Photo-a-Day (Tuesday, 25th December, 2018)
Photo: Mick Byrne (Panasonic TZ100)
Thank you Mike for this seasonal photo. May I wish a very Merry Christmas to all Wigan Worlders at home and abroad , and thank you to all contributiers who make Wigan World what it is .
I know I promised on 12th of December not to post any more stories for a long time , but I hope viewrs will forgive me for posting this one about Christmases of my childhood . It will be the last untill at last 2020, I promise . I hope it bring back memories and some humour .
By Tom Walsh.
November 6th, acrid smoke still hanging in the air, skeletons of spring interior mattresses and other incombustible items litter the sites of of the previous nights fires. Bonfire night over for another year, the weeks of collecting ' bommy' and standing guard in case a rival gang decides to help themselves to your hoard, already seems a distant memory. The excitement of that night well and truly behind. Christmas then became the main focus , strangely in 1950s no one seemed to think about Noel until the last embers of Guy Fawkes night had died down. However from that day forward everybody, particularly children were obsessed with the coming celebrations and merriment that would certainly occur. The religious element was much more important in those days, sadly as each year passes the real meaning of the 'Holy Day' diminishes.
I know that younger readers couldn't possibly imagine the anticipation of Christmas that abounded in the early 1950s, only a few years after the deprivations of WW2 and before that the depression of the1930s. People could at last start to think of better times and splash out for the special day. rationing was still in force for many things including ' Toffee ' but everyone was determined to make it something to lift the spirits .Talking about spirits, better off families would have a bottle of whisky and possibly brandy, while those who's budgets were more stretched would have to settle for a bottle of sherry. It was very unusual in working class homes to have 'drink on tap' so to speak. So there wouldn't be anymore alcoholic drink in the house until the following Christmas , likewise the pedestal glass cake stand which at Christmas teatime held pride of place at the centre of the table would be laid away until the following year, although thinking about it that may have made a reappearance on Whit Monday. I still have my Mam's , which I treasure as a reminder of happy times of yore.
Houses would be decorated with crepe paper of various colours ,bought in sheets to be trimmed into 3 inch strips and twisted into twirls and then drawing pined to the ceiling, criss crossing living rooms. Houses with gaslight had to make doubly sure the festoons were kept well clear of the light fitting. Families with a little more disposable income would boast a Christmas Tree, some ' real ones', others the artificial kind that seemed like green toilet brushes on a stick, to be fair the fake ones when decorated looked quite acceptable especially when adorned with electric lights. There was a device that could be fitted that would make the lights flash on and off at rapid intervals they would drive neighbours to distraction, goodness knows what effect it had on the mental wellbeing of families where these contraptions were installed, flashing from dark until bedtime, it must have been tantamount to torture.
Schools would start rehearsing nativity plays, I had hoped against hope to be St Joseph along with the kudos that went with the staring role, if not Joseph one of the Kings or at the very least a Shepherd, you can imagine how crestfallen I was when informed I would be one of the trees, a role that even came without a costume. I'd thought at the very bare minimum a tea towel would have been required and I told my Mam weeks before the performance to make sure there was a new one available for the big day. However the only requirement was brown trousers and shoes.
A tree, I ask you, how could you look forward to being a tree !
After the disappointment of missing out on a leading role in the play , I content myself to looking forward to Christmas Day itself and the presents that would be left in a pillowcase left at the bottom of my bed. I can still remember the feeling of overwhelming happiness on waking as I gazed at the pillow case with its many shapes sticking out at abrupt angles straining against the confines of the pillowslip .The carefully wrapped gifts would peep out above the top of the make believe sack. I remember asking my Mam if I should leave a bolster case( twice the size) but it was explained that if all children did that Saint Nicholas would never get round, I can recall being sort of satisfied with the explanation . All Christmas wrapping paper seemed the same in those days, white with green holly and red berries . I'd been to see Father Christmas at Lowe's a few weeks earlier, and he had explained that dogs cats and other livestock were outside his remit , so I wasn't expecting to see a Jack Russell running round the bedroom. Maybe that would be something to be considered for my birthday in May ! however I digress, back to the job of opening the parcels , many seem to be old faithfuls appearing every year, paintbox and colouring book , chocolate Father Christmas , a Soap Bobby, gold chocolate coins in a net bag. Girls would Invariably get a post office set or a Toffee Shop ,with jars of dolly mixtures and a little set of scales , skipping ropes were always a perennial favourite for young girls; John Bull printing sets and a compendium of games ( Ludo Snakes and Ladders etc ) were unisex. One year I got a Magic Robot bought from Calland's Toy Shop ,and whist a long way from today's computer games it really did seem 'Magic' and the ultimate in educational toys.
