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Ninety Years of Village Life

Barwicker No. 45
September 1990

The last edition of 'The Barwicker' recorded the reminiscences of Mrs Emma Peaker (neé Reed) who celebrated her 90th. birthday in the Spring. The year of her birth also brought the arrival of another well-known character of the village as, little more than a fortnight after the birth of the Queen Mother, Kathleen Toml1nson was born, later to become the Mrs Cullen so well known to Barwick. 'Who has not seen her doing her regular village shopping, walking to and from the John Rylie Centre and attending various daytime events at the Village Hall, School or Institute?

Baby Kathleen was born on 22 August 1900 to George and Elizabeth Tomlinson (neé Thompson), the third of three daughters, the middle one at the time being about 12 years old. The family lived in No.30, Main Street, the first house to the left of the ginnel, next to the Atkinsons, and Mrs Cullen believes these two houses were built by her mother's family, the Thompsons. When she was six or seven, they moved up the Main Street to No.52, the house now called 'The Laurels', which is occupied by Mr Jack Shinn and his family.

No. 62 Main Street, late 19th century

That house had been lived in by Ben Dickinson, her father's uncle, and his wife Sarah. Uncle Ben was a joiner and taught George Tomlinson his trade. When he died George carried on in the workshop and Mrs Cullen remembers Sarah lived in the house for some time after her husband's death and became very old.

The house holds happy memories for Mrs Cullen and it is her pleasure that she has a direct view of it from her present home and states that it has little changed. She recalls the adjacent workshop (now demolished) where her father carried on his work as wheelwright, joiner and funeral director. He used to make a cart from scratch and she remembers the ring in the shop where the hoops were made for the wheels. The carts were put for painting across the way in the open ground by Wilkinsons' farm, Rectory Farm. He also painted and maintained the maypole and in the yard there were three broken pieces of it from when it fell, an event which was witnessed by a young Kathleen Toml1nson. The yard behind the house has a saw-pit which held all sorts of cast-offs but she doesn't remember her father using it for any specific purpose - though it is now boarded up. There was a wheel by the side for sharpening knives and she also remembers a well there.

Being the local joiner, her father was called out at all hours to Villagers who had died, as he made the coffins. She remembers that he was often knocked up in the middle of the night.

Mr Tomlinson was a keen churchman and always had a key to the church. He attended most church functions and was an enthusiastic member of the choir. His daughter's memory of the choir when she was a girl was that it mainly consisted of elderly men. She also remembers Mr Colman, the Rector, and his two daughters always referred to as Kiss Dolly and Miss Grace and, I gather, the two young ladies were held in some awe, by the youngsters at least.

Like Mrs Peaker , Mrs Cullen also remembers the school teachers and her recollections as a pupil was that Miss Antcliffe lived with a family in the Boyle and was 'very old'. Miss Grimshaw travelled daily by bicycle from either Manston or Cross Gates. After school and during the holidays she used to go down to her eldest sisters and the area round about. Her sister had married a farmer, Harry Grange, and they lived at Rakehill Farm. Being so much younger than her sister she often stayed at the farm and played at the bottom beck at the foot of the Boyle or at the Sugar Hills nearby and climbed adjoining hills. 'There was nothing else but green fields and I didn't know anything different.'

Next door to her home in Main Street and standing by her father's workshop, which she described as 'tumbling down when she was a child', was the equally decrepit thatched cottage which was taken over for odd days and short spells by the men in 'outlandish' clothes and which they christened 'Ye Attic Abode'. Mrs Cullen and her friends and, no doubt, her fellow villagers thought them very strange. She remembers the children used to peep in through the windows to see what they were up to and ran in and out when the door was open. The men were always very pleasant despite their strange ways and garb. Over the years they did many sketches of the village and its activities and also some portraits of the children. From her memory she believes these were done in what was called 'the Reading Room' which was in old buildings on the far side of the old school yard in Aberford Road (see the plan and article in 'The Barwicker' No.9) and which was pulled down long ago. Though she was twice sketched (see back cover), she has only a vague memory of it but a general recollection of the 'Attic Aboders' doing portraits.

