Bill Alderson, Full Transcript

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W.R. Mitchell and Bill Alderson of Angram, Swaledale, looking at photographs and discussing Tan Hill and Susan Peacock (the landlady), her family and funeral. Bill Alderson describes how Susan looked, dressed and spoke. Brief mentions of Harry Hopeful/Wilfred Pickle show, customers at the pub and betting on trotting horses.


[Start of interview - 00:23:51]

WRM: Now, this was Harry Hopeful was it?

BA: Yes, I think that’s Harry Hopeful. I wouldn’t know where it was just taken, but I think it was probably at Leeds.

WRM: You didn’t usually get Susan dressed up like that, did you?

BA: No-o, she always had t’apron on, working. I never seen ‘er but she was allus workin’.

WRM: It says there’s Susan Peacock, Tom Hill and Harry Hopeful, so that would be up at Tan Hill would it?

BA: Up at Tan Hill, I think.

WRM: Oh no, it isn’t Tom Hill, it’s Tan Hill.

BA: Tan Hill.

WRM: That’s right, Wilfred Pickles and Susan Peacock, Tan Hill, and Harry Hopeful. And that sitting down with a little child is Edna Parrington, and she was the daughter of the first marriage was she?

BA: Yes.

WRM: How many children were there?

BA: There was three.

WRM: What were they called?

BA: Edna, Olive and Maggie.

WRM: Ah, yes, and what happened to them?

BA: One married into Wensleydale, a Thompson from Skell Gill. And the other married somebody down at Oxford.

WRM: Oxford?  And what happened to Edna?

BA: Edna, she came back to live with her father-in-law and went to live with her Mother and Michael at Low Road there, and she died there two years since. Two years back.

WRM: And who was the little child there?

BA: Oh no, it’s somebody else’s. Because she was never married.

WRM: And this old building was the old what…?

BA: Well, I don’t know what it used to be at Tan Hill, but I can tell o’ one that had been lived in, an’ a fella called Hanley Bill lived there.

WRM: Handler?

BA: Aye.

WRM: Handler Bill.

BA: It would be ‘Hanley’ Bill. Oh aye, he couldna read nor write.

WRM: Oh, heck!

BA: Mebbe Tan Hill Joe lived in’t.

WRM: Tan Hill Joe, what did he do?

BA: He worked at t’pit.

WRM: Oh yes?

BA: An’ I used to work at t’pit.

WRM: And this place has been demolished?

BA: An’ Susan used to write… he started courtin’ wi’ an ol’ woman fra Reeth.

WRM: Who started courtin’?

BA: This Tan Hill Joe.

WRM: Tan Hill Joe, oh yes...

BA: However, he couldna read nor write, and he used to go to Susan and ask ‘er to write a love letter for ‘im. An’ Susan would write, an’ time o’ t’finish she’d say, ‘Is there owt else tha wants to put, Joe?’ ‘Ah, well,’ he says, ‘just put a few o’ them theear crosses.’ [Laughs] Aye. But the most interesting was when th’reply came back, an’ he couldn’t read it and she ‘ad it to read.

WRM: Was it successful?

BA: Oh, aye, yes.

WRM: Did they get married?

BA: Yes, they got wed.

WRM: [Looking at photograph] Is that snow or lime?

BA: Oh no, that’s snow. Aye, that was...

WRM: …‘36.

BA: Aye, it would be. Aye, our Dad’s ‘as ‘ad winders covered over a few times blown right up, aye. Aye, there was...

WRM: And that’s Edna and her bike?

BA: That’s Edna. She used to go down on her bike many-a-time.

WRM: Did she?

BA: Aye, she did. Yes, oh, she liked walking but she could ride a bike. She got a bit of practice with going up and down there. And the road was rough. It wasn’t tarred.

WRM: No, when was it tarred?

BA: Oh, not long since but it isn’t all, right up from moor bottom, ah can tell on it bein’ tarred but it isn’t.

WRM: That’s Susan and Michael, is it? Michael was a road man, was he?

BA: Michael worked at t’pit. He got coals out from t’pit.

WRM: At t’back o’ the house?

BA: Back o’ t’house. An’ then he kept road in repair right down to Arkengarthdale, to Cocker Top and Godstones out and Brokeham and [unclear 00:28:35] Road, oh aye.

