CHILDHOOD IN KNOTTINGLEY
Submitted to us by Don Aaron
A studio portrait of Susan Aaron and her husband Tom, submitted to us by Ken Aaron
the following verse on a scrap of old, paper, by an unknown writer, I
thought how apt when thinking of old times. In retrospect joys of the
past are vanished for ever?
soon vanished and sooner decayed
Ripples of light upon times flowing river
Lost with its breath o'er its bosom that strayed
Vainly oh vainly our hearts would restore them
Fair though they glitter, how swiftly they're gone
Echo's that die with the music which bore them
Lights that are darkened the moment they're shone.
me how true those words of life and times now gone. I have absorbed
knowledge like a sponge, also I have an excellent memory. What pleasure
it gives to appreciate the beauty and bounty of nature. To see the stark
simplicity of an old country church or the exquisite craftsmanship in
stone or wood in Cathedrals or Great Houses.
stand as I did by Bruces Stone on a Scottish hill and look towards the
mountains or down tree clad slopes to see water cascading down into the
quiet Loch of Glen Trool below. One is filled by an inner peace and a
strong feeling of eternity.
was born on the 15th July 1909 at Bens Kalodyne Terrace, Racca Green.
Years later that friendly area had disappeared making way for shops.
was the daughter of Joseph Longstaff Ellerington, and Ellen Ellerington.
Already there was Sarah Hannah, and Joe, six years and three years
older. I was given a family name after my Great Grandmother, Aunt, and
Great Aunt (Susanna).
it is unfashionable to think of the past, but today it is history, with
its happiness, sorrows and experience.
that time my Grandparents Pickersgill lived down the passage, and behind
there was a large yard and garden, where Uncles George, Ernest, and Bob
kept racing pigeons, and Dad raised pigs. When Dad boiled small potatoes
in their skins for them, we children would beg some, and they had a
lovely special taste. The home cured ham, bacon, pork fry, and pork pies
had a flavour not found today.
was a happy go lucky person, and he loved his children dearly, and
always found time to talk to us, explain things, and play with us
sometimes to mothers annoyance, and yet he thought a lot of her, buying
her presents and taking her to the Music Hall, although her taste in
music was totally different. He bought records of such pieces as Poet
and Peasant, Light Cavalry, William Tell, Zampa, Cavaliera Rusticana,
and The Boers have got my Daddy I can still sing it. I would listen
entranced as he played them, then one day he brought the record Finiculi,
Finicula, and on the opposite side Ring out the Bells for Christmas,
-which he played often, but when he wasn't looking Mother smashed. it by
throwing it in the fire It had a short life but a gay one.
had a real temper, but she fed us well, and dressed us neatly, but
somehow I never felt as close to her as Dad.
gave me to her eldest sister with no children, so Aunt Susie took me to
Broadreach Lock at Wakefield to live with them. Evidently I settled down
quite happily. Later I was reminded of my antics while there. When empty
coal barges went through the locks they put buckets filled with the
remains of coal swept up on the side for the Lock Office. A small grubby
girl industriously tossed it over the low wall into the lock, bit by
bit, and when missing was usually found among the fruit bushes.
who had been told that I was on a long holiday, asked Granma when I was
coming home, and she told him the truth. He told mother he was fetching
me home, and he hitch hiked by carts, and brought me back. He wanted me,
a child knows love.
first thing I remember is Dad showing us the art of Ducks and Drakes, he
taught us how to whiz flat stones across the canal hitting the water
three times before sinking. He would hold the back of my frock so I
didn't go in, a practice that Mother frowned upon. Joe, as the one boy
was rather special, and whatever work tools Dad had, he provided Joe
with a set in miniature, so when Dad chopped sticks so did Joe, they
were not toys but functionable, so as well as occupying him he was
learning the correct way to handle them safely.
Blacksmith at the top of The Green was asked by Dad to make Joe the
traditional iron bowl and hook, and for the girls he bought wooden
hoops. Saranns was larger than ours. We were well provided with simple
toys, and a large collection of table games: Ludo, Snakes and Ladders,
Tiddlywinks and draughts he certainly understood his children.
Pancake day out came seasonal toys, whips and tops and skipping ropes.
