Robert Ward (B. 1907): Transcript

A Lancashire Childhood

My parents and I went to live in Whittle Street, Featherstall, almost seventy

years ago, when I was five. My father had just taken a job at the Sun Mill, in

charge of the Lancashire boilers and steam engine which provided the lighting and

drove the machinery. The mill produced knitted woollen stockings, mainly black –

the usual leg-wear of women in those days. On Saturday mornings I often went into

the boiler-house to watch my father, and once when he had not noticed my entrance

the long rake he was using to clear out the clinkers hit me on the forehead; I

still have the scar.

I began to attend the Infants Department of the Littleborough Central School.

On my first day I cried, and I remember my teacher, Miss Lindop, sitting me on her

knee. I usually walked to school, though in wet weather I was given a halfpenny

to use the tram. I came home for dinner. Strangely, perhaps, my memory is a blank

about the time I spent in the “Infants”. I have snapshot memories of my pro-

gression up the “Standards” in the “big school”. I retain the impression that Miss

harston (Standard III) was very strict, and Mr Butterworth (Stanndard IV) very

harassed. For some reason both their rooms had long desks, arranged in tiers,

theatre-wise. The Headmaster, Mr Wilkinson, was a neat little bearded man of whom

we were afraid; every morning all those who were later were automatically caned.

Morning service, and singing, took place in the hall, and filled me with dread

because I had a habit of fainting without warning. However, a few months exclusion

from these activities cured me of my habit. Before morning assembly we lined up

outside in strict order; nearly all of us wore clogs, and we took a delight,

when marching into the hall to the sound of the piano, in stamping as hard as we

could; the noise was unbelievable. In Standard V we had a male teacher who was

both strict and unpopular. He introduced somethings called “Hygiene”, which in-

cluded the display of lifesize charts, one showing the veins and arteries in blue

and red respectively, and the other showing the digestive organs in lurid colours.

These lessons did me no good, as I passed out on the appearance of either of these

charts. The same teacher tried to teach us to sing the notes from a tonic solfa

chart. I was a complete failure, and was told I had NO EAR. (In view of the size

of my ears, this brought a laugh). It was many years before I discovered that I

had in fact an excellent ear for music.

One morning when I was seven my father gave me a halfpenny to buy his evening paper

on my way home from school. I saw the headline, “War declared”, and raced home in

great excitement. I cannot remember rhe war making any great difference to life,

but then a child would have n basis of comparison. My father has his “medical”,

  •    1      –

and was rejected (C3 – valvular heart disease). He did heavy manual work all

his life and lived to be 86. It was a great thrill when our Standard VI teacher

joined the navy and came to see us in his uniform.

Of our school subjects, most of us hated “Drill”, which consisted of arm, leg, and

trunk exercises, and no games. I particularly detested Woodwork and Gardening –

the former because I was hamfisted and once nearly severed an artery in my wrist

with a chisel; I think it was only the quick first-aid of the teacher, Mr Mitchell,

which prevented me bleeding to death. None of the plant-tables and stools I made

ever rested on all their legs at once. The gardening era coincided with the “Dig

for Victoriy” campaign, and we spent some agonizing hours halfway up Blackstone Edge

in the depth of winter digging a field which had probably grown nothing  but grass

for hundreds of years.

I remember nothing of English, the subject in which I eventually came to specialise

as a teacher, presumably because it was taught unimaginately by the Class Teachers;

I devoured any reading matter outside school and borrowed books, all adult, from

the Carnegie Library in the park near the school.

During the war my father lost his job at the Sun Mill and begun to work for Dryland

and Preston, the builders. He was to stay with them for thirty years. He was

always handy with machinery and when Henry Whittle and Co., the bakers at the top

of our street, gradually changed from horse transport to petrol, he became and ex-

pert with internal combustion engines and spent most of his weekends coping with

their frequent breakdowns, sometimes taking a couple horses to tow a van home.

Towards the end of the war the shortage of petrol led to the introduction of gas-

driven engine, the gas stored in a great balloon on top of the van.

