MONKHILL STATION REMEMBERED
ADDED 24 APRIL 2006
read the April 2006 edition of The Digest, which brought back many
memories of over fifty years ago, I would like to make a few
knew the drivers in Mrs Briggs’ photograph; they are Arthur Atkinson,
Arthur Briggs, Albert Fox, Reg and Fred. They are the people wearing
British Railway hats. I worked with them during the early 1950’s when
I was a clerk in the goods section of Monkhill Station.
was indeed a jolly chap. He was very discerning as well. He looked after
Muscroft’s very diligently and guarded that part of his run as his
special port of call. He often came back from Muscrofts even more
jollier than he set out. I think maybe a payment in kind might have been
worked in a converted railway carriage near the warehouse. The latter
was managed by George Wright who was the foreman. He was also the Mayor
of Pontefract if my memory serves me right. He had two able deputies in
Harry Baxter and a man called Joe whose second name escapes me. We used
to book the Scammel’s out when loaded up. The ‘cob’ Mrs Briggs
refers to was a three-wheeled goods vehicle called a Scammel, which
indeed could turn on a sixpence. My immediate boss was called John Carr.
once came into the office and announced he had just accomplished one
hundred shaves with one Gillette razor blade and was about to inform
Gillette and claim a record. We were mostly unbelieving and even more so
when he announced some days later that the razor had broken in two due
to usage, but that he had carried on using half a blade to extend his
‘record’. He was indeed a character!
was the passenger goods deliveryman so we didn’t see much of him. I do
remember an interesting incident, which occurred when I was transferred
to Tanshelf after my National Service. He called on me one day and
enquired which union I belonged to. I answered the TSSA (Transport and
Salaried Staff Association). He laughed and said I could do much better
in the NUR. Convinced, I duly switched. No immediate rises were
forthcoming, but within a week of joining I was informed by Fred that I
was on strike. Having just arrived at Tanshelf and being on my own apart
from two porters, I refused to go on strike (I was aged twenty, just out
of the army and full of myself). Fred told me I would be sent to ‘Coventry’.
"That’s OK" I replied, "I’m here on my own
a note here about Tanshelf. I worked there from 1954 to 1956. If it is
the Peter Cookson I think it is, then we were at King’s together. I
left in 1950 and was in 5A; I believe Peter was in 5R. Peter’s
knowledge is very impressive and my memory is dimming, but the siding
shown on his photograph on page 14 is where wagons were shunted for me
to do the coal shipping. This meant going round the coal wagons and
taking invoices from the Prince of Wales to attach to the wagon sides
(they were held by very strong spring clips). I then had to make
individual invoices out for each of the wagon’s destinations.
along the other side of the siding, under the shadow almost of the
Queens Hotel, was a coal company called Hobman’s. It was supervised by
one Betty Hobman, a relation of Peter Hobman who we went to school with
(slightly older than us). If their wagons were in too long I had to
charge them demurrage. This was a fee we charged for not emptying the
wagons quickly enough.
to my ‘goods days’. There was a job called ‘The Townsman’ that
nobody wanted as it meant calling on customers to discuss recompense for
damage done by our deliveries (by the aforementioned Scammel’s). The
damage was mostly effected in transit, as items were ‘transferred’
from wagon to wagon. Sometimes they were damaged in our warehouse.
Funnily enough the goods damaged in our warehouse had a curious habit of
turning out to be whisky! Even funnier was that a jug was always handy
when it happened. Even more curious was the fact that these particular
cartons were always damaged on one corner. Life is strange isn’t it?
One of my colleagues was a school leaver called Roy Creamer. Roy’s
particular claim to fame was that in the King’s sports swimming gala,
he was able to swim under water for four lengths. However, when it came
to being ‘The Townsman’ he didn’t want to know, so John Carr gave
me the job. I was seventeen and naïve. The instructions were simple:
the goods were properly packed to the required standard I had to see the
invoice and make a note of the price, arrange collection of the damaged
goods by our goods drivers and arrange payment through Mr. Carr.
the goods were not properly packed then the customer was to be informed
that they were carried at the owner’s risk and no payment would be
sounds simple enough in theory but very different in practice. The job
had its compensations. Visits were made to Woolworth’s, where under
the offices of ‘Lol’ I always got a cup of tea, and a few allsort’s
were always available. A nice chat and no aggro. Then there was Vaux
Bros, they were always chatty and friendly even though they had quite a
number of claims. The dreaded visits were to private customers,
especially in Tanshelf, and worst of all a visit to see Eric England of
England Ironmongers and China sellers. This was magnificent store that
sold practically everything – a veritable Aladdin’s cave. There was
something of everything to break, and we often did. Eric to my
recollection was a tall, very fierce man with what appeared, to a young
seventeen-year-old, to be a glass eye, which had an unswerving gaze –
right down to your innards.
this particular day, Mr. Carr said "Go and see Eric England, I am
sure he is claiming for a china teapot that we have paid out for
already. See the invoice and bring the teapot back with you. If he won’t
let you have it, take this hammer and smash it".
duly took the hammer and crept up to town. There was no Woolworth’s to
lighten the journey and I had a hammer in my pocket, which grew heavier
with each stride. To add to my misery it was raining. I arrived in town
and went to England’s, praying he would be out – but there he was.
When he saw me he immediately fixed me with his eye and muttered
something like "****** railways". I approached him. "It’s
about your claim for a broken china teapot" I stuttered.
he said, his demeanour slightly mollified. "Have you come to pay
I said, repeating like a parrot "I’ve come to see the invoice and
take the teapot back with me, and if you won’t give it to me, I have
to hit it with this hammer."
deathly silence ensued. I stood there trembling and waited for him to
throw me downstairs.
it", he said, "but if I am not paid early then there will be
trouble and it will be me that has the hammer next time".
up the teapot I scuttled downstairs and sped off to the office. Returned
goods were stored before being sent to York for auction. John Carr took
one look at the teapot and said "Thank goodness you didn’t smash
it, it only has a little chip out of the spout, it’ll be ideal for my
tea". And so the celebrated teapot became Mr. Carr’s personal
brew up companion. I can see him now drinking his tea, china chipped
teapot in front of him, hot pot-bellied stove next to him, surrounded by
the excellence of the décor of a converted railway passenger carriage.
Mr. J.C. Smith.
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