The Nostalgia column with Margaret Watson

Margaret Watson.
Margaret Watson.

LAST week I wrote about how important Whitsuntide was to people living in this area and how the children were always donned up in brand new clothes on that special day.

But it wasn’t only children who got new clothes at Whitsuntide, mum and dad usually got them as well.

WHIT CELEBRATION: Mrs Palin crowns Joan Cockcroft Queen of Granville Street Chapel.

WHIT CELEBRATION: Mrs Palin crowns Joan Cockcroft Queen of Granville Street Chapel.

In my day Whitsuntide was all about new clothes, and people started saving early to buy them.

There were no credit cards in those days, but the Co-op “divi” helped a lot.

Advertisements in old newspapers show clearly just how important this particular bank holiday was for the clothing industry.

Local clothing shops did a roaring trade, especially for the adults, as one gents’ outfitters – Southcotts – clearly showed.

1948 PHOTO: Harry Hirst conducts singing at the Hanging Heaton Ebenezer Methodists Whit Walk

1948 PHOTO: Harry Hirst conducts singing at the Hanging Heaton Ebenezer Methodists Whit Walk

In 1929 their advert urged potential customers to get not only their son’s Whitsuntide clothes from them, but also dad’s.

The advert read:

“Everybody’s talking about new clothes... getting the right styles, the right shade, the right garments, but where should they go to get them?

“Why, of course Southcotts where you can get suits made to your own measurements by skilled tailors, cut from the finest material. Particularly interesting to parents is our Boys’ department – fine value galore – new clothes for Father and Son!”

J&B’s department store in Corporation Street was also urging readers to make tracks for their Whitsuntide clothing now!

The advert read; “Our huge store with its £10,000 worth of new goods is at your service. Look in our 30 windows.

“You can secure anything by paying a deposit. Coats 21/-, 29/11d and 39/6d. Hats 3/9d, 5/11d, 8/11d and 12/11d.”

All the shops were extremely busy in the run-up to Whitsuntide but, unlike today, the shops knew they’d be able to close shop on Whit Sunday and Whit Monday.

We were a more compassionate and less grabbing society in those days and allowed shop assistants the same time off during bank holidays as everyone else.

Not only banks closed on bank holidays but also shops, unlike today, when bank holidays are their busiest times.

Most Sunday schools, as I mentioned last week, had processions over Whitsuntide, and there were also grand open air concerts in the park which attracted thousands.

One such concert held in 1907 was entirely one of sacred music, in keeping with this important religious festival, and was in aid of Dewsbury and District General Infirmary, long before the National Health came into being. There was a full band and chorus of 300, accompanied by the Dewsbury Military and Ravensthorpe bands.

Seats and chairs in the circle were of 2d, and all local instrumentalists were cordially invited to play in the orchestra.

So important was Whitsuntide in those days that special hard-backed books were published annually showing the hymns which churches in the West Riding would be singing on that day.

The copy I have for 1907 lists the hymns each particular church would be singing, and shows photographs of the churches involved.

It is moving to read because most of the churches named are no longer with us.

One of those pictured was Granville Street Methodists Mission which was just around the corner from where I lived on The Flatts in Dewsbury. It was pulled down in the 1950s when the bulldozers moved in to demolish all the houses in the area as part of the council’s slum clearance programme.

This week I am showing a picture of this particular chapel’s Whit Sunday procession, taken just a few years before it was pulled down.

The Sunday School Queen, Joan Cockcroft, is being crowned by Mrs Palin, wife of Mr Will Palin, Dewsbury’s then MP, who is seen standing far left of the picture.

My second picture shows Harry Hirst, conducting the singing at Hanging Heaton Ebenezer Methodists’ Whit Monday Walk in 1948, kindly supplied by Mr Ronnie Ellis.

This particular church is just round the corner from where I now live, and happily it is still with us and thriving.

I wonder if they’ll be having a Whit Walk on Sunday?