How Friendy finally put up his itchy feet

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Back in 2009 former Gomersal man Philip Carter asked readers if they knew anything of a character called Friendly Shires.

Philip, who lives in Nottingham, said he and his classmates from Hill Top Primary School used to see Friendly sitting on a bench at the Hill Top crossroads nearly every day.

His request prompted a few responses, but no-one seemed to have a photograph of the man of the road - until now.

Jacqueline Pollard (née Parker) has found an old Spenborough Guardian cutting from May 1973 about the tramp, who was actually called Friendy, not Friendly.

Her father, Fred Parker, was a horse dealer and greengrocer in Gomersal, and Friendy would do odd jobs for him in return for a bed in the outhouse and meals.

Jacqueline said: “He was such an honest man. My dad used to buy horses, give Friendy the money in an envelope to go and pay for the animal. He’d catch a bus to wherever the horse was, and walk it back. He never, ever thought of running off with the money.

“He was a gentleman, and a gentle soul. Everybody would give him clothes and I remember he’d always be in the fish shop at Hill Top and everyone who came in would place their own order and then buy some for Friendy too - he had fish and chips coming out of his ears!

“He was so friendly with all the kids, he would whittle wood from orange boxes and make us puppets.”

The Guardian article told how Friendy, who was believed to be about 80, was finally forced to give up his life on the road after 40 years as Spen’s favourite tramp, and had accepted a room at Beech Towers old people’s home in the grounds of Staincliffe Hospital.

Three weeks earlier the wooden hut which had been his home for three years — in the grounds of Thornton’s Nurseries in Muffit Lane — had burnt down.

It was this rather than the years of patient coaxing which had persuaded him to give up his cherished independence.

“I had to run for my life, or I’d have burnt to death,” he told the Guardian.

“A paraffin lamp went over and the hut caught fire. I lost all my things but I suppose they weren’t worth very much.”

Friendy was born and brought up in White Lee where his father was a miner at White Lee pit.

“I left school at 14 and went down the pit,” he said.

“I didn’t like it, my brother was killed down there.”

He did numerous jobs for a while with local foundries and engineering companies but gave up regular work in his 20s.

“I used to walk a lot in them days,” he added. “I walked to Blackpool. That took me a day and a half. I used to walk to Liverpool, York, Wetherby, Scarborough, anywhere I wanted to.” Of his first night in his new home, he said: “They had to give me three baths. I think if I have any more baths there’ll be nowt left of me.

“I can stay here a bit till I get somewhere. I want to look after myself, I didn’t want to come here but there’s a lot you have to do you don’t like. I’ll have to die some day. I don’t want to do that, but there you are.”