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  • Interviews and Storytelling: Harry Cummings

    [TRACK ONE]

    [Harry has a very strong Northumberland accent]

    Okay, it’s recording now, so I just need to ask you first of all what your name is, what your full name is.

    It’s just straightforward Harry Cummings.

    Okay, lovely, and when and where were you born Harry?

    I was born in Durham City on the fourth of January 1925.

    Okay – can you tell me just a little bit about your family Harry?

    Well I’d eight brothers – well seven brothers and sisters, and we lived in a two-roomed house; mother and father slept downstairs and the rest of us slept upstairs with a blanket or something across the room to keep the lads away from the girls, not for any other reason, just to keep them separate. Mother and father slept downstairs in a foam bed – there were very little else about the house about it just being a terraced house in a district of Durham called Gilesgate called what? Gilesgate. I don’t know that you’ll understand what I’m saying! No, that’s fine.

    Durham itself I can tell you little bits about that – when we were children we used to go to…me mother and father and everybody’s mother and father used to go down to the cathedral with a basket to catch pancakes that were thrown off the cathedral top, and nobody ever got a pancake because we’d all have missed! [laughing] It’s quite true, and then there were another do they used to have there were the biggest in the world – The Durham Miners Gala, the biggest meeting of unionists in the world and that lasted all day – the pubs were open all day, never mind about now, they were then, and they used to get all the labour generally, and all the ambassadors speaking from all over Europe.

    So was your dad a miner?

    Oh no, me father used to work with an auctioneer in an auctioneer’s shop, me father wasn’t a miner. I’d one brother a miner, and there again it was nothing like today – we had never locked the doors, the doors were always open and the next-door-neighbours could walk in; I’d one brother, a miner, and he could be having – there was no pit head baths, we had a bath, a tin one, in front of the fire and they’d just walk in and say ‘ow do Bill’ and go talk somewhere else in the same room sort of doing.

    So they didn’t mind that he was in the bath?

    Nothing at all about locking doors, and nobody – I never knew of anybody having anything stolen; I could tell you something but I don’t think you’d dare put it on there, about the Mayor of Durham, but I’d better not.

    Okay.

    I’ll tell you that after.

    Durham itself like was a beautiful place, it is a beautiful place, and it is more so now.

    And you went to school and everything up there then?

    We went to school when we…the school was in the hills at Whinney Hill and just was above Durham Central Prison, there’s two prisons now but that was the only one there, and that was where they used to do the hangings; I think it were Pierpoint who would, where the hanging was, and the person who were being hanged had to have the….had to have the permission of the judge to hang them, and they also had to be there and Pierpoint use to, well he was generally, he’d been under the influence of drink all night, and he had to sign – nobody knows this I don’t think – he had to sign a thing to say that he’d more or less committed the murder himself, and the judges had to, you know – let him go about it. They also had – I can remember a plane always flying over when there’s a hanging – I don’t know her first name, but Banderouse was her next, and she used to have these ribbons flying behind the wing – ‘down with capital punishment’ – that is a long time ago.

    I went to this school, we used to have to walk – this is lovely – two and a half mile to school every morning, there were no school dinners – we had to walk two and a half mile back for generally beans on toast, yes – and then no not walking about anywhere like they are now – and

    So you used to go home at lunchtime and then go back to school?

    No buses – well we couldn’t afford a bus. Me father’s wage was just about two pound a week in them days and when he died in 1959, there was only something like something like – I think he’d fourpence left in his…purse but he’d only got two pound fifty a week then, 1959.

    There were various other things like – there were lot of things going off in Durham, but to me, it all finished, Durham when I went in the army.

    So you left to go into the army did you then?

    I left Durham in 1943, some time I think…I think it was the fourth of March 1943.

    How old were you then?

    Eighteen, and I went to various places over Europe. I kept coming back occasionally to Durham, but you couldn’t you know – you were in the army, so you just had to go back. I cam – I won’t say this bit – well I might as well – I came down to Hebden Bridge in 1947, and when I came, I came to visit somebody that lived up – I didn’t know where it was – up above Dodnaze, in I think it was called Manor House; it’s not there now. He was in the army with us and I came down to see him and it was in the winter. When I left Durham it was a bit rough, the weather, but when I got down here I was walking on wall tops to this house – I didn’t exactly know where he lived – I kept falling into – I’d only shoes on, I kept falling in, and I only came for a few days!

    You said you were walking on wall tops because what – the snow was so deep?

    Well the snow was that deep, and…when I got there eventually, I’d a job to find him in the first place because I didn’t know his wife’s maiden name and as I read them out, they told us to go to the police station and then they said ‘go to the council offices and they’ve got a list’ and they kept reading these names out and they were all like foreign to me like – Sutcliffe, hundreds of Sutcliffes, Greenwoods and I said ‘no it’s none of them’ and it turned out her name was Greenwood, and when I got up there, I was only supposed to be two days and I finished up going to…going back a fortnight later ‘cos we had to dig ourselves out, and when I got back into the army I got a good telling off like you know, but the point is that that is the worst winter I can ever remember – 1947, and then it was the same year I came down, I found a job at Moderna in Mytholmroyd and I worked there for a while.

    What were you doing there then?

    I was a…well I was like a sort of assistant loom tuner you know – they were weaving blankets, well that’s about all they did weave, blankets, and there was a tuner on and I was eventually on night shift, working as a tuner. I was there a few year then I went to work at dye houses, which there were quite a few in Hebden Bridge district and then I went

    So was that dyeing cloth?

    That were dyeing corduroy, but all the corduroy came from, all the cloth more or less came from firms round here, but eventually it all came from Spain and Portugal, all these places closed round here – there were quite a lot used to weave cloth, there were quite a lot of dye houses and that was at Mytholmroyd, then I went working at another dye house and they were doing the same sort of thing, but dyeing it in bigger quantities, and then I finished up at…Sagar Richards at Luddendenfoot there – they built car parts for all over the world actually; they’ve nearly finished now. That was generally the idea of the working situation.

    What brought you to Hebden Bridge to live?

    No work at Durham.

    Right, so you’d finished in the army and there was just no work there?

    Yeh, before you went in the army you’d a choice. They generally asked if you wanted to be…work in a coal mine, you were called Bevan boys – Bevan was the Minister of Works or something, and I thought ‘well I’m no going down the mines’ – I’d been down them to have a look and I’ve seen people working in what you call a seam where the water runs underneath them, rats alongside them – as long as the rats were there, they were happy because there were no gas and they used to be lying in water with, well these won’t know what this is – pit yankers, like a pair of shorts and they’d be wet through and they were hacking coal with little…and I could never have thought about that; I could think about it but I couldn’t work there.

    So you had no job set up for you when you left the army then?

    No, before I went in the army I was working in the weaving shed, doing – I was only about sixteen when I started and when I finished I were eighteen; I was doing carpets and it turned out they were the Queen’s carpet makers, they were by appointment and the strange thing, they closed this year because the carpets were very good quality; I’d some mates’ relatives, they worked there when it closed but they were too expensive for the – the home trade, they were strictly for people in…I mean the carpets, some of them were thick and so they were never for a house; you could never afford them, it were something ridiculous – fifteen or twenty pound a square yard.

    That was up in Durham way that you did that?

    That was in Durham, yes.

    So you came here – did you come here because you knew somebody then, because of your friend from the army?

    I came here because – when I came down, I only came down by bus and then I walked up as I say, but it was mainly – it isn’t because he were in the army were this, I only come to see him – he were like a sort of mate and he was, actually he was manager of a dye works; I should imagine he went to various places. He went to somewhere in the Middle East, it was the right part of Africa, and a well-known dictator had the place, I forget his name, but he went working there, working there, he was an instructor on dyeing cloth and that was corduroy, and then he went to Canada, but I lost all track of him – he finished up in Scotland somewhere, but he was older than me by two or three years, so I don’t know – I should imagine, I’ve never heard nothing from him since.

    So you just arrived here on your own then?

    Off me own back, yes.

    Where did you live when you first came here?

    Up Cragg Vale, down past the Hinchliffe Arms.

    Was that on the hill, up Cragg Vale then?

