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Friday, February 22, 2002
[This piece was triggered off by a letter in Barlick View from Owen Duxbury in which he talked about the quarries at the top of Tubber Hill and solved a mystery for me.]
Owen Duxbury’s piece on the canal in Barlick View last week [Feb 25 2000] solved a mystery for me. During 1970, while doing some research in Leeds I came across a scrap of paper that looked like the remains of an old estate map. It showed an enclosure called ‘Loose Games’ and I made a guess from the shape of it that it was at the top of Tubber Hill opposite Hardisty’s bungalow. Owen has given me the answer because he said that Jim Hardisty’s brother told him that the Upper Hill Quarry was also known as Loose Games Quarry. Now of course, I have another problem! Why Loose Games? For years I have wondered if it had anything to do with the rough games that used to be played in villages and which seemed to provide some sort of social safety valve for aggression. I shall probably have to wait another twenty years to find the answer to that one but that’s what history is like, you learn the answer to one particular question and it throws up more queries.
Owen also mentioned Gledstone Hall and this triggered off some thoughts about the building of the New Hall. Jimmy Thompson, who was the blacksmith in West Marton in the 50s when I worked for the dairy, served his apprenticeship with Wilf Hoggarth who ran West Marton Forge at that time. Jimmy once told me that he served the first three years of his time running a portable forge up at the hall sharpening chisels for the masons working on the site. Like all the other villagers he couldn’t understand why Old Gledstone had been abandoned and was to be demolished. All that is left now of the original hall is the stable block and when I worked for Richard Drinkall of Yew Tree farm in the village as a wagon driver we used to store the hay-making machinery there.
The stables are a masterpiece of the bricklayers art. The building is square but the central courtyard is round so all the construction has to make the transition from square to curve as it moves inwards. This meant that cunning vaulting had to be built and almost every brick is hand cut and rubbed to shape to achieve this effect.
Percy Graham was alive in those days and had lived in Marton all his life. He told me that he worked for the Gledstone Estate as a wagon driver when the new hall was under construction and his first job every morning was to drive round the surrounding villages picking up the workers who rode on the back of the wagon. He said that his first driving offence was committed in Earby while doing this. He was overtaken by a bobby on a bicycle who pulled him up and prosecuted him for ‘Driving at a Furious Pace’!
According to Percy, Sir Amos Nelson, the cotton magnate who owned the estate having bought it off the Roundell family, decided he wanted a new hall and set Sir Edwin Lutyens on to design it for him. I don’t know the date of the sale but do know that Roundells were negotiating the water rights in Eastwood Bottoms in Barlick with the Calf Hall Shed Company in 1903 so they must still have been the proprietors then. Having set an architect on and arranged for the building to be done by the estate under direct labour he set off on a world cruise. On his return he was so aghast at the scale of the works that he stopped work immediately and cut back on the design. The main drive was supposed to head out to the north from the front of the hall and curve to the left up the hill, eventually meeting the Gargrave Road at Top Lodge opposite Marton Scar Farm. The lodge was built as were two subsidiary lodges in front of the hall but the drive was never completed. Hoggarth was allowed to finish the great wrought iron overthrow and gates he was making for the front of the hall. Jimmy told me he made a special drill for cutting square holes in the cross bars for the uprights to pass through, he showed me this in the 50s. Jimmy never ceased to bemoan the fact that it never got a coat of paint on the inside after it was first erected and over the years it had suffered badly from corrosion. He said that Sir Amos was too mean to have it done.
Owen triggered off another thought about stone and Barlick. How many people have ever noticed the small enclosure on the left hand side of the road as you come down the narrow section of Manchester Road above Letcliffe Park gates? It is badly overgrown now and has a tree growing in the middle of it but this was once a very important place for many people in the town. The Health Trust at Skipton will doubtless be very surprised to hear that it probably belongs to them! Known as ‘Poorbones’ by old Barlickers, this was the place where anyone who was on Outdoor Relief from Skipton Workhouse (which later became the hospital of course) knapped stone used for road repairs to qualify for relief under the Poor Law. I never pass there without thinking of all the poor souls who laboured there in all weathers to try to earn enough to keep body and soul together. We should get it listed and mark it as a reminder of how cruel life could be in those days.
