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Steve Smith 2

Interviewed on 01.01.1970

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[TRACK 1]

TONY WRIGHT:

Right, so you were gonna

 

STEVE SMITH:

Well I was born in the valley. My mum was as I say, she worked in the fashion industry, she was in London. She was the oldest of a family of…what…..four girls, two boys and…..the war came and they got bombed. They were living at a place called East Ham and they evacuated the family and because she was the oldest, there were kids there and her father was in the Merchant Marines so he was away, so the mother came up with the kids, so to help out my mum packed in her career in fashion designing down there, and she was very good at it and she moved up to – they moved up to Brearley and they moved on to a farm in Brearley, the entire family, as evacuees, and my dad would come from Liverpool because as I say he was the youngest of the family and they were undertakers, so he got the bum jobs as he put it. He had to make coffins, put the upholstery in because he was an upholsterer as well, because you know you padded coffins and all this, so he learnt this, hated it and legged it from the business and joined the army, joined the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment, so obviously the war broke out, the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment was based in Halifax so he was in the area and my dad had a very eventful war actually, billeted in East Africa, prisoner of war camp, escaped from prisoner of war camp fought with the Poles

 

TONY WRIGHT:

Really?

 

SS:

Oh yeah. when Italy dropped out of the war a lot of these prisoners escaped from the prisoner of war camps that were there and they got back to their own lines. Now because he was an experienced soldier and wasn’t in such physically bad nick, I think he expected to be rushed back, but there was a big offensive going on and he got roped in because he was a professional soldier so he got….the Dukes were there, the Polish regiment, so that’s how he got to know a lot of Poles and he fought with them and their bravery was awesome, anyway that’s another story, but the war finished, he came back to Halifax and because he’d got bayoneted in the stomach and the likes, his professional career as a soldier had come to an end, you know, on medical grounds, they didn’t want him any more if you see what I mean. But during the war funnily enough they needed him but not any more, so he needed a job and his first job was a bus driver and my mother opened a little shop in Brearley making clothes for people. They’d bring pictures in and my mum would copy these pictures and make them the dresses, and so she had quite a thriving business and my dad was a bus conductor, he met her of course when she was on a bus. Now my dad was…how can I put it…a character. He was known as the singing bus conductor, so he used to sing to his passengers while he collected his fares and he used to sing, what was it now [singing] it was wonderful and so my mum fell for him. They got married and things changed a bit then because he was authoritarian. He moved from the buses to work as I say, when I was born as a ….on the railways, what was it, a locomotive…..coalman, fireman, fireman – locomotive fireman, shovelling coal in to the engine and he was based at Sowerby Bridge sheds but he didn’t want my mum working. He thought a woman’s place was bringing up children and she was pregnant so he made her get rid of the shop and that was the irony, because she was making more money than him, so she did work from home after that but was not allowed to go out – again quite authoritarian really, and that was the sort of atmosphere I grew up with on Banksfields. Big gap as I say between…eight years between me and Graham, six years between Graham and Sandra and he had two sons from a previous marriage. His wife had died of T.B. – quite common in them days, consumption I think it is you know, she’d died of T.B. I think this was one of the problems. He never kind of got over her. My mum’s problem was, and I didn’t realise that until very recently, my mother…was Jewish, don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned it, the family had changed their name to Young – y o u n g – as opposed to Jung as it was. They’d come across in the period of Bismarck’s unification of Germany a long time ago, the family, and she had been gong out with……a young man who was Jewish and a fighter pilot and had died in the early days of the war and she’d stayed in love with him, so there were two people coming together who weren’t really totally in love. It was a strange relationship; there was respect and we were treated and brought up immaculately; my mother never drank, my father rarely did, only when I was working with him actually and that was only one day a week, and never used to go out socialising, so there was always someone at home, the meals were there, it was a good environment to grow up in but it was a bit cold. We only realised that it was guaranteed that my mother was Jewish when my sister was diagnosed with diabetes and it’s genetically brought on, and when they tested her, they informed here that, you know, it’s genetic and it can only come from a certain….tribe would you call it in Jewish, people from another continent, …. The Ashanasi’s ….they were from East Europe, Lithuania/Poland area I believe, and it was a genetic strain that follows them through, so my brother who is very well off now, computers and the like, traced our history back, knew a little more about it. My mother never…..I thought it was strange when she got really upset when I brought something called….Arnold Wesker’s Trilogy, I don’t know if you’ve ever read it, and I think it’s called ‘Chicken Soup and Barley’ and it’s about Jews in the East End of London and I started getting into this and I started learning about Moseley and the black shirts where my mum had grown up. Now I didn’t realise at the time why she was so emotional about this, because she would be over the barricades I would imagine and the Jewish end of these wars that were going on – that’s just an aside – they just came to Calderdale from, you know, two different worlds, that was a strange one, a different family…..but very pleasant as I say. Mytholmroyd was a completely contained society, and I think from maps that you’ve looked at, you know, we had banks, butchers, everything you required down to bicycle, hairdressers, barbers, shoe repairers

 

TW:

There must have been about sixty or seventy different shops

 

SS:

Forty-four. Forty-four different shops in Mytholmroyd in 1966…forty-five I believe different employers all on site, everything as I said from chickens to chemicals, so there was a lot of work about. Engineering was big, very big actually, I mean it was a place of initiative. Calder High School was a very…well it was the first comprehensive school in West Yorkshire, so it was very forward looking in its attitude. The teachers were immaculate. I grew up with….they still wore gowns which is very strange to kids today. They used to be flying up and down corridors with big black flowing gowns like witches behind them you know, and the teachers, well even some of them must have been roasting and they were covered in chalk dust, it’s not dignified and they kept brushing themselves down

 

TW:

So they were good teachers?

