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  • Interviews and Storytelling: Peter Thomas

    [TRACK 1]

    First question is…

    PETER: is the video on? Yes. Right, sorry – you’ll be able to edit that? Oh yeh, yeh we edit it all out, yeh.

    What’s your full name, and where and when were you born?

    Right – Peter Thomas, I was born on the 8th of September 1941 in Halifax, Halifax General but I lived at Fairfield, Palace House Road, Fairfield on the little council estate as was then; there’s a much bigger one now on to the station, but then there were only about…sixteen houses I think then up Fairfield, sixteen council houses.

    Which number were you at?

    Number eighteen.

    Is that where your parents lived?

    That’s right.

    What did your parents do?

    Well, my father had always sort of been in textiles, in a labouring capacity. Sometimes he wasn’t in work because times were hard in the textiles industry after the war and between the wars I suppose. Sometimes he was on something called short time so his income was fairly irregular as I remember but there were times…I don’t ever remember him being completely out of work, but he moved around and sometimes he was on short time.

    There were four children in our house although there was quite a big gap between them and I was the youngest, so I suppose when I was born things were a bit better… Me sister had left home, me brother had gone to Canada, me other brother was working so I wouldn’t say times were really hard.
    Me mother had always been a housewife went out and did a bit of canteen work; she was a schools dinner lady, this sort of thing you know – part-time work to fit in with the school hours.

    Were they from Hebden Bridge originally?

    Well me mother was from Todmorden but my father’s family as far back as I can go were from Heptonstall, so very local.

    When you were young then, what kind of things did you do, what games did you play – what did you do?

    Well we were out all the time, whenever we could get out were out; playing out was just part of life you know, you never thought of staying in, even dark nights you’d be out with the lads, and we played football on the road because…and at night we played… the gas lamps would just about cast enough light just about to let us to play, and we played cricket a heck of a lot – all summer we played cricket, right through the summer holidays, and you could play then without any problem about traffic. We even had a set of stumps that went up on a stand and in an afternoon I guess we wouldn’t move those stumps more than about twice, and it was great – I mean you had to watch out for the gardens and the windows, but it was great. Then there were other games that we played – there was one called…well we played conkers and things like that, and marbles and we had a game called ‘Catty’…and it has other names so I don’t know if you’re aware of I don’t know what that is what game I’m alluding to. Well there was…we drew a circle in the dirt and we had a sharpened little stick about six inches long, and it was sharp at both ends, and you had to try and throw it into the circle and then…I’m not quite sure how it worked but if it landed in the circle or on the line you could bang…you had a big stick, bang the end of the little stick which shot up in the air and you whacked it, and then you had to guess how many paces your opponent could get from where the catty had landed to the circle – you had to guess how many paces it would take him. If he could do it he got the points, if he couldn’t you got the points. That gives you a rough idea of it – it was some sort of game like that. Then we had cigarette cards, there were plenty of cigarette cards about, where we played just dropping them and whoever dropped their card on the others, they took the lot you know. Indoors we played Monopoly a lot when it was raining and…one or two other board games – I can only ever remember Monopoly, and we had a little game called ‘Howzat’ – that was a cricket game with two metal rollers and you could invent your teams you know – Fairfield versus an All Word Eleven, and you rolled the roller and the runs came up and sometimes it was Howzat and you rolled the other one, it was maybe not out or lbw or bowled – I don’t know if you’ve come across that. I’ve not seen that, no. And we trainspotted, we were quite keen on trainspotting as well because the bridge went down from Fairfield over the railway line – oh, we just played in the woods – cowboys and indians; whatever picture we’d been to at the ‘flea pit’ there, it would influence us for the next few weeks so it might be Beau Geste or it might be the French Foreign Legion for a week or two, or it could be cowboys and Indians, or it could be Errol Flynn capturing Burma single-handed – you know it was…you look back on it very fondly really, but…we did play out, we did get a lot out of each other’s company…and the adult world seemed very much different to ours, one we would get to eventually, but they seemed to have not much…I wouldn’t say they didn’t have control over us, but they didn’t try to influence us unduly– we played our own games and that was that; they didn’t try and channel us into something more educational or improving, they just wanted to get us out of the house basically, so yeh, they didn’t interfere, we lived in very much our own world and we enjoyed it. As I remember, it was fairly…it was quite a tough world really because we were in gangs and there was quite a lot of gang fighting went on, but it wasn’t really so violent, it was all pretty much ritualistic gesturing and shouting and throwing a few stones you know.

    Who was the main rival gang Fairfield?

    Well, we were called the Top Road Gang up Fairfield, that was basically the council house kids, then we had little bits of squabbles with the Bottom Road Gang – they lived in the terraces at right angles to ours but they lived basically…they owned their own property, their parents, so they were a little bit on a scale above us, then at the far end of Fairfield was two quite wealthy families called Sutcliffes; one owned Lumbs factory and the other Sutcliffes owned the wood shop, F & H Sutcliffes – now they were really not in our sphere really, but occasionally we clashed with them as well, so – yeh, it was a constant battle for territory and kudos and prestige you know, but it was good really – it was enjoyable.

    Did you have toys as well?

    Yeh we did…I don’t really remember having many toys to be honest, I remember having maybe two or three Dinky toys…I mean I did have quite a lot of books because I liked books, and I always got books as Christmas presents and birthday presents, usually annuals like Knockout Annual….or Film Fun or Kit Carson Annual, things like that, but toys as such…not really – it’s hard to think, I mean you might think that roller game, Howzat was a sort of a toy…marbles I suppose, Dinky toys, cigarette cards…not a lot of toys as such I don’t think. One or two of us had little sort of scooters, you know…and one lad had a three-wheeler bike which was the ultimate in luxury in those days, you know! As we got older we all got bikes of sorts, proper bikes you know, but at a younger age, that was about the limit of our toys really.