    Yes, in fact we used to, when we were playing football and that, we used to run up the hill – I do know I couldn’t walk up this now properly!

    So were you in Cragg Village then?

    Yeh, down past the church.

    What was it like there?

    Oh it was very nice, very nice, yeh. The only trouble with it was that you’d about one bus an hour and if you missed it, you could walk into Mytholmroyd in half and hour or something you know; I did more walking – well most people did, you had to walk up and down more, there were no – not as many cars, there were no cars to talk about, very few of anything in that style, you know, there were an odd bus run up and down.

    I’ll tell you who used to go to speak at the church up there, it’s called St Johns in the Wilderness…he was a disc jockey, well-known – Jimmy Savile; he used to preach there, he knew the vicar or somebody and he used to come three or four times a year to speak there, yes. There were various things like that – there was once…a well known pianist, not a classical pianist but he was more of a swing, and he’d a finger less on each hand, and he used to come and play and he knew somebody that had the Hinchliffe Arms; he were well-known but the name forgets us for now; you know it was a strange place that they had Jimmy Savile preaching in the church.

    Tiny little place, yeh.

    And I lived up there for…till 1960, then I came here into this house 1966 and I daren’t tell you how much this house cost now!

    Can you remember how much it was, your house?

    Oh yeh, but I don’t know whether – I’m not selling because I’m the last one here, but…if you want to know, whether you cut it off or not, they were back-to-back houses which most of them are and that one, that part of the house is a lad – a Pakistani, they came over to work, his family never come and his mate, there were three of ‘em and that part – two upstairs rooms and that…and he was moving down to Slough, well he used to work at Cape Asbestos and he got asbestosis, but he didn’t know that I don’t think; he only died when he was about less than thirty, and his mate told us later on – one of his mates – and he got a job in something to do with garages or he were a driver, something to do with transport, buses, and he went to clock on one day and he collapsed and died, so he was quite…and I paid £250 for it – pounds, not thousands in 1966, and this one staged the same. I weren’t in there long before the chap in this house died, and his daughter and her husband lived down in Cambridge and they were going to come up and go backwards and forwards, and they changed their mind, so his daughter said would I like to take the house before they put it up for sale, I says ‘how much do you want?’ she says ‘£300’ so both of them cost £550 and were made into a four-bedroomed house – massive bedroom up here, bigger than this room, and they cost – with a bit of a grant – it only cost the whole lot £1300.

    That’s amazing isn’t it?

    They sold their house similar to this, top of the street this year, about £170,000, they sold that. I mean, if somebody sold that house on for four hundred I wouldn’t sell it, but I mean…to me, I’m not stupid in a way, but most of my money, this will be left from this house, goes to animal welfare; I spend most of my money on annual welfare – oh yeh, well t’relatives aren’t hard up you know, they’ve all – well they’ve got eight-bedroomed house and this that and t’other in Durham, when I go up they don’t even bother to come down and see you, and you can stop in Durham; I’ll go and see if they’re in prison, you could stop in Durham Castle opposite the cathedral, they’re all the same, well it’s on a rock for something like eighteen pound bed and breakfast, which is beautiful but I’ve been there with three or four – they’ve never been down, they only live about two mile – well no further than Mytholmroyd, but they’ve never been down so I’ve just forgot them. But that shouldn’t be on there either.

    Well we can take bits off if you want us to.

    Here Harry relates some family business, which we didn’t want made public.

    I’d all these brothers and sisters, and to put it in a nutshell, we got on well together but we’ve never been in the same area; me only one sister remained in Durham, and I’d one brother who used to be a coal miner, worked in Dagenham – Ford factory at Dagenham. Me oldest brother worked from being seventeen going down from here, he went down to play football for Watford but he didn’t like it, when he were about sixteen then he went on to a place near Watford called Elstree and Boreham Wood, and he got a job in a film studio.

    So you all spread out then didn’t you?

    Oh yeh – there was one in Birmingham, one that worked in an aircraft factory, one in north – north of Alnwick in Scot… in Northumberland. None of us…just used to visit and…me mother was a funny old…well not funny, just quaint and we once – here all this stuff is of no consequence to Hebden Bridge, but she went to…I went with them once to a family and I’ll never forget, the woman at the house Talbert she called him, she said to her husband, this was as she was making tea, she says ‘how much butter and how much sugar have we used this week – we can’t use much today’ and me mother says ‘oh right, ta-ra – we’ll go home, we’ll get our own’ – this woman where we went, was always…’have we used this today…how much have we used…butter and..’ me mother just got up, back turned, and walked out, and she was some relation an’ all.

    So, when you came here and you came from somewhere else, were there any other people who were outsiders who came – you know, who lived here at that time, or..

    Yeh, the strange thing was, up Cragg Vale, the first time I got on a bus, I recognised – I didn’t recognise the chap, but his accent, and he had been one of these miners that…in the 1920s when there was the strike in miners – he was one of the Jarrow marchers that had walked from Jarrow down to London, but he only got as far as Halifax and he says he’d had enough, and he got a job, eventually working on the buses as a driver, and he was there, but apart from anybody else it was strangers because up Cragg Vale, I don’t think they right liked anybody that wasn’t born up there, and they just called you ‘off-cumdens’.

    So was it hard to settle down – were they not friendly with you?

    I couldn’t have cared less personally, because I’m one on me own like in my mind.

    So you didn’t mind that they..

    Oh I didn’t bother – I used to go down, it used to be ridiculous really, I used to go down to the Hinchliffe Arms – I just lived up about a minute’s walk from there and used to go in there and it used to be strange, some of the things that happened there – they never closed – two o’clock in the morning – and you might be having a drink a Friday night and the landlord will say to somebody – it would be crowded and the landlord would say, ‘take this cup of tea out to the shed’ – there was an old shed opposite, and he says ‘what for?’ he says ‘you’d better take two cups – there’s a couple of police in there’! [laughing] – and stuff like that, and

    So they didn’t mind so long as they had a cup of tea brought to them?

    No, they just reckoned to be looking to see – they never were caught or in court or anything about it, and the landlord once – he was a Scotsman, and he chucked everybody out – he was arguing with a bloke who had come from Australia and they were sort of arguing, and he says ‘everybody out’ and the football were having a meeting in there, and we all went down to the one lower down – I forget what it’s called, half way down Cragg – it’s still there – we went in there.

    Not the Robin Hood?

    Robin Hood, yeh, and then a bit later, another two or three, hadn’t been to the meeting, come into the Robin Hood, they just got off there, and I says ‘where’ve you been?’ they says ‘oh we’ve been up to the Hinchliffe but none of you were there’ they says ‘you can have free drinks all round’ and the last time – this is true – the last time I saw him, he was walking up the hill, it were raining, he says ‘I’ve had enough – I’m off home’ I says ‘where to – Scotland?’ he said – and he’d only his bedroom slippers on, and it were pouring down – no clothes, no coat, no nowt, I don’t know where he went, but

    So that was the landlord – he just walked out then?

    He just walked out and left the place, now I suppose his wife or somebody would be running the pub – he just left it. He used to be a bit – two minutes, everything would be alright, and all of a sudden he’d blow, he’d blow. That were the landlord there, and of course as I say, I used to go – I weren’t a big drinker, I were a bit in the army, but I used to go down – the first time I went down, the first day I was there was when I went to the…Dusty Miller, and I nearly had to swim there because you didn’t realise living on t’top, you didn’t realise when you go down the bottom – you were alright till you got into Mytholmroyd, over the bridge and the water’s gushing all over the place.

    So this was when it flooded then?

    That was the time it flooded.

    What year was that then?

    1947.

    Right, in your first year there

    First weekend – I thought ‘it’s time I went back home’

    So you walked down to the pub and the road was deep in water?

    I just turned round and walked back. I think we went – somebody says ‘oh The Working Men’s Club will be open’ – I think we went and had a drink then walked back.

    How deep was the water then?

