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Saturday, February 02, 2002
FOOT AND MOUTH DISEASE
Just for once we are going to be topical! I’ve been watching the news stories about the present outbreak and I was asked the other day what it was like in 1967 when we had the last big outbreak. I was working for E A Drinkall and Sons at the time driving their cattle wagon and we were in the thick of it.
I worked out of West Marton for Richard Drinkall at Yew Tree Farm, West Marton, who was the eldest of the three Drinkall Brothers. He was a cattle dealer and a good man. Our business was buying high quality heifers and young cows in Scotland and selling them to the farmers all around here and over into Yorkshire and Lancashire. Richard had some very good customers, many of them retailed milk in the industrial towns of East Lancashire and they could afford to buy really good beasts. We bought their heifer calves off them and sold them to the rearers up in Scotland who were assured of a good price because Richard always tried to buy his own breeding back as he knew the quality.
Right, I’ll have to tear myself away from Richard, I could write about the cattle job for weeks! It was an interesting job and I met some wonderful men. Our business this week is Foot and mouth.
Foot and Mouth disease; anyone who has been concerned with cattle hates the very name because it means nothing but misery and trouble to everyone concerned and the cattle as well. In 1967 we had the most serious outbreak the country has seen in modern times. Farming was just about shut down but cattle still had to be moved and so we carried on throughout the whole disaster. The biggest impact on me was that every time I unloaded I had to muck out the box and scrub and disinfect it before I could load again. I got webbed feet from the water and industrial dermatitis from the strong disinfectants we were using.
It wasn’t long into the outbreak when supplies of disinfectant ran short. The same thing is happening now. Towards the end of the epidemic the Ministry of Agriculture issued an advice notice that said that the best disinfectant was a solution of ordinary washing soda, it was also the most effective because they said the organism was very susceptible to anything that was alkaline. If anyone that reads this has hit this problem, ask your vet or ministry man whether soda will do and remind him of what they said in 1967. It was kinder to the hands and dispersed more quickly in the drains. Strong disinfectants are bad for the environment.
Another matter that cropped up then was the question whether there was any need to slaughter. It will surprise me if it doesn’t rear its head again, because the fact is that the type of Foot and Mouth that affects the UK isn’t a killer disease. Left to themselves most cattle will recover from it in a couple of months but it is a big problem in economic terms purely because of the debilitating affects on condition, weight gain and milk yields. A vaccine exists for it but since 1910, this country has pursued a policy of eradication by slaughter of all affected cattle. Personally, I think this is the right policy but it carries a penalty in that because our cattle and other susceptible animals are never exposed to the infection, they have no resistance and so the disease spreads like wildfire.
A similar example is the fate of the Inuit people, the Eskimos, when they were first exposed to Western European diseases by contact with explorers they died like flies from the common cold which quickly led to complications because they had never been exposed to it. Our cattle are in the same situation.
Another modern trend which is exacerbating the present outbreak is the closure in the last few years of many of the small local slaughterhouses. One of the first facts that emerged from the present outbreak was that there isn’t a single slaughterhouse on the Isle of Wight which is why pigs had to be sent to Essex to be killed. This means that animals have to be transported far greater distances
There is another consequence to this policy which isn’t actually anything to do with Foot and Mouth but which needs to be recognised. Long journeys by road are not a big problem for fit young beasts who are being properly handled and looked after but there is a world of difference between carrying cattle which have to be sold on the day after the journey and need to be in peak condition and carrying animals that aren’t your concern and are going to be killed on arrival anyway. This is human nature. Pigs in particular suffer terribly from this, they don’t travel well at all. An animals worst enemy is another animal and anyone who works in a slaughterhouse will tell you that ‘casualties’ aren’t uncommon. By casualties they mean animals that have quite simply died of terror, but we call it stress.
In all the time I worked for Drinkall’s I only lost one beast, a calf I had calved on the way down from Inverness, and I doubt if it would have survived even if we had been at home as it was a poor thing. My point is that the so-called ‘experts’ who advise the government on these matters aren’t necessarily experts at all. How many of them have brought 32 heavy in-calf cows out of Paisley lying-off sales and delivered them in good nick 200 miles down the country? I can tell you from my experience that those were the worst beasts of all to carry but we moved them successfully day after day each Spring. The well-meaning animal rights activists who were blockading the ports a couple of years ago to stop veal calves being transported to the continent were barking up the wrong tree. They should have been picketing any slaughterhouse that had razor wire and spiked fencing round it. One of the design elements in these places is that nothing can be seen from the road. Ask yourselves why not?
Back to Foot and Mouth. Another problem which will have to be faced if this outbreak gets any bigger could come as a bit of a surprise. Not to long ago a friend of mine needed to buy a large quantity of railway sleepers for a job he had on. I got a shock when he told me that they had come from Poland as the UK is running out of wooden railway sleepers. They tell me that due to the efforts of Charlie Dimmock and Alan Titchmarsh, a good railway sleeper can fetch up to £25 at a DIY store!
Take it from me, if you ever have to burn a body, railway sleepers are the best fuel because they are pressure impregnated with creosote and burn fiercely. In 1967, thanks to Doctor Beeching and his rail closures, we had an abundance of cheap sleepers scattered all round the country and they were the ideal for building large platforms which, with the addition of coal, were ideal for incinerating the carcasses of animals killed in the cull. I noted this morning that they were using straw bales and waste wood. I wouldn’t mind taking a small bet that there will be more roasted carcasses than incinerated ones but we will never get to hear about it. They’ll dig a big pit, shove everything in and cover it over.
Another thing that niggled me a bit was a report in the paper that the cattle are killed with ‘a rifle bolt’. Wrong! The only way you could kill anything with a ‘rifle bolt’ is make them eat it! What they actually mean is that they are killed with a captive bolt pistol. This is a small specialised hand gun that has been modified so that when a blank .22 cartridge is fired, it expels a spring loaded steel spike about four inches long. The pistol is actually placed on the beasts head and fired so there is no possibility of a miss when used by a skilled operator. I know most of my readers don’t like to think about death in any form but this is the most humane way of killing an animal. Death is absolutely instantaneous and if the job has to be done, this is the best way to do it so rest a bit easier, there is no cruelty.
There is one last aspect of this matter I’d like to mention. The affect on the farmers. Contrary to popular opinion, the vast majority of farmers actually like animals. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be working with them. The psychological effect of having your entire stock of beasts, most of which you have calved and reared, is enormous and I have seen how badly affected people can be by this. It’s even worse when it’s a pedigree herd which has taken perhaps 100 years to build up through careful selection and breeding. All that work is destroyed overnight. I remember one farmer in Scotland who told me that if his herd was slaughtered, not only his life’s work but that of his father and grandfather would be destroyed. As it happened, it never came to that, he was lucky, but he had to live with the possibility for months.
So my thoughts go out to the farmers and the poor beasts that get caught up in this. I have no problems with killing beasts that have had a good life and been properly looked after but wholesale slaughter because of Foot and Mouth upsets me. What upsets me even more are the ‘experts’ and ‘activists’ who have such an effect on the way the animal husbandry business is run and who, for the most part, have no direct experience or knowledge of the things they pontificate on. Thanks for listening to me. Normal historical service will be resumed next week! The number is 813527 and the email, firstname.lastname@example.org
SCG/Sunday, 25 February 2001
Friday, February 01, 2002
BARLICK LIFE IN 1890. (PART TWO)
Sorry, but you’re going to have to concentrate a bit harder this week, we are going to quote some actual statistics! As you know, I like to look at history from the grass roots level, what the workers were doing. There are two reasons for this, the workers were (and still are!) the place where wealth is created, the second reason is that I believe historians have neglected the grass roots. However, now and again we have to lift our eyes from the gutter and take note of broader events as this helps put our researches into context. I’ll try to make it as painless as possible!
