Thursday, 12 April 2018

Take a seat: courtesy of Friends of Silsden's Green Places

Above: in another valuable addition to community pleasures, the Friends of Silsden's Green Places have replaced two old and dilapidated seats in Hainsworth Road, better known as Gasworks Lane. Paul, from Cobbydale Park, particularly welcomes the new seat as it's a convenient stopping place on his daily convalescing walks from home to the Brunthwaite canal bridge and back. Also taking a breather are Sarah Morton and sons Noah and Seth, who were engaged in a Silsden Rocks hunt. Sarah and her husband James own Hills Bakery. 

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Silsden's young cross-country star shines for England

Above: Silsden runner Sam Smith capped an outstanding season by earning a place in the English Schools Cross Country team and taking part in the Home Countries Championships at Wollaton Park in Nottingham last month. Sam, who attends South Craven School and runs for Wharfedale Harriers, finished fifth out of the 32 elite junior runners representing England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. His performance helped England win the team event. Sam, who is only just 14, was selected for England after coming fourth in the English Schools Cross Country Championships at Temple Newsam in Leeds. 
Above: Sam is pictured with his dad, Michael, mum Louise and sister Mollie, who is also a Wharfedale Harrier. Louise, who used to run for Bingley Harriers, is Sam's coach and has overseen his meteoric rise -- from 158th in last year's English championships to fourth this time. With the cross-country season over, Sam is turning his attention to the track and chasing 1500 metres glory. Meanwhile, he will run for Yorkshire in the London Mini Marathon on April 22nd. Michael is a well-known local farmer, supported by the family at busy times like spring with 100 ewes to lamb.  

Monday, 9 April 2018

Trustees hold key to Town Hall's future as a community asset

Sign of the times: Silsden Town Hall, which opened in 1884, is officially a new-style community asset run by seven trustees on behalf of the town. They take over from Bradford council, which is offloading public facilities to cut costs as part of government-imposed austerity measures. 
The Magnificent Seven: these public-spirited volunteers came forward to manage the Town Hall. From left to right are Simon Holland (secretary), David Jessup (operations manager), Pat Colling, John Peet (treasurer), Ray Colling (chairperson), Graham Arrowsmith and Paul Kilgallon. The leasing arrangements are being finalised. As well as a major venue for a wide range of events, the Town Hall is home to nearly a dozen organisations, from winter bowls to zumba, who meet there regularly.

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Purcells pay homage to famous forebears
Descendants from Ireland have been in Silsden to retrace the footsteps of the town's most celebrated doctor. Dr. John Purcell arrived here in 1880, from the village of Feakle in County Clare, to join a small surgery in St. John Street, and very soon established himself as a larger than life character who introduced team sports into the community. He served the town for over 40 years, visiting his patients on horseback and never losing his thick Irish brogue. The Purcell family still live at Feakle and, on the right of my picture, is 95 year old Denis (Dun) Purcell, great nephew of Dr. John, who has never before left his native village. Next to him is his own son, also Denis, who runs the family farm at Feakle, and his grandson Matthew, aged 15. On the far left is Dr Purcell's great grandson Clive Greenwood; third from left is Clive's sister Sarah Richards and between them is Jacci Higgitt (nee Purcell), granddaughter of Dr Mattie Purcell, who older Silsdeners still fondly remember.
Above: Family members pictured at Flesher's Cottage - where Dr. John's medical life began in Silsden - alongside Barry Thomas (right), president of Silsden AFC, who is researching the life and times of this renowned doctor. It was Barry's enquiries which led the way for the Purcell family visit.
Above: farmer Mr Matthew Purcell of Feakle (1819-1891), father of Dr John Purcell.  

Above: Dr John Purcell, who remained in Silsden until his death in 1927, married a local girl, produced one son and five daughters, and moved his home and surgery to what is now Carmel House, Wesley Place.
Above: Dr John's daughter Hannah (later Mrs. Greenwood) takes a ride on her father's thoroughbred horse, which was almost certainly brought over to Silsden from Feakle.
Dr John Purcell is pictured third from left in the middle row of this Silsden team of handball players in the late 1800s, after introducing the game of handball to Silsden and the surrounding villages. In 1883, Dr. John also launched a local football team, which used the handling code (more similar to today's sport of rugby).
Dr Purcell, wearing a bowler hat (second row from back), is pictured with Silsden FC after 1904 when the town adopted Association football rules and elected him as president. The team colours were blue and white, the same as those of the defunct rugby union club. The doctor also played cricket and bowls. This photograph is from the late Neil Cathey's collection.
When Dr. John died in 1927, he was succeeded as local GP by his nephew Matthew "Mattie" Purcell, who also hailed from County Clare, Ireland. He continued the family's sporting interests and is pictured here, soon after his arrival in the town and looking dapper in a bow-tie, with members of Silsden Rugby League Club founded in 1920.


