John Houran

John Houran

Interviewed on 24.11.2011

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[TRACK 1]

 

ONE OF PUPILS:

It is the 24th of eleventh of the eleventh. Welcome to newfount. Who was oldest relative?

 

JOHN HOURAN:

Who was my oldest….?

 

ONE OF PUPILS:

Oldest relative.

 

JH:

…….just a minute……my Aunty Lily I think……and she’s…..do you want to know how old she is?.....she’s eighty……six……quite a few of my relatives have died just lately so she’s one of the older ones

 

ONE OF PUPILS:

……Do you have any children?

 

JH:

Yes. I have two children; they both went to this school. My older son died when he was twenty, and my younger son is thirty-six and he lives in Leeds. He’s got two children of his own.

 

ONE OF PUPILS:

Do you have any pets?

 

JH:

Yes, I have a dog called Moss – a Border Collie.

 

ONE OF PUPILS:

What did happen to your son when he was twenty?

 

JH:

He……died in a boating accident on Loch Awe in Scotland.

 

ONE OF PUPILS:

Where did you grow up?

 

JH:

I grew up in a town called Feltham in Middlesex, famous for its young offenders institute.

 

ONE OF PUPILS:

Okay. What was your favourite holiday and what was your favourite day in the holiday….on the holiday?

 

JH:

What are we doing – when I was a child or now?

 

ONE OF PUPILS:

Any time……yeah, any time.

 

JH:

Any time. Well, when I was a child I think my favourite holiday was going to stay with my Uncle Henry……in…..a small town near Basingstoke called Worting. Basingstoke is a town in the south of England and it was a small town, and it’s spread out so now Worting which was a little village is now part of this bigger city…..and he lived in a house which didn’t even have running water, but it had a railway line going past the bottom of the garden and I used to watch the trains going by…..when I was very little.

 

ONE OF PUPILS:

Why was it your favourite holiday to go there?

 

JH:

What to now?

 

ONE OF PUPILS:

No, why was it your favourite holiday?

 

JH:

Why was it?

 

ONE OF PUPILS:

Yeah.

 

JH:

…….I think because of the trains. Steam engines were very spectacular. They’re not like the trains now, where you can’t see anything happening. Steam engines, you could see the wheels turning and the steam coming out the top, and you could see the man driving it; they were very impressive. I used to like watching them going by.

 

ONE OF PUPILS:

What would your dream job be?

 

JH:

My dream job…….oh….do you know I can’t think what my dream job would be……..I quite like the job I did, which was teaching adults basic English and Maths – teaching them reading and writing – and I really enjoyed that. It could have been improved if it had been better supported, but I liked the job itself a lot.

 

ONE OF PUPILS:

Do you have any hobbies and which one is your favourite?

 

JH:

Now come on, you know that. I play chess.

 

ONE OF PUPILS:

Oh yeah. How did you get to like chess?

 

JH:

 

I learnt to play chess from my friend Fred when I was about ten and…..like anything else, if you find you’re quite good at something you like doing it, and I got…..I found I was quite good at it and I liked doing it……when….I haven’t…..I haven’t been playing chess seriously for years and years, until about……twenty-five years ago……twenty-five…….thirty years ago

 

ONE OF PUPILS:

Did you win any competitions doing chess?

 

JH:

No, I’ve never - the only competition I ever won was a chess competition in a newspaper….I got two books, which I

 

ONE OF PUPILS:

What were the books?

 

JH:

Oh, one was called Chess for Tigers…….I can’t remember what the name of the other one was, but I donated them to the chess club.

 

ONE OF PUPILS:

Okay. How has Hebden changed in your life?

 

JH:

……..how has Hebden Bridge changed…..well I didn’t move here till I was….till 1983…..I think………the population has changed a lot in that time. I think there are a lot more younger people with children that you see about, and there are a lot of people who’ve come from other parts of the country as I have; I moved here from Glasgow, and……….I feel the people are the main change really.

 

ONE OF PUPILS:

Would you prefer living in Hebden or Glasgow, or do you like both the same?

 

JH:

When I first went to Glasgow I really liked living there, but by the time I left I was quite glad to live, and I came to Hebden Bridge and I thought I was on holiday, that it was like a lovely place to live……and….yes……to be quite honest the shine has never worn off; I still like living here.

 

ONE OF PUPILS:

How did you find……how did you find Hebden Bridge on a map, and did you like look on a map for it or did you

 

JH:

How far? I came here…….in connection with my job in Glasgow, working in Glasgow; I came here…..just for a weekend and I really liked the place and I looked round and…..I went….I went to Todmorden and I liked Todmorden as well, and so that’s really how I found out about Hebden Bridge, because I’d been here as part of my work, which that job soon stopped, and then my wife got a job in Rochdale and so we moved down here, and we thought we were going to live in Todmorden, but then the house we were going to buy we couldn’t buy it, so we had to find somewhere to rent quickly, and the only place we could find was in Hebden Bridge, and so we came and we lived here.