Barlick was never a ‘fancy-weaving’ town. The cloth the mills turned out was almost all ‘Burnley Printers’, these were cheap but serviceable plain cloths made specifically for printing and the export trade. ‘Rag shops’ was the term used in the trade for these mills. The main market for these cloths was India. By 1913 India took 45% of the cloth exported from Britain, 3,126 million yards. Looking ahead, whilst this immense market fuelled Barlick’s growth between 1878 and 1913, nobody could foresee that between 1913 and 1918 this trade was to drop 75% triggering the decline of the weaving industry.
There was another factor at work. Barlick has always been out of step with everyone else and this is clearly demonstrated by the pattern of growth in the town as compared to the rest of Lancashire. Between 1887 and 1913 the number of looms in Lancashire increased from 582,500 to 786,200, an increase of 35%. During the same period, Barlick went from approximately 3,000 looms to 20,000, an increase of 550%! Between 1903 and 1915 seven new mills were built and the housing stock increased in proportion. One more figure for you, during the same period, the employed capital of the Calf Hall Shed Company rose from £10,000 on formation to £85,000 in 1913, an increase of 750%.
Right, that’s enough figures, let’s ask a question. Where did the money come from that fuelled this growth? Was there some outside source of capital that saw the opportunity and invested for profit? Remember that we are told nowadays that this is good, Japanese car firms investing in industry in this country are seen as a political and economic triumph! I’ve been researching this for thirty years and I have found no evidence of any outside investment apart from some very small investments later in the period. By far the greater proportion, and I’d estimate well over 90%, came from inside the town, in other words, re-invested profits from the weaving trade. How was this done?
It’s very difficult to get a clear idea of the level of profits the manufacturers were making because they were mainly private individuals and didn’t have to publish any accounts. Pleading poverty was more their style than boasting about their wealth and if the tone of their communications to the Shed Company secretaries is anything to go by they were desperately poor and being bled dry by the wicked Shed Companies. One of these secretaries, after a two hour meeting with tenants reported to the board that ‘The tenants gave no evidence that they were suffering hardship in respect of their rent!’ In view of the fact that these same tenants built seven new mills in twelve years there is little doubt that he was right!
So, I think we can accept that between 1887 and 1913 the trade was doing well, cotton prices were falling, the market was growing and the industry expanded to take advantage of the boom. What was the effect on the town and the workers?
In terms of the built environment, Barlick exploded! Roughly speaking, apart from the Townhead area and the centre of the town every stone house you see now was built between 1887 and 1913! Add to this the mill building and improvements like sewer building, street paving and lighting and the installation of gas and water mains and you begin to get the picture. The quarries up on Upper Hill and Salterforth lane were roaring, all the stone for the building came out of them. There was a brickworks below the quarry on the west side of Salterforth Lane, the bricks were poor but good enough for the inside lining of stone walls and shed-building. All the slate for the roofs came in by rail from Wales and the canal was pumping coal and other essential supplies into the town. In short, it must have been chaotic. The whole town was a building site.
We’ve got a fairly clear idea of how the mills were financed but how about the house-building? More looms and mills meant that more accommodation was needed. Part of this demand for labour was met by people coming into the town to weave and going home at weekend. The Model Lodging House in Butts, now Briggs and Duxbury’s premises was built to cope with this demand. Pubs like the Dog up Manchester Road were lodging houses and anyone with a bed to spare had a lodger.
Billy says that it was surprising how many ordinary people became entrepreneurs and financed house building for rent. He names Joe Standing, a weaver, who built some houses near the Corn Mill and Sandy Harmer, another weaver who lived in St James’ Square and built some houses on the Croft. The local builders moved in, Jim Shaw built Mosley Street and Park Road. Johnny Broughton built half of Denton Street, the three houses below Foster’s Arms and the row up Brogden Lane. These houses were either bought or taken up for rent as soon as they were built. Rent is fairly easy to understand but how did ordinary people mange to buy houses when they were in real poverty and has no safety net like Social Services to protect them?
The first thing to recognise is that the banks knew a boom when they saw one and were eager to invest and get their share of the profits. They were on to a good thing because there was no risk in lending money to builders to finance house building on a rising market. The same thing applied to shed-building, there was no shortage of loan capital available to finance building. As regards rent, I haven’t any direct evidence yet as to what levels were but working out the figures, assuming a payback of the cost of the house in 21 years and an interest rate of 3% the rent for a two-up and two-down terraced house would work out at about 2/6 a week. (12 ½ p).
I asked Billy about house prices and how people managed to buy in those days and he said that a two up two down terraced house cost £130, a family house with garrets (attics) was £240 and a big family house of high standard was £370. His family started in a small cottage on Newtown on a very low rent. As things improved they bought a new house through the building society off Jim Shaw on Mosley Street. This pattern was common and the factor that made all the difference was having a large number of children, getting them into the mill at ten years old and keeping their wages. The usual procedure was that children ‘tipped up’ their wage and got a penny in the shilling for pocket money. If you had eleven children, as Jim Brooks had, it is easy to see how they could take on the cost of buying a house once the children started working.
There was a drawback to this of course, children cost money to rear! Billy says that everyone was in debt while their kids were coming on. Sources of credit were relations, the pawn shop and credit at local shops. In those days, most shops would let you buy ‘on tick’ with a ‘shop book’ as long as you were either known to the shopkeeper or you could show a fully paid up rent book.
I asked Billy how it was that ‘off-comed ‘uns’ could get established when they came into the town. He said that there was always the chance that they had left their previous debt behind them by doing a ‘moonlight flit’ and so had a clean start in Barlick. Here, a surprising factor come into play. Because Barlick was a ‘rag shop’, the weaving was simple and children could learn to weave very quickly so it was easy to get your kids into work and earning as soon as they could go part time at ten years old. These factors applied to established Barlickers as well of course.
When you’d paid for your own house you looked for a way to invest for the future, remember, there was no state pension or social benefits. The best way to do this was to buy the house next door and rent it out. If you could manage it, you invested in building a row of houses using money borrowed from the bank and financed by the rents. If you did this, you usually built one house on the row to a higher standard for yourself or in some cases, as a shop so you could have another source of income. If you look at the buildings in Barlick as you walk round you’ll see a lot of this kind of development.
The end result of this period of prosperity and the willingness of ordinary people to invest in the future while their income was high was the extraordinary growth of Barlick and the high proportion of owner-occupied houses and small property developers. Joe Standing and Sandy Harmer were following this pattern and they were not alone.
There’s another interesting sign of this process that can still be seen here and there in the town. Take a stroll on to the top of Lower North Avenue and look at the gable end of the house next to the sheltered accommodation, you’ll see that the ends of the walls aren’t straight, the stones have been left sticking out ready for the next phase of building. These ‘toothing stones’ are a sure sign that further building was expected but the boom ran out. In almost every case this was around the beginning of the First World War. There are other examples of this, keep your eyes open and take notice of them.
This has been a very brief explanation of what happened in Barlick between 1887 and 1913. It was an extraordinary time and it’s no accident that it was at this time that the old Local Board was replaced by the Urban District Council. As the town grew, local government had to expand and grow with it. There’s lots more to find out about this brief interlude in Barlick’s history that resulted in the wonderful town we see today. The key point as far as I’m concerned is that it was fuelled by local thrift, hard work and investment. Every time I hear some politician telling us how good it is to get external investment I think about Barlick and what was achieved by self help. Nobody could change their mind and withdraw the investment, it was permanent and locally controlled. I think there is plenty of room for this kind of enterprise today and would love to see it happen.
Comments please to 813527 or email@example.com.
SCG/Tuesday, 06 February 2001
BARLICK LIFE IN 1890. (PART ONE)
I’m still working away at the taped interviews I did with Billy Brooks in 1978 when he was 96 and these were the basis of my article on childhood and work which was in the View on January the 19th. I think we’ve got enough for another look at Barlick at the end of the 19th century so this week I’ll start by talking to the younger ones again.
Billy was born in 1882 and he went to school at Rainhall Road School which was then the Wesleyan School. He started at school when he was five years old and left at thirteen but he was working half-time in the mill from the age of ten.
