Shirecliffe Tip, pigs and grandad’s magical cavern

Tony Cronshaw, of Basegreen, with his book, A Kid of Steel, and a framed copy of the book's cover.
Tony Cronshaw, of Basegreen, with his book, A Kid of Steel, and a framed copy of the book's cover.

Favourite Things: Anthony Cronshaw has written a book about his tough - and memorable - early life in Sheffield

Growing up on the Shirecliffe estate in the late 1950s, Anthony Cronshaw found it harder than most. His mother left without a kiss or explanation, and he never saw her again. His early years were set amid post-war austerity when it wasn’t uncommon for a slew of extended family members to live under one roof. He finally got his wish of a mother’s love when his dad remarried and he had a mum to call his own, one that’s still with him to this day. Anthony was failed by the education system, but he had an entrepreneurial spark .... His memoir, A Kid Of Steel, is on sale at The Star Shop and other bookshops at £9.95. He has been married for (nearly) 30 years to Christine. They live at Basegreen, and have a daughter, Samantha.

Shirecliffe born and bred

I was born in 1955, and spent most of my early childhood on the sprawling council estate of Shirecliffe. It had everything a child needed, a nearby park and open air swimming pool at Longley. There were two cinemas for the Saturday morning ritual of queuing with hundreds of other ankle biters for a couple of hours in the company of the Lone Ranger and Tarzan. But best of all it had the Shirecliffe Tip. We played among the refuse that the good people of Sheffield were throwing away, scavenging to our hearts content.

Neepsend

Another fun day out was visiting my grandparents in Neepsend. Their house had a magical cavern at the bottom of the garden, which I viewed while being bathed in the pot sink. It had smoke drifting from it, like a genie’s lamp, but the sound of the flush and grandad emerging with the racing paper while puffing on his pipe, put paid to my youthful imagination.

School

My early recollection of school was being left by my mother in a whitewashed brick building that called Shirecliffe Nursery School. I exploded like a blubbering volcano, and the lady/teacher put an apron on me. Surely I was not going to get that wet! It turned out I would be enjoying the delights of playing in water, sand and paint - and treated to a small bottle of milk.

Money

I didn’t have spending money as such, but we supplemented our income by collecting empty bottles to take back to the shop and off-licence. Penny for the Guy and showing off your new clothes at Whitsuntide brought in the Queen’s Silver. Then there was collecting and chopping up timber to sell as kindling for the many coal fires.

Smoke Free Zone

In 1968 we moved from Shirecliffe to Birley. No more would my parents have to light that coal fire in a morning, we now had gas central heating. It was clean and purred away, bringing warmth to the family home. However, I never got to smell of toasted thick crusty bread in front of the coal fire.

with the Big Boys

My first recollection of moving onwards and upwards in the educational stakes was being chased around the playground at Shirecliffe Junior School. Those who got caught were dragged off and had their heads shoved down the toilet. This was reenacted some four years later when we moved from junior to secondary, the only difference being that the toilets were massive, and you could drown three kids at any one time.

Messing up the System

After enjoying my schooling from the age of four, some bright spark threw a spanner in the works by scrapping the grammar and secondary system and replacing it with the comprehensive ideology. It just didn’t work for me, and I rebelled in the final two years, before embarking on a life of earning a living in whatever occupation took my fancy.

Schools out Forever

I started work at 15 at W J King on Dixon Lane. I’m a bacon assistant on a whopping £9 a week. On my first day at work, two so-called workmates point me in the direction of a lorry full of pigs. The two lads are are padded up and look like American footballers. They make it look so easy as they hang the beasts in the fridge. I lose my footing and a pig has got me pinned to the floor. I am soaked to the skin in bacon fat, while the others have removed their shirts and have got five white coats on. They knew what was coming.

Alcohol:

My first recollection of getting drunk was as a 16-year-old. I must have had five pints of lager and lime in the local disco. I was in a cheerful mood, but once in bed the room was spinning. Why was it doing this? I needed the toilet. My head was firmly stuck inside the bowl, but unlike junior school I wanted it there.