Gleaning Teeming Brains 10

The Rubic Cube like pub that Neil used to drink in

The Rubic Cube like pub that Neil used to drink in

Rowland sat in a club after a few beers

Rowland sat in a club after a few beers

Che Guevara Guerella warfare

I shared an upstairs flat in this sad, neglected building with Neil in 1975- 76. It was a few houses down from Peter Sutcliffe (AKA the Yorkshire Ripper) but we did not know that at the time. Its best feature of the house was the full double size wall painting of Marilyn Monroe laying horizontal in the front room. This had been painted in the best brassy style by my brother but he had not taken into account the effects of creeping subsidence. As the year went on Marilyn began to snap in two and by December she had lost part of her stomach. Four decades later the house is still being let out. This advert on Right-Move is for the downstairs flat-  “Keymove Lettings are pleased to offer this Large 2 bedroom ground floor flat, benefiting from Gas Central Heating. The property compromises of Large hallway with storage cupboard, lounge with feature fireplace, separate W/C 2 double size bedrooms, bathroom with shower & Kitchen with appliances. This modern spacious property is not expected to be for let long so Keymove would recommend an early viewing. DSS Considered with Guarantor”. If the current tenant of the upstairs flats happens upon this, please take a scraper and dig for Marilyn. The John Lennon song which got most play, along with Imagine on my Dansette record player that year.. 'Give me some truth' John Lennon's

I shared an upstairs flat in this sad, neglected building with Neil in 1975- 76. It was a few houses down from Peter Sutcliffe (AKA the Yorkshire Ripper) but we did not know that at the time. Its best feature of the house was the full double size wall painting of Marilyn Monroe laying horizontal in the front room. This had been painted in the best brassy style by my brother but he had not taken into account the effects of creeping subsidence. As the year went on Marilyn began to snap in two and by December she had lost part of her stomach. Four decades later the house is still being let out. This advert on Right-Move is for the downstairs flat-
“Keymove Lettings are pleased to offer this Large 2 bedroom ground floor flat, benefiting from Gas Central Heating. The property compromises of Large hallway with storage cupboard, lounge with feature fireplace, separate W/C 2 double size bedrooms, bathroom with shower & Kitchen with appliances. This modern spacious property is not expected to be for let long so Keymove would recommend an early viewing. DSS Considered with Guarantor”.
If the current tenant of the upstairs flats happens upon this, please take a scraper and dig for Marilyn.
The John Lennon song which got most play, along with Imagine on my Dansette record player that year..
‘Give me some truth’
John Lennon’s

Neil worked at this mine during the 1980's

Neil worked at this mine during the 1980’s

One of the two pictures from his art college days that I have of Neil's

One of the two pictures from his art college days that I have of Neil’s

The fire at Banksfield mill in about 1976.

The fire at Banksfield mill in about 1976.

The House of possible Dysentery. Lynn and I lived just beyond the traffic lights on the right

The House of possible Dysentery. Lynn and I lived just beyond the traffic lights on the right

Hippy Ian and friend

A 'Subnormality Hospital where I was a student nurse between 1976- 1979

A ‘Subnormality Hospital where I was a student nurse between 1976- 1979

Ian and Pats wedding. Rowland and Kathleen at left and Neil plus me on the back row

Ian and Pats wedding. Rowland and Kathleen at left and Neil plus me on the back row

Ian and Neil at left plus friends at Bridlington

Ian and Neil at left plus friends at Bridlington

>Rowland Kitchen


We left Rowland at the age that I am at now, that is fifty six. Its a funny age. For some its all to do with ‘what to do next’. You’ve had the ‘starters’ and the main course. That’s all gone for better or worse and maybe some indigestion is marking its passing. The waiter is standing at the side of you asking if you would like to chose from the deserts or possibly the cheese board. Your might even be thinking “sod that, just bring a bottle over here”. What ever the decision there is a decision. Not to chose is still a decision.


Some straying wire in an electrical appliance at Scott & Rhodes (Banksfield mill) brought that decision into sudden sharp focus and gave it urgency.













The fire at Banksfield Mill which changed Rowlands menu options

The local history site does not agree with me, but I believe this fire at the mill happened in about 1976. It was apparently started by an electrical fault in the kitchen canteen area but spread astonishingly fast through the entire building. Next day there was nothing left of the main part of the building and essentially the business was finished although parts of it limped along for a number of months. By this time I was living in Leeds but on this evening I had stepped off a bus at Yeadon Town Hall and was walking the half mile to my parents house. As I got off the bus there was a glow in the sky above where they lived but in fact it was a slight distance away. Somebody said there was a fire at Banksfield Mill. As I ran in that direction the glow intensified and police and fire brigade arrived and cordoned off Banksfield Avenue which ran along the southern length of the building. The people in those houses were being evacuated because of concerns of the fire spreading and of course possible fuel tank explosions. At the house mother was out for the evening but Rowland was home and ignorant of what was happening just two hundred yards away. I’ve told people that he danced around the garden once he realised the mill was finished. That might be a memory of a memory which was not quiet there to begin with. He certainly did realise that the job at the mill had now gone, even if it took a few months to become official. He was animated and for the most part excited about this.

It happened bit by bit. There was still some work at the mill but it was about clearing what could be saved and redistributing work to other sites. Rowland gave updates. There was meetings at head office in Leeds, then the official letter distributed. For most it was redundancy and fairly quickly. Rowland was not unhappy about this. He had been working there more than forty years and was to get a sizeable redundancy pay-off.

Over the next few years virtually all of the mills in the town closed down and many hundreds of people got the official letters. For those who did not have other skills the prospects were bleak at least if they restricted their job search to the town. There’s only so many jobs at Morrison’s or Texas hardware.

Rowland was more fortunate though. Unlike most of his age contemporaries he owned a house and had fairly considerable savings. He also had many ways of making money to fall back on, or more truly to make his main job which in reality he should have done thirty odd years earlier. His children were all grown up and sort of independent. He also had a wife who was working full time and earning a good wage. Hundreds of thousand of people who lost their jobs over the next fifteen years were no where near as well placed.

He had the conversation with Kathleen. “What would you say if I gave up work.” She answered in the affirmative, which he must have known she would and that was it. Ten hours a day, times fifty weeks a year times forty years all done and finished, His life was now his own again. Kathleen said that in the first few weeks he walked around with a permanent grin on his face. For the first time in his life he was in control of every minute of the day. He still worked, and probably put in as many hours as most people do in a full time job but he was doing it for himself. Street selling was the main occupation but also the Punch and Judy and the magic shows. Then Maggie Thatcher and privatisation came along and this Communist took some direct action on ownership of the means of production. It became a second or third job. Studying the financial pages, and making his moves. Developing his ‘investments portfolio’ which was all exactly recorded in exercise books kept in cardboard wallets in a filing cabinet in the corner of the dining room. He was a cautious investor. It was mainly moving amounts around between building societies to get the extra half percent interest, but there was also some buying of shares. These were in the former public utilities, which Maggie was flogging off at discount on television. I don’t think he ever made a fortune out of them. He must have known what ever was being sold by the multiple hundredweight on TV was never going to be the golden bullet.

More than anything else the dancing took off. What had been four nights a week became that plus three or four afternoons plus four day weekends in February at hotels in the Lake District. He was dance crazy! Kathleen and later me wondered if there was other things going on as well.

Kathleen was never invited. She had assumed that when he gave up work that their marriage would now move into a new phase and have its renaissance. In reality there had been a change ten years earlier and the rest of their time together was going to be a continuation of that. They were on separate tracks.

Kathleen life was taken up with being a teacher and housewife. Evenings would be spent marking books or preparing for the following days lessons. The same went for part of school holidays too, but then she also had trips away with Marguerite, Joan and Peggy who were teachers at the second school she worked at in Bradford. These holidays were genteel and cultured. Thomas Hardy weeks in Dorset, Art Deco in Glasgow, days trips to historic houses.. Slightly later came the over seas trips. France with Joan, but also single supplement holidays in Italy and Spain (first morning in the dining room awkward, where to sit. Do you insert yourself on a table with a couple or sit on a single chair table in the corner).

Then there was the West Riding Play House and other theatres which became second homes. Most weekends she would be at the theatre, properly moved by a Shakespeare play or most of all by a modern American classic. Seeing Warren Mitchell, the chap who played father in ‘Till death us do part’ doing ‘Death of a Salesman’ was without exaggeration one of the best experiences of her life. This was not affectation. She was a rare creature who would walk a hundred miles to watch such a thing even if anybody else knew or not.

These things brought her genuine pleasure, but I suspect she would have swapped them all for a week of dancing and cabaret in a good hotel in Blackpool as a couple with Rowland. She often told the story of her grandmother Hetta, who brought her up saying that she would buy her friends if she could. She had friends now, lady school teachers like herself but I suspect it was not the same as being half of a couple like other people.

It also seemed very unfair that you have money at the wrong end of life. Its nice to do all of these things but she could have really done with a few more bob at the other end of life when so much was missed out on for the lack of it.

What we are really looking at here are the years from 1975 to 1998. Twenty three years almost a quarter of a century or two fifths of their marriage. Kathleen got to achieve her life ambition, which is more than most people can say but the chalice was not entirely without some bad tasting stuff in it. That was the kind of loneliness which can be experienced in a marriage which is hanging together by gravity. I might be overstating this. She numbers of times mentioned unexpected kind words Rowland had said, or the fun when he wandered around the house half sozzled on a Sunday afternoon singing ‘Take me home again Kathleen’. She would say that he was a peculiar bugger and she had to take him as he was. She would reassure herself that he valued her really, but was just not very good at being like that. She was probably in a better position to tell than me who was 6,000 miles away for half of this time. When I think of her during these years its going off to school in her Mini club-man, back seat full of  exercise books and Sharps extra strong mints at the ready below the dashboard, or sat on an evening watching TV, knitting and doing low concentration marking. There are not many images of her andf Rowland.

The clothes got smarter, she developed a taste for Jaegar knitwear and belted full length coats. The post war furniture mostly went and got replaced by really good stuff bought at proper shops or auctions. Bills which had once been a chronic worry, that poisoned many days, now just were bit of paper on the mantle piece which would get sorted on the weekend when there was a bit of time to write out the cheque.

Its all a bit like you spend umpteen years waging a campaign of war and then one day you get to the objective, and its all a bit too quiet.

Rowland and Kathleen  (front left) on Ian’s first wedding day. The brides parents at front right. Me and Neil on the back row. Kathleen in one of her belted coats. I’m guessing this would have been about 1974.

But I cant focus too much on Kathleen. This book is about John and Rowland, and how they experienced life. So what was Rowland thinking all this time.

Undoubtedly when it came to the end of his employed work years he felt like somebody who had been given a whole life sentence to wake up one day to discover he was getting a ten year remission on his tariff. Suddenly all that drudgery was over and he did not have to do all of that anymore.

The next bit is hard. Did he feel estranged from Kathleen or was he just somebody who did not do openly affectionate relationships and make a show of it. He would have been mortified to have to do open affection. Typing it even makes me grin. So was he just hanging about because it was convenient. There I’m also equally certain the answer is no. Certainly a mixture of gravity and inertia was a factor, but that s all too simple. He also felt understood by her, at least some of the time. She was prepared to accept his oddities. Being with her also held him together. Kathleen was convinced of this, and that he saw that as well. He would have ended up a sad figure if he had been on his own. Anything more than these default positions. Yes, on the margins and some of the time there was something there. Simple understated affection with small gestures (a brush of the hand, private locking of eyes) but they were hard work a good deal of the time. There was not the save level of ranting and raving rages. These greatly diminished at least after the mid seventies to be replaced by more stylised competitive arguing and name calling and just straight forward accommodation.

Her being a teacher and hanging out with the likes of them really pissed him off though. He could not abide that world. She would say that he was uncomfortable in the company of people from different backgrounds. That he felt socially uncomfortable and would not know what to talk about. Possibly but he also really did not like them, and he would not have liked to have a conversation to begin with. His words for them would have been effete posers, overgrown teenagers or neurotic schoolmistress wrecks. Kathleen sometimes with a half grin would agree. He really did not want to spend any time talking about them, God forbid actually spend time in their company.

He really did not like school teachers but to be fair there was a lot of other groups he didn’t like or trust as well. You should have heard him talk about policemen, solicitors or anybody who wore a uniform or suit for work that matter. In short there was a lot of people he did not want to be anywhere near but teachers were amongst the first on the list.

So who did he like? There was no close friends that I know of, but he would feel okay sitting at the same table as people from his world. That was women, and men from his kind of background or people from the trade

union world although that diminished when employed work ended. When he died Kathleen was told by some of them from the clubs that her husband was always the life and soul of any social thing. Making jokes and having a laugh. I really cant imagine that and neither could she and it made her feel more than a little jealous.









Rowland towards the end of his life sat in a social club somewhere. It looks to be evening and he hasn’t got a newspaper or book in front of him. l Did he always sit on his own at the edge of a group or have his friends nipped out for some reason. That ‘laugh’ is the one that used to come to the fore after about three pints.

















When he died, in my over earnest way I took it upon myself to get in touch with this network of social club and dance friends that he had that non of the family had met. I knew that he regularly went to a Catholic Social club in Baildon not far off the main road into Bradford. I figured that if I let them know that he had died suddenly, and they would pass this on to everyone else who knew him. Maybe these people would also knew other people at other clubs or places that he visited around Bradford and they could pass in the word. That way it would not be like he had just dropped out of things with out a word.

I went there during the day to the Catholic Social Club which was on a hill leading off from the main Bradford Road upto the village of Baildon itself. it was all locked up and there was no one there. There was a house next door which seemed to have something to do with the club. I knocked and a Catholic priest came to the door. I must have looked very shocked because he glanced at me in a nervous way.

I was in that state you get into after a parent had died. All that you do for days seems to have a high magnification intensity. Peripheral details such as doorbells, crumbling concrete and stained glass in doors are given equal attention by ones memory. So the recollection of talking with a priests is layered alongside the feel of pebble dash and mulchy leaves on the steps. The recalled image is a multilayered sensory package embedded a vividness of emotion.

So the more than middle aged priest in full regalia got this on his doorstep. I suppose in his line of work he met many people who were having a patch like that. I might have rung a note of caution with him though because I did not get invited in past the hallway telephone table. I explained the situation and left both my telephone number, and that of my mothers. He did not remember Rowland but he promised to pass on the news to the club steward. I left feeling a bit foolish, but the message did get through and a couple did turn up for the Humanist funeral service. I think it then struck me how little people he spent time with outside of Yeadon knew about him. The chap from the Humanist society spoke about Rowland’s life, boxing, running, Communism, trade unionism, Punch and Judy, and street selling and it looked like the couple were thinking they’d walked into the wrong event. Of course all they knew of him was what he said which would have been virtually nothing. But more on that later.

The poor sod, that is Rowland had a lot to contend with. He must have thought that his children would never give him peace.

His eldest son Ian had gone for the alternative route. His life trajectory reminds me of a surfer catching the perfect wave. Standing astride the exact pinnacle, point of it and being lifted along. Ian was born I 1947, so he was sixteen in 1963, twenty one in 1968 and twenty five in 1973.

At sixteen he aspired to be a Beatnik (unearned college scarf, the right book in his jacket pocket and the mohair suite). At twenty one he was working hard on what was to become the hippy thing. He tells me a few years ago he fell asleep in front of the television at home. He woke up in the middle of the night. The TV was still one and showing film footage of the 1969 Isle of Wight festival. As he opened his eyes he came face to face with a twenty two year old version of himself running naked down the beach along with scores of other festival ‘goers’ (maybe in both senses of the word). Now not many of us can say that. (I wonder what happened to the other undressed ones. There must be scores of thousands of people who now are drawing their pensions, led respectable lives and never grew a beard again who have nice little remembering moments every so often. I hope they cut their feet. Apparently the beach was all sharp pebbles and shells).

Any chance of earning his ‘respectable working class’ badge had blown. Rowland was not happy with him. There was far too much of Uncle Eddie the tile thrower about Ian. By 1973 Ian had well and truly sailed off the edge of the world. I cant remember sequences. Maybe when Ian reads this he can add some map reference points if he does not ask for a big delete. Rowland may have had momentary cause for hope of redemption a few years later when Ian got married to Pat. They did get a house, and they had children but Ian did not stay with it. I hear that he took off with the Social Worker who had been allocated to the family, although I might have got the wrong occasion.

We are looking at how Rowland saw all of this rather than what actually happened. His view would have been that Ian was married and then left his wife and children. Maybe that triggered a memory or two. Kathleen was upset because she thought that she’d not get to see the grandchildren, It didn’t but it did mean that Kathleen did a lot of weekend round trips to Ashby De la zouze in Leicestershire in order to do so.

Ian had lots of jobs and lived in some pretty dodgy places. On the job front these included Rolls Royce at Derby, the Post office (sacked for punching a supervisor who called him Trotsky), Bus driver (sacked for dragging some passengers off the bus and beating them up for being cheeky). Less official jobs included the manufacture of fifty pence pieces which involved filing down two ten pence’s and sticking them together. These were used to buy packets of twenty cigs out of machines, which were then sold. The last stage in the chain would be the convert into money he could actually use. I really don’t get the economics of this. It would have been a hell of a lot easier and more profitable just getting a job.

There were also the short prison sentences in Armley Jail in Leeds (stealing TV’s from student nurse residences). This paints a bad picture I know, but it was no so bad as it looks. He really was not a very competent criminal. I think the time in prison did shake him out of the worst of what had been going on if only because it meant mixing with people who had really fallen off the edge of the world and were pretty no hoper’s.

So in as far as Rowland knew Ian had gone way off course. He didn’t know about the times in prison. He just knew that every so often Ian just disappeared for some months at a time. He would have had his suspicions though and he had predicted it all for many years.

The big thing with Ian is his temper. Grudge, perceived insult, simmering anger and sudden escalation into explosive rage. Big blow up, People getting hit sometimes but much more often just things getting thrown around and him storming out of a house or job. Even now in his sixties it has not entirely gone even though he tries to get all Buddhist with me about it. In the trade we call it Affective Aggression. Getting wound up and losing it. Yes I’m in the trade but on the other side of the counter.

Ian says I’m as bad as him. We have weird conversations where we try and say the other is more full of anger and potential for violence than them. He says the only difference is I’ve got a certificate that says I train people how to stop others being aggressive. He reminds me of telephone boxes, I remind him of reactions to day time TV watching criticism, he raises it by mention of assaults on young car drivers with glasses or sackings from pram factories, I raise it again and use another bus employment bust up or his ruminations on taking pick axe handles to Halifax to sort out whoever liberated some paving flags and a boiler from his house there. I know I can win this game (and if my current employers read this my bits all happened a very long time ago and was no where near as bad as they sound in these notes). All of my blow ups happened before I was twenty five (some a lot before) his are something he’s trying not to have (and succeeding) most days.

The obvious point though is why have both of us spent a life time walking around this particular tree!

The way I see it is that a lot of things come from the same well, and most of that is somehow encoded in our genes. These little buggers have a lot to answer for. On one hand they gave us that restless energy, which has taken us to some great and odd places. The voice on the shoulder saying ‘more than this.’

The same little creatures turn us into raving monsters, all puffed up with rage and wanting to take a hammer to the world. (although if my current employers are reading this ……etc).

I also think I came along at a luckier time. By 1957 Rowland had a little more self control. The earlier version gave Ian a much harder time. Those things shaped us but also random things. Earning my Cub Scout ‘Volunteer Badge’ with the 16th Airedale Scout Group at age 12 set me on a path where I could ultimately make a living out of understanding rage (whenever I’m not having one). Are these little instances so important in determining our futures, or would we have have arrived at the same destination but by another route given enough time. Choosing to earn that badge helping out in a club for people with a Learning Disability, led in time to a job which in turn led be way of my many steps and places to what I do now. (Rowland had no time for that, he just saw my job as being an Asylum Attendant. He did not always keep up with things)

Moving on, Rowland got a lot happier when Ian got married again. This time to Rose. They had three children together. In between the erratic not working (but less illegal)   pass-times Ian became a pub landlord of a pub in Syderstone just outside of Fakenham in Norfolk. This begs some obvious questions about wisdom of choices it more or less worked out okay apart from the occasional lapse into breaking pool cues over knees and attempting to impale people on them…but we all have our bad days.

Rowland even came and visited the pub once or twice which was indicative of substantial personal warming and a slow creeping tolerance which surprised Ian. The grand kids would have been at least part of the incentive. Rose kept Ian more or less on track. The pub licence must have been in her name and she had the financial skills to keep them almost afloat. Of all the things our Ian could have ended up doing being a pub landlord was I think the one which would find most favour with Rowland. Ian tells a story of his dad sat quietly in the corner sipping his pint whilst he played the big ebullient, bigger than life landlord. Almost a truce or at least as near as it was ever likely to be.

Then there’s Neil. We left him at the Slade Art College. He then returned to Bradford which may have been a mistake. A group of art school friends where setting up an arty business on several floors of a building in what was then the very centre of the town. An entrepreneur called Guy occupied the lower floors which were really a shop and gallery. Neil was at the very top of the building. He sold some pictures but it was mainly a jobbing silk screen printing workshop making cards, and posters to order for local businesses that wanted to have a touch of Bradford style Andy Warhol. He was chronically under capitalised though. The banks would not give him a business loan. Rowland would have been more than capable of doing so chose not to which rankled a lot with Neil. I can remember awful days where Neil was frantically rummaging around and approaching half friends for a few pounds to buy the art card for a job that had been due for delivery yesterday. He was also drinking a lot but so did everyone then. The smell of beer was rarely off him though but it was not a big problem yet. The person who was keeping Neil together was a small French woman called Dominique who he idolised, and kept him sane. You would not have guessed that by his manner around her in public and (probably in private). Neil was not great on interpersonal skills and really needed a woman who understood this and did not get pissed off with it. I cant remember exactly why she was in Bradford but it might have been a post graduate degree at the university. I think it was in English which always makes me smile. Doing an English degree in Bradford just does not seem right. In her relationship with Neil you could not have invented more of a contrast. He was essentially someone who was primed to be a mill worker, but ended up in artist clothing. Dominique was a daughter of a prosperous Veterinary Surgeon from rural southern France. All shimmering scarves and Jane Birkin. A fantastic looking woman and entirely sincere. The relationship did progress and Neil was at his best around her. They had motoring holidays in Ireland and Scotland just like normal people. Dominique was really classy and Neil was probably astonished that she chose, and continued to chose to be with someone like him. He always had the arrogant, off hand, this is my woman talk though. He would entirely forget sometimes that he was with her and wander off with friends and she would be left standing astonished and hurt. Incredibly things were getting more serious, and she was driving it. The time came for Neil to visit Dominique’s home and meet the very large extended family. This of course was a kind old vetting process. Would he fit in? Was this man going to be successful? Neil got on well with her father. He spent some days shadowing him on his farm visits, and they seemed to generally hit it off. Neil of course had no French but they some how got a rapport. Dominique’s mother did not see prospect at all, and the knife was in. She was the crucial voice. The relationship did not end immediately but Dominique later said that seeing Neil in France she knew that he would not fit in. The relationship worked in Bradford but was not going to happen in France. There was a few dog end months back in Bradford and then she said she was going. It was the count down to a last day and then a wretched goodbye. Neil was properly wounded and he never got over it. Its very rare that something is as clear cut as that but the next two decades were a decline from that point. He cant have been much past his early twenties and he should have been able to go on a meet other people and get over what happened but it never really happened. Playing the film backwards it is obvious that something was happening with Neil, but in real time it was just one small thing after another not going right.

He was increasinlg unhappy. The time came when the art studio business downstairs was doing well and wanted his space. He probably wasn’t keeping up with the rent. He moved into an upper floor of the shell of a mill building. The factory space had been sublet to small businesses but the facilities were minimal and Neil might have been one of a very few tenants. An unimproved building. No heating, hot water or telephone. An industrial capacity lift with iron folding gate doors which did not stay closed. Everything shabby and uncared for. Neil hung on in that place for a while. I can work out the dates from two events. The CIA backed military coup in Chile’ that ousted Allende and Bradford University Library giving me the sack. So that would be 1973 to 1975. Allende’s demise had an echo in Bradford. Chilean political refugees came into English university towns and set up groups in exile. The one in Bradford wanted to raise some money by selling Christmas cards. The image on the front was not so festive but I cant remember what it was. Inside the words were not really traditional festive. “Have a Chile’ Christmas’. I was sort of doing a Christmas holiday job with Neil in the freezer of a studio (we wore gloves and coats). That might have explained the mess I made of the guillotining of the card. Neil tried to tidy up the botched job but these cards were unsellable. The Chilean comrades were not going to pay money for the mess, and anyway Neil was late in delivering. No ones buying political message festive cards on Christmas Eve. The delay had been a mixture of too much time in the pub and the art suppliers refusing him further credit. We were supposed to work through Christmas. There were a few jobs. Not high art but money in the hand payment. A night club was opening on New Years Eve and wanted a few thousand hand bills and cheap posters posted, pasted and passed out around Bradford. This really had to happen from the day after Boxing day but the usual beer and paper issues got in the way and we ended up frantically churning these things out on the morning of the 31st. The nightclub owner had already given up on us but Neil thought that he might still get some money off him if we got the damn things out by lunch time. Neil did the posters and I got the hand bills. First I tried handing them out to shoppers outside Marks and Spencer’s on Darley Street but they were not really the nightclubbing type. By then it was mid afternoon and I still had a large sack of the things left. I set off for the multi- storey car parks. The cars could not refuse to take the bits of paper. First I put single hand bills under the windscreen wiper, but this was taking too long. Then a car owner shouted at me for handling his wipers. That made be nervous. I then moved onto shoving great wads of the damn onto every car. It was cold and windy and now dark and I wanted to get home and then out to the pub. So I just shoved the left over bills into bins around the bus station. Hundreds of them. The new club would be opening in three hours anyway. I caught the 55 bus back to Yeadon and forgot all about it until the next working day. Of course the night club was just around the corner from the bus station. Some scores of the bills were blowing up and down the station but the rest were not hard to spot either. The customer kept a sample and showed them to Neil when he asked for payment.

It was all a bit on the edge dodgy. When we got so cold in the workshop that we  were unable to bend our fingers or talk we would go for a coffee and a hot sausage roll in an Italian or Greek place with steamy espresso machines near the Sunwin House Co-op store. That was where my memory tells me I first heard Baker Street, and it stuck in my head ever since. I hear that and I think of then and I can see Neil with his heavily nicotine stained fingers and beery clothes telling me his fantastic plans for the future, and how it was all going to be incredible if he could get some proper money behind him, and what a bastard Guy Watson was. He was the man whose studio; almost opposite was doing so well, and had just added an arty jewellery room on the top floor.

Baker Street on YouTube-

That’s strange because the song was not even a glimmer in Gerry’s eye at the time. Somehow the two impressions have become merged. Maybe for good reasons. The song does just about describe what was happening except there was not going to be an exhilarating last verse.

We lived in a sub divided semi detached house on Emm Lane in Bradford. It was up a very steep hill from Manningham Lane and a long walk past a glorious municipal park (although I did not appreciate it at the time). Neil and me had the upstairs rooms. The place smelt of damp and desperation. Stacks of bills staid where they fell from the letter box. The stair carpet was loose and growing things. I lived there with Neil from the back end of 1975 until I got sacked from Bradford University library in the summer of 1976. I couldn’t wait to leave home and Neil would find my rent money useful. The disciplinary procedures at the library was not helping but the place was generally miserable. Getting sacked was one of the luckiest things that ever happened to me but at the time, being eighteen and losing my umpteenth job in a row was gut wrenching. Investigations by my line manager had uncovered that I spent long periods on the telephone listening to the ‘Dial a Disc service’ (Diana Ross singing Mahogany’ done for me), associating excessively with non professional staff (the security men),not knowing the Alphabet (true but only the middle bit between about ‘K’ and ‘S’) and letting off serious late returners from their large overdue fines (apparently word got around and they brought back their books when I was on duty). The house made me ill. It was cold and damp and crawling with bugs. I had raised and sore flea bites all over me. Neil was sliding into a pit. Drinking, not eating and laying in bed till lunch time. Going to the studio and feeling overwhelmed by the failure of it all and then grabbing a bag of chips before going to the pub again. Some nights we would sit by a wonderful fire they had in the pub at the top of the hill. He would ramble on about various injustices and the ‘Pakis’ (they don’t work harder they have just got bigger families). Increasingly his tone was ranting and he really didn’t need a participant. I had brought my ‘Dansette’ record player to the house. Neil only had John Lennon’s Imagine LP left. I would sit and play this record when Neil was not in the house. The first time I saw Withnail and I, it all seemed so familiar.  I got sacked and went back to mum and dad in Yeadon. I had another job lined up at a Mental Subnormality Hospital in Leeds starting on August 23rd .That, was for me when things started going right. The man who sacked me was well intentioned and gave me a name and a telephone number of somebody he knew at the hospital. That man said I ought to try out for nurse training and that’s what I did.

After that I did not spend more than a few hours with Neil for the rest of his life. There’s Ian’s wedding, one or two Christmas days, and a meeting in pub where I predicted that he would soon be dead, only to be surprised when I was proved href=””>


Neil fell off my radar but Ian watched out for him. Things came to a sad end in Bradford. They got in a car and his older brother drove him to Ashby De La Zouse where he was living with his first wife Pat. He organised a flat for Neil and got him set up. Neil got a job as a miner at nearby Rawdon Colliery (this was a coincidence, the neighbouring village to Yeadon is Rawdon. Neil got a Job in a village called Rawdon close by Ashby). His plan was to earn good money at the job and use this to float his art work. The reality was that the shift work and the pub took all his time. Ian tells me he barely picked up a pencil during the whole near decade he was there. Neil worked at the job up to and through the eight four to eighty five miners strike. Maggie got her revenge in with NUM union over the following months and shut down the mines. By1989/ 1990he was out of a job.











Rawdon Colliery near Ashby. Neil worked here during the 1980’s. The mine closed in 1989/ 1990 and Neil received redundancy.

I don’t really know how he was at the time. Ian tells me he his eccentricity was already noted by people he encountered but that in itself is not an absolute disqualification for being an artist.This might have been the time when he went back to what he was supposed to be about but maybe that boat had already sailed and what ever process was breaking him up had gone too far.

Neil got generous redundancy money. My memory says £10,000 but that must be wrong. What ever it was it was drank away inside a year. People told our Ian that his brother wasn’t right. He was sitting drinking in pubs all day by himself. Mumbling and distracted. Ian by this time had been through some changes. He’d left his wife Pat and the Kids in Ashby and gone back on the drift, but then met Rose in Exeter. She got a job with Halifax Tourism (yes that’s right) and they set up house first on the west side of town and then moved along the road eventually ending up in the Sowerby Bridge lo-cal where villages with wonderful names line the steep valleys. Luddenfoot was one of them.

Ian went to fetch Neil again. As they got into the car to drive away from Ashby a woman ran across  to the car and asked Neil what he was doing. He’d had a relationship with this person which had apparently featured Chicken Dinners but had not thought to mention that he was leaving the town. For some that would have been a deliberate meanness, but I suspect for him it was an absence of consideration. It just did not cross his mind to call round and have a word with somebody who had been friendly.

I’m not sure of the sequences but Neil at one point shared a flat with a postman old friend who was in no better state than him. His mental health was at its worst at this time. Kathleen saw him hiding behind chairs in the front room of  her house hiding from SAS marksmen in the garden. He resisted attempts to talk, but seemed happy to sit quietly in a chair Maybe that familiar place felt safer but he said no to coming back to live there.

Ian picked him up from the postmans house and took him home. It did not work out sharing but Neil eventually got a flat and sought to set up a life for the umpteenth time. He got a job in a biscuit factory, He still could not drive but walked or biked to work. He rented a series of flats around the town getting behind with rent, arguing with landlords, living with less and less possessions until he ended up on Maggie s couch. She was a younger woman, I remember as being compassionate and caring. Her fate was to be the last stop on Neil’s line.

Her flat was in a building at the top of a hill pf steep steps at the bottom of which was the Puzzle Hall Inn. The pub was a collection of buildings put together like a jigsaw, but the player had got inpatient and had just forced the bits together. Igt had started off in the 17th century as a private house but once it became a pub generations of owners had added rooms. Wandering through the pub was like stepping between juxtaposed buildings with no continuity of dimensions, materials or style. Ceilings sloped off wildly in wrong directions. The bar must have been a nightmare to man. The place had a heavy drinking culture and revelled in it. At least one funeral cont-age set off by barge from the canal at the door of the building. There was a good crowd of people though. Ian knew most of them and Neil linked on. By now he was hearing voices again and asking a worried Ian if he could hear them as well. His self was unravelling. Then the symptoms escalated again. There were days when he thought SAS snipers were hunting him. Bizarrely there were problems being referred to a Psychiatrist because he was not registered with a GP.  Ian took matters in his own hands and just marched Neil into a Psychiatrists waiting room one day. He was told that his brother could not be seen with out an appointment. Ian frustrated and scared got angry and probably seemed very threatening. The police got called and Ian was led away. Somewhere along the line Neil got some Haloperidol which would have helped but he needed to be in a hospital. Neil did not like the drug side effects and just stopped taking it. How can you hand out such medication and do nothing else. It is not like taking an antibiotic.  Haloperidol is a serious top end anti-psychotic drug. It does the job but people need a lot of help getting through it, and of course when he got the inevitable side effects he stopped taking it. The slide continued. I have thought long and hard about this. Neil had a Psychotic illness. He was having auditory hallucinations, his thinking was irrational and drew wildly wrong conclusions from any given set of events. Psychosis is a symptom which can be produced by many different conditions. My bets ended up between a slow burning form of Schizophrenia or something linked to his undoubted alcoholism. He was drinking heavily all day every day. Mostly beer but some spirits. If it was Schizophrenia he could have been sedating himself. At the end of the day the two things fed into each other and the falling apart continued.

I had not realised how bad things were. I was living in South Africa and was wholly distracted with my life there. I had not seen Neil in a number of years. Somewhere around 1989 I got a study bursary to look at ‘transcultural psychiatric nursing issues in a multicultural society’ and thought Bradford would be as good a place as any for this. In between interviewing Indian ladies through interpreters I went along with Ian to have a look at Neilalthough it was not set up like that. We were just going out for a drink. We met up in a crowded, noisy pub.Despite everything I was still the younger brother who knew nowt. I felt there was no way I could say anything. Neil was a mess. His clothes smelled and did not fit. The coat looked like he slept in it (which he did)but worst of all was the rambling shambles of a conversation. He visibly shook and looked like a jumpy rabbit. I cant remember much more of the evening. What strikes me now was how superficial I was about the whole thing. I made a big point of telling my mother that I knew about such things and that this was an end stage, and likely Neil would be dead within three years. There was a lot of truth in that but what was missing was doing anything about it. Okay I had a plane to catch at some point but there was not enough proper caring. 

In fact it took a lot less than three years. It was 11th November 1991. The same day his father was to die on seven years later. He had been out drinking as usual at the Puzzle Hall, I think by himself. He drank incredible amounts. Eight pints was routine for an evening and maybe this evening was unexceptional in that way. The walk to Maggie’s couch was a ginnel or footpath up the side of a steep ridge. Lots of stone steps in the dark. In the morning he was found by Maggie on the couch dead. The post mortem showed that he’s suffered an Aortic aneurysm. The wall of the artery leading out of his heart had ballooned and then ruptured. He would have died very quickly. The weakness in the artery wall would have likely been there from birth. No symptoms showed during his years of long distance running and art school partying. Maybe these things can happen to an individual living a blameless life but his pattern of living could not have helped any. He was forty one. Seven years older than me then and fifteen years younger than me now. Maggie got hold of Ian, he phoned his mother, she phoned the hospital where I was working, a man who I worked with and who had known my two brothers said he would tell me. There was no phone at my house so he came knocking on my door and simply told me the news (for which I’m grateful). I went to a phone box opposite and phoned mother and heard the details.

I had left South Africa temporarily and was living in the Isle of Man since the previous summer. The funeral was at a Crematorium somewhere near Halifax. We all stood on the front row of the chapel. Ian holding his mothers arm in a firm grip which she forever after remembered (until she stopped remembering things). Ian chose the music, ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ by Bob Dylan. One of the most appropriate but inappropriate choices ever. I remember an involuntary sound coming out of my core with the opening bars.



A YouTube link to the Bob Dylan song played at Neil’s funeral.

‘Like a rolling stone’.

We went onto to someone’s house and met his friends. Maggie was there and we said thank-you to her. Someone had put on a Rod Stewart LP which was a favourite of Neil’s and the fates chose that moment for him to sing Maggie May. (“Wake up Maggie I think I’ve got something to say to you”). Later on at some kind of impromptu wake at the Puzzle Hall, dad had bought rounds of drinks for the people who knew Neil. He was to come back to the pub many times over the coming months and seek out their company for an opportunity to talk about his son. He and Kathleen then went home. The wake continued and numbers of people who had known Neil at art college turned up. They were scattered around the north of England and were now middle aged men and women. I’ve no idea how they got to hear about Neil but a surprising number turned up that night and we all got very drunk. I may have conflated two separate evenings but I remember an evening ending with someone putting on John Lennon singing ‘Stand by me’ which more or less said it all.

This chapter is supposed to be about Rowland but writing about what happened to Neil has so far taken up most of it. I wanted there to be something left of Neil to show for his forty one years. I’ve got some art card with pictures of his on, and Ian also has a few similar things, and then there are half a dozen images of him at the edge of photographs and that’s just about it. Looking back over what I’ve written it is all about decline and things going wrong. There may have been times after his mid twenties when he had happy days but there cannot have been so many of them. Kathleen was right ultimately. The happiest days of his life had been at the fought over art college in Bradford, the time at the Slade and the months with Dominique.

Kathleen said that it was not in the natural order of things that a parent should live to see the death of their child. She mentally catalogued herself alongside women she had known around the town for whom the same thing had happened. Her mourning often consisted of the re telling of these sad stories. The son who killed himself after the break up of a relationship, the boy who was knocked over by a car late at night as he walked over the moor from Horsforth after walking his girlfriend home.  I dont know how much her and Rowland spoke about it. I suspect little (and that does not imply criticism. How do some people ever talk about such things).

Rowland was wounded. That’s the best way to describe it. This was the only time that I ever saw him with the stuffing knocked out. People like him just quietly carry on. There’s no crying out to the gods or tearing of clothing, taking to drink or going to live by himself in a tent. He just continued to live but I believe that Neil was always there at the edge or front of his mind.

