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Knottingley and Ferrybridge Memories

MEMORIES OF AN OUTSIDER


BARRY CHAPMAN

Here are the childhood memories of an outsider of Knottingley in the early 1950s.

My mother was Doreen Murgatroyd who lived at No. 8 Gillann Street from 1915 until she was 17 years old when she left to work for the well known ice cream firm of Colletas in Huddersfield. When their children grew up she worked at the Ice Cream parlour in Halifax Borough Market where she met and married my father in 1940.

My mother was the eldest of five children to May Elizabeth and John William Murgatroyd, the other children being Muriel, Henry, Audrey and Joyce.

My grandfather John Murgatroyd My grandmother May Elizabeth Murgatroyd
My Grandparents John William and May Elizabeth Murgatroyd

I arrived in 1943, so in the early 50s we used to visit my relatives in Knottingley about every two months. From Halifax we caught the bus to Leeds then another to Knottingley with upstairs seats, the long five-seaters with the conductor walking down the aisle at the side of the bus and having to stretch across people to collect their fares. The journey used to take us about three hours for the two bus rides.

Our first port of call would be my Grandma’s who still lived in Gillann Street. My grandad was a Bagley’s worker who died in his 40s just a few weeks after I was born. My grandma worked as a cook and housekeeper for the Bagley family in their large house. When the Bagley’s had passed on, my grandma did the same job at the Vicarage.

We stayed over the weekend and visited my aunts and uncles, mum’s sister Muriel and her husband Tommy Backhouse and my cousins Pat and John. They lived on the Broomhill estate.

A tragedy occurred in 1958 when my uncle Tommy was operating a high crane for Bagleys by the canal side. When he leaned out of his cab to adjust a fault he was electrocuted and fell to his death. He would have been 37 years old two days later.

In earlier times I would go for walks with my cousin Pat down the fields to see the horses, cows and sheep. These fields were known as ‘The Sleepers’, so called because people used to go for a sleep among the haystacks. Other times on walks I would go past the Winston pub and even if there were no trains coming I would go up and over the footbridge then into the fields behind.

Barry with cousin Pat and mum Barry and Pat
Barry, cousin Pat and Barry's mother Barry and Pat

In winter I would watch people ice skating on the frozen canal. My biggest enjoyment was going through the tunnel in the park or as it was known ‘The Greenhouse’. I remember running down the steep embankment to get to the swings and slides.  Who would have thought a few years later in the early 60s, I would be playing football in that very same park for Halifax Town ‘A’ team against Knottingley Albion in the West Yorkshire league.

Now back to the 50s, and the rest of my relatives. We visited mums aunt Maggie and uncle Dick Sykes and cousins Margery, Irene and Gwenny who lived near the old picture house, also aunt Ethel and uncle General Barker. He was a local businessman owning lots of property, garages and newsagents. Until recently his daughter Kathleen owned one of the newsagents in Knottingley. Uncle General also owned race horses, his most successful one was called ‘Sunhaven’.  Ethel and General lived in the big house in the ‘Greenhouse Park’. Then we would visit mum’s grandma Eliza Barker, the widow of George Barker.  I remember as if it was yesterday visiting her house down the Holes which was made into a general store with the back room full of knitting materials, and the front room selling groceries, including under the table boxes of bananas which the miners used to come and pick for their lunches. On the flat wall outside she used to have wet fish laid out (no health and hygiene inspectors in those days).  She always let me help myself to drinks of pop. I remember great grandma in her long black dress and the most remarkable thing about her was that she was blind after losing an eye at school when someone poked her in the eye accidentally with a knitting needle. When people paid her, she knew simply by feeling the coins what they had given her. The salesman who visited her was known as ‘The Little Jew’

Finally as a matter of interest, mum and her brother and sisters are still going strong. Mum (Doreen Chapman) is 88 years old and lives in Brighouse, Muriel (Muriel Backhouse) is 87 years old and Audrey 81 years old (Audrey Hayes) - both still live in Knottingley. Joyce (Joyce Macenzie) is now 79 years old and lives in Mossley, Lancashire, Henry is 83 years old and lives in Oldham.

I hope you have enjoyed these few memories of an outsider.

Barry Chapman
April 2004

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