WRM: When did he die?

BA: Err...

WRM: Not to worry. He carried on after Susan, didn’t he?

BA: Oh yes, he carried on a bit, and then Edna was there.

WRM: They used to have a harmonium up there didn’t they, according to Laurie Rukin?

BA: Oh yes; oh by gum, aye.

WRM: And it wasn’t always hymns, was it?

BA: Pardon?

WRM: It wasn’t always hymns they played?

BA: No-o. [Laughs]

WRM: Sacred and profane; yeah.

BA: Oh, by gum, aye.

WRM: Do you remember when t’sheep went in at Tan Hill? Didn’t somebody put a ram in at one time as a joke?

BA: Aye, well, mebbe just to go round; but there were a lot of things went on there, by gum aye. Aye, she used to mek teas too in that li’l room an’ all. She allus used to bake stuff. Aye, it was alright. But they always had some hens.

WRM: Did they?

BA: Aye.

WRM: They didn’t get blown away?! [Laughs]

BA: No, she kept ‘em laying. [Laughs] Aye, she could look after hens. She found out a bit about hens, an’ chickens an’ all. I had a few hens and chickens now and again, ‘cos there used to be a song: All the little hens and chickens in the garden’. Aye, it was Billy who used to sing that many-a-time, at Tan Hill.

WRM: Where did she come from, Susan? Was she a local lass?

BA: I think she came down from about Starbottom, and she ‘ad some relatives down there.

WRM: In Wharfedale?

BA: Aye, an’ in Coverdale she used to live once. She was a servant, I think. But there was somebody at t’funeral came from, not Starbottom, what’s that below? Kettlewell, aye, that’s it.

WRM: And who was Parrington? What was his job?

BA: Parrington was her first husband when she lived at Kettlewell. Aye, she had t’pub with Dickie. Aye, ‘e ‘ad one of the fastest trotting horses there was. An’ they trotted it on Leeming Lane for £100 a side. An’ ‘e was a horse… I forget what they called t’other but he was from t’Peak District, and Dickie ‘ad this, and a man from Wensleydale, Little Sunter, rode it on Leeming Lane.

WRM: Where’s Leeming Lane?

BA: Leeming Lane, it runs on from Catterick, reet on there to Leeming Bar.

WRM: Oh, yes.

BA: And they had this... They were trotting for I think £50 a side, but anyway they were fined for trotting on the highway; they were fined about £100 for trotting on the highway.

WRM: Who won?

BA: Dickie.

WRM: Did he?

BA: Aye, Dickie won. ‘Lady Derby’ they called it.

WRM: His horse?

BA: Aye. Lady Derby. I wonder where’s photograph?

WRM: So he was Dickie Parrington?

BA: Aye.

WRM: He was a Swaledale man, was he?

BA: Yes, oh aye. Oh by gum I’ve ’eard ’em say, ‘That Parrington, by gum; that horse of Parrington’s she could trot.’ Lady Derby, aye. They were from just t’pit country was this t’other. I know there was a lot of money on.

WRM: Yeah.

BA: But anyway; an’ Little Sunter hadn’t any money, he was jus’ ridin’ on it, an’ he borrowed a pound to put on it. [Laughs] It won.

WRM: What was Mr Parrington like, was he a nice chap?

BA: Oh aye; of course I didn’t ken much on ‘im.

WRM: And he died did he?

BA: Aye, it were just when they got to Tan Hill.

WRM: Was it?

BA: Aye. ’e ’adn’t been at Tan Hill long before he popped his clogs, and she was left wi’ ’erself.

WRM: And three kids?

BA: Aye.

WRM: Did she have any children to Michael?

BA: No. No. Ee by gum.

WRM: And what was she like, was she a busy little lady? You know, always rushing about?

BA: Susan? Oh, she was freetened o’ nay body, because I’ll tell ‘ee what she ‘ad, she ‘ad t’revolver allus loaded.

WRM: Had she?