Ian was Kathleen favourite son but without a doubt Neil was the one that Rowland had most natural affinity with. It was not about looks, or even every aspect of personality but in the way they looked at the world and were with other people. A kind of semi estrangement. At various times Psychiatric trade have described a pattern of functioning which is sometimes seen in young people who have the potential to develop Schizophrenia. The reality of that is argued about but right or wrong Neil certainly had the personality described and I think Rowland would also have had some facets of it as a young man. Kathleen used to say that without her Rowland would have gone a similar way to Neil if he had not married her. I think there’s a good chance she was at least partly right. He would have been a sort of Neil without the Alcohol problem.

Neil died in on November 11th 1991. Rowland had exactly another seven years to live. He might have been wounded but he was not felled. All through these years as well as the decade before he continued with street trading, and his own attempts at ownership of the means of production, distribution and banking. He was worrying about bank and building society collapses twenty years before they happened. He had given up on the Punch and Judy. The sheer physical strength and stamina needed to cart the equipment around the West Riding was not there any more. He was starting to worry about a heart attack. I used to laugh at this, as I felt he was so fit he would outlive us all.























Ian and Neil on a lads day trip to Bridlington. At at left in the suite and tie. Next to him with the already long hair is Neil. He would have been about 18 in this picture so the year would have been 1968. At Art College and looking forward. A good time of his life


The Puzzle Hall Inn at Sowerby Bridge near Halifax. Any one single angle view of the building does not do justice to its Rubik cubeness. Where Neil went for his last drink.



























One of two pictures I have of Neil’s. Ian’s got the best one, of the man sat in a deck chair on a seaside the promenade. There was maybe half a dozen versions of the picture here. They were just try outs for one of his submissions at art college. Another copy had the score given by the teacher in the corner. It might have been 6/10.

I have to consider next my shadow on his life. I’m pretty sure I was a pain in the back side to him. In his eyes I certainly earned the name ‘Daft-beggar’, I was basically a nice lad but not very bright. The common sense gene was definitionally missing. Bit of a fool really,

Expectations were very low but I had the habit of never getting to even the most basic ones. That is establishing myself and accumulating enough money and possessions to be financially stable. “David, if you keep moving all the time you will never have nowt”. Of course he was right and this used to infuriate him. As he said, “once you have kids its not about you any-more. Grow up”. His big ambition for me was that I get a trade and stick with it. He worried that Kathleen would give me ideas that I was not up to achieving. He had a trinity. Bricklaying, an engineering apprenticeship at Kirkstall forge in Leeds, or being an Undertaker. His logic was that I would never be out of work in any one of them. He was right about the third but could not have been more wrong about the first two.

Sat on a bench in the garden of the Royal College of Physicians yesterday lunch time I posted this bit of silliness on my Facebook page.


El Goose is down in London attending a conference to do with his job. After 37 years it still fascinates me. Am very happy that I got sacked from the pram factory and the library”.

I could have added a lot more jobs. PS I have added he ‘El’ prefix to Goose for any occasion where I am travelling somewhere which feels exotic. In this case London NW1.

It would have been very nice to have been a doctor. Sitting on that bench after walking around the building and soaking in its atmosphere felt like a good fit.  I’ve no doubt that I could have done it (and a medical friend once offered to help) but I was always a bit of a late developer. Whatever else my family did it left me with a certainty that I can do what every I wanted. That’s caused a few problems. I will briefly run through them just so we can get a sense of what Rowland had to put up with from me.

When I was fifteen my metalwork teacher gave me detention for using the time set aside for drafting up plans for my ‘Certificate in Secondary Education’ Metalwork project to copying out details of how to construct a tank trap from Che’ Guevara’s manual on guerilla warfare. It was really not going to go well.




















The book that confused by metalwork teacher. It includes a chapter on ‘The Guerilla band’

It took me some time to get direction after leaving school. All that I did know was that I did not want anything to do with the jobs Rowland was pushing me towards. I have already talked about the sacking from the library, before that there was the sacking from the Pram factory (punching David Drinkall for attempting to clean my machine whilst I was going for the 4,000 bracket piece work threshold), the lack of interest by Addy’s outfitters in re-employing me (“that lad that smells has come back for another job”) and the general unsuitability for a career in street trading (although if Id stuck at it that might have worked out. As I say I’m a late developer).

So with the help of the man who sacked meat Bradford University Library I ended up at Meanwood Park Mental Subnormality Hospital in Leeds on the 23rd August 1976. My spell check does not recognise the existence of the word ‘Subnormality’. That is some kind of achievement. The very word does not exist any-more. I had a lot of growing up to do, a lot more than most nineteen year olds and this was the place I was going to start doing it. I was a Mental Subnormality student nurse there for three years. Virtually nothing on the syllabus of training was relevant to taking care of people who nowadays we would say have a ‘Learning Disability’ or ‘Intellectual and Developmental Disability.’



Subnormality hospitals have a log history of abuse and neglect scandals from Ely Hospital in Cardiff in 1968 (where I was later to work) to Winterbourne View in 2011 there have been scores of investigations and reports into such places. Some wide ranging others more limited in scope. The investigation at Meanwood was one the latter. I don’t know the process followed in those days for triggering a full on investigation. Whether through reasons of lack of curiosity, bureaucratic inertia or actual obstruction Meanwood failed to get the investigation it should have had. In the three and a bit years I was there I did not work one day without seeing physical or psychological abuse. On some wards such as Villa 12 and Villa 13 it was how the places were run. One day I will make myself sit down and write a proper account of what used to go on there. This is not the place to do it though.

Negative learning (how something should not be done) can have its uses. I have drawn upon what I learnt about the job and about the parameters of human nature at Meanwood for the rest of my career.

A YouTube video about Meanwood Park Hospital.


The last year of my studentship coincided with what became known as ‘The Winter of discontent’ which was about the trade union movement resisting government wage control policies. In the health service there was single days of industrial action and I took part in them. I have an image in my mind of me running and kicking the side of the district Human Resources managers car with my Doc Martins after he had seemed to drive over the foot of one of our cleaners on the picket line. The incident was never formally mentioned by management which seems astonishing. Maybe there had been some uncertainty about identification or concern that it would highlight the driving problems of the HR manager but things began to freeze around me a little bit. I had also put in a complaint of ill treatment and neglect against two charge nurses DB and DW. The latter is still on the nursing register, the former not. This was certainly covered up and a middle manager told me I had been blacklisted as a consequence of my complaint. I thought the chap was being a bit over dramatic (after all I was in the right wasn’t I?) but years later when I applied for a job it was evident that they were not keen to employ me despite advertising vacancies. So I strongly believe there is or was a bit of paper somewhere with my name on it. Another lucky escape.

There was some good times though. I discovered what it was to be young, go to parties and have a good time. We worked hard on the parties. Riding a motor bike almost naked into a crowded room at my twenty first was up there as one of the things that gave me the most laughs plus the house wrecking party at Delph Mount in Woodhouse Moor. Lots and lots of things.

It didn’t last long though. In the summer of 1978 I met my future wife Lynn. A few of us had been sat around watching Top of the Pops on a Thursday evening in a bored miasma. It was close to pay-day and we decided to go out nightclubbing. We ended up in a place called ‘Heaven and Hell’ which must be amongst the most ironic places to meet a future wife. I met this woman, told her I was going to Australia and did she want to come. We did not get there  but ended up  in a lot of other places instead. We moved into a shared house above a hairdressers shop on Harehills Lane in Leeds. One of the co-tenants used to throw tines of dog food in the air and then slice the tin in half with a meat cleaver as it fell. The place was alive with fleas and other micro wildlife. I swear that both of us had Dysentery which probably led to the decision to move out which had a the side consequence of the decision to get married. As a young teenager I had loved the book ‘Watership Down’. A cartoon film of the book came out that year and we decided to go and see it at Cottage Road cinema in nearby Headingley. The symptoms of what I swear was Dysentery came on mid way through the film. That awful feeling will be forever linked with Art Garfunkel singing ‘Bright Eyes’ theme tune to the movie. I don’t know how we managed to get across town to Harehills. We were both lay on the bed being eating alive by fleas and unable to move for violent illness for a week. And there is no exaggeration in that. I believe at times I was hallucinating with fever and dehydration. I lost a lot of weight and felt weak for long afterwards. That’s when we decided to move out and get married. The flea bites had barely gone down before it was achieved.

Lynn and I got married at a church off Harrogate Road in Chapel Allerton in Leeds on the 25th November 1978. The week or two before had been eventful. The vicar who was to have married us had a heart attack, the stand in curate had a bad stammer and the church had a serious fire. The service went ahead despite everything. Both the curate and I had difficulty with the vows but we somehow stumbled through them. I was unaware of Neil trying to summon the nerve to raise his objection at that particular point in the service. I am told it was seriously a possibility.

As Lynn and I processed down the isle I looked to the back door of the church and there was my dad with his Punch and Judy gear. It had been touch and go if he would get to the church as he had a children’s party engagement earlier in the day but he had managed to get there for the last few minutes of the service. He then dragged his cases and Punch and Judy booth to the reception.

After the fist fights amongst relatives at the reception in the hall without floorboards in the toilets we set off on our married life with 10p in the world. It was literally 10p and a house devoid of all furniture apart from two chairs and a Duck-down duvet.

I had just turned twenty one. The name on the marriage register was Max which is not altogether my proper name. I should have remembered that twenty one years later when I had to fork out £4,000 for a divorce. That sounds a touch negative. We did have some very good times (marvellous times) in between and two very important (plus at the time of writing four more) people exist because of it all…but I must be one of the very few people in the world who has a near anaphylatic reaction whenever I hear Art G. crooning ‘Bright Eyes’ or see cartoon images of a rabbit called Hazel.

YouTube Video. ‘Bright Eyes’ Art Garfunkel (1978).

Rowland understood ‘starting out poor’ but what he got really upset about was choosing to remain that way…sort of, and then asking for handouts when things crashed.

I need to summarise things here a bit otherwise it could take up a great deal of space. Rowland and Kathleen had to watch whilst I was determined to have my cake and eat it.  One the one hand I wanted the family life. Two children came along (Ruby and Emma) but on the other I was determined to live the travelling life and learn by living. At this point I do not regret most of the choices that I made but I can certainly see that it caused a lot of distress to some people including Rowland and Kathleen. (Ruby and Emma love to sit and reminisce about the places and situations I dragged them through including taking stray cats to a free vets in the centre of a near war zone and living in a very not adapted school science laboratory). Lynn did not come out of these events well but that had mostly other causes.

We started out modest. The first move after the several in Leeds was to Orpington in Kent. That was fairly sensible. I was doing a second nursing qualification and arguably it was a good thing to leave ones home town and move to a more prosperous area. After eighteen months of that, having our first child (Emma)  and failing the qualification we shot across country where I got my first post qualification job at Ely Hospital in Cardiff. Things could have worked well there. I was promoted very fast and was a Charge Nurse within six months but then saw an advert for nurses in Bermuda. That was good and it lasted a whole three years and our Second child Ruby was born there. We managed to go through four houses in that time and ran up a fair bit of debt (which I mostly paid off). Next came back to England and a three month stint on the dole in Mytholmroyd near Halifax in Yorkshire. Very nice place but spent too much time living off the blackberries picked from the bushes near the railway station. I did try and settle back in England but it could be a sodding miserable, squalid place so on impulse I dragged the family to just outside Johannesburg, South Africa to live in a farm community for people with a Learning Disability which espoused a system of belief called Anthroposothy (50% Buddhism, 50% Christianity, 100% exhaustion). The year 1986 was not a good one in South Africa. The whole place was kicking off around us. I would drive out on my days off to watch the revolution. Sometimes Emma and Ruby came along. After a year of that I went to work in the Psychiatric Hospital in Johannesburg where I did some of the best work of my life and learned more than every before or since. South Africa despite its dark side can be a place where the world is your oyster and you can achieve anything. Its a manic depressive society but at is two poles its people do wonderful things and I would not have missed it for the world. I got to live things not one person in a thousand gets the chance to do. I worked sixty hours a week at two or three jobs but somehow still managed to stay poor. There was lots of phone calls back to Yeadon asking for emergency money.  I have forgotten how may house and school moves there were but I know Emma and Ruby have it all itemised somewhere.

Then Lynn got sick. In retrospect there had been signs of it in Bermuda but then it all seemed to go away. I’m still not sure of the whole story but around 1990 she started having extreme mood changes, erratic behaviour, uncontrolled movements and very severe headaches. I spoke to a Psychiatrist friend who said that she needed to have an MRI scan. He spoke to a Neurologist friend and called in a favour and Lynn was seen within a few days. It is the only time in my life that I have relied upon privilege and I don’t regret it. The scan showed a nice big cherry of a brain aneurysm on something called the Circle of Willis. It was fit to burst and was pressing on all the bits around it. Hence the symptoms. The privileged network of favours extended next to seeing a Neurosurgeon within a few days who was prepared to do surgery. My understanding is that most surgeons at the time would not consider operating on this kind of aneurysm as the outcomes were often poor and the surgery itself dangerous. The doctor described his job as being a bit like a plumber but the leaks he worked on were in the pipes in the brain (where do surgeons learn to be so reassuring!). He was frank. The job was  risky and we had to think of Lynn only having a fifty percent chance of surviving the operation. We did not talk about how she would be afterwards… if she survived. We were left in no doubt though that the alternative to an operation was almost certain death. More phone calls to England for help. Lots of very practical help from my bosses at work.

Lynn did survive but the cost of living with the results was very expensive in many ways. I had medical aid but the costs of her drugs were astronomical and we had to pay a proportion which was taking up close to half my income.

So we set off again. This time to the Isle of Man. Part of the British Isles but not part of the United Kingdom but it did have a health service. The Manx government paid for Lynn to receive follow up treatment at hospital in Liverpool including the ferry and a taxi at the other end (all taxi drivers in Liverpool at some time have carried one or all of the Beatles but that’s not relevant here). The treatment worked and things settled down again for a while and she seemed to be okay. So I decided that we should all go back to South Africa where I would set myself up in business as well as work at the hospital…as you do.

All the time Rowland and Kathleen are having to play the role of witness to these goings on. They attempted to persuade and Rowland was often more than exasperated. If my children did these things to me I do not know what I would do.

So back to South Africa for four years. Lots of amazing things. Self employed training and consultancy work with mental health and Learning Disability services all over what was b then then called Gauteng . Travelling vast differences across a giants landscape and doing my  gigs at rural schools down red dirt tracks or at awe inspiring self help programmes run by parents in the townships, or vast industrial scale hostels for ‘the mentally defective’ where street gangsters broke in every night through skylights and did dreadful things. Life was painted in vivid colours.

I didn’t really do business plans though and inevitably my schemes crashed during one of the long summer holidays just before the southern Christmas in 1995. We had not much more than a weekend to get out. On the phone again to Yeadon and abandoning all our possessions in the dead of night and racing to the airport in a car which I then abandoned. This wrench was the toughest for the children. They thought of South Africa as home and their wreck-less unpredictable, clearly half mad father had deposited them in an alien country in circumstances that were humiliating. Lynn had grown more sick again and her behaviour had become extremely erratic and odd (and at times dangerous). The family badly needed some stability. Rowland forked out the money to set us up in a beautiful old house at the edge of an idyllic medieval green in a Norfolk market town. He paid the initial rent and deposit along with buying their school uniforms and helping us get through the first month till pay-day. The next three years were extremely difficult. Lynn’s personality transformation after the operation continued. The mood changes and rages became more frequent and extreme. She withdrew and became preoccupied with esoteric subjects and sort of stopped being part of the family although she still lived with us. There was no peace in the house at all and for periods the children by now in their early teens had to witness their mother falling apart. After too long a period I called it a day. I remember spending long periods in the back garden during the summer of 1998 obsessively ruminating about what to do. It had been eight years since the operation which saved Lynn’s life but which had left her with damage which wrecked what remained of it. Daily life had become miserable and occasionally very dangerous.

Rowland then died on November 11th seven years to the day after his middle son. He left me a lot of money some of which I used to buy off Lynn and set her up in a house. Whatever happened afterwards always had a way of ending in disaster for her. She has subsequently been through some very bad times. That continues. I eventually did what needed to happen though but I should have done it a lot sooner.

The following year I put the children and myself in a motor home in Newark, New Jersey USA and spent a month driving 5,000 miles around America. That was to put a full stop on some very bad times. The inside of a motor home it not a very big space in which to spend four weeks with two teenage daughters who are raging, and desperate for a normal life. They were not particularly interested in (the sometimes) endless drives across featureless landscapes but we had a lot of time to talk about things other than all the bad things that had been happening and I brought some good music tapes with us. Once I cottoned on that Ruby was in nicotine withdrawal things improved and the daily ritual of coffee and doughnuts at the morning gas station fill up also helped. Back in England things then started to get better and inch by inch I got better at being responsible. There is some truth in the saying that you do not properly finish growing up until your father dies.

That last paragraph was also paid for by Rowland.

The poor sod had a lot to put up with. Being a father did not come naturally to him. He must have wished for some peace during these years but felt a little bit cheated of it. After all he had got all three of his sons to adulthood you don’t expect to spend the rest of your life worrying about what they are getting up to.

But again his voice is in my head saying “stop being self indulgent and maudlin. It was fine. Neil hurt but the dancing helped”.


I had always assumed that he would live a very long time. As I’ve said possibly longer than his children although that calculation had a number of incalculables. We joked about his Gout (too much rich living) and there was the childhood TB but the man had otherwise not had a days illness in his life. He was the one who could march at the twice the speed of the rest of us and had the stamina of an ox. But in that month, as he told Kathleen he was feeling some discomfort in his chest. He had even, for the first time in his life had to stop half way up the cobbled hill known as The Steep in the town. Kathleen phoned me about this and I laughed at the story. I said something like not one person in twenty after the age of fifty could walk without a rest up that hill, let alone those aged seventy eight as he was. I really did not think twice about it. Shortly afterwards he went to the doctors and had an Electro-cardiogram which showed a healthy heart. He was so pleased with the result that he brought a print out of the ECG trace home to show Kathleen. The anxiety that had been on him for days fell away.

That night though they had an argument. That in itself was not unusual. Most couples have them very often and Kathleen and Rowland were well practised although in recent years things had been less volatile. The row ended with Rowland saying “shut up you stupid woman”. Kathleen went to bed and sometime later Rowland came upstairs and joined her. She awoke at the normal time the next morning and felt a surprise that he was still there as he was normally the first to rise. She sat up and looked over. It was obvious he was dead. He always slept with one eye open. He had some funny kind of eye lid closing problem. This morning though both eyes were open and so was his mouth.

Death always surprises me. I can understand it as the end of cycle in plants and  animals but it does not feel right for the arc of a human life to end in nothingness after so much as happened. Maybe that’s why we have an instinct for a belief in an after life because there has to be an outcome. Some kind of meaning has to be stamped on the whole enterprise. In my heart though I know there is no eternal life and that the enduring meaning is eventually for others to ascribe.

The last time I saw Rowland was in a Chapel of rest in-between Guiseley Swimming Pool and Morrisons. It was rather a small building for its purpose in 1998 but it has now become a Micro fitness centre. One day I must go and see how they fitted it all into that space.

I went there with Ian shortly before the funeral. Someone let us in and we stood next to our father for a few minutes. I tried to bring to my mind memory pictures of the person in front of me but my mind would not follow commands. Instead my hand moved out and touched him on his forehead. He felt like cold clay.

Ian and me then went to the new cafeteria in Morrison’s across the road and had a filter coffee and a hot sausage roll. All those things to do with him that had so filled our time and preoccupied our emotions were over.



























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Filed under Aireborough, Biography, Family history, Humour, Local history, Social History, Yeadon

Gleaning Teaming Brains 9

The debtors prison at York Castle. Did John's son Joseph spend time here?

The debtors prison at York Castle. Did John’s son Joseph spend time here?

This is a well known boundary marker in John's home town of Yeadon. He attended a ceremony to mark its repair.

This is a well known boundary marker in John’s home town of Yeadon. He attended a ceremony to mark its repair.

John in his seventies walked over this ridge and into Otley (and back) on a very hot day.

John in his seventies walked over this ridge and into Otley (and back) on a very hot day.

This is most likely the track John walked along to Otley on that very hot day.

This is most likely the track John walked along to Otley on that very hot day.

Mary Ann is the granddaughter who was given the book of poetry by John. She married at age seventeen. A few months later she died in childbirth

Mary Ann is the granddaughter who was given the book of poetry by John. She married at age seventeen. A few months later she died in childbirth

Isabella survived Smallpox and went on to have a family. She appears in every census up until and including 1901

Isabella survived Smallpox and went on to have a family. She appears in every census up until and including 1901

She shows the Methodist Missionary and his family shortly before they emigrated to America.

She shows the Methodist Missionary and his family shortly before they emigrated to America.

John living with family is near the bottom of the left column. His son Joseph is at the bottom of the right hand column

John living with family is near the bottom of the left column. His son Joseph is at the bottom of the right hand column

The Seasons by

The Seasons by

The photo shows higgldy pogldy network of streets and courts around the old town. The pattern was essentially the same a hundred years earlier

The photo shows higgldy pogldy network of streets and courts around the old town. The pattern was essentially the same a hundred years earlier

Hoping for a happy ending

John Yeadon
‘Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far
and Grace will lead me home.

John Newton (1725- 1807)

Over the last decade I have come to know something about roughly four hundred of my ancestors. Most its just the basics. Parents, birth, marriage, children and then death. I know enough to fill two paragraphs for maybe a hundred of them. Fifteen or twenty have given me more than a thousand  words.

 Somebody is having some fun with this though. The parts of these people that made it into history are probably not the bits that they might have hoped or expected. There are exceptions. One ancestor came to a bad end through involvement in the ‘Pilgrimage of Grace’ rebellion in the time of Henry VIII. I suppose he might have guessed that bit would survive, and he might have taken pride in it (or cursed his own stupidity for not staying at home instead).

For most though its randomness. They went to work one day in 1911 and somebody was messing around with a camera and took a picture of a group of him and workmates. That photo was looked at occasionally and then less frequently. The owner died but the person sorting out their possessions did not throw the picture away. For a moment it touched an emotion and it felt wrong to destroy such a thing. It was maybe put into a box in the attic until years later its was someone else’s job to sort out possessions. They notice the photo,  with a name and date on the back and donate it to a local history group who place it on a website. Local elderly people recognise the individual and make comments. An on-line bit-story of our subject then accumulates. Maybe somebody else checks the website and takes that bit-history and includes it into something else. Maybe a blog or a family history. Every so often randomness goes large. A writer picks up the account and reworks it into fiction (My mother said that the likes of DH Lawrence, Thomas Hardy and Dickens were just reworking from stories they lived or borrowed).  Going to work one day in 1911 and posing with a group of friends somehow got captured and transported forward in time.  For some this might be all that remains of them after seventy years of life. Most of us don’t even know the names of our great-grandparents let alone anyone who went before.

Thinking on the ultimate fate of all our lived time and effort is chilling. Learning and our experiences are encoded in neuro-chemical networks. Sifting, using, re-remembering and reworking select what is retained and what is lost. Learning and memories laid out like the layers of a highly integrated, interconnected onion. All that lived time reflected in a few pounds of organised chemistry and biology. At the moment of our death it is all lost. The memory degrades along with the substance. The organisation which gave it life is lost. We then only exist in the memories of others or in the things we have produced.

Thinking on that, puts you in a quandary. If its all going to become an organic soup in the end what’s the point of doing anything? Well for me there is each lived moment and the possibility for happiness, the altruistic urge and the wish for immortality in products or memories.

Well that’s how it feels for me and maybe for others who do not have religious faith.

John Yeadon saw things differently. He was in one room, preparing to go into the next where some part of him would have eternal life.

“Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.


When we’ve been here ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun.
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’ve first begun”.


These lines from ‘Amazing Grace’  by John Newton written a generation and a bit earlier have for me said it better than anything else.


So we are back with John in 1832. John is fearful of death, hoping for eternal life and anxious as to the fate of his disabled daughter Hannah. He seems tired of life. We left him at age sixt eight on these words “I have gone on this last 3 ½ years the same as 3 ½ years previous doing a little. I feel old and helpless”.


There is silence again from the diary until 1835 when John would have been seventy. Then without explanation it starts over. The entries are as frequent as ten years previously, but the perspective has shifted. He is now an observer and commentator on the actions of others, when previously he had written from a position at the centre of events. Nether the less something of his spark is back. There is still a lot of talk of failing health, and coming mortality but he is also back to taking an interest in what is going on. I particularly like some of his comments about the life of the chapel and visiting preachers.


On Sunday the 12th June 1835, John wrote=


“I heard Robinson preach at 2 ½ pm to several hundred odd lads in Yeadon New Chapel. They made a collection for the chapel of 5 or 6 pounds”.


A week later

“Heard Morley at 10am. He came 20 minutes too late or beyond his appointment. A great failure in my opinion. 2 Epis. Tim 1;2”.


On the 10th July

“Heard a stranger from Leeds at 2pm instead of Josh Dawson who is on the plan. Text Matt. A fair specimen” (!)


Here is a critical comment from 1836-

“James Lee preaching is too smooth and fine, so is Robinson in my opinion. If they go to the conscience , they soon preach it off again. It is not pointed and cannot stick”.


Best of all is John’s note for the 27th November.

“Mr Robinson our superintendent stopped the society after preaching tonight and gave them a long lecture on their loose behaviour and amongst other sharp things he called the women strumpets. I doubt (?) he is going to break up the Methodist Society at Yeadon”.


I would have loved to have been there and especially to have heard the comments of the listeners afterwards.


Hailey’s comet had come around in 1835.

“Saw Hailey’s comet for the first time yester night, October 10th near Charles Waine (possibly a well known local landmark, now forgotten). I also saw it the night after namely Sunday October 11th with a tail… and again on Wednesday 21st. It is going rapidly towards the sun”.

This was the view of Haley’s in Cork, Ireland in 1835. These people seem more enthused than John.


 This was the only comment John made about the event. Was he not impressed or had age made him jaded.


Possibly he was feeling the effects of deteriorating health. On the 25th October describes his symptoms-


“I had a hard stroke of my old complaint yesterday about 9 O’clock (swimming in my head). It throws the whole body and spirits out of order. I have heard no preaching all this day. I do expect it will finish me at some of these strokes. The effects do not pass off in much less than a week. Yet glory be to God and the lamb”.


Three days later we get this comment.


“I feel the effects of my Saturday night stroke very plain this morning at 10 O’clock, but I strive not to lay down on my bed much. Smooking tobacco and close reading are enemies to my complaint. Smooking I learned with great difficulty at 35 years old. Reading I have delighted in from a child”.


Yes I can see that smoking would not do it much good but hat was this condition?. Was it the beginnings of Tinnitus or possibly Ménière’s disease. There is no doubt that he had the former which is the experience of noises such as ringing in the ear. This is clearly described for later years in the diary.  Ménière’s is a condition where in addition to those symptoms you may also get progressive deafness and problems with balance. I have known people unable to walk across a room because of such symptoms.  Again John frequently mentions difficulties with hearing which was one of the factosr that caused him to stand down from his preaching role.  A third possibility is that he was experiencing minor Strokes (possibly what we would now call Transient Ischaemic Attacks). In any event there is no mention of consulting with a doctor. I suppose the expense of that meant it was only done for children or if there was expectation of fatality. Of course there was nothing useful they could have done probably in this case. The  weight of symptoms waxed and waned but from now onwards never left him. They were something which he had to live with or around.


Other sadnesses were on the horizon. By the spring of 1836 there was some concerns that he might have to give up hi home and move in with one of his daughters. As things happened he was to stay in the house where he had lived for most of his life for another year but he was having a hard time of it. It seems that the landlord wanted him out. Reasons not given. He was struggling with rent but most of all there was anxiety about Hannah s future. Her mental disability was of course life long and the additional Epilepsy was at that time effectively untreatable. Very frequent or prolonged seizures would have added to her difficulties. Mention is not made of this though so maybe they dissipated over time or just happened when she was acutely ill with the Smallpox.


This was John’s view at the time-

“I have been more than 40 year in this house and now I must leave it and go somewhere I know not where.  I am not able to keep Hannah no nor myself. Lord help thou me, as for Hannah some of her brothers or sisters must take her with or with out Parish pay. I have kept her from birth until now 46 ½ years. That is her age now. Hannah’s mental faculties were hurt in having the Smallpox and score of convulsion fits. She is not all there”.


 Making allowance for the modes of expression at the time,  John’s worries about Hannah will feel very familiar to modern parents whose adult children have a Learning Disability. John’s fear of course that like many other people who needed long term care Hannah would end up in the Union Workhouse. These institutions would have been very much in the news. A radical piece of legislation, the Poor Law Amendment Act had been passed in 1834. A moral panic about the laxity and generosity of the previous system of parish relief had led to an ideologically driven root and branch reorganisation of the system grounded on one simple test. For most people in order to receive assistance they would have to reside in a workhouse, The conditions were to be made so unpleasant that only the most desperate (and therefore those truly in need) would consider applying for aid. There are stories of these institutions be managed by boards of zealots who sought to apply this principle at the extreme.

John would have of course have known this from his work at Carlton Poor House, and the prospect of Hannah being subject to such harsh treatment must have been very worrying. The mentally disabled always formed a major portion of the residents of these institutions. Presumably for most life would have been pretty mean and miserable. (add in photo of disabled work house residents).


Some things didn’t change though. John had high expectations of his physical abilities even at 71 he still felt up to walking on very rough ground over the  Chevin ( a steep ridge) into the local market town of Otley. The distance would not have been so far (possibly an eight mile round trip)  but few local people half his age would do it for pleasure now. Fewer still on the hottest of days.



The modern view from ‘Surprise View’ at East Chevin, out over the market town of Otley.  This is the steep ridge the seventy one year old John walked over.


“Monday July 4th 1836. Walked to Otley. An extremely hot day. Set off at 9 morn (sic). Got to Otley about 11am resting most of 20 times- by East Carlton.”


The mention of the route suggests that he may have used an old cattle drove track known as Millers Lane which leads off from the road through East Carlton and over the ridge into Otley. I hope he did because this is a beautiful walk and the views out over the valley into Otley are spectacular. Its steep and rutted at the best of times, and with tumbling water running down from the hill side after heavy rains. Its an old drove road shaped by centuries of cattle being driven to market in the town.




Millers Lane. East Chevin. Possibly the route John took on his walk from Yeadon to Otley in July 1836. Otley is to the left and Yeadon over the rising ground to the right. The track would have been wider and its surface more broken by heavier use when John walked along it.



Going to Otley was the downhill bit. Rough on the ankles and knees but less so on the heart and lungs. Coming back was different.


“Set off again about 2 O’clock  pm up the steep of Shiven (modern day Chevin). Landed at home after 4 O’clock after resting many a time. No more to Otley for ever unless I ride. It is more than a year since I saw Otley before. Three of us dined at John Reads. I observed at dinner I had nearly arrived at 72 years and William Read was turned 72, and John was 60 which made we three 200 years old or better”.


Using old directories we can confirm some of what John recorded about his trip to Otley. John Read was an Inn Keeper at Kirkgate in Otley. In the 1841 census his age was given as 60years (ages were rounded  up or down by the enumerator). William presumably his brother in also recorded and the ages match. The same document tells us as well that the name of John’s pub was The Red Lion. I don’t know why but it gives me great satisfaction when its possible to delve back into these records and learn more about the people who figure in Johns writing. I could tell you the name of the street William lived on but then I would never get my anorak off.


My children will echo this. A year a two ago I was walking through Otley with my daughters and their children. We neared a traffic junction. I launched into the story about Johns visit to Otley and the meal at the Red Lion. My intention was to use the place to add drama to the story. Hoping it would be remembered by at least one of those with me. They were distracted though and paying my account no attention. This enraged me and I marched off. After thirty minutes of separate walking around the town we made our individual ways back to the carpark and drove in angry silence back to Yeadon (I think I might have lightened things by putting some tunes on the CD player). Why were the family so inattentive to my story told at the traffic junction? Unnoticed by me a car waiting at the lights had caught fire and flames were pushing out of the back of the vehicle near the exhaust. I had been so intent on my John Yeadon story that Id not noticed. Maybe a ghost of John Yeadon who hangs about the junction was behind it all and having a much needed laugh.


I also like our John’s use of the phrase ‘landed at home’. I thought that was something that just my parents said. Its nice to know such things have a long ancestry. I’m guessing it comes from the obvious source, stepping off a ship and ‘landing’  in port. Yeadon’s 80 odd mile from the sea but words have legs.

At seventy two John is struggling to make ends meet. He never retired in the modern sense, but rather gradually gave up doing things as his health prevented him from doing them. He had never been well off; not least because of the very large family that he had to support. The diary tells  of difficulty in paying the basics despite help from his family and the Methodist Society.


“Sunday November 22nd. It was my rent night yester night Nov. 21. I struggled very hard to get it up, and I did and sent it by Jacob. God be praised for it”. Jacob was his youngest child.

John had not written himself off though. At 72 years, John was still looking around for ways of earning his living, or at least adding to it. In the following passage, he seems to be writing down his thoughts-

Wednesday Nov. 30th“This to me has been a long month and a very wet, rainy, misty month. Unwholesome but it ends today- Could I teach a school for a living, could I make press paper pictures to sell. I am too dull of hearing to teach a school”. I agree about with him about November. Its an awful month and one we could do without. Probably December as well.

It is not really clear at this time from where his money is coming from. He had been short the whole of his life so it is unlikely that he would have had savings. I suppose he could have still been producing his ‘Gears and slays’ . There is no mention of this in the diary but in the 1841 census that is given as his occupation. His family is likely to have helped at least in kind if not in cash. All seemed to be living a close to hand to mouth existence. Even the son who was a grocer had debt problems. He still had to find his rent each month and provide for Hannah and himself. Or maybe he was skimping all along to put small amounts aside for Hannah

Its not clear if its the actions of individual chapel members or of the he Methodist Society in Yeadon but some help did come from that direction periodically. Early December must have been particularly difficult.

“Dec. 3rd. A gift when least expected and when much needed. The Lord be praised and the Donner (? Donor) also by WK- 10s-0”.

Does that mean  the money was given by WK or that it was passed on from a donor by WK

WK is most likely William Kenyon who was a Class Leader, lay preacher and otherwise prominent in the life of the chapel. He was to be the bringer of help again and again.

I think that November is an awful month. Johns seems to have had the same kind of feelings about it, that is it brought out morbid reflection. On his birthday, the November 5th just past in 1836 he wrote his ‘Dying Testimony’. A good part is a reflection upon the possibilities for him after death. He generally felt despite his faults and failings that there were possibilities through grace to for eternal life, and in the right place. I am not belittling this. For John this was what all of earthly life was about, and maybe he is right. He was as anxious about this journey as I would be to be fired off from a rocket at the moon. He saw it as stepping out of this world into the next and it filled a lot of his thoughts.

Being very unwell, I desire to leave this as my dying testimony to my relatives and friends for I think I shall be called away suddenly not having any opportunity of leaving such a testimony at the time, then let this be received as the language of my dying moments of my principles and expereinece.

I fully expect, if through grace I should continue to the end, to be admitted to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, but this foundation of my hope is not built upon anything I can do, or have done; my best deeds will not bear Divine inspection, If I place my Salvation on such an issue there would be found sin enough in my most holy performances, to exclude me from the Kingdom of Heaven. My best deeds have been mingled with impurity , and I will beg of the father of mercies pardon for all the sins which have attended my prayer’s and my preaching. Yet I have good hope through grace and the foundation on which I stand is, faith in the lord Jesus Christ, faith in the blood of the lord Jesus Christ and faith in the righteousness of the lord Jesus Christ.

Signed this day November 5th 1936, being my birth day, I am now through Gods mercy 72 years of age, but I do not expect living over this winter.

John Yeadon Snr”

 I have included here his practical instructions from the same document for direction of his funeral. The pages containing his full will are missing from the original archived diary, but other references show that Hannah, his disabled daughter was to be the main beneficiary-

“You will see at page 92 of this book how my will is concerning Hannah that she take all that I leave at my death.

Unfortunately page 92 has not come down to us. Probably it was taken out by those responcible for settling his affairs at the time of his death.

Most of the rest of the passage gives directions for how he wanted his funeral to be organised-

“I leave in charge to all my children to make a very plain funeral for me after my death, no pomp, no pride, no show, but all peace and harmony”

He asked that all his children attend in order of age with their partners and children. He obviously took pleasure from the thought of the size of the very large family. He made the following request regarding details of the funeral-

“My grave and one for Hannah is next to M. Leycocke, mine in the middle and Hannah’s east of mine which makes us that row of 3. There will be 13 graves to dispose of still. Silence to be kept all the way not one word spoken. I have said nothing about eating and drinking, you may use your pleasure in that. Let all things be done decently and in order. As for getting black you cannot, nor do I desire you should. I am till death your loving father. John Yeadon Sr. Remember Hannah for good, all of you. November 5th 1836”.

The man had vision. He has bought up a great big section of the chapel graveyard for him and all his family, and their partners.

The last sentence, about Hannah says most of all.











These are a group of women in a workhouse in Kent. Amongst them are people who probably had a Learning Disability. John was afraid that this would be Hannah’s future.

Despite all of this he was still more than six years from his death. Each year must have been a surprise.

John begins the diary for 1837, by recording that he heard a J. Preston preach on the 1st January. This was presumably John Preston, a very well known local preacher who had turned to religion after experiencing a vision whilst in a public house in Apperley Bridge (haven’t we all.) He preached in local dialect, and drew upon parables of things familiar to a mill working/farm poaching congregation. His services were always well attended. John Preston was the preacher you rolled out when you wanted a big crowd. 

Was this year, 1837 a better year for John. There seems overall to be busier and more engaged with things, whether those events be good or bad.

On February 6 he eventually moved out of the house he had lived in for over 40 years, and went to live with his daughter Nanney and her husband John Rawnsley. He wrote on the 5th February-

“I intend beginning to flitt (move) or remove to Nancy’s my daughters, who married John Rawnsley, the 6th February 1837. Yes tomorrow. I think it will take me all next week to get settled”.

It is not known for sure where they were living but it was possibly South Street, next to Parkinson’s Buildings which was midway along the street in the direction of Sandy Way. That at least was the family address in the 1841 and 1851 census.