 

SS:

There were people like Egland, the chemistry teacher there, yes very very good. I went on to do a degree in Chemistry to be honest, I mean he inspired me with another teacher called Rodney Collinge and he used to say ‘oxygen…you’ve got to realise how important oxygen is’ [drawling voice] I used to think ‘can’t he say oxygen like normal people’ and….they had Goldthorpe who was a local historian, he wrote quite a lot of books, very highly thought of and the Headmaster was….at the time would be…..Mr Muschamp….it would be Mushchamp I think….he was a blue and I believe it was Oxford, and an awesome man. He took me for something called General Studies once and were studying Kepler and the numbers and you know, and that got me into astronomy so I did a degree in that as well, you know, I had to learn about this….education’s probably been

 

TW:

So even though you didn’t really like school at the time

 

SS:

Hated it.

 

TW:

Since then you came to appreciate what it was it’s had a big effect in a way hasn’t it?

 

SS:

It’s been awesome, education’s been awesome. I think I’ve got about eight higher education degrees of different levels, different types and I did a cert Ed, P Ed, what’s it called….Child Psychology, Batchelor of Arts, Batchelor of Science, Chemistry, MSc Chemistry, Physics, Astro Physics was the last full degree, no the last full degree I did was Mathematics and Oceanography so that was just finished when I was fifty-eight, so

 

TW:

It’s a PhD is it?

 

SS:

No that was just an accumulation…that was nothing to do with that one; no I’ve just got the degree, this was a BSc Honours in Mathematics and Oceanography, so I’ve got that one to add to it as well. That’s the last one, called it a day now. I’m now reading History for entertainment value. But I mean there was all sorts round here. I played football for Calder 76 and Hebden Bridge, used to have a football team Hebden Bridge once upon a time, quite a good football team for a while. I played centre half for them for quite a number of years and never put too much into it because I drank too much, but that was part of…that was something that was……something that was part of the valley culture….pubs. My dad, when I worked with my dad at Ratcliffe’s, Thursday we got paid, little brown envelope and cash inside, you know, every Thursday, so on the way home we’d go to somewhere called The Royal Oak in Mytholmroyd, it’s shut down now, and there was an ex-policeman there, a big lad called George, he’d retired from the police force and my dad took me in there, I was fifteen, and he said to George ‘t’lad works, he can have a drink. He’s allowed three pints maximum George. If he asks for a fourth, give him a kick’ and he hit him out of t’door, so I thought ‘well he won’t do that’ – he did actually! I got pushy one day you know, I says ‘can I have another beer?’ he said ‘that’ll be your fourth won’t it?’ I said ‘yeah George it will’…scruff of t’neck, chucked straight out in t’street! I thought ‘cheers George’ I remember my dad having a word with me the next day…’George has got in touch with me and said you tried to overdo it lad’….but that was fifteen. The drink culture was huge in this valley, so you’d drink on Friday nights and go to discos, like The Dusty Miller in Mytholmroyd or The White Lion believe it or not in Hebden Bridge, it was rough as God knows what was The Lion at that time, it really was rough, and they used to go upstairs – lots of fights as well. That was part of the Friday and Saturday night out scene. Carlton Ballroom Hebden Bridge, I don’t know if you’ve heard of it, a few lads I knew well and played darts with – Danny Gilfillen and Bobby Harris, ‘whippet,’ we used to call him; violent, violent nights there. They were bouncers, trying to keep order, although they knocked around more people I think than the customers, you know, the customers fought amongst themselves and the bouncers liked to kick, you know, a few bums, so it was a drink-orientated culture with football and rugby; rugby league as well in this valley at the time, there was a Mytholmroyd Rugby League team and they played on Burnley Road playing fields. There was a rugby club when I was a kid there, so when we played football at Burnley Road we used to have to put a string, because rugby posts are higher, so you have to put a string across the cross bar you know, then there used to be arguments over if it went over t’string or behind the thing, you know, but there was a pub as well at that time in Hawksclough……by the lock, there was two monkeys there for a while, carved out, do you remember them? That somebody had done with a chain saw and they got stolen

 

TW:

One got stolen – there’s still one there.

 

SS:

Yeah, that used to be a pub there

 

TW:

What was that called?

 

SS:

I can’t remember, I was young then, I was still at Burnley Road. I got to know a lot of the play for England, Peter Sutcliffe he was called, he’s retired lads who played rugby, rugby league, that was my field, and one of them actually went on to now, I quite liked Peter, but that was the culture. You’d Friday night out, drinking, get up early usually with a lousy hangover, wander down to t’Dusty Miller, you see, meeting in pubs again and it wasn’t unknown for them to knock a few pints back before the match, on to the Stubb playing fields and we used to change at that time at Calder High School and I don’t know if you know where the Stubb playing field is, so you had to run through Mytholmroyd in your football kit, so you’d have to – well you’d got a half a mile run in your football kit to play your game, get covered in mud and then you’d run back to Calder High School for your showers, then down to the Dusty Miller drinking again. Match of the day on telly, drinking, Sunday – you’d have a Sunday match. They were works teams then mainly and pub teams. The Miller had a team, the Shoulder had a team, this sort of thing, but again, all drink culture. There was very little else happening in the male society around here, so a lot of people did get hooked on alcohol. A lot of my friends, a lot of people I grew up with, died of alcohol related diseases, there’s no doubt about that, and added to that, the other great curse of the valley which tends to be rheumatism and chest complaints. One of the textiles are in the valley – nice, damp, wet weather. You didn’t need to humidify the weaving sheds because it was already damp enough was the air. Well it knocked the living daylights out of people’s chests and other things, and joints, from kneeling on…well the reckon a lot of tacklers suffered from it – rheumatism from kneeling on concrete floors, stone flag floors. Nobody every bothered using mats or owt, so you’d be kneeling there for hours on end and eventually your joints went, for a lot of people. It wasn’t healthy and I remember the canal at that time was a rubbish tip, sort of. People…nothing moved. Everybody…..Ratcliffe’s had decided they wanted a….what’s it called now……a warehouse but they didn’t have any room on their side of the canal, so all they did was build it on the other side and put like a bailiff bridge across, I mean it was only six inches above the water so nothing could go past, ever, not even the ducks – they had to get out and go round, what ducks there were – very few and most of them were freaky because it was all covered in petrol and tyres and God knows what else, and most of it was filled in; the reed beds had spread right across and the little streams coming down the valleys of course had built out all the dips and sediment deposits in the canal, so most of it you could walk across it whenever you wanted to. The water always had to move because it has to in a canal, so there was a little stream about that wide and deep but you could jump across that to get to a sand bank, but people pushed the walls in as well on the bridges, so there’d be piles of stone in the canal itself. It was in a pretty bad state and the river was….well it stank, I mean it’s funny but most people think after a big flood you’d get a disgusting smell in the valley but it was the other way round around here. All the waster that had accumulated from the mills and factories was washed away during the flood and we sort of had this clear….for a while it looked quite civilised until it all accumulated, you know, the dyes and sort of, when the river was a bit higher and then it would get marooned and stuck, sort of pink and blue plants and things like that that you know, it was quite disgusting, and the smell was revolting at times. There was no wildlife. As I grew up I never saw a single squirrel when I was a kid. Apparently when Ted Hughes was here there was, I mean he said that there were foxes and things around but I never came across anything like that. Birds were limited to the speckly ones…..starlings and the little plain ones….sparrows, that was about it really. We had the odd robin and that was usually a great occasion – ‘oh look, a robin’s survived the pollution!’ You’ve got to bear in mind that we had coal fires, the mills had coal fires and Moderna had….oh, huge furnaces and they were initially coal fired when I was a kid because I used to help move the coal in to the bunkers. I got paid, I think it was two and six for helping them shovel it off the road because it was…the used a lot of coal, they used to bring it down in coal sacks and tip it and it used to fall out on to the road there but the road was….canal, wall, road, and then up again you’d get Moderna, the wall… just enough room for a wagon so there was no tipping or owt like that and they’d tip it all down and then it had to be shovelled in to place and that’s what I used to do, I used to do that when I was a kid, I used to shovel it around, so I mean….fogs….oh God, you know, common, very common, especially with the temperature inversion of the valleys, you know, the cold air sinking down and this sort of thing and it would trap it, so it was choking at times, you know, that was when I was growing up at Burnley Road School; it was unhealthy…..as I say, it did sort of improve

 

TW:

So there’s been a big change then from when you were growing up and all of that that you’re on about, it’s all changed now hasn’t it, it’s quite

 

SS:

Oh the social system is phenomenal, I mean from self-contained, everything you want, total employment village, but on its downside, it was dirty, unhealthy, and……a lot of the houses had as I say had outside toilets and the likes…..there was a lot of back to backs at that time, so there was upsides on it and downsides, and what’s happened since of course is all the banks and things have disappeared, but the shops have disappeared and you can see Mytholmroyd’s like a ghost town. The employment’s gone but the environment’s improved vastly, but don’t get me wrong, the shape of the valley’s always been beautiful and the trees tended to mask the pollution so you could always look down the valley and thing ‘wow isn’t it gorgeous’ or you could walk on the moors because they’re so close aren’t they, they’re on your doorstep, and the pollution never got up there, but the problem was when you were up there Lord Savile took great offence to you being up there and tended to try and shoot you so there was no open….you know, it was open season on the peasants in the valley that went up there. The only time you got the chance was when you went up grouse beating but even then it was pretty dodgy, you could get shot. He wasn’t too fussy about hitting the odd beater you know sort of thing, but they all met in Hebden Bridge you see down in the bottoms, free beer and all that and you went up with a stick beating all the heathers and that short of thing, so we all had a go at that, and….the farms were all farms as well. I worked on Jack Ogden’s farm for quite a while, you know, Jack himself I don’t think did much work on the farm. He had three kids that did most of it for him you know, we were twelve, thirteen, fourteen at the time, I think twelve thirteen really and we used to milk the cows; bring them in to something called a mistle and tie them up and wash their udders, supposed to be sterile but we just used water, and sling on the old extractors, the milking gear, in to churns and this sort of thing, drag it in to t’milk parlour, cool it all, bottle it and put it in to crates, and Jack used to deliver it the next morning if he was sober enough, you know, and that was it. We used to chase, you know, sheep and all that sort of thing, round up the sheep and the other thing was, what we were all fascinated by, was….when we’d rounded them up we used to…some of the male sheep were castrated, so they used to tip them upside down and put a rubber band round their testicles and the rubber band contracted, and eventually just chopped them off, so we used to go round the fields trying to find sheep’s testicles – never actually managed it, you know [laughter]

 

TW:

Well if you’d found one, what would you have done with it?

 

SS:

Oh God, collector’s item that, it would have gone to school, you know, it would have been a big talking point at Calder High would that; it would have been passed around…’oh a sheep’s testicle…’ for ages we thought Jack was taking the monkey’s, you know, he’d capture a sheep and show us and…’oh they don’t have any’….. Derek Curle’s theory was that they ate them, I thought that was rather gross, you know, ‘oh that’s nice, I’ll have that’ anyway, maybe just the odd one. Anyway you got out there. We used to have another, when we got a bit older…..some milk was taken away to be pasteurised and then it would be re-delivered bottled and with the empty churns but they would also bring orange juice, because orange juice was in bottles as well, you know, pints and half ones – gills, and they used to put them on these…..down the road…the wagons used to drop them at the end of the drive of the farm, so we used to go when we were sixteen, we used to go milk drinking and orange juice drinking expeditions, we’d take a farm on, you know, take half a dozen bottles each and then go and sit in t’fields to drink ice cold milk and the likes, you know, orange juice…yeah, we were thieves! We got collared – that was the naughty one, it wasn’t a good one, I was sixteen at the time I think, and……he collared me for that and he also realised we had a money-making scheme. The lights on Banksfield Estate and the other estates, they used to go off at half past ten at night, they didn’t stay on all night and the bulbs were bayonet fitted and so we had a money-making scheme, me and a lad called David Spruce and he was also into stealing the milk from…wherever it were, and we went up and climbed up all these concrete lamp posts, unscrew them and throw them down and collect them, we were collecting all the bulbs, we were gonna sell them and suddenly become rich you see, anyway somebody had reported us so the police had been watching us, so they waited until we’d done most of Banksfield Estate, you know, they collared us with the bag and said ‘right, now, it’s easy isn’t it? You can shin back up and put them all bloody well back’ and I said ‘how?’ he said ‘well figure that out yourself – you took ‘em out’. We’d to go up, shinning up with one in your mouth – oh it rubbed you raw, and then he said ‘I’m not booking you’ he says ‘I don’t want you doing it again’ he says ‘I’m just gonna mention it to your dad’ and I said ‘no please book me instead’ so we were red raw, me and Sprucy, and we had to…his dad was a tax inspector and we got a beating, and I mean a good bloody beating. Physical violence was part of the growing up experience, especially if you were a thief, and I was one of them, and also he said ‘we’ll throw in the milk’ and I thought ‘how does he know about that?’ but he knew about the milk and orange juice as well, so we confessed to that and then we had to go to the farm and confess and that’s how I got my job later on, and this was a job when I was older, and I was doing dry stone walling with an Irish man – Irish John he was called, bloody good at it as well, very strange man, very Irish, lived in a house up Midgley Road with no electricity or gas and he used to get his water from a trough outside – hard man – anyway I went up to confess to Jack Ogden for stealing his….and that was part of the deal so I went up, me and a lad called Alan Howard and he says ‘right’ he says ‘you owe me a bit then’ I says ‘we’ve no money’ he says ‘I’ll let you work it off’ and then we worked it off for a bit and Alan moved to a different area but John said ‘you’re quite good at it, do you want a bit of pocket money coming in?’ at that time I was sixteen and I was at Calder High you see. My work at Moderna, at Ratcliffe’s had finished so I needed a bit of cash and so I went dry stone walling with John for a while and then we got a couple of jobs as gardeners. There were quite a few wealthy factory owners around Mytholmroyd and Hebden Bridge who had big gardens, so I used to do Pickles’s on Caldene Avenue in Mytholmroyd, I used to do their garden for them and a few others, so I had a nice little income coming in. That was good money as well; they treated me nice as well and you know, they’d give me orange juice but on hot days they always brought me a can of Guinness, cool Guinness, you see alcohol again, it’s always there and….so it kept me going. They used to have parties at Daryl Caffer’s house which became famous and they’d bring women down that were working at Pennine Insurance; they’d come from Halifax to these parties….I remember when I was sixteen, we met two ladies. I was going out with one called Janice, Janice Grimley, she was lovely actually and she had a friend, Beverley, who was going out with Daryl whose house it was and they were going to stay overnight, there was just the four of us and my dad said ‘like hell you are. You’re not getting anyone pregnant. You’re back at school, you’re going to college. I thought ‘yeah….he won’t know’ so I climbed out of t’window, at sixteen I thought ‘I’ll do what I sodding want’…..my dad was a big man and there I was, you know, we were getting to the early nuptials of cuddling and things like that, bang on t’door, Caffer answered it and in came my dad, most embarrassing, scruff of t’neck, flung out of t’door ‘I bloody told you lad. There’ll be no pregnancies in this family yet’ and he marched me home! I thought ‘oh God’ and Daryl’s there going like that. The next day I saw Daryl and he had a grin from ear to ear. He says ‘two girls all night!’ I said ‘don’t push it, don’t push it lad, you’d better not’ and of course it spread like wild fire, “will daddy allow you out tonight,” oh it was embarrassing, but these parties became pretty infamous in the end and….but they were good fun, then college beckoned and we all went our own ways really at that time. I was zooming off to Newcastle

 

TW:

You were Pace Eggers you said.

 

SS:

Oh yeah…yeah, I was one of the minions I must admit; I used to walk round doing the chanting like everyone does, you know, in the big circle. I never got the chance to go in to the middle. Each one come out, like it’s the Black Prince isn’t it, he’s one of them and is it Saint George. There’s a guy with a little ball on a stick

 

TW:

Tosspot.

 

SS:

Yeah, then they come in to t’middle and they do a speech but I didn’t get a speech,I was just one of the minions, I’d my paper hat on and I didn’t really like that very much but you had to do it more or less, considered.

 

TW:

What do you mean you had to do it?

