My early Years
I was born in Wigan, Lancashire on Thursday 30th September 1943, the second child to my parents Peter Flanagan Jackson Grant and Margaret Grant (nee Almond). My parents met when my father was a driver in the Royal Artillery and my mother worked in the offices of the Royal Ordnance Factory Nr. Chorley. My father used to collect munitions during the war and deliver them to various locations around England. My siblings were Margaret b:1941, Alan b:1945 and David b:1951.
We lived at 178 Ormskirk Road Pemberton before moving to 63 , Greenwood Avenue, Newtown. Wigan
My sister Margaret was born deaf and dumb
.She attended The Royal School for the Deaf in Preston Lancashire but came home to Wigan at the weekends and holidays. Margaret was a very bubbly girl, although dumb she managed to communicate to her family and friends and she loved playing hide and seek as no words were needed. I don't remember much about Margaret's death, but I do remember going to her funeral. Margaret died of meningitis in 1950. My Grandparents on my mother's side lived about half a mile from Greenwood Avenue and as children we always loved going to her house, It had a special smell as she was always baking or cooking on a
big black iron stove that was fuelled by coal. The kettle which was always heated, was hung on a swivel over the fire. I can remember my Grandmother making rabbit pie for tea on one occasion and her home was a meeting place for all the Almond children.
My mother had a younger sister Ruby. Ruby was only 10 years older than me and used to push a pram containing Alan and myself backwards and forwards between Grandma's house in Sherwood Avenue to our house in Greenwood Avenue when we were very young. After we left Wigan , it was to be almost 60 years before I saw her again because my dad did not want us to have any contact with my mothers family, and at nine years old I just thought to myself that everything was an adventure!
As a child I was very adventurous and had no fear or sense of danger, I used to jump into the Leeds -Liverpool canal at the age of 8 or 9 even though I had not been taught to swim, but I always made sure I jumped into the water by the lock gates so that I had something to hang onto when I surfaced! Another "Stupid" thing I used to do with my friends was to drag wagon tyres to the top of local slag heaps. Once at the top we would each climb into the tyres and be rolled down the slope, never knowing where we would end up. I must have been very lucky because I never had a serious injury. One of my favourite playgrounds was a scrap yard by the canal. There I would play among the discarded military vehicles from the second world war, fighting my own imaginary enemies.
I also remember I used to go to the cinema a lot, Friday night was film night at the local rugby club, where a screen and projector were put up and we sat and watched Stars such as "Charlie Chaplin, The Three Stooges, Old Mother Riley and George Formby. Saturday morning minors at the ABC, followed by Saturday afternoon matinees . I have no idea where we got the money from !!. I think it was around the time my mother had died and it was a way of keeping us kids occupied. Sometimes on a Sunday morning I would go with my next door neighbours children to Mass at the local Catholic Church. The Mass itself Had me spellbound! The priest was speaking in a "foreign" language and waving a "canister of perfumed smoke about" .Then the congregation moved down to the altar to have something placed on their tongues. Lastly the priest poured himself a goblet of wine which he swigged down in front of everyone , I didn't have a clue what was going on, but it only, and if you did any of the "girlie" things, you were thrown out owas something to do on a Sunday I suppose. November was a time to build bonfires made from anything that we could beg , borrow and sometimes steal! Once built the bonfire would have to be guarded against other kids that wanted to boast , that they had the biggest fire. Often gangs would come as we we guarding ours, and a battle would start. We would fight, but we had strict rules, " no fighting like girls" which meant no biting, spitting, scratching or pulling hair. It was fists and feet f your gang.
My father never seemed to be around much , I just assumed that he was working ...I later learned that he had spent some time in prison for dealing on the Black Market. He was not a man you answered back to, he would never tell Alan or myself twice to do anything, if we didn't put our toys away at the first time of asking he would put them in the dustbin, and if we dared argue with him he would slowly remove his leather belt and wrap it round his hand ...we knew what was coming but there was nowhere to hide. I was later to discover that he and my mother's brother Robert ( uncle Bobby Almond) had a fight when uncle Bobby found out that my dad had hit my mother and burnt some of her clothes to prevent her going out with her friends. One of my Mothers best friends married World Flyweight boxing champion Peter Kane and she was a guest at the wedding. He was born in Golborne 1n 1918 and had 100 fights with a 54% KO ratio.( it's a pity he wasn't around when my mother needed help.
