TANSHELF AND ITS PEOPLE
by KATHLEEN HAIGH
was born down ‘Tansh’ on the 20th of November 1939, the second
daughter of Simon and Emmie Clarkson who lived on Princess Street. My
Mother’s family at this time, consisted of my eldest sister Doreen and
elder brother Ernest. I was number three to join the family, later to be
followed by two other brothers, Ronald and Joseph.
years of living within the Tanshelf community brought me a great deal of
joy and happiness sharing the good times and the bad with our fellow
neighbours and school friends.
the first few years of my life I did not see my father Simon, for he was
away serving with the Yorkshire and Lancashire Regiment as an
anti-aircraft gunner. He was based on board a Naval ship in one of
Orkney Islands harbours, so in effect, like so many wartime mothers, my
mother was fully occupied raising her four children.
of my most earliest memories was during air raid alerts when soldiers
who were stationed at the local Tanshelf Drill Hall would come through
the bridges and offer assistance to many of the Tanshelf families to go
and occupy the local air raid shelters. The mothers would always offer
their appreciation for their help.
early memory to spring to mind was seeing the Italian POW’s working to
repair the railway lines running past Tanshelf station. The prisoners
would call out to us, "Hi Bambino’s" but we were in fear of
them as our mothers had told us we must not speak to them. One of the
main thoughts to pre-occupy our young minds was the shortage of food
supplies - in our case, fruit and sweets. It was a rare sight indeed for
us to spot any fruit or sweets in the shops and so just like everybody
else in wartime Britain we had to survive on our ration book allowances.
the early years after the war and with rationing still in force, one of
the pleasures we enjoyed was when our mothers would pack us condensed
milk sandwiches and bottles of water and send us to play in Pontefract
Park. The children’s paddling pool, now no longer there, was fenced
off as it was full of broken glass and bricks, so we only had the
sand-pit to play in, but like all children we had a hidden side to our
visits. We would sometimes sneak out of the house with our costumes and
swim at the far side of the Lake along with my elder brother Ernest and
other Tanshelf kids for company; that is until we were chased off!
the bottom end of the park a local farming family, the Townsend’s,
grazed their dairy herd and we as small children thought that there were
also bulls in the herd, though of course there were not. However, in
order to get to ‘Monkey Island’ to pick blackberries we had to pass
through the herd of cows. A lad called Derek Lambert, who was four or
five years older than us, had a butcher’s type of bike with a basket
at the front and he would put us in it and take us across. To us he was
a hero. In later life he was to become the Mayor of Castleford.
back, summers were lovely and sunny, winters were freezing cold, maybe
because we only had a single source of heat, the living room fire. There
were small fireplaces in the front bedrooms of all the houses but times
were hard and if your son or husband did not work down the mines, you
had to rely on Joe Broadhead the local coalman to drop you one or two
bags of fuel. Many of the young mums who found themselves in this
position would take an old pram or pushchair to the nearby coal stacks
and sort out the coal from the ‘Dross’. I remember going once with
my mother when I was only about four years old, and you had to keep an
eye out for the pit ‘bobby’ who would chase you and try to take your
pickings off you. I recall it was cold and snowing the day I was taken,
which was a great adventure to me at that age. I sat on the two sacks of
coal like Boddicea. This opportunity to collect coal from the stacks was
a very important task, as none of the houses were equipped with cookers.
Some families might have been lucky and owned a gas ring, but most of
the folk living down Tanshelf depended on the good old coal fire to heat
the oven and boil the pans etc. Our mothers were brilliant cooks; they
had to be with the shortage of appliances. One of our luxuries was
porridge oats made with water and milk, with the added attraction of a
spoonful of treacle to stir in; what bliss!
1944/45 I started at my first school which was the Tanshelf Junior and
Infants School. The headmaster was Mr. Joe Lee and one day he was
conducting the choir whilst standing on a desk and he got so carried
away with his conducting that he fell off, though nobody was brave
enough to laugh at his plight! During the winter months my father would
come down to the school at playtime bringing with him some buns and a
flask of hot tea for my brother Ernest and me.
favourite teacher when I stared school was Miss Kathleen Atkinson and my
most special time at the school was during December when each classroom
would make paper chain decorations in order to decorate the room. These
were nine-inch strips of paper about two inches wide in different
coloured pastel shades, and we would take these strips and paste the
ends of them together to make long daisy chains which we would hang in
the classrooms. Every year at this time the school would have a jumble
sale, which was organised by the staff to raise funds in order for the
school to provide a Christmas party. After the party we would all
assemble in the main hall to have a concert. Staff and pupils alike who
had a talent to sing or recite nursery rhyme poetry did so and sometimes
we would join in with the singing of children’s songs and seasonal
carols and hymns.
at home we followed the seasons around. At Easter time we played whip
and top, marbles and buttons in the street. They were simple pleasures
for a child of those times but unfortunately unseen in today’s
technological age of computer games and such like.