Barlick was a very different place in 1890 than it is now. If you stood outside Rainhall Road School and looked across the road towards what is now Mosley Street you would get a bit of a shock! There was nothing there but fields as far as the eye could see. The buildings which are now shops on the same side of Rainhall Road as the school were there, the end one, next to the school was a bakehouse run by a man called Frank Metcalfe. The first buildings on the left hand side of Rainhall Road was the row which starts with the chemist’s shop next to the surgery. None of the other houses and shops had been built.
Looking across towards Long Ing, the railway was there, Wellhouse Street and Railway street had been built and behind them Wellhouse square and most of the houses on the Hill Streets were built. There was nothing down towards Long Ing except for an odd cottage and farm building until you got down to Long Ing Shed which was built in 1887.
The roads, even in the town centre were not paved, they were simply covered with broken limestone and, after 1897, were rolled down hard by a steam roller. The Local Board bought this roller from Fowler’s at Leeds and it was seen as a great improvement. Even so, the roads were rough and rutted by the constant procession of horse drawn carts carrying coal from the railway and canal to Clough, Butts and Calf Hall mills and all the other traffic of the district. Billy says that the only maintenance was to sweep up the loose stones and slutch from the gutter and throw them into the ruts. If there was a bigger hole, this was filled by contractors, men who took on the job of road repairing by breaking or ‘knapping’ stone into small pieces and hammering them into the road surface. There was a stone pavement at each side.
Just think about this for a minute or two. All the old photographs that we have of the town centre were taken in fine weather. They don’t show what it was like when it was wet. Remember that all the ladies wore long skirts that almost brushed the ground, what would it be like crossing the road which was muddy, rutted and covered in puddles? Ladies lifted their skirts while they were crossing but even so the hems of their dresses and underskirts would get splashed by water and mud.
It gets worse! As the horses went about their work they would make water and drop horse muck in the street. The box cart collecting the contents of the pail toilets would occasionally leak a bit or splash out of the lid when it went through a pothole. Bits of rubbish, coal, ashes, whatever was being carried, would fall off as well and the whole lot got ground up into porridge by the cart wheels. We are not talking about the most hygienic road surface in the world! This was bad enough but things got even worse when the sun came out.
I suppose all of you have watched cowboy films at some time or another. The way you could tell that someone was coming, long before you saw them, was the plume of dust raised by the horses hooves. If any of you have been to Australia you will have seen the same thing there on the unmade roads. Barlick town centre was exactly the same. The biggest nuisance in dry weather was the dust from the roads, especially if there was any wind. Bear in mind what was in the dust, every sort of dirt you can imagine from faeces to people spitting in the street. This horrible mixture of dirt and bacteria got everywhere.
Think of another thing. A lot of food in shops and on stalls was on open display, there was no refrigeration and when you got it home, all you could do to protect it was to cover it up. Milk delivered in open cans onto the doorstep got its own dose of bugs and in summer, many milk hawkers delivered twice a day because the milk went sour in a very short time. The consequence of all this was that people were constantly eating infected food and the biggest single cause of ill health was a constant low level of food poisoning and diarrhoea. There was a benefit to this, if you survived you had a marvellous stock of antibodies in your system. Modern scientists are beginning to suspect that many of today’s new ailments like ME , allergies and asthma are because we are not exposed to enough germs.
At home, your mother did the best she could to keep the house clean but sweeping the floor simply spread the germs even more. The nearest most people got to any sort of antiseptic was carbolic soap or boiling water. The wonder of it is that people survived this constant attack. It is certain that if we had to live under the same conditions we would go down with very bad stomach ailments very quickly. This is exactly what happens to most people who go for a holiday to India and many other tropical countries. ‘Delhi Belly’ had its counterpart, we’d call it ‘Barlick Belly’ nowadays!
Right, that’s enough disease and sudden death for this week! What about the rest of your life in 1890. One thing that has always struck me when talking to very old people like Billy is the amount of time they spent out of the house. There was a very simple reason for this, apart from eating and sleeping there wasn’t a lot to make it worthwhile staying in. During the week, the only light in the house was a ‘tuppeny snuff-less dip’ on the kitchen table. This was a candle made out of tallow and Billy says they smelt nasty when they were lit. He used to go out to buy them for his mother from the shop and he says that they were hung up by their wicks like a bunch of grapes. The shop-keeper would snip you a couple off and wrap them up for you. They cost about one new penny each. Billy says that when paraffin wax candles (the same as we use today) came out they were seen as a great improvement. The very best candles were made of beeswax but only the rich could afford these.
At weekends things improved because on Saturday and Sunday an oil lamp burning paraffin was used instead of dips. Even so, if there were eleven children in the family, not everyone could get near the light! Another weekend happening was that Billy’s mother would send him to Jacob Bailey’s shop for a pennyworth of sand to scatter on the flag floor of the kitchen. This helped to keep the floor clean as it scrubbed the flags when walked on in clogs with irons and was changed every weekend. Not surprisingly, you spent a lot of time out of the house looking to see what was going on or getting up to mischief.
There were very few street lights and most of the town centre was in darkness. This was a great boon to Billy and his mates because it helped to conceal them as they ‘made their own amusement’. A man called Isaac Barrett was schoolmaster at Rainhall Road and he used to run evening classes for anyone who wanted to improve themselves. Billy says that at this time they were starting to clear the land across from the school to build Mosley Street and there was a lot of rubbish about. They got a branch off a tree and leaned it against the school door and then knocked on it. When Isaac opened the door the branch fell in on him!
If you remember I said that the shop next to the school was a bakehouse run by Frank Metcalfe. If you look at the gable end you’ll see that there is a window there that’s walled up now. Billy and his mates used to stick a pin in the woodwork at the top of the window and over it they hung a piece of black cotton with a button on the end. They went down towards the back of the house and jiggled the button with the cotton so that it tapped on the window. When Frank came out to see what the noise was they pulled the button up to the top of the window and hid round the corner. They would do this two or three times and Billy says that Frank got very upset, he knew someone was playing a trick on him but because it was dark he didn’t know how it was being done!
Down at the Skipton Road end of the town there were a few houses round the Corn Mill and the new gasworks but from there down to the canal it was all fields, the only houses were the three cottages at Crow Nest. Coates Mill was at the top of the hill on the left hand side of the road but was a lot smaller. There was a cottage on the Barlick side of the canal bridge. One of these fields near the corn mill was used as a football field, Billy says he can remember Barlick playing in a cup tie there for the Bradford City cup. He says that a lot of people turned out to watch, leaning over the wall.
The strongest impression that comes through from Billy’s account of the town is the fact that people had to make their own pleasures. A meeting at the chapel was popular because ‘it was somewhere to go’. At election time a political meeting was as big a draw as a good programme on TV is to us. But bear in mind that this wasn’t ‘The Good Old Days’. Low levels of infection were endemic, there was no Social Security and we know that inside a couple of years, half the town was to be on strike and times were very hard. How did they survive?
As we saw last week, it was by local credit, hard work and pulling themselves up by their own bootstraps. In view of the present debates about the future of Pendle there might be a valuable lesson to learn from history here. Over to the politicians and planners! Remember that I’m always interested to have your comments. 813527 or firstname.lastname@example.org will get to me.
SCG/Tuesday, 06 February 2001
Thursday, January 31, 2002
WEST MARTON 4 (AND WAGONS)
That’s right, I can’t fight it any longer, I’m going to get transport out of my system this week but first I want to tidy Marton up a bit.
One of the nice thing about writing these articles is the way people pop out of the woodwork and remind you of the things you had forgotten. I’ve just been talking to Phyllis Addyman and she reminded me of the time when Harry tied a blue ribbon round a cockerel’s neck and left it on Ruth Ashworth’s doorstep at Bale Farm on polling day. The story is she opened the door, saw the cockerel and knew straight away who was responsible. Then there was the bloke who was told that the pensioners in the almshouses at Thornton in Craven were in trouble because their upstairs windows needed cleaning but they couldn’t get anyone to do them. He shouldered a ladder and walked across there and had a good cursing do when he realised they were single storey!
