The River is Oblivious

Over a period of forty years Rochdale was my home town, but for sixty three years Tadcaster has always been my place of birth. Now Rochdale, in the Lancashire foothills of the Pennines will always be inextricably linked with my North Yorkshire birthplace because historians will record how each town suffered dreadfully in the floods of December 2015.

Tadcaster is a small town with its elbows thrust out to keep apart York and Leeds, as it stands slab dab in the middle of the two. There’s a by-pass these days but the bridge on the A64 remains a narrow bottleneck creating havoc when traffic is busy heading to and from the chilly delights of Scarborough or the more refined air of York races. The road through Tadcaster could never be sensibly widened cause of John Smith and Sam Smith, the men who gave their names to the town’s two massive brewery buildings that occupy territories a wider road might otherwise run through.

I have vivid memories of standing on the pavements of “Tad Bridge” looking up the hill on the York side to the houses on the Auster Bank estate where so many of my relatives lived, and to the riverside church in which my parents married. My dad would hold me up on the wall to look down into the River Wharfe which, he told me, “ran red with blood during the war of the roses.”

I didn’t realise then that my dad was playing fast and loose with local geography and mythologising history, so the river became a source of fascination for me.

Recently, that proud 18th century stone bridge surrendered to the power of nature and as it collapsed into the river it divided the town into two halves, with only diversions of several miles allowing the two parts to reconnect.   

As I later watched the footage on You Tube here in Lanzarote, of water pouring into The Butts I was reminded of Laura Hodson, Project Officer for Revealing The Roch and her idea for a promotional arts project inviting local writers to create a poem about an imagined meeting between any two characters from local history on Rochdale’s medieval bridge.

I’m left to ponder now that had there been no Tad Bridge in the nineteen forties, dad from Auster Bank, might never have met mum, from the other side of the river.

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