Albert Hymas

Jasmine notes that it was Albert Hymas who founded ALBERT HYMAS LIMITED in around 1905; if he had got the contract to build the Municipal Offices in Harrogate he was going to emigrate to Canada! Jasmine also tells me that Albert had a brother Alfred, who in turn has a grandson Maurice who lives in Burton Leonard ( a small village near Harrogate). Any further information about this branch of the family will be most appreciated.

I must say, what with "Albert Hymas Limited", "J. T. Hymas Ltd.", my own imaginatively named "Hymas Investment Management Inc.", and the superb "Hymas & Hymas" (a butcher's shop in Beaminster), it is clear that there is a genetic resistance in the family to paying consultants for modernistic names!

--James Hymas, 2002-02-20

The following has been contributed by Kenneth Hymas:

My grandfather, Albert, built in both brick and stone and for some time supervised extensions and repairs to the Black Bull Hotel on the Skipton road some 7 miles from Harrogate. A job inspection took all day on the pre-WWI roads by horse and cart. The usual building supplies were augmented by provisions for the live-in working crew on a weekly schedule. As an offset to the constant jolting of the cart, a small pat of butter was produced in the neck of each milk bottle as a result of the outward bound trip.

It must have been in the early twenties that he build the house at Filey right on the cliff, much against the advice of the locals. Both grandparents would travel the 62 miles on a Friday night for the weekend much of the year, my father begging off early as he tired of the whole rigamarole of packing, airing both the house and bedlinen. I inspected the outside of this brick "cottage" on a visit in 1993, talked to the present owner to hear that very little had been done in the way of replacement or repair except that an oil furnace had taken over from the original central anthracite stove. Even after some 70 years, no tuck-pointing had been done or even needed on the structure.

I was about 4 years old when I stayed in the house, enjoying the holiday-time beach life of the North Sea coast. The permanent damp chill and the multitude of jellyfish on the beach are among my memories. But once a week, I think, the sands were cleared and at low tide there was car racing on the beach, not hastily assembled stock cars, but the purpose mode rounded and streamlined racing variety.

The late thirties' summer vacations had move north, to Rumswick Bay, where we took rooms in small hotels close to the Beach. One particular memory is that of seeing my first movie. Fellow residents had persuaded my parents to let me travel to Haddiscoe, a village some 3 miles inland, with two quite young children, about 12 and 7, myself about 8. Catching busses and walking in the rain, is was positively careless by today's standards; but the really valuable memory was the truly memorable "Captains Courageous", practically new, starring Spencer Tracy and Mickey Rooney. They were still stars forty years later, as is the movie, which I saw on video, nostalgically, not too long ago.

Other "trips" I made regularly were to the quarries operated by Albert Hymas. Mostly on Fridays, later on Thursdays, these were paydays, the paypackets being made up the day previous - in cash. Typical pay in the late 30's, early 40's was £3.10s per week after deductions. A regular cargo included new sharpened pickaxe heads as all stone breaking was manual. Wooden wedges with water for expansion were used on large blocks.

This process was tedious but simpler than in most modern quarries in that the near surface sandstone was fairly soft with many random breaks and fractures. The result was irregular blocks used for making sand and as "pitching stone". These latter were typically handplaced as the foundation for new roads - and aircraft runways. The technique was pioneered by the Romans and remained virtually unchanged for 2000 years.

Gas lamps as street lighting is another of my quainter memories. Many (at least) of the street lamps on the sidewalks (pavements) used coal gas. This fuel originated the local coke/gas works located at the lower end of town to avoid pumping. The lamplighter, a town employee, arrived around sundown on his bicycle armed with a long pole. Using a catch on the pole end, he triggered the gas jet and spark mechanism, returning around midnight to extinguish the flame. This was a practice not invented by the Romans, but lasted into the forties.

I suppose that overall, life at Farndale was not closely touched by war, but one warlike experience was ironically enough driven by unusual but natural causes. The earthquake or seismic event has been described before in other accounts, but is so well remembered as a case of mistaken identity that I recall it with feeling. Asleep at the top of the house I was awakened by a rumbling noise accompanied by shaking of the structure and the rattling of the ornaments. Realizing that these symptoms were identical to an occasion some weeks previously when the Germans were bombing Leeds, I went back to sleep, content that the problem was 16 miles distant and completely unresolvable.

Only next morning did the radio announce that a sharp movement in the Craven Fault had occured and had registered some 3.5 on the Richter scale. the fault line was very ancient but supine, running west of Harrogate up near Settle towards Sedburgh. My ignorant nonchalance contrasted vividly with later accounts of other people's response to events in Mexico City and Shanghai.

Much, much later in Kirkland Lake, Ontario, I was awakened by a very serious local event in the mines deep below the town. Fortunately, at 7am on a Sunday morning, no one was underground in the mines which had reached over 8,000 ft. below surface. Later examination of the workings could not determine exactly where this event took place, but certainly not in any current working area. I was working at the 6,000 ft. level during this period, and was greatly relieved to hear the rock surfaces spitting and creaking, indicating that stress relief was taking place in a gradual and non-violent fashion.

--Ken Hymas

Ken has also contributed the following piece regarding Allan Hymas. Since Allan was first cousin to John Leslie and worked in Burton Leonard, it seems likely that Allen was Alfred's son and Maurice's father. Confirmation would be greatly appreciated ... at which point I will update the family tree and move the following to a page dedicated to Allan.

--James Hymas, 2002-02-20

J.T. Hymas Ltd., was a firm of well engineers, concerned mostly with finding fresh water supplies for farmers and industry all over Yorkshire. It was managed by Allan Hymas, John Leslie's first cousin, out of Burton Leonard some 7 miles from Harrogate.

When I was about 20 and at Leeds University, Allan took me on two or three trips to do levelling work and visit customers. He believed he had water divining faculties using the usual Y-shaped hazel stick and was careful to insist that his gift was imperfect but did improve the odds of finding latent water flows. He related how, on one job, other diviners were consulted, with each of the three of them including himself, coming up with three different recommended locations. His empirical knowledge of geology must have been of some help to his divining.

On one occasion, being asked to improve the water supply from a well inside the factory, he detonated a charge of dynamite in the well "to open up the rock fissures". Regrettably, the charge was excessive and blew part of the roof off, although otherwise the operation was successful.

I remember that even in those days (1950, 1951), factory managers were very sensitive about their waste water, glancing at me with suspicion, when the subject arose. They remained quietly contented about regular spillage into streams and rivers, since Authority had not yet started to do anything about it.

Allan also told me the story of the remote farmhouse in the Dales which had just installed a water supply and electric power via the national grid. On checking back later, my uncle noticed that all electrical outlets had been blocked over with clay. The farmer admitted that he had done this to avoid "electricity leaking out when we weren't using it".

A far more serious situation arose when the weekend guests at an equally remote manor house all fell ill with some intestinal problem. The harried owner anxiously requested Allan to fix this situation, firstly by finding the actual water source. Several day's digging by some energetic Irishmen followed a meandering buried pipeline through the farm complex to adjacent ruins on higher ground. Underneath a rather fine mosaic floor the appalling and unhygenic source of water was revealed as a very ancient shallow well. Generations of residents had become so resistant to the remnants of the local rural fauna that their immunity had been uniquely earned. My uncle was hurriedly asked to replace the whole system.

--Ken Hymas