Say Hello to the Hippies!

Ted MatkovichWhen Methodist minister Ted Matkovich swapped the Australian outback for the moors and valleys of the Upper Calder Valley he was warned: "you have come from a developing part of the new world to a declining part of the old."

Five years later, in 1972, Ted wrote an article in which he urged local folk to welcome the influx of young folk beginning to make their homes in the area.

Dismissed by many as "hippies" there was often outright opposition to the newcomers, who were squatting empty properties but bringing a much-needed breath of fresh air to the area, Ted argued.

His outspoken views caused reverberations which have an ironic echo nearly 30 years later:

"With the decline in the traditional industries there has been a consequent drop in the population in this part of the West Riding.

The dominant mood has been one of pessimism with many people wondering whether there was any real future for this valley at all.

In recent days one sees grounds for hope in the district. Winds of change are blowing again — and the downwards spiral in the population trend is being halted. There is a sense of expectancy and a feeling of confidence about the future of the district."

Much of the growing sense of optimism was due to two groups of people, Ted declared, one of whom was the increasing number of middle class people living here and commuting to nearby cities.

The other was the young people — "without a great deal of money, who are purchasing old cottages and derelict buildings and are prepared to accept many austerities," he pointed out.

"These young people are renovating and modernising these places with their own hands. Thus many of these dwellings are being made suitable for human habitation once more.

The comparitive lower cost of housing is proving to be an attraction to this valley, so the trickle is becoming a stream.

People are also choosing to settle in the Valley because of the beauty of the countryside and a desire to escape from the rat race."

Now reviewing the situation from the present day perspective, Ted explains:

"The newsletter, written for the Hebden Bridge Methodist Circuit, and entitled `Where there is no vision people perish,’ was an attempt to get our people prepared for the challenges and opportunities of the future, as I saw it at that time.

I urged people to purchase their homes from the local mills and sewing shops. Many of them were renting their houses at peppercorn rents and I told them it would not always be so.

People merely laughed at what I had to say but later regretted that they didn’t act on my suggestions and advice.

Also the changes going on around gave us the opportunity of welcoming new folk into our community and delighting in their new perceptions and skills.

It could only add to our understanding but required vision to do this. Only time will tell how successful we were in accomplishing the task of capitalising on our diversity."

Ted now lives in his native Australia but still visits the UK on a regular basis.

Were you one of the "Hebden Bridge hippies" who helped give the town its distinctive character? What do you think of the way the town is developing today? Let us have your views!