A SURPRISE PHONE CALL

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Stanley
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A SURPRISE PHONE CALL

Post by Stanley » 15 Oct 2013, 03:59

A SURPRISE PHONE CALL


Studying history is a fascinating occupation and can have surprising consequences. I was sat minding my own business the other night in the kitchen, Eigg, the Jack Russell was snoring gently in her basket under the table and all was quiet, just how I like it. Then the phone rang and a fascinating piece of Barlick history plus one or two coincidences rose to the surface.

The call was from Holyhead on Anglesey and the caller was Eddie Spencer. This name didn’t ring a bell until the caller reminded me of an extremely noisy motorbike and sidecar that used to race down the road at what seemed like highly illegal speeds when I lived at Sough and pursued my trade as a grocer, ‘Open All Hours’ as they say.

This was the Eddie Spencer who came to Barlick originally in the early years of the war as one of the first Rover workers to move into Bankfield Shed. He started the conversation by giving me a surprise when he asked me where I was sitting. I told him and he said that he had sat in the same place in the back room at 10 East Hill Street many a time when he lived here until he moved back to Holyhead after the war. He also informed me that this room, where I am writing this now, was where the Barnoldswick Motor Club was formed. I had a bit of a surprise for Eddie, I told him he was not the best man in the world at clearing the cupboards out when he flit, and he had left something at the back of the cupboard in the front room! It was his turn to be intrigued.

When I first moved in here five years ago I found two pieces of brass bar and a print of Ironbridge at night in the cupboard. These, plus the fact that one or two repairs and fixtures in the house had been done in a particular way had convinced me that a fitter had lived here at some time. I took a guess that it was Eddie and told him I had used the brass and that the print was up on the wall and he couldn’t have it back! Honours were even so Eddie settled down and told me his story.

He spent his childhood in Holyhead; his father was a marine engineer and was away from home a lot. Things got bad after the Great War and his dad decided to leave the sea and set up a garage in Holyhead. For a while things were OK and Eddie served his apprenticeship with his dad as a fitter and automotive engineer but during the 30’s trade fell off and eventually his dad decided to sell the business and go looking for work. He found employment eventually in the Midlands with the Rover Company and the family moved down there, Eddie got a job at Rover as well.

Early in the Second World War, the Rover Company was fully engaged in the war effort and Eddie was working on reconditioning ‘Cheetah’ aero engines. The government were getting very worried at the time because the Germans knew where all these factories were and a decision was made to disperse essential industries to new and less vulnerable sites all over the country. Barlick was a suitable candidate; it had a railway line, a disciplined workforce and plenty of space in the shape of mills that had shut because of the depressed state of trade in the 30’s. So, one day, Eddie and some of his mates were told that they had to move to somewhere called Barnoldswick in the far North and set up their workshops there. A bus was hired to take them but Eddie decided to travel with one of his mates who had a car.

I think a word of explanation is needed here for any young ones reading this, travelling around the country by road in 1940 wasn’t an easy matter. At the start of the war all signposts were taken down so that in the event of an invasion the Germans wouldn’t have any help in getting round the country. In addition, all street lamps were extinguished for the duration of the war. To make matters even worse, car headlights had to be covered with a mask with slits in which only allowed a small amount of light to shine out directly at the ground in front of the vehicle. The idea of these last two measures was to give no help to the enemy bombers. One further thing, there were no main roads or motorways in those days, we would regard most of the trunk roads as no better than country lanes now.

Eddie and his mate had another problem, the only map they had was a very large scale one of the whole of the British Isles that didn’t show any of the minor roads. Barnoldswick wasn’t even on it. They asked how they were to get to this strange place and were told to drive straight up the country until they were level with Blackpool and then turn west and start asking. As they were going up during the night this was not the most helpful of suggestions. I shan’t bore you with the details but Eddie tells me they eventually found Barlick but only after many adventures and a brief tour of Huddersfield and Halifax!

