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Those Were The Days

The First of a New Tuesday Series

From mill worker to local bookmaker.

Burnley Express and News


When it comes to writing about Harle Syke, who could be better qualified than Rowland Kippax, whose dialect writings under the pen-name "Th' Owd Syker" have become so popular?

About the author's life

The eldest of five children he was born on January 7th 1902 at 5 King Street, Harle Syke.

His education began at Haggate and continued at Burnley Grammar School before he started work as a warehouse boy at Queen Street Mill in 1915. He married in 1924 and he and his wife have a married son, Kenneth.

Mr Kippax worked at the mill until 1935 when he became a partner with William Collinge in a bookmaking business operating at local dog tracks and race courses.

In the last war he served in Norway, the desert and Italy, before being demobbed in 1945 and returning to bookmaking.

He also opened a turf accountant's business at Croft Street, Burnley - where Safeways now stands, turning it into a limited company when betting ofices were legalised.

He sold the business to Mecca and retied in 1972.

In his private life Mr Kippax never bets, though he likes to read racing critics Peter O'Sullivan and Brough Scott.
He also explains why he traded under the name of Rowland Denis and not his surname.
He sys: "My dad was very much against me becoming a bookmaker and, even though I was married, he was of the opinion that I should do as he said.
"So when he said 'there are going to be no Kippaxes in that line of business', I said I was still going to be a bookmaker under my Christian names."

Those were the days.....

The earliest memory I have is of a football team called Kippax Eleven winning the Burnley Amateur Cup in 1906. I was only four years of age, but the point which I remember most is the medals coming to our shop.

By then we had moved into a chip shop in Burnley Road and my dad ran the team from there. Should anyone want to go back further than that, the shop was previously owned by Jim Hogan. The medals came from a firm of jewellers named Fattorini from Skipton, and were silver with a gold shield centre.

The next item I remember was my first day at school. My Uncle Bill who died on February 9th this year aged 83 years, took me and I ran away at playtime, but was taken straight back by my mother and never ran away again.

Long walks to school

The infants' teacher was Miss Carter, a very small lady who lived in Greendale View just above Lanehead School. The second infants' teacher was Miss Singleton, and the third and infants' headmistress was Mrs Pape.

While I am writing about Mrs Pape I should mention that her daughter Gladys married the then vicar of Briercliffe St James, the Rev. Stevens.

I remember him because he was the only parson I have known who on occasions wore clogs, especially in winter. My friend Willis Thornton told me that Rev. Stevens visited Lanehead C of E School, two or three times a week and they could hear him come pounding up the wooden steps.

What a change from then, 70 years ago, to what it is like today. I have passed Haggate school and seen cars waiting to take children home, and a lady trafic warden making sure that the children leave the school safely. I think it is a marvellous world today.

Big classes of forty

Let us look back 70 years. Some of my school friends of those days had long walks to and from school. One boy named Holmes came every day from a farm named Little Jerusalem (better known as Jer Gap - now demolished). This farm was beyond Thursden Valley. The Wilkinsons came from Herd House, the Kippaxes came from Monk Hall, the Heaps from Shorey Hey, the clarks and Woods from Burwains.

The Kippaxes also at one time farmed Burwains, so this farm has changed hands several times.

All these children had to bring their lunch with them as only tea was provided. They lunched in a cellar under the infants' school, which was also used as the Haggate Chapel young men's institute and had the inglorious name of "the Rat Hoil".

I once read a booklet by Mr Abraham Leaver, a well known person in the village in which he said that in the early nineteen hundreds there were 500 children being educated at Haggate School. For comparison I will try to tell you who the teachers were and how many pupils they had to teach while I was passing through the school from standards one to seven up to 1930.

In standard one there was Miss Walsh, assisted on occasions by Miss Crawshaw. Miss Walsh married Mr Fred Taylor one of the firm engineers at Perseverance Mill, now Fairways Motors.

Mr Rushton taught standard two, but he died very young and his place was taken by Miss Boothman. Standard three was taken by Mr Thwaites who was later to be superseded by Mr Eric and Mr Jeff Nutter, two brothers who lived at Scarrs Farm, a farm on the Co-op estate near to Haggate. They were soon called up for army service in World War I and both lost their lives.