LOOKING FOR HISTORY
I’m still in America writing this and have come across a problem here with the students I talk to. It struck me that we have the same problem in Barlick and my antidote for it has a lot to do with the way I look at history so it might be a good thing if I let off a bit of steam and give my readers a better idea of how I work.
The problem I have come across is that people in general, and young people in particular, are being disabled by our TV and computer screen based information systems. I’m sure that many of you have recognised the fact that when we are, say, watching the news, the images are fired at us so quickly that we have no time to select from them or edit them, we only have time to accept the image and the idea which some picture editor somewhere has decided is good for us. This is of course a form of censorship or manipulation and I for one strongly object to it.
This state of affairs is bad enough but the consequences for the young are frightening. I am 64 now and have had enough practice reading newspapers and books and looking at pictures and the landscape to make me fairly fireproof as far as TV manipulation is concerned. It is a different matter with young people. Talk to anyone who teaches and they will tell you that one of the most obvious differences between the generation of children they are teaching now and the previous ones is the fact that they can’t concentrate for any length of time and don’t seem to be able to stick to a task. I think that this is a direct result of being fed a mush of pre-digested ideas in rapid succession every time they look at a screen and therefore losing the ability to observe and edit because of lack of practice.
The main reason I am getting concerned about this is that the loss of the ability to observe and take in information cripples the kids as far as my sort of history is concerned. As I think you may have noticed, one of my favourite approaches to learning about the place I live is to do a bit of light research, make sure I know the questions I want answers to and go out on the ground and have a look at the clues. It’s marvellous how a piece of ground or machinery can talk to you if you give it a chance. In order to give it this chance you have to develop the facility of not just looking but observing and noting all the things you can see, this needs patience and concentration and these are exactly the skills that multiple screen images destroy. The Whitemoor map we looked at a few weeks ago was a good example. I had to spend a lot of time concentrating on the map and allowing it to tell me what it knew. Once I had this information I went out on the moor to look at the things I had found, once I did that, the landscape started talking to me and I found out things I never knew before. This is a magic process and so satisfying. I think I’ll give you another example and perhaps persuade you to go for a walk in the fields.
Bracewell is a very interesting place. The Hall used to be the seat of the Tempests who, at one time held the Lordship of Barnoldswick, the same Tempests who fought the case of Whitemoor. At some point we’ll come back here and have a much closer look at the village but at the moment my concern is with the land on the opposite side of the road from the church. If you look closely to the left of the institute you will see what, at first glance, looks like a very wide hedge and boundary ditch. If you go into the field and follow the footpath down the side of the hedge and really look and observe the ‘ditch’ you’ll suddenly realise that the ditch is, in fact, a road. It’s completely overgrown at the top but the further you go down the more obvious it becomes. At the bottom of the field the road goes straight forward through the fence and you have cross a stile and walk through a strange, lost, little section of land. We know from our observation as we walked down the field that this is in fact a roadway but if we hadn’t known this, a funny little croft between two hedges should give us a clue that there is more to this than meets the eye. This is what I mean by letting the land talk to you.
There’s one more thing to take note of here before you go forwards, just as you cross the style you’ll see a small ditch to the left with running water in it. If you look closely on the opposite side of the old road you’ll see there is another, dry, ditch coming in from the right and passing under the road. Again, this is a very significant clue but we’ll leave what this is telling us until later.
