Yours truly at the wheel, getting my first driving lesson from my brother John. My love for driving started at an early age.
Chapter 1: Made In England
Back when I was a twinkle in my mother's eye, Leeds was a major industrial city of some half a million people in the county of Yorkshire in England's north. Strange as it may seem, Leeds actually began as an agricultural community centred on Leeds Bridge, an historic structure which became a significant landmark in the life of my father and the site, incidentally, of the first moving pictures made with a single lens camera in 1888. Today one of the main thoroughfares of Leeds is Briggate (Bridge Gate), so-called because it ran from the gate on Leeds Bridge. Leeds was already a sizeable town when the Industrial Revolution accelerated its development. Soon flax, cotton, silk, off-the-rack clothing, engineering, locomotives, carpets, brewing and tanks, supplemented its wool trade. Today Leeds is a regional centre that has adapted itself to a new role in the post- industrial age of services and information.
It was in October 1920, on the outskirts of this busy city in what was then the sleepy, rural hamlet of Churwell that my father, Harold Alfred Yarrow, was born to John William Yarrow, leather worker, and Sarah Anne Yarrow (nee Baines). Harold was the second youngest in a family of eight children. They lived in Manor Houses, 33 Low Fold, Churwell, Yorkshire, England (now Manor Houses Estate) and had a small holding with pigs, hens and a market garden which supported them. In the early 1930s during the Great Depression, Harold's three elder sisters had to leave school early and obtain casual work to help keep the family as the farm was too small to support them. Their father had fallen sick with sciatica, a disease from which he suffered for the last nine year of his life and rendered him unable to work.
Back of Clarendon Terrace, Park St, Churwell
Young Harold attended Churwell Primary School but later transferred to the local Catholic School because they had more holidays (saints days). Like his eldest brother, Harold was very mechanically minded and tinkered around with motorbikes from an early age and developed an interest in building crystal radio sets. He continued this as a hobby in electronics along with cabinet making until the day he died. It was his ability to pull bike engines apart and put them back together again that led him to take up an apprenticeship as a turner with the Leeds manufacturing company, Fairbairn Lawson Combe Barbour Leeds Ltd. in July 1939, a position he held for ten years. In May 1949, he moved to Kirkstall Forge Engineering Ltd, Leeds' oldest and one of its largest industrial works. The Forge manufactured heavy parts for motor vehicles and Harold was employed making axles for Thornycroft trucks.
Kirkstall Forge owes its existence to Kirkstall Abbey, the ruins of which are located beside the Forge on the banks of the River Ouse. Kirkstall Abbey was founded by a religious order of twelve Cistercian monks from Fountains Abbey who relocated their community to the present site of Kirkstall in 1152. Not long after building the Abbey, the monks established a forge next door where metal was smelted. The forge passed through varied ownerships long after the Abbey was abandoned, and during the days of the industrial revolution in particular, it played a significant role in placing Leeds on the map as an industrial centre. In the 20th century.
Kirkstall Abbey ruins
Kirkstall Abbey The history of Kirkstall Abbey, Yorkshire, begins with its foundation in 1147, when a group of twelve monks from Fountains Abbey, under the guidance of their prior, Alexander, colonised the site at Barnoldswick. In 1152 the community relocated to the present site of Kirkstall, and remained here until the dissolution of the abbey in 1539. The abbey buildings escaped the wholesale destruction and plunder that occurred elsewhere; most were left standing and used for agricultural purposes; this is perhaps why Kirkstall is now the most complete set of Cistercian ruins in Britain. While the abbey is now embedded in the industrial quarter of Leeds and the site bisected by the A65 Kirkstall Road, during the Middle Ages - and up until the late eighteenth century - this was a secluded spot in a rural setting. In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries the main thoroughfare to Leeds actually ran through the nave of the church. Kirkstall was founded by Henry de Lacy, baron of Pontefract, who was one of the leading landholders in England's North.
The abbey's coat of arms, however, is actually based on those of the Peitivin family, who gave the monks the site at Kirkstall. Like most other Cistercian abbeys in England, the twelfth century was for Kirkstall a time of growth and expansion, when the community developed the abbey precinct and acquired lands and holdings. From the thirteenth century patronage waned and the history of the abbey was marked by highs and lows. The Kirkstall monks, like their Cistercian contemporaries, were embroiled in legal wrangling over their own lands and rights. They became caught up in business relating to the state and the Order, and were affected by social and economic problems that swept the country such as the Black Death, wars and taxation. Nevertheless, the monks made a significant contribution in the areas of trade, industry and technological innovation. Extensive archaeological work has been undertaken at the Kirkstall site and much is now known about the buildings here and the life of the community during the Middle Ages. This knowledge is complemented by the survival of a number of documentary sources, including charters and a chronicle of the house, as well as an array of artefacts such as seals, pottery and metalwork.
