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  • Interviews and Storytelling: Bryan Ashley

    Brian grew up on several farms with his family before becoming a weaver, which he still does amongst other things. He has a keen interest in Northern Soul and loves to dance and was a motorbike enthusiast until he had an accident recently, which means he now has taken up walking. He has adapted his skills to learn nearly every job in his works.

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  • Interviews and Storytelling: Steve Smith 2

     

    [TRACK 1]

    TONY WRIGHT:

    Right, so you were gonna

     

    STEVE SMITH:

    Well I was born in the valley. My mum was as I say, she worked in the fashion industry, she was in London. She was the oldest of a family of…what…..four girls, two boys and…..the war came and they got bombed. They were living at a place called East Ham and they evacuated the family and because she was the oldest, there were kids there and her father was in the Merchant Marines so he was away, so the mother came up with the kids, so to help out my mum packed in her career in fashion designing down there, and she was very good at it and she moved up to – they moved up to Brearley and they moved on to a farm in Brearley, the entire family, as evacuees, and my dad would come from Liverpool because as I say he was the youngest of the family and they were undertakers, so he got the bum jobs as he put it. He had to make coffins, put the upholstery in because he was an upholsterer as well, because you know you padded coffins and all this, so he learnt this, hated it and legged it from the business and joined the army, joined the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment, so obviously the war broke out, the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment was based in Halifax so he was in the area and my dad had a very eventful war actually, billeted in East Africa, prisoner of war camp, escaped from prisoner of war camp fought with the Poles

     

    TONY WRIGHT:

    Really?

     

    SS:

    Oh yeah. when Italy dropped out of the war a lot of these prisoners escaped from the prisoner of war camps that were there and they got back to their own lines. Now because he was an experienced soldier and wasn’t in such physically bad nick, I think he expected to be rushed back, but there was a big offensive going on and he got roped in because he was a professional soldier so he got….the Dukes were there, the Polish regiment, so that’s how he got to know a lot of Poles and he fought with them and their bravery was awesome, anyway that’s another story, but the war finished, he came back to Halifax and because he’d got bayoneted in the stomach and the likes, his professional career as a soldier had come to an end, you know, on medical grounds, they didn’t want him any more if you see what I mean. But during the war funnily enough they needed him but not any more, so he needed a job and his first job was a bus driver and my mother opened a little shop in Brearley making clothes for people. They’d bring pictures in and my mum would copy these pictures and make them the dresses, and so she had quite a thriving business and my dad was a bus conductor, he met her of course when she was on a bus. Now my dad was…how can I put it…a character. He was known as the singing bus conductor, so he used to sing to his passengers while he collected his fares and he used to sing, what was it now [singing] it was wonderful and so my mum fell for him. They got married and things changed a bit then because he was authoritarian. He moved from the buses to work as I say, when I was born as a ….on the railways, what was it, a locomotive…..coalman, fireman, fireman – locomotive fireman, shovelling coal in to the engine and he was based at Sowerby Bridge sheds but he didn’t want my mum working. He thought a woman’s place was bringing up children and she was pregnant so he made her get rid of the shop and that was the irony, because she was making more money than him, so she did work from home after that but was not allowed to go out – again quite authoritarian really, and that was the sort of atmosphere I grew up with on Banksfields. Big gap as I say between…eight years between me and Graham, six years between Graham and Sandra and he had two sons from a previous marriage. His wife had died of T.B. – quite common in them days, consumption I think it is you know, she’d died of T.B. I think this was one of the problems. He never kind of got over her. My mum’s problem was, and I didn’t realise that until very recently, my mother…was Jewish, don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned it, the family had changed their name to Young – y o u n g – as opposed to Jung as it was. They’d come across in the period of Bismarck’s unification of Germany a long time ago, the family, and she had been gong out with……a young man who was Jewish and a fighter pilot and had died in the early days of the war and she’d stayed in love with him, so there were two people coming together who weren’t really totally in love. It was a strange relationship; there was respect and we were treated and brought up immaculately; my mother never drank, my father rarely did, only when I was working with him actually and that was only one day a week, and never used to go out socialising, so there was always someone at home, the meals were there, it was a good environment to grow up in but it was a bit cold. We only realised that it was guaranteed that my mother was Jewish when my sister was diagnosed with diabetes and it’s genetically brought on, and when they tested her, they informed here that, you know, it’s genetic and it can only come from a certain….tribe would you call it in Jewish, people from another continent, …. The Ashanasi’s ….they were from East Europe, Lithuania/Poland area I believe, and it was a genetic strain that follows them through, so my brother who is very well off now, computers and the like, traced our history back, knew a little more about it. My mother never…..I thought it was strange when she got really upset when I brought something called….Arnold Wesker’s Trilogy, I don’t know if you’ve ever read it, and I think it’s called ‘Chicken Soup and Barley’ and it’s about Jews in the East End of London and I started getting into this and I started learning about Moseley and the black shirts where my mum had grown up. Now I didn’t realise at the time why she was so emotional about this, because she would be over the barricades I would imagine and the Jewish end of these wars that were going on – that’s just an aside – they just came to Calderdale from, you know, two different worlds, that was a strange one, a different family…..but very pleasant as I say. Mytholmroyd was a completely contained society, and I think from maps that you’ve looked at, you know, we had banks, butchers, everything you required down to bicycle, hairdressers, barbers, shoe repairers

     

    TW:

    There must have been about sixty or seventy different shops

     

    SS:

    Forty-four. Forty-four different shops in Mytholmroyd in 1966…forty-five I believe different employers all on site, everything as I said from chickens to chemicals, so there was a lot of work about. Engineering was big, very big actually, I mean it was a place of initiative. Calder High School was a very…well it was the first comprehensive school in West Yorkshire, so it was very forward looking in its attitude. The teachers were immaculate. I grew up with….they still wore gowns which is very strange to kids today. They used to be flying up and down corridors with big black flowing gowns like witches behind them you know, and the teachers, well even some of them must have been roasting and they were covered in chalk dust, it’s not dignified and they kept brushing themselves down

     

    TW:

    So they were good teachers?

     

    SS:

    There were people like Egland, the chemistry teacher there, yes very very good. I went on to do a degree in Chemistry to be honest, I mean he inspired me with another teacher called Rodney Collinge and he used to say ‘oxygen…you’ve got to realise how important oxygen is’ [drawling voice] I used to think ‘can’t he say oxygen like normal people’ and….they had Goldthorpe who was a local historian, he wrote quite a lot of books, very highly thought of and the Headmaster was….at the time would be…..Mr Muschamp….it would be Mushchamp I think….he was a blue and I believe it was Oxford, and an awesome man. He took me for something called General Studies once and were studying Kepler and the numbers and you know, and that got me into astronomy so I did a degree in that as well, you know, I had to learn about this….education’s probably been

     

    TW:

    So even though you didn’t really like school at the time

     

    SS:

    Hated it.

     

    TW:

    Since then you came to appreciate what it was it’s had a big effect in a way hasn’t it?

     

    SS:

    It’s been awesome, education’s been awesome. I think I’ve got about eight higher education degrees of different levels, different types and I did a cert Ed, P Ed, what’s it called….Child Psychology, Batchelor of Arts, Batchelor of Science, Chemistry, MSc Chemistry, Physics, Astro Physics was the last full degree, no the last full degree I did was Mathematics and Oceanography so that was just finished when I was fifty-eight, so

     

    TW:

    It’s a PhD is it?

     

    SS:

    No that was just an accumulation…that was nothing to do with that one; no I’ve just got the degree, this was a BSc Honours in Mathematics and Oceanography, so I’ve got that one to add to it as well. That’s the last one, called it a day now. I’m now reading History for entertainment value. But I mean there was all sorts round here. I played football for Calder 76 and Hebden Bridge, used to have a football team Hebden Bridge once upon a time, quite a good football team for a while. I played centre half for them for quite a number of years and never put too much into it because I drank too much, but that was part of…that was something that was……something that was part of the valley culture….pubs. My dad, when I worked with my dad at Ratcliffe’s, Thursday we got paid, little brown envelope and cash inside, you know, every Thursday, so on the way home we’d go to somewhere called The Royal Oak in Mytholmroyd, it’s shut down now, and there was an ex-policeman there, a big lad called George, he’d retired from the police force and my dad took me in there, I was fifteen, and he said to George ‘t’lad works, he can have a drink. He’s allowed three pints maximum George. If he asks for a fourth, give him a kick’ and he hit him out of t’door, so I thought ‘well he won’t do that’ – he did actually! I got pushy one day you know, I says ‘can I have another beer?’ he said ‘that’ll be your fourth won’t it?’ I said ‘yeah George it will’…scruff of t’neck, chucked straight out in t’street! I thought ‘cheers George’ I remember my dad having a word with me the next day…’George has got in touch with me and said you tried to overdo it lad’….but that was fifteen. The drink culture was huge in this valley, so you’d drink on Friday nights and go to discos, like The Dusty Miller in Mytholmroyd or The White Lion believe it or not in Hebden Bridge, it was rough as God knows what was The Lion at that time, it really was rough, and they used to go upstairs – lots of fights as well. That was part of the Friday and Saturday night out scene. Carlton Ballroom Hebden Bridge, I don’t know if you’ve heard of it, a few lads I knew well and played darts with – Danny Gilfillen and Bobby Harris, ‘whippet,’ we used to call him; violent, violent nights there. They were bouncers, trying to keep order, although they knocked around more people I think than the customers, you know, the customers fought amongst themselves and the bouncers liked to kick, you know, a few bums, so it was a drink-orientated culture with football and rugby; rugby league as well in this valley at the time, there was a Mytholmroyd Rugby League team and they played on Burnley Road playing fields. There was a rugby club when I was a kid there, so when we played football at Burnley Road we used to have to put a string, because rugby posts are higher, so you have to put a string across the cross bar you know, then there used to be arguments over if it went over t’string or behind the thing, you know, but there was a pub as well at that time in Hawksclough……by the lock, there was two monkeys there for a while, carved out, do you remember them? That somebody had done with a chain saw and they got stolen

     

    TW:

    One got stolen – there’s still one there.

     

    SS:

    Yeah, that used to be a pub there

     

    TW:

    What was that called?

     

    SS:

    I can’t remember, I was young then, I was still at Burnley Road. I got to know a lot of the play for England, Peter Sutcliffe he was called, he’s retired lads who played rugby, rugby league, that was my field, and one of them actually went on to now, I quite liked Peter, but that was the culture. You’d Friday night out, drinking, get up early usually with a lousy hangover, wander down to t’Dusty Miller, you see, meeting in pubs again and it wasn’t unknown for them to knock a few pints back before the match, on to the Stubb playing fields and we used to change at that time at Calder High School and I don’t know if you know where the Stubb playing field is, so you had to run through Mytholmroyd in your football kit, so you’d have to – well you’d got a half a mile run in your football kit to play your game, get covered in mud and then you’d run back to Calder High School for your showers, then down to the Dusty Miller drinking again. Match of the day on telly, drinking, Sunday – you’d have a Sunday match. They were works teams then mainly and pub teams. The Miller had a team, the Shoulder had a team, this sort of thing, but again, all drink culture. There was very little else happening in the male society around here, so a lot of people did get hooked on alcohol. A lot of my friends, a lot of people I grew up with, died of alcohol related diseases, there’s no doubt about that, and added to that, the other great curse of the valley which tends to be rheumatism and chest complaints. One of the textiles are in the valley – nice, damp, wet weather. You didn’t need to humidify the weaving sheds because it was already damp enough was the air. Well it knocked the living daylights out of people’s chests and other things, and joints, from kneeling on…well the reckon a lot of tacklers suffered from it – rheumatism from kneeling on concrete floors, stone flag floors. Nobody every bothered using mats or owt, so you’d be kneeling there for hours on end and eventually your joints went, for a lot of people. It wasn’t healthy and I remember the canal at that time was a rubbish tip, sort of. People…nothing moved. Everybody…..Ratcliffe’s had decided they wanted a….what’s it called now……a warehouse but they didn’t have any room on their side of the canal, so all they did was build it on the other side and put like a bailiff bridge across, I mean it was only six inches above the water so nothing could go past, ever, not even the ducks – they had to get out and go round, what ducks there were – very few and most of them were freaky because it was all covered in petrol and tyres and God knows what else, and most of it was filled in; the reed beds had spread right across and the little streams coming down the valleys of course had built out all the dips and sediment deposits in the canal, so most of it you could walk across it whenever you wanted to. The water always had to move because it has to in a canal, so there was a little stream about that wide and deep but you could jump across that to get to a sand bank, but people pushed the walls in as well on the bridges, so there’d be piles of stone in the canal itself. It was in a pretty bad state and the river was….well it stank, I mean it’s funny but most people think after a big flood you’d get a disgusting smell in the valley but it was the other way round around here. All the waster that had accumulated from the mills and factories was washed away during the flood and we sort of had this clear….for a while it looked quite civilised until it all accumulated, you know, the dyes and sort of, when the river was a bit higher and then it would get marooned and stuck, sort of pink and blue plants and things like that that you know, it was quite disgusting, and the smell was revolting at times. There was no wildlife. As I grew up I never saw a single squirrel when I was a kid. Apparently when Ted Hughes was here there was, I mean he said that there were foxes and things around but I never came across anything like that. Birds were limited to the speckly ones…..starlings and the little plain ones….sparrows, that was about it really. We had the odd robin and that was usually a great occasion – ‘oh look, a robin’s survived the pollution!’ You’ve got to bear in mind that we had coal fires, the mills had coal fires and Moderna had….oh, huge furnaces and they were initially coal fired when I was a kid because I used to help move the coal in to the bunkers. I got paid, I think it was two and six for helping them shovel it off the road because it was…the used a lot of coal, they used to bring it down in coal sacks and tip it and it used to fall out on to the road there but the road was….canal, wall, road, and then up again you’d get Moderna, the wall… just enough room for a wagon so there was no tipping or owt like that and they’d tip it all down and then it had to be shovelled in to place and that’s what I used to do, I used to do that when I was a kid, I used to shovel it around, so I mean….fogs….oh God, you know, common, very common, especially with the temperature inversion of the valleys, you know, the cold air sinking down and this sort of thing and it would trap it, so it was choking at times, you know, that was when I was growing up at Burnley Road School; it was unhealthy…..as I say, it did sort of improve

     

    TW:

    So there’s been a big change then from when you were growing up and all of that that you’re on about, it’s all changed now hasn’t it, it’s quite

     

    SS:

    Oh the social system is phenomenal, I mean from self-contained, everything you want, total employment village, but on its downside, it was dirty, unhealthy, and……a lot of the houses had as I say had outside toilets and the likes…..there was a lot of back to backs at that time, so there was upsides on it and downsides, and what’s happened since of course is all the banks and things have disappeared, but the shops have disappeared and you can see Mytholmroyd’s like a ghost town. The employment’s gone but the environment’s improved vastly, but don’t get me wrong, the shape of the valley’s always been beautiful and the trees tended to mask the pollution so you could always look down the valley and thing ‘wow isn’t it gorgeous’ or you could walk on the moors because they’re so close aren’t they, they’re on your doorstep, and the pollution never got up there, but the problem was when you were up there Lord Savile took great offence to you being up there and tended to try and shoot you so there was no open….you know, it was open season on the peasants in the valley that went up there. The only time you got the chance was when you went up grouse beating but even then it was pretty dodgy, you could get shot. He wasn’t too fussy about hitting the odd beater you know sort of thing, but they all met in Hebden Bridge you see down in the bottoms, free beer and all that and you went up with a stick beating all the heathers and that short of thing, so we all had a go at that, and….the farms were all farms as well. I worked on Jack Ogden’s farm for quite a while, you know, Jack himself I don’t think did much work on the farm. He had three kids that did most of it for him you know, we were twelve, thirteen, fourteen at the time, I think twelve thirteen really and we used to milk the cows; bring them in to something called a mistle and tie them up and wash their udders, supposed to be sterile but we just used water, and sling on the old extractors, the milking gear, in to churns and this sort of thing, drag it in to t’milk parlour, cool it all, bottle it and put it in to crates, and Jack used to deliver it the next morning if he was sober enough, you know, and that was it. We used to chase, you know, sheep and all that sort of thing, round up the sheep and the other thing was, what we were all fascinated by, was….when we’d rounded them up we used to…some of the male sheep were castrated, so they used to tip them upside down and put a rubber band round their testicles and the rubber band contracted, and eventually just chopped them off, so we used to go round the fields trying to find sheep’s testicles – never actually managed it, you know [laughter]

     

    TW:

    Well if you’d found one, what would you have done with it?

