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Knottingley and Ferrybridge Memories



During my working life I have been frequently asked where I came from. I have been perfectly proud and happy to say that I hail from the small West Riding town of Knottingley. Sometimes I need to explain that Knottingley is situated ten miles east of Wakefield and just two miles from Pontefract. Anyone with a Yorkshire background can pin point this with ease.

There was no hospital arrival for me. Like many of my generation I was born in the family home, "Hillfield", Pontefract Road, Knottingley on 23 October 1947. My father was the Ferrybridge postman although based at the Knottingley sorting office. Again, in traditional fashion, Mum was a housewife who looked after me at home. These were the days before play schools and child minders. Not surprising therefore, that going to full time school at five was a shock to the system and at first I was not keen on this new arrangement. How ironic that I would go on to spend almost all my working life in education.

After short spells at the Vale and then Church Primary Schools, I settled into Weeland Road Junior School under the firm authority but total care of Miss Cherry, Miss Dodson, Miss Davies and Mr Hargrave, teachers I look back on with gratitude and respect. I am mildly amused by the modern idea of literacy and numeracy hours in schools today. This we did as a matter of course in the nineteen fifties. We still had time for sporting activities and successful musical performances at the Pontefract Musical Festival.

Ropewalk Methodist Chapel was also significant in my family life and in the lives of many people with whom I grew up. Sunday School and chapel services were an integral part of every Sunday. Here again total care, this time of the spiritual kind, was plentiful and significant. Ministers based at Ropewalk in those days included Mr Steele who christened many of us born after the war, Mr Hyde, Mr Newby, Mr Palmer, Mr Rowland and Mr Benson.

The move to secondary school in 1959 took me in an unusual direction. Because of the pressure on numbers going to Grammar School, I did not go to the Kings School in Pontefract but travelled the eight miles to Normanton Grammar School. For several years I was the only Knottingley boy in the school. In this respect I was somewhat isolated but it was no ones fault and I did not suffer, it just made the days slightly longer, especially if one stayed over at school for musical activities.

Thanks to my mother, music has played a vast part of my life. My whole teaching career has been centred around the subject. In the 1950s my mother created a very successful private piano teaching practice. She took great delight in teaching many local children and needless to say I enjoyed enormous advantages with the time she devoted to me. She was my principal teacher from the age of five until I was eighteen and moved to London to spend four wonderful years at the Royal Academy of Music. My mother gained great pleasure from seeing many of her pupils become teachers themselves, often admitting that their pianistic skills had played a significant role in obtaining positions in various schools.

Having left for London in 1966, I have never lived permanently in Knottingley since that time. My professional work has been sixty miles away in Bridlington as Head of Music and subsequently Head of Year at Bridlington School. I worked there for twenty seven years and the disciplined approach to all my work owed so much to what I had gained from my Knottingley years. Home, school and chapel gave me an understanding and stability for which I thank God every day.

I appreciate that not everyone can be as fortunate as I have been. I visit my mother who still lives in Knottingley, on a regular basis and although I have a very happy family of a wife and two daughters in Bridlington, visits to Knottingley still involves the feeling of returning home.

Garth M. Blackburn
December 2003

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