Following the old road down we come to the Stock Beck and cross this by a footbridge. Pause just over the bridge and look down into the beck, what can you see? It takes a minute or two, especially if the beck is in spate and is muddy but if you look hard you’ll see that the bed of the back is paved with stone setts! We’ve followed the road and so we know what this is, a ford which carried the road from Bracewell across the Stock Beck. I’ll bet you’ve guessed what the next question is! Where on earth is this well made and paved road going to? If you look up the hill you will see the line of the road curving away to the left to ease the slope for horse drawn vehicles but heading towards the crest of the hill. Look to the right and you’ll see a large scar in the hillside. Ask yourself where the stone for Bracewell church came from and then recognise that it was possibly this quarry that is now greened over.
Follow the green road to the top of the hill, round the sharp right hand bend and across to the wall where it goes through and into a strange looking field that doesn’t seem to have any boundaries but has three sets of buildings on it. Lean on the wall and look very carefully at this lot, there are lots of clues. Can you see the rectangular platforms dotted about in the field? These are the foundations of houses. What you are looking at is the remnants of the lost village of Stock. In the 1851 census there are two shopkeepers mentioned for Stock and numerous cottages. In the next fifty years the village vanished except for the buildings you see now. The next question is why and the answer to that is found, not on the site but by understanding what was going on in Barlick at the time.
By the middle of the nineteenth century the first steam mill had been started in Barlick and there was an increasing demand for workers. The town started to suck population in from the surrounding villages because the people were attracted by the wages and regular work. At first they would walk to the town each day but gradually, as more houses were built it became easier to rent a house near to where they worked and Stock gradually became depopulated. As the houses became empty they would be quarried for the stone and timber in them until they vanished completely. Once the village had gone, the road fell into disuse and so it has remained to this day. A similar story can be found at Wycollar but in that case the buildings survived and are now re-occupied.
So, we’ve had a nice little walk and amused ourselves along the way. Next time you have visitors or some children to amuse, take them down to Bracewell and set the puzzle to them and see if their powers of observation are up to the task. Before we go home though, there is the small matter of the strange arrangement of watercourses in the little section of the old road near the beck. I’m not going to suggest that you start tramping all over the fields and climbing fences to follow this one up. Use your heads when I’ve told you what you are looking at and ask permission at Yarlside to go into their land.
What we are looking at is a water power resource. Three hundred yards towards Barlick there is the remains of a dam across the beck and the dry ditch you saw to the right of the road is a leat or head race drawing water off the reservoir behind the dam and carrying it forward to a mill. The question that faced me when I first looked into this was where the mill was. I found it on the ground before I found a map that showed me where it used to be. If you look at the 1851 OS map for Barlick in the library you’ll find that the mill is way down towards the Coronation Hotel, in the fields to the east of Yarlside.
If you get permission and go to the site you’ll find you can identify a small lodge, a place where the mill wheel would be (and the remains will still be there under the ground) and, best of all, if you look carefully, a millstone lies in the ground with just a corner showing. Lift the sod to check that you have found it but replace it so that others can have some fun setting the puzzle for their kids or friends. You can see where the tail race went back to the beck and there is one more clue here that is worth noting. Look at the wall down to the beck very carefully, it is almost certainly made of stone robbed out of the mill and a lot of the stones are red as though they have been burned at some time. There are also some 17th century bricks, you can tell them by the fact they are thinner than a modern brick. Bricks of that age are very unusual in this area. Look at the map again and you’ll see there is a field near the church marked as ‘Kiln Field’, this might have been where these bricks were made. In those days they were never carried far, they were too heavy. I think the burnt stones might be a clue as to what happened to the mill. Cornmills were very prone to fire and this might have been the fate of Bracewell Mill.
Before you leave the mill site, sit on the banking for a while and try to imagine what it would be like when the mill was working. There would be a track going away towards Yarlside but apart from that the mill was totally isolated. The only sounds would be the splashing of the water on the wheel, the rumbling of the stones and the gearing and the sound of birds singing. I’ve often thought that being the miller wasn’t a bad job and whilst there was hard work to be done, you can imagine some quiet moments during a hot summer’s day when a pipe of tobacco and a sit on the grass outside the mill must have been very pleasant.
