whatever, work on a computer and have a hundred grand in the bank….that’s the ideal situation…..but I don’t resent the new blood that’s come in to the town because it’s what’s revitalised it, because a lot of the youth in Hebden Bridge left during the seventies and eighties, and a lot of local people don’t have that much interest in what’s going on; it’s the new blood that’s…..they are politically minded and all this, and the go-getters will do stuff.

 

TW:

Do you think that’s a good thing then?

 

BA:

It’s what kept the town…..it’s vibrant now up to what it used to be, I mean….there used to be Wakes Weeks which was the summer holidays, because the town would shut down - there wasn’t a shop open – there was only certain days you could go out and buy something, now it’s become more cosmopolitan; you’ve got shops open more often and a good variety of shops and stuff like that, I mean town…..the ethos of the town has changed because it’s more about tourism now, because there isn’t the industry that there used to be in it, but…..I’ve always thought it’s a good place to live; I wouldn’t live anywhere else, because I’ve friends who’ve talked about moving out of the country because of the way the government is and stuff like that, but I’ve….this is…..my roots are here, and I wouldn’t want to leave here.

 

TW:

Would you ever wanna go back on the tops again?

 

BA:

To live?

 

TW:

Yeah.

 

BA:

……I haven’t got the transport nowadays so it’s a lot more convenient for me to live in the bottom…..because I gave up biking a few years ago, so……I’m very handy for all the services

 

TW:

So you don’t have a car then?

 

BA:

No. Just the feet or the public transport, so I make do with that.

 

TW:

That’s very green of you isn’t it?

 

[laughing]

 

BA:

I saw a good t-shirt the other day. It was ‘F the environment, it’s all about me!’ [laughing] I thought ‘this wouldn’t go down well at The Trades

 

[laughing]

 

TW:

I think you’re probably right there! Do you go in ‘The Trades’ a lot then?

 

BA:

Sunday afternoons when we get back from walking and I go……if there’s bands on I go to certain gigs, or call in and have a few games of pool….I’ve played with the pool team for the past two years

 

TW:

Right. Because there seems to be….an early doors older crowd and then the young ones come in a bit later and……and there seems to be like two shifts, like two different kinds of generations of people……sort of coming there

 

BA:

I go in for last orders as well, so I’m there at the back end of the night, like last Saturday I was there at half two and then went walking at ten o’clock…..I can manage to do that yet! Because I like….I do enjoy dancing and stuff like that, it’s one of my other likes is…..I like Northern Soul dancing and…..and other styles of dancing as well; can’t do duet dancing, I’m more of a solo dancer; I’ve never danced with a partner but you can do your own thing with Northern Soul, and……Street Dancing, I like Street Dancing……because I went to……like last year what did I go to…..I went to…..fifties music which was……I’m trying to think……Marty Wilde, I went to see him and the previous year I saw Eden Kane……….Jet Harris, Eden Kane……..yeah that was Marty Wilde I think was that……then I went to see…..Breakin’ Conventions which is a Street Dance thing that’s been on for the last three years in Bradford at St George’s Hall……and that’s body popping and break dancing and stuff

 

TW:

Did you have a go at that?

 

BA:

I can do a bit of body popping and stuff, yeah

 

TW:

Oh really? Oh wow, carry on

 

BA:

I like my neck too much to do Break Dancing…..but…….then what was the other one…..Human League, I went to see them as well, and then we go to the Butlin’s Sixty’s Weekend so we see The Animals……..what was it….trying to think of them now…..New Amen Corner…….The Move are there – Bevan’s Move

 

TW:

Without Wood, yeah

 

BA:

Yeah because he…..sort of he was a bit peeved; he’s been to Hebden Bridge has Roy Wood actually, because my mate had him in his cab; he took him up Fairfield because John Trewartha was playing saxophone with him for a couple of months; he did Harley Davidson gigs……and I saw John Trewartha down at The Trades; he was in another group….who were they on with….they were on just before The Owter Zeds were on….I forget, but they were playing all Motown stuff which I…..I like all that sort of stuff…..so yeah, I like music and the dance and stuff; we go to the Twisted Wheel at Manchester for Northern Soul occasionally; that’s still going – they’re just about to shut that down and turn it into offices so they’re having to find new premises……..

 

TW:

Crazy…….

 

BA:

But the Northern Soul scene is still fairly vibrant; you get in and you see fliers for gigs all over the place but with not having my own transport I can’t get to that many, and I think you can get a bit too much, you know, of it as well; it’s something I like to do now and again, not all the time; some people just do the circuits all the time…..the last….three years running I went over to Keighley for New Year’s Eve…..dance at the Rugby Club which was a Northern Soul gig, fancy dress and stuff, and that’s another thing I do – fancy dress

 

TW:

Oh right

 

BA:

I do a bit of that as well……

 

TW:

Ah! When you say fancy dress what do you mean?......Not zoot suits!

 

BA:

Not?

 

TW:

Not zoot suits

 

BA:

No, not zoot suits…..I mean as in Halloween outfits or…….I’ve got an American Forces jacket that I went out in…..wore to Butlins because they have fancy dress at Butlins on their weekend gigs, and so……I’ve got a sailor’s outfit, I’ve got a sailor’s outfit as well, all original stuff from…..I got some stuff from Hot Cakes, the retro shop….and other stuff that I’ve made up myself…….an executioner’s outfit…..

 

TW:

Do you think it’ll come back?

 

[laughing]

 

BA:

And…..the latest one was Mr Incredible…..

 

TW:

Oh really?

 

BA:

I’ve got that shirt……that was a good one, last New Year……because with going to the gym I don’t need the padded muscles [laughing]………….because I’ve been going to the gym since I was twenty-two

 

TW:

Right. The Hebden gym do you go to?

 

BA:

Yeah, three times a week.

 

TW:

Very good.

 

BA:

It’s something I got into and…….like just keep fit nowadays really, don’t push the big weights or anything…….that and the walking helps me get through life

 

TW:

Yeah, that’s good. I should do more of that! I’m too fat!

 

BA:

Well it’s each to their own though; I don’t knock anybody for….I know some people struggle with…..you know, weight, my older brother’s always struggled with weight and stuff like that

 

[END OF TRACK 1]

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
HX7 8DG

Phone: 01422 844450
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