I was born and bred in Chipping, but I was born at Little Blacksticks which is a little community now. My dad moved down to the big Elmridge. Elmridge Farm. We farmed there until I went in the RAF.
What happened? We were driving some stirks – young cows – down to the out barn. My dad and I jumped over the stack yard and we went for about fifty yards making sure that the cows, stirks did not go down the field. He dropped dead at the side of me. It was a bit of a shock, I was fourteen year old and he was forty six. He dropped dead at the side of me so I looked at him, I hadn’t a clue what to do so I ran and told my mother and brothers I had three brothers. We all shot off into the field again. By then my mother had said get on your bike and go across to Bradley’s. They were the only ones who had a phone, Bradley’s Farm and phone for the doctor. Anyway Doctor Lord came. He had a Hollard in them days. He came up into the yard. I thought it was the Grand Prix, the speed he was going. But it was too late he was dead, he were dead when he hit the floor. He had a heart job. We were farming until I was eighteen and my mother said I have had enough I am not carrying on with this, it is too much for me. So we sold up and I went in the RAF.
In the RAF when you come out they come to you and ask you what would you like to do where would you like to go when you get in civvy street ? So I said the Longridge Dairy or HJ Berry’s, at Chipping that would be a good one. Oh, so they did all this, sent all this away as far as I know.
I came out of the Royal Air Force 1958 and I went to work for Bill Pye. I was a farmer’s son and I was contracted for Bill Pye. I was bailing hay, ploughing and all that sort of thing. And we had a little cottage at Bedlam. That was rented off Lord Derby. It was expensive 7 and 6 a week, including rates. We were sat there one night and this knock came at door I opened door hadn’t a clue who it was. He said “I am Mr John Berry I own the chair works. I have heard from the RAF that you’d like to work at the factory at Berry’s”. I said, I never expected to like I am working for Bill Pye at the moment. He said, “Well you can start whenever you want like”. I said I would have to give a weeks notice. So a week later I went to Berry’s.
I had a little old Austin 10 and the first morning I left home and got nearly to Arbour Lane and the ruddy thing run out of petrol. So, I had to run back home, get the bike out and go like hell to Chipping. I parked it up at the steps at the front of the office. I walked in and Jack Berry happen’d to be there and he looked at me and said “Who are you ?” I said, “Ted Metcalf supposed to be starting today”. He said, “You’ll be lucky if you come in at this time every morning, you’ll not be here so long.
I got married in Jan ’59 I’d say it was 1960, when I started at Berry’s.
Being a farmer I was always very practical. You can adapt your hands to anything. I mean we were mechanics, we were labourers, anything. On the farm we made a lot of stuff. My brothers and I had never heard of electric. No electrics no pylons or poles or ought then. And we got a generator, batteries up to 120 volts and we wired all the buildings with electric, with switches, junction boxes and put the bulbs in and everything. It worked. Did not need to be generating all the time, the batteries were enough to light the shippons and things like that when you were milking and things like that. But we did a lot of things. Making bulldozers for filling drains in and all that sort of thing. We were the first farmers in the North West. My dad was the first farmer in the North West to have a little grey Fergie a T. E. Fergie.
I could turn my hand to ought. He said when I started there. He said will you be alright in the yard. What do I do in the yard ? He said, “well there are trees coming in, you will have to operate the crane, crane them off into the yard, over the brook, that brook there and that brook there, and then they will all have to be cut up, scraped. You will scrape all the muck off them, all the stones. Then you will use a big cross cut”. I think it was about four foot long.. “and you’ll measure them to what length they want ’em and then you’ll cut em into the length and then you’ll crane them onto the band saw, big band saw and that’s up to them what they do with them. You are in the yard preparing all these trees and things”.
From the basic tree I went right through the Works and finished up.. my last twenty years was Transport and Warehouse Manager. I didn’t do so bad really.
I look at that crane every time I pass it and I thought that is dangerous because those cables, the wires they were tested every eighteen months at Berry’s and yet them cables are still holding that crane up. Corrosion and everything else. It can’t be good.
It could be a dangerous thing. It was electrically operated, a foot brake, a big pedal, that was the brake on it as the tree came down. If you looked at it today. Ban it. It is health and safety gone mad. A lever to lift everything up.
I remember being in the crane well it was one day that me and Herbert Freeman, he was the foreman wasn’t he and somebody must not have been there. He came to help me. We were working together and we got this tree on and we’d scraped it and we wanted to turn it over because in the yard there were three blocks of wood about four feet long, a foot square. There’s three of those and you put your tree on those. The wedges went in each, one on each side. This day Herbert says “We’ll turn it.” He said “You get in the crane.” He said “I’ll hold the dogs, one dog at that side. I’ll hold it in and you just lift up,” and I said to him, “What if it slips …what if them wedges slip ?” ’cause it’s a fair old tree you know. Probably eighteen inch across or more than that. “No”, he said, “it will be reet, be reet, hoist up, hoist up.” I thought right, steady, steady, steady, up, up, go on its turning now, next minute straight off, wedges came out. It rolled straight off onto his foot. Because the silly bugger he wernt at the other side turning it round. He was at the side facing him. That’s why I said what happens if it slips. Anyway it did slip and he was off work for six weeks with a damaged foot. He never blamed me.
