"As the eldest child in a family of seven children, between the ages of seven and fourteen years, it fell to me to go out carol singing every evening, whatever the weather from the 15th, December until I attended Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve.
My carol singing round was clearly mapped as being in the area of the Pack Horse, Moorside, Liversedge where all the rich people lived in their big properties. By rich, I refer to those who owned their own houses that had inside lavatories instead of a shared outside privi, a fridge filled with food instead of a constantly empty larder space designed to hold a few jars of fish paste and two ounces of potted meat for sandwiches, and a ceramic bath that was mounted to the floor instead of a tin one that hung on a wall peg.
While I didn't have many clothes to wear, I soon discovered the art of 'dressing down' during my carol singing weeks, especially if one had a pair of trousers with patches sewn in them or a small hole in the seat of the pants. My mother told me that rich folk would always accept poor clothing, so long as both clothes and the child wearing them were cleanly washed and their wearer was respectfully spoken.
I always went carol singing on my own so that I didn't have to share the takings and could usually make a shilling a night for the first seven nights and two shillings for two hours singing on a good night during the last three days before Christmas Eve. All the money was given to my grateful mother to help buy last minute Christmas presents for our ever growing family.
It felt really good to be important enough to contribute to the household in this manner and I never once failed to hand every penny over. I was probably too frightened to hold out on my mother anyway, as it is a well established fact known by every Catholic child that ever lived, that 'telling one's mother a deliberate lie' is nothing short of a mortal sin. It is graver than lying to the parish priest in the confessional box and is punishable by eternal damnation and excommunication from the family home!'
On Christmas Eve, I could usually earn as much money carol singing between 7.00pm and 11.30pm as my poor father could earn down the pit in one week! (The national average wage was then just over £7pw, but a miner might earn £9). I often tell my brothers and sisters today that without my lungs and ability to sing sweetly in the cold snow, they wouldn't have had more than an orange and an apple in their stockings to look forward to on Christmas morning and would probably have had nothing else but potted meat and spam on their Christmas dinner plate instead of the fresh chicken from the market my mum would always buy on Christmas Eve and pluck by hand.
I remember the two second hand tricyles that my monies bought for my brothers Patrick and Peter. My brothers loved those tricycles so much that they were never off them and rode them until their wheels buckled. The sad truth is that even today, not one of my six brothers and sisters truly believes that it was I who was their 'Father Christmas', but me and mum knew!" William Forde: December 13th, 2013.