January 2009

Posted on by Dalesman

Your letters

Humble heroes

My father served throughout the First World War and was rewarded with a citation i.e. ‘mentioned in dispatches’. What did he do to receive that honour? Went over the top in the face of enemy fire and brought back seven wounded soldiers. Had he not been just a private, no doubt he would have got higher honours.

Even his captain, who came to visit him after the war, told me that my father should have been his captain. He always objected to promotion for reasons best known to himself. Even a chief inspector in the police said “your father should have been promoted many times but refused”. His reward came finally in 1935 – the policeman from a neighbouring village said to my mother, “Aren’t you proud of your Horace?” Her reply was, “Of course I am, why?”

“He’s got the Silver Jubilee medal!”

When she asked my father about it his reply was, “I only did my duty.” I still have that medal in its original form – he never wore it. I now write in the hope that someone can help me trace a memorial relating to my brother. I have spent nearly seventy years trying to locate the memorial, originally consecrated in the church in Dishforth airfield.

My brother Frank joined the RAF in 1937 together with six friends – they were all highly educated and were accepted for pilot training. In 1939 the war broke out and the first bomber squadron to be assembled was No. 10, stationed at Dishforth. Tragically, his plane never returned from a raid on Berlin. The official news stated ‘all our planes returned safely’. Next morning his friend Bill Saraby from Doncaster came to tell us Frank’s plane had not returned. (All the friends became Wing Commanders except Bill who became a Group Captain and all survived the war.)

Having perused every avenue over the years, the best answer I can come up with is the fact that those planes, Armstrong Whitworth Whitley, were prone to engine faults. Bill said the last message they received was as they began to cross the North Sea on their homeward journey so we can only assume through engine failure they came down into the sea.

As theirs was the first plane to be lost during the Second World War, a memorial was placed in the church at Dishforth Aerodrome showing all the plane’s crew. The most interesting part was the fact that Robert Thompson, the celebrated joiner from Kilburn, designed the plaque and his mouse is shown on the photograph I still have. I am still convinced the plaque is in the church in Dishforth Aerodrome. After numerous enquiries, I am told it could be in the chapel at Elvington near York. I did visit there, but on that day the chapel was closed.

My brother was only nineteen and having lost my sister at five, I am the only family survivor. At my age it would be a godsend if I could locate the tablet. My one fear is that someone, realising it was designed by the Mouseman of Kilburn, has acquired it and cashed it in at a handsome profit.

H H Hill, Doncaster

Up with the partridge

I read an article in a local newspaper about the small number of partridges in North Yorkshire; well, we have a family of them here in our garden and they were enjoying the sunshine recently and nestling down under our trees. What beautiful birds they are. At 9am in the morning, they haven’t yet appeared, but we will look forward to viewing our snapshots of them.

Mrs P Currie, Grassington

Blind Jack

In his warm review of my new book on Blind Jack of Knaresborough, Paul Jackson raises the question of whether this amazing man really was blind.

In various parts of the book I maintain that there is every historical indication that he was. To be totally blinded by smallpox in early childhood was not uncommon in those days, and every contemporary reference accepts that he lost his sight when six years old in 1723, and was ‘as blind as stone’.

Blind Jack had close contact with many observant and intelligent people who saw for themselves that he was blind, such as the ladies and gentlemen of the Spa and various country houses where he played his violin, and the turnpike trustees, contractors and workmen of his road building days.

When he served as a military musician in the campaign to defeat Bonnie Prince Charlie, Blind Jack greatly impressed the Duke of Cumberland, who invited him to be the fiddler at a morale-boosting ball he arranged for his officers, shortly before the battle of Culloden. He stood him on a chair and kept him playing for twenty-five couples till two o’clock in the morning. He may have been the notorious ‘Butcher Cumberland’, but he certainly observed Jack at close quarters and accepted he was truly blind.

Dr Arnold Kellett, Knaresborough

Bomber mystery solved

In the December 2008 issue Allen Humphreys of Keighley asks readers about the details of the Whitley bomber that force landed in that large field near Austwick. As the person that submitted two articles on that subject I want to advise him that the aircraft made a forced landing because of the loss of radio communication which otherwise would have enabled the pilot to have found his way back to Middleton St George airfield.

Because of the lack of communication the pilot stooged around until he was able to make a forced landing. Incidentally, this became urgent because the petrol tanks were almost empty.

The answer to Allen Humphreys’ wonderment on how the aircraft managed to take off again was that petrol was brought by a road tanker from Middleton St George.

I can offer readers a DVD I made of the circumstances of this event that makes very interesting viewing. I can be contacted at guy@jeff53.fsnet.co.uk or by writing to me.

Guy Jefferson MBE, 29 Ings View, Shipton Road, York YO30 5XE

God’s own county

My Yorkshire father-in-law came out to New Zealand in 1930. He was a wonderful man, full of humour, but was entirely serious when he used to say with huge emphasis “New Zealand is a very beautiful country, but Yorkshire is infinitely more beautiful.” At that time, though I had been to England, I had not visited Yorkshire. My first trip was when we brought his ashes back to be buried with his family at Bolton Abbey, and I had to agree… he was absolutely right.

Mrs J Moon, Featherston, New Zealand

Packing a wallop

Further to the article on the game of ‘Wallops in Wensleydale’ (November). Readers might be interested to know that, The English Dialect Dictionary, published in 1898/1905 by the English Dialect Society and edited by Yorkshireman Joseph Wright, states: WALLOP, a game played in the North Riding of Yorkshire, in which a man gives a youth four sticks like besom shafts, for a penny, to throw at four pegs with a penny each on them, to knock one down, and gives a penny or two for prizes; and the man says, ‘hit my legs and miss my pegs, wullup, wullup away’.

