I was born in the City of Leeds in Yorkshire just before the commencement of World War II. Sharing the same birth date as Saint George of England, a writer called William Shakespeare and on the same day that Joseph Stalin opened fifty miles of underground tube railway in Moscow. Have you worked it out yet?
My home was in a Leeds suburb called Hunslet, situated south of the City and the river Aire which starts life in the glorious Yorkshire dales and at that time ran through the City like a thick black oily eel.
Today multi million pound apartments line its banks, where once stood massive warehouses and mills infested with rats; those red-bricked workplaces slowly lapsed into dangerous piles of rubble. Action play grounds for children of the City.
That thankfully has gone and Leeds is a growing vibrant City. New gleaming financial businesses operate from high raise prestigious buildings.
In the early years of my life it was a very different picture.
It has been estimated by experts (don’t laugh) that over twenty-five tons of soot and sulphur fell on the district each year covering the thousands of hard working people living there in row after row of back-to-back sub standard housing, most of them on the bread line and with poverty as a pal! Those people were real people in a very real world.
Many men, my father John Rowley included, worked in heavy engineering. One famous company Hunslet Engine Company built wonderful steam trains and sent them to countries across the world. Yorkshire Copper Works, where a number of my family relatives also worked, produced miles and miles of copper tubing and fittings used on the Queen Elizabeth and many other ocean going liners and ships.
T.B. and Scarlet Fever were common illnesses and Diphtheria brought fear and a sense of helplessness to parents and children alike. This subject was a favourite talking point at the high school I attended, Hunslet National School; the imposing building was three stories high. Many of my pals at school had to attend School clinic situated next to the Chemical Works belching out a constant cloud of yellow sulphur from tall chimneys every hour of the day and night. It was colourful and poisonous and allowed to be discharged by the all knowing City Fathers and Alderman of the day. None of them lived in Hunslet. Yet, it must be noted, provision by our friends in the Town Hall enabled the very thin lads like my pal Dougie to have a spoonful of brown malt to make up for lack of vitamins, this was swallowed in one gulp from the quickly wiped spoon of the ministering nurse. Another fashion in vogue was the number one blade shaven haircut of those who had livestock, which Dubach soap failed to eliminate. The style is now popular for reasons beyond my understanding. Other young children had patches of purple dye painted on their faces to combat and help get rid of the dreaded Impetigo, it was an asset when playing Cowboys and Indians in the school playground.
Fog fell regularly and was almost as thick as the grey army blanket, which covered my bed at night time at number 7 Windsor Place, Pepper Road Leeds 10. The address has a royal ring about it, which of course is incidental, though is true that Mr and Mrs King lived at No 9.
Those were the days indeed, with much poverty and even more pride. Most of the housewives baked their own bread, net curtains hanging in the windows were snow white clean, whilst the door steps and flags (pavements) swept clean and rinsed with soapy water. The phrase ‘Cleanliness is next to Godliness’ was often quoted, and which many believed to be true
I kept newts in a jam jar on the clean exterior windowsill, creatures as safe as if they lived back in the Amazon swamplands.
So one remembers, Hunslet was an incredible place to live even among the many greys and dark tones, it was possible to see bright colour in the living moving picture of life. I have from my earliest years delighted in art, -drawing and painting. Colour is beautiful in any situation, I really believe that every single person is entitled to colour in his or her life.
That is one of the reasons my website is called ‘COLOURS OF THE TRINITY’ Visit the site and discover the power and range and possibility of three simple colours; they are (1) Raw Sienna. The Yellow. (2) Light Red. The Red (3) Cobalt Blue. The Blue.