The Crimple railway viaduct, near Harrogate

The Crimple railway viaduct, near Harrogate

For our first week in England we were based in Fell Beck cottage in Burnsall, in the Yorkshire Dales.

I lived and worked in Harrogate from 1969 to 1974, so in some ways this was a bit of a homecoming. But it was quite a shock to find how much things have changed, mostly with how crowded everywhere was. Parking was difficult wherever we went, the narrow Dales roads were buzzing with cars, cyclists and trampers, and no-one seems to bother trimming roadside verges, with the result that road signs are obscured more often than not.

Burnsall, where we stayed during our time in the Dales, is marked in red. The other main towns we visited are in yellow.

Fri 15 July - Grassington

The nearest small town to Burnsall, Grassington, was as good a place as any to start.  It gave us a good introduction to what England was going to be like - virtually impossible to find anywhere to park, and the cool, blustery, showery weather.

"Annie & Betty's Vintage Tea Room" was impossible to resist, for obvious reasons.

With the rain threatening around lunchtime, we acquired a few provisions and headed back home for lunch, but went for a bit of a drive in the afternoon.


Sat 16 July - Harrogate

I lived in Harrogate from July 1969 (Isabel and I moved the day after the Americans landed on the moon) until emigrating to New Zealand in November 1974.  I worked for ICI Fibres, my first job from university.  Both of our daughters were born in Harrogate. 

As you would expect, a lot has changed since we left, but there is a lot which hasn’t. From my perspective the main change is that ICI Fibres no longer exists.  So the large complex on Hookstone Road is now fragmented into numerous small businesses, colleges, etc.  The lovely Crimple House, then a directors’ guest house and executive staff club, is now a hospice, overlooking the imposing railway viaduct over the small Crimple Beck (stream) which gave its name to ‘Crimplene’, ICI’s brand name for garments made from its bulked polyester yarn, long since gone out of fashion.

17 St Leonard’s Road, where we lived, looks much the same, although without the roses. The Stray, a huge open area near the town centre, where the cherry blossom was a sight to behold, is still there.  Most of the town centre buildings remain, albeit with different tenants.  And people still enjoy the lovely Valley Gardens.

All in all, a very nostalgic day.


Sun 17 July - Burnsall

Today we stayed around Burnsall, and Paul spent quite a lot of time in St Wilfrid's church.


It turned out to be quite a pleasant evening, after the hoardes of weekend day-trippers had gone home.  The field behind our lodgings was even turned into a car park for the day.


I think it was tonight we had dinner in the local pub, the Red Lion.


Mon 18 July - Pateley Bridge, Fountains Abbey, Ripon

Some personal reminiscences here too. The vicar of Pateley Bridge at that time was Ronnie McFadden, a Northern Irish friend of the Moran family.  Through his wife Heather we got involved in a small madrigal group.

And the children's play area in the park, now modernised, saw me fearfully monitoring my elder daughter Claire's adventures up and down the slide exactly as is captured in one of these photos. Plus ça change!

Fountains Abbey is special as being the subject of a pen and ink drawing given to me by Brian Pilling, with whom I shared an office at ICI Fibres.  Brian had both drawn and framed it as a farewell present when I left to go to NZ.

Ripon Cathedral is simply magnificent.  At that time the Bishop was John Moorman, who led a delegation of Anglican observers to the Second Vatican Council (1962 - 65).  One of my earliest published letters to the editor, in this case the Belfast Telegraph, was to complain when Paisleyite opposition caused the cancellation of a planned address which Dr Moorman was to have given in Belfast on the subject of the Vatican Council.  


Tue 19 July - Skipton

Skipton railway station holds a significant place in my life story.

In my final year at university in Belfast, I did several interviews with visiting companies as part of their graduate recruitment process.  It was known as the milk run, I think.  One of the companies which invited me over to England for further interviews was ICI Fibres, the synthetic fibre division of the then mighty Imperial Chemical Industries.  ICI Fibres’ HQ was in Harrogate.

A couple of days before I was due to fly over, I rang to find out what had happened to the flight tickets they were going to arrange.  Oops, overlooked!  And there were no seats available at this late stage. So they asked me to catch the Belfast to Heysham overnight boat, and then the Heysham to Leeds train, but get off at Skipton, and they would send one of their chauffeurs to bring me from Skipton to Harrogate

When I alighted at Skipton it was snowing heavily, and there was no sign of my driver.  When the Harrogate office opened, I rang to be told that the roads were blocked by the snow, so could I please catch the next train to Leeds, then another train to Harrogate, and I’d be met at Harrogate station.

I eventually arrived at Fibres HQ about lunchtime, just as all the other candidates in my group were finishing.  So I had one on one attention that afternoon, and they managed to find me a seat on a flight home that evening from Leeds/Bradford airport.

I‘m convinced that I was offered a job out of their embarrassment.  I accepted it because Harrogate looked a nice place to live, and the starting salary (£1,250 per annum from memory) was £50 more than any of my other offers.  Which is how I came to be a Marketing Officer in their Domestic Textiles Merchandising Department, starting at the end of July 1969, a decision I never regretted.


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