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  • Interviews and Storytelling: Winston Plowes

     

    [TRACK 1]

     

    TONY WRIGHT:

    This is Tony Wright, it’s the 17th of July 2012 and I’m talking to Winston. Can you tell me your full name and where and when you were born?

     

    WINSTON PLOWES:

    Yes Tony. It’s….my name’s Winston Harry Plowes……I was born in York, capital of Yorkshire……on the 27th of August 1965.

     

    TW:

    Right. So did you grow up in York?

     

    WP:

    Only lived there for three years…….so I’ve no memories of my childhood time in York; I do feel a connection with it though, and then we moved away and lived in Selby, so grew up as a child in Selby……till I was eleven…..then we moved as a family to a place, Pickering, on the north Yorkshire moors…..so all of those places all in Yorkshire……yeah, that was my

     

    TW:

    Are you proud to be a Yorkshireman then?

     

    WP:

    I am, and that’s why I said at the start York, the capital of Yorkshire; it’s nice to be born there, and my family goes way back to the…..to the 1600’s it’s been traced back, as people from Yorkshire and places like Masham and……places near the Humber estuary, where there’s very little going on, in fact, some of my family come from Swinefleet where……there is a grid…..a box on the ordnance survey which contains the least information of any box in the whole of the country; it’s got one pylon line going through the corner, so…….yeah, so……my family history and my upbringing, all in Yorkshire, and then…..then I moved away.

     

    TW:

    Why did you move away?

     

    WP:

    I moved away to go to university, or polytechnic as it was then; I went to Preston Poly, which had the lowest entry requirements of any, but got picked for the thing I was doing, so that’s why I went there, and then began the great hiatus…..away from Yorkshire……until I moved back…..quite a number of years later to Hebden Bridge.

     

    TW:

    Right. So what did you study then?

     

    WP:

    Mechanical Engineering.

     

    TW:

    Oh right.

     

    WP:

    I had a…..very chequered start to my academic career…..I think you can call it a career. It was……yeah….the first age of my life; you know sometimes your life goes in chunks where you’re doing pretty much a similar thing, and that was the first phase of three I think, and….yes, I did Mechanical Engineering; I ……I was……a terrible truant at school; I did extremely badly and did so badly I wasn’t allowed to go into the sixth form; went to tec college in Scarborough…..again, did not that well; I just scraped through, and I spent a lot of my time messing around, and yes, got into the course which had the lowest entry requirement of any Mechanical Engineering in the country at Preston Poly – great place – and I enjoyed being a student, and, you know, moving away from home and all the joys it brings…..yeah, and so…..graduated from there…….not really, not really knowing what I wanted to do when I left…….when I left in school in fact……there was a careers officer; he was also the chemistry teacher, and I sat in his office…..what was he called….Mr Froggett……and he said ‘what are you gonna do with yourself boy?’ and I said ‘well I dunno sir, dunno’ he said ‘well that’s typical; you’ve just said that for the whole time that you’ve been at this school; you’re a complete waste of time’

     

    TW:

    Really? Is that what he said?

     

    WP:

    Well this is you know, this is careers advice of course, and that was what it was like then, and so I thought to myself ‘well I’ll show him’ you know ‘I’ll do something’ and I just looked behind me where there was a massive wall full of pigeon holes with different information about different courses, different career paths, different options that you could take, and I just plunged my hand into one of those at random, and ‘this is what I’m gonna do’……and this was a course, an Ordinary National Diploma in Mechanical Engineering at Scarborough Tec, and I did that for two years, and as I say, I finished there…….I found it interesting, although I didn’t really apply myself that well and…….but I did find it interesting, and I learnt a lot more than I thought I’d learnt actually, because when I went…..when I got to the…..Preston Poly, I seemed to be ahead of the game and I did quite well and academically thrived from that point on, and just missed out on a First, and then I got a research job as a research assistant at UMIST, the Science and Technology University of Manchester, and stayed there; did my Masters Degree and I did further research and….and really enjoyed…..really enjoyed that time too…..until the end when I didn’t and I decided to change things.

     

    TW:

    Right. So what did you change to?

     

    WP:

    Well……….I mentioned about these different phases in your life and I think that’s when…….the first age if you like, the academic bit, the scientist, the research person……the engineer, although I enjoyed it, it was getting to…..by the end I was….I felt, I sometimes felt I was fossilising……fossilising in a…..in a dry atmosphere where….I mean a lot of the time I was working underground because….for the stability of the instruments it was better to have them in an underground environment, and for a lot of the time my office had no windows, and it was a pretty desperate place to work, and whilst you were left to yourself…..left to yourself to do what you had to do and meet the targets and do the experiments that you had to do within your own time, that was quite good to have that freedom and that trust to do that, but it also meant that you didn’t really see many people and……didn’t really get on with my supervisor I was working for, so you know, I felt a bit of a dead end really……and……and I think…….I’ve looked back on this and I…… read my Masters I was progressing very fast; I’d done my Masters after a year and it was expected that I’d do my PhD after four years…..and I was struggling with…….coming to terms with what I was doing and not enjoyed it, so much that I had a real barrier of writing this thing because I didn’t get on with my supervisor; I wanted it to go one way, he wanted it to go another, and it wasn’t happening. At that time I was doing more teaching at UMIST and also doing research on other projects; you’ve got a pretty relaxed time scale in which to write up your PhD so it wasn’t a big issue……but whilst all that was going on, with a lot of this time that I’ve mentioned that was given to do what you….not what you wanted to do, to do your research, but if you’d done your research and you were pretty good at it and you could do it quite quickly, it did leave a surplus, and that time was spent practising to juggle

     

    TW:

    I see.

     

    WP:

    Which was something that I came across…..and I’d learnt to juggle at….at Preston whilst I was a student there with golf balls wrapped in newspaper, which is all that there was then, because nowadays you can buy them from the toy shop but, you know, this was in the eighties and it wasn’t a common thing to come across, and…..and so….so yeah, I’d learnt to juggle already and I found myself spending more and more time doing this and wondering if it might be possible to make a living out of it…..something that I’d have loved, instead of being stuck in this….fossilising in this environment, so….so I reached a sort of crossroads in my life at that point; did a handbrake turn, to continue the analogy, and went in a completely different direction and I said ‘no, I’m not gonna write up this thesis; I don’t need to; I’m gonna be a professional juggler now, and…..

     

    TW:

    A very brave thing to do

     

    WP:

    It is, and many would say stupid and…..people at the time were saying ‘you’re doing what? You’re throwing all that away? Throwing it away? You know, you’ve all these qualifications you’re throwing away?’ I said ‘well actually’ I said ‘I’m not throwing them away because, well for one thing, since I graduated I’ve been working with a wage as a researcher at UMIST for a number of years now so I have actually been earning money in the thing that I trained for, but, no, there’s a plan and I’m gonna give it three years. I know when I start this that I’m gonna get very little money; you can’t just suddenly start in a full blown career; you need to build up contacts, build up your skills, promote yourself; all the things that you need to be a professional entertainer; that’s gonna take time, and three years….after that time if I’m not doing any good I can maybe come back into teaching or research…..so that’s my plan. I’ll move into a house, a student house, live as simply as I can, as cheaply as I can’….I was lucky because at the time I’d no sort of dependents or anything so I could do that and……you know, didn’t have a car or any pets or anything like that, so…..so I did that and so it……so it built up and it’s……it’s proved to be a big success, and I’m doing a job now that requires…..no qualifications whatsoever.

     

    TW:

    So you’re actually earning your living as a….as a juggler or

     

    WP:

    Yeah I mean, this is all so long ago that we’re talking now because I’ve been doing this job now for twenty-one years.

     

    TW:

    Yes. Is it just jugging or are there other aspects to it?

     

    WP:

    No no, there’s all sorts of aspects to it; it started as the focus being juggling and I think, yes, I think the focus still is…..probably half of what I do now is teaching, so I’ll spend a day in a school; I’ll be doing an open workshop at a festival outside and I’ll be teaching circus skills…..and the other half is performing, so I’ll be on a stage…..somewhere….in a theatre or doing something for TV, or I’ll be doing somebody’s birthday party or…..and that’s what I love about it, because unlike the first age; sounds a bit of a grand term, but…..you know, I’m travelling around; I’m meeting people which I realised that’s what I like doing; that’s maybe one reason why I’m here talking today, you know, making contact with other people…..and that’s one thing that I’m about, I can’t be locked in a cellar……and I’ve always been a creative person, so maybe I ended up in a…..in the first part of my career there in a non-creative pursuit which, you know, we don’t always know how things happen to us and why we take certain routes in life, but I think that’s what happened, so I’m glad I changed course and……yeah, never looked back.

     

    TW:

    So have you always been a sole entertainer or were you part of a circus group or anything?

     

    WP:

    No, I’ve been part of all sorts of different things……very early when I started I met a chap at a local community juggling group - Stuart Hill in Manchester – good friend of mine now, and we worked in a double act for all that time…..

     

    TW:

    Oh right

     

    WP:

    When we’d been working together for twenty years, last year, we had a work’s do, just the two of us [laughing]……we went for a curry, because we thought we should mark it somehow, but, you know, it’s incredible to think that we’ve been doing it so long. I don’t…….there’s quite a few double acts around but some of them change partners, some of them have gone solo then met up with someone else, and some of them have just finished, fizzled out, just because of what life’s like and the changes

     

    TW:

    So do you have a name then?