The ruins of Kirkstall are now situated on the outskirts of Leeds, some three miles from the city centre. The site is bisected by Kirkstall Road, but in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries the main thoroughfare to Leeds actually ran through the nave of the church. The landscape surrounding the abbey has undergone considerable change since the time of monastic occupation, when Kirkstall was a secluded spot in a rural setting, bordered by water and woodland. In fact, until the mid-eighteenth century when rapid urbanisation began to engulf the ruins, the abbey was surrounded by countryside.
The availability of water and woodland made the site at Kirkstall well suited to the establishment of monastic life. Water, that was necessary for drainage, washing, cooking, the powering of machinery and liturgical purposes, was channelled from springs and streams above the abbey and from the millpond that stood where the car park and sports pitches are now. The River Aire bounded the abbey to the south and was an important means of transport. Stone building blocks that were quarried nearby could be transported to the abbey along the river; excavations in the 1950s recovered the wooden jetty where the stone was landed. Hawksworth Wood, which is now virtually consumed by a housing estate, stood to the west of the abbey. It provided shelter, fuel and building resources such as thatch; timber was generally brought from elsewhere since Alexander, the founding abbot of Kirkstall who completed the initial building work, was concerned to preserve the woodland at Hawksworth.
Since the dissolution of the abbey in 1539, the site and ruins have attracted artists, poets and even ghosts. In the nineteenth century the local newspaper reported that ghostly apparitions had been observed in the nave of the church; one witness claimed to have seen a funeral procession of sombre men, clad in white, proceeding slowly down the nave. More recently, staff and visitors have alleged to have seen the figure of a former abbot of Kirkstall walking around the old gatehouse, which is now the abbey museum.
3rd September 1939 was a day that had a major impact on the world, Harold included, being the day that Britain and France declared war on Germany and plunged it into the most devastating war mankind has ever known. 78 days later, another event that was to have an equally major impact on his life occurred. On the night of Sunday, 19th November 1939, he wandered into the Leeds Assembly of God church and became a born again Christian. In later years he would take great delight in recalling to anyone who would listen the feeling of joy and excitement that was birthed within him that night. He told how he had walked home over Leeds Bridge and felt so good it was as if the bridge itself was also new, and that it, like him, had been "born again". Invigorated by what to him felt like a new lease of life, the 19-year old began attending the church regularly. He made many new friends there, one of whom was a shy lass two years his junior named Kathleen Poppleton with whom he fell in love and would eventually marry.
Doris Poppleton, Harold Yarrow, Kathleen Poppleton
Kathleen Poppleton Born to James Poppleton, registered hawker (door to door salesman) and Jane Poppleton (nee Parker) in January 1923, Kathleen and her sister Doris had grown up in the town of Pontifact near Leeds. There father, like his brother George, was a Methodist lay preacher. Uncle George became a councillor and Mayor of Pontefract and was made Freeman of the City because of his 60 years ministry and community services. James had a real heart for people too that made him quite unsuitable as a door to door salesman selling household cleaning goods. He would often take pity on the people who could not afford to buy the goods he was selling and pay for them out of his own money and give them to the people. Thus, when he died in 1932 when Kathleen was just nine years old, it was a major struggle for Jane Poppleton to keep food on the table for her and her two daughters as James had put nothing aside for their future. The Great Depression of the 1930s was having a major impact on Britain, which made things ever harder. Kathleen was attending Pontefract Primary School at the time, where in 1934 she won a scholarship to attend Thoresby High School, Leeds. During her years in high school, the family moved to Leeds, not only to make it easier for Kathleen to attend school, but also for sister Doris who had left school to get a job in the city.