A map of Yeadon in 1847. The community had grown considerably during Johns lifetime. The economy of the town had been transformed from one of small scale farmers and independent Clothiers.  A this point but also increasingly over the next fifty years most men and many women spent their working days employed by someone else in large, industrial scale enterprises housed in great cathedrals of industry. They were not quiet places though. Levels of deafness in communities like Yeadon were such that it was close to being a normal state of affairs amongst the older groups of workers as a consequence of the machine noise. John never really gives us an exact idea of  where he lived.  From scraps of information scattered through the diary  I suspect he lived within a hundred metres of Ivegate, which is one of the main thoroughfares of the town.  We know for sure though that John lived on South Street with family members in 1837. This is not identified on this map and it no longer exists. Nor is it mentioned on maps from later years. It can be inferred from the 1841 census and it geographic name that it is to the south of the town and close to Sandy Way/ Ivegate area of the town. That would place it somewhere along the road which branches off from a junction and ends at a building called ‘Croft House’ towards the bottom of the map. The house though would have been nearer the busier end of the street. Most of this family would have been living within a few hundred metres. The Wesleyan Methodist chapel is one of the few named buildings. It dominated the life of the community in a way which is hard to appreciate now


It was to be a temporary move though. In November of this year John mentions after living with Nanney’s family, he was with his daughter Ruth for four weeks before moving in with his eldest son Joseph and his extremely large family. Its not entirely clear but he seems to have made the last move by October and it might have been as early as March. The more I try and work these sequences out the more I’m baffled. In all probability he moved often and may of even have been on a kind of rotation going from sofa to sofa.

Joseph his son was a grocer near what is now the Town Hall or possibly Sandy Way which is a short distance away.  In this year he was forty three years old and had ten children living at home. Another five had left home or were yet to be born (the last in his late forties). Now God love the man he is going to take on his ailing father as well; together with his severely disabled sister. Broad shoulders in deed.

The accounts came in at the end of the year-

“Sunday December 11th 1837. “Our Joseph, Joseph Yeadon my son was obliged to submit to go to York castle for debt. He left home at 10 O’clock AM for his journey and I suppose would be safely lodged there this day before night at 7 O’clock. May the good lord be with him, and with his numerous family for ever.”


The Debtors Prison at York Castle built in 1705.The three classes of debtors were housed in different accommodation. All had to pay a charge on admission and discharge for their keep The poorest class resided with the criminal felons in lower levels of the building. Did John Yeadon’s son Joseph spend some time here.

It is not clear from the diary if Joseph is attending a trial there or had previously been tried locally and was to be detained at York. The law on such things at the time allowed for indefinite imprisonment until the amounts owed were repaid. The diary does not mention imprisonment for Joseph but it also does not say anything else about the putcome of the trip to York.

As a child Charles Dickens witnessed his father going off to  the Marshalsea debtors prison in London.

Imprisonment for debt was only abolished in 1869 although those who could pay but wouldn’t could be held for six weeks.

 Dickens used what he had seen of his own fathers experience in his books Pickwick Papers and Little Dorrit. As a consequence of this fathers incarceration, at age twelve he was forced to leave school and get a job in a factory to support himself. This is an audio link to a lecture on the National Archive Website about Dickens direct and fictional accounts of debtors prisons


In regard to Joseph what ever the sequence of events, it is not hard to see where the debts came from but he would have been less of a man if he had been tighter with his money.

In the spring of 1837, Isabella who was Joseph’s daughter and John’s granddaughter had a severe form of Smallpox.  Isabella is my Great, great grandmother. Although as we shall see came close to dying, she did survive and went on to live for another seventy years. She died in died in 1907 just fifty years before I was born. An aunt had very clear memories of her daughter Cora who is my Great-grandmother. Thinking on this, then the penny drops. If this young girl Isabella, had not survived this dreadful episode then a whole chain of people;  probably well over a hundred by now, would never have lived. Of course I am one of them. Because I’m here I know the outcome but following John’s narrative of Isabella’s illness still reads like a drama for me.

John was living close by so was able to give a first had account of  Isabella’s illness. I have quoted at length from is account because it gives a graphic account of the effects of one kind of Smallpox. John has an eye for detail.

“Tuesday morning 28th March 1837. Joseph’s girl, Isabella began in the Smallpox. She is about 15 years old. It is March 28th. I saw her on the 30th for the first time, they are coming out- no doubt she got the contagion by lying at James Slater’s who had buried his wife and child lately of the Smallpox.

Friday 31st at 5 o’clock pm. I hope Isabella easy night. I say hope she will not have a great load. God grant it if it is consistent with his will.

Saturday April 1st. Tonight she seemed to be free from fever. Sat up a little. The Good Lord save Isabella.

Lords Day April 2nd……..Isabella on Sunday 2nd. I saw her in the afternoon. She had a greater load of pox than I expected. Lord save her if consistent with thy righteous will. Amen.

Monday April 3rd. Isabella has no alarming symptoms that I can find, nor fever. It will be the 8th day from sickening tomorrow.

Tuesday April 4th. This is the 8th day from sickening. A full load there certainly is but no symptoms that I can disapprove of in such a load. I mean Isabella Yeadon April 4th 1837. Glory be to God for it.

Wednesday April 5th. Isabella is at the height in her Smallpox, a full load indeed, but symptoms moderate so far. Her Grandfather JY.

Thursday April 6th. Isabella had a good day but sore. Glory be to God and Lamb.

Friday 7. Isabella Pox turned white a day or two back. This day they are turned yellow, they are full plump and ripe. This is the 11day since beginning.

Saturday 8th April. Isabella no worse. Tho passing the crisis 4 O’clock PM. This is the 12th day since first sickening. J.Y. her grandfather.

Sunday April 9. Isabella is turned the height of Small Pox. They are the wet kind and full of mater. The Good Lord has heard prayer and answered so far for Isabella. God be for-ever praised for so doing. Let it be for thy glory my God.

Monday 10. Isabella Pox runs much. They had much to do in shifting her this morning so stiff and Barked (?) on. John Denison girl 20 years old died this morning about 4 o’clock of the same Small Pox. Isabella symptoms continue the same only she has passed the height and great hopes are entertained of her perfect recovery. Lord grant it for her own sake, for her family and for thy own glory. 7 o’clock Monday night.

Tuesday 11th . This is the 15th day since Isabella first sickness for the Small Pox. She can now feel the pox stinck, they run very much indeed and there is abundance of mater. The swelling is subsiding in proportion as they run. I still hope that she will be spared a little longer in this world of trouble and sorrow. I write as an old man. Isabella has seen little of either yet but. I will now take my leave of this subject for this day 3 O’clock PM Tuesday. Her Grandfather.

Wednesday April 12th. This is the 16th day since Isabella began. It was on Easter Tuesday in the morning. She has been greatly favoured by a Good God. One is taken and another is left.. They are burying John Denison daughter now while I am writing this. Praise God for thus sparing even Glory. April 13th. Isabella is mending. Cannot sit up too much yet but today for the first time sat up for more than an hour and a half. She is better and better. Praise God.

Friday April 14th. This is the 18th day since Isabella first sickened for the Small Pox, and now I hope she is out of danger from them Praise God and the Lamb and the Holy Ghost my Triune God.

April 15th Saturday. I shall now dismiss writing any more on Isabella and her Small Pox, but not dismiss a truly thankful Spirit for what God has done for her in carrying her haply through them thus far, Praise God”.

After this close shave with death, Isabella lived for another seventy years. Her parents  Joseph Yeadon and his wife Mary, had her in about 1822. Isabella married twice, firstly to Samuel Marshall who was my great, great-grandfather and after his death in 1857, to a Joseph Wilkinson.

 She is mentioned in seven censuses so we know something about her life. This survivor of Smallpox had at least six homes during these years but all were within three hundred yards of where she was born. The last one at Harper Rock now overlooks the towns Morrison’s supermarket. She had just four children with her two husbands. These were Jane who was born in 1849. The second born was Cora a year later. She was to become my Great-grandmother but took her time getting around to it. She was unmarried and living at home until she was almost forty. She then married the widower Thomas Wilkinson in 1889 who brought with him six children and a drinking problem. They had just one child together, Ida my grandmother in 1890. The last of the children from her first marriage was a boy, Thompson. The only child of her marriage to her second husband Joseph Wilkinson was a boy called Johnson. He was living with his mother in the 1901 census record. I think Isabella died in 1907 but this is based upon an assumption about a probable mistake on a death certification. If correct that would make her 85 years old. A good age for her but maybe, courtesy of the Smallpox not a good complexion.

Isabella and her family in the 1851 census. She is with her first husband Samuel. The two sisters Jane(aged 2 years) and Cora (forty months) are also shown. Two lodgers, named Yeadon and presumably extended family members are living with them. The men are working as ‘Clothiers; which was the name for skilled, often independent workers in the local textile industry. The probability at this date though is that they were employed. The family and lodgers are living at what was known even then as ‘Old Sandy Way’.


Returning to John’s diary, most of the notes for 1838 are about John’s money and health problems.

The following entry is a little unclear but it seems to show that Johns and his daughter Hannah were now living at his daughter Nanny’s house. Money is tight, but things were made easier because of an actual, and an expected Poor Law payment to assist with Hannah’s care. 

“Saturday April 7th Town Pay of Thomas Smith 4s 0d remains due to me having laid it down. This sometime back I have been much tried, but on this morning Nanney received 2s 0d toward 6s belonging Hannah”.

This is interesting because if it was a payment made by the poor law guardians of the town for Hannah, it shows that at times they were able to show judgement and assist with the support of disabled people without insisting upon condition of residence in the workhouse. These look to be one off hardship payments though, rather than regular support. The fear would have always been there for John though that it would only take the whim of a poor law bureaucrat to change Hannahs fate.

There was also help from family. John’s third son Benjamin lived at Idle near Bradford. He was also a Slay and Geer maker. Presumably he had moved away from Yeadon to avoid competition with his father. Periodically he would send over a daughter to visit John

Sunday April 8th Mary Ann our Benj. Eldest daughter from Idle came to see me today for which I thank them”. She would have been fifteen at the time.

Mary Ann’s visits seem to have been fairly regular. John makes the following note later in the diary-“She brought a gift of 5 shillings from her father”. In return John gave her a book called “Thompson’s (sic)Seasons…” to keep for his sakes”.



This is an earlier print of the book of poetry by James Thomson that John gave to his niece Mary Ann. First published in 1730, the Seasons is one long poem, written in blank verse, 5550 lines long. Its about the succession of the seasons, diversity of nature , the increasing intelligence and sensibility of men and the power of God. The Scottish Borders where Thomson grew up features a good deal. It is not an easy read for anyone.

This link takes you to the full text of the book.

Were people more intelligent in the past or just greater powers of concentration. Maybe they were just more serious minded. In any event John was expecting a great deal of his fifteen year old niece. Did she keep it and pass it onto her children? Id like to think so.

A few days after writing the above lines some more information came my way about Mary Ann which I find unsettling despite it all happening so long ago toa  person I was only aware of from a few words in Johns diary. If Id have left it there it would have been alight, but now through my curiosity  (and the resulting incomplete information) I’m left worrying about Mary Ann, and about a book she used to have.

I do know that she got married. It was on the 23rd September 1839 to a Thomas Booth, who like his father was a ‘Delver’ (wonderful job title). This probably meant that he worked in a local quarry prising out and moving slabs of rock. She was seventeen years old and he all of nineteen. They lived in the same community as both sets of parents, that Is the equally wonderfully named township of Idle on the edge of Bradford. Mary Ann was able to sign the register, Thomas not. She then disappears. Various Thomas Booths of corresponding ages are living around Idle Delving and wool manufacturing but non of them married to a Mary Ann or even a Mary. A family history enthusiast says that she died in 1847 when she would have been about twenty five years old. That’s the part that upset me. What would have been the most likely cause of death? Child birth would be in the top five possibilities. I’ve not been able to verify for sure though that she did die in 1847 but that does not mean that she didn’t! So I’m now left worrying what happened to Mary Ann and the book that John gave to her when she was fifteen years old for being a good granddaughter.

Since writing the above I’ve spent many hours trying to sort this out. This is what I’m fairly sure of knowing at the moment. I believe that Mary almost certainly died in Childbirth in January 1840. The child Rachel survived and was brought up by her father Thomas. She was named for her grandmother, which I’m guessing is what Mary Ann had said she wanted,

In 1841 father and daughter are both living with Thomas’s parents. Ten years later he has remarried and is living with his new family including Rachel who is now 11 years old. She subsequently became a ‘Worsted Drawer’ and then later a servant to a woolen manufacturer, and then a textile worker again. She did not marry until she was almost in her mid thirties, but she then had four children in quick succession, all girls. The first was named Mary.

Rachel lived on to her seventies sharing a house with three of her grown up daughters. Mary the first born and her grandmothers namesake married in 1901 when she was twenty seven and had a family of her own.

So the fifteen year old girl Mary Ann who was given the poetry book by Grandfather John Yeadon died in (or soon after) childbirth two years later. She had a daughter though and that daughter had four daughters. I’m hoping that the book survived and was kept by one of them.

…and that’s what results from a rainy Sunday afternoon!

John was always looking around for ways to get some cash in hand and presumably contribute to the upkeep of Hannah and himself. In turn it looks that some of his children might have been making that task easier for him albeit indirectly. James another son might have paid a little over the odds for the watch and chain in this deal-

Friday April 13th. “Sold my watch and chain today to James my son for £3-0-0. Received the money. I bought it new of Blackborough Otley  on March 26th 1824. No 6454 for £4-8-0”.

John uses the colloquial terms for illnesses. ‘Costiveness’ was the early 19th century name for constipation. If we had not known that we could have guessed by the contents of Johns home made treatment-    

May 7th: “I am habitually Costive this 2 or 3 years back, made a medicine to obviate costiveness for my own use as under.

Castor Oil 1oz

Gum Water Sweetened 1oz

Spirits Nitre ¼ oz

I added 2oz of water.

Mix, take half a Meat Spoonful any time”

Reading the next entry, as someone in the 21st century it seems incredible that a chapel Sunday school and its treat for the children could be so popular.

“Whit Monday June 4th. Sunday School scholars had their Potation, fine bread and tea. We have two chapels and two school houses at Upper Yeadon. Thank God. Room plenty and 7 or 8 hundred Sunday Scholar”s.

A ‘Potation’ was part children’s picnic, part route march. Many had their origins or were just created copies of sometime ancient annual rituals. The mass of children would walk to all corners of the township in turn and possibly have a short ceremony of some kind each (not always so serious or formal). Then they would head back to a congregation point and have their picnic. In some communities this perambulation would have been led by a Church of England priest, but the established church had not woken up to the fact that these new industrial towns existed. The Methodist Church was faster on its feet and inserted itself.

 Even allowing for the great strength of Methodism in the town and the youthful skew of the population at the time, these numbers seem more than impressive. I don’t disbelieve John though. The chance of free and possibly fancy foods might have brought in some temporary (for the day) Sunday scholars.

June looks to have been a busy month for parties-

“Thursday June 28th 1838: Queen Victoria to be crowned this very day morning at 6 O’clock. I wrote this and we had public rejoicing and music and feasting at Yeadon in the afternoon”.

The Summer could also bring wide spread out breaks of infectious diseases. Many who attended these celebrations would not have survived the following months. Yeadon had a Typhus Fever outbreak in August. These were not uncommon at the time. Epidemics we now associate with communities living with the most insanitary conditions, visited this community on a regular basis, and would continue to do so until municipalities acted on water supplies and sanitation later in the century.

John wrote this piece about his son in laws experiences-

August 9th Lords Day: “John Rawnsley where I now live is poorly. Took his bed on the 6th August, was bled the 7th of Aug. By Dr. Thompson, is very unwell. This morning the 9th August, the doctor ordered a blister behind the neck. It was applied at 8 O’clock at night and taken off at 8 in the morning of August 10th had not risen well- but the doctor pronounced him much better”.

Tuesday August 11th. “John is much the same. Wednesday August 12th had a bad night with vomiting until this morning confined to his bed day and night, 12 O’clock noon- and so he continued both Wednesday and Thursday. On Friday 14th Dr ordered sweating powders and says he is mending daily. Saturday Aug 15 he has had the worst night that is past, that he ever had and bad this morning. 11 O’clock the  Dr came to visit him and sent him an 8 ounce bottle of a Julip. Had more rest than usual. It is now Sunday noon Aug 16. He has kept his bed day and night now for 11 days”.

Monday August 19th. “Dr has visited John this morn says his complaint is not at height yet, but ordered him another bottle of Julip. This is the 12th day of keeping his bed. It is now named Typhus Fever for the first time. It may be so for the fever is amongst their neighbours.

Tuesday 18 is his 13th day.

Wednesday 19th. This is John 14th day. The crisis and the fever is abated. Better on Thursday 20th. This is Friday morning the 21 had a good night”.

Yeadon Feast Sunday Aug 23rd. “The doctor comes everyday and now pronounces Johns out of all danger from his fever in which he has been 18 days”.

It is interesting that the doctor came everyday once the patient was getting better! It must have been a frustrating job, being a doctor at that time when you really had not much idea of what was going on and all you could really provide was palliative care until either the condition ran its course and ended or the patient died.











These were the things causing all the trouble. Typhoid fever is caused by the Salmonella typhi bacteria . That’s not the same bacteria that causes food poisoning but its related to it. Most often the bacteria is passed on through contaminated faeces getting into food or water. It spreads fast in communities that have poor levels of sanitation.

Nowadays in England there are only about 350 cases a year and these are usually the result of visits to south or south east Asia. But these same conditions would have been present in Yeadon before the great municipal public health revolution; beginning in the 1840’s but not really being effective until the Public Health Act of 1875 made it compulsory for local authorities to take action on contaminated water supplies, poor sanitation and slum clearance.

The first symptoms that Johns son-in-law would have experienced would have been a gradual rise in temperature eventually getting passed 40C, awful pain in his guts, extreme diarrhoea  or constipation and a dull headache. As things progressed a raging fever would come and go, he would be breathless and might also experienced hallucinations. He would have had internal bleeding but if he had not got better, by the third week he may well have fallen prey to a secondary infection which would have ruptured his intestines and produced a catastrophic infection in the abdomen and a death from the resulting sepsis.

As a society we have forgotten what it is like to experience life threatening epidemics such as this every few years where it would be expected that at least each extended family member might lose somebody and certainly neighbours in your court, yard, alley or street would also die.

 Now a days you start off with these awful symptoms but then you normally get better because somebody gives you antibiotics. That was not on the menu in 1838.

(Info rewritten from NHS choices website).

John started the New Year 1839, like many of us do one hundred and seventy years later. He looked at how he could live more cheaply (maybe in both senses of the word).


“Tuesday January 1st 1839. JY

What is the expense of my board for 7 days or 1 week?

I believe it is 3s 6d per week as detailed below

                                                           S  d

Wheat Bread                                        7

New Milk 7 pints                                 7

Rice 8 ounce                                         1 ½

Oat cake to my dinners                       /

*Shambles meat 8 oz                            3 ½

Butter 3 ounce                                      3

Sugar 1 lb                                               3

Potatoes 4 lb                                          2

Coffee 1 ounce                                       1 ½

Tobacco 2 ounce                                    7

Coals 2 baskets in winter                     7

Besides all other little expenses. Now in which of these can do less or abridge myself?

Rawden Coles per week  5

Candles pr ? Week  3 ½ “

*The term for a butchers shop.

John is man living frugally in a mill town very far away from any where which might be considered cosmopolitan but he has four items on that list which have travelled from the far corners of the world to end up on his table. Just guessing the sugar would have come from the Caribbean, rice from any number of places but all a few thousand miles away, tobacco and coffee most likely from America.

Surprisingly tea is absent. By this time it was widely available in England and the price had dropped to make it generally affordable. Seven pints of milk seems a lot, but its nourishing but would not make up for the absence of any kind of fresh fruit or vegetables. He may not have done a regular costing for these though as they would have only been available seasonally. I don’t know why he differentiated Coals from Rawden ‘Coles’ except possibly they were of a different quality. Rawden or Rawdon as it is now spelt is a neighbouring village

On the same day, he added in a page summarising the details of his children, and the number of grandchildren they had produced! That number was forty seven but there were more still to arrive. It’s a wonderful document really, and John must have felt proud at the legacy he was leaving. The daughters are listed under their married names.




This table showing all of his living children, ages and numbers of children was written by John on New Years Day 1839. The image is copied from his diary but has been tinted to give greater clarity. The information is transcribed below


                               Tuesday January 1st 1839.  New Year Day

                                   On my Family John Yeadon Sr.


                                      Aged 74 years two months




When Born



The age of my children today


James Yeadon

Aug 7 1788


49 and 5 months


Hanh Yeadon

Oct 1 1790


47 and 9 months


M. Fieldhouse

May 5th 1792


46 and 8 months


Joseph Yeadon

December 22nd 1793


45 years


Nany Rawnsley

July 26th 1795


43 and 5 months


Benj. Yeadon

April 4th 1797


41 and 9 months


Bety Murgatroyd

June 1799


39 and 6 months


Ruth Claughton

Feby 1802


35 and 10 months


Sam Yeadon

Aug 1804


33 and 5 months


Martha Fieldhouse

May 1806


32 and 7 months


Jacob Yeadon

Jan 22 1808


31 nearly


Almost all the entries in 1839 are quotes from religious texts, accounts of services at the chapel or short mentions of the weather and such. Things which probably don’t now hold much interest.

More mention is made of the books that he had been reading, and gives some a short review. These accounts always surprise me in that they seem to show someone of very little formal education reading widely and fairly deeply. He is also seventy four years old. Maybe this is a reflection of a 21st century prejudice which underestimates the ability of native intelligence coupled with an enquiring mind to drive an individual’s learning far beyond what one might expect from his situation. I have quoted from one of Johns little book notes here which illustrates my point-

“I am reading the history of China by……the missionary printed in 1838 near 600 pages Octavo. The Chinese take a census of the number of inhabitants every year and their number at present 300,060,000 souls. Yes more than 3 hundred million or one third of all the inhabitants of our world”.

During the following year (1840) John‘ s health seems fragile. He gives an account of being ill with a chest and ear infection combo, and falling in the street. Before antibiotics any infection was a much more serious matter and could drag on for many weeks or longer. infections of the ear where particularly painful  and often left serious scarring and occasionally deafness.

This episode sounds particularly bad-

“Lords Day January 5th. I have been very poorley all November and December by a could and cough fallen on my lungs and this last 3 or 4 weeks afflicted with a pain in my right ear. Gathered and burst it. Discharged dark brown matter and I was easyer. I can get to no means of Grace, which makes against me”.

It sounds like John found some means of bursting the abscess in his ear! Give thanks for antibiotics.

For a time during the first quarter of the year John lists the books that he is reading. He is getting though one every 7- 10 days, and these are really quiet scholarly works of theology and travel. For each one he gives the number of pages and some brief comment.

“Wednesday Feby 12th. Saw and read’  Memoirs of the life and labours of R. Morrison D.D. by his widow. Vol 8/ Printed in 1839. Pages 1100”.in Caffery (?) in Africa. Pages 500”.

“Thursday Feby20th Read Capt Ross Voyage of 4 years to North Pole – also Mr Hays ‘Missionary travels in Caffrey (?) in Africa. Pages 500. Also Also Christian records by Sims Printed in 1836. Size (?). Pages 351. Price 3.6.”.

It is mostly in these later years where; occasionally he gives an account of his reading habits. The number of books he gets through is astonishing. I suspect that this activity would have been one of a lifetime. Its not something you take up for the first time in your seventies. Even allowing for less time to read in earlier years that still adds up to a scholarly life albeit it one done at odd moments and at the extreme ends of the days. An obvious question is where did he get these books from. He did not have money to buy these them. I’m guessing that there was some kind of library attached to the chapel. Novels would not have had a place there (not that many as such were being written at the time) but works which tended to edify and uplift the reader would have.

When did John stop being a preacher? It is not a clear cut event.  He says a few times in the early 1830’s that he had preached for the very last time on some particular date and place for it only to be contradicted a few pages later. He certainly was not active in the role after these years but he still dips his foot in the water every now and again but mostly at prayer meetings held at friends houses. This was probably just taking the lead with prayer. He was no longer on the chapel plan and conducting services. Taking a very rough figure then John seems to have have spent at least forty years of his life as an official, then less than official preacher,  and it continued until about the age of seventy despite his apparent frailty and loss of hearing.

There was to be one last occasion though, if he realised it or not-

May 24 Lords Day. I ventured to speak to the people to go forward from Exodus 14,15. I have not spoken before this 6 years (he is not counting the private house meetings)- and chooses to do it at 12 O’ Clock at noon today and loose them at 1 not to interfere with any other ordinance, Yea and the Lord was present and precious, eternal Glory be to my Triune God..”

He preached for an hour and then let the congregation go so as not to interfere with a new man, having his preaching trial  at 2pm. The text was “And the Lord said unto Moses, wherefore though criest thou unto me? Speak unto the children of Israel that they go forward.” I don’t know that this passage had any special significance for John, except its to do with leaving a place.

“At 2 0’Clock heard a Whitaker French is our new chapel, a man on trial- Godliness is profitable for all things having the promise &c 1 Tim 4 S”

The full quote is “godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come”.

And (for John) that’s it. All done.

On March 8th 1840, John gives the following information-

“The revival amongst the Wesleyans at Yeadon continues to Thursday from February 1st, being 37 days in which 221 souls professes to be justified – today a Love Feast was held in the new chapel- and also one in the old chapel at the same hour (1 ½ pm) and also preaching in the new school where there could not have been fewer than 2000 souls present in all”.

These numbers remain astonishing. The population for the town calculated nine years earlier was 2761 people. Even allowing for growth in the intervening years and some of these people attending from neighbouring villages I cannot imagine a system of belief having such a considerable hold on a community. It looks like the Methodist Society was Yeadons equivalent of the Chinese Communist Party but without the compulsion

On June 14th 1840 John mentioned a man named John Newsom visiting Yeadon in an official Methodist Society capacity.

“The visitor said that he was to stop at Yeadon 3 months as a Leeds Home Missionary and they would pay all his expenses”.

Presumably this involved working to draw yet even more people into the local Methodist Church. We know a little more about who this man was and what was to become of him. Firstly we have some information from the 1841 census. He and his large family are living eight miles away on Wellington Lane in Leeds. From other sources we will come to in a minutes I know this his father is a woollen cloth manufacturer and John is listed as working in that trade. From the same source we know that son Kendrik was at this time working as an office boy and messenger. Both presumably working for grandfather.

This is where we take a big leap. Information which might have never been discovered or which might have taken months (years) of research or some incredible bit of luck to find can now happen in moment because of the internet it you chose the right search terms. I did and immediately came across an extract from a book of biographical sketches written in 1889 In Illinois, USA. The main subject of the five page document is John Newsom’s son Kendrick, but incidentally we learn about John and his father John Newsom Senior. The latter as well as being a cloth manufacturer had been a devout member of the Episcopal Church.  He died in 1832 nine years before John Juniors Big Leap. Presumably he left the business to one of his children but we don’t know which one. Possibly an older bother or less likely sister. John Junior is described in the census as a ‘Cloth drawer’ in the  census but we don’t get told if he was owner as well.

Following his encounter with John Yeadon he caught a ship at Liverpool, ‘The Kensington’ and sailed to America with his family. Arriving at New York five weeks later he then headed straight for Edwards County Ill., where he was a local preacher for six years. This was all presumably prearranged otherwise it would seem odd to make such a direct journey to somewhere so specifically off the beaten track and take over as a preacher. After these six years he  then moved to a place called Council Hill Township, Ill. where he preached in the local Primitive Methodist Church until 1850 when he would have been fifty four years old. He then made another leap and bought a 200 acre farm, but continued preaching in his spare time. Its always good to diversify though and together with his son Kendrick (and another son) he got involved in the lead smelting business which prospered. Kendrick bought up land in various places, accumulated even greater wealth and then became a benefactor and elder for his community (hence the biography). Meanwhile John Junior continued to run the farm at Council hill until he died aged sixty five years in 1858. The small age discrepancy from the 1841 census is accounted for by the practice of rounding ages up to the next five.

In the intervening years he had not been idle. Some time between 1841 and 1858 he acquired the title of reverend. This was most likely through some form of programme with the Methodist Society in Illinois, but no less a major achievement. He also was a prominent supporter of the Republican Party in the area (the same state as Abe Lincoln) and campaigned for abolition of slavery. It would be interesting to know if he met the future president. One sadness along the way though. Johns wife had died shortly after they had arrived in America aged only forty seven years.

I’m impressed with John Newsom. A the age of forty four when most people have formed a truce with their life ambitions he took off to what would have felt like the far side of the world. He then deposited himself in a random spot half way across that continent and prospered. In the last seventeen years he had entirely reinvented his himself. Apart from thoughts of his wife he would have had many reasons to quietly smile to himself. Why couldn’t our John. John Yeadon have done something like this. Undoubtedly  John Newsom would have started out with a pot of money from the family business and that would certainly have helped (I like to imagine him deciding that rather than work under an older brother he would cash in his chips and beggar off).They both had large families but granted JY’s was twice as big. Both issues are of course more than pertinent but I also think that there is another one pushing in the other direction. John Yeadon for whatever reason(imagination, spirit, guts) could not take the last (very big) leap. That move is the one that makes all the difference. This has relevance also for Rowland Kitchen.

I only know about John Newsom because he had some kind of encounter with our John in 1841 when the former was acting as a ‘Home Missionary’ in Yeadon. Our John is unlikely to have heard of what happened to the visitor but I would bet that he would have wondered about his own life and the choices that he did not make. By 1841 though that was all academic for John Y who was now an old man living on the breadline.

On July 15th John Yeadon began receiving what was the equivalent of outdoor (i.e. not in the Workhouse) Poor Law relief payments.

“Wednesday received my first shilling from my town this day or rather this night, now is my 76 years  of age- Lord Jesus help thou me.”

In a sense John was fortunate. Proper workhouse facilities had not yet been developed for the locality as they were supposed to have been by the 1832 Poor Law Reform Act.. The old poor house at Carlton was too small to accommodate many people. Other small ones further afield would also have been too small other than to take local inhabitants. The new large ‘union workhouse’ at Otley was not to open until 1873, forty years after the passage of the act which was designed to end support to people like John. Maybe the local poor law commissioners had the decency to delay things as long as possible.


One of the first entries for 1841, is to record a dream that he had about his wife who had died more than 17 years earlier-

 “It was either on the 9th or 10th January at night that I dreamed as followeth.

Me and my wife were standing on the causeway near Joseph Adkinson old shop looking westward was saw something very remarkable in the western horizon. Very soon we saw 2 vessels coming direct towards us both abreast, as smooth and as swift as a swallow flies in 2 minutes they were at us as they both stopped exact before us about 15 yards south of us they appeared to us about the size of 2 pots pints, The moment they stopped they began to lower downwards and before they reached the earth I awoke and behold it was a dream “

“My reflections on the above my wife has been dead over 17 years when this happened. It never struck me once, that she was dead. These 2 vessels as I think represented one me and other my wife. They were made of clay so were we. These vessels were intelligent or else why stop before our eyes. So were we. These vessels fell towards the centre of gravity so have some of us, and did not appear to inform the living to make ready for the same exit(?)

 Joseph Adkinson was a butcher, and listed in the trade directories. I have not been able to identify where his shop was situated.

This is the last of the detailed notes in Johns diary for that year. The other, very numerous entries all relate to books that he was reading and to attendance at chapel services. He is still occasionally attending prayer meetings where he is called upon to take a lead but he is aware that his increasing deafness is impacting upon his capabilities.

The only detailed census record we have for John, is that provided in 1841. The previous census in 1811, 1821 and 1831 were local accounts and do not provide sufficient information to confirm his identity. There are a number of ‘ John Yeadons’.The level of analysis is on categories of information and total numbers in each rather than upon individuals and their families. In 1841 the focus changes to describing families.




John is fourth from the bottom on the left side in this extract from the 1841 census. He is living with his daughter Nanny and her husband John Rawnsley on South Street in Yeadon. His age is given as 75, when in fact he is 76 years. Despite his age an occupation of Geer maker is given so he may still possibly have been working at this. His son Joseph and his family are a few houses away. His occupation is given as ‘Shopkeeper’. Most of his children are listed over the page.

The year 1842 was to be the last one for which John kept a diary. The following entry seems to show that he had something on his mind from the beginning of the year, and it was unsettling him. Whatever the issue was had the consequence of him moving and going to live with his son Joseph and his family.

 Feby. 14th. “I left John and Nancy’s and came to live in Joseph’s parlour. I have been much tossed and perplexed in body and mind this last 6 weeks. I hope now as soon as I get settled at Joseph’s to find better days”.

It is difficult to track in John’s diary which of his children he is living with. Here though there is precise information. For some reason he is moving from a two person house hold (John and Nanny or Nancy) to one which is very overcrowded, and where he will be sleeping in the parlour. Clearly something has gone wrong at Nanny’s house.

Feby. 21st Monday. “A great meeting at 2 0’clock today for the whole parish on Yeadon Green where near 2000 attended to desire a repeal of the Corn Laws- trade is nearly over”.

 The Yeadon Green was probably the area at the bottom of the hill, which is known as The Steep. The great national political campaign for repeal of the (market restricting) Corn Laws was felt even in Yeadon. This legislation may have benefited rural farming interests but it led to very high food staple food prices for urbanised industrial workers such as those at Yeadon.

John was in receipt of assistance from the Poor Law Authorities during the last years of his life, which would indicate that he had a fairly significant level of infirmity. This does not mean that the payments were regular, more likely are one off hardship payments. The assessment would have needed to demonstrate that he was incapable of any productive work for him to receive any payment. The following entry reflects the importance of the person holding the office of Overseer of the Poor. On a day to day basis it would have been him who made the routine decisions about relief payments. John mentions his increasing deafness but there was probably other health concerns as well

April 3rd 1842: David Long our late Overseer of the Poor of Yeadon goes out of office now, and David Illingworth succeeds him. I got 3s 6d off him yesterday, April 2nd for the first time”.

Johns diary is now coming towards its last pages. He was to livefor another year but his diary ends six months before that.

One of the last these entries concerns a Yeadon man (possibly an in-law) migrating to America. Such a decision must have been extraordinary and irrevocable as in effect they were detaching themselves from family and friends for ever. One person for reasons we don’t know makes a decision to leave what we might imagine is a small backwater industrial town and take himself possibly alone half way around the world to a place he cannot have known much about. The reference to the note back to the people in Yeadon from the emigrant and his family is rather nice.

Monday May 16th: A letter came this morning from John Fieldhouse at New York in America. It is 9 weeks since he left Liverpool with 500 passengers. Landed safe in about 6 weeks in New York- and in 3 weeks more we have got his letter”.

I have made some attempts to discover what happened to this John but as yet have not been successful. I hope it went well for him and for any future children. They will have heard stories of the place their father came from but may have not understood just how brave he was.

Most of the rest of the entries for 1842 are mentions of numerous  books that John has read, or short quotes from Scripture. The last substantive entry is for Tuesday 9th August-

“Glory, Glory, Glory Yes Eternal Glory to be given to my Trune God. He loves me still and on Saturday night August 6th last at 10 or 10 ½ at night he came and told me so, what me a sinner?, yes this man receiveth sinners, what deaf sinners?, yes all sinners in the world upon their repentance and believing his gospel…… pilgrimage is near concluding, do I love God? Yes and God loves me through Jesus”.

The very last entry was on Saturday October 1st and is brief-

“Still living. I have had a good week. Glory”.

John died on the 28th March 1843 and was buried at Guiseley aged seventy eight years. His death certificate is brief. The cause of death is ‘old age’. His son Benjamin (the one with a teenage daughter who visited and got a book) was present. The entry for place is unreadable.


John Newton again-

Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.

When we’ve been here ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun.
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’ve first begun.














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Filed under Aireborough, Biography, Family history, Humour, Local history, Social History, Yeadon

Gleaning Teeming Brains 8B

Rowland and Kathleen as a young couple.

Rowland and Kathleen as a young couple.

Rowland Kitchen

Slinky, Daft Beggar and Kath


Kathleen and Rowland had three children. Through reputation acquired within the family they came to be known as ‘Sneaky’, ‘Slinky’ and ‘Daft Beggar’. Their given names were Ian AKA Rowland, Neil and David (sometimes Max). I don’t know why there is such a difficulty about names. At the start Ian was named Rowland, but his paternal grandmother Ida said that there were too many men of that name in the family. So Rowland became known as Ian which (I think) was his second name. It may have been his first name though and if so they were just making an issue out of something which did not need to be made an issue of. So (maybe) Rowland became Ian until recent years when he has started calling himself Rowland again. The current position is that anyone female, born outside of the UK knows him as Rowland. Anyone male born in the UK knows him as Ian, but not if they know him through a connection with a foreign born female then they know him as Rowland. The third category is companies who have entered into financial agreements with Ian sometimes Rowland.  They knew him as Rowland and always did so, but for the last five years he has become a non person or person without acknowledged existence, His ‘in-house’ family name was ‘Sneaky’.

Neil stayed Neil throughout except for the given name ’Slinky’.  His official family wind up name before that was ‘Nelly’. Its origin is now unknown but I suspect that it came from the misogynist Yorkshire folk tradition of giving a man a woman’s name if you really wanted to insult him. This had further refinements as in my case. For a number of years between age 13 and 16 years I was known as ‘Namow’. This name had a twist in the tale. It worked to  heighten the insult in a double edged way. Firstly, in a kind of code  I was being directly called a woman (premium Yorkshire misogyny insult) and then…too perfect …it was spelt backwards, that is as  a ‘backward woman’. In effect a double plus good insult …but in a nice way.

So Neil remained Neil apart except when he was being wound up.

With me there was a dispute. Rowland’s antagonism to religion meant that he was loath to see his children carry a biblical name. With the first two he had got his way, but when the time came to name me Kathleen’s authority had increased or he was more amenable to a strategic retreat. So after some delay in naming I became ‘David’. The biblical first name is softened by a secular second name though.  Ian got Rowland (double secular with some Celtic aspiration depending upon what his name actually was), Neil did not get one at all (but clearly Celtic allusion which was a bonus), and I got Maxwell but it was meant to be Max. This choice was inspired by Rowland’s love for Max Miller, the ‘cheeky Chappy’ blue book comedian.

This is a link to a Youtube MM video  which gives a partly sanitised for film version of his act              

 Either I’ve been told by Kathleen or I have otherwise at some point decided that I would like to believe it, that for the first weeks of my life I was called ‘David’ by one, and ‘Max’ by the other. Psychologist friends tell me this name confusion may cause problems for the child in forming a clear and stable identity, but I know they just make these things up as they go along and then all agree with each other and then call that research.

David won out in the early years, but then around age 14 I did a zig-zag and started calling myself Max. Amazingly no one, parents or teachers objected to this. To those who knew me between leaving school in 1973 and starting nurse training in 1976, or were one the various examination boards with whom I sat exams,  I am Max Kitchen (occasionally ‘Red-Max’ or ‘Super-Max’). From age nineteen through to fifty five I have been David but with a liking for add ons. These have been ‘Big-Bopper’, Da-Da and most recently ‘Goose’. I remain surprised at people’s unconditional acceptance of name transplants. People who knew me in the late 1990’s will shout “Da-Da ! “across a crowded Marks and Spencer’s store with no self consciousness. Grandchildren from 2-9 when they think of me, think of Goose not Granddad..