BA: An’ I’ll tell ye what, she’s turned people out wi’ t’revolver. There was a knockabout called Brocklebank from Kirkby used to go, he was a knockabout man an’ he used to call there from Kirkby Stephen an’ he would get a bit unruly. Once went in an’ demandin’ something from Susan, I forget what it was, something to eat and demandin’ and wantin’ to stop. However, Susan turned ‘im out wi’ t’pointed revolver. However, he went out but he pinched one of her hens, an’ he ‘ploated’ it from Tan Hill down to t’pit.

WRM: What did he do with it?

BA: He ‘ploated’ it on t’roadway down, like pluckin’ it.

WRM: Oh, yes.

BA: Feathers off, an’ feathers was on t’road all the way down.

WRM: Was it still alive?

BA: No, ‘e’d killed it, ‘e’d wring t’neck. An’ he ploated it, an’ then he went down to t’pit, at li’l pit, you know where at Tan Hill…?

WRM: Yes.

BA: An’ they allus left a good fire there, an’ he borrered an’ ol’ tin and then ‘ad it there, ate it. Aye, that was ol’ Brocklebank.

WRM: What was his first name?

BA: I don’t know.

WRM: Where did he live?

BA: Brocklebank?

WRM: Yeah.

BA: Oh, he was a knockabout, he would sleep outside rough.

WRM: Oh, would he, yes.

BA: But ‘e ‘ad a brother at Kirkby Stephen who was a builder.

WRM: There wouldn’t be many hikers in those old days, would there?

BA: Oh, there was a few.

WRM: Were there?

BA: There was a few, because I’ve ‘eard ‘em tell. Not a lot; no, not a lot. But there was one, when owd Hanley Bill used to go in the nex’ village they’d be in t’cottage, and Hanley Bill...

WRM: How do you spell ‘Hanley’?

BA: H-A-N-D-L-E-Y, I should think.

WRM: Oh, yes.

BA: Hanley Bill was in, an’ there was a man, a visitor stoppin’, an’ he was recitin’, an’ he was doin’ some like makin’ manoeuvres, like actions. Doin’ some actions when he was recitin’. A very clever man, good at his job. An’ owd Hanley Bill jumped up an’ he says, ‘Turn t’bugger out, turn t’bugger out.’ He says, ‘It’s not reet.’ Aye. [Laughs]

WRM: Amazing.

BA: Aye, oh aye.

WRM: Did she wear clogs, Susan?

BA: Allus wore clogs did Susan, by gum aye.

WRM: And home-made dresses and things?

BA: Aye. Always had a brooch in ‘ere.

WRM: A brooch?

BA: Aye. She was alreet if she took t’yer. I was terrible pally wiv ‘er. Oh, I was there one night when it terrible wild, when it blew t’chimney off, an’ it rained in and rained in, an’ I went upstairs... well, I set off to my dance an’ I couldn’t get on to Stainmore an’ it came on wild... oh. Michael came round on his ‘ands and knees for us, he couldn’t stand. An’ I had a man with me, a pillion rider, an’ he got off behind me an’ it rolled him right away in t’moor. Skinned all ‘is face and ‘is arm. ‘e was like a big, tall, lanky lad. Aye, he used to be seven down from there, jus’ next door to me.

WRM: You went over there on a motor bike, did you?

BA: Aye, on a motorbike. Never got to t’dance that night it was that wild.

WRM: What was it, rain or snow?

BA: Rain and wind.

WRM: It blew the chimney pot off, did it?

BA: Aye, it blew t’chimney pot off an’ she was frightened. She took some frightening but that frightened her, an’ it was blowin’ in through them winders, they should ‘ave ‘ad what’s is name: ‘Everest now, the best!’

WRM: She didn’t get snowed up in bed, did she?

BA: No. [Laughs] No, I was once.

WRM: Yes, I know. [Laughs] By the way, I was at a dance the other night and there was Tom and Ida there. Alderson.

BA: Were there? How’re they goin’ on?

WRM: I’ll tell them tonight I’ve seen you.

BA: Aye.

WRM: What was Susan’s funeral like?

BA: Oh, there was people from all over. I think it was like the mostest funeral there’s ever been. Oh, aye.

WRM: Was it at the Church Hall?

BA: Aye, it was.

WRM: How did they get the coffin down?

BA: Bagshaw; he was the undertaker from Low Road.

WRM: Bagshaw? Did he have a horse?

BA: No, I think ‘e would ‘ave a motor.