Sundays, our parents would join in the games, skipping in and out of a
large skipping rope strung across the street, also rounders, which they
played with us, and at other times in competition with the men folk. At
various times throughout the year a second-hand clothing lady would
visit Tanshelf travelling in a lorry from which she would take a large
tarpaulin and display all the clothes for the mothers to rummage
through. Times were still hard, and clothing remained subject to
clothing coupons, so they were a godsend to our mothers. Often the lady
would shout, "where is Kathleen, come here my little darling,"
and on one occasion, said, "I’ve got a hat for you" and she
produced a Victorian straw hat, which you tied underneath your chin. You
can imagine a child’s joy upon receiving a gift such as that.
the woman had gathered her clothes together and left the street, we
would be dressed and swaggering about in our latest ‘new clothes’
showing them off to all and sundry. As we grew a little older, one of
our pastimes at the weekend was standing at the top of Princess Street
to watch all the young couples and young lads coming home from the towns
pubs. They were always laughing and sometimes having a skirmish or two
as they walked down Stuart Road.
one of the neighbours had a fall out with another neighbour, it would
attract an audience from the surrounding streets to egg them on. It was
common to hear some old women say, "Hold mi teeth" or
"Hold mi glasses", and they would slog it out in the street.
local coalman was called Wilf Lindsey and he had an allotment on which
he kept a few chickens and pigeons. A lot of the Tanshelf men would
collect there to indulge in a good old natter. Wilf was often known to
give away his pigeons and quite a few found their way to my Dad. He
would bring them home and they were cooked in the oven and all the
family would enjoy eating them, especially the gravy, which you could
dip up with slices of bread.
my early adolescent years I became a constant worry to my mother as I
was becoming a bit of a tomboy, and often suffered cuts, bruises and
broken bones. One of the most serious accidents to befall me was the
time that I fell about a 30 feet drop from the railway bridge and badly
injured myself all down the left side of my body. My mother took me to
the Infirmary and when Joe Blackburn the radiographer lifted the blanket
and spotted me, he said, "Welcome home Kathleen." Unknown to
me at that time was how that particular accident was going to leave a
lasting impression, which would be with me up to the present day
reaching the age of eleven my friends and myself were transferred to the
Northgate Church of England School, which is now the Mamma Mia
Restaurant. We felt so grown up when we discovered that we had to move
about the school from classroom to classroom to be taught the different
lessons as at our previous school we had remained mainly in the one room
for all our lessons. Across the road from the school was the Northgate
Junior School, now Inglebrook School, and once in the week we were
marched there to have our cookery lesson. The teacher was called Miss
Clayton, but we knew her better as ‘Fanny Clayton’. Some lunchtimes
if we had a few coppers to spend we would go to Bullocks corner shop and
buy sherbet dabs and liquorice laces. This popular corner shop was
managed by Florence Bullock assisted by her aged Mother. A little
further up the road from Bullocks was a tiny bakery shop owned by the
Horner family and if you were lucky you could buy a halfpenny cob there.
At other times during lunch break we would go into the town in the
company of some of the boys from Northgate Senior’s School, where
Morrison’s Supermarket now stands.
we had reached the age of thirteen we were considered old enough to
attend the Old Church dances held in the Church Hall. To us it was the
highlight of the week and much looked forward to because it was where we
learned a variety of dances, which paved the way some two years later to
be allowed (as working girls of 15) to attend the dances held at the
Embassy Dance Hall located in Ropergate. Eureka! – It felt as if the
world was our oyster.