As I was only seven when the war broke out, I was practically born into it, and felt

no sense of abnormality. In any case, the only media then were the newspapers,

which conveyed nothing of the reality and immediacy of radio and television. The

horrors of the Western front reached us from a distance, rationing was on only a

moderate scale, few of the population were affected by air raids, the routine of

daily life continued as usual, and for those with no member of the family in the

forced there was plenty of work with good wages. My family, in common with most

others, went on holiday in Wakes week as usual, and I remember no hardship. My

fathers’s sister, in Manchester, married a solider who was killed soon afterwards,

and I had a great thrill when my mother’s brother-in-law, who lived in Australia,

and had been wounded in France, was sent to convalesce in Manchester and came to

see us in all the splendour of his anzac uniform.

  • 2       –

“Keeping up with the Joneses” took different forms in those days. One form might

be called “the annual holiday competition”. The Wakes holiday was scared, for it

was the climax of a year’s saving, though during the war it might mean New Brighton

or Prestatyn rather than the Isle on Man. I looked forward to and enjoyed these

holidays, though I hated the lodging house with its overused and smelly WC. The

highlight of the Isle of Man holiday was the sea trip; for a change, we would vary

the route – Heysham, Fleetwood, or Liverpool. The railway journey, by special

train, was always a thrill. In normal times the relatively well-heheeled would earn

envy by daring to go to Bridlington or Scarborough or even to the alien South Coast.

These are the years when my character was, unappreciated by me, being moulded by

my parents and by my environment. My father and mother were of sharply contrasting

types. Father had received a reasonably good education for his time, during a

period when his father had a profitable small business. This was frittered away

and my father had to take any kind of job he could get, but thanks to his intelligence,

versatility, and capacity for hard work he was always in demand. I admired and

respected him rather than loving him. He was tall, especially among the men of

small stature in industrial Lancashire, and handsome, with a deep voice and piercing

blue eyes. He was an inveterate talker and liked to be listened to, and people were

his main interest. His paid job was quite insufficient to absorb his energies, and

he had a succession, sometimes overlapping, of interests such as secretary of the

Poultry Fanciers’ Society with its annual show, in connection with which he helped

His employer’s son to breed various breeds of poultry. (I absorbed a detailed knowledge of Anconas, Wyandottes, Black Leghorns, Buff Orpingtons, and so on).

He was a secretary of the Rechabites, a total-abstinence benefit society, and above all

he became more and more involved with the Stubley Primitive Methodist Chapel, where

he eventually became Sunday School Superintendent – but more of this later.

Mother was shy, awkward, and self-effacing. She had left school at the age of nine;

though she loved reading, she did so very slowly and her letters were stilted,

laboured, and uninformative; she made few friends, and only one reasonably close

friend. She was clumsy with her hands and consequently indifferent with the needle.

She had been brought up on a farm, and her interests were trees, flowers, birds, and

gardening; she was marvellously green-fingered. As none of her interests coincided

with my father’s, she turned increasingly to me in my early teens; from her I

absorbed my keen interest in the natural world. Although making the comparison

would never have occurred to me, I suppose that if at that time someone had asked me

which was my favourite parent, I would have chosen my mother. Not until my father was

old, and especially when he came to live with me, did I appreciate his character and

realise what I owed to him.

  •     3          –

With each other, and with my brother and me, my parents were totally undemonstrative.

I never saw them show any sign of affection – never a hug or a kiss. Yet I am sure

they loved and respected each other. They must have made a handsome pair when they

were married; I used to think father resembled Ramsay Macdonald, whom I admired,

and mother was small, with a good figure and tiny feet and jet-black hair of which

she must have been proud, for she delayed cutting it short as long as possible.

Perhaps it was typical of their generation and background, but my parents never re-

ferred in my hearing to anything remotely connected with sex. Having no sisters,

I was completely ignorant of the details of the female form, or of the whole business

of intercourse and reproduction, until I was nearly twenty. Even when I went to

college I thought one could make a girl pregnant by kissing her. I eventually learned

the facts of life from Marie Stopes “Married Love”, and that was probably not very

unusual at the time.

