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Barwicker No. 99
Local Stalwarts 5
Hugh Hawkins

September 2010

A series describing how individuals in Barwick and Scholes reflect their own times through their life and work.

Hugh Hawkins was born on 17th November 1926, his family lived at Cross Flatts Terrace in Leeds. His father George and mother Ida Isobel established a safe and happy home, later adopting a little girl Jean to complete the family. Hugh had a happy childhood and considers that he was well brought up by his 'firm' but loving parents.

His father worked at Crabtree's making printing machines and he also travelled widely 'on the road' selling presses. His parents were devoted to each other and when his father was away from home, they corresponded daily. Young Hugh had the task of mailing a letter from his mother each morning as he went to school or work.

Hugh attended Burton House School before transferring to Cockburn High school at the age of 11. He was an average scholar, leaving school at the age of 14 in 1940 to take up a seven year printing apprenticeship as a lithographic printer at Waddington's.

This was a pivotal moment in Hugh's life because it satisfied his major ambition. Hugh came from a printing family; he says printing, like wooden legs, runs in the family and printing ink runs in his veins. His grandfather had been a foreman at the Electric Press in Leeds and during the Great War his father worked in an army printing unit after being transferred from the Army Medical Corps.

The Second World War impacted on Hugh's life and he took the opportunity to become a lithographic printer. The printing trade was highly regarded as an elite craft with well paid tradesmen represented by powerful trade unions. It was an excellent opportunity to learn a superior craft and the young Hugh took his chance.

Leeds was the national centre of the growing printing industry with firms like Crabtrees and George Mann making world famous machines for printers like Waddingtons and Alf Cooke. Hugh was fortunate in his training and he had some excellent experience. At Waddington's he worked with De la Rue the specialist banknote manufacturer of foreign bank notes, printing Chinese and Brazilian banknotes. He also printed food labels for Heinz soups and beans, as well as the pictorial cards for Waddington's world famous playing cards. Hugh was particularly interested in printing maps. At Waddington's he became friendly with Ted Aveyard, a press minder who encouraged and stimulated his interest in photography.

During the war the Armed Forces needed tremendous numbers and different varieties of maps and Hugh and his colleagues printed two main kinds. Special maps were printed on linen for airmen and a translucent vegetable based fabric was used on which to print maps of key towns in France and Germany; the maps could be swallowed if required.

Hugh led a very demanding life as he learned his craft and attended technical classes at night school on three nights every week. Later in life he became a part-time instructor and his career was to develop as he passed his City and Guilds Lithographic Certificate, First Class. At the time, Waddington's were short of skilled labour to use their advanced presses and Hugh advanced quickly as opportunities arose. He relaxed by going to watch Leeds United and other teams play football at Elland Road on Saturday afternoons.

In 1944, before he was 18, Hugh volunteered to join the army. He wanted to join the Royal Engineers Survey section, with a view to working in the Army map printing unit. After basic training near Carlisle he was posted to a camp in North Wales where he took a storeman's course and then a sixteen week's litho printing course at an old mansion in the locality. Hugh was then sent to Croydon where he was attached to an Ordnance Survey unit for a year; he was delighted to learn that his army printing work counted towards his apprenticeship.

On his arrival at Leeds railway station for his 14 days embarkation leave prior to being posted to Egypt, he was met by his father and he became aware that his dad spoke with a Yorkshire accent. Hugh has always been interested in dialects and accents and being out of Yorkshire had sharpened his ears.

He was posted to a camp near Cairo to print maps on Crabtree presses. At the time survey teams were surveying and mapping areas which had never been properly mapped before. The hot weather meant that they only printed at night time and soldiers often escaped the heat when off duty by going to Fayid on the spectacular Great Bitter Lake to cool off. There in the buoyant salty waters, Hugh was taught to swim by Sergeant Major Bob Cresswell, as they were watched over by ocean going ships waiting to steam up or down the Suez Canal,

Towards the end of the war Hugh was posted back to Croydon and he was there on YE Day. The celebrations were a bit of a damp squib for him because although he travelled to London he could not get into Trafalgar Square to enjoy them because of the immense crowds, so he caught a train back to camp.

Hugh enjoyed his army career and could have stayed in the service as a trainer, but he was demobilised and went back to Waddingtons. He was restless though and changed jobs; he went to work for Manders Brothers in Wolverhampton who made printing inks. He joined the unit testing synthetic resins which had replaced linseed oil in making the inks and travelled the country visiting printing firms helping them to use and blend the inks properly. Like his father he enjoyed travelling, particularly to Scotland.

He lived in lodgings in Wolverhampton and continued his interest in football often going to watch the Wanderers play at Molineux from the 'Cowshed' stand. He saw some of the famous Russian and Hungarian teams of the time. When his adopted team played Leeds United he says he did not know who to cheer for! He also followed the career of John Charles who became Player Manager of Hereford Town.

In summer he often went to watch county cricket matches at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge. There he made friends with the lady who printed and sold the score cards and programmes; sometimes he would drive up to see her in his Standard 9 car and they would drive to Chatsworth.

Hugh's parents moved to Barwick to live in a new bungalow in Gascoigne View, unfortunately Mr Hawkins died a year later. Hugh's mother's health deteriorated quickly and Hugh selflessly felt he ought to come home to look after her. Thus at the age of 54, in 1981 he retired; he took his watch and pension, packed all his possessions into his Morris Minor and came to Barwick. He was glad to do so and was able to ensure that his mother's remaining ten years were safe and happy.

Hugh immediately fell in love with Barwick and its people; he enjoys the friendly nature of the villagers and their customs. He met and became friendly with Bart Hammond when he was sketching the maypole one day. Bart was a commercial artist who had a small shop in York. Hugh also came across other people with a shared interest in local history and culture and the result was that he, Bart, Jane Deacon and Sadie Healey formed the Barwick Local History Society. They decided to start The Barwicker and Arthur Bantoft who joined the group over a year later, volunteered to be the editor. Hugh typed the articles and took responsibility for presentation, photography, production and distribution. The rest as they say is history.

Hugh enjoys visiting one of the three village public houses some lunch times and he is a well known patron of local shops. He joined the Horticultural Society and is a member of the local Probus branch and the Methodist Luncheon Club. He is an intrepid traveller on train and bus services and regularly travels long distances visiting Yorkshire towns and cities. He loves Ripon Cathedral and because of his interest in Lewis Carroll he enjoys seeing the carvings of his characters in the choir stalls.

Hugh is popular and very well regarded by his neighbours and friends; he is most independent and self-sufficient after living on his own as a bachelor. When he was seriously ill a few years ago he was extremely grateful to his godson David Blakeley and his wife Veronica for helping him to recover and for re-decorating his bungalow.

Hugh is very modest, quiet, calm, utterly dependable, good humoured, dignified, and unassuming and he retains his craftsman eye for the many errors made by scribblers who write for and edit 'The Barwicker!'

He has all the virtues representative of a Local Stalwart. In fact Hugh may lay claim to being known as 'The Stalwart's Stalwart.'


Hugh working a Crabtree two colour printing press

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