In the family years though I was ‘Daft Beggar’ and this is the name in my head when my father talks to me.

My dawning of consciousness happened sometime in the winter to spring of 1961 which as everyone knows was a bad winter. The three year old I liked the snow and when the thaw started decided to keep some for the summer months in a hut at the side of the house. I can’t have waited that long before checking on the snow store because I found it as a wet patch on the cement floor before it disappeared all together. My mother was the first person to call me ‘Da-Da’ and it had something to do with rice pudding skin, which means that one is forever linked with an association with the other (or  at least until that mesh of neurons fails to light up any more).

Rowland was an intimidating figure who smelled of musty wet cloth. He shouted a lot and was generally somebody the three to four year old me was scared of. One image of a Christmas when Ian and Neil bought me a toy field gun which shot out match sticks. This was contraband in the eyes of the sometime pacifist, and so was confiscated. Was it a principled stand by a concerned father or was he, as Kathleen used to say fond of throwing his weight around. I do remember being happy when he was not in the house. A pall came over the place when he got home from work.

In this dawning world Ian was already the wide boy one. The previous Christmas  or birthday he had bought me a record, ‘Swinging on a star’ by Dion and the Belmont’s. Listening to this song again today it is really a fairly aspirational anthem. The subject is invited to make the most of his potential or run the risk of becoming a mule, pig or fish, and to possess all the negative attributes of each

YouTube have it., and so does our Ian.

My belief is the swine bought the record for me but not really. It was for himself and I’ve not seen it since. I choose to believe that It happened on my birthday and so every year in late July I remind him that I want the record back and he tells me to get over it. In recent years Facebook has helped me make sure that lots more people know of his shameful act.

So in about 1960 Ian at about thirteen already had the job spec for nare-do-well. Neil’s image from these times is much harder to remember maybe because he is not around to refresh the imprint. I think of knitted hooped jersey’s and shorts, bony knees, and once or twice being hit by him for breaking his Airfix models but then that’s it apart from the goldfish incident. We were moving house on a very cold day, going over the hill to live at Banksfield Rise. It was February 1962 so Neil would have been at a point very close to his twelfth birthday. The goldfish needed to be hand carried to avoid spilling out. Who made that decision I don’t know. Neil set off to carry the fish in its spherical glass bowl. I suppose some water would have slopped over the side and helped drop the temperature in his fingers. In any event he dropped the bowl and had to scramble about to scoop up the fish in his frozen hands. Then came the mercy dash over the fields known as the banks, about a third of a mile to the new house.  He ran his heart out; he was good at cross country. Nelly was crying when he got to their. The fish had stopped flipping. Kathleen acted quickly and used a unique procedure. The fish was placed in hot then cold water basins and the process repeated several time to achieve therapeutic effect. This was to shock its heart back into rhythm. A little finger was used for the cardiac compressions, to stroke blood from the fishy heart around its body.  Self evidently this was never going to work. If you showed me a fish I could not put a finger on its heart. It has one no doubt but it could be anywhere. Kathleen must have known this. Maybe she went through all of this just to show Neil that she had really tried hard. He was absolutely distraught. Rowland or maybe Kathleen or it could have been Ian flushed the fish down the toilet. Maybe that was the first time the new toilet had ever been used. Neil’s face was all hot tears and runny mucous.

Kathleen’s image in my four year old mind is all wrapped up with images of food. Mostly rice pudding, chairs at a kitchen table alongside her baking and being called Da-Da.

I was a bit of a laat lammetjie. The Afrikaans  words for late lamb, or a child born long after his siblings is an evocative way of saying it. Ian in 1947, Neil in 1950 and then me in 1957. If these were teeth there would be a gap. Somebody is missing who might have been born in 1953 or 54. Kathleen had a little girl who died very close to being born. She gave birth in the Labour ward and then joined the new mothers in the post natal ward. A family doctor with strong religious beliefs urged her to have the child christened Mary which she did. I think the events of that day were always on the edge of her mind, just standing to one side and being a presence. Oddly it seemed to me as a young teenager, she would make mention of it.  Describing the apparent heartlessness of the midwives and the awfulness of going home without a child. Rowland did not know what to do. He later said that at this time Kathleen “had a bad time with her nerves’. The next time she got pregnant though, he realised that sometimes things can go wrong. With Ian and Neil he had been semi detached, assuming it was a clockwork progress and just showing up when it was all over. Pregnancy equals new child. The experience here shook up that assumption and he was far more attentive. It was a very anxious time. Kathleen went two weeks over her due date and was told that “Id started to go off”. She went into labour on the 6th August. It was a heavy, humid day. Rowland phoned the hospital,  to get an ambulance out to her but there was none available. I don’t know what he said to the emergency calls operator but they sent a small bus instead. She was the only passenger. The journey took them down Yeadon High Street. Kathleen said it was like a royal procession. Everyone knew her upset and how important this pregnancy was. The traffic slowed the bus. People noticed the hospital insignia on the side and saw Kathleen and waved. Smiling and wishing her well. She barely made it to the hospital. Sister somebody who everyone knew said she was an ‘old hand at this game’ and told her to get on with it. Paradoxically the words made her feel good. I was born as the thunder storm broke (as did my first daughter but in thankfully different circumstances). Eleven pounds something with skin that was a bit spongy.  I was put on a trolley and shown round the wards as no one could believe I was a new born.

How much of this is true, how much the product of retelling and emotional overlay. The only facts I can bring to this apart from the birth record is a weather report. It still astonishes me that within a few moments of relating Kathleen’s memory of humidity and thunderstorms, I can go on line and find contemporary weather records from RAF Coningsby in South Yorkshire. That’s not Yeadon but hay-ho. That wonderful record gives me daily and hourly temperature, cloud cover, humidity, precipitation and much more. Late July, the time of waiting had seen a heat wave.  I can report that August 6th indeed was humid but not so hot. On or about that day the level of rainfall shows a sharp rise after a long dry patch. It’s not exceptional weather, but I am going to take the plunge and say there was a thunderstorm. Later in middle of the month there were more storms and much heavier rainfall. She also mentioned that. There was a break in the weather and in her dark mood.

The still birth was often on her mind as he got older. In the years when she was still well, this would be coupled with the happy story. The latter did not take away anything from the pain of the first event but it did give reason to why my birth was so important to her. I am told that she intensely, obsessively doted on me as a pre-school child. That sounds more than a bit narcissistic or self absorbed.  Its not. I am trying to describe a heightened concern that came from a previous loss. Her favourite child was her first Ian, but the one she worried most about was me. Ian was the big strong man who made her laugh. I was the happy laat lammetjie,  who came out of a sadness. In later years concerns arose and then were confirmed by teachers that I was not very bright. Parents were told that I had difficulties and would do well if I acquired the very basics. More reason to worry.

Kathleen much later fretted that she did not give the in-between son Neil enough time. He was an easy child who did not cry or make demands. Happy to sleep in the Silver Cross baby carriage at the front door. These long sleeps gave Kathleen much needed rest.  As Neil began to struggle more and more in later in life she worried that in some way she had not given him enough. At the very worst times she tortured herself. I have no doubt that she was this was misplaced.  Neil’s problems had other causes but it was characteristic of her to see fault in herself where none existed. More than anything else Kathleen did a lot of worrying.

The two decades between these events and 1976, was the time when Rowland must have thought that he had to defer or forget some of his more ambitious life plans and concentrate on his family. Kathleen many times said that Rowland would have been most happy as a single man, just  indulging his interests. Some men find fatherhood natural, and they come to it instinctively. For Rowland it was hard work

First off it is likely he felt trapped into marriage. Maybe not at the very beginning but when things got tougher and he had to be a little less selfish. The relationship with Ian was always fraught. The eldest son was quick tempered and rebellious not only as a child and teenager but for life. Uncle Eddie the striker and roof top tile thrower was said to live again in Ian.

Ian was always getting into trouble. School mates being told to stay clear of him. Apprenticeships he walked out of (probably with justification but the timing was not good). Many more jobs he walked out of. (timing irrelevant, and justification arguably less than optimum).  Suspicions of thieving from money stashes secreted around the house.  (We were all doing it including Kathleen but Ian got the blame). Suspicions of criminal propensities and disrespect for Methodism (stealing the scouts ‘Bob-a-job money’, dipping his hands into the service collection money and carnal acts committed on or about chapel fittings).


Haystack, Ian and an unidentified friend. Ian probably about 17.

As Ian grew into his teens it became civil war in the family. Some instances stand out as emblematic. The pub fights at the White Swan (allusions to landlord’s illicit relationship with barmaid and use of foul language). Ian was taken into a back room and given a pasting by the landlord and a support act. Word of these events spread overnight to Rowland’s place of work and thus stage set for big blow up at ‘Romany Rye’/ Banksfield Rise.  Rowland arriving home from work, stomping through the house and venting spleen at Kathleen.  Rolling thunder building to a storm. “He’s barred you know, he’s managed to get himself barred from’t White Swan. I don’t want to be having to go into work and be hearing stories about my sons fighting in pubs. He needs ‘tecking ‘in hand”. 

Ian arrives home apparently sunny and unsuspecting.  Rowland leaden opening remark “I want to have a word with you”. Chairs and furniture knocked over, round house punches.  Kathleen screaming, Ian dodging behind improvised barriers and then running out the back door. Kathleen would occasionally say that Rowland went too far. In later years she would add that “it was how people were at the time but Ian probably got more than his share of it”.

 These blow ups were like rolling thunder. Near or further away they were always present. Strangely we all accepted it.  A Christmas when proper punches were thrown and Ian was sent stumbling across the room into a chair which rolled over with him, comes to mind. I made what was probably a reasonable comment, “that’s spoilt Christmas” only to be told by Kathleen “not to exaggerate”. 

He was slow to calm, and the wisest course was to stay clear of him as far as possible. Eventually after a day or two there there would be an easing of the atmosphere signalled by a small gesture, usually at a mealtime.  Passing the bread plate or pouring tea would mean that things could now move on.  There was never a follow on conversation, just a truce and a resumption of normality. I have met men who were bullies and behaved like this for reasons of malice or through delight in the exercise of cruel, arbitrary power over others. Rowland was neither of these. He had no tolerance; he got angry, blew up and calmed down. Malice or cruelty was not in the mix. Did he feel remorseful?  He probably did, but it was only ever shown by small gestures or a momentary inflection in his voice. Paradoxically that little thing, from him could truly surprise and affect me.  I’ve experienced the feeling of omnipotence that can come with rage, and understand it addictive potentials. I had assumed that this was something that I had learnt from or constitutionally shared with him. My intuition is that as a younger man he probably did feel like this. At some point in his life it left him. Many years later when I was going head to head with him, he shocked me by saying “Stop David, I can’t do this anymore. It makes me ill”. Nothing else, then just walked off.  I have thought about that moment often. I am now at the same age as when he said it. Assuming the inside of me is much the same as the inside of him at this point, I would guess that he had come to see the swelling rage as a monster to be locked up. Instead of producing flights of omnipotence it instead leaves one feeling weakened, regretful and worse. How much like others, men who formed his peers was he? As bad, better or worse .What was that potential twinned with for better or not. Kathleen’s view (a woman who went on to have a Masters Degree in the Psychology of Education but was at this time a cleaner in a doctor’s surgery) was that was how most men were, but that probably his deafness somehow made it worse. By this time though she was a fan of DH Lawrence though, so might have got it wrong.

I don’t know when the comparison to an Old Testament God first came into my mind. All rules, wrath and no mercy. It is probably over stated, especially on the mercy front  but in my early twenties that’s how I saw him. As I’ve got older and particularly after he died I’ve tried to take a more nuanced view. My current analysis is that I have now got no sodding idea. He was not easy company. I was all of twenty five before I could be in the same room than him for more than fifteen minutes without being provoked to rage. No relaxed talk or pleasure in company. Conversation did not come easy to him. He confused it with lecturing. I probably brought out his life time best performances but no man could pack more deeply personal judgements into fifteen ordinary minutes. No dilution by self doubt. These are the ways in which you are wrong through self delusion, lack of effort or stupidity. This is the only correct course of action and if you fail in any of these regards, then you are a “useless washout”. His talent was astonishing. Astonishingly also was that all of his sons worshipped him and whatever our future failings were to be I am convinced it was through our own choices not from any harm done by him (more or less, plus minus).

Ian did get the worse of the ire though. Rowland was younger and in peak form. Ten years forward in Rowland’s career curve I’m told that I experienced a more mellowed presentation. Well he must have been something then.

Son number two, Neil rang different bells in Rowland. They recognised themselves in each other. Neil , according to Kathleen was a 1960’s version of Rowland. I’m not sure of that but there was definitely an affinity between them and less occasions of rage. It was not just that Neil was athletic, went to Grammar school, had a puritan steak and was tight with money there was also something which made them comfortable in each other’s company. They understood each other. None of the tiresome need to explain or tolerate foolishness.


Neil around the time he went to the Grammar School





Neil’s’ reports from the Grammar school talked of lack of commitment, continuing failure to reach potentials in all areas apart from English, sport and art despite ability. Some masters also suspected poor attitude. Peace symbols on the rugby boots, the silver white streak in his red hair which was getting dangerously close to his collar, answering teachers back and effectively threatening to deck them. Aireborough Grammar school had given up on him by year three and he was just waiting to leave.  All the years of underachieving and failing to toe the school line left him with a solitary ‘O’ level in art. This was worrying, not so much the failure to get a bunch of qualifications but that it was in art. This could lead to bad things. Rowland suspected the whole syllabus but this subject most of all. It was an unsettling subject. Only religious studies could have been more disquieting.

Kathleen made it her mission to get Neil into Art College, when Rowland could not have been more viscerally opposed. He intuitively believed that the experience would cause Neil harm. At the end of the two year course he would be ruined for life, and incapable of employment.  It would immerse him in an alien, posturing, self indulgent, effete milieu   which would spoil his chances of real life success. Many people have characterised such view as Luddite. Working class parents clinging to the familiar drudgery of factory life and short-sightedly denying their children life changing opportunities.   Undoubtedly that was true in many cases (as it was for Kathleen) but it would have been a distortion to judge Rowland’s actions in that way. Like many Marxists he saw intellectuals as weak, self deluded and parasitic. In short, living in pretend worlds. Real knowledge was held by people who ‘did’ as well as ‘thought’ because they were anchored in reality.  A lived experience reflected upon has more validity than a hundred books on the subject. A diploma in art was nothing when set against a time served apprenticeship in a sought after skill. Rowland worried that Neil was about to be lost at sea.

Against the distress of the two and a bit decades which remained of Neil’s life, Kathleen held that this was one thing she got right. He had a talent and he was going to Art College, and nothing was going to stop it. There were memorable days of rage. Arguments that tore the house apart but in the end what won out for her and Neil was just quietly going ahead and doing it. Application, interview, county council educational grant, and money to get him by (from ‘scivvying’ as Neil once thoughtlessly called it) were all done below the radar. By September Rowland was faced with a done job, and no way of stopping it. He ranted and imposed sanctions through tightening of the house keeping money (none of his money would go on supporting this) but he was stuck with it.

He would believe for the rest of his life that this was where it all went wrong for Neil. If he had stayed away from that place, Bradford Art College then maybe what happened would not have happened.

Whoever was right, the two years at Bradford Art College and the time that followed at the Slade Art College in London where undoubtedly the best years of his life.  Whilst at the Slade he worked nights in a bakery in Wimbledon and attended classes during the day whilst grabbing sleep where ever he could. Kathleen helped out even though by this time she was herself a mature student and living on a grant plus housekeeping. In my mind he had long red hair with a natural silver streak, product of a fall from a swing running down the back.  Jockeying with  arty students to find clothing with the shock factor. Not many people in Bradford of 1968 would have worn a full leather Gestapo great coat bought from a market stall in Prague. Its weight and shape around the shoulders felt good .Best of all it could stand alone without the benefit of human frame. Its owner was envied. Harlequin trousers hand sewn by fawning girlfriends (he was good looking for a time) also figure but the silver streak was his trade mark.  Rowland, now reluctantly relaxing to the idea of an arty son loved to take the urination out of the sixteen year old Neil. . He had his moments after the war. Pink shirts and French Berets in 1945 were not common but Neil was better. Rowland for a time liked this 1966 song by the Kinks and would sing the best lines when Neil entered a room                                                                                                                          



Photo of Neil and Rowland on Yeadon Banks.





Dedicated Follower of Fashion. The Kinks (1966). The song evokes this time and its happiness.

Then there was the third son, myself. Rowland was thirty seven when I was born, and by all accounts considerably mellowed. The seven and ten year gap between Neil and me was significant. Two or three year gaps seem to be the natural normal in families with three children. Their ages loosely cluster so that everyone in the family whilst not being on the same page is at least not half a chapter apart.  When I was nine the other two were sixteen and nineteen.    In effect I was a part only child.



David aged two years with Ian (left) and Neil (right)




Rowland did the same with me as he had with Ian and Neil that is I accompanied him selling or helped with the Punch and Judy. He told me bedtime stories about Thom Thumb (that recollection drifted in from the edge of consciousness and feels very early). The Sunday routines seem most prominent in my memory. Firstly the  three mile walks to visit Aunties Kathleen and Iris, and grandma Kitchen with Mars Bars or blocks of Bournville plain chocolate as gifts. .Alternatively a slightly longer walk over Yeadon Banks, across the beck, through a muddy farmyard and over West Chevin and back home through Guiseley after maybe lemonade at the Drop Inn. Along the way he would sometimes shoot off questions at me, tapping into my levels of educational attainment. School reports and parents evenings were telling him and Kathleen that there was a problem. I was in the language of the time ‘remedial’ or ‘Backward’.  At ten years old I was barely reading and was well behind the other children. I was taken for testing. Physical, hearing and then psychometric.  No deafness or TB but apparently but I had a low IQ and was not going to do very well. It’s worrying for an eight or ten year old when their mother comes home from parents evenings crying and then undergoes a personality transformation becoming usually tactile and nice. I would have preferred to have been shouted at like Ian or Neil was being lazy and not trying. Rowland would talk to me about the importance of practical learning and say that not everyone had to be academic, it was just a case of finding something I was good at. He would mention a local man; Willy Matchell who had made millions from scrap metal after the war but could not apparently read or write. I think we both knew even as he said it that was not going to be me. Nice but dim was more the flavour.  It was going to be hard to find my niche.

One of these questions from the Sunday morning route march sticks in my mind. That’s because I accidentally got it right..  Rowland’s questions were always way above my level., and so was this one.“What fraction is 33 1/3 of a 100”? Replaying and scanning the sentence none of the bits sounded like English to me, so in my panic I  just repeated back the words that caused most anxiety “one third”. His astonishment was obvious and stung. I had got it right!

 There were also concerns about my speech. I lisped, cluttered and stuttered. Rowland’s  theory was that I was tongue tied, the fraenulum beneath my tongue might be too long and tight. Rowland knew about such things and made me recite exercises which included every letter and sound that I could not do. This I hated and avoided as it just brought home how out of control my mouth was.

  My strategy at the time was not to talk. Be silent, stand at the edge of groups and avoid eye contact with strangers or adults. If talking was unavoidable then  to use words which did not have any of the tank trap sounds such as ‘L’, ‘R’ , ‘Th’ or ‘S’. I would verbally stumble around in a circle to avoid these dangerous sounds, and talk absolute nonsense just to avoid saying ‘their, ‘there ‘or ‘they’. Words like ‘like’ were a nightmare so I would say ‘prefer’ instead. Expressing gratitude was a difficulty so I replaced all “Thank you’s  with “Ta’.  Years later I caused some awkwardness when I had to discuss my proposed ‘thesis’ in front of a large group. People tended to not to get the best of impressions

All of this was torture. What I did not realise of course was that the speech problems at least were all very familiar to Rowland and probably uncomfortable for him to watch and hear. So instead he taught me how to clean my shoes, apply Bryl cream, and then shell peas on a Sunday morning for lunch. Practical learning which would get me by and lessen the appearance of idiocy. ”This lads going to struggle” was the diagnosis..  I don’t know how close I came to special education; I was apparently borderline Educationally Subnormal in the words of the time. I know that it could have very well made my future different, and for the worse. I spent my life working in a related field and understand something of the process and dangers. Sometimes experts don’t understand child development.

 Kathleen blindly trusted what she was told by not very good educational professionals. Rowland was out of his depth and just by turns got angry then worryingly pedagogical. In reality I was a seriously late developer with a rather erratic developmental pathway which ultimately got me to the approximate right place but at different time points to everyone else.  It’s either a false memory or a particularly accurate one that at some point my father said “what does not destroy you makes you strong”. Our imperfections can become our strengths. In any event he had the clarity at some point to get it right, and to care that he got it right. He of course knew about living with imperfections and the process of finding your own reasonable adjustments, the idiosyncratic strategies to achieve the end. He was a severely deaf magician come Punch and Judy man with a stutter for God’s sake. I think now what was hard for him was watching someone else finding out how to do it. Every day of my working life I get up in front of groups of people, sometimes two hundred or more. I speak for hours at a time (poor buggers) and they get to see to see an accumulation of a thousand and one ‘reasonable adjustments’ stumbling around and giving voice. What was hardest is now what pays the rent (and gives me the greatest pleasure).

In the 1960’s and the early years of the following decade the chief smells of the house are musty damp wool on work days and aftershave, Fox’ Glacier Mints and flatulence on a weekend. In there at some point is the smell of shaving soap. Very young boys are fascinated in watching their fathers shave. Rowland died first twenty odd years after this time and Kathleen lived alone for a number of years, becoming increasingly mentally and physically frail. A time came, probably two years later than it should have when she went into a dementia care home. The house had become very neglected and in need of considerable amount of money spent upon it. The work was organised very quickly and I was given a date by which everything had to be moved from the house. I hired a large van and drove the 185 miles to the back doorstep of 2 Banksfield Rise. I had just a few hours to make decisions about everything.  Forty odd years of living had happened there and like some supermarket dash TV programme I had to route through everything and discard 19/20ths of it. Kathleen and Rowland never threw anything out. The house in 2008 was like a museum of the 1970’s. I filled scores of bin bags and boxes and threw them into the back of the van and drove to the council dump  lots of times during the day.  I was committing sacrilege but felt there was no practical choice. In these circumstances I was surprised what I chose to keep. There was some 1970’s Habitat tat and the wartime chairs and cupboards. After driving it all the way back to Norfolk much of that went to the skip over the next few weeks. The item which had come first to mind, that had to be saved was Rowland’s shaving brush, which now sits on my kitchen window and smells of fifty years of Palmolive shaving soap stick. Of all the things that passed through his hands over seventy eight years that’s the thing that chance and disorganisation have chosen to preserve.

 Whatever he did with me he was also lecturing. It was all about rules for life. This is how to do this, this is why it’s important, this is what happens to you (or what people think of you) if you don’t do it. He did not overly modify his words to aid my understanding, so I learnt words before I understood meanings. His deafness meant that he pronounced words in his own idiosyncratic way, placing emphasis on the wrong syllables. Sometimes words were used eccentrically. ‘Telescope’ was such a word.  First I leant that people who telescoped were good, sensible organised people, second it was a word to do with plates and cups and anything else that could be stacked one upon or within another.  Thirdly it was a doing word, as in “telescope those plates, it will make more space on the table”. Finally it was to be pronounced one syllable at a time as in “get those cups and tel-e-scope them.”  As I am writing these words it is my fifty sixth birthday, fifty years since I probably learnt about the morality of ‘telescoping’. Hearing the word telescope brings to mind plates and cups before planets and stars and I still place the emphasis in the wrong places and sound each syllable separately. If that’s the case for the habit of stacking plates what else has been imbued with his ten degree out of synch worldview (I am not complaining).


David around 12 years old. Front row centre. His turn to be captain of Banksfield United. Banksfield MIll is just behind the bushes



A great deal happened for Kathleen over these years, maybe more than for Rowland, but most of it had to wait until the youngest of her children (me) was (almost) at high school. The years from 1947 until 1967 were all about family and bringing up children. She had part time jobs. Mill work for a time when Neil was a toddler. Cleaner at the doctor’s surgery. This was better as it was okay to take the pre-school me along.  The doctors there were a colourful group. One or two drank rather too much. The cry of “Sod the surgery, open another bottle was” was heard a few times ahead of the 9am start.

For the most part though she was a stay at home mother. These jobs were to buy electrical appliances, and later to help keep Neil at art college. Still later they paid for driving lessons. You can go further when you don’t have to wait for a bus.

Her life was three children, the home, Queen Street Methodist chapel (young Wives Group), the annual day trip or weekend at the seaside, going to the cinema once a week with her Aunt Flo …and waiting.

The Young Wives group met weekly from the late 1940’s till about 2007. Kathleen attended until the 1970’s and then again for the last year or so, when the same women were all in their late seventies. The name of the group had changed to… I can’t remember what but the members still used the original name with a grin. Kathleen gave an account of the last meeting she attended. The women sat in a circle on the chapel fold up chairs. The same faces but much older. There was no real programme, they just sat and prompted stories out of each other. The year they had dressed up as the Beatles and mimed to ‘She Loves You’ at a chapel concert. The seaside trips with the children, the chapel bazaars, promenading around Yeadon dam with their babies in Silver Cross prams.  Some women were very frail but the healthier ones helped the others. Kathleen at this time counted herself amongst the former. The last story told was modern. One of the ladies had a bad experience with an electric swivel door, telephone box like public lavatory on the Headrow in Leeds. The lady could not fathom the push button technology and found herself exposed to the Saturday morning shoppers. The chapel ladies laughed till they cried and then called it a day. 

Rowland had the perfect house wife. There were routines for everything. Each room in the house was thoroughly cleaned once a week (bathroom on a Sunday morning which meant that no one could use it that day). Meal planning never altered which made shopping easier. Monday steak, Tuesday fish and chips, Wednesday Meat and Potato Pie, Thursday Sausage and chips, Friday pork pie and ham, Saturday more meat and potato pie and Sunday Roast Beef (bacon for breakfast).

He never had to lift a finger although he would dry the pots after Sunday lunch. All of this for two piles of money in the Kitchen cupboard on a Thursday evening, Housekeeping and 2/6 pocket money. Kathleen carried on and waited, until it was time to stop waiting and do.

My brother Ian tells me that it was Rowland who first suggested that Kathleen reactivate her education, but maybe not appreciating how far it would go. I think she might have been priming him to have the idea.  Her school life had come to a halt at fourteen when she had reached working age. Her parent’s marriage had broken down when she was three years old. She had been raised by grandmother Hetta and step-grandfather Hextall. Her mother asked for her back and pulled her out of school to work in a local factory, Crompton Parkinson’s when she reached working age. This despite being told by the grammar school headmaster that her daughter was in line for an Oxbridge scholarship.  There is a photograph which completes the circle on these events. Two and a half decades later Kathleen returned to education, and went from night school O’levels to teaching diploma, degree and masters degree in about ten years. Her mother did not come to the degree ceremony, but did attend the one for the masters degree. She simply said that she was sorry for her actions in 1940. Kathleen said that it did not matter. The way she had got her teaching diploma and degree was the better one.  Did the life that she had in between make her a better teacher? It certainly put her firmly on the side of the child from an imperfect background who was struggling. That was evident to to scores of children in the years of teaching that were left to her.

Im not sure when Rowland became unhappy about what was happening and why. Kathleen’s catch up time line beginning around the age of thirty seven was O’ levels and then ‘A; Levels at night school a bus journey away in Leeds. Then doing more of them to get the number and grades for teaching training college. Astonishingly (to her)  getting a council education grant to do the teaching diploma, which was her first ever pot of  personally controlled money. The cultural shock of immersing herself in education and studying alongside people twenty years younger than her, and dealing with the poor expectations of some lecturers. An expectation that somebody who talked and looked like her was bound to fail. Horrendous, near fail teaching practices. Juggling all of this with a less than easy family. At around aged forty four she qualified as a teacher and got her first job at Baildon Secondary School. Then three nights a week after a school day to get a degree in the Psychology of Education. First hating then coming to love the study of statistics. Moving to Swaine House (lovely name for a place of education) school on the edge of inner city Bradford where she became head of English and spent the rest of her career. Back to three nights a week studying at Bradford University and a masters degree. Hesitating then deciding against a doctorate. All in time to hit enforced retirement. The 1960’s and 1970’s turned the world upside down for people like her.

I don’t really know what Rowland thought of this. It would be wrong to judge him by his worst reactions such as the time he picked up all her college books and through them discus like out of the back bedroom window into ours and neighbours gardens. Of course there was rows. There was always fights. Kathleen threatening to leave home and get a flat on Manningham Lane in Bradford, accusations that she was neglecting the house and family,  remarks about the ‘middle class posturer’s’ she was associating with and the time she was spending out of the house. Kathleen’s view was that he felt threatened. She had shifted onto a different life trajectory.  They were busy and there cannot have been much relaxed time together (and anyway Rowland never really did ‘relaxed’.). He must have given her some kind of hand, through altruism or self interest because the whole thing would have been impossible otherwise.  By the time I was thirteen in 1970, they were each building new bits of their lives which did not fall on shared ground. Rowland’s social life surged. He took up ballroom dancing and was out most evenings when Kathleen was at home. She was studying obsessively when she was not doing everything else. The house ran like clockwork.

Kathleen, Rowland and Ian. Sea side Day tripping in about 1949.









Every picture tells a story. Kathleen the educator. She got there eventually just a quarter century later than planned. Kathleen qualified as a teacher in about in about 1970. This photo was taken in 1985 a short time before her unwelcome retirement. During these years through studying three evenings a week at night school she added a first degree and a then masters to her teaching diploma. Kathleen is fourth from the right on the middle row.






Kathleen’s graduation photograph.  Prime Minister Harold Wilson as Chancellor of Bradford University handed her the degree. Despite having a heavy cold and drenching rain he stayed behind after the ceremony and made time to say hello to each of the students. Kathleen noticed that he spent most time with the older students like her. Asking about their achievements, and giving his congratulations. He seemed very sincere. She was probably right. His former education secretary Shirley Williams has said that he was a true egalitarian who judged people on merit not antecedents.  The man who had established that great equality of opportunity machine, the Open University really understood what education could achieve. He probably knew what these degree’s meant to some of the people he shook hands with.



No shared holidays or other time outside of the house spent together. When Kathleen was forty eight Rowland was made redundant following the fire at Banksfield Mill. He had said to her “what do you think about me taking redundancy”. She had felt proud to be in a position to encourage him. On the first day of his not employed life she waited for a discussion about what they could do that day (and others). It coincided with a school holiday and she had an expectation of some kind of renaissance in their relationship. The conversation never happened. If anything their lives became increasingly separate. Rowland’s day became filled with the things other than mill work that he had always done. Dancing moved up a few gears and took on an afternoon dimension as well (there is a whole parallel world of ‘ballroomers’). Kathleen took holidays and had days out at the weekend with other (single) lady teachers. The holidays were cultural. Italy, France and Spain, Dorset, Stratford and Edinburgh. She went to all the places where she had always wanted to go, just not with the person that she really wanted to go with.

So putting aside cats and goldfish, that was Rowland’s middle years. Were they a success? Crassly, as   measured by job achievements, things bought and paid for,  wealth, well adjusted and in turn successful children, relationships, and use of talents. Things that might add up to sustained happiness.

I may be judging it wrong, but my best belief is that he did not think in this way. Taking a parallel some time around 1968 when there was a lot of discussion about freedom, he was genuinely perplexed about what the young people on the marches were demanding. When pushed they might talk about freedom of expression, autonomy, self determination, unrestricted acts. Rowland saw freedom as the inverse. The absence of forces which limit ones life. That is freedom from Illness, poverty, ignorance, and squalor. These were the things, which uncontrolled would control and ruin your life. Using these measure, in 1968 and more so later he judged himself as free.

So would he have seen these years as successful? For many people success equates to happiness, and I think that would have been his take. I’m guessing, once the mpment by moment pleasures were put on one side (dancing, having a drink, going for walks, exploring new places) that happiness for him would have been an absence of things which made him unhappy. These things were like creatures which took possession of your life and ruined it. Chief amongst these things in Rowland’s scheme would have been illness and poverty. That belief was part of his core, fear of both had shaped him from childhood. Strangely though  I never heard him include his deafness amongst the former. That wasn’t an illness it was just him.

 The next creature to be resisted  would have been weakness. A deficiency of character. Happiness was  ‘doing right by others and by yourself’. Integrity, not shaming yourself through ones actions, having backbone.

 Waste would be the third evil to resist. Especially a squandering of the hours. A consciousness of time running away was always present. Here is twenty four hours. How much can be cram into it. Write a list and drive our way through. Calculating and then loading a time to activity equation. Idle time produced unease and made him restless.

The fourth horseman in this scheme is the one that prompted me to write this thing. That is passivity, , a hands in the air in the surrender atitiude, just letting things happen. Rowland saw no dignity in victimhood. He would have said there is a choice. Allowing the world to act upon you, or taking action and acting upon it. When people came on the radio and belittled others by referring to them as  ‘ordinary people’, or ‘the man in the street’, or worse still the ‘little people’ you could see rage or more in his eyes.  In short for a Communist he was a dyed in the wool individualist. His instinct was to take control and to shape events.  He despised

Did he ever get to a point in his fifties of equanimity?  A shutting down the restlessness machine and calling a truce with these creatures.  Sitting in a lobotomised, self satisfied lump with a silly grin on his face. No, not a chance.

 He never in my hearing spoke about the success or otherwise of these times, still less used these things as  measurements.

This is all my guess work. What would he have made of what I’ve written.  This time its less of a guess. It would be something along the lines of  “Sod off silly bugger, you haven’t got the first idea”.

I’m happy enough with that.

Its worth showing this photo again. Well done Kathleen.












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Filed under Aireborough, Biography, Family history, Humour, Local history, Social History, Yeadon

Gleaning Teeming Brains 8a


Hawthorn RoadCLINGING



Rowland towards the end of his conjuring and Punch and Judy career performing at a local fete. Notice the tap stuck to his forehead. This was a prop for a gag which went “what do you take for water on the brain. A tap on the head of course”. I think the children had no idea of what he was talking about at that point but the tap looked funny. His knees at seventy odd look to be in a better shape than mine now twenty years younger

[caption id="attachment_180" align="alignnone" width="201"]Rowland’s last ever bus and train pass. It’s rare in the early 21st century for adults not be to be car users. Rowland never learned to drive. Kathleen felt that he lacked the confidence to learn because of his deafness. I’m not sure if that’s true, but he deliberately did opt out of the car owner culture. From mid 1960’s the family could have afforded a car. He tended to overcomplicate the difficulties and costs of ownership. Another way of seeing things  was that for a relatively trivial sum he had transport which took him to where he needed to go without the need for complications or what he would have called ‘overheads’. I just wonder what all those bus drivers made of the hand luggage over the years. Rowland’s last ever bus and train pass. It’s rare in the early 21st century for adults not be to be car users. Rowland never learned to drive. Kathleen felt that he lacked the confidence to learn because of his deafness. I’m not sure if that’s true, but he deliberately did opt out of the car owner culture. From mid 1960’s the family could have afforded a car. He tended to overcomplicate the difficulties and costs of ownership. Another way of seeing things was that for a relatively trivial sum he had transport which took him to where he needed to go without the need for complications or what he would have called ‘overheads’. I just wonder what all those bus drivers made of the hand luggage over the years.

The only photo we have of Rowland Street selling. It was taken at the local carnival in Yeadon. The infamous box is either out of view or he’s not brought it with him. Note how many flags he is holding in one hand. That kind of colourful splay was deliberate. Its known as a ‘flash, a spectacle to catch people’s attention. I can remember him explaining that.

The only photo we have of Rowland Street selling. It was taken at the local carnival in Yeadon. The infamous box is either out of view or he’s not brought it with him. Note how many flags he is holding in one hand. That kind of colourful splay was deliberate. Its known as a ‘flash, a spectacle to catch people’s attention. I can remember him explaining that.

Kathleen, Rowland and Ian<>Rowland day visitors at (? Spires) holiday camp. This would have been in the spring of 1949

Kathleen, Rowland and IanRowland day visitors at (? Spires) holiday camp. This would have been in the spring of 1949

<<a Clinging to the lettuce…full of and sound and fury!

Seventeen months into the marriage Rowland had apparently deserted Kathleen and was living back with his mother.
We left Kathleen and Rowland in April 1947 just married and with a new baby, Rowland Ian. (The order of the names would be reversed periodically over the next X decades according to whatever woman he was trying to get off with). After some difficult year when the new family occupied a spare bedroom at Rowland’s mother’s house, they went to live on the Albert Square near the top of the town in Yeadon. This was possibly around June 1948. The house was the basic, damp, cold, slug friendly stone slab floored tribute to mid 19th century textile town ‘slummery’ housing. A horse stable next door was within easy crawling distance for Ian. Kathleen’s paternal grandma Clara, the mother of the runaway Harold Smith was also a neighbour. Clara was known for her garrulousness and kindness. Excepting the temporary desertion of October 1948, they were to live at Snowden building until the birth of their second child Neil three years later in 1950.

I have no memory of the desertion ever being discussed, even by Kathleen after Rowland died when she was happy to talk about anything and everything (including the antics of the French- Canadian soldiers, much to the delight of her grandchildren). Maybe it was just too sore to remember or think about. Alternatively it might have been a non event. Rowland with his horrendous temper storming out of the house in a spittle flying rage with Kathleen shouting after him “sling your hook and don’t come back” A few days of standoff. Messages being passed between them by Auntie Kathleen. Social Welfare staff telling Kathleen that she would have to lodge a complaint of desertion with the Magistrates Court if she was to get any help from the state. Eventually return to the shared slum and carrying on. I don’t honestly know which account is more truthful but my gut feeling is that the truth is somewhere nearer to the latter. I came across the summons in an old biscuit tin used for keeping old family photos and letters from the early years of their marriage. I was clearing the house after Kathleen had gone into a care home. I had four hours use of a hired truck to deal with the entire house contents. It was not a good end to the family home. Exhausted and emotionally raw I was making decisions as to what was to be kept and what was to go to the council dump. This document made it into one of the ‘keep’ boxes. The tender notes from Rowland to Kathleen which gave a different side to these years got lost in the scramble to clear the house before the refurbishment contractors arrived the next day. One of these letters was a note asking for bananas to be sent to him or brought by Kathleen next visited him in hospital. He was craving them after a minor operation he’d had. The dozen lines giving direction on how the fruit should get to him are a kind of love letter without mention of love. That bit of paper is now incinerated or in landfill.
The incident was probably due to a selfish, mother dominated but accustomed to pleasing himself Rowland having to knuckle down and take care of a family when he had the emotional maturity of a lump of coal. It was only due to the efforts of their rent collect (who happened to be Rowland’s sister Kathleen) that they managed to get a move to a better house. The move was around June 1951. Their next home and the one which became the first proper family home was a quarter of a mile away at 1 Hawthorn Road. In Yeadon A newly built two bed roomed semi detached pre-fab council house which for 1951 was a palace certainly when compared to Snowden buildings, and a major achievement for Auntie Kathleen given the post war housing crisis. They were to live there for the next eleven years and this is the scene for the first half of the next chapter. It’s also the place that my first conscious memories begin, albeit a little later

A modern photo of 1 Hawthorn Road, in Yeadon. The family home from about 1950 to 1961
So doing a stock take. Its 1950. Rowland and Kathleen have two boys, Ian Rowland, and Neil. Dad Rowland is working at Banksfield Dye works which is literally a stone’s throw, with a strong arm from the front door. Kathleen is twenty three and her husband thirty going on fifteen. So do they get domestic bliss, consumer white goods and foreign holidays? Or if not that a close partnership through life’s journey. No, at least in the ‘growing ‘ years when children were getting born and brought up it was an emotion grill rotisserie. A broiling machine in the guise of a family unit. When I was fifteen something possessed me to enrol to do Sociology ‘O’ Level at night school. I thought it was something to do with Socialism and my day school did not think I was up-to getting qualifications. One evening’s lectures was on the functions of the family from a sociological perspective. The teacher listed these functions (I think he was a functionalist) on the chalk board. Economic needs, status attribution, social stability, emotional nurturance and a thing called socialisation. The mode by which society through the agency of the parents conveyed all learnt information, and culture was passed from one generation to the next. Social science is sometimes called ‘Reductionist’. It takes the life and soul out of something and reduces that thing to a spreadsheet. It’s easy and fun to be unfair to Sociologists but lecturer’s formulation does not capture the gutwrenchingrollercoasterbipolarnihlism of the whole thing. You put five people in a a physical place, under certain conditions, and with specified resources for X number of years. Some of them provide care and the others receive it and as a consequence become adult people. No Shakespeare was better at all of this. His comments upon the life lived can also apply to the drama of family life. Rowland used to like to recite these words. “…Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard of no more. It is a tale told by an idiot full of sound and fury signifying nothing”. (Macbeth, Act 5, Scene 5, page 2).
There are twenty four hours in one day. The traditional union demand of “eight hours labour, eight hours recreation, eight hours rest” (Robert Owen 1817) did not reach Hawthorn Road. Rowland’s day began at Banksfield Mill at 7am. He worked till 5pm and then, often times went off to get a couple of hours in, selling from his shoulder box around the terraced streets of Kirkstall in Leeds or other place of high density housing within a 30 minute bus ride. This activity also spilt over into a weekend. In winter, on a Saturday outside the market in Bradford, or in the summer at any town carnival, Gala or visit by Royalty within a forty mile radius and accessible by the West Yorkshire Bus company. He never learnt or even had the inclination to drive.
Children were the leverage into parent’s packets so the content of the box, the stock was mostly aimed at them. Balloons, plastic inflatable’s (ducks, giraffes, ) returning balls on an elastic string, windmills, slinky springs, ‘gonks’ and of course union flags (for all occasions). Hong Kong manufactured and purchased from the children toy and novelty items shelves at Greenbaums Wholesale warehouse in the semi derelict streets behind Leeds Market. I have an atypical schema or mind set for Turnips or large potatoes. Their primary mental classification is “items into which canes are placed from which are suspended by elastic novelty items such as plastic inflatable’s or (very open/ poorly defined sub category item) gonks’. The arrangement would be cardboard box with improvised shoulder strap, tightly bound bundle of canes tied to one box corner, three canes extending from the bundle, turnip or large potato impaled as a sales platform on top of these. Single canes with novelty items attached pushed into the vegetable at angles around the circumference. .. And all of this never caused any comment from customers! Rowland called this activity ‘Grafting’ or being a ‘Grafter’. Friend’s parents would ask what my dad did for a job. The response “he’s a grafter” would get a grin or a perplexed look but that’s what I thought this carry on was called. The police called it ‘Street Peddling’ for which you had to have a licence; with a photo and description (Rowland’s always included the words ‘Ruddy complexion’). All of this went on until around 1998 when he died. Best part of fifty years of standing outside markets or running alongside carnival parades flogging his wares. The pennies from all of this activity added up and became a three bed roomed corner house and close to £200,000 pounds in savings and investment. Almost all from plastic inflatable ducks, poorly defined ‘gonks ‘and plastic union flags accidently selotaped upside down onto sticks by sweat shop labour in the Far East. Most of this ‘penny by penny’ wealth has now been handed over to dementia care home owners at the rate of £800 a week.

The only photo we have of Rowland Street selling. It was taken at the local carnival in Yeadon. The infamous box is either out of view or he’s not brought it with him. Note how many flags he is holding in one hand. That kind of colourful splay was deliberate. Its known as a ‘flash, a spectacle to catch people’s attention. I can remember him explaining that.
He would walk ahead of the carnival procession selling these flags to the crowds that lined the street.. At big occasions, such as the Halifax or Bradford events he would sell five to seven gross (that is 700- 1000 flags) along the route, before going on to set up a standing pitch near the end venue. Balloons, inflatable animals, windmills, and novelty gear would then form the display, all done with just a turnip and a bunch of canes.
The season for these big events would run from maybe Easter through to the first week in September. Every weekend he would be working on one or both days. Most years the Gawthorpe Coal Carrying race (loved typing that) would kick off the year. The main stay though were the carnivals or gala’s which every town had. Rowland’s core territory was from Rochdale in the west to York in the east, and then north-south from Harrogate to Sheffield/ Rotherham. Keeping in mind his reliance upon buses and trains it was the places with good transport links from Leeds and Bradford. Never has a bus pass been put to more profitable use.

Rowland’s last ever bus and train pass. It’s rare in the early 21st century for adults not be to be car users. Rowland never learned to drive. Kathleen felt that he lacked the confidence to learn because of his deafness. I’m not sure if that’s true, but he deliberately did opt out of the car owner culture. From mid 1960’s the family could have afforded a car. He tended to overcomplicate the difficulties and costs of ownership. Another way of seeing things was that for a relatively trivial sum he had transport which took him to where he needed to go without the need for complications or what he would have called ‘overheads’. I just wonder what all those bus drivers made of the hand luggage over the years.
These were the bread and butter work, year in year out. Other events would work their way in. Air shows at Church Fenton, the Durham miners Gala. A process ion of regular dates was carried forward from one year to the next. Third Saturday in May would be one place, Whitsun would always be somewhere else. The ‘World’s Fair’, a weekly paper for show people and associated types, printed confirmation of these dates.
Best of all though for a dyed in the wool Communist were the Royal visits. Princess Margaret arriving by helicopter at Harrogate Stray, Princess Anne scowling at school children, Prince Philip detouring off from a civic event to chat to inebriated locals congregated outside a pub. The biggest draw though was the queen. I’m told that if you look carefully at the 1953 coronation procession , Rowland pops up like Forrest Gump running ahead of the cavalcade selling flags to the masses and being pursued no doubt by police who would have wanted him out of the way. The Silver Jubilee in 1977 was the titanic one though if measured by flag sales. The two oldest sons Ian and Neil spent weeks playing leap frog with the queen. Racing into a town, moments ahead of the big woman, frenetic harvesting of the crowd then hopping back in the car moments ahead of the queen’s arrival. Then backtracking and circling the town through back lanes to avoid the temporary road blocks. Once clear, driving onto the next but one sizable community so as to give them a twenty minute sales window. With a van stacked with one gross bundles of Union Flags it was just like printing money apart from the period were the supply from Hong Kong dried up and there was family rumours of secret stashes and people whose name started with ‘I’ or ‘R’ helping themselves to others stock. Rowland might have travelled with his sons to a few events but he generally avoided bringing competition with him. And that’s how he would have seen it.
After all such days, with royalty or not the task was not complete without the ritual of the big count. The takings (or ‘bunce’) was tipped out onto the dining room table, stacked in towers and then bagged ready for the bank. Sunday morning he would catch a bus into town and re-stock from his takings at Greenbaums the wholesalers. Monday he would get to the bank and deposit the remainder. The logistics solution for a very simple business model.
It did not always go well though. The police were either benignly tolerant or took the view that street sellers were rabid pests to be harassed and driven out. The city of Leeds was always an unfriendly place. The police were known for their aggression. Bradford though was generally easier going. Store holders sometimes complained though and the police would strictly enforce the bylaws plus twenty percent for a few weeks. This could mean that all the stock had to be off the ground, and suspended from our necks, or that we had to keep moving. The definition of constituted ‘causing an obstruction’ was worthy of Lewis Carol and the officers were not up for debate. At those times it was just best to give his favourite spots of Darley Street or the doors of the covered market a miss for a while. Throughout my early teens I would stand alongside Rowland as a kind of secondary stall. This was against the law as street traders of our type had to hold a Pedlar’s licence. The minimum age for which was seventeen. Rowland’s eye would scan the crowds for police blue continually. When spotted I was nudged to move off and do an impression of a Saturday shopper. There was rarely any problems and I did not come to any moral harm or feel exploited. All was fine until one Saturday afternoon outside the Rawson Street Market. I was selling from cardboard trips of football and novelty badges. Rowland had noticed a very young constable earlier in the day hanging back in a doorway and we had done our instant strangers routine. The officer returned with great stealth later on though and was upon us without warning. The focus was licences. Rowland of course was in the clear but I was vulnerable. His argument was that I was not actually selling but just minding the stock but this did not wash. I was arrested but on the assumption that I was seventeen and without a licence. I was exceptionally tall at fourteen, close to six foot and heavily built so the assumption was understandable. In fact my father should have been arrested for allowing his underage son to work as a pedlar. After some time of standing under guard and being scrutinized sympathetically or otherwise by passing shoppers a police dog van arrived. Rowland and I were told to squeeze into the back along with our boxes and we were driven to the station in the centre of town. Rowland did not handle it very well. I have memories of him using phrases like ‘Fascists’ and ‘tools of the Capitalist system’ which antagonised the Sergeant did not help matters. We were put together in one cell and left for a very long time. Rowland was in a high state of agitation. Besides the focus on me they had also confiscated his stock and takings. The assumption by many working class men at the time was that many (but not all) police mean-minded, corrupt and disreputable wasters who could not hold down a regular job. Cynical class traitors, borderline crooks or strutting ex army tyrants. Consequently there was fear about me, but also about was happening to his money and stock.
After stewing for the longest time we were called back to the sergeant and released without charge. My age was what it all turned upon. I did not have a Pedlars licence because I was too young to have one. The offence was operating under age rather than without la liscence.The seething Rowland was given a telling off and we were released but Sans stock. As far as I know we never got it back. The bus journey home was uncomfortable. I cannot be sure what story we told Kathleen but parts would have been redacted.
In winter we would be Santa Claus and his not so little helper. This incarnation of street trading was confined to December. Rowland would stack on a table all the stock shorter than 12” that he had been unable to shift during that year. One time he had bought 6000 (poorly defined) cotton gonks from an eccentric lady in Frizinghall ,Bradford (lord knows how he found her) which were totally unsellable. He did not always ride the zeitgeist well. The word ‘Gonk’ seemed to be everywhere for a few weeks. He did not really get it. What actually was a ‘Gonk’ and how would they have to look and be in order to sell them? These seemed to be made out of floral curtain materials. Poorly sewn without discernible facial features they looked like something a little girl might have put together in a first needlework class. As for most of his stock, they were stored in deep wardrobes in his bedroom. Kathleen took special exception to these not least because of concerns about what they might be stuffed with as they gave out a funny smell. Another year it was the very Chinese looking snowmen. Little plastic figures meant to go as decorations on Christmas cakes. They were manufactured in Hong Kong and probably for the home market. Each little snowperson had clear oriental features and luminous yellow faces and hands. The people of Bradford would not buy them. They did not look traditional enough.
These and other failures from the season would find their way onto the Santa Claus table. My job was to group items together, and then pass them onto another brother for wrapping in festive paper. A third would write on the words “Merry Christmas from Santa” and we were ready for go. The usual cardboard box would be given a sacking skin to add to the effect. Rowland had a Santa Clause outfit. Poorly fitting ref nylon trousers and top and intensely irritating beard for authenticity.
Like superman we would dip into an alley behind a pub and change into the outfits and then reappear as Santa and his helper. I can’t recall much about what I wore (it is probably too painful for my conscious mind to bear) but it was to suggest that I was some kind of Elf. Rowland would modify his normal sales pitch to match the context. “Ho-ho-ho what do we have here. Christmas parcels for the kiddies. Come on mums and dads. They are just a shilling”. The parents should have guessed what they were getting was really a lucky bag of hard to shift stock. I cannot recall any complaints from the punters but can imagine later conversation between parent and child. “Oh Johnny, look what you have got from Santa. A lovely flowery creature and a Chinese snowman. Yes and there’s some smelly balloon things as well. Stop crying, Santa will be coming again next week”.
These memories are linked with that of the best meal of my life. Lunch when street selling was normally ham sandwiches wrapped in grease proof paper. Retrieved from storage deep in the box we would eat these as we worked. The Santa Claus days though were exceptionally cold. Standing for hours outside Marks and Spencer’s (they did not complain to the police) on Darley Street in Bradford with temperatures close to zero I experienced a kind of perma-frost which made it hard to move my facial muscles or form words. Rowland took the fourteen year old me off to a pub a hundred yards up the hill and near the market. There I was bought a pie and pea’s dinner and my own glass of whisky. Before then I’d only experienced dilute beer shandy or half an inch of Lambs Navy Rum at New Years. The taste has never left me and I don’t think it will. I felt myself thaw from the inside out. The 3 elements of the meal complimented each other perfectly. Every mouth full was heaven. I have never managed to recreate that experience, and it hangs on my memory as I write now. The ambience was good. Pubs were wonderful places especially near markets. Groups of hard drinking hard men. Damaged people standing alone and looking lost. Fat, loud, swearing, chain smoking women, sat alongside drink befuddled old men. No one gave us a second glance still dressed in our outfits. One of the glazed eyed women might have shouted out “what you going to give me Santa, but otherwise we just fitted straight in.
Then it was back out onto Darley Street handing out Christmas lucky bags along with Whisky breath to the five year olds. Another peak life experience done and gone.
So for close on fifty years, whilst his peers and contemporary’s were doing normal things gardening, football, social clubs, chapel and TV, Rowland was skipping off to stand at street corners or run alongside processions converting flags and balloons into cash with one person at a time. Why did he do it? I am firmly convinced that the primary drive was not money. He loved money and it made him (like many children of the Great Depression) feel safe but he was not greedy. I think it was the buzz which came from arriving anonymously in a place, as one person in a crowd and then switching over into this different thing. To then go from a full box and empty pockets to a light box and heavy pockets. There was also something of the tight rope walker about it as well. Your wits had to be fully employed. The activity was not passive. All done entirely as a free agent. My own brief experiences alongside him or working independently gave me a taste of this but I have worked in jobs all my life both self employed and working for others where I had considerable autonomy and managed my own time. He sometimes used the term ‘wage slave’ and ‘dead time’ to describe factory work. The most difficult thing to find there was autonomy and an opportunity to use his creative wits. As we shall see later though he did carve out some territory in that place.
If he enjoyed the selling so much why did he not give up Banksfield and become fully self employed. That was the thing he never did until the place burned down many years later. By that time he was in his mid fifties and he was able to make the jump from a comfortable position. House bought, wife working and children left home.
In earlier years was it a lack of guts, or wanting to be responsible and not endanger his home and family. He certainly had a raw fear of debt, poverty and going under. Kathleen said it came from his childhood. Not so much his direct family who were classic thrifty poor but what he experienced around him. In any event that guarantee of a weekly wage to cover the essentials was what he never voluntarily relinquished. It could also be said that he never really developed what he did. The stock might change slightly over the years but it was still the same basic tack, which towards his middle age had, had its day. There are still street traders but they are not the same breed.
Less enduring and a little bit idiosyncratic was his secret life as ‘Deaf-boy’, horse racing adviser to the betting public. This essentially involved wearing jodhpurs and a check shirt, and turning up at racecourses claiming to be Lord so and so’s stable boy. The insider knowledge this gave of the horses running in the next race could be bought for a shilling. You could only do this for one race, the very little credibility he had was gone after that. With suitable identify confirming props (binoculars and a sporty corduroy flat cap), he would stand on a pop up step and launch into his spiel. “In this small white envelope I have the name of the horse which is going to win the next race. How do I know this? How can you be certain of this? “. …and so on. Amazingly people paid for these little white envelopes with the little printed card inside. I can’t remember the amount, but I do remember the figure shocked me…and enough people handed it over to turn a good profit on the day. Maybe he worked on the premise asking more increased the credibility of the information.
The day would have started with me being sent to the local paper shop to buy the Daily Mirror. He would then sit at a large wooden art table (which now serves as my kitchen table) with a children’s ‘John Bull’ printing set and stamp onto old fashioned plain post cards the name of the horse tipped by the newspapers racing correspondent. The simplest ideas are the most eloquent. The cards were then carefully tucked into the envelopes (Basil Bond quality to give it all a bit of class) and packed away alongside the props, bus timetable, and grease proof paper wrapped sandwiches in a small compressed cardboard suite case.
To get away with this you had to have a good wrist watch and absolutely certain knowledge of the time of the next bus. Whilst he was “barking his spiel” I would stand off at a distance, at his instruction but also to hide my embarrassment/ fear. At eight years old I knew this was not an ordinary activity. My friend’s fathers did not do this kind of thing and I thought it probable my mum would not approve. I had been primed to wait for “the look” which told me to walk briskly and follow him at a distance (and pray the bus was on time).
Why do this? He was not a member of a shady sub class on the fringes of crime. It’s my belief based upon his reading of George Borrows stories from the 1850’s of living with the gypsies, and the fact that Kathleen kept saying so that he fancied himself as a bit of a Gypsy. The brightly coloured shirts and other affectations were a reflection of that. He named his house bought in 1961, ‘Romany Rye’ after one of Borrow’s books. The words apparently mean ‘Gypsy Gentlemen’ so it all adds up really. Oh and he used to say that he was thwarted Gypsy at heart and getting married and ruined it all.
To be fair, he did not do the race course stunt and run often. Maybe he was going through a phase.
A third string on the bow was the Punch and Judy/ Magician combo. This he did mostly in the winter months from after the war until sometime in the mid 1990’s. I can remember him saying it was time to give it up, at a point when he was in his mid 70’s. I took for granted that he carried a large dead weight suitcase and a collapsible heavy wood booth frame and floral cloth covering to every gig. Also that he was reliant upon hopping off and on chains of buses to get to venues. All this to earn twenty one guineas.
Rowland towards the end of his conjuring and Punch and Judy career performing at a local fete. Notice the tap stuck to his forehead. This was a prop for a gag which went “what do you take for water on the brain. A tap on the head of course”. I think the children had no idea of what he was talking about at that point but the tap looked funny. His knees at seventy odd look to be in a better shape than mine now twenty years younger.
The act lasted about forty five minutes. Conjuring, as he called it open the act. Rope tricks, palming coins, disappearing and reappearing budgies (not real) boxed with drop slots, and silk handkerchiefs that unknotted themselves.
In the later 1980’s I saw a man perform an identical act to an audience of psychiatric in patients in Johannesburg, South Africa. His life had been blessed and scarred by his Bipolar Mood Disorder. I got to know some of his history through my job. He had spent thirty years making a living taking this act through the towns and villages of the African continent, from Cairo to The Cape. The pace and direction directed in part by his illness. The act looked worn on stage in the hospital rec hall, but the bones of what it had been were still there and it was close to identical to what Rowland had done. Similar patter, identical props and familiar stage presence. The acts must have had a common point of origin somewhere in the post war years. I should have asked the man more about his story but did not.
I didn’t ask Rowland either. This is odd. No one else’s father went off to houses and halls knelt down behind a pop up stage and enacted domestic violence between wooden characters based upon medieval archetypes. I just took it for granted like the wall paper. The man even tried to teach me the elements of the act but I could not have been less interested. Doing the Punch and Judy had started in the post war years. The beautiful hand carved, vividly dressed and coloured puppets were made to order by a woodworker who lived in the town. Punch hangs on the wall opposite me now. The eyes follow me round the room like Mona Lisa’s. It scares and fascinates my grandchildren.
Rowland was friends with Harry Corbett of Sooty & Sweep fame. They had mates in common and were both members of a ‘Hard of Hearing Club’. Harrys parents ran and a fish shop in the neighbouring town of Guiseley. He started his entertainment career playing piano for the customers in a rival fish shop, Harry Ramsdens which became an iconic place in certain circles. It was also a bit of a social hub. Kathleen claims that Harry started her smoking when she was a teenager.
In 1948 or before Harry mentioned to Rowland that he was working on a new animal character and divulged some of the ideas on the condition that Rowland not to steal them. This was the prototype Sooty who with Sweep and Sue, went onto to take over the world in their own way. Harry and Rowland shared the same form of deafness, which could be alleviated by a surgical operation by then available on the National Health Service. The procedure came with the risk of permanent Tinnitus if it failed. Harry took the plunge, and drew the benefits. Rowland decided against it.
Rowland the street trader became ‘Rollo’ the conjurer and Punch and Judy man mainly during the winter months. There were some bookings all year round but he only advertised in the cold months when there were fewer opportunities for profitable street trading. Presumably in the early years he got his bookings by people calling at the door or by letter. By the 1970’s he had a telephone, but there was always a requirement to ask the caller to hold for a moment. This was to allow him to place the mouth piece against the hearing aid receiver pinned to his shirt. Occasionally feedback whine of some kind would erupt. He was highly anxious with the apparatus. As a fourteen year old I thought it was a laugh. He set his sights at children’s birthday and Christmas parties, mainly in large houses or in halls. I often went along, to be baby sat really. We would walk briskly from the nearest bus stop to the venue carrying the load. Identify ourselves at the door and get ushered to the focal point of the room. I would be sat on a chair and fed with sausage rolls, sandwiches and fizzy pop by the kid’s parents. Rowland worked swiftly setting up. The booth went up first as this served to provide a protected space to unpack the puppets and conjuring props. A wooden framework on concertina fold out hinges. The yard long puppet stage attached with butterfly nuts. A heavy cotton drape made the structure into a booth. Inside the space the puppets were hung from hooks immediately below the stage so that his hand could move quickly and easily between puppets He of course had to kneel throughout the performance. There was Mr Punch, his wife Judy, the baby, a doctor, clown, judge, hanging gallows and a dog. Most important was the crocodile which provided the moments of terror to the two year olds. My granddaughters who are that age now won’t go near even though it’s obviously a puppet just hanging on a wall. The woodworker who made it knew how to strike fear into children. It’s probably the teeth and snappy jaw that do it. He did not use a swizzle. The characters each had their own voice. The kids would sit cross legged in front of the booth. He had no way of seeing them. Inevitably one child would try and sneak around the back and get into the booth to see if they were real. Rowland would then have to fend them off somehow.
The conjuring part of the act preceded Punch. Dropping coins out of little peoples noses and ears went down best. Any attempt on the part of the kids to hang onto the special magic coins was deftly avoided leaving the child looking confused or occasionally loudly irate.
It was all done inside of three quarters of an hour. Parents were usually very happy and try and shove extra money into his hands. I remember him often refusing it though. His view was that gesture earn’t him word of mouth customers. It seems astonishing to me that he could do two or three of these performances, carrying all his kit, in the space of six hours on a winter Saturday afternoon and with only buses and foot for transport. He really did have stamina and resilience.
Punch and the various street based business enterprises were the money making sidelines.
An image of a gushing well comes to mind. He was just doing lots of things to tap the flow. There is also restlessness and awareness of finite time, but it wasn’t an affectation. The need to keep on stamping himself on the world, albeit in small ways was compulsive. I think there was an intuitive sense that when you are not climbing up, you are by gravity falling. I’ve had heard of him talking about work his regular job at Banksfield Mill as dead time, and gave this as a justification for his frenetic activity out of work. I cannot think of a time when he would have used the phrase ‘just chillin’. When satiated or tired he would take a chair based power-nap and then start over like a hyper-charged mechanical rabbit.
My brother Ian is fond of the phrase “I’m a human- being not a human-doing”. Wrong, sorry. Firstly this is ridiculous, patently somebody like him who takes on super long distanced walks such as 1000 mile treks across Italy, France and Spain, at twenty miles a day as he does is not a lotus eater. The easy phrase is an affectation. He’s having him-self on. Ian is as much a slave to filling “the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds' worth of distance run” as his father was.
Secondly what is ‘being ‘if we are not sodding doing something with ourselves? Who wants to sit around and just absorb the ambience all the time? It sounds too much like a vegetative state. Rowland would have said that we make ourselves by what we do and that’s how it should be. The will to be.
So what to do with those fifty hours a week spent at Scott and Rhodes in the ‘wet end’. For those of us fortunate to have avoided factory work for most of our lives, it is important to remember the baseline absolute lack of social standing that came with such jobs. Unfairly ascribed the status of low skill, low value, workers some employers barely took the time to learn your name. Of course people carved out niches for themselves and gained the personal respect of their peers. They ceased to be quite so faceless and employers would know who they were talking to. For most long term workers what made such places bearable though was the banter with workmates and finding ways in which the pace and pattern of work could be controlled. Self actualisation was not really up for grabs.
Rowland worked there from age fifteen to fifty five. Forty years. Seven thousand two hundred days of actually being at work (taking off weekends, plus twenty days a year for the occasional ailment, banks holidays and annual holiday). Now you just can’t give that much of your life away. You have to get some kind of attitude about it.
For most of the time I have no idea of what he did with it. All he said was it pays the bills and that that’s the end of it.
I have memories of him operating as some kind of below the legal radar bookie at work, at least for a time. Calculating odds and recording bets in a child’s exercise book. My only other living source, brother Ian says its total news to him so maybe I imagined it, but it does seem odd that I would have done that.
More certain though was his union role. He was the senior shop steward at the mill for decades. His union has long ago been absorbed into the Transport and General Workers, but in these years it was the ‘Dyers, bleachers and textile workers union ‘. It had a mainly west Yorkshire regional membership. In the years before the First World War unionism in Yeadon had been politicised and militant. Violence was not uncommon and on one occasion the village was put in lock down by the horse riding, baton swinging police because of street fighting and targeting of strike breakers. In 1913 hunger marchers, known as ‘Lockwoods Lambs’ marched to the coast collecting money for their families when an employer’s lockout went on for many weeks.
By the 1950’s and 1960’s the picture was different. Rowland bemoaned the lassitude of the union, and its political anaemia. Outside of work he attended his Communist Party meetings and got me to sell the Daily Worker/ Morning Star. In working hours though it was bread and butter business. There was not scope for world revolution in vivid colours but he could get the canteen sorted out or represent a worker who was up before management. Pragmatic negotiation was what was required and he apparently was good at that. Men who worked with him have told his family what a good union man he was and the respect that he was held in by everybody including the management and owners. I cannot remember any hint of industrial action; the workforce would not have been up for it but he was effective without playing to the gallery. That split between world transforming ideology on one hand and the playing out of those same values in daily life has always fascinated me. A works canteen with proper furniture and clean tables was in its own way was an assertion of the value of labour.
On an occasional Sunday morning a manager or possibly the owner of the mill would come to the house and sit across the Formica dining room table to settle a dispute. His look would be different. Alert, cautious, measured, deliberate, guarded and pragmatic. First names were not used. It was a situation where the two men had to deal with each other, because the alternative was bad for both of them.
By the 1960’s cheap imports were killing the British woollen textile industry. Over the next two decades the agenda for owners was managed decline and for workers a precarious hope the industry lasted till their pension day.
There was a class warrior in Rowland. It would emerge on walks over Otley Chevin or Ilkely Moor where a ten year old me would be given a lecture on the tenets of dialectical materialism and the inevitability of the workers revolution. Despite my age, and being suspected at the time of having an intellectual impairment by the school authorities I somehow understood what he was talking about. It shaped my world view and a lot of my life choices over the next thirty years. If truth be told there is still a Stalinist hiding in the shadier parts of my mind.( Interestingly he gets on just fine with the Blairite shades as well). It was the same for Rowland. Sometimes politicians are categorised as bookies or bishops; Pragmatic or conviction politicians. Intuitively to Rowland it was not an either or. The best operator was the inspired artisan.
A Sunday afternoon glass of rum would bring out the romantic rebel though. Two glasses of rum and he would sing ‘The Wild Colonial Boy’

The endless discussions of the mechanics of the proletarian revolution are not on the agenda any more. Was all that time spent working for and thinking about the transformation of society a waste of time? On wet miserable evenings dragging himself off to Communist Party branch meetings in a pub near Kirkstall traffic lights, The Daily Worker paper round, supporting party candidates, the campaigns. Some people would say that in the end the pragmatism and rum inspired romanticism counted for more that is left more of a useful residue.
There is another way of seeing it. For many men, and women identifying oneself as a Communist had a transformational effect. For those who had little formal education the party was their university. It was a whole system of thinking. It provided a perspective on everything from literature to lino (no nonsense, utilitarian, functional flooring material). Catholicism and Communism had a lot more in common than either camp would have liked to admit. Listening to Marxists talk about the scientific inevitability of the workers revolution sounded so much like The Magificat or The Apostles Creed. Overtly or implicitly Faith was the key stone for both although the Communists would have called it rational analysis.
Ultimately it was an identity. Something which drew a clear boundary line around oneself, much like a skin. It worked for millions of people. It nurtured the autodidact habit and gave some people more reason to be altruistic.
Rowland reading these words would have said of my comments “self indulgent clap-trap”, but hay-ho.
Sitting down across Rowland and Kathleen’s dining room table to organise Rowland’s funeral with a chap from a Humanist Society the question was put very directly. “What were the things which defined your father?” My mouth reflexively answered before my brain kicked in. It was his Communism. I thought about it afterwards. Certainly in his later years he was far from being active in the party, and if they had known about his buying up shares in Maggie’s de-nationalised industries they would have hung him from a lamppost somewhere. When I thought of him, I thought of that but what I meant by his ‘Communism’ was not the ideological catechism. It was the attitude of mind which I suppose really was a kind of ‘Metho-Communism. That thought makes me smile. Not so much Marxist- Leninist as Marxist- Wesleyan.
Running in perfect parallel to allegiance to Harry Pollitt and the party was Rowland’s abiding hobby. Investments. Converting the 10 pence’s generated from the sale of plastic novelty goods into shares and dividends. If Capitalism creates surplus value from the sweat of the workers he wanted his cut of it. There was nothing too good for the working class.
I am not too sure where it all began. Kathleen had always said she did not know where the money went. Well bags of it were going into the bank every week. All she saw for years was the family allowance, a housekeeping stipend plus 2/6 pocket money. That was before she got a job and told him to sod it (the pocket money that is). Did the accumulation of the surplus begin in the 1950’s? Was that what enabled him to get a mortgage in 1960 at a time when most working men did not meet the extraordinarily cautious credit checks of the time? I think it probably was.
The only external signs were the interest in the financial pages. Some people might have wondered if they had known what a dyers labourer was doing buying the Financial Times. Was he studying form, or tracking his investments. I don’t know because strangely we never thought to ask him. That in itself is a bit odd. Jokes about tightness yes, questions about what he was doing no.
So what did his portfolio cover? Was it just amounts in deposit accounts, premium bonds and later some Isa’s. Yes certainly up until the 1980’s it probably was. But then Maggie’s various big-bangs came along and his interest really took off. I know that he liked the denationalised industries but there have been other investments that we do not know of. He had an inherent mistrust of banks; he never believed any of their propaganda about reputation and good governance. They were just barrow boys like him but behind plate glass and wearing a suit. He liked the smaller independent Building Societies and the Co-op bank. Money did not stay still though. Financial advisers talk about active money management and he practiced it. Most of us don’t want to spend time thinking about the detail of a 0.25% interest differential versus restrictions on access. He loved it. It gave him physical pleasure. Maybe there is an acquisitive gene, the phenotype or expression of which is an affinity to see financial advantage in every situation and a magnetic attraction to money. Looking around his descendents the profligate gene dominated in the first generation. Some of us got through life treating money like cocaine. The second generation are sort of middle coursers with a need for external control, but I see at least one person in the third generation who knows which cup the ball is under. People can learn to be good at something through laborious practice and that’s ‘blank slate’ to competence learning. Others have a well spring and the learning comes in how to tap into it. Rowland had that and I’m keeping a close eye out on this rising generation. They may end up funding my retirement cause I certainly didn’t! Its either that or the pet mince and a one bar heater.
Was Rowland a financial genius? No. No he was far too cautious. I’m certain that he kept a very tight hand on spending. Looking back I can’t believe I only had one grey school shirt and wore it until it faded to light mauve. Shirts were a long term investment. Why buy five when one will do, but lord I must have smelled. The investments were low risk low return but the fun came checking out the thickness of the salami sliced interest rates and putting his investment on wheels. Moving it around to grab the 0.25%.
He was terrified of finding himself with a tax bill. So much so that he probably overpaid both in life and certainly in death (and bizarrely in a way is still doing so. Kathleen pays tax on her income from her investments which once cashed was what he left her). Two and six a week when you’re young and could have done with a few bob more. (Rapidly) dwindling thousands when all you’ve got to pay for is a room in a care home.
I’ve mentioned the shock I experienced when pulling together his affairs in the week after his death. I covered the dining room table with paying in books, exercise book accounts and evidence of investments. After a lot of shuffling and placing things in a timeline I could see that about six months previously he had made a decision to simplify and consolidate. There was also a trend towards clearer accounting as if he could imagine someone else trying to make sense of it all. My guess was that he was thinking ahead. Somebody, probably a solicitor would have to make sense of his dealings. He’d best simplify things so that nothing got left forgotten in a bank. I can’t say how much he would have been horrified to know that it was me who did the sorting out. The George Best quote would have haunted his mind “I spent a lot of money on booze, birds and fast cars. The rest I just squandered”. I was never into fast cars, and the birds rarely flew my way. The biggest amount went on a grand American road trip. Route 66, with a detour to the Deep South. Five thousand miles in a motor home. My two daughters and me.

My brother Ian said that Rowland would have been proud to have believed that a legacy went to each and every member of his family, especially the grand…and great grandchildren. Maybe he could have done some of that but maybe also have spent a greater amount when life was happening.
Enough tragedy, back to farce. Decimalisation caught him unprepared. This note from the BCC website is about D- Day (as in Decimalisation Day) February 15th 1971. It describes a “general picture of a clear and smooth transition”. Romany Rye was not part of that general picture.
“The British Government has launched a new decimal currency across the country.
The familiar pound (£), shilling (s) and pence (d) coins are to be phased out over the next 18 months in favour of a system dividing the pound into units of ten, including half, one, two, five, ten and 50 pence denominations.
Chairman of the Decimal Currency Board (DCB) Lord Fiske told reporters: "The general picture is quite clear and the smooth and efficient changeover so many people have worked for is now in fact being achieved."
Over the years Rowland’s mistrust of the banks had led him to stash away bags of coins, and not a few bundles of notes around the house. I was thirteen but can remember his moment of realisation, that it all could become as worthless as US Confederate currency. Of course it was not as simple as that. There was an 18th month transition period and I think an amnesty even after that. But Rowland for some reason did not get that, and in his mind saw the 15/2/1971 as a guillotine. He had forgotten though where he had hidden the money. It was dispersed around the building like bird droppings. He started off rational and calm, but quickly transformed into something like a possessed squirrel scraping out holes in the fabric and content of the house, searching for his stashes. He turned the house upside down and pulled out every drawer and emptied it. It caused rows that lasted into the night. The whole madness took over the house for days. The thought of losing the money drove him to the edge. I can’t remember what finally soothed him. Maybe someone showed him a newspaper article about the transition. There was a breathing space, and the calmer mind helped his memories to emerge. I don’t know why it became my job, (or I can) but for weeks or even months I was tasked with taken a hold-all with old cash to the bank and bringing back the new stuff. Cashiers at many banks came to know my face but not my name. “Oh you got some more for us…again”. Devaluation in the 1960’s had upset him, as hyperinflation was to in the later 70’s but Decimalisation made him ill in 1971.

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Filed under Aireborough, Biography, Family history, Humour, Local history, Social History, Yeadon

Gleaning Teeming Brains 7

John produced 'slays'and 'Gears' for machines such as these. What were these parts?

John produced ‘slays’and ‘Gears’ for machines such as these. What were these parts?

The marshy area known as The Breary is near the village of Bramhope which is just o ver a mile from Yeadon. John Yeadon preached here for the firwst time at an open air Methodist meeting

The marshy area known as The Breary is near the village of Bramhope which is just o ver a mile from Yeadon. John Yeadon preached here for the firwst time at an open air Methodist meeting

Chapter 5 John Yeadon

“From the rocking of the cradle to the rolling of the hearse, the going up was worth the coming down”.
The Pilgrim by Kris Kristofferson

It’s 18th October 1786. John and Mary have just got married. He will be twenty two in a few days and she six months younger. Mary is probably feeling a bit nauseous in the mornings and wondering why. The ceremony was at St Oswald’s Church in Guiseley. They will live one mile down the road in Yeadon all of their lives.
There first son John was born eight months later on the 18th June 1787. Mary was to have a child every 18- 24 months until she was forty three in 1808. Twelve children in all, eleven survived.
Oddly Mary gets very little mention in the diaries, although they lived together for thirty nine years. The most detailed account in which she figures is her own funeral. John’s days were intensely busy. And between his day job and the affairs of the chapel I wonder how much time they got together. Her days must have been equally fully, there was never a time in the next quarter century when she did not have two or more children under three to take care of as well as create a home for them all. Maybe their affection was so integral to his life that it was not something to be discussed in a diary. On balance I think that is the best fit
It is around this time that John’s diary begins to be written contemporary to events. It is evident that the journal is in part being used by him to chart his own religious development. He is fond of reflecting upon sermons.
”In 1789 our preachers at this time were Blair, Godwin and Brown. I was most affected under Blair. One sermon I shall not forget. Text Isa 49- 24, 25- “Can the prey be taken from the mighty, or the captives of a tyrant be rescued? Surely thus says the Lord: “Even the captives of the mighty shall be taken and the pray of the tyrant be rescued for I will contend with those who contend with you, and I will save your children”.
There was no ambiguity or discussion of context. To John these were words from God, directed personally to him. His duty was to reflect up the words, extract the message and apply it to his life. The preachers who rotated through the local chapel were important figures.
A Methodist Archives website provides a brief biography of large numbers of Methodist ministers back to the 18th Century. Unfortunately John’s favourite Andrew Blair’s is not included but we have information about the other two
Ministers were attached to a locality in pairs or greater numbers. Yeadon at the time had three. Typically one would rotate out each year and be replaced by a new person. John Goodwin (1739-1808) was stationed at Yeadon in 1789. He had been born in Cheshire and had become involved in Methodism from an early age. He became a local (or lay) preacher just a short while after joining the society.. He entered the Itinerancy in 1768 when he would have been 29 years old (Ministers were itinerant in that they were expected to move to where they were needed and regularly re-locate as instructed). He served mainly in the north of England, but also did spells in Cornwall & Dublin.
I can’t identify the third minister Brown with certainty but it is very likely to have been Isaac Brown. He was a Yorkshire man. His year of birth is not known but he entered The Itinerancy is 1760.He travelled mostly in his native Yorkshire for over forty years, and died 1815. These were men from ordinary backgrounds, whose talent and native intelligence had been recognised and then shaped by the Methodists. They grew in that milieu and were allowed to take on positions of religious authority which would have been unthinkable in the established church which was very slow to wake up to the transformative effect of the industrial revolution and the movement of former agricultural labourers to the towns. The Church of England was not to provide Yeadon with a Parish Church until the middle of the nineteenth century. They very nearly missed the boat because by that time Yeadon had a number of Methodist and non conformist chapels. Men and women like John and Mary felt Methodism was their natural home because it gave them a role and did not treat them with arrogance. In John’s chapel the men standing in the pulpit were not so different from himself.
On December 6th 1789 John made the following note in his diary. “Mary joined Jonathan White class and I, the next day David Long’s class for the first time in our lives”. Class members were provided with renewable class membership tickets. John kept the tickets for his wife and himself for the rest of his life. This ticket has survived, and a copy is in my possession. These classes were not just some religious discussion group. They were fundamental to the organisation and had a clearly defined purpose.
Methodist congregations from the earliest days of the movement were divided into members and adherents. Membership meant you had kept certain rules which included an obligation to meet, usually once a week in a ‘class’. After a period of being on trial these members were given a membership ticket which in the early years was reviewed quarterly by the minister. To retain the ticket you had to keep the rules including attendance at class which was normally on a weekday evening (after a ten hour plus day at work!). Class size was set at a maximum of twelve but in these years numbers often exceeded that.
The class leaders would meet as a group and would be overseen by a minister. The classes as a collective group were called the Methodist Society for that village or town. They met as a congregation on Sundays for services in a Preaching House, Chapel or church. Those enrolled in the membership group would only form about a third of the people at services. The others were known as Adherents. That is people who had not yet agreed to be bound by the rules of membership.
There is an obvious intention in this structure to create a sense of belonging to a group, and the use of the group to mould beliefs and reinforce commitment. A Class Leader seems to have been a mixture of Mentor and Teacher. John was in the class operated by David Long, who is likely to have come from a background not dissimilar to John’s own. As well as basic instruction in scripture, the arrangement assigned people to an enduring membership group. These affiliations carried over in people lives in the community and at work. There was a time when if one asked someone what they were, one of the first words out of their mouth would have been Methodist. By the twentieth century these classes had been abandoned. From John’s time up until the 1960’s Chapel membership marked you as having respectability, of being of good character and would help you rent a house or get a job. Your class leader on a Tuesday evening could well be your foreman on the Wednesday morning.
There were schisms and clichés though. A hundred years later these would lead to riot between the Wesleyans and the reform Methodists (CHECK)METHODISTS IN 1851, In the year of the French Revolution the Methodists of Yeadon were arguing about circuits.
The circuit was a basic geographical administrative unit for the Methodists. The argument was should Yeadon be aligned with Keighley which seemed a long way off or remain with more prestigious Leeds. The circuit was also the area within which the ordained Ministers and Local Preachers operated. A preacher would be on a rota which could take him to all parts of the district, either on foot or horseback.
Yeadon had been part of the Leeds circuit for the previous 15 ½ years. The change upset a lot of people-
John’s diary gives a short account of the dispute. “The proposal was promoted by the Minister, Andrew Blair who did not respond to petitions and remonstrance’s opposing the idea”. Keighley won out. Any preacher would have an aptitude for fell walking as the district included some isolated moor land communities, as John was to later discover.
In 1790 John records the death of his grandmother, the person who effectively had brought him up. He does it in a way which sounds odd to modern ears but no doubt fitted with his view of what was most important. His concern is for her prospects in the afterlife.
“My grandmother died in Feby of this year aged 83 years but as her mental powers were weakened and she in a state of dotage I can say nothing about her experience only that she had the opportunity of class meeting every week before her death and I hope God would fasten on some good thing on her mind”.
As a I say very odd to modern ears. Poor woman!
Later in the year John and Mary had their first daughter Hannah-
“On October 1st Hannah born so more are added to our family and one more entrusted in our care. Hannah was to develop a mental impairment and Epilepsy after surviving a bout of smallpox. Her welfare was to bring John much anxiety over the next fifty years. One of the last entries in his diary as a very old man was on the possibility of her entering the workhouse, the thought of which filled him with despair.
But for now things were going well. On his birthday in 1790 he wrote “I am this day (Nov. 5th) 26 years of age and a wife and three children……At the end of this year my wife and me earned this year £31. 1.7 And paid out £5.1.7 that we owed. We lived on 10s per week five of us, or 2s each per week and no other help”. This is the only mention of Mary providing income, but it is not clear if this involved work outside of the home.
In 1792 a second daughter Mary was born on the 5th May.
John described living most of that year “under a nervous fever”. It would have been interesting to know more details about this condition, but he does give an account of his experiences with a Quack Doctor-
“Mary our fourth child was born May 5th this year. This year was also a year of affliction to body and soul. I walked under a nervous fever nearly all this year. I remember in July a Quack Doctor called at our home for his bill and told us strange tales of my disorder and its consequences. He over persuaded us to waste (unclear in text) 5/6 of him in a box of pills and a bottle of liquid, Turpentine Spt. of, and water. This is the first and last time of my ever imploying a Quack. It did me no good”. The turpentine would have been a powerful laxative. Lord knows what would have been in the tablets, but it can’t have been worth 1/160th of his annual income. He must have felt a fool but the nervous malady; whatever it was must have caused him severe distress to have laid him open to such a conman.
The most likely explanation is that his malady was Depression. Something similar afflicted him again in middle age and had more lasting residual effects.
By the autumn of the 1792 he was in a dark state but some light was creeping in through the window. “I was almost sunk down to earth in the latter part of the year; however on October 22 I walked to Otley to hear Mr Richard Birdsall preach at 7pm.I felt it did me good. Text Heb 13,19”. So what was this powerful text?. “Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings, for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, which have not benefited those devoted to them”. That was it, 33 words. How can arrangement of letters and spaces play a part in shifting a mindset. These ones obviously resonated in some way with John and played some part (? Cause ? effect)t in the unthawing of his dark mood. ‘People’ in the very biggest sense, a distinct species have got a thing about language. Some arrangement of words and meanings, can be catalysts. They are just perfect for the peculiar need of the moment. For me, strangely Chuck Berry’s words “he could play a guitar like a ringing a bell” is the absolutely perfect way to describe how it feels to be good at something. Heb 13, 19 helped in some way for John.
There were other signs of the cogs beginning to turn again-
“Word was brought from Guiseley that Jonathan Clapham’s wife was in deep despair and her relatives desired some from Yeadon to pray with her. I was very, very unfit to go for one, my nerves shattered to pieces and myself on the brink of despair according to my judgement. However we went and though I had power to pray with her it did me much harm afterwards by reasoning over it. It was on Nov. 5th in the evening when we went and I was 28 years old that day. The woman soon got better and lived to an old age.
Through the months of 1793 it is evident that John is considering taking up preaching. He was aged 29 years, and drew a parallel from this to the life of Jesus. “I often feel a desire to be more useful thinking and praying on this subject I opened my Testament on these words—“much people of the Jews , therefore know that he was there and they came, not for Jesus sake only, but that they might see Lazarus also whom he had raised from the dead”. ….“My saviour did not begin his public ministry until he was thirty years of age and if God should call me to so great a trial I hope it will not be sooner”.
News of major International events seems to have been readily available, even to people living in a backwater like Yeadon. John must have had chance to read newspapers on a regular basis. He may have bought one locally but this seems unlikely to have been a regular habit considering how chronically short of money the family was. A more likely explanation is that he was a member of some sort of library. This might have been associated with the Methodist Society or a self improvement association of some kind. In 1792 he made the following comment about events in France, and their impact-
“The French Revolution began in August of this year. A stagnation of trade soon followed. I remember earning one Guinea in the week before Yeadon Feast in August also this year by painting”. During 1793 the recession in trade continued and had an impact upon John and his family.(WHAT HAPPENED IN FRANCE IN 1792…..REVOLOUTION 1789…OTHER DEVELOPMENT
“We are 3 pounds worse than last year. Poor trade, French wars the cause”.
The year 1794 was an important one for John, in that he took up preaching. The first occasion was at Brearah (now Breary) near Bramhope, a village close to Yeadon. This must have been a bit of a try out session for him. Could he stand up at the front of a group, make some kind of sense and hold people’s attention? He took on the role more formally a couple of years later when he became a Class Leader. I often drive past these fields and imagine him stood upon one of the raised areas at the edge of the woods, holding forth or frozen by terror.

The disruption of trade produced by the French Revolution and subsequent war had an impact in Yeadon. Desperation prompted the local community to take unusual measures to directly sell their goods.
“The woollen cloth trade being so low at Leeds, Thomas Denison my Class Leader with other two left Yeadon on Jany. 29th with a large quantity of finished cloth for Hull. Stopped 10 days at Hull and left Hull for Amsterdam in Holland. He had left the care of his class to me on Feby. 9th I read part of his letter to us from Hull in our meeting while some wept. But they found they was affected in Holland as much as England and it was not a prosperous journey.”
In 1795 John and Mary’s fifth child Nanney was born on the 26th July. The family had moved house a short time before possibly to an area which from the mid-19th Century was known as Kenion’s Fold. “We came to this house where I am writing on May 11th this year.”This house became the family home as all the children grew up there and it was the last place that John was to live independently.
This fold, or enclosed street or courtyard was possibly near the Sandy Way area in Yeadon. At the time this and other streets clustered around The Steep and The Green which were the main residential areas in upper Yeadon. Early maps show dense networks of lanes and courtyards. John remained in this house for the next 42 years until 1837. His landlord for at least some of these years was a man named Clayton.
When I lay the time lines for other ancestors against that of John’s it becomes very evident that they were all sharing the same geography. Probably twenty yards from John was a family whose grandson would marry his granddaughter and give birth to my grandmother. Did they get along, what they thought of each other? The landlord named Clayton was probably related to me through another line of family, and may also have been related to the man John’s granddaughter married! The only reason I don’t know of more connections is that I have not looked for them. This weaving of family lines and DNA had been going on probably for hundreds of year and would continue until the great social shakeup of the post war years.
The try out at ‘The Breary’ cant have been such a disaster because in 1795 John became a Class Leader and Local Preacher. He recorded the following in his diary-
“I received my first plan as Local Preacher on June 14th this year”…”I first became a “Class Leader and found it a weighing concern”.
So within a space of six years, following an apprenticeship which included a form of bible based education in the Class Group, and mentorship from the Class Leader and other senior members of the local society John became a Local Preacher and Class Leader himself.
‘Local Preacher’ was the term for someone who conducted services and preached without being ordained as a minister. We might nowadays call such a person a Lay Preacher’. Many thousands of working men would have identified this process as the real source of their education that is other than basic tools of literacy and numeracy.
John had been given, in the local part time schools and night classes a spattering of elementary education which got him to the point where he could understand simple written information and write notes and keep records. There was also probably a little geography, history and religious education but the accuracy of this would have been heavily reliant upon the person teaching it and there would not have been access to textbooks. . He certainly was also somebody who had considerable natural curiosity and would have directed a lot of his own education. His journal lists as it goes along some pretty demanding books on geography, travel, history, theology and biography. There would surely as been as many from his earlier years.
It was possible to take someone such as John and facilitate a metamorphosis which ended in an individual who could lead services, take passages from the bible and draw meaning from them and inspire many hundreds of people over the years. The last thing John was was a one off. There were untold John Yeadon’s each making their own way but being nurtured by the organisation to which they belonged whether it be churches, chapels, or in later years trade unions and political organisations.
The Methodist Church’s was partly led by professional ministers but to survive it had to find ways developing members of its congregation to take on leadership roles. People brought different gifts though and could press other buttons.
”Poor Richard Walker of Woodhouse near Leeds, laboured much amongst us at this time, and not in vain……he did not preach but held meetings, and his particular gift was prayer and exhortation. In this he excelled”. The Methodists had a reputation at the time for the energy of its ‘Exhorters’. SOME WERE CALLED RANTERS
Another local preacher was a man called John Preston who became a favourite of the people of Yeadon. His story is so good I am going to quote extensively from a passage in a pamphlet written about the history of Methodism in the area by a chapel member, John Peel in 1926.
“Joah’n Preston was born at Joah’n Preston was born at Yeadon in the year 1779, and like his father chose the trade of cloth maker which at that time consisted of Jenny Spinning, warping and weaving. It was late in the afternoon of Sunday (in April 1846…added) when Joah’n was sitting in the ‘George and Dragon’ at Apperley Bridge enjoying his favourite ale. He had finished off four pints and a fifth was standing before him. The hostess unable to write unable to write resorted to a method very common at that time of chalking down one mark for each jug supplied upon the wall under the chimney piece. John now became drowsy, but before gong quite off to sleep he noticed five strokes, each of which would make a demand upon his pocket at the reckoning time”.
In short he fell asleep and dreamt that he walked into Yeadon Old Methodist chapel where he had not been for several years. The preacher was sermonising from the text “Behold ye despisers and wonder and perish”. John woke in agitation, attempted to down his drink but found it impossible. He then walked directly to the chapel which was about two or three miles (including a famously long, steep hill). He got to the chapel and of course the words being spoken by the preacher John Crosby were the same as in his dream. After three dark nights of the soul he found a piece which characterised his preaching for the next forty years.( John Peel, History of Wesleyan Methodism in the Yeadon circuit’ 1926. John loved by the people of the town not least because he preached in dialect. Other reasons were that he simply added Preacher to two other pastimes i.e. that of “poaching and cock fighting. “I allus went abaht wi’a dog on a band’ and a ‘Cock in a poke’ he declared. The Robin Hood Inn on the Green was the poachers rendezvous. Preston’s best known convert was Wm. Starkey of ‘Perpetual Motion fame’ (Illingworth. History of Yeadon book). That is another wonderful story. John Yeadon would have certainly known John Preston and was probably present when he walked into the chapel as we will see below, as this was at the time of an event known as ‘The Great Revival’ in which John played a central part.
John mentioned that he was included in ‘The Local Plan’ for Methodist preachers at this time. This meant that after serving a sort of informal apprenticeship which would have included attendance in study groups, and mentoring from more senior members he was routinely scheduled to preach at villages within his local Methodist Society Circuit. He was to continue preaching on a regular basis until 1832. During his busiest years he commonly preached at 2 or 3 villages scattered over a ten mile area in one day.

(PHOTO NOT AVAILABLE ON THE BLOG SITE)This example of a circuit plan has survived from the much later date of 1832, at which time John was reducing down his commitments because of age and infirmity. It gives a general impression of how things were organised though. John is allocated the number three. In addition to these core responsibilities they would be required to visit outlying villages in the broader circuit regularly. In 1799 when Yeadon was in the Keighley circuit John preached at sixty places including..
“Calling Yeadon the center of my operation I have been enabled to bear my testimony at Bramhope, Rawdon, Horsforth, Woodhouse Grove, Calverley, Eccleshill, Wodall Hills, Farsley, Staningley, Idle, Bolton, Undercliff, Upper and Lower Esholt, Baildon, Hawksworth, Tranmire, Menston, Burley, Greenholme, Ilkley, Addingham, Skipton, Middleton, Denton, Askwith, Weston, Farnley, Otley, Pool, Leathley, Stainburn, Clifton, Riggton, Beckwith Shaw, Hearby,Huby, Harewood, Weadley, Dunkeswick East, Wyke, addle, Eccup, Shipley, Kirkdeighton, Wetherby, Folleyfoot, Pannel, Guisley, Shiven End etc. Thus at more than sixty places has God enabled me to bear my testimony of his son from heaven and some of them forty times over”. Most of these places are within ten miles of Yeadon but at the very edge of that limit. He mentions that to preach at two or three villages a day was not uncommon so at times he would easily be ranging over a twenty mile span and all on foot and at times in bad weather.
John’s association with the Methodist Society brought him tasks that implied people had trust in his integrity, but it could also place him at risk.
“My friend George Beecroft is on his sick bed and in going to prey with him he decided I would along with another submit to be put in trust with his Will. I could not deny him unconscious of my future trouble on that hand. He died and we got the Will proved and paid the six legatees in the later part of the year and now has the six releases for the same by me and the probate of his Will”.
During 1798, John was invited by the ‘Currer’ (?) at Otley to be included in their Plan as well as that for Yeadon. This resulted in him preaching at a number of villages over a very large area of Wharfedale. I have not been able to find out what a ‘Currer’ was but presumably it was somebody who carried out an administrative role with the Otley Society.
“John Whitehead Currer, Otley sent me a letter in August to preach one Lords Day at Otley and took the opportunity to solicit I would enter the Otley plan also, and in the October following I received a plan for the following places in the Otley circuit namely Ilkley, Hawksworth Burley Wood Head , Pool, Bramhope, Stainburn, Denton, Askwith. Mr Samuel Botts their Superintendent at the time sent it to me with a complimentary letter”.
Later in the year John was again asked to take on the task of executing another will. This one did produce problems
“In this year (1798) John Walker School Master and Bachelor died in Yeadon and I was left in Trust with two others to execute his will. He had left 20 pounds towards defraying the debt on our preaching house and 10 for the poor people at Yeadon together with about £20 in smaller legacies. This I hope we executed faithfully but with a great deal of trouble. I have the 9 releases by me and the probate of his Will. Also in 1799 the planned transfer of Yeadon to the Keighley Circuit took place.
Onwards and upwards. In the following year John made this entry in his diary-
“I also continued to fulfil my plan in preaching and it was a very extensive circuit, when Yeadon belonged to Keighley. I went to a Love-feast to Keighley and at its close, the Superintendent gave out that a stranger would preach there at 6pm. He afterwards told me, I was the stranger and must get ready. By the time at 6pm the house was filled and overflowed. When I entered the pulpit I was greatly intimidated to find 6 or 8 preachers in the pulpit, and as many below and me so young as preacher”. John enjoyed the experience, which must have added to his confidence. A Love feast sounds a bit spicy but the reality seems equally out of character for the pre-industrial West Riding. People would gather for an open air picnic. Preachers addressed the crowds and then members of the congregation inspired would talk in tongues or make personal testimonies. These were famous for getting out of hand especially when in the hands of charismatic speakers. In the early 19th century a group who were particularly enamoured of such things broke away and formed the Primitive Methodist Church (‘often known as ‘The Prims’). The main stream Methodists then quietly suppressed such goings on. Years later In Yeadon the Wesleyan Methodists occupied upper high street, and the breakaway Prims held a strategic position overlooking the Town Hall. MENTION THE RIOTS.
Back to Keighley John was getting into his stride but it is tempting to ask what Mary thought about all of this. By this time they had six children less than eleven years of age and another one on the way. His work with the church would not have been paid although he may have got some expenses. I have seen old chapel records that show some small payments were made to him presumably for subsistence costs when visiting outlying villages. The Preaching House Book: 1788-1834 which is kept by the West Yorkshire Archives service at Leeds shows regular payments to him in his role as class leader beginning in October 1794 which totalled between 4- 8 shillings a quarter. From 1798 these were specifically listed as expenses. He also got paid for work done directly to the chapel. For example on the 15th October 1801 he was paid “£2-2-0 for paint and painting”. On the 27th January 1805 it was £4-4-0 for a similar job. Mention is also made of payments forwarded by him in his role as executor of wills. The sums being fairly large ie £20 and £30. Interestingly all class payment and disbursement to him stops in 1806.
His regular trade of Slay and Geer making would at best bring in a border line income. A theme running throughout the diary is anxieties about money. Mary would have been justified in calling time on all of this but we don’t hear her voice or an echo of it through him. I hope she had good friends and neighbours. In 1801 John made this entry-“I ought to have said in its proper place that Benjamin was born in the spring of 1797 and Betty in June 1799”. Priorities!
Periodically infectious diseases would affect the town and cause large numbers of deaths. Such things are regularly mentioned in his diary but almost as post scripts….like we would comment on the weather. This entry is also from 1801
“…..A bad Puttered Fever visited the inhabitants of Yeadon and in a few weeks very many died. I soon had my wife and 7 or 8 children in it for 10 weeks but I had it not. The Lord spared me to wait on the sick and praise be to God, not one died. I am now 37 years of age (Nov. 5) and we are now in the height of this fever”.
Putrid Fever was the contemporary name for what would now be called Typhus Fever. The name derives from “the decomposing and offensive state of the discharges and diseased textures of the body”. It was also known as Enteric Fever. A modern medical dictionary describes it as “An infectious and often fatal disease characterised by intestinal inflammation”. A bit more than a bad patch of weather! In the following year they lost a child.
“Our child Martha died July 1st aged 9 months. This was the first breach in our family. After sitting by her cradle all night, she was all in, in the morning. I am sorrowful indeed. This was luminous proof of our family being vulnerable to the darts of death”. In all two of Johns children were to die before him and one child was still born. A fourth was mentally disabled by the effects of Smallpox. The most likely cause of Martha’s death would have been some form of infectious disease. Other families lost even greater numbers of children through such events as we shall see later in these notes.
A few lines down the page John adds another comment “I forgot to mention in its proper place that I broke the Spell Bone (the smaller bone of the leg)in my left leg in January this year and it was long in getting better, however through Gods help I was able to preach in Calverley in April”. In the first years of the 19th century how did people get a broken leg fixed?

In 1804 a significant change occurred in his life. John had experience of an illness and impairment that was to effect him for the rest of his life, and which progressively over a number of years his ability to carry out the role of Local Preacher. From his description of symptoms, it is possible that he may have had Mennieres Disease or Tinnitus.
“In this year I was much dejected with deafness for the first time in my life and after was better it left a noise in my ears, which I believe will never end until my death”. He was correct in this assumption. People have described this ever present background noise as being like standing next to a waterfall. Speaking, listening and just generally engaging with others are done against this intrusive accompaniment.
The year 1806 was to be an important one. Firstly a daughter , Martha was born. Church records show that she was christened on the 25th May.
“In May of this year Martha was born, yes in the year of the Great Revival, and is our thirteenth child”. This ‘Great Revival ‘was an extraordinary period of several months when many hundreds who lived in the district were overtaken by religious fervour. Revivals were feature of Methodism at this time but writers on the subject often times make special mention of Yeadon as an exceptional example. This brief account by John Peel (History of Wesleyan Methodism in the Yeadon Circuit, 1926) describes how it began
“There have been some remarkable revivals of religion in connection with this Circuit in the past. One took place in the year 1806, when the Rev John Crosby was in the Circuit. Joseph and Betty Wooler took a very active part in the revival. Betty’s name appearing in the class book the first time in 1794. Betty in speaking at the revival relates that the prayer meeting began at 4 o’clock on the Tuesday afternoon , and went on night and day till Saturday afternoon at 4 o’clock”.
John’s firsthand account is more vivid and deserves to be quoted in full. This prayer meeting and other events lasted many weeks and must have brought life in the village close to a standstill at times. According to John it all began on a Monday.
“In the latter part of 1805 our (Methodist) Society in Yeadon consisted of 140 members divided into six classes. In the back end of 1805 ten or more souls joined our classes, but on January 27th 1806, on a Monday night at a small prayer meeting some began to cry aloud for salvation. The neighbours heard them, and went to see for themselves and these touched by the finger of God fell on their knees and cried aloud for mercy……this night be then might be called the first night of the Great Revival, and God was pleased to grant every encouragement to the gracious work by convincing and converting, by setting souls at liberty, by freely giving his pardoning love.
The meetings increased in frequency and intensity day by day , thus things went rapidly on and increased in one short week to a most alarming degree so that on Sunday Feby 2nd at night it was thought advisable to throw open the preaching house doors and the gallery was filled immediately. I went over about 9 o’clock and not withstanding I had been a member of this society better than 16 years and had seen many revivals both at Yeadon and elsewhere yet this surpassed all. I heard them to the distance of more than one hundred yards like the rushing of mighty waters. I took my stand in the gallery and in a few moments heard a voice cry very loudly “God be merciful to my poor soul”. I felt that moment Sympathy, Pity, Love and a moving of every tender passion within my heart. I got with difficulty to him prayed with him and felt God to bless me in the doing. Do not let it be supposed that this was the only distressed person in the chapel there was scores more. If you looked over the gallery you could see at any time 5,6 or 10 companies all worshipping God. Some praying, some singing others shouting the high praises of God and scores crying with all their strength in the most pitiable …(?).It was common for these to be four , five and six hours on their knees without once rising, and some so many hours for several nights together but when God was pleased to speak peace to a troubled breast , they instantly jumped up and with heaven in their countenance declared the happy change, and never failed to give all the glory to their God and saviour. It is worth remark, that in general (indeed I do not know of one exception) their load of guilt was removed and the witness of the Holy Spirit was given at the same time. When they thus arose praising God those that were nearest them always sang that verse:
Come Angels! Seize your harps of gold
The song of love to man unfold;
Assist our joys, exalt your praise,
Another sinners saved by grace:
Glory! Glory! Let us sing,
While heaven and earth with glory ring
Hosannah to the Lamb of God!
Our meetings began at 6’clock at night every night, and could not be broken up until 3, 4 or 5 next morning and it was common for scores to be waiting before the doors were thrown open at night for the meeting to begin, and continued thus for months. After some time we endeavoured to meet Class again from 6 to 8 o’clock and then the prayer meeting began.
At these Class Meetings held in the gallery you found yourself in the midst of two hundred souls and 3 or 4 leaders were employed to speak to each in disorder to finish by 8 and these were precious times indeed, immediately after these loosed without going home our prayer meetings commenced when there were 4 or 5 hundred persons present. In one of these meeting it was no uncommon thing for 10 or 15 souls to find liberty, to be saved from guilt the condemning power and be truly adopted into Gods dear family. If you had taken a ramble through our streets by day , you would have heard souls in their own houses crying in the most heart breaking language for mercy, others praying as if heaven must suffer violence and the violent take it by force, others singing the praises of God their redeemer with all the united strength of soul and body, again, if at 3 or 4 oclock in the morning when the meeting was looseing you happened to be in your own house you would have been delighted to hear persons when retiring to their own houses make the streets echo with the praises of God. On Lords Day March 9th after noon preaching a double list was made out , the first for all that had found liberty, the second for all that were fully determined. To seek the Lord in these two lists were entered the names of 270 persons and soon after was added 60 more. Also on Lords Day March 30 Isaac Muff held our Great Love feast and people flocked in such numbers from all quarters having heard the report of our revival. It was absolutely necessary to keep it in the open air in a field before Mr Slater’s house which they kindly offered on this occasion. I think that there could be not be much fewer at this Love feast than 10thousand souls. Remember?”
The early Methodists were renowned for these ‘Love Feasts’. They were open air events where people would gather on a piece of open ground. Those known for their oratory would address the crowd, preach sermons and conduct prayers. Individuals were then encouraged to testify to their religious experience. This of course encouraged others and encouraged a feeling of solidarity. Sometimes, as in this case the crowds were very large. I wonder how they managed to be heard without electric amplification.
John’s account seems incredible. If the numbers given by him are correct, twice the whole population of the village attended.
A Methodist Love feast at Yeadon and in the open air where 10 thousand souls were supposed to be present eternal glory be to God.
This Love feast began at noon and the goodness power and love of our God seemed to pervade the whole. Towards night we withdrew into the preaching house and the Love Feast was continued there to a late hour , this was a time to be remembered for good to very many.
The next evening, namely March 31 the Love Feast was resumed again at about 7 o’clock and continued till near midnight. For simplicity, love and ready speaking I know not I ever hears it’s equal”.
On Lords Day April 13th and the three following days Mr Crosby our Superintendant spent in preaching , speaking to and…….? this people. The whole number joined in Society now in Yeadon alone (which is but a small village) amounted to 480 members. Thus amazing to relate 340 souls were added in about 10 weeks”.
The population of Yeadon at the time was around1, 700 individuals of all ages. The population profile was relatively young so it is probably a safe estimate that one third of this number would have been children. So somewhere close to 2/5th of the adult population in Yeadon were fully fledged members of the Methodist Society in Yeadon. Others would have been occasional visitors or more on the periphery. That probably takes those with some kind of affinity to the organisation to over half the adult population. Just as surprising, it seems that this membership seems to have been sustained.
In earlier years members of the Methodist Society were more likely to be small farmers or skilled tradesman. In the neighbouring village of Guiseley there were 23 members in the 1760’s. The list included two farmers, a husbandman and a shovel maker. Five are in occupations which are probably related to woollen cloth manufacture. Thirteen though are listed as Spinsters. Its unclear but this may have meant that they spun wool rather than were single women.
The greater expansion of membership would have meant that many new members were farm or other labourers which was to have political implications a century later. The person who would have been partly responsible for this phenomenal growth would have been the Superintendant or senior minister John refers to. This was John Crosby (1754- 1816) who served at Yeadon in 1805 to 1807. John Crosby originally came from Whitby. He was converted by an evangelical clergyman at Pickering when he was twenty one. He entered the itinerancy, or system of three yearly rotation of ministers about eight years later. His biographical record at the Methodist Archive and Research Centre at john Rylands University Library in Manchester shows that during his thirty odd year career he served communities for three year stretches in England and Scotland. He first retired in 1811 at Bradford but then later took up a position at Bristol from 1814. That city was a focal centre for the Methodist Society so he may have been attached to part of the central organisation there. The record at Rylands University makes special mention of his involvement in the 1806 revival at Yeadon
John’s journal mentions that the revival waned at Yeadon in April but not before it had spread to the neighbouring villages of Guiseley and Esholt where another 200 people joined the Society.

An open air Methodist revival meeting from a slightly later date, 1839.
During the following year i.e. 1807 John made writes about three major international and national events. He is writing contemporary to the events as someone reading the latest updates from the newspapers. That certainly challenges some of my assumptions about the place and time. John a person of relatively little formal education and much less money (at this time thirteen children!) living in a large village on the edge of total obscurity is able to get hold of a relatively expensive newspaper. From that perspective he is able to form a view on world events. For me to do this is easy. It’s just a word in a search engine. Presumably for John it was much more difficult unless the chapel or some organisation to which he belonged held a subscription. The first two events relate to the Napoleonic Wars in Europe.
“I am no politician but my attention cannot be more or less engaged in the sanguinary wars of this year.
In Feby. of this year the battle of Eylan was fought . Supposed to be one of the most vigorous and obstinately contested battles in the history of the war. At this battle of Eylan 80 thousand was killed, taking both sides.
On the 14th June Friedland was taken from the Russians by the French and on 9th July a treaty of peace between France on one side and Russia and Prussia on the other, was ratified at Tilsit”.
Interestingly he does not make mention of Napoleon, but instead speaks of the French. To the 21st century this conflict is closely associated with that one individual but maybe for thise witnessing the details of events at the times he did not have quiet so much prominence.
The third event was probably the most significant, and John seems to be an enthuisiast.
Also in this year, on the 25th March at 12 O’clock noon the act for abolition of slavery received the king’s assent and this ended one of the most glorious contests after a continuance of 20 years, ever carried on in any age or country”.
John’s description is not wholly accurate. That date saw the abolition of the slave trade within the British Empire. Thos already enslaved in the same domain were not to be emancipated until 1834, and some had to wait a further four years after that.
The None-Conformist churches had played a prominent role in the campaign which led to the changes of 1807 and 1834.
Locally this is evidenced by a woman called Betsy Sawyer who died at Yeadon in 1839. Her gravestone was saved when the rest of the burial ground was cleared. It is now attached to the exterior wall of the church. The inscription reads
“To the memory of Betsy Sawyer born in slavery in the island of Antigua, West Indies who through missionary labour was brought to the knowledge and enjoyment of true religion and obtained her freedom whilst residing in the family of the Rev. T. Murray in whose service she lived beloved and respected for 16 years. She departed this life on November 24th 1839 aged 65 years in the faith and hope of the gospel. As a mark of affection for her this memorial stone was erected at the expense of her friends in the Methodist Society in this town”. The Rev. Murray’s daughter Sarah’s death is also recorded on the memorial stone”.
By 1839 John was in poor physical health and less active in the society but he would certainly have known Betsy and something of her life journey. No mention is made in the diary though. I wonder what she made of it all.
John then goes onto give an account of an infamous 1807 election in what was still an unreformed parliamentary system famous for its corruption and aristocratic privilege. Yorkshire as a whole returned two MP’s and in the election of 1807 there were three candidates William Wilberforce who had successfully advocated for the abolition of the slave trade in parliament, Henry Lascelles whose family was closely associated with slavery in Barbados and Lord Milton whose campaign was funded by his father Earl Fitzwilliam of Wentworth woodhouse. Voters had to travel to York to in order to participate. Eligibility was based upon property ownership and it is estimated that only 5% of the adult population were able to vote. According to a pamphlet (“Harewood 1807. A commemoration of the bicentenary of the abolition of the slave trade and the Yorkshire election in 1807”) from the Lascelles family archives at Harewood House the main issues of the election were Catholic Emancipation, cloth workers rights at a time of increasing mechanisation and abolition of the slave trade.
“It was also in the summer of this year that vigorous and expensive election between Milton and Lascelles occurred at York. It is supposed to have cost each candidate 100,000 pounds. Number of votes for Milton was 11,177. Number of votes for Lascelles 10,298- margin 887. Milton had those votes over his rival, and of course was duly elected”.
Wilberforce came top of the pole with 11,806 votes. He together with Milton was therefore returned to parliament. Modern estimates put the three candidate’s expenditure at £250,000 which was a lot of money for 31,000 votes.

