Visiting the 'Get Wet, Get Well' exhibition at the Manor House, I was struck by the content of some of Fred Reynolds' cartoons, published in (presumably) the Gazette or the Free Press during the first decade of the last century.
This was a time when there was considerable disquiet about the amount of money being spent on new public buildings (the Town Hall and Kings Hall), which was being raised from the taxpayer with only the slightest nod of the head towards democracy. It was a time when there were real concerns about changes being made to the moor to take away the 'wildness' and make it suitable for visitors. It was also a time when concerns were being expressed over late-night noise, particularly in the form of late-night drinking (and the far greater number of drinking establishments then available) and fireworks ('being released every night').
All of which sounds terribly familiar. Some of the less intelligent members of our parish (supported by various of the councillors) are campaigning against extending pub opening hours. They're talking of the increase in anti-social behaviour, the problems of vandalism and noise. All of which might be true, but are nothing new. Vandalism has been a constant worry since Ilkley became a resort town (and the working classes trooped over from Bradford every Bank Holiday); fountains and tea rooms alike have been forced to close. Not in the last decade, but a hundred years ago.
It's the basic faustian pact made by the elders of the Parish as the hydropathy craze retreated. Bringing money into the town, letting it survive as a town, means an acceptance that on certain days of the year, there will be trouble, there will be vandalism and there will be noise. If you don't like it, move out of the centre.
What irritates me is that number of citizens who can't see further than the end of the warts on their noses. Shut down the visitors, and you shut down the town. The economy starts to collapse and within a decade it's a commuter village for Leeds. That you don't have to have even a basic understanding of local history or the fundamentals of economics to be a Parish Councillor isn't surprising.
And, above, all, a wilfull lack of understanding of what made this town what it is, and what can help it survive. It's a good thing we have so many opticians in town--there's obviously a great demand for rose-coloured lenses to appreaciate the past through. The darker the better.