 

ONE OF PUPILS:

So then…..how’s your life been in Hebden Bridge? Is it exciting?

 

JH:

Well……it’s not really – it hasn’t really been exciting; it…..well I don’t know, it’s been a very good place for bringing up children. When we moved here my children were nine years old and five years old, and it was a very……nice place, and safe for the children to grow up, which was good, and I thought I’d be moving to a small town in the country and there wouldn’t be much going on and it’d be nice and quiet and relaxing – quite the opposite. I’ve never been so busy in all my life as when I landed here, so I’ve really – oh I’ve been busy, and that’s one of the reasons I like being here.

 

ONE OF PUPILS:

Do you think Riverside is a good school to teach kids?

 

JH:

Riverside has been…..it’s gone up and down. Both my children went here……and it was very good for them, both of them, mainly because there was a teacher here at the time called Mr Priestley; you may have heard of him…no…. and my children got on very well with him; he was a kind of inspiration, and I think you’ll find a lot of people will say that Mr Priestley was an inspiration to them. The school has gone up and down, you know, and seems to be doing quite well at the moment, certainly as far as when they asked me to come in and start the chess club here……I’d nothing but help and support from everybody, you know, people have been very good to me, and the children are always very pleasant – if a little bit excitable!

 

ONE OF PUPILS:

Do you like swimming?

 

JH:

No.

 

ONE OF PUPILS:

Why?

 

JH:

I didn’t learn to swim when I was young; I’m not sure why……I’m not a very good swimmer; I did learn to swim when I was older, but for me swimming is kind of postponed drowning, you know, if I breathe out I sink to the bottom of the water and I can sit on the bottom of the swimming pool, which you probably can’t do, and so…..it’s never been really something I’ve enjoyed doing, there are other reasons too, but we won’t go into that…….. are you next?.....No?

 

ONE OF PUPILS:

What……what….has your life been like so far? How has it been?

 

JH:

………..I suppose I’ve been very lucky and very unlucky equally. I’ve…..I’ve enjoyed a lot of parts of my life and there are some things I wish hadn’t happened. In a way……my……I’m very pleased….I’m very pleased with my children, but very sad to lose my son. My mother and father died - they didn’t have very good ends – they weren’t very well and they died…..they died in pain, and it’s very hard to see that…..but some things have been very good, you know and so I’ve been very lucky with my friends and my family……so, yes, it’s been good and bad, both.

 

ONE OF PUPILS:

Thank you for watching; I hope you’ve enjoyed it.

 

TW:

So have you finished all your questions then?

 

ONE OF PUPILS:

Yes I think so.

 

TW:

Okay, well I’ve got one or two I think I might like to add, and if you want to ask other questions about those, then you can do. I’m just wondering…….what do you think about the environment in Hebden Bridge? I mean I know it’s a rural area, and having come from a big city you said you liked it, but how……how do you find this sort of area? Is it conductive to being creative or…..

 

JH:

It suited me at the stage of my life when I came to live here

 

TW:

Right.

 

JH:

as a young person, as a……when I was in my twenties…….it was…….it was good to be in a city; in a city there’s lots going on and whatever you think, there’s somebody else who thinks the same, you know, if you think you’re a teapot you can find other people who think they’re a teapot as well……but as my children were growing up it suited me to come here. As far as opportunities for doing things……obviously some things are slightly more restricted than being in a city, but I can go out of my door and go for a walk for ten miles in a pleasant environment, which I couldn’t do for instance when I used to live with my mother, living down in what had become part of London’s sprawl; London’s spread out over……so I don’t know….it’s a very broad question the environment, because the word covers a lot of different aspects of life – the natural environment, yes, it’s…….it’s a lovely place to live…..there is a lot going on I think locally, and if people say they’ve got nothing to do, it’s really because they don’t….either don’t know how to access it or can’t be bothered. There is an awful lot going on…..and in a way, sometimes when I lived in a city I felt a bit lonely; it’s easy to feel lonely in a city….. here that’s never happened.

 

ONE OF PUPILS:

Whereabouts do you live?

 

JH:

Horsehold, over the tops.

 

ONE OF PUPILS:

So, what do you do think….do you think the rubbish on the streets could improve…get better?