     

    WP:

    Yeah we’re called The Curious Eyebrows, which is an unusual name and everybody says ‘oh what’s that about?’ you know, but it sticks in people’s minds, pretty much like my own name, and it’s got nothing to do with…..people have names like, you know, Air Spirit or you know……The Bruised Fruits, that’s a good one because people sort of, you know, learnt to juggle with oranges; I’ve always like that name, but a lot of people have names that are to do with juggling or to do with the circus, so….we thought that’s a bad idea; we should have some abstract name then we can do whatever we want under that banner without being tied to…..I think it came from…..we were just devising a sketch for something for TV….it was for a Des O’Connor show or something and we just had some directions at the side of the page and it…..we put in brackets what our facial expressions might be, and I think Stuart had written curious eyebrows at that point and then…..somebody said ‘what’s your name? What’s your name?’ and we didn’t really have a name at that point, and so…… ‘oh there we are, we’ll have that’ [laughing]…..in a meeting we decided we would have that, so……

     

    TW:

    Have you done a lot of television work then?

     

    WP:

    Not a great deal, not a great deal…….you’re at a disadvantage being a traditional variety act, a novelty act, and a lot of what we did in the early years was…….had connections with Vaudeville, so it was a……..a sort of throwback you know, which was interesting for a lot of people, but what people don’t realise is that….okay, let’s look at a famous juggler; anybody, it could be anybody, I mean I know all the names, but……..the man in the street wouldn’t, but if you look at, you know, Francis Brunn, now there’s a people….he’s a juggler, died recently, but….he’s regarded as one of he best jugglers that there’s ever been, but if I showed anybody his act on a…..on a video they would say ‘wow that’s amazing’ you know, but that is his act; he’s trained all his life to do that, pretty much that actual routine. Okay, he’s diversified a little bit but he’s ended up with that, and that is what he does, so if you go on to…..say, a talent show which is the current media by which people would see entertainers of my type, then ‘oh that’s great – what’s he gonna do next week?’…….there’s nothing, he can’t do anything else…….he could change the costume, he could change the music, could do it in a slightly different format, but some of those tricks, when you break it down to the physical tricks that he’s doing, they’ve taken him…..one trick may have taken him years to perfect, until it’s solid enough to be performed regularly, whereas a singer could sing a different song…..you know, so it’s interesting really; it doesn’t……these people used to tour the theatres when every town had a theatre, you know, and most of them have gone, and there was a circuit and you could go round the whole country working place to place, and by the time you’d done them all you could start again, with the same act, because there were so many and it’s taken so long to get round…….so there was new audiences all the time because it was live entertainment, but now it’s not, now it’s mass entertainment with the television, you know, and I don’t have a television, but, so….yeah, so we have done, you know, a couple of talent show things but I’ve not……I don’t fit into that

     

    TW:

    How do you find your audiences then?

     

    WP:

    How do I find my work do you mean?

     

    TW:

    Yeah

     

    WP:

    Practically……well, about half of it comes through agencies……what an agency is supposed to do, it’s supposed to promote you to clients who ring them, then it’s supposed to supply you with all the information you need to know to do a good job…….that doesn’t always happen in the real world [laughing] you know……’oh you’re working in Oldham next Wednesday’….. ‘okay – whereabouts?’….. ‘don’t quite know yet’….. ‘oh well, what do you want me to do?’…… ‘is it a show? Am I teaching?’…. ‘oh we think it’s teaching’….. ‘you think? Oh okay, well if it’s teaching, how many children have I got and how long per class? What age are they?’….. ‘oh you know….’ and it’s all very vague, and you’ll turn up and you have to improvise on the spot because this…..this booking may have been made through an agency who couldn’t find anybody and it’s then passed on to another agency who couldn’t find anybody, and then you get the third agency ringing you, and so it’s untraceable what the actual original requirement was, so that can happen, but also there are some great agencies and I’ve been working for one in particular for most of the time I’ve been an entertainer, and they do their best to give you all the information that you need and if you get there, and you’re suddenly faced with eighty kids in a room the size of your front room here, you know, you say ‘well this isn’t gonna happen – look it says on here that you’ve got this many’ and you can refer back and they can ring the agency and say ‘what’s going on?’ you know, so, and they will back you up, so there are good and bad, so…..so yeah, half comes through agencies, the other half is really word of mouth and regular bookings that you’ve done, people have liked what you’ve done inviting you back…..obviously there’s like an informal circuit of entertainers that I know and people ring me; I do plate spinning which is a thing that not many people do, so I often get calls from people about that……in fact on the way here today my phone went off - ‘can you do the sixth, seventh and eighth of June 2013 in Warwickshire’ - so, you know, because it’s a long way off but not many people do it so they’re quite keen to find somebody, so…….so yes, half of it through agencies and pretty much half through everything else, the informal network.

     

    TW:

    Right. Well I know you have……a kind of…..workspace shall we say, or workshop or studio, I don’t know what you want to call it really, up in Old Town

     

    WP:

    Oh yeah

     

    TW:

    Where there is a group of people who make circus equipment. Are you a part of that as well?

     

    WP:

    No it’s……it’s quite a recent thing that’s happened, but…….I live on a canal boat……which, with the recent weather in Hebden Bridge it’s been interesting, but I’ve been in quite a good place really because I’ve just gone up a foot and then down a foot, you know, because there’s been so many storms and floods, it’s been horrendous. You do end up feeling a bit like Noah, living on a…..on a boat in these times. I’ve got two cats; that’s a start……

     

    TW:

    A start for what? [laughing]

     

    WP:

    Collecting animals!

     

    TW:

    Oh I see, the Ark, okay!

     

    WP:

    Catch up……and…..yeah, but so, I needed a……living on a boat, you don’t get much space so I needed extra storage space, and so a friend of mine had a bit spare up in that mill in Old Town that you mentioned, which coincidentally is also the place where juggling equipment is manufactured, a local company, and then somebody else came along and we thought ‘hang on a minute, there’s three of us now’ – we were all entertainers of one sort or another – and then a community artist came along who does sort of craft things and she needed somewhere to work and make things in preparation and store things, so she joined in, so we’re all sort of creative people up there and we all have little sections in one floor of the mill, and the central area is now mirrored and has music and video equipment, so we can use that to rehearse and devise new things, so it’s become a…..a nice creative space. A cold one, but…..you know, it’s good, yeah.

     

    TW:

    Right. How long have you been up there?

     

    WP:

    Well I’ve lived in Hebden now for about seven years and I’ve been up there all that time, in one guise or another.

     

    TW:

    Right. What brought you to Hebden then?

     

    WP:

    ………..change of circumstances……..as I say it was about seven years ago……I……I’d just gone through a divorce……had not much money, and I’m thinking ‘well with my occupation as an entertainer, which is precarious, and not the best earning of jobs, but one of the most rewarding, so I don’t have much money; what do I do? I don’t want to take out a massive mortgage’ and I looked into getting a canal boat in the early nineties but didn’t do it then for various reasons; there were no mobiles – that was one reason – you know, you can’t have a landline unless you lay a wire down the canal but you can’t do that, so….I didn’t do it then and I thought ‘ah, this is a chance to do it’ and a number of chance events came together, which is…..that’s life isn’t it?

     

    TW:

    Yeah sometimes

     

    WP:

    And it does happen, and everybody who lives on a boat in Hebden or elsewhere often has an interesting story, how they came…..came on board, and for me, yeah, I thought…..the idea came back to me and I thought ‘well this is a plan I could follow now; it’s maybe a cheaper way of living, although that’s a bit of an illusion; it’s not as cheap as people imagine, and….. ‘maybe I could do that, maybe I’ll go round and have a look at boats; I know a few people with boats and I could look at those’ like you would if you were buying a house….get a feel for it and find out more about it, and ‘I know some people in Hebden Bridge too, so I’ll go and stay there; there’s boats there, I’ll go there’…..and quite a few people have ended up in Hebden haven’t they, who’ve lived in Leeds or Manchester, and wanted to move to the countryside and I thought ‘that will appeal to me as well, and with my job I need to work in cities but living here it’s perfect because I’ve got big cities, areas, big conurbations that are reachable too, so….so that’s good’, so I came here. I was in a bit of disarray at the time…..because of my divorce and things, and…..and I kept coming to see my friend…..who lived on a boat here, and I thought ‘this is perfect…..if I had a boat, this is exactly how I’d want it to be’ and I kept visiting time and time again, until one day he happened to ring me up and he said ‘look, you idiot, you’re not…..you’re not taking the hints are you?’….. ‘what’s that?’ he said ‘well we want to sell you our boat!’ [laughing]….and it wasn’t officially for sale, but they were sort of thinking ‘well really we need to sell it’ for where they are in their lives and the changes that were about to happen to them, but they’d invested so much of their hearts in it because they’d built it themselves, kitted it out themselves; they didn’t build it themselves, but supervised the plans – the planning and building of it – but they didn’t just want to put it up on the market and sell it to any old person; they wanted it to go to somebody who would look after it, for what it was, and thankfully that was me.

     

    TW:

    So is there a kind of…….boat community where you live then?

     

    WP:

    Yeah, it fluctuates. In the summer people go away a bit……you know like…..I mentioned I lived in Pickering for a while, and if I go back there now it seems that there’s less of a community now because a lot of the houses are holiday homes, and I think that happens to a lot of small picturesque places, especially if they get taken over by homes that don’t provide community minded people; not for the fault of the people who live there but that’s just how things change, and the boating community’s a bit like that, because you can get some people who……who don’t want to interact with others, in fact that might be the reason why they’re living on a boat, and that’s fine, you know, but you will get others that really do, and want to build links and build a community which is also fine, and…..it depends how many people are there like that or how many people are the other way, and at the moment it’s pretty good where I am; we do look after each other, and you know, if the canal’s rising rapidly people will come and loosen your ropes for you, and look after your cats in our case when you’re away, or I’ll water their plants when they’re away in the summer, keep an eye on things and…..yeah, so there is that, and I know that goes on in Callis as well; they have a community there.

     

    TW:

    Are you at Mayroyd is it?