He took the three of us up Aire Street and bought us battledores and
shuttle feathers. Sarann as his eldest had a special one shaped like the
first tennis rackets with a beautiful large white feather shuttle, each
feather topped with paper coloured flowers. Ours were smaller, but he
usually explained the difference in age and size. Mine and Nellie's were
of a kind I've never seen since. The raquet was hollow with a 1"
wide black band round it, and it must have deafened folk with the noise
it bumped out. Mary had a smaller old type, just the size for her.
we had the canal and River Aire in close proximity, children tended to
go there to play. The Bendles at the bottom of Racca Green was a
veritable children's paradise. There on the canal was an old timber and
boatyard. The stacks of timber and old barges lay half in and half out
of the water. This playground was strictly forbidden, but somehow all
our contemporaries seemed to gather there. So many games to play:
crawdening, climbing, dens, hide and seek, lovely thick planks to ranty
on (see saw), with usually some brave soul stood in the centre Cock o'
the Midden balancing. Many planks found their way into the holds of the
old water filled barges, and on these we would stand while floating from
end to end. To our childish minds they were not planks but big liners,
the Titanic, Lusitania, Mauritania, sailing away.
betide us if parents saw us. One evening Dad was having a quiet drink in
the Lime Keel Inn when he saw me, and chased me half round Knottingley,
then he gave up, but promised retribution when I got home, and when I
did he soundly skelped my bottom. It was when I got older that I
realised it was our safety which had made him angry.
one looks back, we had an awe of authority, so sadly lacking today. One
day Joe and I both had mumps, and there we were with flannel tied
pudding wise round our heads when we saw Mr Wrightson, who Joe called
the 'kid catcher'. We dashed under the table while Mother explained our
absence from school.
the first charabancs arrived on the scene, Dad who was always one for
novelties, decided he would try it one Saturday afternoon, taking me
along. It looked like an elongated motor car with four doors each side,
and each row holding four. We wandered around Pontefract, he bought some
Setans, such nice toffee for Mother, but then he realised we had missed
the chara back, so off we set walking. As I trotted along he talked and
talked on all sorts of things, maybe it was to take my mind off tired
little legs. When we reached the three arched bridge, I was informed
that a murder had been done on the embankment. I don't know why that
stuck in my mind, but of one thing I am sure, whenever I pass that way
and see that bridge, there always comes to my mind of a dearly loved
father who never grew old.
my time I've seen many changes in entertainment. On the Flatts
occasionally came a tented theatre, the seats were forms and slats of
wood. The fare provided Maria Martin, or Murder in the Red Barn, Joe
liked Sweeney Todd the tent was known colloquially as the Rag and Stick.
The next step concerts in the Town Hall, lantern slides, then next it
was the silent films.
my eldest sister was a. quiet serious girl, who usually got the task of
shepherding us younger ones on walks each Sunday morning. Off she would
go with her little flock, so reliable, but when given a. task did it
regardless, as I found to my cost. Going through Jubilee Walk she said
and up Womersley Road, but I wanted to go through Springfields. Joe
couldn't care less. I mulishly stood my ground, so she got my arm and
pulled me on, my arm went quite queer, but we went on the walk. When we
got back, taking off my coat my Dad saw my arm hanging loose, so he took
me to Doctor Arthur Percival who put it back in the socket. I didn't
attended Sunday school regularly, and eagerly looked forward to the
treats. On Ascension Day we would be loaded on flat drays, a piano
anchored on one, we would stop in each street and sing hymns. For the
yearly treats we would go one year to Monk Fryston and another to
Whitley Lodge. We went to Monk Fryston in horse drawn wagons, after the
afternoon races, at which I was always an also ran. We would be given a
bag of sandwiches and buns, and taken into the Alpine Hall where tea was
served. To me it was a revelation, it seems that one of the guests at
Monk Fryston Hall was an artist who after a stay in Switzerland returned
and was left free to decorate that great hall. He transformed it into a
miniature Switzerland, the intense blue of the ceiling with it's clouds,
the walls purple white capped mountains, towards the floor the green of
the valley with attractive little chalets dotted here and there
absolutely enchanting to me that was the highlight of the day, or I
would not be able to recall it so clearly today.
year the treat would be a trip down by barge to Whitley Lodge Park,
where the usual races were run followed by a picnic tea. I little
thought that in later life I would be invited to tea at that big house
by Mrs Charlotte Lyons, whose family owned shares in the Chemical Works,
and the shipyard. She it was who introduced me to the Countess of Rosse,
mother of Anthony Armstrong Jones. The Countess invited me to tea twice
at Womersley Park, that was a long way ahead though.
holiday times Grandfather Pickersgill would hire a wagonette, and the
whole family piled in and off we went to Selby market. There would be a
visit to Selby Abbey, then down to the river to watch the tide race
along under the Toll Bridge. It was pleasant to ride back in the evening
to the rhythm of the clip clop of the horses hooves.
