From candlelight to laser beams.
The Memories of Marian Varley,
World war I
After the war
Prisoners of War in Leigh
School,after the war
The sewing machine
Comings and goings
Family and friends
Out a nd about
Health and hygiene
Going on errands
Middle teen days
Down our street
Toys and trinkets
New Year's Eve
Walking Days and Carnivals
Around and about
The Borough of Leigh
A woman's lot
My first visit to the theatre
Visiting Grandma on Sunday
Father's brother, Jack
Emigration: a new life
A Leigh lass.
When I was young I lived at 38, Henrietta Street, a Victorian worker's dwelling, two up and two down with a W.C. at the end of the back yard. It was the end of a row of nine houses. Instead of a communal back yard, which was usual, every tenant had his own back yard made by huge stone flags about six feet high, held in place by big iron bosses on each side.
The other houses had an ash pit shared by two families, which was about five feet long and three feet deep, with a wooden back which could be opened from outside to empty when the scavengers came. The front was open and in summer the smell was awful, and the bluebottles flew everywhere. We had a very tall bin with a lid and mother had to use a stepladder to get at it.
The house was occupied by my mother's Grandmother, Mrs Alice Smith, a right old termagant! She was her father's mother and needing care, but fortunately she died soon after, and my parents were able to take over the lease, and most of the furniture too, since no-one wanted it. According to the standard of the times (1910) it was a comfortable place with gas lighting in the living room, which housed a tall fireplace and oven. The mantelpiece above it had a plush edging with tassels tacked around it, and it held two nice opaline glass vases; a green glass little square box, which looked like tongue and groove wood with pointed tops, and a little white cat climbing on one side; a little fairing - a boy and a girl on a seat; matches, spills and other oddments.
The grate was black iron and the oven door had steel bands across, and there was a steel fender as well. Every Friday it was black leaded and polished up, and the steel bits and fender were rubbed bright with emery paper. It was a hot and uncomfortable job in the summer, as there was always a fire for the oven which was controlled by dampers, like flat plates of iron which were pushed to and fro to control the oven heat. How my mother managed to produce the lovely meals, cakes and pies she baked I'll never know. There was also a trivet which fitted on to the front of the fire bars and helped to use pans for boiling vegetables, and the pan for bacon and eggs, etc.
Getting breakfast ready took time. We didn't have hot water , or a gas oven, only a small gas ring to boil water for father's tea. He used to make the fire when he got up, and hoped that it would draw easily. After the fire had reached a nice glow with the help of the dampers on the oven, a shovel in front, balanced on the bars and a sheet of newspaper, porridge and toast were made. (A very sharp eye had to be kept on the newspaper in case it burst into flames.)
If the fire was sulky and hard to get going, it was bread and jam. This happened when the coal was damp. There was no container in our back yard, and it was just dumped into a convenient corner. Most people had a bucket of coal in a corner of the back kitchen so that it was a bit drier, and this usually made all the difference. The floor was covered with linoleum and a coconut matting that had newspaper under, as it was loosely woven, and when it was taken up to be shaken and beaten, the dirt underneath was surprising. This was done on Friday too!
Apart from the gas light in the living room, fuelled by putting pennies in the meter box, oil lamps and candles were used in the kitchen and bedrooms. In the living room was a mahogany chest of drawers, seven tiers high, with a white cover edged in hand crocheted lace. On top was a model glass ship, with sailors on the rigging and dotted about it, covered with a big glass dome. A pair of the usual Staffordshire dogs sat on each side, with painted eyelashes, gilt collars and heart shaped lockets. Behind the ship was a big case of stuffed birds, including a parrot that had belonged to Alice.
On the wall facing the window was an ebony wall clock with a brass pendulum. It was about two feet long. There was also an oil painting of a skating scene, quite a big one, and along the wall stood a horsehair sofa with a scroll arm. It was a most uncomfortable thing when you wore socks, very scratchy. There was a big table and the usual spindle-backed dining chairs, a nice mahogany rocking chair and a big-spindle backed chair which had once been the Chairman's chair at the Druid's Society and it wasn't at all comfortable! So, it had been padded with clean old pieces of woollen cloth and a big slip cover to hide it, made of curtain stuff. That was father's chair.
On the left of the fireplace was a tall cupboard up to the ceiling; the top half was shelves, the bottom half consisted of drawers. On the right was a shelf a bit more than half-way up, with a curtain across to cover the gas meter on the outside wall, and to hide night clothes which were hung on the oven side. When there was a new baby, the old hooded rocking cradle would be brought out from under the stairs.
The front bedroom had a brass ornamental bed and a big iron cot which would easily hold three youngsters if need be. The back bedroom had Grandmother's old four poster bed. The posts had been sawn off above a fancy bulge and didn't look too bad. It was huge.
The kitchen had a tall mangle with a wheel on the top to tighten or ease the rollers. There was a big wheel with a handle on the side to turn the rollers. On the outside wall was a long table, and a copper wash boiler. It had a little grate under it to heat the water. The table was used for scrubbing, and the wood was white-ribbed with use. There were drawers underneath for kitchen utensils and cutlery. By the boiler was the slopstone sink; above it, set into the wall, was the water tap, cold of course. The slopstone was not very useful, except to catch drips from the tap, and to contain any overflow when pans were being drained. The surrounding edge or rim was only about three inches high, so we kept a bowl in it for washing up.
Attached to the kitchen was the pantry, running alongside from the back of the house to the wall of the living room, taking in the space of the stairs between the living room and the kitchen. As in most houses, things that were only occasionally used were stored in the bottom end. There was a small paned window looking into the back yard, and a solid stone slab made a shelf across the width (about three feet) for keeping perishables on: milk, butter (if finances ran to it), lard, etc. Bread was kept in a terra cotta crock with a lid. It would hold about five or six 2lb loaves, as most women baked their own bread then, as my mother did.
I liked to watch her making bread, putting the barm in a mug with a spoonful of sugar and a little water, stirring it all up and putting it in a warm place to work. Whilst she waited for the barm, she put salt in the flour which was in a big yellow earthenware bowl, glazed white inside. She rubbed margarine or butter and lard into the flour, and when it was like fine bread crumbs, she made a hollow in it for the barm which she stirred as she emptied it in. Then she began to work it into the mass, adding more liquid if needed. When that was done, she kneaded it, using both hands, pulling the dough out at the sides, turning it into the middle, time and time again, until it was a big smooth ball. This was put into the washed, warm bowl and covered with a cloth, and set to rise in the hearth. When it had risen enough, it was turned out on a floured surface. It was cut into the number of loaves wanted, and kneaded into shape, put in loaf tins and baked. It smelled lovely while baking! When it was ready to cut, and well buttered, it was really tasty.
Washing day. Washing day, Monday, was a long day. Father got up early to make the fire burn brightly, as it was "banked up" before he went to bed. That is, the day's used tea leaves were spread on it and covered by the ashes from the day's fire, and firmed down with a coal shovel. The dampers were fixed so that it only smouldered during the night.
To make the fire burn enough, part of the fire was moved to one side, the ashes scraped off, and the ashes from the rest as well. Fresh coal was put on the well poked cinders and the ash pan put outside to cool. The dampers were set, and the kettle put on the trivet to boil. When they had had breakfast, father went to work as a porter at the Railway Goods yard. Although he had served an apprenticeship at the Albion Foundry as an iron moulder, he had been laid off. This is what usually happened as a new apprentice was taken on to save paying a journeyman's wage.
When the fire was well lit and the boiler filled with water (cold - no hot water in those days) mother would take a small shovelful from it to put in the boiler grate, together with kindling and coal. While the boiler was heating, the oak wash tubs were pulled out from their place under the mangle. One was for "soaping in", the other was for rinsing. They were made of staves with a slight curve, around a solid oak circular base, and were banded with steel strips to keep them in position. They were jolly heavy to move about too.
The dolly was brought from under the cold slab in the pantry. This was shaped like a three legged stool with the legs splayed out a bit. From the middle was a stout pole, three or four inches square and about eighteen inches long, with a round wooden stick through the top, shaped at one end to stop it from coming out of the pole. The clothes and things were sorted into piles. When the water was hot enough, it was poured into a bucket using a ladling can, rather like an enormous enamel mug, which held two or three quarts.
"Soaping in" began when there was enough hot water in the tub, whites first. Each article was dipped into the water and any grubby collars or cuffs were well rubbed with soap, "Blue Mottled" or "White Windsor". ("Pink Carbolic" was used for washing hands or dirty floors.)
After soaping, things were scrubbed on the washboard, which had thick ribbed glass in a galvanised zinc frame. When the pile had been done, the dolly came into action. It was dumped in the tub and grabbed on both ends of the cross stick handle, and moved vigorously back and forth in a sort of semi-circular motion. When this was done, the washing was fed through the mangle, ready for the boiler which had been topped up to provide a tub full for rinsing whites and coloureds. All the time the boiler fire had to be seen to, so that there was enough hot water when needed. I well remember the clouds of steam when you lifted the clothes out of the hot water with the boiler stick, which was usually the handle of an old dolly. Heaving the clothes and sheets in and out of one tub into another took a lot of effort and time.
The white things were dolly blued to make them look whiter. Pillow cases, petticoats, special occasion table cloths of damask, printed cotton dresses and shirts were all starched. Shirt collars were made separately and were heavily starched to make them stiff. The other things had enough starch to give them "body", i.e. to make them stiff but comfortable enough to wear. The starch used was Colman's, which came in large misshapen lumps, or the Robin brand, which came as a box of fine powder. Both were mixed with cold water to a white milky paste, and then boiling water was poured on to get the amount of stiffening needed.
When it cooled, it was clear, with a film on top which had to be removed. Sometimes, if there were a lot of white things which needed to be starched, the dolly blue was added to it, to save going through blue rinse separately. The dolly blue was made by Reckitt's, as was the Robin starch. The dolly blue was a lump of blue with a wooden peg, about one and a half inches long, sticking out of the top. The peg had a bit of a knob to hold it with as you dipped it in the water and moved it about to get an even colour. The blue lump was covered with a bit of cotton cloth and tied round the peg, to make it firm. There was also a dolly cream for tinting net curtains.After the whites and coloured things had been washed, and the woollens, there was a wash for the dusters and the sacking pinny which mother wore for rough or dirty work.
The whites and towels and sheets and pillowcases were all boiled with Hudson's Patent Washing Powder, meanwhile soaping, dollying and mangling, emptying dirty water from tubs, topping up the boiler, hanging out washed things, attending to the oven fire all had to be done, as well as making a big pan of "lobby" for our dinner. This was the remains of the Sunday beef, with onions, diced potatoes, remains of gravy and Oxo cubes. This was followed by rice pudding.
It was usually well into the afternoon when it was all done. The tubs had to be rinsed and dried and put back, the floor washed, the ashes taken out (But any cinders were carefully left), the copper washed out and dried. The clothes and other things that needed to be ironed were left a bit damp, neatly folded and fed through the mangle to smooth them a bit, and put on the table. Woollens, stockings and socks (all wool) were left to dry as long as possible and then left on the overhead clothes rack in the living room.
Tuesday was ironing day. Some irons were solid, with a little handle on top. Others, like mother's, were called box irons. They were a pointed oval shape and had a hinged top, with a fastening. They were heated by similar shaped pieces of iron with a hole through the middle, roughly two inches deep. These were put into the heart of the fire and heated until they glowed. Then came the tricky part - hoisting it out on the end of a poker into the iron box, whilst putting another ingot in to heat up. Usually there were three on the go; one in the box, one half heated, and the fresh one. It was horrible work in the summer, when the door would be wedged half open to give much needed air. The iron made a clicking sound when in use, as the ingot was a bit smaller than the case and rattled against the box.
Towels were not ironed, nor woollies, or father's union shirts, made from a mixture of wool and cotton. Underwear - vests, woven knickers, liberty bodices and flannel petticoats - weren't ironed either. The bodices were made of stout cotton with a fluffy inside and came about hip length. They had rubber buttons to fasten up the front and there were two buttons front and back on each side to hang suspenders on if you wore stockings.
The average dress in winter for me was: vest, knickers, flannel petticoat, liberty bodice, lawn petticoat, a medium weight woollen dress with long sleeves, knee length black wool socks, plus a cotton pinny to keep my frock clean, so it didn't need washing every week.
Usually, sheets were mangled again and put to air on the clothes rack. This rack hung from the ceiling and was almost as long as the room. On its four rails, sheets and pillowcases were put on the window end, personal underwear at the other, together with stockings, socks, pinnies, lawn petticoats and blouses and shirts. Fancy covers were arranged over the underwear to conceal it.
Things went along pleasantly, except for one thing: cockroaches. We were overrun with them and no others in our row admitted to having them. Mother complained to the landlord that traps were useless, despite being full each morning. These traps were circular metal containers about twelve inches across and perhaps three inches deep. The tops had a number of flanges that caused the cockies to fall through and they couldn't get out again.
I remember one night when I was about two and a half years old. It was dark, and mother had taken me out visiting. It must have been about 9.15pm, as my father had gone out for half an hour for his gill and a natter with his cronies at Poor Dick's. When we got in, she sat me on the table and lit the gas light, then leapt on the table with me. No wonder! I can still see that horrible dark shining horde running into the corner where the gas meter was. They seemed to come from everywhere and vanished in a very short time. I think that "fascinated horror" would sum up my reaction.
Mother still complained to Mr Caldwell via his daughter Millicent, who collected the rent each Friday night - Friday being pay day at most works. It was worth it, as he finally decided to sort it out. It seems that the cockies went into a gutter drain off the pavement on the road covered by a big grid, through which they came out when it was dark, and through a tiny opening by the gas pipe into the house. The whole wall was cemented inside and out, halfway up, and we never saw any cockies again, thank goodness!
When I was four I went to the Infants department of the Church of England Parish School which was housed at the Church Institute in Henrietta Street, near to the Avenue. The Head Mistress was Miss Oakes and Mrs Smith was the first class teacher. I loved going to school and I learned to read very quickly. I found "sums" easy and printing my letters too. There were four of us who were that bit further on: Frank Hill (his father had a grocery shop in Bradshawgate), Teddy Crusham (his father had a wet fish shop, in Bradshawgate too), and Frank Howarth, who lived in a garden house at the Avenue end of Henrietta Street. We all sat together at a table for four and got on very well.
We were all ready for Junior School at six, having been moved up early in each class, but then we lost touch as they were single sex schools. I don't know how Frank Hill and Teddy Crusham went on, but Frank Howarth did very well, as he ended up as a Town Clerk somewhere down South.
I can always remember when I was about five, the school had a concert in aid of Serbian Relief. Each class took part, and our class wore sailor hats made out of tissue paper. We sat in upside down forms pretending to row a boat, and sang "Away, away in a golden boat, far away, far away........" You couldn't imagine anything less like a golden boat!
There were also solo items for the more confident ones. I had to recite a poem, "My Dolly". It was about one "that could talk and go to sleep, and of curls it had a heap". I was disgusted to be given a bald-headed baby doll in a long dress. It was nothing like the "heap of curls" charmer.......
World War I.
By this time the 1914 war had started. On August 4th Britain declared war on Austria-Hungary, and on Germany on August 12th as they had invaded Belgium. Japan and Russia also declared war on Germany, and an expeditionary force was sent to France which was occupied by Germany. Many thousands of British and Canadian soldiers were killed, and many sailors too, as the German U-boats were ready to torpedo the ships. All men over 18 were conscripted except for those in certain occupations who had been told to stay at work.
My father was told to report at Bennis' Iron Foundry at Little Hulton near Bolton. This meant an early morning walk through the fields to Bolton as the trams didn't start early enough for him to be at work on time. He took with him sandwiches in a small square wicker basket with a handle on top of the hinged lid, and a big can of tea, sugared and milked, because there wasn't a canteen for meals. He ate outside in nice weather, indoors if not.
Food was getting scarce as we then depended a lot on imports, and the ships carrying them were sunk. So were frigates and battle ships. By December 20th the Zeppelins were over the British coast, although one had been destroyed in Germany. In 1915, countries were declaring war on one another. There were advances and defeats, with great losses on all sides. blockades made food hard to get and more expensive.
April 1916 saw daylight saving time come in, and on June 5th Lord Kitchener was drowned in the "Hampshire" as it struck a mine. From July 1st to November battle raged on the Somme, with 420,000 British soldiers lost. So it continued for another year, the Allies gradually gaining. On March 12th 1917, America declared war on Germany and the first lot arrived in France on June 28th. The battles kept going on with losses and gains on both sides. Various nations made treaties but the Germans were still attacking until the Hindenburg Line was smashed on a ten mile front. The battles kept on.
In July 1918 the last offensive raid on France took place, and on July 15th the British, Canadian and Australian forces attacked Amiens. Other nations made treaties and there was a revolutionary movement in Germany. The Kaiser abdicated and escaped to Holland. An Armistice was signed by the Germans on November 11th and a kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes was proclaimed on December 1st. It has been said that the Armistice was signed at the 11th minute of he 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.
When the war ended, the women who had done men's jobs were reluctant to give up their work, even those who had worked on munitions, and whose hands, faces and hair were bright yellow.
After the war.
Times were still hard in the Twenties and by then our family had grown. I had two sisters now. Alice was born on June 16th 1913 and Dorothy was born on August 27th 1917. My first brother, Fred was born in February 1920, Ernest was born in August 1922, Albert was born in August 1926 and my youngest sister Brenda was born on March 31st 1930.
By the time I was eleven, I was in Standard 7 of the Parish Church Girls School. Some of the others were fourteen, ready for leaving, and two others were twelve. There were ten of us, supposed to be the top pupils of the school. By this time I was doing multiple fractions and those sums about trains going at so many miles an hour and when would they pass each other; and taps filling tanks holding x gallons at 8 gallons per minute, and how long would it take? Sums about area, in square inches, feet and yards, or acres and square miles; or sums about distance - rods, poles, perches, chains, furlongs and miles. We also had Scripture, English (with the emphasis on grammar), writing, metal arithmetic, geography, history, drill, singing, and our lot had to learn a piece of poetry every week! We had to recite it perfectly, so we all searched frantically for short poems, of which there were far too few.
During December 1921 I sat for a scholarship to attend Leigh Girls Grammar School which opened that year. It was worth £8.2s.6d. in fees for a year, plus £5 towards the cost of books; £13. 2s.6d. in total if I got one. I passed the exam and had an interview with Miss Caress, who was the Head Mistress at the time, and was awarded a scholarship, to Miss Byron's gratification. I quite liked it, although the homework was a bit of a drag, as there wasn't much quiet at home when it was cold or raining. However, I only went for four years, as the General Strike and the Miners' Strike put paid to it.
I had to get a job.
I tried to get an assistant's job in a shop, but as I had no-one to recommend me I couldn't get one. I got a job of a sort at Yates' pie shop. The conditions were far from ideal. Two of us worked at a long bench on a landing at the top of a flight of stairs to the cellar, which was dark and pretty big. It had black beetles and was lit by a solitary 40 watt light bulb. Yates was a mutton-chopped, whiskered, unctuous old devil, who was an eminent Baptist and most definitely a Sunday only Christian.
He had a daughter who looked like a little monkey, but was quite nice. She and her mother were very much put upon by the old so-and-so. There was a son, Stanley, who was doted on and sent to Grammar School, but poor Ruth-Annie had to slave for her father. No wonder she got married as soon as she could.
While I worked there, one of my jobs was to scrub down the cellar, which I did as quickly as I could. I washed the pie tins and used bowls, cleaned dried fruit for scones, etc, from 7.45 am to 5.30 p.m. for a few weeks only. I was blamed for spoiling a dinner, although it was not my fault. There were three of us in the working area which was only a quarter the size of the big oven. Mrs Yates was cooking the dinner on a gas stove near a window at the back, and the bench was on one side of it. I was scrubbing it after Janet (the confectioner) had used it and Mrs Yates was doing the cauliflower. She lifted the lid and must have put it down over the soap as I kept asking where it was. I couldn't find it.
After a few minutes I said it smelt like washing day, and Janet agreed. Mrs Yates came in to look at the cauliflower; it was a frothy mess, as the soap was stuck on the lid! Old Eli was furious (mostly for the 2d the cal had cost) and blamed his wife and me for being careless, and said that I should have kept the soap away from the pan. When I got home I told my mother and father. They were mad too, so father marched off to the shop and demanded my card and my week's wages. (This was 7s.6d for five days and Saturdays up to 2pm, and included a midday meal.) Father got it too, and gave the old hypocrite a good telling off as well.
I got a job at Carrington Mills, weighing out cops and booking them in for the winders. I got 17 shillings a week. Holidays and days off like Good Friday, New Year's Day and Christmas Day were at our own expense as they were not paid for, and if orders were few we could find ourselves on short time, working only in the mornings. I worked there until I got married, and I had Anne in 1940. By then I had been a reeler for 12 years.
A reeler wound bobbins of processed cotton into hanks (skeins) of yarn ready for dyeing or bleaching. These were put on a frame which took forty at a time, each of which were fastened with a thicker strand of cotton. They were then tied into groups of five or ten, and slipped off the frame at one end which could be opened. Each hank was about two inches wide and could be made into three patterns. The frame was made to turn a certain length of time, then stopped. this was called a lap. A hank could be made of any number of laps, from one to four, or as many as needed, even ten. The standard pattern was a criss-cross which was fairly close, and usually tied in the normal way.
The ends to start the hanks were looped along the frame by a loose knot in pairs to keep it firm and these were broken out, each laid out over its own hank, the tie cord passed under the loose end and the bobbin end all tied together. The knot was made long enough to enable the hank to be spread wider for dyeing. They were cut by a small sharp knife or a big pen knife, the ends cut off gathered in the right hand to make a small ball and put in a special container on the frame.
The frame was made of long smooth staves of wood, six in all, arranged on a metal frame in a sort of a star pattern, a central pair and each other pair at an angle to left and right. These were about a foot from the end of the staves, under them, so they were kept smooth, and were linked together by strong webbing and special fasteners which could be opened. When opened, the staves were together, three at the top and three at the bottom, and the hanks hung slackly so they were easy to handle. It sounds complicated but it was quite easy really. The only thing that mattered was to keep an eye on the bobbins and ensure that the ends were not broken.
