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Knottingley and Ferrybridge Memories





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 Glassworks.

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 time.

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.

John Kidd

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