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Knottingley and Ferrybridge Memories




I was born on the 24th of November 1918, in the first of three cottages (which are still standing) on the Old Great North Road, at the top of Nancy Taylor Yard in Brotherton. My parents were Frank and Mable Milner and I was one of nine children. We were Walter, Irene, Hilda, Edith Emma, Winnifred (who died before I was born) Robert, Frank, Roy and Maisie. Only Frank and I are left now.

I went to Brotherton School and started in the old Church School, which is now the De-Lacy motor club. This was used for Standards 1 & 2, whilst the ``New school`` was used for Standards 3 to 7.

The Headmaster was Mr. Hedley Goddard who taught Standard 7, Mr. Lawrence Wood of Ferrybridge taught Standard 6. The other teachers were Miss Margaret McGowen, Miss Kay, Mrs McMichael and Mrs Clark.

Mrs Goddard called me her ‘little artist’ in front of the whole assembly, whilst showing off one of the drawings I had done.

The Church school was later used as an Institute where folk would play snooker etc.

One day when I was small I put Dad`s young pigeons into a basket and took them to the Fox and released them to fly the 400 yards back home. Dad wasn’t very pleased as he usually took them several miles away before releasing them.

Sometimes my friends and I would to go to Walton`s garage on the old Great North Road. One dinnertime after school three of us went to the garage to have a bit of fun with the drivers before going back to school. There was an old Chevrolet bus standing outside. The driver couldn’t get it started. He tried the starting handle but it wouldn’t start. I noticed that the bus springs were protruding each side of the radiator making it awkward to swing the handle. After a while the driver got puffed so I said that I would have a go. He got into the bus and sat behind the steering wheel. I began turning the handle clockwise from the bottom with a good strong pull. Suddenly it kicked back trapping my arm between the starting handle and the bus spring. The driver must have dropped the clutch in for the engine to do that. He didn’t seem that concerned. My arm began to swell up and throb, there I was on the floor nursing my arm and crying my eyes out, I was only 8 or 9 years old. I set off to go home, which was about 50 yards away. How could I do my lessons in the afternoon with an arm like this? I was almost home when our teacher, Mrs McMichael, passed me. She was an old battleaxe and I thought that now she had seen me I would have to go to school.

Sitting next to me in the front row at school, was Frankie Lowe, the policeman’s son. He was always talking, giggling and acting about. He began acting and talking when the teacher had her back turned. Suddenly I got a real clout around the ear and me with all the pain I had. I was glad to get home that day. My Mother took me to see Dr. Ward who put my arm in splints and I had a sling around my shoulders. Then I had a couple of days off school.

William ‘Billy’ and Thomas Woodall were butchers. My mates and me would go to Tommy Anthony Woodall’s yard helping out. We would clean out the pigs, turn the handle of the mincing machine to make sausages and other odd jobs. In return we would get a pig’s bladder and maybe a few greasy tab ends to smoke. To blow up the pig’s bladder we would put a straw in the neck and blow into it and then we would tie it off and then let it dry overnight. The following day we’d play ‘footie’ for ages with it. Happy days!

Mr. Bickerdyke had a butcher’s shop on Main Street and when he’d finished his days work he would wash the floor, and then ask one of the kids to turn off the electric lights. The light switch was an old brass type - probably not even earthed. Because of this and the wet floor, the kids would get a ‘tickle’, which he thought was hilarious. Mr. Bickerdyke had a housekeeper called Miss Hardy.

Bickerdyke’s Wood was on the right hand side of the ‘Folley’ between the Great North Road and Tadcaster Road. We would often go along this narrow path and climb over the wall into Bickerdykes Wood, then along and under the railway bridge and into Byram Park where we would play cowboys and Indians, go bird nesting, get blackberries etc.

Next to the Congregational Chapel on the North Road was an alleyway along which we would help drive cattle, pigs and sheep to be slaughtered and be paid with a pig’s bladder.

Georgie Crow and Wagstaff`s also had shops on Main Street.