     

    SS:

    Oh God, collector’s item that, it would have gone to school, you know, it would have been a big talking point at Calder High would that; it would have been passed around…’oh a sheep’s testicle…’ for ages we thought Jack was taking the monkey’s, you know, he’d capture a sheep and show us and…’oh they don’t have any’….. Derek Curle’s theory was that they ate them, I thought that was rather gross, you know, ‘oh that’s nice, I’ll have that’ anyway, maybe just the odd one. Anyway you got out there. We used to have another, when we got a bit older…..some milk was taken away to be pasteurised and then it would be re-delivered bottled and with the empty churns but they would also bring orange juice, because orange juice was in bottles as well, you know, pints and half ones – gills, and they used to put them on these…..down the road…the wagons used to drop them at the end of the drive of the farm, so we used to go when we were sixteen, we used to go milk drinking and orange juice drinking expeditions, we’d take a farm on, you know, take half a dozen bottles each and then go and sit in t’fields to drink ice cold milk and the likes, you know, orange juice…yeah, we were thieves! We got collared – that was the naughty one, it wasn’t a good one, I was sixteen at the time I think, and……he collared me for that and he also realised we had a money-making scheme. The lights on Banksfield Estate and the other estates, they used to go off at half past ten at night, they didn’t stay on all night and the bulbs were bayonet fitted and so we had a money-making scheme, me and a lad called David Spruce and he was also into stealing the milk from…wherever it were, and we went up and climbed up all these concrete lamp posts, unscrew them and throw them down and collect them, we were collecting all the bulbs, we were gonna sell them and suddenly become rich you see, anyway somebody had reported us so the police had been watching us, so they waited until we’d done most of Banksfield Estate, you know, they collared us with the bag and said ‘right, now, it’s easy isn’t it? You can shin back up and put them all bloody well back’ and I said ‘how?’ he said ‘well figure that out yourself – you took ‘em out’. We’d to go up, shinning up with one in your mouth – oh it rubbed you raw, and then he said ‘I’m not booking you’ he says ‘I don’t want you doing it again’ he says ‘I’m just gonna mention it to your dad’ and I said ‘no please book me instead’ so we were red raw, me and Sprucy, and we had to…his dad was a tax inspector and we got a beating, and I mean a good bloody beating. Physical violence was part of the growing up experience, especially if you were a thief, and I was one of them, and also he said ‘we’ll throw in the milk’ and I thought ‘how does he know about that?’ but he knew about the milk and orange juice as well, so we confessed to that and then we had to go to the farm and confess and that’s how I got my job later on, and this was a job when I was older, and I was doing dry stone walling with an Irish man – Irish John he was called, bloody good at it as well, very strange man, very Irish, lived in a house up Midgley Road with no electricity or gas and he used to get his water from a trough outside – hard man – anyway I went up to confess to Jack Ogden for stealing his….and that was part of the deal so I went up, me and a lad called Alan Howard and he says ‘right’ he says ‘you owe me a bit then’ I says ‘we’ve no money’ he says ‘I’ll let you work it off’ and then we worked it off for a bit and Alan moved to a different area but John said ‘you’re quite good at it, do you want a bit of pocket money coming in?’ at that time I was sixteen and I was at Calder High you see. My work at Moderna, at Ratcliffe’s had finished so I needed a bit of cash and so I went dry stone walling with John for a while and then we got a couple of jobs as gardeners. There were quite a few wealthy factory owners around Mytholmroyd and Hebden Bridge who had big gardens, so I used to do Pickles’s on Caldene Avenue in Mytholmroyd, I used to do their garden for them and a few others, so I had a nice little income coming in. That was good money as well; they treated me nice as well and you know, they’d give me orange juice but on hot days they always brought me a can of Guinness, cool Guinness, you see alcohol again, it’s always there and….so it kept me going. They used to have parties at Daryl Caffer’s house which became famous and they’d bring women down that were working at Pennine Insurance; they’d come from Halifax to these parties….I remember when I was sixteen, we met two ladies. I was going out with one called Janice, Janice Grimley, she was lovely actually and she had a friend, Beverley, who was going out with Daryl whose house it was and they were going to stay overnight, there was just the four of us and my dad said ‘like hell you are. You’re not getting anyone pregnant. You’re back at school, you’re going to college. I thought ‘yeah….he won’t know’ so I climbed out of t’window, at sixteen I thought ‘I’ll do what I sodding want’…..my dad was a big man and there I was, you know, we were getting to the early nuptials of cuddling and things like that, bang on t’door, Caffer answered it and in came my dad, most embarrassing, scruff of t’neck, flung out of t’door ‘I bloody told you lad. There’ll be no pregnancies in this family yet’ and he marched me home! I thought ‘oh God’ and Daryl’s there going like that. The next day I saw Daryl and he had a grin from ear to ear. He says ‘two girls all night!’ I said ‘don’t push it, don’t push it lad, you’d better not’ and of course it spread like wild fire, “will daddy allow you out tonight,” oh it was embarrassing, but these parties became pretty infamous in the end and….but they were good fun, then college beckoned and we all went our own ways really at that time. I was zooming off to Newcastle

     

    TW:

    You were Pace Eggers you said.

     

    SS:

    Oh yeah…yeah, I was one of the minions I must admit; I used to walk round doing the chanting like everyone does, you know, in the big circle. I never got the chance to go in to the middle. Each one come out, like it’s the Black Prince isn’t it, he’s one of them and is it Saint George. There’s a guy with a little ball on a stick

     

    TW:

    Tosspot.

     

    SS:

    Yeah, then they come in to t’middle and they do a speech but I didn’t get a speech,I was just one of the minions, I’d my paper hat on and I didn’t really like that very much but you had to do it more or less, considered.

     

    TW:

    What do you mean you had to do it?

     

    SS:

    You were in the sixth form and the sixth form had to do these things, it was more like duties, I mean you did…..you had a lot of …autonomy at this time, we had prefects’ detentions; we could pick up kids that were misbehaving and make them stay three or four hours if we wanted after school or whatever; we had them cleaning yards with toothbrushes and things like that, you know, and….sweeping our pre-room, so we were a bit….we were elitists. There were only sixteen boys in the sixth form at this time…. and I was probably the rebel, well I was the rebel. I used to dress all in black; I had a black briefcase and I used to have a little bow tie, black, and I had a frilly shirt as well so I always dressed jet black, and I had fairly long hair at the time as well, it was getting really long….apparently I was very good looking at that time and I used to get a lot of admirers. My sister being a lot younger than me, sorry, my brother being a lot younger than me, some of his friends used to come up from…you know, and he’d bring his women friends up and they’d be all sat there and I’d say ‘oh I didn’t know you hung around with so-and-so’….’they’ve only come to see you Steven, they like to look at you’ I thought ‘Jesus, get ‘em out’

     

    TW:

    Vain

     

    SS:

    Well….I suppose…..what grade would they be in….they’d be in the first year at the time….I’ve not worked it out actually; they might have been seven years younger than me; I’d be in the upper sixth and Graham would be in the first they’d only be what…..twelve year olds….I was a menace at school. I did work and I was pretty bright and I did pretty well in my exams but I was unconventional. I did……I did History; when I did History I never turned up for about a term, couldn’t be bothered; hated the teacher so I didn’t bother turning up. I read the books and I had a superb memory at the time so….but Calder High School, I enjoyed it. I liked that elitism, I mean even when I went to Newcastle we were on grants and I had a cleaner that used to come and clean the rooms and make the beds for us and all this

     

    TW:

    Really?

     

    SS:

    Oh yeah….yeah. We were in an old Victorian block and there was not that many students in, but you could have…..what was it called now….they had a name….slipped my mind…and he’d tell us where the best….what was going on…’would you like me to do so-and-so for you?’….what’s the name for it….like a…

     

    TW:

    Concierge?

     

    SS:

    Concierge, that’s the word for it. It was like that but they didn’t call them that then….and each block had one, and as I said they were big houses….they were set in a place called Pontealand oh it was very posh and up-market and….I took my niece there not long ago and she was stunned, the houses started at four hundred and fifth thousand [£450,000] so I said ‘this is where I studied’ I was very very spoilt, so, you know, it was brill and it was a some contrast when I went out to teach because at the time I was doing a BEd at that time, three years Cert Ed, and then the fourth year was a Bed. It was a new degree at the time so it wasn’t even an Honours degree, they didn’t called it – it didn’t have an Honours with it then and I think it was about the second year I studied it, same college as me, studied it, a lad called Roger Uttley, just happened to be the England, Rugby Union captain as well you know, so we played on t’same rugby team

     

    TW:

    So you got to know him then?

     

    SS:

    Oh yes, yes, he was number eight on the rugby team, he played on the second row sometimes, and also Dixon was there so we had three internationals playing on the same rugby team as myself, for the college team, you know, I used to play on the wing at the time; I was fast, but I was big as well for my age, you know, for that year, I mean for a winger I was six two and I weighed about thirteen fourteen stone and that was considered very big for a winger, and I could run like the wind, so yeah, we had a good rugby team, anyway, when you used to go out on teaching practices you used to come to some areas; my first was in one of the……down-market areas, you know, shipyards in Newcastle; that was an eye-opener. You see Mytholmroyd didn’t have anything like this. Mytholmroyd’s school, Burnley Road School was nice, it was pleasant, it was open, it had playing fields around it and we had open space. They had no grass at all in this big school, they just had a concrete and tarmacced yard as it was, big fences around it, a lot of the bottom half of the building, old Victorian building, the windows were boarded and the other windows were smashed. Oh……the kids came in in the summer dressed in Wellingtons and things like this, and we never had any of that. Unemployment even then was very very big; the shipyards had started to shut down and engineering works associated with it were closing, the pits had disappeared, work was tight and poverty was something I pretty much didn’t understand. It was funny because we were bussed in each day, so you’d come from luxury and a world of elitism in to something

     

    TW:

    That’s really rough.

     

    SS:

    Yeah, and when I came back down here after finishing at Newcastle as I said when my mum got cancer, I had two siblings to bring up, well, contribute to, the littler one mainly, and Graham only had I think two years to go before he went to university to study Physics, but coming back down to Mytholmroyd was a big step up again. This valley….people thought we had poverty round here; we did not. Unemployment, even in 1976, was virtually unknown, and in Newcastle it was already up towards double figures, and it wasn’t just Newcastle; other areas had got it as well, and houses estates – people say they’re rough and ready, today they do; they’re not really, they’re small. I mean up there you were talking thousands of people on these estates. In Mytholmroyd, Hebden Bridge, we’re talking Dodnaze, what’s it called now….Banksfields or Eaves Estate, I mean, Eaves is barely fifty houses, I guess, I wouldn’t think there’d be many more

     

    TW:

    I don’t think it has even that many really.

     

    SS:

    Banksfields could have a hundred but not many more, and you know, these places were…oh it just went on forever, or seemed to, in the big cities, so we were a bit spoilt around here to be honest, and as I say everything was handy, everything was on tap; your entertainment was on tap, even though it was, as I said, quite a lot of drinking, you still had the cinema in Hebden and we did use that a lot. I saw the World Cup there, oh right I did, about eight times, we kept beating the Germans! All apart from one lad who wasn’t invited, we wouldn’t take him because he was called David Rosser and his dad was German, and even when we used to go and play…. on Burnley Road, a bit further on, is somewhere called Redacre Wood, behind the sewage works, we used to play Germans and English in there you see, and nobody wanted to be the Germans, but you had to be, you had to take your turn, apart from David Rosser who couldn’t be anything else than German – always the German, and he was always the SS man; he hated that. ‘I don’t want to play today’ but we’d beat him up if he didn’t, you know, it’s ironic…I shot the SS man; what was I using…..an American Winchester rifle….I didn’t have it did I, but we didn’t care. We used to hide in the heathers, there was a lot of heather growing at that time and ferns, ferns were very deep, so you used to be able to ambush them, and the Germans had to stick to the paths, and we always won. Winning the World Cup and beating Germany was great, you know. We’d show them we’re the superior race and we believed it, I mean the games were pretty harmless, the other one was cowboys and indians. We always played cowboys and indians, except girls; we didn’t have any of that stuff, I tell you, not in them days, we kept them well away

     

    TW:

    You said the drinking culture in the pubs – did they play a lot of games in the pubs?

     

    SS:

    Oh yes, yes. Darts was huge around here and table football, believe it or not was quite popular, and The Royal Oak’s speciality was….the lads, a lot of them, they’d play table football and they did hamburgers for….a pint was…..how much was a pint then….in pennies, old pennies, it was…….I think it was eleven, ten and a half p [101/2p] or eleven p [11p] in old d’s you know, old pennies, less than a shilling and less the five p [5p] in other words today, and hamburgers were twelve and a half p [121/2p] – one and six [1sh 6d] you know, hamburgers smothered in onions and sauce and we used to eat them, play table football, played darts, dominoes to a degree. Lads liked dominoes at this time, almost all men by the way at this time, there’d be very few women in the pubs, they didn’t associate with us. Later on; we’re talking about say six, seven or eight o’clock, after the football, women would come in later and they were not too welcome with the footballers or the rugby players, it was a men’s thing it really was, and cards…we played a lot of Don, nine card Don and we’d play something like, shilling a corner, we played something called a Cragger, I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of it

     

    TW:

    I don’t know that.

     

    SS:

    Well you’ve only got what….you’ve got…there’s only four Jacks in a pack and the two red Jacks become partners and the two black Jacks become partners, so you’d deal out the pack until you get something. Now if there’s five people everyone puts a shilling in to start with and the Cragger is the guy that gets all the coins at the end, because he doesn’t get a game, so you’re compensated for not getting the game because you’re…sort of thing, and me, I was terrible at the game and I always wanted to not get a Jack but I always used to get a Jack so it was an easy way of making, you know, four bob profit, but no, I never used to get a sodding thing, but then I’d lose because I was lousy at it. I’d be a shilling out of pocket, you know, not really what I wanted. I was good at darts. I played with a lot of darts teams around here ; I went on to win the doubles and individuals, things like that. That was…..that was obviously at a later date. That’s when I was playing for……t’Railway. We won the league at the Railway. We’d a lot of people came from outside to play darts – Todmorden, Rochdale and Burnley

     

    TW:

    Really? From that far?