Dad wasn't wise money wise, as when he had a good week at work (he was a
Glassblower), his pride and joy was to buy presents for Mother and his
children. One Friday he trooped us girls up Aire Street, and we returned
with fur necklets and muffs with the usual differences.
that time our dress was rather cumbersome, Joe had a sailor suit
complete with straw hat and whistle. A suit in Edwardian style, double
breasted half belt at the back, knickerbockers reaching just below the
knee ending in a bank, thick black knitted stockings, and strong shiny
were more unfortunate, a woollen vest, liberty bodice, drawers
comprising two flannel back-less legs on a waist band with frills on the
bottom, two Flannelette petticoats, feather stitched, a white cotton one
on top of them, dark staff dresses with fluffed sleeves, a white
pinafore with broiderie anglais frills round the yoke and armholes, home
knitted stockings and buttoned boots. It was worse on Sundays as it was
white cotton drawers (starched), one white flannelette petticoat, two
cotton ones (starched) with frills, a white dress, large white hat with
elastic under the chin. How we suffered when walking rub, rub, rub, It
reminds me of a marching rhyme we learned at school in the third class:
Stiff as starch
Biddies all in a row
Keep in line
All the time
Or to the fox you'll go.
popular way of amusing ourselves was to wheedle a penny from our parents
or grandparents for the ferry to cross the River Aire to the Marsh, a
large area of marshland, taking a bag containing either nettle beer,
kali, or water and snacks, a fishing net and jam jar, we were well
equipped. We would fish for sticklebacks, paddle, and generally run
wild, little realising that where we played so happily was the scene of
one of the bloodiest battles of the Wars of the Roses. There the butcher
Clifford who had killed the Yorkist heir to the throne at Sandal , a few
miles away, met his end there holding the ford. Armour was turned up
when they tried to plough the marsh during the 1914-18 war. After a
time, teatime called and we would wend our way home, tired, but happily
clutching bunches of water blobs, and jars full of sticklebacks. Often
when we got home there would be warm oven bottom cakes with cheese
cooked in milk, just the thing for hungry children. There was always
somewhere to go and something to do.
groups of us would wend our way up the Jubilee, across the Springfield,
picking dog daisies, large Marguerites, Cowslips, Milk maids a delicate
mauve flower, and sometimes joy of joys trembling grass. This pretty
grass decorated many a mantelpiece in vases, and I know bunches were
very acceptable to Granny.
seemed to assimilate history as we grew up, and the house had much
memorabilia of the Boer War. On the dresser were two sculptured heads
set in green glass, Bobs (Lord Roberts) and Kitchener, generals in the
Boer War. Mother would sing a Music Hall song which parodied the fashion
of naming children after personalities, Dad bought her the record, it
ran at all the christenings: The baby's name is Kitchener, Cavannah,
Lord Pretoria, Bobs, Krargi, Kruger, Kimberley, Mafekin, Ladysmith, De
Botha, Smuts. I can sing it as I heard it so often.
think I can truthfully say that I was a happy natured child, I've my old
Aunts Mary and Maud to thank for that information, always smiling like
my Dad. I was welcomed in every house on the Green they told me.
the 1914-18 war we could see the silver cigar shaped Zeppelins on
moonlit nights, and many folk trekked up to the Lime Quarries out of
fear. Food began to be a problem, white sugar disappeared, and dark
brown lumpy stuff was what we had we often used to slive our hands in
the jar in the cupboard and eat lumps like sweets rather reprehensible
of us. So this was where the pigs came in useful.
playmates on the Green were increased by two Belgian families, refugees
brought over, friends of sea Captain Tupman at Antwerp. We easily
integrated as children do.
four sons all volunteered together much to her distress. Then life
seemed at a quiet tempo, all the young fellows gone to join up. In the
evenings women would bring out chairs or stools, or stand chatting to
each other, and passers by at the door. They would be busily knitting
socks or stockings, others on larger items such as the navy blue ganseys
(jerseys). They were traditionally seafaring navy blue, and different
areas had their own pattern, the Knottingley pattern was lost when one
old lady died.