It was hard work if we had coarse "counts". The size of the threads were known as "counts". 10's were very thick compared with 100's which were thin. We would have liked 100's all the time, as they paid well. Coarse didn't. For some orders we had to have "Grant Wheel", which meant that the wheel pattern was altered to a bigger, looser criss-cross, and these were separated into five sections on two fingers of the left hand and the tying cord passed through with the ends tied as normal.
The third pattern was a step pattern. This was not criss-cross, but the yarn was allowed to pile up in a narrow "step" until a certain number of times passed, then moved a "step" for seven times. So, each time when completed, the steps were made of seven separate strips and they had the tying thread passed through the steps like the Grant, only there were seven sections.
This pattern had not been needed for several years, so there was no price on the fixed price list, and when one was made it was so low that we couldn't make a decent day's pay. We who were on the orders were supposed to be the best ten and we refused to do any more and we got the sack. However, it wasn't for very long; the pay was adjusted and it paid very well. (Since the company lost money, no orders for that kind were ever accepted afterwards.) We were all called back within a fortnight as they couldn't manage the orders they had without us.
There was a lot of camaraderie at the mill. It was accepted as a matter of course that if a reeler on the next frame to you needed a little help with coarse work, you did what you could for her. The frames were arranged back to back, so that the person on the front had no-one to help, but somehow she got some!
One girl, Lena Cooke, worked on the first frame for a while. She had umpteen jobs after leaving school and wanted to go on the stage. She lived in Bond Street, on the side backing the Theatre Royal. Their back gate was opposite the stage door so I suppose that influenced her. Although she had lovely black curly hair, her face didn't match. She was sent by the Labour Exchange to train as a reeler because we had a big order and frames not being used. She wore short skirts and when she bent down she displayed a lot of thigh and some underwear - tights were not made then. Old Johnson was escorting the Managing Director on his weekly tour and they both got an eyeful. Johnson was as red as a turkey cock and ranted and raved and sent her home to put on something more suitable. She was not to start work until he approved she was dressed fittingly! I would have been mortified, but not Lena. She came back in her mother's skirt, down to her ankles, but after a day or two she came back with her short skirts lengthened.
Another worker was an old lady whom we called Old Sally, and she had been a reeler for donkey's years. She would never admit to being over 65, but she was really well into her seventies and lived in lodgings. She used old fashioned shears, two blades linked together with a metal band which "gave", and instead of keeping the cuttings in her hand like us, she threw them on her shoulder. We tried to help her as best we could, for although her work was as good as the best, she was slow and didn't make much of a wage. So, if anyone had time, we wrote her tickets (containing the counts, names of yarn, the reel, and her name), tied up the bundles of yarn, and saw that she had enough ties for them, and put bobbins on top of the frame.
The Over-looker had a blind eye to all this, but we kept "nicks" in case the manager was about. He was an irascible man, red-faced and paunchy, and a Liberal, and he was apt to make a sudden appearance at any time. Once a week, he escorted the Managing Director around the works, a long thin man, very old school tie, but back to my younger days after this diversion! Prisoners of War in Leigh.
When the 1914 war was on there was a zeppelin raid on Manchester, but one of them came over Leigh. I was about six, but it woke me up as there was a lot of noise, men shouting "Put that light out!" "Stop in the house!" and over all that, the menacing hum of the airship. At this time, an empty factory building off Etherstone Street was requisitioned. It was intended to be a weaving shed, but in 1915 it was used as a camp for German prisoners of war.
Most of them were captured at Mons. Mother, myself, Alice and Mrs Orrell (our neighbour) saw them, and I can still remember them, mostly boys it seemed to me, and so dirty and weary. Although other lots came to the camp we never went to see them, as Mother's brother Walter was a prisoner somewhere in Germany.
By 1920, machinery was put in and the building reverted to its intended use. It was called the Lilford factory and even now, the tarmac exercise yard is known as the Compound.
After the War.
After the war ended everything seemed to be dull, gradually getting back to normal. I loved school, although the teachers were a mixed bag in Junior School. Little Miss Dolan, very prim and proper; old Miss Griffin, with whiskers on her chin, who played a small organ for prayers and singing, which she taught, although her voice was cracked and not very musical. She lived in Silk Street with a widow and her young daughter. Miss Christie was a very good artist and a very nice person. Not so was Mrs Lolli, more feared than Miss Byron, the Head teacher. She was the teacher from Hell and her cane was always in view and used. Personally, she was tall and thin, dark haired and she always wore dangling earrings. She had a very uncertain temper, so if she was called out to a meeting, one of the bolder girls would watch for her coming back and give us warning. The only time she was pleasant to all was pay day, when the man from the Town hall came to pay their wages. I think she tolerated me because she was always sucking up to girls who were from better off homes, and my friends were Ruth Pascal and Marion Wilde. Ruth's father was the Manager of Mill Lane cotton mill and Marion was the youngest of a pretty well off family, very much petted by her older sisters. She was a bit of a wet and although Ruth and me tried to give her the slip, she always tagged on.
In Junior School we were short of room and except for Standard Seven there were about 50 in each class. We were taught by rote mostly, chanting times tables, four gills one pint (although a Lancashire gill was half a pint!), weights and measures, learning poetry, doing mental arithmetic and horrible parsing - nouns, verbs, etc.
The accommodation at school was very basic, the toilets particularly. They were like long wooden seats with about six holes cut in them, and no covers over them. They were duckets, i.e. when the vessels underneath the cover were full, they automatically tipped over with a splash into the sewers. Once, Lena Cooke (the same one who was sent home for a longer skirt) had on a new pair of patent leather slippers, of which she was very proud. As the floor wasn't very clean, she took them off and put them on the side of her seat. When she got up, she knocked one of them into the hole! There was a great to-do but there was no way she could get it back. We never knew what happened when she got home, but as long as I knew her, she didn't come in new shoes again.
I was very happy in Junior School and was moved up into new classes earlier than the rest, so by the time I was eleven, I was in Standard Seven with girls of thirteen and fourteen. There were only ten of us, so we each had our own programme of lessons and as we tried to work on given tasks on our own we could always ask for help if we couldn't manage.
In 1921, Miss Byron entered me for a County Scholarship to attend the Leigh Girls' Grammar School (£2.14s 2d per term plus £5 towards books). It had been opened in 1921, and was too small for all who wanted to go. The Entrance exam wasn't too hard and those who passed had an interview with the Head Teacher, Miss Caress, to assess their suitability. I got a place and started in Form 2 in September 1922.
The uniform had to be bought at Danby's, one of the posh "Ladies' Outfitters', so it was expensive. The gym slip had to have the saddle in two pieces which buttoned together, the front straps with three button holes on each side and the back ones longer, so when they were fastened the ends had three inches to spare. This was supposed to enable the hem to be let down by moving the buttons. It also had to have four box pleats, not the common three, and it had to be two inches from the floor when kneeling. It was made of navy blue serge and it had a navy braid girdle. We also wore black socks or stockings, black indoor and outdoor shoes, a square necked white blouse with three-quarter length sleeves, a navy gabardine coat and a big brimmed navy straw hat with a navy and reed striped hat band, woven with the school badge at the front - a stag with "Swift and Sure" under it. (We were anything but that!)
The hat wasn't at all practical, for if it rained, the brim sagged and the top rose to a point. We then had to put the hat on a basin, cover it with a cloth, and press it down. We had to press the brim to straighten that too. After one dousing it never looked the same!
About eighteen months later, we were able to buy a navy wool cap with a metal badge for the front. It was a queer design, with a turned up brim at the back and round each side, leaving a band about six inches long on the forehead, which was about an inch wide. The badge was pinned in the middle. Everybody had one, although they were not obligatory. We could stick them in our schoolbags, together with our gloves, and if we fastened the top button on our gabs no-one could tell which school we went to.
The staff of L.G.G.S. were ok but the gym mistress was a bit of an oddity. She was Scotch and she had dark, curly hair, cut short. She was Miss Caress' friend, and rarely seen in anything but her gym slip. She was fairly tall and of sturdy build, with big calves on longish legs, and slim ankles made them look like Indian clubs. On one side of the yoke of her gym slip she wore a big badge with coloured stones set in. We never did find out what it was, but thought it was the badge of the place where she had trained.
We had drill, and games (netball in summer, hockey in winter) which I didn't enjoy because I was a foot smaller than some girls and short-sighted. I should have had glasses. During one hockey game, one of the girls hit me on the mouth. It loosened my front teeth and my lips swelled up an awful lot. After that, I always kept well to the back when teams were picked, as the ones left out could practise throwing the ball into the netball hoop. I didn't really enjoy games. We couldn't wear jumpers or cardigans when it was chilly, only when it was really cold and frosty and your nose was red and your fingers blue with cold.
There was one thing that annoyed all of us who were Church of England. The Catholic girls were excused morning worship and only came in to hear the notices being read out. They were in a classroom next to the Hall, and used to swot up for French and Spelling tests in the twenty-five minutes they were there.
During 1926, the year I left, there was a General Strike from 31st January. Times were very bad. Men discharged from the army were coming home from policing Germany and couldn't get jobs. Those who had been conscripted at 18 hadn't enough training for skilled work so many of them re-enlisted for three more years. My uncle Walter was one, and he was sent to India.
Things had been bad for some years and wages were very low for most folk, but quite a lot of business men had made a good profit owing to the scarcity of food and good quality stuff. My father had been sacked along with some others in a deputation asking for bigger wages. This had been carefully organised by a Sunday Christian, a Methodist called Walter Hilton, who kept in the background and didn't go with them. he kept his job. This was before 1923.
There were so many unemployed men with families who were on Public Relief. They had sold everything they could to pay rent and get a bit of food (mostly bread, margarine, cheap jam and potatoes) so the council decided to build Holden Road. It cost £53,000 as they had to go under the railway and over Penleach Brook. The road is just over a mile long, but the labourers doing the digging were unemployed, each man doing two weeks' work.
My father got his two weeks. After the first day his hands were in a terrible state, raw and blistered and bleeding. My mother washed them with disinfectant and put ointment on a bandage. She did this each day, and they were just about healed when his two weeks ended. The strike by the colliers lasted for six months but they had to give in and compromise. most of the works were at a standstill as there wasn't any coal to provide steam power. It wasn't the best of times to be working class.
Towards the last two weeks of April, the girls of school age - up to thirteen - started to plan the May Queen for the first Saturday in May. When I was about nine or ten, I got involved with the May Queens. We would decide which Saturday we would have it, and chose a Queen. Everybody put their pennies in the kitty to buy gold paper for a crown, and coloured tissue paper and fine wire to make flowers, hoping to get at least 6d back after the party which followed the actual walking round town.
We all went into the back to make the flowers, sitting on our stools as we did so. We also made them in our homes at night. Being good at making roses, or so the others said, I made them for the bouquet. Those who couldn't make decent flowers had to cut green tissue paper into thin strips to wrap round the wire stems, or snip a fold at quarter inch intervals to make "leaves" of paper.
The Queen had to be someone who had a nice white frock and shoes, and could find a nice bit of white net curtain for a veil over her head. The Queen also wore a circlet of gold paper, some sort of train, usually an old window curtain of her mum's, edged with strips of cotton wool daubed with black spots (ermine), and white socks or stockings with her best shoes. She had a train bearer and a page who carried her crown on a cushion - usually someone's little brother was roped in, all unsuspecting!
The crown was of great importance and had to look as real as we could make it. If anybody had been lucky enough to get chocolates at Christmas, any foil was smoothed out and saved for the crown. It was made to fit the Queen's head, out of doubled gold paper strips, carefully glued. The cross-pieces on top were placed with room to stuff in red tissue paper for the lining. If we had any foil, it was crumpled up in a round or oval shape, for jewels on the circlet.
When the day came, we were all dressed up in our best frocks and shoes, and arranged by the older girls to the best advantage. There being quite big families in those days, there were plenty of walkers, so it made quite a parade. All the others dressed up as something or other, and some were given collecting tins (old cocoa tins), mostly boys as they were cheekier than the girls. About 1.0 p.m. we set off walking. Actually, gawping and ambling would be more to the point.
Sometimes we had a boy in front banging a tin lid with a wooden spoon, a few dressed up girls followed, then the Queen with the page boy (in his best clothes), carrying the crown on its cushion, tied in place with white thread, the train bearer, various fairies and baker's boys. They had white tea towels pinned to their shoulders, flour dabs on their cheeks, and carried baking tins with flour sprinkled in. There might also be charladies with pinnies, mops and dusters, or window cleaners, boys carrying buckets and wash leathers. Everybody wore something as fancy dress with their decent clothes (but not their best, unless they were with the royal party), and tried to look like someone else. We walked round the streets into town where most people were, passing other May Queens on the way. One or two were thought better than ours, but we felt that we were superior to most.
While we were walking, our mothers were setting the tables for the party, and everyone had brought a plate, a cup and a spoon. When we got home, our mothers had laid on a spread. Tables were put together and covered with white paper, and sandwiches of beef paste or salmon paste were set out, together with bread and butter, jam, and tinned pineapple cubes (they were the cheapest tinned fruit). We had rock cakes, gingerbread and a big iced sponge if we were lucky. By "big", I mean roasting tin size. It was easier to cut equally.
The houses round about loaned stools and chairs, and big spoons for serving the jellies. They tied different coloured threads round the handles so they got their own ones back. No larking about was allowed, so everyone set to with a will, as parents were watching. Anybody misbehaving would get a box on the ears or be sent away.
Some of the collected money went towards the spread, to repay the mothers' outlay on the bread, jelly, butter, sugar, etc. but I don't think that all the mothers took what was due to them. They knew how much we looked forward to having something more than the usual weekly penny when the rest was divided between each walker. The least I ever had was 4d and the most was 6d. Usually, we got 2d or 3d apiece, and those who had made things got 3d back for the money they had spent on paper, etc. To us it was a fortune!
The Queen was crowned after tea by the oldest person present and allowed to keep the crown which had been carried round, tied on a cushion, by the page. He was the most presentable (i.e. cleanest) young boy. After a few games, we were tired out and went home.
Years later, in 1937, for some reason the grownups decided that we should have a May Queen and that our Brenda should be the Queen. Perhaps it was because she was pretty, but I suspect that it was because my mother was known to be a good sewer, stitchwise I mean, not a drain! She could be trusted to make a good show. Brenda had a long white dress and we made the train out of gold satin; a short remnant, used width wise so that it was long. We edged it with yards of cotton wool "ermine", made with black ink spots. She had a super crown of "gold" with a white satin lining and jewels of sweet papers scrunched up in rounds or ovals to reflect the light. Everyone admired the effect, and no one was jealous because they knew that no one else would have gone to all that effort. I believe that the collection was a good one and the walkers did very well.
It was the last one in our street, as no one had the time or money to spare after Germany declared war in 1939. Besides that, there were more cars on the roads as these, and vans and lorries, replaced the horse-drawn vehicles. I believe that these May Queen dos were a faint reminder of older May customs, such as the dancing round the Maypole on May Day. It was felt that flowers, even if made from paper, were essential, so in our way I think we were keeping up the old customs.
The only Maypole dancing we did was at school, and it was by no means easy, as the ribbons were entwined in a pattern. Anyone out of step, or doing a wrong turn, messed it all up. During the dance, whilst plaiting the ribbons, they became shorter and shorter as the pole was covered. They were made of different colours and made a nice, regular pattern.
Games. From the age of six or seven we joined in the games played outside. It was unconsciously seasonal. Suddenly, we all started bouncing ball games: who could keep it bouncing the longest, or throw it highest to hit the wall (not popular with my parents), or passing the ball round a ring of players. If you missed it, you had to drop out. A game you played alone was a bouncing one:" one, two. three, alara, pass your right leg over the ball, four, five, six, alara, pass your left leg over the ball, seven, eight, nine, alara, pass your right leg over the ball, ten, eleven, twelve, alara, pass your left leg over the ball and catch it." We usually used a medium bounce, sometimes we tried a low one (but you had to be quick at passing your leg over the ball) or a high bounce if you got a bit bored.
Other games we played were round games, such as "Farmer's in his den". We all joined hands round the farmer, a boy shoved in by his pals to embarrass him, and we then skipped around him singing "The farmer's in his den, the farmer's in his den, ee aye adio. the farmer's in his den." Round we went again, and we sang "The farmer needs a wife, the farmer needs a wife, ee, aye, adio, the farmer needs a wife!" That was when a girl was chosen to go in the circle. We skipped round again, and we sang "The wife needs a child," etc and someone else was chosen. Skipping round again, we sang "The child needs a dog," etc and anybody was chosen to go in. Then we skipped round again, singing "We all pat the dog," etc whereupon the ring broke up to pat the dog, usually very heartily; we all bash the dog was more like it!
The girls used to play "I wrote a letter", but the boys thought it was cissy. We stood in a ring with one girl out. She skipped around singing, and dropping the "letter". This was usually a bit of grubby rag, but she had to sing "I wrote a letter to my lover, on the way I lost it. Someone must have picked it up, and put it in their pocket." At this, we all sang "I've not got it." We kept repeating this until someone who had seen where the "letter" was dropped started to sing "Yes, you've got it, yes, you've got it" until the one who was in front of it found out. It wasn't very popular, we only played it when we wanted to get rid of the boys.
In summer, skipping ropes abounded. Some people had fancy ones with coloured handles and bells on, some had simpler kinds with no bells on, but most of us were lucky to have the spare bit of the clothes line which hung across the back yard to dry washing on. We skipped on the spot, turning the rope forward, tried it backwards or with crossed hands, which didn't always come off. The best was when someone got hold of an old clothes line, even if it had knots in several places where the frayed ends were joined. One girl stood near the wall of our house and the other girl stood near Mrs. Leather's house across Bold Street; they were the turners up. They started turning the rope slowly and we each skipped through. Then they turned it faster and faster, all the rest skipping through as fast as possible till we were falling over each other and out of breath.
Autumn was usually whips and tops. The tops were round, about three inches long and tapered to a point with a steel end. The top was flat, about one and a quarter inches wide. Tops could be any colour. The whips were thin sticks which had a hole bored in for the thong which was tied in a knot at the top. At the end of the thong was a thin leather strip. We generally tied on a lash tip, made of a short length of well frayed string. We used to make rings of coloured chalks on the flat tops, using bits of pastel chalks nicked from school. When they spun, they made a nice pattern.
On Winter nights, only boys went outside to play. A favourite game was "Jack, Jack, shine your light". They didn't use a torch, but an acetylene bike lamp, which they covered with a bit of old sock. They ran about, looking for Jack, trying to make sparks from their clog irons. Their clogs were made of stiff leather, buckled in front, and they had wooden soles nailed on with brass nails. As they were shod with iron strips round the heels and soles, they were noisy. You could hear the girls going to work at the mill at the end of our street and it woke us up. But back to Jack. When the boys called "Shine your light" he had to show it to give some idea of his whereabouts. If they couldn't catch him, they played another game, or went home.
"Lucy Locket" was another game girls played, very like "I wrote a letter". We sang "Lucy Locket lost her pocket, Kitty Fisher found it, There was not a penny in it, But a ribbon round it." I suppose it was a sort of purse, perhaps hung on the wrist. There was also a rhyme to decide whose turn it was in any game. It went "Ip, dip, dash, my blue sash, sailing on the water, like a cup and saucer, ip, dip, dash!" It could only have been made up by girls, it sounded a bit daft. Then there was the now politically incorrect "Eeny, meeny, miny, mo, catch a nigger by the toe, if he hollers, let him go, eeny, meeny, miny, mo!"
We knew that there were negroes, and that they were black, but we had never seen any until we went to Liverpool on the train. We seemed to be forever in a tunnel, and were glad to reach Lime Street Station. When we started to go towards the docks, we were amazed. Big ships, yellow little men with long black pigtails, black men with short curly hair and big white teeth, sailors of all colours and in-betweens, wearing funny clothes! Then we went to the street where the best clothes shops were, all their things beautifully displayed. We could only wonder who paid such high prices for straw hats, when we could buy an untrimmed one for 1s.11d at Slater's Bazaar, a yard of ribbon for 5d and flowers from 2d upwards. Manchester was an eye-opener, too. Kendal's, Affleck's, Jaegar and other exclusive shops were looked at, in St Mary's Gate, Deansgate and St Anne's Street where there were posh teashops. We would end up at Lewis', a big department store, where we rambled round various departments seeing what was fashionable, and noted the price of material. We went to the cafe for tea and toast, and a rest, then went to the station ready for home.
The sewing machine.
As her family grew, mother longed for a sewing machine. She was offered good clothes, outgrown, but still in good condition, and she didn't mind unpicking them to remake the material into clothes for us. So, she began to save in earnest. Any money (not much) which was left in her purse on pay day was put into aunt Ellen's teapot, as was any money she made by sewing hems, etc. etc. Then she managed to get a Singer sewing machine with a proper lock stitch. (Other makes made a chain stitch, which soon came undone.) It had belonged to a dressmaker who was retiring. She wanted a pound for it, but mother hadn't got enough saved. So, her friend, Mary Ward, across at number 81, lent her some, to be paid back at 6d a week.
It was an industrial model, by no means the latest, but it served her very well, and she used it for years. My wedding dress was made on it, and our Alice's, and over the years, it saved and earned many a pound. It was not a thing of beauty however, just an iron frame, and the sewing bit, with no cover at all. I think the machine was one of the earliest first made, for I have seen no other like it. It was rather small and had no top cover. It worked by a treadle moved by your feet. There was a shuttle which was filled by a gadget near the wheel which worked the treadle, connected by a strap. Then the shuttle was put into a space under the needle to make a lock stitch. The shuttle was not round, but long and narrow. The cotton was drawn through a little hole in the cover plate. The needle had to be threaded in a special way or it did not work.