WRM: A motor hearse?

BA: Aye. By gum.

WRM: It would be a wonderful sight seeing it come down off t’moor, wouldn’t it, with all the people behind?

BA: Oh, I’ll tell yer what there was just about the mostest that ever had been to a funeral; there was that.

WRM: What did she die of, just old age?

BA: Aye.

WRM: Because she was only sixty-one, wasn’t she?

BA: I forget what her ailment was, but I think she didn’t lig long like, she went fairly sharp at t’finish. But she worked hard, and by she could, anybody she didn’t like, oh, she could tell ‘em off.

WRM: This chappie I met, this cyclist, he said that he were there and a woman had some fruit cake and a bit of tea and she said, ‘Could I have the recipe?’ And she said, ‘No,’ and when this woman had gone out he said, ‘Why didn’t you give her t’recipe?’ and she said ‘Because she wouldn’t know how to bake anyway.’

BA: Yeah.

WRM: She said, ‘I bet she’s never baked in her life’ or something.

BA: [Laughs]

WRM: And he said, this cyclist said, that after Susan had died he realised an old ambition and he spent the night at Tan Hill in an old bed. And when he got up in the morning there was no sign of Edna Parrington, and when he went outside she was coming back with a yoke and a couple of buckets, and they were getting water from a spring!

BA: Oh, aye, they had to go down there in winter many-a-time an’ dig it out. Oh, by gum, aye.

WRM: What was the coal like they were getting out from behind the…?

BA: Well, some was not so bad, but they allus had a good fire.

WRM: It was small, was it, small coal?

BA: A bit small, some of it, but they used to pick it for thisselves. Aye, some o’ t’winter they used to supply blacksmith’s shops for t’pump an’ bellows.

WRM: Well, did he used to leave the stuff out and heap it up outside and people came and got it?

BA: Oh aye, yes. He’d come and calculate a load. Oh, he didn’t weigh it, there was no need to. He could guess what a cartload was. Aye.

WRM: He didn’t weight it at all?

BA: No. But it wasn’t bad coal. We used to always gang now an’ again for a cartload of that. It ‘elped t’other coal to take.

WRM: What was it like when Susan was in the bar at nights? I mean, did she say much?

BA: Oh aye, she come an’ sat wi’ us, yer see, theear was neya bar. It was down in a bit of a cellar, jus’ through in a room.

WRM: There wasn’t a bar?

BA: No, yer could see the barrels when yer went down.

WRM: So you didn’t sit at a bar at all when you went for a drink?

BA: No, she come an’ sat wi’ yer an’ talked, an’ had a bit o’ craic with yer. That’s [unclear 00:42:30], there were a couple o’ us fightin’, he was relation to Dickie. Aye. His father was a cobbler. [Unclear 00:42:44] He was Dickie’s brother. Aye.

WRM: Oh, she was a wonderful woman, wasn’t she? Why is it that she was remembered like that? I mean, she was just an indomitable character was she?

BA: Oh, she was a character. If she took that way, if she didn’t like anybody, she could tell ‘em off and tell ‘em off in a nice manner.

WRM: How did they get the beer up there in her day? Was it horse drawn dray?

BA: Oh, horse drawn. I think they would get a lot on fra Kirkby Stephen, and then at the finish they got it, some, from Appleby.

WRM: And how did they get it up? Was it horse and cart?

BA: Aye, it’d be horse an’ cart.

WRM: She’d get snowed up many-a-time in winter, would she?

BA: I’ve heard ‘em say, I think it was one year there wasn’t a customer for thirteen week.

WRM: Thirteen weeks? Good heavens.

BA: Aye, thirteen week. And I’ve heard it said that in 1895, that somebody went fer peat on that moor in t’middle o’ June and frost were still in t’ground.

WRM: What, in the middle of June?

BA: Aye.

WRM: And what year was that?

BA: 1895. Aye, that was a hard winter.

WRM: And they went to peat in the middle of June...

BA: ...and frost was still in t’ground.

WRM: Good Lord. Did they burn peat on the fires round here?

BA: Oh, nearly every farm up t’dale went to peat on t’Mirk Fell.