Knottingley had a large seafaring community, and I remember names of
some who had retired when I was a child, in fact my husbands grandfather
was Captain Thomas Aaron. Captain Coward was Aunt Dorothy's husband,
Captain Chris Cawthorn was wrecked twice, and there were lots more. How
memory flows with layer tide.
on Bank Holidays, heavy ropes would be produced and young married folk
would be skipping away with the children. The street was ideal as only
rarely horse drawn traffic came along. It was fascinating to watch young
women, Aunt Mary among them playing Diablo. I could never master it, but
Aunt Mary was expert at it, as well as skipping double dutch (2 ropes).
Another popular game, one got Dad to get a 3" piece of broom
handle, and whittle one end to a point, it was then propped on a small
brick , the end being then given a sharp norp, then struck in the air
with a stick. That was Knurr and Spell, more commonly known as 'Piggy'.
Such simple ways of amusing ourselves. Older folk would join in our
games, even Piseball, now known as rounders.
thought a lot of Granny, and as she had moved across the road, she asked
Dad about taking me, as she thought it would be more settled, as he said
he could see me every day, for me began a very happy time, indeed I felt
little job I was able to do, permission was given at school along with
others to come out of school at a quarter to 12, run back home, and
Granny would be waiting with Granddad's dinner in a lidded wicker
basket, and off I'd trot to the Chemics where he worked in the
Blacksmiths shop. Always he had something for me, either an orange or an
apple, maybe a penny or sweets. Back to Grannies then for my dinner,
then back to school, but always she would set me off with a kiss she was
June 1916 Uncle Ernest, the youngest son came home on leave as he had
been in the disastrous Gallipoli, he was on the ill fated Suvla Bay
landings in the Dardanelles, taken off in darkness, taken to Egypt.,
then leave. The day before his leave ended he came across me standing on
a chair trying to roll up my plait and ribbon, copying Aunt Mary's grown
up style. A hand unpinned it and there was Uncle Ernest saying
"Don't try to grow up too soon Susie love". That is my last
treasured enduring memory of him, as he left to go back the next day,
and was killed a fortnight later on July 1st in the Battle of the Somme
at Beaumont Hamel he was just 21.
Sundays everything was cleared up early after dinner was over as it was
Sunday School for me, but not before I had seen Granny changed and
settled ready for any of the family. Her daughters always came Sunday
afternoons, how nice and matriarchal she looked in her long black skirt,
and satin blouse, or waist as she called it, with a tiny white frill
round the neck, but I always thought her underskirts were prettier. She
had them in deep blue, mauve, and red watered silk, with fine pleated
frill, how they rustled when she walked. Around her shoulders a fine
small wool shawl, and she had abundant grey black hair on which she
could sit. I often used to brush it for her, as after the shock of Uncle
Ernest she had a seizure, and she never fully recovered the use of her
I know why grandpa worshipped her, for one day I'd gone to meet him from
work and asking after granny he said " Thy granny my bairn is a
gem", and at that he told me their story.
had been a local beauty, and her father kept horses which he would hire
out to pull barges, and he went with them. His parents were moneyed
farming people. Up to then granddad's only work was caring for small
ponies that they bred, Shetlands. Great Grandma was a very autocratic
person, with great grandpa under her thumb Old Mrs Rowley told me of
her. Anyway when granddad said he was going to marry Sarah Richardson
his mother said when he left to get married the door was shut against
him, and it was. She would drive herself through Knottingley and would
not recognise granddad, his wife, or children. Then years later she was
found dead in her chair, the house ransacked, and a son and the
housekeeper vanished to America. He had to clear up the mess, but
nothing was left to him in the Will, and his sisters and brothers got
everything. Great Aunt Mary Ann had two farms, Stone Royd was one. His
sister Sally was married to a wealthy motor manufacturer. They both
wanted to help granddad, but he was a proud man. They both liked Gran
and often visited her. He said that Sally was a tomboy, a crack shot,
and rode horses bare backed. She was a Tilley of Birmingham, and drove
her own car in those days.
he gave me a lesson in human values, he said to me " Never think
that money is everything my lass", happiness with a good partner is
more precious, and how right he was. All that he told me was confirmed
by an old lady, the grandmother of my friend. She showed me two old
photographs of Great Grandmother.