 

SS:

You were in the sixth form and the sixth form had to do these things, it was more like duties, I mean you did…..you had a lot of …autonomy at this time, we had prefects’ detentions; we could pick up kids that were misbehaving and make them stay three or four hours if we wanted after school or whatever; we had them cleaning yards with toothbrushes and things like that, you know, and….sweeping our pre-room, so we were a bit….we were elitists. There were only sixteen boys in the sixth form at this time…. and I was probably the rebel, well I was the rebel. I used to dress all in black; I had a black briefcase and I used to have a little bow tie, black, and I had a frilly shirt as well so I always dressed jet black, and I had fairly long hair at the time as well, it was getting really long….apparently I was very good looking at that time and I used to get a lot of admirers. My sister being a lot younger than me, sorry, my brother being a lot younger than me, some of his friends used to come up from…you know, and he’d bring his women friends up and they’d be all sat there and I’d say ‘oh I didn’t know you hung around with so-and-so’….’they’ve only come to see you Steven, they like to look at you’ I thought ‘Jesus, get ‘em out’

 

TW:

Vain

 

SS:

Well….I suppose…..what grade would they be in….they’d be in the first year at the time….I’ve not worked it out actually; they might have been seven years younger than me; I’d be in the upper sixth and Graham would be in the first they’d only be what…..twelve year olds….I was a menace at school. I did work and I was pretty bright and I did pretty well in my exams but I was unconventional. I did……I did History; when I did History I never turned up for about a term, couldn’t be bothered; hated the teacher so I didn’t bother turning up. I read the books and I had a superb memory at the time so….but Calder High School, I enjoyed it. I liked that elitism, I mean even when I went to Newcastle we were on grants and I had a cleaner that used to come and clean the rooms and make the beds for us and all this

 

TW:

Really?

 

SS:

Oh yeah….yeah. We were in an old Victorian block and there was not that many students in, but you could have…..what was it called now….they had a name….slipped my mind…and he’d tell us where the best….what was going on…’would you like me to do so-and-so for you?’….what’s the name for it….like a…

 

TW:

Concierge?

 

SS:

Concierge, that’s the word for it. It was like that but they didn’t call them that then….and each block had one, and as I said they were big houses….they were set in a place called Pontealand oh it was very posh and up-market and….I took my niece there not long ago and she was stunned, the houses started at four hundred and fifth thousand [£450,000] so I said ‘this is where I studied’ I was very very spoilt, so, you know, it was brill and it was a some contrast when I went out to teach because at the time I was doing a BEd at that time, three years Cert Ed, and then the fourth year was a Bed. It was a new degree at the time so it wasn’t even an Honours degree, they didn’t called it – it didn’t have an Honours with it then and I think it was about the second year I studied it, same college as me, studied it, a lad called Roger Uttley, just happened to be the England, Rugby Union captain as well you know, so we played on t’same rugby team

 

TW:

So you got to know him then?

 

SS:

Oh yes, yes, he was number eight on the rugby team, he played on the second row sometimes, and also Dixon was there so we had three internationals playing on the same rugby team as myself, for the college team, you know, I used to play on the wing at the time; I was fast, but I was big as well for my age, you know, for that year, I mean for a winger I was six two and I weighed about thirteen fourteen stone and that was considered very big for a winger, and I could run like the wind, so yeah, we had a good rugby team, anyway, when you used to go out on teaching practices you used to come to some areas; my first was in one of the……down-market areas, you know, shipyards in Newcastle; that was an eye-opener. You see Mytholmroyd didn’t have anything like this. Mytholmroyd’s school, Burnley Road School was nice, it was pleasant, it was open, it had playing fields around it and we had open space. They had no grass at all in this big school, they just had a concrete and tarmacced yard as it was, big fences around it, a lot of the bottom half of the building, old Victorian building, the windows were boarded and the other windows were smashed. Oh……the kids came in in the summer dressed in Wellingtons and things like this, and we never had any of that. Unemployment even then was very very big; the shipyards had started to shut down and engineering works associated with it were closing, the pits had disappeared, work was tight and poverty was something I pretty much didn’t understand. It was funny because we were bussed in each day, so you’d come from luxury and a world of elitism in to something

 

TW:

That’s really rough.

 

SS:

Yeah, and when I came back down here after finishing at Newcastle as I said when my mum got cancer, I had two siblings to bring up, well, contribute to, the littler one mainly, and Graham only had I think two years to go before he went to university to study Physics, but coming back down to Mytholmroyd was a big step up again. This valley….people thought we had poverty round here; we did not. Unemployment, even in 1976, was virtually unknown, and in Newcastle it was already up towards double figures, and it wasn’t just Newcastle; other areas had got it as well, and houses estates – people say they’re rough and ready, today they do; they’re not really, they’re small. I mean up there you were talking thousands of people on these estates. In Mytholmroyd, Hebden Bridge, we’re talking Dodnaze, what’s it called now….Banksfields or Eaves Estate, I mean, Eaves is barely fifty houses, I guess, I wouldn’t think there’d be many more

 

TW:

I don’t think it has even that many really.