     

    SS:

    Yeah. The winning teams were made up of outsiders near enough, I mean The Railway, the only two, there was me and somebody called Tiger playing for The Railway when we beat The Woodpecker, no, The Woodman; you’ve probably heard of The Woodman at Charlestown; well they won it ten years on the trot and they were all Todmorden, Rochdale, now we brought lads in from Burnley outside to create a team to rival them, and the first year we won the cup but came second in the league, the second year we won the cup and the league and they were furious; they’d not been beat in ten years, so then they accused us of bringing foreigners in, so there was only two local lads at that time on t’team. The weaker teams tended to be the locals when they didn’t bring in any imports, which was a bit unfair on them, but that’s the way it went. Another thing that was quite big around here was – I used to play a lot of tennis. Mytholmroyd had a tennis court at Saint Michael’s, it’s probably still there

     

    TW:

    Still there, yeah.

     

    SS:

    Well there were a couple of others. Another one on Caldene Avenue, at the end of Caldene Avenue; it’s all houses now

     

    TW:

    Oh was there? I didn’t know that.

     

    SS:

    Behind… you know where the council works are

     

    TW:

    I know where you mean

     

    SS:

    At the side of that, where the houses have just been built, they were tennis courts once and my dad used to do the….there was a grass one and hard surface ones. He used to do all the….what’s it called…..flattening it, dragging the nets over it, putting the nets up, cut the grass. They had a club house up there and my father used to look after that at weekends, so I used to go up there and practice and play quite a bit of tennis at the time. I played in Mytholmroyd as well, Cragg Vale had a tennis court, still has; we used to play up there a bit, not often

     

    TW:

    Where are those?

     

    SS:

    Well you go up Cragg Road until you turn down to the Hinchliffe pub. Just go round past the Hinchliffe pub, through the big gate and down there, and there’s tennis courts down there. It’s still there is Cragg Vale Tennis Club, well it was a couple of years ago, I think it still is actually today. Like Paul Fowler, he’s a solicitor now in Hebden, he plays for them, or he did, played better than me…I didn’t play for a club, I just played….quite a few of us. I did a lot of bowling believe it or not, crown green bowling, quite good fun actually but again it was all the same sort of thing. You’d do this, you’d get yourself, like football training or whatever and it was always straight to the pub after, so you were straight back in to that drinking culture which would have been seven nights a week without a doubt, there’s no doubt about that. Mytholmroyd had a sort of night club, it was very rough, [interruption phone ringing] we used to have outings to racecourses; there was a lot of people liked their gambling around here, and they’d run coach trips from quite a lot of the pubs

     

    TW:

    To York or…where?

     

    SS:

    Around….York was quite a big one, yeah, that was quite popular….I think there was something at Catterick at the time, I’m not certain, I think it was Catterick we used to go as well at one point, I don’t know if it’s still there, I wasn’t in to the horse racing and then the Working Men’s Club of course, there was quite a few clubs around here. Hebden Bridge had one, a Working Men’s. Mytholmroyd which still has one and is doing quite well, and then there was the Sports and Social in Hebden which is still going; Conservative Club, changed its name now but is still in existence, Trades Club, so you had the clubs. The clubs were very big on snooker, you know, they looked after their snooker tables, we used to play inter-club matches…..and the bowling clubs. There was Heptonstall Bowling Club, Old Town had a bowling club then and they also had club rooms associated with it and snooker and the likes, but they used to run trips out, like Blackpool, God it were rough. You can guess what they were like coming back, it were full of, you know, extreme drunk, mainly blokes you know again, in a pretty bad state, the ones that managed to get the bus. Quite a few of them were found the next day, you know, sleeping on t’railway station to get the train back from Blackpool, oh yeah, they were drunken orgies, they were pretty extreme does were them. I went on one or two of those. The Trades Club at the time was….they did well for a while, you know, live music always and then it fell in to financial difficulties. It was doing alright during the punk era, but this caused a lot of trouble because people came from outside to listen to the punk bands and the locals who were fairly much thugs as well, you know, they were lads from the council estates, they used to like to go up there for a fight with the punks, you know, to show they were hard, so that got a bit violent and they ended up getting Vaux beer in. Nobody else would deal with them because they were not paying their bills at the Trades Club at the time. They were in financial difficulties so they had to pay for deliveries as they arrived and they were getting Vaux beer in which didn’t do them any favours. It tasted like dish water, it was bloody awful, so trade dropped off even more then, you know. People were not drinking there, never mind listening to the bands, and it revived a lot and it came back pretty good. I watched ‘Amazing Blondel’ there, I don’t know if you’ve heard of them, it’s like a reproduction isn’t it of medieval music; it was brilliant, it was superb. I’ve watched quite a few bands and pop groups there; I was a member for quite a while, I can’t remember which years or owt like that, you know, so again, it was all beer, you know….we had theatres, it never occurred to us…museums…I mean this is genuinely true this; I was so excited. Calder High School, first year, brill was this, totally true, and this might sound stupid but as I said education wasn’t my thing so we were going to the Bronte Museum, the Bronte Museum – I couldn’t wait, Curle says, ‘what luck,’ ‘why do we want to go there?’…’we’ve got to go but it’s gonna be awful’ I says, ‘no it won’t,can’t be into Brontosaurus or something;’ I said ‘prehistoric animals – Brontosauruses, bones’ – prat! What a let down! I’d never heard of the sodding Bronte sisters! I’d never read a book at this time, I mean I’d got a few comic books but I’d never read a novel. I remember my first novel ever was at Calder High School, it was read to me by a guy called Sanderson. He went on to become Principal of Tod Techincal College and he was teaching English at the time, so I’d be in the third year and he used to read to us, which I loved, but the first novel I had read to me was called ‘Qeupo,’ it was about a leopard, it was one of a series and this leopard was living with men for a while and then he went back to the wild and all that….I remember it well, the shock, horror on my mum’s face that Christmas. :what do you want?’ ‘I want the ‘Qeupo’ trilogy.’ I love the ‘Qeupo’ trilogy. There were four…three books, one about a leopard, one about an elephant, one about a monkey. I says ‘I want these three books please.’ ‘Sorry?’ She didn’t even know I could read…we didn’t have books around the house, that is bloody odd, but my dad used to read….Sun paperbacks about a guy who used to write about somebody called Smith….somebody Smith

     

    TW:

    Wilbur Smith?

     

    SS;

    That’s it, yeah, he used to read them. My mum used to read the ‘Women’s Own’ and ‘Women’s Weekly’ and ‘Women’s Realm’ – they were the only books I ever saw, and we never had newspapers at home; we didn’t get the ‘Courier’ or the ‘Hebden Bridge Times’…I never grew up in a learning environment. It changed when I went back to Calder High School you see, because suddenly I enjoyed education. I’d worked in a mill and I knew what hell it was and I didn’t want that; it’s ironic that I ended up there, but I didn’t want that so for a while I was obsessed with education, so our Graham, my younger brother, had books everywhere – all mine; maths books, study books, the lot, so Graham had it thrust down his throat and we used to…I used to make…little pins with coloured heads on, and we used to put them on the ceiling and they used to represent the stars, the different colours….the red stars, you know, and the blue stars… Aldebaran, Rigil and the likes, and we’d put them in the patterns on the ceiling, so the universe was over our heads. We used to fight Roman battles. He would be Pompey. I would be Julius Caesar, and we would get little pins; my mum was a dress maker so there were pins everywhere, and we used to painstakingly make little flags on top of each one, sellotape them round each flag and we used to make little forts of the Roman legions and we’d make a landscape and we’d fight with our legions by rolling dice. Graham grew up in education all the time and he was much more successful at school than I was, and went on to get a first Honours in Physics. That’s why I did Physics by the way. I couldn’t let Graham

     

    TW:

    Out do you?

     

    SS:

    I had to prove I could do Physics, so I went on to do my degree later, but, yeah….he went to Sellafield….Windscale it was called then. He used to come back in to Mytholmroyd and he would have these lead badges on because he used to have to wear them and take them off each week so they could see how much radiation had been absorbed in to their bodies, and so he worked there for a while, but….my home environment was not educational when I was there, and then Sandra came in to it with Graham as well so she was very academic, so…I think between us we got….I think between us we got….I think there was eighteen A Levels; we got quite a lot in the end, maybe not that, it was a lot….whatever, thirty-odd O Levels at the time between us, yet Graham was…he was probably….he was more successive. He could concentrate on something and stick with it, whereas I was more flighty. I’d be fascinated by Geography for a while and then I’d lost interest and I’d go to something else. I used to write a lot of poetry and still do. I’ve got quite a few short stories and longer works as well, but….yeah, I realised I had a gift for it, a talent for it when I was at college in the sixth form. I had to do English. English Literature and English Language were separate then; they probably aren’t any more but I had to do creative writing and I represented Calder High School in some national competitions and poetry was very romantic, and very descriptive of the valley, and it was….you know, it was ironic actually, after the Brontosauruses. I was asked to write about dams and lost lands, you know, what’s it called, the old dams that were built tofeed the mills and more importantly to feed the canals. I don’t know if you know that. The canals…the mills were using water power so they delayed the canals being built in this valley didn’t they because they didn’t want the water being used, so they made them build all these dams on the….I found it dead romantic. I used to take ladies out…one in particular I was engaged to for a while, she was very beautiful was Nicola, and I used to like walking up Cragg Vale up to….you know, around the reservoirs, especially on wet days, you know, it was really sexy….the grass was just blowing wet against our legs and I used to think it was romantic and I used to write poetry and stories about it, and it turned out to be quite successful. I went to college and met an art tutor, he was my personal tutor and everybody had to do some writing, and you know, there was eight hundred students there all told, and there was just me and this other lad who were chosen, picked out for our writing, and that was a description of laying in a room with the lights off at night on the campus, watching the city people as they moved by and….the first time I wrote it straight out and I would speak it, then I wrote it in a poetic manner and put it in to more of a verse form, and he preferred the original he said, you know, but nevertheless that got published. I don’t know what happened to them

     

    TW:

    Have you still got copies of them?

     

    SS:

    The originals?....Yeah, I think so. I think I’ve got the original writings, one or two if them. I’ve wrote quite a lot more since. I got into Leonard Cohen you see and his poetry, and very much followed Leonard around. I was to see a big transformation again. Although the drink was there in Newcastle, Newcastle was a different world. It was a world of concerts….by that time, museums…it was walking on mountains for the sake of it, and that’s something around here we wouldn’t have done, you know, as kids….we used to picnic up there, yeah we did, we used to go to Heights Road above Mytholmroyd, up there, and find little areas and picnic. As I said, you were taking your life in your hands on the moors, it was pretty restricted. There were certain paths you could do – up towards Churn Milk Joan and things like that, but if you just wandered on to them , you know, there were gamekeepers up there and they were not nice people, and so you tended to keep off them, so that kept you in the valley to a degree, really out of sight of the valley itself. Cragg Road I used a lot. I wrote a lot of poetry up there. The Elphin….I studied the Elphin you see as part of my thesis I did on river valleys, so it’s a funny little valley as it’s shaped, you know, running down from the top. My dad was brilliant. He made me all these strings; peg at one side, peg at the other side and then he’d tie a big knot in it and do you remember they used to use some waxy stuff…you’d put it on to a letter and then

     

    TW:

    Yeah, sealing wax

     

    SS:

    Sealing wax…and he used red sealing wax and he’d put it on each knot so it was bright and then I just used to go in to the valley, put them across and then I’d count the knots so I knew how far the distances were across and then I’d do a profile of the valley at that point and move up, and I did all the valley profiles all the way down on tracing paper and they were overlapping each other, on top of each other, studying all the time the rock formations and what they were. I presented that at Newcastle and that went down well. The other one I’d studied was….the hand weaving industry around Heptonstall.

     

    TW:

    Oh really?

     

    SS:

    I don’t know what happened to that work; it was about that thick.

     

    TW:

    That was a great loss.

     

    SS:

    Of course there were some places open then that I photographed and….presented it. I don’t believe I got it back, I sent it to….that’s my….that was my third year was the river valley. My fourth year was my hand weave thing, so that was fascinating. I worked with a lad at school called….Round, Phil Round I think it was, he’s dead now….but it was quite an experience really. The valley was exciting. Things happened here, I mean, as I said, I told you about the tandem ride to Blackpool. We did that for charity. Did Dougie mention it?

     

    TW:

    He did mention it and I forgot to ask him I must admit. I have to go and see him again though. I’m gonna ask him when I go back.

     

    SS:

    It was an old tandem and we had to ride it back money for charity and things like that….it was again though…straight in to t’pub afterwards, and one thing that this valley did is, whereas you’d go to Halifax for a drink or a night out, when the doors shut you were out weren’t you, not here, but there was never any policing of the pubs. The pubs went on until they felt like closing the doors and of course it was a period when drink driving was….allowed, and there was no breathalysers at the time, so even if you got caught for it, it was pretty hard to prove, and there were some bad accidents, there was one or two….there was a man got killed…up to the Top Shoulder, drinking too much, coming down the Steeps, there was a patrol of cars, it was not unusual wasn’t that, that was a place in itself. Even when I went to Newcastle, there was a lad called Dave, Dave Alton, he was a motorbike lad and he came from the Blackburn area, between Blackburn and Burnley, and his mates were out that way. I said ‘do you go to a place called The Shoulder of Mutton at Blackshaw Head?’ he said ‘I do that’ and they used to come from miles – twenty, thirty miles to go there. It was a disco night club in an old barn and obviously there was a bar there. A big, huge man was the guy that owned it at the tine, I can’t remember his name now….and he used to run buses down, literally from half past eleven, parked up on Blackshaw Head, these single decker buses waiting with Halifax, Todmorden on the front – that busy, that much worth money wise – Halifax Corporation Transport, you know, who Brian works for on the buses, and everyone used to troop out on to the buses and people behaved because

     

    [END OF TRACK 1]

     

     

    Read more

  • Interviews and Storytelling: Steve Smith

    TRACK 1 – STEVE SMITH

     

    TW: It's Tony Wright, the 19th of February 2010, on Oxford Street, and I'm going to be interviewing Steve Smith. So, can you tell me your full name, and where and when you were born?

     

     

    SS: Yes, well it's not that simple, either. I was born and christened Stephen Edward Smith, but I actually changed my name. It was "ph", but I didn't like "ph" so I changed it to "ven", and got rid of the Edward, which I didn't like. So I called myself Steven Smith - and that was legally done - but I was actually born Stephen Edward Smith. I was born at Halifax Infirmary on the 10th of August 1952, and I lived initially on the Banksfield Estate, which was a prefabricated council estate, very desirable at the time because it had an inside toilet - two of them - and it actually had a bathroom; you didn't have to use a tin bath. All of the terraces in Mytholmroyd at that time still had outside toilets and the like, so a lot of people were pushing for these. So, although it was a council estate, it was rather up-market: teachers, managers and the like, who it wasn't really meant for; but they'd sold their terraced properties and moved into the council estate; it was very popular for a while. Most of the back-to-back houses were demolished, but in 1952, in the fifties, there were a lot of them, even in Mytholmroyd, and they weren't very nice.