     

    WP:

    Yeah…..so we’re not as together as a community as they are; they had to do that in one way because they were battling against British Waterways to have their community recognised, so….so they needed rules and a system, and whilst we don’t because we’ve got in a sense a private landlord, we do have a

     

    TW:

    Who owns that then?

     

    WP:

    Well…..it’s a complicated legal situation, which would probably take the whole of this interview to…..and every now and again it blows up with a controversy because…you know, somebody wants to take the land, for example to build or……you know, then the whole thing goes up in the air and…so far it’s come down in a relaxed way.

     

    TW:

    Well the canals have been given to this charitable trust place in the past week

     

    WP:

    Yes it’s been changed

     

    TW:

    Well, how will that affect you and what do you think about that?

     

    WP:

    Well…………I think nothing will change really. I don’t think

     

    TW:

    You don’t think they’ll put up your…..your rent or your….whatever, that sort of thing

     

    WP:

    Well……could do, but you see we don’t pay our money, well, to British Waterways directly anyway, but….it’s complicated….part of the money that we pay does go to British Waterways but the other part goes to the landowner…..but I mean I think living on the canal has gone up hundreds of per cent, you know, because people have seen it as…..an alternative lifestyle and the people who run the thing have seen it as a way of making more and more money, and British Waterways, their money from the government has got less and less, so it’s got to meet ends, ends have got to meet somewhere, so yeah, it’s gone up massively really…..

     

    TW:

    Is that just in the seven years that you’ve been there?

     

    WP:

    Oh yeah, yeah…….

     

    TW:

    So are you quite happy to stay there for ever and ever, so to speak?

     

    WP:

    Well I don’t know if I’m there for ever…..it is quite a physical lifestyle…..

     

    TW:

    So your knowledge of engineering and that must be very useful for you.

     

    WP:

    Yeah, what little I’ve retained, yeah, although I’m not as practical as many might think because a Mechanical Engineering degree is more suitable for solving second order differential equations than changing…..servicing an engine [laughing], so……..

     

    TW:

    Right. Well that seems to be your…..your second age; you said there was a third age

     

    WP:

    Yes, and I did think before we did this interview today, I was thinking about this and there are these distinct periods in my life, and I’ve been doing this juggling now for a long time and it’s been amazing. It’s taken me to……Peterborough, it’s taken me to St Petersburg, you know….yeah, and I was working in Halifax a few days ago and……we were doing a workshop all day with deaf children and this one lad came along with his mum, and they stayed all day; they were with us for five hours trying everything that we had; so focused and determined to do it, and they weren’t the most naturally able with the skills that we had, but full of determination; they were amazing, and so I ended up giving them equipment at the end of the day, just because I felt that they’d done so….so much of a commitment and it’s when things like happen that you think ‘oh that’s great’ you know, and as I was working, I didn’t even know it was there, there’s a school for children with severe learning difficulties in Luddendenfoot – Woodbank School – if you know it you go through the housing estate

     

    TW:

    I taught there when I was a community artist

     

    WP:

    Yeah well it’s a sort of a dead end through a housing estate isn’t it? I thought ‘there can’t….oh there it is’ you know, and there’s a mainstream school and there’s a special school next to it, and I worked there last week, you know, and it was amazing…..so I’ve had a fantastic time doing this, but I’m thinking….. ‘well, do I still want to be a clown when I’m fifty, when I’m sixty….do I?’…..probably not……I mean it’s an amazing thing to make people laugh and……I’ve mentioned that I am a creative person; I’m always looking for different….ways to express myself there, and since I was a boy I’ve been writing poetry, and this has been something that’s been bubbling away in the background, and…….over the last….four years I think, I’ve started doing more with that; I’ve started going along to open mic readings; I’ve started getting things published in books…..until that side of things has grown……until now it’s taking probably almost as much of my time as the juggling takes; of course it’s…..it doesn’t earn me much money, but I’ve never done things….I’ve never been driven by that…….and so really I’m thinking ‘yes, if there is going to be a third age maybe it is the poetry’ and if I think of what’s been happening so far this summer, where only two weeks ago we had the Hebden Bridge Arts Festival and I was the official poet for the festival which was wonderful. Living in a place like Hebden, I was able to link up with that project, to link up with so many different other creative people, all doing different things within the festival, and to create some poetry with them and with the children that came to some of the workshops, so that was amazing……and Hebden is part of the Rochdale Canal Festival which is right at the end of August, so for a whole week I’ll be poet in residence at the Rochdale Canal Festival, which is a really exciting project coming up………so they’re just two residences I’ve got, then later on in October I’m doing something for National Poetry Day which is organised and directed by a friend of mine, Jo [sp] Bell who is also a poet living on a boat [pronounced boet], if you can force that to rhyme! [laughing]….it’s no worse than the Co-op’s slogan good with food [gud with fud]…..

     

    TW:

    You have to have the accent!

     

    WP:

    [laughing] You do don’t you! So….so yeah, so……the poetry’s creeping in to more and more that I do and I’m loving that, so……and I’ve got a website there that people are looking at every day and

     

    TW:

    Oh you’ll have to write that down for us and we can link it onto our website.

     

    WP:

    Oh yes, that would be nice, yeah.

     

    TW:

    I know you said to me…..it must have been yesterday I guess, that you’re putting poems on all the locks on the Rochdale Canal

     

    WP:

    Oh yeah, that’s part of the Canal Festival; there’s ninety-two locks on this canal and we’re trying to…..have a poem on every lock, and really I wanted to start collecting these at the beginning of the year, but due to when the funding comes it’s not always possible and so the time has been compressed, so hopefully we’ll get there; they’re coming in every day; we’ve got requests on all the

     

    TW:

    When you say they’re coming in, how do you mean they’re coming in?

     

    WP:

    People are looking on line, people are hearing announcements at open mic events, people are seeing our requests for poems in all different places, local people are hearing about it, people from America are hearing about it and I had an e-mail yesterday from somebody from America – ‘here’s a little poem, I wonder if this will be okay’

     

    TW:

    Are these all poems that people write themselves then?

     

    WP:

    Yeah, a lot of the time…..I mean, it can….it has to be something connected to the canal but that could be a poem about boats, it could be a poem involving water, the nature in the canal which is a massive subject in itself, the people who use the towpath – joggers, dog walkers, cyclists, you know, it could be anything to do with any of those things, so a lot of the time these are poems that people already have. They can be poems that have already been published, that’s fine, and we’ve got some, you know, from some well-known people, but people are also writing things specifically for the project which is nice, so…..you know, it’s…..I’ve had people writing in saying….. ‘oh yeah, I’ve written this specially for the project; it’s about this person who lived all her life on the waterways and died recently…..can I choose my lock, and can I take flowers to the lock to accompany the poem?’ you know, really nice….so we’ve had a great response……now I did say…..that I would walk the entire length of the canal which is thirty-three miles, pinning the poems on myself……and then you think about the logistics of it [laughing]

     

    TW:

    That was going to be my next question. Is…..how are these poems going to be displayed? Are they……I was thinking that you might have…..like a template and you could spray paint them on to the lock gate….sort of arms or something like that or

     

    WP:

    Well the logistics mean that we can’t physically permanently alter the lock, so they have to be attached, so they’re on paper, they’re A4; there is a template around the poem of a design provided by the…..The Waterways Trust…….drawing pins or staples, we’re not quite sure, but laminated A4 things so, but you know, some of them might be there for a day and get ripped down by local kids, some of them might stay there a long time…….we don’t know, but there is a sort of procession moving along the canal and events placed to coincide with that during the festival week, and we’re lucky here in Calderdale because much of the funding for the festival comes from here, so those events naturally are concentrated here……and we want the poems to accompany the procession, so…..so thankfully I don’t have to walk the whole length pinning them on, because that wouldn’t link up with our idea, and it’s going the other way as well. I’ve walked it three times already, but by the time I’ve set off from Manchester at six in the morning, by the time I’ve got to Hebden Bridge at tea time it’s very difficult to pass your own home and walk that extra four miles to Sowerby Bridge, where the canal finishes, and I’ve never managed…..I’ve always ended up in the Fox and Goose I’m afraid [laughing] and by the time I’ve had a pint there, the blisters have meant that I couldn’t continue. The first time I did it the blisters were so bad, I thought ‘what am I gonna do? I’m working the next day as a juggler in a shopping centre, juggling on the Mall….I can’t stand, let alone walk, these blisters are so bad’ and contrary to all medical advice I came up with a solution of my own. By…..these blisters were like this…..sort of size; the whole of every heel

     

    TW:

    Like two inches across

     

    WP:

    On your heel, the whole of the heel underneath, so I burst the blister……and all the fluid went out, and then I got masking tape under the heel and up the sides of the ankle to press the dead skin onto the……what was underneath, you know, and in the morning it had adhered, and whilst that fluid is there to help the healing process, it does prohibit walking, so [laughing]

     

    TW:

    So it worked?

     

    WP:

    It worked, and with some foam mattress cut out in the bottom of his shoes….I wasn’t the most mobile of entertainers that day, but I managed to get through……so maybe the wrong footwear had something to do with it, but….yes, so I did it another twice; I’ve done it three times now; I might still do it again this year, but even thinking about it again this year, but even thinking about it, when you’ve got ninety-two laminated sheets of A4, that’s a weighty bundle of stuff to carry, I mean it’s gonna get lighter as you go on, but you know, and to take only a few seconds at each lock, that all adds up, you know, so……it would slow you down quite a bit

     

    TW:

    You’d have to do it over two days wouldn’t you?

     

    WP:

    Well you could do it two or three – you could do it on a bicycle….

     

    TW:

    Oh right

     

    WP:

    You could do it with a bicycle; that would be a practical way, and all the people that use the towpath, and I’m a keen cyclist myself. On Sunday I did a hundred and twenty miles, so I should be able to manage thirty miles

     

    TW:

    You should…..are you going to have…..keep a record of these….all the poems….keep them like on a website or have them all printed out like in a little booklet or something, so that you’ve got a record of them?

