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Knottingley and Ferrybridge Memories

MY CHILDHOOD MEMORIES


GEORGE BARKER

My parents Fred and Mary Bugg moved to Knottingley from Castleford in 1938, when I was two years old.

We moved into a terraced cottage in Cattle Laithe, which was situated at the South of Knottingley, approximately one and half miles from the all the main facilities.

Two years later, my sister Margaret was born, followed two years later by a younger brother Terry. Finally our youngest sister Christine was born when I was twelve years old. I remember that Margaret, Terry and I went to stay with our Aunt and her family in Airedale, whilst our mum gave birth to Christine.

I had a happy childhood. All the children from the other cottages and the farms in the area played together. We had to make our own entertainment back then, and made up games such as "Kick can". The rules of "Kick can" were simple, just kick a can as far as you could, then another one of us would run and collect it and place it on a wall. Whilst this was all going on the other kids would run off and hide, and it was the job of the person with the can to go and find them all. Other games we played were "Jack-Jack shine a light", which was similar to "Kick can" in that it was a hide and seek type of game, but everyone had a flash light which they had to flash to the person who was chosen to find them, so they knew where to look.

During a game of "Jack-Jack shine the light", one boy, who was six or seven, went missing. Everyone from Cattle Laithe turned out to search for him and he was eventually found by a young man called Bert Skinner, fast asleep in a rhubarb patch. I won’t name the youngster to save him embarrassment as he still lives locally.

There was a small wood nearby where we used to play, the trees were all given names, like Barn Tree, Queen Tree, King Tree and favourite tree. Many a happy hour was spent climbing those threes, and the youngster who fell asleep in the rhubarb patch once kicked a bee’s nest out of one of these trees and ended up badly stung all over his arms and legs. I remember his mother painting his stings with dolly blue, which she used to put in her laundry, but which seem to do the trick on bee stings as well.

There was a large grass field belonging to a local farmer called Harry Fisher. Mr. Fisher allowed us to play on the field and we named it "the valley". It had a huge hill where we used to sledge down on various arrays of home made sledges, made out of roof tiles and cardboard boxes.

We also used to play in the "gold mines", which were limestone cliffs where we climbed up and down. One of our pastimes during the bird nesting season would be to collect eggs, which we kept in shoe boxes lined with cotton wool.

A money making scheme was to collect Rosehips to take to school. We got three old pennies per pound for them and they were later made into rosehip syrup cough medicine.

We never went hungry as children, even during the war years. My mother, along with the rest of the mothers, made sure we got plenty to eat. They made some good meals from the produce our fathers used to grow. Everyone kept a few chickens and some had pigs. My father was one of those who kept pigs and each year he applied for a permit to butcher a pig. A local butcher Fred Smith, who had a shop in Aire Street, would come over and cut the pig up, salt it and hang it under the stairs. It was a massive event for us children as it meant we would get the pigs bladder, which we would dry out and blow up to make a football.

When I reached school age, I attended a school in the "Holes" next door to the Duke of York Pub. From there I moved to Ferrybridge School, which is still there today, but is now a small industrial estate. At the age of eleven I had to go to Pontefract Boys secondary school, on the site where Morrison's supermarket now stands. The girls attended the Girls secondary school which was on the site where Mamma Mia Italian restaurant is situated.

All of us children from the Ferrybridge schools went to these two schools. We were issued with a contract pass to travel on the local buses, meaning that those of us from Cattle Laithe left home at about 8am each morning to walk down Bone Mill Lane to catch our bus. We used to bring with us a gallon can and leave it at Glasbys garage where it was filled with paraffin for our lamps. We would collect the cans on our way home from school.

My father worked at Jackson’s Glassworks on shift work and one of my jobs from the age of ten was to feed his pigs and hens if he was at work. I remember on one occasion he allowed me to buy three young chicks for nine old pence. Two of the chicks died but I sold the surviving one to my fathers sister for Christmas dinner. I received the princely sum of fifty shillings, not a bad investment for nine pence.

Although my childhood memories are happy ones, our family did suffer some bad times. My youngest sister Christine contracted Polio at the age of fourteen months. She was admitted to Pinderfields Hospital Wakefield where she remained for some considerable time. My parents used to leave home early every Saturday morning to visit Christine returning home around six in the evening. It was my job to keep and eye on my brother and sister, but due to the nature of the community in which we lived we were given our dinner by one of our neighbours.

As a reward for behaving whilst our parents were away we each received a treat. I got the Eagle comic, Margaret got a girls comic and Terry a small lead farm animal. Eventually, much to everyone’s delight Christine returned home. She had to wear callipers on her legs but never once complained. Indeed to this day she has never complained about her disability.

Cattle Laithe was a small community where everyone was friendly and would help each other any way they could. Once a family from London came to live in one of the cottages. Mrs. Wakefield and her children were moved from London to escape the bombing, and although it couldn’t have been more different for them in Cattle Laithe, they soon settled down to our way of life, finally returning to London when Mr. Wakefield was demobbed from the Army.

I mentioned Bone Mill Lane; well it got its name from the Bone Mill which once stood there. Ferrybridge Services stands there now but back in the war years they made glue at the Mill and I can remember seeing Rats as big as cats running around when we passed by.

During the war, four buildings were erected and aeroplanes engines were tested in them. My poor father never got any sleep when he was on the night shift as they made so much noise and you could the see the jam pots moving across the table from the vibrations.

When the bomber planes took off from Pollington Airfield we used to go outside and watch them fly over. They would fly in a "V" formation. My father, on his days off from the Glassworks would be on fire watch at the Top of Jackson’s Water Tower. He told us that on their return they would come back alone or in small groups.

We used to have a horse and cart, and my father and his friend used to go to Selby market on Mondays. On one of those days he took me along. On our return, we were nearing Monk Fryston and a bomber flew overhead with its rear end on fire. Whilst we were watching it, it crashed into Monk Fryston woods. I found a piece of the plane and kept it under our stairs for years. I never knew what happened to it.

I basically had a happy childhood and I look back on it fondly. I had good parents who loved me and my brother and sisters and looked after us well.

George Barker

(I was christened George Bugg, but changed my name by deed poll to Barker, forty six years ago.)

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