Then mother got hold of a good wooden apple box which covered the machine, a white cover with broad crocheted lace round was on top of that, and the aspidistra (her pride and joy) on top, and hey, presto! she was really set up! In its time it made shirts, pyjamas (newfangled things for men and boys) although father preferred his night shirts. It sewed voile frocks for us girls for the Sermons Days, our first dance frocks, everyday pinnies, boys' pants, cotton frocks, woollen coats and sheets. It sewed every kind of material, thick or thin. I know that she still had it in Diamond Street but I don't know if she took it to our Alice's house when she moved in. By that time, it was a real antique.
We always used Weldon's paper patterns for cutting out, and we had one for almost anything. They were very fragile and had to be used carefully, using pin holes that had been used before. When Woolworth's opened in Leigh, we were able to buy Butterick patterns which were more up to date. Those days, you could buy first class cotton material for dresses from Hawkins, at six pence halfpenny a yard. Our Brenda loved going to Woolworth's when she was a little girl, but for some reason, she always called it Maggie's!
Another digression - my sister Alice made havoc with that cherished plant which lived on top of the sewing machine. While mother was sewing, she got a pair of scissors and used them to good?! effect, carefully cutting each leaf in two lengthways, and snipping them off. She was just doing the last half leaf when she was discovered. I don't know if she got a good smacking, but those forty glossy, pampered leaves were bemoaned for many a day!
Alice had an accident before I was old enough to go to school. We had an old doll's pram someone had given us, and she had put our cat Mickey in it. She tucked him between the covers, and mother was baking bread. She had decided to make some barm cakes as my father liked them. The oven plate was hot, so she had put it in the hearth to cool a bit. By this time, Mickey was fed up with being a doll and kept trying to get out, but Alice kept pushing him down and trying to wheel the pram. All at once, the cat jumped out. She tried to get him back, and fell onto the hot plate, and burned her behind.
Mother was very vexed, and threw cat and pram into the yard, told me to get the ointment and rags for bandages, and began to inspect the damage. The skin was blistered and hanging down, her flesh red, she screaming and sobbing, me wondering whether I'd be blamed. Anyway, I wasn't, and Alice was calmed down and given Soothing Powder, which was normally used for teething troubles. It was quite a time before it was healed.
Such accidents did not involve a doctor, for it cost 2s.6d, half a crown. It was a big snip out of the week's wages. If a doctor was needed, his collector called for 6d, on Friday of course. Talking of half crowns, when Alice was about seventeen, she got a coin in her wage packet which she had never seen before, and neither had I. It was heavy, big and silver, so we thought it must be alright. It was a crown, worth 5/-. Neither of my parents had seen one for years, and we got to see what better off folk carried in their purses!
Back to Mary Ward. Mary was not married, and lived with two brothers, one of whom was epileptic. He was a big man and they couldn't manage him on their own when he had a seizure. Her mother was a semi-invalid, and Mary had to work, as her father had died. The epileptic brother was taken to Atherleigh Hospital (the Workhouse as was) and put in a ward full of weirdos, the slightly mad, idiots and other people who had fits. I used to go with her sometimes when she visited him with a few goodies, which he kept in his pockets.
It was like a prison. They were kept locked up all day except for meals and a few minutes' exercise. Fortunately for him, he died in his middle thirties. Mary had been a weaver at Gamble and Smith's at the bottom of the street, but courses had been arranged at Night School, for Shorthand and Bookkeeping. She did them, got qualified, and got a job at Planter's Margarine (Blue Band) at Manchester. She liked it much better than weaving; no dusty hair, striped skirt and pinny. Instead, she wore a nice blouse and skirt, shoes; no shawl - instead a nice coat, hat and gloves. She was a bit higher up in the social hierarchy. Digression again!
After I left school, a neighbour lower down the street started a butcher's round. His name was Bill Guest. He looked to me like a Corsican bandit. Dark hair, a splendid black moustache and twinkling black eyes. He enjoyed arguing with his customers, and his beef was good quality.
My mother would buy steak or shin beef and say it had too much fat on, and to cut some off, which he did. Then, as he wrapped it up, she would ask for some fat to cook it in. One day, he rebelled. "Christ, Nell, thíart a cheeky b----r! Tha tells me t' cut fat off, and then tha wants it back! I've to beigh beef wi' t' bloody fat on, and they won't cut it off fer me!" They both had a good laugh about it, and mother knew it was true.
Mother made good use of her sewing machine over the years, ripping apart shiny serge skirts (given by neighbours) washing them, making short trousers for the boys with the non-shiny part outside. Nightwear for men and boys was usually a patched old shirt; women and girls wore long-sleeved flannelette nighties with a bit of a frill across the front saddle. No lace - it cost too much. Pyjamas were coming in, so in time the males had them, made from cheap material from the market using a 2d Weldon's paper pattern. When there was more money, we went to Hawkin's shop in Bradshawgate. They sold good cotton goods. Printed cotton for summer cost sixpence-halfpenny a yard, sheeting of different widths and cotton for pillow cases was as reasonably priced. Our Brenda had a lot more frocks than the three of us (me, Alice and Dorothy) as an extra bit was bought in the lengths we had bought for us.
In fact, we made my wedding dress on that machine, and the bridesmaids' frocks. Mine was heavy white rose patterned lace, over white slipper satin. The bridesmaids had old gold taffeta made with mutton chop sleeves, puffed up at the shoulders with about six rows of gathers. They took ages to do as all the stitches were tiny, and we made them all with the aid of Weldon's patterns. Only our Brenda's dress was short. Ours were long, and I had a long veil with a silver and pearl head-dress. I wore silver shoes and carried a big bouquet of pink roses, with yards of Smilax hanging from it.
Alice and Dorothy wore big crepe de chine hats (2/11d each from Slater's Bazaar) with satin slippers dyed to match. Brenda had a wreath of tiny yellow roses and a yellow posy. As we got into the taxi, we heard various comments: "Eh, don't they look nice?" "Eh, they've never made them frocks, have they?" "I like the yeller colour" etc. Most of them didn't think our finery was made at home!
Our wedding reception was at the Co-op Cafe. Ham and tongue salad, tinned fruit and jellies, a three tier wedding cake, wine and various small cakes. Auntie Doris was a bit peeved as well as envious. She had married at 8.0 am and went home with her bridesmaid, best man and groom and family for an ordinary fry-up breakfast. My parents paid for everything except transport and flowers.
My father would not give me away (nor the other daughters) so uncle Walter, who lived with us, was glad to oblige. The Groom, Best Man and Uncle Walter bought morning suits. Black jackets and striped trousers, black waistcoats with black striped ties and dazzling white shirts. the suits were bought at the Fifty Shilling Tailors and cost just that.
They wore them the next year at our Alice's wedding when she married Leslie Smith. She had a rather severe style of dress in chartreuse, with my veil. Dorothy and Brenda were bridesmaids. I think they had long pale green crepe de chine frocks, with frilled hems and necks, and puffed sleeves. The frills were cut and joined together in long lengths, and were taken to be overlocked along one edge at Singer's Sewing Machine shop. It cost 1d a yard. We thought this was a good idea as it saved yards of hemming, and gave the dresses a shop bought look. I think they had silver head-dresses and shoes, and carried bouquets of pink roses in masses of Smilax.
Our Dorothy got married in September 1939 at Primrose Street Methodist Church, Tyldesley, to Walter Oultram. He was in the spinning room at Caleb Wright's Mill, but wasn't always working there as times were hard, and cotton again in the dumps. But, he was a musician and played saxophone in dance bands, which were big then. One of the best was Max Stothert and his Nightowls. I think he played with them a lot. Stothert's had a place where they made pills, herbal or medical, I don't know.
Dorothy wouldn't have a white wedding dress, but wore a nice blue one. Her bridesmaid was Doris, Walter's sister. She wore blue as well. They had their reception in the schoolroom - no wine, but there was a little pub very near, and the men kept slipping out for a pint, as it was a lovely day and quite warm. In fact, we went for a shandy which we really enjoyed.
Walter was a good tempered, genial man. His father was too, and carried his wife Charlotte around; she relied on him entirely, and was prone to tears. My father wasn't really in favour of this wedding, because Walter was seven years older than Dorothy, and I don't think he wanted another one of his girls leaving the nest.
Father was not like the usual working man of the time, perhaps because he lost his father when he was young. Simeon (his father) was a wood sawyer at a timber yard and had an accident with a circular saw, which eventually killed him at 37 years of age. My father was the eldest, and had a brother, Jack, and a sister Ann. His mother took in lodgers, one was permanent - Joe Holloway, and commercial travellers stayed for two or three nights, depending on the size of their sales areas.
This resulted in a younger sister, Ellen Perry Boardman. The father acknowledged his responsibility and paid maintenance, so they managed. Father worked at a chemists, Caleb Wright's, after school and on Saturdays. He swept the floors, washed bottles, and helped to roll pills and tablets, for which he earned a few shillings. Mr Wright would have liked to keep him working as an assistant, but the age he offered wasn't enough, so he was apprenticed as an iron moulder at the Albion Foundry for seven years.
Joe Holloway lodged with Grandma until he was called up for service in the 1914-18 war. He was one of those who survived it. He still lived there until she remarried after her family had married and left home. Jack was married, and I don't remember his wife at all, but he lived in Dukinfield Street in Bedford. The rear of the house was backed by a narrow winding lane, and the slope rising to the railway station. That lane was dark and depressing, and was known locally as Lovely Alley, no doubt sarcastically. It opened out onto Holden Road. He died at an early age, and had a daughter called Ethel, and a son called Isaac.
My father married Ellen Smith. His sister Ann married Fred Hindley from Tyldesley. He was some kind of engineer and was sent to Greenock in Scotland to work for the War Effort. Both my sister Alice and me hated him. He was a pawer, and couldn't keep his hands to himself. He was a toucher, and very unctuous with it. He used to come to Leigh by himself from Tyldesley some Saturday nights, usually ending up at our house about 8.0 p.m.. Now my father used to take mother out for an hour if it wasn't raining. They would have a walk round and he would treat her to a port and lemon if in funds, or a half pint of shandy (half ale, half lemonade), and be home again about 8.15 p.m.. Me and Alice were allowed to sit and wait for them with the latch on the door snibbed so that it could only be opened from the inside. (Sometimes in cold weather we fell asleep and they had to waken us up to get in.) We only opened the door to uncle Fred once. He was his usual smarmy self and we were glad when mother and father came home. Father took our revolting uncle to Poor Dick's, and we told mother how much we didn't like him. So she said not to let him in again, to keep quiet and let him knock until he was tired and went away. We were never to put the light out, OR to open the door. My uncle Jack died very young, and his wife too. They had two children, Ethel, at school, and Isaac, a bit younger. Aunt Ann took Ethel to live with them, and I often wonder how she went on with our undear uncle! Isaac went to live with one of his mother's relatives. We lost touch with them, but I know Ethel got married young. Earlier this year (1994) I saw an obituary notice for Isaac Boardman of Milton Street, Leigh, and the age was in the eighties, so it must have been my cousin. Isaac isn't a common name.
When Grandma Boardman married again, she was Grandma Hampson. Bob was a big, obese man. I think he worked in a pit, and always wore a wide leather belt with a huge brass buckle to support his paunch. Poor Joe, the lodger, had to go. We were a bit scared of Bob, but he would sometimes buy a bottle of lemonade for us, one with a marble in the neck. We could never decide how it stopped the lemonade from dropping out of the bottle until it was pressed down.
Bob had a younger brother who was quite different. He was little, thin and slow-witted, but he had a rag and bone cart and managed to keep himself. I don't think he collected many bones because they were well used to make soup and broth, and were very fragile. Rags (that's what they were, holes just held together with threads) were, if enough, exchanged for donkey stones which were used to whiten door steps.
A little later, there as a softer stone manufactured, called "Monkey Brand" which was very popular as it didn't squeak and was easier to use. That and "Zebo" black leading, and "Brasso" metal polish were a must for every woman who considered herself a good housewife.
Every Autumn, about September, there was the Bongs Wakes, a very big fair at Tyldesley. It was held on a big common at the end of Oak Street, where Aunt Ann lived. Father took us through the fields to Tyldesley; it always seemed a long way.
When we got to Aunt Ann's house, she always acted surprised to see us, although she knew very well that we always went to the fair if it was decent weather. And so the ritual started. On went her hat and coat, her purse was looked for, then she took us girls to the local Co-op to buy a tin of salmon, a tin of pineapple chunks, a loaf and half a pound of butter. It never varied, and she never had very much in her cupboard.
They had a clock which played a tune every hour, "Moonlight Bay". They got sick of it, and it was usually turned off, but they would let us hear it once, which we considered a treat. After tea we went down to the fair, all noise and excitement, naphtha flares, and music from the rides. There were black pea stalls, fortune tellers, the merry-go-rounds with figures playing instruments, and most of all, the big baskets, Victoria and Albert.
This fair had all the latest rides and attractions. There were several organs, each playing a different tune, with all the little plump mannikins beating their gongs occasionally. There were fortune tellers, acrobats, people selling things, etc, and above all, crowds of people.
These were huge, real baskets which really did nothing more than swing about a bit, gently. They didn't look strong enough to bear the weight of all the people standing in them, I should think there were always about twenty in them, because they were very popular. We didn't go on those, preferring "The Golden Gallopers" with manes flowing, and twisted, shiny brass rods which raised them every so often. We were only allowed two or three rides, as they cost money, which in our case was in short supply, as usual.
There was "Guess Your Weight" money back if more than three pounds out, darts, coconut shies, Aunt Sallies and a stall where you could "Test Your Strength" and win a prize if you hit a bell. These prizes looked wonderful to us, vases, jugs, boxes of sweets and chocolates, and all sorts of bits and bobs, reflected on mirrored shelves under the bright lights. It was usually one of the lesser prizes we got. The wonderful ones stayed firmly in place.
When we were tired, we trudged off to the railway station for the final treat, a ride home on the train, and back down the station slope to Church Street and then back to 38, Henrietta Street. We were still furiously gabbing on about the FAIR!
I remember one thing that used to puzzle us: why should Aunt Ann have a picture of Lion's Bridge at Leigh over her fireplace, when she lived at Tyldesley? It was made of tiles and coloured. Since then, I've found out that they were made for Simm's of Leigh, who are still in business.
Aunt Ann also had a very heavy gold curb bracelet with a heart shaped lock which I greatly admired. She said I should have it for my 21st birthday, but I didn't get it.
One thing I always wanted when I was young was a duck on a stick. Occasionally, men would come round collecting jam jars, and would give you one for a jam jar. If you took the jar back to the shop, you got a half-penny for it. The ducks nothing special, just made of white cardboard, roughly shaped like a sitting duck, with eyes, beak, wings and tail outlined in reddish pink paint, stuck into a split in the top of a rough wooden stick, made from recycled tomato crates. They were of no use whatsoever, but having one gave you a certain cachet. In fact I think most of them ended up on the fire after the first day. I never got one. Mother put the jars to better use, as she saved them for jam making, or as an emergency fund if she needed a copper or two on Thursday.................... *(Coal was bought in two sizes, cobbles and nuts, and kept in separate piles. The nuts were used to bank down the fire if the oven wasn't being used, to keep it going. Better off folk used to buy best coal, lumps at least as big as a 2lb loaf, which burned for a long time. When I lived at Orchard Lane, coal cost 1s 8d a hundredweight. By the time the Second World War started I had a big shed full to the top and although coal was rationed, I was never short and was able to help mother out. I used to take a couple of lumps in the pram when I went to see her. By then we could only buy the small sorts as the good stuff went to factories and foundries using steam power.)
After my excursion into my young wants, I'll continue the story of my father's family. My aunt Nellie, the younger sister, was very different from my father and aunt Ann. They were both rather austere and dark in complexion. Nellie was a picture of radiant health. Bigger in stature, rosy-cheeked and lighter haired, she was very much like her father, so my mother said. (He being the commercial traveller.) She married Albert Butterworth, a very good coach painter.
He once repainted a pram (bassinet it was always called) for mother, and wouldn't let her pay him. It looked like new, a glossy dove grey with a thin maroon line along the sides. It had been a shabby black! I was fascinated watching him doing the line, as he used a long-bristled, very small brush: the bristles were at least ten inches long. He drew it carefully along the desired line and not a quiver or a hair of the brush out of place, in a perfect line. I think he was self-employed, as they never wanted for anything. He was as happy natured as Nellie was and we loved going to their house at 24, Twist Lane. My cousin Albert was more like my father and aunt Ann in features, but nicer natured. Cousin Jack was his father again, and inherited his talent, and cousin May was like her mother.
There used to be fairs at certain times on land the other side of Twist lane, and further down the lane. Uncle Albert bought a redundant galloper off Mr Silcock, and turned it into a lovely rocking horse, on which we spent many a blissful few minutes. When he had been a boy he helped on a milk round and was very fond of the old horse who pulled the cart. Unfortunately it died (old age) and uncle was given the mane as a memento. This was put to good use and the rocking horse had a magnificent real mane, jet black, and the horse was painted black with a few gold bits of harness and a red saddle. It had a name plate which read "Black Prince". To us, he truly was.
We were often invited there for tea as May liked our company. There were three of us then, me. Alice and May, and as we were at the table once, uncle Albert looked at us all very seriously and said "D. A. M. M. A. D. Damn mad!" The boys thought this was hilarious, but May was as indignant as we were. When cousin Albert was in his early twenties, he had a girl friend and uncle had an unexpected stroke of luck. He was offered a free public house by an old aunt at Nailsea, as she couldn't cope. So, they took up the offer and off they went.
Both Albert and Jack (my cousins) got married, and Albert continued to live at Twist lane and still lives there. Cousin May got married too, but she died in the 1960's and was buried at Nailsea. Uncle and aunt Nellie retired, and stayed there, and they are buried there as well.
My mother lost her mother at eighteen. They lived at 52, Leigh Road then. There were eight children left motherless. Mother (Ellen), Richard, Ernest, Frank, Walter, James, Annie and William who was three years and two months old. That was in 1906. Mother was expected to cope and work and was helped by a good neighbour, Mrs Holden, whose husband had a bike repair shop. My Grandfather worked as a spinner at Hayes' mill, and she was a silk weaver at George Hilton's little silk mill just over the canal bridge, on the bank on the left hand side going towards Lowton. There were a few hand looms and a few power looms. Mother worked on some of those, making Banner silk. The hand looms wove brocaded ribbons and brocade. Old George Hilton lived in Henrietta Street on the other side from us in a rather ugly double fronted house, near one of my mother's Grandmother's friends, Mrs Bent. Grandfather started work at 6.0 am and had breakfast taken to him at 8.0 am by one of the younger ones. Richard married Harriet Stones and lived in a little house facing the Church West door. Harriet had lived in a house in a maze of little alleys near the Vicarage. They emigrated to Australia just before the war started in 1914. They stayed overnight at our house before they caught the early morning train to Liverpool to get the boat. They ended up at Helensburgh in new South Wales and had a daughter, Cissie, and a son who had polio.
Before they left, uncle Dick put two little Easter chickens in one of the opaline vases and told me to tell mother who had put them in when she found them. She soon saw them, as they looked dark against the glass. She said, "Oh my God, cockies!" Now was my chance. I said, "No, no, uncle Dick put the chicks in and said not to tell you til you found them." She shed a few tears and then she put them on the sea around the glass ship under the big dome, and they stayed there a long time.
My uncles, Dick and Jim, were very good-looking, with dark hair and eyes. They took after their mother who was Maria Wardle, and judging from a photograph, very pretty. My Grandfather, William Smith, was a big fair, handsome man, and was the conductor of Bedford Church Prize Silver Band. He played the euphonium. Uncle Dick played a cornet. Aunt Annie, uncle Frank and mother took more after Grandfather, who had a handsome moustache. Ernest and Walter took after Maria's brother, Jim, whose face had no claim to good looks. His face was decidedly lived in. Ernest was earnest and hard-working. Walter had very curly hair and was happy-go-lucky.
When my mother married in 1910, Grandfather remarried a widow who had two sons. Her name was Agnes Shortis. She had been house-keeping for a doctor who lived in Bedford. Her sons were Jesse and Joseph. Jesse was like her, fair, sturdy and not very tall. Joe was dark, slim and tall. The house at Leigh Road was too small for the new family, so they moved to a bigger one at the end of Walmesley Road, facing the Council School. Agnes was boss from the start, and got a kitchen slave for herself, an elderly spinster with no kin, Mattie.
To be fair, she ran the house well, but in a managerial capacity. Everyone had something to do. Auntie Annie was landed with loads of floor scrubbing, although she worked at the Cable Works. When war was declared, the males were conscripted for National Service, except Jim and William.
Ernest and Walter were in the army. Joe was in the Royal Horse Artillery, as he was working as an ostler then. (I'm reminded of something your father used to laugh about, Helen, A certain young lady in the office with him at the Cable Works used to fancy herself as It. She was boasting about someone she knew of in the army. "And he's in the Royal Harse Ortillary!" She was mortified when they all laughed, and she was often teased about it after.)
In the course of time, Agnes had two daughters by Grandfather. There was Eileen, who turned out to be hefty, fairly tall and fair, and Agnes, who was daintier. She was a bit shorter and darker. As girls, they worked in the offices at the Cable Works, where our Dorothy was a typist. Later on, Eileen joined the Women's Police Force, and got to be a sergeant. She married a policeman and they had a pig farm somewhere down South. Agnes went in the W.A.A.F. and got herself a pilot, married, and had a hotel at Salcombe in Devon. As in many families at that time, it was a case of "mine, thine and ours" and someone always suffered for it.
When the first world war ended in 1918, cotton was no longer king and the staple industry of the country, although wherever you looked along the skyline, there were the tall mill chimneys. They weren't all smoking and the undeveloped countries to which our cotton products were exported began to manufacture their own, and began to export them back to us.
So began the bad times of the thirties. About 1910 the Labour Party started to challenge the Liberals and tried to improve the lot of manual workers by shorter hours and more pay, and the one time boom turned into bust. Many hard-working folk lost all their savings in mill shares in part paid shares. Some factories couldn't meet the cost as they had no work, so mill after mill failed. The crafty starters of the racket cashed in early and kept their ill-gotten gains.