Standard four was taught by Miss Dora Hirst who later became Mrs Halstead. Standard five was taught by Mr Owen Sagar who later became headmaster of Trawden, and standards six and seven by Mr F. E. Crawford.

In standards one to four thee were close on 40 boys as well as the same number of girls. All Haggate was comprehensive at that time.

Standard five had a slightly less number, as many of those who had attained the age of 12 went to work half time at one of the local mills. Even so, that class had no less than 50 scholars at one time.

While I am talking about Mr Sagar I would like to tell two stories both of which involved me. I was making a book at Thirsk Races in 1935 when Mr Sagar walked past my pitch without seeing me. As he got past I shouted six to four Haggate, ten to one Trawden. He immediately came back and shook hands with me, and said that he would have liked to have been a bookmaker. I saw him many times after that at north country race meetings, he loved a day out at the races.

The other incident occurred in Italy when I was in transit camp. A sergeant after hearing that I came from Harle Syke said that he married a Syke girl. On asking who she was, it was Owen Sagar's daughter.

I have mentioned class numbers just as a comparison with today's pupil ratio scheme. I am not criticising either present or past figures, but I am sure that no teacher had ever less than 50 pupils to teach. During the whole of the period to which I have referred, the headmaster was Mr Fred Leaver.

My memories of special events at the school were the presentation annually of the Dr Muir medals to the top boy and girl. The village erected a monument outside the bowling green to show the villager's appreciation of his services.

It was erected in 1905 and his sisters whose home was in Scotland presented these medals to the school until 1931.

A lits of winners I have collected is as follows: Miss Verity, Jane Thornton, Doris Eastwood, Archie Hogan, Louis Hogan, Horace Pickles, Ronnie Leaver, Irene Burrows, Ernest Weston, Annie Taylor, Horace Atkinson, Eddie Catlow, John Halstead, Jack Berry, Brenda Hargreaves, Vera Dewhurst,Bertha Hannam, Edna Lee, Jack Heap, Bertha Thornton, Edith Kippax, J. L. Atkinson, Nora Hargreaves, Millie Edmondson and Arthur Asten. If I have missed any I apologise.

In 1913 four boys won scholarships to Burnley Grammar School which was a record then. They were Neville Leaver, Reginald Robinson, Harold Sutcliffe and myself.

Another special event at the school in my days was the commemoration of Empire Day. All scholars would congregate in the main hall and would sing patriotic songs. Lines of one of these songs ame back to me when I was serving in Italy during the last war. They were, "the fields were as green and the sun shone so bright, but it was not my own native land."

I was riding in a jeep along with the O.C. and we were passing through some beautiful scenery when he said: "You've nothing like this in your part of the country." I replied: "I wish that I could take you down Runklehurst Wood in spring when it's blue with bluebells."

Wore clogs to school

Concluding my schooldays I would like to stress that when one is continually seeing films on TV concerning people who are unable to read, I do not one person who went to Haggate school who could not read. This was despite the very large number of pupils each teacher had under their control.

In winter I feel sure that we had more frost and snow that we have today. We all wore clogs, girls as well. It was many times possible to slide from the school right down to the post office after snow, and when the road had not been ashed.

It was a limestone road as there was no tarmac in those days, at least not up Syke, and the only traffic was that which went by horse and cart, mainly to the farms. There was no motor traffic to matter before 1910.

The first car we saw belonged to Jack Atkinson, and that didn't try to go up Haggate when the road was slippery.

It was a limestone road as there was no tarmac in those days, at least not up Syke, and the only traffic was that which went by horse and cart, mainly to the farms. There was no motor traffic to matter before 1910.

The first car we saw belonged to Jack Atkinson, and that didn't try to go up Haggate when the road was slippery. It took it all its time when the road was dry, and many a time it had to be pushed over the hill by the schoolchildren. Jack Atkinson, the driver, had only one hand.

Often we could go skating or sliding on a pond at Marsden Heights call the Duck Pits. It has since been filled in and is now an out of bounds hazard on Nelson Golf Links.