    What school did you go to?

    Well I went first of all to Central Street until I was…right from the infants through to when I was eleven and then I went to Calder High School. Now at that time Calder High hadn’t been open long and we used what had been the old Hebden Bridge Grammar School as a first year annex which gave us a gentle introduction to Calder High, so we spent our first year at Calder High in what is now Riverside then we went up to Mytholmroyd.

    Can you remember any of your teachers?

    I can remember all my teachers I think, I think so [laughing], well virtually all of them, yes; they were all right, I mean…when I say that, I’ve a feeling that some of them were there because they wanted to sample what a comprehensive school was like, because it was possibly the first in the West Riding, it was certainly one of the earliest in the country and I think some teachers thought this was the way forward, and I think they just came to see what it was like, ‘cos many of the teachers seemed to come from away and to have come from quite a long distance, I thought so anyway, I mean…not many of my contemporaries went on to be teachers and I didn’t know many teachers from the locality anyway, so perhaps that explains it, but, yeh – they were alright generally, I mean…it was streamed then was Calder High, so as a comprehensive school it wasn’t quite as comprehensive schools became later; all the kids went there, that’s for sure; they didn’t go to a secondary school or grammar school, although there were grammar schools still open at Sowerby Bridge and Todmorden but it was quite rigidly streamed from within, so it wasn’t quite as they became later.

    Some of the teachers were pretty…hard-going I must say in what way? Well…well, just fairly…it was very very strict you know and they were very impatient, and quite intolerant of any inability to grasp what they were trying to teach. If it was academic work I was okay, but my big weakness was things like woodwork and metalwork… I used to dread those lessons and those teachers thought were fairly hard, but when I had time to reflect I used to think well this is what the kids who are not academic had the whole time apart from the practical lessons you know, they must have had a tough time at school if they couldn’t learn very well and they had these people who sometimes wanted to know it into them you know, so I thought well you get a taste there of what school is like for some kids nearly all the time, you know.

    Was that quite different then to the to…up until eleven, the teachers from when you first when to when you were eleven?

    [pause] No, it was…they were fairly strict regimes, but then kids were more amenable to discipline then really. Even kids from fairly tough backgrounds sort of accepted the authority of teachers more readily than they do today, so it seemed strict, but from many points, in many ways I think the teachers had an easier time then, as I say we were more ready to accept authority, either parental authority or teachers’ authority or whatever, so no – they were fairly strict at junior school and in fact at infant’s school – deary me, Miss Dorren at infant schools, I don’t know if you’ve come across her name before but she was an absolute terror Miss Dorren you know, the slightest infringement – we were only children, we were only like four, five and six – she’d give you a good slapping; she’d roll her sleeves up and bang away at your arms till they were …till they were numb! [laughing]. So yeh…they didn’t mind giving you the odd clip round the earhole in those days which of course is impossible today. I can’t say it didn’t do me any harm – it might have done me a lot of harm, but anyway it was administered, whatever you know.

    The house at Fairfield, what was it like? How many rooms did it have…

    Well it was a council house and I suppose – you see, my parents moved there from… in the 1930s I believe, and they came from the Bridge Lanes High School area, High Street Area, they came from a place called Solomon – I’ll get this right – they came from a place Pleasant View which rejoiced under the nickname of Solomon’s Arse; they were houses just above where the Fox and Goose is now. Now the big slum clearance in that area was the 1960s but they were also clearing slums in the 1930s above the Fox and Goose, Pleasant View being one of them, and quite a few families in our little council estate came from Pleasant View and I guess compared with what they had, it was luxury really. It had a nice big front garden, a nice big back garden, an inside toilet, a bathroom; they’d none of that where they came from. It had two largish bedrooms and a small bedroom, kitchen, living room – just about big enough for a family of six as we were to begin with, and I think they must have thought it was fine really, and I grew up there so I thought it was fine as well you know.

    When you finished Calder High then, what did you do?

    Well I stayed on into the sixth form and I got a place at university because I was quite academic really, and I went off to do history at University, at Sheffield. You got your degree there? I did, and then I came and…I didn’t really know what to do and so I drifted into teaching and I taught at a place called Ostler School, Halifax for a year as an unqualified graduate; you didn’t need a teaching diploma to teach then. The government or someone suffered under the curious misapprehension that if you had a degree you could teach, you know – you knew enough to teach, well there’s more to teaching than that really and I guess I was a bit of a disaster really, because the inspector said ‘you will be okay eventually but you must go away and actually learn how to teach. You’ve got the knowledge but you don’t know how to impart it.’ So I went back to Sheffield and got a diploma there at the training college there – went back for another year – and then I came back and I got a job at Hipperholme Grammar School which was bliss compared with the school I’d been at, at Ostler Secondary School, and then I went on to Brighouse High School and I took early retirement and did some part-time work at Greenhead Sixth Form College at Huddersfield, and now I’ve retired – so there we are, that’s it in a nutshell.

    Can you remember then, that first job in Halifax – how much did you get paid?

    I remember my first wage slip for a month was sixty pounds, that would have been what – early sixties? that was in 1964. It didn’t seem a lot then and it doesn’t look a lot now, does it! [laughing] but it was okay, but it was rather a low paid profession really was teaching then I think., relative to professionals anyway, and I think it’s remained so relative to professionals like law and accountancy, but it was…yeh, it was a wage, I mean I’d always up to that point had a student’s grant so it didn’t feel too bad.