Right, there you have two puzzles and a nice little country walk. Remember what I was saying at the start of this piece, something like this is a good antidote to screen images and well worth taking children to see. However, remember that in order to understand what you are seeing you need to look hard and ask questions about what you have observed. It isn’t easy at first but the more you do it the better you become at doing it. It is a wonderful skill to cultivate and I am forced to wonder how the producers of the screen images would fare. I suspect, very badly.
SCG/09 May 2000
Thursday, February 21, 2002
LETTER FROM AMERICA
I thought we’d have a bit of a change this week because I’m not in Barlick but in Northfield, Minnesota in the upper mid-west of America staying with friends. I know that everyone is well travelled nowadays but I suspect that few people actually stay in one small American town for six weeks and in my experience, this gives an entirely different view of a country.
Northfield is just south of the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St Paul and is about the size of Barlick. Like most of the small towns in this part of the country it started as an ethnic town, in other words, most of the original inhabitants were the same nationality, in Northfield’s case, Norwegian. You don’t have to be a genius to work out where the people who founded the neighbouring towns of Prague and New Ulm came from! The main industry is rearing dairy cattle and growing maize but a very profitable subsidiary industry that has grown up in the town is education, it has two of the largest private universities in the state within its boundaries and this helps the local economy.
The locals have a lot in common with Barlickers, they have their own ideas, don’t take kindly to strangers unless they prove themselves to be worthy of attention and they make jokes about themselves. One of these is the fact that nobody in town uses their indicators while driving around because everyone knows where they are going and which way they are going to turn! They are also incredibly polite, there is a concept here called ‘Minnesota Nice’ and it shows, I’ve never been called ‘Sir’ as many times in my life and everyone speaks to you or at least acknowledges you when you meet them on the street. Because I stay with two people who teach at Carleton College it is assumed I am a visiting professor and so I get the honorary title and people greet me with ‘Good morning Professor’ which does my self-esteem no end of good!
The local paper carries a ‘Police Report’ every week that lists all the incidents that the local police have dealt with. It makes hilarious reading for anyone from the UK because the ‘crimes’ are, on the whole, so trivial. ‘Driver of car containing four drunken men was found to be sober’ is a good example. People here lock their doors when they go out or retire to bed but are nowhere near as security conscious as we have to be in Barlick.
Northfield is very similar to Barlick twenty years ago in that there is a very good selection of shops in the centre of the town. However, there are disturbing signs that large stores on the outskirts are going to have an adverse affect on the town’s centre. There is already a Wal Mart, the firm that has just taken over Asda in Britain, on the outskirts of town and Target are building a mall as well. It’s difficult to see how these big stores will not damage the smaller shops in the centre of the town. There is a wonderful drapery and outfitters shop on the main street run by a man called Bob Jacobsen and his family which sells everything from a dish cloth to a wedding suit, just the sort of store any town needs. I was talking to Bob the other day and he admitted that Target would make it much harder for them to stay in business. I know that the big stores represent progress and cheaper goods but there is a price to pay and it may be that small independent businesses may have to pay with their existence. Try buying a shirt or a pair of boots in Barlick and you will see what I mean. Incidentally, Bob Jacobsen was with the 100th Bomber Group in Norfolk during the war. He was a tail-gunner in a B17 and did almost three tours. The life expectancy of those blokes was 5 ½ missions so in my book, that makes Bob a hero. We tend to forget that these people are still around and how much we owe them.
One thing that Northfield has which we have lost in Barlick is the railway. Like all small American towns, this means level crossings. The reason for this is that the US railways were so long that far cheaper methods of construction had to be used to make them economical. Where we would have built embankments and stone bridges to allow road traffic to cross the railway the Americans just erect a sign that says ‘Railway Crossing’. All trains have to warn traffic that they are approaching by sounding their siren and as there are five crossings close together in Northfield this means that at any time of the day or night there can be a train passing and sounding it’s siren for every crossing. These are the big multiple note air horns and to anyone reared on American movies, a very evocative sound, there’s one passing as I write this. The wonderful thing is that you get used to this and never hear them during the night. The trains are all carrying freight, there is no passenger service and they are enormous, sometimes needing four engines to pull them. Waiting at a level crossing can become a serious matter when one of these monsters crosses the street if you are late.