With soldiers and sailors coming home, jobs were hard to get and very few apprenticeships were available. Uncle Ernest was the first to arrive, and got a job. Joe Shortis worked for Monks' as an ostler, and Jesse got a light engineering job. Uncle Walter got back from Germany, where he'd been wounded by a bullet in his left elbow. It was never taken out, and bits of shrapnel worked out over the years. As he couldn't get any work, Walter re-enlisted and was sent to India, where he stayed for three years. He had malaria several times, and although he liked it, he was very glad to come back to Leigh. He brought a roll of royal blue Indian silk. It was very thin and wasn't suitable in colour either, but it got used up later.
When he went to Walmesley Road, he was not welcome. Agnes issued an ultimatum. "If he stays, I go." The selfish old devil shrugged his shoulders and said, "What can I do?" He was all for an easy life, so Walter came to us. Mother made a corner for him in our room, with an old screen and an old bedspread over a rope.
We three girls were in the big old ex-poster bed. When he got his war gratuity in 1922, he bought me a leather schoolbag, and my navy blue straw hat for Grammar School. He worked in the pit at Wood End and would go on Saturday afternoons to the Rugby League matches at Mather Lane with my father. They would both come home to a meal of hot meat and potato plate pies, jelly and tinned fruit, and a big cake, a Victoria sponge with jam in, or a light fruit cake.
Sunday dinner was a roast, if in funds; a piece of topside or silverside, because they didn't have a lot of fat on. Father always prepared the vegetables - potatoes, swedes, carrots, and fresh peas occasionally when there was a glut and were cheap, cabbages and the inevitable onions. If money was short, there were dried peas, soaked overnight.
We didn't have cooked breakfast except for porridge or Quaker Oats, toast if the fire was right, or good old Lancashire jam butties and cups of tea. Herbs were bought when in season, and hung up at the top of the kitchen cupboard until needed. Sage and mint were very useful, sage in particular, as any lump of meat or lamb was eked out by sage and onion stuffing for an extra meal.
Tea was usually chopped up boiled egg sandwiches, or ham carved off a boiled ham bone, which was bought for soup, usually pea soup. It was sold with a little bit of ham left on the end and could be used for sandwiches for us, and a plate of bits for father. I don't remember ever being hungry, but we were none of us overweight, and we had enough energy.
We had three meals a day, and a cup of cocoa. (Bourneville - we didn't like Fry's. But we loved their cream chocolate bars, which seldom made their way to us.) When we were little, we were given a halfpenny each Friday to spend. It would buy several things: a half-penny Lucky Bag, a sherbert dab, a liquorice pipe, a packet of white cigarettes, suckable, but not very interesting, a length of liquorice braid, two feet long and about one and a half inches wide, and very little depth. It could be peeled off in tiny strips and made to last a long time. We got Gobstoppers which changed colour after sucking and lasted ages. The last two were considered good value for money, and the others a frivolous waste! There were also small bars of Cadbury's milk chocolate, or Red Cow chocolate, made in Golbourne.
At one time there was a toffee factory on Holden Road, and one in Bright Street, off Kirkhall Lane, and the Sovereign Toffee Works where a friend of mine's father worked. Mary was an only child and lived in Chester Street. She was bigger than me, but we clicked, and although she was a Roman Catholic, I was made welcome. Once she was the Rose Queen and had a beautiful white voile and lace dress, which was passed on to me when it was outgrown. Her father used to bring slabs of their cream caramel toffee, and sometimes gave me one to take home.
All in all it was a very happy childhood for us. We were taught to respect old people, not to laugh at people who were a bit odd, for it might have been us, to go errands for anyone without expecting any money (although a sweet or two was ok to get) and to thank for any kindnesses to us.
Coming and goings.
My uncle Ernest married in the late Twenties; his wife was a very morose female who never smiled; if she managed a faint one, her face would have collapsed in shock! Her name was Maggie and she was a Communist. How she managed to marry him I can't imagine, she wasn't anything special. Anyway, she was all for them going to Australia, and got my uncle Dick to sponsor them. They wrote once or twice, and I believe they had sons, but we lost touch with all of them out there.
My uncle Frank had married a nice girl called Hetty Eckersley and they went to America, and got to Detroit, and flourished. They had one son, Sonny. Uncle Frank and some other ex-pats got together and founded a society for get-togethers, and for helping new-comers to settle in. I think it was called the Saint George Society.
Uncle Walter always said that he wouldn't get married until he was thirty, and he didn't. He married Alice Annie Owen, who lived in Baker Street, Westleigh. They were married at Westleigh Methodist Chapel. I was her bridesmaid when I was about eighteen. I had a floral dress of blue, and she had a sky-blue one. It must have been about Easter because we had big bouquets of double daffodils. One of her brothers was groomsman. Her father had died, but she had a brother and sister who were married, and two who lived at home. Mrs Owen was a lively, chirpy, little woman who accepted life as it came. The others all worked in cotton mills, some on short time, some almost out of work, as there was little to be had because of the Depression in the Thirties.
They had an odd custom at their house. Their W.C. was at the end of a long back yard, and the seat had become loose. In cold weather it was put in front of the fire in the living room and when anyone went to the toilet, they took the seat with them, clutched to their chests. After use, they brought it back inside to warm again!
Uncle Jim wasn't married by then and Agnes let him work in the pit; she didn't consider it beneath him if it brought in money. How she could do it, I don't know; he was so nice, good-looking, gentle, kind and mannerly. He never spoke a bad word against anyone. He treated us all as equals and we all liked him very much. He got married very young, just in his twenties, and she was seventeen. Ethel was a pretty, curly-haired, gypsy-like girl who lived in High Street, Bedford. She came to visit us often, to tell us what was going on about the wedding. Step-ma was by no means pleased, and kept her distance.
Ethel was going to wear an "emboshed" georgette dress and a big-brimmed hat of cire ribbon. It turned out a very nice outfit. The dress was mid-brown georgette with raised flowers in shades of pale yellow, and pale green leaves. The hat was made by a milliner, out of stiff, shiny ribbon sewn round and round on a light wire frame. It was decorated with a yellow silk rose spray. The brim was lined with pale yellow georgette.
They were going to live in High Street with her parents, and her brother Norman, who had been a sailor. (He had been stationed in Malta, in Valletta, and had married a Maltese girl called Carmella. She spoke very little English.) However, this didn't happen. Step-ma relented and arranged for them to buy a little cottage in Olivant Street, not far from High Street, and paid the deposit as a wedding present. You could get a nice little cottage for £80 then, so she didn't make any sacrifice, and it saved her pride.
Anyway, they got a home, even if it was furnished with cast-offs to begin with. Cousin Frank soon appeared, and they only had him. They were very happy as a family but Jim died from cancer in his early thirties. Ethel never married again. She said no-one else could ever take his place. She found work in the card room at Mather Lane Mills, until she had an accident, which left her with a slight limp. She was in a trade union, which took up her case and got her some compensation.
Cousin Frank was apprenticed to a painting and decorating firm, and after a time he got married and lived in Atherton. He started his own firm. Aunt Ethel went to live in her own place in Atherton, too, and we never saw her again.
Meanwhile, life at Henrietta Street jogged on. At Christmas we hung up our socks on the brass pole under the mantel ledge, and hoped for the best. 1921 was a very bad time for us. Father wasn't working, savings were nearly gone and money was owing for food bills. Mother had managed to put aside a few currants and sultanas for a cake and pudding, but hadn't enough money to buy meat for Christmas dinner. But Joe Holloway turned up, a big hare dangling in his hand. "Nellie, do you want this? I won it in a raffle, and Mrs Hampson doesn't want it. Can you use it?" Manna from heaven! "I should think I could! Thank you very much!" Mother had never skinned a hare in her life, but she had skinned hens (easier than plucking feathers off). I don't think a hare was ever skinned faster. It had been hung, and this was the day before Christmas Eve. Luckily, we had coal, and the next day the oven was full. The hare, now jointed, was simmering with onions and Oxo cubes; half a pound of beef scraps ditto; meat (Or gravy flavouring?) and potato plate pies, mince pies and pudding. So we had Christmas dinner after all, and on Boxing Day we ate the plate pies.
There wasn't much in our socks that year, but we older ones had had doubts about Father Christmas for some time, knowing that our friends got more than we did. The Christmas before we were invited to tea on Christmas Day at Step-ma's. They had a magnificent tree, tinsel in yards, sparkling baubles and candles in holders clipped on it. It nearly touched the ceiling. We were allowed to pick a bauble each, but certain ones were reserved for Eileen and Agnes. I chose a glass pear.
That tree fired our imagination and we decided we would have one of our own. Now, if we went errands and were given a halfpenny or a penny, we could accept it and keep it. So, about my birthday, we decided to save up for the tree we intended having. There was no hope of a real tree, however small, so we decided to make our own.
Under the stairs, piles of old newspapers were stored, as they were very useful for all sorts of things, so we had material available. First of all, we had to find something to put it in, as it wouldn't be very big, so we settled on an old cocoa tin. Then there was the trunk of the tree. How could we make it thinner at the top? We decided how high it could be without falling over. It would have to be a bit longer, so that we could cut the bottom end in two, and spread it out, and wedge it in the tin some way. In the end, we solved all these vexing problems and started the great project.
We made a tree out of tightly rolled newspaper, putting a bit extra on the bottom end. Branches were tied on to the middle of the tree with bits of thin string (from the string box - none of any kind was ever thrown away). We cut thin strips of green tissue to wrap round the trunk, and secured them with a dab of flour paste; no glue - it cost too much. The branches were covered with green tissue folded double and snipped at the folded edge to make it look like a spiky branch and not a leafy one. By now, we had collected a tin of little pebbles from the backs and streets. There wasn't a weekly rubbish collection then, or street sweepers. We covered the tin with red paper and wedged the tree in with pebbles and crumpled newspaper and got father to make it as hard as he could. Then we covered it with green crumpled tissue stuck in place with paste.
Now we were ready to get some decorations. We scouted round the shops which sold decorations and tinsel and candles to get some ideas. We had to have a star for the top, and there were some beauties, but they were too big and too dear. So we made one out of cardboard covered with silver paper from a packet of tea. (We always had Ceylon tea which had silver packets, and this was one of the last put away.) We finished it off with a bit of tinsel and we thought it looked very good.
By Christmas, we had some lengths of tinsel, a few small coloured glass balls, two green and two red candles with holders and a length of silver glass beads, about the size of pearls. We decorated it on Christmas Eve and it was put on top of the shelf near the window, out of harm's way. Our parents praised us of course, and we were very pleased with ourselves. On Christmas Day, after dinner, when it started to go dark, the tree and aspidistra changed places, and the candles were lit, so the light shone out. The candles were put out when they were half spent, so that we could have them lit on New Year's Day. We had all enjoyed our tree and my father promised that if he was in work next Christmas we would have the biggest tree he could pay for. (The following year, he was working and he kept his promise, but that's another story.)
Family and friends.
Mother's sister, Annie, was growing up and having dates - she liked policemen. She had to present them to Step-ma who always found fault and said she could do better. She did the same when young Bill dated girls, and neither of them ever married. Annie went to live with uncle Jim and aunt Ethel in Olivant Street, and when Ethel went to Atherton, she went to live with mother in Diamond Street. She died in hospital after a great deal of suffering with myeloid leukaemia. She looked so awful and had had a great deal of pride in her appearance when younger, so that mother had her coffin sealed before it was brought to the house.
Bill lived to be over 80. He lived in a cottage in Abbey Street that had been left to him. I saw him quite a lot but he always pretended that he didn't know me. Step-ma's son Joe married a girl named Evelyn Dyson who lived in Coniston Street near Monks where he worked. Jesse married Gertie Kay. They had a tripe shop in Bradshawgate, and also a garage nearby, in Brown Street, run by her father and brother. Jesse got a job at the Technical College and they never had any children. When he retired, they lived in a big house opposite Atherleigh hospital, and that's all I know about mother's family.
There were many people in our lives. Neighbours, family, friends and all the tradesmen who called daily. The milkman was Bert Duckett (inevitably nick-named Dirt Bucket!) who had a horse and float. The float was high in front with just a step at the back. It always looked a bit damp. The horse's reins came through a slot in front and there was a big silver coloured churn and brass hook-handled measures were hung round it. He sold eggs, sometimes a few duck eggs, a lovely pale blue. When there was plenty milk they made butter and cheese, and sold extra churns of buttermilk very cheaply. Mother always bought some, as father liked it after a hot day at the forge at work. Old Walter Crook brought the newspapers round, morning and evening, and you could tell the time by him, as thick fog or darkness didn't bother him for he was totally blind. He never delivered a wrong newspaper at any house and handled money without mistakes, as he felt the coins carefully with his sensitive fingers. He also had a Braille watch, and sometimes we asked him the time to watch how he used it. At some time he had been given a policeman's cape and he had a sou'wester for when it was very wet. He was well-known for he had a lot of customers. He was always prompt and cheerful and uncomplaining. He was very much missed when he died.
After I left school, a neighbour lower down the street started a butcher's round. His name was Bill Guest. He looked to me like a Corsican bandit. Dark hair, a splendid black moustache and twinkling black eyes. He enjoyed arguing with his customers, and his beef was good quality. My mother would buy steak or shin beef and say it had too much fat on, and to cut some off, which he did. Then, as he wrapped it up, she would ask for some fat to cook it in. One day, he rebelled. "Christ, Nell, thíart a cheeky b----r! Tha tells me tí cut fat off, and then tha wants it back! I've to beigh beef wi" tí bloody fat on, and they won't cut it off fer me!" They both had a good laugh about it, and mother knew it was true.
These men called every day, but there were others who came at intervals. One of these was the Southport Cockle man. He was an old sailor with a beard and very blue eyes. He just looked like the sailor on the packets of Player's Navy Cut cigarettes. He had a horse and a flat cart to carry his load of cockles, mussels, shrimps, oysters, the odd crab or two, and mackerel, all fresh. He sold the shellfish by the pint, and usually had a few "dabs" (small plaice) as well. Mother would get half a pint each of cockles and mussels for my father who enjoyed them very much. We children would not try them; they looked horrible. To cook them, they were soaked in salted water for an hour or two, and any which were not fit to eat opened up, so they were thrown away. The little dabs were washed and dried, and fried like plaice. Even if they were small, they were tasty, and with bread and butter they made a good meal. Then there was the Salt man who had a cart full of bars of salt. These were about two feet long, six inches wide and about four or five inches in depth. These cost money, so they were carefully looked after, and not allowed to get damp. We had a big wooden salt box on the kitchen wall. It had a hinged top and it was quite a performance to fill it.
The newspaper wrapped bar was hauled from the top shelf of the cupboard in the living room (we kept it there because it didn't get damp) and a slice was sawn off with the bread knife and grated. Then the box was filled again. That burned a few calories away! Then we wrapped the bar up again in fresh newspaper and put it back in its place. Funnily enough, when the supply at home appeared to be running out, the Salt men appeared again! I think they came from Cheshire.
There were also men who came every week, like the paraffin man. He had a covered sort of van with a cistern of paraffin, which he sold by the pint or quart. Most people had gas light in the living room but used lamps for bedrooms and kitchens. Lamps could be very big and ornate, or tiny, like Kelly lamps, which had a rounded base and couldn't be knocked over. They were used where there were children.
It is surprising that there were not a lot of house fires as some people had no fittings on the gas pipes in the kitchen and just let it flare. Also, the use of a shovel and a piece of newspaper was, at the least, a dodgy way of making the fire "draw". The paraffin man had the new firelighters for those who had money. He also carried other items of hardware as well.
Knife grinders made an occasional appearance. They had a little contrivance with a whetstone driven by a front treadle, and we liked to see the sparks fly. Needless to say, our knives were sharpened on the back kitchen step or a small whetstone; scissors too. On some occasions, there would be a shout of "Chairs to mend, old chairs to mend!" It would be a man who reseated rush bottomed chairs. They had little hand carts, with bundles of rushes and a bucket or two of water to soften them. Sometimes, someone had an old, treasured chair that needed mending and we children would watch him cut off the old rush seat and rebottom it. The reeds were twisted into a kind of rope and it needed skill to keep adding reeds and keep it all the same thickness. The chairs looked like new when finished.
Towards September came the French onion sellers, on bikes garlanded with strings of golden brown onions, about half a yard long. They themselves wore these strings anywhere they could. Big onions were at the bottom, graduating to smaller ones at the top. They knew what to say when asked "How much?" and they knew what each coin was worth. When she had money in hand, mother would buy a string, as they were considered tastier than Spanish ones, and it was nice to have them handy, in different sizes. They also gave a bit of colour to the kitchen.
The French men wore berets and looked like Michelin men made out of onions. I only saw them when I was very young as I started school early. There were rag and bone men who would come a bit more often, but they didn't have any bones. After stewing them for ages, people put what bones they had on the fire. Anything that was burnable was burnt. Depending on the amount of rags you gave them, you could get an ordinary chunk of whitening stone or a "Monkey" brand stone that was man-made, softer and easier to use.. Those days anyone who considered themselves to be respectable cleaned part of the flagged pavement in front of their house. Usually it was a half circle, with the doorstep whitened as well.
Of course, there were some women who mopped all the flags in front of their house, right down to the gutter. Needless to say, they usually had no children, or only one, and cleaning was all that they could do, as they never read anything, and relied on gossip for news. These same women all learned plain sewing and knitting in school, but they would never try to make anything. They would pay 3d to have a skirt shortened. I learned knitting on four fine steel needles for sock-making, but I wasn't keen as it didn't grow quickly enough. Not like dish cloths ñ thick yarn on thick needles!
In colder weather, the Crumpet man came weekly. He also had muffins, which weren't as popular. Crumpets were holey and about six inches across, and three quarters of an inch deep. They were toasted and buttered. Muffins were nearly an inch thick, and were split in half before toasting. The man carried them on a very big tray covered in clean white cloth, with another over them, to keep the dust off. How easy it is to wander aside; back to pre-grammar school. As I think back, I feel that my father was unusual. Unlike a lot of working men, he was of a serious nature, maybe because his father died so young. We never heard him swear, and though he liked a drink of ale, he was never drunk. (He was maybe a trifle merry at Christmas, when he'd been stood a gill or two extra.) He would not tolerate lewd or coarse conversation in mixed company. If this happened when he was with mother, he would stand up and say, "Come on Nellie, it's time we were going. This is no place for us" and off they went.
When he was working near home and could come go home for dinner, he would hold the baby in the crook of his arm, with a piece of old shawl over his brown corduroys, which were spattered with a mass of tiny holes made by the sparks of molten metal. He would feed it with titbits from his own meal, and he did this at tea as well. Father's working clothes were anything but stylish. An old union shirt, cotton and wool mix, a red spotted kerchief round his neck, an old jacket, thick, hairy red and black speckled wool stockings, his corduroys (which never looked new for more than a week), and thick leather hob-nailed boots. The stockings and boots were to protect his legs and feet from spills of molten metal. He also had a red hanky to wipe away sweat.
By this time, my first brother, Fred, was old enough to have a Friday halfpenny and when he got it, he looked at it, held it out and said "Tha con have it back - it won't buy owt". After that, we all got a Friday penny.
Out and about.
When Me and Alice were taken to Grandma Hampson's on Sunday morning, we were only about five and three years old. We took our time, past Gamble and Smith's Mill, turning down the sidewalk beside the mucky barrow line to Bedford Wharf. (There was a tunnel underneath Bradshawgate to the wharf.) By the fence there was a collection of what looked like blocks of kerb stones piled side by side along the length of it, with others piled on top. We scrambled over those for a bit, and then went to inspect the public weighing machine opposite the Railway Goods Yard. (The building is still there in use by "Design and Print".)
In front was a big steel platform, which would hold a horse and cart, and I seem to remember that it had raised bits all over. The man who did the weighing was behind a big window opening, and passed over the weight on special ticket. When the cart was loaded, it was weighed again, and another ticket given. All this was to find the weight of the goods carried, and for fixing prices for the carriage of the goods.
After this, we ambled to the hoardings round the Goods Yard in Brown Street and walked all round a poster of Kitchener staring, pointing a finger: "Your country needs you". The object was to see if we could avoid the staring eyes - we never did manage it.
On we went to the top of Brown Street North and Bradshawgate. To the left was the Commercial Inn and to the right was The Lilford Hotel. We crossed over and stopped at The Eagle and Hawk opposite the Lilford. It had a door that was rounded, with three brass bars across and two steps. We thought it was great, and used to stroke the bars as if they were gold. Sometimes we would inspect the pots at Darlington's on the other side, but usually we were more interested to find out what was going on at Kay's and if there were any horses about.
(Hannah Darlington married Mr Boydell who lived opposite to us in Hope Street. Once he confided in me his sadness that he had no children.)
Sometimes, in fine weather, we would see poor Paul Shovelton in his spinal carriage. He was paralysed and only his eyes moved and he could turn his head a fraction. He lay there day and night, his mother turning him and caring for him. he was always clean and never smelly. His brother and sister used to wheel him about after school. His carriage was basically a long, narrow, shallow, unupholstered box on high wheels, with a handle across one end to push it along. He lived until his late teens, and it must have been a big relief for all of them when he died. Mary, his sister, got a scholarship when I did, and we both had the same fate - we weren't able to stay on after the contracted four years.
There were other sad cases of crippled children, and children with rickets which deformed their legs so they could hardly walk. There were frequent epidemics of measles, scarlet fever, whooping cough, mumps and chicken pox. Sometimes there was a scare alarm of small pox, mostly due to the crowded school rooms (fifty or more in some classes). Body and head lice were a constant threat, especially as some families didn't have a weekly bath, and a lot of girls had long hair which wasn't washed very often.
Health and hygiene.
There were school nurses who came sometimes and lifted our hair up and prodded gingerly for nits. Quite a number of girls had a small white card placed beside them, but I never had one, because of mother's Friday Night Ritual. Friday night was bath night, but first of all, the nit hunt. Mother sat down and put a small black japanned lacquer tray on her knees and got her black dust comb, about three inches long, two inches wide and finely toothed on both sides, and set to work.
