The Nostalgia column with Margaret Watson: Last service at Thornhill Lees church

Long service: This picture was taken in 1947 when Canon McMenamin, parish priest of St Joseph's Church, Batley Carr, celebrated 50 years in the priesthood. He is pictured here (left) being presented with a cheque by his curate Fr Cox on behalf of parishioners, and an illuminated address on behalf of the Sisters of the Cross and Passion.
Long service: This picture was taken in 1947 when Canon McMenamin, parish priest of St Joseph's Church, Batley Carr, celebrated 50 years in the priesthood. He is pictured here (left) being presented with a cheque by his curate Fr Cox on behalf of parishioners, and an illuminated address on behalf of the Sisters of the Cross and Passion.

I KEEP asking readers to send me their memories of childhood, and last week I was delighted that John Croft supplied me with his memories of Thornhill before the council estates were built.

I am sure many will have shared those memories and my hope is that it has stirred readers to write about theirs and send them to me.

Margaret Watson.

Margaret Watson.

We all have different memories of what our home town was like simply because we lived in different villages, down different streets, and attended different schools and churches.

Someone brought up a strict Methodist will not have recollections of pub and club life or going on club trips, as I did because their dads, being non drinkers, wouldn’t have been club members.

And children who didn’t go to church won’t have memories of church life, singing in the choir, or taking part in church processions.

We keep our different memories alive by talking about them, writing about them and watching old films on telly, as well as reading nostalgia columns like mine.

We look back and are deeply saddened about many of the changes taking place and wonder if they were necessary to our happiness.

Local pubs and clubs are fast disappearing and the cinemas which provided entertainment six days a week went long ago.

For many they have been replaced by a night in watching a film on telly and drinking a can of lager, both bought from the supermarket – not a patch on a night at the cinema.

Not everyone spent their leisure time in pubs and cinemas, for there were many who preferred to spend their evenings in quiet contemplation in church or listening to the radio at home, usually the Third programme.

Today you don’t find many people turning out at night as they once did which leaves lour town centres even more deserted.

I remember when town centres were packed on an evening with crowds of people having a night on the town.

And after the playing of the National Anthem at the cinema or consuming your last drink at the pub, it was a mad rush to the bus station to catch the last bus home.

No taxis in those days.

This coming weekend, Holy Innocents Church in Thornhill Lees, will close due to dwindling attendances, which is yet another change in the way we live our lives.

When I was a child, I remember everything being constant and secure with very little changing in the way we lived our lives.

Our parish priest for nearly 40 years, was, Canon McMenamin, or “Father Mac” as we used to call him, and he stayed at his post at St Joseph’s Church, Batley Carr, until he died.

He was part of the fabric of the church, and in 1947 when he celebrated his 50th anniversary as a priest, I was just six years old and among 250 children who attended a party he gave us.

There were lots of other celebrations in his honour and even the Pope had a part to play in all of this by sending his Apostolic blessing to him, something which caused a bit of a stir in Batley Carr.

Sister Stella, headmistress of St Joseph’s School, presented him with an illuminated scroll in which she extolled his “outstanding virtues, his zeal, undeviating kindness and cheerfulness of disposition”.

The congregation presented him with a cheque for £400, a mighty sum in those days, and Barry Collins presented him with an envelope containing £30 collected from the schoolchildren.

There were many other churches in the district which also had long-serving priests, including Canon Coney at Thornhill and Canon Brown and Canon Rees at Dewsbury Parish Church.

Many families went to these churches from generation to generation, and many contributed financially to their upkeep.

There were many plaques, pews, statues and leaded windows presented to local churches by grateful benefactors, and I often wonder where they went when the churches closed.

Many children followed their fathers and grandfathers into taking over various positions within the church as church wardens, bell ringers and members of the choir.

In Dewsbury Parish Church there were periods when there would be three generations from one family serving in the choir at the same time.

I am glad to say that the church concerned, now the Minster Church, is still flourishing, as are the two churches I attended, St Joseph’s and Our Lady and St Paulinus Church, Westtown. Long may they live.

This coming Saturday, (September 14), an Open Day will be held at Holy Innocents Church, Thornhill Lees, from noon to 4pm when the church records and memorabilia will be available to view

Though this is a very sad occasion: on Sunday (September 15) the last service will be conducted.

There will be a service of thanksgiving at 4pm and Bishop Tony will be there for the event.

All are welcome to attend both the open day and service.

If you have memories of childhood which you would like to share, please contact me by email at tresham3@gmail.com.