On Saturdays when we all got our 1d pocket money, we would club together and buy a packet of Robins or Woodbine cigarettes and a box of matches. There would be Irvin Wales, Frankie Baker, Edgar Hewitt, Eric Bridgeland Arthur and Walt Greenwood and myself. We would go down to the railway bridge so on one could see us and sit in a circle on some big stones and have a good smoke. We’d then go and watch the football match.

Sometimes we would go and play near the pond next to the football ground. Once, Derek Rhodes slid down the bank and went straight into the pond getting a good soaking. Around the football pitch was a wire fence made from old haulage wires from Fryston Colliery. During the matches we would swing on the wire, and to stop us, an old chap called Mr. Steel would come around and hit us across the fingers with his walking stick.

We also had a good school football team, which was run by Mr. Wood who taught Standard 6 at that time. We would play teams from Ferrybridge, Knottingley, Airedale and Love Lane School at Pontefract. I played on the right wing whilst our Frank played in midfield. One day Frank and Ted Greenwood were given the stick and both refused to play for the team to get back at Mr. Woods.

About this time I started to get some awful pains in my back and on my left side. Dr. Ward told me not to run about. I would come home from school at dinnertime, get down on the settee and cry my eyes out. Dad would play pop with my mother, so she took me to see Dr. Ward. I had a scab on my knee and he blamed that for the pain, but my Mother wasn’t very impressed with this and told him so in no uncertain terms. The following week the pains were still very bad, so my Mother put me in a child’s pushchair and took me to the Clinic in Ferrybridge. This was supposed to be for small children only and they were not very pleased with her. However Dr. McCarthy examined me and decided I needed to go into hospital, but we would have to get a recommendation from the Hospital Committee. Mrs Bell got this for my Mother.

I went to Pontefract Infirmary and was examined and x-rayed by Mr. Joe Blackburn. It turned out I had Kidney stones (I didn’t know scabs on a knee could cause kidney stones). I was operated upon by Mr. Blackburn the Consultant and spent a month in the Hospital. My Mother didn’t seem very confident that I would live very long, for she took out 4 insurance policies on my life. The other kids in the family had just one policy between them. I was soon up and about and back at school, but because I had to "take it easy" I wasn’t picked for the football team again.

It didn’t stop me from going into Byram with my mates bird nesting. Eric Bridgeland was a good climber and he would climb to the top of the tallest trees to get Rooks, Crows or Jackdaw’s eggs, any sort of eggs we could find. Sometimes we would be chased by the gamekeepers in Byram. About seven or eight of us were walking across a grass field, in the middle of which was a small spinney with a mound on top. This mound had an iron fence around it. As we approached the mound I noticed that two men, gamekeepers, who were about 100 yards away, were coming towards us, but were trying to keep behind the spinney so we wouldn’t see them. As soon as I saw them I told the others to run. We set off running back across the field towards the two woods. There was an iron gate about 8ft high, used to keep the deer in. We scaled this gate or got through it and ran into the next field which had a row of Horse Chestnut trees in it, and clambered up the trees as high as we could get and kept an eye out for the keepers. After about 10 minutes we saw them climb the gate and begin to run towards the trees. A monkey couldn’t have got down that tree faster than us. Jimmy Stones was the highest up the tree and was the last one down dropping to his knees below the tree with the keepers only about five yards away, but they still couldn’t catch him.

We went into the next field, climbed the iron gate and went down into a quarry and that’s where we lost them. We all must have done a four-minute mile that day but it didn’t put us off going into Byram Park.

In the spring the woods in Byram would be full of Primroses, Bluebells and Violets, whilst in the autumn we would go looking for conkers, sweet chestnuts and walnuts. I remember going in to Byram with our cock spaniel Robin, I took an old holdall with me and in four hours I had collected about four stones of sweet chestnuts. Unfortunately, most of these trees have now gone.

In the summer months we would go to the large pond in Byram, situated in the wood on the right hand side of the Tadcaster Road. It was called the Coppering Kilns and was a relict of the old lime burning days. The wood was called the Copse. The pond had a quarry breast on one side about 20ft high but the other side was almost flat and we would spend many a happy hour fishing in that pond. There were Roach, Tench, Gudgeon, Perch and even Brown Trout, but some idiot put in Jack Pike and they soon ruined the fishing as we knew it. A lot of Brotherton kids learned to swim in that pond.

In the summer we would collect piles of wood and go swimming without any towels to dry ourselves, we would come out, light the fire and laze around until we were dry.

Years later, just before the war, some Castleford people rented the pond and turned it into a Lido. They put up a wire from the top of the quarry breast to the lower side. Folk would slide down the wire until they were over the pond and then let go and drop off into the pond. On fine days the place would be packed.

From there we would cross York Road, go over the railway by Stanacre Bridge and go into the ‘Dale’. This was owned by the Airedale Colliery Company. It was a wood which had grown up in the old lime workings. Near to the bridge was a siding that was usually filled with empty coal wagons. One Sunday afternoon our Frank and Eric Bridgeland were gathering the small alpine strawberries that grew in abundance on the embankments. They crossed the railway line and climbed into the wagons to eat the strawberries. Eric climbed up by using the buffers at the end of the wagons but our Frank decided to climb up the side. There was a square door at the side which hadn’t been fastened properly and when he was about half the way up, the door came crashing down, hit him on the head and knocked him through the frames where the brake lever was, splitting his head open. He ran back across the railway line, up the embankment and onto the road, where a man on a motor bike and sidecar tried to grab him to take him to hospital. Frank was too fast for him. I don’t know how long it took him but eventually he staggered into our house. My Mother took one look at him and almost fainted and she was pretty tough. Mrs Steel took him to Dr. Ward who put stitches in his head. He was left with a groove along the top of his head.

On sunny days we would go onto the Marsh fishing for sticklebacks using a stick some black cotton and a bent pin. Mother would sometimes take us for a picnic along with Mrs Adelaide Sharp and her family who were from Marsh Croft. Molly was my age, Rosemary her sister was about two years younger and Tommy their brother was at the junior school. I thought both these two girls were really pretty.

Sometimes all the kids from the Yard would go onto the Marsh via Sutton Lane. We would go as far as Sutton Hall, down a cart track called Milking Lane, over a bridge and onto the Marsh. On hot days we would take our clothes off and go into the drain, but if we were there too long and the cattle couldn’t get a drink, then Mr. Lister, the farmer, would chase us all away. It was said that he put broken glass into that drain, but I never saw anyone with cut feet. They were long hot days and we never seemed to bother about our meals.

We would walk back up Dish Hill, onto the Coach road and into the ‘Rec’ where we would play on the swings, play football or cricket. Sometimes we would watch the men playing ‘piggy’. The piggy was a piece of wood that had been shaped at one end to look a bit like a pig’s snout, they would place the piggy on a big flat stone. They would flick the end causing the piggy to jump up and would then take an almighty swipe at it (hopefully, hitting it) and try to send it as far as they could. The one that knocked the piggy the furthest was the winner. No doubt it was played for money.

As you walk up the Great North Road towards Fairburn from our house at the top of the Yard, there was a pair of semi-detached houses directly opposite the garage. In the first one lived Constable Lowe with his wife and two sons, George and Frank. Next door to them lived a widow Mrs Scott and her daughter May. Mrs Scott used part of her house as a bakers shop where she baked bread, tarts, buns and cakes. Many times I would run errands for her and would get a few sweets or stale buns as a reward. She also had an alsatian type dog with floppy ears called Peter. Everywhere Frank and I went Peter would be there with us. He was always fighting other dogs especially Steel’s dog. On wet days he would be in and out of our house making a real mess and Mother would play heck with us and make us take him home and chain him up.

One day Peter was missing and we couldn’t find him anywhere. Frank searched everywhere for him. Eventually we found out that Mrs Scott had had him put down. She had asked Mr. Steet, from down the yard, to shoot him with his 12 bore shotgun. We were both heartbroken but we later discovered that he had been ill and had to be put down.

Robert Milner

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