MORE MEMORIES OF PONTEFRACT
by MAURICE HAIGH
of the Knottingley and Ferrybridge Digest will recall my stories in the
memories section of my life and times living down Aire Street,
Knottingley, where I was born on the 14th of June 1935. It was there
that I continued to live until 1958.
was on August the 16th of that year that I married a Pontefract girl
named Kathleen Clarkson. We had met only about four months previously in
the Pineapple Pub on Gillygate, Pontefract. This was a very popular
meeting place for young people, it wasn’t very grand and in fact did
not have a lot going for it, other than an upstairs room with a few
seats around the edges with a juke box in one corner and a small bare
wood floor area for ‘bopping’.
favourite numbers from Lonny Donegon, Bill Haley and the Comets and
Little Richard had the little room like a sauna with sweaty young
bodies, but what fun it was; nothing grand just simple enjoyment. We
spent quite a lot of nights there.
Gardners Arms, where a live jazz band would be playing onstage, also
attracted some dancers.
I personally do not have much of a connection with a dancehall cum
coffee bar called the ‘Embassy’ situated down Ropergate, this was an
extremely popular venue. My wife has often spoken to me of the many
happy occasions she has spent there with her friends flirting with the
boys, supping coffee, and dancing. Without question many of the
Pontefract younger generation of the time will remember this hall with
great affection and nostalgic thoughts. I think it would not be out of
place to state that many a courtship started at this meeting place and
continued on into marriage. It would be interesting to read of your own
times spent at the hall.
was very popular in those days to catch the Pontefract bus at the Town
Hall, Knottingley, and have a ‘boozy’ night on a pub-crawl round
town. I myself often went with my friends at this time, Ralph Pogmore,
Kenny Burdin, my brother, Raymond Haigh, Roy Blakeston, and others. Also
at this time you would often find a fair amount of soldiers to mix with in the pubs. These
‘squaddies’ were all based at what was then a very busy Pontefract
Barracks which housed the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, and
many of the civilian pub fraternity will recall many a fight to gain the
affections of the local girls.
the fifties the cinema industry was thriving and Pontefract boasted four
of these, one of the oldest being the Alexandra down Tanshelf, which
started its life as a live theatre. Next door virtually to the ‘Alec’
was the ‘Premier’, a more modern building. In the town itself was
The Crescent, mark 2, the original one having caught fire and being
burned to the ground. It was rebuilt and re-opened about 1946. I
remember this because one of the first films to be shown was ‘Scott of
the Antarctic’, starring John Mills and we were taken from the
Ropewalk School by bus to see the first showing of the film. Another of
the older cinema’s was the ‘Gillygate’ where I recollect my mother
taking me to see ‘Gone With The Wind’ when it was first shown in the
favourite social meeting place was Pontefract Park, a lover’s paradise
for secret trysts. The gardens with their flowerbeds of roses were kept
in immaculate condition and were a pleasure to see. The boating lake was
very popular and in the fifties all the boats were of the rowing kind
with large heavy oars, no life belts, and a bloody big queue always to
wait in if you were intent on impressing your current lady love with
your rowing prowess.
really was a fortunate town with regard to social and economic
opportunities, with a strong and healthy mining industry. The town’s
sweet manufacturing factories employed not only local labour but many
people from Knottingley and the surrounding area’s, and its glut of
varied pubs were a magnet for young courting couples and also hopeful
singles as proved by myself - meeting and marrying my wife of 46 years
and still going.
we first married and spent our early days living down ‘Tansh’ with
my wife’s parents, I always felt it was akin to my time living down
Aire Street in Knottingley, with its village kind of environment and the
feeling of living in close harmony with your neighbours. Apart from
that, taking Pontefract as a whole, I cannot recall in my later years,
moving and living in various locations in and around Pontefract, the
same kind of close knit community which perhaps on reflection is down to
its overall size.
I must point out, are my own personal views as an adopted ‘Pomfret’
son and if any readers find my views incorrect then please take this
opportunity to write in and correct my perhaps flawed perspective.
Further Memories of Maurice Haigh:
Tanshelf: A Bygone