    Oh…well I don’t know then like, but in the Dusty – I don’t know, they used to have a mark on the bar up to the height of the water – whether it’s still there – I should say in the Dusty it was over two foot deep, over two or three foot deep, yeh, and Tetlaw’s shop – like at the end of the war it was hard to cigarettes and all that, and Tetlaw’s shop had had a lot of tobacco and that, and it all got wet, but that occurred – I think that occurred earlier an’ all that had got wet, but I don’t believe as much the second time as the first, but it were amazing, and you used to travel from Cragg Vale down to Mytholmroyd for…one and a half pence – I don’t know what it would be now – one and a half old pence, and you could travel to Halifax for three pence on the bus – how things change!

    And there’s a bloke up there – he were a droll un, he used to work for us; he used to walk up and down in his clogs and he said to me – I won’t tell you who it were or his brother, but he said to me once did I want to go on holiday with him in summer, I says ‘oh I don’t know’– I says ‘where do you go?’ he says ‘well we get a taxi, four of us, and we go up Cragg and then over to Littleborough and we go in a pub there and have a drink and a meal and come back’

    And that was a holiday?

    I says ‘I’m going to Spain if I can’ – he says ‘well that’s what we do’ I thought ‘well, I give up’ and his brother used to live at the Robin Hood on the side of it, they’d only gas, they’d no electricity, no television, well television weren’t going like, and never spent a penny and I thought ‘they’ll never part with nothing won’ these up Cragg’ and…when he did die, he left forty-thousand in them days. His brother took up and went living somewhere at Mytholm – not Mytholmroyd, Mytholm, and he left over eighty thousand – well what good were that?

    So they were very careful with their money then?

    Too careful – I mean, fancy dieing and leaving that and they went for a holiday up..

    Did other people have holidays at that time – did people go on holiday?

    Oh yes, I mean I didn’t exactly – it’s so daft you could go – well you can now for less than thirty pound you could go to Amsterdam from Hull now – and there, twenty-five years ago , forty years ago, you could go, but it would be even less than that.

    So did people from here go on holidays then – where did they used to go?

    Generally, most of them I come across either went to Blackpool or Bridlington, sometimes Scarborough, but I’d never heard of them going overseas, no. But you see I’d been in the army – Belgium, Spain, not Spain, France – I was in Israel when it was called Palestine, and Egypt.

    So did you go on holidays abroad then ‘cos you were used to travelling?

    This is the first year I’ve never been to Belgium or Holland – I book twice, most I’ve gone is nine or ten times, a few of us go and it costs nothing – you’ve a night on the boat going, one night coming back…

    So you used to travel more than the local people did then really?

    Oh yeh, yes, I mean I used to go up and down to Durham an’ all and places like that, but they used to go abroad because they got this here thing ‘well I’ll have to go abroad because we’ve been used…’ I was in Belgium for…oh six or seven month in Brussels and we used to do the signals for the twenty-first army group – I was in signals like, teleprinters, and well I don’t think this will matter – you can cut this out an’ all – I was on end night and there was only me awake, and there come a signal through – all the rest was sleeping, there was very little going on, and there come a signal through form Eisenhower signed by him and it was most immediate, and they said the war had been finished – it was finished, and that it wouldn’t be announced for another seven days because the heads of state would have to announce it, and to give them time to sort the job out and I stole a copy did you? and I kept it – now I don’t know where it is have you still got it do you think? I gave it to a Belgian about two years ago, to some Belgians – I still go there – I’ve still got – they were on…what do they call them…they had a copy – like copying paper – you got three copies

    Oh I know – like duplicate paper

    Yes – I took, you can read it if you like, signed by Eisenhower and somebody says to me ‘you’re stupid’ – somebody from Calder High School – teacher says ‘you are stupid because it could have been worth thousands of pounds’ I says ‘it’s gone – that’s it’ but I don’t know – I also was at the pyraminds and Sphinx at…a place…I forget name of the place in Egypt – we were doing signals for the prisoners of war, they were guarded by Gurkhas – Italian and German, they kept ‘em separate and there, there was once at Bmena, Bmena House Hotel, there was Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin, and we were just down the bottom of the hill, about a mile to a mile, and we used to do their signals. There was only eight of us there but we didn’t understand them, they were in pyretics thing of codes – I didn’t bother with them but I would – we never saw them but we used to send somebody down with these signals for various places and that was…that would just be after the war, but you haven’t got much about Hebden Bridge there have you?

    No – tell me, did you ever get married?

    No – I was courting with somebody when I were in the army in Belgium, but…then her boyfriend came back – I didn’t know like, her boyfriend came back from…prison of war camp, Eee, right knocking on, so well I thought ‘well I’ll just leave ‘em to it’ and after that, I thought ‘I’ll fight me own battles’

    Tell me a bit about work here – tell me a bit about the corduroy – the dyeing factory.

    The dyeing. Well they had to…cut it you know, it comes in all woven and they had to have forks, little forks that went in between with a slot in and there were blades running in that slot, used to cut it in, then – that’s before it were dyed, that’s were just the place up…then they had to go to be scoured and they brought all the stuff up, and then they went over, brushed a bit, then it went over a machine, a gas machine and I used to run that sometimes, and I’ve no sense of smell now. All day long you only smelt gas. I can smell gas in there but I can’t smell nothing else! It’s strange that. It went over these things and burnt all the fluff off, smoothed it out, then it went to be brushed again and put over various machines, either to stretch it to size and that then dyed, and finished.

    And did you like working in the factory then?

    Oh, quite alright – actually the manager was this…but I didn’t come down here to work, I went – that were the second job I worked at and it…fustian dyes, there were quite a lot – there was one up – going towards Hardcastle Crags, it’s still open is the dye works and there were two or three in Royd, different places that dyed it and things like that, and in war there were quite a few, but they all disappeared, just went…

    And your other job was in a blanket making factory?

    Yeh, I’ve a blanket upstairs I got there when I were there, and it was a one-off one they made and it were about that thick – they sold ‘em all over, that’s what they did with ‘em, but somebody says ‘you want to have it cleaned’ and they took it, not to dry cleaner, they took it and had it washed and made a mess of it; it’s up there still. That was – I only worked in the part where the wove this stuff you know, but you see there again, there used to be what you call pick checkers – every time the shuttle went across, that would be called a pick – well the checker used to come and stop the loom, put in a little bar code on that pick, and then count seventeen and if that would be seventeen or nineteen whatever in an inch, he’d put an inch mark on and measure it, and things like that – quite interesting really, but I only ever worked in that part – it were quite big were Moderna, and well its all factories now.

    It’s different now – was there..

    There’s no blankets there now, it’s where all the…where all the factories are in Mytholmroyd

    So were there some older buildings there then?

    The original building I suppose will be there, but there were two or three buildings and they went from one department into another, and…it were just this side of the canal. I’ll then tell you something else about somebody stumbling along the canal who I knew, but it was something and nothing, and I won’t tell you nothing [laughing]…I looked out the window, somebody says ‘there’s so-and-so there’- he jumped out and waved, just…he’d been drinking somewhere

    Did he hurt himself then?

    No, no – he just stood waving to everyone with nowt on…[laughing] he used to play football an’ all

    So you had a football team did you then?

    They had a football team – Moderna had a football

    Was that the Red Stars then?

    Yeh, Moderna did have a football team, played on a Sunday but they were from other teams – you know, they didn’t all work at Moderna. There used to be a workshops competition there on Calder Holmes where all the clubs in the district – Halifax an’ all, they’d join and play this here football, and actually I played for a team, the dye works team, and we won it one year but I forget when – we won the competition.

    Was that in the park then?

