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Churwell’s Cinderella Story

'For a few weeks I attended the Thornhill Free Church School and that is all the education I ever had in a school.   As far my stepfather had taken little notice of me, but my increasing age I suppose made me more valuable, an on his removal to Churwell, about 3 miles from Leeds on the Morley side, I definitely made my home with him and my mother.  I would then be nearly 7 years of age, and was set to work gathering potatoes after the plough, for which I, or rather my stepfather was paid three shillings.  My stepfather’s attitude to me was always brutal, his one consideration being how he could get the most out of my labours at as little cost to himself as possible.  My food was always scarce and lacking that variety of body building elements so essential to a growing boy.  My clothing was scanty and footware poor.  After a porridge breakfast with little or no milk, I was sent out for the day with a little bread and dripping, which I might eke out with raw turnip purloined from a field, to return in the evening to a scrappy meal of anything left from the table, together with tea, skimmed milk and bread.

 Amongst other odd jobs, following the potato gathering, was the gathering of coal that fell off passing carts.  This was for home use.  My stepfather thrashed me on the smallest provocation, my mother standing helplessly by, but once I remember she lost her temper ad stood between me and the brute.  The Sunday School was my only consolation, for there, besides receiving kinder treatment, I was able to improve my reading.

How I began I cannot say, but here at the old Wesleyan Chapel at Churwell and later at the Mount Zion Wesleyan Free Church, I learned to read the New Testament rather fluently, though I could read little else, other books not being available.  I fancy my grandfather and an Aunt must have taught me letters, as otherwise I cannot account for my early proficiency with the New Testament.  It  must have been unusual, for at 14 I took charge of a class, and continued as Sunday School teacher till I left Churwell.'

In our family my siblings and I were very lucky with the opportunities for education and thanks must go to my Dad (if you don’t know by now, Howard) for working so hard to give us the best start in life he could.

However, like Henry’s stepfather, my Dad recognised the potential of ‘cheap’ labour (not including the food bills mind!) as every child from an early age was made to pull their weight and earn their keep by doing a season on the shows and markets during the school summer holidays. I am sure I drew the short straw as the youngest; I seem to remember doing 4 or 5 seasons back to back as the others always said they had done their turn!

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