 

SS:

Banksfields could have a hundred but not many more, and you know, these places were…oh it just went on forever, or seemed to, in the big cities, so we were a bit spoilt around here to be honest, and as I say everything was handy, everything was on tap; your entertainment was on tap, even though it was, as I said, quite a lot of drinking, you still had the cinema in Hebden and we did use that a lot. I saw the World Cup there, oh right I did, about eight times, we kept beating the Germans! All apart from one lad who wasn’t invited, we wouldn’t take him because he was called David Rosser and his dad was German, and even when we used to go and play…. on Burnley Road, a bit further on, is somewhere called Redacre Wood, behind the sewage works, we used to play Germans and English in there you see, and nobody wanted to be the Germans, but you had to be, you had to take your turn, apart from David Rosser who couldn’t be anything else than German – always the German, and he was always the SS man; he hated that. ‘I don’t want to play today’ but we’d beat him up if he didn’t, you know, it’s ironic…I shot the SS man; what was I using…..an American Winchester rifle….I didn’t have it did I, but we didn’t care. We used to hide in the heathers, there was a lot of heather growing at that time and ferns, ferns were very deep, so you used to be able to ambush them, and the Germans had to stick to the paths, and we always won. Winning the World Cup and beating Germany was great, you know. We’d show them we’re the superior race and we believed it, I mean the games were pretty harmless, the other one was cowboys and indians. We always played cowboys and indians, except girls; we didn’t have any of that stuff, I tell you, not in them days, we kept them well away

 

TW:

You said the drinking culture in the pubs – did they play a lot of games in the pubs?

 

SS:

Oh yes, yes. Darts was huge around here and table football, believe it or not was quite popular, and The Royal Oak’s speciality was….the lads, a lot of them, they’d play table football and they did hamburgers for….a pint was…..how much was a pint then….in pennies, old pennies, it was…….I think it was eleven, ten and a half p [101/2p] or eleven p [11p] in old d’s you know, old pennies, less than a shilling and less the five p [5p] in other words today, and hamburgers were twelve and a half p [121/2p] – one and six [1sh 6d] you know, hamburgers smothered in onions and sauce and we used to eat them, play table football, played darts, dominoes to a degree. Lads liked dominoes at this time, almost all men by the way at this time, there’d be very few women in the pubs, they didn’t associate with us. Later on; we’re talking about say six, seven or eight o’clock, after the football, women would come in later and they were not too welcome with the footballers or the rugby players, it was a men’s thing it really was, and cards…we played a lot of Don, nine card Don and we’d play something like, shilling a corner, we played something called a Cragger, I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of it

 

TW:

I don’t know that.

 

SS:

Well you’ve only got what….you’ve got…there’s only four Jacks in a pack and the two red Jacks become partners and the two black Jacks become partners, so you’d deal out the pack until you get something. Now if there’s five people everyone puts a shilling in to start with and the Cragger is the guy that gets all the coins at the end, because he doesn’t get a game, so you’re compensated for not getting the game because you’re…sort of thing, and me, I was terrible at the game and I always wanted to not get a Jack but I always used to get a Jack so it was an easy way of making, you know, four bob profit, but no, I never used to get a sodding thing, but then I’d lose because I was lousy at it. I’d be a shilling out of pocket, you know, not really what I wanted. I was good at darts. I played with a lot of darts teams around here ; I went on to win the doubles and individuals, things like that. That was…..that was obviously at a later date. That’s when I was playing for……t’Railway. We won the league at the Railway. We’d a lot of people came from outside to play darts – Todmorden, Rochdale and Burnley

 

TW:

Really? From that far?

 

SS:

Yeah. The winning teams were made up of outsiders near enough, I mean The Railway, the only two, there was me and somebody called Tiger playing for The Railway when we beat The Woodpecker, no, The Woodman; you’ve probably heard of The Woodman at Charlestown; well they won it ten years on the trot and they were all Todmorden, Rochdale, now we brought lads in from Burnley outside to create a team to rival them, and the first year we won the cup but came second in the league, the second year we won the cup and the league and they were furious; they’d not been beat in ten years, so then they accused us of bringing foreigners in, so there was only two local lads at that time on t’team. The weaker teams tended to be the locals when they didn’t bring in any imports, which was a bit unfair on them, but that’s the way it went. Another thing that was quite big around here was – I used to play a lot of tennis. Mytholmroyd had a tennis court at Saint Michael’s, it’s probably still there

 

TW:

Still there, yeah.

 

SS:

Well there were a couple of others. Another one on Caldene Avenue, at the end of Caldene Avenue; it’s all houses now

 

TW:

Oh was there? I didn’t know that.

 

SS:

Behind… you know where the council works are

 

TW:

I know where you mean

 

SS:

At the side of that, where the houses have just been built, they were tennis courts once and my dad used to do the….there was a grass one and hard surface ones. He used to do all the….what’s it called…..flattening it, dragging the nets over it, putting the nets up, cut the grass. They had a club house up there and my father used to look after that at weekends, so I used to go up there and practice and play quite a bit of tennis at the time. I played in Mytholmroyd as well, Cragg Vale had a tennis court, still has; we used to play up there a bit, not often

 

TW:

Where are those?

 

SS:

Well you go up Cragg Road until you turn down to the Hinchliffe pub. Just go round past the Hinchliffe pub, through the big gate and down there, and there’s tennis courts down there. It’s still there is Cragg Vale Tennis Club, well it was a couple of years ago, I think it still is actually today. Like Paul Fowler, he’s a solicitor now in Hebden, he plays for them, or he did, played better than me…I didn’t play for a club, I just played….quite a few of us. I did a lot of bowling believe it or not, crown green bowling, quite good fun actually but again it was all the same sort of thing. You’d do this, you’d get yourself, like football training or whatever and it was always straight to the pub after, so you were straight back in to that drinking culture which would have been seven nights a week without a doubt, there’s no doubt about that. Mytholmroyd had a sort of night club, it was very rough, [interruption phone ringing] we used to have outings to racecourses; there was a lot of people liked their gambling around here, and they’d run coach trips from quite a lot of the pubs

 

TW:

To York or…where?