    That was in Hebden Bridge park, and then there were…and I was also secretary of Hebden Royd, well it wasn’t called Hebden Royd Red Star, it was – it was started by…they were Welsh, they were built years before our time – they built the reservoir up there and they started a football team, now I don’t know – I’ve forgotten for the minute they called it, but they used to play up Heptonstall on…when you’re going up and you turn into Heptonstall, if you go on that road and turn into Heptonstall, it used to be there – there were a field that sloped and one day somebody says, it had been snowing, and with this end sloping, at one end there were no snow, it had blown down. I says ‘you can’t play on that’ he says ‘you can’ and the referee looked at it, he says ‘yeh’ but he didn’t know there were a slope – it was two foot deep at one end, and just a scattering at the other – that didn’t last long! Then they went – when they moved from there, they moved to…a short time to Calder Holmes because there were two or three teams using that, then they moved to Mytholmroyd and they changed their name to Hebden Royd Red Star, and the strange thing about that – this is very interesting – a lad who plays football for them and he used to play for Mytholmroyd and he went on to Hebden Royd itself, but when he was playing for Mytholmroyd, the manager – I’ve still got the letter upstairs – sent a registered letter to me asking if they could approach him as they had to do, to sign him on for Halifax Town and the bloke was Willie Watson, the…who plays cricket for England – Yorkshire and England, and so naturally he couldn’t say no so he went, now that lad believe it or not, this is perfectly true, became the coach; he played at Halifax Town then Hartlepool and one or two other clubs, and he became a coach and he went to Liverpool as coach, then he went to Manchester and he coached David Beckham and all them did he really? now I don’t know whether you dare put that in but you can if you want, and his name was Eric Harrison, and the funny thing about this an’ all – he also went a year or two since to coach Wales and they hadn’t been doing nothing, then they won quite a number of matches on the trot, and I were reading the paper once at work about ‘em and it was on about Ferguson being the big noise and it says ‘but the person behind all the success is Eric Harrison’

    And he’d started off here then, had he?

    He started off – his father used to – they used to live at Mytholmroyd, Caldene – somewhere up there, and he started off playing for…Mytholmroyd and he finished up coaching David Beckham Beckham and a few more, and the strange thing – I never seem him for years, I’ve seen him on television stood with Ferguson when there were matches and I were going to London…when were I going? No, he was going to London – I were going part the way, and I got on the train at Royd, I got to Halifax and I thought…I said to somebody who I was with, I said ‘that’s Eric Harrison’ I says, ‘I think’ – I’d never seen him for thirty forty years and I thought ‘well I’ll approach him’ and when we stopped at Bradford I just walked up to him and says ‘I might be mistaken, but I’m sure you’re Eric Harrison,’ he says ‘yeh’ he says ‘well how are you going on?’ he knew me like you know, I says ‘where are you living now – are you still coaching?’ he says ‘no, finished now’ and he were going down to London for some reason or another, to Parliament – I don’t know what for like and I’ve still got the letter; I said ‘I’ll send this letter on to you’ from Eric Harrison from different things and from Willie Watson. He says ‘aye you do’ but I keep forgetting – I can remember what happened, but I can’t remember what happened yesterday, so that was something that a lot of people – they wouldn’t dare say.

    So did all the different factories and mills have their own football teams then?

    Well, I wouldn’t say every one in Hebden did; there used to be two or three….there used to be one up at…Old Town, and there’s still a team up there now but the ones that used to play down on Calder Holmes were like some sort of a works do, and there were a few from round here and Todmorden, and various areas of Halifax and they used to be quite a lot of teams in you know, but he used to play some of them at Mytholmroyd, there was a field there for odd matches, but generally speaking it were…a lot of clubs from the area had not just entered you know, they were supposed to be work teams but you couldn’t tell who some of them were, you know – some of them could be – they called thereselves something from, say West Vale and it would probably be West Vale Football Club you know, you didn’t know. Somebody might say ‘well that’s so-and-so’ and there were some quite good footballers there, and yet you always have to remember now if you watch them playing football on television, if you change the ball as they’re raise their foot with them little boots on to kick it, the ball we had, it would have broke their ankles because they might be alright now with the ball, but the ball was leather and it used to collect all the slow as it rolled, and it used to collect

    Did you used to play in the snow then?

    We played on the sites, you know, oh yeh, I’ve seen them kick off in the…when there’s been about six inches of snow on the ground, it used to collect it and they’d have to stand and bounce it, and nowadays you’ll see somebody take a free kick from forty yards – there was one on telly last night – forty-odd yards and it sailed into the net, looked over, Beckham did that once in a match – well if they’d kicked a ball we used to play with, they would have broke their ankle, you know. There was another lad an’ all, I just saw him the other day strange to say. He left here, he went down the Midlands to play football, but I never – his father were Polish; I never heard what become of him as a footballer, but I mean nowadays, he’ll be fifty-odd now and I bumped into him. Well I was secretary there for twenty…twenty-odd years and strange to say, that is the oldest Red Star in Halifax League, one of the oldest you know – it’s one of the oldest in the area, Bradford, all this area, and they’ve been going all these years, but I don’t go and see them now, I’ve left them a couple of bob in the will

    So what did you used to do in your spare time besides football?

    Me? Then I’ve known sea ferries go somewhere – go up to Durham

    Did people think you were funny ‘cos you used to go off to different places?

    No, no, just wanderlust I suppose – I came out the army, I mean I still have people I knew in, I still write to them, I’ll get a card this Christmas from two families and one of them was eighty..the husband of one family was eighty-four, and I used to get cards from them every year and I go visiting them, and then they’d get a place…just outside Brussels but he used to live….and the first time I saw him was when we were putting telegraph lines up in – like after the army left – after the British army occupied Brussels, we went in, about ten of us to put signals up and we hardly ever got going with them because they were always inviting you into bars with the locals, and we’d then go to the poles, and some of them – one fell down once anyway, and so you didn’t get round to putting them up – well we did eventually, and we had an officer and he belonged – you know, a firm – the old Recketts blue company, you know Recketts – there was a firm in Hull called Recketts and he was one of the – and he did the same no matter what we were doing, but eventually they got the thing sorted out and they…we spent all our time, we’d be doing…drinking in the bars and going with them, and I got to know quite a lot and there’s one of them said to me once when I was out there; I’d just got some money from the government, two hundred pound, that’s what you got when you come out the army, he says ‘this is what the goat says, if, I put this, that two hundred with him, he says would I import something and export it,’ ‘oh no I says, I’ll just have a time here,’ and anyway I’ve seen him a few times since and I went out once and he lives in this massive house; picked us up in the Mercedes you know, and I thought ‘oh I could have been doing this’ and he’d set up exporting car parts to England and there were six of them all in Blankenburg in Belgium, blocks of flats, six hundred flats here and there that they hired out, let out all year round and he was loaded with money. He lived in this big house – his son had a car, he’d had one eye out so he’d bought his wife a car – full of antiques and that and he took us down, he said ‘we’re going to have a drink down…’ I didn’t know where we were going; I knew the district but I didn’t know a pub we went in and there were a crowd of people in, and lo and behold, all that lot had just gone because he’d invited them before I’d got there, and there were a party, and there must have been forty or fifty and I thought ‘well if he asks me for any money, I’m not loaded’ and he just paid for it like that with a card – never bothered, and did you ever here called Teezy-Weezy the hairdresser – he was on television – I said to this lad, we were sat looking across this land he had, I said ‘whose is that land down there’ ‘cos there was a dip, he says ‘oh it’s all the same, it’s all mine’ he says ‘but there’s a house over there that I sold a plot of land to, and Teezy-Weezy built a house on it’

    We’ve got about five more minutes – anything else that you want to tell me about Hebden Bridge – any special memories that you might have, any people that you might remember?

    I don’t know, you see

    Or special occasions like Christmas or…you go away a lot don’t you?

    That’s why I thought when it was going to be Hebden Bridge that – apart from living up here,

    Tell me about up here, when you first came to live up here, what it was like.

    It was similar to now – the houses haven’t changed, you know, the outside of the houses, although they weren’t – they’ve been sand-blasted since, and but – next door was…Hebden-Bridger and all the way down were either Yorkshire or local.

    And it’s not like that now then?

    No – the top house, I don’t know where they’re from, but not here. Next door came from Portsmouth I believe, then at that side, he was Irish – she was Irish, he was from Manchester.

    So they’re all from all over now?

    He used to be back – he’s the chap who put you onto me, David, well he’s Irish, his wife’s from Birmingham, Polish at the top of the street and they’ve still just moved in – one from Wales and one…

    What do you think to it nowadays compared to how it used to be?

    Oh I think it’s better in lots of ways – I think you’ve got the best railway service you can have for a town, I mean you can get three routes to London you know – Manchester, Leeds or Preston even, and different ways – good bus route services, that’s why these are all here – they’re commuters.

    And before presumably, everybody just used to work locally then?

    Oh yeh, yeh – I never heard of anybody travelling to Manchester like they do next door to work, so they would never have dreamt of it I don’t think, even if they had a job they would have had more of a job to get there – although they could have got their by train I think. I don’t know – they keep saying to me like ‘you’ve lived here a long time you have’ but to be honest, there’s that many people who’ve come and gone, I don’t know – maybe I have, but it’s hard work walking up there – I used to go up to Cape Asbestos a bit; I played football down at Dagenham with them a bit, but I mean this for thee – I can’t really remember a right lot that was exceptional, I mean the same things happen now as happened then.

    You say they used to wear clogs – did you wear the clogs?

    No, no

    What did you make of it when you saw them all wearing clogs?

    Well there was that one who died and left money, used to go up and down in clogs and overalls all day; it didn’t matter to him and he said to me once ‘where are you going?’ ‘I’m going down on the bus, I’m going to Halifax’ he says ‘what are you going for these clogs around.’ I says ‘I’m going for a new suit’ he says ‘well what’s wrong with that?’ I says ‘I want a new one’ and I said ‘where are you going?’ he said ‘well do you know where there’s any watchmakers in Halifax?’ I says ‘there’s one down by the Odeon’ he says ‘where’s the Odeon?’ I said ‘well, they’ve built the bus station there’ – ‘well where’s that?’ I says ‘well it’s hard to explain if you don’t know where the Odeon is’ I said ‘if you go down past the Odeon anyway, there’s a watchmaker’s there’ he says ‘you know’ he says ‘I haven’t been in Halifax since before the war’ – that must have been ten, twenty years earlier.

    Do you think that was common then, that most people didn’t travel really?

    They didn’t travel, no, and you see you didn’t – you see, Hebden Bridge now is very expensive – then, for groceries and that, wasn’t as it is now you know.

    So people would do their shopping here?

    Yeh, and there wasn’t all the supermarkets up and down and there weren’t all these cafes you know what’s here now – there were nothing like that. It’s hard to tell, you know it’s hard to say what it was really like because there was very little change – the biggest changes are around now, all from this place, yeh – it’s very much the same as it was as I can recall, I can’t recall anything of note – they used to…but that’s only recently – the duck races and things, and that’s only recent.

    Did you go to church?

    No I didn’t, I used to

    A lot of people would have gone to chapel or

    Well actually, I were brought up until I went in the army in the Salvation Army, and

    They wouldn’t have that here

    They didn’t have it here but there were one at Halifax, but then you see as time goes on, religion’s become nothing now – I mean, even the Bishop of Southwark or somewhere was drunk and disorderly – it’s in the paper here the other day – I’m not bothered, he can do what he wants, but you see it’s all gone – not because I’m colour barred or anything, because the Bishop of thingummy’s coloured, I know he’s from – they might be good bishops, I don’t know, the one in Birmingham is, and I’m not saying it’s anything to do with the religion, but people are looking at that as a sign of the wrong way now, things are going backwards on. You’d best not put that on either or I’ll be a racist

    No it’s alright – don’t worry. It’s probably time to turn it off anyway ‘cos I think the tape’s probably run out now. Tell me that bit about being on the bus then.

    Okay – I was coming on the bus down Cragg Vale into Mytholmroyd and this chap got on the bus and he says ‘where do you come from? I’m not sitting with you’ he says ‘you’re an off-cumden, I’m sitting over here’ and he sat the other side the bus, but also the same bloke a day or two later got on the bus and he sat opposite, and he says ‘I see you’re still here then’ I said ‘yeh, I go up and down to work’ he says ‘I’ve just made the bus’ I says ‘well you should have put your shoes on’ I says ‘you’ve got your bedroom slippers on still’ – he still had his bedroom slippers on!

    And another day – he was a droll un – another day he went down be car and we were waiting in road and we got off the bus and he worked up on the dye works somewhere, and he says – a cop car come you know, I worked at the same dye works actually, the cop car come along and he’d been following him down Cragg and he’d been doing a bit of speeding, something of the sort, and I said to him ‘what were that?’ although I were an off-cumden he still worked same place, and he said ‘oh they said I were breaking the speed limit’ and he says ‘they asked us to have a look at what speed I was doing – I said I don’t know, it’s broke’! You see that was the type of person that lived up there – in a world of their own, mind some of them houses up now that were all barns and that knocked into houses, they’re worth half a million.

    Yes I know, I know…it’s very different isn’t it? I’ll turn it off again now.

    And that bloke was..

    [END OF TRACK ONE]

    Read more

  • Interviews and Storytelling: Thomas Harris

    [TRACK 1]

    The first thing is, can you tell me your full name and where and when you were born?

    Thomas James Harris, 22 Watson Street, Gateshead, County Durham.

    Can you tell me a little bit about your family?

    Well, family, yeh….me father was on bad times, out of work; he couldn’t find a job. We were in a proper run-down area and we were a bit neglected. Long shot, we got taken to an orphanage. Mother died…I never did find out when she actually died, and only thirty-five. There were three of us, two sisters and me and we were rather badly neglected, and oh they was out of work and getting his dole money twenty-three shillings a week but he could still afford to smoke and drink and make a real mess of his life you know, so we were taken away and put in an orphanage so that was the start.

    I see – when were you born?

    17th…9th of September 1917.

    So did you spend all your early years in the orphanage?

    From five to sixteen. As soon as you got a certain age they moved you somewhere else and then they moved you somewhere else.

    Is that right?

    Yeh, so I was in three different places as I grew older.

    Did you continue contact with your sisters?

    I’ve sort of lost contact with the first number of years you know, really lost contact, except me older sister ‘cos she was taken in the orphanage as well as I was, but me third sister she wasn’t.

    What happened to her?

    I don’t know – she just stayed with her father and that. It was a long time before I got in touch with her and I suggested to her she come down and get a job and we could get to know each other you know.

    After I came out of the orphanage there was no work to be had of any kind so…they found me a job down in Watford, Hertfordshire so I moved down there, and I got my sister to come down and she got a job and I gave her a sort of taste of life down there, and getting work and that.

    Did she come down?

    Yeh, yeh.

    What kind of work did you get down there then?

    Well I got a job in a kitchen cabinet factory and I was…at first of course I didn’t know anything, I was on a job what they called ‘pulling off’ – as the…they were doing the machines, making the moulding and stuff, and pulling off – you took if off from there, and then for a while, and then later on I got on to some of the machines – circular saws and band saws, things like that, yeh.

    Did you enjoy that work?

    Yeh, not too bad, yeh, but then they all joined a union and then six months later – I think I was there for five years, and after joining the union they demanded more money, and in the end I got sacked! It’s the usual way, then did one or two odd jobs and that till the war came along and I got collared for that.

    Did you volunteer then?

    No, everybody was given medicals and they graded you according to your state of health. I got graded B3 because I wasn’t all that…as athletic as some of them, because my early years was a bit bad you know, and in fact it might have done me a good turn because instead of being plonked straight in the infantry I got in the Pioneer Corps, and at 1940 I got called up, yeh – all over the place in England training and that, and then I went abroad when the first army went, the whole first army went out and landed in North Africa you know.

    Would you like to talk about what happened in North Africa?

    Well we was in a docks company unloading the boats and first of all they, when they dropped us off in Algiers then later on over night they took us up the coast because there were U-boats about you know; we landed at one place, Bougie, unloaded some cargo ships then they stuck us on a train and went further up the coast to a place called Phillipville with docks you know, then that was our job for the next few months – unloading the cargo boats of all their stores – bombs, ammo, petrol and everything. I had a few scary times there getting bombed at the docks, and eventually we landed in Italy and up through Italy through Italian campaign into Austria, just by the end of the war the…war ended and we was looking after the German troops who were giving themselves up. They weren’t called Prisoners of War, they were called SEPs – Surrendered Enemy Personnel.

    I married an Austrian girl [someone coming in]

    So you met an Austrian girl while you were there?

