Barnoldswick Local History Articles

Friday, March 01, 2002



45 years ago this month I backed two horses as a double, both to win. I shame to say that I was drunk at the time and had met Tommy Fitton, a Barlick bookmaker, in the Craven Heifer at Kelbrook. The following morning I couldn’t even remember the names of the horses I had backed but later that evening in, you’ve guessed it, the Craven Heifer, I saw Tommy and he informed me that they had both come up and did I want paying out.

Now I have to say that I was not a betting man. What I didn’t know about horses and bookmakers would fill large volumes. This being the case, you might well wonder at what I did. I told him to put the lot on the highest priced second favourite in the following morning’s Daily Mirror. I don’t think I was drunk at the time and no, I can’t tell you what possessed me to do it. My father always said that there is a providence that looks after drunken men and idiots and the following evening found Tommy Fitton paying me the equivalent of nine weeks wages and managing to smile whilst he did it!

To my credit, I bought Tommy a drink, pocketed the rest and went home where I gave half to my mother. Incidentally, I never backed a horse again after that apart from the odd runner in a works sweep on the Grand National. I did try a bet on the Grand National in I think it was 1992 but this was the year when either the starter cocked it up or there was a bomb scare and all bets were off. I got my stake money back and reflected that the Gods were taking care of me!

What does a young lad do with over four weeks wage in his pocket? I suspect I was slightly eccentric because I went and bought a Philips tape recorder. This cost over two weeks wages, I think it was £34. Why had I bought it? I think I was fascinated with the technology and wanted to try it out. I was influenced by having seen one in the Hole I’t Wall pub in Foulridge. (That’s right, I was spending far too much time in licensed premises!) I can feel a story coming on about this, I’d better get it out of my system.

At this time, in the late 50’s, Tom Dixon kept the Hole I’t Wall and I’m not sure whether the attraction was the quality of the beer or his daughters, whatever, it was a regular watering hole when coming through Foulridge in the evenings. This particular evening, I went in, early doors, and there was just me and Tom in the bar. “Do you know anything about tape recorders?” Tom asked. I said I did so he took me into the kitchen to show me one that he had been lent by one of the drivers who sold his ice-cream. I should explain that Tom had a useful sideline to the pub which was making and selling ice cream. He provided the specially built vans and supplied the ice cream to his salesmen and it was a profitable business in those days when ice cream was a luxury. I saw one of his old vans the other week in Barlick. Someone had restored it and it looked exactly like they did all those years ago.

Anyway, back to the tape recorder. We plugged it in and I showed Tom how to set it up to record but I told him that first we should play the tape to make sure there was nothing on it that couldn’t be erased. I turned the machine on and some badly recorded music came out of the speaker. It soon became obvious that someone had been recording Radio Luxembourg which was a popular music station in those days. They had simply set the microphone near the radio set and so it was picking up their conversation as they were having their tea. The first words that came out were, “That bloody Dixon’s alright as long as th’art selling his ice cream!” I reached out to shut the tape off but Tom stopped me, “Hold on lad, I want to hear what these buggers are saying about me!” There followed and instructive twenty minutes during which Dixon’s character was comprehensively blackened by these two speakers who were evidently two of his ice cream salesmen. Tom was indignant, “I wouldn’t mind, but one of them hasn’t made a single payment on his van for six months!”

We eventually turned it off and Tom wanted to know if we could erase the recording so that they would never know that he had heard them. I told him it was easy, just rewind the tape and set it to record, this would erase the conversation.

With that I retired to the tap room and me and my mates were soon immersed in a few pints and a game of darts. Now as my older readers will know, the tap room was always men-only in those days and I have to admit the language was a bit fruity. Later in the evening the pub was full as it was a Friday night and one of Tom’s daughters who was serving in the bar saw this tape recorder sat on the counter and rewound it and started it playing. She had heard Tom talking about it and I suppose she wanted to hear the two miscreants talking about him. What she actually got, at full blast because she had turned the sound right up, was a recording of some very foul language from the tap room earlier that evening! Being a well brought up girl she immediately fled leaving this tape recorder polluting the atmosphere. This did no favours at all for the clientele in the best room and the by the time Tom had got into the bar to stop it, customers were drinking up and leaving in droves for the Hare and Hounds! Tom swore he’d had enough of tape recorders and as far as I know never played with one again!

Funnily enough, I didn’t start writing this to tell you about Tom and the tape recorder. These articles develop a life of their own once you get started! So, back to my recorder. I did the usual things like the two salesmen had done, recorded bad music from the radio and played with listening to my own voice. Remember that this was new technology then and it was fascinating to hear yourself speaking. I can remember what a shock it was the first time I heard my voice I couldn’t believe it was me! Later it was explained to me that when we hear our own voice as we speak, a lot of it is via vibrations in the bones of the head and this is why it always sounds different.

I soon looked for other things to do and one day made a recording of my children at the tea table. This has survived the years and is still a firm favourite in the family. Then I got the bright idea of getting my father to tell me his life story. I should explain that he was born and grew up in Australia and didn’t come to this country until after the First World War. He had fought right through the war from Gallipoli and survived only to be dumped in a tented camp on Salisbury Plain while they waited for shipping to take them home. There was an outbreak of meningitis and many of the Anzacs, including my father, deserted and got civilian jobs. He went up to Manchester, got a job at Armstrong Whitworth’s in Trafford Park on heavy maintenance and never went home again. Still, that’s another story.

