Andressa McWhirter

Interviewed on 19.04.2013

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Andressa McWhirter (19/4/04) Interviewed by Tony Wright

Mr. McWhirter present at interview.


Can you tell me your name, where and when you were born and where you live now?

My name is Andresa McWhirter. I was born in the Philippines and I came here in 1983. I live up Heptonstall.

And this shop, do you own this shop?

I own this business, but I don’t own the shop. The one who owned this before has just died, last December.

I see. And this is on Market Street?

Yes, it’s on Market Street.

Why did you come to Hebden Bridge?

I came to marry an Englishman.

And where did you meet him?

He just came in the business.

And he was from Hebden Bridge?

Yeah, he use to live up Queens Terrace on the way up to Heptonstall and then we moved to Heptonstall.

I know it. So the reason that you moved to Hebden Bridge was because you got married?

Yes.

What did you first think of it when you came here?

Well, I think that when I first came here, it just feels like it’s so quiet, the buildings and old mill, Melbourne Mill, they use to set people up making, dressmaking.

I used to be at Melbourne Mill on the top, I had one of the artist studio’s at the top. But they closed it.

They were making clothes.

Did you work in Melbourne Mill?

No, never, I got pregnant before I came in this country. I stayed for six years before I came out to find a job. I didn’t work straight away in the factory. I worked about thirteen years, I think, in the egg place in Lee Farm, down Valley Road on Victoria Road.

Can you tell me something about your background and your family, what it was like when you were small, where you were growing up?

Well, I grew up in the province in the Philippines and we didn’t have any electric looked after animals, a few animals, just bits and pieces of animals, one horse and one, what they call a buffalo and the rest of it was just bits. It wasn’t like a big farm.

So did you have a big family?

I have a big family. Five brothers and two sisters, we’re eight altogether.

Have any of them have come over?

No. There’s only me. I am the youngest in the family.

So they are all still there?

They are all married now and some of them is dead.

So your parents, were your parents both farmers, then?

No. It’s not really what we call a farmer, it’s only a smallholder.

A smallholding?

Yeah. We just, had no electricity, no gas. We use wood fire. That’s all we had and we don’t have any like bills come in. We have, some products come in

So did you like that way of life?

Not bad because it was not being very poor, we were just all right, but not much money and that.

Can you compare where you came from to here?

No, it’s a lot better here because I can find a living for an easy life than over there. If I go work in my country you have to work very hard all day and it’s monthly wages not like over here, it’s hourly.

So you prefer it here?

I prefer it here.

And what work do you actually do?

You mean here and now?

What do you do now?

I’m self employed, now.

You work a sewing shop?

I’m doing some alterations. I’m doing this and it’s very busy.

Right. Where did you learn to do that?

I learnt it in my country.

You learnt it when you were younger?

I learnt it when I was young.

Do you like that kind of work?

Well, it’s easy for me so yes, I do like it because its easy for me being self employed.

Be your own boss? That’s a nice feeling.

It is, yeah.

Do you feel like you are part of the community here in Hebden Bridge or say in Heptonstall where you live?

I feel like it, yeah.

What’s that like then, how is it different to when you lived in the Philippines, you had a big family and you had a community, but here it’s a different kind of community, do you feel l like you are part of that?

Yes, because I have been here for 21 years, now, so I’m use to it and adapt to it.

You have some good friends, here?

Yeah, I have loads of friends.

Are they people from Hebden Bridge?

Some of them from Hebden Bridge, some from my country, from Malaysia, from Thailand. That’s where I have friends from.

That’s nice. Good. What do you think of the landscape?

It’s not like it used to be when I came to this country.

How has it changed?

There’s a lot of different buildings, now. They’re changed. There’s no factories in here, now. . They’re all gone.

Do you think that’s a good thing?

I think it’s not a good thing. Some people looking for a job, have to go somewhere, anywhere.

There’s not a lot of work around here, now, then?

No, there isn’t.

Is there anything else that has changed that you’ve noticed?

A lot of antiques and like a tourist area.

Lots of antiques and lots of tourists. A lot more than there used to be?

Yes, a lot more tourist now, than there use to be.

Do you think that’s good?

Well, it’s good for me, for business.

It’s good for business?

Yes, it’s good for business.

That’s interesting, I would have thought tourists wouldn’t do much shopping here?

When the weather’s fine, it’s nice coming here. People are very friendly and even if they don’t buy anything they come and talk.

Did you any bring customs or traditions, beliefs or special occasions that you have from your own country?

I bring my religion.

What did you bring?

A statue, they call it Santa Antonio in my country. I keep it that way.

Is this a buddhist statue?

No. A Catholic, but we have the power of the statue. One statue in the Philippines is very powerful. So, I keep it all the time.

Right. So you keep a shrine?

I keep it with me wherever I go.

So you have it here now?

No, not this way, in a bag when I go abroad or something.

So it’s at your house?

Yes, at my house.

Is there anything else that you’ve brought, like cooking or food or anything like that?

Oh, cooking food, I do sometimes do like foods from my country.

Can you get the ingredients?

We can, but it’s similar to the Chinese ingredients in a way, so it’s not much of a problem. We all have to adapt to somebody’s food, anyway.

True. Do you think that Hebden Bridge is a friendly sort of place?

Yes, it’s a friendly sort of place. It’s nice.

Have you had any problems since you’ve been here?

Well, you know, we have some people who are bad, but anywhere in the country you can get that, yeah.

But nothing really terrible?

I’ve have been robbed, that’s all.

Oh you have?