I enjoyed sports, but being from Wigan , football was alien to me. Rugby League was played on virtually every green space around Wigan .It was all people seemed to talk about , so it became my game and I will never forget the time I went to watch Wigan play New Zealand with the great Billy Boston playing for Wigan. It was the first time I had ever seen the Haka...I was mesmerised.
I attended Scot Lane Primary School until February 1952.This was the year that my mother died of Coal Gas Poisoning in what I now know to be suspicious circumstances. I remember that on the morning of my mother's death that someone ( I can't recollect who ) came into the bedroom and woke Alan and me and led us downstairs past dad who was sat on a stair tread with his head bowed.
We were taken across the road to a neighbours to have breakfast and then get
ready to go to school. No one mentioned at that time ,that my mother was dead
Scot Lane School 1950
on the kitchen floor . My dad told relatives that I was the one to find my mother
that morning, but I have no recollection of it at all. Knowing what I know now about my father I too have come to the conclusion that he somehow had a hand in my mother's death, but as he and all my aunt's and uncles are now deceased , justice will never be seen to be done. My father had been having an affair with a German girl who had come to England after the 2nd World War to work in the cotton Mills. My father was at the time, a driver for Walls coach company taking and returning mill workers to specific points around Wigan. At some point after my mother's death, he left the coach firm and became a coal-man, On a couple of occasions He took me with him to the coal yard where he filled and weighed the sacks before putting them onto the coal lorry, then we would set off on the deliveries around Wigan. I now believe that leaving Walls coaches was part of the plan to "sell" the family furniture , he needed a vehicle to transport everything to Preston overnight and then get the vehicle back to Wigan.
My younger brother David was sent off to Morpeth to be adopted by one of my dad's brother's and his wife (who were childless ) very soon after my mothers death.
My father then proceeded to sell all the household furniture to friends and neighbours , taking the cash and telling them to collect the furniture the following Saturday as we were relocating to another town.
Many years later I discovered that my father had in fact scammed his unfortunate friends and neighbours, for the night before the buyers were to collect their goods, my father loaded a flatbed truck with the furniture, put me and my brother Alan on the truck also and drove off into the night.
I had no idea as to where we were going, but we eventually arrived in Preston at the home of my Uncle Gavin (always known as Guy) He was a brother of my father and someone I had always liked . Alan and I were told that we would be staying with Uncle Guy and Aunty Eileen until my dad had "sorted" things out.
My Aunt and Uncle lived in a 2 up 2 down terraced house off London Road, so along with their 4 children (3 girls and a boy ) . Margaret was my eldest cousin , she was 2 years older than me and about the same age as my sister Margaret. Then came Simon who was was my age, then Rosalind who was the same age as my brother Alan, and lastly Moira. It seems strange that the ages of all the cousins mirrored each other.
1952 was the year that I first experienced the Preston Guild celebrations , when the town spruced itself up and decorated the streets with bunting, and animations, there were street parties and processions, activities involving local groups, schools and bands on the parks.
We had some good times at my uncle's. I will never forget Sundays there! Sunday night was bath night , the bath was a tin bath that was brought in from the back yard and placed on the kitchen floor where hot water was poured in from an assortment of pans and a kettle. The girls had first call on the clean water, then the boys. The girls would often peek around the door to watch our forced ablutions.
Simon was mentally ill, and we had to watch him carefully .
Started: 6th Aug 2021 at 22:09
A powerful and moving account. Thank you for sharing this, peterg125.
Replied: 6th Aug 2021 at 22:43
That was a long tale!
Anyroadup, Peter Kane was really Peter Cain. and he wasn't born in Golborne.
Replied: 7th Aug 2021 at 00:02
I enjoyed that Peter.
Tonks,look Peter Cain up on google,it'll show you his surname was Kane.
Replied: 7th Aug 2021 at 06:31
Last edited by momac: 7th Aug 2021 at 06:40:22
I don't need to look anything up, momac. His surname was Cain, Kane was his ring-name.
Replied: 7th Aug 2021 at 09:32
I bow to your knowledge,he was born Peter Cain.
Replied: 7th Aug 2021 at 11:08
I enjoyed that.A very moving story of a bygone age that i remember.
Replied: 7th Aug 2021 at 21:19
What a memory and a brilliant story.
Replied: 16th Aug 2021 at 15:00