I had a namesake at the dairy, Mark Graham, no relation. He worked at the capping end of the bottling machines and when he had a day off he used to alter the tension on the little flap that put the foil caps on the bottles. The consequence was that when he wasn’t there they always had problems with the capping machine. This did his reputation no end of good because miraculously, the following day, when he came back, everything ran like clockwork!
I mentioned Jack Brown, the plumber, last week and how his death left me feeling very ashamed. Jack was another character, he was always the same, I never saw him lose his temper about anything. I remember once when I was in the garage and they had started on the alterations to the dairy for cheese-making, Raymond, the foreman of the builders came up the yard and asked if I could take the grinder down the yard and cut a cast iron pipe for them. Jack Brown was directing operations, they had opened the yard up and there were two pipes, one of them redundant. Jack told me which one to cut and when I got into it water flew out at high pressure, soaking everyone within twenty feet. As I scrambled out of the hole, wringing wet, I could hear Jack shouting, ‘That’s right, I remember now, it’s t’other un!’
When Len Pitts, the boilerman, had a day off, Jack used to stand in for him as firebeater. It was a little Cornish boiler and was very hard-pressed, we used a lot of steam. Len had it down to a fine art, he could clean the clinker out of the fire without losing any pressure but Jack never quite cracked this operation. I was in the yard one day and he shouted to me out of the room next to the boiler and asked me to open the firebox door and have a look at the fire. There was a foot-pedal to open it and I put my left foot out and pressed it. As soon as the door opened there was a big ‘WHOOSH’ and a flame about twenty feet long shot out of the firebox. Jack had let the fire go out and had thrown a lot of oily rags and bits of wood in but they were only smouldering. As soon as I opened the door and let the air in it fired. I was playing hell with Jack but all he said was ‘I thought it might do that!’ All you could do was laugh.
David Peacock once asked Jack to see him at going-home time. When Jack went down, David asked him to hang on for a minute while he made a phone call. When he came out of the office he wasn’t best pleased because Jack had vanished, he had his wife to pick up at the mill. The following morning David Peacock buttonholed Jack and said, ‘I thought I told you to wait for me last night!’ Jack looked him straight in the eyes and said, ‘Aye you did. But I’m more flayed o’t wife than I am of thee!’ I wasn’t there when he said it but a bloke that was said it was a picture to see David trying to keep a straight face. In the end he let Jack go!
Ted Lawson and I were given a job one day, we had to dig a hole in George Parker’s back garden for a new manhole on the main drain down to the sewage plant. It was a fair hole and it took us three days to dig it out. On the third day Ted said to me, ‘Have you noticed that lump of meat in Percy Graham’s pantry window?’ I told him I hadn’t and he took me across to look at it. It looked like a big piece of silverside and it was obvious that it had been cooked a few days before because the back end nearest the window was green! We kept out eye on it through the week and it gradually shrank as they cut from the other side of it.
I think about that many a time when I hear people on about food-poisoning. It all depends on what your system is used to dealing with. Percy and Mrs Graham had been eating food like that all their lives, they had never had a fridge, and they were used to it. I often wonder if we are too clean nowadays.
As the dairy moved into cheese-making, David Peacock sent for me one day and asked me if I’d like to go on to the milk tankers. I jumped at the chance because driving was always my first love. He put me on an old AEC Mercury with a Darham tank on it and I kept to that for the next five years. It was a good job, we used to load with chilled fresh milk the afternoon before and then set off early in the morning to deliver the milk first thing at any dairy between Sanquhar in Scotland and Ashby de la Zouch in the Midlands. This meant leaving at midnight at times if we were booked for an early tip. It was a clean, straightforward job. All we had to do when we tipped was to wash the tank out ready for loading when we got back to Marton.
Nowadays, tank washing is done mechanically but in those days you got in the tank with a hose and a bucket of detergent and scrubbed the tank by hand. They were stainless steel and so this wasn’t a bad job. When we had got it clean we would almost close the lid, push the hose through the cock at the back and turn the high pressure steam on. Twenty minutes of steaming effectively sterilised the tank interior and we left the lid cocked up and the back cock open as we drove back so that air circulated and cooled the tank down. Collin Barritt used to take swabs and do bacteria counts on the tanks and I always had a good result.
The dairies we went to had a good idea who had the cleanest tanks and when I went to Lancashire Dairies behind Strangeways Gaol in Manchester I often got chosen to be blessed so that the milk could be bottled as kosher milk. After I had opened the lid and stirred the milk up with a big stainless steel plunger, the rabbi used to climb the ladder, put his prayer shawl on and speak to the milk. I asked him one day what difference it made and he said, ‘A good question young man, but I have no answer. It is a matter between God and the milk!’ I have an idea he’d been asked the question many times, but I never forgot the answer!
In summer, the tank job was a joy. Early dawn, fine weather and empty roads were a wagon driver’s heaven. In winter it was a different matter. We were always on the road before the grit-wagons and it could get quite interesting at times. I was once coming back empty from a dairy in Cheshire on a Sunday morning in the middle of a very cold spell. Even the motorway was iced up because there was an economy drive on at the time so I decided to come back up the old A34 as it would be safer. All went well until I came to the White City roundabout in Salford and as I drove round I saw a bloke waving at me. I soon found out why! The gritter must have run out of salt half way round and I found myself sliding towards the brand new railings and the dock, about forty feet of muddy water!
Never mind what anyone says, at times like this instinct takes over. All I know is that I managed to pull up eventually about ten yards from the dock gates having demolished about 25 yards of Kee-Klamp railing on the way. A bobby was stood there looking at the mayhem and as I opened the cab door he said, ‘They won’t be pleased, they only finished that lot yesterday.’ My heart sank into my boots, headlines again! I said, ‘What do we do about it?’ he said. ‘I don’t know what you’re going to do lad but I’m going for me breakfast!’ and as he said this he tapped his helmet badge. At this point I realised he was Dock Police! I leaped back into the cab, shouted my thanks and got away as fast as I could! We never heard anything about it and the wagon wasn’t damaged so that was alright.
Summer could have its problems as well, we used to dread going to Lincoln in fine weather because you almost always got fog once you got out of Bawtry into the low lying plain. You generally came out of it when you came through Gringley on the Hill but plunged back in on the other side. One morning I had been driving for about an hour and a half in this and my eyes were like chapel hat pegs. I doubt if I was doing eight miles an hour. I could just see the kerb if I half stood up off my seat. A wagon was following me and in the end I pulled up to have a rest.
I got out and lit my pipe and the other driver came to have a word. We exchanged views about fog for a while and then he asked if I knew where we were. I said I thought we were near the big rhine or drain that was near the Sheffield road end. He said we’ll soon find out and picked up a three inch stone and threw it into the fog. We waited for the splash but all we heard was glass breaking! It seemed to go on for ever! I took one look at him, jumped in the cab and got away as fast as I could. On the way back, about three hours later I passed a bungalow with a picture window boarded up with plywood. I’ve often wondered what it was put down to but I hadn’t thrown the stone!
Years later I was in the Coatgate Café on Beattock and I noticed a bloke staring at me. In the end he came over and I realised it was the bloke who had thrown the stone. He hadn’t gone back that way so I was able to tell him what he’d done. He said he’d told the tale many a time and now he had the ending. I have to admit it’s one of my favourites too!
Remember the number 813527 and the email email@example.com I’m always pleased to hear from you.
SCG/Friday, 23 February 2001
MORE WEST MARTON MEMORIES (3)
As I have often said, there are worse places to live than Barlick and the surrounding area. As I walk round the town I get buttonholed by people about these articles and this week has been no exception. I got a nice email from Phyllis Addyman’s granddaughter Rachel to say that her grandmother is still alive and really enjoyed seeing Harry mentioned last week so I’m going to bow to pressure and do a bit more on West Marton. By the way Rachel, will you please let me know where you are? Another request, will the bloke who I was talking to on the canal bank who worked with Percy and Vera please give me a call on 813527 as I can’t remember his name! Sorry!