 

SS:

Around….York was quite a big one, yeah, that was quite popular….I think there was something at Catterick at the time, I’m not certain, I think it was Catterick we used to go as well at one point, I don’t know if it’s still there, I wasn’t in to the horse racing and then the Working Men’s Club of course, there was quite a few clubs around here. Hebden Bridge had one, a Working Men’s. Mytholmroyd which still has one and is doing quite well, and then there was the Sports and Social in Hebden which is still going; Conservative Club, changed its name now but is still in existence, Trades Club, so you had the clubs. The clubs were very big on snooker, you know, they looked after their snooker tables, we used to play inter-club matches…..and the bowling clubs. There was Heptonstall Bowling Club, Old Town had a bowling club then and they also had club rooms associated with it and snooker and the likes, but they used to run trips out, like Blackpool, God it were rough. You can guess what they were like coming back, it were full of, you know, extreme drunk, mainly blokes you know again, in a pretty bad state, the ones that managed to get the bus. Quite a few of them were found the next day, you know, sleeping on t’railway station to get the train back from Blackpool, oh yeah, they were drunken orgies, they were pretty extreme does were them. I went on one or two of those. The Trades Club at the time was….they did well for a while, you know, live music always and then it fell in to financial difficulties. It was doing alright during the punk era, but this caused a lot of trouble because people came from outside to listen to the punk bands and the locals who were fairly much thugs as well, you know, they were lads from the council estates, they used to like to go up there for a fight with the punks, you know, to show they were hard, so that got a bit violent and they ended up getting Vaux beer in. Nobody else would deal with them because they were not paying their bills at the Trades Club at the time. They were in financial difficulties so they had to pay for deliveries as they arrived and they were getting Vaux beer in which didn’t do them any favours. It tasted like dish water, it was bloody awful, so trade dropped off even more then, you know. People were not drinking there, never mind listening to the bands, and it revived a lot and it came back pretty good. I watched ‘Amazing Blondel’ there, I don’t know if you’ve heard of them, it’s like a reproduction isn’t it of medieval music; it was brilliant, it was superb. I’ve watched quite a few bands and pop groups there; I was a member for quite a while, I can’t remember which years or owt like that, you know, so again, it was all beer, you know….we had theatres, it never occurred to us…museums…I mean this is genuinely true this; I was so excited. Calder High School, first year, brill was this, totally true, and this might sound stupid but as I said education wasn’t my thing so we were going to the Bronte Museum, the Bronte Museum – I couldn’t wait, Curle says, ‘what luck,’ ‘why do we want to go there?’…’we’ve got to go but it’s gonna be awful’ I says, ‘no it won’t,can’t be into Brontosaurus or something;’ I said ‘prehistoric animals – Brontosauruses, bones’ – prat! What a let down! I’d never heard of the sodding Bronte sisters! I’d never read a book at this time, I mean I’d got a few comic books but I’d never read a novel. I remember my first novel ever was at Calder High School, it was read to me by a guy called Sanderson. He went on to become Principal of Tod Techincal College and he was teaching English at the time, so I’d be in the third year and he used to read to us, which I loved, but the first novel I had read to me was called ‘Qeupo,’ it was about a leopard, it was one of a series and this leopard was living with men for a while and then he went back to the wild and all that….I remember it well, the shock, horror on my mum’s face that Christmas. :what do you want?’ ‘I want the ‘Qeupo’ trilogy.’ I love the ‘Qeupo’ trilogy. There were four…three books, one about a leopard, one about an elephant, one about a monkey. I says ‘I want these three books please.’ ‘Sorry?’ She didn’t even know I could read…we didn’t have books around the house, that is bloody odd, but my dad used to read….Sun paperbacks about a guy who used to write about somebody called Smith….somebody Smith

 

TW:

Wilbur Smith?

 

SS;

That’s it, yeah, he used to read them. My mum used to read the ‘Women’s Own’ and ‘Women’s Weekly’ and ‘Women’s Realm’ – they were the only books I ever saw, and we never had newspapers at home; we didn’t get the ‘Courier’ or the ‘Hebden Bridge Times’…I never grew up in a learning environment. It changed when I went back to Calder High School you see, because suddenly I enjoyed education. I’d worked in a mill and I knew what hell it was and I didn’t want that; it’s ironic that I ended up there, but I didn’t want that so for a while I was obsessed with education, so our Graham, my younger brother, had books everywhere – all mine; maths books, study books, the lot, so Graham had it thrust down his throat and we used to…I used to make…little pins with coloured heads on, and we used to put them on the ceiling and they used to represent the stars, the different colours….the red stars, you know, and the blue stars… Aldebaran, Rigil and the likes, and we’d put them in the patterns on the ceiling, so the universe was over our heads. We used to fight Roman battles. He would be Pompey. I would be Julius Caesar, and we would get little pins; my mum was a dress maker so there were pins everywhere, and we used to painstakingly make little flags on top of each one, sellotape them round each flag and we used to make little forts of the Roman legions and we’d make a landscape and we’d fight with our legions by rolling dice. Graham grew up in education all the time and he was much more successful at school than I was, and went on to get a first Honours in Physics. That’s why I did Physics by the way. I couldn’t let Graham

 

TW:

Out do you?

