The Nostalgia column with Margaret Watson

Margaret Watson.
Margaret Watson.

EVERY week I try to think of a topic which might be of interest to readers, and sometimes I worry I might be repeating what I’ve written before.

Frequently I wonder if I’ve have written myself out and maybe it’s time to put down my pen.

THE FLATTS: An old picture of Vulcan Road, Dewsbury. In the distance is the old boilermakers Horsfields. Most of this area was demolished in the late 1950s and early 60s.

THE FLATTS: An old picture of Vulcan Road, Dewsbury. In the distance is the old boilermakers Horsfields. Most of this area was demolished in the late 1950s and early 60s.

But some weeks ago I received a letter from a former Dewsbury man John North who said he looked forward to reading my articles.

Reading his letter and the memories it contained made me realise how important things from the past mean to most people.

It seems that as we grow older, the future doesn’t seem to hold as much promise as it once did because we don’t seem to be part of it anymore.

Whereas the past, with all its rich memories, can give us so much pleasure and is a kind of verification that we were once an important part of a busy, thriving world.

We can take comfort that we once contributed to the world we lived in through our work and family, and, believe me, our lives were much richer than we realised at the time.

This is one of the reasons, I’m sure, why we enjoy recapturing those days halcyon days when we girls had waists measuring 21 inches and the men all had beautiful heads of hair.

When I first started writing this nostalgia column over 30 years ago, I never realised how much pleasure people would get from seeing old photographs, especially those of the village in which they lived.

Looking at these photographs they instantly recognised every street, every shop, every little detail of it, and it is this kind of microscopic inspection today which cannot fail to keep the old brain cells going.

Seeing old pictures of the streets where we once lived, schools we once attended, places where we worked and pubs and cinemas we once visited, often bring a smile or sometimes a tear.

The letter I received recently from John North emphasises to me just how important an old photograph can be.

And this is the reason why I am showing the photograph above again because it was a photographs of Vulcan Road which aroused happy memories for him.

I know there will be many readers from that area who will enjoy seeing this picture again and will probably know John and his family.

It will remind them of happy times living on The Flatts and they will talk among themselves of the years they spent there. It will get those old grey cells working again.

Here is what John wrote:

“I really like your column and thank you for a great variety of happy memories of Dewsbury.

“Photos of Vulcan Road mean a lot to me.

“For about four years, from 1946 to 1952, I lived in ‘Greenfield House’ just past Mann’s shop.

“We had a long garden down to Vulcan Road, and could see straight down George Street.

“Prior to 1948 my granddad and grandma, Christopher and Miriam Cockburn (Coburn) lived there with eight of their children, until they moved to Eightlands Villa just above the Railway Station.

“The site of the villa is now a small children’s play area.

“I like to walk up to the Flatts area about six times a year when visiting relatives, just to stand in the places I knew.

“I was born at my grandma’s house in 1942, and my cradle for a time was a bottom drawer – not unusual at that time.

“Keep up the good work! God bless you.” John North.

John now lives in Wakefield, but he will never forget Dewsbury, and I’m pleased that my articles are helping him keep in touch with his home town.

Old photographs really do have an impact on most people.

They certainly do on me.

Whenever I see an old photograph of Dewsbury market, I think of my mother, and how important market life was to her.

When I was a child, I used to go shopping with her on Saturdays to the market, and she would tell me about the days when it stayed open until midnight and was lit by oil lamps.

Market traders always stayed until they’d sold up – especially those selling fruit, vegetables and meat because there were no fridges in those days.

Poorer families would wait hours until the food was sold off, often at give-away prices, and mother said it was always worth the wait.

Sometimes she would take me to the fish and chip snack bar where we’d share a plate of fish and chips, and I still remember the taste of their delicious wafer thin slices of bread and butter.

Sometimes the treat was a visit to Caddy’s Ice Cream parlour for an ice cream served in a tall glass topped with lemonade.

Mother loved the hustle and bustle and the atmosphere on the market which was electric with all the stall holders competing with each other and shouting out what bargains they had on offer.

I’m sure many Dewsbury people reading this will remember many of those stall holders, and perhaps one day I might write more about them.

Reading John’s letter has persuaded me to keep writing this column, even if I do keep repeating myself, because where else will local people see photographs like the one above?

Not every photograph will be of interest to everyone, but one week there will be one which certainly will.

This is why I urge readers to help me keep this column going by sending me their photographs and their memories to include here week by week.

Please contact me by emailing with your excellent photos and memories.