When I first started driving for the dairy they had three wagons of their own on bottle delivery. In those pre-Thatcher days every school child got a third pint bottle of milk free at break time every morning and West Marton delivered this milk to all the schools from Keighley across to Barlick and up the dale as far as Kirkby Malham. I always said that there was no finer thing to do with milk than pour it down children’s throats and the dairy wagons delivered this and then took milk to depots at Colne and Nelson in the afternoon. Harrison Brothers picked up all the farm milk and took the bottles to Skipton, Keighley and Bradford depots.
The standard wagons we used then would make any modern driver laugh. They were Bedford petrol wagons which were nominally built for five tons but we used to put seven and a half tons on them as a matter of course and many a time more, especially on the can job from the farms. All this on 7.50 X 20 tyres and with a 28hp six cylinder petrol engine and four gears! No heaters, no power steering, one headlamp and one windscreen wiper! All this was perfectly legal in those days, we were allowed up to 14 tons on two axles and I can’t ever remember us having an accident.
Eddie Lancaster from Sough and his brother Eric from Kelbrook drove two of the wagons and I think the third was run by Keith Byers from Skipton. I first started my career at Marton doing days off for Eddie and Eric and then started full time for Harrison’s when Ernest Hartley gave his notice in. At that time apart from me, Billy Harrison drove a wagon, Jack, his brother drove the Neville conversion Bedford and Harold Stone ran the Queen Mary. The Queen Mary was an ‘S’ type Bedford with a 35hp petrol engine and was bought specially for picking up the Bashall Eaves milk, the former Fattorini farms, and doing a load of bottles to Davies Dairy in Bradford every afternoon.
A word about the Queen Mary. Once again, modern drivers would be amazed by what we did quite legally. The wagon was bought and immediately sawn in half in the middle and a Bayko Flitch put in. This was a kit which lengthened the chassis and drive shaft by about four feet which was what we needed to get the Bradford load on to one wagon. Harold Stone was given this new and on the first day it was loaded with crates stacked five high right to the back and the middle three rows made up to six high. When Harold got back he pointed out that the wagon had bent slightly in the middle and so the load was reduced to five high all round! Even so, as you drove it you could feel it flexing as you went down the road! Again, all perfectly legal.
Any of you who know my predilection for all things mechanical might be getting a bit worried at this point. Relax, that’s enough about wagons, well, nearly, they might crop up again!
The bottle dock at Marton was right next to the road where the gardens are now. It was presided over by Frank Whalley while I was there. He was a mild-mannered man with a little quiff of white hair that was permanently stuck up on his head. His job was to check all the loads as they went out and make sure that private enterprise was kept to a minimum. It was an accepted fact that there were always one or two breakages and so we used to put ‘riders’ on some of the crates. This was simply an extra full bottle laid on top of the crate. Frank was always complaining about the number of riders that I put on but as I pointed out to him, they were essential, I had three growing children! I think that the wage then, in 1957, was £17 a week so a gallon of milk a day came in handy. One thing is certain, they all grew up strong with good bones! Jim Marsh used to be bottling manager but he was in charge of the Skipton depot in my time and later went to the new filling station at Snaygill.
Picking milk up from the farms was a hard job but the great consolation was that you got to know most of the farmers very well. I have a bit of a problem here because I feel like saying that we don’t have the same ‘characters’ about today, but I suspect that is simply an old man’s point of view. We certainly had them then! Clifford Chapman at Mire House, just below the dairy was a nice quiet man until the dairy sited a new sewage treatment works at the top of his lane. Relations got a bit strained at times after that! At one point I was put in charge of this plant and I have to admit it was a bloody mystery. One day it would be fine, the water would be running out into the beck as clear as gin, the next day it would be like porridge. I was glad when the job was taken off me!
Cyril Richardson once told me that he was in a hotel with Clifford having a meal and the waiter brought the cheese board. There was a baby Wensleydale on offer and Clifford indicated that he’d have some of that. The waiter cut a generous wedge out but when he offered it to Clifford he asked for the other piece! The waiter gave him the rest of the cheese and was turning away when he stopped, spiked the remaining piece and said ‘You might as well have this as well!’ Cyril said that Clifford ate the lot, ‘He really liked his cheese!’
The next farm down the road was Stainton House. This was farmed by Johnny Spensley and his son Malcolm. Malcolm had a car spares business under the Majestic at one time. They were famous for being late with their milking. It was nothing unusual to see the lights on in the shippons at midnight as you were driving past. One night, another local farmer was driving past at about two in the morning on his way home from a dance and saw that all the lights were on. The following day he saw Johnny and said ‘You were about late last night!’ Johnny said ‘What time was that?’ When the other bloke said two o’clock, hoping to get a rise out of him, Johnny deflated him by telling him he must have been mistaken because they were late up that morning!
I was once at Johnny’s delivering a load of hay and he asked me if I’d like some sausage for my lunch. I went into the kitchen and was horrified when I saw him cut some black things down from a string hanging from the ceiling, he brushed the dust and cobwebs off them and threw them into the pan. You’ve never smelled anything as wonderful in your life. They were home made Cumberland sausages, stuffed full with home fed pig meat and spices and they were the best sausages I have ever tasted in my life! God alone knows how long they had been hanging there in the kitchen.
Lady Harriet Nelson was still at the Hall in those days and had some funny ideas about Sunday observance. She could be seen progressing through the village every now and again in an ancient Rolls Royce and woe betide anyone who had washing out on a Sunday! Being off-comed uns, we drivers never had anything to do with her and she was more an object of curiosity than anything else. I think we all realised that she was a symbol of a way of life which had had its day.
As I’ve mentioned before, when the Milk Marketing Board took over the can pick up from the farms, Harrison Brothers lost their contract and I went away for a few years as Billy Harrison’s only remaining driver and went on the tramp looking for work. That episode is different story and I’ll leave it for another day but eventually I came back to the dairy and asked David Peacock if he had a job going. He set me on straight away and I drove bottle wagons until the dairy stopped bottling. I then went in the garage with Wallace Neave.
Wallace had a temper on him but I usually got on well with him. We did all sorts of jobs and it was good experience for me, Wallace was one of the old school of mechanics and knew all the tricks. He also knew a lot about ratting and we had many an exciting evening with my little Manchester Lakeland cross terrier wreaking havoc amongst the local rat population. He had a hen hut at the back of the old stables at the top of the yard and we once got a big bag of rats out of there. I thought we had finished but I heard a noise in the hut and when I went in Wallace was laid on his side with his arm under the dropping board at the back of the hut and was using some terrible language. I thought he’d fallen and hurt himself at first but it soon became obvious there was one rat left and Wallace was after it with his penknife! He got it. Hard man!
I have one sad memory of the garage. It was a freezing morning in winter and the steam pipe in the garage was cold because Jack Brown had done a repair the day before and left the pipe sagging in the corner. It had collected condensate during the night and frozen and I was laid on my side in the muck freezing cold, trying to thaw it with a blowlamp. ‘I’ll kill that bloody Brown when I see him!’ and a voice came from behind me, it was Bill Mills the manager, ‘You’ll have a job Stanley, he died in his chair last night.’ One of those occasions when you realise that you should have kept your mouth shut. I felt so ashamed. Ah well, we all have ‘em.
SCG/Friday, 23 February 2001
Monday, January 28, 2002
WEST MARTON DAIRIES (2)
Forgive me for indulging myself but I want to tell you more about West Marton and my time working there. Looking back, I was very lucky because I managed to become an accepted part of something that has largely faded away now, small village culture where everyone knew everybody else and we made our own entertainment.
Every village has a joker, Marton had more than one but the kingpin was Harry Addyman. Harry spent his life with his pigs boiling up kitchen waste and mixing it with pig meal and waste milk from the dairy. Marshall’s had a wagon which went round all the restaurants and school canteens and picked up the waste food which was fed to the pigs. They did the same thing at Bradley near Skipton but on a larger scale and a regular job was to take a tanker load of skim to Bradley first thing in the morning.