A visitor from England would find nothing surprising about the roads in the town and the main roads; they are all black top or concrete. However, the side roads and country roads are all dirt roads, no tarmac. You can always tell whether someone lives down one of these roads, their vehicle carries the evidence! Many people live out of town and have a few acres for gardens or animals. This is the biggest difference between Northfield and Barlick, there is so much room. At first, everything seems to be sprawled across the landscape but then you realise that they have no need to crowd together. A good example is the width of parking spaces in a supermarket lot. There is plenty of room to open the door and get out without catching the car next to you. Mind you, when you consider that some of the vehicles parking are the biggest pick-up trucks in the world they need the space. I saw one the other day that could carry three tons in the back or tow a trailer carrying eight horses, big boys, big toys!
I realise that I begin to sound like an advert for the US tourist board but I’ve been coming here on and off for over twelve years now and really feel comfortable in the place. The only time I had any worries at all was when I was walking home one night and I knew that there was a raccoon living in the base of one of the trees I had to pass. So what I hear you say, raccoons aren’t that big! True, but I had just learned that some of them were rabid and was feeling a trifle insecure. Later that night I was having a smoke on the porch in the dark before going to bed and realised I was not alone. There was an animal just next to me. I got the toe of my boot underneath it and lifted it into the air, off the porch. It was at this point I realised it was the household cat but by this time a very surprised moggy was learning how to fly over the lawn. It gave a yowl and ran off and I had to confess all to my hosts who thought it was hilarious. The cat arrived in for breakfast the next morning as though nothing had ever happened so that was alright.
The weather here is nothing like Barlick. They have very cold winters even though they are ten degrees further south than us. They measure the severity of the weather by how far the frost penetrates into the ground, this winter has been mild, it was only 39 inches! Spring comes suddenly at the beginning of May and today, May 5th I’m writing this in a temperature of 90 degrees. The farmers are all planting corn and it will be knee high in a month and harvested in August. The speed of growth is accounted for by the hot weather and frequent thunderstorms, you can almost see things growing if you sit still long enough! We’ve thunder forecast for tomorrow and if previous experience is anything to go by they can be spectacular. The TV has one channel that is devoted during the day to showing the Doppler radar picture for the area. This might sound like over reaction but we are at the top end of ‘Tornado Alley’ and if one of these big storms is about you need to know. The ‘cells’ that spawn tornadoes are associated with big thunderstorms and last year we were sat on the porch watching a storm centred on Northfield that was 150 miles across and the actual thunderhead was 12 miles high! We had a big wind and torrential rain but nothing worse. At times like this you listen for the siren, just like the war at home and when you hear it you go into the cellar, the only relatively safe place. The power of these winds is fantastic. A friend of mine from Iowa told me that he still gets books returned to him by people who have found them in the fields; one of them was 270 miles from where the house was that was struck by the tornado. So, rest easy, we may not have 90 degrees in May but we don’t get tornadoes in Barlick either. Swings and roundabouts.
One last thing before they throw me off the page for this week, America has never heard of metrication and what a good thing this is. I realise that younger readers are more at home in metric than imperial but to us crumblies, there is something very foreign about the new measures. Here they are still on feet and inches, pounds and ounces and gallons and pints. For the engineers amongst you, they are still working with Whitworth threads and BSF as well!
Right, that’s enough for this week. Just to reassure all my friends in Barlick, even though I am so happy here I’m homesick for my own neck of the woods. They don’t have hills here, you can’t lift your eyes and see the Weets and most of all, they don’t have my Jack Russell bitch Eigg either. There are prices to pay for everything and if there is one thing I miss more than anything else it’s that faithful little dog. If Julie and Philip and the kids read this, give her a cuddle from me and let her sleep with David! Best to you all, I’ll be back in late June.