Of course, Kathleen Tomlinson learned to dance at the maypole during her school years - 'one, two, three hop' she says. This was the step that had been used for many years and was described to me as 'The Barwick Step' by Mrs Baron, who had been Head of the Infants Department before she retired and had crowned the :Maypole Queen in 1972. This is not now danced. Over her many years of life she has seen the maypole lowered and raised on a great many occasions but her earliest memories are of watching it from the bedroom window in the Gascoigne Arms. This was run by her uncle and aunt, Mark and Margaret Helm, her mother's sister. Her sister, the younger of the two, worked there looking after the children and doing odd jobs. One of her abiding memories is the dinners held upstairs in the large lounge called 'The Lodge Room'. They were usually held by the Conservative Party with George Lane Fox as the main guest.

During her growing up days there are recollections of the Village entertainments of the day including concerts at the Institute, parties in the old building in the yard at the back of the butchers (where to reach the room upstairs you had to go up an outside ladder) and magic lantern shows at a penny and twopence a time in a building in the lane by Mr Tony Shinn's property. And, of course, she remembers the Reeds of Potterton Lane and the wagonette running to Leeds on Wednesdays and Saturdays. This, she believes, was replaced after the first world war by a bus which ran once a week from the Black Swan.

When she left school the young Kathleen Toml1nson was recruited by a Kiss Gallagher, who rented a cottage in Main Street near the Gascoigne Arms, to work at E J Arnolds in Leeds. Kiss Gallagher was manageress in a department in the firm and appeared to have been quite a formidable person to the many girls of the village she persuaded to work for the firm. Travelling to work necessitated a train from Scholes at 7.23 am and to get to the station in time, the young worker used to leave home at 7 o'clock, run along Elmwood Lane, down the Chequers and take the short cut along Workhouse Lane (now Rakehill Road) to the station. After alighting at Leeds there was a long walk to E J Arnolds which was on Hunslet Road. Returning, she had to run to catch the 6.15 pm from Leeds to Scholes, to arrive home at 7 0 'clock. All this was for five shillings a week, (four shillings and sixpence when she first started there).

During the war of 1914-18 she left Arnolds and along with just about all the workers of Barwick, apart from those serving in the forces or ancilliary services, she went to work on munitions at Barnbow. At that time she had to walk as did all the villagers who were employed there apart from those who could afford to cycle. The job she had was a checker involving sandbags, explosives and shells. As a young girl from a village she found a very mixed bunch of fellow workers and states that she learned more in a week than in her whole life! There was little joinery for her father in the shop any more and so he also became employed at Barnbow working as a joiner 'until he became too old'.

It was after the First World War that Kathleen met Victor Cullen. After demobilisation he had come from Shrewsbury to join his brother who lived at Leeds and had also been 'demobbed'. Both came to work at Barnbow which, at that time, was used to store returned war materials. They married and she left the much-loved family home at that time. After her father's death, her mother eventually sold the house.

The Cullens lived in a cottage in Potterton Lane and this has now been demolished. When the estate was built, Vic picked the house in Croftway for them to live as it had a large garden and he loved gardening. He carried on working at Barn bow and became Head Messenger there. There are two children, a son Eric, who farms at Scholes, and a daughter Barbara, who lives in Barwick. Sadly husband Vic died but Mrs Cullen still resides in the same house.

Between the wars there were difficult times for many and she recalls that people were poor, the men working at the pits at Garforth; of course, walking to work. The way of life altered and she is sure that places were pulled down for development that shouldn't have been.

The second world war seemed less eventful to Mrs Cullen than the first. Of course, she remembers the rationing and the black- out and the dances at the Institute, but 'one just got on with it'.

Her memories are long and include the characters often mentioned, particularly Sally Gratton and later 'Brickie Dick', also 'Stivvy' Kelly who, she remembers, had a bit of a beard and was shabby. She says she always kept well but remembers first Dr Griesbach and then Dr Knowles, who had a surgery at the blacksmith's shop and that 'old Mrs Poulter did midwifery'.

Life these days is still busy for the energetic Mrs Kathleen Cullen. As villagers know she still does her own shopping, cooks and bakes, keeps her house immaculate and has time to attend and enjoy any function that interests her. She is a regular church attender and is interested in what happens to places she knows well. I once met her taking a different route home from the John Rylie Centre, down Elmwood Lane, to see the house being built behind Lime Tree Farm as she was aware from her view across Jack Heap's Field that something was going on. Many people also remember seeing her small figure on the pavement at the corner of the Gascoigne Arms watching the maypole come down this year.

She is a pleasant and friendly lady to talk to, with a common- sense approach to life and a fund of interesting recollections to impart. As she says, 'Everything has changed', and I am sure that the Barwick world she was born into was, by and large, a simpler, poorer but perhaps happier place than the comparatively affluent community it is today.


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