Sunday evenings it would be a family walk, sometimes down by the river
to Beal, then back by road. An alternative walk would be down Common
Lane, over the Ramper, out on to Kings Standard Hill, and on to Stubbs,
where some went in the Ancient Shepherd Inn, the rest outside on a bench
for refreshment. How strange to read in a newspaper commenting of the
odd name of Cridling Stubbs that it had been a thriving Saxon village in
in hand with granddad he would chat away, the flowers and fauna on the
three cornered waste land at the top of Kings Standard hill. He told me
that it been handed down orally that no one owned it, and it was holy
ground where two Kings had fought. I queried it, so he said the legend
is that an important battle for Christianity was fought around there,
and the hill carried the name since. In Winston Churchill's mammoth book
'The History of the English Speaking Nation', he refers to a battle
between a Pagan and Christian king not many miles from Doncaster, near
the Saxon "Waed" (Wentbridge). The kings were from Northumbria
and Mercia. In such a way by casual chat, interest in a child's mind is
Tuesdays Granny collected from school a 4 o'clock, and with my hand in
hers we would go on to the Aire Street Post Office to collect the 'ring
money' the pension she had for the loss of Uncle Ernest, but she never
used it, she called it blood money, and put it straight in the bank. I
can see her now, a tall dignified figure wearing her usual large fawn
and white speckled fringed shawl with white stripes round the edges.
Walking along with her, my hand clasped firmly one felt so safe and
protected. At night I was a nervous child, and she always put a candle
on the high chest of drawers, and she would give me a little book it was
the new testament in verse, the life of Jesus in words a child could
understand easily, a loving way of imparting religion. It had been used
by her own children, and I still have some of the leaves as it
disintegrated with the years. She was strictly fair, and if one did
wrong one was punished, but she had to hear both sides.
wet days, on holiday, I would go across the road to play with my brother
and sisters. We would go up to the attic or garret as it was known, what
a treasure house of discarded things, a gramophone with cylinder
records, a long box with two revolving tables, one large and one for
small records. One of Mothers hats, a yellow fur, shaped like a beehive
with red berries at the side. Plenty of stuff to keep us busy.
little the war was allowed to bother us, but as it intensified we would
notice groups of anxious mothers and wives talking, and asking had any
had news. They had nearly all joined up together, and they were pals.
Mary went on the land, and one of her efforts at ploughing she made a
lovely straight furrow, then at the turn upspilt the whole caboodle into
the ditch, so it was a family joke for a while, Aunt Maud, Uncle Joe's
wife went into munitions at Barnbow, as Uncle Joe was in the forces. It
began to be common to see young women with bright yellow skins, from
being in the powder room at the munitions factory. One girl along the
street was deep yellow, and died. I never go to York Minster without
going in to open the panel with the names of women who died serving
their country, for there is the name Elsie Oates, such a quiet timid
one looks back one remembers familiar figures of those days: Mrs Trueman
who acted as post woman and in her spare time her war work was trundling
a hand cart, handing out and collecting back kit bags of soldiers
washing from the barracks.
1917 my little 2 year old brother died, but a new baby had arrived two
months earlier. The following year 1918, the war was ending, but an
epidemic of Spanish Flu struck, and Maud was very ill and not expected
to pull through. Dad went down with it also, and one morning he asked to
see his children. I was fetched across the road, it seemed as if he was
saying goodbye. Mother asked " Do you know them Joe", and he
named us one by one. He then asked where's Maud, and he was told she was
was a quarter to nine, and we wondered about school, when mother came up
and screeched "He's gone". Aunt Susie had been to the shop and
was carrying a stone of flour, and when she knew what had happened she
left the flour on the table, saw four year old Mary sitting on a small
stool, she took her by the hand and said "this bairns coming with
me", and that's how Mary acquired a new Mother, and a good home.
Granny said that she would see to me, and only when Uncle Bob was out of
the army I'd just have to go over to sleep, but she would feed and
clothe me. Sarann started work, and was a good standby for Mother.
many of the industries we knew have gone, there were two blacksmiths,
where children, especially the boys, loved to watch sparks flying, and
horses shoed, eager to have a go with the bellows. Near the Lamb Inn was
Cawoods willow merchant and basket maker. Two ropewalks, one of which
was Kelletts, it was fascinating for children, starting with thin yarns,
twisting and winding until they ended up great thick ships hawsers. That
was in Stocking Lane, and I used to think it was a funny name.