    Did you get married in those years?

    I got married in 1967 yeh, and I got divorced in 1979, and re-married a few years later.

    Did you have any children then?

    Yeh, four daughters from my first marriage who are all…well they’re all in their twenties…well they’re all in their thirties now and living in Leeds and Halifax.

    So none of those stayed in Hebden Bridge?

    …They didn’t do, no – that wasn’t necessarily a conscious decision, it wasn’t ‘we don’t want to stay in Hebden Bridge’ it just fell that way; they met people that lived elsewhere and moved out you know, but now, they would have a job to buy a house in Hebden Bridge now I must say.

    So this house you live in now, when did you move here?

    1970 I think it was.

    Out of curiosity, how much was it in those days?

    In those days a house shall we say like this was £2500 – £3000, something like that – again, you’ve got to set it in the context of the time. It seemed enough at the time, in fact me first house was at Stephen Street up Birchcliffe and I gave £800 for that. For mortgage purposes it was only valued at £650 so when I moved to this and paid sort of over £2000 for it, I didn’t even tell me father what I’d paid for this house – I thought he’d play hell about it. He was very curious to know and I wouldn’t tell him – he’d have thought I was paying through the nose for a…’two thousand pounds for a house, lad – tha must be out of thee head lad!’ [laughing] I suppose I told him ultimately, but it looks daft now doesn’t it really?

    Did you do things on special days like Christmas or…I don’t suppose your had Wakes Week being a teacher?

    [pause[ Well the holidays usually began just about at Wakes Week. I remember Wakes Week very well from my younger days when the valley just seemed to close down during Wakes Weeks; it was strange really. In the valley when the mills were going there was a noise that you became unconscious of and it was the sort hum of the mills, and then when Wakes Week came when that stopped, you became conscious of the fact that it had been there, you know – boy, it was dead was Wakes Week – if you didn’t go away, it was absolutely dead. Most of the shops were closed you know.

    Did they do anything special?

    Not really – my only memories of sort of special days was when we…I went to Salem Church and Sunday School, albeit reluctantly – I had to go. We always had a big trip out on Whit Monday, the Whit Monday trip, and that took us…I don’t know where we went really – it seemed to me to be miles away – it might have been Morecambe or the Dales or something like that, and I’ll tell you one special day they used to have – the Co-op used to have…you know the Co-op was very big locally and it owned lots of property the Co-op, and it was quite a good institution for local people; my mother was always very anxious that we always gave our divvy number when we shopped at the Co-op at Bridge Lanes and we got this divvy, but they used to have this big day every year called a Co-op Gala Day and they used to hold that on Calder Holmes, and I always remember they used to have this multi-coloured striped flag striped horizontally with every colour of the rainbow on it really, I don’t know what that represented and everything was free you know, there was free refreshments and free sweets for the kids, and it was really a good day out.

    What else happened at that?

    Well they had races and they might have a band on or something like that, bits of sports and maybe entertainments.
    Another big day was the cattle show, or what they called the Agricultural Show. Now they held that at the Stubb fields for many years and then it came back to the park in Hebden Bridge – Calder Holmes where I think it began.

    When you say Stubb fields, what do you mean?

    Well do you know where Stubb is at Mytholmroyd – Stubb? Yes I know…. It’s a big open area of land –and there’s one big tree in the middle which they’re trying to desperately preserve. It’s sort of behind Nest Estate up towards the Erringden hillside and that piece of land seems to be protected now; they play football on it and things like that, and we used…we used it from Calder High as a playing field sometimes, and they used to have the cattle show there.

    I mean The Pace Egg Play was always on at Easter but I think that lapsed for a while; I think it was revived by Calder High in the 1950s.

    Did you used to go to watch that?

    I did at first, yeh.

    What did you think of that?

    Well it was okay – it was a bit of local tradition preserved, it was okay – I could sort of vaguely understand what was going on, you know.

    Then of course the big night – one of the big nights was what we called Plot Night – Bonfire Night. [Peter comes back to this after talking about Christmas].

    Christmas was okay, but I suppose by present day standards we didn’t get much, but you know we got more than we normally got through the year. It was alright Christmas, I wasn’t too keen on it because at my house it always seemed to be a time when all family rows came to the surface through the medium of drink, strong drink, and I can remember some really bad Christmases – more bad than good. [laughing] Home truths were rammed home at Christmas in no uncertain terms – throughout the year people were too busy to get at each other’s throats but at Christmas it seemed to happen, so I was never too keen on Christmas really.

    What did you do on Bonfire Night?

    Well we all really jealously built our own plots and jealously guarded them from other people trying to set fire to them, and we all strived…we strived very hard to have the biggest plot in the district up Fairfields. There was lots of timber around and we used to go down to what was called the Co-op Mill which is now…a car scrapyard down there, and we used to get what we called skips but I think the proper term for them was skeps and they were big broken – the ones they didn’t use for weft anymore ‘cos they were broken and they used to throw them out, and we got those, and Bonfire Night was…it was a great event, and again…no adult interference at all; one adult might come along to make sure we put the petrol on properly and lit it properly but that was about it then. We baked our own potatoes in the plot – black on the outside, raw on the inside, the parents might provide some plot toffee of something but then we were just allowed to let rip, and honestly – it was really dangerous when I think back! There were bangers flying about and jumping jacks being tied to people’s coats you know – jumping jacks; well people did get injured I suppose, but I’m just surprised more people didn’t get injured.

    What was a jumping jack – a type of firework?