He took to the idea of recording his life story straight away and spent a lot of time making notes. I don’t think I ever asked him a single question, he just sat there and talked. Years later I transcribed the tapes and when I told the Imperial War Museum about them they took them, cleaned the sound up, re-recorded them on CD and put them into their collection. They were interested in his account of Gallipoli but took the whole memoir because it gave them the background to his story.

Two things have always stuck in my mind about what he actually said. The first was hat he thought it was a shame that when the Gallipoli invasion is discussed the impression is always given that it was done by the Anzacs alone. He said they should have been called the Manzacs because in order to make the numbers up, a battalion of the Manchester Regiment was sent in with them, he thought it was the 12th battalion. The other thing was that just as he moved on from talking about Gallipoli to the First Battle of Loos, he became ill and mother told me that it was because of recalling the war years. She said that she’d noticed he was always ill around the 11th of November. I don’t think we can ever appreciate what a trauma it was for his generation to be immersed in full blown industrial slaughter. As soon as she told me this I stopped and so never got the full story of his life in Britain.

Another strange consequence of this was that I put the recorder away and never did the same exercise with my mother, a fact I have always regretted. I know so much about my dad and so little about her.

Right, all very interesting I hope, but what’s the point? Simply this, it’s never been easier to record somebody’s voice, we have some marvellous technology now. If you are a crumbly like me, just sit down and talk to your grandchildren about your life. Start with your childhood and school and tell them all you can recall about how you lived, what you ate, what you did for entertainment and all you know about your parents and grandparents. In a hundred years it will not only be a marvellous resource for your family but for historians as well. If you are young, sit down with your parents and ask them questions and untold generations of your family will be able to listen and marvel at the lives we led. I promise you that you’ll ever regret spending the time doing it.

When I won the money 45 years ago, I couldn’t have told you why I was recording the kids or my father. All I knew was that the technology fascinated me and it seemed like a fun thing to do. Looking back now at those recordings and of course all the stuff I did later with the likes of Ernie Roberts and Newton Pickles I am so grateful that a chance win on three horses I can’t even remember fuelled my interest in my family history, the history of Barlick and of course, these articles that I write for you today.

If any of you want any help or advice on how to go about it, give me a call on 813527 when I get back to Barlick in Mid-October. I’ll be delighted to help you to get going.

SCG/18 August 2001



There are a couple of things that have been bothering me somewhat over the last few months. One is the increase in the vote for the far right wing political parties coupled with the race riots and the other is the whole subject of immigration and the problems it seems to be causing. I say ‘seems’ because I don’t believe that it’s wholly a matter of race.

I suppose what has concentrated my mind is the fact that I’m in America and, like Australia, the only true ‘natives’ of these countries are, in America, what we used to call the ‘Red Indians’ and in Australia, the Aborigines. To call the native Americans ‘Indians’ was about as accurate as calling the Celts ‘Chinese’. The way it happened was that when Columbus arrived in America, (by the way, he didn’t ‘discover’ it, plenty of Europeans, the Vikings for instance, had been there before him), he was convinced that he was somewhere near Japan and that the Caribbean islands were part of Asia. This being the case, it was obvious to him that the people already living there were Indians and with the addition of ‘Red’ to differentiate them from the Asian Indians, the name stuck.. He would have been more accurate if he’d called them Africans because the latest theories suggest that the human race first started evolving in Africa and in that sense, the only people who are really native to any country are the Africans, everyone else was, at some time, a migrant.

One of the most consistent justifications used by right wing parties is that the purity of the ‘English Race’ has to be protected. Concepts like these frighten me because, through the ages, the need to preserve racial purity has provided the excuse for some of the vilest forms of persecution humanity has descended to. We have only to remember Hitler and the theories about ‘Pure Aryans’ which led, amongst other things, to the Holocaust in 1930 to 1945. In terms of their arguments, there is no difference between Hitler and the modern nationalists.

So who are the English? 10,000 years ago what we now call England, together with Wales and Scotland, wasn’t even an island, it was connected to mainland Europe by a land bridge where the Straits of Dover are now. This was at the end of the last Ice Age and the land was not habited, it was too cold. The predominant race at that time across the whole of Europe was the Celts and as the peninsula that we now call mainland Britain warmed up, it was gradually populated by the migration of Celts across the land bridge. Even when this connection became impassable as it sank into the sea, the Celts kept on coming because they were accomplished sailors, it being far easier to travel by water than land if you lived near the coast.

This process of migration and takeover was happening in Europe as well. The Norsemen of Scandinavia (Norse means ‘Men of the North’) moved down and populated that part of France which became ‘Normandy’. The Jutes of Jutland which is now part of Denmark migrated South as well. At the same time, they landed in Britain. They were followed by the Saxons from what is now Germany. This influx of population gradually drove the Celts West until they were concentrated in what is now Ireland and Western Scotland. One of the best examples of this influence of migrating peoples is still to be found in the Isles of Orkney and Shetland, they have more in common with Scandinavia than Scotland.