Eventually I found out that it was a corruption of the Norse words '
Stock Inge' meaning a stockade for animals (Viking influence).
Norse words I learnt from Granddad, and when he called me it was "
Come on Doy" a form of endearment. If one wasn't well you were 'nobbut
dowley'. When using a ladder it was a 'Stee'. The Study of English
Language at Leeds University were intrigued when I wrote with a list of
words showing Viking influence in the area, and said the meanings of
them I'd put correctly. They asked me to put down anymore that I could
remember and send them to Leeds, of like a scoperil interested them,
also the word aske, as with hard water.
correcting me for little faults, he always used broad Yorkshire rhymes.
That was the time when my grandparents began to take an interest in my
education. They bought me Chatterbox, a thick book of stories,
documentary items, stories of eminent and famous people such a good
book. I read all my fathers prizes, for he had been clever at school.
Granddad said that they were above my age, but I could cope. Charles
Kingsley's Westward Ho, the story of Raleigh, Drake and Richard
Grenville, Land of the Inca or City of the Sun, also the Sign of the
Cross. So though Dad had gone, he gave me a grounding in the classics
and literature, but if Mother saw me with a book it went in the fire.
was doing well academically, English, History, Geography and General
Knowledge came easily to me. I was well ahead, but on the domestic side
I was hopeless. My handwriting was awful, my sewing was a disaster,
everything ended up as black as spades and my stitching was uneven. In
the Domestic Science room I wasn't much better. After one laundry
lesson, I managed to get my fingers flattened in the old fashioned
mangle. I remember coming round, sitting in a chair after a faint while
they unscrewed the pressure how true when the teacher Miss Fleming said
" You evidently aren't going to be a star pupil".
domestic science book with all its blots and crossings out, and the
occasional good mark was evidently treasured by my Granny, as it was
found in her drawer after she died. Such is love when one is loved,
however good or bad I did.
came the tug of wars Mr Mark Hill the headmaster sent for Mother to
school to have a further talk on my education. Already Mr Hill guided me
to books I should read, first The Tale of Two Cities then The Last of
The Mohicans, he brought books from his own library. He told Mother that
I had the potential to do well, and with no difficulty I'd go to Grammar
School. However Mother said that I couldn't have the chance, as my elder
sister and brother hadn't, then I could not have it. He told her that
she would rue denying me an opportunity. When we got home Granddad
wanted to know if I'd got the chance, and the Mother got it. He said
"why"?, and she said it will need clothes and books, and he
shouted "I'd kit her out, and it wouldn't cost you anything".
Mums last word was well I'm her legal guardian, so that was that.
day later when she was 81, and staying a few days here with me, she told
my husband ( not me), " I don't know how I'm going to face her
Father when I'm gone, she could have done it", and how she
regretted being so stubborn.
day in the holidays I begged Gran to let me go pea pulling, and rather
dubiously one day she let me go, but not before asking a woman to keep
an eye on me. I toiled away all day, and managed two bags, and the pay
was 9d a bag. Off I went proudly carrying 1/6d, the first money I'd
earned, and who should have it but my Granny. Though she took it
seriously I expect she must have smiled to herself.
got many indirect lessons looking at the Bric o Brac on the shelves. Two
objects aroused my curiosity and I couldn't think what they were. They
were bright red felt about 3 to 4 inches long, and the front of these
shapeless things were beautifully embroidered lions faces, in fine
green, blue, and black silk with fierce yellow eyes and silken whiskers.
Granny sat down and explained that they were the shoes of a High born
Chinese Lady who had bound feet No wonder they tottered along instead of
normal walking. Then there were Cown Shells, used as money by natives.