     

    WP:

    A booklet would be wonderful, because it would have a ready-made structure with the lock numbers; that would be nice. Whether there is scope to do that, I would like to do that……there is scope to put them on the…..on the website of the festival, so at least some of them….it might be a bit much to see all ninety-two. What I would like is sort of…..if the website that they had was more sophisticated, you could go and see a schematic of the canal and click on a lock and the poem comes up and it goes on to the next one, or you could even encourage people

     

    TW:

    It’s possible but it takes

     

    WP:

    Yeah

     

    TW:

    Really geeky people to get a Google map down, and you have to kind of do it

     

    WP:

    Yeah, and geekiness costs money doesn’t it?

     

    TW:

    Yeah

     

    WP:

    But you could do all that if you wanted to, and if you had the resources….yeah, but it’s gonna be a…..because that’s just part of it…..I mean my job really as resident poet is going to be…..to be doing readings and to be doing workshops and popping up here and there

     

    TW:

    How do you vet all these poems that you get sent in then? Say there’s ninety-two locks but you get three hundred in, how do you

     

    WP:

    Well I wish Tony, because [laughing] we’ll be lucky, you know, well lucky is maybe the wrong word but I’m hoping that we’ll get ninety-two

     

    TW:

    Right

     

    WP:

    I want them all….to be good poems…..in my opinion; it’s only my opinion at the end of the day.

     

     

    TW:

    So is that down to you? Are you the editor as it were?

     

    WP:

    Well it’s down to you….yes I’m the….well I like to call myself the curator

     

    TW:

    Oh right, okay

     

    WP:

    Because I’m not going to exercise a heavy editorial hand, because I think, you know, this is people’s work……it’s all of different styles…….you know, and there’s nothing wrong with that, and as long as the

     

    TW:

    So who came up with this idea?

     

    WP:

    Me.

     

    TW:

    Right. Were you influenced by the Stanza Stones Project?

     

    WP:

    No

     

    TW:

    Do you know about that?

     

    WP:

    Not at the time. I put this proposal into the festival organisers last October, and it was after then that I learned about the…..the Stanza Stones.

     

    TW:

    Because Simon Armitage, the poet, has been kind of a big part of organising that hasn’t he?

     

    WP:

    Yes, yeah

     

    TW:

    I was just curious whether there’d been any interaction – you should invite him over.

     

    WP:

    I’ve asked him for a poem; he hasn’t replied yet.

     

    TW:

    Oh right, okay

     

    WP:

    [laughing] but hopefully he will……..

     

    TW:

    So what kind of influences have you got in the poems you write?

     

    WP:

    Well, that’s…..that’s a difficult one to answer because I seem to change like the wind. There are threads running through it……there was a few of us, well four of us, and got together, and we became known a few years ago as The Miserabilist Poets [laughing] which is something that somebody invented for us, and……yeah, a lot of the stuff that we write, we were writing, was utterly miserable; nothing wrong with that, you know, it’s an emotion…..like many others, and……but the book that we jointly self-published was said to be so dark and heavy that it would leave a mark and a stain on any bookcase shelf that it stood upon……well I’m proud of that book; I think there’s some good stuff in there from all of us, so that continued bubbling…..bubbling around in the background, but I’ve been…..also interested in writing Ghazals; now this is a form of poetry that not many people will know about.

     

    TW:

    How do you spell that?

     

    WP:

    Ghazal, that’s a Ghazal.

     

     

    TW:

    And where do they come from?

     

    WP:

    It’s an…..an Urdu form of poetry; it’s sometimes known as the Indian sonnet

     

    TW:

    I see

     

    WP:

    But that’s…..that’s really a very misleading term. It exists in couplets, that’s the only similarity it has with a sonnet….there’s a lot of rhyme in there, there’s a lot of what people see as restriction criteria that must be within the poem to make it work

     

    TW:

    So it’s a longer version of a Haiku.

     

    WP:

    …….there is…..there are some similarities in the type of subjects that are written about in Haiku and the Ghazal, but no, no…..well I could go through them quickly but there is no title for these poems; they’re transferred by word of mouth traditionally so they didn’t need one…..they have a rhyming scheme which is a rhyme and then a refrain, so the end of every couplet is the same refrain; the same word or string of words. Immediately before that there is a rhyme, so going through the poem there is a rhyming set of words. In the first share or couplet, that ends with this refrain in both of the lines, not just the second one…….and the last one, that’s special too, because it has a sort of a signature of the poet; his pen name or his real name actually appears in the poem, so these poems are designed to by sung…….

     

    TW:

    Well immediately it made me think of like…….that song ‘A Simple Twist of Fate’ by Bob Dylan; he has that phrase that reappears all the time at the end of each one, so I thought of it as a musical thing but I didn’t realise it was suppose to be like that…

     

    WP:

    Yeah very much, very much, and you come across them in Bollywood films and things, and….yeah, they’ve got their origins in both Arabic and Persian poetry forms, the Ghazal mainly in the Persian, but……yeah, they came together, those two languages came together in Urdu and it’s the most popular form of poetry in Urdu still today, but not many people know about it over here, so I’ve been writing these things in English which has its own problems. Because of the structure of the English language, it makes it harder.

     

    TW:

    So have you been reading translations of

     

    WP:

    Yeah……yeah, which is interesting isn’t it; when you read a translation of any poem, whether it’s a Ghazal or a free verse or whatever, and you think ‘wow, this is amazing’….well how much more amazing must it be in its own language?

     

    TW:

    I can understand that. I’ve got this…..CD there – ‘Beowulf’ Seamus Heaney – and he’s done a new translation, and because he’s such a great poet….I’ve actually heard a ‘Beowulf’ in Anglo-Saxon and it just flows beautifully, it’s absolutely wonderful……but when you listen to the Seamus Heaney version, there’s a kind of lilt to it shall we say, a kind of…..a pacing of the words that just draws you in, even though what the actual words are saying are all about heroic deeds and heraldry and all the rest……but it’s kind of how you interpret the words that you use isn’t it?

     

    WP:

    Yeah, well it’s a particularly difficult job for a translator of this form because…..while certain musicality can be retained, no rhyme can be retained because it’s so complicated, and so…..it’s like….writing them is like partly writing a poem and partly writing a crossword puzzle, because it’s all….you change one little bit and that throws everything out then, and they are very difficult to write, but I’ve come up with enough of these, and I mean some of them…..must be okay; they’ve won competitions and they’ve been very well received, and……and also…..and so they are traditional Ghazals, but I’ve come up with some free verse Ghazals which throw away most of those……criteria, those restrictions as some people call them……and so, for a person reading modern poetry, they wouldn’t recognise them as Ghazals, but certain aspects of them remain; no title, same number of syllables per line……the subject matter is generally melancholic, which fits in with my miserabilist [laughing] tinge, so…..so yeah….so I’ve got a book coming out in October……

     

    TW:

    Oh right

     

    WP:

    …… ‘First of All, I Wrote Your Name,’ it’s called and that’s published by Stairwell Books in York – back to York – which is nice

     

    TW:

    Prodigal son so to speak

     

    WP:

    Yeah….and so……yeah, that’s coming out in October, that book of traditional and modern Ghazals in English.

     

    TW:

    So do any of your poems sort of reflect back onto your mechanical engineering days, or do they include…..you know….the juggling kind of aspect of your life; do you try to bring part of your old life into your new vision, shall we say?

     

    WP:

    That’s an interesting question Tony, and actually they don’t….it was funny, somebody was asking me the other day – ‘oh, you live on a boat; you’re perfect for the Canal Festival’ and I said ‘yeah, that’s probably one of the reasons why they picked me’…….but I suddenly realised I don’t write that much about the canal…..I’ve only done a few poems, so I’ve started to put that right, but no…….. thinking about it, no….the engineering, the……circus stuff, they don’t really enter into my poems that much

     

    TW:

    Well it’s just seems to me that engineering is about putting things together to make something, and juggling and entertaining in general…..is doing different movements or….or facial things, or…..whatever, to be a whole, because it’s a performance and the people watching won’t see all the mechanics of it; they only see the final…..and poetry seems a little bit like that; you have all of these structures that you’re using when you’re writing, but when people listen to it, you’re performing it, again, all they hear is the final version. I just wondered if……you know, there’s any connection between that way of looking at life really.

    WP:

    Well if there is, it’s so deep that I haven’t noticed it, and I was thinking when I started out in the poetry performing thing, I was thinking ‘well I’m gonna find this very easy and natural for me, having stood in front of audiences of thousands of people, it’s not going to be difficult to be in a pub function room where there’s twenty people and read some poems’…..wrong…..it was quite a surprise. It was a completely different thing.

     

    TW:

    Was that sort of stage fright, or….

     

    WP:

    No, but certainly nervousness and I was thinking ‘wow, this is actually quite difficult to do’ – surprisingly so – I thought it would, you know, I’m used to standing up and improvising and speaking to people; big audiences and……I thought ‘no, I’m going to have to get used to this’ and I’ve enjoyed the process of learning about that and…….I even read yesterday, you were talking there about……listening and watching a poet and not realising what’s gone on behind there; Ted Hughes, who everybody knows because we’re living where he was born……and he’s been an influence on me too…..when he had to do a recording – it’s a famous recording – I can’t remember what it’s called now……yeah, it came out……and a lot of his famous poems were on there; he couldn’t read them very well, he wasn’t happy at all with how they came across on the tape, and he had to get in touch with a theatre director, and he said to this man…… ‘make it so my voice is real; find my real voice for me please – I’m struggling’

     

    TW:

    That’s very interesting

     

    WP:

    Isn’t it? Because people who would read that would say ‘oh the mighty Poet Laureate’s natural orator deep, sonorous, slow Ted Hughes’ – no, he had to learn that……and the gentleman that he worked with on those recordings is this year the guest speaker for The Elmet Trust’s dinner, so…

     

    TW:

    Oh that’s interesting

     

    WP:

    I only read that the other night; I didn’t realise that had gone on myself.