    Yeh, it was a little…I suppose it was like a Chinese firecracker; it was shaped like a sort of a…if you imagine like a radiator – it was like that and there was a bit of firework in each bit of it and it just cracked and it jumped and it cracked again and it cracked and it cracked, so if you tied it to somebody’s coat and they were running along and this thing was cracking after them, it was quite good fun for those watching you know, but…oh God…

    Did you have a guy?

    Oh yeh, we made a guy.

    Did you used to go round collecting money for it?

    We used to go plot singing, yes.

    What songs did you sing?

    Well I can only remember one – we didn’t really offer much in the way of entertainment to people, I think they just gave us money to get rid of us!

    Guy guy guy,
    Poke him in the eye,
    Put him on a lamp-post
    And there let him die.

    Remember remember the fifth of November,
    Gunpowder treason and plot
    …….. Let us hope it’s never forgot – something like that!

    That was our repertoire and by that time they’d had enough and they gave us some money and away we went, and I suppose really we did buy fireworks with the money, we didn’t…I suppose that is squandering it really; we did use it for what we were supposed to do.

    There was also Mischief Night by the way I should say, which is what they call Trick or Treat now.

    So that was at the end of October?

    That was October 31st, yes.

    What did you do on Mischief Night?

    We just tormented people basically, we didn’t do it for any material gain, just to torment people and it was pretty awful really, but I can’t…you know, it was ‘knock and run’ really – knocking at doors and running away and then shouting out of the shadows, knocking over the odd dustbin; that’s what it amounted to really, but we weren’t mercenary, ‘cos they weren’t going to pay us to do this anyway, but…

    Did you do it to anybody, or was it to particular people?

    People who we thought we could get away with it [laughing] – we didn’t do it to anybody who we thought might chase us with intent, no, it were just messing about really.

    Oh – I keep thinking of things don’t I? We used to go mumming and I think was New Year’s Eve – now that was very strange; I don’t know how we got away with that really.

    What was it?

    Well we used to blacken up with soot from the fireplace and we used to go and we used to just simply like make this humming noise. [mmmm] and as I recall, we used to just simply walk into people’s houses and it was a ritual because we had a brush and shovel with us and we used to sweep the hearth – something about the Old Year and the New Year, now people accepted us – they must have been expected us. Maybe we knocked and walked in, but we tended to just walk in and someone would say ‘the mummers are here’ so that was a strange thing, but we did collect money then. We were I suppose thought to bring good luck you know, so it was sort of seeing out the…sweeping away the old year maybe and letting in the New Year. So yeh, we did have quite a number of little things that punctuated the year.

    Did you have to go on any of the…festivals or carnival days, did you do anything on those?

    Well there were always Harvest Festivals at Church, although I didn’t go to church for so many years…carnivals…I can’t….apart from the Co-op Gala one I can’t… or parades? I can’t remember much really, you see the Mytholmroyd Gala which I suppose is the major one didn’t revive, didn’t start until about 1960, or re-started, so apart from Co-op Gala Day – no, I can’t remember anything really in the way of carnivals.

    What was it…people used to come round with…people used to do maypole dancing but that really was not our scene at all, wasn’t maypole dancing.

    Who did that?

    I don’t know who it was, but they got a fairly hostile reception up Fairfield. I don’t know who it was, but I think it was some church that came up one May evening and put up this pole, then started cavorting about it; I’m sorry to say that the local kids just starting throwing stones at them – I don’t know why – maybe it was some insult to them…probably middle-class children coming dance round this maypole, they got a rough reception, so we didn’t do that and I only remember ever seeing it done this one when they came up Fairfield and quite wisely never came again!

    How old would you have been then?

    I suppose I was about ten or eleven.

    Can you remember any characters?

    All my friends’ fathers seemed to be characters in various ways, in their attitude to life. They seemed to have a ‘live for today’ attitude; that may be unfair in that they probably found it hard to save money but they had a laid-back attitude about money – ‘easy come, easy go’. I wouldn’t say that of my parents who tried to be quite thrifty, maybe it was because they’d seen one or two wars and thought life was uncertain anyway no matter what they did, but they seemed to have a laid-back attitude towards possessions and wealth.

    Oh gosh, I’m sure there were loads of characters really…I mean all my friend’s fathers seemed to be characters in various ways you know, but …

    When you say that, what do you mean – in the way they talked or the things they did…what was it that was unusual?

    Well I suppose it was their attitude to life really – it seemed to be….fairly….not much in the way of planning for the future, it was sort of a ‘live for today’ attitude really; that might be a bit unfair in that they probably found it hard to save money anyway, but they had a fairly…laid-back attitude about money being easy-come easy-go, now I wouldn’t say that particularly of my parents who tried be quite thrifty, but that attitude, I seemed to see that around me quite a lot really; whether it was because they’d either seen one war or two wars and thought life was fairly…uncertain anyway, no matter what they did but they seemed to have a fairly laid-back attitude towards material possessions really, and wealth.

    Can you remember any old sayings or Yorkshire dialect, that sort of thing?

    Well I can yeh, my father spoke in a dialect that would be probably almost incomprehensible today…They’d maybe look out of the window; in the absence of television they might listen to the radio and they might just look out of the window you see, and there were more people moving about all the time and my mother would say – this is strange is this – she’d say – oh God, what did she say now? ‘here’s Titty Fa Lol [this is correct spelling] coming down road’ – Titty Fa Lol for goodness’ sake – where on earth that came from I don’t know, now you knew that meant somebody who thought a little bit about themselves and dressed like a bit of a dandy….and there he goes, there’s San Fairy Ann’ [this is correct spelling] – meaning he doesn’t care what people think, now I think that was ‘sans fairez ans’ , I think that was from France and was brought back in the Great War – ‘it doesn’t matter’ so it became corrupted to ‘Sans Fairy Ann’ – that’s the way it sounded to me anyway, but I think it was ‘sans fairez ans’.