Dr Mattie Purcell, like his uncle, was a Silsden GP for some 40 years, with a practice just off Skipton Road. He died in August 1969, having given up his practice two years earlier. His granddaughter Jacci Higgitt (daughter of Mattie's only son Michael) met her Irish relatives for the first time at the gathering organised by Barry Thomas. She attended Hothfield and South Craven schools.   

Sunday, 4 February 2018

Slices of Silsden's civic life in the 60s and 70s

1965: two of the Pickles brothers, Andrew (10) and Freddie (8), present a cheque for £1,000 to consultant physician Mr Fountain of the Leukaemia Research Fund. The boys' brother, nine-year-old Christopher, had died of leukaemia. As a result, the chairman of Silsden Urban District Council, Sister Catherine Herbert, pictured second from left, was moved to choose the Research Fund for her civic appeal during her year in office. The target of £500 was handsomely exceeded. Andrew and Freddie had contributed to the appeal by selling dishcloths they had made. The family lived in Dene Grove.
About 1960: Mr and Mrs Laurie Driver (right foreground) are pictured opening a sale of work by the Women's Section of the British Legion. A lot of work obviously had gone into home-brewing, which was a popular activity in local households, making use of fruits and berries grown on allotments and in hedgerows. Manufacturing under the trade name Meddocream, Laurie Driver's ice-cream factory in Hainsworth Road and warehouse in St John Street, were widely known as were the firm's milk bars in Kirkgate (where the Chinese takeaway shop is now) and Keighley. Councillor J. J. Barker, the chairman of Silsden Urban District Council, is pictured on the right with Mrs Barker opposite him. 

1970/71: VIPs at Silsden Conservative Association's annual dinner at the Town Hall. The guest speaker was Yorkshire Television presenter and journalist Austin Mitchell (third from left), who went on to become Labour MP for Grimsby from 1977 until 2015. On the left is Keighley Tory MP Joan Hall. Next to her is Conservative Club president Jim Kirk, who was managing director of textile manufacturers Herbert Green and Green and Kirk. Mrs Edith Kirk is fourth from left and next to her are Councillor William Cathey, chairman of Silsden Urban District Council, and Mrs Mary Cathey. All three photographs in this series are from the late Neil Cathey's collection.

Sunday, 21 January 2018

Loyal subjects celebrate Queen's coronation in 1953

Residents in the Howden Road area are pictured at a Weatherhead Place party to celebrate the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in June 1953. Standing third from left is well-known local benefactor Mrs Duncan Smith, whose husband (next to her in the waistcoat) was a Bradford textile manufacturer. They lived at Arncliffe in Howden Road, and later at a bungalow built for them in the grounds. Mrs Smith's first name was Amy but she was always known by her husband's name as Mrs Duncan Smith. Photograph from the late Neil Cathey's collection.
Coronation Day 1953 in Tufton Street. The shop by the cobbled passage halfway along the street will be well remembered by older Silsdeners.
A wider view of Tufton Street decked out for the occasion.
Abundant bunting at Knox's mill as workers celebrate the coronation of George VI and Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon as King and Queen in May 1937.

Thursday, 18 January 2018

When Yorkshire cricketer was Golf Club captain

This photograph shows a Silsden Golf Club prize night in the 1960s. In the centre is club captain Alan Mason, who was a Yorkshire County Cricket Club spin bowler. He played 18 times for the first team between 1947 and 1950 (when the star spinner was Johnny Wardle) and for the second XI between 1939 and 1950. Away from the county limelight, Alan captained Silsden Cricket Club in the late 1950s/early 1960s. He was a newspaper wholesaler and for many years ran the Sunday morning newspaper sales outlet in Briggate (see my blog of October 9th, 2014). The photograph was loaned by well-known Silsden golfer John Lamb, a former club president.