     

    TW:

    Right, because there are some poets who are reading their own stuff…..for example I’ve read….listened to Dylan Thomas speaking his own things, and once you’ve heard that, it’s very difficult to get his voice out of your head when you’re actually reading it in a book.

     

    WP:

    Yeah but that’s one reason why the written word’s so strong isn’t it? You read a book, you watch the film, and it doesn’t work for you, because you’ve made your own film in your head, and…..some poems are written for the page, and some are written for performance, and really some of those poems are so biased in one direction or the other that they struggle to cross over….

     

    TW:

    But do you aim for one or the other, or

     

    WP:

    More for the page as I go on actually, but I’ve recently found a….a form of…..of poetry which I’ve really enjoyed performing, which is……Found poetry, so in this style we’re looking round us maybe in this room, and I can see all sorts of words on your books, on the packaging of different things that you’ve bought, you know

     

    TW:

    Is that a bit like the Dada idea, of found objects being art, but also Wayne Burrow’s idea of you write a lot of things and you cut them all up and then you rearrange them?

     

    WP:

    Yeah it is, it is…..it’s all interlinked, and…..and so, taking those words and making something new, or even presenting them pretty much untreated as it’s called, and seeing them in a different light, as, like you say, art or poetry rather than just words on a mug, so….so I’ve had fun, I’ve had fun with those performing them because people don’t expect them, and so I can stand in front of an audience and say ‘okay, so here are the results of a poetry experiment’……. ‘experiment in poetry? What’s this?’….. ‘yes, all the words in this next piece I’m about to read can be found on this – a tin of Spam’ [laughing]….you know, and I’ll read a poem which is exactly what it says on the tin [laughing]….I’ll remember that, I must come up with that! So…..you know, and I’ve been looking at the match reports in The Guardian by their Chief Football Correspondent Kevin McCarra, and taking individual words from his match report, and making something completely different from them. I’ve sent them to him, he likes them; we have a bit of occasional dialogue……and I’m now working with crossword puzzles, so I will make one poem from the clues and then another from the solutions; now obviously the one from the solutions, you’ve got a much more limited vocabulary there, so it’s gonna be a much more abstract poem, but if you introduce them and tell them that this is poem number one and then I’m gonna read its echo, which is the solutions poem, you know, if the first poem mentions something like…..an orange comb, if people retain that in their mind when there’s a pause and they hear the second poem, and they hear about a windsock, they can think ‘oh yes, that’s somehow an echo of the first’ – they’re both quite abstract, but you know, usually the first one makes more sense and more reading, so that’s….I’m interested in that……so I’ve been doing those two and…..and my whole project for the Hebden Bridge Arts Festival was called Found in Hebden, so it was using all different sorts of Found poetry techniques…..all recorded on the website!......so that was fun.

     

    TW:

    That sounds really interesting

     

    WP:

    Well even to the extent of…..and this is one way in which I’ve found to bring my performing experience into my poetry is in one style of Found poem, a Found poem, is a visual Found poem, so this is a poem where the appearance of the words and letters is equally, if not more important than the meaning of the words themselves, so people have experimented recently with…..producing the words of a poem using advanced computer aided design techniques, so if you look at a bank note very closely under a microscope, not a microscope, under a magnifying glass, it’s very intricate isn’t it?

     

    TW:

    Yes

     

    WP:

    And so you can see poems that are built up like that, where some of the print is extremely fine but it goes to build up something that’s big, and that big thing is a letter in itself

     

    TW:

    Well this a poem for the page as it were

     

    WP:

    Absolutely, only, yes, well it’s a poem to be seen, certainly; if not on the page, somewhere else. People have been writing poems on objects to make them interesting, so the words are important and they are a poem, but it’s how thy’re presented, and I took a poem by a famous…..member of the Imagist movement, William Carlos Williams, an American poet from the beginning of the twentieth century…..his poem The Red Wheelbarrow is only a very short poem……and I found a red wheelbarrow, going back to where you were saying about found objects being art; I found a wheelbarrow and painted it red; it was on somebody’s roof and I think that this wheelbarrow was ready for its final journey to Eastwood, to the waste disposal site, and I gave it a last artistic hurrah, so I think it had a wonderful end to its life, and I painted it red……and the poem also includes these white chickens, so I made some cut out white chickens with bases and I thought ‘well I’ll throw a few eggs in’ so there were some eggs as well, and I appeared on the…on Platform One of Hebden Bridge Railway Station during the Arts Festival, and it was great actually because I had a captive audience, because if somebody was stood on the platform next to me I approached them with my marker pens, and said ‘madam, would you care to write on my chickens?’….and I was getting people to reproduce the words of the poem in red on the white chickens, and in white on the red wheelbarrow, and I think it made a very interesting visual interpretation, and tribute to the poem and to the author……and I say captive audience because they couldn’t say ‘no I’m just busy’ because they were there waiting for the train [laughing]…..they had to stand there for the five minutes it took the train to arrive, so, and…..in doing that, you know, connecting back to what we were saying about living in the artistic town and a creative town of Hebden Bridge……I had the words of the poem printed on a bit of paper so somebody could choose a word or part of a word, or the whole thing, which they wanted to write scruffily, neatly, long and thin, short and fat, wobbly, you know, in bold, in capitals, any way….that was the artistic input, the way in which they wrote it, and where, so you get the…..seventy-year-old lady who was on her knees trying to write under the wheelbarrow because that’s what she wanted to do, for some reason - it doesn’t matter what the reason was – I had a person who said ‘oh I know this; this is William Carlos Williams’ and it didn’t have the author’s name on it; I said ‘how do you know that?’ and he said ‘well I did my thesis on it when I was a student’….so there we are…..and I was just introducing the poem to another man and he said ‘yes I could tell you quite a lot about this gentleman’ and I said ‘oh why is that sir?’ and he said ‘well I am a professor of American literature’…..all this within an hour on the railway station! And so this art was created, and….and still exists in town, because I was going to….and I felt quite sad, Tony, to take this wheelbarrow on its final journey to the elephants’ graveyard, you know, to Eastwood, and I rang the organiser and I said ‘I’m gonna collect it today and take it down’…. ‘you are not – it’s staying! It is a lantern in the window for the Arts Festival

     

    TW:

    Excellent!

     

    WP:

    A very small legacy if you will, and so it’s on display as a piece of art in a shop in Hebden Bridge.

     

    TW:

    Which shop?

     

    WP:

    It’s in…..well it was the Festival shop itself on Albert Street, which is now being occupied by….the jewellers who got flooded out on Market Street

    [END OF TRACK 1]

     

     

     

     

     

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  • Interviews and Storytelling: Charles "Ken" Green

    [TRACK 1]

    Mr Green, shall I call you Mr Green?

    Yes, by all means.

    Can you tell me your full name and where and when you were born?

    My full name is Charles Kenneth Green and I was born in a cottage at Mytholm, which has now long since gone, on 24th of October 1926.

    Whereabouts in Mytholm was that?
    It was opposite the church; I’m not so certain if the actual lane has a name – it’s just a branch off, it’s on private land really.

    Did the house have a name?

    It didn’t, no, it was an old farm cottage really. The farm had been sort of semi pulled down when my parents took it on and it’s since been demolished now and there’s a pair of semis there, so the whole area’s altered.

    Was that on the right hand side below the church?

    If you go up Mytholm to the church, before you go up the Steeps turn left; I know where you mean now there’s an old house there that used to belong to Pickles’s Machine Tool people, they were the landlords actually, of my parents, and this little cottage was at the top of that lane.

    What did your parents do?

    My father was a radial driller at Pickles’s Woodworking Machinery; he came up from Staffordshire just half way through the First World War I think. He was a collier and worked in the pit, and of course he was in trouble with health and it was a very wet pit that he worked in and so he was offered this opportunity to come up.

    My mother actually got a job at Mytholm Hall as a maid and it seems – I’ve been down to the village in question – and surprisingly, quite a few of the young women would follow that course up into Yorkshire and go as maid servants into Mytholm Hall.

    Can you remember anything about Mytholm Hall when you were young?

    I can’t specifically no; I had been in the place briefly but I really couldn’t put a picture to it in my mind.

    Do you know who lived there?

    It was Hiram Pickles, he was one of the elder of the Pickles.

    Was he the one that started the Pickles factory – the mill?

    I would imagine – I’m not too certain about the origins but they were certainly there prior to the First World War. All the extensions that were built on were done with profits from the First World War and then another extension with the Second World War. My mother actually came up with another lady who married Charlie Pickles who was one of the bosses there and she did rather well but you see that union sort of triggered off when my father had to leave the pit through this lady; her name was Katie Parker – my mother used to talk an awful lot about her and he was offered a job and of course a cottage to live in.

    Was that usual practice, to get somewhere to live when you worked for a mill?

    I’m not certain really; my mother came as a maid servant, I don’t know how long she stayed as a maid servant; I suspect not very long.

    What was a maid servant exactly?

    Well, just general domestic duties really so cleaning, doing laundry, kitchen duties? That’s right, and I suspect they would keep a high table wouldn’t they, people of that calibre, nowadays perhaps not but in those days it was a very much different thing.

    What can you remember about your childhood when you lived there?

    My childhood was extremely happy. One thing as the years have gone by…well I knew this as most people do from some time ago, but you just realise how hard working your parents were. I don’t think they could stand the pace nowadays really! [laughing] But my childhood was extremely happy; when I looked around at my contemporaries, they would have holes in their stockings, holes in their jerseys but we were always well dressed, well turned out and my mum always kept a good table. I have some wonderful memories of the home baking and so on.