WRM: And did they have grouse and chips? [Laughs]

BA: By gum, ah used to like goin’ onto Mirk Fell, right on t’top an’ you could see what everybody else was doin’. An’ you could see all, theear’s so-and-so paintin’, there’s Stonehouse paintin’ there, they’re on the Black Moor, they’re on up Stonesdale, up at Tan Moss or…

WRM: There were red grouse a hundred yards from the house today. I suppose that one or two grouse found their way into the kitchen did they at times? Whose moors are those? Are they Lord Peel’s?

BA: Aye, they’ll belong Lord Peel. I would say there were bits of odd grouse. Aye, everybody liked grouse. There wasn’t any Grouse whisky in them days. [Laughs] I think that’s another bright today, isn’t it? Aye.

WRM: This chap, by the way, this cyclist told me that he went up there and he and his pal had been up on a tandem and they went in and old Michael was there, Susan had died. And he said, ‘Can I have a drink?’ And he said, ‘Aye.’ And he said, ‘What if the Police come in?’ He said, ‘Well he’ll be comin’ up on his bike an’ he’ll need one as well.’

BA: [Laughs] Aye, I’ve ‘eard Michael say that I’ve ‘eard owd, what d’you call ‘er, Susan saying she ‘ad [unclear 00:45:58 – Jan Stooker?]. It was Gretna Green, how they come under Gretna Green Police Station, she didn’t come under Richmond; an’ Police took her. An’ when they got there the Chairman o’ t’Magistrates said to her, ‘Did you serve this gentleman after hours?’ An’ she says, ‘Yes, sir.’ An’ he said, ‘Well, you did perfectly right.’ An’ she says, ‘They never took my name off me.’

WRM: What sort of a voice had she got?

BA: Oh, not a bad voice, she could mek ‘erself heard. Yes, she could mek ‘erself heard. An’ of a Saturday mornin’, you wanted to keep away on a Saturday because that was cleanin’ up day. Aye, scourin’ round by t’fireside and this fancy scrubbin’ stone, donkey stone, all round theear, and black-leaded on t’bars.

WRM: Did she do it herself?

BA: Aye, she was on ‘er knees. Oh aye, and wi’ fire on like an’ she was as red as rud, aye! [Laughs] Oh aye, an’ scrubbin’ an’ cleanin’, an’ she ‘ad this shiny ol’ fender. By gum you could ‘ave shaved yourself through t’fender, it were bright as a bobbin. By gum, aye. Aye, she could put a shine on t’fender, she could that. An’ she could put a shine on ‘er face when she took that way, or she could put a scowl, aye she could. By gum, she could tell folk off.

WRM: These goats, did they come into the place now and again?

BA: Not much into the house although they would jus’ come in, but no, not much. But they allus ‘ad a goat. Aye, but it was outside.

WRM: They wouldn’t keep a pig up there, would they?

BA: No, I never seen ‘em wi’ un, unless it was one year, but they allus got half a pig. They’d allus get a pig.

WRM: And they didn’t have a cellar, did they, for the beer?

BA: No, not really. It was cowd enough anyway up theear. The cellar went jus’ down a bit two or three steps an’ you could see into it.

WRM: Now they have a place at the back, I think.

BA: Aye. Oh, ah used to like goin’. She were a good cook, like. You could have a good craic wi’ ‘er, an’ she always ‘ad somebody theear and she could tell yer summat, what they said and wheear they were goin’.

WRM: What was she talking about when she went to Leeds on this broadcast?

BA: Eh, I forget.

WRM: It would be quite an adventure. Oh, but that was up at Tan Hill though, wasn’t it?

BA: Yes, I think there was a cuttin’. I’ve not seen it, but it was about when she was at Tan Hill. Oh, there used… long asen before she went it was Jan Slewer’s you know, was Tan Hill. There was cock fightin’ at Tan Hill once.

WRM: When was that?

BA: Oh, a long while since.

WRM: Aye, it’d be grand in summer but...

BA: But Dickie was a big horse-trottin’ man. Her first ‘usband. Oh, ‘e was a great ‘orseman, ‘e was that; ‘e were known all o’er. Them were the sort of days we used to… like we’d use it daily, together with some action.

WRM: Ee, wonderful, thanks very much. I’ll just copy these down, how about your dinner? It’ll be going cold won’t it?

[End of interview - 00:50:52]