West Yorkshire market town of Pontefract
 
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Pontefract Letters Page

THE BARNBOW LASSES

ADDED 6 FEBRUARY 2007

I was interested to read the article in the February 2007 issue of the Pontefract Digest magazine by Eric Jackson entitled the ‘Barnbow Lasses’, about the girls who were killed in the munitions blast in 1916.  My grandmother, Lizzie Hoare, was a friend of one of them, Jane Few. She left a lot of children. The victims who came from Pontefract are remembered on the war memorial in the grounds of All Saint’s Church, Pontefract.

Also mentioned on the memorial is William Henry Garforth, my grandmother’s first husband who was killed during the First World War. His name doesn’t appear in alphabetical order on the memorial, but at the end. The reason for this is that although his wife and six children were resident at ‘Old Church’ (Old Church being the parish of All Saint’s), the local authorities ruled that he wasn’t, as he was away at war. So much for being rewarded for fighting for your country!

His name was eventually added when a neighbour petitioned the War Office on behalf of my granny. The neighbour was an educated coloured man who found lodgings in Old Church, being turned away in town. My mother said he helped the poor people a lot when official things were needed, to repay them for taking him in. My grandmother always described him as a ‘Gentleman’.  He met with a lot of racism amongst the better off people within the town despite being as well educated as them; probably because of it.

When I was younger and my mother used to tell me all her (and my grandmother’s) memories from the war years, and about their lives in general, I used to get fed up with listening about them but she always told me these memories would ‘come in one’ day. Now that I am older and have become interested in local history and my own family history, they really have started to come in.  I am also interested in other people’s family histories and I hope mine will in turn interest others.

Also, during the Second World War, when Pontefract was bombed, my mother and Auntie, Catherine - Joan and Mary Hoare, were machine gunned by a German bomber while they were running up Baghill during the air raid. My mother said he was so low that they could see his face and it was only the air raid warden shouting at them to get down that saved them.

I think in modern times our little town seems so ordinary and boring but when you talk to people you realise how interesting and important our history really is.

Maureen Byram


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