Leeds, my place of birth
Leeds and Yorkshire's West Riding in which it is located was not at first included in the Anglian Kingdom. After the Romans left, it was British territory up to A.D. 616, and divided into two parts - Loidis, or Leeds, probably meaning upper Airedale and adjacent districts and Elmet, part of which was certainly between Leeds and York. The 7th Century saw the beginning of migration, settlement and the eventual colonisation by the English speaking Anglo-Saxons of Germanic origin; one of the outcomes of which was the renaming of the country to
'England - Land of the Angles'. One scribe describes the events of those times: "The rivers united in the estuary of the Humber led like open highways into the heart of Britain, and it was by this inlet that the great mass of invaders penetrated into the interior of the island. Those warriors who had entered the Humber turned southwards by the Forest of Elmet which covered the district around Leeds. Loidis began as an agricultural community centred on Leeds Bridge, the site, incidentally, of the first moving pictures made with a single lens camera in 1888.
Today one of the main thoroughfares of Leeds is Briggate, so-called (Bridge Gate) because it ran from the gate on Leeds Bridge. Another such road is the Headrow which owes its name to the fact that the heads of executed criminals were placed here in a row. Leeds was already a sizeable town when the Industrial Revolution accelerated its development. Soon its wool trade was supplemented by flax, cotton, silk, off-the-peg clothing, engineering, locomotive building, carpets, brewing and tanks. Today Leeds is a regional centre which has adapted itself to a new role in the post-industrial age of services and information.
The city has developed, really without being planned as such, into a number of distinct areas. To the west of Park Row is the business sector; Leeds has recently experienced a great deal of growth as a financial centre and banks, solicitors, accountants, business advisers and other professional offices have expanded and multiplied. In the centre is the shopping area, to the east is the arty and leisure part of town; at night Leeds buzzes with scores of bars, bistros, restaurants and nightclubs. the north are the public buildings and universities. What to the south of the city centre was until twenty years ago a run-down, post-industrial mess has now been redeveloped to accommodate offices, housing, and leisure attractions like the Royal Armouries, relocated from the Tower of London, and Tetley's Brewery.
In the 1980s and 1990s for the first time since the Second World War some interesting and aesthetically pleasing buildings have gone up. Many older ones have been restored or adapted for new roles well and some of the post World War II like the Quarry Hill Flats Development have been pulled down.
Leeds is not just its city centre; three quarters of a million people live in the metropolitan area. There are the leafy suburbs like Roundhay and Headingley, which is the home of Yorkshire cricket and Leeds rugby league. It teems with students and other young people enjoying Tetley's bitter down Woodhouse. There are cosmopolitan inner city areas like Harehills and Chapeltown. There are old villages, now desirable residential areas, such as Bramhope and Bardsey, which claims to have the oldest inn in England. There are parks like that at Roundhay and Kirkstall Abbey, a monastery until Henry VIII knocked it about a bit, and grand houses at Harewood and Temple Newsham.
Kathleen matriculated with honours in July 1939 and wanted to attend Leeds University and so fulfil a desire to be a school teacher, but the financial situation at home and the outbreak of war six weeks after leaving high school dictated that her life would take a different path. During the War years, she worked as a clerk in the Leeds Fire Service. Having lost the tips of three fingers in a motor cycle accident, Harold Yarrow was considered medically unfit to go to war, and remained at Kirkstall Forge employed in the construction of trucks and military equipment.
The Family Way When Harold, who was still living at home with his family in Churwell, announced his engagement to Kathleen to his family, he requested an increase in his allowance so that he could save towards the cost of the wedding as his future mother-in-law was unable to do this. In those times, young people living at home handed all their wage over to their parents who gave them back a living allowance, somewhat like pocket money. Knowing that the only way they could afford to get married was for him to pay for it himself, Harold had no choice but to leave home and live with his fiance's family and save as he helped to support them. Harold and Kathleen married on 19th February 1944 at The Pentecostal Church (Assembly of God), Meadow Lane, Leeds, by the church's minister, Robert Barrie. After they were married Harold and Kathleen lived at Kathleen' mother's home at 30 Knowle Terrace, Burley, Leeds, not far from Headingly Cricket Ground.
The war years were tough and times were hard, but they survived them. The declaration of peace on 2nd September, 1945 heralded a new era that brought optimism and hope not only to them but to a world that was eager to put the previous six years of misery behind them and move forward into the future. It became a time of major advancements in education and health care, a period of unprecedented industrial and technological growth and advancement that was to correspond with a boom period of births. The generation of children who grew up during this exciting period included my brother John and I, who were born during the five years after of the end of the War.
