Nostalgic look back as new year arrives

HOW TIMES CHANGE!: The arrival of trams to the area brought greater freedom of travel for many people, especially those from outlying villages. This photograph, kindly loaned by Andrew Hutchinson, shows a tram travelling along Bradford Road towards Northgate from the direction of Batley. On the left is where the old Gas Showrooms used to be and on the right, where the horse and cart is standing, is the Railway Hotel. The shops on the right were pulled down and replaced by new ones. (d231211100)

HOW TIMES CHANGE!: The arrival of trams to the area brought greater freedom of travel for many people, especially those from outlying villages. This photograph, kindly loaned by Andrew Hutchinson, shows a tram travelling along Bradford Road towards Northgate from the direction of Batley. On the left is where the old Gas Showrooms used to be and on the right, where the horse and cart is standing, is the Railway Hotel. The shops on the right were pulled down and replaced by new ones. (d231211100)

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THE Christmas celebrations are over and the new year is upon us so I suppose we should be looking forward rather than backwards.

But I like to look back and reminisce about how things used to be.

Sometimes when I think of all the changes which have taken place I wonder what our ancestors would think if they could come back and see us now.

No doubt they would look in amazement at the many scientific advances which have been made, but I think they would also be puzzled by some of the strange sights.

What would they think for instance of the people they would see walking down the street talking to themselves and holding strange contraptions to their ear.

Mobile phones, however, wouldn’t be the only thing to surprise and shock them, what about the cars whizzing past them and the aeroplanes flying above.

I love to ask old people what were the greatest changes they have seen in their lifetime.

One old lady from Briestfield told me water running from a tap into her kitchen sink was the most remarkable thing she’d ever seen.

Before then she had carried water from a well and had to make the journey three or four times a day.

Another ‘miracle’ which lightened her life in more ways than one was the arrival of piped gas to the village and she was able to dispense with candles and oil lamps for reading.

Members of the village chapel were also able to start arranging evening meetings on whatever day they wished. Prior to that they had to arrange them in winter to coincide with a full moon so they could find their way home.

How times change.

THE greatest achievement my mother saw in her lifetime was the arrival of trams to the village of Horbury where she lived.

Before that she seldom left the village except to walk to Ossett but the trams enabled her to travel further afield to places like Dewsbury where she eventually met my dad.

For me, as a young girl, it was the arrival of electricity to replace gas in our house which made the greatest impact on my life.

Overnight, or should I say at the click of a switch, my fear of going down into the dark, dingy cellar to fetch up coal was banished forever.

However, our new-found supply of electricity didn’t come with an instruction manual and regular electric shocks became the order of the day.

Unfortunately nobody told us we shouldn’t touch fuse boxes and electric switches with wet hands, and we had to learn the hard way.

But the advantages of electricity far outweighed the disadvantages and we soon had a new electric washer to take the drudgery out of wash day.

This meant hours of extra leisure for everyone because we could get rid of the tub and posser and rubbing board.

I suppose if I ask my grandchildren what has been the greatest change they have seen in their short lives it would revolve around something digital, something to do with computers, mobile phones and Facebook.

How times change!

IN 2012 we will be celebrating two epic events, the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the Olympic Games.

Our ancestors would be surprised at how much money we are spending on the Olympic Games and how little on the Royal event.

In our grandparents’ time the situation would have been reversed and more money would have been spent on the Royal celebrations than the sporting event, no matter how important.

Royal events always took precedence over everything and when Queen Victoria celebrated her Diamond Jubilee every town in Britain made preparations for it years in advance.

The old Dewsbury borough council built two new schools to mark this historic event and the whole of the town was decorated with flags and bunting.

Every school had a party and every child was presented with a gift from the corporation, usually a china beaker.

Workers were given a day off, there were parades through the town, proclamations from the town hall steps, concerts were held in the park and the celebrations lasted all week.

I don’t know what plans are afoot in Dewsbury for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, but I doubt if our schoolchildren will be getting china beakers.

If they do they’ll be paying for them themselves, I’m sure.

How times change.

WHAT would our ancestors think about the modern Olympic Games I wonder? No doubt they would be impressed.

But I think the greatest surprise would be seeing so many athletes taking part from working class families.

That would never have happened in grandad’s day because working people couldn’t have afforded to take time off work.

Organised sport of any kind, both local and national, was generally out of the reach of ordinary people.

Even in this area, sport was generally earmarked for what was then regarded as the “gentlemen” classes.

In 1867, a row broke out in Dewsbury over a working man wanting to take part in a regatta and sporting festival normally reserved for gentlemen.

It was reported that several first-class scullers had already arrived to take part in the event, and athletic sports were also to be played afterwards on land near the finishing post.

The manager of the event, however, received a complaint that one of the competitors, Mr W H Heys, should not be allowed to take part, the reason being that he was not a gentleman but an artisan.

Mr Heys, it seems, had appeared the previous week at a similar sporting event and had entered as an amateur and volunteer.

The Reporter said this was not right and commented: “We think the manager is ill advised. Mr Heys has been recognised as a ‘gentleman amateur’ for some years past at athletic festivals. We are inclined to believe he deserves the name of a gentleman just as much as any of the clerks or shopmen already accepted.”

How times change!

May I take this opportunity of wishing all our readers a happy new year.