 

JH:

Yes…..but it’s much better than it was when I moved here thirty years ago. Thirty years ago…..there was paper blowing down the streets, and it was really quite dirty, and something which has happened all over the country and here as well is that people are a lot more careful about leaving dog mess about. In those days dog mess was everywhere; it’s much…..okay you see a lump now and you think ‘what a lazy person, not picking that up and throwing it away’…..so, yes I mean, there are lots of things about litter and tidiness, and I get fed up really with people throwing litter out of cars……when I….once a week I walk down the hill from Horsehold to here with a carrier bag and I fill it with rubbish that people have thrown out of cars and left on the side of the road; it’s not very attractive, and no-one’s gonna clear up and I do it because I don’t like it, and I wish that people wouldn’t do it.

 

ONE OF PUPILS:

Do you like walking down from your house down to Hebden Bridge?

 

JH:

Yes I like walking down; I quite like walking up…..when you’re walking up, you puff a bit because it’s quite a hill

 

ONE OF PUPILS:

Why do you like walking uphill instead of down?

 

JH:

Well I like both; when you’re walking up, there’s only one road – big road in Hebden Bridge – it runs through the middle, and as you walk up you’re aware of leaving all that behind; the noise and the smell and the busyness and you get up to where it’s quieter and……seems more in proportion somehow; there’s more going on down there – rather more than I’d like!

 

ONE OF PUPILS:

Do you like to live….up

 

JH:

On the tops?

 

ONE OF PUPILS:

Yeah.

 

JH:

Yes I do. I like the little community I live in; there’s only a few houses, but we get on very well with one another, and it’s….the main reason I like living there is that I like my neighbours.

 

ONE OF PUPILS:

What are your neighbours’ names?

 

JH:

Well there’s Andrew and Fiona Gibbon and they run the farm, the main farm, and there’s a rather smaller farm run by a Mr Steven Bell……then there’s Andrew’s mum and dad, who are called Peter and Wendy Gibbon, and then there is Andrew’s aunty who’s called Margaret Gibbon, so you can see that there’s quite a lot of Gibbons……there are…….there’s two people called Alison West and Stella King who we’ve known for a long time as a matter of fact; we knew them before we lived there……and there are a couple of other people…..who actually work quite a long way away who live there, and we all rub along and get along quite well.

 

ONE OF PUPILS:

Do you think of anything Hebden Bridge could do….. anything to help the environment?

 

JH:

……..These are big questions you know; I could have done with….I could do with time thinking about them……to help the environment……..what I would like to see is……in places like the Yorkshire Dales, farmers get grants for maintaining their walls and making……keeping the fabric of what’s there up to scratch. It doesn’t happen in this area, and as a result things like walls and old barns for instance are tumbling down, and I would like to see some way of people being rewarded for looking after what is in fact beautiful countryside, to everybody’s benefit, so I would like to see that in place, but I realise there isn’t very much money knocking about at the moment and people aren’t really going to get that, but in an ideal world it would be nice to see it happen.

 

ONE OF PUPILS:

Do you think this particular room is tidy

 

JH:

Offer.

 

JH:

Yes, it’s not too bad. If you see a room that’s very tidy, it usually means nothing’s going on in it, so a little bit of untidiness and stuff and clutter is perhaps not a bad thing. This room is……is meant for art and practical activities and people have got to be able to feel that they can make a mess and it doesn’t really matter, and so it would be a shame to see room perfectly clean and tidy…..but it’s good enough.

 

ONE OF PUPILS:

What was your favourite subject at school?

 

JH:

Chemistry.

 

ONE OF PUPILS:

Why?

 

JH:

At secondary school, chemistry………this is a big question again. I was……always quite interested in the way things work, and it was an aspect of the way things work that I could understand and follow, and I could also make things happen in myself; I set up a little laboratory in the shed at the bottom of the garden and I tried out things; I also got books out of the library and read up about it so I had an idea of what might happen and what I might be able to do, and so it was a quite….quite absorbing subject for me.

 

ONE OF PUPILS:

Yeah, in that shed that you did stuff, did anything bad happen, like did anything explode?

 

JH:

No, I never had an explosion; I had…….I’d never been all that interested in…..in blowing things up to be honest…..I was very interested in the way some metals dissolve in some liquids. You know acid will dissolve metals, but actually strong alkaline will dissolve metals as well, so that was really quite interesting, seeing how that happened, but I never had any dramatic things going wrong. I made some very bad smells…….it’s fallen down there…..oh sorry I thought you were looking for that

 

ONE OF PUPILS:

When’s your birthday?

 

JH:

It’s on the 17th of July 1947 – a long time ago.

 

ONE OF PUPILS:

The other group are ready.

 

TW:

Okay shall we finish now, and I would just like to say thank you to the children for asking the questions, and thank you

 

JH:

Thanks very much

 

PUPILS:

Thank you for letting us

 

TW:

And thank you to John for letting us ask you these questions

 

[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.

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Pennine Heritage Ltd.
The Birchcliffe Centre
Hebden Bridge
HX7 8DG

Phone: 01422 844450
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