     

    So anyway, I was born there and grew up there, going to Burnley Road School, Mytholmroyd, and then Calder High School. Banksfield Estate is...what?...four hundred yards from Calder High School. Well, my house was very handy. I worked very little at school, caused lots of problems, disinterested, never picked up on education. We did O-levels or CSEs at the time, and I managed to get myself down into another form, so I was doing CSEs - or I wasn't doing them! No, that's not true. I was supposed to be doing them, and I did what we called a fourth year then - that's a first year of the O-levels and CSEs - and then packed in and decided to work because I wanted the money.

     

     

    TW: So were you fifteen then or sixteen?

     

     

    SS: With my birthday being in August, I was actually fourteen when I left, which was allowed then, anyway, because my birthday was in August. I was fifteen that year. I was one of the youngest in the year, of course. So when I actually started at Ratcliffe's I was only fourteen.

     

     

    TW: What job did you do?

     

     

    SS: Initially, my father was a foreman in what we called the wet room, and we manufactured blankets. Ratcliffe's bigger brother, Moderna, made high quality wool blankets, but we made blankets that used man-made fibres - probably acrylic based, but I wouldn't be one hundred per cent certain which man-made fibre we'd be using. So they were cheaper blankets, and they wove them on site, and after being woven they had to be moved and washed, scoured, and that was the part of the wet room, which was my first job.

     

    What you do is, you have something called dollies; there were five of them in a long row. There were pits about ten feet deep, lined with red brick. At the bottom they had like a drain, a double drain. One went into the river, which was the River Calder, which was very close to the factory, ten or twenty metres away. Or, it could go into the sewage system. It always went into the river unless the river was in flood or very high, because you didn't want the river coming into your factory. So you shut off that drain, then put it into the sewage system. But generally you didn't, because that took a long time. The sewage system was slow, and twenty of these vats, which were full of water, took a long time. In the river it was dead easy - straight down.

     

    So these pits had inside them the wooden dollies. Now these were probably made of oak - I can't remember - but they were certainly made at the end of the nineteenth century. They were old, so they'd become worn very smooth and there were no angles on them at all any more. They were like big semi-circles sunk into the pits. So the pit went down seven feet, with the dolly inside it, and a drain at the bottom. So you filled them with water.

     

    Then the cloth lengths, which were fifty or one hundred yards long - we were yarding at the time - would come in dry from the weaving department. At this point the cloth was very, very hard. I mean, you could cut yourself on it, and it was rigid. What we'd do is put the trolley behind, with the folded cloth on. It was a flat bed trolley. Then we'd run it over a set of power rollers to pull it into the water. We'd already filled it, and we'd also added soap by this time and we'd added creosote. No, not creosote - caustic soda. Get that right - creosote would have been interesting, wouldn't it! Caustic soda broke down the grease etc. Not a lot of it, because it also dissolves things. So you'd put a measure of that in with the soap.

     

     

    TW: Did you use a little formula for how much soap and caustic soda you added for so many gallons of water?

     

     

    SS: Yes, there were lines on it for a fifty yard water level and a hundred yard water level, and then you had an associate jug. You filled it from a big steel drum, and it had a little tap on, so you filled it up to there, you know, and that was the fifty yard one or the hundred yard one, and then you'd add a small amount of caustic soda, and you'd hoy that in and then you'd run your piece into the water. You had a long stick just to keep prodding it down. A lot of these pieces were long. They were tagged at either side because you'd got to get them back out again, and you needed an end. So you had a distinctive tag on them, usually bright orange and plastic, and it also was like a ring, so you had a hook to fish them out. Bear in mind the pit was the same depth as the dolly, near enough, so if you fell in one that was empty... and this happened to new workers; they used to initiate them by dropping them in... you couldn't get out again, because it was smooth and you couldn't reach the top. You're talking eight to nine feet to the top of the thing, so someone had to help you out. If you were very unlucky, they'd dye you, but you know that depended how polite you were to the older workers. So being with my dad, of course, there was no initiation:"That's Peter's lad!" - so I was left alone. Anyway, once you'd got your cloth in there, you could agitate it, so these dollies shook. They were like a washing machine, really, only they weren't rotating, they were agitating, sideways.

     

     

    TW: Sort of mechanical?

     

     

    SS: Yes, they had power motors on them underneath and they were shuffling backwards and forwards, so you could see the water going "swoosh...swoosh", moving backwards and forwards as it agitated the thing. You had to turn it a little by hand, you know. You'd keep walking from one - you had five of them, so you did a different stake with each one. It took half an hour to wash a hundred yard piece. And after twenty minutes... now only a foreman did this; as I said, it was hard...so now you wanted softener to soften the cloth. That was thrown in after twenty minutes, and that was done by hand, and depending on the weave, depending on, really, what blanket you were doing at the time. That was quite skilled. So my father, who was the foreman, he used to hoy the softener in. The softener...oh, you could feel it on your hands. And your hands would start bleeding, because the softener gets on your hands, and you know, it's awful! Not nice! Can't wear gloves, either.

     

     

    TW: Why not? Why couldn't you wear gloves?

     

     

    SS: Because you had to feel the cloth when you're taking it out. I'll explain how you've got to get it out in a bit. Anyway, when that's done, you turn off the agitation. Then you'd find your tag, hook your tag, and up above it, directly up above the vat, you'd have a small power roller - small diameter, two foot across - and on top of it, squashing it, was a heavy stone roller, also two foot across but greater diameter; weighed a lot. You'd catch your end and you'd flick it through this roller. You had to get round the vat, catch it at the front; and you'd to be pretty fast or it shot round the roller... and that's a mess, if you lost one. Or it went into the...which you didn't want either; so you got quite skilled at flicking it in. It was running quite fast as well, so you didn't have a lot of time. I mean, you could have got caught, and it would have made a mess of you! Then you took it to another roller that was at the front of the machine. This was a lot lighter, but it was a power roller again. Again at the bottom they were wood, with rubber on the outside so they'd grip, and the stone roller was on top, so that would pull it there. Then you'd have two people, because the cloth had to come out, then it had to be folded, layered backwards and forwards; so this was your job, this two hundred yards. And bear in mind also, because it was man-made fibres, there were stripes and patterns in the blankets. They were already in by the weaving. They were dyed later, but weaved already. So you'd rainbow colours in quite a lot of the blankets; you know, eight or four different colours, one after another, repeated patterns, and this was the problem. You'd catch it as it came up, one at each side, and you'd pleat it backwards and forwards. You used to go one forward, one back, fling... and you'd build it up, layer on layer, until it got to about chest height. Then you were passing it down as you put it on, and you could get fairly high on some of them.

     

     

    There was a reason for keeping it, which I'll explain in a minute, but in the end it was so boring! I mean, it took quite a while to do a hundred yard piece, and you were going to do another one and another one. You used to start counting the colours in it, you know: eighty-five blue, twenty-six red, thirty-two green, eighty-two blue...Oh, Jesus! I was regretting working in the mill quite early, it was driving me mad. But nevertheless, the money was good, and...

     

     

    TW: If you don't mind, how much did you actually earn, working at fifteen?

     

     

    SS: Pressure from my dad: he said, "He's doing a man's job; he's gonna get a decent wage!" So I was taking home five pounds, eight shillings - which was very good at the time indeed. Bear in mind, we were already drinking at this age - fifteen - and you could buy eleven pints of Whitbread dark mild for one pound. So when you were taking five pounds! And my mum took... I think she took... what's it now, fifty?... a pound note at the time, and we had a brown note which was half a pound...

     

     

    TW: Ten bob

     

     

    SS: Ten bob note. So, I used to pay a ten bob note in board to my mother; that's all. That left me a lot of pennies. I was quite a rich lad at that time. So anyway, I could tolerate the boredom. I had no choice anyway, because I'd committed to it now, and my dad was a hard man.

     

    Anyway, once that process had finished, we pushed a cart under a machine that was probably twelve feet high - I couldn't say it was more. There were two gentlemen sat up on chairs, about eight feet in the air either side. It was a tentering machine. Bear in mind this cloth was swash dry but not dry, and also it had been in liquid, so some had shrunk, some hadn't shrunk, depending on how much pounding it had got. So it had to be dried completely, and it had to be kept at a standard width, so your standard width was created by the tentering and drying machine. You'd put your thing there, and you'd pass it up to these two blokes at either side. In front of each one of them there was a conveyor belt of needles. So they'd put one side of the cloth on the needles and then the other side, and it fed it onto the needles. It pulled it into an oven, which was about ten metres long at the top and ten metres underneath, and it went through this oven, dried slowly, and got stretched to the correct width. The needles went wider as it went into the oven, so it was stretching it and making the most of the material you had. Then it would come out into another truck, which would automatically pleat it. So it was dry at this point.

     

    And then - it wasn't my job, but it was all in the same department - it would be pushed across to the raising machines. Blankets are a bit fluffy, not a lot fluffy, and that was quite skilful. If you're not careful you'll shrink it again, because raising does narrow the cloth, or blanket in this case. So they put a pile on it, made it fluffy. The raising machine is a big, big barrel, and on the barrel there are a number of rollers, twenty-four usually, rollers running lengthways across it. They rotate alternately, one clockwise, the other anti-clockwise.

     

     

    TW: So they're on the outside?

     

     

    SS: On the outside of this barrel. The cloth passes over slowly. The barrel rotates much faster than the cloth's moving, so it's fluffing it as it goes along, and you can, obviously, adjust how much weight you want on it. It was more pile on and more fluff, or less. You could also put something called counter-pile in. Once you'd made it very fluffy, your last rung was to bash it in, so you didn't have fluff blowing all over the shop. If you made a mess of it, which did happen, you had a cropping machine that used to take the excess fluff away. That was spiral, a long, long copper spiral - or gun metal, but it was copper coloured - and it rotated at an awesome speed. You'd run the cloth through, and it would smoothe the nap down and make a more even blanket. The higher quality blankets were always made that way. And then it would go into the cutting room, which was not our department.

     

    So I got stuck there for a while, and it was the same every week. We did do some sheeting, which did have to be dyed, and that was a bit different. That was cotton, pure cotton for sheeting, and... but we didn't do much of it - we weren't a specialist cotton manufacturer.

     

     

    TW: So did you do any dyeing?

     

     

    SS: I did a little bit of dyeing, as I say, because that would be natural, undyed, unstained cloth coming in.

     

     

    TW: What kind of dyes did you use?

     

     

    SS: Well, I didn't. I mean, I wouldn't know. I mean, I didn't get involved in the dyeing part of it, because my dad did that. And also, I believe that if you made a mess of it, it became patchy. You know, it was a fairly skilled job, to be honest, to dye it up. It was cold water dyeing - cotton will cold water dye, as opposed to wool.

     

     

    TW: So did they use, like, salt to fix it, or was there other chemicals?

     

     

    SS: Don't know. I believe it was salt - it looked like it was, because they used to put it in in blocks, so it well could have been. But we're talking... probably no more than five per cent of production was sheeting; it wasn't a speciality.

     

     

    TW: How many hundred yard lengths would you turn out in a week, sort of thing?

     

     

    SS: In a week? I wouldn't know in a week, but you had five machines running all the time, so in a day...half an hour each one, and you were doing a nine hour day...so yes, you had turn-over time...so you'd have sixteen times five, hundred metre pieces, sixteen times five... so that's eighty, isn't it? So you'd run off about eighty pieces a day, and that's a lot of stripes to count. It really does do your head in after a while.

     

     

    TW: Were you good at maths?

     

     

    SS: Oh, it drove me mad! It was good training for the memory as well, counting. Because although they were candy-striped and there were four colours in each one, they could be different colours; so you had to try and memorise orange-blue-green, as opposed to... and I don't know why, but that's all that was going for me.

     

    Anyway, I decided I didn't like that, and I wanted to go back to school. I was never going to work in a mill: that was my decision. And my parents went back to Calder High School and got permission for me to return, on condition that I went to somewhere called Todmorden Technical College which were there at the time, and did O-levels, four of them, at night-time. I thought, "Wow, this'll be it!" and my dad said, "But you'll still be working." I said, "How do you mean?" and he said, "I've reduced your hours." He says, "You can finish at three o'clock instead of five; be in there five days a week." He said, "You've made your bed; you can live with it for a year. But if you work hard"... and I thought, "I'm gonna have to!"... "and pass your O-levels, they'll take you back to school," which they did.

     

    I had a crammed course at Calder High School, did O-levels and A-levels, and went to university in Newcastle. I stayed there until I was... what? 1976... I'd be twenty-four when I came down. My dad died while I was at Newcastle studying; I think I was in my second year. I had a brother that's younger than me by eight years and a sister that's six years younger again, so when I came back I had a sixteen-year old brother and ten-year old sister and my mother, who'd just been diagnosed with cancer, breast cancer; but it had spread and it proved to be terminal. She was very restricted in what she could do, so I found I had to come back to Mytholmroyd and be close, because mine was the only income, and sometimes my little sister, which is very annoying, calls me Dad, which really does agitate me a little, and then she'll say, "Sorry, Steve! Sorry!" I suppose, yes, I would be the one shouting,"Now, I said bed!" or, "Do the homework!"

     

    So I had to get work locally, and it was rushed, and a place called Greenwood Stell's in Mytholmroyd, which was a corduroy manufacturer, offfered me a job as a manager. The manager himself was already in his seventies, the under-manager late fifties, and they said, "Two years, Steven, here, learning all the processes - and you'll do them, not learn them, do them - so many months of each or whatever's required; and then you can take over as under-manager in two years." So, it was started. Quite fascinating; and my first job was oiling, greasing and cleaning the looms. They were Picanol looms, Picanol Masters. They had shuttles in them, and they were bright green. What you'd do is: they all had grease nipples all over them, and you had a grease gun. But before you did that, you got rid of the dirty grease that had come out, and you'd get a bowl of paraffin - a bucket of paraffin - and you'd get a cloth, and you'd wipe them all down, and they'd all come shiny. It was incredible, because it goes back to the natural paint, so they were all bright green. Then you'd do all the grease points. You've already vacced it down, by the way. You had a little vacuum cleaner, a cylinder, so you'd taken all the fluff off.

     

     

    TW: Was that at the beginning of each day, then?

     

     

    SS: This was the whole job; this was what you did all day; it was a full time job. And bear in mind there were thirty-two looms in my part. There were some Northrop looms that were a lot older. These would be 1960 looms; they weren't very old, the Picanols, and very good looms as well. But the older shuttle looms were Northrops, which were twenties or thirties, and they had a tendency to do the heavy cords such as Bedford cords and things. We were doing mainly needle cord, the lighter stuff, and four shafts; so you know it was quite a simple weave. Bedfords were carrying... I think it was fourteen shafts; it was a lot more heavy job, and the new looms couldn't cope with it; they used to break. Because of the picks, you know - the picks, the threads. So, the number of threads you put in per inch with the Bedford was very heavy. The sley comes forward after a shuttle goes in. The shuttle goes in, carries the thread across; the sley comes forward and batters it into the cloth, and then goes back. Well, when you're putting sixty picks an inch in, and your weft's sixteen count, then what you've got is a lot of power; a lot of energy has to be absorbed. So the modern looms used to break often. The older ones were built for it and they could do it. Narrower cloth, as well, on the Bedford looms; the finished cloth was a lot narrower. The thing about the count, as well, is: in cotton - it would be cotton in this case - the lower the number, the thicker the thread. So point eight is very thick thread. Four is common thread for sheeting, sixteen needlecord, and you can get down to things like... what?...they always go by doubling...thirty-two, sixty-four. Sixty-fours are very fine, very high quality. We used to do moleskin using that, and that had a lot of picks in it; it would really bash up

     

     

    TW: So moleskin was a very high quality material, then?

