Echoes fo the Past: The ‘daft folk of Rastrick’

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My old friend Ralph Wade once told me when he was a young man folks used to say that if you were born above St Matthew’s Church at Rastrick you were daft.

No reason was ever given but just one of those turns of phrase which had found its way into local folk lore. Just the same as the folks in Lower Clifton referred to ‘Top Enders as Block ‘eeads’.

Locals in New Hey Road certainly had it right about daft folk - the one at the top of the list was Mad Harry the demon tram driver. His passengers were often terrified when he drove his tram down New Hey Road at such a lick you’d have thought he was in a race to get to the bottom first. Looking back over the old newspapers there is no record of him ever having an accident. Whether that was through more luck than management we will never know.

Trams were late coming to Rastrick - it was Monday, March 12 1923 when the first tram journey from Huddersfield through Rastrick and down into Brighouse took place. Considering the first from Brighouse to Bailiff Bridge was in 1904 and that route by 1923 was using a more modern bus service. Eventually trams were replaced by trolley buses but they in turn were replaced in 1955 by buses.

Eric was a tramcar conductor who I suppose must be favourite as second on the daft list. He was often seen by his passengers pulling toffees out of his pocket and eating them with the paper on. His explanation when asked why ‘Well’, I just like em like that.’

I remember catching the 47 bus from the old bus station up to Stoney Lane estate in the 1960s and one of the conductors used to sing out as the bus approached each stop. Oh yes, for younger readers conductors were the men and women who had the ticket machines and you paid them for your ticket when you got on. I am not quite sure when buses stopped using conductors perhaps you might know?

This week’s featured photograph is looking down New Hey Road c1927 with not a car in sight but Miss Ellen Bottomley’s grocer and drapers shop is on the right hand side. The shop was often managed by her niece Mrs Aspinall. This was the kind of shop where you could buy almost anything from boot laces to bread and of course something from the sweet tray. If you went in and she had not got it in you could almost guarantee within a couple of days you could return and it would be there waiting for you. Walking down New Hey Road from the shop was the local fish shop which had previously been the Black Horse public house where the licensee c1905 was Mrs Ann Bottomley. However, Thomas Rayner was the last landlord who had moved in on February 16 1912 but on June 13 the following year he closed the doors for the last time and its life as a pub had come to an end.

Another character in this area was Joe Ramsden but old Joe was anything but daft in fact he was a very astute businessman. He made toffee and boiled sweets in his New Hey Road premises. He also made some very strong cough sweets which he called ‘Owd Tom’s’. He often went into shops pretending to be a customer asking the staff if he could buy some. But was quite often told the shop did not have them, that so the following morning one of his salesmen would be round at the shop taking their order to stock them in the future.

Lots of things have changed in this small stretch of road since this photograph was taken. Gone have many of the small streets: New Hey Fold, Walker Square, Denham Square along with Sayles Row, Regent Place and Providence Place. Whilst most of the old property has gone and replaced by modern council flats.

It is surprising just how much of a small community has changed when you start to look into closely. We all remember aspects of our own community and quite often don’t notice things have gone, demolished or converted into something else until someone else points it out to you.

Happy New Year to you all and I look forward to hearing from many of you during 2016 with your memories of the past.