The Nostalgia column with Margaret Watson
WITH Christmas almost upon us I am sure readers will be expecting my column to be about Christmas past, and so I will not disappoint them.
However, it is not about my own Christmas past, but that of former Hanging Heaton milkman, Ronnie Ellis, whose family had a dairy business in Commonside.
This week he recalls the Christmas of his childhood, which was always a time for the family to come together – grandparents from both sides, aunts, uncles and cousins.
Sometimes there were as many as 16 round the table, and after “eating and busting”, they would gather round the piano to sing carols.
The picture on this page was taken in 1936, and shows pupils from Mill Lane Junior School, which Ronnie attended as a boy, but for some reason he isn’t on it.
I chose it because I knew it would remind readers of the children we grew up with, many of them sadly no longer with us, but still remembered in our hearts.
These children didn’t have television, computer games or mobile phones to entertain them, yet they grew up to become the backbone of society. Bless ’em.
Here is what Ronnie writes about his Christmas past – you will love it:
“Christmas for me as a young lad was a most enjoyable time, even though most of our family were in the dairy business and had to work on the big day.
“Usually we delivered the milk twice a day fresh from Elliot’s farm in Shaw Cross, but delivering only once on Christmas morning was a holiday to us.
“Customers used to order fresh chickens from us, young cockerels which we’d reared and fattened up during the previous six months.
“These had to be killed, plucked, drawn, weighed and priced for delivery on Christmas Eve.
“We also separated milk from cream, with cream for customers and the separated milk for Granddad Ellis’s pigs.
“We also made butter, which Grandma Bramley was pretty good at doing.
“After an early rise on Christmas morning we would open our presents, usually one major one, plus a selection box, orange, apple and new pennies.
“We then fed, watered and harnessed our horse Tommy ready to collect the morning’s milk from the farm.
“Dad and Grandad Bramley tried to get the milk delivered as quickly as possible, which often proved difficult, with customers insisting on them having a Christmas drink.
“After accepting a few mixed drinks they would arrive home for Christmas dinner a little the worse for wear.
“Christmas dinner was always at the farmhouse of Granddad Bramley and Boxing Day at Grandma Ellis’s.
“Grandma Bramley and my mother, assisted by my younger sister, had been preparing the meal while we were out.
“Seasoned Yorkshire puddings with gravy, goose, mashed potatoes and roasted potatoes, vegetables, stuffing, apple sauce, followed by home-made Christmas pudding with rum sauce, with hidden three-penny pieces in the pudding. What a feast!
“Grandad used to say “Them that eats most meat gets most pudding”.
Of course, after eating an abundance of meat, we kids then had a struggle to get the pudding down.
“After dinner and the washing up, the men folk had a nap before bedding the horse down and feeding the poultry.
“Around five o’clock Grandma’s sisters and brothers would arrive ready for tea at about six thirty.
“They all had a sherry or a beer, or in the case of the staunch Methodists, a lemonade.
“Sometimes there would be sixteen of us round the table for tea, which was stand-pie, home boiled ham and pressed ox tongue, plum sauce, pickles and home-baked bread.
“This was followed by trifle, cakes, buns, Christmas cake and cheese, and then Grandma, who was quite a good pianist, would accompany the gathering to a rendering of carols, Christmas music and a final “Hail Smiling Morn” to finish off.
“Supper for those who could manage it, consisted of mince pies, tea, Christmas cake and cheese.
“On Boxing Day, work was resumed as normal delivering milk, but we had dinner at Grandma Ellis’s, which was just as good a table as at Grandma Bramley’s the day before, with perhaps chicken replacing the goose.
“We played party games, which in those days, were Pass the Parcel, Hunt the Thimble and Sticking a tail on the Donkey.
“After two full days of “eating and busting” we were able to turn our attention to our chocolate selection boxes and play with our toys.
“And, of course, reckon up how much money we’d accumulated over the two-day holiday, three penny bits from the Christmas pudding, pennies from our great aunts, and the odd copper or two from satisfied customers.
All this had to mean a trip to Worfolk’s Toy Shop in Dewsbury to see what we could buy. Happy days!”