     

     

    SS: In weaving, yeah. We had a lot of trouble with it, because of something called the worm gear that controls the feed. The warp at the back lets off at a specific rate and it's taken up by the gears at the front, so they've got to balance. Now, what we were finding, it was so slow weaving moleskin that the worm gear we had couldn't cope with that speed, so we had what we called banging up. That means the cloth started to slide back, so you'd get, if you like, bars, where you were putting too many picks in, and your cloth, before the worm gear kicked in again, started pulling it through. We had a lot of problems with it. We couldn't get it right at all with the Stells. They mainly came from Germany. They were doing it. It's also fiinished a lot differently, but that's a different story.

     

    So after that, next was spinning... no, I'm sorry... winding. We'd bring the cotton in boxes, and it was on bobbins. Now a shuttle has something called a pirn in it. The pirns have got to be wound, and what happens is, the pirn unwinds as the shuttle goes backwards and forwards. When it's empty a head will come down, knock the empty one out and from something above, called a box, a new one will be knocked into place, a full one; and they had to be spun... sorry... wound, separately. Too much, they got jammed; too little, you were wasting time. So I had to learn how to do the winding and strip off the old pirns, put on the new ones and, you know, move them backwards and forwards in the boxes. We'd put them in the magazine, we called it - it was a rotating drum, really - and you knocked them all in, one by one. The older ones, the Northrops, they were still changing by hand on some of them, so the shuttle was stopped in the box, and the weaver would be very fast at it. You'd whip out the old shuttle, bash in a new one... a new pirn, rather... and set the machine going by relieving the brake and flicking it across again; and they were doing it that way. Some of the older women were brilliant at it, you know. They were really fast, and they virtually did a level and stop - very dangerous. So, you know, they'd catch it out in one loom until it was going again.

     

     

    TW: You can lose fingers.

     

     

    SS: Oh, God! You could anyway. The shuttles were beasts. When I was hit with my shuttle I was ...

     

    I moved on to the next job after; that was weaving. I'd learnt to weave, and I was running a set of looms. I wasn't running the Picanol Masters; I was running older Picanols, 1950 ones. They had big shuttles, very long, very heavy. They had old-fashioned shuttle guards and they weren't very effective. So when I got hit by one, it left - I still have it to this day - a mark on my leg, from the point of the shuttle. They were metal at either end, and sharpened points. I mean, they were very nasty. And it shot out and impaled me on my leg. And they said: I'm a proper weaver now.

     

     

    TW: Could I just stop you for a minute? I've got some shuttles upstairs. If I go and bring them down, could you tell me what all the bits are called on it, that sort of thing?

     

     

    SS: Well, there aren't many names for them, but I'll have a look at your shuttles.

     

     

    TW: Okay. [gone for shuttles]

     

     

    SS: They would be for a Master loom. No... it would be that size, but it wouldn't have a bore in it. There were some smaller, for the Masters, than that. They are heavy, are these, as well.

     

     

    TW: Are these old ones, then?

     

     

    SS: Different looms... That one would have been used on the old Picanols; they called them Presidents, Picanol Presidents; I always forget them. Not the Masters - the Masters would have been about this size, but without the bore in the middle, and without the clamp in here, so that ... The clamp here holds the pirn, the metal part of the pirn. You just knock them, like that, and it points in this direction. Now down that side, on that side, you'd have fur stuck on, glued on, to keep the thread, if you like, so it doesn't bunch up... or to keep the feed smooth, really, so when it's coming in and out, like this, you don't get any loops in the cloth. So that one... And again, you see, they would have glued something along there. It's like a ... it was like fur. I don't think it was fur... It might actually have been that, but it looked like it... it had skin on the back, and you glue it on that side, a little bit there, in the middle. And then the thread would feed out in a regular manner without looping. But yeah, pretty excellent are them; very rarely you'd have to touch them. That's one I've not come across; it's a different design completely. Again, it's the same clicking mechanism, again, in there, for the pirns; and you've got a little bit left, see?

     

     

    TW: There is a little bit of fur, yes, I see it.

     

     

    SS: Now these would be all the way along, and that's there to give a smooth feed as it goes out. So, yeah, without the fur... If you'd got loops as well, by the way, you'd have to stop the machine, take it out - although the tackler would re-do it for you - and then... That would not... Well that's had it anyway; because there's no point on, in other words. So, the points had to be like... Now that's a good one - that's solid, and it's also very sharp. But that was another part of the game. We used to grind them - the weavers themselves would grind them, to make sure they were always sharp and smooth, because of course anything along here is gonna catch the shed as it runs through. You didn't want anything catching the shed. So the shuttle... That's in fairly good nick, actually - I mean, that one's in good nick indeed. Yeah, it's not in bad nick at all. It just feeds out of the eye there, of course, and the eyes could be lifted in and out... should have screws somewhere here; it does, on the back... and you used to knock them out. But we usually didn't bother, because you just slung them. It wasn't usually the eyes and things that went. What usually went was...they'd split, and once you'd got a split in ...

     

     

    TW: How long would they last from new, would you think?

     

     

    SS: Oh, you couldn't tell. I mean, what happened, we wouldn't use the same manufacturers. There were a lot of shuttle manufacturers, so they were always looking for cheaper ones. We got some man-made ones, not made of wood, from America, and they didn't...They were complete - they didn't have a point on, like this is metal. But they were hard, so you just ground the shuttle itself down to a point. But they turned out to be very poor, and they wore very fast, you know; they were no use to you. And it depends again on the machine set-up. If the tackler's not set the machine up properly, what it had a tendency to get is, it's not holding it in the box properly, you know. It will go into a box, and there's two leather...how can I put it?... like patches, on either side of the box, that grip it like that, and you hold it like that before the picking stick wallops it again. And the picker on top would hit it there, would knock it back across, so it's being walloped at great speed. But if it comes into the box, and the leather on the box is worn, it'll lift slightly, or lift like this; and then it gets walloped, and of course it's coming at an angle. It's gonna hit the shuttle guards, and then it'll crack and break. So it didn't have really a life, you know. You didn't want to change them if you'd got a good one running. You'd be quite happy with that. You thought...

     

     

    TW: Would it be about a year?

     

     

    SS: No, no, no! I mean, I've changed them in days.

     

     

    TW: Really?

     

     

    SS: Oh, yeah! Yeah, you were expected to get two or three weeks out of them. Some of them - it depended again what jobs you were doing, which loom you were on - some of the older looms, the Presidents, were in fairly bad shape, and they used to smash up shuttles quite regularly. They were often breaking, and they were often flying. I mean, the idea of a flying shuttle is literally ... One of these things can be moving at a phenomenal speed, and when it hits you ... you can imagine!

     

     

    TW: Like a bullet, almost.

     

     

    SS: Yeah, there was a lad died at Stell's. He got hit on the side of his head with one - hit in the head - and it killed him instantly. I was on littler shuttles, about that size. No, smaller than that. That's the size of a Master shuttle, but it's not one, because it's got the bar in, and they're the older ones.

     

     

    TW: When you say Master shuttle, what do you actually mean by that?

     

     

    SS: The Masters. The machine was called a Master.

     

     

    TW: Oh, I see.

     

     

    SS: So each machine has its own specific shuttle. You see, that one can't be changed automatically; that's an old shuttle that has to be loaded. Whereas this one, there, you see, all you do is bash on that part, and the pirn... It's a shame you don't have any, because it would have been useful to have some; I could have got some, as well... However, the pirn would push in there, the metal band around like a cylinder at this side, and the thread is down along there. So what would happen, a little hammer comes in, bashes it out there, and the empty one drops through almost instantly, and it flies away, and the new one is bashed into place from the magazine. So it's constantly... Now that is from an automatic loom. That obviously isn't, because you can't do that - you can't knock it in and out; so it has to be fed.

     

     

    TW: So it's probably older than that one.

     

     

    SS: It is older, yeah. These are the newer ones. That's automatic as well, because they're a different design; they're not the designs we used around here.

     

     

    TW: So they're sort of fifties-sixties sort of era, would you think?

     

     

    SS: Sixties. We still had shuttles in the seventies running in, and still having some looms, but because they made better cloth. You've got to bear in mind that when it was on that pirn it was continuous. It just let it off all the time. So there was one thread going backwards and forwards. Now on a Rapier loom, which took over - and we're on Stells at the moment - or an Air-Jet loom or whatever, it's one thread right across, each time, and it's cut. A cutter cuts it. So the Rapier comes in, takes one thread, cut; one thread, cut; so, instead of being continuous in the cloth, there's lots of them all together. Now that means you've got waste; you've got something called selvage. Because otherwise, you see, what happened - your thread would loop and bend, and you don't want that. You want smooth cloth. so you've got to hold it, with something called eight bobbins at either side, and these were on a plane, weaving up-down, up-down. We also had something called the Leno; it was a contraption that tied a knot round every thread as it comes in. It moves - again - on shafts; they're all moving on shafts. It goes up and down, ties a knot every time; so it ties in each thread. But the selvage edge is cut off, and it's taken away and run away as waste. So if your cloth's that wide, you're losing that much.

     

     

    TW: So you've got a lot of wastage, really.

     

     

    SS: It is, but they were a lot faster. I mean, if you come and look at ours, I mean ours are doing six hundred picks a minute. It's fast, yeah. You're used to them, mind you. You know, you might find them a bit... hopping, when they start on you.

     

     

    TW: So are you weaving again now, then, are you?

     

     

    SS: Yeah, that's all I do, because I can't tackle - or I can't any more, because of my heart. I can't lift, and it's quite a heavy job. So what I do is, I support. I work with another lad. He does most of the weaving, and I do the awkward bits - putting on new bobbins, changing the selvages. And when they cock up - they go round sand rollers, and they're running riot - I tend to correct it all; but I don't do lifting. If I have to knot or tackle, everything's got to be lifted for me. So, I'm just running the knotting machines; and I still do that sometimes.

     

     

    TW: Well, to take you back a bit: you were doing this two years, basically training up to be the under-manager. So carry on with that story, and what you did next.

     

     

    SS: What I did next, I did weaving for about six months, I think it was, and then I did knotting. I worked with an old bloke, who was ... it was a Guild, then, of knotters ... So I worked as a knotter and learnt that. Then I started learning to tackle. I worked with a guy called John Smith, a wonderful tackler. He died. He was only about forty something when he died. Surprised, but I didn't know him when he died. I was still doing the under-manager thing. I was tackling, and we were all told that Greenwood Stell's was shutting down.

     

     

    TW: So you never got to be under-manager, then?

     

     

    SS: No. No.

     

     

    TW: What is tackling?

     

     

    SS: Mending looms and changing them. I used to change patterns. I used to mend things. Several patterns then were put on something called...Oh, what's it called?... packets - big metal bars with different shapes, different shapes that affect the lift of the shafts. So you used to put packets together in a specific design, underneath, and then they'd lift the shafts to the pattern you wanted. So you had to put them together yourself, and all that sort of thing. So I was learning to do all that, and it shut down! We'd been importing cloth from Czechoslovakia for a while, "supplementing" it, they said; but then they realised they could produce it a lot cheaper than us, and they just shut us down. So I was made redundant; told before Christmas. Not a happy year, that. We were all told at Christmas that we were shutting down. I'll give him his due: Alan Greenwood did burst into tears and what-have-you, and then, after, I thought, well...

     

    My mum at this stage was gettting a lot worse. She was on chemo and all that. So it wasn't a matter of going back to teaching or anything, which I would have had to start doing soon. She was about seven... six and a half... years at home; she never went into a hospice; so I always had to be near. Anyway, I got another job in textiles straight away, and that was tackling and weaving; I was doing both. I'd do so many days weaving, and then I was tackling. We were setting up some new looms and machines, working at a place called Fairlea Mill, in Luddendenfoot; it was Courtaulds at the time. It was making nothing but sheeting, and it was going in as... Well, they used to make their own... What's it called?... They used to make their own weft from scratch,and they'd bring it in as bales, blend it, spin it, the lot. You know, sliver it, card it and then blend it. They used to make their own warps as well. Warps were made with thicker, rougher thread, but because it was cotton it was weak, so you used to have to size it - put size on it in size baths. It had to be dipped, and it had to be cooled again, to

    make their own warps.

     

     

    TW: What kind of size was it? Was it rabbit skin or fish, or what was it?

     

     

    SS: I've no idea. I've never thought about it, really. I used it for wallpapering, because I took some home and it didn't smell, so it wasn't that bad. Well, it smelt a bit when you mixed it, but it was like ordinary size, to be honest, that you could buy at, you know, the painter and decorator's shop. Yeah, I took quite a bit home - very sticky.

     

    Anyway, this place, you see, it used to go out in loom state. The cloth was straight off the loom into rolls, and it was still hard. It needed to go into the wet rooms to be finished and cut. We didn't do that; Courtaulds took it away. They had articulated wagons coming quite often. Big shed. I think there was...what? It ran three shifts, and the main shed, it had a hundred and twenty-odd looms in it, and it ran three shifts, doing nowt but. And I used to weave on them four days a week. Friday and Saturday, I used to go down onto some other looms called Rotec looms - not box shuttles. We were starting to

    make beer towels, and we were setting them up, and we were trialling some fast looms, super-fast looms. Now these looms I was working were again Picanol looms, and they were again shuttles, but the new ones we were taking at this time - it would be about 1978 - were Rapier looms; well, what they called Picanol Rapiers. But then Courtaulds decided that they were shutting us down.

     

    So I got made redundant there, and moved instantly to simply being a weaver. I went weaving at a place called British Furtex at that time, and that's Luddendenfoot as well. I only did that for about five or six weeks before I got offered a job, which was tackling, knotting and weaving, at Pecket Shed up near Old Town in Pecket Well. I worked there for about a year and a half, I think it was. But it was very run down and orders weren't brilliant, and it was part of the same group as Greenwood Stell's were. I mean, ironically, they were the same old bloody looms that I had worked before, that had been moved to Pecket Shed; and their other looms had been demolished and thrown out. They had some old Lancashire looms up there, and they only had two of them running - overhead arms.

     

     

    TW: I've seen them.

     

     

    SS: They move in and flings it like that - and they were buggers to run. Oh, they were monsters! They were dangerous, as well. And they had two of them running. So I was doing all sorts there, because everyone had to muck in. But it was producing again; the stuff we were making was the same as Greenwood Stell's. It was going to the finishing dye works on the way to Tod; it's still there... Moss brothers. It was all going down to Moss Brothers at the time. So we were doing that, and of course we had to try and do moleskin again, and I thought, "Oh, God! Here we go!" Every morning you're messing with the worm gears because they were cold, all the machines. They wouldn't play for ages, and we were producing crap; it wasn't good. So after a while, they just lost it. It was mainly bringing cloth in from abroad, and they just ... up there they just re-rolled it and checked it and sent it out to Moss Brothers. But they were closing it down when I was there. They were moving all the old looms, you know; all the old Northrops were being demolished and taken out for scrap. So I did a lot of that as well - pulling things apart and, you know, seeing its demise, and ...I've missed one! I also worked...I think it might have been actually after British Furtex but before Pecket ... I worked at a place called Cinder Hill Spinning Company. I worked there as a blender and sliverer. Sorted, so to speak!

