The Nostalgia column with Margaret Watson

Margaret Watson.
Margaret Watson.

THIS week 92-year-old Mrs Dorothy Harvey has written a delightful piece for us about the village in which she grew up – Shaw Cross, Dewsbury.

Dorothy, who now lives in Thornhill Lees, writes:

Happy Occasion: Dorothy is pictured on her wedding day with husband Arthur Harvey.

Happy Occasion: Dorothy is pictured on her wedding day with husband Arthur Harvey.

“I was born on 15th September 1926 at 475 Leeds Road, the second child of Willie and Sarah Armitage.

“I lived there until I married my husband Arthur Harvey in 1947.

“I started at Shaw Cross school in 1931 when I was aged five, but only attended a few weeks before I was rushed into the diphtheria hospital at Mitchell Laithes.

“I was in there for six weeks but to a five-year-old, it felt like a lifetime.

Early years: Dorothy as a child, pictured with her elder sister Elma.

Early years: Dorothy as a child, pictured with her elder sister Elma.

“Our parents could only visit twice a week, and had to look at me through the windows because they weren’t allowed on the wards.

“The hospital certainly believed in feeding a cold and starving a fever... I remember always being hungry!

“I returned to school in January 1932 for six happy years with my best friend Mary Cooper, before advancing to Wheelwright Grammar School. Mary still lives in Shaw Cross.

“Shaw Cross was a lovely, homely school with four classrooms. There was the ‘baby’ class taught by Miss Hopkins – a lovely, cuddly lady.

“There was also Mrs Reeds in the second class, another lovely teacher who bought all her pupils a Cadbury Creme Egg every Easter.

“The third class was run by Miss Armitage (no relation) who was a very strict teacher.

“I was always afraid of her.

“The fourth class was run by the head teacher Miss Brook, who was so motherly

“At Christmas we didn’t have a party, but the day before we broke up for Christmas we each took a sock into school which was hung up on a washing line strung across the classroom wall.

“When we went into school the following day they would be full of treats.

“It was torture looking at them but not being allowed to look at what was inside until the end of the day.

“We weren’t even allowed to stay in the room at break-times for fear we might sneak a peek.

“They usually contained an apple or orange, a few nuts or sweets and a little colouring book and crayons.

“We also received a gift from the school as well. One year I got a toy sewing machine.

“We had lots of fun and games in the recreation ground at the back of the school.

“It had swings and a slide and monkey bars (I could never get the hang of those) and we used to spend a lot of time playing rounders there in school time. It was accessible all the time except Sunday’s when it was locked.

“We used to go to the bottom and dig up pig nuts which we peeled and ate like sweets. I also seem to remember a railway line at the bottom.

“As both a school and a village, we celebrated a lot of royal occasions. The first I remember was George V and Queen Mary’s Silver Jubilee.

“We got together and had a large bonfire on the recreation ground which was lit by my grandfather, George Armitage, who was given this honour because he was the oldest man in the village.

“He lived across the road from the school at the bottom of Owl Lane and we used to visit him hoping for a sweet.

“Across the road was the blacksmiths shop, where we would stand in the doorway and watch the sparks fly. We were never allowed inside.

“The second royal occasion I recollect, was King George VI’s Coronation when we all dressed up. The king was played by Donald Greenwood, the queen by Margaret Strensall.

“The rest of us were Peers and Peeresses with cardboard crowns and coronets and long dresses borrowed from our elder sisters. We had a procession around the village then had a mock Coronation.

“I also remember every tea time at 4pm there was a school bobby at the crossing, a proper policeman to see us safely across the road.

“Most days we had one who was either called Nichols or Nicholas, and he was a very tall, thin man. Every day he’d ask us – ‘Who’s the most handsome bobby in the Force?’ We always replied ‘You are Bobby Nichols’.

“I left Shaw Cross School in 1938 after six lovely years and I will never forget it for the wonderful happy place it was.”

Grateful thanks to Dorothy’s granddaughter, Caroline Miles, who helped Dorothy put together her recollections and emailed them to me.

If you have any memories to share of childhood or working life please let me know. Email

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