Entrepreneur James Leach was a larger than life figure in Keighley in the 19th century. He was known as ‘Pie’ because of his one time meat pie business, but he also ventured into other trades such as handloom weaver, wool comber, coal pit sinker, beer house keeper, spoon maker, horse & cart driver, gambler, hawker, travelling showman, docker, green-grocer, nightwatchman/ policeman. He also became very much involved in local organisations and public offices. Pie got married on a particular afternoon only because he had time on his hands when his loom broke down. Unfortunately he arrived late at the church and fearing that the ceremony would have to be postponed because it could not be held within the permitted hours, Pie persuaded a friend to climb the church tower to alter the clock in order to mislead the parson. Then, when a ring was unavailable for the bride’s finger, he enlisted the help of the landlady at the nearby Lord Rodney Inn and she loaned her own wedding ring.
Apparently Pie was a little more organised when it came to making his funeral arrangements, making elaborate arrangements. He erected a fine tombstone in Keighley Cemetery some six years before his death and had it engraved with a testimonial and details of his public service:
‘We the undersigned have pleasure in certifying that the bearer JAMES LEACH is of sober and steady habits. He has been employed in the Keighley Police Force for upwards of 5 years and retired therefrom last October having been so long in the Force and accustomed to the duties of a Police Officer, we have confidence in recommending him to your notice. We are yours obediently
William Busfield Rector. John Craven JP. Jno Brigg JP. John Sugden JP. James Kershaw Superintendent of Police. July 29th 1854.’
Mr James Leach was a representative of the Ratepayers as follows:
He was elected a member of Keighley Local Board and served about 12 years. He was elected a member of Keighley Board of Guardians and served 7 years. He was elected a member of the Keighley School Board and served 2 years. He was elected a member of the Keighley Burial Board and served 3 years. He was a Commissioner of The Baths and Washhouses for 7 years and moved the resolution for the incorporation of the town officially in the Finance and General Purposes Committee of the old Local Board of Health.
The burial chamber was also excavated and, as Pie had nowhere to keep his prepared coffin, he obtained permission from the Burial Board to store the empty coffin in the grave until needed! Suffice to say that Pie was successfully laid to rest, as planned, on 13th October 1893 aged 78 years.
He kept a diary of his duties as Police nightwatchman (1848-1853) which is preserved in Keighley Public Library.
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Photo taken in Keighley, West Yorkshire, UK
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