There is also an entry for the word ‘Wullup’, which states… ‘see Wallop.’

The more familiar West Riding meaning for the word Wallop is also included: to thrash, beat, or whack.

C A Binns, Bingley

Tally ho

I was most interested in a recent Dalesman letter. We used to live half a mile south of Poplars Farm, Londonderry, North Yorkshire, near the A1 from London to Edinburgh. I have a 1919 catalogue of the sale of Russell Estate where my grandfather lived and from where he bought Theakston Grange, Bedale, for some £8,300. We were there for 10 years. In the catalogue it is called Tally Ho Farm.

Mrs Ivy Knox, Middlesbrough

Monumental mystery

I am wanting to discover the facts behind a remarkable human story. While walking in the Dales I came across a monument in the churchyard at Kirkby Malham. The inscription was almost undecipherable, but a card index within the church provided this information:

For remembrance of
William Brown of Calton
Who died July 18 1853 aged 13 years
Also of Elizabeth wife of the above
Who died March 31 1884 aged 69 years
And of John, eldest son of the above
Who died September 1 1897
Aged 50 years

The card gives additional information: Lived at Calton Hall. John Brown son lived in Harrogate at the time of death.The memorial is the most imposing one in the churchyard, of carved sandstone on a plinth a yard square (and of total height eight feet).

At William Brown’s death, aged thirteen, wife Elizabeth was thirty-eight, twenty-five years his senior, and the eldest son was seven. Eldest son implies earlier marriage or marriages of Elizabeth, with at least one more son and possibly daughter(s). Was one of other children fathered by William? What sort of domestic arrangement existed? Carlton Hall implies ‘wealthy family’ as does the very expensive monument (paid for by whom?)

Martin Turner, Biggleswade, Beds


Regarding the letter from P Ellis (Nov) my wife, who is Barnsley born and bred, uses the word lillilow for all kinds of pretty lights such as Christmas tree lights. She has no recollection of where she heard this word at all.

Ray Crossley, Hoylandswaine

My mother also used the word ‘lillilow’ for street lights and as a five-year-old child, I was told off at school for using ‘baby talk’. This was in the mid 1940s. My mother was born and lived in Warley near Halifax.

Eunice, Milton Keynes

‘Lillilow’ is listed in my colleague Dr Arnold Kellett’s The Yorkshire Dictionary of Dialect, Tradition and Folklore as ‘flame (eg of a candle)’. Dr Kellett locates this as primarily a North and East Riding dialect word, though I know it from use in my own family in Leeds. My mother and others used it often when drawing the attention of a young child to any light source: “Look at the lillilow!” The origin of the word is obscure but my own tentative theory is that it is a rare Celtic survival from the name of the god Lugh (The Shining One).

Dr Barrie M Rhodes, Yorkshire Dialect Society

The editor writes: In Dorothy Una Ratcliffe’s book Lillilows, the author gives the following variations: Lillilo – a bright flame (Dictionary of Archaic and Provincial Words from the 14th century, by James Halliwell.); Lilly-Low – a comfortable blaze (Ray’s North Country Words, 1674-91); Lilly-Low – a bright flame (North Lincs Glossary, 1877); Lillilow – a blaze, a bright flame (Pease’s Dictionary of North Riding Dialect 1928).

Passion for author

As a self confesed fan of the works of Alfred J Brown, I really enjoyed Steve Goodier’s article (Nov). My own passion for AJ’s work was triggered seven years ago, by an earlier piece in Dalesman: Ray Richard’s My Best Day Out in May 2001. Ever since then I have been researching this fascinating author’s life and works and my north Yorkshire wife and I have visited his hotel (The Whitfield House, near Goathland), his subsequent house in Sleights (St Joseph’s cottage) and, of course, his grave.

In addition, my brother-in-law and I have been on many of his walks (particularly around the Hawes and Osmotherly areas) and have tasted ale in a number of his favourite pubs. Over those years I have also managed to build up a collection of fourteen out of his sixteen books but have, alas, so far been unsuccessful in tracking down copies of A Joyous Entry into a Brighter Belgium (1923) and Whitaker (1947).

I can honestly say that AJ has shown me and my family a wonderful, hidden Yorkshire, that we would otherwise not have discovered. If any readers haven’t yet experienced his writings then they have a wonderful treat ahead of them

Stephen P Nunn, Maldon, Essex

Milestone information

Regarding the origins of a stone illustrated in November’s magazine (High Bradfield/Favourite Yorkshire places). The stone is, in fact, a particularly fine example of a pre-turnpike milestone. The distances recorded are Bradfield 1 mile, Penistone 5 miles, Sheffield 6 miles. Date 1753.

Such pre-turnpike milestones are particularly interesting as they show the main routes throughout the country before the development of turnpikes made massive improvements to the road network.
The dates of many of these are also of interest in that an early eighteenth-century law was passed that required local authorities (usually the parish) to set up guidestones at ‘moors and wastes where intelligence is difficult to be had’ for the benefit of travellers. These were usually set up at crossroads; a number still exist although the onset of urbanisation has left many in places that could hardly be called remote, different to the situation 250 years ago.

David Garside, by email

We welcome readers’ letters, which should be sent to:
Dalesman, The Water Mill, Broughton Hall, Skipton, North Yorkshire BD23 3AG
Or email: paul@dalesman.co.uk

The editor reserves the right to edit letters for length and clarity.

This entry was posted in Letters. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *