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  • Interviews and Storytelling: Ann Kilbey

    [TRACK 1]

    Can we just start by you telling me your full name?

    Oh I don’t usually admit to that, it’s Pauline Ann Kilbey, but I’ve never been known, well apart when I was first at school, I’ve never been known as Pauline, always Ann.

    Where and when were you born?

    You shouldn’t ask a lady these questions! 30th of June, 1943 in Watford, in Herfordshire.

    Can you tell me a little bit about your childhood?

    I was born in North Watford but at the age of six months moved to West Watford to a house that belonged to the firm. Watford was a printing town and all the family worked for the print, Sun Printers it was in those days and this house was both adjacent to, it was adjacent to the factory on two sides – down the side across the bottom of the garden. Father was the buyer and stores manager and general dogsbody. If anything went wrong, Dad was called out which was why it was handy to live next door to the job, but one of the main things I remember when I was quite small was going into the factory because Father’s office was at the top of the yard, but I had an aunt who was sister in charge of the surgery and I used to toddle through the factory at quite a young age – I mean you’d never be allowed today – to go visit Aunty Eva in the surgery, and I used to go past these huge great printing machines Gosses and Vomax and everybody knew me – I was Freddy Jeans’s daughter and all the fellas would watch out for me you know – it was just lovely, but I think I grew up sort of having an interest in sort of industrial processes because it just seemed normal.

    Did you have brothers and sisters?

    I have one brother who’s four years older than me and he of course went into the print and became a fitter, an engineer.

    And what about your Mum?

    Mum died when I was eighteen, er that came as a tremendous shock, we didn’t know there was anything wrong till November. She had a fall and it just seemed to trigger things and she were dead in the January, and that was a most tremendous shock. My brother knew much before me that there was no hope but they didn’t tell me – they thought they were being kind, but…I don’t think they were really because I didn’t have long enough to get used to the idea before Mum had gone and so that had quite an effect on my on me life really, because at eighteen I had to take over the reins of the house and we had Grandmother living with us, an so I had all these responsibilities. Father didn’t take it well and…married again really quickly so I had all the worries and responsibilities of the house, and relationships, when all me mates – my peers – were just out having fun, and so…you know, that had a big impact (interviewer) – yeh…yeh.

    And were you working at that time?

    I was working. My second job, my first job was at Kodak but that was quite interesting to start with, but soon became a sort of production line type thing so I got out of there, and I went to work for The Bakery Research Station which was on Chorley Wood Common, and that was where I was working when Mum died, and… I…kept it up for a while but then it all just became a bit too much for me and I did leave off work for a while, but not for long ‘cos of course at eighteen, nineteen, you want some pennies in your pocket and you know I got nothing, so I went back to work again.

    When did you come to Hebden Bridge?

    In nineteen sixty eight. I…I got married in sixty four which was not a success….I know now why I got married, because..my Mum died in the January and there was this guy that worked for Kodak, and his Dad died in the April, and so we had something in common…but that’s not really a basis for marriage and it didn’t work. But we came to Hebden – he got a bee in his bonnet about farming and we came to Hebden Bridge.
    Why here – it’s a long way?
    Well, basically it was the price that determined where we were likely to buy a farm and we looked at one in Wales, which would have been better land than there is round here, but…it was very Welsh if you know what I mean – Welsh speaking and chapel, and we felt we would not have fitted in, and I’m quite sure you know, it was the right decision ‘cos we found the farm up at Colden and…I mean it was January, it was cold, it was blowing a gale, chucking it down with rain but we still liked it, so it could only get better [laughing].

    Where did you see it advertised – how did you know that it was there?

    I think we’d spent a bit of time sort of going round the country and putting our names down at the estate agents, so hence [someone comes in ‘I’ve got company’ someone wants to join in (maybe a pet?)] and so yes, we just got on the books of the estate agents. Yes, yes….

    Can you tell me a little bit about what Hebden Bridge was like in nineteen sixty eight, or what it was like in Colden?

    I feel that I was very lucky in coming to live in the area at that time because it was very much the end of an era. We…I was lucky again, because I moved into a farm called Old Edge and the next door farm was called New Edge, and there were a couple there with two boys just a tiny bit younger than me, and their two sons and the father Harry desperately wanted a daughter, so he adopted me and it was really good. The people who had not immediately before us, there was somebody in for four years, in between, but the previous people to that, a family called Feather had been there for about twenty six years I think, and they had two daughters and the two families had farmed together, in co-operation let’s put it that way, and so with Harry adopting me this practice continued. Things like…when it came to hay-making – oh sorry, I should tell you – with the farm I inherited the working horse, Prince, and when it came to mowing, Harry had a little horse-drawn petrol-driven mowing machine, and with the steep land in the Colden valley it required two horses so his horse and my horse were harnessed together to mow, and he’d mow his land he’d mow my land you know so it ran on petrol and had horses pulling it? yes, the horse was power that drove it forward, the petrol engine drove the cutter blade so it wasn’t quite as hard work for the horses, so yes, I used to like hay-making and Prince, my old horse, was a real character. I don’t know whether I dare say this, but he was obviously used to Harry’s language and he knew his job perfectly did this old horse. if I was going across a field…because of the steepness of the land you had to think, I mean nowadays you just drive a tractor up and down and you don’t have to worry, but a horse – you don’t want to be making a horse go up hill too much, so you’d go across and up a hill a bit, across, down a bit, you know, he knew just how many rows to go up, but he didn’t want to go to the end of the row, he’d try to just cut the work short. The only method of getting him to go to the end of the row was to say ‘get on you old sod’ [laughing] – call him anything else, he didn’t take any notice but call him an old sod and he knew what it was about, it was obviously the language that he was used to! So yeh, haymaking and…I had for quite some time with other horses after Prince had gone, I had a little sledge. The farm was in the middle, oh sorry, the buildings were in the middle of the farm, and I had a sledge and in the winter I would muck out me cows and put the much straight on the sledge and take it down into the fields.

    So you had the sledge for what then…?

    For muck spreading, muck carting, muck leading as the term was, muck leading.

    So did you know anything about farming when you arrived then?

    Not a thing! But there were plenty of people to give advice and I did go to one or two courses at Todmorden College. I certainly remember one about calf rearing I don’t think they run that nowadays do they? And there was a little group called The Agricultural Training Board and they did little courses, so you could learn. The hard way usually, you know, you make mistakes…your neighbour helped you as well – you were an apprentice in some ways… absolutely, and there were other people in the valley. Harry Log at Egypt, he was a real character. I can remember I was trying to calve a cow on day and he was just going past – he came up the field and gave me a hand, that’s what it was like you know when I first moved up. You never locked your door, you just didn’t need to. If you went visiting, you’d knock, open the door, shout ‘hello’ and walk in, that’s how it was.

    People were quite welcoming of you then because you must have sounded different to everyone else?

    Yes, definitely. I can remember away from the farming, there used to be a pub at Midgley, I forgotten its’ name now, I can’t remember, sorry – I can remember going in there one night and the landlord made quite a fuss of us and was very welcoming. We got the feeling that we would be welcome again you know, and we’d been a time or two and somebody sort of said something, and we realised that it was the accents they liked – it gave the place a bit of class [low key laughing]! They thought the accent was good.

    So you didn’t get any bad feelings for being outsiders then?

    Certainly not in the immediate area, no…no, people were very nice.

    What did you do in terms of farming – you had cows on the farm, and anything else?

    To start with…small farms in this sort of area, they never make a wage and I don’t think they ever have, hence you know in days gone by, the dual economy with weaving, hand weaving, and they certainly didn’t in the sixties, you couldn’t make a living, so then my husband worked and I looked after the farm and we started, well what we did initially was what they call multiple suckling…i.e. by a dairy cow who is probably past her prime, or for some reason isn’t favoured in a dairy herd, and she has a calf, and because of because of being a dairy cow she’s got far too much milk for one calf, you foster another one on and sometimes another you know two extras.

    People paid you to do that then?

    No, well you’d sell the calf and gradually we built up a pedigree herd of Welsh Blacks and also went into sheep, but I’d rear things like turkeys and ducks, I had a few goats and a few horses.

    It sounds like you learnt a lot then.
    Oh yes, yes. But I also had little jobs myself…I went to work for the Tourist Information in 1975 [pause], stayed there off and on till I retired three years ago.

    Did they get many tourists in those days?

    Oh no, because Hebden Bridge, it was beginning to pick up but it was still…there was still empty shops and the stone cleaning had improved the appearance of the town…but it was still a bit bleak you know. Believe it or not, you couldn’t a cup o’ tea on a Sunday and there were hardly any postcards [chuckling]…you know it’s changed very much since then, but there was a feeling against tourists was there? ‘cos the then Tourist Information Centre when I went to work…it opened in ‘74 and it was just in…do you know where the fish and chip shop has opened, that side, which is the fish and chip shop as opposed to the restaurant, well the Tourist Information Centre was in there to start with, and then they expanded into what is now that restaurant and I think it cost £35,000 refurbish it and people thought ‘what a waste of money’ you know, there was a lot of….we had a brick through the window one day, yes…there was ill feeling, ill feeling.

    Why did people feel so strongly then, just ‘cos of the money?

    I think they thought it was a waste of time – tourism was a waste of time – who would want to come to Hebden Bridge? how interesting! [both laughing] nothing’s changed!