When I first went to school and they taught us history these episodes of inwards migration were always described as ‘invasions’ and ‘conquests’. In fact they were usually instances of what we now call ‘economic migration’, people trying to better their condition by travelling to find land or resources that were scarce at home. Even the Viking Raids came under this category. Alright, the Norsemen were a rough bunch and if they couldn’t get what they wanted by fair means they would resort to violence but their primary aim wasn’t to conquer or subjugate the natives, simply to gain an economic advantage.

This could even be said of the Italians when they overran us. You didn’t realise we had Italian blood as well? That’s where the Romans came from! To be accurate, it’s not correct to describe the Romans as Italian because the state of Italy didn’t exist in those days. Rome was the starting point of the empire but even so, they were of Mediterranean origin. Actually, this isn’t really true either, by the time the Roman Legions reached us they contained people from many races including Asiatics. Years of conquest had resulted in the assimilation of many races into the Roman army as mercenaries. The troops intermarried with the native tribes they found here and many stayed on when the legions left Britain. As for why the Romans came in the first place, they wanted access to the resources of the country. Britain at that time was a net exporter of wheat and had reserves of many minerals needed by the Romans, gold from Wales, tin and copper from the West country and iron ore from Cumbria and the Midlands.

Waves of migration by Angles, Jutes and Saxons followed and in 1066 we had the second influx of Norsemen but by a roundabout route. That’s it, the people of Norse descent from France who by then were known as Normans. This was a genuine conquest as they set off with the intention of taking the country over by force. They not only intermarried with us but brought us their legal and administrative systems which we still have today. Most of our old aristocracy are directly descended from the Normans and are, quite rightly, proud of it.

In terms of dilution of the race, 1066 was as bad as it got, or was it? Over the next thousand years, a succession of circumstances ranging from religious persecution to economic necessity encouraged further migration. The Jews came from all over Europe, the Huguenots from the Low Countries and other races fled from repression and came to England. With the end of Empire we received another infusion of new blood and arrived at the state of racial purity we are at today.

So who are these ‘Pure English’. Even the name derives from a minor addition from mainland Europe, the Angles. If you believe what I have told you, it seems that the actual natives are the Irish, the Welsh, West Coast Scots and Cumbrians. We still regard the Irish as suspect and if someone from Eire wants to re-locate in Britain they have to go through the same migration formalities as an Asian or other ‘foreign’ race. It gets even more surreal if you go back a few years to when Michael Howard was Home Secretary. He was bringing into law rules which, had they been in operation at the time would have ensured that his grandfather couldn’t have got into the country!

By any test, I would be regarded as a native of England and a citizen of Great Britain. In fact my father was Australian and my recent ancestry includes English, Scots, Irish, German, Scandinavian and Neapolitan. My father even hinted at a touch of Aborigine blood as well! What saves me from being perceived as ‘foreign’ is the fact that I speak English with a regional accent and am white. Despite my varied ancestry I have integrated with the society and do not stand out as being different. The fact that I am old and by drawing a state benefit am a burden on the state isn’t seen as a drawback because I have worked for 50 years and paid my taxes, I am entitled to what I am getting.

To go back to where I started at the beginning of this piece where I said that race ‘seemed’ to be the problem. I think by now you will have realised that I don’t think that it is. The whole notion that there is some sort of pure English man or woman is a nonsense. The truth is that the vast majority of us are a mixture of many different blood lines, most of us are the descendants of immigrants.

The main reason for the differentiation between ‘us’ and ‘them’ is that there is a recognisable difference whether it is colour, speech or any other characteristic. This is the reason why we discriminate against the mentally or physically disabled, the poor and the elderly. Anyone who is different is in danger. One of the traditions in the Pendle area is the Pendle Witches. It is generally accepted by historians that the witch craze that swept Europe in the 17th century was a reaction against people who were vulnerable and different. It started with persecution of the Jews, one of the first recorded punishments for witchcraft was to be ‘exhibited in a public place dressed as a Jew’. If a woman was unmarried, old and perhaps talked to herself she was a prime candidate for accusation. The key is that to be one of the persecuted you have to be instantly recognisable.

Thinking about the troubles in Oldham, Burnley and Bradford, there is another ingredient to the mix needed to provoke a riot, deprivation. If you take any group of adolescents, no matter what their colour or racial origin and exclude them, deprive them of good education, opportunity and employment and even worse, immerse them in a culture where the ability to consume is a mark of success you will produce an underclass and eventually get a reaction. I do not condone the form the reaction took but I do recognise that it is a consequence of years of neglect, particularly in inner city education and opportunity to enter employment and gain a stake in the community. This applies to ‘white native English ‘ children as well. The long term cure is not to immediately advocate the issue to police forces of stun-guns, plastic bullets and water cannon but to start to address the root causes of the problem.

In both world wars we were very grateful when ‘racially impure’ troops came to our aid and fought alongside us. We have no problems with a black athlete winning a gold medal for us in the Olympics. Foreign writers, musicians, artists, mathematicians and scientists have enhanced our culture and lives. If we need a major operation and the surgeon or one of the operating team has a different colour of skin to us do we complain? We have a royal family whose ancestors were all migrants. The Union Flag which the right wing parties have appropriated for their own is a symbol of integration. What is our problem?