     

     

    TW: Oh! Could you explain those processes a little bit, then?

     

     

    SS: Yeah. What you got there was bales to come in, mainly raw... sorry, waste... cotton; stuff that had been ripped to pieces. Now they used to use something called devils, and the cotton waste was put into a devil. They were called devils for a reason: they caught fire a lot! They were vicious, and they rotate at great speed. They'd take thread in; they'd shred it to pieces, literally; and it would come out like cotton wool. But all you needed was a bit of metal and a spark, and whoof! They were off! And so it was a regular thing. Every week we would get this. Then, you'd so many bales out of them, and you'd mix it with raw cotton coming in from America. Now that - you could pick it up in slabs; and if you hit someone on the head with it, it would knock them unconscious. It was heavy and compacted. So you'd blend it, depending on what end product they wanted, to make an acceptable cotton. If it was raw stuff, we'd make something called bump, which was also known as shoddy: nasty, cheap cloth, in a way, and used for curtain linings. We still use it today, but we don't make it in this country any more, seeing as they're all shut down. So what I had to do was blend it all together. I had a machine that was on three levels, three floors. I'd feed it on the top floor, and it would first... a gigantic machine with six-inch spikes... it would rip all this stuff open; and it would then start moving along under air pressure - you know, being blown along. Then it would drop down to the next level, and that would comb it and remove... it would go over these magnets, supposed to remove all the metal fragments, because a lot of this was also thrown in... I missed this, as well... You'd also have two bales of sweepings, trash, so that had all sorts in it - bits of metal, nails - and the magnets were supposed to lift it all off. They didn't always get it. And it would go in to spikes that rotated faster and faster, until it was really open - really open - and then it would zoom right up to the top floor and it would go through ... oh, I can't remember what it's called ... a large cylinder, sort of. It blew against the cylinder and then it was scraped off. Then it was dropped into these... they were like a hole in the floor... down a chute; and you had these pits. These pits were about fourteen foot deep, and they all had big fire doors on, because quite often they caught fire; and when they burnt, they burnt! So you had metal fire doors on the top, so when one caught fire you could flip the metal door down fast, and then you were zooming downstairs with the fire hoses, trying to put them out. That happened quite often, as well. You had three of these bins; as you filled one, you went on to the next one. But they were different qualities, so you didn't, you know, you... And then they'd go from there to the carding engines - all blown through - and that's where they made it into the sliver. Then it was taken on to the spinning frames and made into thread - all fairly rough stuff. It was all done at Cinder Hill, and that shut down - went bust. That's when I went to Pecket, and Pecket also went under.

     

    Redundant again! I mean, they're all redundancies. And then I went to Calder Weaving. They offered me again; no breaks in employment! They offered me a job weaving, and then I did weaving, in which I was making very good money - very well paid. I went knotting there, and did knotting for a few years. Then I went back to weaving again, bit of tackling, bit of all sorts. I wouldn't say I was tackling - I was changing the looms. When they took out all the old shafts to put a new design in, you've to lift everything, disconnect it, drop in the new ones and put... whatever. I was doing that sort of thing. And I was making up the shafts, because as you probaly understand, you've got four or five shafts, and you'll have... a draft, it's called, like shaft. You can have 1-4-3-2, 1-4-3-2... repetitions. Some of them were very complex, because you had fourteen shafts. You had to thread them with a little eye, and when you thread them... they're called a reed hook; they're about this long, with a little fancy hook on the end... you bring it all through. Then you've got something called a reed on the front, which is like a comb in a way. It's metal, with lots of slits in it and each one's called a dent. You put so many threads through for each dent, depending on what your cloth wanted, and...it used to be called a sleying knife, and you (cutting sound), and if you went wrong and you picked up two, you started again - and some of the bigger designs had, what, six or seven thousand ends in, so it was very annoying. Some of them were very fine. I mean, you'd get some of them that were... oh, in each inch... you'd have as many as forty dents an inch; so it was very fine. Some them weren't: some of them were only seven or eight dents an inch - very easy. Some were four, two, or whatever. Anyway, that's what I'd do with them, and that lot had to be lifted out, and the new ones put back in. And such a big one, you know, and different widths. So I did that at Stell's for a while. Stell's was owned by an American company called Allegheny International, making over-blankets at the time; electric over-blankets, and they had to be wired. We didn't do the wiring. What we did do at that point, we wove them, raised them and cut them. They called them shells; each blanket was a shell. And then they went to Roton, where they were wired up by women - very fast; big money, as well. And we were called Sunbeam - the name. We were Sunbeam, the name we were selling them under at the time...

     

     

    TW: I remember that name.

     

     

    SS: ... then Rowenta...

     

     

    TW: I remember that name as well, yeah.

     

     

    SS: ... and eventually we bought out Dreamland; we took them on as well. So we were quite big. Too big, as it turned out: Alleghny was a corporate fraud, and they went bust in America. Biggest bankruptcy of all time. So we got shut down. Made redundant again!

     

    Now I lived down South for a while. But the man what owned the factory previously, that had sold to Allegheny, bought it back - for a pound - and started making electric blankets and selling them to Rowenta, and whatever... you know. So I came back, looking for a job, and they said: "Right! We're expanding on to a night shift back at Calder Weaving, under a new management," and he said... Well, I went down to the dole office and they said, "We've got a weaving job. Did you work at Calder Weaving?" I said, "Well, I did seven years there, doing t'same job." So they just rang up and said, "We've got someone called Steve Smith." They says, "Tell him to start on Monday." So I started on the Monday, and they put me straight on to the night shift on my own. That was great. I had a labourer with me, and I thought, "They're going to give me two weeks' training." But they didn't; they just said, "Right, you're weaving on t'night shift, Steven." But it didn't last that long; it lasted about six or seven months; then they put me on days. Then I went knotting on days - which was better than the night shift - and then I went knotting on days, back to that again. And I've been there since - fourteen years, now. I've done this, that and the other - back at weaving ... Well, I'm weaving now.

     

     

    TW: So are you still making electric blankets?

     

     

    SS: No, electric blankets have died out completely. They got less and less, and we started to make them for South Africa and abroad for a while, but that market's died; so we don't do any at all now. We've moved in to... which has turned out to be a gem. We're using the same materials which I called shoddy before - point eight weft, which means it's thick weft, and some fours - that was at one point made by Cinder Hill, but they've shut down. So now we have to import it, from Spain, I believe, and brought to a place called... bought by a company called Shylo, who put their own label on it and sell it to us. But it is for inter-linings - thermal linings for curtains - and they raise it, and fireproof some of it, shrink some of it, depending on what the orders are, and it goes in between... like, your own curtains here have got a pattern on one side, then you've got a lining on the back, which is plain; well, they go in between there, and they create a thermal insulating layer. And of course, with the environmental interest at the moment, it's big business, and we're selling lots of it. And we've diversified into fancier stuff as well. We produce for... what's it called?... Laura Ashley; quite a lot of designs for their soft furnishings. You know, fabrics for settees - we weave that at the moment. We do a lot of hundred per cent pure linen - don't know what they use it for. And we also do something for Barbour - we do tartans for them - and they use it as linings for... they make jackets that are... what's the word?... waxed... waxed jackets. So, the waxed jackets ...

     

     

    TW: I've got one - I'll get it.

     

     

    SS: Oh, have you? Right, right! Well, we do the inter-linings for them. (TW brings jacket) Oh, God, yeah! The green one: modern check, you call that one; yeah, that's modern check. I would have woven that. (laughing) Yeah, that's what we do.

     

     

    TW: Can I have your signature, please!

     

     

    SS: I've never seen it finished, to be honest. Yes, well, that's what we're doing as well; we're doing them. We don't do all the checks. I think there are sixteen different checks. We do six of them: modern, ancient, and a few others. Yeah, that's modern check, that one, and as you'll see, it's a bit patterny, and ...

     

     

    TW: A lot of picks in that, then, I guess.

     

     

    SS: Not that many, believe it or not; it's quite open. It's a bit more awkward because of the number of colours you're running in. They're not shuttle looms, so you don't need boxes. What you do is: the Rapiers run through little things called fingers; each finger carries a different colour. So, the fingers are on giant magnets, electric magnets; and when the rapier's coming in, the colour it wants will go down on one finger and feed it. So, the fingers are going all the time, so it's just throwing threads in. There are not that many... No, there are not that many picks per inch; it's surprising. It's quite fine weft.

     

     

    TW: There's only white, black, yellow and green in that, isn't there?

     

     

    SS: Let's have a look. Also, your warp's also coloured. Now, when you're knotting them, that's very difficult, because you've got to be sure you're tying colours to each colour, because the pattern's very distinctive. So, Yeah, you'd have... you've got white, of course. I can't remember how many they have; they all have the same, by the way, I think. Check has the same numbers. So, you've got dark green, light green, yellow... that's three. You've got a black... four; white... five; I thought there was six. There might be a slight chain difference on one of them, but I don't think so. There might be five, but I thought there was six... thought there was six colours running in. Some of them are very close, by the way; some of the greens are very, very similar. So it might be a five run, this one.

     

     

    TW: Could you get the darker green with the black mixed in?

     

     

    SS: I don't know... I don't know. But as I say, we don't do all the colours; we only do some. And we only do one green, and that's this one. And then there's lots of yellowy ones, orangey ones, you know. One way or another, we produced for... What's it called now? You know, these... They make handbags that cost a fortune...

     

     

    TW: Prada?

     

     

    SS: No, it's Yorkshire. They're long coats... those big coats they make. It's a very expensive product, eight hundred quid for a sodding handbag! Yeah, we make them. The designer was in; I said, "Look, lovie! I'm not being naughty, but there's a lot of faults in this." She said, "Oh, we'd just throw that away." She said, "It doesn't cost much to buy the cloth, does it, and we're making eight hundred pounds." I thought, "Blow it!" " Well," she says, "You are silly!" I can't remember what they're called, now.

     

     

    TW: So you make handbags as well, then?

     

     

    SS: We make the materials.

     

     

    TW: You make the materials for the handbags.

     

     

    SS: We do the overflow. What happens is that they've got their own production unit. Now, when they're busy, these people come to us. So, we've got quite a lot of variety going through at the moment; quite a lot, but... I wouldn't know how many different types we've got at the moment. We've only got fourteen looms. There is a sample loom; that doesn't count. One never changes: it's always doing inter-linings; it never does anything else. So there's twelve looms that alter, and currently I would have said four or five are on inter-linings. It's a sign we're short of work, we're not too busy. We've got none on Barbour at the moment; we took the last one off about a month ago, and we've not got any fresh orders in. I'm... I'm thinking... Laura Ashley's slowed down a great deal. We do a lot of things called linen stripe and linen plain and marquee - linen with big stripes, you know.

     

     

    TW: Is that because of the recession, then? Do you think quality goods like those aren't moving as quickly as they once were?

     

     

    SS: I personally think that if you look at Laura Ashley's, share prices are dropping a lot. And they are a major customer. I think everyone's pulled back on their stock; simple as that. A lot of them had a lot of stock to work on before; certainly this lot did - Barbour. You've got to bear in mind that some of the orders we were just finishing were made twelve months previously, and we've just woven them up now because they didn't call for it; but the warps have been sat there for quite a long time. Very hard to get, as well, because there's only one place in the country that are capable of making coloured warps, and that's called Blackburn Dyers.

     

     

    TW: Really? Just the one?

     

     

    SS: Just the one that can do them, yeah. They're quite complex, are the warps. I mean, you're talking... a lot of length on them. These... five thousand metres, this stuff.

     

     

    TW: That long?

     

     

    SS: Yeah, it will run for two and a half months on the loom before it comes off. Other stuff, no. I mean, if you're doing linen, believe it or not, linen is a thousand metres, and we'll knock that off in two or three days. It'll come off and be changed and reknotted, then put another one in. And believe it or not, the inter-linings, like fours, last a long, long time - again, five or six thousand metres long. The warps are very fine; the wefts are quite heavy... but you know, one way or another. So that's where I am now, doing that.

     

     

     

    TW: Well, we'll stop there, then, and call it a day.

     

    Read more

  • Interviews and Storytelling: Mary Bramall

    [TRACK 1]

    [setting up equipment]

    I’ve gone and done it to myself now…

    Right, are you ready?

    I think so!

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

    Where I lived when I was born?

    Yes.

    Mary Bramall; I lived at number three Wood Street, Heptonstall Road, Hebden Bridge.

    Right – and when were you born?

    3rd of March…26th of March 1919.

    Wood Street you say?

    Yes.

    Whereabouts is Wood Street?

    Well it isn’t there now. It was near the bottom of Heptonstall Road, and there was quite a lot of houses on each side then but they’ve all been pulled down since. Quite a little community; half way up was High Street and a lot of houses and all the people were all neighbours and that then, and they pulled ‘em down – oh I should say…how long since…oh a long time since…about fifty years since I should say.

    Which side of the road was Wood Street on?

    It’s on the left side going up from the bottom and you went up an entry, what we used to call a ginnel and our house was the second on there.

    Was that near Pleasant View?

    Oh no – Pleasant View was up Mytholm. They’re all down now, all the houses.

    What were your mother and father like?

    Well my mother died when I was ten days old so my grandma brought me up and she was lovely.

    **What was her name? **

    Sarah Hey.

    Oh right – what did she used to do?

    Well she were an old lady when I was born so she didn’t work then, she’d be…I was born in 1919 and my grandma was seventy four when she died and I was nineteen when she died, so she must have been about sixty-ish when I was born and she brought me up.

    What about your father – what was he like?

    Oh smashing; I thought the world of me dad, and me grandma used to say ‘if…if your dad jumped in cut, you’d follow him’ – you know what she meant, canal! I used to worship me dad, yes I did.

    What work did he do?

    Well he was an office worker; my grandma had him and they weren’t married, but his father was a teacher and his parents in them days, they wouldn’t let him marry her. Why? so he was always well educated was me dad. He only went to Mytholm School but he always had an office job; he were very clever that way.

    Where did he work?

    Well he worked in different things; he used to be the store keeper at Ormerods…Engineering place down Hebden Bridge. Down Valley Road? Yes, it used to be on there.

    When you were a little girl then, what kind of games did you play?

    Oh all sorts – I used to go to Mytholm School and…oh we played tally-hoo, skipping, hopscotch, all sorts.

    What’s tally hoo?

    Well it was…it was a bit like tig, you know. We used to play at night when it was dark after tea and chase one another round, a bit like hide and seek you know, trying to find ‘em.

    Did you have any toys when you were little, like dolls or anything like that?

    Oh yes, I had dolls – I were always dressing my doll up [laughing]. I used to make clothes for it as well. Oh did you? Yes, and…so me grandma said one day – I used to…we had an old-fashioned sewing machine and I used to use it; I was only maybe about twelve or thirteen and my grandma said one day ‘if you can make doll’s clothes like that, you can make clothes for yourself’ so she bought me some voile, cheap voile you know and I just made a dress with just like no sleeves in you know, just sleeveless when I was, I’d be about thirteen then and I always liked sewing and I used to like drawing and painting. I was top of class with that, but I used to be at bottom for arithmetic! [laughing]

    The house that you were in when you were born – can you describe it, how many rooms did it have and what was it like?