My father had very positive ideas about education and was determined that I should

do well at school. Shortly after it was published he bought me the Children’s

Encyclopaedia, probably my greatest single educational influence for many years. I

came to know almost every word of it. My father’s interest in my homework was some-

times embarrassing, especially when he tried to help me with some subjects about

which he hated to admit he knew nothing. However, he never missed an opportunity to

make sure I saw something, or gained some experience, which he thought I should not

miss. For example, during the war he once got me up at the age of nine or ten, in

the middle of the night, to see a moonlit Zeppelin cruising along towards Manchester

thirteen miles away. The following night he repeated the procedure and we walked

two miles to see a blazing woollen mill – Durn Mill, by the canal, which burned like

a gigantic torch until a whole wall collapsed into the water. Mill fires were fre-

quent thrills in my childhood. Cotton mills were at risk because the atmosphere was

laden with flammable fluff, and woollen mills because the wooden floors were soaked

with grease. Once one of these buildings caught fire there was no hope for it; the

destruction was total. Before fire engines were mechanised, horse were used, with

volunteer firemen who were altered by the steam siren and knew where the fire was

because they could see it from a distance! Speaking of horses, Dryland and Preston

had a cart and a horse called Bonny, which my father looked after and drove. One

summer morning he took me with him on the cart to Manchester to deliver some build-

ing materials. We left Littleborough at 4 a.m. and reached Manchester at 8 o’clock.

I can still remember the mug of strong hot tea we had. Bonny was retired at the age

of 30 when she was replaced by a Model T Ford, and my father wept when she died

soon afterwards. This was the first Model T in the Littleborough and I spent much time

in it during my holidays, feelings very important. As most of the building work was

concerned with the mills I gained a great knowledge of textile manufacture and a

permanent fascination with industry; it must be no coincidence that my degree

eventually was in Economics. The early twenties was a boom period, with all the

mills prospering.

  •       4            –

I have stood on top of Starring Hill and counted more than a hundred chimneys

belching smoke, and my feeling was one of pride.

Dryland and Preston had a main yard near the Post Office, but in later years with

the firm my father had charge of another yard near the Albion Mill, behind Preston’s

bakery. He was in charge of an engine driven by “producer gas”, made from coke.

From this extended a shaft with belts and pulleys conveying the power to various

machines, including one for cutting and planing stone, and a mortar mill which used

limes and clinkers, a by-product of mill boilers, together with old bricks broken

up small in a crusher. While I was at school, on most days it was my job to take

my father’s dinner to this yard. I would be home by about 12.15, when my mother would

give me a basket containing a basin holding meat and potato pie or hot-pot; on

this was a shallow dish of pie, probably apple, with custard. The whole lot was

enclosed in a large red cloth tied at the top. I returned home and had my own

dinner at about half-past twelve. I am remained here of a gruesome experience

my father had in this yard when I was a few years older. Noticing that the

machinery was slowing down, he went to investigate and found that his workmate had

been caught in the shafting and was being whirled round. Father stopped the engine

and then tried to extricate the man, but found it impossible, and went for help.

After all was over, he went home and was unfit to work for a week. I heard him say

Very little, except that “every bone in his body was broken”.

Today’s children have asked me what on earth we did without radio or television.

For my part, I was never bored. To start with, except in the winter we spent most

of our time out of doors playing a great variety of games, many of which have dis-

appeared, or amusing ourselves in the surroundings of the village, either with others

or (usually in my case) alone. The River Roach was filthy, but there were plenty

of clean brooks abounding in minnows and sticklebacks and other water life. Many

of the mill-lodges, like that behind the Sun Mill, were accessible to children and

abounded in water-creatures. During the war we removed to a better house in Cecil

