Rachel Ragg - My Yorkshire childhood

Freelance writer Rachel Ragg is from a family of cutlers and was destined to spend her childhood in Steel City as she explains

The print version of this article appeared in the March 2012  issue of Yorkshire Life 

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The response to our request for your memories of growing up in Yorkshire has been wonderful. Keep them coming. Just email the editor at esther.leach@yorkshirelife.co.uk to find out more and be ready to share some of your childhood photographs with us too.

Sheffield in the 1970s was grey and grimy, but it had its own special charm. The outside of the Roxy nightclub offered an exotic view of neon-lit glamour; the Hole in the Road was our gateway to such thrilling destinations as the ABC cinema, Schofields (where I met Father Christmas), C&A (which had the magical lure of a ride-on Palomino pony), and Tammy Girl, home of my first ever pair of ‘disco trousers’.

Saturday was town day. First, the Castle Market for half a pound of stewing beef for the dog. Mum would hold onto us tightly, just as her own mother had done with her, and steer us through the crowds, hastening past the shop with the fake Rubik’s cubes that I coveted.

From the market, it was back up to Marks and Sparks on Fargate (‘Thank God for St Michael,’ my mum would declare before our Saturday night ready-meal), then Redgates (to look, not to buy: I never did get the Doodle Art felt-tips I was so desperate for).

Then it was Atkinson’s on the Moor before crossing the bridge to Dad’s factory, where my sister and I would be put to work, stamping ‘received’ on the letters. If we’d been good, we were allowed a very special treat: a quick go on the Space Invaders machine in the factory canteen.

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Occasionally we would have an evening out - to Cole Brothers. Looking at the foreign rugs was as near as we got to leaving Yorkshire.

‘NO TOUCHING!’ we were warned as the china department loomed into view. Terrified by the thought of losing our pocket money if we breathed too hard and broke anything, we would make ourselves as narrow as possible. I still avoid china departments even now.

Outside, my Yorkshire childhood was one of steep hills and artificial lights. Thursday was Gran’s Day. After taking her home, we would pause at the top of East Bank Road and see my entire known world spread out before us, mapped out in orange street lights. I have seen far more beautiful views since, but none has ever matched it.

Sheffield now is very different; a city of glass and greenery.The egg-box council offices have gone. Redgates, the ABC, C&A, the Hole in the Road: all consigned to the annals of drab 1970s history. Though not everything has changed. I was very proud when my little sister took over the family business and became a freeman of the Cutlers’ Company.

As an adult, I worked my way from South Yorkshire to West Yorkshire, and have finally settled in North Yorkshire. On the face of it, my own children’s Yorkshire childhood is light years away from mine; where mine was made of steel and concrete, theirs is filled with Roman history and green spaces. But in another way, it has everything in common with mine.

For they are growing up in the greatest county, among the best, funniest people they are ever likely to meet.

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