MEMORIES OF A KNOTTLA LAD
I would like to thank my family for their support in writing this article,
and to previous articles featured in the Knottingley Digest for giving me the
inspiration to put pen to paper. In writing this piece, I can only recount the
times/incidents as I remember them. If I have caused any offence etc, this was
not my intention, and I would like to apologise in advance. I hope you enjoy
reading the article as much as I have enjoyed writing it.
John D. Kidd.
I was born on the 17th February 1951, in Gillan Street, Knottingley. Being
Knottingley born and bred allows me to be a Knottla’ Lad, and not a comer-in,
as many have become in later years.
I was the eldest son of John and Jean Kidd, (nee Link). In those early years,
Dad was away doing his bit for King, later, Queen and Country, and I remember
that we were living with my great grandparents, where we stayed until I was
about three-years-old. Great granddad Link had worked opposite at Bagley's
Home was a terraced house, with a first floor and an attic. Downstairs was the
kitchen/dining room, with a front parlour. The front parlour was rarely used,
generally on Sundays and for special occasions. On the first floor was my
great grandparent's bedroom and a box room. Mum and I slept in the attic.
There was no electricity that I remember; all lighting was by gas mantle and
we went to bed with a candle. The only heating was by open coal fires. The
toilet was at the bottom of a flagged yard, but it was a water closet. Toilet
paper was newspaper, torn into six-inch squares and hung by string on the back
of the door. During the day the toilet was used, but on a night, it was a pot
'Gus under'. Needless to say, the aroma was wonderful in the summer, but no so
bad in the winter. It was better than tramping to the bottom of the yard with
a candle, which usually blew out as soon as you stepped outside leaving you
fumbling around in the dark.
I vividly remember wash days. The water was heated by a fire being lit under
the copper, which held pride of place in the corner of the kitchen. Next to it
was the old black-leaded Yorksire range. This had to be leaded every week.
Water was ladled from the copper into the peggy tub. The soap used was a dark
green colour, made by Sunlight I believe. Washing was done by scrubbing on the
scrubbing board, and then dunked into the peggy tub, being swirled round using
a hand-held posse. This was like a three-legged stool on a central post, which
was twirled round and agitated the water. The washing then went through a
hand-operated mangle, squeezing out most of the water. It was then hung out on
the line in the back yard for the elements to dry. The ironing was done with a
flat iron, heated over the open fire of the Yorkshire range. I can still
remember the pungent smells of wash day. A mixture of soap, wet washing and
steam. All the females of the family, both young and old, had a job on wash
day. The older ones passing on their knowledge to the younger ones.
As we had no bathroom, bath time was an old zinc bath, hung outside when not
in use. It was placed in front of the open fire, water being heated from the
copper, as per wash day. Soap was a lump of red stuff, similar, if not the
same, as washday soap. It was not the sweet scented stuff of today, but a
mixture of smells, commonly referred to as carbolic. I believe it was made by
Lifebuoy. There were no nice soft warm towels to get dry with either, just a
piece of sacking like material, very coarse and rough, commonly called hardin.
You were very careful to dry those delicate parts. I didn't have to worry as I
wasn't old enough to dry myself. Mum was always very careful around the
delicate parts. I earlier mentioned the first floor box room. This was the
bedroom of my Uncle Tom, who also worked for Bagley's Glassworks. When we did
get a bathroom it was put in this room.
I recollect having a large coach-built pram, made by Silver Cross. This stayed
in our family for years, indeed, my younger sister had the same pram some
years later. It came to a sad end, the story of which I will save for a later
It always seemed that we had long hot summer days, and snow filled winters.
Members of the family not living at that address were always visiting. It was
the norm for families to move close together, some living next door to each
other, or even living in the same house. There was a real family spirit,
though not always for the good.
It was a time of hardship and not having very much. Rationing was just about
over, so food was beginning to become more readily available. My grandma still
insisted on making her own bread though. The ingredients came from Miss
Perkins’ shop, which was situated on the corner of Weeland Road and Womersley
Road. The shop was like an Aladdin's Cave, with flour in bags, served with a
scoop, sugar the same, and both served in paper bags. The delicious aroma and
myriad of smells always greeted you as you entered the shop.
Remembering back now, into the past, it is like looking at a grainy old black
and white film. It was soon to change, as the days of the dreaded school
started to loom on the horizon. Life was never going to be the same again!
Before closing this part, there are a couple of recollections which come to
mind. At that time, Gillan Street was, I seem to remember, an unmade road,
both to the front and rear. So in summer it was dry and dusty, in winter it
was like concrete with the snow and frost. In the rain it turned into a sea of
mud. One day, the local midwife, whom I seem to remember was Nurse Berry, was
doing her rounds, and her little green car was parked at the front of Gillan
Street. Being the order of the day, it wasn't locked. Two little urchins, one
of whom was myself, took it upon themselves to climb into the car and play at
racing cars. Needless to say, in the course of this play, the handbrake was
released and the little car rolled down Gillan Street. Our two little urchins
were trapped and ended up at the bottom of the street, after bumping into the
wall. Once caught, we didn't sit down for a long time as I remember. We may
have been two of Knottingley's first joy riders; though it proved a
short-lived career and a painful experience.
The older residents of Knottingley will fondly remember Nurse Berry and her
little green car. In her time, she helped deliver most of the children in the
area. She was a tall, kindly lady with spectacles. I can still see her in her
blue uniform and hat, with her bag in her hand. Her husband, Mr. Berry, kept
the pharmacy on Hill Top. I can't help being reminded of her whenever I watch
'Open All Hours' on television, and see Linda Barron as Nurse Gladys.
At that time, if as a child you were naughty, adults would tell you that if
you didn't behave “the black man would come and get you”. An old wives tale of
course, but one that lives on in the memory. As kids we played in the street
as there was very little traffic about. One day a door to door salesman
appeared with a large brown suitcase. I later found out that it was full of
brushes and cloths etc. On that date, word spread like a bushfire. “The man
had come, the children were to be taken away in the suitcase.” Yes, you've
guessed it; I seem to remember him as the first Afro-Caribbean I had ever
seen. Children disappeared from the street in the twinkle of an eye. I hid
under the kitchen table, shaking with fear. The only thought I remember was,
“Who had he come for?” When he knocked on our door I remember screaming and
pressing myself deeper under the table. When he left the street, we all came
out, wanting to know who he had taken. For the next few days we were good
children, otherwise the next time, he might come for us. It was a trick that
parents used over and over again.
PART TWO |
PART THREE | PART FOUR