Street, Stubley, and in the back garden I had a thriving aquarium with a wide range

of inhabitants. I also bred butterflies and moths and learned a great deal about

them – a knowledge and interest I have retained. I walked – or ran- over the moors,

whose wildness always appealed to me. In the summer I would walk from Higher Shore

by way of the Long Causeway to the Burnley Valley at Towneley, seeing no house of

sign of life for ten miles. One day in winter a young child in Shore wandered away

from his home in a thick fog. Within a day or two there was one of our enormous

snowfalls, with drifting, and weeks later the child’s body was found on the moor,

many miles from his home. Snow in those days did not cause the dislocation

  •         5             –

accompanying the age of cars; the trains usually ran, workers struggled to work

on foot, and schools were never closed. Once, in a very hard winter, Hollingworth

Lake froze over and it was covered by skaters from miles around. All the year

round I read, in summer on Shore Moor or Blackstone Edge or in a boat on the

Lake. Apart from books proper, there was a constant supply of Nelson Lees and

Sexton Blakes – the boys’ equivalent of Sherlock Holmes – all obtained by swapping.

And of course I read in bed – for many years by the light of a candle.

In the summer there was cricket. This was the great period of the Lancashire

League and (in our case) the Central Lancashire League, when most teams had a County

player as a Saturday afternoon “pro”. Those were the days of parking and the

Tyldesleys, and later of Harry Butterworth, whose family owned Whittles’ bakery.

He captained Lancashire for some time. The rivalry between Rochdale and Littleborough

lasted for years, and there were normally gates of two or three thousand. My father

and I never missed a home match, and when Littleborough were away we often walked

to Walsden. I was hopeless at cricket, but I knew all about it. I can still

relish, in memory, the pork pie we always had at change of innings.

The cinema was coming into its heyday. In Littleborough we had the Queens and the

Victoria. Each of them had two programmes weekly, and a great many people went

four times a week, seeing four different programmes. The real zealots would go to

Rochdale cinemas on the other two evenings. The films, of course, were black and

white and silent, with captions rather like those now used in television programmes

for the deaf. The programme usually consisted of a long “straight” film, a Pathe

news feature, and a comedy featuring Charlie Chaplin or Fatty Arbuckle. The whole

programme was accompanied by piano music adjusted in type to the current mood or

speed of the film. At first, breakdowns were frequent, especially at the Victoria,

where electricity was provided by a gas engine; when this went wrong, my father was

often called from the audience to effect emergency repairs.

But for a great many people it was the churches and chapels, especially the latter,

which was their focus of social life. We had morning and afternoon Sunday school,

and morning an evening services. Some parents sent their children to Sunday school

out of a moral duty (or perhaps to get them out the way!). the children them-

selves were encouraged to attend regularly by the annual presentation of book prizes

and by an implicit understanding that when treats came round only regular attenders

would qualify. At the Stubley Chapel we had no separate schoolroom and the classes

were held in the chapel and vestries. As I had, by the age of fourteen, learned

to play the piano after a fashion, I was recruited to play the organ for the hymns.

We had an expert for the main organ used at services. It was my duty to operate

the bellows; it was difficult to know when to start, for if one started too early

  •   6        –

the wheezing noise was too obstructive. The official signal was the announcement

of the number of the hymn. The thoughtful preacher would then repeat the lines

of the first verse to give time for the necessary wind to be accumulated; if he

forgot to do so the first lines of the hymn would be sung in silence ! Each chapel

was one of a “circuit” of four or five, so that we had our Minister only about one

Sunday in four. In between, we had “local preachers” of varying ability, some of

them notable for sermons of forty or so minutes in length. One preacher without

the usual uncompromising Old Testament approach told us that if, perhaps long after-

wards, you confessed some wrong doing God would grant your plea for forgiveness.

Like St. Paul, I saw the light and immediately afterwards, at home, I made my con-

fession. Some time previously I had been given a penny in the morning to buy an

evening paper on the way home and return the halfpenny change. When I entered the

shop, on impulse I used the halfpenny to buy twelve aniseed balls, but outside, and

halfway through the first of them, I was struck with shame. I went back to the

shop and begged for the return of my halfpenny in return for eleven aniseed balls.