The fault is not all on our side. The immigrant communities must ask themselves the same questions. The only thing that is sure and certain is that unless this problem is addressed by all sides, our quality of life in this country is going to diminish. Action is long overdue and must be long-term and positive.

One last word on the subject. My youngest daughter Janet married into a Greek family in Australia and I can assure you that when I look at the three beautiful grandchildren I gained from the union the last thing that enters my mind is any question as to what race they are. They are beautiful young people and there is no reason why, given the proper opportunity and resources all children cannot be the same. We have to take responsibility and work towards this. Until we do this as individuals there can be no improvement.

SCG/18 August 2001

Thursday, February 28, 2002



It’s that time of year again! I’m writing this on a KLM 747 bound for Minneapolis/St Paul and once more I am convinced that if we’d treated cattle like this when I worked for Richard Drinkall, we’d have been run in by the police faster than you could say deep vein thrombosis. There’s no doubt that the bad publicity about people getting blood clots has had an effect, the cabin crew are handing water out as though it had gone out of fashion. I heard a rumour before I left that the government were considering making the airlines give everyone a pair of support stockings with a long-haul ticket. This would be par for the course because I’ve just bought mine, they cost £11! (By the way, they are wonderful, they really do stop your legs swelling up and are very comfortable!)

Forty years ago when I was driving for Billy Harrison on the tramp, I picked a bloke up in Scotland and brought him down to Preston. He was a doctor in the Canadian Air Force and he told me that they had been working on a set of exercises that their pilots could do without getting out of their seat. I think they called them isometric exercises. Basically, you set one muscle against another and exert pressure. I asked him why they needed to do this and he said it was because they had had noted instances of blood clots in pilot’s legs due to them being immobile for long periods. He told me that another good thing to do was drink lots of water even if you felt full. It’s a wonder I remembered this because at that time there seemed little prospect of me ever flying in an aeroplane. How times change!

We’re just flying over Greenland and I caught a glimpse of the mountains stuck up through the clouds. We fly right up into Northern Canada and then swing down south and come in to Minneapolis from the North. I’ve never really been able to understand this but they tell me that what they call the Great Circle route is the shortest way. The direct flight from London to Los Angeles used to fly so far north before turning downhill that it was nearly at the North Pole.

By the way, I’ve checked the engines and they’re Rolls Royce so that’s alright!

I was getting a bit depressed just before I left listening to the government wriggling off the hook of a foot and mouth enquiry. It sounds to me as though they are determined to tell their side of the story but be definitely unhelpful to anyone who tries to swing the spotlight on them. I suppose this is to be expected, after all we are dealing with politicians. However, I seem to remember a certain Tony Blair making a speech in 1997 in which he described the government as ‘servants of the people’. Funny how short their memories are once they have got our votes.

Form the next few weeks you’ll be getting letters from America as I shall be in Northfield, Minnesota, visiting with friends. Northfield is about the same size as Barlick, it has 10,000 inhabitants. However what Northfield has that Barlick hasn’t is 8,000 students in two large private colleges! The town motto is ‘Colleges and Cows’. I’m going to be in town for the re-enactment of the Great Northfield raid when the Jesse James gang robbed the local bank, I have never seen this annual event and they tell me that not only do I get a front seat but a bit part as well as the newspaper seller’s assistant. I understand he’s about the only who doesn’t get shot! It’s the 125th anniversary of the raid this year and my old mate Bob Jacobsen is keen to get me involved. He did suggest that I play the part of the ‘Dumb Swede’ who gets shot twice a day but I told him I could only qualify for that part on one count!

Some of you may remember that Bob was a tail gunner with the 100th Bomber Group who were stationed in Norfolk during the Second World War. The ‘Tail End Charlie’ as they were called was the most dangerous job in the world but Bob survived a full tour. He was telling me the other day that they flew at about 20,000 feet and at that altitude, apart from being on oxygen all the time, the temperature was about –30C. The only way they could survive was to wear heated suits under their flight overalls. He also said that all the talk about ‘precision bombing’ was, as he put it, a load of hooey. They were flying in daylight and the losses were horrific so when they got to their bombing zone, they dropped their bombs and got out of it as quickly as they could. It wasn’t until later in the war that they had fighter protection over the target as longer range support fighters were manufactured. I know I always mention Bob when I’m writing from Northfield but I think it’s as well to remember all those brave lads, many of them just teenagers, who came over here and helped us just when we needed it most.

While we are on the subject of flight I have a story for you that I came across the other day. A man called Bob Buduick decided to take his light aircraft up for a Sunday morning spin. Nothing unusual about that but it was Sunday morning the 7th of December 1941 and he lived in Honolulu. As he flew along minding his own business he noticed what looked like a large fleet of aircraft coming his way. His first thought that it was a group of American planes out on a training exercise but as he got closer they opened fire on him and he realised it was a fleet of very hostile Japanese planes. Though he was hit he managed to land safely and gained the dubious distinction of being the first American citizen to come under fire in the Second World War! It was, of course, the morning that the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour, the big American naval base in Hawaii thus triggering America’s entry into the war. I found this story in Bill Bryson’s wonderfully informative book, ‘MADE IN AMERICA’ and recommend it to anyone who likes a good interesting read.

