The Revd Dr Michael Wright

Early Days


Biography: Early Days


I was born in Castleford (1944) during the West Yorkshire town’s 20th century industrial heyday. Doreen, my birth mother, met my father Jack at a local dance. He was a soldier stationed at Pontefract barracks and, as he was already married, I was adopted at birth by my grandparents: Fred, a miner at the Prince of Wales Colliery and Florence, an assiduous home-maker. The four of us lived in what was known as a ‘two-up-two-down’ terrace house: no bathroom, no telephone, no central heating or electricity; roaring fires but just a gas mantle and candles for light.   








What we lacked in facilities was compensated by our home’s location and sense of community. Our extended family - my mum was one of twelve, my dad one of seven – was full of warmth and support. Family holidays in Blackpool were legendary.  Parents, aunts and uncles took time off from the pit, coke ovens or glassworks to just be together, recall past times and enjoy memory-building days at the seaside.






Back home, kids played in the street. ‘International’ games of rugby league (supposedly ‘touch’ but keenly contested) were played against teams from neighbouring streets. And on summer evenings, silent white stumps, chalked on the walls of nearby buildings, bore silent testimony to a ferocious struggle for victory with bat and ball.






Like the rest of the country, the town was recovering from the draining years of the second world war. Rationing was introduced in 1939 and remained in force on items such as meat until 1954. Materials continued to be in short supply. So during a similar period, ‘utility’ brand clothing (from 1941) and furniture (from 1942) featured prominently in our home - and most others down the street. 







Industry however was buoyant with potteries, glass works, coke ovens and mines providing job opportunities and a road to prosperity. My dad Fred was born in 1895 and went down the pit at 14 years of age. During the first world war he served in the navy and returned to the pits when he was demobbed. There he stayed - throughout the second world war and beyond -  until retirement. With the coming of peace there was a renewed focus on prosperity. The mining industry advertised ‘a job for life’. It’s influence was everywhere, highlighted by the monthly  delivery of a ton of coal —a wage enhancement to serving and past miners—that was dropped near local doorsteps or back gates. If you were lucky, it was shovelled into the cellar through a grate by the front door; if not, it was barrowed into the back yard and tipped in the coal house: twice the effort! 




If I close my eyes, I can visualise the open fire casting its warm glow in both kitchen and bedroom; hear  the sizzle as my mum spits on the iron—heated in the hearth— to see if it’s fit for purpose; and even hear the reassuring, early-morning scrape of my dads boots as he comes home after nightshift. Atmospheric memories!  









Hensall Book


Early Days


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