We were getting low on the trees. I was on the trees I don’t know who were in the crane, maybe Ray Freeman I think. But that is beside the point I had gone up I was on the trees and I put the dogs on and he lifted it up and some of the others must have been wedges or holding it and when that came up they parted. The two trees that I was stood on parted so I finished up in the brook. Straight through the hole. True story. I finished up in the brook I just stood up in brook in the water. I thought afterwards: if them had come back in could have had me anyway you know, could have crushed me.
There was metal, a lot of metal about on the bridge stopping the trees sliding you know. The other ones them ash ones were a bit different you know down the yard there was another stack down there. Another stack of ash trees. Ash was known to be a slippy tree. If the bark came off and it came off very easily. They could move.
There were accidents on there you know. The tree came along on the runner cut it off. It was an accident, a real accident. The plank fell down onto more runners. Jack Betham I think it were. The plank came down and he did not get out of road and it broke his legs, both his legs. Yea. When the bogey moved, went back you know, broke his legs. There was many a time when the saw was sawing, the saw blade would disintegrate. And you was lucky, some went there, some went there. Little bits of slivers, metal. The big band saw yea. Just disintegrate amazing that no one were ever killed with that thing.
There were quite a few of the oldens you know – the Freemans – with no thumbs, no fingers. They had chopped them off. They were still there using the saws and they were always telling, saying: “Now mind you don’t lose your fingers!”
I went onto a circular. When you use a circular saw s there is a lot of waste. The waste you cut it up, theres a stand with a bag in it, a hessian bag and you fill it up with firewood. The bag was full you took it off, you wheeled it outside on the sack truck and stacked it up under the shed. They came to me and said “You can drive can’t you”? I said, “Aye I can drive yea” Go and get one of the flat waggons and you can take a load of firewood out. So right I did that two of us Mr and Desmond Hesmondalgh usually and Derek Ellison. We were normally doing that sort of job for a while. Going round houses in Chipping, delivering firewood for free. Didn’t cost them ought and it weren’t a bad job. Before Christmas was a bit hectic ’cause every time you went to a house you got a drink. “Will you have a whisky?” “Aye go on!” By the time we got back we were a bit sozzled actually.
In them days there were no vans you know it was all flat waggons, flat waggons with lutons on. That’s a luton that came over the top of the cab with two bars down the front. A long distance job came up. Wilf Cookson said, “ Are you up to it ?” I said, ”Aye I am up to it, aye”. So I went long distance driving then. It was going good. I was doing it for about five years. I was down in London one night. I know I had done too much once. Derek Duncanson was on with me I was the driver. These flat waggons they used to load four high and there were sides on it. They used to put eight chairs in a row, then put hessian on top another eight chairs , then another eight rows and then you put a rope round them. And you did that until there were seven rows on the bottom there 32 every time. You would sheet all them up, then put some more ropes on them. Then you walked on the top chairs and you started on a luton and put another 3 high on the luton. Then you tied all them up and then you worked your way back again seven rows high, seven rows back, 3 high. You could only just get under the bridges. Lowest bridges that is. You couldn’t go through Whalley. No they were always too high for that.
I was in South London one night. Me and Derek in a hotel as we called them the, a transport café and I blacked out well I passed out in the toilet. I thought bloody hell! Anyway, I had to drive home the day after cause Derek couldn’t. I went back to bed I slept, drove home I thought I had better go to the doctor’s see what was wrong. He said there is nothing wrong with you really but I would advise you to stop long distance driving as it looks like it is getting at you. Bit of stress I have always been bothered with stress.
We were supplying all sorts, cafes, hotels apart form the shops. I mean in them days if you went to Blackburn there were thirty furniture shops in Blackburn and similar in Preston. Now you have got a couple of warehouses out in the sticks and that’s it. But there were these little shops and they were taking anything from four chairs to 24 chairs, maybe more some of them. Tables and everything else. Tables being made to match these chairs.
I know I was driving that day 1987 there was a massive storm in the south, blew one heck of a lot of trees down October 1987. Jack had them shipped up to Preston Docks. Cut up in the right lengths and everything and shipped up. I was transporting them 0ff Preston Docks and back up to Berry’s. I had the flat waggon, just ordinary flat waggon, Commer, and I got loaded up. Three trees in the bottom, just nice fit and then two on top and then one in the middle. Tied them off and coming back along Blackpool Road. Bang ! Oh. That’s not nice. I pulled into the side. You are not so far off the side when you have that sort of weight on. The left hand spring had broken. So I knew I daren’t go any further. Luckily it was still hold at the front. It was the back piece that had broken. I don’t know if you know anything mechanical but the back part holds onto the chassis. I rang Berrys, from a shop actually near where I were and Tommy Marsden came out and the biggest jack we had was a five ton jack. He brought two blocks of wood with him about 4 inch square, maybe 6 inch square probably and we jacked it up so that we could get these blocks of wood under between the axel and the body. He said right we will go now and he pedalled along behind me and I drove back to Chipping with two blocks of wood no springs or anything. Biggest problem was putting the brakes on, you know, because your axel is held by your spring really but luckily with it being on the front I was allowed to use the brake without.