When they arrived at Bankfield Shed it was in the early hours of the morning and they found that the bus had got there before them, the driver must have known the way. They climbed on the bus and settled down for an uneasy sleep until daylight. Eddie was woken by an old lady tapping on the window, she wanted to know if they were the lads who were coming down to re-open Bankfield as an aero engine factory and when they said yes she invited them in to her house for a pint of tea and a bacon butty. Eddie says it was the best breakfast they ever had. He went on to tell me about how they set up shop with a few benches and the tools they had brought with them and found lodgings in the town. He stayed here until after the war and, as he had already told me, got interested in motor sport. There will be lots of people from those days who remember him, he reeled of a whole list of names and I asked a mate of mine only this week if he remembered him and he said yes, he was a member and gave me another long list.

Eddie then told me that there was one thing that had always bothered him, and this is where I want a bit of help from my readers. He said that he had always felt guilty because he never went back to find the old lady who gave him the tea and bacon butty that morning when they first arrived. He said she lived in the house that was on the Skipton side of the Post Office next to what is now the main gate to the factory. Eddie says that the front of her house faced on to the lane that ran down the front of the shed and that it was requisitioned as offices for the factory and later demolished to widen the entrance. His reason for trying to find out about her is that he wants to find her grave and put a bunch of flowers on it as a belated thank you for the kindness she showed him on that cold, dark morning. So, if any of you out there have any ideas, please give me a ring on 813527 and I’ll let Eddie know what we have found out.
I’m writing this at the beginning of August and Eddie goes into hospital for an operation on Monday at Liverpool. He is planning to come up to Barlick in October and it would be nice if we can find out who his benefactor was so if you have any information about that old lady and where she is buried there’s a bloke wants to give her a bunch of flowers.

Talking to Eddie reminded me of others who were affected by Rover coming to Barlick. We used to have regular caller at Hey Farm, Arthur Entwistle, who worked for Rover as well and moved the opposite way to Eddie. When Rover became Rolls Royce he went down to Coventry and finished his days retired in Warwickshire. I often wonder what would have happened to Barlick if Rover hadn’t been sent up here. The cotton industry was dying on its feet and there is little doubt that the transferring of those industries to the town had a major effect on prosperity and employment after the war. If you think back, the first steam mill opened in 1842 and by 1980 the industry was gone. The aero industry has been here for sixty years now, how long will that last and what will replace it? It’s all part of the tide of history flowing over us and only one thing is certain, Barlick has survived so far and I have no doubt will carry on doing so.

As you’ve probably noticed, Barlick summer is upon us. I was at home for the holiday fortnight and spent a lot of time peering through the window at the rain and laying small bets with myself that as soon as the holidays were over the weather would take up ready for going back to work. My dad always used to say that God cried when he wasn’t working, I know what he meant! However, thoughts of summer weather got me to thinking about farming and the relationship between the shed and the field so I think we’ll get away from war for a bit and do a few pieces on gentler things. Thanks for the feedback I’ve been getting; it’s nice to know that my ramblings interest so many of you. I’ve been surprised how far the Barlick View travels; Eddie Spencer was triggered off to write to me because he gets it sent to him every week. I was particularly pleased to hear from a twelve year old lass who says she never misses a week and enjoys me talking about ‘The Old Days’. When you come to think, fifty years ago to them is like 1890 was to me, it makes you wonder what age you have to be to seem ‘old’. Actually, I’m only 35; there is some sort of a mistake on my birth certificate! See you next week.

SCG/Tuesday, 01 August 2000
1795 words
Stanley Challenger Graham
Stanley's View
scg1936 at talktalk.net

"Beware of certitude" (Jimmy Reid)
The floggings will continue until morale improves!

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Stanley
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Re: A SURPRISE PHONE CALL

Post by Stanley » 02 May 2020, 03:10

Bumped.
Stanley Challenger Graham
Stanley's View
scg1936 at talktalk.net

"Beware of certitude" (Jimmy Reid)
The floggings will continue until morale improves!

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chinatyke
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Re: A SURPRISE PHONE CALL

Post by chinatyke » 02 May 2020, 05:13

Did you or Eddie ever find the kind old lady?

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Stanley
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Re: A SURPRISE PHONE CALL

Post by Stanley » 02 May 2020, 05:34

No China and unfortunately Eddie died. I'll look for the mail I got from his daughter and add it here.
Here's the link to it. LINK
Stanley Challenger Graham
Stanley's View
scg1936 at talktalk.net

"Beware of certitude" (Jimmy Reid)
The floggings will continue until morale improves!

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