Echoes of the past: Still writing my weekly column three decades on...

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As we open the first few pages on 2016 it’s during these early days of the new year that we’ll take stock and ask ourselves, ‘where has the last year gone..?’

It only seems like yesterday we were celebrating the arrival of 2015, or was it 2014? Maybe it was not that long ago we were all celebrating 2010 or even the millennium.

January 6, 1986 was a big day for me and looking back it is a little over a million words since that day. That the was the day I was invited by the Brighouse Echo editor Stephen Firth to write the weekly nostalgia column following the retirement of Ralph Wade, better known through his weekly page under the pen name of ‘Rowan’. This was someone who had been the weekly contributor for more years than most could remember and for me would be big shoes to step into. He was to me and many like me who never missed reading his weekly contribution the fountain of all knowledge when it came to the local history of Brighouse and its surrounding communities.

Back in those days for a police constable to be meeting a journalist, never mind the newspaper editor, was not really the done thing in the police service. But we met and had coffee and a sandwich at the Merrie England coffee bar. Once I agreed to do it I had to get permission from the Chief Constable, who with support from the late Malcolm Thompson, the Brighouse Superintendent, of the time agreed and gave his permission. This was a sign the police service was changing and is reflected in my latest book ‘All in a day’s work...’

I have presented local history adult education classes from the late 1970s, numerous speaking engagements and self published two local books. Even with that experience where do you start with a weekly column? Working to deadlines and never missing even when you are on holiday or off ill. No computers, no scanning or editing of photographs and certainly no emails. In those days each weekly contribution had to be hand delivered to the office.

I quickly realised that my idea of an interesting photograph, something like the half demolished old police station in Police Street (Lawson Road) was not necessarily the best photograph for the column. ‘We don’t want photographs of part demolished buildings’... would be the occasional message left on my answering machine from the editor. You soon learn to sort out the correct ones to use for a newspaper.

I soon began to learn from Stephen Firth and the staff at the Echo about wordage and quality of photographs. Each week the Echo was published and read by all the regular readers the quality of the newspaper on the news-stands started and finished with the editor and his team. As the time went by I began to feel part of the editor’s team.

Looking back to that first story all those years ago, someone did say ‘write about what you know, Chris..’ This week’s featured photograph is the one that appeared in 1986.

The Hipperholme Police Section, taken between 1915 and 1917, when the local police service was far different than it was during my 30 years, and certainly nothing like the present day service.

These officers were members of the West Riding Constabulary, which through the 1853 County and Borough Police Act which made it compulsory for the county authorities to have police forces covering the townships.

It was November 1856 when Lieut-Col Cobbe was appointed as the new Chief Constable of the West Riding Constabulary, which was to include Brighouse and its surrounding communities in what was to be part of the Morley Division.

The new chief had an authorised strength of 466 and by 1857 he had 459 constables posted around the divisions.

Returning to our featured photograph (Back row - left to right): PC1398 Joseph Stocks Fawcett who was based at the Bailiff Bridge police house from 1904 until his retirement in 1925; PC235 Linskill was based at the Norwood Green police house at The Poplars from 1908 until he was transferred a few years later. Front row (left to right): PC1222 Brown, who served at Southowram until he transferred to Hipperholme in 1919; Police Sergeant 982 Kirkbright was the section sergeant at Hipperholme from 1915 until his promotion to inspector in 1917 and finally PC 183 Thomas (Tommy) Reynolds, who served at Norwood Green from 1898 until 1902 and then was transferred to the big city Hipperholme where he served until his retirement in 1919.

The Hipperholme section ceased to exist as a separate unit of one sergeant and six constables in the 1960s. When it was decided that all officers would work from the sub-divisional headquarters at Brighouse. One of the last officers to work in what was the old Hipperholme was PC Geoffrey Kilvington, who I am sure many readers will remember.

My 30 years writing my weekly ‘Looking Back’ page have flown by and I look forward to continuing writing it to remind you of the town we all know and how it used to be. Thank you for all the letters, telephone calls and emails I have been sent over the years.