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Tales of My Granddad Alfred Blyton
By Rosalie Walkington
My granddad died a long time before I was born but grandma would tell me stories of him on a night to settle me to sleep. Apparently after a long shift at the mine granddad would like nothing better than to collect his fishing gear together and take himself off for a couple of hours. The usual catch seems to have been eels which he would bring home and fry up in my grandmaís best frying pan, for his supper. Maggots were the instruments used to catch this delicacy and grandad kept them unbeknown to my grandma under the bottom shelf of the back pantry. Unbeknown that is, until she put a pan under the same shelf knocking off the lid of the box they were kept in. Grandad was unable to go fishing for a while, and the incident did not come to light until one morning when on opening the pantry door grandma was greeted by a huge number of buzzing bluebottles, the maggots having pupated and then hatched! After that Grandads fishing equipment were banned from the premises and consigned to his shed at the allotment.
He must have been a keen gardener because his fork and spade passed down to me after my mother died, and although the handles were replaced several times I continued to use them right up to 5 years ago when they just wore out, which is a lot of years. I still havenít been able to find replacements half as good as they were. I believe that he also kept racing pigeons but I am not sure.
Most of my memories are about my motherís sisters and their families. Things that happened when I was a child and my mother took me on visits to see my aunts and uncles at Dalton. My aunt Maggie lived with her husband Jack on Dalton Lane. Jack was a miner and had been all his working life and he paid the penalty along with thousands of others of that occupation, namely miners lung. The sound of him coughing and choking and fighting for breath will remain in my head forever. Even though he must have been in a great deal of pain he still kept his wicked sense of humor and his love of mischief. Although not a direct blood relation only connected through marriage he was a great influence on my life and I must admit to having inherited some of that sense of mischief and an ability to get myself into trouble from an early age.
Aunty Maggies house was at the top of a flight of stone steps, leading from a communal yard .At one end were the row of outdoor loos and in the center were the washing lines. The stone steps were always scrubbed clean with an edging of white, as was the stone windowsill. The outside door opened directly into the living room come scullery which had a big black Yorkshire Range providing both heat and cooking facilities. In the summer it was unbearably hot and we would sit outside on the steps drinking pop made from liquorice sticks and water.
The range always amazed me because no matter when you went it was always shiny black and clean and I could never understand until much older how Aunty Maggie kept it looking so new. My mother told me that Aunty Maggie would get up first thing in a morning and scrub it clean and blacken it, its condition being the focus of her pride when visitors arrived. Going to Aunty Maggie's loo was a source of fear especially in the dark! After negotiating the steps and crossing the yard there was then the wooden seat to cope with and having to feel along the rough stone wall in the blackness for the little neatly cut squares of the green sporting paper hanging on the wall there was no posh loo paper in those days. Also because of the design of the row if somebody further up the line flushed then the whole line benefited (so to speak). My mother said that they were known as tumble toilets. It terrified me because not only did I think that there was a monster up the line and that the noise was it roaring but also that if I slipped I would fall down the loo and be flushed away for ever.
I remember Uncle Jack looking after me one day while my mother went somewhere, being Uncle Jack and wanting to put excitement into my young life he took me coal picking, my mother on returning and finding a dirty coal blackened daughter was mortified! She accused my Uncle Jack of teaching me to steal; I remember raised voices and Uncle Jack shouting that the coal was on the waste heaps and that anyway he didnít see how he could steal from himself. I think that he looked on it as making up his poor wages by salvaging extra coal from the waste heaps. It caused quite a family rift at the time and it was sadly quite a while before we visited again.
I do remember a dolly tub and copper dolly stick as mentioned in "A womans work is never done" and the corrugated rubbing board and the mangle with the wooden rollers. My brother received a well aimed clout round the ear for using the rubbing board as a skiffle board and for allowing me to get my long hair tangled round the rollers of the mangle to such a degree that I had to be cut free and ended up looking more like a boy than my brother did.
By this time we had moved to a village called Harden near Bingley and lived in a semi detached house with its own garden. Dad must have made a good living from piano tuning. Uncle Jack said we were posh folk and I think mum must have been somewhat snobbish because we didnít have much contact with mumís family after that until my grandma came to live with us.
I know very little about my motherís childhood in a mining community but she did tell me a little about after she left school. Her first job was working for a family in a big house Mr. and Mrs. Burden they were called. She was employed at first as a scullery maid and then promoted to looking after the poultry in the yard. She described putting a paste of black paste (Iíve forgotten the name) onto the wing tips of the fowls after the flight feathers had been removed using pliers to keep the birds from straying.
Her next job was then working in Salts Mill in Shipley before going to train as a midwife, she used to boast that she was one of the first trainee nurses to occupy a place in the then new nurses home in Wakefield. I believe that after training she went to work in Liverpool where her patients were amongst some of the very poor in the dockland area. Somewhere down the line she returned to Yorkshire and joined the Plymouth Brethren, where she met and married my father *.
My father was totally blind and had been from the age of 4. My grandma told me a tale of one of the visits of my father to my mothers home. Grandma had a huge ginger cat called Binky, a favorite of another aunt, my Aunty Minnie mums younger sister, and Binky liked nothing better than to curl up in the open oven at the end of the day when the grate was out and the oven cool. On this particular night mum placed dad in a chair in front of the said open oven door in order to get a warm, as dad stretched out his legs he caught the oven door which swung to. Not being able to see he didnít notice the cat still in there and nobody else had noticed that the door was closed. The unhappy animals demise went undiscovered until the following day when my grandmother came to clean the range. It didnít go down well and the situation was worsened by Uncle Jack stating that the problem of what to have for Christmas dinner had been solved.
I think that we are very lucky today with all the modern appliances we have and the relatively easy and convenient ways of doing everyday chores. But then again maybe not life certainly doesnít seem to have the same richness in its memories for my children as it had for me and there is a definite lack of closeness and caring in the community that there used to be.
* Rosalies Father would be remembered by anyone over the age of 50 as the man who used to tune the pianos in the local Schools.
Many thanks to Rosalie for sharing the history of her family.
To Rosalies children , " This page is for you "
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