One of the nice things about a visit to the States is that you can come with very few clothes and stock up while you are here. I shan’t do my usual whinge about ‘rip off’ Britain but boy, do we have a lot to learn about marketing and service! You can buy a pair of branded jeans that would be £50 at home for £10 and everything else you need is on a par with this. If ever you are unfortunate enough to have a house fire and the insurance pays you out for your clothes, give me a call and I’ll tell you how to have a holiday and a complete renewal of your wardrobe for less than you’d pay in the UK.

Because clothes are so cheap, people recycle them far sooner than we would at home and there are plenty of shops selling good used clothes at very low prices. In Northfield they have an outlet called the ‘Clothes Closet’ which is run by the city managers. (All small towns are called cities in America’) People donate their used clothes to the Clothes Closet which is run by volunteers and the profits are used to provide food vouchers and facilities for the disadvantaged members of the community.

This operation is housed in a brand new Community Centre on the outskirts of town and this also includes various resources like an arts and crafts centre where anyone can go to learn new hobbies, a pensioners club and an advice office similar to our Citizens Advice Bureau. I asked how this was funded and the answer was that a referendum had been taken and the citizens had been asked whether they would be prepared to pay a small local tax which, when used to trigger Federal (Government) funding, could be used to provide the Community Centre. Local business had chipped in with additional funding for facilities and the result is a town resource of a quality and scale that is a credit to the community.

I immediately transferred this thinking to Barnoldswick, remember, Northfield has only two thirds the population we have. Suppose we did the same thing, had a referendum and a precept on the local rate and converted Rainhall Road School into a really useful asset to the town. I noticed before I left that the building is starting to look neglected and the County Council strategy seems to be quite clear to me. Leave the building idle until it becomes an eyesore and then, surprise, surprise, announce that it has ‘dry rot’ or ‘rising damp’, take your pick, and has to be demolished as it would ‘cost too much’ to refurbish. What’s the betting that we would finish up with a DIY barn or yet another supermarket on the site. I may be wrong but I don’t think we need another retail outlet, what we need is a community facility which can benefit everybody in the town and preserve a fine historical building. Barnoldswick is a good town to live in but if we are not vigilant, the planners will render us down to the same level as everybody else.

While I was enquiring about the Northfield Community Centre I got another surprise. I was told that construction starts this year to replace the existing local hospital with a larger and better-equipped facility for the town. Can you imagine Barlick having its own hospital for accidents, emergencies and quite major surgery? Where are we going wrong? I can’t help thinking it would be a good idea if a delegation of local councillors got their act together, got some funding from local business and came out on a fact-finding mission to Northfield. It might be that we could learn something from our American cousins! All right, I recognise that this is a wealthier country in many ways but the difference in personal incomes isn’t all that great. I suspect the answer lies in greater independence for small town managers and more local enterprise. I’m certain that there is a place for this kind of thinking at home. Could the local councillors please take note?

I shall be back in the hutch in East Hill Street on October 8th so if you’ve any comments save them until then, I haven’t sorted out an email address over here yet. Look after Barlick for me and if you think there’s any sense in what I have said, get on to your Councillor, if you want to change things you’ve got to shout loud!

SCG/18 August 2001

Wednesday, February 27, 2002


One of the unalterable rules of life is that whenever a subject of national interest crops up, the ‘experts’ come out of the woodwork and tell us all they think we should know about the matter in hand. Foot and Mouth disease has been no exception. No, don’t worry, this isn’t a lecture on the present outbreak, which shows no signs yet of stopping, it’s a look at cattle and other matters which may shed a little light on some of the misconceptions which have been put about lately by the ‘experts’.

Let’s have a look at the large scale movement of animals around the country. To hear the experts talk, you would think that this was a new phenomenon. Whilst I will admit that many more journeys are made nowadays, it is a mistake to think that this is new. There are many reasons for moving animals. The simplest is the need to move fresh meat on the hoof from the area where it was fattened to the place where it is needed for food. This transfer of beasts from country areas to the place of consumption has been going on ever since men started to live in towns and cities. Getting the animals there under their own steam was perfect common sense, they were slaughtered in the towns and cities and the meat arrived fresh on the table.

This reason for moving cattle has now died out with modern refrigerated transport and large centralised slaughter houses. Far from increasing, the flow of cattle and other animals into towns and cities has ceased entirely. This applies to fresh milk as well. Before the advent of rail transport the only way to guarantee fresh milk in a large town or city was to keep the cows in sheds near to the population and milk them there. They never saw the light of day and hence had short lives. The demand for fresh milk cattle for the ‘cowkeepers’ meant even more animals being driven into the towns.

Another reason for moving animals is that some areas, like Scotland and Wales, whilst ideal for breeding and rearing stock, are not the best place to fatten them. To this day, there is a big trade in store animals which are reared in Wales and Scotland and then brought down to the lowland pastures in England to be fattened for market. The ‘Great North Road’ was a favourite route from Scotland and during the year August 1777 to August 1778, 28,551 cattle passed through Wetherby on their way south.