    Yeh, ‘cos I was in with Army of Occupation and course it lengthened me stay a bit with that and I was in there from forty-five to forty-eight, I was three years in Austria, and they shoved me…they moved my into a job at HQ Vienna and I didn’t like that so they had what they called a gentleman’s agreement. If you sign on for extra, to stay on a bit longer and if it didn’t suit you, you could say ‘Well I’ll have me cards, I’ll have me de-mob now’ and then I came back to England then.

    So did you wife come with you presumably?

    I’d to find somewhere to live and that was a bit tricky you know – you couldn’t find… the council had about four or five thousand on the council waiting list and it doesn’t matter that you’d been abroad or in the army, that didn’t count you know – that’s why you put your name down soon – they’d say ‘you must be joking, how do you know you’re going to come back?’ Eventually I had a bit of savings and I managed to get a mortgage and get a house, yeh. The mortgage was seventy-three per cent in those days so it wasn’t too bad.

    Whereabouts was that?

    In Watford, yeh, I was in Watford for quite a long time yeh, but…I’d one daughter when I came back here, I had one daughter in Austria and I had another girl and a boy later on.

    So you lived in Watford for many years?

    Yeh, I lived in Watford from…oh I lived in Watford about twenty-odd years, yeh, and then…trying to think…my wife met with a fatal accident – she got killed; she was biking home from work; she had a job in a hospital, auxiliary nurse and she got run over, and was killed almost instantly and I had three children on my hands for a few years. I did marry again, yeh….

    So did you raise your children then?

    Yeh – yeh – yeh….it was..

    Was that unusual in those days?

    Nobody came to see or anything; you just had to manage your own way somehow.

    When did you come up to Hebden Bridge?

    I’d been in…I fancied a change and I saw these adverts about properties in Spain and I thought ‘I’ll have a go at that’ and I went…you could go out for a long weekend and they showed you all the different estates where they were building, and I thought ‘okay I’ll go for one of these’ and I moved out to Spain in eighty-six and…quite good, I enjoyed it but what I used to miss was the footpaths – there was no footpath signs or walks anywhere and they seemed to build along the coast and I tried going along coastal paths, and every now and then you had to go away – there was properties built and that, and I got a bit bored actually in the end with it and I sold up and came back in eighty-nine – three years I was there

    My son said ‘Where are you gonna settle down now?’ I said ‘Well, got any ideas?’ I said ‘It’s got to be walking country’ and he said ‘I think you’d like Hebden Bridge; he lived in Leeds, he’d gone to college and stayed up there from Watford, and…where was I now?…yeh, I came back and he said ‘Where are you gonna settle down?’ I said ‘well there’s got to be…I’ve thought about somewhere in Wales or Scotland’ but he says ‘oh it’s too far away is Scotland – you’re too far away for keeping in touch with one another’ he said ‘I think you’d like Hebden Bridge’ so I came house-hunting, I looked around and I picked out one up there and it was one of the bigger gardens you know, I had to have a bit of a garden and that was in ninety-one I moved up here ninety-one, and Calderdale, I think it’s fantastic is Calderdale, I fell in love with Calderdale and the first thing I did was join a walking club, the next thing I did was get a bus pass [laughing] and I’ve been exploring the footpaths of Calderdale ever since and still am!

    You said earlier that you lead some walks – is that right?

    Yeh, they make a syllabus out for the whole year you see, they have walks Thursday, Saturday and Sunday and you just pick the ones you want to go on. At the turn of the year, they ring you up and say ‘we’ve got a few blanks if you want to do a walk’ andi said ‘yeh okay, put me down for about four’ so…this time I’m busy trying out walks, I think I’ll manage a few more yet!

    Do you take people on your favourite walks?

    Yeh, yeh – I try and make them different; if I did a certain three or four walks in this area I try Todmorden area or Walsden area or Luddendenfoot or Cragg Vale, I try different areas which I didn’t do last year you know, so I try and find paths that I haven’t taken them on before so it gets more difficult year by year, because most of them are locals you know and have lived there all their lives.

    What’s your very favourite walk then?

    I did quite a nice one on Sunday – I went up…you know Knotts Wood? Yes. Up Knotts Wood, leading down that way and it comes down and there’s a path leading to…connecting with the Pennine Way where it goes up steeply up hill from Hebden and I thought ‘I won’t do the obvious Pennine Way’ I did…there’s one called the Wainwright Way – you know Wainwright? Hmm. And I did his walk, and it is a different way to get back on the other route you know, and I saw one walk I’d never noticed before, it was called…at the bottom it was printed ‘Alice Townley Loop’ – I want to ask Stuart if he knows about it – I’ve never noticed it before, ‘Alice Townley Loop’. We’ll have to ask him later. Yeh – then it goes right to Rawtenstall you know, and then down into Eaves, Colden Valley, then up the other side – it’s a real up and downer you know, they’re gonna bless me if I take them up there!

    When you do the walks, what sort of things do you talk about – is it about the nature, or is it about the history of the place, or is it just going out for a good walk?

    Yeh well, sometimes we might talk about the place, especially if there’s…talk about how they did the tracks in the old days when they used to go from village to village, like down the causies [causeways] and sometimes I like to write it in poems, like I’ve written about Calderdale and the dry stone walls and the causies, I’ve written a few poems about things like that. You’ll have to show me. I will yeh, I’ll bring it another time.

    Apart from the walking, what is it about Hebden Bridge and Calderdale that you like?

    I try and imagine when I go up the causie, I try and imagine what sort of….what they’d be carrying all the time you know – salt and coal, and I don’t know what else they’d be carrying – carrying lots of cotton stuff, like what they used to take to the piece mill once a week I think, took all the stuff there and I wonder what it was like, and like the one down….Hardcastle Crags, the old mill down there – Gibson Mill you know, and we were occupied in helping with that and it was very interesting, reading about how many mills there used to be; there was twenty-one up Colden Valley alone, there was mills everywhere. I’ve had Swiss friends used to come and they’d say ‘why are things so black’ and I’d say ‘so would you be if you was next door to a mill pumping out smoke all day long!’

    Do your children come to visit you here a lot?

    Not so much – I try hard, they want to go everywhere else but here! They have been you know – my son he lived in Leeds, and then he moved to Otley so he’s handy; he comes over perhaps once a month, sometimes I go over there; I get the train to Leeds and then I get another train to Menston, it’s just two stops from Leeds and he picks me up from Menston or usually, I prefer him to come out here because it makes a longer weekend you know. He brings his daughter with him.

    So you’ve got grandchildren?

    I have to think, I forget whether it’s eleven, I’ll have to count again – I think it’s eleven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

    Do you all get together then, like at Christmastime?

    Yeh, I either go down to my son’s at Christmas sometimes, sometimes to me other daughters and change round you know, yeh, I go for a couple of weeks, and then we try – I keep on about having a holiday all together you know which is not very often, some years we never even made it, not all of us you know – there’s been somebody missing, but this year we managed it – we went to Whitby, then there’s one of them didn’t come this time, but my son and the other two daughters, they came so that was okay.

    I’d like to go back a little bit if possible to when you younger really, when you were raising your children on your own – were you working when you looked after them?

    Yeh, there was…where I lived in North Watford there was on the road, there was a pre-fab with a little family there and there was a disabled woman and of all the people….they used to go there till it was time to go to school. I used to take the boy on my bike, I had a saddle on my bike, I used to take him to one of these places where…a nursery I suppose you’d call it, I used to take him there and pick him up on the way back from work; he was on his own when I’d finished work.

    So how long did that last for, all of that?

    [pause] about…about three years I think, two or three years.

    I suppose because when you were young and you went to the orphanage, then when you had your children, did you feel as if you should be looking after them?

    I felt, no way am I gonna part company from the children, no way after my experience, yeh.

    Like I said earlier, it must have been a bit unusual in those days for a man to look after the children on his own mostly. Did you get any comments from people about anything, or no-one offered to help or anything like that?

    No, no – only this woman, this disabled woman, who you’d think would be the last one, you know. They just used to go in her place till I came back, you know. I’m just trying to think now [pause] lost my train of thought there [pause] they all used to – they often pull my leg you know and they used to say what kind of food we used to have, and I’d say ‘we knew nothing about healthy food in those days’ you know, it was…only come in the last, I don’t know – thirty or forty years.