    ‘Brussen’ – ‘he’s brussen’ or ‘she’s brussen’ that meant…it could mean you’d eaten too much if you were brussen, but it also meant you were big-headed and swell-headed you know, so that was another phrase that we used to us, but me father would use phrases – I don’t know where he got ‘em – he’d called us ‘tuits’ – ‘you’re a tuit’ – I knew it meant an idiot of sorts you know, or…‘he’s a reet covey-head is yon.’ Now a covey-head meant a calf’s head which meant somebody who was immature basically – covey-head, so there were loads – then he’d say ‘I’m as dry as a kaisha’ – now to this day I’ve never been able to interpret that; I’ve asked people who know a bit about dialect what that…it might have been something made up ‘as dry as a kaisha’…‘Stop malarking’ – that’s messing about, you know ‘kids – stop malarking’ – there were loads of them. In a way, it needs preserving. Perhaps there are people that work preserving dialect, I don’t know, but – not that these words will ever likely come back into circulation again but, you know – they could do with preserving.

    Did you talk like that when you were young?

    Well no – no, you move on don’t you? We…I suppose in my father’s time they only heard the language that was spoken about them; their horizons were very limited, they didn’t go anywhere, they very rarely heard anyone speak from anywhere else. Now even in my time, you got radio coming in – you got a wider influence and then you got television coming in, and it…smoothes out the edges a little bit. I wouldn’t have talked like that to my contemporaries because they wouldn’t have understood me really if I’d started calling them covey-heads and….oh and he used to say people were inkypongs – I think he made that up actually, so it’s funny isn’t it really, so – yeh, but still had our accent I suppose and our strong vowels I think you know, but…if I meet someone now who is a local and there don’t seem to be many about, I would say ‘are yer allreet?’ ‘are ter allreet?’ because I know that they would understand that you know, and…but with people I know aren’t local I wouldn’t say that at all really I don’t think you see, so – so yeh, the dialect, the actual vocabulary of Yorkshire dialect was dieing I think when I was young, but obviously we’ve still got strong accents, local people.

    Can you remember any jokes, from either your parents or grandparents, or ones you’ve heard since?

    No [laughing] – I’m not good on jokes really, no., but I used to…me aunty used to come up…my mother’s family from Todmorden, the majority of them went to the USA in…1921, 1922 – something like that and there they went and there they stayed over in Connecticut and they’ve nearly all died off now, so there’s just my mother left ‘cos she stayed and married my father, and my sister who lived in Todmorden, and she used to go up on a Saturday afternoon and she’d bring me a penny, and my brother a penny, then eventually that became a comic – Dandy or a Beano, later on Wizard Adventure, and she’d sit and talk with me mother all afternoon about family history, family affairs and events, and I hadn’t the slightest bit of interest, and I just wish…even just to hear them talk – the language they used and the accent, ‘cos they had a slight…she had a very strong Todmorden accent, me Aunty Annie which is very very distinct from Hebden Bridge and so , yeh I wish I’d listened more – a) from the point of view of learning more about family history and b) just the language they used and the dialect they used.
    And I had…me mother had a cousin from Todmorden and she used to come up and she would say ‘yay’ and ‘nay’ – nay to things and yay instead of yes – there were all sorts of things like that – it’s all going now, and me grandmother wouldn’t say ‘she’ she’d say ‘uh’ and that was a term of contempt really: ‘uh’s a bad un’ – I don’t know how you’d spell it but that’s how she said it – ‘uh’s a bad un’ – ‘uh’s a wrang un is yon’ you know, instead of she, so yeh – but as I say, we would never ever have used language like that, so it evolves doesn’t it really, one way or the other?

    Do you think that comes from the ‘thee and thou’, that sort of speech?

    Yeh…I didn’t hear much of ‘thee’ and ‘thou’ – I always thought that was stronger when I met people from South Yorkshire, Barnsley – I always thought it was stronger down that way. Tha’s more like thee’s and thou’s really, but not the thou and not so much the thee really.

    Did you wear clogs when you were little?

    No, I never wore clogs, I’ve never worn them in me life. Lots of people did and one of my earliest memories is lying in bed in a morning, hearing the clogs going down Fairfield ‘cos between half past seven and eight o’clock a stream of people would be going down the road to work, and you could hear the clogs and hear the chatter, the same at five o’clock when they came back. My dad wore clogs and most people of his age wore clogs; I don’t even know if my older brothers and sisters wore clogs but I never wore them, and I didn’t know – I knew hardly anybody of my age that wore clogs.

    So it sort of died out after the war, did it?

    Well, it might have been that if we’d gone into weaving sheds and textile mills, clogs might have been the ideal wear for the work, I don’t know really – they seemed to be more of a working item of footwear.

    So when people went to work and came back, did they take them off when they got home?

    They did yeh, but they would just then be in their stocking feet then; they wouldn’t have the luxury of slippers or anything like that.

    Can you remember any big events that happened in your lifetime then?

    At that age? Yes.

    [pause] Well, I suppose I have a vague memory of the end of the war, but I’d only be about four then and I guess what I remember seeing is a Victory Parade on Market Street, and we were standing where the Co-op is now on that corner. That was then Melbourne Mill was that.

