How we got our hands dirty before health ‘n’ safety

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IT’S not that long ago that I saw a TV ad promoting a well-known supermarket, involving very small children working in a garden.

While they didn’t appear to be using the adult sized garden tools they were certainly handling them.

In this day and age of rigourous health and safety, I was sure someone would write in about it. Now, whether they did or not I cannot say, but those advertisements have not been on for quite some time now.

I am sure the lads who had gardening lessons in the Fifties and Sixties and 60 at St Martin’s School will recall that health and safety was not an issue back in those days.

We used spades, forks, rakes and any other implements that were made available. I don’t remember ever being told to be careful.

In those days it was taken for granted you would be careful without actually having to be told.

I also recall working with some very conscientious lads who helped me do some tidying up in the grounds of Lightcliffe Cemetery.

Once again we and, more importantly, they used all the tools I had available for the work in hand. I did tell them to be careful but they quickly retorted ‘We’re not kids you know…’.

Perhaps we really must learn to trust our young people.

I wonder if schools still have metalwork and woodwork lessons? At St Martin’s in the early 1960s we had both. Metalwork was taught by Arthur Watts and woodwork by Barry Foster.

We were using what I am sure would be described as very dangerous implements by today’s standards. But, in the five years I was there no one ever got hurt though missing the target and hitting your hand with a hammer was a weekly occurrence for those of us who were hopeless at both these subjects.

So how would things work out if young people were taken from school as part of a gardening project in the community? I suspect that even if it was allowed there would be so many rules and regulations surrounding the exercise that it would be totally impractical.

This week’s featured photograph goes back to 1949, when these students from Rastrick Common School became part of an idea thought up by teacher George Parr. It was decided after consulting Parks Department Superintendent Mr A.E.Garnett that a vacant plot of land in Bramston Street overlooking the ‘Rec’ would be eye catching to passers-by if it was planted out in a rockery. Supervised by parks staff and Mr Parr the students planted over 300 rockery plants.

Although the rockery disappeared many years ago – I am sure the lads from Rastrick who carefully worked the land with all the appropriate tools and planted out the rockery plants will recall how well it all looked as they walked by in Bramston Street.

Were you one of those lads who tidied up what was then a piece of waste ground. If you were please contact me on e-mail: