Reflections on change ~ 1


Date: December 2021

In 1939 war with Germany was declared...
I was born in 1932 and during my lifetime have seen great changes in Society. Many houses in Otley, including ours, heated water in a kettle on the coal fire. Clothes were boiled in a basin above the fire, hot water being transferred into a tub and a scrubbing board used to complete the wash, Then a mangle with wooden rollers squeezed out excess water! The 40’s saw the arrival of the modern washing machine!

Lighting was by gas using tapers. Electricity was not generally available until the mid-thirties and much later in remote villages. After the nationalisation of electricity in 1947 huge power stations were built, initially burning coal but much later some were nuclear powered.

From the 30’s more modern homes were being built as the population grew. Some were built by the Council and could be rented. Some had indoor toilets, bathrooms and hot water supplied by a boiler at the back of the fireplace. Today central heating, double glazing and insulation are considered essential.

Children left school at the age of 14 and usually found work in or near the town where they grew up. A few children gained scholarships which enabled them to enter grammar school. If parents could afford the fees, some places were available in these schools. The 1944 Education Act meant every child went into secondary education until at least the age of 16. That changed the lives of many children from poorer families who would not have had the opportunity to go on to higher education. Technical colleges were established providing practical courses, many to degree standard.

If a doctor was needed the patient had to pay. Many families paid a local doctor a small amount weekly, a kind of insurance. In 1948 the National Health Service was created when the “cradle to the grave” commitment was made. This was wonderful for Society and is still treasured today.

Otley was known for its printing works where the Wharfedale Press was developed. Men served a 7-year apprenticeship in engineering and became known as mechanics. Dawson, Payne and Elliot had a factory in Westgate where the presses were manufactured. Some of these men went as far as China to install them. Garnett’s was a paper mill and continued until comparatively recently when the mill and land were sold for housing.

In Crow Lane a leather factory cleaned, sorted and graded skins, and sometimes the smell was horrific! A textile mill, Duncan Barraclough, was sited on Ilkley Road, near the river for its soft water and water power. The building now contains offices and a restaurant. These industries were closed from the late 1960’s, some moved manufacturing to other countries where labour costs were cheaper. Slowly Britain changed from mining, manufacturing and ship building to become a service nation.

In 1939 war with Germany was declared. Many men were in the Territorial Army and were among the first to be called up. Others volunteered and many were conscripted. Because of their engineering background some went to work in an underground factory near the Leeds-Bradford airport. Aircraft parts were made but no-one spoke of this work or where it was located. One bomb landed on top of the Chevin: one of the crew was found in the river in a parachute. For weeks afterwards boys roamed the river banks hoping to catch another “spy”!

Because men were in the forces women had to replace them in factories and as land girls on farms and in other occupations. This showed that women could be competent in a “man’s world” and gain their independence. As late as the 1950’s many professions expected women to leave on marriage. The caring professions, teaching young children, nursing and office jobs such as typing, were mainly carried out by women, and still are, and there were few women doctors, lawyers, or company executives. There were very few women M.P.’s while women plumbers and plasterers were unheard of.

From the 1950’s great changes have taken place in the role of women in Society. The contraceptive pill in the 60’s liberated them, gave them independence and choice. Today they hold top positions in all walks of life, while some choose more practical jobs such as in the building trade, or as lorry and ambulance drivers.

Science and communications advanced at speed from the early 30’s where the wireless set was run on batteries the size of bricks. It was difficult to hear because it crackled until it was given a thump! Today we have television and smart phones. Shopping is done on-line. Man has been to the Moon! I remember in 1959 we went to Brittany in a Dakota aircraft. It carried twelve passengers and had to refuel in Jersey! Today people travel all over the world in huge planes and are more aware of life in other countries. They realise that the way we live can be detrimental to the world’s climate. Many developments and advancement over the last few decades, it has now been established, have had a significant negative impact on the environment and on the planet on which we live. So, I wonder, what will that mean for the next 90 years?
Cath, December 2021.

I felt that I fit in, which to me was very important...
I am a cradle catholic and my family at the beginning of my life consisted of my mother (cradle catholic) my father (a convert from Church of England) and my two brothers (also cradle catholic). We lived in Shipley and all attended St Walburga’s church. I was an altar server as were my two brothers who were 5 and 7 years my senior.

I was forced to go to church and it was expected of me to serve on the altar both by my parents and the school. The parish priest also had some influence in determining I should be involved. He was a stickler, the parish priest, for being at church to serve, in plenty of time. I really enjoyed serving on the altar and especially early mornings as I often was on my own. It felt very important to me. I continued serving until I was about 12 yrs. old when I went to St Bede’s Grammar School. I kept on attending church however.

When I got married at 21 years of age I continued going to church, now with my wife who became a convert herself. When our first child was born on 3rd of January 1966 my attendance at church declined and then stopped altogether. My own decision. I returned to the church approximately in 1980. The reason for doing so was that I experienced a conscience that was failing in my duty to God and I felt I was letting my parents down by not attending.

During the period of my original attending church the mass was all in Latin. I loved the Latin I was good at saying it though I was not appreciative as to the interpretations. When English came into being instead of Latin it was it seemed so easy to say and understand. The churches were full at weekends and there were plenty of altar servers. I did not serve then. When I returned to church in 1980 it was to St Peter & St Pauls at Yeadon. I attended for approximately 5 years but in that time was never approached to join any group (eucharistic, choir et cetera) so I decided to attend Our Lady and All Saints, Otley. Here was where I first felt very welcomed. I felt that I fit in, which to me was very important. I have never looked back. The English Mass has changed over the years but I look upon it with the same feelings as I always have, in that who am I to dictate as it were, as to the correct interpretation from Hebrew to Latin to English? I defer to those more suited to interpreting than myself and accept, maybe blindly, to its authenticity. Some words we now say out loud such as ‘consubstantiation’ are a bit of a mouthful and not generally understood. The length of the Nicene Creed is a little too much and not all of it needs saying. What is wrong with just saying the Apostles’ Creed?

We are all a mixed bag of ideas, likes and dislikes, experiences good and not so good and we are influenced by those in charge so to speak and our relatives and friends. We are not the finished article and never will be but should try our best for others, first.