    Now after that, the next big event was undoubtedly the Coronation in 1953. It was a turning point really was that, because we all went to watch it on communal televisions, black and white flickering pictures and I think that ushered in the television age because it was such a fantastic thing; it was only a small and black and white television, but that’s all there was then, and somehow that seemed to sort of usher in a new era really in many ways; the Elizabethan age began and there was more money about. I don’t how it was generated all this money, but my the 1950’s – I mean there’d been a fair bit of austerity after the war; rationed continued you know until 1954, and then things began to get easier and there was more money about.

    After that, the next big event for me really was rock ‘n’ roll.

    Did you go to Nick’s café?

    Oh absolutely, yeh! As I say there was money about and there was such a thing as teenage fashion began – there’d never been any such thing as teenage fashion before, as distinct from adult fashion, teddy boys began…it was all really exciting then you know, linked with this very exciting music from across the Atlantic you know, which you know all about! I do actually, yes. Nicky’s café – yeh, it summed it all up, Nicky’s cafe.

    Did it have a juke box?

    It had a juke box, yeh – it was the only place that had a jukebox for miles around and it was all chromium and plastic, and full of steam and the espresso machine going and the juke box going, it had little bits of pin tables, and you went there because…you know, everybody would be there that you wanted to meet late on Friday night or Saturday night or whatever. Yeh, it was a big focal point Nicky’s café and everyone who was around then remembers Nicky’s – nowadays I suppose there are equivalents of Nicky’s all over the place, but then it was a breakthrough for the valley was Nicky’s cafe.

    Oh we were into motorbikes as well by the way, we’d gone into motorbikes at that age.

    Oh right – what did you have?

    I had an ex-Army Matchless which was…I gave twenty quid for. It had very very little speed and very little power but it was very noisy, so it sounded good! [laughing], and with a good following wind it would get up to about fifty miles an hour before the handlebars began to shake, but it fulfilled the quality of noise and bravado you know, so it was okay.

    Where did you ride it?

    Well, I did actually for a while go to university back and forth on it you know, but apart from that, we just knocked around on ‘em really, just..when I was a student I had a holiday job down at Harwood’s at Brearley; that was a blanket mill then, I remember I used to go down there on it but I didn’t use it so much really. I can’t remember doing more than just knocking round the locality and occasionally to Sheffield and back.

    Were there a lot of bikes around?

    Oh yeh, yeh – there was…that linked in with the rock ‘n’ roll and Nicky’s really to have a motorbike, but there were lots of much much better motorbikes than mine; people took motor biking much more seriously than I did and they had to have good machines, but they paid for them on credit and I would never…I would never do that. I didn’t have any sort of income to allow me to have credit or on the nod, or HP or whatever they called it you know, but my mates who were mainly working – they’d lots of money in their pocket and they could afford really good machines, so I didn’t try and compete really.

    How would you compare young people today then – do they have the same sort of values that you had during your teenage years, growing up years shall we say?

    I think so really, I mean your main value is to be accepted by your peer group really and whatever that takes, that’s your main value, is to be accepted an I think young people are just the same today in that respect. I can’t think we had any more values, I mean…that was it really, you lived…again in a sense I suppose we’re inheriting our parents’ ideas here – we lived for the moment and we didn’t think too much about the future, and as long as we had a coffee bar to go to, a motor bike and a girlfriend and our peer group thought we were okay, that was it really and I suppose young people are much the same today.

    Did you used to frequent pubs at all?

    Well yes, we did, yes, we started as soon as we could really. This was part of the working class culture we were brought up in, you know all our parents went to pubs – I don’t say they introduced us to going to pubs, but we were aware that they went to pubs, and we tried to get in as soon as we could into pubs, just for this bravado again, you know. I think probably the White Swan was one of the first places I managed to get in and have an under-age drink, but we wouldn’t be much under age, we’d only be maybe seventeen and of course it was eighteen when you could drink, and then pubs I’m afraid became quite a large part of our lives, it was…apart from the Nicky’s café thing it was, I suppose really the centre of our social lives, pubs.

    When I was younger, we did go to youth clubs a bit – there was a Calder Youth Club at Riverside called Calder Youth Club; we went there and we played table tennis, and they had a little disco there, and I was in the Scouts for a few years, that was okay – camping and hiking and stuff but as we got into our late teens the centre of our lives socially were pubs, and in pubs you could get your jukeboxes but also you could get entertainment, I mean you’d go down The Dusty Miller, they had a big singing room and there was always a band on and people standing up singing. The White Horse at Hebden Bridge which is no longer – do you know St George’s Square? I’ve seen photos of it yes it had a huge full-size snooker table and you couldn’t play snooker anywhere else unless you joined the Con Club or something, so you could go and play snooker there and have a drink – the White Horse had a band room as well, and juke boxes were getting into pubs as well, and we played cards a lot – we played Nine Card Don, which is a fairly mild gambling game, but we did occasionally play games like Three Card Brag and Shoot, Poker was too complicated for us so it was just Three Card Brag and Shoot, very simple games where you could lose a heck of a lot of money if you weren’t careful, but you could get into deep water there if you weren’t careful so I just – I did play but I kept a hold on that you know.

    So did you have a regular pub or did you…

    Yeh, well we did for a while – we started at the White Swan because we could get drinks there, then we started to go to the White Horse because there was more going on, there was a snooker table and then as I say the…band room, and we played cards in the White Horse as well; we played cards a bit in the Shoulder of Mutton…so those were our town centre pubs, later on…I did them all really, we went to The Albert later on when I was a bit older, if I just wanted a drink and a chat with friends I went to the Albert you know. Then occasionally we visited the hill top pubs just for a bit of variety. Pubs, pubs, pubs – that was it. I suppose after the…sometimes on a Saturday night at what was then the Co-op Hall there’d be an event on; somebody would come along – I remember George Melly came along once and Wee Willie Harris came along once, and they had a bar as well so we’d make sure we went to that, but we weren’t really interested in the dancing aspect – we weren’t interested in dancing, but we just went because it was a big social event you know, but there wasn’t really – there wasn’t really a lot going on from that point of view, so as when we were younger, we created our own entertainment in the pubs really.