Naturally the shopkeeper refused. At home, I told my father the coin had dropped

down the grating in the road. After this creditable confession I wated for the words of

forgiveness, but my parents tactlessly burst out laughing and I fled upstairs.

There were two main chapel events during the year. The first was the Whit Friday

procession when we joined with the other churches and chapels (but not the Catholics)

in a procession in which we all converged on the Square in Littleborough. Every

chapel or church had a huge coloured banner held up by stout poles needing the

strength of our most brawny men, especially on a windy day, and with up to eight

children holding coloured tapes coming down from the top of the poles. New clothes

were bought for Whit Friday, and immediately put away to be worn again only on

Sunday and special occasions. In the afternoon we had a “field day” in some local

farmer’s field, where we played cricket and other games and were provided with buns

and lemonade. The other big event was the Sunday School Anniversary, where all the

chapels competed for the largest attendance and the biggest collection. All these

took place when the weather was at its hottest in early summer, and we sweated in

our best clothes in a chapel more than packed to capacity. As the Queen’s official

Birthday, there was no apparent connection with the actual foundation date. Much

of the collection money was earmarked for payments to star singers, who participated

in edited renderings of the Messiah. Being fond of music, I enjoyed these events

immensely despite the heat. A curious feature was that every chapel would lend

members of its choir to another chapel to make an “augmented choir”; the conger-

gation was similarly peripetetic. In between these main events there seemed to be

innumerable Sales of Work and Bazaars in which everyone took part; plus the Sunday

evening hymn-singing sessions in each other’s houses; and, of course, the Annual

  •        7            –

Treat, which for many years was a canal cruise to Manchester, my father being in

charge of the two barges and the horses.

The everyday background to my life consisted of our house and the shops, houses

and pubs in the Featherstall area. Our houses was one of a row of red-brick

cottages built a few years previously near the bakery by Henry Whittle. There

was no garden, front or back, but it had a back-yard. Downstairs it had a kitchen

and a living-room (usually called the “house”) and two bedrooms upstairs. We had

no hot water supply, and labour-saving domestic appliances were only for the well-

to-do. We did have the unusual luxury of a flush toilet, operated by the waste

water from the sink, and extremely deep, so that when I was small my mother was

afraid of me falling in. like most working-class women then, mother had a hard

and monotonous life for many years. Washday was always on Monday because half the

week was needed to wash, dry, iron, and mend the clothes. She got up with my father

at six, lit the fire, and put on large kettles of water. While these were heating

she prepared the huge iron wringer with wooden rollers, two large wooden tubs, a

lading can, a posser for beating the clothes in the first tub (the second one was

used for rinsing) and the rubbing board placed on the stone slopstone (sink) and

used for scrubbing particularly dirty clothes such as father’s overalls (called

slops). After the hot tub the clothes were wrung to remove most of the Hudson’s

Soap, then they were rinsed in the other tub and wrung again. All water had to be

ladled out of the tubs, and of course whites, coloureds and woolens (of which there

were a great many in those days) were all washed separately. On a fine day every-

thing was then pegged on the line except the articles needing starch (very numerous

too). The starch was prepared by crushing Colman’s lump starch into a bowl, mixing

it to a paste with cold water, then adding boiling water until it was clear and of

the consistency of cream. The clothes were dipped on this, wrung with he rollers

slackened, and put out to dry. In addition, all the whites such as pillow-slips

were rinsed in water with Reckitt’s dolly blue in it. Mother did her best to finish

before father came home for dinner at half-past twelve, but rarely succeeded, and

he usually arrived to find the fry-up of Sunday’s left-overs not ready, at which he

would go into a temper. On a wet day the chaos was worse, with all the wet clothes

steaming on maidens in front of the fire. On Tuesday, assuming that the clothes

were dry, the long job of ironing followed, done at first with flat-irons heated

on the fire, and later by the gas-iron (there was no electricity of course – we had

an incandescent mantle in the living-room, and flaring fan-shaped jets elsewhere).