We hear a lot nowadays about the dangers of recycling food but I always thought that this usage of kitchen waste for pig feeding was a good thing. At Bradley they had a big round vat that probably held about 1500 gallons. It was heated by steam coils and had a large motor driven agitator in it. They used to put skim milk in and then the kitchen waste and top it up with pig meal. The steam was turned on and the agitator started and the whole lot soon became a mass of boiling porridge that smelt good enough to eat. It was piped down to the pigs while it was warm and they went mad for it. Bradley’s pigs were kept in really good conditions and were spotlessly clean. Many’s the morning I’ve gone into the slaughterhouse there and got some pig liver warm from the pig and called in at home on the way back for the best breakfast a bloke could have.
Back to Marton and Harry Addyman. He was always up to some sort of mischief. I haven’t the faintest idea why he did it but one morning we were all surprised to see ducks waddling round the village with union jacks on their backs! I have an idea that Harry was helping Clifford Ashworth at Bale Farm to celebrate his wedding anniversary! Harry was always ready for a crack at the top of the yard and we had many a good laugh. Then one day we got word he was poorly. He had a lump under his tongue and it turned out to be cancer, he was dead very soon after that and we were all so sorry, it was like a member of the family dying. The funeral was at the church at East Marton and there are two things that stick in my mind about it.
The first thing is that I went home and got changed into my best suit and went round to my mate’s house to pick him up and his dog bit me! We decided that it was because it had never seen me out of a boiler suit before! I know this will sound crazy but at one point I and some of the other drivers did over five years without a day off! Dairying was a seven day a week job and we were poor. The next thing I remember about Harry’s funeral is that we got there early and got seats in the church. It wasn’t until we came outside for the interment that we realised that there were more people there than the church could hold. I’ve never seen as many expensive cars in one place in my life. I doubt if Harry ever bought a friend in his life but he certainly had a large and well-heeled attendance at his funeral. There was a wake afterwards but we all had to get changed and get back to work.
It’s just struck me that I ought to explain how we got milk from the farms to the dairy for the benefit of the younger ones. Nowadays milk is collected in bulk from the farms by road tanker but in the fifties and sixties it was all brought in in kits. Now a bit of a word about milk cans here. For some reason, a lot of people called them churns, and still do. This is wrong, a churn is what you use to turn cream into butter by agitating it until the milk fat separates out into a lump of butter. The cans we collected from the farms were either called cans or kits. In those days we used 12 gallon (55ltr) galvanised steel kits which weighed about 46lbs empty (21kg) and 168lbs (77kg) full. The old railway kits, used for transporting milk by rail, were 17 gallons or 15 gallons and the later aluminium kits held 10 gallons.
The cows were milked twice a day, night and morning and we picked the milk up at the farm from about seven in the morning onwards lifting both the night and morning milkings. The amount of milk didn’t vary much day to day and we knew roughly how many kits each farm could make so we could plan the rounds efficiently. We started out from the dairy with a full load of clean kits and swapped the same number of empty kits for the full ones and of course put them on the wagon in the space left after throwing the empties off.
Most farms had a milk stand on the road side or in a convenient position in the yard. It was the same height as the wagon flat and the idea was that the milk was ready for you on the stand and you didn’t have to do any lifting, simply roll the empty cans off and the full ones on. Unfortunately it didn’t always work out like this. Many farms had them on the floor and a man would give you a lift on with them. However, if he wasn’t there when you arrived, you didn’t have time to hang about so you put them on off the floor by yourself. I often smile when I hear people talk about working out at the gym, we had no need of that, we were working out all the time! At one farm in particular, Stainton House, I usually had about 15 kits to load off the floor myself. I know it’s hard to believe but I used to pull the empties off, lift the full ones up and throw them into the middle of the flat. At that time, ragged off and wringing wet I weighed 12 stones, exactly the same as each kit. Those were the days!
When you reached the point where the wagon flat was full, that was the end of the round and you galloped back to the dairy as fast as you could because you had another load of cans to do before dinner. At the dairy we backed into the dock which was the same height as the wagon and rolled the cans off in order onto a roller conveyor belt which led to the tipper. For many years this was Jack Boothman or Wry Neck as we used to call him behind his back. Jack had been a farm man for much of his life and lived in Skipton. One night after a heavy day haymaking he went for a swim in the dam at Broughton Mill and dived in on top of a big stone and broke his neck. He crawled up the fields to Sulphur Well Cottages and they sent for the horse ambulance. He recovered but his neck was always bent to the left after that.
The milk was weighed, filtered and cooled and then stored in stainless steel tanks until needed. Part of Jack’s job was to take a quick sniff at the milk in each can before he tipped it. This was to check that it wasn’t tainted in any way. One day he tipped some jersey milk from Cam Lane at Thornton in Craven and he must have had a head cold! The cows had been into Thornton Rock eating wild garlic and the milk tainted all the other channel island milk in the tank. Colin Barritt separated it into cream and then made butter but the taint persisted and in the end the butter had to go to Nestles for chocolate making! Fish meal in the feed could do the same thing and this was what Jack was watching out for. In fairness to him, he very seldom missed anything, he was a good man at his job.
As I said earlier, when I first worked at the dairy I was actually employed by Harrison Brothers of Smearber Farm, Elslack. They started off in life as coal merchants but when they got the contract to pick the farm milk up for the dairy and cart some bottled milk as well, this became their major work. In latter days, Jack Harrison sold out to Billy his brother and took shares in Whitewell Dairies at Accrington. Later, they too were bought out by Associated Dairies.
Billy Harrison was a funny little bloke. He had a very successful war and ended up as an officer in the Long Range Desert Group which was a very tough unit operating in the Western Desert. Coming back to civvy street after the officer’s mess was a bit of a come down for him and he got his leg pulled unmercifully about his upper-class pretensions. I never saw them but I think it was Colin Barritt that once told me that Billy was actually seen wearing spats one day! Billy lived at Thornton and amongst other faults, he liked his drink. He was drinking after hours at the Manor House in Thornton which was a ‘hotel’ in those days. Early in the morning the landlord was shepherding them out of the back door and Billy took a step sideways to avoid having his toes trodden on by the man in front. Unfortunately he was at the top of the cellar steps and fell heavily down them. His mates assumed he had passed out, took him home and left him on the kitchen floor at Ivy House. His wife found him there the following morning with blood coming out of his ear and eye. He had a massive depressed fracture of the skull and was rushed into Preston straight away.
I talked to the surgeon afterwards and he told me that the operation to save Billy took 11 hours and it was touch and go. Billy was never the same man afterwards but survived for several years. One peculiar thing about Billy was that electricity didn’t seem to affect him. The old Bedford wagons we had then had petrol engines and he could stop an engine by putting his fingers on the spark plugs just like a piano player. One of his favourite tricks when he had his head under the bonnet of a wagon that was ticking over was to ask you to pass him a spanner. He would have one finger on a spark plug and when he got hold of the spanner you got the shock!
I’d better stop talking about West Marton for a while or you’ll all get bored. There’s lots more to tell and I promise I’ll come back to it later. Remember, if there are any questions or corrections you can get me on 813527 or firstname.lastname@example.org If I can help in any way, just shout.
SCG/24 January 2001
WEST MARTON DAIRIES
Very few things come as a complete surprise to me these days, I suppose it’s part of growing old, but it was a real shock to me to hear at Christmas that the dairy at West Marton had closed down. I suppose the thought process I had was that this is a milk-producing area, people consume milk products so there will always be a need for a dairy. How wrong I was!
I had a close association with West Marton for over 16 years when I drove for Harrison Brothers who had the contract for picking up the milk from the farms and delivering it to the dairy. When they finished I went driving for the dairy and from 1967 to 1973 I drove a cattle wagon for Richard Drinkall who had Yew Tree farm in the village. So I have a lot of memories of the place, the people and how the village worked.