Cattle and sheep weren’t the only stock which were moved. Geese, turkeys and pigs were also moved in droves. Daniel Defoe, at the beginning of the eighteenth century talked about up to 500 flocks of turkeys a year being brought out of Norfolk into London and there was a similar trade in geese. These birds gave the drovers a bit of a problem, they got footsore when moved for long distances. The cure for this was to drive the flock through a bath of warm pitch followed by another bath of sawdust and sand mixed. If this was done several times it formed a hard wearing skin on the birds feet which lasted for quite a distance and fell off leaving them with clean, undamaged feet. Geese would quite happily rest on the ground at night but turkeys presented another problem, they needed to roost in trees!

Cattle were often shod with iron shoes. Being cloven hoofed they needed eight shoes apiece. The blacksmith at Grassington used to make shoes and nails and take them to Threshfield and Skipton where he shod cattle for eight pence (old money) a beast in the late nineteenth century. One man could shoe about seventy beasts in a day. These shoes were a valuable by-product of the droving trade. When the animals were slaughtered the used shoes and nails were shipped back up the country to where they were needed.

The men who moved the stock were the drovers, a hardy breed who tended to pass the trade on from father to son. They guarded their craft jealously as there were stringent conditions attached to the trade. Under an Act passed in the reign of Elizabeth the First, a drover had to be a married householder of at least thirty years of age. He had to obtain a licence in writing from at least three magistrates which only lasted for one year. There were heavy fines for anyone found contravening this Act of Parliament. There was good reason for this licensing, the drover had plenty of scope for dishonesty. He was entrusted with a large number of valuable animals and if he lost some on the way, how was anyone to tell whether this was due to accident, sickness or theft?

The drover was, in effect, a cattle dealer as he was responsible for the sale of the animals at their final destination and the return of the proceeds of sale to the original owner. Remember that there wasn’t a banking system as we know it today and the money had to be transported in cash at great risk. I have read somewhere that a drover wasn’t allowed to go bankrupt, he was always liable for his debts. This would supposedly give his customers better protection.

In 1634 King Charles the First defied Parliament and raised a tax which was supposedly for the maintenance of the navy. It was called Ship Money and he levied it three years in succession until the Long Parliament rescinded the tax in 1638. What’s this got to do with droving cattle? Simple, the safest way to transport the Ship Money from the outlying towns to London was to buy cattle with it and drive them to London. When they were sold, the tax was paid by the drover and any profit was a bonus for the town who had sent the cattle.

There is much more to tell about the drovers, for instance, they had wonderful dogs and there are many accounts of the dogs being sent home by themselves, sometimes even leading a pack horse and staying at the same inns each night that the drover stopped at on his way down the country. If you want to learn more, ask at the library for a book called ‘The Drovers’ by K J Bonser. It is where I learned much of my knowledge about droving in the old days and I recommend it to you all.

As many of you will remember, I was a drover myself for many years when I drove a cattle wagon for Drinkall’s at West Marton. The same tides of cattle I have been describing in the 17th and 18th centuries were still flowing up and down the country then. Good calves went from Craven up into Scotland and milking heifers and young beef stock came down into Lancashire and further south. One firm of hauliers I knew in Scotland did nothing but carry pigs down to London for slaughter. The capital’s appetite for meat is even greater now than in the 17th and 18th centuries because of the rise in population.

So, when the ‘experts’ talk about the ‘unnecessary’ movement of stock around the country, they may have a point in some cases but by far the greater proportion of movements is ancient and necessary. They also talk of the cruelty of moving animals. Undoubtedly this does exist, no trade or profession is entirely free of rogues. But this doesn’t mean that all drovers are culpable. When I was moving cattle we took a pride in getting animals to their destination in good condition. We had to be mechanics, vets and midwives all at the same time. Properly looked after, cattle could come out of the box after 300 miles on the road in better condition than when they went in. I remember bringing some cattle into Gisburn Auction Market one day while a sale was on. I backed the wagon and trailer on to the docks, closed the gates at the back and let the cattle out to do whatever they wanted while I found Richard my boss.

I was accosted by a well-meaning animal rights activist who berated me for cruelty, she had seen me unloading the cattle. I took her back round to the wagon to ask her to show me exactly what my crime was and when we got there, the cattle had loaded themselves back into the boxes of their own accord. Even she had to admit that they didn’t seem to be terrorised!

We need to look at foot and mouth disease now. If you get your Old Testament out and look at Exodus, Chapter 9 verse 3 you will find: ‘Behold, the hand of the Lord is upon thy cattle which is in the field, upon the horses, upon the asses, upon the camels, upon the oxen and upon the sheep. There shall be a very grievous murrain.’

‘Murrain’ is a portmanteau word which was used until the 19th century to describe any cattle disease which killed. It probably derives from the Latin ‘mori’, or ‘death’. Foot and mouth wasn’t known in this country until 1839 and the diseases referred to before that were probably mainly ‘cattle plague’ otherwise known as ‘rinderpest’. In the 18th century over 200,000,000 cattle died in Europe from this disease. In 1745 at least 200,000 cattle died in England and the only remedy was to kill the infected animals and bury them. In 1863 and 1865 there were outbreaks of the plague, the latter being brought into Hull by live cattle shipped from Russia and killing 400,000 cattle. It was finally brought under control in 1869. In 1878 the Contagious Diseases (Animals) Act was passed which imposed strict controls and allowed the payment of compensation to farmers.

