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Backwords: Dr Dan's

Mike Shaw recalls drinking Dr Dan's magical health-giving mixture.

The towering iron gates were open wide, offering a welcome to the Aladdin’s cave that was Huddersfield’s old market hall.

I needed no beckoning as a boy to walk past the fish and poultry shop outside the Bull and Mouth entrance and into the magical atmosphere of the market.

A visit to the Victorian emporium was one thing I relished on what otherwise I regarded as tedious shopping expeditions to town with mother.

Once inside, my youthful eyes were drawn as if by a magnet to the ice cream stall, with stools where older mortals could linger over their knickerbockers glories.

For us there was no time to linger. Merely a brief call for the smallest sized cornet to be licked at speed as it swiftly began to degenerate into a white volcano, spilling molten rivulets down the side of the cone.

Ice cream or a glass of Dr Dan’s magic mixture was the rule imposed on me. Even I recognised the sense of that. The two were hardly compatible companions in my digestive system.

Dr Dan’s health stall seemed to exert a compelling fascination over children and grown-ups alike.

Young and old crowded round the counter in eager anticipation of the mysterious herbal brew whose recipe was guarded by the doctor himself with all the secrecy of MI5.

We’ve had our new market hall now for many years. But I doubt whether the youngsters of today will take with them into adulthood the sort of vivid memories which older generations have of its Victorian predecessor.

Remarkably, a few relics from the old market hall are still around. A pickles firm called Shaw’s preserved the old wooden doors which led into the bottom market.

And at least a couple of the carved stone heads that adorned the entrance to the market are now decorating somebody’s garden walls.

Character, I suppose, was the one word which above all others sums up the compelling attraction of the old market hall.

And character was the hallmark of another much-lamented town centre building, the Pack Horse, which became my favourite pub when I graduated from Dr Dan’s to Younger’s IPA.

Strolling through the cobbled yard behind the pub was enough in itself to conjure up visions of a horse-drawn coach ready to continue its journey across the Pennines.

Inside, it was historically magnificent, besides having some of the best-kept beer in town and serving traditional food of real quality.

I once took a visitor from London there for an early-evening meal in the upstairs dining room. Gazing in awe at the steak, lamb chop, bacon, egg, sausage, tomato and mushrooms which made up his mixed grill - plus chips - he exclaimed “So this is what they mean by high tea in Yorkshire!’’

Another friend from the South took a sip of his hand-pulled pint at the bar, looked around him and said “I keep expecting a coachman to come in and tell us he’s about to leave.’’

Not least among the pub’s internal attractions were hand-painted windows and panels of rural scenes - mainly from the Lake District - showing woods, waterfalls and lakes.

Superb examples of craftsmanship performed, I believe, by a travelling artist.

Thank goodness somebody had the good sense to make sure they were not smashed up with the rest of the pub in 1972.

At least, we can still admire these remnants of a historic hostelry. Take a look at them in the Tolson Museum, Huddersfield, and revive your memories of the dear departed Pack Horse.


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