 

SS:

I had to prove I could do Physics, so I went on to do my degree later, but, yeah….he went to Sellafield….Windscale it was called then. He used to come back in to Mytholmroyd and he would have these lead badges on because he used to have to wear them and take them off each week so they could see how much radiation had been absorbed in to their bodies, and so he worked there for a while, but….my home environment was not educational when I was there, and then Sandra came in to it with Graham as well so she was very academic, so…I think between us we got….I think between us we got….I think there was eighteen A Levels; we got quite a lot in the end, maybe not that, it was a lot….whatever, thirty-odd O Levels at the time between us, yet Graham was…he was probably….he was more successive. He could concentrate on something and stick with it, whereas I was more flighty. I’d be fascinated by Geography for a while and then I’d lost interest and I’d go to something else. I used to write a lot of poetry and still do. I’ve got quite a few short stories and longer works as well, but….yeah, I realised I had a gift for it, a talent for it when I was at college in the sixth form. I had to do English. English Literature and English Language were separate then; they probably aren’t any more but I had to do creative writing and I represented Calder High School in some national competitions and poetry was very romantic, and very descriptive of the valley, and it was….you know, it was ironic actually, after the Brontosauruses. I was asked to write about dams and lost lands, you know, what’s it called, the old dams that were built tofeed the mills and more importantly to feed the canals. I don’t know if you know that. The canals…the mills were using water power so they delayed the canals being built in this valley didn’t they because they didn’t want the water being used, so they made them build all these dams on the….I found it dead romantic. I used to take ladies out…one in particular I was engaged to for a while, she was very beautiful was Nicola, and I used to like walking up Cragg Vale up to….you know, around the reservoirs, especially on wet days, you know, it was really sexy….the grass was just blowing wet against our legs and I used to think it was romantic and I used to write poetry and stories about it, and it turned out to be quite successful. I went to college and met an art tutor, he was my personal tutor and everybody had to do some writing, and you know, there was eight hundred students there all told, and there was just me and this other lad who were chosen, picked out for our writing, and that was a description of laying in a room with the lights off at night on the campus, watching the city people as they moved by and….the first time I wrote it straight out and I would speak it, then I wrote it in a poetic manner and put it in to more of a verse form, and he preferred the original he said, you know, but nevertheless that got published. I don’t know what happened to them

 

TW:

Have you still got copies of them?

 

SS:

The originals?....Yeah, I think so. I think I’ve got the original writings, one or two if them. I’ve wrote quite a lot more since. I got into Leonard Cohen you see and his poetry, and very much followed Leonard around. I was to see a big transformation again. Although the drink was there in Newcastle, Newcastle was a different world. It was a world of concerts….by that time, museums…it was walking on mountains for the sake of it, and that’s something around here we wouldn’t have done, you know, as kids….we used to picnic up there, yeah we did, we used to go to Heights Road above Mytholmroyd, up there, and find little areas and picnic. As I said, you were taking your life in your hands on the moors, it was pretty restricted. There were certain paths you could do – up towards Churn Milk Joan and things like that, but if you just wandered on to them , you know, there were gamekeepers up there and they were not nice people, and so you tended to keep off them, so that kept you in the valley to a degree, really out of sight of the valley itself. Cragg Road I used a lot. I wrote a lot of poetry up there. The Elphin….I studied the Elphin you see as part of my thesis I did on river valleys, so it’s a funny little valley as it’s shaped, you know, running down from the top. My dad was brilliant. He made me all these strings; peg at one side, peg at the other side and then he’d tie a big knot in it and do you remember they used to use some waxy stuff…you’d put it on to a letter and then

 

TW:

Yeah, sealing wax

 

SS:

Sealing wax…and he used red sealing wax and he’d put it on each knot so it was bright and then I just used to go in to the valley, put them across and then I’d count the knots so I knew how far the distances were across and then I’d do a profile of the valley at that point and move up, and I did all the valley profiles all the way down on tracing paper and they were overlapping each other, on top of each other, studying all the time the rock formations and what they were. I presented that at Newcastle and that went down well. The other one I’d studied was….the hand weaving industry around Heptonstall.

 

TW:

Oh really?

 

SS:

I don’t know what happened to that work; it was about that thick.

 

TW:

That was a great loss.

 

SS:

Of course there were some places open then that I photographed and….presented it. I don’t believe I got it back, I sent it to….that’s my….that was my third year was the river valley. My fourth year was my hand weave thing, so that was fascinating. I worked with a lad at school called….Round, Phil Round I think it was, he’s dead now….but it was quite an experience really. The valley was exciting. Things happened here, I mean, as I said, I told you about the tandem ride to Blackpool. We did that for charity. Did Dougie mention it?

 

TW:

He did mention it and I forgot to ask him I must admit. I have to go and see him again though. I’m gonna ask him when I go back.

 

SS:

It was an old tandem and we had to ride it back money for charity and things like that….it was again though…straight in to t’pub afterwards, and one thing that this valley did is, whereas you’d go to Halifax for a drink or a night out, when the doors shut you were out weren’t you, not here, but there was never any policing of the pubs. The pubs went on until they felt like closing the doors and of course it was a period when drink driving was….allowed, and there was no breathalysers at the time, so even if you got caught for it, it was pretty hard to prove, and there were some bad accidents, there was one or two….there was a man got killed…up to the Top Shoulder, drinking too much, coming down the Steeps, there was a patrol of cars, it was not unusual wasn’t that, that was a place in itself. Even when I went to Newcastle, there was a lad called Dave, Dave Alton, he was a motorbike lad and he came from the Blackburn area, between Blackburn and Burnley, and his mates were out that way. I said ‘do you go to a place called The Shoulder of Mutton at Blackshaw Head?’ he said ‘I do that’ and they used to come from miles – twenty, thirty miles to go there. It was a disco night club in an old barn and obviously there was a bar there. A big, huge man was the guy that owned it at the tine, I can’t remember his name now….and he used to run buses down, literally from half past eleven, parked up on Blackshaw Head, these single decker buses waiting with Halifax, Todmorden on the front – that busy, that much worth money wise – Halifax Corporation Transport, you know, who Brian works for on the buses, and everyone used to troop out on to the buses and people behaved because

 

[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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