She had a very shawl, delicately embroidered with its long fine silken
fringe, and this was kept in tissue paper. Grannies seafaring relatives
brought her these curiosities as presents.
in the holidays Aunt Susie would take me with them on the barge 'Darius'
a large broad barge which plied between Leeds and York. I was company
for Mary. What a lovely leisurely trip it was. Below, the cabin, all
highly polished wood and brass, the forecastle ideal to play in, or it
was pleasant to sit on deck watching the lovely countryside slip by, and
to see the riverside animal life. One day, coming up on deck, Aunt Susie
at the tiller, she called "grab hold of something, and hold
tight". Looking forward I saw a wall of water rushing towards us,
it was the highest spring tide. It is called the Agar, and in other
places the Bore. When it hit the bow of the barge it rose high in the
air, and as it rushed past the boat levelled out leaving a turbulent
swirling mass of water. The banks which had been high up, filled to the
top, a rather scary moment. If one had failed to hold the tiller firm in
order to hold it head on, it would have gone broadside on, and swept on
the bank to become a wreck the same as some we saw. From Lendal to York
was the most scenic part, and when the waters were clear one saw salmon
leaping: alas no more.
sunny noon, Mary and I were sitting on deck having our dinner when we
came across a lovely sight: Bishopthorpe Palace, the residence of the
Archbishop of York. The whole facade was covered with bright red rambler
roses, reflected in the water with the green of shrubs and trees. At the
side maids at the windows waved their yellow dusters to us. People who
have seen it in later years say the facade has been cleared of the roses
as it was damaging the stonework.
was the beginning of a continuing love of York with its ancient
buildings. Aunt Susie was tireless in giving me a thorough knowledge of
that City; its glorious Minster, she showed me elaborate Catholic
churches too. The Treasurers House with its old clock with a pendulum
hanging through floors. St Williams College and the spacious grounds of
the Philosophical gardens which contains so much of Roman York.
year or so ago on a day trip, I discovered the old Viking settlement in
Coppergate, and was fortunate enough to see various items excavated on
to the past though, and my first visit to the real theatre. Mary and I
were taken to York's main theatre to see 'The Speckled Band', a Sherlock
Holmes play. It was fine and exciting, but later that night tucked up in
the cupboard like bunk, one began to have qualms; the slap, slap and
sough of the water on the side of the boat sounded very eerie indeed,
although Mary assured me it was only the water and not a snake.
was a great family occasion, one went to different relatives for tea and
afterwards some contributed party pieces. On Boxing day it was all go,
mid morning the Silver Prize Band got round to Racca Green; the first
carol requested Hail Smiling Morn, followed by Christians Awake. Then
the mood changed, and the Street became alive with people old and young
dancing. Always the same three: a waltz, a schottische, followed by the
polka, and that's where I learned to dance. Everyone looked so happy.
Hostelries did well as the bands men needed frequent refreshment.
the afternoon when adults rested after their exertions the children
would be packed off with small sums to a Bazaar held on two afternoons
after Christmas in the Tabernacle, an old religious building not then in
use (the Elim). Stalls sold small items like games and puzzles, sweets
and pop. There were hordes of milling children all struggling for first
choice. It was impossible to keep order in such a melee, climbing over
piled forms, hiding in the old pulpit, throwing rubbish what energy and
high spirits, and what a noise.
era has its eccentric characters. There was old Inky Watson, who made
and sold ink, he was an avid Bible reader, often to be seen with
battered bowler on his head, and his Bible tucked under his arm. Also
London Maud, as all knew her, a tall angular figure trundling a box on
wheels, collecting rags, yet somehow both gave the impression of having
had a good education, in speech and manner so correct.
seemed to be in the air. We noticed that Mother would vanish carrying
dishes, so Joe enlisted my aid in a bit of detective work, So we
followed her and Joe stationed me on an iron box attached to Cow Lane
Bridge to watch one bank, and he went down the other bank, and so we
located the house where Mother went to School, friends told us that Jim
Asquith's brother stayed there. Then the shock came, friends told us
that Mother was marrying again. Why oh why don't adults prepare children
for such changes. It was Granny who explained what was happening.
told me that when a young lady, two young fellows wanted her to marry
them, but she chose my father. A month after she married, George married
a widow with children older than himself. They were both widowed at the
same time, so they got together again.
the day of the wedding I was deputed to take Aunt Mary's baby out in the
pram, and told to keep out of the way, Curiosity made me push forward
with the pram through the folk, to see my mother leave in the horse
drawn cab, only I pushed so hard, and as it was rather a high causeway,
then over the pram and Bobbie toppled. I hurriedly righted the pram,
picked up Bobbie, and dusted him down, and settled him back. The strange
thing was that he didn't yell he must have been stunned or shocked,
anyway he was all right when I took him back.
thing I must say is that he was a good stepfather, not afraid of work
and generous, but however good, I found it difficult to call him Dad, as
I was told to. No one can replace a loving father as mine was, and with
Joe it was veiled hostility all along.