    Did you ever go in the Fox and Goose?

    Not much, no, not much – it was just that little bit out of the way from the town centre and I always regarded it as an old person’s pub, the Fox and Goose. There were plenty on the way, plenty of pubs you could – you’d never reach the Fox and Goose, you’d get…out of Hebden Bridge there’s The Neptune, nothing much happened there really but the pubs have phases of fashionability and for a long time, for quite a long time, the Nep was quite fashionable for some reason, then half way up Bridge Lanes there was The Bull but there was nothing much going on there, so you might never reach the Fox and Goose really, but no – I’d no desire, it always seemed a really small pub as well, the Fox – my grandmother used to go there a lot though.

    Did she tell you about it?

    No, but the rest of the family told me about it!

    Like what?

    Well, she liked the Fox and Goose very much, my grandmother. This is on my father’s side; my grandfather was not a drinker at all but my grandmother quite liked the Fox and Goose, so when I go in I think I’m just keeping the family tradition really, going in the Fox and Goose you know, because they lived nearby you see – Pleasant View was right above the Fox and Goose so she was always nipping in there when she could, but they would take jugs of ale home from the Fox. I don’t know if there was such a thing as closing time then; well there wouldn’t be before the First World War anyway, that’s when licensing laws began; she’d take some ale home with her. Yeh, there were quite a lot of pubs – obviously more pubs than there are today.

    Did you know of any pubs that were in or along High Street, or all those buildings that were there at one time?

    Well they talked about them but there were not in my time, they talked about the pubs but…have you come across names of them?

    I was told that originally there was a Working Men’s Club in there.

    In where – the Fox and Goose?

    No, in or around the High Street area.

    I don’t know of that. I didn’t really know – I mean High Street was more or less..

    But there were pubs up Heptonstall Road I’m told as well.

    Yeh, again I wouldn’t know what they were or where they were.

    So you really weren’t a church-goer then either?

    No.

    Did you do the Sunday School?

    Reluctantly, yeh; it seemed to be a bit of a waste of a Sunday afternoon, but I went, but…I just feel that…I don’t know, maybe you’re going to talk about how the valley’s changed. Yes, yes. So I’ll leave that until you no – we’ll bring it up now.

    What are the major changes for you in Hebden Bridge?

    Well, clearly visually it’s much cleaner from the stone building point of view. There are many more trees about, absolutely many more woods about than there used to be – I guess it’s cleaner air and maybe some timber was guarded during the war as well, it’s a healthier place – I mean bronchial diseases were the curse of this valley, with the valley being damp naturally and the smoke hanging down the valleys, so visually it’s a better place to look at and it’s a healthier place.

    In a way it’s not the community it was but there are several sort of different communities in Hebden Bridge now; obviously so many people have come into the valley, now I don’t think that’s any bad thing really because it was a little textiles town which had had its day industrially; it’s become more tourist orientated now, but I think it had no other future, and I think the people who have come in have energised the place really, but you can hear almost every accent under the sun on the streets of Hebden Bridge now, apart from the Hebden Bridge accent, you know, but I’ll tell you what has happened that’s positive to me – I always felt that there was quite a strong class system in Hebden Bridge, and there was quite a hierarchy of classes – now there wouldn’t be a big land-owning class because there’s not much land of any use round Hebden Bridge, but there were a manufacturing class who were at the top of the scale and then it came down to the professionals and clericals classes and down to the working classes and so on. I felt that, when I look back, that was quite a strong system in Hebden Bridge and that you were often judged from your background – where you came from, who your parents were, who your grandparents were, and even at school I remember someone saying to me ‘your lot’s from neck end’ – now ‘neck end is the poor part of any sort of a chicken; ‘neck end was Bridge Lanes and High Street and yeh, you lived with that and you accepted it – we weren’t bothered; we knew we were fairly low down the social scale you know, but we knew also that these people on the ranks above us, they might look down on us but they were also actually quite frightened of us really, we were unpredictable, potentially dangerous people really, so what I’m trying to get to is and I don’t want to overdo it, but I feel very strongly that there was that system of the idea that who you were depended upon who your parents were and what they did and where you fitted in you know, but that’s gone entirely now – nobody in Hebden Bridge bothers what your background is, who you are, what your parents did, where you come from and I think that’s tremendously better and the atmosphere isn’t…it wasn’t an oppressive atmosphere but you thought in a way you know, well you should know your place in the hierarchy of Hebden Bridge whereas now it’s much better.

    Did you ever, along those lines, I mean a lot of people that I’ve talked to who are older than you, they seemed to move house a lot and it did seem to coincide with the fact that they became a little bit better off with every decade or so, they got a bit better off so they moved house – did you ever notice that sort of thing, about moving house?

    About other people? Yes. Well, I moved here when I was better off and could afford the mortgage and I suppose I could have moved on, but it’s quite a spacious house this and it’s quite a nice house and it’s in a very nice setting, so I didn’t want to move on but yeh, people did and they would want to move into – they wouldn’t want the older type of property either. They’d want newly built houses – bungalows mayb…houses with good showers and bathrooms fitting and central heating, yeh, but I mean I haven’t joined that particular bandwagon but I know people have done. On the other hand, a lot of people I knew just simply moved out really.