From being kind, because he came in here like a spastic person and asked to use the loo. So, I let him use the loo and the dog attacked him and I came up there and he said, ‘can you put that dog away.’ So, I kicked the dog upstairs and he came down and took my money.

That’s terrible.

So, you can’t do anything about it.

Did you call the police?

I told the police, but the police never turned up straight away. I’m really scared. I reported to them and they said, ‘Don’t shout’, because he’s not there anymore. I said, ‘I’m still scared’. I went after him, and I know no one’s going to help me, so I shout outside. They just looked at me, that’s it.

So did you recognise that person?

No, they brought me some pictures, but no, he’s different. If you look at the pictures of different people, don’t know, you can’t tell.

It’s difficult. So do you have children?

Three. All girls.

Do they all live in Hebden?

One is engaged and lives in Burnley. One is in Uni in the second year.

What is she studying?

Business.

And the third one?

The third one is staying with me, at home.

Still at school?

In the sixth form.

Do you think they will stay in Hebden Bridge?

One of them, my youngest one doesn’t want me to sell my house because they want to keep the house.

Do you think the other 2 will move away?

No, I don’t think so. They would like to come over to live here.

Why do you think that is?

Maybe, they’ve been here a long time. They youngest one was born here and wants to stay here and might get married here, as well.

Because a lot of young people that I have spoken to in Hebden, they cannot afford to buy a house, there’s very little work and they want to see something different. But, there are some who want to stay.

Yeah.

Do any of your relatives come here to visit?

They can’t afford it

Do you write letters then?

I go there every year and stay with them.

Oh right.

Otherwise I have to pay them. I can’t afford to pay.

Oh, you go to see them?

Yeah, I go to stay every year.

That’s nice.

So, I was thinking to go back there in some years.

So, you might retire back there, you think?

Before retire. So, it’ll be 65 when I get retired, so maybe I’ll go before that.

So, do you miss it then?

Yes, that’s why I go every year.

What is it that you miss?

The life, easy life, happy. Nice weather.

Doesn’t it get too hot?

When you get used to it, it doesn’t get too hot. It gets really hot, especially in March, but it’ll be alright.

So, is there anything else that’s changed since you’ve lived in Hebden? You talked about lots of antiques and touristy things. Is there anything else that’s changed, that you’ve noticed?

Well, I’m not really sure now, what’s changed, maybe minor buildings or something like that.

Nothing else that you can think of?

Oh, well, like different, like, what you call, the surgery now is there, is changed. It use to be like the end of Market Street. Didn’t it?

Mr. McWhirter. It use to be down the road we’re on, it use to be next store but one, I think ,

Yes, the Doctor, this one in Market Street.

Mr. McWhirter. Then they joined up onto New Road and then moved on to Hangingroyd Lane and now they’ve moved on to Valley Road.

Yeah, the Doctor’s surgery you’re on about.

Mr. McWhirter. They’re not as good as they use to be. There’s an odd one or two that are right enough down there.

Well, it’s Doctor isn’t it, you can’t just …

Has business improved?

Since I took over?

Since you’ve been here. Has it always been the about the same or is it getting worse or getting better?

Talking about the original owner in here. He’s doing repairing, servicing somewhere in schools and he can sell easy, the sewing, everything that he make. He knows everything about servicing and I can’t do that.

So, you have to get somebody else to repair them.

Somebody to repair them, that’s all.

Was that a big part of the business then, doing repairs?

He use to, cos that’s, he covered everything of repairs. He use to do repairs a lot. That’s what you get money from.

Don’t you sell a lot of materials and threads?

I don’t do materials that much, only odd bits that I sell. I haven’t got any room for it, now.

So, most of it is actually sewing?

Yeah, sewing.

So, you do jobs?

I do some alterations.

OK. What do you think of the future of Hebden Bridge, then. Do you think it will keep changing in different ways or stay the same as it is now?

I think it keeps changing anyway.

What do you think will happen next? Any idea?

It’s up to the politicians, isn’t it? The politician people make a lot of difference.

If they change all this parking on the front will that be a good thing or a bad thing for you?

They already changed that before and, of course, some complained about it. It’s no good for a business.

So, you want to keep the parking?

I think, it’s good to keep the parking, but, I mean, some people don’t like it, because it’s dangerous to be on a small road.

It can cause traffic jams, I suppose that’s part of it.

Yeah.

So, what about things you like or dislike about Hebden Bridge or Heptonstall, because Heptonstall’s a bit different isn’t it?

Heptonstall is nice. Nice view.

What else do you like about it?

Heptonstall? It’s quiet, where I am.

So, you like the quiet?

Yeah. I wouldn’t like to live in the city.

Is there anything about Hebden that you like, then?

Oh, I think I like the quiet areas.

Is there things you don’t like about it, then, things that are not nice?

Things I don’t like? Oh, I don’t know about that.

Well, there are…

The things I don’t like, the things I don’t like. The big tax.

The tax? The business tax? No. it’s, what’ll they call it.

The council tax?

The council tax, yeah, it’s really big up there.

It’s massive!

They think they’re rich people. They’re not all rich people in Heptonstall.

You have to be rich to buy a house here, these days.

Oh yeah, but some people have said in Hebden Bridge it’s cheaper than Leeds, to buy a house.

I suppose there’re parts of Leeds that are more expensive, but there’s going to be parts of Leeds that are an awful lot cheaper I would have thought.

Yeah, it depends doesn’t it?

I think that’s most of what I have to ask you. Is there anything else?

No. I can’t think. I can’t remember what I did the other day.

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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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