My first home - 157 Vesper Road, Kirkstall, Leeds
The Decision to Migrate My brother John was born 15 months after the end of World War II in December 1946, and was part of the very first wave of babies born in the wake of the war that would become known as Baby Boomers. Harold and Kathleen were still living with Kathleen's mother in her house in Knowle Terrace, Burley, and Harold still worked at Kirkstall Forge. By the time I was born on 29th September 1950, the young family had moved into their own home not far away at 157 Vesper Road.
The house was close to Elland Road, the home of Leeds United Football Club, that I would later follow, and only a short distance away from Kirkstall Forge, so Dad was able to walk to work. My parents recalled having seen the early advertisements extolling the virtues of migrating to Australia around that time, but they had little or no impact on them. It wasn't until a family from their church in Leeds had moved to Adelaide in the mid 1950s and appeared to be happy there that they gave anything but a passing thought to the concept of migrating to Australia. A year later, a former Treasurer of the church emigrated to Australia after his wife had died. He had suffered greatly from respiratory problems and went to live with his daughter in Perth, believing the warmer weather would improve his quality of life during his retirement years.
The Yarrow family at the beach (or as they describe it in England, 'on the sands') in 1952. The little guy with his back to the camera is me
At the age of four, I moved with my family to a small town not far from Leeds named Otley in time to start my schooling there. My parents purchased a home at 10 Sunnydale Crescent on the outskirts of the town. Dad continued to work at Kirkstall Forge, to which he commuted daily by bus. Otley was a pleasant place to live and the whole family had fond memories of living there. In our last two years in England my brother attended Prince Henry's Grammar School in Otley. He enjoyed his time there and the drab surroundings and low morale among the students of Oakleigh High School in Melbourne felt very much like a backward step for him.
My first school was Otley Westgate Primary School, to which I walked with the other children in our street who went there. I have little recollection of it, except that in 1958 we were delayed from going back to school at the end of the Summer holidays by a week. The ceiling of the main hall had collapsed during the holidays and we were not allowed to return until the ceilings of the classrooms had all be checked and declared safe. I remember praying during the next Summer holidays for the ceiling to collapse again but it didn't happen. At first I took that to mean that God doesn't answer prayers, but when I talked to my teacher at school about it, she explained that when we ask for something, the person we are asking has the choice of answering 'Yes' or 'No'. Given the nature of my question, she explained that I couldn't expect God to say anything else but 'No'.
Otley Westgate Primary School
The market town of Otley Nestling beneath a hillside called 'The Chevin', Oltey is a medieval market town in the Yorkshire Dales, its name meaning 'Woodland clearing of a man named Otta'. This town dates from Saxon times, King Athelstan granted the manor in 937. William I destroyed Otley in 1069 but it soon sprang up again and developed as a centre of the woolen industry. In 1222 a Fair was first held there, a weekly market followed in 1248.
Otley has great character and is rich in history. It has a quaint market square surrounded by interesting shops, old pubs and cafes. It was at one such pub, 'The Black Bull', in 1648, that some of Oliver Cromwell's Ironsides visited on the eve of the Battle of Marston Moor and managed to drink the place dry. Otley once boasted having more pubs than anywhere else, however, many have now disappeared. All Saints, a cruciform church is mainly C14th & C15th with some Norman work. The Parish registers include the names of Thomas Chippendale and John Wesley who officiated at a wedding in 1788.
Chippendale, a renowned furniture maker who was born in 1718, is Otley's most famous son. He left the town for London in 1739 where he made his fortune. Today his work is recognised the world over. His statue stands outside the old grammar school. Thomas Lord Fairfax, Cromwell's General, was born at nearby Denton Hall. The Wharfedale Press that revolutionised 19th century printing was invented and built in Otley. The town appears as a backdrop in many Yorkshire Television productions. In the TV soap 'Emmerdale,' Otley is Hotten. Otley appears regularly in 'Heartbeat' and 'A Touch of Frost'.
The town is surrounded by rural countryside, with Ilkley, Bradford, Leeds and Harrogate nearby. The summit of The Chevin is a short but steep walk from the town centre, offering unspoilt views. On a clear day it is possible to see York Minster. The Chevin forms part of a beautiful wooded hillside known as Chevin Forest Park. Stone from the quarry on The Chevin was used for the British Houses of Parliament. At Easter and Christmas a huge wooden cross is erected on the hill. Noted British artist Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) painted
many scenes in the area and used The Chevin as a backdrop for his famous picture 'Hannibal crossing the Alps' (1812).
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