went to the dances four or five times in the week usually in the company
of some of my friends, to name but a few, Joyce Healey, Madge Ward,
Brian Lill, Terry Long and Harry Wilson. The Embassy was owned and
managed by Mr. and Mrs. Senior ably assisted by their daughter Doreen,
who still teaches dance to this very day. They also had a son called
Barry who was a decent sort of a lad. Quite often many of the soldiers
who were stationed at the local Barracks would come to the dances at the
weekends; being starved of female company they would try to ‘get off’
with the girls.
the hall two old ladies had a pottery shop and they could often be heard
complaining that the dancing was making their plates fall to the floor.
the interval at the Embassy we would dash off to the Pineapple pub in
Gillygate to have a quick drink and a dance before returning to the
Hall. I met my husband in the Pineapple some 47 years ago and we are
still going strong.
who were at the Embassy dances would never ask you to dance with them,
they just nodded their heads towards the dance floor as if to say
"Come on, Gerrup!"
lads and lasses who frequented the dances came from, Featherstone,
Knottingley, Castleford and Airedale. It was the best meeting place
around for meeting boys. One of the boys called Barry Bevitt, who
incidentally met his wife Janet at the Embassy, was often entrusted to
operate the turntable when the Senior’s were having a break. I hold
dear, many fond memories of nights spent at the Embassy Dance Hall, as
will many of the readers of the Pontefract Digest I am sure. The closing
times of the Hall were the same as the public houses.
nights when we were on our way home we would hear a wailing and a
weedling and recognise the voice of Seneca Bond crying after his long
departed dear mother and clinging to the cemetery railings. "The
gates are locked mammy and they won’t let me in." At other times
he would be having a fight with his brother Luke. Tilly Holland another
Tanshelf women whose photograph appeared in the August Digest, was
generally known by the Tanshelf people as being their own midwife,
because she was the first one to be called. Tilly was a women who spoke
her mind and would not retreat from trouble, but was well respected by
all, and it would be fair to say that if you had a conversation with
Tilly, it would certainly be a laugh a minute conversation.
Prust family of Tanshelf had a wooden box fixed to some old pram wheels
and they would frequently be seen with it every Saturday about 4.30pm
going to the market place and collecting all the discarded fruit and veg
which they would return home with. You could visit their house and
purchase it for a few coppers. Old man Prust was called ‘Droplip’
because he was never seen without a pipe in his mouth. Mr. Prust’s son
was called Billy, but everyone knew him as ‘Bronco’.
Tanshelf family was old Mr. Plimley and his son Albert. He would be
seated on a wooden stool at his doorway most days of the week, and you
would hear him shout, "Albert, get that pot out", and he would
come to the door with his pot of strong tea.
was a common sight for the Tanshelf men to congregate outside Blood
Smith’s betting shop to have a gamble on the toss of a coin game. One
of the lads would toss two pennies into the air and bets would be laid
on the outcome of the coins landing on the floor heads or tails up.
Gambling at this time was an illegal practice and it was quite a
frequent occurrence for the police to raid the gambling school. They
would appear from their hiding place over the railway embankment and in
support of them would be the ‘Black Maria’ speeding down Colonel’s
Walk and coming onto Stuart Road. The kids would be shouting "it’s
a raid," and the men would scatter in all directions. It was not
unheard of for them to run through your house to escape the clutches of
the police. Sometimes one brave lad would shout "it’s a
raid" for a bit of fun, but it was not well received by the
gamblers who were not in the mood to join in, and he would have to make
a quick getaway.
of the many side streets of Tanshelf was Coburg Street, and on one side
of it lived Max Roberts, who would sit on his doorstep and play the
Ukulele, quite brilliantly. On the opposite side, on Nutt Street, Mr.
Tamms would play his accordion. Mr. Barker who lived on Stuart Road was
a self-taught pianist and was an accomplished player of all kinds of
music; behind his back he was known as ‘Piano Joe’.
I started work at Hillaby’s sweet factory it didn’t seem too
daunting as most of the women and girls were ‘Tanshies’. Alice
Beaumont was the forewomen and Kate Parkin was her right-hand women.
Kate took a shine to me and we would often work together while she sang
all the old music hall songs. Eddie Armitage used to come upstairs from
the ‘cream room’ where he would ask the works forewoman for a couple
of girls to help out. I was always selected because he said I was a good
little worker. Everyone who worked at Hillaby’s will remember Kate and
Eddie, and Paddy Donnelly, the Irishman, who used to amuse us telling
Kathleen Haigh (nee Clarkson)