The People

Some Stories from the WR Mitchell Archive

The WR Mitchell Archive team of Volunteers is currently busily working on transcribing the tapes and getting them ready for publication here soon. To whet your appetite here are a few stories from the recordings which have been digitised as part of the pilot project.

Kit Calvert, courtesy of W R MitchellKit Calvert 

Kit Calvert, saviour of Wensleydale Cheese in the 1930s, was recorded in 1979 telling the tale of his life, in his own words, as a young man before the First World War. The eldest son of a quarryman in Burtersett, Kit recalls his parents trying to raise a family of three on 18 shillings a week (90p). They survived by keeping their own geese and hens, although many of the eggs were sold to eke out their weekly income. Kit recollects asking his mother if he could eat a whole egg, rather than one half, to be told ‘Half an egg was good enough for David Lloyd George!’ A champion of Yorkshire dialect himself, Kit would no doubt have approved of our dialect transcription of his interview with Bill. 

Annie Mason, courtesy of W R MitchellMrs. Mason of Burtersett

Mrs Mason of Burtersett, born Annie Margaret Pratt, recalls how one Richard Metcalfe gained his nickname ‘Dickie Vocator’, attempting to raise a glass to Queen Victoria after an evening’s celebrations and mispronouncing Victoria as ‘Vocator’! Her grandfather, another Richard Metcalfe, managed the quarries at Burtersett. She recalls that many a town in Lancashire was paved with cobbles from Burtersett. Her detailed recollections of lambing, hay making, and domestic duties such as bannock-baking and cheese-making are captivating and bring a by-gone age back to life.

Harry Cox of Settle

Harry Cox of Giggleswick recalls his medical examination in 1894 before he started work part-time in Langcliffe cotton mill. His mother had dressed him in his Sunday best in preparation for his examination and of course he had had a bath the night before. Harry was puzzled when the doctor kept asking him his name and it was only when Harry replied the third time that he remembered to add the word “Sir”.  “You’ll do!” came the reply from the doctor and that was the end of the medical examination! He recalls other stories from his time working in the mill including some interesting occupational names such as “gassers”!

These are just a few  of the recordings which have been digitised. Others include the stories of Big Bill Alderson, of Angram near Muker, who describes how he slept with the window open, even in the winter, and woke one morning to find the room covered in snow!

John Geldard, courtesy of W R MitchellJohn Geldard recalls the ancient art of dry stone walling and describes how he learned the art working with his father on his farm in Malham.

Sam Dyson recollects farming on Stanbury near the Brontes' home in Haworth.

Marie Hartley and Joan Ingilby, Dales authoresses, discuss walking tours of the Dales in the 1920s, and ’back-cans’, used for transporting milk in the days when cows used to be milked outside.

Come back and see us in the Autumn when we will have some podcasts of these stories on-line for you to enjoy!

We have at least 600 more tapes to digitise. If you would like to sponsor a tape or donate to the W.R. Mitchell Archive please contact Sita Brand at 

Images of Kit Calvert, Annie Mason and John Geldard courtesy of W R Mitchell.