Wednesday was mid-week baking day, and mother again rose at six. When the fire was

glowing she pushed some of it under the oven at the side, and while it was heating

she made the bread-dough and put it in front of the fire to rise, then prepared

  •       8          –

fruit pies and cakes and the invariable meat-and-potato pie. The rice pudding

was already in the oven. There was no such thing as temperature indication or

control, and now it seems a miracle that everything worked. The outcome or

seven-hour effort was intended to last until Sunday, when the procedure was re-

peated, with a roast instead of the pie. I think mother regarded Thursday and

Friday as relatively peaceful days; the former was “upstairs” cleaning day, and

the latter “downstairs”. She also did the mending and spent an hour or two in

gardening on a small plot of land at the back (containing two sycamore trees)

which we had permission to use. At teatime on Friday father handed over the house-

keeping money out of the thirty shillings or so a week he received, and on Saturday

morning mother’s first job was to clean outside. The WC was cleaned, the back yard

was swept and swilled, and in front the window sills and doorstep were adorned with

donkey rubbing stone. This, together with blocks of salt, was obtained from the

rag-and-bone man in return for rags; it was my job to crush the salt with a rolling

pin and put in the wooden salt box. Once the sills and step had been dealt with,

entry by the front door was forbidden for the weekend. On Saturday morning, too,

the milkman collected his money; milk was delivered in a large churn on a horse-

drawn float, the milkman ladling it out of the churn into a jug, holding a pint or

gill, left on a doorstep. Later in the morning mother did the shopping, usually

at the co-op.

despite the unbroken ribbon of the building between Littleborough and Smallbridge,

Featherstall and Dearnley retained something of their village character, each

With its group of shops. We shopped mainly in Featherstall. Mrs Rhodes, sister

of Henry Whittle, who founded the bakery, kept the Post Office at the Whitelees

Road corner. Close by was the hairdresser, who also did shaving and sold and re-

paired umbrellas. There was two pubs, the Royal Exchange and the Sun. Across the

road were the co-op and a fish and chip shop, which we patronised every Friday; we

usually had black peas to go with the fish and chips. A little was up Whitelees

Road a tiny shop sold newspapers and sweets, and along the main road we had a

butchers’, a grocers’, a furniture shop, and the cloggers’. We children had to

visit the latter every other Saturday morning to have new irons fitted. It was a

penny for a sole iron and a halfpenny for a heel iron. The worn iron was removed,

the holes were filled with small wooden splints, and the new iron nailed on. I was

always fascinated by the old man at the back of the shop. White haired and deaf

and dumb, he was always connected in my mind with “a Tale of Two Cities” and the

French Revolution; he used a huge knife like a guillotine to cleave pieces of syca-

more which he carved into clog soles. When we left the shop we ran along the pave-

ment, kicking it to produce sparks from the hard new irons. When the irons were

  •       9           –   

worn and smooth they made excellent skates in frosty weather; we may have walked

clumsily, but never had cold or wet feet, and replacing irons was much cheaper

than having shoes repaired.

Vehicles of all kinds fascinated us, even though most of them were horse-drawn.

Top of the list of course were the magnificent steam train on the Lancashire and

Yorkshire Railway Line, the main line from Leeds to Holyhead for the boat trains,

with many fine expresses, some not even stopping at Littleborough. During the war,

during a snowstorm on a Saturday night, the boat train crashed into a goods train

at Smithy Bridge and nine people killed. The following morning my father took

me to see the debris; the huge locomotive was lying in a field, where the wooden

coaches were being burned. Our other mechanically propelled vehicles were the trams –

single-deckers because double-deckers were thought to be unsuitable for John Street

in Rochdale. I remember a tram running away down that street and crashing into a

butcher’s shop across the road; many people were injured and a schoolgirl was

killed. The tram lines to Littleborough were single tracks with passing loops at

intervals of about 200 yeards. Drivers of trams running in opposite directions would

sometimes race to see who would reach the loop first. On one such occasion I saw

a tram foul the points, leave he rails, and whizz round on one bogie, hitting John

Greenwood’s grocery cart in the process and smashing the top. We children helped

ourselves to some of the apples rolling about the road.

