The old Halifax I knew

Reading in Nostalgia about Halifax characters has prompted me to write about my childhood in the Woolshops area of Halifax.

Yes, I remember Tommy Cheese-bits very well. I can see him now, pushing his cart around. If he saw a group of youngsters he would often turn around and walk away, frightened of "getting a stone on th'heed", I heard him tell.

I was born on the Square in 1942 and characters were everywhere. Does anyone remember "Sausage Mary"? She wore clogs, was always immac- ulately clean and carrying trays of sausages, to what purpose I know not.

The old lady with the barrel organ we knew as "Grandma Pandozi". She lived in Blackhorse Yard, off Woolshops. I remember once, with a friend, painting her barrel organ dark green.

I would be interested to hear from anyone who remembers the Square. An old lady called Miss England, a retired school teacher who lived in a sort of shabby gentility, would have tea in her garden with friends, with crisp white tablecloth and silverware, the whole scene looking quite incongruous in the surroundings.

Do you remember Blackledge, Woolshops, Skye Alley, Hatters Fold, Winding Road, Gaol Lane, Ann Street, King Street, the Old Crispin Inn, the school on Dispensary Walk, Duffy's Park, the Moot Hall and the parish church precincts?

The whole area was relatively poor yet The Square – originally Caygill's Square – had some of the earliest brick-built houses in Halifax, probably of the late 18th century, housing doctors, solicitors and and wealthy professional people.

One of the houses was connected to the early printing of a Halifax newspaper; another housed a famous sculpture and another was said to have entertained Branwell Bronte.

Does anyone remember the Piece Hall as a fruit and veg market? There were two cafes, one of them known as "Mucky Bob's". Perhaps you remember Nelson Street, with the fish and chip shop on one end, run for many years by the Bentleys – Sarah, Florence and Albert.

At the other end of the street was a grocer. I remember the scrubbed flagged floors, bottles of dandelion and burdock, tins of loose biscuits and penny sweet trays.

I went to the parish church infant school on Dispensary Walk and migrated to the school on Church Street around 1946. I recollect taking a tin to school to get free cocoa powder and having a daily dose of cod liver oil and malt extract.

I remember making sledges and playing in the snow with chapped legs and freezing fingers, kicking gaslamps to make them light, Highland toffee and going to Harry Bradbury's shop to fetch accumulators for the wireless.

I remember my mother paying 6d (2.5p) a week on club cheques to buy shoes and clothes from a shop in Woolshops at Whitsuntide. Was the shop Standevens?

We never seemed to be bored; there was always something to do, playing football in Duffy's Park, building bikes from scrap or making and riding trolleys from four pram wheels and a board, going on picnics to Beacon Hill with dripping bread and a bottle of Spanish water and playing there all day.

Those days animals were driven up from the goods yard on Church Street to the slaughterhouse on the Square, quite sizeable herds of animals. When they reached the top of Square Road they could smell the abattoir and would often scatter. They would often be kept in the confines of the slaughterhouse and could be heard at night crying and bleating.

We would follow the brewery dray horses, magnificent animals, always well turned out. I was fascinated by these, to a small boy, enormous, strong, gentle creatures.

For many years this was my world out of which I rarely ventured – after all, I might be captured by the New Road Gang!

It was a world that was oddly secure and sociable, rarely frightening. There seemed always someone to turn to. Yes, we really did know all our neighbours; there were a lot of people living in the area at that time. Others must remember these things as I do.

Bill Clay lives at Abbey Walk South, Coronation Road, Halifax.