The creamery at West Marton was started by the then owners of the Gledstone Estate, the Roundells in 1900 to take in the milk from the estate and separate it into cream. Some of this was sold as liquid cream and the rest was churned into butter. The by products of this process were skim milk and buttermilk which were very good for pig-feeding so a piggery was built at the same time. The muck from the pigs went back onto the land round about so the estate had a very efficient and economic unit.
I don’t know a lot more about the history of the dairy until 1947 when the estate was in the hands of the family of the late Sir Amos Nelson who made his fortune at Valley Mills at Nelson and bought the Gledstone Estate from the Roundells. Gilbert Nelson, a relation, went into partnership with a man who I think was an accountant from Crosshills called Scott. They set up a new company, West Marton Dairies Limited, engaged David Peacock as manager and converted the dairy to producing bottled milk. Colin Barritt, who went to work there in 1948 tells me that the first invoices had the name ‘Gilbert Dairies’ on them.
Another name comes into the picture but I’m not sure when. The Fattorini’s in Bradford were famous for two things, jewellery and ice cream. They had ensured a good supply of milk for the ice cream business by buying up farms at the back of Clitheroe and at some point, WMD bought the right to collect this milk and also Davey’s Dairy at Moorside in Bradford. Davey’s also supplied bottled milk and so WMD had a very good market for their milk stretching from Bradford across to Burnley. Round about 1960 they bought Townshends Dairy at Blackburn and further increased their sales. This period saw a lot of takeovers and consolidation in the dairy industry. I have an idea that the purchase of the Blackburn dairy was part of some deal with Express Dairies whereby they bought Davey’s at Bradford and WMD got Townshends. At the same time, in 1960, WMD itself was taken over by Associated Dairies at Leeds and this was how it stayed until 1987 when it passed to Van den Berg Foods. In October 1999 it was sold to Yieldingtree Ltd, a midlands based company and went into receivership a year later.
Meanwhile, the piggeries had been leased to Marshall’s of Bradley and carried on rearing pigs for slaughter. The pigman was Harry Addyman who’s wife Phyllis ran the village shop.
When Associated Dairies took over WMD they carried on with the bottling for a while but then spent a lot of money converting it to a creamery and cheese factory. Several smaller firms at Barbon, Birstwith and Sedbergh were acquired and it was from the latter that we got a great asset, Fred Taylor the cheese maker who was, and still is, a master of his craft.
By the time I left the dairy and my tanker-driving job to go to Drinkalls the cheese factory was in full swing and if anyone had asked me then what its future was I’d have said indefinite. How could a modern facility producing a basic commodity fail to be a success?
Right, that’s a brief history of the dairy as I knew it. I’m sure there is a lot I don’t know and if anyone can give me any further information, the number is 813527 or email@example.com I need educating! Enough bare facts, what about the people?
West Marton was a wonderful example of a small Yorkshire estate village. Everybody knew everyone else, there were very few secrets! At the dairy the managing director was David Peacock who lived in one of the two big houses facing the green. The other one was occupied by the Gott family who founded Gott’s Garage in the barn across the road from the village shop and later moved to Barlick. Cross corner to the barn was the Village Institute which was built by the Roundells and next door to this was the post office run by Allan Cryer and his wife Mabel (nee Southwell). Mabel’s brother Cecil and sister Cissie lived with them, Cec was gamekeeper on the estate and Cissie worked at the dairy.
Cec Southwell was a tall, gaunt man who, like his sister Cissie, never married. He could often be seen walking round the village with his shotgun under his arm. The story was that when he was young, he could catch rabbits by running after them! I remember one day, Billy Harrison, the bloke I worked for, and myself were trying to get a wheel off one of the wagons and we weren’t making any headway at all. Cecil stood looking at us for a while and then he said ‘Tha might be turning ‘em the wrong way. Some on ‘em’s left hand thread tha knows.’ We knew this of course, right hand wheels were right hand thread, left hand side was left hand thread and it didn’t help to have this pointed out by the village gamekeeper! Eventually I suggested we try the opposite direction just in case, more to shut Cec up than anything else. The nuts came loose straight away, Cec said ‘I told thee so!’ and marched off. Billy and I were livid! We decided in the end that someone had done an enlightened repair at some time by putting a left hand hub on the right hand side. Cec never forgot it, and he never let us forget it either!
There were two cottages next to the dairy, they’ve been made into one house now I think. George Parker lived in the top one and Percy Graham and his wife in the one below. George used to be the forester on the estate I think. The story was that one day while out doing his duties he happened upon Sir Amos and his secretary Harriet in a compromising situation. He used his head, retreated into the undergrowth and kept quiet. Sir Amos eventually married Harriet and she became Lady Nelson. When Amos died there was an item in his will that stated that George Parker was to have his cottage until he died, rent free and when lady Nelson died this was repeated. George always said it was because Sir Amos knew he’d seen them but had kept quiet.
Percy Graham worked at the dairy on the bottle washers and as spare driver. He was getting on for 75 I should think at the time and was a rum old bugger. There were all sorts of tales about him but the one I like best is when they were bringing him back from hospital to die at home as he’d been diagnosed as having terminal cancer. George Horton and his mate were on the ambulance and George told me that as they were going up East Marton Brow Percy lifted his head from the pillow and asked where they were. When George told him Percy asked them to drop him off at the Cross Keys so he could have a pint. George told him they couldn’t do that, he was dying and they had to see him home. Percy agreed to this but got a lift back with them and went for his pint. I have to report that he cheated at dominos as well, he used to slip the ones he didn’t want into his waistcoat pockets!
Ted Lawson and Joyce worked at the dairy and in the early days they lived in a cottage over at the Kennels behind Old Gledstone. Times were hard and one night while Ted was walking home across the fields he tripped over a heap of something in the dark. He soon realised it was a heap of coke which had been used at some time in the filter beds of the Old Hall’s sewage plant but was grown over with grass. From then on he always had a bucket handy as he went home and Joyce said it did very well for them on the solid fuel range!
Colin Barritt from Kayfield and his lovely wife Rita worked there as well. Colin was dairy manager under Bill Mills, another Barlicker and Rita worked in the office. When we swapped over to cheese making Colin had to go to Birstwith to learn the trade and then when Fred Taylor came down from Sedbergh he learned even more. I always remember that Colin got quite depressed at one stage because his starter culture, that is the special bacteria which have to be added to the milk in order to start the cheese-making process off, weren’t doing very well. Colin was famous in the dairy for his perfect standards of hygiene and Fred pointed out that the problem was probably that Colin was being too clean! His starter had never been exposed to any infection and so was losing its resistance. Colin braced himself, relaxed his standards a bit and the starter recovered!
Wallace Neave was in charge of the garage and at one point I worked with him regularly after the bottling finished as he was short handed because his mate Tony Midgely had left to be manager at Whitewell Dairy at Accrington. Wallace was a good mechanic but was noted for his short temper. He came in one morning and was obviously not in the best of moods. After a while I got the story out of him. He lived in one of the cottages opposite the dairy and they were built back into the hillside. There was a narrow yard at the back but the gardens were almost on the same level as the bedroom window. Wallace was a keen gardener and was having trouble with the feral cats that abounded in Marton and this particular night he’d been woken up by the tom cats serenading outside his window. He’d already prepared for this by loading a couple of shotgun cartridges with peppercorns instead of lead shot. He grabbed the gun, slipped two cartridges up the breech, opened the window and let fly with both barrels. Unfortunately he’d picked the wrong cartridges up and blew most of the glass out of his greenhouse!
I’ve run out of space but there’s lots more to tell about the dairy years so I’ll leave it now but come back to the dairy next week. Don’t forget, if you want to educate me, you know where to get hold of me.
SCG/24 January 2001.
This weeks subject has been boiling up for quite a long while and I suppose you’d be quite right if you decided I had a bee on my bonnet. That’s OK, but recognise that the things I talk about are the things I’ve seen with my own eyes. Quite a lot of it dates from nearly fifty years ago but the evidence we have had recently persuades me that things are just as bad now.