You bring in a stack of stretchers, you bring in a stack of backs in, these are all tried and on stacks and then they have got to be clamped up and put together, that’s part of it and then it gradually goes through the machine shop. Being drilled and sanded and everything else and it gets to the other end and then it has got to be knocked up, put together. The whole frame has to be put together, clamped together. Then it has to go on a flat base and there is a saw in one corner it all has to be levelled off, make sure it doesn’t rock. Then it goes down the belt and into the polish room then. The polish room has a carousel. They go all the way round and when they come off that, one hour after about an hour they are usually dry enough to get hold of.
The chair came through polished. Tommy Byers screwed the panel on it, four screws and a panel on a jig. Then the chair came down to me and I had stacks of seats coming out of there, cause each upholsterer had to do 120 seats a day.
I was coming out of Oldham with a comma, a flat waggon, it started spluttering and spluttering well it didn’t it just started slowing down. Luckily there was a layby there and Tommy Marsden came out and you will never guess what he did ? He put five gallon of petrol in the diesel tank. Then we bled it all. There was like a wax. We bled it and pumped and pumped it. It gradually got coming through again and away we went.
Lets just go to when we were in the old mill 1960 and it was a bad year. I think we had three months of frost. Something like that. The dam froze there was something like a foot of ice on the dam. James Berry was helping me to cut the trees up and things like that. We had to carry on the works has to carry on. We got the trees down and we tried scraping them but it was impossible. The soil and the stones and everything that was on, it was frozen you know. So James and I had to get degging cans, go down to the boiler which was just down the yard. Fill them with boiling hot water and go back to the tree and pour it onto the trees to thaw all the mud outside with boiling water and then it was straight back to them to scrape them off before it froze again. He was a good lad was James, muck in doing ought he would.
John Berry. Nice chap very nice chap. Quite a shock when he died. ALL Chipping turned out for the lining of the route. I did a lot of that in the RAF, lining the route for the queen. I was stood at the entrance to Admiralty Arch on guard with my rifle when the queen came back in the golden coach. She was only two yards off me in the golden coach. They had been on their European Tour for six months when she got married.
One time I had 35000 chairs – it was my responsibility to count them and you counted them individually. Yes when I used to take stock in the store room. At the beginning it was count them individually. We stacked them up we had 48 in a stack. After a while I got a bit canny. I had them in blocks and I knew how many were there. That was one thing, but we had chairs in Chipping Dairy. Also a big storage house in Clitheroe 10,000 in there and we took them down to Catforth to one of Jack’s mates we had about 5000 there. The old mill, upstairs in the old mill, that was absolutely full, probably 2/3000 chairs up there. And they all had to be counted but once I knew how many were in such a place it was not so bad. But within eighteen months of the recession finishing they had all gone. I never enquired as to how they had gone but I reckon they had all been knocked down in price. You take so many chairs and you can have them at so much. It was my job to see what was in stock and my job to get rid of them when they were going out. It was amazing how Jack Berry kept us going.
When Ted Heath went on three days a week, we were on short time then. That was electricity. That electricity job with the kilns going. Three or four of us were going up to Cormer. There was an estate over there. We were getting branches and trees and everything to be cut up to be put in the boiler to keep the heat going cause there was a coal strike. I know we were on a three day week.
There was a gang that was trained in fire drill. Tony Marsden was the leader of it. We had our own little fire engine it was a Coventry Climax engine that sounded absolutely gorgeous it did. It certainly could put some water out. That had to be done, tested once a week. As long as you got the basket in the water you were right. We had a fire in the roof one day in the polish room which everyone assumed was going to. I remember shooting down to, I was in Chipping that day, help them. Johnson was in charge he was the engineer. He had been up in the roof doing something – welding, which wasn’t good. The sprinklers had gone off they had worked.
Breakfasts were really good. There were three old ladies in the canteen. One of them was a good Catholic, a real Catholic and Friday came along and we all went up for our dinner. As we were all queuing up Mary was there at the beginning fish. You had to have fish on a Friday. Breakfast were good they were. We were starting at seven o’clock then working till half past five. Never thought anything about it.
When I went there was the Winsdsor department that was going it had just been built but here was no warehouse or anything like that down over the bridge. None of that no, the Windsor department, the main works, machine shop, the old mill that was about it because by then the Windsor dept… your garage at one end of the Windsor Dept, the loading bay at the other end. There was no warehouse then. It all had to be stacked in the Windsor Dept upstairs. That one you drive past at the side of the brook. That was warehouse, loading bay. Then we got that massive building down below.
Very frozen over in ’68, really frozen over. As I said about a foot deep the ice and James Berry came to us with about four or five pairs of ice boots. They were wooden ones, with metal underneath and straps. Anyway we tried them and we were doing our best to skate. We used to play football in the yard everyday. It was like Cup Final every day. It was deadly, it was deadly. Just get stuck in.