Mentioning Marsden Heights brings back the memory of another wartime meeting. I had been sent back from Tripoli to Haifa in Israel to attend a course for prospective quartermasters. On this course were two women warrant officers. One of these whose name was Phillpots came from Marsden Heights. I told her of a girl called Marion Phillpots who was in my class at school, and two joiners who worked for the above Jack Atkinson also called Phillpots who came from Marsden Heights, and they were her relatives.

During summer holidays most of our time was spent either down Runklehurst Wood or atBattyhole in the river. I was only a small boy when I saw a big lad called Robert Hirst catch an eel with his hands. It was the only time that I ever saw or heard of an eel being caught in that river. It was nearly two feet in length. This boy was very good at tickling trout.

Others of my generation who were also good at this was Tom Proctor, Jimmy Pilkington and Tom Thornton (Tom o' Bobs). He was the bst and is still a keen fisherman. The boy Hirst went with his parents to either Australia or New Zealand. The other two have passed on.

As a boy I remember my dad taking me to watch a young man named Ben Furth, who lived locally, win a cup at the boxing booth at Burnley Fair. He later became a policeman in Birmingham.

The recreation ground of those days is now the Brierclife housing estate in Douglas Way. It was an extremely poor ground as it had only one full-length football pitch, and at the end nearest to Harle Syke there was a gutter about a foot deep which ran straight acros the penalty area. When it was filled up, the first time that it rained hard, the filling was washed out again.

Refuse tip near ground

It is hard to believe, but in those early days Hudsons who had a coal carting business in the district, and ran the weekend horse drawn wagonette to Burnley, known as Huddy's bus, were allowed to run their horses out in the evenings on the recreation ground. There would be at least six horses and if a ball was kicked or knocked amongst them there was a miniature charge of the light brigade.

I can remember Burnley Football team coming up and playing knurr and spell in the ground the year that they won the cup in 1914.

Next to the recreation ground was the village refuse tip. It was opposite the bowling green. As young lads we used to slide down the end nearest to the recreation ground. It is now filled in and some of it has been built upon, and part has been used for garages. There must be 10 years' refuse under that tip and one wonders what antiques there could be under the refuse.

Monk Hall quarry has also recently been filled in with refuse by Burnley Corporation. In my schoolboy days we often went up there playing games and picnicking. There was a very good view looking down the river towards Burnley.

A well-known and highly respected member of Briercliffe Council, Mr William Whitehead, once showed us where to look through his binoculars and we could see Blackpool Tower.

There were several huge rocks near the edge of the quarry, and I think that the majority of Harle Sykes men had at some time or other chiselled their initials on the rocks. Little did they think that at some later date their names or initials would be buried under Burnley's rubbish.

We would walk from this quarry and through the wood towards Thursden. Often sparrow-hawks could be seen nesting in the taller trees. Unfortunately the majority of the trees were cut down in the war effort during the second world war. I don't think that there will be any sparrow-hawks there today. The path through the wood eventually leads you to the bridge at Thursden.

Many times my wife and I go by car to the top ofBroadbank where you get a view from the opposite side of the river, almost across from Monk Hall. Every time my mind goes back to those happy schoolboy days. What a pity the war had to destroy a lot of beautiful scenery. In this area during late spring and early summer you could always hear the cuckoo but not today; we haven't heard the bord for two years.

On the television a few months ago there was a talk about a bird protection area in the Hebrides. One of the protected birds was the corncrake.

I remember two sites near Harle Syke where this bird nested annually over 60 years ago. One was what we called Billy Ikes' meadow, which was within two hundred yards of Briercliffe St James's Church. The other was in a meadow near to Swamp Top.

Mr Rowland Kippax examines the blooms in his garden at his home in Colne Road, Burnley.

Mr Rowland Kippax >>

Batty Hole in the Thursden Valley, one of Rowland Kippax's favourite boyhood haunts.

Batty Hole >>

Standard one at Haggate school with teachers Miss Crawshaw and Miss Walsh. Mr Kippax is fifth from the right on the second row.

Standard One >>

Standard one at the school with Mr Rushton

Standard Two >>
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