    What were your favourite baking foods?

    Well, she used to make a variety of things – macaroons and rock cakes, the old traditional jam pasties you know; my mouth could water now, thinking about them! [laughing] She baked all her own bread, we bought nothing; in fact I don’t think I tasted bought bread until I’d left school.

    Did she do that every week?

    Oh yes, oh yes – it was ongoing really. When I think when I do my shopping now I buy this and I buy that and I pop it in the fridge but that wasn’t a facility in those days, they would have to shop and prepare foods which would not be kept too long really.

    Was there a particular baking day?

    Usually it would be a Saturday because my mother did, like most, a variety of part-time work. She used to take washing in, that was quite common, and ironing too and my father used to repair shoes; I can recall being sent to the cobblers for what was called a half a bend of leather which would be a big piece about this square (2 to 3 foot) and I watched him hours really, cutting out.

    So this was done on the side?

    Oh yes, all this was done in the home.

    Did he have a particular area where he did that sort of work or did he have a workshop?

    Well, it was virtually a one-up one-down; I had two brothers older than myself and a sister. When I think back we were really on top of each other and again, it was common enough; we survived like many did, but all the work was done really in the living area, the same with bath night. We’d all take our turns in the bath – me being the youngest, I was in last!

    So was the water dirty when you got in?

    Well it was getting a bit thicker, yes, but thinking back, they were all wonderfully happy days.

    Did you and your brothers and sister all sleep in the same room?

    Well, I slept with my sister. She was just two years older than me, in my parents’ room actually and my two elder brothers had their own room, albeit a very small room. I have a brother still alive, he’s eighty-six now; my eldest brother was born in 1917 but he’s passed on now. He passed on indirectly as a result of war wounds..I don’t know…there didn’t seem to be any provision for a pension for him really – I don’t know what it was, but it wasn’t a great deal.

    So was that the Second World War?

    Yes.

    Where was he fighting?

    Well, he went to France on D-Day plus ten and he was with an armoured regiment, well an ex-cavalry regiment, the Fifth Royal Enniskillen Dragoon Guards, quite a crack regiment really but they were mechanised and he fought right through to Caen and Feliz, Feliz gap is quite a significant military operation and then they turned north into Belgium and that’s where he was badly wounded.

    Which school did you go to?

    I went to Mytholm School, a Church of England School. That was the only school I went to actually.

    Were the boys and girls separated?

    Oh no, it was mixed throughout.

    Did you enjoy school?

    Yes I did, perhaps if you had asked me whilst I was at school I might have provided a different answer but yes, looking back they were good years, really good years. I was no great academic but…I was quite good at English and History and so on. Arithmetic was…..yet what bit I did acquire at that time…my teacher was Nellie Fox, that used to strike at the heart, oh deary me, you could sweat blood really thinking about Nellie Fox but she was very firm but very fair. I do owe a lot to her, I really do. In fact, I did correspond with her for a number of years in my teens.

    What was the best thing about her?

    I don’t know…I suppose it was her humanity really, I mean she wasn’t a lady to be trifled with. Everybody sat to attention and really took on board; we were quite serious about it. It was unfortunate that I just couldn’t grasp a lot of things but I made up for that in subsequent years because during the war I thought ‘I shall actually be involved in the war’ but this was out of this district but perhaps not relevant but I did volunteer for air crew and I was passed. I didn’t actually get in to uniform but I was accepted for air crew training, but the war was pretty well advanced then and they really scrapped a lot of the training programmes and so I ended up in the army.

    What did you do in the army?

    Well I served with the Royal Artillery. I joined up…I was accepted for the RAF in June 1944 and I served till the end of the year, what they call differed service. That was what I should have had to have waited anyway to have entered these flight training schemes, but I was transferred over so I saw the end of the war and the Japanese War whilst I was still training in this country and then I went out to the Middle East. I was out there three and a half years and served in Egypt and in Palestine when all the original troubles were ongoing.

    It’s still going on today really isn’t it?

    It’s been in a state of firment from historical times hasn’t it, and there isn’t any promise of anything different really.

    When you left school you went into the military, and when you finished the military, what did you do then?

    Well when I left school, we left the district then and I went working then…well, I was called up for essential war work, as everyone in their teens was, and I did work at Rolls Royce in Crewe; they made Merlin air engines there and I worked there for two years prior to going into the services. Now since I came out of the army I could have gone back to Rolls Royce, that was a government directive, I could have gone back, but I had visions of blacked-out vast buildings you know, the blazing mercury light switch used to haunt me; it was like walking into the bowels of the earth and I thought ‘that’s not for me’. I think I can understand that.

    Did you come back to Hebden then?

    Yes, I did work for Callanders Cables electrifying the railway. The work gradually went further and further afield out of Crewe and they weren’t prepared to keep us on unless we would go into digs which wasn’t a very happy thing for a married man. That was in 1959 and I had the opportunity of a job up here – well first I had the opportunity of a house and that was the key thing really because if you could get a house, work was no problem. There was plenty of work about.

    How did the house come about?

    Well, it was one that was opposite where my parents lived and it was coming available and they realised of course my situation down in Nantwich in Cheshire, so I seized the opportunity because all my family, although we’d all moved down at the outbreak of war in 1940, oddly enough we’d all come back again after the war and so I was really coming home.

    So you moved into the house?

    Yes, we moved into that.

    You were married by then you said?

    Oh yes, I had a small child by then, and the work that I got was in a local clothing factory which one? Thomas Sutcliffe’s up Regent Street – now long gone like many of the others, all of the others I would think. I worked there for about two years but when I was down latterly in Crewe I was a storeman Kelvin refrigeration, so storekeeping was something which I enjoyed doing and I had the opportunity then of working for Shepherd’s garage as a storeman. I worked there from 1961 to…1968.

    Did you do mechanical work as well?

    Very limited mechanical work, no I wasn’t a trained automobile engineer as they like to be called.

    Was Shepherd’s like it is now, where they have petrol and fix cars and they also have a large parts section?

    It was fundamentally the same work – routine garage work – but at the time Shepherd’s also ran a fleet of wagons. They had eighteen wagons, in fact I think they’d really cornered the transportation of finished cotton pieces throughout Lancashire really, with eighteen vehicles which were kept very busy, and of course the work involved in maintaining those was considerable you know, there was a lot of movement of materials and so forth.

    So they were more distribution rather than a garage as such?

    Arguably yes, although the garage was very busy but I rather suspect that the transport was a substantial part of the operation.

    I’m actually going to interview Wilfred Shepherd – he phoned me up because of the ad in the paper and said he would like to talk to me, so that should be an interesting chat.

    I’m sure you’ll Wilfred very interesting. He was in charge of the transportation and his younger brother Trevor – I went to school with Trevor – was in charge of the garage; very well respected too, and a very able person…happy days!

    When did you get married?

    I got married down in Nantwich, that would be 1952.

    Was she a Cheshire lass then?

    She was, yes.

    What was her name?

    Irene – although unfortunately we were divorced but even so looking back, we had happy times but things had gone wrong, it became irreparable really; a sad tale that’s related many times over I think isn’t it? Then I did marry my second wife, her name was Marian Butters – she was a well-know local greengrocer and she lost her husband in 1966, and I don’t know how we met really, maybe because of our children. I had a daughter Wendy and Marian had a daughter Alison of a similar age and they were school buddies really, and of course Wendy would go home with Alison quite a while and then you see it came about when Marian was baking which she did all day Saturday really, she did a tremendous lot of baking and then of course the question was posed: ‘would you like to make a cake for your Dad?’ and it all developed from there, and of course in the winter, they wouldn’t allow Wendy to come home on her own because she was only…well, she’d be nine perhaps then and…yes, I was presented with a cake and of course Wendy says to Marian ‘aren’t you going to come in?’ so it’s pretty obvious how it all went really; that was 1966 or just after and we were married in 1969.
    But I lost my wife two years ago…but we were married for thirty-six years and when I think back I know we all relate hard work to what our parents did, but mine was a really hard-working girl and there were quite a few of us; altogether we were seven strong so I mean Marian had a lot on her hands really to look after us all.

    Did you all live at Mytholm?

    Oh no, this was up Moss Lane. She had a house already up in Moss Lane – well, the address you’ve got now really.

    You’ve been talking about how people worked very hard when you were younger, particularly your parents – how do you think that relates to today, particularly with younger people today – do you think they have the same sort of values as younger people back then?

    Clearly some of them have but I think the work ethic is something that’s quite alien to many of them. They want too much too soon you know, the timescale for apprenticeships and things like that are very valid really and to give you a sense of purpose and your station in life that you wanted to achieve, you had to work for it for seven years and I think having achieved that, you can be justly proud and slot into society as traditionally we all did.

    Do you think that was because work was more stable then, whereas these days it seems that most people don’t work in the same job for more than five years and they seem to move on?

    That’s very true, profoundly true actually – oh yes, when I think back, certain jobs – the Post Office, the Railway were jobs for life and that’s the thing that’s long gone. Even if it were possible, I suspect that not many would wish to grind and toil away at the same job. [laughing]

    Did you have special occasions, Christmas or Easter or during Wakes week – did you go on holiday or stay at home and have ‘big dos’?

    We largely stayed at home. I didn’t personally go to the seaside at all during those years, I mean most of the children would maybe go to Blackpool, Morecambe or wherever, Southport or wherever but we never did and I suspect that it wasn’t that I felt I was left out because I was quite happy in what I was doing. We would largely go down to North Staffordshire to my grandparents, that was always special that was, and that constituted my holidays really but I didn’t feel disadvantaged in any way.

    Was that from a young age?

    Oh yes, from being quite young, yes.

    Did you engage with the countryside?