    What kind of things did you eat?

    There was corned beef hash and things like that, and those sort of oval tins of herrings; it was good food I suppose. They always pull my leg about how I ate then and how I eat now, ‘cos I used to….I had a bit of bother the old veins you know, and I got into thinking about…I happened to read a health magazine and I thought ‘oh I’ll have a go at this’ so I changed my diet and got into what we call health foods, I mean that was getting on towards middle age before that happened, till I was fifty-ish, I got into healthy eating and whole foods you know, and that’s the way I’ve lived ever since you know.

    Do you think that’s been good for you then?

    Oh definitely, I think that’s why I’m still fairly mobile you know.

    What kinds of wholefoods did you eat then?

    Well I cut out red meat you know all together, I cut out tea and coffee and acidy things you know, lots of vegetables and fruit and so on you know, and I hate going to the doctor’s – I’d rather go and see about any homeopathic things than go to the doctor you know.

    Do you see a homeopath then?

    Well no I don’t – I’ve got a book on it you know, and I read it up and try it out for myself. I’ve got into making things myself, like I’ve got a holistic bible I call it and it shows you how to make things with things that grow in the wild you know, like nettle tea, nettle soup and I’ve made elderberry cordial, I made that and chestnut tincture, I make that from chestnuts you know, the kids are collecting them to make conkers and I’m collecting them to make tincture. I collected a bagful on Sunday.

    What do you use that for then?

    It’s good for the circulation, it helps the old arteries you know; as you get older your arteries tend to get clogged up, especially if you have too much fat, and I did…actually about five years ago I cut out dairy foods all together because you’ve got milk, cheese, these things – butter and you’re taking in quite a lot of fat you know. That’s some of the reason of the obesity about nowadays you know.

    Do you think the homeopathic remedies you make – do they work for you?

    They seem to, yeh.

    Do you recommend them to others then?

    Definitely, as a matter of fact sometimes, especially in the summer, they used to say ‘your legs are a bit red and swollen, does it hurt’ and I’d say ‘not pleasant, but it’s there and I still do my walking and that’ and then I did find out, I read an article somewhere in one of the health magazines that horse chestnut tincture would set it right and I tried it, and after about three or four weeks it worked, and my legs never swelled up any more after that so I know it works you know, and I used…they sell it in health stores, it used to be about six pound odd and it’s jumped up to seven ninety-nine now, but I found out that Suma had it, but theirs was only two eighty-five so I switched to them. I get stuff from Suma – you’ve heard of Treesponsibility? Yes. Well they do a sideline where they take orders to get from Suma you see, and then that was okay, then all of a sudden they discontinued it, so after that I could get dried chestnuts from Suma in a kilo pack, that went on for a while then that was discontinued so I’m left with the thing of hunting for chestnuts and making my own, which I’m doing and I’ve done ever since.

    How do you make it then?

    Well it’s a heck of a job to get the skin off – I soak them in water for twenty-four hours, it softens the skin then I chop it in half and peel the skin off, then take so much – perhaps a couple of tablespoonfuls and boil the water and soak it in the water for twenty minutes or so, drain it away and that’s it.

    And you just drink the water then?

    I just drink a teaspoonful with each meal three times a day, so I know it works.

    Does it have to be a certain amount, like a cup of water….
    It’s amazing how little you need because it says a teaspoonful…a tablespoonful of chestnut things to a cupful of boiling water, I mean I make enough to last me months you know, ‘cos there’s the season of course, so I’ve got to make a lot while they’re still going. September and October’s the month for most things anyway, collecting
    Also I make hawthorn tincture from hawthorn berries, they’re everywhere they are.

    What’s that good for then?

    Same thing, good for the circulation so I’m well into that you know. I told my daughters you know, I said ‘get out and do something’ she said ‘I’ll have a go’ I said ‘make sure you do’. I’ve got to find out if she’s taken any notice of me – she’s probably forgotten!

    It’s fascinating this – I know it’s much more common these days – health foods and homeopath and alternative things like that, particularly in Hebden Bridge there seems to be a lot of that sort of thing. What do you think then of the younger generation and their attitude to this sort of thing?

    Well when they’ve had fun days here and they lay on this that and the other, I’m sorry they’re still having the old fizzy stuff and crisps and all these fizzy drinks and everything, burgers and that and I think ‘oh crikey, I’m a lone voice’.

    Don’t you think you can convince some of them?

    No.

    But you’re a walking example!

    No.

    What do you think about young people in general and their values – were they the same sort of values that you had when you were younger?

    They’re so….cock-sure that they’ve got their rights, you can’t touch them, you can’t punish them in any way hardly and they’ve got their rights, you know, also I think there’s a lack of discipline nowadays I think, yeh.

    Do you think that comes from parents or society in general?

    Well you could say it starts off with the parents really. If the parents bring them up the right way the children usually follow them you know, but if the parents are glad to get rid of them for a while and push them onto somebody else…they’re not all the same, some are okay but on the whole I think there’s a lot of them want to see some discipline and respect for older people. A lot of them don’t seem to know what dustbins are for – they chuck their rubbish everywhere. You want to see the playground sometimes when they’ve been there.

    I’ve travelled a bit and I have friends who have come from different parts of Europe, like in Ireland and Germany and various countries, and they seem to be incredibly clean countries and do lots of recycling and that, so don’t you think perhaps it’s the society here or the government who don’t ask people to do it properly?

    We’re top of the league in untidiness, binge drinking…girls getting pregnant – we’re top of the league in all these things we shouldn’t be!

    In the time that you’ve been in Hebden Bridge which would be about – would it be about seventeen years? Fifteen years, yeh. Has it changed in those fifteen years?

    I think it’s got worse.

    How?

    The kids, they’re roaming about…vandalising and writing stuff all over everywhere, on bus windows, on doors and shops you know and it’s costing the council a fortune to remove all this stuff, and it’s money that could be better spent elsewhere.

    Have there been any good changes do you think?

    [pause] The schooling’s getting better, I think education’s getting better, and healthcare is getting better in that respect, yeh.

    Have you met any of the people in Hebden Bridge that you might call character, or a little bit unusual shall we say?

    I was a member of Treesponsibility for while but it got a bit much because I used to go with the planting and that, but the planting’s got that it’s usually on steep hillsides and it’s getting really hard, so I haven’t done any since a year ago. I’ve had enough to do with my – I’ve got an allotment you see and my back garden’s a vegetable plot as well, so I’ve got plenty on my hands without sort of doing the tree planting any more. I do, if there’s an easy one, I might go on it, ‘cos it’s not only going up these steep banks, it’s carting the stuff up there, you know – the plants and all the things that go with it, and I think one person I really, I really think she’s terrific was Penny, Penny Eastwood – she used to be like, who does all the spadework and organising the thing, I think she’s a real fantastic person you know. We used to meet one day a week and go up to where they were planting trees, and they’d finish about three, and she always made certain I got a lift back home you know, and she’s really good that way. Penny, Penny Eastwood, yeh.

    Do you think that’s a good cause, what she’s doing then?

    Yeh, it’s causing the old climate, the old stuff, the carbon dioxides in the air you know, and the more trees, the better it absorbs it all you know.

    Have you ever heard any of the like the old sayings around in Yorkshire, Yorkshire old saying – have you heard any of the locals say any of them, that struck you as being funny or different, or you weren’t quite sure what they were to begin with?

    I’m trying to think, I know what amuses me – they say ‘hiya’ and ‘see you in a bit’ [laughing]

    Do you go to any of the events that they hold around here; I’m trying to think of a few – some of the fairs, the galas, some of the parades or the Christmas singing, any of these sort of things?

    I went to a…I went to a thing in the Town Hall for veterans – people who’d gone through the war and that was interesting, yeh, that last year you know.

    Was that organised by the Council then?

    Yeh, it was good. I think you had to put your name down because there was only a certain number, I’m trying to think how many there was – probably about a hundred, might have been more. A group sang all the old songs that you used to sing you know, Vera Lynn and all those sort of songs, and some of the old First World War songs – I’d love to get those old songs like that – a long way to Tipperary, The Old Kit Bag, Maid of Trallee, things like that and Very Lynn you know – I used to like to hear those old things.