character of Knottingley has been completely altered, lovely old
buildings with historical connections have been demolished, the
attractive Elizabethan house which was part of the Ingrams of Temple
Newsam family inheritance in the shape of an E the doorway reached by an
outside stairway, the fine sculptured fireplace was taken out and sold
to an American, carvings also went the same way. The old butchers shop
I'd visit with my friend had its part in English history, letters
written by Oliver Cromwell when he used it as headquarters, ordering
attacks on Pontefract Castle can still be seen in the Archives. The
house at the top of Racoa Green where My Uncle Joe and Aunt Maud lived,
I've played there. If Aunt Maud knew the papers that were hidden in the
walls she would have had a fit. Lists of Arms collected by Sir George
Wentworth ordered by Charles I for use in the Civil War. The area
constable lived there then J Thompson. Lists of billhooks, swords, guns,
bows and arrows, halberds, pikes, and the names of long ago Knottingley
folk, who handed in weapons, so interesting.
the road the Pinfold at the corner of Racca Green, and Weeland Road,
opposite Dr Thwaites house. When we heard anyone say round the pinfold,
I asked granddad what it was, and it was a piece of land where strayed
animals were put until their owners claimed and paid for their release
from the Penfold, or pound as some called it. All ruthlessly destroyed
in the name of progress. So many farms that I knew gone, and the land is
now mostly council estates. Broomhill, a large area of good arable land
and now shabby houses. Our lovely Bluebell woods scrapped for an
approach road, such was the fate of my Kings Standard Hill
were always baking days, there on the table cooling would be rows of
home made bread, tea cakes, pies, and cakes. In the oven simmering away
was stew meat, cow heel in the big brown earthenware stew jar, to be
minced up and put in basins to set, delicious potted meat.
those days many square tables would have the table legs encased in
coloured chinty Mrs Tether had mostly red chinty on hers. Cleanliness
was a fetish, wooden surfaces were scrubbed until snow white.
farmhouse that I went to was a prime example, the milk containers were
scrubbed scoured and rinsed thoroughly. The flag floors were scrubbed
each day until white A real Yorkshire fettle the old lady's maxim '
cleanliness is next to Godliness'.
we used to enjoy threshing time, from farm to farm in turn came the hum
of the machine, and as the stacks lowered, children chased wildly round
with sticks as any rats raced for cover.
here is something of a complexity in family relationships of which the
younger ones were not aware, but Granny told me: It seems that my
fathers eldest brother Charles had married Granny's sister Susan, so
when my mother married the younger brother Joe, her Aunt became her
sister in law, and her brother in law became Uncle Charles as well.
Things may have got more complicated when Aunt Susan's son Charles took
a fancy to Aunt Mary I saw the fancy cards and presents he sent her she
gave me a locket that he sent anyway it wasn't encouraged and she
eventually married someone else, after he was killed. I know he thought
the world of her.
changes I have seen. One began with candles for light, then the paraffin
lamps, next the flaring gas brackets that moved on to gas mantles and
globes, to the present day electricity.
marches on regardless, so many of the people that I've loved and
childhood friends gone. But to me there will always be an abiding
gratitude to my Grandparents who gave me such loving care, instilling in
me the precepts they lived by. Although Gran died first, my welfare was
watched over by him, and shortly after my marriage, when he was dying, I
went in to see him, he looked at me, raised his hand, and said "God
bless thee my lass, and make thee a bright and happy woman" How
beautiful that blessing. I knew how much he had cared about me, and his
daughters were surprised.
for one of those days of gladness, gone alas like our youth, too soon.
Christmas I finally found out the ending to one of Granddad's little
moral teaching ditties. On Boxing day, I wasn't very well, but had the
radio on. I glanced at the calendar - 26th December - Granddad's birthday. My
thoughts were on him when over the radio I heard it:
"If tha comes when tha's called
and tha does as tha's bid
Shuts the door after tha
And tha'll never be chid"
that dialect ditty I used to hear, as I had a habit of leaving doors
open, was completed for me.
account was submitted to us by Don Aaron to whom we extend our warmest
thanks. The account is unedited and reproduced exactly as it was
received by us from Don.
is a copy of the original account, Don believes that the original
manuscript or typescript may still be in existence and he would love to be
able to view it. He also believes that Auntie Susie may have
produced other reminiscences and would like to hear from anyone with
copies of these other links with the past.