    Why was that do you think?

    Well when I was at Calder High School we were more or less told that if you got yourself a good education it was no good thinking you could get a decent job in the valley, that you’d have to move out and many people did; they went to college or university and they never came back. Now it’s changed hasn’t it, loads of professional people live in Hebden Bridge. They may not get the living here – they may commute so in fact lots of my contemporaries didn’t move up the house scale locally, they just went elsewhere; one or two have come back but for the most part they’ve gone and stayed away which explains the different composition of the community in Hebden Bridge.

    Do you know anything about Pickles and Browns, and that land just outside your window, how that changed and developed – do you know anything about that?

    Well when I came here in1970, I’m not sure the Pickles’ foundry was still there or not then, but then it moved into Brown’s and it was engineering then…and the dam at the bottom would have been used….I don’t know what it was used for, whether it was used just to provide water to the processing of whatever, I don’t think there was ever a water wheel there, but maybe….

    I think before Pickles it might have been…there was a very old building right at the back and I think it might have had a water wheel, but that sort of mill pond as is, I suppose you’d call it, was that used by Browns then?

    I couldn’t tell you, I couldn’t tell you. I never liked going into that wood because it didn’t go anywhere, and it just down to that dam and we just always told the kids ‘you must not go in that wood’ because of the dam. Now the ownership of that wood is a bit uncertain really, I always thought Pickles or Browns owned the wood and maybe they do, maybe they don’t – I don’t know, but something’s gonna happen down there soon isn’t it, from the point of view of building.

    Well, there are plans I believe but the plans have had to be changed because apparently underneath that big field there’s all sorts of underground passages and drains and all sorts and what they were going to do, they can’t build because of that.

    It would be a total swamp down there. If they broke those culverts building anything, it would be the end – in fact, we’ve joined the…when they ask for planning permission and put notices up, we’ve always written letter to the council saying that we thought it would be unsuitable because of the amount of water that runs down this hillside, and has to get out somehow.

    Just next door to your house really on that bend, there’s all sorts of stepways and gulleys, and what have you where all the water kind of flows and seems to come into one doesn’t it, so it seems to be quite…an ancient engineering works presumably for that mill pond and whatever was there at the very original. If that was damaged in some way, it would flood.

    It would and in fact these waterways are very successful, no matter what the thunderstorms are like, we never get water into the back of the houses; they find their way down through all the culverts and gulleys and water courses. Now they still would if any building went on, but what would happen lower down I don’t know; it could be a real mess. I think it would be, yes.

    Did you used to have any nicknames for various people?

    Well nicknames were again something that were more for the older generation – there was a reason for this actually I think in many respects. There are certain surnames that are very common, particularly Greenwood for example and Sutcliffe, and they often gave nicknames or what was called by-names to differentiate certain branches of Greenwoods. I mean my …near us there were some Greenwoods and my father always called them ‘Bushies’ – and he had a friend called Billy Greenwood, and he always called him Billy Bushy, I don’t know why, but another branch of Greenwoods were called ‘Wackies’ and there were other branches of Greenwoods I gather with other nicknames and then he would talk about, me dad would talk about someone called Bob o’ Dicks – I thought ‘who the hell’s Bob o’ Dicks? Now I worked that eventually, that Bob was the son of Dick somebody or other – ‘Bob of Dick’ you see, ‘Bob o’ Dicks’ and yeh there seemed to be more, I mean we apparently were called Mindies…supposedly because an ancestor of mine fought at the Battle of Minden in Europe, in 1750 something or other – that’s just one theory you know, so yeh, but they seemed to use nicknames for families quite a lot, and I always put it down to the fact that when this was more of a static community and there were a lot more people with similar surnames in the area, that they used them to differentiate different branches of families with the same surname, you know. There may have been other reasons as well; not everybody that had a nickname was a Greenwood or a Sutcliffe, but yeh they seemed to use them more then.

    I was going to ask you about shops on Fairfield – were there any shops at Fairfield?

    Yeh there were, there was one opposite our house, number eighteen – it’s now number eleven Palace House Road. There was a little general store there that she was called Mrs Crossley ran it. I remember Whittles bread being delivering there from Littleborough and yeh, she’d just provide you with the ordinary necessities of life – bread, jam, tinned stuff, sweets, you know – just a little general store.

    Was there a Co-op along there?

    There wasn’t a Co-op up on there, the Co-op we used …the nearest Co-op to us was up Bridge Lanes which I think – you know the junction with Stubbings Holme Road, I think it was just about somewhere there, somewhere there was the Co-op. the car park – I think that’s where it was. Was it? Well it might well have been – I’d heard it was a bit higher up than that, but it could have been the car park. But there was a host of little shops in Hebden Bridge. Holts obviously was there then, it must have always been there it seems to be the only one that’s never changed that’s right, but there might be like…further on what is now Bridge Gate there’d be Cumberland House that served cooked meats, then there was a little sweet shop – Dorothy Stephenson’s, I mean Lloyd – you’ll remember Lloyd – he was the one that knew all the shops very very well you know – Spencer’s Flower Shop was next to Holt’s, then Timothy White and Taylor the chemists where the bookies now is, the other side Blackburn’s ironmongers. The thing is, they never seemed to change – they seemed to be there for years. They changed a bit on Market Street but still there were some long established businesses on Market Street like Master’s butchers at the end, Dewhirsts, a place called Babyland that sold baby stuff you know, Jones’s newsagents. It seemed to be relevantly permanent features you know.

    [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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