My grandfather, who lived in Blackley, died in 1916, and from then onward grand-

Mother became an invalid, looked after by her only daughter. My father fell into a

routine of visiting his mother about every four weeks on Saturday or Sunday, taking

me with him. My mother never went; this obviously strained relationship was never

referred to in my hearing, though it may have had something to do with the fact that

mother was illegitimate. Although Blackley was only about thirteen miles away, we

had to use four trams and the journey took almost two hours, but I enjoyed it. We

took the single-decker to Rochdale, another tram to Sudden, where we changed to a

Middleton Electric Traction Company tram (with an open top) to Middleton, and finally

took an imposing double-decker to Blackley. The highlight of the return journey was

the ride, in the dark, on the M.E.T. tram with its two lights fore and aft. We had

to go upstairs because father would be smoking his pipe; he smoked Pilot flake, and

I liked the smell. This was his only indulgence: he was puritanical in his atti-

tude to drink and he never swore, though he invented the most extraordinary substi-

tute expressions, such as “Fizzing blisters” if he dropped a hammer on his toe. Just

as unusually in the building trade, his employer did not drink, swear, or smoke; I

once heard him say to father, “If God had meant thee to smoke, he’d have put a

chimney on top of thi’ yead.”

  •      10          –

Horse-drawn vehicles consisted mainly of drays and four-wheeled carts. The drays

each with two enormous wheels and owned by a firm with the Dickensian name of Sorsby

and Dobb, were used to take coal from the station to the textile mills; as these

were all uphill, two horses were used, and on the empty return trip one horse walked

behind. Light traps were a sign of affluence; our doctor used one, though in my

younger days he visited us on horseback. On the small dairy-farms only two machines

were used, both horse-drawn – the mower and the tedder. Many extra workers were

hired for the haymaking, and I cannot imagine anyone in these days working as hard

as we did. During all the long daylight hours, with occasional breaks when we

drank, in total, gallons of tea to replace the streaming sweat, we used long heavy

rakes to form the hay into rows, and then into cocks; when the hay was made we

loaded it on to the cart from which a fork was used to throw it up into the loft

in the farm building, over the shippon. This method of haymaker, being slow

allowed wild creatures to get out of the way, including the corncrakes we had been

hearing for weeks.

The Littleborough Central School was quite a remarkable institution. Built in 1903

it included under the same roof a High Grade Department which was really a small

grammar school. Parents who could afford to keep their children longer at the school,

with others who, like me, had won Alexander Harvey Scholarships, could, instead of

leaving at the statutory age of 13, stay on for four years and sit for their

Matriculation Examination (five subjects, including Mathematics and English). It

was really a comprehensive school more than fifty years in advance of its time. I

spent more than ten years in that building. The Higher Grade Department (or the

“Science”, as it was called) had only about 200 pupils, was well equipped, and

(I realised afterwards) had an excellent staff, including Mr Farnhill, who taught

Chemistry and Physics, Bessie Wilkinson, daughter of the Headmaster, and Sophia

Royds. Miss Royds was a brilliant teacher of English to whom I owe a great deal.

With the help of Nesfield’s “English Grammar” she made parsing and analysis inter-

esting and exciting, and opened up to us the best of English Lierature. I would

go on a cheap rail trip to Manchester, armed with one of her book lists, and rummage

on the Shudehill stalls for books at threepence or sixpence each.

Classes were so small that the teaching in many subjects was almost tuition, and I

made my first real friends, including especially Austin Colligan. He was a Catholic,

and put an end to the prejudice against Catholics I had caught from others. I

remember also Harold Farnhill, who went with me to college and entertained us there

with his musical gifts, and also three girls – Enid Byron, Agnes Holker, who married

Harry Butterworth, and Jean Walker, with whom I was in love for a long time, though

I am sure she never knew it.

And so my childhood ended.

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