Nostalgia with Margaret Watson: Back in the summer of 1955...
It never rained once and the sun shone all day
The recent hot weather has come as a shock to us all, and I’m sure these long, sunny days are reminding us of those halcyon days we enjoyed during Dewsbury Feast Week.
This was the time of year when all the mills in Dewsbury closed down to allow workers to have a two-week holiday and still get paid their wages.
The holiday started on the Saturday nearest July 25 and continued into the first week of August. These dates were fixed, and so holidays could be booked well in advance.
We all prayed for good weather, but sadly in this district the weather was notoriously bad at this time of year, and when the downpours started you could hear everyone moaning – “Typical Dewsbury feast weather!”
Remarkably, however, this didn’t happen in the summer of 1955 when it never rained once and the sun never stopped shining. The good weather just went on and on.
The temperatures in Dewsbury soared well into the 80s and even the lowest temperatures were still in the high 70s, and so unusual was this kind of weather that it made front page news in the Reporter.
The story read:
“After years of disappointing weather, Dewsbury feast this year struck one of the finest periods possible.
“In the heat and sunshine of Saturday, thousands left industry behind and sought fresh places in which to enjoy the sun in less smoky atmospheres.
“For those who stayed at home there was the ever popular feast, and this year there was no mud to contend with”.
Thousands left Dewsbury on feast Saturday that year bound for seaside resorts like Cleethorpes, Blackpool and Scarborough.
In those days the Reporter came out on Saturdays, but during Dewsbury feast week it came out on the Friday so as to allow readers to get their paper before setting off.
The Reporter also sent their newspapers by train to all the holiday resorts where local people would be staying to be distributed at the newsagents.
In addition, they sent their journalists to these holiday resorts to report back what local people were doing on their holiday.
One went to Blackpool and met up with local people walking along the promenade, like Brian Irish, Ernest Balsaam and Brian Peck, who found Blackpool very different from where they had come from - Westtown.
Another journalist who was sent to Scarborough found Mr and Mrs J W Winterburn, of Earlsheaton, who said they were not too pleased with the hot weather, and would have preferred it much cooler.
For those who didn’t go away, there were plenty of day trips to resorts like Blackpool, Bridlington, Morecambe, Southport and Cleethorpes, costing only 8/6d rail fare.
For those staying at home, the weather couldn’t have been better and the temperatures kept on rising.
Records at Crow Nest Park showed the temperatures for the week had been in the higher 70s and had reached 84 on the Sunday.
Dewsbury had only 110 days supply of water compared with 126 days at the corresponding time the previous year, but an official of the Dewsbury water department said the supply presented no immediate danger.
There was good news in the greenhouses at Crow Nest Park where a banana tree which had been planted some years earlier, looked like providing a bumper crop.
The tree already had eight bunches on it, but the park’s superintendent, Mr H Ineson said he believed the crop would be the largest ever that year.
The hot weather in 1955 also found local youngsters swimming in the River Calder to cool down.
Three young men, who regularly swam in the Calder at Ravensthorpe, were John Bellwood, 14, son of Mr and Mrs Reginald Bellwood, of School Street, Ravensthorpe, Trevor Weston, 14, of Walnut Crescent, Chickenley, and Keith Richardson, 14, of Princess Avenue, Chickenley.
One evening, after they had been swimming, they saw a man floundering in the river.
Without hesitation, John dived in fully clothed and pulled the man to the bank where his two friends were able to pull him to safety.
John told the Reporter afterwards: “I saw straight away the man was in difficulty, he was splashing about and couldn’t call out because his head was under the water”.
The following day the man returned and presented John with £3 to thank him for saving his life.
At first John refused, saying it was far too much, but the man insisted and John said he wouldn’t spend the money on himself but buy a new frock and cardigan for his mother.
The unusually hot weather eventually took its toll on the local water supply, and in early October that year an order was made restricting the use of water.
A notice was placed in the Reporter by the town clerk of the old Dewsbury County Borough Council, Mr A Norman James, which read:
“Notice is hereby given that as from the tenth day of October 1955, the use for the purpose of watering private gardens or washing of private cars, of any water supplied by the Dewsbury Corporation which is drawn through a hosepipe or similar apparatus, is prohibited until further notice. Any person contravening it will be fined £5.
“On account of the prolonged and continuing spell of dry weather, all persons supplied with water by the Dewsbury Corporation should use the water as economically as possible and avoid any waste”.
If this gorgeous weather continues, perhaps Yorkshire Water will be issuing a similar notice, so take advantage of it while you can.
■The flowers on the picture last week of Marlborough School were lupins not delphiniums (pointed out by a gardening friend) as stated in the caption.