The Nostalgia Column with Margaret Watson

Margaret Watson.
Margaret Watson.

THE month of May is here but I don’t see any May processions going on – and I don’t expect to because May just isn’t the month it used to be.

Most of the churches, clubs and organisations which arranged these events, once May arrived, are no longer with us.

Pretty parade: Children from St Saviour's Church, Ravensthorpe, are pictured taking part in the Whitsuntide Walk in 1954. It shows the Queen, June Clark, and her attendants Carol Dilnot, Pamela Vickers, Jennifer Swithenbank, Valda Cass and Pat Clark. The photograph was taken outside Raventhorpe Hotel.

Pretty parade: Children from St Saviour's Church, Ravensthorpe, are pictured taking part in the Whitsuntide Walk in 1954. It shows the Queen, June Clark, and her attendants Carol Dilnot, Pamela Vickers, Jennifer Swithenbank, Valda Cass and Pat Clark. The photograph was taken outside Raventhorpe Hotel.

But we still have our memories, and this week, Harold Laycock, born in Ravensthorpe, kindly reminds us of them in this article.

Here is what he writes:

The Chapels, together with St Saviour’s Church, in Ravensthorpe, played a vital role in the spiritual and social life of the local community. St Saviours, still a thriving church, stands at the junction of Church Street and Huddersfield Road.

This church had a very active choir, Boy Scout Troop, and Wolf Cub Pack, of which I was a former member.

They held weekly meetings in the church hall which was later demolished to make way for housing.

The Boy Scouts and Wolf Cubs held a monthly church parade after Sunday morning service, and the parade was accompanied by the Scout’s Bugle and Drum Band, preceded by the flag bearers, flying the Union Flag and the Flags of the Boy Scouts and Wolf Cubs.

In the days before popular entertainment became sophisticated, a gentleman by the name of Mr Bishop often presented a slide show on his “Magic Lantern”.

There was chapel and church in the morning and Sunday school in the afternoon with prizes awarded – usually book tokens – for good attendance.

The annual St George’s Day Parade in Dewsbury was a major occasion when all the main local organisations paraded around the town.

Camping, under canvas was always popular, usually in Bradley Woods, but also on other camp sites.

On one memorable and unique occasion, Lord Rowallan, Chief Scout, paid a visit to the Dewsbury Rugby Football ground at Crown Flatts, where he addressed the combined gathering of Boy Scouts, Girl Guides, Wolf Cubs and Brownies.

I later left St Saviour’s Scout troop to join the 7th Dewsbury Troop, initially based at the East End Chapel, at the Albion, but following the closure of this Chapel (due to falling numbers in the congregation), the troop moved their base to the Wesleyan Chapel in North Road, now a Mosque.

At the close of Sunday morning services, it was usual for the congregation to go into the schoolroom next door, now occupied by Acre Valley Fabrics and Upholstery and Al Madina Grocery Supplies) for refreshments.

The West End Chapel at the top of George Street, also closed and is now a motor spares store. The United Reformed Church, formerly Ravensthorpe Congregational Church , is located at the junction of Cravendale Road and North Road, and although reduced in height and size, still a functioning church.

The church held occasional Saturday social evenings, always popular and well attended, with dancing to their own small dance band.

The Congregational Church, which owned its own cricket ground, also supported a very active Boys Brigade group and cricket tea. Unfortunately this is presently an estate of private housing.

The Whit Monday Walk, was a major event in most towns when local church and chapel congregations paraded or were carried on a wagon/float around Ravensthorpe.

The congregations called at various stopping points to sing hymns, and as the Wesleyans walked in the morning and St Saviour’s in the afternoon, the Ravensthorpe Prize Band were able to accompany both groups.

Local businesses usually provided a wagon/charabanc to enable people with mobility problems and young children to take a fully active part in the Whit Walk. Following the walks, the congregations met for tea and sandwiches followed by a sports afternoon in Marshall Kay and Marshall’s sports field.

The Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), started by the church leaders, was situated close to the Congregational Church, and was a centre of activity. It is said that its beginning was attributed to the remark of a boy saying “there’s now’t to do in Ravensthorpe at neets”.

Although its activities were curtailed during the 1914/18 war, it later continued to function, with a cricket club.

A club room was opened in 1922 dedicated to the memory of members killed during First World War.

It had a wide range of activities and was open to boys between the ages of 12 and 21 who attended Sunday school.

Activities included, football, handicrafts, fencing, billiards etc. Victor Metcalfe a local Ravensthorpe lad, who played football for the YMCA, went on to play for Huddersfield Town and England.

Wakes Week/ Annual Holidays was a holiday period in parts of England and Scotland, originally a religious celebration or feast.

The tradition of Wakes Week developed into a secular holiday, particularly in the north of England when each town or city had two week annual holiday, which enabled the mills and factories to close for the maintenance of boilers and heavy equipment

What had initially been an unpaid holiday became a legally guaranteed two week annual holiday, locally known as “Dewsbury Feast”, which was on or before the 25th July. It is no longer observed due to the decline of manufacturing industries and the standardisation of school holidays.

During this period a fair (known locally as a Feast) was held in the local Ravensthorpe Feast ground, now the site of the Diamond Wood Community Academy. The fair, with all of its stalls and fairground rides, came twice yearly to Ravensthorpe and Dewsbury.

Local children went to the feast ground to help with the setting up of stalls and rides and to fetch water for the caravan dwellers.

October half term started originally during the Second World War to allow school children to help the farmers with potato and pea picking, both back breaking tasks.

It was usual to fill a bucket with peas and then empty them into a sack.

We were paid one shilling and sixpence (old money) per sack – not very easy work.

During the main holiday period there was mass migration to the East and West coast holiday resorts, namely, Blackpool Scarborough, Bridlington and Morecambe.

It was much the same as being at home as wherever you walked, you came across the same familiar faces.

With few car owning families, special trains and coaches were provided to transport the holiday makers to the coast.