Lascelles, the Tory candidate was the youngest son of the Earl of Harwood whose estate is on the outskirts of Leeds just a few miles from where John lived at Yeadon and it was a place he almost certainly knew. Harewood House was built from the proceeds of slavery. Lascelles opponents alleged that he work for resumption of the slave trade if re-elected.
Milton, a Whig was supported by his father the 4th Earl Fitzwilliam whose estate was Wentworth House. He had turned 21 earlier that year. The candidates were competing for one of the two ‘County Seats’. The other one was held by William Wilberforce, the campaigner against slavery. His seat was considered safe as he was riding high on the success of his work.
The campaign lasted five weeks. It was a fierce no holds barred contest and hugely expensive even for a time when votes were essentially bought directly or through arrangements for reciprocal favours. The figures given by John are roughly accurate, and would be the equivalent of many millions of pounds today.
The pamphlet includes a few slogans from the election
“No Tyranny, no enemy to the Clothiers (local woollen textile workers), no juggling union of candidates…no slave dealing Lord. No Yorkshire votes purchased with African blood. No Lascelles, no never! Milton for Ever.”
“…No Slave Trade! Who voted against the abolition of the Slave Trade? Earll Fitzwilliam, the father of Lord Milton….deny it who can. Who did not vote against the Abolition, the Hon H. Lascelles who always prefers his conscience to his interests?”
“Who has discovered an intolerant persecuting Spirit, particularly against the Methodists, the sect patronized by Mr Wilberforce……the family of Lascelles.”
“Who insulted the Clothiers….Lascelles”

Henry Lascelles was known to support the increased mechanisation in the cloth working industries. This would have lost him votes in the Leeds- Bradford district where there were fears of resulting unemployment
PHOTO NOT AVAILABLE ON BLOG. The cartoonist Gilray was commissioned by the brother of one of Milton’s supporters to produce a picture which reflected the character of the election. Gilray’s response was this cartoon of a man called John Clarkson, a Leeds Horse Breaker with a criminal record who was one of the strongest supporters of the candidate. The picture is called ‘The Orange Jumper’ as this was the item of clothing Clarkson was known for

The main entry during 1808 was for the birth of Mary and John’s son Jacob. The entry reads “Jacob was born 22nd January in this year and is our 14th child”. This was to be their last child. Two years later John made this comment about his family life
“I was 46 years old in the year 1810 and now we are coming to the year 1811. How rapid is our time. It is but like yesterday that I was a school boy and playing marbles, and at little more than 46 years of age I had seven sons and seven daughters born to me and only 1 ½ years for each child for the whole 14 children. Astonishing.” No mention made of Mary’s part in the process!
Just having a computer with access to the internet and the funds for the monthly website subscription means I can reach back two hundred years and know a bit more about Jacob’s life. He was born on the 22nd January 1808 at Yeadon and baptised almost a month later at Guiseley Church. He followed a variety of occupations including Slay and Geermaker, Grocer and Painter. These probably overlapped as the first and last did for his father.
He married a Maria Hudson on the 11th October 1829 at Guiseley. In the 1851 census Jacob is described as a widower. In the 1881 census Jacob is recorded as living with a woman named Hannah Yeadon, from Willesdon who is described as his wife. I have been unable to find a record of the marriage. Jacob and Maria had 7 children.
He is mentioned in all of the censuses between 1841 and 1881. In the first three he is recorded as living at Abbey Garth in Yeadon. In the later documents he is at Walker Row, off Kirk Lane which is also in Yeadon. I do not have a certain year of death as there are numbers of people of the same name living in the locality.
(Sources: JY 1808 Diary,,, John Yeadon’s Diary}.
For a number of years John’s account of personal contemporary events in his diary become infrequent. Most entries are transcribed portions of the bible or excerpts from religious tracts. Occasionally he is commenting on national events. There is very little with a personal content. 1809 is all religiosity. 1810 the only note is of his father’s death which we have already talked about. John’s early middle age does not seem particularly inspired or eventful. It’s all births and deaths with no life in-between. Either life was dull or he was just too busy with everything else.
In the following year, 1811 John lists a number of historical events before his birth, and during his life time which he sees as important. I have included this list, concentrating on the account of contemporary issues as it provides a view from two hundred years ago about were considered major events and innovations. These include such things as Mariners Compass invented 1302, Invention of printing 1440, the discovery of America by Columbus in 1492. This list fills a page, but he then goes onto list events occurring during his own lifetime up to the year of writing, and for which he might have had a more personal attachment. It is a view of what he saw to be important and maybe to some extent reflects the perspective of the time. His notes are remembered headlines from newspapers and the distillation of conversations with friends and neighbours. French and American issues predominate, and are the things that I would have identified for the same period but from a 10 degree drift. His view is close to the first draft of history, mine is the umpteenth draft written and rewritten by two hundred years of historians.
“I was born Nov. 5 1764
Otaheite (? Tahiti) in the Pacific Ocean discovered 1765.
War declared against North America. 1775
Peace with America. 1783
Sunday Schools first begun. 1785
French Revolution. 1789
France a republic. 1792
King and Queen of France guillotined. 1793
Bonaparte made emperor. 1804
A great comet appeared Sept 1811”.
A number of firsthand accounts of this comet still exist. The best known is probably the one given by a character in Tolstoy’s ‘War and Peace’. Tolstoy describes the character of Pierre observing the comet. It was visible to the naked eye for 9 months, and at its brightest in October 1811. In Russia the optimum time for observation of the phenomenon was slightly later i.e. around the turn of the year. The following is an extract from that account, presumably based on Tolstoy’s direct experience-
“At the entrance to the Arbat Square an immense expanse of dark starry sky presented itself to his eyes. Almost at the centre of it above the Prechistenka Boulevard, surrounded and sprinkled on all sides but distinguished from them all by its nearness to the earth, its white light, and its long uplifted tail, shone the enormous and brilliant comet of 1812- the comet that was said to portend all kind of woes and the end of the world. In Pierre, however that comet with its long luminous tail aroused no feeling of fear. On the contrary he gazed joyfully, his eyes moist with tears, at this bright comet, which having travelled in its orbit with inconceivable velocity through measured space, seemed suddenly like an arrow piercing the earth- to remain fixed in a chosen spot vigorously holding its tail erect, shining and displaying its white light amid countless other scintillating stars”, (War And Peace, Leo Tolstoy)

Haley’s Comet

John Yeadon was looking up at the same sky but from Yeadon, West Yorkshire and his line of vision would have been through the first mill chimneys and across Yeadon Haw. These chimneys were putting men out of work and reducing them to wretchedness. Many became machine wreckers as if breaking the looms would make the future go away.
“Second, this was the memorable year of the Luddites in breaking machinery in the manufacturing districts of England. Eight were executed at Lancaster, two at Chester and eighteen York”. A newspaper report of the time (Leeds Mercury) gives an account of the Yorkshire Luddites execution. I have quoted from large sections of the report as it is a vivid account of a public execution.
“The execution of these unhappy men took place yesterday at 9 O’clock at the usual place behind the castle wall, every precaution being taken to make a rescue impracticable. The troops of cavalry were drawn up at the front of the drop and the entrances to the Castle were guarded by infantry. At five minutes before nine O’clock, the prisoners were taken to the fatal platform. After the ordinary had read the accustomed form of prayers on these occasions, George Mellor prayed for about ten minutes; he spoke with great apparent fervency and devotion, confessing in general the greatness of his sins, but without any admission to the crime for which he suffered. He prayed earnestly for mercy, and with a pathos that was affecting. The surrounding multitude was evidently affected. William Thorpe also prayed, but his voice was not so well heard. Smith said little, but seemed to join in the devotion with great seriousness. The prisoners were then moved to the front of the platform and Mellor said: “Some of my enemies may be here, if there be I freely forgive them, and all the world, and I hope the world will forgive me”. William Thorpe said “I hope none of those who are now before be, will ever come to this place”. The executioner then proceeded to perform his fatal office, and the drop fell. Some alteration had been made to the drop, so that the whole body was visible when they were suspended; in former executions only the feet and head could be seen by the spectators. They were executed in their irons. They appeared slightly convulsed for a few moments”.
We forget the awful levels of mortality Tuberculosis produced, amongst young and old before effective treatments were developed in the mid twentieth century. John’s eldest son John died in 1814. He does not call the fatal illness Tuberculosis but the use of the word ‘consumption’ that is wasting and loss of weight which probably suggests that condition-
“John our first child…..had very poor health this spring and long before, yet made slays as well as he was able, but in March he was obliged to give work entirely up. It was a very slow consumption. I left him on March 11th looking over his papers in the forenoon. I was going to Idle (a neighbouring village) on business, and on my return at night found him in a dying state. He departed about 11 O’clock that night aged about twenty six and a half years. He never married and lived at home with us. He first new remission of his sins in the Great Revival when he was about 19 years of age but sometime after he fell from his steadfastness but finding no rest he soon returned to his meeting and I hope to his saviour and his God. I do hope John is in glory everlasting. We committed his remains to its mother earth on March 14th at Guiseley”.
In all of this it strikes me again that there is no mention of Mary the mother who has lost her son. It could be that John refrains from discussion of the distress for Mary and himself as it is a given and does not need to be mentioned. The focus for this journal is upon the son’s immortal soul which is to John the most significant thing.
John makes mention during 1816 of the economic impact of the war with France. The war was over and it might be expected that this would allow for resumption of continental trade and prosperity, but Yeadon had a different relationship to the situation-
“A general peace done at Vienna, June 9th 1815 and before the end of the year we had comparatively no trade at all in this year 1816. I did write “We have had not a Slay or Geer to make in the world and are 11 a family. These are distressing times to very many. Notwithstanding I preached often this year”. Yeadon may have suffered especially as the mills at that time specialised in the production of cloth for what were now unneeded military uniforms. They are all living on fresh air but this does not limit John’s religious work!
The weight of John’s preaching responsibilities, and the extensive area covered is well illustrated by the entries for 1817 and 1818. He mentions attending a hearing of some kind where there was discussion of how responsibilities would be divided. From the list it looks as if John was happy to take on something more than his share.
“I think about this time, I preached 8 Sundays in 9 and attended Sunday school in my turn”.
John listed all the places he preached, and the number of occasions during 1818
January: 4 at Bingley, 11 at Shipley,18 at Esholt and Yeadon
February: 1 at Grove & Guiseley, 8 at Idle, 15 at Carveley
March: 1 at Rawden, 15 at Eccleshill, 22 at Guiseley
29 at Eccleshill.
April: 5 at Idle and Grove, 19 at Guiseley, 26 at Grove
May: 3 at Idle, 10 at Rawden, 17 at Guisley, 24 at Carveley, 31 at Idle
June: 7 at Rawden, 14 at Guisley, 28 at Grove
July: 5 at Eccleshill, 12 at Bingley, 26 at Guiseley
August: 2 at Idle
October: 11 at Rawden and Carlton Poor House, 18 at Idle, 25 at Rawden
Nov: 1 at Carlton Poor House, 15 at Carlton Poor House
December: 5 at Burley, 12 at Upper Esholt, 27 at Carlton poor House, 31 at Yeadon watch nigh.
The appearance of Carlton Poor House in October is significant. On the 7th October 1818 seventeen Wharfedale parishes and townships formed a poor house union and chose this small village one mile north of Yeadon as the location for the institution. I have no contemporary account of this place as it was when visited by John, but we do have a very full account from fourteen years later.
The Poor Law Commission set up in 1832 to appraise existing provision for the poor visited the Carlton Union in that year. The purpose of this was to make recommendations for reform of the system, which eventually led to the Poor Law Reform Act of 1834. The general feeling of the time was that conditions in these institutions were not an adequate disincentive to the undeserving poor. Eighteen eighteen might not have been so different from eighteen thirty two, so I’ve copied in portions of that report, thinking that it would not have been too dissimilar from the place that John new.
“Present number of inmate’s 60 of which 24 males, 23 females, 10 boys and 3 girls: of the men four are above 80 and seven above 60”. The report goes on to describe the conditions in the place diet, medical supervision, segregation of the sexes, education for the children, sanitation etc. There was no instruction (education?) for the children but otherwise the institution was assessed as adequate or good with the exception of the cess pools which were a nuisance. Of special interest though are the remarks about arrangements for the religious needs of the paupers.
“The Methodists give a prayer meeting on Sunday morning and Wednesday evenings; every alternate Sunday there is besides a sermon by the Methodists; once a month also a sermon from an itinerant Methodist preacher. No regular attendance by members of the establishment; a Mr Pickles from Guiseley used to come, but he wanted a salary, and as he could not have it, gave it up”. (Poor Law Commission Report 1832, quoted on the ‘The Workhouse, The Story of an institution’ website). Well Mr Pickles has made his way into history for one thing he did, or rather did not do in his life. The remarks about the Methodist look to have held mostly true for the place when John did the job. We do not get a view from the inmates; some might have favoured the approach taken by Mr Pickles! I am probably being unfair though. The actions of these local men who walked across The Haw from Yeadon was almost certainly for the most part unselfish and provided comfort to people who were ‘Sans Everything’.
Another person who will now make his place into history gets there because he talked about his age to John in 1820-
“On Lords Day Feby 20 I preached in Carleton Poor House and afterwards spoke with Thomas Roberts an inmate there who said he came from Armley (Leeds) and that he was then going on his 116th year of age, said he knew Jesus to be his saviour and prayed to him daily. He died soon after”.
Back to the programme for the year. The villages listed fall into two groups, that is those close by and those that are approximately 2-3 hours walk away. With preparation work and other tasks such as the Sunday school, being a class leader and assorted meetings his tasks as a local preacher were getting close to being a second full time job. The work would have made him known to many people. If he was only heard by about fifty worshipers at each place in that year he would have become known to over 600 people which does not sound much in an age of mass communications but is a lot of personal contact. People would have known and greeted him on the street.
During 1818, John mentions that this diary is a transcription of a (more frequently kept) Journal
“I wrote 6 pages large paper in my journal for this year but what use could it be me transcribing it”. WRONG, WRONG, WRONG!
I wonder what John would think to know that his abridged diary has survived two hundred years, and is being read by his descendents, and they would have greatly have liked to see his draft notes on the inconsequential events of each day.
The economy remained depressed for a number of years after the Napoleonic wars. During 1819 and 1820, the poor economic conditions continued. On the 10th July John wrote-
“What can be done? I am quiet overcome, Jesus Christ save me; we are 9 in our family and nearly all without work. We have had nothing to do, nor the least prospect whatever of any work for the future”.
For 1820“This was no better year for trade than last year and still I was strengthened to preach as much as usual”
This is John’s life in his fifty sixth year. Life is still hand to mouth, but his children are mostly grown up or if still at home contributing to the household budget when in work. The youngest Jacob is twelve and most of the others two years older than the previous one! Mary and himself had brought thirteen live children into the world and eleven had survived at a time when premature mortality was not far from the norm. Gear and Slay making was not the way of the future but it provided for him and at least one of his younger children .He had close to thirty years of preaching and holding the status of Class Leader in the Methodist Society. As yet there is no mention of a decline in his health or capabilities. John is doing okay. The something happened
John does not tell us detail, but it in some way related to Hannah, his eldest daughter.
…..July 13th, on which day about 6 O’clock at night our H—–h met with that insult and assault. When I was down, down with grief and sorrow God knows where but it is written somewhere, what though knowest not now though shalt know here after so to that period I must leave it”.
Later in the journal, John makes it clear that Hannah was disabled. At some point, probably during her childhood, Hannah had Smallpox, which resulted in her developing what was probably Epilepsy. It looks as if uncontrolled seizures (effective anti-epileptic drugs were not available at the time) resulted in a mental impairment.
Hannah did not marry. She lived for most of her life with her father, and then when he became unable to provide care; Hannah lived with her sisters. At the time of the event which John eludes to she would have been twenty nine.
At sometime after Easter Sunday in 1822, John again writes about the incident “not withstanding the incurable blow I received in July 1820, which seemed to paralise (paralyse) all my powers, yet I had so far recovered as to preach twice at Yeadon”.
The incident seems to have caused John extreme distress, so much so that he had been unable to preach for almost 2 years. He goes onto describe that he still felt under the weight of the event –.
“I continued doing a little (preaching) according to my plan, through the circuit, but my God has now brought me very low indeed. For I had been shaken through the very centre of my body, soul and spirit, and all on account of another, and not for myself”.
What happened to Hannah which was so bad that John cannot bring himself to put it into writing? Given her vulnerability and gender it is tempting to assume that she was the subject of a sexual assault or exploitative relationship. Less likely would have been another form of physical assault upon her. It had to be something which so got to the heart of John; that it rendered him so distressed that he lost appetite for life for years, and left him permanently weakened.
Something goes out of John at this time and does not properly come back.
John’s diary is fairly sparse on detail during these years. The next major subject he treats with any depth is the death of his wife Mary in 1824. She was fifty nine years old-
“My dear wife died April 10th at 3 O’clock in the morning, of this year after a long and protracted and lingering disorder. Perhaps her health was first undermined with bearing 14 children being 7 boys and 7 girls in about 21 years. She sank gradually for the last ten years, took her bed about the beginning of February and died as stated above. We had both agreed to meet in class about the end of the year 1789, but through her great weakness could not meet for the last two years of her life. The last month of her life was a great tryal to me also, perhaps the greatest of every yet endured. On March 10th not a clear evidence of her salvation but much comforting she resigned herself and all below (I believe) intirely to her god at this time, for her patient spirit remained unruffled to the end…..My wife’s funeral was on Monday April 12th when the following persons were invited to it-
John then goes on to list all the people who came to Mary’s funeral. The numbering system
presumably relates to number of people attending from a particular family, and towards the document something like cumulative numbers but John does not explain this.
Joseph Fletcher, Joshua Gibson, Mrs Kenion, Thom. Smith, Benj. Long, Thom. Hollings, James Brayshaw , Joseph Chippendale, John Myers, Eli Brown, William Peat Sr.
Relations her brothers
Joseph Dawson 2, William Dawson 2, John Dawson 2, Joshua Dawson 2, Samuel Dawson 2
Our Children
From this point onwards, John inserts what is presumably an accumulating number of the total number of people invited to the funeral (female children listed under husband’s name)
23- James Yeadon 2, 25- Joseph 2, 27- Benj. Yeadon 2, 29- Peter Fieldhouse 2
31- Joseph Claughton 2

Family Friends
32- William Lister Idle (the name of a local village, which is now part of Bradford), 33- Ann Baldwin, 34- John Baldwin, 35- Richard Gibson, 36- Sarah Yeadon, Lister, 37- Ann Dawson, 38- Samuel Marshall, 39- James Townsend, 40- Joseph Slater, 41- John Bencroft, 42- Thomas Nichols
Members of the Methodist Society
44- Meek and Gibson Preachers ,60- 16 Class Meeting, 68- 8 Class Leaders
“Thus am I left at 59 ½ years of age having been married 37 ½ years. I feel as if half of myself was fled away. My wife often said if it was the will of God she should wish to die before me, that wish is granted. I asked her reason why she desired it. She said because “I could not govern and take care of our family. I have poor health and am but a woman”.
“I believe my wife was younger than me by six months. Our first acquaintance began about sixteen years of age, and still were not married until we were about 22 years of age, had 14 children and 11 are alive now, 7 married and 4 unmarried. There is now about 20 grandchildren”.
Of those that are dead, one was still born nearly at his time a fine boy- Martha died at about three quarters of a year old- these two are in heaven. John our first born died at 26 ½ years old- and his mother died at 59 years of age, and I have almost as good hope of their safe landing in glory everlasting as the infants- Oh what anxious car, what diligence, what trouble, what sorrow in bringing into this world, and maintaining family of this description. Some in heaven, some on earth, none in hell, praise my god. I am this day (Nov 5th) 60 years of age, yes through the providential care of god 60 years of age.”
For the next four years the diary is largely left un-kept apart from dismal summaries of his life and health around each birthday
On his sixty first he wrote the following utterly depressing appraisal of his faculties and strength.
“I have had through divine mercy good health ever since I was married. I feel tolerable…but I could not exert myself in any one exercise as when young, there is a numbness, stiffness and a languor through the whole body that young people never feel, lassitude and weariness….constant companions of old age , and these much increase as age increases, until the body becomes little more than a torpid lump of clays, and life is so weak in me of their description that a little muster, and a fall would quite extinguish….. it I still continue to preach a little, but I think my memory is not as good as it was at 50 years old. All my powers seemed to me to be strong at 50 as at 30. I have had no disorder this last 11 years, but notwithstanding I am certain that I have failed much”.
In the same passage, John gives an illustration of how he uses prompt notes to aid his failing memory when preaching. Together with his poor hearing, the need to rely heavily upon prompt notes must have impaired his confidence as a preacher.

The entries on the nest two birthdays are of much the same spirit with added maudlin. He really is feeling bereft of life. 1826 shows some glimmer of john returning to an interest in the world. The description of economic woes and military intervention abroad is familiar.
“Such a year as this I have never seen before. At the beginning of it, Banks began to break as if the whole banking system was rotten. Bankruptcies followed immediately. Tradesmen, Br—(unclear), Merchants failed, factories shutting, universal distress for want of employment in every branch of trade though Great Britain and Ireland and its reaction was felt far and wide. Tens of thousands out of employ not for a week only but months and months. Such a general cry of distress went through all the land that a general fund was raised in London to help and relieve the main factory districts, for it did not affect the farming districts much for (in the original John wrote the word ‘Shilling’, but he probably meant to write a staple product such as corn)……..kept above 40 shillings a load all of this year, and we had an average crop of grain this year because of heat and draught and some have already prophesised of a famine before the crop can be reaped next year and to crown it all in the beginning of December we are entering into a new war in going to help Portugal against its own rebels and Spain who gives them refuge. It may and most likely will be like the letting forth of water, and who can say where this will end”.
This general economic crisis was triggered by a banking crisis in the previous year. Banks were for the most part privately owned and when exposed to losses in risky ventures in South America and elsewhere were unable to absorb the pain. Around sixty of them failed leading to a reduction in credit to what had been a rapidly expanding industrial sector. There were demands for quantitative easing and banking reform. To get the banking system on a more resilient footing, Parliament allowed for the creation of new joint-stock banks outside a 65 mile radius of central London and permitted the Bank of England to set up regional branches. Two hundred miles away up a future M1 John was seeing these events played out in his small industrial village.
There is also some temporary quickening of life for John at this time evidenced by a return to preaching. Not that he had ever totally stopped but chapel records show that he was helping out at the edges instead of being one of the bulwarks. He is now back for a short while to fulfilling his full obligations as a local preacher which includes the necessity of walking the six miles or so to chapels at the near side of Bradford.
Some entries give a telling insight into the lives and expectations. Providing for one’s family even in an area such as death seems to have been something which was important for the head of a family to do. The following entry gives an insight into how such things as burial were handled in times when such things were mostly left to individuals and the churches,
“In August last 1827 I bought of the trustees of the new burying ground as much ground as will make 24 graves which at 7s 6d each will cost 8 guineas or £8-8-0 all said.
He was buying burial places for all of his children and their spouses which seems an extraordinary thing to do nowadays. He spent 8 guineas on this. Where was this kind of riches coming from? If you have that kind of money why not spends it on living. The explanation is probably that this money is the sum of hundreds of little acts of saving and carefulness, and the justification is pride in being able to bequeath a guaranteed, paid for resting place in death at a time when the alternative would have been the communal pauper grave.
The journal then goes silent again. Apart from a couple of quoted verses in 1828, there is a gap in the keeping of the journal until Saturday June 30th 1832, when John wrote the following-
“Studying and writing have become wearisome. However I have gone on this last 3 ½ years the same as 3 ½ years previous doing a little. I feel old and helpless. In this year 1828 I had a sore complaint about May & June. It left a weakness in my knees never to be cured. I now cannot walk to Otley Market and back as usual nor scarce anywhere else. I expect no mend”.
Standing from this distance and using the entry frequency, content and tone of the diary as our source the distressing event of 1820 involving Hannah seems to have had a deeply wounding effect upon John. The death of his wife Mary four years later has left him further bereft. These assumptions of course are all based on an absence of any other information to the contrary, but this because there is no information besides that from the diary. Chapel records are also largely quiet. All told he looks to have been in a wilderness of sorts for more than twelve year. or one sixth of his life. That is from age fifty five to sixty seven. Nineteenth and early twentieth century psychiatrist coined the perfectly descriptive, almost poetic term ‘Involutionary Melancholia’ to describe such circumstances. Melancholia is depression. The flavour of this depression includes ideas of shut down or hibernation, and a turning away from the world. This form of enduring depression was said to occur at the climatic which was their term for the change of life, in its broadest sense, which occurs in later middle age. Some Psychiatrists say that a ruminating anxiety, hankering guilt and preoccupation with physical health problems are also part of this picture. This wonderfully humanistic formulation, with its echoes of Shakespeare’s seven ages went out of fashion in the second half of the twentieth century. In more recent years some clinicians have campaigned for its rehabilitation. I hope they get their way.
At this point in 1832 John has eleven years left of his life. We are moving towards the end of his chronology. If he was so down and his life has become a desert, is he able get across it. Fortunately his internal monologue returns to the diary and we are able to see what happened. Are there every happy endings?

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Filed under Aireborough, Biography, Family history, Humour, Local history, Social History, Yeadon

Gleaning Teeming Brains 6

[ href=””&gt;Banksfield Mill (Scott & Rhodes) 1920's Banksfield Mill (Scott & Rhodes) 1920’s[/caption]

Rowland is the 3rd child from the left on the second row from the book. His cousin Isaac is stood behind him

Rowland is the 3rd child from the left on the second row from the book. His cousin Isaac is stood behind him

rawdon-quaker meeting house

Hare and Hounds 6

Chapter 6
“Is a reminder of the strength and pain
Of being young; that it can’t come again
But is for others undiminished somewhere”.
Philip Larkin
Sad Steps
Class photo. Yeadon South view school c1932
Rowland Kitchen junior. Second row from the back, third child from the left

Up until recently I had not a photo of Rowland Kitchen Junior as a child. Then as often happens where your mind is on the lookout for things this picture turned up on a local history site. The photo is taken near the main school gates. The house to the left of the teachers head is the first one on Brooklands Crescent where Rowland lived. Quite possibly he could see his own house from where he stood. Teacher and head teacher stand book end style at either end. My brother has looked over this picture and remembers most of these boys as middle aged men in the 1960’s. More boys are standing at the windows behind; there are thirty eight children, all boys in the class. Presumably the girls in similar numbers had a class of their own (the school had at this time separate boys and girls entrances. The boys were rising twelve, so were born around 1920 and so conceived just after the end of the war.
Thirty seven years later I would have occupied a similar place in a class photo at the same school. There were thirty children in my class boys and girls. Much less than half the number than in the class of 1932. So why so many twelve year olds? The school served the same catchment area, the population the town had increased but not by that proportion. It’s possible that children from two years were grouped together in one class so as to make single sex classes viable. Yeadon had lost a disproportionate number of men in the war. The shocking memorial slabs on the wall of the town hall demonstrate that. I would suspect it was around a firth or a quarter of all the men who had joined up. Lots of men should have had children in this photograph but they did not live to conceive them. Those that did come back from the war, and their wives were in a rush to get on with life. Lots of children came along all at once. This group of boys would be nineteen in 1939, which made them just the right age for the next war. Before then they would have to live through the economic turbulence of the 1920’s, the General Strike of 1926 and the searing depression of the 1930’s. The hardship of those years would leave some of them with what appeared to their children, near delusional fears of poverty and debt. The good times could not last and we would be back to sharing shoes.
Rowland looks untypically relaxed and ebullient. The jacket hangs open as if his hands were tucked in the trouser pockets. Grin on his face. He gives every impression of being comfortable in his skin. It feels odd seeing ones father as a child. His cousin Isaac named after the uncle who died in the war is on the left end of the row behind.
Setting Rowland in his world. His house is a hundred yards away. After school he will have his tea with Rowland senior, Ida, Iris and Kathleen. Across the street and nearer the school is Isaac’s house and Rowland’s uncle Eddie the one thats a bit of a lad. Half a mile across town would have been his grandmother Louisa but she had died two years previously. A very old lady for the time, seventy eight.
Scattered across the town and neighbouring villages are eight uncles and aunts all of whom are likely to have worked in one of the numerous textile mills which dominated the town. In England, Bradford was the centre of wool production; Leeds was the same for cloth. Yeadon stood geographically between the two and had the whole spectrum of manufacturing processes between the two poles.
The population of the town was 7,500. Its death rate was higher at 15.3 per thousand was one point higher than its birth rate. Population was first steady and then with migration out of the area as well had begun to decline. It would rise again when times got better.
Yeadon was not a bad place to grow up in. The life was midway between the farm drudgery of the dales labourer and the squalor of the slums of Bradford and Leeds.
We left Rowland not doing very well at school after he fell off a wall and broke his leg. He felt that this had left him behind & to my mind a bit of a chip on his shoulder about teachers which was to be ironic in its own way. Some children from this age group would have got scholarships to the local grammar school, His future wife Kathleen was to do so in five years time.
We have already looked over what came next. Two years after this photo was taken Rowland had left school and was working as a bicycle powered delivery boy for a grocer at the bottom of Yeadon Steep until he was caught with his hand in the till and sacked. Walking past the shop sixty six years later he was hit by a pain in the chest which was to kill him within twenty four hours. I’m sure that the two events are in no way related.
Then came Banksfield Dye Works.

Ariel photograph of Banksfield Mill in 192. The white shape at bottom left is the wing of the plane. Rowland worked in the ‘Wet-end’ of the mill from age fifteen to fifty five. The only time he was ever off sick was when he developed Gout and lay on the sofa ranting for two weeks.

The mill is in the centre of the picture resembling an ocean cruiser with an extended smoke stack. The entrance is to the left of the site at the end of Otley Road. An ancient, probably Roman track runs alongside the near edge of the mill and goes across the moors to connect with the Roman road known as Yorkgate Rowland worked inthe ‘wet-end’ of the mill where the woollen cloth was dyed. This is towards the right side of the site. The extraordinarily soft water used in the proce ss came from a spring which seeped out of the hillside. This slope, known locally as ‘The Banks’ rises sharply above the ‘Wet-end’. Local campaigners claimed it as common land and successfully campaigned in the late 1990’s when attempts were made to sell it off for housing.
There is considerable open ground in this picture but by the mid-1960’s housing estates filled the spaces on three sides. From about 1953 Rowland and his family lived in the Hawthorn Estate which occupied the bottom right quarter of this photograph and extended half a mile to Yeadon Dam. The temporary council owned houses were quickly put up after the war to meet the housing crisis and help with slum clearance. They lived there until 1960, when one Sunday afternoon they went for a walk. It was one of the stories his wife told often. “He was never one for making decisions but that Sunday afternoon we were out for a walk. We stood at the top of the banks and looked down. Some houses were being built and streets lay’d out. From nowhere he just said, we’ll have one of them. We were some of the first to move in. The houses above us on the street were still being built and the street was mud”.
The move to Banksfield Rise was traumatic. The January of 1961 is infamous for the severity of its freezing weather. The household effects were carted in a van without problem. The goldfish was to be delivered by hand which does not seem to have been a sensible judgment. The middle son Neil who was around 8 years old was given the job of cupping the bowl in his hands and carrying it over the banks. Of course in the freezing cold he dropped everything. He picked up the flapping fish with his bleeding fingers and ran the distance to the new house. His mother tried to resuscitate the creature. Moving the fish between warm and cold water basins she hoped the shock would bring the twitching fish back to life. Neil’s distress was topped by the body being flushed away through the toilet when this did not work. Whenever the move was mentioned that was the story told.
Kathleen was to live there for next fifty years, Rowland a few years less. In 1960 it was not common for banks or building societies to give out mortgages to men who were labourers but he somehow got one. He paid it off many years ahead of the scheduled time. Their future house is located at the end of the track which seems to run off from the far side of the chimney through two clumps of trees in the phtograph. The second set of set of trees surrounds a former rectory known as Springfield House. Banksfield Rise ran up the hill alongside it. The mill chimney was set like a semi suburban Lowrie painting in their dining room window until a fire destroyed in it the mid 1970’s. From 1953 until 1998 Rowland never lived more than three football fields walk from work.
What was the place like? It was not really somewhere I went to often and thought about still less. I had on occasion taken his lunch time sandwiches in to him. The chief memories are of an uncared for place, utilitarian, but operating on make do and mend. Exposed wires, cigarette ends, engine grease, the dirt of ages and fractured glass in window frames. Mostly it smells though. A rich fruity, damp woollen cloth smell, that I sometimes still catch from wet clothes. I have no idea what happened there other than cloth got dyed and there was a lot of sacking around. I have no knowledge of the process and astonishingly I believe that I never asked him. And it did not cross my mind to do so. I think he would have been surprised if someone had. It was an area of absolute no interest. I know that he saw it as dead time. Something you went through each weekday so you could come out the other end and get on with your life.
He went off each morning at half past six and came back just after five. He wore the same outfit for work every day, the kind of clothes I save for gardening on a weekend. These carried the smell. The boots were important though. He still called them clogs, protective shell toe caps segs or steel studs on the sole. They scratched the skin of paving stones. He was on friendly term with the men he worked with but I don’t think they were ever friends as such. They split into two groups. His peers and the young lads. The first were men of his own age who had been at school together and had been glad to get a job in the mill in the middle of the Great Depression. Almost every adult man in the village did similar work. They identified themselves like club members as belonging to Scott and Rhodes, Greenbottom, Peats, Billy Muggs, Ives or a half a dozen other mills. Walking past my dad in the street they would say “aye up Rowland” and he’d “aye up” back. On a Sunday lunchtime they would nod across from adjacent tables at the Factory Workers Club and say “is that your lad. He’s a big un”. He’d come back with a “Big daft bugger more like it”.
The young lads in the mill were said to be a different breed .The threat from Rowland was that if you did not shape up at school you would end up like them, loutish and ‘thickies’ . Up before the magistrates and featured in the Wharfedale Advertiser week after week. Boys who had barely survived in school till fifteen and became a problem at work for their foreman and co-workers. There seemed a big social divide between the youths and the older men but maybe the lout at seventeen became the descent working man at twenty five when he had kids and rent to pay. By the 1970’s though people had more choices and it was only the boys who had been in the bottom streams at school who got jobs there. If this seems snobbish it’s not, it’s what the older men who worked there articulated. Nobody would choose to come there for a job if they could do something else. Rowland said it in the strongest terms, the man who was there union shop steward and stuck up for them. He was prone to place himself at the more judgmental end of the spectrum and left no space for excuses.
Banksfield mill or Scott and Rhodes as it was more often known was the visible place of work from his teens to mid fifties, with no break for the war. All that changed was his route to work, from east north or south west. At 5 0’clock and at the weekend he became something else.
So what occupied the years until he got married twelve years later. Much of it echoes the youth and young adult years of John Yeadon Well first there was the ‘your body is a temple’ crowd. From what I know was mostly competitive walking, cycling and boxing. By his sister Iris’s account he had not been a robust child. The insurance chest x-ray in middle age showed that he had signs of Tuberculosis infection from childhood. His father died of that illness in 1944. Compounding it all, and what I almost forgot to mention was the deafness which had been there from infancy. In later years he was classified overall as severely deaf. No hearing on one side and a low figure on the other. I remember 15% but I can’t believe this is right. He did not have a hearing aid until the coming of the health service in 1948 so he had done all his growing up in near silence. Maybe there’s an instinct when you feel frailty at fourteen to want to work on the God given apparatus of your body and fix it.
We have all heard how at the turn of the century one third of the men who went to sign up for service in the Anglo- Boer War were rejected on medical grounds. The British working class was poorly nourished, bodily under developed and riddled with TB. The consequence of both urban and rural poverty, and wretched living conditions. Arising in the early twentieth century the Health and Fitness Movement took a hold in the country. I’m not sure that it reached Yeadon in its purest form but echoes produced sports clubs and societies which sort of espoused its principles. That is, a healthy mind in a healthy body, self discipline, abstinence from alcohol, and self improvement. I’m sure that the reality was never as monastic as it sounds, and it is an easy target for ridicule (which is fun!) but the reality was that there was a need for self upliftment. Its worth remembering that the earliest state pensions were established on the premise that a high proportion of working men would not reach retirement age. In my childhood the actuarial graphs showed an early rise in the mortality curve for men designated as labourers. And of course everyone was skint in the 1930’s. If you were going to have a social life it had to be dirt cheap. Best of all this recreation made you look good
Rowland and a friend Ernest who seems to have been a slightly solitary man, joined the local sports clubs. Each one is tagged in the family memory by the linked story. So for competitive walking it was the story of the dates. I suppose the sport must still exist but I can’t recall seeing it for a long time. Maybe it’s become un-cool once the resemblance to John Cleese funny walkers was identified. The linked story is about how Rowland’s performance in one such race was influenced by performance enhancing substances Dates. These had been bought on Leeds market just ahead of the race. They worked their bowel loosening magic and this sort of (in a intermittent staccato kind of way) increased his pace. These stories were always told by his wife who tiptoed in good Methodist style around the impolite bits. There was more mention of what was considered acceptable style in competitive walking. Both the heel and the toe of each foot had to make contact with the ground at each step. Rowland came out ahead of the field but was judged not to have met these criteria. He had come closer to running than walking at the end of the race.
The cycling story is accompanied by a photograph. He’s 19, looks fit and is wearing the appropriate gear for the time. Plain sports shirt and baggy shorts pulled tight around the waist with a cord, which in truth look better than lycra. He is standing in a semi heroic pose up alongside the bike.The picture was linked to a cycling touring holiday in Scotland taken by Ernest and himself. The story in my mind though is of his wife Kathleen talking about the picture. She is relating an account of a cycling holiday that they had taken across to Kendal and the Lake District, which from this point in time does not seem at all like her. They had stayed in Spartan accommodation each night, closer to shelter rather than hostel which was operated by a national cycling federation. They had been courting at the time and Im guessing this is the first time that they had been away together. The story was more about how she told it. It was not what was said but what was left unsaid and that was given away by a grin which even a ten year old boy could pick up on. Looking back it makes me very glad. Everyone needs to have had some times like that.
The third story is about the boxing. An experience with this sport may have had a long resonance for him. The memory is that he is talking to me about it directly. He is trying to explain that boxing is about self control. By somehow becoming adept at the skills of physical assault you learnt not to use them. Success was dependent upon harnessing ones innate aggression but not being ruled by it. The addendum was added some point later by his wife. He gave up boxing when he knocked an opponent out. The man had been carried unconscious from the ring. Rowland experienced a terror that lasted a few minutes that he had killed him. After that he could not bring himself to box again although he did twenty years later push his eldest son into taking up the sport.
So we have an odd couple, the deaf Rowland and the solitary minded Ernest throwing themselves into physical culture in the years before the Second World War. I don’t know if the friendship continued through the war years but it certainly came to an end before Rowland’s marriage in 1947 to Kathleen. The next scene in that story is them both going to Ernest’s funeral sometime in the late 1970’s or 80’s at the cemetery near Yeadon Dam. They were one third of the congregation and the only non family members. Ernest had continued with his solitariness, never married but had loved hiking and the outdoors. Kathleen always completed her stories with a touch of pathos. Ernest’s sisters had not expected mourners and so nothing was planned for after the funeral. Rowland and Kathleen instead walked down Cemetery Road and had tea and ham sandwiches in the new cafe at Morrison’s supermarket, which did just as well. That story has an echo twenty years later when after saying a personal good bye to Rowland in a chapel of rest my elder brother Ian and I had tea and a heated up sausage roll at Morrison’s. That was at the new one in Guiseley though.
In September 1939 Rowland was nineteen. It may have not been then but sometime in the next year he made a big decision which was to mark him in the minds of those who knew him in the village for the rest of his life. He registered as a Conscientious Objector. He would have been classified medically unfit for conscription because of his severe deafness, but he refused to allow this to be used as grounds to exclude him for military service.
The following comes from the Peace Pledge Union website page about the experience of CO’s in the Second World War.
“Before they even got to a tribunal, COs had to register (at their local job centre, then called the Employment Exchange), just as men had to register for military service. Registration was an uncomfortable experience. ‘Everybody was declaring themselves at one counter, and there was this other forlorn counter for you to declare you weren’t going to join in. It felt as though you were separating yourself from the rest of the world”.’
As I child when I came to understand that he had done I wanted to make sure that the other children understood that my father was different to theirs. Maybe it was how my Kathleen framed the information that shaped my attitude. She would have put a heroic veneer on events. When I told other children that my father was a ‘Conshy’ the reaction once they had talked it over with their own parents was not good. The general feeling was that he must have been scared and a coward. Their fathers had driven tanks across the desert in North Africa or been in the Merchant Navy. I absorbed the idea that he had been very brave in his own way.
What had produced the decision to be awkward and difficult, and despite the medical classification which would have exempted him from service lead him to register as an objector? Firstly it may have been the experience of his father and uncles who had all served in the first war. Uncle Isaac of course had been killed. There may have been bitter talk about the worthlessness of the war and the misuse of working men as machine gun fodder. The war memorial on the wall of the town hall in Yeadon still takes my breath away with its implications. My guess though is that the resentment would not have been expressed so much in political language as in more personal terms especially by the women. “Stupid fools for going off, leaving their families without help”. Some of the men would have felt that they were taken for mugs. There was a general disdain when silly fools spoke about the first war in terms of duty and sacrifice. I do not know for sure because I cannot remember Rowland ever speaking about anything to do with these events. All the information came from Kathleen.
A second set of reasons may have been to do with wanting to be different just for the sake of it. His instinct was to turn against the stream and be an awkward sod. Whether it be as at this point with pacifism or later with Communism I would sense that he was never the jump up and down impassioned believer type. He instinctively mistrusted people who made a big show of things. His mode of expression was always part old testament, part bookie. A peculiar mixture of dogma, stubborn bloody mindedness tempered by occasional flips into opportunistic pragmatism which at the time I found confusing. What I did not get was that he always believed he was right and you were a half wit and congenitally weak to disagree.
He certainly liked to be different. Some of it may have been a chip on the shoulder about a lack of education. I’ve found boxes full of mid century self improvement books. Teach yourself magic, gardening, public speaking, account keeping, economics and Shakespeare. According to the family dentist a man named Moffat he was the first man in Yeadon to wear a pink shirt and green French Beret. Kathleen once heard him attempting to speak with a French accent in some pub or other there might have been some broader strategy there.
Finally there was a reluctance to move out of certain comfort zones. This seems odd but one element of the choice that led him to appear before a tribunal, risk prison and bring down hells wrath on his family was that he found the prospect of adjustment to military life jarring to his precious routines. He hated jumping social ponds and coming up against people who did not know him. The line “hell is other people” might have been made up for him.
At the end of the day he put himself outside of his community and said “no I won’t do that”. I don’t really know or understand the complexity of his motivations. He certainly was not someone who would attempt to offer to do so. For sure he was not set alight by the flame of pure idealism. His response to to anyone who was would have been the universal put down….”silly bugger”. Do I agree with his views? Absolutely not. Is my respect for him diminished by any of this? Not in the least.
He did get help though. He was a member of the Peace Pledge union. A box full of booklets and newsletter testifies to that. I don’t know but there was probably some kind of local mutual assistance network, there was elsewhere, which prepared objectors for the tribunals. These hearings deliberated upon the objectors claim to exemption from military service. Potential outcomes included a complete exemption, partial exemption where the individual was required to carry out some war related work which could include service in ambulance brigades or the claim not being upheld. With the last two failure to adhere to the outcome could result in a custodial sentence as it amounted to desertion or refusing military orders.
Rowland despite not having religious belief also received valued support from Quakers in the neighbouring village of Rawdon. I believe they accompanied him to the hearing. There had been a split in the local group; a senior member had spoken out against their traditional pacifism and this had caused a good deal of soul searching and some bad feeling.
I did not hear at first hand from him about what happened at the hearing, and I’m not sure that Kathleen new a great deal. It is certain though that a friend failed to get exemption and ultimately served a six month sentence in Armley Prison in Leeds.
The experience for Rowland was different and I’m guessing fairly confusing end perplexing. He was severely deaf and it was clear that he would have qualified for full medical exemption on those grounds alone but he had chosen not to go down that route which would have probably diverted him into a reserved occupation.
He was not able to get a hearing aid until the National Health Service came in 1948 so he relied upon the very limited function he had on one side backed by lip reading and guess work. I know that in formal situations, such as when he got married a few years later this could lead to excruciatingly embarrassing, confusing, semi comic incidents (he ended up marrying himself but we will come to that later). I’m guessing that the scenario may had an element of dark farce to it.
The second element which would have added to the mental testing of the tribunal members was that he was making the request on non religious grounds as an Atheist, but supported by a group of Quakers. The process may have been unusual but the outcome was the right one. He was given full exemption from military service.
The pragmatic part of me is astonished by the respect for the rule of law, due process and tolerance (at least at some level) for individually held beliefs at a time when as a country we were fighting a total war for survival and death was going wholesale. Everyone during the course of the war would lose someone in their family or a friend but it was still possible to treat the awkward bugger, with no hearing aid or religion decently who refused to join up. I don’t underestimate how difficult the process must have been, and Rowland and his family became social lepers to many in the village (apparently his mother had an especially hard time) but the management of objectors in the second war was an improvement on what was done to those who refused to fight in the Great War.
My dad despite his atheistic Communism retained respect for the Quakers in Rawdon. In the spring following his death in November 1998 I spent some days in Yeadon visiting Kathleen and sorting out his financial affairs. My route took me close by the Quaker Meeting House in Rawdon. A sign was up announcing an open day so on impulse I did an illegal ‘u’ turn and parked up on Littlemoor Green alongside the building. Ive always had a fondness for the Quakers buildings especially when the sun is shining. It’s a mixture of their simplicity and what the sun does to the rows of plane grave stones. I wanted to go inside and ask if anyone remembered him. There was a couple of very old men, full of dignity and respect who had known him. I did not want to ask too much as half of me wanted to run out of the door but they confirmed the essentials of the story. I asked about the other man who had been given the jail sentence at Armley. The men pulled out a large old fashioned ledger which contained the records of their meetings from the war years. The facts were there in carefully formed script. Something to the effect of prayers were said for two of our brethren who are currently serving prison sentences in Leeds. I don’t know what these old men made of me but I was trying to say thanks for the help that they had given to Rowland. It was never forgotten.