In the days when my beard was black I was a long distance wagon driver ‘on the tramp’. This meant that I looked for my own loads. If Kelbrook Metal Products at Sough Bridge Mill sent me to Glasgow with a load of roof flashings for a new factory I went and did it. As soon as I unloaded I went into the middle of Glasgow to Clyde Street and after parking the wagon, went to the office of a man called Jimmy McCall. This was what we called a clearing house and Jimmy would give me a load for somewhere else in the country. If there wasn’t one I would settle into an easy chair in the office and wait until one came in.
We carried anything that came up and never argued with Jimmy or his clerk, Norman Crerar. One of these days I’ll tell you more about this system but this week I want to concentrate on some of the stuff we moved about the country. All will become clear as we get into the story. Being a big conurbation, Glasgow and its surrounds consumed a lot of meat so the meat by-products industry was very important. Once an animal had been butchered there was a lot of abattoir waste that had to be dealt with. The old joke about pig-killing on the farm used to be that nothing was wasted except the squeal! Believe me, the same applied to cattle.
I once took a load of ‘greaves’ into a factory at Paisley. Greaves was the trade name for the residue left over after scrap meat and fat was rendered down for the tallow or dripping. It was stacked in piles and left to decompose and then could be subjected to a further rendering which got the last of the fat out of it. At the plant, wagons full of butcher’s and abattoir waste were being brought in, tipped on to a concrete apron and men with wooden hay rakes sorted out the bones from the intestines and the heads and hooves from the sinews and everything went into holes in the floor which were the lids of giant pressure cookers below. I remember at the time thinking that this must be one of the worst jobs in the world.
When I’d unloaded I asked at the office if they had any ‘traffic’, that is a load out that I could carry for them. They gave me a load of skins for a factory further up in Scotland so I took it. When I delivered the skins I found I was in another hell-hole. Large notices on the wall surrounding concrete tanks full of skins soaking in some form of alkali before being stripped of their hair warned me to ‘BEWARE OF ANTHRAX!’. Once again, I was asked if I wanted a load south and they gave me ten tons of ‘Best Scotch No 1 Pale Skin Oil’ in 45 gallon steel drums. I delivered this to Crosfield’s at Warrington the next day and as I was unloading I asked the bloke who was helping me what they used it for. He told me it all depended on which line was busy, it either went into toilet soap or margarine!
Remember, this was almost fifty years ago, things might have changed now but I’ve never seen a pack of margarine that tells you exactly what goes into it. The point I’m making is that there was a highly organised industry dealing with the waste and making a profit out of it. They were known as ‘converters’, because they converted a waste product into something useful.
A common load I carried was ‘meat and bone meal’ which went to cattle food manufacturers. I also carried bagged broiler chicken muck to the same manufacturers. Both of these were high in protein and adding them to the cattle food allowed the manufacturers to bulk up the food with low cost ingredients like chopped straw whilst keeping the analysis figures high.
Fast forward 35 years and I’m working for a firm which repaired large industrial boilers. I was given the job of commissioning two very big boilers at a converter’s plant near the Scottish border. While I was working there I took note of what they were doing and asked a few questions. The raw material they worked with was mainly the waste from poultry processing plants and consisted of everything that was left over after you kill a chicken, even the feathers, beaks and claws. This was minced up, boiled and converted into a coarse powder which was called ‘protein granules’. If you look at a tin of pet food you’ll see that one of the ingredients is ‘animal by-products’. You’ve guessed it, protein granules no less.
The thing that struck me about this place was the smell and the flies. The contents of the wagons that came in was putrid. The smell when it was boiled up was so bad that the steam was collected and injected into the combustion chambers on the boilers to kill the stench. Any that couldn’t go by this route was discharged through a chimney that had a gas-fired furnace in it to do the same job. So, when you buy a tin of pet food, recognise that it’s odds on that this is what you’re giving your friend.
Another place I went to was a fat refinery in Lancashire. I called this place the ‘Miracle Factory’. The first thing I noticed was a container with a pile of square khaki-green coloured tins stacked outside it. I looked in and there was a bloke in there with an axe. There was also a 45 gallon barrel with the top cut out and a small electric pump connected to the bottom of the drum, a pipe led away across the ground into the factory. On top of the drum was a steel mesh and what the bloke was doing was taking the tins, putting them on top of the barrel and slashing them open with the axe, the oil out of the tins dropped into the barrel and was pumped away. The thing that struck me was that there was absolutely no pretence of hygiene whatsoever about this process.
Curious as ever I had a look at the tins and found they were full of vegetable oil out of EEC Intervention Stocks. They were clearly marked as such and all had dates and batch numbers on them. The average age was between ten and fifteen years. Later I saw another wagon come in and after it was unloaded took a look at what was being brought in. It was butter and cheese from a famous supermarket chain and was evidently well past its sell-by date. Later I found out that the butter and oil were combined, processed and left the plant as ‘Baker’s Shortening’ with a sell-by date six months forward! The cheese became ‘mozzarella’ and went for pizza toppings.
One more example; ask any farmer whether he knows of a way to harvest lanolin off a sheep’s back and he’ll tell you no. So where does all the lanolin come from that goes into cosmetics and hand creams? Good question, I can’t be sure what they do now but I do know where it used to come from and I can’t for the life of me think of any other way. When wool is scoured as part of the process of preparing it for spinning much of the lanolin is washed out and goes down the sewers. The sewage works at Halifax, Bradford and indeed, anywhere in the heavy woollen districts extracted the lanolin from the sewage and sold it to the soap, cosmetic and hand cream manufacturers.
So what’s the point of all these horror stories? Believe me, I could tell you a lot more! My point is that we trust industries to look after our interests and provide us with products that are clean, wholesome and won’t damage us. This trust is not necessarily well-placed. I realise now that when I was delivering animal by-products to cattle feed manufacturers I was actually watching the genesis of BSE. I don’t think anyone can defend some of the practices I have outlined above but they still go on. Waste food is recycled into the food chain and my point is that it’s odds on we are building up trouble for the future. So what can we do about it?
Twenty years ago I took an American friend called Ethel Sussman into a tea shop on Skipton High Street. It had been busy, every table was scattered with the evidence of the last customer. I sat down at a table near the window but Ethel didn’t join me. She gathered all four corners of the table cloth, lifted the whole shebang, dirty ashtray, bits of food and crockery, the lot and took it across to the elderly cashier’s desk in the corner. She dumped the whole thing in front of her and said ‘I’ve bussed the table, can we order please?’ (‘Bussing you table’ is the American equivalent of what we call ‘clearing’.) I sat there aghast but then realised that Ethel was quite right. The look on the cashier’s face was a picture, she had never had this done to her before. In short order, a waitress came in, cleaned and laid our table and we had a very pleasant afternoon tea.
So what can we do about sub-standard food and service? Take a leaf out of Ethel’s book. Question, complain, read the labels and use your head. Ask yourself why supermarket meat has to be packed in ‘A Protective Atmosphere’ when Geoff Riley’s doesn’t need it. Ask your friendly chip shop owner or restaurant what happens to their used frying oil. Ask the supermarket what happens to out of date stocks. Write to your MEP and ask what happens to old intervention stocks. It’s not impolite, it’s called consumer choice. We can’t rely on agencies like the new Food Standards Agency to protect us, we have to do it ourselves. When a label says ‘Fresh’, ‘Pure’ or ‘Natural’, ask yourself what they mean. Millions of pounds are being spent on persuading us to consume food on the grounds that it’s healthy.
As I said when I started this piece, I’ve got a bee in my bonnet about this. But I think it’s a pretty good bee. I bake my own bread and cakes and I never buy anything that has been through the hands of the food processing industry unless I know exactly what is in it and approve of the ingredients. I have this funny feeling that if everyone did the same, some of the unexplained ailments which we see on the increase in our children might start to abate. We are what we eat! Go forth and practice Consumer Choice!
SCG/23 January 2001