JOHN GEORGE HAIGH
John George Haigh was born on the 24th of July, 1909, in the Lincolnshire town of Stamford.
John Haigh, senior, and his wife were from Robinsons Row Altoft’s and were respected in the religious life of the community. They were proud and poor. they belonged to The Plymouth Brethren, a Protestant Nonconformist sect, founded in Ireland in about 1827.
John Haigh, senior was a skilled engineer, but suddenly unemployment struck at his life. He was 38, and his wife 40. It was in those hard days that Mrs. Haigh told her husband they were to have their first and only child. Joy was mingled with unhappiness. To them unemployment, though none of their fault, was a mark of failure.
They wanted no-one to know that a child was to be born to their house while the ‘father was workless.
There was little food. John Haigh walked many miles every day in his search for work, his wife took odd jobs in her effort to keep the home going. There were no clothes, or other preparations for the coming child. None was possible.
This was a great testing time in their religious life, daily prayers were offered for work, for food, and comfort for the coming baby. Religious fervour was strong within them. Their own parents and their grandparents had been pillars of the Primitive Methodist and Brethren movements in Yorkshire.
Mrs. Haigh prayed daily for help. Hope had almost gone. But then, on the Friday before her son was born, Friday was always to be an important day in his life, her prayers were answered. Into the Haigh home there arrived a parcel of baby clothes and other necessities which brought tears of gratitude.
The immediate situation was saved, but it was not until six months later, in January 1910, that John Haigh found work. Then it was employment which lasted. For the next 25 years, until his retirement, he was in charge of the electrical installations at the Lofthouse Colliery at Outwood on the outskirts of Wakeﬁeld. This resulted in the Haigh family moving into Ledger Lane, Outwood.
His parents called him George, never John, he went to a preparatory school, and later to Wakeﬁeld Grammar School, where he remained until he was 17. He soon became a choral scholar at Wakefield Cathedral, even though the Church of England was far removed from his parents’ more austere religions outlook. Here young George could obtain the best education
On Sunday mornings the alarm clock was set for 5am so that George should not be late for early service. He walked three miles to the Cathedral, he remained the whole day, attending morning, afternoon and evening services, and then, after the long solitary walk back to Outwood, he would join his father and mother in family prayers before going to bed.
Soon there came into his life a new joy which always remained a delight and comfort. he was given permission to learn to play the piano and the organ.
He was not popular with other boys, and did not play pranks like they did. He was entirely devoted to his music. He was a child with two personalities and could be charming, but if caught unaware the boyish face had strangely changed into that of a grown man. It was cunning and prematurely old.
The boys at school called him “Chinky,” because he had slanted eye’s and seldom revealed by his expression what he was thinking. He did not play games with them, and went to considerable pains to obtain a medical certificate to excuse himself from sport of any kind.
The Arundel sisters Nellie, May and Violet who lived at 99 Lingwell Gate Lane used to pass his house on the other side of the road when on their way in to Outwood, he used to spit and swear at them.
Harry Ogden from Outwood recalls that he was a little bully, he would tweak girls ears, hit boys smaller than himself and then disappear into his own gate.
A Wakefield resident said, I was carrying my school blazer over my arm when he came up behind me and snatched it away. Then he threw it on the railway track, he said there is an express coming, it will run over you and there will be blood everywhere. I snatched my blazer and ran home crying. I would not tell my mother anything, but next day i refused to go to school. I got a good hiding and the whole story came out.
Another Outwood resident Des Moore recalls how a young George Haigh used to delight in spitting on people from the upper deck of a tram.
Noel Gay 1898-1954 a popular composer and an assistant organist at the Cathedral had fond memories of George Haigh, The two discussed music and George turned Gay’s pages for him whilst playing the organ.
George Haigh left school in 1926 aged 17. (To be continued)
From the Paperback “The Authentic & Revealing Story of John George Haigh by S Sommerfeld.