Memories of Alice Potter

as recounted by the late George Wigglesworth

I left school at the age of thirteen and started work straight away at the mills of John Smedley Ltd. Very shortly afterwards World War I (1914 - 1918) started.
The factory received huge orders for the troops for their pants, vests and cardigans. Our working day was normally from 8 am to 6 pm but to get orders out quickly employees living in the local village worked two hours longer in the evenings. Most employees lived in outlying villages and they walked or cycled to work every day. The mill hooter sounded and re-echoed from the hills warning the workers that it was nearly time to be inside and little groups would break into a run as they converged towards Lea Mills.

I well remember our cousin (Aunt Jinny’s son) Arthur Walker who, before that time had emigrated to Canada. He joined the army there and was soon in England, in uniform, to fight in the war and ready to go to France. Aunt Jinny used to make up parcels to send him in the trenches (hand knitted socks, fruit cakes and many other items) sewn up in a sacking cover. But it wasn’t very much later when word came that he had been killed in action.

Another memory I have of that time was of a young man named Hodgkinson who lived in Holloway. He was awarded the Military Medal for bravery in action. The ceremony of presentation was held in the Chapel Sunday School in Holloway and was conducted by Mrs Marsden Smedley, the wife of the factory owner, with the village folk all being there. Our Grandma, Mrs Yeomans, of Lea Wood wanted to be there and I walked with her, dressed in her Sunday best, black bonnet and cape.

We started the steep journey up the hill when the local butcher came by with his horse and trap and asked Grandma if she wanted to ride up the Holloway lane (Mill Lane). The step up to the trap was high and springy and she had great difficulty in getting up besides him.
I also vividly remember the day of the two minutes silence when I had gone to visit Auntie Jinny, Arthur Walker’s mother. The mill hooter went at 11 o’clock and she stood up straight to respect his memory, not shedding any tears.
And the rest of her family, my cousins George and Polly, she never saw again as they never returned from Canada to England. Frank, her youngest son, stayed home for many years, coming to our house every day but eventually he too went to Canada never to return.

Belgian refugees came to Holloway and the villagers gave up some of their belongings to furnish a home for them in the village. Their family name was Gunst and the two youngest, named Christine and Gustave, came to Lea School. They were not speaking much English but the children soon learned to understand each other.

After all the hard work, the sadness and dark days of war (we had blackout then and sometimes we heard what we thought were zeppelins) the happy day came when the Armistice was signed. People in the village went to the school and all the scholars joined them in a march down to the mills where everyone had a happy day of celebration. But even this was also a sad time too because an influenza epidemic struck and there was a lot of illness and some died. My sister and I walked to the next village one day and a girl who had only been ill the previous week was being buried that day