    Well yes we did the Wakes Week Walks and things like tahtwe got involved with things like that, and the weather was also very seasonable in those years, I mean we often thing the weather was better in those years and my goodness it was. Summer in summertime and winter in wintertime you know, I’d settle for that any time but now it seems to vary wildly.

    Where did you go on the Wakes Walks?

    Largely round and about, on the tops to Heptonstall and…on towards…Widdop and round there you know, or Hardcastle Crags.

    Was this a particular group of people?

    We used to tag on, I mean the Church used to run them – although we were welcome to go, I wasn’t actually a member of the Church…well I was a member of Mytholm Church I never sang in the choir or anything like that, although my elder brothers did.

    Were you a church-goer then for most of your life?

    I think with some pressure you know…yes, I suppose like most we used to abscond with the spending money – a penny for the collection would be frittered away I suppose! [laughing]

    What did you do at Christmas?

    Well Christmas was very special, it really was although from what I can recall, yes we’d have the odd toys – very nice but not over elaborate and nuts and the orange and apple, yes, and the decorations.

    Did you make your own?

    Yes, quite often – we’d buy the coloured paper, crepe paper, but that was very common; we used to love that. And painting doilies you know for the paper patterns they would put the cakes on, we used to paint those.

    Were your presents home-made as well then?

    No, those were bought. I suspect my elder brothers didn’t fare as well as I did. I think my parents were falling on slightly better times so I seemed to accumulate presents that were a bit special, perhaps costing a little bit more money.

    What kind of things? What kind of toys?

    Well when we lived at the cottage of course we were on top of each other, as I say it was virtually one-up one-down. My parents had their name down for a council house and in 1936 we moved up into Eaves estate which number did you move to? Two actually – number four Eaves Mount and the next row down was number five Ragley View and we moved up there. Of course we were on electric light there; we were on gas down at the cottage but the build-up to moving up into Eaves and having a supply of electricity – I mean like any other little boy I was always interested in engines and so forth – and my parents gradually built up a little electric train set for me, an electric train you know, and to have a truck or an extra carriage was something very very special, oh yes that was great.

    I always recall prior to moving up we’d been up to sort of decorate and we were lectured no end that once we got up there, ‘none of this falling out’ – not that we fell out really but we got neighbours you see and we were advised very strongly that we had to be on our best behaviour, none of this noise upsetting people! [laughing]

    Did you used to go on the walks that the church organised to do the praying on May Day?

    I didn’t go to any of those, no.

    Do you know anything about those?

    I don’t know, really I don’t, no. I was never involved with them but as I understand it now there was quite a lot of activity and old traditions were kept going. I learnt a lot – well I wouldn’t say learnt a lot, or rather became more aware of them because I have been in the local camera club for…I joined in 1974 and of course a lot of the members are very knowledgeable and a lot of the pictures I put together have their origins there, of old Hebden Bridge, as things used to be.

    Do you think Hebden Bridge has changed then, in your lifetime?

    Oh, it has significantly.

    In what way?

    I suppose I could illustrate it when we moved up into Eaves. Everybody but everybody knew everybody and by virtue of that, we were always advised to be on our best behaviour because everybody knew you and of course the values that we had then, they were very important to uphold. You wouldn’t dare contravene them because our parents would deal with us a bit harshly you know if anyone said to them that we were misbehaving, so everybody knew everybody and that I think that was responsible for a lot of discipline really. I was always reminded about it but nowadays, I don’t know, the good citizens of Eaves I suppose are good solid people, but how many know each other? I live at Eaves. Do you live up Eaves? Yes, at number fifteen Eaves Avenue. Oh that will be opposite the recreation ground. Yes that’s it, at the far end, yes, and you are right…I know my neighbours on two or three doors on either side and the odd person up and down the street, but I don’t know everybody at all, I mean I know some on Ragley View and Eaves Mount as well, but that’s about four people out of fifteen houses I suppose.
    Yes, you probably wouldn’t keep pace because there is a movement of people isn’t there of people coming and going. Yes, more so than there used to be I think. But that didn’t happen in my day. People were there for keeps more or less; rarely would you see anyone moving or hear of anyone moving – well all the work was local, people weren’t commuting and people stayed put. That’s where a lot of the difference I think is in Hebden Bridge, but the industry’s gone – how many people live here of working age that actually work in Hebden Bridge? I suspect not many in proportion to those that commute. Yes, that’s probably very true.

    I’m trying to think now of characters – were there people in the town in those days that you would consider a ‘character’ because of the way they talked or behaved or whatever?

    From my boyhood – I can’t give you their names actually – there were two characters that were…I don’t know, the good old hearty Yorkshire types I suppose, and they had a view on life that was certainly different. I only know them by ‘Long Wilf’ and ‘Silly Wilf’. [laughing] I don’t think that typified the person really but to be in their company, yes you could understand the names.

    What type of things did they do then?

    [pause] I don’t know – I suppose they were simply just boisterous I suppose you know – they would jump the traces and do things which we’d consider out of line these days…I’m just trying to think of an instance [pause] should have to ruminate in my mind now just to give you an illustration…
    When I came back up here, like everyone else I was – for want of a better word – hard up, but I was in good company you see so I joined the Fire Service in 1959 and I served with them till 1974, and served fifteen years then.

    So was that a second job?

    It was, yes. That was when I worked at Thomas Sutcliffe’s and at Shepherd’s and they were both very good at giving me leave of absence because sometimes it was quite considerable.

    Did you attend any major fires?

    Oh yes, very much so. I suppose one could argue most of the big fires in Hebden Bridge, we didn’t save any [laughing] but having said that, these old mills were several stories high and they were really saturated in oil and latterly you know they were let off in bits and pieces, multi-occupancy, and…well I don’t suppose now the fire regulations would mean much to them really but as it stands now, they would not be able to set up business without it being overseen, but I suspect most of the mills ended their days in that way, through negligence and they caught fire. A lot of mills were used for deep litter in the poultry business and the loss of property through that was so severe that the Home Office advised the West Riding Fire Authorities to keep a log of all the premises used for deep litter, there were so many being lost to fire.

    Was it mostly mills then that caught fire? Were there not many houses?

    Oh yes, right across the board – oh yes, houses. It was mainly…bit of a novelty now, chimney fires, but that was our main bread and butter I suppose, chimney fires, but some of the properties especially built into the hillsides, if you got onto the roof it was quite hairy. It is true though, you do get used to heights, you really do, I mean it would frighten the pants of me now but in those days as I can recall, I have been in situations that have been quite hairy you know.

    What type of fire engines did you have?

    Well it’s a rural area so we had….what do they call them now? It was on the tip of my tongue then…you’ll have to cut this bit out…I’ll think of it, but we carried about two tons of water whereas a major pump for town and city use would just simply pump water, they wouldn’t carry any but we carried two tons of water, but being in a rural environment, that was our first application, using our own water, and then a mad scrat around but on the other hand, we used to spend a lot of time in the brigade familiarising ourselves with the availability of water – mill dams, the rivers, wherever we could get to work.

    Did you have special pumps to pump it out of the rivers?

    Well, the machine would pump it out but the atmosphere will only support a column of water thirty-two feet but you still need some pressure to work from, so I think about twenty-five feet would be the limit you could raise water. If it was any higher than that we had pumps that we could take down to the water and pump it up.

    It must have been quite difficult getting water uphill so to speak.

    Well in some cases, getting the pump to work really – it was a Coventry Climax Featherweight Pump I say featherweight, it was really a four man job to carry it, especially over rough ground but once you’d got it to work it was great; you could pump it up through the machine and relay it on wherever.

    Can we go back a little bit to when you first began to work – what were your wages in those days?

    From the Hebden Bridge end? Yes. At Tom Sutcliffe’s as I recall my wages were about eleven pounds a week.

    **How many hours did you work for that? **

    [pause] It would be a forty-eight hour week.

    **So did you work six days then? **

    Yes, we worked Monday to Friday and Saturday morning, now at Shepherd’s I worked similar hours there although just occasionally if there was any particular reason they would probably ask us to do a bit more, but my wages there, my take-home pay was about seventeen pounds a week so it was quite a significant lift.

    Did you do the fire work as well on top of that?

    Yes.

    Was that just…obviously when needed, when there was a fire, but were they very often?

    Oh yes quite frequently, yes, it could be two or three times a week; sometimes you’d miss a week, it was a bit of a lottery but by and large we would average probably easily a fire a week of one sort or another, but of course, the really big fires occurred at night time really because, particularly in mills, by the time it was obvious there was a fire, the thing had got hold and it was well alight so to be turned out to a mill fire at night could be a quite long job. But I’ll say this, Trevor Shepherd who ran the garage would realise of course that, well the job had to come first, but he’d realise you know that shortage of money was acute to a lot of people and he was good enough to let me go, but I never lost a minute of time daily work, even if I’d been out all night at a fire. I’ve gone home lots of times, had a wash and a shave, a bit of a bite to eat and gone down to work – I’ve done that many times.

    I’d like to go back again to your childhood really, about the kinds of games you played – did you play with your brothers and sisters or mates at school?

    No I didn’t actually, I was never enthusiastic at playing games apart from snakes and ladders and ludo and things like that. I never played cards – I never played cards no, but going back to that time…there was so much to do – playing in the woods, that was fantastic. There was always something to do, whether it was in a secret place where you could build a hut; to me that was real entertainment that was.

    Did you have a kind of fantasy life – did you imagine yourself as some character or a hero?

    No I didn’t actually, no – I hadn’t got any idol to salute really.

    What type of things did you do in the woods?

    Well, tree climbing, general exploration, playing round the mill dams which used to frighten the life out of my parents, and the mill races – there was all manner things in the woods that had been built to route the water down to the dams. Looking back, we wouldn’t be very old, I suppose they were dangerous really but I used to find that I was quite happy up the woods, I really was.

    Did you sing songs?