    There was one big…when you went in at the door, the kitchen was on that side – no door on – and an old-fashioned sink…what did they call ‘em – slopstone and opposite there, there was the staircase that went upstairs and a big living room…and two bedrooms, a big room and a small one.

    And which room were you in – which bedroom were you in?

    I was in the big one with my grandma; she had a big double bed there and I had a single bed there and me dad had the other bedroom, yes.

    Did it have a bathroom or a toilet?

    Oh no, no – only posh people had bathrooms then [laughing] – no bathroom – we used to have a tin bath by the fire, Friday night -you were roasted on one side and cold on the other side! Me grandma used to put a clothes horse round with a blanket on you know, to keep the draught off [laughing], so …it were lovely having a bath by the fire [laughing].

    You said there was a good community on Wood Street – who were the other people, what were they like?

    Well, me grandma had…she’d four brothers I think. There was me Uncle Sam, he lived next door, me Uncle Harry lived further up Heptonstall Road, me Uncle Jim lived down in the front, down Heptonstall Road and me Uncle Arthur lived down our street – she’d four brothers and I was always at one of their houses. Me Uncle Sam lived next door but he was only young when he died, but there were about seven of ‘em , seven or eight in the family and there were just me and me grandma and me dad; I was always in next door and my cousin Harry…I think he must..he must have got fed up with me because I was like his shadow; wherever he went, I followed him [laughing]. Oh and we used to play…down our street there was a lot of children and we all used to play together under the lamp you know and tell ghost stories and things like that – it was lovely.

    Were there any shops on High Street?

    Yes, me Uncle Arthur had a shop down there; they used to have them in their houses at one time, and me Uncle Arthur had…about quarter way down our street, and he used to sell all sorts, and then one night it went all up in flames and they were burnt, me aunt and uncle, yes it was terrible. I was a long time and I daren’t go past it, no it was terrible because they sold…candles and matches and paraffin, you know it just went up in flames, and they had houses above up Heptonstall Road and so they had to get away, you know it was terrible, yeh a right tragedy.

    When was that?

    Now then let me think [pause] I would be about twenty and I’m eighty-seven now so it must be…it must be nearly seventy years since, no not so long since, nearly eighty – nearly sixty I should say, about sixty-seven years since. So you can do maths! Oh I can! [laughing] just simple!

    What school did you go to?

    Mytholm.

    Did you like it?

    Oh yes.

    Can you remember any of your teachers?

    Yes, I can remember…Mr Dyson was our headteacher, he were a lovely man, and…Miss Ashworth…and Mrs Fox…and Miss Moss; she used to teach the infants, and Miss Holt, she lived down Adelaide Street. Miss Holt used to teach the infants and [pause] Miss Ashworth, no not Miss Ashworth, Miss Crossley used to teach the older people, you know we were all in the bottom, the bottom part of the school, and I loved Mytholm School, it were lovely, yes, it’s still a good school – you never hear any complaints about it.

    Were you a church-goer?

    Yes, I used to go to Mytholm Church

    And the Sunday School as well?

    Yes.

    What was that like?

    Oh it was nice, yes…what did they call him…I forget what they called him that used to teach me, but Mr Spencer, he was the Superintendent and he was a nice man and he used to come every Sunday.

    What did you do on anniversary?

    Well we used to go to Church all dressed up…the anniversary, that’s about all we did; we didn’t have a tea or anything like that, no.

    Did you go…at Whitsuntide, what did you do at Whitsuntide?

    Whitsuntide field – we had a…we used to go up there, up Horsehold, and oh it was a long way up, right at the top and we used to have…we used to call ‘em currant buns, they were oval, no butter on, but they were good; we used to eat them outside and they used to make, they used to make coffee and tea for us, and then they had races, and some of the women used to run in the races [laughing] and one lady, I’ve forgot what they called her now – she were a right comic, and she used to run and she used to have some red knickers on, and pull ‘em down on purpose you know, and lift her ress up as she was running! [laughing] oh dear – Mrs Marshall they called her; she’ll be dead now.

    When did you leave school?

    When I was fourteen.

    And what did you do?

    I had rheumatic fever when I was eleven so I missed me eleven plus, you know to go to the grammar school. I went to…first of all I went to Callis Mill, I worked in the… the weaving shed but I wasn’t weaving, I did what they called universal winding; I made the cops for the weavers to put in the shuttles and I worked there three years and then I went to Hartley’s sewing shop…did I go there? Yes, I went to Hartleys and I learnt to make trousers, I made trousers and I worked there till the war started, and I got married in between, before the war started – oh no, during the war I were married and my husband worked at the same place before we were married like, and during the war I went to work at F & H Sutcliffe’s wood shop on by the station. Did you know about that? I’ve heard of it but I don’t know much about it; what was it like there? Well it was a big building opposite the station and they made…during the war they made ammunition boxes, which I was making; I used to knock nails in and you know, they were long boxes like that, they used to hold the mines – there were three, room for three, they were about so wide and about so long and they had rope handles for each end.

    How long did it take to make one of those?

    Oh not long, we were on piece work.

    How much did you get paid for..

    Oh I can’t remember, but we got a lot more money at F & H Sutcliffe’s than we did in the sewing shop…a man’s wage was only about two pound then in the sewing shop and we used to get…perhaps about thirty shillings, but when I went to F & H Sutcliffe’s I got about three pound so it was better.

    Can you remember your very first wage?

    Me first wage…well it was from Callis Mill.

    How much was it?

    It was about thirty shilling because they paid more there then they did in sewing shop and I gave it me grandma ‘cos she only had a pension and me dad used to work away a lot, so we weren’t very well off, so…me dad, he was made redundant where he worked and I was kind of keeping the house going then, because I started working he was on …what did they call it then…anyway when I started working they stopped his money so me grandma just had her ten shillings a week, so I was keeping the house going for quite a while, yes – little tough ‘un.

    What was it like in the weaving sheds then?

    Well, you know what it’s like in a weaving shed – the roof is all glass and in summer time they used to whitewash it so it wouldn’t be as hot for us underneath and I used to be on what they called a winding machine; it was about as long as this, maybe a bit longer, and they had the spools on each side. The cotton came off big, big rolls and came down, and then…it wound round like that and made cops for the weavers, for the shuttles so that’s what I did for about three years I think.

    Did you like it?

    Well yes, I had to do! [laughing] – yeh, it was pleasant enough….you know, we used to have…we started at… I used to catch half past six bus from the top of…Bridge Lanes you know from Heptonstall Road, I caught it and I always used to be running, I were nearly always late, and then…I used to have a cup of tea before I went and make me grandma one and take it up to bed to her, and then I…used to run down and just about catch the bus. If you weren’t there for quarter to seven, the door was locked so you had to press on a bell for them to let you in and why were you late and this that and the other; they were very strict, and then we used to have…half an hour for breakfast at eight o’clock till half past eight, and then we had I think it were three-quarters of an hour at dinner time. I worked fifty-four and three-quarter hours a week at Callis Mill that’s a lot of hours yeh, we were only fourteen. I must have been tough – well it were just a case you had to do, you know, just accepted it.

    What kind of things did you do…did you do anything during Wakes Week and holidays, what did you do on your holidays?

    Oh, we used to go to Blackpool, me and my grandma. There were nowhere else for my grandma, only Blackpool, and we used to stay in a little boarding house, same place for years you know; yes, I liked that, and then when I started courting, we used to go to Blackpool with me grandma as well [laughing]

    What did you do at Christmas time – did you do anything special at Christmas?

    No, not really, no.

    Did you have a tree?

    There was only me and my grandma you see….we always used to have chicken or something like that you know because me grandma liked anything with feathers on [laughing] she liked her food, yeh, and she used to make lovely Christmas cakes. We had a fire oven and she used to cook – ooh when you went in, oh – lovely smell, she used to get a little small piece of beef and cook it in the fire oven, and make some lovely Yorkshire puddings, and she used to make them in…you know then loaf tins? Yeh. She used to make them in two of them and they used to come up like that, I’ve never tasted Yorkshire puddings since like that, no.

    Did she have a special recipe?

    Well I don’t know, you see she couldn’t read or write so she had to have it in her brain what she did, but I’ve made them since and they’ve just been…well they’ve risen up like me grandma’s used to do, and me husband used to think they were lovely [laughing], he liked Yorkshire puddings!

    Did you heat the fat first?

    Oh yes, yeh, yeh, last time I tried to make some here, I had fire engine come! [laughing] It was Sunday morning and I’d mixed the pudding, and I must have got my oven too hot, and I…I went in the lounge or something and then I went back in kitchen, it was full of smoke, and fire brigade came – three of them, and I’d got me fat too hot and it had…I says ‘I am sorry’ he says ‘it’s alright lass, as long as you’re alreet’ so I’ve never done ‘em since [lauging] oh dear!

    Can you remember any like characters, you know, people who were- unusual?

    Yes, I can, I can remember one man and he was a bit, well, they used to call him Richard, Richard Holden,well us kids used to plague him, you know, and..well, he used to laugh and then when it was dark nights we used to always sit under this lamp down our street and he’d…he’d come up with a big sheet on him like this, frightening us to death! [laughing] oh dear! We always used to sit under that lamp talking, oh we used to sit there till about nine o’clock at night and then we had to go home to bed [laughing]

    Were there any other shops on High Street then, or any pubs or anything like that?

    No, there were just my Uncle Arthur’s shop down there and that got burnt…and the other side up Heptonstall Road there were what they called Pie Sammy’s [laughing[

    What was that like?

    Oh, just a little shop but he used to make, oh he used to make some lovely pies, beef pies with gravy in you know and he used to go round at Friday night selling these pies and he’d be drunk you know – he’d have a drink in nearly every pub and he used to go to all pubs and Fred, me husband used to say, he used to come in and fellas used to plague him, and they were only thre’pence and they were lovely pies and they used to say ‘oh they should be tuppence now Sammy’ and he used to say ‘they were thre’pence when I left home and they’re still thre’pence, and if you don’t want ‘em you can please yerself!’ [laughing] Oh they were lovely pies though, and then at the bottom of where we lived there was another shop, Tom Ackroyd’s and that was a grocer’s, you know – he sold everything did Tom, yeh, right handed shops, and then at the bottom of Heptonstall Road there was another shop, Sutcliffe’s; they were a bit higher class and they sold all sorts, they used to sell home-made bread and that, they’d some nice bread but my grandma used to make her own.

    Oh did she have a special day for baking?

    Thursday, she used to make bread, and a big parkin and a custard as well in this fire oven and then…well it got done, it gave out so we got a gas cooker, but we had to send it back – she couldn’t understand this gas cooker; she was frightened of blowing herself up,[laughing] so we had to do without then.

    When you say fire oven, do you mean like the range that was set in? What did it look like?

    Have you ever seen one, old-fashioned one? At one side there used to be a boiler, well you used to put cold water in and then they had two fire irons inside the fire and if you wanted hot water they used to take that one out at that side and push the fire underneath a bit, and then at the other side they did the same with the oven. There were this boiler at one side and then the fire and then this…the oven at the other side, yeh.

    Could you cook on top?

    No, no, we had a gas – we had a gas ring to cook, yeh, we used to fry bacon in frying pan, whatever you wanted on this gas ring, but baking day we used the fire oven, oh and when you went home, when I came home from school, the smell…oh it used to be lovely.

    Did you used to make dock pudding?

    Dock pudding – oh yes, we used t0 go docking; there used to be a lot in that field there. I used to go with me dad up Colden, it were a long way to get ‘em but they used grow by the river, and…

    Did you have a recipe?

    Yeh, you had it in your head.

    What was your recipe?

    Well, a bag of docks and about…and they all had to be picked you know, the stems off, and when I used to get ‘em we used to get ‘em me grandma used to say ‘don’t forget to take them stems off’ oh it was hard work you know…so I used to do so much and then used to finish up at home tekking remainder off- well, there was docks and then you boiled them till they were soft and then about a pound of onions with ‘em all chopped up, and then me grandma used to do it on fire and some salt and pepper, and stir it up all the time, and she had a big knife and she used to chop all the time; anything big had to be cooked on the fire and it was hard work but a lovely dock pudding – have you had any? No I’ve not had any, no. Well you have a…at Mytholmroyd about March when it’s dock time they have a dock pudding breakfast and you can have it there with bacon, yeh it’s lovely. It’s an acquired taste – it looks like cow clap, well it does really when it’s cooked and any strangers they say ‘ooh it looks awful’ but when they taste it, it’s lovely.

    What else did you put in it?

    Oatmeal, oatmeal, docks and onions and then thicken it up with oatmeal so it was thick, well you poured some of the water off, and then you cooked it so it was thick and then fried it with bacon, bacon and egg – oh I could eat some now! [laughing] Some of ‘em used to…me brother-in-law, he used to make it, and then put some in his freezer and have it Christmas Day – it’s alright.

    Can you remember any old sayings, any old sayings like your grandmother taught you?

    [pause] all sorts – I can’t just remember [pause] she used to say to me when I were little ‘if you can’t say anything nice about anybody, don’t say anything at all’. That was a good…for bringing up wasn’t it? yes, very good. She had a rocking chair had me grandma, she used to smoke a pipe, a brown one not a clay one, but when we went on holidays she [laughing] didn’t smoke it in the dining room but when we used to go up to our bedroom she used to sit by the window and open window, and have a clay pipe and blow smoke out [laughing] – I always remember that!

    Did a lot of women her age smoke pipes?

    I don’t know, I never saw anybody else, no, she must have been one on her own.

    Did you ever have nicknames for people – did you know anyone with nicknames?

    Yeh, they called me grandma Sarah Fanny’s because they called her mother Fanny – Sarah of Fanny’s, and me Uncle Sam was Sam of Fanny’s and all her brothers were the same, and, but next door…my Aunty Annie next door and my cousin Harry, they used to call them Bushies – where they got that name from I don’t know, for a nickname, and they called my Aunt Annie Cappy – she came from Heptonstall, where that came from I don’t know.

    Were they Greenwoods?

    Yeh, all Greenwoods, they were all…I bet half of Mytholm School at that time was Greenwoods – Greenwoods and Sutcliffes, yeh.

    Did you ever go mumming?

    Yes I did.

    What did you do when you went mumming?

    But my grandma didn’t want me to go mumming. They used to come, you know me cousins and that, they were older than me, well I used to carry on till I got older I could go mumming, well you used to blacken all your face you know, and you’d have a…they used to have a brush for the fireplace, and you’d have this brush and go into people’s houses and you never spoke, you used to go ‘mmmmm’ [Mary made a humming sound] like that all the time, and then you’d go to the fireplace and brush the fireplaces down, and then we used to sing…what did we used to sing?…something about ‘if you haven’t a penny a ha’penny will do and if you haven’t a ha’penny, God bless you’, and so they used to have to give us some money [laughing] – usually a penny or a ha’penny, yeh, and my cousins, they were older than me and I used to think ‘ooh I wish I could have my face blacked’ so when I got older I did have it blacked but you’d a job to get it off because it was soot you know; they used to put…me grandma used to put lard on me face to begin and then put this soot on after; it was black as night! [laughing] – yes, I do remember, oh and at…when it was the fifth of November, we used to go round singing then to people’s doors – ‘remember, remember the fifth of November’ the something….plot…’remember, remember the fifth of November’…I can’t remember what that word was and it ended up with the plot. We used to have fireworks outside and me dad wouldn’t let me have my fireworks on me own and I used to be a bit cross, I think he were frightened of me burning myself, and we used to have Catherine Wheels you know, and he used to hammer it on the coal place door was opposite the living room door, hammer it on there and then spin this Catherine Wheel round. We didn’t have one big bonfire like they do, we all used to have our own little ones.