There were some weird and wonderful cures. One was to dose the animal with a quart of old urine mixed with half a handful of hen’s dung! A favourite preventative measure was to drive the cattle through the smoke from old straw and manure which was burned in heaps, a remnant of the Pagan ritual of Beltane. The bottom line is that neither Foot and Mouth disease or the payment of compensation by the government is new. In 1714, George I paid almost £7,000 out of his Privy Purse for cattle killed in an outbreak of rinderpest in Islington.

As I said in the title of this piece, there is nothing new under the sun. Up to now we have lost over 3,500,000 head of stock in the present outbreak and the figure will go much higher. It has been said that this is the worst outbreak ever in the developed world. It would seem that if we look carefully at history, this might be a bit of an exaggeration. Cattle and other farm animals do occasionally get diseases and if it is very infectious, they have to be slaughtered for the common good. This is why compensation is paid and the government should think twice before changing this. Perhaps they should read Barlick View?

Tuesday, February 26, 2002


It’s not often I sit down to write something that I’d rather not be thinking about but the events of the last two weeks have forced this topic back on me. The recent outbreak of F&M in the Settle area has spread and at the time of writing is in Horton in Craven and Newsholme.

As many of you will know, at one period of my life I worked for West Marton Dairies and picked the milk up from many of the farms in the area. It was bad enough reading about the slaughter in other parts of the country but when the roll call starts to include names like Friar’s Head, Demesne, Stainton Hall and Painley I have to admit that my back hairs start to rise, these are all places I used to pick milk up from or deliver hay and straw.

Things look bad and will get worse. I had been watching the wind direction. For the last five or six weeks the wind has been in the North or the East and watching the spread of the disease, it seemed to be following this track, downwind. However, I had missed something. I was talking to a mate of mine, Collin Barrit at Kayfield (on the phone, you can’t spread disease that way!) and he pointed out to me that the pattern of infection was following the rivers. The Ribble rises beyond Settle and the Aire and the Wharfe are fed from the same area.

This makes sense to me. The old farmers round here have regarded May 12th as ‘Grass Day’ for centuries. This was the day when the weather was kind enough to allow the cattle that had been snug in their byres all winter to be turned out to grass. If you have a farm that borders on the river, chances are that they will be drinking from it. It makes sense that any infection in cattle upstream will be washed down by the river and any cattle drinking lower down are at risk. This is exactly what has been happening and whilst nobody can be certain, the spread of infection does seem to be following the watercourses.

If this is true, Barlick might stand a chance because we are on the watershed, on the backbone of England. There is no water flowing into Barlick, it all flows out. There is another consequence if this theory is correct, anyone on the banks of the Aire and the Wharfe is at risk. We’ve seen it follow the Ribble, the next places to watch are Skipton, Bolton Abbey and Addingham which lie on these rivers.

As I write this it seems callous to be almost wishing F&M on other places so that we in Barlick can have a chance to survive. It isn’t like this of course, the disease will take its own course and it is natural to hope that we will be spared. Having said this, it won’t necessarily be the best thing.

I was talking to my eldest daughter Margaret this morning, she lives in Clitheroe and both she and her husband Mick are very closely connected with the farming community. She was telling me about a friend of theirs who had cattle and was offered a choice by the Ministry of either being culled out as a clean farm or waiting to see if the disease actually struck. He talked it over with his wife and they decided to take the immediate cull. As he said, it ends ten weeks of worry and means that they can start looking to the future.

This might seem like a callous decision but bear in mind that every farmer round here has been in prison for the last ten weeks and has had nothing else to do, beyond the normal work of the farm, but sit watching F&M lay waste to whole communities and wonder if and when they are going to get hit. This is terribly wearing, imagine what you would be feeling like if the firm you were working for told you that they might have to go out of business at a moments notice and they’d let you know the day it happened, and by the way, you’ve to live in the factory until we know what’s happening! The farmers are in exactly that position and have been for almost three months and there is no end in sight.

The government tells us that the epidemic is under control. Of course it suits them to do this, they have other fish to fry, in case anyone hasn’t noticed there is an election in progress. I’m not saying that there is anything they could actually do to help, this is a force of nature we are up against. However, I can’t help thinking that a bit more attention and sympathy wouldn’t go amiss. I have a funny feeling that if a disaster on this scale was raging in Westminster we would be hearing rather more about it.

This is certainly the message I am getting from my farming friends when I talk to them. They feel that they are being ignored and I don’t think you would find one that had anything good to say about the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. Indeed, I heard about one man who suspected he was infected and rang the Ministry on Friday night and couldn’t get any response at all. There may have been a good reason for this but he would take some convincing. One thing is certain, many of us think that when the outbreak is finally extinguished, the next candidate for a cull should be MAFF.

So what can we townies do? Not a lot actually, I suppose the biggest contribution we can make to halting the spread of the disease is to recognise that the bans on footpaths and walking dogs are there for a reason and make sure we don’t do anything that could cause any risk. It’s natural to think that we can’t cause any damage because we have never been anywhere near cattle and therefore can’t spread the disease. Unfortunately it doesn’t work like that. The milk tanker that picked Taylor’s milk up at Friar’s Head used to pass through Barlick on the way to its next pickup. So every time you passed over the crossing outside the Post Office there was a chance that you were picking a bit of dirt up off the road on your shoes that had come straight from a farm that proved to be infected. Drop this on a road near a field, a dog picks it up on its paw and runs into a field after a rabbit and you have a chance of passing the infection straight into the local livestock. You can argue that the odds are enormous against this happening but is it worth the chance?

Another useful thing to do would be to take note and recognise how important the local farmers are to us in terms of the maintenance of our environment. Barlick is a ‘walking distance’ town. You can get out into the fields in ten minutes in any direction out of the town centre.

Every morning when I go up to Letcliffe to walk the dog I take note of Johnny Simpson and his sons at Bancrofts. You can tell when Johnny gets up, the chimney starts smoking and you can see Alwyn and his brother getting on with the work of milking the cattle and looking after the stock. They have been farming like this for over fifty years and you won’t find a tidier or better run farm anywhere in the district. Anyone coming into Barlick sees their work as they pass but might not notice it and realise what a benefit they are to the town. Imagine what it would be like if the farm was derelict, overgrown and broken down. It would be an eyesore but thanks to the Simpsons, it is an asset. We would do well to recognise this and also that this applies to all the other farmed land in the area. So the next time you are held up by a herd of cows on the road stopping you rushing about your business, take a moment to think how lucky you are to be in an area where this is your biggest traffic problem. We have much to be thankful for in Barlick and the farmers are as much a part of the environment as the Town Square or the Library.

Sorry to be so serious this week but we have to be aware all the time of what is important to us and the town. I’ve started work on another big chunk of interviews and the next few weeks will be spent looking at town life in the early part of the last century (It still sounds funny to be saying that!) with particular emphasis on Westgate, Wapping and Colne Road.

Thanks as usual for all the feedback. Apologies to those who got a bit fed up with Bancroft but remember that we are a broad church, lots of people have said how much they enjoyed reading about what used to be their life and I have a sneaking suspicion that a lot of youngsters will be looking at their grandparents in a different light now. That can’t be bad! or 813527 will get me if you want to make any comments or requests.

SCG/27 May 2001

Monday, February 25, 2002

{This piece was written as foot and mouth disease was raging all round us. We were part of the biggest outbreak in the world in modern times.}


Farmers are an independent lot, they have to be to stay in it. This is a wonderful strength but paradoxically, can be a disadvantage if they have been culled for foot and mouth or as contiguous holdings. As the tide of the disease advances, more and more of my friends are being affected and I’ve been learning a few lessons and passing them on as to how to deal with Life After the Cull.

The first thing to recognise is that the name of the game has changed. You are unemployed and without an income. The next thing to realise is that any action you take as regards available help or benefits dates from the day the claim is received. Therefore, the message is get going!

One word about getting past the mental block that says that you aren’t going to rely on charity. This is completely wrong, what we are talking about is not charity but entitlement. Indeed, if you don’t claim you are actually doing a disservice to all other claimants because it makes it look as though the benefit isn’t needed. It is actually your duty to claim everything to which you might be entitled.

Being self-employed is no bar to claiming many benefits. The first port of call is the local office of the Benefits Agency. Explain your case and ask for the necessary forms to claim Family Income Support or Income Support, the staff will be very helpful and will tell you which you need. Fill them in and get them back immediately. Your claim starts when they receive the form.

Second, talk to the staff at your local Council Office, the one you pay Council Tax to. Ask them for the forms for claiming Council Tax Benefit and Housing Benefit. Don’t assume you can’t qualify, fill the forms in and send them in.

Next, contact the Contributions Agency at Longbenton, Newcastle on Tyne. Have your national insurance numbers to hand and ask for the forms to stop paying your NI because you are unemployed. You only become liable for NI again when your income reaches about £4,000 per annum.

Remember in all these cases that you expect to be without income for a long time. The compensation for your stock is not income, it is your capital and should not count. If they try to tell you it is, fight it.

Remember that if you are doing any tasks for the ministry and expect to receive money for this that this doesn’t count until you actually receive it and some of these payments are taking over two months. It looks as though the average waiting time for compensation for stock is running at about six to eight weeks if there are no problems.

Be sure that if you are doing any clean-up work for the ministry that there is a clear understanding as to how this work is to be certified as correct. There have been cases where it has all had to be done again with no pay. Make sure you enquire of the ministry what can be replaced at the ministry’s expense on the grounds that it cannot be disinfected properly. For instance and rotten wood in any of the structures.

Finally, recognise that the ministry will be very attentive to your needs immediately after the cull but this will rapidly tail off as their resources are moved elsewhere. Get in quickly with your requests for support. Talk to your friends who have already gone through this, they are your best advisers.

You have spent all your lives paying into the system. You are entitled to any support that the system can give back to you.