In my first piece on Willy Machell I mentioned that
my dad, Syd Walker, used to do casual work for Willy Machell at his small yard
on the end of Saxon Buildings near the Old Dog Mill.
The extent of his work relationship was early
fifties to late fifties. My dad had nothing to do with the Low Mill enterprise
or the shed attached to the Old Dog boiler house, or the shed down Kirk Lane at
the corner of Wackhouse Lane opposite Reg Parker's coal yard.
After the war when the Avro shut down and everyone
was laid off, many Yeadon folk suddenly found themselves out of work.
My dad, my mum, and my Aunt included.
The mills were gradually gearing up for domestic
production and the demand for uniform cloth was greatly reduced.
On top of this thousands of troops were being
De-mobbed and were returning home and looking for work in their home towns and
My dad was fortunate enough to find work in the
mill at this time.
I'm not sure how my dad met Willy Machell, but it
would more than likely have been in the Oddfellows or 't Rag, as it was known,
he also had the odd pint in the Robin Hood on the Green.
Willy Machell came up with a plan in the pub one
night and asked my dad if he was interested.
The plan was to get a decent wagon on the road and
then set about collecting scrap Aluminium from the old airfields and bring it
back to Yeadon, to be stockpiled in the yard, then sold on.
I can remember looking over the promenade wall at
the side of the dam and seeing aircraft wings and fuselage parts in the yard at
John E. Moore Ltd Aluminium Smelters.
It seems that this is what gave Willy the idea,the
smelter was already on their doorstep.
Let's face it there were some 48,000 spitfires made
in the war years, that was an awful lot of aluminium just sitting about waiting
for an entrepreneur to snap it up and make a fortune.
According to Willy, all my dad had to do was put
£50 up front and he could have a half share in the proceeds.
Fifty quid was an awful lot of money in those days,
it was five or six weeks wages and my dad didn't have that sort of money to hand.
He never said anything that night to my mum, but
next day I remember him sitting at the table having his dinner and talking it
over with my mum.
Mum was very supportive and suggested he try asking
his older brother for assistance, or include him in the partnership deal.
This he did, but to no avail, his brother did not
want to be associated with a Rag and Bone man come Scrap Merchant.
He could have done a lot worse!
Had they got in to the Aluminium Scrap business at
that time it is likely that they could have made money from it , but the
opportunity was short lived and the door was firmly shut when the Big boys got
into the act.
Willy Machell always found my dad a bit of casual
work if he was unemployed between jobs or just needed a bit extra.
My dad was not the only casual worker in the yard,
Arthur Milner was a regular, he ran the shed at the corner of Wackhouse Lane
where you could take none ferrous metals copper, lead, Zinc and Brass.
Other names that come to mind are Big John Butterworth
and Big Taffy.
I don't know where John Butterworth came from, but
he and big Taffy seemed to appear when John Swales started building the top
half of Queensway, it is likely that they were navies or labourers for Swales
on the road contract.
When the old yard was cleared and the business at
Low Mills took off my dad and Willy Machell lost touch.
We moved to Queensway, a 3 bed-roomed maisonette
above the shops next to the Co-op.
The last four houses on Manor Square were pulled
down, then the Chip Shop and the mill went.
That was the end of my childhood.
Everything I had grown up with and known for 18
years, my world my friends, people who cared about their neighbours.