EXAMINER reporters were on the scene 160 years ago to report the terrible disaster that occurred when Bilberry Reservoir above Holmfirth burst its banks and a deluge devastated the valley.
Long and detailed reports from our journalists catalogued a tragic piece of local history that became national news. Eighty-four people lost their lives, houses and businesses were destroyed and village pubs were used as mortuaries to store the dead.
As I have often said, the Examiner has been here since before the Flood – the Holmfirth Flood.
I am sure there are those who think I have been here just as long, but that is not quite true.
Mind you, I have written for the paper for 40 years so I have been part of what I consider a great and essential local institution for a quarter of its lifetime.
By heck? Has it been that long? Am I that old? Did I really meet Buffalo Bill? What am I going on about?
Actually, this is Local Newspaper Week and a time for reflection on the contribution made by weekly, evening and provincial daily newspapers that we so often take for granted.
The back issues of the Examiner contain the heart and soul of the community as well as the hatches, matches and dispatches of those born, married and who died in the town and its districts since we first began publication in 1851.
In the past I have spent hours in the archives. All our local history is there.
Everything that has happened here since we first went into print has been recorded – from tragedy to council meetings, the visit of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, Houdini escaping from Huddersfield police cells, mundane court cases and murder hunts.
Sometimes emotion caught me unawares.
I sat one afternoon with tears in my eyes reading the obituaries of the First World War dead. They were printed day after day, list after list – photographs of young men in their prime with an epitaph of school, chapel or church and where they died: Somme, Passchendaele, Gallipoli, Jutland. So many of them.
It occurred to me then that their last resting place after parents and siblings had gone was in the archive of the Examiner.
I am a fervent believer in local newspapers and not just because I have been involved in them for most of my working life.
They are an essential part of democracy. They safeguard truth and fairplay. They give the public a voice through news stories and the great forum of letters to the editor. They identify, reflect and bind a community.
The way they are run has changed over the years.
Typewriters and hot metal have gone. Journalists are far more highly trained than I ever was and ex-pats on the other side of the world keep abreast with the town through the internet edition.
But one thing that hasn’t changed is the commitment of everyone involved to strive for accuracy and integrity and to serve our community as we have for the last 160 years.
Huddersfield celebrated the diamond jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1897 by building the tower that sits upon Castle Hill.
Thirty-five years ago its people celebrated Queen Elizabeth’s Silver Jubilee with street parties.
Both events were covered by the Examiner. The archives are stuffed with party pictures from 1977.
Next month we will cover the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.
Huddersfield may not build a tower this time, but Examiner photographers and reporters will be there to cover all that happens in words and pictures. For the archive and future generations.