One by one, we knelt down and bent over the tray, while she combed our hair for evidence. If there were lice, they stayed on the comb and were squashed, and our hair searched for the white nits., which were also squashed. If by any chance, pests were found, we endured the combing every night and our hair was washed in a concoction of herbs, until the all clear was given.
While this tribulation was going on, our father filled the kitchen boiler, and carried a shovelful of fire to put under the boiler to heat the water. He also got the galvanised bath off its hook near the back door, rolled up the hearth rug and put newspaper down, then set the bath on top. We usually had it in front of the fire when the weather was cool, but in the kitchen or pantry when it was warmer. One by one we had a bath, and after each, some water was ladled out and fresh warm water put in. Everyone had a turn to be first in, and although we'd try to jump the queue, we knew very well which was our turn. Clean and snug in warmed nighties we waited for our cups of cocoa, and then off to bed.
Birthdays were not regarded as anything special except the 21st. Then there was a family do. Lucky boys usually got a double Albert and watch, girls a gold curb bracelet, or a thick gold bangle, or a fancy brooch. At our house there wasn't much of anything, usually a new pair of socks or something we needed anyway.
We might get a little treat at teatime - a jelly, or pineapple chunks or a packet of biscuits. The boys liked ginger nuts, which could be chomped satisfactorily, but we girls liked McVite and Price's Arrowroot wafer biscuits. They were big and had a little scalloped edge all round and these were bitten off as slowly as possible. The rest was then slowly nibbled, to make them last as a long as we could make it. We had two of these, as they were lighter than ginger nuts and could be made to last a bit longer.
Going on errands.
Sometimes, I went on errands for other people to Youd's "The Grocers" in Market Street, and they had a long row of biscuit tins with glass lids. There were so many sorts we didn't have: mixed biscuits, fancy wafers, cream biscuits, shortcake, Scottish Shortbread, Bourbons, but I can't recall seeing chocolate ones, although you could get finger bars covered in Cadbury's milk chocolate.
Around Market Street and Bradshawgate were the shops the richer people shopped at. The roads were narrow, and the entrance to Lord Street was difficult as a small trap and pony could hardly squeeze through.
There were a lot of Temperance bars and pubs around the Parish Church and Turnpike. From the corner of Bradshawgate and the Turnpike down to Brown Street, and from the Turnpike down to the Avenue were the following, which I still remember. Near the church, on the West Door side, were The Kings Arms, the Market Tavern, the Blue Bell, the Walmesley Arms. Back Salford it was called, although it really was an area of narrow alleys.
On the east side, outside the church wall and down Leigh Road, were The Sun, low and rather dark, the White Swan and the Brown Cow. On the opposite side along Leigh Road from the Turnpike was The Rope and Anchor, the Travellers' Rest, the Saddle Inn, the Hole in the Wall (really The Millstone) where you went down a narrow passage to the inn as it was built out of sight. Next was the Boar's head at the corner of Church Street. Down Church Street was the Courts Hotel, near the Police Station, where there was an iron plaque on the wall which showed the length a yard should be, and other measures. Along Bradshawgate from the Turnpike to Brown Street were various others on each side. The Lord Nelson was a big place, and the others, like the Albion, the Globe, the Lilford Hotel, the Commercial and the Eagle and Hawk on the other side. The Co-op was in its hey-day then, and had a row of shops along one side of the road, and a shoe department on the other side. There were several pubs tucked down the side streets. Lord Street had the British Volunteer and on the other side, opposite Woolworths was the Britannia. The Grapes was in Lord Street too, but Poor Dick's was in Charles Street. The White Horse was on the length from Church Street to the Avenue, on the corner opposite to the Trustees Savings Bank, although it wasn't called that then. There was also the Crown in Silk Street, which was built adjoining our landlord's house in Union Street. Outside, here was a big angle and over it was built a cairn of duck stones. It was rounded and about four feet or so high. It lessened towards the top and we were very interested in it. We wondered whether a witch lived in it, but we later found out that it was made to prevent anyone from relieving themselves in corners, as there were very few public conveniences. There was one near the Theatre in Lord Street, and a sinister looking gents near the Church, underground. Nothing was provided for the convenience of ladies. Presumably they carried something portable in their bustles!
I think all these hostelries were the result of people being compelled to attend church on Sundays, and as the townships were widespread, many travelled a long way, and refreshment was needed for man and beast. While we were at the Parish School we went to church every Wednesday morning, in a long crocodile. The Vicar then was Frederick William Campion, M.A. He sounded to us as if he spoke a foreign language. His first sentence sounded like ìHe that hath yaws to yaw, let him yaw.." So we yawned and passed the time looking at the stained glass windows, the Lady Chapel organ, anything to pass time until he stopped. In those days, there were two big chained books at the end near the porch, but I think they have been moved because of their antiquity.
Leigh is a very old town. The Romans have been here: a Roman coin was found in Bedford, dated previous to A.D. 306. It was heavily forested for hundreds of years and had a church from the early 13th century. At first, there were Rectors, but from 20th march 1440, Vicars were appointed. There are various lists of Poll Taxes paid, one for Pennington dated 1379. My father's family name, Boardman, appears on a list for a Church Levy to be collected on 3rd March 1728. Peter and his widow, Anne , had both died in 1727 and their son Giles inherited most of their wealth. They had lived on a farm in Bedford, and Widow Boardman's effects included two shillings worth of potatoes - the first time this crop had been mentioned locally. Uncle Leslie (Smith) has traced our family tree and confirmed this. (I have also read Dr Lunn's History of Leigh, which contains copies of original documents, deeds, lists, etc, some of which have now perished. His book was published about the 50th Jubilee Year in 1949. There was a special Jubilee Souvenir Programme, published price 6d, of which we bought copy no. 2393. I still have it. I found it in your father's desk when having a clear out.) Leigh folk have always denigrated Wigan, even though it has been a Borough for longer than us. Being forced into the Metropolitan Borough of Wigan hasn't improved this. Leigh folk often crack the joke "Theer's only one good thing i' Wigan - that's t' road coming out of it!" Wigan's dominance in Rugby League doesn't help either.
My father didnít spend much time in pubs - only the last half hour each night - but if there happened to be an Opera Company at the Theatre Royal for a week, he would miss his gills. He liked to hear good singing, even if it was from the Gods with not much view of the stage. The D'Oyley Carte Opera Company ran a number of touring companies, of varying abilities. The best ones went to the big cities and towns, so I suppose that Leigh got the more mediocre performers. They did three operas a week, and came with their own scenery. It looked very shabby when we saw it at the stage door, but looked good in the floodlights. There were masses of big skips too, full of costumes. All these were brought from the Station, on flat horse-drawn lorries.
Father also liked the Variety shows, and went on Monday night to the shows he fancied, either at the Theatre Royal or the Hippodrome. I was introduced to show business at the Hip. I was very young, about five or six, and Father had seen the show and said there was a good magic act. So mother took me to the first house on Tuesday. We sat in the pit, after finding a seat from which I could have a good view. I was all eyes and ears, utterly enthralled, and when the magic act came on, I thought it was wonderful. He did all the usual tricks, but he last one was best of all, as he produced what seemed to me to be clouds of white doves! It seemed like real magic to me, although there probably only a dozen.
Middle teen days.
Working days were long so we didn't go out much at night. We learned how to knit and do repairs on shirts. Sometimes we replaced collar bands, those small shaped bands ,double thickness, with stud holes ready made and costing about 2d each. It was a finicky job, not very rewarding. When sheets were needed, twill sheeting was bought by the yard from Hawkins, and hemmed at home. We couldn't be bothered tacking hems, so we pinned them and fed them through the sewing machine. It saved hours of hand sewing, but wasn't too easy as the space under the needle and for putting sewing on was quite small, and there were yards of stiff twill to be manoevred through.
Darning socks and stockings was another pain. It had to be neat and with a single thread not doubled, and close together, so it didnít sag when well prodded with a finger. Not much joy there. We did think we were put upon, as after tea we, the girls, each had to wash the pots in turns. The boys didn't wash pots, but only went errands.
The first thing I ever knitted for myself was a jumper of blue artificial silk, in fan and feather pattern, with elbow length sleeves and modest round neck. I was started on sock knitting on four needles, but it never grew quickly enough for me and I never got further than the ribbed welt. Iíve always liked complicated patterns, like stripes (using left over wool), fair isle patterns, cables and Arran. Our Alice liked plain knitting and didnít care for sewing, but our Dorothy was like me. She liked sewing and could knit, but wasn't too keen about it.
My mother had the same midwife for the birth of all her children. She came for two weeks to attend to mother and child. In those days, the mother stayed in bed all the time, the only chance she got for a rest. After that it was business as usual, with extra washing and somebody else to feed and care for. Alice and me were both at school when Dorothy was born. When we came home, the bed was under the window and mother in it and the nurse showed us our new sister, saying "This is your Dorothy." So we never got to choose her name.
My mother always resented the fact that she had to be "Churched" before the child could be Christened. She had to go to church alone and there was a short ceremony which was to the effect that the parson forgave her on behalf of God for her sin in giving birth to a child, when he and she knew jolly well that it took two to tango. The Methodists and Wesleyans had no truck with such rubbish, and one of the elders christened the child.
Babies at that time really were swaddled. First of all, the wool vest, usually knitted in fine baby wool. Then a muslin nappy inside a good sized Terry towelling nappy - a sort of nappy liner, as muslin dried quicker, and if the terry nappy was soiled, it took a lot longer to wash and dry. If the terry one was only slightly damp, it was dried and re-used. Babies always wore a binder, a length of woollen flannel about five inches wide, with a bit of a white cotton pad over the tummy button. It was wrapped round the body several times and fastened with a safety pin. It was worn until the tummy button healed.
After this came the barra, a sort of long petticoat of flannel or thick winceyette, which was usually feather stitched across the hem. It was open down the front, so that there was plenty of material to cross over each side, and fastened at the back with wide tapes. Over this was a lighter cotton version, and the gown, with a little short bodice, puff sleeves, and plain or fancy, according to what you could afford, as you needed at least three. The barra was usually pinned up at the bottom to keep the feet warm. Over all of this the shawl was wrapped round.
Most working class mothers had two or three extra big nappies, made of any sort of material to hand: the best parts of old union shirts, old flannelette sheets, anything washable. These were put on after the barra, so that the gowns could be used longer. In winter a bonnet was de rigeur. Cradles were pretty deep and hooded, and had rockers. They were kept in a warm corner, so that what with all the layers of clothes, shawl and covers, it's a wonder that we survived.
As the baby grew up and began to crawl, it was "shortened", i.e. baby gowns were laid aside and the baby was dressed in frocks, boys and girls alike. At about two, boys were "breeched" and started to wear trousers. No wonder mothers sometimes died young, worn out with raising a family. Baby gowns were sometimes a yard long and had to be boiled to keep them reasonably white; woollens were hand washed and pulled out as much as possible to stop shrinking, but they did, and white wool usually ended up distinctly yellowish! Nothing was creaseless; every cotton thing had to be ironed. We were taught to judge the quality of cotton goods. the inferior ones had a lot of "sowin" and when a bit was crumpled up, a fine white dust or filling fell out. This was the "sowin". Good stuff didn't have filling, so no dust. Then there were woollens to learn about, as some was "shoddy", made from old wool and rags, no use for wear or warmth. Thinking about woollens, when I was about ten, my mother had been offered a length of tweed for much less than had been paid for it. The woman had had second thoughts about it (no wonder). Alice and me needed winter coats, so she bought it. We thought it was horrid, but daren"t say anything. It was heavy, hairy, dark brown with white and fawn speckles. The coats were made, and we had new dun coloured straw hats. After wearing them a time or two, we called them the bearskins, and had them, summer and winter, for at least two years. When it was hot, we dragged them along, wanting to wear them out. We never forgot the bearskins, and the last time I saw Alice, we had a laugh about it.
As we grew up we wanted to be like other girls and wear nice shoes but until we were about sixteen we wore Clark's ankle boots. After I left school in 1926 and got a real job I had spending money, 1d for each shilling earned. Silk stockings were coming into fashion, but they were artificial silk (rayon). I had some which I wore on Sundays or for something special. They were a salmon pinky colour, tres chic, but after a while they seemed to grow hairs! The more they were washed, the more they grew, so they were abandoned, and I got some fully fashioned Lisle, a silky finished cotton. About 1930, or a bit later, Woolworths opened and you could buy real silk stockings for 6d a leg. You bought three at once so they lasted longer than just two.
When I was about 17 I was allowed to go and choose a pair of shoes by myself. There was a sale on at Fairclough's where our shoes were bought. I chose a pair of black court shoes with heels, nice and dainty. I can even remember the trade name of the firm that made them - Lissom. No go. They had to go back. I sulked and didnít want to go back, but Mary Wood came with me, so I had no choice. Boring black lace up shoes with not much heel is what I ended up with. Make-up was coming into fashion and we longed to have a go, but father said no, not until we were twenty-one. But, bit by bit, we got a little jar of Pond's Vanishing Cream, Tangee lipstick (an orangey colour), a little box of Bourjois Rouge Brun and a little bottle of Evening in Paris scent. Mother knew, but didn't let on. We went out the back way and put our war paint on in the lavatory. Previous to this, when we were younger, we had been accused of having lipstick on, but we found out that peppermint creams from Meeson's at 2d per quarter made your lips red, so that we bought some every Saturday.
Through the Thirties, times were bad and money short. The Co-op was a lifeline for money and mother had joined fairly early. We shopped at the Hope Street branch which wasn't far from home. You were allowed credit and paid weekly, and got a little slip of paper with the amount paid written in indelible pencil and a number printed on to tell which store had issued it. These little white strips must not be lost because of the "Divi". The Divi sheet was a long gummed paper strip with columns of spaces marked to fit the strips in. At the top was a special coloured strip that had the total of the previous sheet, so that every quarter you got a "Divi" paper to take to Head Office on one of three "Divi" days to draw your dividend in cash. No matter which Co-op shop you bought in - Drapery, Tailoring, Cafe, Shoe Department, Childrenswear, Furnishing, you always got a strip as proof of purchase.
Every quarter a Dividend rate was decided on. Once or twice it was 2/6 to the pound. They also had a Clothing Club, which ran for twenty weeks. You took out a number of shares at £1 each, for which you paid a shilling a week. At the end, you could make a big purchase, like a suit or coat, that was needed urgently, and pay for it in twenty weeks.
On special days dated at the top of your current sheet, it had to be handed in, and your passbook shown with your personal number, the one that was written on every one of your strips. You went to the Head Office in Ellesmere Street. It was a big building, and had two halls on separate floors, with long desks in. One or two men were in charge of lots of girls who had to reckon up the amounts on the sheets. They wrote the total number of pounds on the back, issued a new sheet and stuck on a coloured strip with the amount carried forward. Then they gave us a white "Divi" paper showing our name and number and the total number of pounds spent that quarter. They were very quick and rarely made mistakes.
Some people had a "Scotchman", usually a real Scot, who let you have blankets, coats, suits, etc. on credit, and came to collect a payment every week. But, they charged high prices. My mother had occasionally used a Clothing Society run by some Insurance company who used local traders, and you paid weekly for twenty weeks, like the Co-op.
The "Divi" was regarded as a kind of special emergency fund that was regularly topped up. Some folk used it to pay off bills, some might put a bit in the teapot, where savings were kept for a real need, some might use it for anything that was needed and some people used it to dip into over the weeks for little treats for all.
Down our street.
Our street, Henrietta Street, was considered to be very respectable, certainly the Avenue end, where the Parish Church Institute was built. There was a row of bigger houses with gardens at the front. At the end of this row was Leigh's first Telephone Exchange.
The front was glass, painted over inside so that you couldn't see inside. The door was at the end, near Hope Street. On our way home from school on hot summer days it occasionally stood open, so of course we had to have a peep at what was going on. It didn't seem very exciting, just a room full of women sitting in front of a big board thing, poking little bits of wire into little holes. They wore earphones, but we thought they were funny things. The women only said, "Hello, number please" and moved a bit of wire to another hole. It was not at all exciting, so if we were shooed away, it didn't matter.
There was a long row of houses from Hope Street which ended at Mrs. Ward's house facing us at number 38. On our side were two shorter rows with an entry to Silk Street. The first row had ten houses but the big one in the middle was tenanted by Mr Baron, a joiner, and he had a joiner's yard behind his house.
Our row had nine houses. We knew some of the people in the next row to us, mostly those who lived at our end. Bessie Wright lived at number 2. We knew her because she was at school with us, but I can't think of anyone else until after Baron's, the big house that was number 12. Mrs Isherwood lived at 14. She was a widow, with two grown-up sons who lived with her. Number 16 was rented by Bill Guest, a butcher, and his family were grown up too.
The Mayo family lived quietly at number 18. There was a son and a daughter. I think they were better off than us, as the daughter played the piano and was taught by Auntie Doris, and was her bridesmaid at that 8 o'clock wedding (short white dress, veil and Arum lilies).
At number 20 were the Jacksons. They had sons and daughters who were older than us. Mr Arrowsmith lived at 22 , the first house of our row,with his wife and son Sam. He was a miner and had played Rugby League for Leigh. I think he was a back or something, as he was called Stonewall. He was a big, burly man who always had his hair very close cropped, but with a fringe of hair at the front. His wife took washing in and always looked grey and bedraggled. Sam was a bit like his mother. I didn't know him much.
Mrs Jones, another widow, lived at 24. She was a quiet, homely body and had a comfortable home. She minded her own business. Mr and Mrs Mulford lived at 26. They had two daughters, Lavina and Josephine. Mrs Mulford was a shade taller than her husband. He was of medium build, and had a big droopy moustache, "Favours a sod o'er a rat hole" was the usual comment. He worked at the Cable Works, and he too minded his own affairs.
Mrs Southern lived next door to him at 28, and like her neighbours, caused no bother to anyone. Mr Hinton and his wife inhabited number 30. He was a tram driver and wore a huge pair of gauntlet gloves as part of his uniform. The trams just sailed along the middle of the road, and you had to step out into it to get on them. The trams were open in front, and some of them had open tops, so it was a bit chilly on the top deck. The driver would sound the bell as he neared the stage, as the stop was called, as if we couldn't see the unwieldy thing coming!
At 32 lived Mr and Mrs Boydell, with Lily, Amy and son John. Mr Boydell had been in the first World War and managed to get to be a sergeant. And didnít he let everyone know about it! He was a knowall (but didn't) and liked to air his views. He was regarded with complacent tolerance - "Th' sarge is at it again!"
Mr and Mrs Molyneaux lived at 34. He had played Rugby League for Leigh, and the County too, and had at least three caps. He worked at the Gas Works and was a nice quiet man. Mr Molyneaux's County caps were red plush with gold embroidery across the front, giving the year and event, etc, and each one had a long gold tassel. One day, his wife offered them to my mother, and asked if they would be alright for the boys to wear for school if she cut the tassels off. Mother had a hard job persuading her that it wasn't a good idea at all!
Mrs Molyneaux was a big red-faced Irish woman, who was inclined to get a bit hysterical. She always seemed to be half-dressed and falling apart. I don't know if she used the oven much, but there always seemed to be clouds of blue smoke and a strong smell of fish coming from their back door. She wasn't much of a home maker and couldn't knit or sew. I doubt if she could read. Their living-room was very stark. The flag floor was white stoned, but not by her. Her daughters had to do it. I don't think she ever went shopping. She did do the washing, but again the girls had to help.
She had had fourteen children, but only seven survived: Herbert was married. Fred, Jim, Elsie, Maggie, Connie and Rhoda all lived with their parents. Connie and Rhoda were nearest to us in age, and they were anything but coddled. They had baths in the dolly tub in the back yard! It was private because each house had its own, fenced with big stone slabs. Rhoda was younger than us and we were horrified when she sometimes came out to play and didn't have her knickers on.
As time went on, the house got more comfortable as the older ones stated to work. Maggie (who now would only answer to the name of Peggy) was to marry a young man who had an Electrician's business, and her mother decided that "she'd show "em" and boasted about what a grand affair it was going to be, and how everbody's eyes would be opened. It was to be in the New Year, but on the day there was a real pea-souper fog, and you could hardly see your hand in front of your face. So, although our eyes were opened, we couldn't see anything of the grand do! The Pomfrets lived next door at number 36, but they left when I was about five. Mr and Mrs Orrell came to live there. They were newly married. She had been Annie Castle and had lived in Bond Street before she got married. She had been a milliner by trade, at Miss Davies, and she had made hats for us once, for Walking Day. They were of white crinoline straw (a special fancy kind, not to be compared to the ordinary yellow stuff) and they had little posies of velvet forget-me-nots.
Mr Orrell was a clerk in the Goods Office at the Station. The Yard covered a big area, from Bond Street down to Platt Fold Street. At Wilde's Builder's yard, where there was a bridge built over a brook, there were the cottages which still stand there, and Boothís cotton mill, stretching down to Holden Road. On the other side was Platt Fold farm, and both have now been demolished for re-development. In this area were put all the goods arriving by train, until they were picked up. It was very useful to know Mr Orrell during the war, as we got to know when groceries arrived when they were hard to get. They had two daughters, Elsie and Amy.
As time went by, our brothers arrived at 38. To we three, they were just a pest. They had to be rocked to sleep in the cradle, or played with when teething, or pushed in the pram for an outing. We were glad to go school.
Across from our house, in Bold Street, were two more short rows of houses. The first terrace, nearest to us, had houses a bit bigger than ours. At the first of these, Mr and Mrs Leather lived with their son. Father and son worked together; I think they made reeds for looms. They were nicely fixed. So was Mrs Hall, a widow, who took in "The-ats". She let rooms out each week to people who came to work in the Theatre Royal or the Hippodrome. She always wore a black dress, and when she stood at her door for a breather, she always put on a shoulder cape. It wasn't made of fur, but feathers. Boas were made up of strands of feathers which fluffed out to about four inches, and this cape was made up of them.
We didnít have much to do with any of the others, although we knew the children who went to our school. In Bold Street, on our side, were Mr and Mrs Banks and Marjory. There was old Mrs Cross who always grew masses of Tom Thumb lettuces in her big garden. We were sent with a penny and a sheet of newspaper to buy some for tea in summer. At the end house, where Tickle's Garage was built using their side wall, were the Bonds. They had a daughter, Evelyn, who was deaf and dumb. We didn't see her often as she was sent to a special school. When she was older she was trained to be a hairdresser and set up a business of her own. She did my hair when I was married.
On Mrs Leather's side lived the Hesfords. They had two girls who were very nice. They went to King Street Wesleyans School.
Across from the Telephone Exchange was a grocer's shop and on the Hope Street side was a little chip shop which was opened when the owner felt like it; it wasn't so often. Towards the Silk Street entry lived the Faulkeners, who mother knew. They had older daughters and sons. Two played in the Bedford Church Band when Grandfather Smith did. They were a very nice lot, pleasant and jolly. Near them lived a family whose mother was called "Mrs Penny for Gas" as she was for ever sending her children with two halfpennies for a penny for the gas meter.
At 71 lived a rather odd couple, the Sarbutts, with their son. They were about the same height, but he was thin, with a shock of hair that stood out. He had very wide eyes, so that he always looked in a panic. His wife was much plumper and self-satisfied. She always referred to him as "Daddy", so of course, her nickname was Daddy Sarbutt. She doted on the son, who couldn't stir without her say-so.
Mr and Mrs Royle and Hilda lived next to them. Then there were the Wilkinsons, a widow with two daughters who were weavers at Gamble and Smiths. Her son Billy worked in the Co-op Office. Mrs Wilkinson was plump and very aware of her worth. She was noted for standing at the door, smiling and nodding graciously at passers-by, and muttering acid comments at the same time. Martha, one of the two girls, married one of P.T.H. Brooks (Printers) sons, and went to live in Chester Street. She was very like her mother and didn't like anyone to know that she had been a weaver. (It was her daft dog, Monty, that bit Helen's mouth.) Then there were the Rigbys, Madge and Elsie. Poor Madge had a hare lip and it impeded her speech. (I think when she grew older she had operations to correct it.) Then there were the Blackwells, who didn't mingle. Next to them were the Foresters, whose mother had married twice. The children were Rachel and Abel Horrocks, grown-up but not married, and Edna and Edith Forester. Edna was the older one, and she was a cripple. She had to wear boots up to her knees, with callipers which reached halfway up her legs. She had to sit with her legs stuck out in front of her. She had crutches as well, but it was difficult for her to manage. She kept on trying though. She couldn't get to school, but she learned to read, and I would lend her my Children's Newspaper, which my father bought me each week, and the Salvation Army's "War Cry" which the Sally Annies sold in pubs on Saturday nights.
Mrs Ward lived at the end house opposite us, with Mary and John Willie, the epileptic. Another son, Herbert, was married to a sanctimonious Wesleyan. Mr Ward was a squat little man who worked for Green's. They sold wine, spirits, ale and stout and these were ordered weekly by the better off, for delivery to their homes. Mr Ward delivered them by horse-drawn lorry. I think he liked a little nip now and then, and got it, for he always seemed to be content. He died when I was very young, about five or six, so I didn't know him very well. Mrs Ward was a big woman, and she always wore a long, dark skirt, very full and gathered into a sort of a bustle at the back. It was down to the floor, and edged with "brush braidí. This had little stiff bristles woven in, about half an inch long, and was sewn all round the edge of the skirt. It was meant to prevent it from getting dusty or muddy. With it, she wore a blouse, her "Hug-me-tight" which did, for it was a crocheted, short, sleeveless bodice, buttoned tightly up the front. She had the usual layers of underskirt, and had always worn long drawers, where the two legs were joined part-way, front and back, then left dangling. She had started to wear a newer style which stopped at the knee. Talk about engineering!
They were incredible, made of stout dark blue cotton with narrow coloured stripes. It was crafted thus: two legs, generously cut, joined together down the front and for a few inches at the back. Where this ended the back bit was cut away on both legs, so you had an empty square, filled in with an inset flap, which buttoned onto the back of the waistband. The leg bottoms were gathered in at the knee into a knee band which was buttoned at the side with buttons the size of todayís penny and made of thick white bone. They probably were warmer. On a windy day on the washing line, they looked like two barrage balloons, and the flap blowing below made them look bigger.
Before I left the Parish School, I had started to make one of these monstrosities but hadn't got very far. I think Miss Griffin must have decided that we should make these. They were all cut the same size and we had to pay for them. When I took them home, tacked up, mother took one look at them and said "Good God, they'd fit Gerard Johnson!" He was a legendary figure who was supposed to be a very big, broad man.
When the first war ended, Mrs Wardís daughter (Mary) left Planter's at Manchester and got a job as sick visitor for a Friendly Society who paid sickness benefits. She had to call unexpectedly during working hours to see if claimants were really ill. She covered a large area and learned to ride a bike. She found streets in places you'd never expect. She roped us in for Sunday School at Cook Street Methodists.
Across Bold Street was Mrs Wyatt and her daughter who was grown-up and working. To eke out her money, she had her front window made into a shop front to keep bottles of sweets, the halfpenny sweet selection and the small bars of chocolate. It had two pull-out trays under it. In these, she kept darning wool, needles, papers of pins, bobbins of cotton, corn plasters, court plaster (a thin silky-looking, pinkish coloured material, which men put on their faces when they cut themselves shaving), sticking plaster, 1d packets of lint, bandages, Fenningís Cooling Powders for Children, (for when they were teething) and lots of other things which people didn't use often but wanted in a hurry when they did.
Next to her were Mrs Cubbin and her daughter Bertha, and a son. His wife had died and left him with three sons. Bertha was a weaver, and she had a very swarthy complexion. Her brother, Alan, and his boys were fair. Then she trained as a midwife in her early twenties and set up her nameplate outside their house. (She officiated at the births of Anne and Helen, at home in Orchard Lane.) She then made her nephews work hard at school; Alan, their father, was a labourer and not very bright. Thanks to her, the boys all managed to get scholarships and do well for themselves. I donít suppose that she got any thanks from them when they were young, but later on they did appreciate what she did for them. My friend, Edith Parker, lived next to the Cubbin's with her parents and her brothers Wilfred and John. Mr Parker was a big stolid man who worked at the "Sinking Pit" as folks put it. Actually they were making a shaft for a new coal pit and head gear, with electric fittings and laying rails for the wagons and all the other things necessary. It was "The Parsonage" pit.
Mrs Parker was small, thin and had a foxy face. Wilfred took after her. John was like his father, and Edith was a mixture of both, tending towards her mother. Mrs Parker was always referred to as "Lady Parker". She liked to dress up and wasnít too fond of housework; although she did the washing, she didnít iron anything until it was needed. Their house had good furniture but you couldn't sit down unless you moved a pile of clothes needing to be ironed. There were piles of them on every chair! They moved on into a council house near the Cemetery and I never saw Edith until about 1948. We told each other our news, and she said funnily enough that her name was Boardman now. Her husband's name was Ian and he was a farmer. They lived at Light Oaks farm. It had been a Manor House and had been made smaller by knocking down one half of it, so they had stairs that went no-where! They had a huge wooden panelled bedroom which made a double bed look like a babyís cot. The window wasnít very big and several panes. Only one pane , about a foot square, opened. The kitchen furniture was inherited by each new tenant as it was so big and heavy it couldnít be moved.
We went to look at the farm and how she coped I don't know. She never had the training for that sort of life. She said of her husband, "I can't say heís mean, but he's bloody careful! He bought Mildred (their daughter) a fur coat, but I had to pick potatoes for mine!" We didn't know anyone in the houses beyond where the Parkers lived, except for old Mrs Bent and George Hilton, in whose mill mother had worked.
One day I was sent on an errand to Mrs Bentís and coming back I saw a small entry in the middle of the row. I hadn't noticed it before, so I investigated. There was a big building with a notice on, "George Hunter's Skip Works". There were stacks of new skips to prove it. Then there was a little road and two very nice houses, "Brook Villas", and beyond them, the brook that ran beside the Athletic Club's racing track, which we could see from Chester Street. From there we could also see the bank where Mabel Johnson's father had built their house and had a builder's yard.
On Mrs Wyatt's side of Bold Street there were about six cottages. At the first one was a family who went to St Joseph's School. The other inhabitants who I remember were the Alderís, who had two girls, and old Mrs Hope. Mrs Hope was tall and always wore a sun bonnet. She had a few, all different colours, and all faded. The front had a frill that was always "goffered", i.e. crimped with a special gadget that made a row of tiny pleats all along the frill. The strings of the bonnets were never tied, but just left hanging. When she was doing housework she wore a black apron, but in the afternoon she donned a fresh bonnet and a spotless white apron stiff with starch, and her clogs shone like jet.
She had a daughter, Harriet, who was tall like her mother, but not austere. Harriet had married Joe Darwell, who was a Rugby League player. Later on, they kept a pub. Mrs Hope did not approve. Past the last cottage and as far as the bank of the Brook were a yard and stables belonging to Sam Berry. He had a smaller stable opposite the Theatre Stage Door, were the scenery was brought in. Occasionally there was a circus at the theatre, and horses and ponies were stabled at the one near the brook. One time, there was an big elephant there. On the opening Monday night, mother was washing up and got a big shock when this big grey head poked over the side wall of the yard, waving its trunk about. It took its time moving off too! When my youngest brother, Albert, was about eight, the landlord sold the Ward's house "over their head" i.e. he didn't tell them he was selling. So Mary arranged to buy the Royle's house which was for sale. The Royles couldn't find a house which was vacant there and then, so Mary and her mother moved in with them for a few weeks until the Royles got a place in Vernon Street.
Mr and Mrs Wood moved in when the Wards left number 81. He was an over-looker at the Wood End mine and he had a motor-bike and side-car. They had no children and Mrs Wood took a fancy to us, and once or twice they took me for a ride, perched on Mrs Wood's knees. Once I was wearing a dark red velvet Tam o' Shanter mother had made for me. She had put a little tuft of black feathers in the middle, which kept tickling Mrs Wood's nose. I kept as still as I could, but she kept moving her head from side to side, and still being tickled. She wouldn't let me take it off because it was windy, so she gave the feathers a mighty yank and out they came. It didn't improve my Tammy!
They didn't stay at number 81 for long. They moved to a better house, and the Carrols moved in. Tommy, the father, was a typical red-faced Paddy. Mary, his wife, was sour-faced, greyish and had a bit of a limp. Ronnie was their wonder child (at least he was in his mother's eyes), a gormless child with his father's looks.
Tommy worked for the Co-op on a coal round, and every Friday night, about half past eight, he came home drunk, and his wife wouldn't let him in, although he shouted and pounded on the door. Then he started marching, bawling at the top of his voice, "It's the soldiers of the Queen, my lads" a patriotic ditty from the Boer War. He marched from the front of our house to the end of the back yard, turned smartly and saluted, then marched back and saluted again for ages, until his voice gave out.
Mrs Carrolís concern was for her dear Ronnie, and my brother Albert was his bete noir. If Ronnie fell, Albert Boardman had pushed him. Once, when they were all messing about on a raft on the flooded end of the Grammar School playing field, Albert had pushed him in, and he nearly drowned and could have had pneumonia. She was always complaining to mother but she got short shrift. Ronnie had the knack of never doing anything quite right and was dim.
He was an errand boy for uncle Fred Bent when he was at the Atherton branch of the Co-op. There was a mobile shop, too, which was stocked from the Co-op, and Ronnie came back from an errand riding on the shop bike. He was told to help. "What shall I do with the bike?" he asked, so he was told to put it round the back. He wasn't seen for a while, and there he was, trying to get the bike into the van, through the little door the customers went in! It had a big basket on the front to carry the orders, and it was stuck in the door. "Round the back" always meant the back of the premises, of course.
Toys and trinkets.
When we were young, we did not have a lot of toys. My first one was a velvet cat, not with separate limbs, more like the shape of a cat sitting sideways, and stuffed. I always had it under one arm. I was very fond of Nestle's condensed milk and used to pinch a spoonful or two if I got the chance, but mother always found out, because I always dripped some on my cat.
I learned colours and numbers from playing with the button box; sizes and shapes too, by sorting them out. I had a set of building blocks, along the lines of Russian dolls, made of cardboard covered in shiny patterned paper. They were empty, lidless boxes of graduated sizes, fitting into one another, and they made a tower when put on top of each other, starting with the biggest one.
As sisters and brothers came along, I rocked the cradle, stuck their dummies in if they were crying, and fetched and carried when they were washed and changed, and by the time I started school I could go to the Co-op if we needed anything. I think I liked school so much because it was me that got the attention there. Mother showed me how to make a row of paper dolls from newspaper for the others and helped me make letters using her pencil. Unfortunately, it was an indelible one, and if I sucked its point, my lips were blue for ages!
Towards the end of November, when I was about ten, some of the women asked me if I could make crinkles. I had made some before for Mrs Hampson, so I said yes. I was asked to make some for them. These were made of tissue paper folded into squares about four inches wide. They had a V shape cut in the middle of each side, so it was a bit like a thick saltire cross. These were made in two colours, and one of each was put together, and each arm of the cross was pushed up against a knitting needle, so that the squares ended up half the size, but crinkled, and with both colours showing.
Then, a long length of coton a broder was threaded on a sewing needle, and a big knot was made at the end. The first crinkle was threaded on, and another knot made about six inches further up the coton, and another crinkle was put on. This was repeated until the string was full. Each length was about half a yard long, and other strings were made, about ten or so. These were arranged so that half the strings were three inches longer, then they were knotted together, and each half of the threads were given a twist and then knotted again to make a loop to hang them up.
Again, it sounds complicated but it wasn't. I usually made them but our Alice helped, separating them and putting one colour on another. I charged about 3d and made about a dozen. Each of them were in colours specified by the buyer. In most houses a heavy curtain hung over the doorway into the kitchen and the crinkles were hung on them on the end nearest to the living room.
Christmas wasn't made too much fuss of, although the shops made special displays with cotton wool snow down the windows a week or two before, and the Salvation Army played carols in the streets. We always had them in the street near us, where Bold Street crossed. They didn't forget their collecting tins either. At school, we made paper chains to hang up for the Christmas party and we made Christmas cards for our mothers. The party wasn't much because of the war, nor was there much in our socks. We got a new penny, or a silver threepenny bit if we were lucky, some mixed nuts, an apple, a little box of paints with a brush that soon went bald, a book to paint in, a small silver wrapped bar of chocolate, a screw of paper with dolly mixtures in, very small sweets, perhaps an orange. On Christmas Eve the church bells played carols, and the Salvation Army played on the Market Square.
One of the different things at Christmas were the butchers and poulterers' shops. They had big wooden frames with bars across, high up over the windows. Normally, hung on these by S shaped hooks, were rabbits, or braces of pheasants or partridges or a hare or two, but at Christmas there were geese, some turkeys, and lots of cockerels and plump hens. Yates and Greer, the pork butchers, always had a boarís head with an apple in its mouth, and festoons of pork sausages around.
Puddings and mincemeat were made at home, and we children grated the apples for the mincemeat. We wondered why it was called mincemeat when there was no meat in it. The big yellow glazed bowl was filled with all the things we liked: currants we had cleaned and picked the stalks off, sultanas, candied peel (the hard sugary bits were lovely), fat raisins, the apples and mixed spices all mixed in. The pudding basins were ready greased and used butter papers saved over the last few weeks, together with cotton to cover them and good strong string waiting.
Mother stirred and stirred until the mincemeat was ready and then we all had a stir. The mincemeat was put into jars and the bowl washed. It was time to make the puddings. Flour, butter, eggs, milk, more currants, raisins, sultanas and peel - no apple this time. Spices were added, and all was stirred again. Everyone had a go but this time we made a wish because it was the pudding. The waiting basins were filled, covered with butter paper and cloth, the string was tied firmly and the cloth tied in knots at the top. Mincemeat was put on the cold slab in the pantry, and the puddings were boiled for an hour or two. Whenever there was a chance, the puddings were boiled again, until Christmas Day.
New Yearís Eve.
New Year's Eve was much more exciting, as there were the first footers, who had to have dark hair, and bring in a piece of bread, a lump of coal and salt, to ensure prosperity in the following twelve months. When it was midnight, all the mill hooters sounded and the noise was deafening. The front and back doors were opened, to bring in the New Year, and to let out the old. If a first footer called, he was given a drink and a mince pie, for it was considered lucky to have him be the first person to set foot in the house. It was unlucky if a woman stepped in first.
After Christmas and New Year, things fell a bit flat, and we went to school, and then it was Lent. Nothing to look at in church; no flowers and only a plain altar cloth, and the Vicar yawed on about fasting and repenting the sins of the flesh, and what poor beings we mortals were. Not that we cared. We were only waiting until the boy who pumped air into the organ went behind his curtain, and then we'd soon be off. Talking of Pipe Organs, there was a firm in Leigh, Pendlebury's, who made them, and they were considered to be very good indeed. Some of them are in local churches.
After Lent, there would be the Spring Clean, especially if we had had a light fall of soot from the chimney, if it had been a bit wet. This meant a cloud of smoky yellow hovering around, and big blobs of soot and fine black dust over everything. It resulted in getting a chimney sweep to come and clean the chimneys.
There was a family, the Lavertyís who did this work and they lived in a field at the other end of Hope Street (before our house was built), in"The Vans", three old furniture removing pantechnicons. There was also another sweep, named Batchigalup.
The sweep's visit meant a hectic day or two of preparation. The fire was left to go out, as we had a gas ring in the kitchen and a tin kettle to boil water for tea., and could use it to make a pan of vegetable stew for dinner. All the ornaments were washed and put on the kitchen dresser. The case of stuffed birds was wiped clean and put under the bed in the front bedroom, together with the glass ship with the dome. All the fancy covers were taken off and washed and ironed.
The cinders were put in the coal bucket which was kept in the kitchen in cold weather, and the flues cleaned with the flue brush, a long, twisted, wire-handled brush with stiff bristles at the end about eight or ten inches long. The dampers were pulled out and a brush pushed in the lot and wriggled about as much as possible, to get rid of as much loose and baked-on soot as you could. Then all the ashes and soot were emptied into the bin.
On the appointed day, we were all up early, the chairs were taken into the kitchen, the door and window curtains were taken down and newspaper were used to cover the bottom halves of the windows. The hearth rug and coconut matting were well shaken prior to being rolled up and left outside if it was fine. The sofa was pushed up to the chest of drawers, and the lot was covered with the ever-useful newspapers. The clock was left on the wall because it was temperamental, but it was draped with a duster.
The sweep came with his brush and rods. The brush had bristles sticking out all round and was about fifteen inches across. It didn't look as if it would move very much soot. He put his covers, very grimy, over the furniture, and one on the mantle edge to hang over a bit, and one near the hearth. Then he pushed the brush in, and rod after rod was screwed on until it stuck out of the chimney pot. While he pushed, soot was falling all the time. Someone was posted outside, and when the brush was spied, the sweep pulled the brush down again, unscrewing the rods when necessary. When he had finished, there was soot flying everywhere, and the hearth and the chimney were full of it, but he had to take it away. So, he filled bags with it, usually three or four coal bags. Time was allowed for the soot to settle and then cleaning up started.
Order was soon restored after the Spring Clean and everything had been "bottomed", that is, cleaned up as thoroughly as possible and disinfected. The disinfectant was bought from an underground cellar at the back of the Town Hall. You took your empty bottle and had it filled. I think it was a penny. The bottle was dark blue and the contents a murky brown. When some was poured into water, it went cloudy, and had hints of colour, like oil or petrol. I think it may have been some kind of creosote. Jeyes Fluid was better, but it cost more. Towards the end of May, fly papers were needed as blue bottles hatched in the middens. Mother used some pinkish square ones. They were put on a plate, and dampened. The flies lit on them and flew off, then dropped dead all over the place. These papers were used by a Mrs Maybrick to poison her husband, and it raised a great deal of scandal. Anyway, mother stopped using them and used another sort. These were long strips of paper, sticky on both sides. They were awkward to put up on the ceiling. Someone had to hold the non-sticky end while mother climbed the ladder. It was a gruesome sight when they were full of flies on both sides and thankfully consigned to the fire.
The Spring Clean over, Easter wouldn't be far away. Good Friday to us was nothing but church and dismal hymns and sermons, but we did have Hot Cross Buns for breakfast. They were toasted, well buttered and delicious! It was customary to have fish for dinner, but we had usually had an ordinary tea.
Some of the children went Pace-egging, an old custom which was dying out. It involved going round houses and asking for an egg. We weren't encouraged to do this. If we went visiting relatives we might be offered one, and this was alright. Chocolate eggs were on sale after the war ended, but not many. We never got a big one, but you could buy miniature eggs, about one inch long. They were sold by weight, so mother bought these and we usually had three each. So, we could truthfully tell our friends that weíd had three Easter eggs.
When we went to Sunday School, the Annual Sermons was about the middle of April, and the children were expected to sing four special hymns, two in the Afternoon and two at the Evening Service. The Chapel had a very big window, arched at the top and round it was painted a fancy scroll, with "We preach Christ Crucified" on it. To one side was a very good pipe organ. The organist was Frederick Thorp, and he was a good one. He had a relative, Amy Thorp who had a good soprano. There was a raised dais with a reading desk and a seat for the preacher. The men's choir sat in pews at the side, but the ladies' choir sat in the front pews. At Sermons time, a sloping staging was put up from the front pews to the sill of the big window, like steps. The whole was covered in a white material.
The children taking part were arranged in order of height, smaller ones at the ends of the rows, the tallest in the middle. We sat on the top rows of the steps. The girls all wore white dresses and white hair ribbons. Before the service started, we were helped up the steps and stood still until everyone was in place. I used to stand there with my eyes shut until the row in front of me was filled, as I was scared of falling off. I felt a lot safer with someone in front.
The hymns were sung with great fervour - not like Church, where voices were less audible. There was not so much kneeling, either, but there was a long sermon about all the evils of our time: the demon DRINK, gambling, dancing, theatres and cinemas etc. Anything a bit enjoyable was banned, but it didnít sink in, and we got very fidgety perched up there. I'll bet most of the congregation did too.
Walking Days and Carnivals.
In summer, about June, were the Walking Days, both C. of E. and Roman Catholics had them, but I only remember one by the Non-Conformists. All the bigger chapels wanted to be first in the procession and couldn't agree, so they had to draw lots for places. Needless to say, they never had another one with all the chapels taking part.
The Catholic St Joseph's was always very well organised. Each class wore identical outfits, paid for by their parents, no matter how poor. One year, a class of boys of about eleven or twelve, were dressed as Jesus as a young boy. They had sleeveless, knee length, brown tunics with rope girdles and sandals. Someone must have had a flight of fancy, as they usually had outfits which could be worn until outgrown. The girls had a different colour for each class, usually pastel shades. The same year as the Jesus boys, one class of girls had wore white dresses with short blue capes, silver slippers and carried silver crooks decorated with a cluster of Madonna lilies.
At the head of the procession was the big banner of the Church, complete with ribbons, and fixed to two poles. The carriers had stiff leather sockets on a strap round their waists, into which the poles slotted in. The poles had two ropes, back and front, which were supposed to help with the steering. These were usually in the charge of young women, and the ribbons along the bottom edge were held by children , supposedly to stop the banner from flapping about. It would probably have been easier without ropes and ribbons, if someone had had the sense to put something on the bottom of the banner to clip on to the poles.
A brass band was usually in front of the banner, and the church officials behind, and then the rest down to "the old boiling bits" as some irreverent onlookers christened the elderly members of the congregation, as they turned away before the crush.
Mother used to tell a story about Grandfather Smith's time in the Band. One year, a horse had left a pile of manure in the middle of the road and it hadnít been moved before the procession started off. So, as they were playing, they had to shuffle through it, and one column of the band ended up with filthy trouser bottoms.
The Parish Church Walking Day wasn't so formal. Girls wore their best white frocks and hats, the boys their Sunday suits. There was a stock of white lawn veils for girls who had no hats. The various church organisations each had their banner, the Mothersí Union, the Mensí Fellowship, Scouts, etc, and there were a lot of bannerettes on a single pole, which a cross or other church emblem. These were dished out to the bigger boys to carry. When the walk was over, we went to the Church Field and had a meal and races.
Cook Street Chapel had a Field Day. We all went on the tram to Robin Hood Farm in Pennington, for a picnic tea and games and racing.
After the Walking Days, at school, we had Empire Day on the 24th May. We dressed up as natives of the different countries of the Empire in a mini pageant, and sang ìRule Britannia", "God Bless the Prince of Wales" and "God save the King". We usually had a holiday in the afternoon. On the 27th May, older people wore a sprig of oak leaves. "Oak Apple Day" they called it. I think it was to remember the day Charles II hid in an oak tree to escape capture.
In June there used to be a Carnival, with jazz bands, Morris dancers, fancy dress characters, horse floats decorated and some with people on, representing various scenes, and decorated bikes. All these were judged before the parade started. There were a lot of Morris dancers, each set in a different uniform, with the leaders wearing all the different medals they had won. Some of them had so many you couldn't see the uniform. The Morris dancers were girls, but the jazz bands were young men and older boys, probably thirty or more in a band, and they, too, all wore the same uniform. Some had drums, but all the others had a "Tommy Talker" each. It was a curious tin thing that they blew down and it made a humming noise but you could make out the tune. I think they are called kazoos now.
The procession always started with the characters on horseback, probably to stop them bolting as the Jazz bands started up. It took a long time for everything to pass by and if there was a hold-up, the Morris dancers would dance a set.
Holidays. In July there were the school holidays and Leigh Holiday Week. For us it started on Friday night after tea, watching the young men going to catch the train to Liverpool, to get the Isle of Man boat to go to Cunningham Camp. There were no tents, but little chalets and lots of sporting activities. When they were going off with full pockets, they let the boys with carts take their luggage to the station. (The carts were made from wooden boxes and old pram wheels.) Coming back, spent up, they lugged their own cases.
We usually had a half day outing to Southport, on July 12th if possible, to see the Orangemen from Liverpool marching through the streets, celebrating the Battle of the Boyne in 1690! (Thatís when the Irish Protestants defeated James II 's Catholics.) They marched in order from the Station to the park near the Pleasure Beach. All the various Lodges had banners showing William and Mary, and girls carrying a board with a big open Bible fixed on. The men were all in dark suits, and wore black bowler hats and gloves, and an Orange sash across their chests. All very smart. The girls usually had white dresses and funnily enough they were all as smart when they marched back again. This was because they had big tents where they changed into something more suitable for the seaside. The men might have had a bit too much to drink, but it didnít show.
August was a month for birthdays; motherís was on the 13th, Dorothy's was on the 27th, and later on , Ernest's was on the 24th and Albertís was on the28th. August was also when we went back to school and moved up into the next class.
I recently saw a photograph of two little girls dressed up in the 1920ís, and the lacy edges of their white knickers showed below their frocks, as was the fashion then. Many mothers liked their girls to show them in this way, and my friend Ruth Pasquilís mother was one. Ruth did not like it at all, for hers had broderie anglais a good two inches deep. So, she used to turn it up inside the legs, and push them up as far as she could, but they always fell down, sooner or later. After a while, her mother gave in and got her some knickers with elastic instead of lace.
When we were just settling back in at school, it was September and we had another three days' holiday, which nobody really enjoyed, as money was scarce after the July holiday, and more money was lost for the three days not working.
During the summer we played outside a lot, but not too far away, because we girls had to help our mother. If we felt energetic, we played skipping games, or round games or singing ones, which we had learned from the older girls. One game was "The Noble Duke of York". We marched around singing "The Noble Duke of York, He had ten thousand men, He marched them up to the top of the hill, And he marched them back again. And when they were up, they were up, (on tip toes, arms in the air) And when they were down, they were down, (crouched down as far as we could) And when they were only half way up, hey were neither up nor down (marching bent over)."
Another one was "My father was a captain on the Lusitania, the Lusitania, the Lusitania, My father was a captain on the Lusitania, "Til the Lusitania went down, down, down (sinking lower and lower)." The ship was sunk by the Germans on 7th may 1915. We sang little songs like "Lucy Locket", and a rhyming one about bells in London. Sometimes we played "Hide and Seek" or "Tig" for a change, but mostly we liked the singing games. Daylight saving was started on 29th April 1916, and the clocks were put back round about my birthday, October 26th. So we didnít play outside much as it was too dark. The street lamps were lit, but were shaded, so the light from them wasn't too bright. The lamplighter had a pole with a light on one end, and he carried a small ladder. This was reared against the lamp post so that he could pull the chains to put the gas on or off, and the lighted end was put to the mantle to light it. He had to be careful as the mantles were very fragile. Leigh had gas turned on, on 19th October 1835. Electricity generating in Leigh began about 1900. In 1902 there were 128 customers using it.
The Knocker Up earned his wage, as it entailed rousing sleepers in time to get ready for work. He had a long cane with a big bunch of stiff wires on the end. He used this to knock on the bedroom window until he saw a light or the curtain pulled aside. When the war was over, alarm clocks began to appear in the shops. These had big bells on, and if they were put on a plate or a tin tray they made an awful racket. After a few years, there were no knockers up left in work.
Around and about.
In the middle of the1920ís there were alterations to Market Street and Lord Street was widened to accommodate more traffic. After the first war the motor car was coming into its own. The first private car I ever saw was that of Miss Marsh. It had big head lamps, and two wide leather straps to support the roof canopy fixed to the front. She would go to Millington's in Bradshawgate, the poshest restaurant in Leigh, and her liveried chauffeur would dust it down while he waited.
There was a time signal at exactly 10 p.m. each night. It was made by a surgeon who was keen on electricity and devised all sorts of gadgets. He lived at Avenue House and by 1890 he had made it fire and burglar proof. He sent a rocket five seconds before 10 p.m. and it exploded exactly on time. If it was foggy he telephoned the Night Watchman at the Albion foundry and he blew the works whistle! When George Henry Evans (the surgeon) died in 1897, the apparatus was housed in a small building near the Technical College and fired every night until the beginning of the 1939 war. It was discontinued after this.
When I was in Standard Seven at the Parish School, I was nearly eleven. Sometimes my father would give us some money to spend at the Market, after tea on Saturday. We had to bring him an egg for Sunday breakfast, or two slices of bacon, or a piece of fruit, but we could spend the rest on whatever we chose. We looked at all the stalls that sold fruit, and Leyland's stall where they sold rabbits, cheese, butter and biscuits. There we would buy a quarter or half a pound of Little Gems. We were very fond of those because you got a lot! They were not very big and were semi-sweet with a rosette of pastel coloured icing on the top. Once we bought some nuts from a man, and when we started to crack them open, every one was bad. My father was furious, "selling such rubbish to childer" and took the bag of shells and nuts back, got the money back and gave the man a piece of his mind.
We liked going to the market on our own. Some stalls had electric lamps, but most had naphtha flares, which we found more exciting. We liked watching the man on Baileyís Pot Stall. Heíd have six plates up his arm and tried to get customers interested with his patter. He'd start off, then dropped his price until he reached the price he wanted. He was good at his job, and usually had about six customers wanting to buy.
Another stall was a big square one, with a small area in the middle where the stallholder stood. There were piles of plates, cups and saucers, jugs, bowls, basins, tea pots, even egg cups, on each side of the stall round him.
There were a lot of stalls, starting from the road at the front of the Town Hall (it was paved with wooden blocks then) down to the Church wall, with stalls along Back Salford. I think you buy practically anything, except milk. Shoes, dresses, curtain material, hats, jewellery, sweets, fruit, vegetables, all kinds of drapery, sheets, pillow cases, quilts, towels; hosiery of all kinds, fents (ends of rolls of material), woollen and cotton dress goods. One stall even sold herbal cures and there was the duck and cake stall, near Gregory and Pollitís Penny Bazaar and Slater's Bazaar, where they had hat shapes in buckram, straw and felt, ribbons and materials suitable for hats, as well as the tea room next to it.
The salvation Army used to play hymns and when they made a collection, they used to put the big drum on the floor and kept saying "Who'll put another penny on the drum?" over and over again. Lots of people did, but we didn't. A penny saved was a penny gained. In the summer there would be an ice cream man with his handcart. How he kept it cold I donít know; he must have used big blocks of ice. There were two of them, Manfredi (whose family are still in business) and Tiscornia, whose ice cream was yellowish. The boys said he weed on it!
There were a lot of shops on Market Street. Then after the Boarís Head (locally known as the Pig's Face) was Doctor's Nook, then the Parisian Hairdresser's, a Temperance bar, the Hole I'th Wall pub, Pooleís Drapery, Shovelton's Men's Outfitters and Fairclough's Boots and Shoes at the entrance to Lord Street . On the other corner of Lord Street and Market Street was Danby's, and after that was Bowen's (books and stationery), the Clark Shoe shop, the Saddle Inn, a big tripe shop, Youd's grocery and one or two more between them and the Rope and Anchor on the corner of Bradshawgate and Market Street.
A meeting was held in that pub in 1901, for local men who wished to make cables and wires for use in electricity. Thus began the Anchor Cable Works, in an old building, and it was very successful. During the 1930's it was the only firm in the district taking on new workers. It was merged with British Insulated Callender's Cables in 1945. This firm had 2600 employees. My sisters Dorothy and Brenda both worked there. Dorothy was a typist; she had had typing lessons, as there was a bit more money with me and Alice working. Brenda was in the Personnel Office, and my brother Ernest worked there from a boy until he retired.
As we grew older and came into our late teens, we had a bit more freedom. Along with another girl, Rene Hilton, who had no-one to go out with, we went to the pictures (the first house on a Saturday night) or to a dance at Bedford Church, or a big dance at the Co-op Hall. This was usually arranged by some organisation and it was he biggest hall in Leigh.
The Sems (short for Assembly Rooms) in Railway Road was the first place in Leigh to show films, in 1908. It was over the Conservative Rooms, and you went up some stairs to get in. It is still going, but as the Sems Bingo Club. The Central Hall in Bradshawgate opened as the Empire in December 1916, and the Palace, in Railway Road, opened in October 1913. The Cinema opened in Leigh Road in October 1914. There was also the Picturedrome in Bedford and the Regal opened in King Street in 1938. The Hippodrome turned to films in 1923. The Regal was built on the site of an old Smithy which was thatched. It was very old, even when I was a girl.
We usually went to the Palace, which was easy to get out of when the first house finished. There were long queues waiting outside, so with them and the first audience coming out of the Palace and the Sems, Railway Road was very crowded. Most of the young ones went further along towards the Railway end where there was a Temperance Bar and a sweet shop. There was a sweet and tobacco shop opposite the Palace, Britton's; Alice Horrocks worked there. (She was Alice Pasquil when she married, and lived near us in Hope Street.) Young men and women used it as a chance to meet the opposite sex, so it was known as the Monkey Run. The police were very vigilant and didnít give u much chance, but kept moving everyone on, so it was constantly on the move.
Some of us couldnít be bothered hanging about, so we went for a walk down St Helen's Road to Pennington Hall when it was light, or looked at the shops down Market Street and Bradshawgate. In summer, we went to try to play tennis in Lilford Park. My mother had bought me a racquet but it was a man's and too heavy for me, and being short-sighted I wasn't much good, although the running about was a change.
By 1930 we had a gramophone of the latest kind. It didn't have a huge horn, it was like a box. You had to wind it up and it would last long enough to play a record. You could put the lid down if you wanted to. My father liked it and a friend lent him a set of records of Tom Burke, the Leigh tenor, singing at La Scala. He really enjoyed listening to them. We had a radio too, although it was usually called the wireless. Grandma Varley had a very early one with a cat's whisker. It was a bit difficult to tune in and needed a light touch. Birchall Brothers were the first to sell radios, and one of them was working in the development of radio communications as early as 1903. In 1905 he helped Marconi to install equipment on a ship so that it could receive news to be printed in the first ever newspaper on board a ship. The brothers started their business in 1922 when broadcasting first began. We had our wireless in 1932. Television came about 1948 but the sets were very small compared with those of today.
There was one shop I haven't mentioned. It was in Railway Road, at the left side of Cook Street, looking down it. It was called Cookís Bazaar and I think they stocked everything but food. The assistants all wore black overalls, but Miss Cook wore a black dress with one of those high, stiffened net collar things like Queen Alexandra wore. Nobody knew when she would show up as she moved about from department to department as she fancied. They sold furniture, carpets, lino, rubber flooring in tiles, coconut matting, hardware for kitchens and canteens, ironmongery for builders, joiners and handymen. They sold beds, spring box mattresses, pillows, bolsters and blankets as well as sports equipment for rugby, soccer, boxing, tennis, cricket, archery and pumps and running shoes. There were radiograms, table radios, lighting equipment for electricity, as well as paints, varnish and distempers for Painters and Decorators. They even sold haberdashery and babies' cots, Karricots, prams, high chairs and play-pens.
At the end of the block where Cookís Bazaar was, there was Dawson's Piano Shop and then Barclay's Bank. Round the corner in King Street was Hampson's chemist and a tobacconist's next to the opening leading to Dorning Street. Next to that was the District bank, all polished mahogany. Thatís where I took my cheque to pay for my books when I was at Grammar School. Next to the bank was Leigh Stores, a big furniture shop.
Over the years, the main streets have been widened to cope with modern transport. As Lord Street was so narrow it was decided to knock down Boots (who moved to Bradshawgate), Holden's butchers, Percy Payne's print works, a chip shop and some small cottages. From Lord Street to Church Street the shop fronts were very mixed, some sticking out more than others so that the footpath was very narrow in some places.
The Borough of Leigh.
When the town council began to think of applying for Corporation status in 1887, they got a petition signed by 4,455 rate payers which was sent to the Queen and the Privy Council. A Commissioner was sent to Leigh and the Town Clerk (Peregrine Thomas) presented the case for the town. But there were some drawbacks noted by the Commissioner, which were not in the townís favour: no Infirmary, or isolation place for small pox, and no provision for parks or open spaces. There was a suggestion that part of Leigh, in Bedford, in the diocese of Liverpool, should be excluded as it was mainly agricultural, but the Commissioner would not agree to changes in the historical boundaries. He also insisted that the names of the wards were to be Lilford, Etherstone and Hopcarr.
The Charter for incorporation was signed and sealed on 2nd August 1899, and it was sent by post where it was received three days later. Leigh was a Municipal borough at last, with a Mayor, Aldermen and Burgesses. The first mayor was John Fairclough, a Catholic. The members of this new corporation realised that they would have to provide some open spaces, accessible to the residents of Leigh. They bought a bit of spare land in Church Street, and laid it out with a grass border, a gravelled centre and a band stand. It was opened for public use on 1st June 1903.
The Town hall in King Street was too small for this fast growing borough, and in 1907 the foundation stone of our present Town Hall was laid on 24th October 1904. It was officially opened on 24th July 1907 and ready for use.
The town acquired more parks over the years, George Shaw, Ltd gave Pennington Hall to Leigh in 1920. Bedford Brewery had extra fields, so these were given to the town. Firs Park was built on 15 acres of waste ground, and given to Leigh by the directors of Tunnicliffe and Hampson's mills in 1921. There was another park at Westleigh. The land was given by the Marsh family, who lived at Westleigh Hall. The oldest park is Lilford Park, using land leased from Lord Lilford. In 1914, he gave the woodland to the borough, and other fields were bought later to extend the park.
In my young days, the entrance to Lilford Park was very different. We walked from our house via Gamble and Smith's, and the long row of houses in Platt Fold Street, past the public weighing machine, and then crossed over the brook. There was a bridge over it and a big pipe about twelve inches in diameter. Then we walked on, past Bouth's mill. Platt Fold Farm was on the right as we walked down a lane with fields on either side. The Grammar School field was very sunken and used to flood at the end furthest away from the park. There was a little brook, with a small wooden bridge over it, and the remains of Lion's Bridge were to the left, as well as the Avenue Lake.
When Holden Road was made, there were only a few houses at the end near the Avenue. On one side, as far as the Athletic Ground, there were houses with gardens, but on the other side there were no gardens. As time went by, more houses and shops were built. There was a chip shop which flourished when Bouth's mill was working, as it was handy for the workers. But it didn't do so well when the mill closed in 1957.
Talking about the Athletic ground, when we were bored with playing games, we went down our street to the end near the mill and then down Charles Street to see if anyone had left the door open. Residents in Platt Street (as it was called then) used to join the club in order to get a key to open the door on that side, in order to cross the ground as a short cut. It saved a long detour at meal times. If the door wasn't shut, we would sneak in and keep away from the clubhouse and cross the bridge over the brook that flowed on to Bouth's mill.
Sometimes we went to the far end and played shop, or more often, we went along the top of the sloping bank where the cycling races were held. There was a telegraph pole, worn smooth by an earlier lot of children, which we could reach easily and slide down to the mucky barrow line. We walked along this path and reached the entrance to the tunnel under Bradshawgate. We went in as far as we dared, but we never made it to the wharf as it was very dank and dark and we got very fainthearted when there was no light at all. We used to run back to the mucky barrow line and were very glad to get back. We viewed this as an adventure, which it was, as we didn't know how often the trains ran.
The boys were mainly concerned with making rafts out of spare wood to try and sail on the flooded part of the Grammar School playing field. Sometimes they managed to float along a bit, but usually they sank, because of the number on board and its shaky construction! School holidays in summer were always enjoyable, as there were plenty of fields to wander in and we could paddle in the Avenue Lake and dry our feet on the grass. We didn't need a clock when it was teatime. Our stomachs told us, even if we had jam butties with us to "tide us on".
All in all, we had a very happy childhood, and we were free to roam as far as we wanted, within certain limits. We took care of the younger ones, and we warned to keep together and not to take anything from people we didn't know or to go with them. There were a few local oddbods, but our natural caution made us avoid them.
Time passed, and we all grew older, and things grew better. By 1930, I had been working at Carrington Mills for four years. My first wage was 11s 4d and 2d was deducted for some tax or other. After a year, I was on piecework and the rates varied according to the sort of work you were doing. So I got between £1.8s and £1.10s a week. I tipped up my wages at home, and was given 1d for every shilling I earned, but I had to buy my own stockings. The hours were from 7.45 am to 5.30 p.m. , Monday to Friday, and from 7.45 am to 12 noon on Saturdays. The mill engine was stopped at 11.30 am on Saturdays, so that we could clean our machines, as they got dusty from the cotton fibres, even though the cotton had been processed before it got to us.
The girls who worked in the carding rooms of the spinning mills got flecks of the cotton all over them as they floated about everywhere as they cleaned the raw cotton of the debris which was packed in it. The bales of cotton were pressed to make them more compact, and sewn into coarse canvas covers to ship them more easily. When they got to the spinning mill, they were opened in the Scutching room, and the girls fluffed it out and cleaned it. Then the cotton was fed into a carding machine which wound it onto bobbins. When it came out, it looked like a thickish, narrow, cotton wool tape. It was carded several times before it went to the spinners, who were the best-paid workers in cotton.
Spinners had boys working under them, called "piecers" who had to join any broken ends on the "mule" which moved inwards and outwards to draw the thread finer and stronger. The yarn was wound onto a shape like a fat cigar with a small tube at one end and a narrowed point at the other. I haven't been in a spinning mill, but I've seen more then enough of the finished "cops" as they were called! My first job at Carrington Mills was to weigh out 50lbs of them at a time, to go to the winders who started off the process of getting the cotton ready for weaving.
Some of the cops went on to the "doubling room", where the yarn ran through a narrow trough of water to put a twist in it. Then it went on to the "gassing room" where the cotton was passed through a gas flame to smooth it. Some went to the "twining room" where it was twisted more, and hardened, and if an end broke, it was so twisted it would curl up on itself. I think it was used to make crepe material.
Some cotton which had been doubled went to the clear winding, to clear it of slubs and too long ends of piecing in other processing, and they used a special knotter gadget held in the right hand. This department was staffed by the more refined type of girl or woman, as were the warehouse, winding and reeling departments. The rougher ones went to the doubling, twining and gassing departments.
>From the warehouse was an entry into a dark storeroom, where the piles of finished yarn were stored ready for dispatch. The bundles didn't take much room up, as they were pressed to make them smaller, if heavier, and covered in paper and bound with string automatically. There was a pile of sacks, too, so if anybody could skive off for half an hour, they could have a comfortable lie down. But, one day, Mr Johnson discovered the clear winding boss (Joe Sankey) in an uncompromising condition with a warehouse girl called Lily, who was anything but. Mr Johnson was livid with rage and sacked Joe there and then, and told the erring Lily to make herself decent and get back to her work. Soon after, the mill engineer (Novello Fairhurst) installed several bright lights in that room, so there were no more dark corners!
I started to work there because one of the collectors for the Clothing Society knew Ernie Shaw, the man in charge of the winding and reeling departments. It was arranged that I should go to see the manager, Mr Johnson. It was in August 1926, and I was 16, nearly 17. I was taken on, and by the time I was 18 I was in the reeling department, and working on piecework.
When Alice was ready for work in 1927, she went into the clear winding room (this was before the warehouse affair). We walked to work with another girl who worked there too. She was called Florence Webb and lived in High Street. She had a longer walk than we did. We only had one hour for dinner, so we had to walk fast there and back, have our meal, go to the lavatory, wash hands and face and comb our hair and be back in the mill before the engine started at 1 p.m.. Dinner was always on the table so we didn't have to wait
Our department was reached by a stairway which was very little wider than house stairs, and if there had been a fire, there would have been chaos as it wasn't in too good a state. The mill began working in 1836, on Good Friday of all days, and we were still working with some of the original machinery in 1937!
The long working hours meant that we made the most of our free time. In summer, we went for walks after Chapel on Sunday night. Sometimes we went to Carr Wood in Pennington. Or to Old Hall Lane, past the red brick wall and through the fields to Atherton. (When we had the corgis in Hope Street, the girls and I would often take them as far as this "Red Wall" as we called it.) Sometimes, we walked a bit further, and took a path to "The Walmesleys", past there and under the railway bridge to Green lane before going back home.
If there was a band on at Lilford Park, we would go and watch, and then go home through Wood End , passing by the Grammar School playing field. This had sunk so much that only half of the fence was visible especially since the road was raised so much. The end nearest to Platt Fold Road was always flooded. The footpath was narrow until you got past the playing field and fenced with iron railings on the lake side. About halfway down, there was a gate with stone pillars. Where on earth the lake and flood water went to when houses started to built on this land I have no idea, but it was a good number of gallons!
A woman's lot.
When I think about my younger days, up to the age of ten, I realise what a hard time that women had. No washing machines, no central heating and constant hot water, no micro wave ovens or electric kettles, no electric steam irons, no dish washers, no wonder they were tired. The 1914 war didnít help as everything was in short supply. We ate a lot of roasted potatoes with a dab of marg, as that was all we could get despite all our queuing.
Farmers used to come round with cabbages in season, and you could buy a huge cauliflower for 2d. My mother used to cut a cauliflower into florets, boil them and season them. It used to make a good tea with bread and margarine (or butter if we were lucky). They don't grow them as big these days, but they are no tastier than the monsters of my young days. They didn't have pesticides or such like, it was organic farming and used a lot of natural manure!
We also used to eat dried peas, which had to be soaked overnight with a tablet. What this tablet was for I don't know. We did have beans sometimes, mostly haricot as we didnít care much for broad beans or butter beans which had thick skins (although your father did). Women were responsible for all the catering arrangements and it was often a struggle to feed a large family.
Housework was never ending. After the washing and ironing days, there was the everlasting black leading of the grate and the whitening of the doorsteps. Our house was an end house and our two doorsteps were very much in view, so mother had to clean hem often. If there were footmarks on them, you were considered a slut. When we got bigger, we used to stride over them!
Then, too, there was the shopping, and from 1914 to 1920 or later, you had to queue for anything available in order to put some kind of meal on the table. By then there were four of us since Dorothy had been born in August 1917 and Fred was born in1920. Perhaps the deaths of Dorothy and Fred in middle age (at 47 and 51) occurred because they didn't have the good food that Alice and I had had. Food just was not to be had and no provision was made for very young children then, not like in the 1939 war which ended in the summer of 1945.
It was no wonder that women of my mother's generation were so good at managing, especially those whose husbands were labourers or had unskilled jobs, because these men were conscripted into the army. In the 1914-18 war many women also worked in munitions; they hadn't much choice. There was an old silk mill in Charles Street that was used to make them and the women wore an awful dark blue uniform. They wore a baggy top with a band round the hips, trousers and an unbecoming cap over their hair. The chemicals they used made any exposed skin turn bright yellow These women were well paid, but they deserved it.
During the second war we had food rations from the start, clothes rations began in June 1941, soap was rationed from February 1942 and points for sweets, jam etc were started in December 1941. There was a lot of bombing raids, and I spent a lot of time under the stairs with Anne in the carry cot. Bread rations were imposed in July 1946 as there was a world-wide shortage of food, because so many countries were at war with each other. Bread rationing ended on 29th July 1948, and the points rationing ended on 9th May 1950. Clothes rations ceased in 1949 and sweet rationing ended after eight years, in February 1953. Sugar came off the rations in September 1953, after fourteen years and finally. Food rationing completely finished on 3rd July 1954.
Even though my brothers, Fred and Ernest had skilled jobs, they were conscripted into the army. Fred was a time served painter and decorator and Ernest was a machine operator at the Cable Works. However, our Fred managed to get an exemption for our Albert, as my father had died and mother was a widow with a young daughter to rear. So Albert worked in a reserved occupation.
Munitions in 1939 were made at Risley, and a lot of Leigh women worked there. They had special transport, but women with young children to rear, like me, got no special privileges apart from for orange juice for children up to school age. I registered for rations and meat at the Co-op where I had always shopped. The managers were still there, being over the age for conscription, etc, so I got a bit extra now and then. Thank goodness that I had been introduced to the use of good old Oxo and onion to make more of a bit of skirt or shin beef, along with a bit of smelt to make a thicker gravy. I don't know what smelt is, but I suspect it must be a lung, as heart and liver are known as such, and intestines were used to make sausages.
The things that I remember most in my young years are seeing that horrible swarm of cockroaches scattering to their hiding place; the incredible din of all the hooters on the first New Year's Eve I was allowed to stay up for; and the longing for a shiny pair of patent leather slippers instead of the ankle boots I always had to have. The nearest I ever got to these was the pair of indoor slippers I had to have at Grammar School, and I took these home every Friday to wear at Sunday School.
I also remember the magic of my first visit to the Hippodrome Variety Show, and what seemed to me to be masses of white doves which seemed to come from nowhere. I remember wishing that I could have a frock which was bought from a shop, like my friend Ruth; I didn't know then that those my mother made were better made and of better quality material than any she could afford to buy. I have vivid memories of those toilets at school with no chain to pull, and the horrid slurping gush if it happened to empty after using them.
I also recall the need and longing for books to read, and a place to read uninterrupted. My father never understood and thought that they were childish. Newspapers should be enough, he thought. It wasn't, although I liked the one he bought for me. It was in that that I read about the new Roman Catholic Church to be built in Lowton. It was the first round church to be made, and was called St Catherine's of Sienna. Mother had a better idea of my liking for books, as she used to borrow "novelettes" (as they were called) from Mrs Orrell next door, and I read them if I had a chance. When I was old enough, I joined the Leigh Library and got to read all the Angela Brazil books which were "in" then, although I had to be very careful if father was about, as he didn"t approve.
The arrival of my three brothers I thought was a nuisance. More yelling pests to rock and to quieten with a dummy; and I thought their appendages were unseemly. The birth of my youngest sister, Brenda, on 31st March 1930, when I was nineteen didnít surprise me and our Alice. We had seen the baby clothes on the clothes rack a few weeks before, covered by sheets. But the neighbours were! Her figure had altered very little, and they were amazed to hear of our new arrival. We girls werenít too bothered, just glad that it was another girl.
We chose Brenda for a name for her. We didnít see much of her because we were working, but as she grew up I took her for her new clothes and I can still see her in her sky blue outfit trimmed with fawn fur - no fuss about animal rights then. It comprised of a coat, hat and leggings which reached to the waist: nice and comfy in winter, and easy to take off.
By that time, Alice and me were "walking out". After some dates with stolid types, with little or no conversation, I gave it up as it wasn't worth the effort. We met your father and Leslie when we were playing pat-ball on the tennis courts at Lilford Park, you couldn't call it tennis. After a long working day we hadn't much energy, but it was cheap and an opportunity to get out of the house and any housework. We got a lot of unsolicited advice from your father, but he made us laugh and we answered back in kind. Then after, we met them on the Sunday evening Pennington walk, and had a chat, but it was a bit awkward as Rene Hilton was always with us. Several times we saw them lying in wait for us, and when they werenít looking we dashed down Church Street and nipped round the corner of Union Street. Your father used to say how puzzled they were that we disappeared without trace.
We started meeting them regularly in summer and going for walks, and in winter we went to a cinema, depending on whether or not the film was any good. Harry and I walked out for a long time as your fatherís mother took all his wages. She gave him 2s. a day for his train fare and a meal, and 10s. a week for spending money, out of which he paid for our cinema seats, and maybe an ice cream or a few sweets. He hadn't much saved, as he got so little, but his mother wouldn't let him "board" until we fixed a date for our wedding. Then it was only for six months, and she made a fuss about having to buy a morning suit from Burton's which cost £2. 10s. However, she did buy the house in Orchard Lane, which cost £380, but we had to pay for any repairs, and the rates, which cost 12s.6d.
My mother and father paid for the reception and taxis and dresses. Your father paid for my flowers, and my parents paid for the others. My parents made sure that I had a good supply of underwear and enough household linen to get by, as well as kitchen utensils. All your father had was a new white shirt of decent quality, his wedding suit and tie, his best suit and a shabby one for work. He had two striped shirts, made in China, which cost sixpence halfpenny each, two vests full of holes, a few socks and the vest he was wearing, which was one of his mother's without holes, and a tennis sweater I had given him for his birthday.
We had a honeymoon in St Anneís and he had no money left, so we started married life with 19s.11d. which I had in my purse. Luckily, I had stocked the cupboard and bought a loaf, so he had his train fares for the week, and his meals, and 2s. extra. I had what was left to pay for bread and milk. Gradually, over the weeks, I bought him new underwear, decent shirts, pyjamas and underpants (which he had never had before, and he was 30 years old). I bet that over the years, his mother had saved enough money from his wages to pay for the house she rented to us.
My own family weren't well off, but my brothers had always had decent underwear and pyjamas and there were three of them. I know that they were all well fitted out when they got married. All your fatherís things were useless even for mop rags! I suppose that his mother's meanness was the reason why Auntie Doris only had a short white dress and an 8 am wedding with breakfast at home afterwards. No wonder she envied me having a proper wedding, with a proper wedding cake and a reception at the Co-op Hall until 10 pm.
When I was nearly four years old, I started to go to school, as I had wanted to do for some weeks. This was because I had a little sister Alice, born on 18th June 1913. I was born on 26th October 1910 and I didn't think much of the new baby. I had to rock the cradle when she cried, or stick her dummy into her mouth to suck the honey from it.
I had two woollen dresses made by my mother, all hand sewn, both the same style with a pleated skirt and three-quarter length sleeves. One was a dark blue and the other one I liked best, it was crimson, a rich, deep red. I wore flannel petticoats with feather stitched patterns round the hems, and cotton petticoats trimmed with broderie anglais. On top of the dress I wore a cotton pinafore, with pockets, and frills round the neck and round the bits of sleeve at the shoulders, rather like epaulettes. This pinafore tied at the back with a big bow, and I had a clean piece of white cotton pinned to the bodice near the shoulders and that served as a handkerchief. So there was no excuse for not blowing my nose when needed. Other children, mainly boys, used to wipe their noses on their sleeves and the evidence persisted!
I had bloomers for underwear, not drawers, like my friend Ruth wore. Much to her disgust, her mother insisted that the lacy, embroidered hems hung below her dress. Knee length black socks and clogs, or stout laced ankle boots or ankle boots completed my attire. Older girls wore black stockings. If your family was well off, you wore brown shoes and stockings.
As big families were the norm, classes were big, but the brighter ones were encouraged to work in small groups, arranged by the teacher, where the children were of similar abilities. I was in one of these groups, and we were eager to learn and soon got reading, each one trying to learn quickest.
These big classes caused some health problems, i.e. NITS. The girls nearly all had long hair. Some had plaits hanging down, some had plaits doubled up and fastened high on their heads. Some girls wore their hair scraped back, some had very short hair, and some, like me, had ringlets. Oh, how I hated the nightly torture! Ringlets were made by wrapping a dampened tress of hair with a long strip of old cloth (well over a yard long and about one and a half inches wide). One end was laid along the hair, leaving a length for a tie, and the rest was wrapped round the lot, so close that no hair was seen. Then the two loose ends were tied together into a knot at the end. It was uncomfortable to say the least, and however you turned your head, the end lumps were there. I had to put up with it though.
My first visit to the theatre.
My father was a keen theatre patron and went to the first house on every Monday. This was about two and a half hours long. When the audience left, the attendants would sweep the aisles and get ready for the last house performance. There were two theatres in Leigh; the Hippodrome on Market Street, near Leigh Road, which had mainly vaudeville shows. These had different kinds of acts instead of a play. The Theatre Royal, in Lord Street, usually had plays or operas, although I have seen vaudeville there as well.
The first time I went to the theatre was to the Hippodrome, when I was about three years old. As I was small for my age, they didn't usually pay for me, as I was wrapped in a shawl and my mother held me. My father had recommended this particular show as suitable viewing for me, so mother took me on the Tuesday night, first house of course. I was enthralled.
All the lights dimmed and the drop curtain moved up to show the red plush ones slowly opening, revealing a brightly lit stage. Then the chorus girls came on as the orchestra played, dressed in beautiful glittering costumes, all doing the same steps and singing. I thought it was wonderful, and I was hooked. I was so excited I could hardly breathe - the magic had begun!
After various acts and dance routines came the magician. He did his first spot, and the tricks seemed to me to get harder every time. Then came the most magical one of all. The stage was empty and he showed us he had nothing up his sleeves or in his coat, and then he clapped his hands and it seemed to me that hundreds of doves were suddenly flying around. I couldn't talk about it enough on the way home, it was the best thing I'd ever seen.
I went to one or two others, according to fatherís assessment, and I saw Harry Lauder, Hylda baker, Nellie Wallace and our own Leigh tenor, Tom Burke. He had a glorious voice, but came to a sad end through drink. We saw a lot of the young trying to make it, and a lot of them became famous in time. They had a hard row to hoe, as provincial audiences are not noted for less than candid views!
Visiting Grandma on Sunday.
Every Sunday morning we were sent to visit Grandma Hampson (my father's mother) until we were old enough to sit through the long sermons at Chapel. Our Alice and myself went quite happily although we were a bit afraid of her husband Bob, because he was a big man. Grandma was less in height than I am now, 4 feet 11 inches, with a stretched tape measure! She had had small pox when a girl, and her face was pitted rather badly. I don't think she was very moralistic, as my story will tell.
She had been left a widow when my father was 13 years old. He had a younger sister, Ann (a Boardman family name) and a brother, James, who was two years older. Her first husband, my grandfather, was Simeon Boardman. He had died after an accident with a chain saw at Vickerstaff's Timber Yard where he worked. It was in Gordon Street, opposite the Leigh Girlsí Grammar School.
After he died, she made a living from letting out a room to commercial travellers, known as "Sales Reps" these days. She gave birth to another daughter by one of them. He accepted his liability, although he was already married, and she was called Ellen Perry Boardman. Grandmother's name was Alice, but I don't know her maiden name. She bitterly told my sister that she wasn't named after her, but after my motherís grandmother, who passed on our heirloom teapot.
She was tiny, as I said, and Bob was big and rather obese. He wore a belt about three inches wide with an enormous brass buckle. Sometimes he gave us a penny to spend, and on fine days he would take us a walk along the canal bank. They lived in Brown Street, in the last house on the right coming in from Bradshawgate. The Anchor Cable works had a depot there, as it was handy to send reels of cables by barge to the bigger wharf lower on the bank. It's now known as British Insulated Callenderís Cables, BICC.
After her confinement, Grandma got a permanent lodger, called Joe Holloway. He was a decent young man and in a steady job. He used to make a fuss of us. I have a photograph of me which was taken with him. He got married to a relation of my fatherís, who lived at St Helenís Junction, and Grandma was so mad at losing his weekly contribution that she cut him off all the photographs that he had given her family. She never visited him or his family. I believe that Joe and his wife were very happy, as her folk approved of him and he was a good worker.
It was after Joe's defection that she married Bob, and we were told by mother not to talk about Joe when she was there. Any way, she would have lost him when he was conscripted for Army Service after the fiasco of the Somme and Mons.
Fatherís brother, Jack.
Jack had married and lived in Duckinfield Street, near the Railway Station. I really can't remember him. I'm told that his wife died and left him with two children, Isaac and Ethel. Aunt Ann and creepy uncle Fred took Ethel to live with them at Tyldesley. They lived next door to Fred's mother, in Oak Street. She was called Mrs Hindley, but her daughter was named Polly Hart, another thing that puzzled me as a child. Mrs Hindley was not altogether witless, as softly spoken as her creepy son, and always smiling gently to herself.
As I have said before, I wonder how Ethel felt among that lot. Aunt Ann was the only one who was with it. But she didn't keep a good kitchen. It was clean alright, but food was sparse.. if ever we visited casually, she had to go to the Co-op to get a tin of salmon, a loaf and maybe a tin of fruit and a bottle of milk. The tins were not large, as youíd expect, but the next size up from small. Thus, the bread padded out the salmon in the sandwiches. There was never a cake; maybe a few plain biscuits, rationed to two per person. We didn't really enjoy visiting them except when it was Bong Wakes.
Emigration: a new life.
My motherís brother Richard (Dick) Smith had married Harriet Stones, who lived in one of the many alleys around the Church. It was them who lived in a small cottage near the Church Gate, by the West Door. There was also the Vicarage, a rather severe Queen Anne house, Vicarage Walk and Vicarage Gardens, where the better off folk hung out, and rented pews for the family. Visitors who unwarily took one of these were escorted to one of the free pews by the Verger.
Wages were low, work not very plentiful and assisted passages to Australia were to be had. So, uncle Dick and aunt Harriet took advantage of these, having no children then. They went to Australia in Spring 1914. They sailed from Liverpool and stayed at our house the night before. After a tearful farewell at the Station, we went back home. We eventually heard from them a few months later.
They did not find it easy at first, but they settled in Helensburg, New South Wales. They had two children, Cissie and a son, whose name I have forgotten, but I do know that he had polio. Their journey would not have been very pleasant, as they went Steerage, the lowest class of passengers. I think their bunks were in the lower decks.
When the 1914-18 war was over and men were sent back home, mother's brother, uncle Frank, came back to Findlay Street, together with uncle Walter and uncle Ernest. They found it hard to get work, so uncle Walter enlisted for another three years and was sent to India. He had come back a bit later than the others as he had been a prisoner of war in Germany. He hadn't taken much harm, as he was of a happy go lucky disposition and had gorgeous crop of curls and was quite a hit with the local frauleins. They had smuggled him little goodies when they had exercise time in their compound.
Uncle Frank had been engaged to Hetty, who lived in Patterdale Road, so he saved his gratuity and got odd jobs to get a decent fund. She kept on working as a silk weaver, and eventually they married. They decided to try their luck in America, and ended up in Detroit. Uncle Frank got on very well, as did his son, Sonny.
Uncle Ernest and Misery Maggie went to Australia (Uncle Richard sponsored them) but that was the last we heard of all of them there.
When uncle Walter came back from India in 1921, he was not welcomed by Agnes. So, he ended up at our house in a makeshift bedroom. He lived with us for a time and then married Alice Annie Owen, who lived in Baker Street, Westleigh, with her mother, two brothers and a sister. They were staunch Wesleyans and worked in Hayes' cotton mill. The brothers and sister got married, all in a short time, leaving Alice Annie alone with her mother. Then uncle Walter married Alice Annie when I was about seventeen.
Auntie Annie lived at Walmesley Road until she was twenty-one, and then she upped sticks and left as every young man she took home was given the thumbs down. She could do better she was told, and the same thing happened when uncle Bill started courting too.
Uncle James, "Jim", escaped this as he married Ethel Isherwood quite early as she was enceinte. They both got a severe lecture, but Agnes bought a cottage in Olivant Street and rented it to them. They only had one son, Frank, and it was they who took Auntie Annie in. She lived with them for quite a while.
When all of us had married, and only Albert and Brenda were left at home, mother was stuck with a four bedroomed council house in Diamond Street, just over Leigh Bridge. In fact, the back gate opened on to the side of the canal bank. It was there that she came to live with my mother until she died of leukaemia in Hope Hospital in Salford. Poor girl, she didn't have much of a life.
Talking about the house being near the Bridgewater Canal, when your father and I were first married, we got a daft Springer Spaniel whose name was Peter. My father and Harry took him on a leash for a walk along the bank. When they were coming back, the dog fell off the tow path and into the water, and Harry yanked him up by his leash as quick as lightning. My father said, "I've never seen owt like it afore!" and it amused him a lot. It was the first time that Iíd ever seen him have a really good laugh, and he had many a quiet chuckle over the years when he remembered it.
Sadly, this is all that my mother wrote about her family, life and times. She died on 12th July 1998 in Leigh Infirmary, aged eighty-six. She had seen many changes in her life, "candle light to laser beams" as she put it. I'm glad that she left us her memoirs.-Helen.