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Memory jogged by Bradford Historical Pageant of 1931
This page often acts as a catalyst. One particular past event leads to the recollection of another or a series of others. Like a jigsaw, Bradford’s history is pieced together.
Our piece about the 1931 Historical Pageant is a case in point. The event in Peel Park was recalled by Mrs Marion Priestley, and this prompted her to put pen to paper.
She wrote: “My uncle, the late Mr Charles Backhouse, who was a teacher in Bradford, was William the Conqueror. He was given the part as he was able to ride a horse.
“At one performance a horse slipped and fell. It was left on the ground until after the show and then humanely destroyed as I think it had a broken leg.”
Mrs Priestley, 89, remembers being taken to the Pageant in Peel Park and seeing Prince George and the ‘Welsh Wizard’, former Prime Minister David Lloyd George.
A phone call to her revealed that her father was Thomas Helliwell, a self-made businessman, a local Labour politician and a man of civic substance for 30 years or more.
“My father was very keen on anything that was civic. So I went to a lot of mayor-makings and meetings of Freemen of the City. My father was leader of the Labour group for quite a while. I was a textile designer with my father. We manufactured worsted without looms. We commissioned weavers and sent pieces to dyers afterwards,” Mrs Priestley added.
The business was Holt and Watson Ltd. It operated from an office in Bradford and was sold in 1979, Mrs Priestley said.
Her father, who died in June 1964, at the age of 69, personified the old-fashioned notion of public service. A self-made man himself, he was a Bradford councillor from 1930 to 1950, twice deputy Lord Mayor in the years 1936/37 and 1942/43, chairman of Bradford Manufacturers’ Association, a magistrate and from 1928 to 1930 a member of the North Bierley Board of Guardians – the workhouse.
He joined the board of the Bradford Permanent Building Society in 1953 and became president in 1962. He was a church warden at Buttershaw Parish Church and a president of Wibsey Independent Labour Party.
Perhaps more significantly, for a little over two years he was leader of the first Labour-controlled council in Bradford’s history, in spite of being briefly expelled from the party in 1936 over a dispute about the Lord Mayoralty of George Carter.
This is what the Bradford Independent Party newsletter said about him in its penny newssheet in February 1946.
“Tom is that type of fellow whom you know you will like as soon as you see him. He is a man with no side and brimming over with good fellowship. He has been a member of the Council for 16 years and Wibsey returns him at every time of asking.”