PHOTO: Rawdon Friend Meeting House. 1697

There is no doubt that he and his family experienced hostility from neighbours and those they worked alongside. It would have been surprising if they had not considering that every family had someone risking their life overseas. I can’t remember specific examples of this but my general sense of conversations was that some of the servicemen were less hostile and more understanding. Towards the end of the war there was some official recognition of the position of CO’s. Minister of Labour Ernest Bevin remarked: ‘There are thousands of cases in which COs, although they have refused to take up arms, have shown as much courage as anyone else in Civil Defence.’ Some of that courage was also shown in the way they faced the consequences of living by their principles.

This is a link to a film on youtube presented by Ian Hislop about First World War Consciountious Objectors.

Rowland I think kept his head down and lived fairly quietly working at Banksfield Mill and pursuing the more solitary pastimes. By the end of the war Kathleen said there was an expectation that he would not marry and end up living with his recently widowed mother who seemed happy for the company and income. Sisters Iris and Kathleen had married and Rowland senior had died in 1943 aged fifty eight. . People found it hard to imagine him having a long term girlfriend or getting married. When Kathleen’s workmates heard that she was going out with him they were shocked. The general feeling was that he was a bit odd and there was always a comment about the non conventional clothing sense. In her seventies Kathleen became more happy to share scandalous stories. She let me know that one of her friends had told her Rowland was rumoured to be seeing a married woman whose husband was away, but she had added “I can’t see it myself.”
Rowland’s ‘differentness’ may have been the attraction. He could recite Shakespeare, knew some poetry and had a grasp of politics (by this time he may have joined the Communist Party). The deafness seemed to be an inconvenience rather than obstacle. The dress sense was an issue which never quite got sorted out. My calculations are that she was eighteen and he twenty five when they first met. Kathleen after a shaky start with her very young parents had walked off across the road by herself and gone to live with her Grandmother Hetta Smith when she was three years old. Life became happier and more settled then. She earnt a scholarship to the local grammar school at eleven years old and the feeling was that she was on line to get one to Oxford or Cambridge when at fourteen her mother did the working class self destruct thing and pulled her out of school and brought her back to her house. From fourteen she worked at a local factory, Crompton Parkinson’s until she met up with Rowland. I don’t know how they met for sure but it was most likely at the Hare and Hounds pub in Menston. This was the place to be in 1945. The annexe now known as the Whacky Warehouse , together with the hall at the adjacent mental asylum was the leisure hub of Aireborough and the lower Wharfe valley. It was all about dancing and getting your drinks bought. On most nights during the week there was live music. On leave servicemen and the infamous French Canadians from a barracks near Otley would descend upon it in droves. It was Menstons’s den of iniquity.

PHOTO: The Hare and Hounds Pub, with Whacky Warehouse (previously dance hall).

Rowland and Kathleen seem to have started going out together in the spring months of 1945. In the week before VJ night in August, he and a friend went off to Scotland for a cycling holiday. May be the one in the photograph. Before setting off he had spoken to her seriously. “You won’t go in the Hair and Hounds whilst I’m away will you?” She’d sworn but then broke her promise and went anyway. The atomic bomb falling on Japan had prompted Rowland and his friend to curtail their holiday and get back to Yeadon a day or two early. She was sat with a mixed group of friends and servicemen sipping a soft drink when Rowland walked in. He looked across and then swung on his heel and walked straight out. As Kathleen got older and the past became more real than the present, she would recount the incident and then finish up by saying that it all hung in that moment. If she had stayed in her chair her life would have taken one turn, but impulse caused her to get up and run after him. Cognitive neuroscientists could write a book about that moment but the image in my mind is s tennis ball hanging on the width of the net deciding to go fall forward or drop back. Some momentary neuro-chemical disequilibrium caused the ball to move its mass forward. That action impulse laid the conditions for a hundred thousand more decisions and post event rationalisations in the chain which culminated in them marrying in April 1947. I had a similar experience one Thursday evening in 1978. Sat bored on a sofa and seeing that Top of the Pops had a poor line up I decided to go out with a bunch of friends to a nightclub in Leeds. On such things the world shifts!
Kathleen and Rowland’s courtship included a cycling holiday in the Lake District, and gifts of books like ‘The intelligent woman’s guide to Socialism’ by George Bernard Shaw. Kathleen by this time had returned to live with her grandmother Hetta at Nunroyd. Rowland, at evenings and weekends had taken up, what he in an old fashioned way called a conjuring act and joined a concert troop which included the Wallis Family of Otley. They performed in clubs, larger pubs and smaller music halls in the district. Kathleen joined this social circle and the group became a network of friends.
Sixty years later Kathleen is sat in the patients TV lounge at Leeds General Infirmary recovering from a heart attack. She is surrounded by children, grandchildren and her first great grandchild. The wicked effects of dementia caused her to struggle to fix a wall between the present and the distant past. Two streams of consciousness, separated by many decades run at the same time. She would weave backwards and forwards between them. A sprightly old man is marching up and down the main corridor of the ward wearing a brightly striped hospital dressing gown which did not really cover much up. Kathleen shouted out a name in the direction of the man. My heart sank; she often accosted strangers like she knew them. This man though did know her though and said her name without hesitation after six decades. He had played some brass instrument in the concert party after the war and they had all hung out together as young people. He recognised her frailty but knew she would remember some stories. They had a normal conversation like any other two people which taught me something about dementia. They talked about a mutual acquaintance Harry Corbett (of Sooty and Sweep) and how well he had done and all about the Hare and Hounds. He had been a semi-professional musician all his life. His last big job had been in the Hovis advert. Before going off he gave her a nod and a touch on the shoulder and then the same for me. Then the door closed and it was over and Kathleen was back working at Moon’s Mill in the 1950’s.
Rowland and Kathleen’s courtship continued through the remainder of 1945 and into 1946. Sometime around her birthday in June she got pregnant (a timber yard near White Cross, close by the Hare and Hounds was implicated) and so they were to get married. There seems to have been some hesitation though, probably on the part of Rowland. Most couples given the circumstances would have married quickly, but their wedding was delayed for nineteen days after Ian their first child was born on the 30th March. It was a ceremony at the Registry Office in Guiseley. Rowland step sister Kathleen and her husband Bill Hepworth acted as witnesses. There were few other people there apart from some close friends of the couple. Rowland still did not have a hearing aid and this led to delays and confusion when it came to repeating the vows after the registrar. Eventually in desperation and embarrassment the card with the words on was handed to Rowland who performed the ceremony for himself. So were they really married or not? Was it okay for the groom to perform the ceremony, at least in part for himself? That would be the annual wind-up remark for the next fifty years they were married. Their first child Ian was born at the end of March and then the show was on the road. I know the family which grew out of these events to be not like others. Lots of churning raw emotion red in tooth and claw, existential drama, book discus from bedroom windows, storming out, storming back, Christmas day punches, maniacal rants and rows complete with stabbing hand gestures, circular jibing, and surreal raging stand offs over dinner tables about how to spell umbrella (irony abounds, thank-you spell check). Days when Rowland decided to wear a pan on his head just to make Kathleen so angry that she was incandescent, the rest of us laughing so much that it was not possible to breathe. You might as well have put five cats in a sack and swung them around. Did it do any harm? It probably made all of us unfit to live with anyone else for any length of time. Do I regret any of it? There is lot to see that could have hurt people but probably did not. We raged against each other to the point of apoplexy but I would not swop that for the anaemic, lifeless, barely polite, gutless, mutual detestation that quietly passes for life in some other families. I suppose there are some happy, happy houses where everyone gets along and smiles a lot but that would probably cause me to reach for a gun as well. The three sons came out of it possessed by high octane motors and a poor braking system, which in turn shaped their biographies, in my view ultimately for the best. So using our given names I Daft Bugger, on behalf of Sneaky and Slinky say thanks for the for the slight breeze behind the impulse that caused Kathleen to stand up and follow Rowland out of the Hare and Hounds on VJ night in 1945.


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Filed under Aireborough, Biography, Family history, Humour, Local history, Social History, Yeadon

Gleaning Teaming Brains 5

The mill dates from the 1780's and was the first one in Yeadon

The mill dates from the 1780’s and was the first one in Yeadon

yeadon pre industrial revolution mappilgrims-progress-map
The first paragraph in Johns diary describibg where and when he was born

The first paragraph in Johns diary describibg where and when he was born

Gleaning Teaming Brains 5
The hill of difficulty
I have often wondered why John chose to keep a diary. What was its purpose and did he expect it to be read by others. On the latter point I suppose it would come down to a judgement on whether he ultimately intended to destroy it before his death. The last entry is in October 1842 and he died in March 1843.If It’s assumed that these last few months were a period of declining health, maybe following something like a stroke then he may have not had the ability to destroy the document. My preferred theory though is that he wanted a bit of immortality and the possibility of that stayed his hand. Throwing the whole thing on the fire would have required a very strong incentive after all the hundreds of hours that had been spent producing it. John mentions that the diary was written up periodically from much more details notes that he kept on a daily basis. His days were long and busy so these note making must have been a firmly entrenched habit. Something that formed part of everyday no matter how tired or hassled he was.
Besides achieving earthly immortality what else might have been his motivation for all the effort. I think the clue comes from when he began to write it. My guess would be that it was sometime after he got married. He begins using the present tense in his diary notes in July 1788 when he was twenty four years old with the birth of his second child James.
John Wesley preached in the neighbouring villages and towns but John’s diary does not actually make mention of this. He must have been influenced though by the stir that it produced. It was not until the end of the following year he became more formally involved in the local society.
On December 6th 1789 Johns wife “joined Jonathan White class and I, the next day David Long’s class for the first time in our lives”
Class members were provided with renewable class membership tickets. John kept the tickets for his wife and himself for the rest of his life. The ticket has survived all these years.

During that year John had heard one of the founders of Methodism John Wesley preach on four occasions. The first occasion was Bingley on April 27th. John Wesley wrote in his journal
-At Bingley on April 27th on 1 John 3,8. “I preached at Haworth Church in the morning, crowded sufficiently as was Bingley Church in the afternoon. But as very many could not get in Mr Wrigley preached to them in the street so that they did not come in vain. In the evening we went to Halifax”.
Our John gives this account
“In April this year 8 or 10 of us Methodists walked from Yeadon to Howarth 14 miles to hear Mr Wesley preach in the Parish Church there. It was on a Lords Day morning in spring and very pleasant. He preached from Numb 23,10”.
During the same year John also saw Wesley preach at Leeds, Otley and Yeadon from 1John 1.4, Math 7 24,25 and 1 Corin 6, 19, 20 and 2 Cor. 4.18 respectively”. John said about this experience of seeing John Wesley “I don’t know whether I love him or admire him most”.
So beginning with the birth of his second son James in July 1788 ,and the decision to become part of the core congregation of the Methodist Society in December 1789, and taking in firsthand experience of John Wesley’s preaching the period must have been a significant one for John.
There were also distressing events. Mary had a still born child towards the end of 1789. The event is recorded in one short dignified sentence “We had a boy still born” but the reality for them must have been wounding.
So if there is a clue here to why he began to keep a daily diary what is it? May be he saw himself on a journey. The imagery of a spiritual journey would have been familiar to anyone listening to a Methodist preacher. We all intuitively know that by writing something down, it forms more of a commitment and we become more likely to abide by it. Over-laid across this though is the habit of the autodidact. The instinct to be inquisitive, albeit sometime with a dodgy compass and foggy vision.
So an admixture of immortality hunger, and inquisitiveness charting. I would add one more thing. There is some solitariness in Johns’ life. Little mention is made of Mary and his friendships feel a little semi detached. There’s a lot of the square peg about him. Maybe he was also writing for company.
This is how the diary begins.
“By the Grace of God, Struggles Through Life’ written by an un-tutored (in literature) insignificant individual, John Yeadon of Yeadon, near Leeds Yorkshire.”
“Chapter 1 1764
The register from Guiseley church proves that I was born November 5th 1764. My father John Yeadon a Clothier had been married little more than2 year when I came into the world. My mother died when I was about seven months old, thus cut off in the flower of her age being about 22 years old. I never knew my mother. She died with me clasped in her arms crying O my child!”

When choosing something to head up this chapter, the Pilgrims Progress came to mind as it seemed to typify John’s view of the purpose of life. One episode in particular is a good fit.
John Bunyan’s Hill of Difficulty

“I beheld then, that they all went on till they came to the foot of the hill Difficulty, at the bottom of which there was a spring. There were also in the same place two other ways besides that which came straight from the gate: one turned to the left hand, and the other to the right, at the bottom of the hill; but the narrow way lay right up the hill, and the name of the going up the side of the hill is called Difficulty. Christian now went to the spring, and drank thereof to refresh himself, and then began to go up the hill, saying”,
“The hill, though high, I covet to ascend;
The difficulty will not me offend;
For I perceive the way to life lies here:
Come, pluck up heart, let’s neither faint nor fear.
Better, though difficult, the right way to go,
Than wrong, though easy, where the end is woe.”
The Third Stage
Pilgrim’s progress by John Bunyan (1628-1688)

This is a link to the song ‘He who would valiant be’ by John Bunyan sung in a traditional style.

The first part of the Pilgrims Progress was published in 1678, the second part a few years later. Although still well known today there have been times when it was the most widely read book after the bible. Most people in the late 18th and 19th centuries would have been at least aware of the story, many would have read the book or had parts read to them in Sunday School or at home. For John we have evidence of this from his diary…
In 1777, when he was about 13 years old John attended night school classes.
“I felt a pleasing delight at this time in learning to write at Night School’s from 8- 10 O’clock, which I practised for many winters for except one quarter that I went to Mr Hoyle at Guiseley School. I had no other help whatever.
So greatly did I thirst for universal knowledge at this age (13 years) that I should gladly have gone miles to borrow Robinson Crusoe, Pilgrims Progress, History of any kind, Geography? Having a bed and bedroom to myself, I commonly retired with a candle unknown to the family and read for hours after school times”.
Attending a Methodist chapel the in the 1960’s you would have thought that everyone had met John Bunyan. Illustrations from late Victorian editions of the book showing Christian’s climb were on the walls in the Sunday School Room. Sermons touched base with the best known bits. The Slough of Despond, Difficulty Hill, Valley of the shadow of death, Straight and narrow highway, and Vanity Fair. Maybe what was true of the 1960’s was also true of the 1780’s when John became involved with Methodism
My guess is that John’s mind would have been saturated with the imagery of the story and this framed how he saw his own life. The front page of the diary was headed ‘Struggles through life of John Yeadon.” I think he saw himself as a pilgrim.
Looking down one end of the telescope it seems entirely reasonable that an unschooled child living through the earliest years of the industrial revolution in a wretched village on the periphery of nowhere would know all about John Bunyan and the journey to the Celestial City. It seems probable because it happened. (If he didn’t know the words he certainly knew the tune).Swinging the telescope around and looking down the other end the scenario looks more like running into the broken points of the needle in the haystack. Then the fact that we know about JY is because he absorbed these ideas and they shaped how he lived and he felt the need to write about it.
Did Johns antecedents necessarily bring him to this point or was he an erratic, a random event at the periphery. With this we can go back to the chronology of his life, beginning with his antecedents..
In 1813 John wrote in his diary the following account of his ancestry.
“My Grandfather or my father’s father was Joshua Yeadon married to Eliz. Wilkinson. My other Grandfather or my mother’s father was another Joshua Yeadon married to Grace Holmes. My father was John Yeadon and my mother Hannah Yeadon before marriage. My two grandfathers and their wives must have been born about 1700 or upwards. My father and mother born 1741. My mother died 1765, my father died 1810”.
The first time I put together a family tree for my (surname) Yeadon family I was struck by how many of the surnames Holmes, Wilkinson and a dozen others were held by other children in my primary school classes at South View School in Yeadon. It was as if all these families had been living as an extended group numbering a couple of hundred people for at least the last three hundred years. Each generation the genetic cards were getting re-dealt. The current representatives of each surname were sat alongside each other at school desks unaware that they were only the most recent individuals to occupy that position.
The grandparents here are a link with the late 17th Century and the time of the restoration.
Things seem a little sad for Johns father John Senior. He was born in 1741 in the village. His occupation was clothier which just meant that he made cloth which at that time was mainly a home industry. Change was coming though. The first centralised factory was established in the locality in the 1780’s. John Senior married a Hannah Yeadon (not a lot of surnames in this history) when he was twenty one. They had their first and only child two years late in 1764. That was our John.
Hannah died when John (junior) was seven months old. That would have been around June 1765. John senior remained single for the next 20 years living with his mother and her second husband Thomas Denison. When John junior writes about his upbringing it is his grandmother and her husband that he is describing although he spent his very early years with an aunt.
John senior remarried in about 1782. This long delay seems odd at a time when it was not at all uncommon for people to be widowed early in life. People married again for practical reasons such as child care, and home making as much as anything else. John Senior is not much of a presence in Johns diary until the very end of his life.
John Senior died on the 2nd October 1810 at Yeadon. His son, John (Junior) made the following entry in his diary, “In September this year my father was taken worse. He had had tender health for 2 or 3 years before he died October 2nd at the age of 59 years. His disease was Asthma ending in a slight dropsy. I was with him when he departed this life. He had been long willing if not desirous of good men praying with him, which he did preaty (sic) often”.
Who knows what arrangements John senior made with his life. Not everything gets recorded in the parish register then or now.
Losing one’s mother so early in life is now rare but would have been far more common then when maternal mortality rates were much higher. Research by B.M. Dobbie( Med Hist. 1982 January; 26(1): 79–90 )in a number of Somerset Parishes shows that 3.67% of wives died within one year of marriage in the 17th and 18th centuries, The rate for the first five years of marriage was 10.19%. The comparable rates for men were 1.07 and 4.07% respectively. It is assumed that the difference in these rates is accounted for by gender specific issues the most common of which for women would have been pregnancy and childbirth. John’s diary does not tell us why Hannah died. She was a young woman no more than twenty two years old at the time of her death. It is tempting to link the cause with his birth. Maybe the effects of some post partum infection or haemorrhage weakening her health and ability to withstand other illness. There is no evidence for this though and the cause is more likely to be unrelated.
John’s parents had married at Guiseley on the 8th November 1762. Hannah would have been nineteen and her husband about twenty one. All of Hannah’s ancestors, in both the male and female lines for at least three generation back had been born in either Yeadon or Guiseley. In all probability, if records were available they would show consistency of residence over a much longer period as the population in the area seems remarkably settled and remained so until the 1960’s. The geographic horizon of most people, especially women was how far you could walk, there and back in one day. It extended to their own and neighbouring villages. Possibly a six mile radius excepting special events or the obligations of work. John mentions the local clothiers taking their produce on pack horse to the cloth marker near Leeds bridge several times a month.
My maternal grandmother born in 1903 mentioned once that she went the six or eight miles to the nearest cities of Bradford or Leeds a handful of times before the second world war. For most practical purposes, at least for women the edge of their geographical and social world was the village after next. Trains were too expensive she said and the tram when it came was half the price but travel was a little more than a fast walking pace.
The big shift came with the war and the 1950’s. Many more people got jobs in Leeds and Bradford. My generation who grew up in the 60’s and 70’s were the ones who went to higher education and moved away from the district. We tend to marry those individuals we encounter in the normal patterns of our days. For a twenty five year old in 2013 this can be a man or woman from the opposite end of the world with wholly different antecedents. The grandson of a Whitby fisherman marrying the daughter of a Taxi driver from Port Louie in Mauritius or a refugee from the conflict in Sudan.
John Senior and Hannah and most of those know to them would have married people whose parents, grandparents and great-grandparents knew each other. Things were not so different in the 1960’s when a new girlfriend would be introduced by listing her close relatives and where they had lived and worked. The fact that they both had the surname Yeadon showed that their families had been linked to the place since at least the fifteenth century.
Medieval map of Yeadon
The Yeadon which would have been familiar to John in his early childhood, and which would have formed the physical and social world for many of its inhabitants.
This map shows the basic lay out of the town before the industrial revolution. This template was preserved during the years of rapid population growth in the late 18th and early 19th century and is still recognisable today. John lived near the intersection of the tracks at the centre of the map. Yeadon Dam or tarn as is called in this picture is just to the north east. The hill known as The Haw which is the highest point of the town is at the head of the vertical branch. The town is situated on the side of this hill. Its southern boundary is the River Aire which runs along the bottom map. The parish was centred on Guiseley which is the village one third down on the western edge of the drawing.

John junior spent the first three years of his life with an unnamed aunt before returning to live with his grandmother and her second husband Thomas Dennison. As far as I can see this was Thomas’s first marriage and he was 52 at the time. This new family which included John senior at least part of the time set up home on a small farm. We don’t know where it was other than it was in the village of Yeadon and a miles walk from Guiseley church. John junior makes mention of the distance because that was the walk each Sunday with his step-grandfather.
Thomas seems to have been the fatherly influence on John. There are many references to him in the diary. A couple of snippets sum him up.
“A good moral man of a patient spirit, kind to his neighbours, a rigid Church of England man”. John talks about Thomas’s strong dislike of Methodism. Apparently Thomas had opposed the introduction of Methodism into Yeadon. There was a family tradition that he had kept a “great Bull Dog”, and that as part of a mob had he had set the dog on an early Methodist evangelist Jonathan Maskers who was preaching at Yeadon in about 1750.
The bond between John and his step-grandfather is evident from this account of the latter’s death
“On March 9th my step grandfather was taken very poorly, very unwell indeed at which I was greatly troubled. Oh how I loved him. On Sunday 10 I read with him. Monday 11 no better, death is in good earnest, Tuesday 12 , I asked who should pray with him and I was glad to hear him say ‘any good man’. I got a good man Jonathan White a real Christian of the right stamp, a Methodist class leader. My grandfather loved to hear him. May we all three meet in heaven. He was aged 74 year”.
By that time John and most of the village had taken up with the Methodists. What goes around comes around!
John gives a few stories from his childhood. This part of the journal was written when he was an adult though and these colours the accounts. By that time he was fully immersed in Methodism and was a local preacher. He uses some of these incidents as a kind of retrospective evidence of God’s plan for him.
The first event though is straight forward and factual. Getting through the first five years of life was an achievement.
In 1770 John survived what appears to have been a severe episode of Smallpox-
“I was about 5 years old when the Smallpox visited me and many children died at that time. I just escaped with my life after lying in them (the Smallpox) two months and came out with a countenance spoiled forever. I can remember this event. Inoculation was unknown then at Yeadon in any shape”
The horror of the illness is graphically described in an article by a Dr. Barquet from Spain. “The symptoms of smallpox-or the speckled monster, as it was known in 18th-century England-appeared suddenly and included high fever, chills or rigors, cephalagia, characteristic dorsal-lumbar pain, myalgias, and prostration. Nausea and vomiting were also common. After 2 to 4 days, the fever relented and a rash appeared on the face and inside the eyes; the rash would subsequently cover the whole body. These maculopapular skin lesions evolved into vesicles and pustules and finally dried into scabs that fell off after 3 or 4 weeks. This sequence of events was characteristic for variola major…
The case-fatality rate associated with smallpox varied between 20% and 60% and left most survivors with disfiguring scars. Many persons went blind as a result of corneal infection. The case-fatality rate in the infant population was even higher; among children younger than 5 years of age in the 18th century, 80% of those in London and 98% of those in Berlin who developed the disease died.
(Dr. Barquet: Centr d’Assistencia Primaria Gracia, Institut Catala de la Salut and Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau, Barcelona, Spain).
John was obviously very fortunate to have survived. Many years later John helped over many weeks nurse his grand-daughter (and my great-great grandmother) Isabel la Yeadon through the same illness. Throughout the 18th and well into the 19th century Smallpox and other infectious diseases cut a swath through the population of the town every few years. Children were especially vulnerable.

John’s education seems to have been a patchwork of experiences. Before national legislation in 1870 a child’s education would have been a mosaic of instruction provided by the church, parents, apprenticeships and local one room voluntary schools often run by a woman with some education . The ambition of any of these was limited. Presumably he aim was to provide a foundation of basic literacy numeracy, religious knowledge and vocational skills congruent with the subjects station in life Education for what was assumed to be, rather than for what the person could become.
As a young child John attended a school run by a Mistress Mary Webster somewhere in Yeadon. This would probably have been a small, privately operated school owned and conducted by Ms Webster. Many years afterwards, John remembered a comment made by her about a classmate John Dawson. “He (JD) would be a Parson” because his school work was so good. John mentions that he “envied the prophesy, and wished it my lot”. Maybe I’ve underestimated Ms Webster’s ambition for her students.
His education was almost brought to a halt in 1772, when he would have been about 8 years old, John describes a near drowning at Yeadon Tarn, or ‘Taren’ as he spells it. He describes it as a “large pond upon Yeadon Common”. The stretch of water is still known as the Tarn but many local people prefer to call it ‘The Dam’. Its boundary is now enclosed by rocks, a pathway and railings. John knew it though as a slight dip in the landscape just down from highest point in the village where water collected. It is believed to have given the village its name. Yeadon is thought to mean water on the hill. John gives an account of what happened to him there-
“It was common for people to bath there, and so had I many a time, but one day when about 8 or 9 years old, I went for that purpose I was near losing my life. There was none in but me and not one ashore could have helped me. I walked in too far before I was aware. So that when I stood upright there was water running in my mouth. I could not swim, and felt as if an invisible power drew me into the deeper waters. It was put into my mind not to plunge, I not having learned it anywhere. I stood a tip-toe, gained my turn round by inches got safe to shore with a glad heart”.
My daughter Ruby lives nearby. She together with other young mothers (just as her grandmother did) take a walk around the circuit of the Dam with their babies and natter. I like to think of slices of time in one place. I imagine over to the left, beyond most of the other members of our family who have been in the same place, the very young John on the point of his toes trying to keep his bottom lip above the lapping water!

Yeadon since the middle ages had been a wool town. The church owned much of the land in the area and used it for sheep. A woollen cloth manufacturing trade grew up in the village. In the late 18th century there was still almost entirely Independent operators, working from home who produced the cloth. The product accumulated until there was enough to justify taking it to the specialist market in Leed. Such producers were known as Clothiers. John’s father was such a Clothier who needed to visit Leeds Cloth Market on a regular basis. In 1774 a pony was purchased to help transport the cloth the 8 miles into Leeds where the market was located. Some of the care of this animal was given to John

We know something of what John might have seen at Leeds market from this description written by Daniel Defoe sixty years earlier in 1720. There were no major changes to the market site until the 1820’s so the description is probably accurate for John’s time.
The cloth market was located just north of Leeds bridge on the main thorough fare through the town and across the river Aire. John and his step-grandfather must have left Yeadon with their home produced cloth at around 4am as the market opened at 7am. This was signalled by a bell being run. Trestle tables lined both sides of the street, sometimes in double rows. The cloth was laid our upon these
Daniel Defoe gave this description, “The clothiers come early in the morning with their cloth; and as few clothiers bring more than one piece, the market being so frequent, they go into the inns and public houses with it, and there set it down”.
On the signal from the bell the Clothiers stepped forward from the Inns and place their length of cloth upon a table. Things then moved very quickly.
“As soon as the bell has done ringing, the merchants and factors, and buyers of all sorts, come down, and coming along the spaces between the rows of boards, they walk up the rows and down as their occasions direct. Some of them have their foreign letters of orders, with patterns sealed on them, in rows, in their hands; and with those they match colours , holding them to the cloths as they think they agree to: when they see any cloths to their colours, or that suit their occasions, they reach over to the clothier and whisper, and in the fewest words imaginable the price is stated; one asks, the other bids; and ’tis agree, or not agree, in a moment.
A second bell signalled the close of the market at 9am and it was all over.
The pony had other uses-
John writes …“The pony was a very lively, active turn” and “I had many falls from its back…..when I was about 12 years old some rough riders came to Yeadon and opened mine eyes respecting horsemanship. As soon as I saw their manners I intended to adopt them as well as I could. I had not practiced long before I could with ease ride standing upright many hundreds of yards to water and back”.
In 1778 when he would have been around fourteen John started work as a ‘Lin’ Weaver with his maternal grandfather who was in business for himself. John’s mother was Hannah Yeadon, who was christened on the 7th August 1743 at Guiseley. Her parents were Joshua Yeadon and Grace Holmes. We know from family history research that Hannah was their only child, and therefore John would have been their only grandchild and so especially precious. It would have been Joshua then that John worked for.
Joshua would have been aged about 64 years when he took his grandson on as a weaver and began his instruction in that occupation.
“It was near this time that I was set to close work. My Grandfather was a Lin Weaver, and he set me to his own business. I liked it very well and I think I may say without vanity I soon excelled, but while thus employed I did much to improve myself in reading and writing. I may almost say the little learning I had was self taught”.
So what was a ‘Lin Weaver’. The most obvious guess for ‘Lin’ would be that it was a contraction of ‘linen’ but i know of no local tradition of this industry in Yeadon although it did occur in Nidderdale TWENTY MILES AWAY. Presumably ‘Lin’ was a word for some industry in common use at the time, but has since become obsolete. I’ve not found it in dictionaries of historic trades so presumably it was a dialect word that has now lost its meaning..

Joshua was seeking to give his grandson a livelihood. Serving a form of apprenticeship and acquiring the knowledge of a trade separated one from the mass of unskilled (my father said that there is no such thing) or semi skilled workers. The pence or shillings that it added to weekly income gave a buffer against penury and a platform for future advancement. In the eyes of many of the people whom it affected, this was the most important social class distinction in society and fiercely protected through their unions and working agreements by those who benefitted from it.
For whatever reason John chose not to continue with this trade. In his lifetime he would see a transformation from hand-driven woollen cloth manufacture to a concentration of the process in great buildings, the size of cathedrals, powered first by moving water and then coal.
After some diversions John was to spend his working life in an allied trade which had the wonderful title of ‘slay and gear making’. In the 1841 census he was still described as this. According to an online dictionary of old occupational terms a ‘Slay-maker’ made the reeds or Slays (wooden pegs) used to separate the threads on the loom. It seems astonishing that John could have provided for a family of 13 people on the income from this occupation occasionally supplemented by a bit of sign painting.
One of John’s sons continued in the trade so it must have had some relevance at least until the middle of the 19th century.
John was now in his mi-teens. Writing about these years probably a decade later John perceived the hand of God at his elbow in the form of divine intervention. Your life was not just your own and it was shared with a God who from time to time intervened. The language gives both an insight into his mindset as an adult as well as the social world of the 1780’s in that place.
John writes, “I shall now without apology introduce two instances of what I call ‘Interpositions of Divine Providence”.
“I loved shooting to an extreme and one day about this time, I took the piece and went out, many children followed. I prepared my gun and took aim, but the fowl took wing. I forgot to let it down to half cock, perhaps the first and the last mistake in my life of this kind, covered it with my ??lap……and was returning. Many children were 8 or 10 yards before me. The piece went off, and lodged the shot in the earth about one yard behind them. The fire singed some of their legs. Did God direct the muzzle of the gun”?
“The second was as follows. I went into a neighbour’s barn; they ought to have been threshing but was gone out (?). They kept a gun always by them, some boys my own age was in the barn. I saw the gun, took it up and in a frolic took aim at the head of Joseph Cooper. Believed the gun was unloaded, put my finger on the trigger, cried “now I shall shoot you”. At this awful moment, sprang in and catched my arm the owner of the gun, and said it was charged. I think one or two seconds longer would have done the deed”.
There are too many Joseph Cooper’s living in the district to pinpoint what ultimately happened to our one (I’ve tried!) but I hope he lived a long and happy life and had many children and grandchildren! I also wonder how many times Joseph told he t story of how he was almost shot in the head by John Yeadon, and what use that information was put to by those who heard it. I like to think that events become seeds.
At around the age of sixteen years he had the religious experience that I have described on page13 of this booklet. His religious conviction whilst established waned in intensity over the next few years before becoming reignited in his mid twenties.
At this age the first indications of his energy and enthusiasms that were to characterise much of his life were making themselves apparent. Gumption would have been the 19th century term for what we call imitative plus energy and focus.
Gumption started out as a Scottish dialect word, and drifted down into the north of England in the early 19th century. It must have gone through Yeadon as John seems to have absorbed some measure of it. He was looking around for ways other than weaving that would keep him and potentially a wife and family, and he did not want to be employed by others. The following is from his diary in 1785
“Another man joined with me, and we bought eight pounds worth of printing type. Much time did I spend in this new employ. It was perhaps in the year1785 we undertook many small jobs but after all it would not answer in such a small village as Yeadon. We sold the types and made an end of this also”.
Interestingly it looks as if the staple industry of the town i.e. weaving was looked upon, at least if John’s view was representative, as one which would not provide sufficient income to marry. The form of production for woollen cloth at that time in the village, that is by hand, at home, and then transporting it on horseback to a highly competitive market cannot have provided more than a subsistence income. Dixon’s mill, the first proto mechanised cloth weaving mill opened in Yeadon in 1782. The death-knell for home production had sounded.

PHOTO: Dixon’s Mill. Situated on a hill known as The Steep in Yeadon. It was powered by a stream, presumably now diverted or buried. The date on the stone above the door is 1782.

In 1786 John gave up weaving-
“In the year 1786 I grew weary of weaving for having some thoughts of marriage I could not see how a family could be maintained by it. It was at this period that I began Slay and Geer making, self taught ”
Other irons were in the fire. At about the same time he took out a licence to work an auctioneer of books, but found that he was not suited to this trade and so let the licence expire after a time. More successfully he added ‘Sign Writing’ and general painting to his skills repertoire. This one stuck and he provided him with top-up funds for the rest of his life.
This diary entry gives an account of these two experiments-
I took a licence about this time proper for an auctioneer. I intended to sell little else but books. One motive might be I greatly wanted to see into the world of books. I accordingly auctioned books at Leeds, Bradford, Otley and various villages around. I added to this painting which I had long practiced on a small scale, such as furniture, signs, lettering and Gilding, Drawing etc. When the year was out for my licence, I never renewed them for I was tempted to say, and did say many things that hurt my conscience”.
He married Mary Dawson on the 18th October 1786 at Guiseley Parish Church. The witness was ‘Benjamin Dawson Clothier’.
John was 21 years old. He describes their courtship in his own way-
“I had not made Slay and Geers long before marriage for on October 11th this year I married Mary Dawson, daughter of Benjamin Dawson, Clothier, Yeadon. I had paid my addresses to Mary at times over several years. It was sometime before I could break from my companions and relish the state of wedlock.
John and Mary were to be married thirty eight years. John made the following entry in his diary when his wife died aged 59 years-
“I believe my wife was younger than me by 6 months. Our first acquaintance began about sixteen years of age, and still were not married until we were about 22 years of age, had 14 children and 11 are alive now 7 married and four unmarried there is now about 20 grandchildren”.
So where there had been two people there became eleven. Another son survived into his mid twenties but died of TB. A daughter died in infancy from some form of fever. The remaining child was still born. Despite their impoverishment John and Mary, and their off spring brought more than a hundred people into the world over the next three generations. A great many people in what is now the town of Yeadon have them in their family tree. Many more are scattered throughout the world.
All that it in the future though. For now John is twenty one years old. The year is 1786. He has a trade and a wife. He has the first links with Methodism which were to grow and shape his life. In the greater world there a fundamental change. America is independent and soon France will kill its king and then a lot more people but in doing so change the idea of what a person is. Technology is doing to objects what John and Mary did for population!
Harder to fix and measure are the opportunities for learning of all kinds available to people like John. Something was causing mindset’s to change though. It’s early days, but the world is also shifting here.
It is hard to be exact about how much formal education John had. From his account it looks to be intermittent at best and never full time If it was the weather we would describe it as periods of light drizzle followed by brief showers. In an age where it is assumed as minimum children receive fourteen years of full time education this looks like nothing at all. So in this very torturous analogy where we are comparing learning to rainfall, formal schooling would account for a fraction of the recorded precipitation we are about to see. Where did the rest come from?
The graph of his life is about to take a very sharp upturn. Something switched on.


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