FIREWOOD ARTHUR


Firewood Arthur or Arthur Firewood, whose real name was Arthur McLennan, obtained firewood, made out of old pit props, from the yard at Lofthouse Colliery. He carted it around Outwood and district, where it was much in demand for lighting the many coal fires. For his favourite customers, including
those who supplied him with a mug of tea. Arthur chopped the wood into sticks suitable for kindling.

Arthur was small, wiry and splayfooted and wore a flat cap. His handcart was a tall squarish wooden box on two wheels, one of which was larger than the other and gave the contraptiona sideways slant. The local children taunted Arthur, perhaps regarding him as an older playmate. He did not seem to mind unduly, but on occasions gave chase.

One day, Arthur was seen by Mr Corden, the colliery manager, leaving the pit yard with an empty cart. Asked the reason, Arthur replied, "No firewood today for Arthur." MrCorden took him back to the woodyard and decreed that under no circumstances must Arthur ever be sent away without firewood.

Arthur’s Handcart had seen better days, one wheel was bigger than the other which made it very difficult for Arthur to handle. The miners at Lofthouse Colliery made him a brand new cart form timber in the pit yard and handed it over to him. The next day he turned up with his old cart, he had sold the new one.

On another day, Arthur was caught grovelling among the pit props on hands and knees, muttering, "Arthur lost a tanner", which was a princely amount in the 1930s.

Arthur's itinerary included Ledger Lane and The Avenue. Mrs Ledger, who lived on Ledger Fold, invited Arthur in for a mug of tea and a snack. The slurp-slurp and other noises which came from Arthur's mouth as he enjoyed the treat caused her husband to say, "We had better not ask him in again."

Each day, when work was over, Arthur left his cart in a convenient location for the start of next day's work. Frequently it was placed on waste ground beside the railway bridge on Potoven’s Lane, near the Drum & Monkey.

One morning, he emerged from the spot pushing his barrow, head down and not looking where he was going, a passing cyclist collided with him and ended down on the ground.

On Leeds Road, Arthur’s cart once became wedged in the tramlines. When the tram driver rang his bell, Arthur retorted, "You can wait, I was here first."

Firewood Arthur lodged for a time at York Street in Wakefield. Of his various landladies, some treated him better than others, even feeding him with steak and chips. Arthur eventually retired to an old people's home in Wakefield but, before he died, aged about 93, was lovingly brought back several times to parties at Outwood Memorial Hall, where he met former customers some of who were in tears when they met him.


Story by the late Norman Ellis.



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