My spiritual home
When I was born my dad was a railway signalman at the station in Hebden Bridge. He had come out of the Army and my mum had come out of the Womens Air Force when they married. They lived at 1, Buttress, right opposite the Hebden Bridge at the bottom of the cobbled snicket that leads to Heptonstall. It was demolished many years ago. By all accounts it was a poor building with no hot water and outside toilets shared by a few houses. I found a very old picture of it on the Hebden Bridge website once.
About a year after I was born my dad rejoined the army, I think because of the lack of jobs and opportunities, and we spent about 11 years travelling around this country and abroad. My sister was born in Plymouth, Devon and my brother was born in Tripoli, North Africa. We also lived for four years in Germany.
When we returned to live in Hebden Bridge in 1966, I attended Riverside Junior school for a short time before going to Calder High School. Unfortunately, because we spoke differently, I was bullied and called a Nazi by some of the ignorant children there because we had lived in Germany. I enjoyed some of the time at Calder High, particularly English lessons with Dennis Buckley (who I think went to school with my mother.) I was in the school play once with Norman Edmondson, my only claim to fame!
We stayed with my grandmother who lived at Charlestown in a little two up two down with an outside toilet. She worked for a few years at Cape asbestos and died of mesothelioma, the first woman to be diagnosed and compensated for it.
We lived in and around Hebden Bridge and Mytholmroyd until my father joined the prison service and was sent to the Isle of Wight in 1971. When I look back now it is with fondness but at the time it seemed like nothing ever happened there, it seemed like the back of beyond. My father had difficulty obtaining work when he left the army, I remember he worked as a night caretaker for Moderna blanket mill for a time.
My happiest memories are of bonfire nights on the rec and going to the picture house. I remember seeing the Troggs there too, they were very loud!
Although I only lived there for about five years, my formative teenage years, I still feel it is my spiritual home. I love to visit and wander through the streets, along the canal bank and across the bridges. Of course it has changed an awful lot over the years, the blanket mills have all gone and its main industry is tourism since it became the Penine centre. But it appeals to the old hippie in me. As a child of the sixties I enjoyed wearing a flower in my hair and all the love beads. I love all the ‘green’ and alternative shops there now.
Gill Smith, aging hippie from the Isle of Wight