Earliest memories are immediate post war and of an overgrown irregular, uneven field with a grass worn area which was the goalmouth in the football season and served as a wicket in the summer.
The field was bounded at the Station Road end by a number of allotment/hen runs (where the bungalows are now). Wooden fencing on the railway side also enclosed a storage area for telegraph poles for the railways. There were three constructions of, in each case four poles set into the ground with poles fixed as cross members at the sides and ends. The telegraph poles were laid over the cross pieces which created a play and exploration area for imaginative youngsters, far superior to present day playground equipment despite the spells and creosote. The other two boundaries were hawthorn, elder and willow hedges alongside drainage ditches which protected farmer Schofield’s (Scoweys) field.
It took a long time to find out why it was named Billy’s Field and I am indebted to the late Will Illingworth who told me that the field once belonged to the Royal Oak pub. Will added that the name came from the long serving landlord Billy Wilson (1920’s) who took his duties seriously at warning people off the land.
No warning off in the 1940’s/1950’s however, when there was always a game or activity in progess (would anybody remember bowlering?). Of course, soccer was the main interest, and always plenty of players. In my generation – Barry Ingham, Mike Shillito, Les Austin, Terry Barrett, David Barker and many others.
I remember with great affection playing soccer in those years, always arguing whether the ball had gone for a goal inside the coats or whether it was a dead ball. Still clear in my mind is a picture of Tommy Firth (Fagger) racing from the field without a word to anybody. He often did this – just stopping in mid play and racing off without warning. Why? you may ask. Well Tommy was the porter at Methley North Station, he loved a game of any kind but when the 4.45pm to Altofts was due in (and others) he had to fly to be on the platform in time.
One of the outstanding players, either at football or cricket was Frankie Purcell. Frank was partially disabled with a shortened leg which required an extended caliper to control a boot that had been specially built up. You couldn’t get him out at cricket and we took it in turns to be his runner otherwise you could be running all afternoon. At the same game he was more than a useful bowler and an agile and competitive stumper. At football he played in goal, so successful was he that he was selected for the school team in that position.
During the 1960’s the field was levelled and seeded and is now gang mowed regularly. Since that time there has been few kids playing games in that field, initially I thought it was the effect of TV etc, but it wasn’t, it was this ‘demographic thing’ -there were far less kids being born after the post war boom. Pity they couldn’t have levelled the field 20 years earlier.