    No, I wasn’t in very good voice, neither am I today! [laughing]

    Can you describe what your house looked like when you were young?

    Downstairs was really one room, partitioned off for the little kitchen. All that we had in there was a gas ring that you could only put one pan on it, but the open fire was always going and so that was used for baking and preparation of food.

    Did you have a range?

    Yes, with all manner of things that you could swing over the fire and hooks to hang pans on and so on. I think they’d be worth a fortune these days with this retro look, and of course it was gas lighting…The room had two windows, quite well lit but very spartan. There was just a short partition by the door, otherwise from outside you were straight into the living room but all the work was done in there; a lowish roof with beams it was stone built then? yes it was stone built. It was an old farm building, much of it had been pulled down as I recall. At the end of building it was a bit castellated where you know…where the old parts had been taken away.

    So was Mytholm Hall a farm really, with a big hall and then cottages and barns attached, that sort of thing?

    Well this wasn’t a farm – I don’t know how far back we would be going when it was operated as a farm; there was certainly a barn there and we would play in there too but it was quite derelict really, the floor upstairs was quite rotten. If you were walking round you had to sort of choose where you walked and there was a hay loft as well, but it was pretty far gone really. Mytholm Hall was certainly in its hey day then, there was a farm down there by the Hall – now that was operated, well they would own it, Pickles’s would, but the farmer was a Mr Chapman, he was the farmer, an old traditional farmer with everything horse-drawn.

    Was that a dairy farm or a mixed farm?

    It was a dairy farm really, yes. His mowing meadows were where the playing field is now where Mytholm Hall used to be and where Bankfoot Garage was, where the new property is, that was a meadow – Mr Chapman’s meadow, I remember that quite well. He used to bring his cattle in after school up to the farm and I used to go with him a few times…but I do remember the old bridge at Mytholm, the old hump-back bridge.

    Oh really? They rebuilt it didn’t they?

    Yes.

    When did that happen then?

    Oh you’re taxing my brains now. It would be certainly in the early 1930’s but I couldn’t pin it down to a year.

    Because didn’t they remove the two end house of Adelaide Street?

    That’s right, they took two off, because round the other side on the Hebden Bridge side was the old Bankfoot Garage, a wooden structure.

    On the other side of the road opposite the old Bankfoot Garage then, were there houses along that side of the road, leading up to where the traffic lights are now?

    Oh yes…going from where the garage was and past Church Lane there was Crabtree’s Dye Works there; now was a row of houses there, you had to go down some steps. My brother had a friend who lived down there, there were about three houses I think down there. Now I can’t recall any more until we get to the top of Bridge Lanes; there used to be a row of houses, there was…it started with a shoe repairer, Mr Horsfall, he lived up Eaves; I used to go to school with his son, that’s where I used to get my half a bend of leather. Now the steps went up the back, up a higher elevation to Prospect Terrace; all that’s gone now but my parents did live up there at one time, but it was certainly before my day. Whether they would go there first, it is hard to say; all these are questions that should have been asked a long time ago. [laughing]

    Were there shops along Bridge Lane?

    There was a chip shop just short of the Fox and Goose and then going down Bridge Lanes immediately on the right was a newsagent’s, Fletcher’s – I used to take evening papers for him, then a bit further down was a sweet shop on the right-hand side and I cannot tell you the name, then on the other side of the road half-way down there was a greengrocer’s, that was Mr Hey had that and then as the level ran off and ended at the Buttress, there was a joiner’s shop on there- Cockroft’s, he was a funeral director as well. Now he lived very close to where you are now, he lived in a house on the right-hand side just before you went up the hill and then going down further still on the left-hand side…I can’t recall it but I have pictures of it, it was a pie shop, well you could have pie and peas there, before my day was this going down Bridge Lanes? Bridge Lanes on the left, that’s right, and then there was a general provisioner there which was my wife’s grandmother – Nancy Swain.

    Was that one of the ones that’s been knocked down?

    Oh yes, in fact the first property as you go down now, it abutted on to that. My wife thought a lot about Nancy Swain, they called her ‘Nancy Allsorts’ because she sold everything, but she’s a dear lady and my wife…you know, she thought a lot about her. Going down then, there was a chip shop next door – I think that was Haigh’s and then there was the Bull Inn which has now long gone but the building’s still there isn’t it? that’s right, yes.

    Did you used to frequent pubs?

    No, I was never a drinker, I was never a drinker.

    Because there were some pubs in all of those buildings on the left of Bridge Lanes prospect and High Street I believe it was called – weren’t there some pubs within that whole group of buildings?… I can never seem to find out – it’s curious really.

    [pause] I’ve heard talk of them back at the club…I’m sure you’re right, I’m sure you’re right, but….I’ve just heard tales but I’ve never heard a name or anything like that, so I’m not really sure myself.

    What do your children do?

    Well my children, they all did their schooling up here and then…they fled the nest. My daughter went to college in Stockport, she was a fabric designer, she’d quite a nice job, she lives in Manchester now and my son ended up in Cornwall where he is now but he has not enjoyed very good health for quite a while, but he did work for Curry’s for many years, Curry’s stores and enjoyed meeting people.

    Did they move away from Hebden because there was no work for them or were there other reasons?

    Well there wasn’t work in my daughter’s line, she would have to move to Manchester for that. You se when my first wife left me she ended up in Cornwall and my son, he was only young at the time, well my daughter was too, but he took it rather badly really and through a friend said ‘well we can probably find her’ you see and he knew the ropes and they did locate her down in Cornwall, so he went down quite early on in his teens. She did write to me, saying ‘I’m not taking him off you but I have let him down once and perhaps I can do a fair bit for him now’ and he seemed to get on quite well down there but latterly he had very indifferent health and so he’s just made up fifty now, at the moment he isn’t working.

    Have you got any hobbies?

    Well, photography I suppose is the principal one.

    Are you digital these days?

    Both digital and conventional, yes.

    How would you compare the two?

    Well, I’m going through old photographs and some are pretty dreadful, including some that I have come by of old Hebden Bridge badly exposed and some have suffered the ravages of time and it’s just incredible how you can salvage them in the digital world, and so it’s sort of given me a new lease of life since I lost my wife. I perhaps spend too much time with the computer you know, but it’s all to a practical end really because a lot of the photographs that I’ve got now…well when I say they’re quite good, I don’t mean that I’m good at doing it, but they’re infinitely better than what I started with. You know, old photographs – you can’t repair damage but you can lighten them up, give them more contrast bring them to life you know, and I enjoy doing that.

    Do you exhibit your work?

    We do have competitions down at our club between ourselves, we compete for various cups and the photography shield but we do compete several times a year with clubs around and about, we call them ‘battles’ – I think that’s the traditional language – having a battle with whatever – Rochdale, Todmorden, Halifax….we don’t go too far afield.

    What are your favourite subjects?

    Well…I’ll have a go at anything really, I’m interested in anything to sort of test my skills, I mean a lot are very difficult, like portraiture for instance – you’ve a subject in the corner of the room but to get something with really good lighting is very difficult, but landscape mainly I enjoy doing.

    I’d actually like to carry on talking, but we’re coming up to an hour now, the tape will start to finish soon so I’d like to finish off by just saying is there anything else that you’d like to talk about or mention that I have not asked you about?

    Well there isn’t anything of significance – I did mention when I saw you last week that somewhere I do have a list of all the shops there were during the war and I know I’ve got it and I’ve looked for it – I will find it. You see my wife had a life-long friend, Edna Crowther, who you probably hear of or know. Edna was quite formidable, she was really, but a lovely lady – babysitter to all Marian’s children when they were small, and between them, if you could talk to them now, that would be quite something.

    The last thing is – what do you think about what we’ve just done – how has it made you feel?

    Well it’s like turning the pages over again, it’s nice to be prompted and having something significant to talk about because it’s hard just ad-lib to pull things out which would give a continuous flow of interest. I think it’s quite excellent really because it does prompt you and you can go over it in fine detail really. I’m sorry I can’t give you more information about Hebden Bridge in my younger days.

    Well it’s not necessarily about that – it’s about people’s lives what I’m interested in, and part of that is the place they live and how it’s changed, mainly about how they’ve lived, and the things that they’ve experienced can then be shared with other people, younger people so that people get to understand a bit more about life really, and that’s how I see it.

    Do you think it’s important that these sort of things should be shared?

    I do indeed, we do live in a fast changing world and as we get older – even now in my generation – gosh, if I’d got these questions in my head when my parents were alive – but that’s an ongoing thing really because so much is lost and I don’t know whether the younger end are the same as I was really, that they’ll be asking the questions when it’s all too late and I do think it’s important that we keep a weather eye on things how they used to be, however can you measure the changing scene? How things were and then what your expectancy is, and then I’m not sure about that, about the expectancy of things really. We make the best of what we can…maybe it’s because of my age, but there doesn’t seem to be any order in things you know.

    Is that in general you’re speaking?

    I do yes, I do. My life and my early experiences were in a little enclave in Hebden Bridge you know, the outside world was certainly there alright but I think we’d enough in every respect, in entertainment and everything else – work, school, all in our little enclave really. Whereas now you tend to think that it’s enormous really, where do we fit in?

    Do you think maybe that’s one of the reasons why the young don’t fit in – because they don’t know how to fit in, because society doesn’t allow them?

    Yes, I think they set their sights too high – there’s nothing wrong in that but if you want to enjoy that sort of a scenario…it’s all hard work and it’s identifying at that age that that effort needs to go in to achieve. Anything is possible but you need to be put on the right track don’t you in early days and to be given that sense of urgency, it is really because times goes so quickly; if you don’t find a niche in life, it will leave you by.

    If you don’t mind, could you fill those forms in if you’re in agreement – I did explain earlier – and I’ll just deal with this camera

    [END OF TRACK 1]

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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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