SCG/05 May 2000
BARLICK LIFE 1900 ONWARDS (8)
I have a confession to make this week! Due to a mix-up, the last part of Ernie Part 6 got missed out on August 3 in the View so I’m putting this right this week and calling it part 8. Sorry if some of it appears to be out of order.
We were talking about infections and diseases and cataloguing some of the ailments which affected the Roberts family. We’d just dealt with the serious matter of treating abscesses with cow dung poultices!
Of course, it’s not surprising that infection was rife. The lack of hygiene in the 1930’s is incomprehensible to young people today. As I’ve said before, if we were moved back in time to those conditions we’d drop like flies because we wouldn’t have the antibodies to deal with the infections that were common. Talking of flies, there were a lot more about in those days. The cure was a flycatcher. This was a roll of paper in a tube with a loop of cotton at one end. You hung it up by the loop and pulled the tube and the roll of paper unfurled and hung there. It was covered with a very sticky substance and when the flies landed on it they were stuck. You left it up until it was full of flies and then threw it on the fire and started another one.
Whatever the disadvantages, Ernie had survived childhood and in 1930 he was ready to go out into the world of work. Now those of us who have any knowledge of the thirties know that there was a recession and much unemployment. So you might think that this would mean that Ernie would have trouble getting a job. Not so, the employers had a little trick up their sleeves which ensured that there were plenty of jobs available for healthy young people. They called it the apprentice system.
Surprisingly enough, Ernie’s first job wasn’t in a mill in Barlick, it was in King’s Foundry in Skipton. Remember, this was an undernourished fourteen year old lad. His first job was buffing the rough edges off newly cast iron manhole covers. These weighed about 150lbs (75 kg.) and he had to lift every one on to the machine. He said the foreman was a cruel man and it didn’t take Ernie long to work out that he’d be lucky if he survived. The wage was twopence three farthings an hour. (This was slightly more than 1p. an hour. He was taking home about 35p for a weeks hard work) He noted that as soon as any of his co-workers reached an age where their wages would be raised, they were sacked on some pretence and another school-leaver set on. Ernie said that exactly the same system was operated at Dewhurst’s Thread Mill in Skipton and he described it as ‘slave labour’. So, one day, he started buffing the flanges off the manhole covers, rendering them useless. This did the trick, he got sacked and went home and told his mother.
Margaret hadn’t been very happy about the foundry job in the first place and she told Ernie not to worry, she’d have a word with her sister, Ernie’s aunt Louise, who wove at Bancroft.
Since he had been about ten years old, Ernie had been going up to Bancroft regularly on Saturday morning to help his aunt Louise and learn to weave. So, when she had a word with the manager at Bancroft, Tom Rigg, he agreed to let her take on Ernie as a learner weaver or tenter. Notice that it was aunt Louise who set Ernie on and she had to pay him a wage. To compensate for this she was given another loom or two which could be managed with help. At that time, only the very top-class weavers had six looms, the usual number was four.
It didn’t take long for Ernie to get the hang of weaving. He had the odd bit of trouble like one day he was called into the warehouse over a piece of cloth he had woven with too many ends in the selvedge. Surprisingly, the manager was very kind to him, pointed out the mistake and how to cure it and told him never to do it again.
Ernie always looked forward to Saturday morning because there was a good chance a weaver would miss coming in. If this happened, Ernie was paired up with another learner, a girl, and they ran the four looms for the missing weaver. They got paid two shillings and sixpence for this by the management, one shilling and threepence apiece (slightly more than 6p) Aunt Louise was paying him half a crown a week, so this was a bumper week!
Ernie did two years at Bancroft and graduated first to two looms and then four. By 1932 he was earning about £2 a week. He ‘tipped up’ his wage to his mother and she gave him a couple of bob for himself so Margaret was getting to be a wealthy woman, she had two sons working in addition to her own wage. In 1932, this triggered off a move from 1 John Street to 9 Westgate. This was one of the houses that used to stand on the left hand side of Westgate looking uphill. They were demolished for road widening about 20 years ago. Hartley Street, where Ernie was born, was in this block of houses.