    Where was yours?

    Well where we lived, there was a lot of…a lot of hen pens and pigeons; all my grandma’s relatives had livestock, either pigeons or hens, and there used to be some ground at the back and we used to have ours up there and put…you know, take potatoes and eat ‘em half raw, I think they still might do that.

    In those buildings there up Heptonstall Road and up Bridge Lanes there, what were all those buildings like?

    They were all houses, yeh it was like a little rabbit warren, you know there was..there’d be, well where we lived…there was an old lady lived underneath; they were nearly all two stories, you were either on top or underneath and some of them lower down Heptonstall Road, they were just one – one room like a flat and they might have the bed in a little alcove, and then a little kitchen parted off. They were all nice and cosy, they all had them nice but then they all got pulled down; they pulled some down that they shouldn’t have done really, yes they did. I used to go into everybody’s house, me – well kids did then you know, we used to go and…especially with being on my own really with me grandma. I was always in my Aunt Annie’s next door, and me Uncle Sam died and she wasn’t…well you can understand it, she’d seven or eight children, and she wasn’t right clean, and every time I went back into me grandma’s I got a flea, ooh and she used to say ‘you’ve been in your Aunt Annie’s again, you little buggar! [laughing]

    Did you ever go maypole dancing?

    No only at school, we did it at school, just now and again, not like they do now.

    Did you used to like that?

    Yes I did, all the ribbons used to twist at top but we never kind of did it till….I never thought we’d done it long enough, I don’t know whether it was right or not – we only used to do it one afternoon that’s all, I liked it.

    How did you actually do it – did you go…different people go in and out?

    Yes, yes.

    Was it all girls?

    I think so, yeh I think so. I was in the top class when I was eleven, don’t know whether I were brainy or if they were short of room! Mr Dyson our Headmaster though, he was a lovely man, yes he was.

    Did you used to wear clogs?

    Yes, yes.

    All the time?

    No, till I was about twelve I think, something like that, and then I started wearing shoes. Clogs seemed to go out of fashion then at that time, and we used to go down High Street making sparks with ‘em, yes we did, and there was a man lived near the bottom of Heptonstall Road, we used to call him Jack Clogger; I don’t know what his proper name was and all kids, we used to go in there and sit watching him when it was holidays and we used to watch him paring this wood off the soles you know, it was right interesting really, and it used to come off in curls you know, yes. Jack Clogger – he lived near the bottom of Heptonstall Road.

    The first time I went up…we lived at Hollins, well I got that house before Fred…Fred was in the forces, me husband, I didn’t see him for four years and I got that cottage – I were living with his father and mother when he went and I got a cottage at Hollins, do you know where Hollins is? Is it Blackshaw? No, you know when you go on Lee Wood yes well there’s a road going down and some cottages, well we lived in one of them and…what was I going to…what were we talking about? Forgotten. Oh and I used to either go down Buttress or down Dark Lane or…Moss Lane to work, it was all up and down.

    When did you move to Hollins?

    Well during the war. I got this house when Fred was still in the army so we’d have a house of our own when he came home; I didn’t want to still live with his father and mother. They were very good to me but we wanted our own house when he came home, as I say I hadn’t seen him for four years, anyway when he came out of the army he went down, he used to go down to the Fox and Goose; there were just men went in then, they didn’t have women in and they were all old men and they used to make a fuss of him you know, and when he came home on leave he went down…no he’d finished then, he went down one night and…I thought ‘oh he is a long time coming home, I wonder where he is?’ it got to twelve o’clock and I knew they went out about eleven, and I thought ‘I wonder where he is?’ He’d got lost [laughing] because he’d never been to that house before you know! He were walking on Lee Wood Road and he met three men coming from Blue Pig they call it, Working Men’s Club, and he had his big boots and his army clothes on, and they says ‘where are you going lad’ and he says ‘ Well I’m looking for Hollins but I can’t find it’ so they says ‘come on back with us lad, we’ll show you where it is’ so he got lost first night [laughing] – it were funny!

    What was the house at Hollins like?

    Oh it were lovely; I’d no water in but we had electric, I had electric but no water, I’d to go down twenty steps to fetch water, well I were young then, young and strong, I’d be about twenty-five then, twenty-six. The well was at the bottom and it was hard work going down when it had been snowing; I only used to fetch one bucket then but normally I used to fetch two. There was like a landing in between and I used to put these two buckets down and then have a break and then carry…twenty steps all together, and one day landlord, Albert Greenwood, a nice chap, ‘Mary’ he says ‘what are you doing carrying two buckets up’ so he says ‘put ‘em down, I’ll bring one up’ so he carried one up for me, and he used to bring me eggs as well and they were on ration then you know, you only got one egg a month and he used to bring me three or four eggs and I had an evacuee then, a little girl, Gwen, and I used to say ‘how much do you want for ‘em Albert?’ ‘I want nowt or else I shan’t bring you no more!’ [laughing] Aye, a nice chap.

    Where was Gwen from?

    Gwen [pause] Fred never saw her.

    ANOTHER PERSON IN ROOM:

    Have you said about neck end?

    What’s he saying?

    He’s saying about neck end.

    Oh I haven’t got to neck end yet! Where we used to live, they used to call it neck end.

    Why?

    I’ve always known Colin [other person in room?] he went to Mytholm School when I did. Bottom of Heptonstall Road they always used to call it neck end, why I don’t know, I don’t know and Colin, he used to go to Mytholm School when I did, and he used to live up Mytholm way so there’s about eight of us here that were born in Hebden and lived in Hebden.

    Do you think it’s changed a lot?

    Oh yes.

    What’s the biggest change for you?

    Well I think some of it’s changed for the better. Market Street used to be full of lovely shops when I was younger and then it just seemed to go derelict. They used to shut the shops on a Saturday – fancy shutting shops on a Saturday, but they did and then. I think it was David…one of the councillors anyway, he got them to open their shops again at Saturday – well everybody used to go down Hebden at Saturday when I was younger, all dressed up you know and even with hats on, you had to wear a hat and gloves then you know, you had to be dressed up, and they had some lovely shops, and then it all kind of went derelict.

    And then I remember going up…I used to work at the fuel office down Hebden Bridge during war and I was waiting for a bus going up, Heptonstall bus, and when I was going up Heptonstall Road they were pulling all these houses down. I cried when I got home – I thought ‘they’re pulling all me memories down’. Sad, but it’s what they did.

    Do you think young people today have the same values that you had when you were young?

    Well I feel sorry for the young ones today because when we were young there were three dance places – there was Trades Club, Victoria Hall and the Co-op Hall. Well I were dancing mad and my husband, when we were courting we were both dancing mad and we used to go to all dances, but today I said to one of me friends the other day, I says ‘there’s nothing for young ones here today only discos and pictures and pubs’, well they have to go in pubs because there’s nowhere else to go is there? I feel sorry for ‘em really.

    Did you go in the Fox and Goose?

    Oh no – ladies didn’t go in pubs then and anyway, the Fox and Goose were only for men in them days. It were during the war when women started going into pubs, because if you went in a pub at one time, you were a loose woman, you know – women didn’t go in. Me grandma used to like, she used to like a drink of beer, but she used to send Fred down for a bottle of beer for her and he used to go, yeh.

    Did you remember Mrs Norland?

    Yes I do.

    Did you ever meet her?

    Yes.

    What was she like?

    She was a good-hearted woman but she looked tough. She used to wear a man’s cap and a shawl and she were in charge of the canteen at Gorple, and me dad once took me up; my dad, he was…what do they call it…put bets on…a bookmaker? a bookmaker? Yes he was, and he had an office on canal bank. He once took me up to Gorple because Mrs Norland used to take bets for the men and then give it me dad when he went up. I remember Fred saying when he was about seventeen, he had an office on the canal bank had me dad and it had like a little wooden bridge that went across to it to the door and Fred said he went when he was about seventeen, before he met me and he must have had some bets or something, and he knocked on door – it was illegal to give you know…people bets outside – if they had an office it was alright – so he went and knocked on door and me dad opened door and he grabbed hold of him, he says ‘come in you silly buggar, you can’t stand there’ it were funny. There was another man, another bookmaker up…he lived at Fairfield and the rumour was going round that police were coming, you know, they got wind of these men that took these bets, so me dad came home and he used to sell tickets an’ all, football tickets and I used to help to count these coupons out – put ten that way, put ten that way – I thought it were lovely, I were only about eleven – and anyway, me dad said, ‘we’ll have to get rid of them’ and we got all these tickets and these coupons and hid ‘em upstairs thinking police would be coming, they never came. Ooh I thought it were right exciting, I thought ‘ooh me dad might end up in jail! [laughing] oh dear!

    Do you know any jokes?

    No not really – we used to know dirty jokes when I worked in sewing shop but I were never right tekken on with them.

    What were the major events that you can remember – important things that happened around here, can you remember anything?

    Well there was the carnival, that used to be once a year, and that man I was talking about, him with the white sheet on, he was a bit…poor, what did they call him?…I’ve forgotten, anyway he were at front of procession and somebody had made him a big jam cake and it were full of jam, he was eating this jam – Richard Holden they called him – and he won a prize. [laughing]I think I was a daffodil; me cousin had made me some…like a daffodil and a yellow dress out of tissue paper. The carnival and then…there was a big fire once, everybody went to watch it, on by station; it was a sewing shop, I don’t know what they called it now, and it caught fire and there was a right big blaze. In them days when there was a fire, everybody went, everybody went to watch it! When you think now…[laughing]

    Did you ever go into the blacksmith’s shop on Crown Street – the farrier?

    I can remember it; I used to go with me granddad. I was only five when me granddad died so I’d only be about four or five then. I used to stand at side and watch him making these horseshoes you know, yes I can remember that. It was opposite where the Co-op buildings are now, it was opposite there.

    Can you remember his name?

    No, no, I can’t remember his name – as I say, I’d only be about four or five but it right fascinated me you know, I used to think they were burning horse you know – well you did didn’t you, didn’t know that it didn’t…me granddad used to say ‘oh it’s alright love, he isn’t burning it’ He was a nice man was me granddad, he died when I were five.

    Did you go to Nicky’s café?

    No I never went in Nicky’s cafe, I were a bit too old then but a lot of the young ones went. I was older then I think.

    Can you remember some of the shops on Market Street?

    Oh yes, I can remember all of ‘em, well most of ‘em. There was Gracie Astin’s the first one – a lovely dress shop that was, and then there was Sam Crossley’s greengrocer’s; next to it there was a…tobacconist’s and I used to have to go there for me grandma’s bacca, cut cakes I used to get, and he knew me so he let me have it – I’d only be about eleven then – and then there….it stood back and there was a confectioner’s shop and ooh they used to make some lovely cream cakes, and me cousins, I think you see with me mother dying, me grandma’s brother’s children used to come and tek me out, and they used to tek me down Market Street when I was little and we used to go to that shop and get some cream horns on a Saturday, we always had a cream horn at tea time, and they used to take me back to their house, to me Aunt Minnie’s and she lived at Queens Terrace, well down below, there’s some steps there and you went down below and some houses underneath, and me aunty lived there, and I called me cousin Leslie, Leslie Greenwood. Did you know him? I know a woman called Lesley Greenwood but she’s about- she’ll be in her forties I suppose now. Oh no, Leslie were older than me, no. He’d three sisters; my cousins Nellie, Gladys, Gracie and then Leslie, and I think they’d had two boys before and they’d both died so Leslie were absolutely ruined, yeh he was; he were married twice.

    Do you know a man called Jim Greenwood? Which Jim Greenwood? He’ll be about sixty-five now; he used to be an engineer – a spinner.

    I know a Jim Greenwood but he died. Oh it’s a different one then. There’s such a lot of Greenwoods. His wife lives here, that Jim Greenwood I’m talking about, Marjory.

    What do you think about what we’ve just done, I mean talking about this – do you think that it’s important that people should hear what the old times were like?

    Well yes I do, I think…well, younger ones, they’ve no idea at all have they? During the war hen everything was rationed and that, you know you just had to do your best.

    If you had any advice for young people then, what would you say?

    Well, I would say live life as best you can and like me grandma used to say, ‘if you can’t say a good word about anybody, don’t say anything’. I don’t know anything else.

    Were you always in the sewing shops?

    No, I’ve had a few jobs. As I say I went to Charlestown and worked in the weaving shed, then from there I went into Hartley’s sewing shop, then during the war – where did I go then? oh, I worked at F & H Sutcliffe’s, they used to make hen cotes and all sorts of stuff like that, it was opposite station, I think it’s pulled down now, and then from there we were made redundant about thirty of us, so I had to go to the Labour Exchange and they gave me a green card, not for that! They gave me a recommendation to go to Barbreck, and that was a woodworking place, but I wasn’t twenty-five so they couldn’t take me on; they couldn’t take anybody under twenty-five, this was during the war, so I ended up – I had to go back to the Labour Exchange then and tell them that they wouldn’t tek me on. She s says ‘are you any good at writing?’ Well I think I tek after me dad, I’m not a bad writer, I shouldn’t say so meself but I can’t do with this hand now so well, but me dad always worked in an office and so I says ‘well, not so bad’ she says ‘well they want somebody at the fuel office’ but I said ‘oh I don’t want to work in an office’, so anyway she says ‘well will you go and see Mr Blackburn?’ so I says ‘well yes I will’. It was Edward Blackburn and he knew Fred; they’d grown up together up Birchcliffe. He said ‘are you Fred’s wife’ and I said ‘yes, but I don’t want to come here working!’ He says ‘why not?’ I says ‘well I’ve never done office work’ he says ‘well, I’ll tell you what we’ll do’ he says ‘I’ll give you a month to see how you go on and if you didn’t like it, you can finish then’ I were there three years and yes, I liked working in the fuel office very much, then when the war finished…where did I go then?…oh I went back machining, I went back machining then and I worked there forty-three years. Which place? Hartley’s Sewing Shop – Peter and Bob were the bosses and they gave me a cheque for fifty pound when I left. I got that I was teaching young ones that came in to machine so I didn’t do so bad. And then I finished work when I was sixty, I said to Fred ‘I’m finishing when I’m sixty’ I says ‘I’ve worked long enough’ he says ‘well you can please yourself love’ he worked there as well, so I finished when I were sixty and that’s twenty-seven years since so I’ve been a lady of leisure ever since!

    Did you have children?

    No, that’s one disappointment, yes; we both wanted children but it’s usually case in’t it, and them that don’t want ‘em usually get a field full, anyway we were happy, I think it brought us closer together not having any children you know, but when he went in the forces I didn’t see him for four years and it seemed a long time. We kept thinking war would be over but it just kept

    [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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