    Tell me a little bit more about Colden and what that was like in those days. Were there many shops or…you know?

    When I first went to live up there, there was a little shop at Edge Hey Green, just a tiny one. Now I can’t remember when May’s shop started – have you ever come across May’s shop? Oh yes. I think the Edge Hey Green shop closed, probably in the early seventies 70’s? [ph]…and it was something May had always wanted to do, and so from what I remember she just started with like an ice cream fridge and a bag of potatoes you know, and built up from that. Because they were farming then as well oh yes, they were…when I first went there, they were quite big in…battery hens, egg farm and turkeys at Christmas. I think it was my first Christmas there…Harry that I’ve mentioned before worked for Michael at the farm – May’s husband Michael – and he fed hens, that was his job, and did a bit of egg collecting I think, but come Christmas time, all hands went to plucking turkeys and…I mean I went to live up there in September, so by Christmas I was still a bit raw and Harry mentioned a job at Michael’s plucking turkeys…’oh no I don’t fancy that’ no, I didn’t fancy that. He said ‘well come and pick eggs’ as they call it – pick up eggs and grade them. ‘yes okay, I’ll come and do that but I don’t want nothing to do with turkeys’ …so there I was at the egg grading machine and May’s brother Glyn comes in…there were several of us round this egg grading machine, and May’s brother Glyn comes in and says ‘alright, come on then’ and I thought ‘what does he mean?’ so anyway, the others trouped off after him so I meekly followed on into the turkey plucking shed [both laughing], so I got my Baptism…I was the sort that said ‘oh no, I don’t wanna do this’ so I got me Baptism in plucking turkeys!

    Was it horrible?

    It wasn’t so bad actually, particularly if there’s a group of you and you’re chatting away…so yes, I learnt another skill – plucking [chuckling].

    You said earlier on that it was…that you came at the end of an era.

    Yes, yeh…you see I inherited the working horse, there was Harry with his horse, there was somebody across the valley still working with horses…and there was just something about that sort of way of life, I suppose everything was slower and…I think there was only the one vehicle, there was only one person with a vehicle past me and so people were walking up and down the road you know, a neighbour walked a child to school and you stopped and talked. And then gradually the horses were replaced by tractors, people got vehicles and the talking stopped because you’re driving past…you know, it just changed.

    And in the old days then did people used to go down into Hebden Bridge for things, or did they mostly shop within the village?

    As I say, there was only one tiny shop at Colden (or Edge Hey Green), and so you would probably go down into Hebden Bridge for your main shop once a week or something like that. Walking then mostly? No, there was a bus – I mean from where I lived it was a mile to the bus stop, but you just accepted that in those days. But most food you’d buy up there then? Yes, yes. I mean when May’s shop got going, really got going, then you could live out of that – I have done, particularly in the winter when you’re snowed in.

    Did you get snowed in a lot then?

    Ooh yes, yes – you expected it every winter! I certainly did when I moved there – come sort of October November I started stocking up, expecting it. Harry that lived at the end at Egypt, I mean he did – he would stock up lots of flour and dried stuff in tins and that sort of thing, because he could actually be snowed up for about three months, but snowed up means you can’t get a vehicle down. You could always get out on foot, you know if it means walking on wall tops – you’re never that stuck.

    And you did have to do that sometimes – walking on the walls?

    We did yes – good fun, particularly if we’d been down to the local pub and had to walk home again after a few! [laughing]

    Where did you drink – the New Delight?

    The New Delight, yes.

    What was that like in those days?

    Oh it were great in those days, particularly on winter’s nights, particularly when…it was Jack and Molly had it in those days and I can remember a few good winter’s nights when it was Jack’s night off and Molly was running the bar – there’d just be a few of us and you trudged down in all your gear and then just sit round the fire, a little group, you’d buy a drink in turn and if it was your turn to buy a drink you’d go to the bar, get the drinks, put money in the till because Molly was sitting round the fire with us, and it was great, yes.

    Did they have any entertainment or anything up there?

    No, we didn’t need it, I mean apart from a game of darts or something like that.

    What else did people do socially as well?

    Do you know, it’s strange when I think of how my life has changed and all the things that I do now, there wasn’t much to do. I suppose you worked hard and…but didn’t go out, you know, we’d go to the Newdy as we called it but no, there weren’t things to do, not up there you know, obviously pictures and that in Hebden Bridge but I think there’s a lot more going on now than there was then. When I think of places like Blackshaw Head, there’s a lot going on there now which there didn’t used to be.

    So people just stayed in their homes really?

    Yes, lit the fire and drew the curtains and stayed there.

    The cinema was there though was it?

    In Hebden Bridge? Oh yes, yes.

    So that was there when you arrived was it?


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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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