"Today is the first day of spring. It would have been my dad's birthday. He was a relatively uneducated man who left school before he'd reached his teens in order to start work. For most of his childhood, he lived in abject poverty in County Kilkenny, but he still rose to play soccer for his county and then prgressed to the Irish National squad. When he came to England he set up house for his family and went down the pits to work. I recall him once putting the welfare of his family first and being the only man to cross the miner's picket line, and yet despite this, he stayed in the pits for another five years and became a well respected man who feared neither man nor boss.
I still recall those Sunday family outings that me and my two older sisters, Mary and Eileen enjoyed in our youth. Every Sunday morning we would walk one and a half miles from Windbank Estate down the New Road to Cleckheaton Church with dad. My mother would set off five minutes before the service and freewheel all the way down hill; usually arriving a few minutes late. After church, it would be my task to push the bicyle up hill all the way home.
When we got back from the church service, my mother would make up some sandwiches from whatever we had left in the pantry (no fridges in the common English household in those years of the 1950's). Then off we would go with each sibling holding onto the next one in line while my parents made sweet talk at the rear and no doubt thought about the next newcomer to our household. I was eventually to finish up the eldest of seven children.
After walking a nice three and a half miles across the fields to Brighouse Park, we would usually arrive too late to get a bandstand seat for the open-air brass-band concert that played there between 2.00pm and 4.00pm every Sunday.
It would be around 6.00pm when we arrived home, tired out from running around, playing on the swings and the ten-mile Sunday walking. After tea, it would be bath and early night, ready for school tomorrow. Dad, who was always up and out to work in the pit by 5.30am daily would also be in bed by 10.00pm while my mother would get all the school clothes and packed lunches ready for her husband and the children's next day, put out their clothes, iron a few shirts and even darn any socks that required repair. I recall that bread and jam was the usual snack that most miners found in their snap boxes for their mid-day meal.
My dad once told me that one of his comrades whose wife they thought made him up bread and jam sandwiches every day of the year would eat them in secret and pretend to relish them. His comrades suspected what was between his slices of bread apart from what he told them, but despite him deceiving them day in and day out, none could know for sure. One day he'd open his box and say loudly 'Smashing! My lass has given me a lovely bit of cheese and ham today. God only knows where she got that ham on ration.' Another day it might be corn beef and Branson Pickle. One day this particular romancer had a serious accident at work and when he was in the ambulance all he could say was, 'Get my snap box! Get my snap box!' His comrade complied with his wishes, retrieved his snap box and looked inside before he handed it back to the injured owner. Between the slices of bread wasn't butter and jam, but the more common fare of bread and dripping. They never let on they knew what he was daily eating and he simply carried on romancing the stone whilever he remained a miner.
When I consider how hard a life my parents had in relation to the lives we live today, I'm not amazed that so many parents of their time died so early on in their lives. Often when I hear someone talk about their hardships today, I simply think, 'You don't know you're born mate! You don't understand the true meaning of hardship! My mum and dad could have told you about real hardship, as could any parent who learned to live and make do during the 1940s and 50s!'
From all the books I've ever written, the one I enjoyed writing the most was 'Tales from the Allotment'. The story tells of the closure of the town pit and the worker's enforced redundancy. When they can no longer stand their daily idleness, the ex-miners start putting their efforts and miner's ways into the allotments. When this book was first produced, it was read by the tv presenter Michael Parkinson in a Barnsley school. It is avilable in e-book format from www.smashwords.com or in hard copy from www.amazon and www.lulu.com. As with the sales of all my books, all profit goes to charity to join the two hundred thousand pounds (£2,00,0000) my books have already made for charity. Enjoy. https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/387105
I love you dad xxx" William Forde: March 21st, 2015.