Throughout our lives, we assume we can continue to ask our parents, guardians and mentors all the questions that come into our heads. Then, before we know it, they are not there to ask.
This was the catalyst to Norky’s Ramblings. My dad died in 1990, and since then there has been so many questions I’ve wanted to ask, not just because I very much enjoyed my time talking to Dad about any subject that was fitting to talk about between father and son of our generations, but I could ask more about his war, work, dates, relationships and his struggles with bringing up a family.
I wasn’t going to make the same mistake with my mum. Therefore, soon after Dad died I asked Mum to start writing her memoirs. Mum died in December 1996, she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer earlier that year, there was nothing more than relief procedures available at that time and she knew that little could be done.
Mum was given five months, but bravely managed seven. In fact, Mum was the bravest person that I have personally witnessed in my lifetime. She never complained, never blamed anybody or anything, always showing her loving and kind nature that was obvious throughout her life.
Extracts of Mum’s memoirs have already appeared in many of my rambles concerning the way of life that she experienced as a child, and during WW2. Most of the other stuff is only interesting to the immediate family, but to the immediate family it is very interesting and should be preserved and passed down.
Mum was born
The two aspects of Mum’s life I have not mentioned previously occurred at the extreme ends of her 76 years of existence. She was born in the kitchen of 135 West Mount, Linthwaite at 4 o’clock in the afternoon.
Her mum Maggie was unattended at the time. Luckily my mum was Maggie’s third child, so the procedure probably wasn’t completely unfamiliar, but I’m sure it wasn’t an ideal situation.
Maggie just kept herself and the newborn baby Mary warm and comfortable until help arrived. Apart from Granddad Edward’s tea not being on the table when he got home from work, all was well.
Literary works about poverty
Several people wrote about poverty and the lives of the poor. Some notables being Charles James Booth 1840–1916, John Ernest Steinbeck 1902–1968 and Charles John Huffam Dickens 1812–1870. However, in my humble opinion, the most notable writer of social interaction was Eric Arthur Blair 1903–1950, better known as George Orwell.
All of these writers wrote about the lives of the common people, but few, if any, actually experienced real poverty and a lifetime of starvation. And of course, all could write. Nothing was written by the people actually experiencing these conditions, if they were lucky enough to have a reasonable basic education that enabled them to read and write, they would have little opportunity to do so.
Mum loved music
Much of the social support, solace and comfort for the poor came from religion and music. And much of the music was religious performed in churches and chapels throughout the country, where the congregation could also mix with likeminded people from an equally poor background where they could be comforted by sermons and stories about people similar to themselves.
My mum, Mary Norcliffe nee Holdsworth, gained much comfort from both religion and music. She was a lifelong Golcar Baptist Church supporter and sang in several choirs. Her father Edward Holdsworth (Ned ‘o’ Jims) was an organist and choirmaster and passed on his musical enthusiasm to his children and many of his grandchildren.
Granddad Holdsworth owed a harmonium and not only played for the chapels on Sundays, but also played his children to sleep every night.
Mum loved the piano. Granddad Holdsworth couldn’t afford to pay for her lessons until she was eighteen, but by this age she wrote that she spent too much time courting, instead of practicing the piano!
There would have been very few households in the country at that time with the opportunity or ability to provide music within a very humble household of a working class family. Granddad was a woollen carding machine fettler, and Grandma Maggie Holdsworth nee Senior, took in local washing.
A glimpse into Mum’s working life
When Mum was 17, she startedher job weaving at Heathouse Mill, where she worked until she was twenty. She then moved to a B&J Whitwam’s (which later became the first electric mill).
Mum got married in August 1940 to my father, Clifford. When he was conscripted, Mum went to live with Eva, her sister; they thought they would be able to keep each other company while their husbands fought in the war.Mum got her own ‘little house’ in 1943.
Mum and Dad’s fish and chip shop
Some years later in 1962, my mum and dad bought a fish and chip shop in Birkby; they moved on the Saturday and opened up business that evening. Mum liked running the shop but said that she’d ‘never worked so hard in all [her] life’. Rhondda and Moira helped out too. They stayed at the fish and chip shop for almost ten years.
My parents left the shop in September 1971, ‘satisfied with the bank account’, and moved into a three-bedroom detached house in Linthwaite, which Mum described as a ‘lovely place’. Dad started working at Colne Valley High School and Mum worked in the kitchens. She retired from the school in 1984 when she was 64 years old.
This photo was taken during one of our regular Friday night domino games at our house in the late 80s; one can see the look she often had when she was silently willing Dad to play the correct domino so that she could finish.
This photo was taken in Huddersfield Kirkwood Hospice not long before she died in 1996, the Kirkwood Hospice looked after Mum and all her family so very well, I can’t praise them enough.
This of course is progress. I cannot call myself a writer, particularly compared with the legendary and renowned writers mentioned above; in fact, I’m sure many will say that Norky’s Ramblings are a literary backward step. But I have written something, and my humble offerings in the Yorkshire Bylines and in the subsequent book also entitled Norky’s Ramblingare there forever.
Write it down, it’s so easy with a computer, word processor and spell checker that if I can do it, anybody can.