ODDS AND SODS
One of the consequences of the interest my readers take in these articles is that I find that every now and again I need to update some of the themes we have been pursuing.
‘Medical Matters’ struck a chord with quite a few of you including one reader who doubted whether the picture with the article was Arthur Morrison. I promise you that it was indeed him, I caught him unawares and for once, Arthur was at a loss for words, he said it was the first time anyone had snapped him at work. This probably explains his expression!
‘Then and Now’ down on School Lane at Earby also triggered off some responses. I’m grateful to Mike Crewdson for setting me right about the picture house. Of course it was the Empire! I lived in Sough for three years and should have remembered this. Mike also said that he thought the tin tabernacle might have been moved to Skipton. I went up to Broughton Road Community Centre and had a look. It’s certainly a corrugated iron building but I can’t see any resemblance between it and the building at Earby. I’m intrigued by this one and am chasing it further. If any of you have any ideas, please let me know.
On the matter of the police communications, I got a reply from Pat Clare’s office (Our Chief Constable) saying that the matter had been passed on to the Superintendent in charge at Burnley. No word from him as yet. I had a visit from one of the new Community Beat Officers the other day but was out at the time. He left a note to let me know he had called but the space for the telephone number to contact him was left blank…………. My opinion is that there is still some improvement to be made in the field of communications with our police force.
I’ve been doing some work on the tapes I made with Ernie Roberts twenty five years ago and the last ones covered his army service in the Second World War. I was reminded by his experiences that there are people walking round this town today who are still suffering the consequences of their service in the forces. In Ernie’s case it was the after effects of Black Water Fever, a very serious form of malaria and I know that this affected his daily life right up to his death. My point is that we make a big effort to remember the war dead once a year in November, perhaps we should make an effort to remember the survivors for the rest of the year.
One of the matters that emerged from the latest tape of Ernie was the transition from war service to Civvy Street. When Ernie and his mates joined the army they were home town lads. In Ernie’s case, the furthest he had ever travelled was to Blackpool for a day out. After his war service during which he visited South Africa, India, Burma and Ceylon, he returned to Barlick and a job weaving in the mill. This was a totally different Ernie and I asked him what difference it made to his attitude towards the bosses. He said that the main difference was that when he went away he was a ‘proper little wage slave’, he wouldn’t say boo to a goose. When he came back after seeing the world and a lot of danger and sudden death he wasn’t going to put up with the conditions he had accepted before the war. He wanted something better.
This got me to thinking about the effect that these men and women must have had on the employers. I think it must have soon dawned on them that things had changed. Weavers were in short supply and in the words of the slogan we heard so much in those days, ‘Britain’s Bread Hung by Lancashire’s Thread’. Attitudes had to be changed, the tramp weavers had vanished and there was no longer a queue of weavers waiting in the warehouse at starting time to take the looms of anyone who was late to work. Cloth and weft carriers were introduced to help the weavers become more productive and wage structures altered. If you had bad warps in before the war it was possible to go home at the end of the week without a wage. This all changed and no matter how bad the weaving, everyone was guaranteed a basic wage.
Country-wide these same forces resulted in the Labour election victory of 1945 and the implementation of many of the recommendations of the Beveridge Report leading to the NHS we enjoy today. It seems a paradox that such a terrible event as a world war could be a catalyst for change and lead to some of the most significant improvements in society of the whole of the 20th Century.
I noticed this week that there is some debate as to whether the names of people who have died in conflict since 1945 should be added to our war memorials. Of course they should! Ernie died very soon after he retired, a victim of a hard upbringing and the damage done to him during the war. He hasn’t got a memorial, his ashes were scattered on the moor behind Bancroft. He isn’t the only one and we would do well to remember them, not just once a year but every day.
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I’m going to the doctor’s tomorrow. I suppose as you get older these visits get more frequent. I can remember the time when I had to send a recent photograph so that Arthur Morrison could recognise me! Things have changed and so, I think, have my attitudes. I have begun to recognise that I need more help.
One of the things that is worrying me is that I might be getting to be a bit of a hypochondriac. I saw a TV programme on Diabetes last night and remembered that both my Father and brother succumbed to late-onset diabetes so perhaps I ought to have a test. The other problem is that when I had an operation on my undercarriage last year the nurse came to me as I was leaving the ward and whispered in my ear, ‘If you have any problems with your water let us know.’ Great! Then a mate of mine in America, an intelligent man, found that his kidneys had failed on him and he didn’t know it was happening. I think I need a check up……..
All this got me to thinking. My mind went back to Ernie Roberts being taken to the dentist by his mother with raging toothache in the 1930’s and being told to come back when she had the money to pay. I can remember my mother having to pay the doctor when I was young. My recent Floridian visitor was most impressed when she found that I could go to the doctor and get treatment and drugs at no cost. She told me that even though she has a good medical insurance for which she pays every month, it costs her a minimum of £40 if she has to go for treatment. I spoke to her yesterday and she has a severe cold and will not go to the doctor until it gets serious for this reason. I began to realise that although we complain bitterly about the state of the NHS we still have a wonderful service which operates well most of the time.
So, I shall go to the doctor tomorrow without any worries about money no matter what treatment I need. When you think about it, this is a wonderful comfort and we should be very grateful that we live in a country which is enlightened enough to support a National Health Service with no means testing.
Mind you, there has been one retrograde step in the last couple of weeks. The Park Road surgery has installed the dreaded ‘Voice Mail’. I rang the other day to make this appointment and the system ran me round the houses for a while before I actually got a human voice. In future, whenever possible I shall walk up to the surgery and speak to a human being!
If you have had occasion to ring the police helpline lately you will know that they also have an ‘improved’ system. 18 months ago when it was installed I wrote to the Chief Constable and told her that I thought this was a mistake because channelling all the calls through a central unit at Burnley separated the local police from the public and this must be a bad thing. She arranged for me to go to Burnley and speak to the officer in charge of communications but he seemed to be more interested in justifying the new system than listening to my comments. Any of you who have been watching the letters column will realise that Councillor Jackie Taylforth had exactly the same trouble. Her solution was to walk up to the police station. As I have had the same experience recently I have written to Mrs Pat Clare, the Chief Constable again. I shall let you know what comes of it.
Just as a matter of interest, the last Town Constable in Barlick was Thomas Waite. He was a clogger and farmer and lived at Hen House down Gisburn Road. He was superseded by the West Riding Constabulary when they established their first office in the town in 1856. It was perhaps easier to get hold of help then than it is now! Never mind, they tell me that we are to get three ‘Community Policemen’ shortly whose task will be to patrol on foot and interact with the public. The only problem I can see is that we won’t be able to ring them up when we want them. Perhaps they could have a mobile phone?
My mind goes back to the doctors I have known, Arthur Morrison at Earby, John Wilfred Pickard here in Barlick, I still have John’s old stethoscope hung on the wall, he gave it to me after he retired so I could listen to Mary Jane and James at Bancroft! He used to spend a lot of time in the engine house with me and I once asked him if the stories about him were true. He smiled and said that some had more truth in them than others.
When I was watching the TV programme on Diabetes the other night I remembered something that Arthur told me 40 years ago. He used to test everyone who went in the surgery for diabetes and I asked him why. He said that one person in five had some incidence of the condition and knew nothing about it. The only cure was to test every patient. This was exactly the message that the programme was giving, perhaps our old doctors, eccentric as they were at times, knew a thing or two. I quite like the present lot in Barlick but it remains to be seen whether they leave such a rich legacy of funny stories. I hope they do, but I have a feeling that those days might have gone. A pity, it made life a lot richer and more human. One thing is certain, a voice mail system isn’t going to help!