My Yorkshire childhood - Bill Horner
PUBLISHED: 21:45 26 October 2012 | UPDATED: 22:13 20 February 2013
Bill Horner, a project planner who also helps inventors win government money to develop their ideas, talks about his childhood in and around Gargrave on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales
It was some time before I could be persuaded that the coronation mug presented to me during my first year at Gargrave Infants School wasnt a trophy Id won.
Exactly what Id won it for remained a bit of a mystery, even to me. It could have been for Best Sleeper. In those days, the reception class had to have an afternoon nap after lunch just so they could stay awake til the 4pm home-time bell. My camp bed was the one with the elephant badge.
Or, maybe, my trophy was for eating the most puddings. Teachers didnt allow you to have pudding if you didnt eat all your school dinner, even cabbage. So, I always went to school in wellies. There was a pig bucket outside the school kitchen door.
My wellies had enough space for all the vegetables I didnt like. That was all of them, except peas.
And so, being one of the few to qualify for pudding each day, and stuffed with jam roly-poly, spotted dick or bloody canonballs (big sago milk pudding with raspberry jam), Id squelch out to the pig bucket and empty my wellies.
Home was the Anchor Inn, half a mile out of the village on the main road to Kendal and the Lakes. It wasnt just a pub but a 350-acre mixed farm. The building wasnt as big as it is now and it was covered in 100 years-worth of white-wash coats. Nearly all the front was shippons, byres, hay-barns and kennels. There was a passageway into the bar with two small snugs for dominoes and darts on either side. At the back was the dairy, another shippon, the main bar and toilets and our living quarters.
Gargrave Hockey Club had its pitch on the closest meadow and the shippon doubled as the changing room. The pride of the farm was our herd of Ayrshire and dairy shorthorn cattle, but we also had sheep, pigs, hens, ducks, ferrets and white tumbler doves. With the help of nets, the ferrets caught rabbits for the pot. The tumbler doves acrobatics encouraged passing traffic to stop and watch them over a pint and a sandwich.
The A65 formed the northeast boundary of the Anchors triangle of land. The other two borders were the Leeds-Liverpool Canal from Anchor Lock to the aqueduct and the River Aire from the aqueduct almost to Coniston Cold.
I can remember neither a time when I wasnt allowed to go anywhere on the farm land by myself nor ever being taken or met from school by an adult.
An extra hazard and, therefore, child-magnet was the London Midland Scottish railway line, just before it blossomed into the Settle-Carlisle line, which crossed our land. From a farm track bridge over the line, we loved to watch the steam trains like the Thames-Clyde thundering along the cutting, momentarily blinding us with the smoky steam billowing from their funnels. In a dry summer, it was not unusual for hot coals from the engine firebox to start a grass fire on the cutting embankment.
In the 1950s, the Leeds-Liverpool Canal was still a working canal and the bargees, stopping off at our pub for a pint, could occasionally be persuaded to let us ride with them, up through two locks to the aqueduct. Wed trudge back along the towpath covered in barge coal dust.
At Scarland Lock, there used to be a house where an old couple lived. The old lady there would always have some sweets for us, no matter how grimy we were. We called her the sweetie lady; it was a hard choice from coconut mushrooms, French bon-bons or sarsaparilla tablets. My favourites were sarsaparilla tablets.
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