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Knottingley and Ferrybridge Memories




I began my education at the Holes school before moving on to Weeland Road, which, when I was a lad, was known as the 'Board School'. I don't know why it was called that because nobody actually boarded there.

At Holes' school, Mr. Poole was the Headmaster, and the teachers were Miss Burton, Miss Shuttleworth, Miss Heald and Ma Dobson.

One day my friend Johnny had gone home and told his father that he'd been bullied at school. "Oh have you", said his old man "We'll see about that then!"

Johnny's father marched his son back to school and demanded to see the Headmaster, Mr. Poole. On discovering that the bully was a lad called Charlie, the headmaster summoned the culprit to his office and after being reprimanded in front of Johnny and his dad, he was ordered to apologise to young Johnny. With no apology immediately forthcoming, Charlie was given a clip around the ear and once again asked to apologise. Charlie simply kept quiet and didn't utter a word, and ultimately received another clip and then another. What no one realised was that Charlie didn't know what apologise meant! I thought it was poetic justice really because Charlie really was a bully.

On another occasion one of the teachers said, "Aaron, take little Johnny home, he's not feeling very well."

Johnny certainly didn't look well so I gave him a lift on my back but I was feeling so good about getting away from school for a while that I spun Johnny round a few times completely forgetting about his illness and he really did look sick by the time I got him to his home.

When I moved to the school on Weeland Road we used to walk to school along a pathway called Packet Hill, which ran alongside the canal and was possibly named after the steam packets that plied the canal. Just past the canal bridge on Glebe Lane, where the brick wall ended, was the entrance leading down a slope to Packet Hill, by which you could walk along the side of the canal and emerge at the side of the Anvil Inn public house. The brick pillar at the entrance to Packet Hill had a stone ball on top and this stone ball rests at the foot of the bridge and can be seen to this day.

One day walking to school alongside the canal, a small group of children were using a long stick in an attempt to fish out an egg that was bobbing about in the water. At that moment along came the school bully, Charlie, who had earlier received the thick ear. "That's mine", he said grabbing a stick from one of the kids and fishing out the floating egg. Having got it safely to hand he placed it into his pocket and triumphantly marched off towards school.

After dinnertime recess, all the children were assembled at the rear of the school before being led off around the perimeter of the building and in through the front entrance. However, just before entering the school, disaster struck when someone accidentally tapped Charlie's side pocket and crushed the egg. Charlie was immediately isolated - what a pong!

"Get yourself off home, you're not coming in here!" said Mr. Morris, the headmaster. Mr. Morris was very strict, but also very fair, and I liked him. Calling Charlie back by his surname Mr. Morris continued, "and let that be a lesson to you; remember a floating egg is always rotten!"

I don't think Charlie would ever forget that. I certainly didn't.

After leaving school I began work at Jackson's glassworks in Knottingley at the age of fourteen years. My job along with two more lads was collecting bogies full of broken glass rejects from the warehouses and wheeling them up to the founders end where they were recycled into the furnace.

In those days the buzzer was sounded for everyone to start work and Mr. John Jackson, or 'old Johnny' as he was known then, used to line the yardmen up, including the lads, and detail them where they were to work that day. This procedure was repeated every morning.

One day he said to me, "At 2pm I want you to go down to No.3 shop and make the team up." At 2pm I duly reported for duty at the shop as ordered and commenced work. Everything was going smoothly when in due course the buzzer went for the day workers to cease work. Myself being a day worker, or so I thought, I downed tools, put on my jacket and went home as I would normally do.

Not aware that I had done anything wrong I had tea at home and then went out in the evening to the pictures.

The next day at 9am right on the dot, out came Mr. Johnny detailing where all the men should go that morning. When he got to me he simply put an enormous fist under my nose and said "The next time you go home lad is when I send you!" I got the message.

I discovered some years later that old Mr. John, and his brother Mr. Tom, used to work continually day and night and sometimes they wouldn't see their homes for several days. They were tough old boys! They were self-employed and I take my hat off to them.

The teams I briefly mentioned earlier consisted of a gatherer, a presser, a blower and a taker-in.

The job of the gatherer was to stand on a platform and thrust a metal rod with a clay ball attached to the end, through the 'glory hole', a rectangular hole on the side of the furnace. Holding the rod he placed the clay ball on the surface of the molten glass and started to turn it, gathering molten glass onto the ball and hence the name gatherer. It was similar to the way you dipped the end of a knife into a tin of treacle and started twisting to 'gather' some on your knife.

The gob of molten glass from the furnace was then placed into a metal mould while a pair of shears was used to separate it from the gatherer's rod. On top of the mould was placed a ring mould, which formed the mouth of the glass container. When a handle was pulled down, a metal cone-shaped plunger went through the ring mould to form the 'parison', and made an indentation so that when it was removed it made room for the blower. The blow head was brought over and air was injected, forcing the molten glass to the shape of the mould - hence the more common term, 'press and blow'.

Once the ring mould was removed the mould could be opened out and a pair of spring loaded nippers was used to grip the top of the glass container and place it on a stand ready for the taker-in to take the finished product down to the lehr.

The lehr was a long belt-fed, tunnel shaped oven used to heat glass to its annealing point and then slowly cool it to room temperature to remove any residual thermal stresses in the glass.

I eventually progressed from a taker-in to a blower and the two biggest jobs we had were 5lb and 7lb sweet jars. It was very warm work.

With the worsening situation in Europe and the prospects of war imminent, Britain's first peacetime draft, The Military Training Act came into force on 1st June 1939, two days before my twentieth birthday. All men aged between 20 and 21 were now liable to be called-up for four year's military service as 'Militiamen'.

Germany's invasion of Poland had signalled the declaration of war between Nazi Germany and the allies of Britain and France in September 1939.

I remember the first air raid when I was on night shift with a man named Arthur who had just been made up to machine operator. The air raid siren sounded and we had to stop the machine, close everything down and make sure there were no lights showing that could be seen from the air. But what did Arthur do? He accidentally set fire to a big piece of sacking he was holding and the German's were up there watching! I thought, oh bugger this, I'm going to get called up anyway and so I set off home to see how my family were coping.

Passing old Burdin's pay office I heard some men having a little dispute. The shift electrician had told one of the men to put his cigarette out, which he didn't wish to do. "He can't see my cigarette end from ten miles up…", the argument continued as I passed on by.

Just as I reached our front garden I heard a noise behind me. Looking round I saw a figure in profile against the grey dawn. He had a gas mask on and was snorting like a pig. It was my brother George.

"Take that thing off, you look like a pig" I said to him.

"I feel like a blooming pig", said George, taking off the mask to reveal beads of sweat running down his face.

We sat down and had a good chat. I didn't have the heart to tell him the all clear had sounded some time ago. I don't ever remember going back to the glassworks again after that as I received my call up papers soon after.

Jack Aaron

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