    Do you like music then? Do you sing or play an instrument?

    No, I’ve got a croaky old voice, I’m hopeless at singing – if you’re in with a crowd it’s not noticed [laughing] sometimes I listen to Sundayt evening, the old Songs of Praise and try and sing but I can’t keep on the right chord!

    Did you used to go to church then when you were younger?

    Well in the orphanage it was crammed down you three times a day on Sunday, I mean you know it was rammed down your throat.

    So did you give it up as a bad job?

    Yeh, I think of nature, I think of nature and I like to think somebody created nature you know. I look over and say ‘there’s people stuck indoors, they can’t see what I’m looking at now and seeing the sweet little countryside’ and it’s fantastic scenery. My neighbour, he said once ‘oh I’ll go with you sometime’ but he never did, his limit is going down to the pub every day and that’s his entertainment! He doesn’t walk back either – he walks down, he doesn’t walk back! [laughing] Can’t blame him – it’s a bit of a slog coming back up.

    Have you read up about the history of Hebden Bridge then?

    Well I’ve got The Century of Change, I’ve got that.

    What do you think of that?

    It’s good, you get to know the history of the place and how hard they had to work…what things were like, yeh. They had it tough, yeh. When you think that the cotton mills supplied the world with cotton in those days.

    What do you think then about what we’ve been talking about – do you think it’s important to pass on your experiences to the next generation?

    I think it’s good for them to know what sort of lives they led, I mean I was unlucky not to have a family life and they need to see how lucky they are to have their families around them, how lucky they are you know.

    Would you give any advice to people younger than yourself?

    [pause] Well, try and eat well, healthily…and try and mix in with the local activities, like this community. Sometimes it’s hard getting the older ones – they’re all busy with their own attractions and so on.

    Outside of this community centre then, is there a broader social life that you’re involved with in this area?

    Not really no, apart from Halifax Ramblers, apart from them. I used to…I used to do a bit of…I did one day a week for people with learning disabilities and that was down Church Lane you know, I used to really like it there and I had two or three with me and I used to make dinner for them as well. They shut that down and moved it to the…Vale Centre and then I did meals-on-wheels, I did a day on meals-on-wheels as well, I did two or three years at that, I did Todmorden area and then somebody had been finished what they’d been doing and they wanted to put it on a full-time basis so somebody took that after and they said ‘would you do somewhere else?’ I said ‘Yes, as long as it’s not to far away I’ll do it’ I said ‘I’ll do a day a week at Mytholmroyd’ so I did that for a couple of years, and I got a bit fed up – a bloke, he was a real – once or twice I got there…we had to meet at the Vale Centre where they collect the stuff with all the meals in, and I’d come on time and he’d already been and gone, and I got a bit fed up with that because he must have been in a hurry to go somewhere, and although I was on time, he’d still gone early, so I stopped doing that and another I didn’t used to like – he used to exceed the speed limits and when he’s doing a job like that you know…he thought he was Stirling Moss sometimes! So I said ‘oh well – if he’s in a hurry, he can do it himself or get somebody else’ so I stopped doing it then, but I used to like it, but I’ve sort of got busy and what with gardening and walking, I’m pretty full up.

    There was one who used to walk – a young woman you know, and she used to belong to Treesponsibility and I said ‘do you do any walking?’ she said ‘Yeh’ I said ‘if you fancy a walk, I’m harmless – you could do one or two with me’ so I did used to do, and she moved to Halifax so that was the end of that.

    Do you know any jokes?

    I might know some – it’s trying to remember them – the memory plays tricks, it does as you get older sometimes.

    My neighbour, he said ‘do you make’ – he had some feverfew in the garden and he thought it was chamomile. He said ‘do you make chamomile tincture?’ I said ‘I’m afraid it’s not chamomile, it’s feverfew – if you get a headache, that’s the stuff you want, feverfew.’

    I’ve got nice neighbours you know, but they’re not walkers. Maureen next door, she’s a nice person, and Cedric her husband, he’s the one that says ‘that’s your exercise –walking down to the pub down Albert Street’, that’s his exercise! And Rita the other side, she’s a bit frail, she used to try…I said ‘are you gonna stop smoking, it’s not doing you any good you know’ – she even tried them tapes but last time I saw her, I said ‘you still smoke then? You’re killing yourself!’

    Can you understand the accents up here?

    Oh yes – me first school was Sawley School in Bolton-by-Bowland, that was where I started off in the orphanage and I was there until I was fourteen, so I’m not entirely a foreigner! It was at Grindleton, Sawley School was, and I’m not quite sure where the border was ‘cos it’s about three miles from Clitheroe and that’s in Lancashire, but the school was in Yorkshire, West Riding, Sawley School yeh, and I went with my daughter, my eldest daughter one year, and she said ‘you know, be nice to see where you were’ so we took a week, we went to a youth hostel for a week and went to look at the orphanage, and went to see the headmaster and secretary, he said ‘yeh feel free, have a roam around, it’s still just exactly as it was’ it was you know, apart from one addition they’d put on the side you know, but…and then we went down to the school, as luck it was open, it was not a school any more, it was used…it was used for different women’s groups, what do you call it, women’s voluntary groups and we went inside and I said ‘I went to school here so-and-so long ago’ he said ‘like to come and give a talk?’ I said ‘I’m afraid we won’t be here tomorrow! [laughing]

    Did you enjoy going back – did it bring back memories?

    I enjoyed it, yeh, it was just the – I thought it was just the same, you know.

    Were they hard times then when you were young there?

    Yes. You were lucky if you saw a thre’penny bit in your Christmas pudding, that was your luck if you got an apple and an orange and that was about it, [laughing] and a bit of coal.

    You got coal for the fire?

    Yeh.

    Did you have your own room there?

    No, no – there was twenty-six; half in one dormitory and another half in another dormitory, so you can imagine what went on in there – there was pillow fights, woe betide if we got caught!

    Was it all boys?

    Boys one side and girls the other, one thing about those days – never the twain shall meet, oh crikey – you never came into close contact with the girls yeh, you were kept far apart yeh, apart from when you went to school, we had…we used to call them sisters, they were just people looking after us, I don’t know their proper titles but we had to call them sister, there used to be two of them take us to school, marched in twos to school, in clogs, we wore clogs, yeh.

    Did you like clogs?

    They were good for slides!

    Did you like school, did you enjoy school?

    Yeh I enjoyed school, I really enjoyed school, yeh. I remember getting a certificate once for the best essay in the class you know. The school was up to fourteen, elementary school as they called them in those days and….iron gates, boys’ entrance there, girls’ entrance the other side of the school; their playground was at one side and our playground was on the other, never together; they were very strict in those days, yeh very strict.

    Can you remember your teachers?

    Yeh, it always brings a tone of sadness when I used to think she’s a lovely teacher, and she was riding pillion on a motorbike and she got killed, I remember going to her funeral – it was sad that was, she was a lovely teacher, yeh.

    We’d play football with clogs on, it was a bit risky!

    Did you like football then?

    Yeh – yeh, I used to play football – I used to play left back when I was in the bigger teams to the last orphanage, I used to play football yeh. Used to play football when was stationed at Preston for a while, we went up to….Caister, got called up to Caister on Sea, then we moved up to Glasgow and then we moved for training, learning the mysteries of arms drill and foot drill and all that, and then we moved down to Preston.

    So you went all over the country then?

    Yeh, then we went to East Ham…got bombed out there.

    Were you ever wounded?

    I was wounded, I was on the…when we went in Italy we had to march to the site of the dockside and it wasn’t a docks, it was just where the landing craft used to – we got on board this landing craft and went out past the Isle of Capri of all places and when they landed on the Anzio landings on January 2nd 1944 yeh; then we was on..you know what a duck is? they used to come with stores, ammunition and everything from the ship ‘cos the beach head was all under shell fire so they had to unload on to these ducks – they’d come up the beach with ammunition and we were unloading then with ammunition and petrol and stores and that, and I happened to…one landed nearby and we got hit with the explosions and I woke up on a hospital ship and I got

    [END OF TRACK ONE]

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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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