The new house was a great improvement. It was a through house with two bedrooms and a parlour in addition to the kitchen. There was a backyard with a washhouse and a tippler toilet. (That’s right, were back to basic functions again!) Tippler toilets were the first lavatories in the town that worked on the ‘water carriage’ system. That is, water was used to carry the waste away to the sewage works instead of manual collection. The way they worked was that there was an earthenware pipe about 14 inches in diameter connected straight into the sewer and this had a seat on top. It was flushed by the waste water from the sink which collected in a ‘tippler’ in a chamber in the yard until there was enough to overbalance it. When this happened, there was a rush of soapy water into the toilet which flushed it out. The shaft down to the sewer could be 15 feet deep and it doesn’t take much imagination to recognise that we would regard them as highly unsanitary. They were also very frightening if you were a child.
When I came out of the army in 1956 and found myself in the grocer’s shop at Sough we had a tippler toilet and it fascinated me. I was always a beggar for cleaning things and using bleach and I took charge of the tippler. About once a month I’d lift the cast iron manhole in the backyard and scrub the tippler box out and disinfect it. I remember telling Newton Pickles about this once and he told me that he remembered the tippler toilets at Wellhouse Mill in the engine house yard. It was a two seater and he and his mate would go together for an early morning bowel movement! He said that it was good in winter because the drains from the engine were connected to the sewer and he said that as you sat there the steam from the engine puffed up and kept your bum warm! So you see, there could be advantages in the old technology.
A big problem with tipplers was if they got blocked, remember, they could be 15 feet deep. Harold Duxbury told me once that he had a man who was an expert at clearing them and at times did nothing else. He used an old fashioned mop with a long handle and the trick was to fill the pipe above the blockage with water and then use the mop as a piston to drive the water and the obstruction through into the sewer. A Barlick version of Dyno-Rod!
As you have probably realised, anything to do with tipplers fascinates me! This raises a serious point though, have you any idea of the number of people who have no idea what happens to the waste in a lavatory when you flush it? It’s a question of ‘out of sight, out of mind’ and I have never been able to understand why such things don’t fascinate people. Alright, I realise I am probably an exception but I always need to know why and how something works. This may be one of the reasons why history fascinates me so much. I need to know the nuts and bolts of my town and how it works and stories like Ernie Roberts’s life tell us so much about the society we live in.
Once again I’m going to leave Ernie for a while and look at other subjects. I hope that reading about life in the 1930’s has awakened memories in the older end and perhaps enlightened the young ones a bit. As I’ve said before, it was a hard life, especially for the women folk. Many people bemoan the fact that now we have washing machines, refrigerators, electricity and central heating, we have lost something of value. The people who say this must never have had to do without these ‘luxuries’! I still have an open fire in the front room but would hate to have to go back to my childhood days for so many reasons. Perhaps the greatest is the fact that I can sit here at my computer in the kitchen and talk to all you lot out there without even leaving the house.
One last confession. I was talking to one of my readers last week and they were saying nice things about the Ernie articles. One comment they made was that it was obvious that I liked Ernie. This is an understatement, I loved the bloke. He was so direct and down to earth and I never heard a hard word from him unless it was about the lot of the workers. What saddened me most was the fact that he never got his retirement, he died in 1982 of a brain tumour. If anyone ever deserved a long and happy rest after all the hard times he went through, it was Ernie. His ashes are scattered on Brown Hill and when I look up there I think about him and his jokes and stories. He taught me a lot about Barlick and I shall never forget him. If there’s one basic reason why I enjoy doing the research and writing it’s because I can give the Ernie’s of this world a voice and recognition that they could never have got in their lifetime. History isn’t about Kings and Queens, it’s about little people like Ernie who made the world go round.
SCG/09 August 2001