The Christmas of 1952, I'm sure of the year as we had for years a photograph, dated with pencil on the back of me resplendent in my Cowboy outfit . Try as I may I can't find the picture, but I tell you I could have given The Milky Bar Kid a run for his money . Stetson, waistcoat, holster with two six-shooters adorned with white handles with little red fake jewels and of course the obligatory Sheriffs Badge . I'm delighted with my main present, a delight that lasted until afternoon when I go with my sister to see our Auntie Nellie who lived near St Georges Church. Thereupon the despondency of being overlooked for the Nativity play pales into insignificance as I see a boy on The Drill Hall steps ,he's similar age to me, with a near identical outfit, but, and to me at 7, it's a very big BUT, he sports a pair of chaps ( coverings for the legs consisting of leggings and a belt), brown with fringes no less ! I'am ashamed to say I have never felt so envious, nothing in my outfit seemed to please anymore, as my desire for a pair of the afore mentioned chaps became overwhelming. My mood is lifted somewhat when my Auntie Nellie gives me a 10 Shilling note, which my sister assures me would be easily enough to buy a pair of you know what . I'll be at Woolworths at 9 O'clock the day after Boxing Day, me thinks. On the way home from Aunties I realise my Sheriff's Star is missing ,in my childlike way wonder if God is teaching me a lesson for feeling so envious, but I needn't have fretted, after retracing my steps only a 50 yards or so I see it glinting on the pavement in the afternoon sun .
Christmas Day comes to an end when the last of the visitors leave. The house is tided, the fire quenched ( wasting coal in those days would have been an unforgivable sin ). My feeling of envy has completely dissipated, quite forgetting the trauma played out on the The Drill Hall steps; the feeling of animosity towards the unknown boy only hours before a distant memory. In the meantime I'd convinced myself that mine was much better hat than his and I'd put the idea of chaps firmly on hold, I reason they are a little bit ostentatious and I'm to old for them anyway, in any case real cowboys don't have fringes, perish the thought ! Auntie Nellie's ten bob would be spent on a 'Tommy Gun' instead .
The day comes to an end, Mam puts me to bed and asks in the gentle way mothers do " Have you had a nice the day" l reply with my well rehearsed refrain, " yes, but CAN I HAVE A DOG FOR MY BIRTHDAY ?". Christmases and birthdays came and went and the longed for canine pal never arrived . In fact it would be decades later before that particular ambition would be fulfilled, when in my mid forties I became the proud owner of Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Sally, who became a wonderful companion for over 10 years . I can honestly say from the bottom of my heart that she was well worth every minute of the wait !
Merry Christmas and a Happy Healthy New Year to all my fellow Wiganers!
In reading your comments Tom I have just unwrapped the best Christmas present that I will open today. Thank you.
Merry Christmas to you Brian. When and Where in Aspull did you live
A very merry Christmas to you all..and Tom,I enjoyed every bit of your story..it was lovely.
Yawn..all the best. sorry can't read today the beer was that good.
A Happy Christmas to one and all.. A very memorable story Tom - I have read it in Past Forward before,and later on I will read it again -(when I have a minute!)
Tom, your story brought back similar memories for me - I remember at 8 years old (1955) being bitterly disappointed as I had asked Father Christmas for a Cinderella watch, and finding on Christmas morning a second hand watch with a brown strap. What excitement then when the postman (who delivered on Christmas Day in those days) brought the longed-for watch, complete with a pink strap and sitting in a transparent plastic stiletto slipper. Mam had to do some thinking on her feet to explain the special delivery! That was one of the best presents ever!
Lovely atmospheric photograph Mick, thank you.
A great read Tom. I'd began Infants School in 1952, but would have to wait just a few more years before creating havoc at the head of a May Queen? parade, dressed as The Milky Bar Kid. We dined later on choc's and other lovelies, in the barn of the nearby Crookhurst Farm.
Good Photo Mick.
Hi Kath.....I lived on St David's Crescent. Left to go to Uni in 1973. From there worked in Basingstoke, middle East and then to USA in 1984 but return every year to visit my Dad and brother.My dad still lives on St David's and my brother in Standish. You'll generally find my brother an I going for long walks through Haigh Hall, Dalton and Parbold.....lovely area and miss it a lot.
Hi Brian, what a small world, I also lived in St Davids Crescent, until I got marriedI in 1968. We were the Moore’s six children, I was the eldest, you may know my brothers, Bernard, Derek and Paul.
Only just seen your reply, busy over Christmas. Best wishes from an old Aspuller.
Kath H: I have ancestors going back to the early 1800's named Moore from Aspul. One of my Grt Grandmothers was named Elizabeth Moore. I wonder if there is a connection. She was the daughter of Henry Moore and Margaret Moore. They lived in the area of Little Scotland before moving to Oxford St Scholes. And later to UpHolland. Just a thought one never knows!
Sorry Kath some of the family moved to UpHolland and then to Oxford St Scholes. Grt Grandmother Elizabeth came from a large family. On the 1881 census her siblings were named as Mary,James,Thomas, Moses,Ellen and George. Parents Henry Moore and Margaret. You never know they may be the same Moores as yourself.
Hello Brian from Massachusetts I was born in Aspull too 81 yrs ago, things have changed somewhat since then but still a lovely place, I lived in Manor Grove very near to
St. David's Crescent. Happy Christmas!
You never know. My grandparents were Henry and Elizabeth Moore, both born in the 1880’s. They lived in Vauxhall Road in Scholes. My great grandparents came over from Southern Ireland. My Dad was Joseph Moore and strangely enough he had a sister called Veronica, and brothers James, John and Henry.. So there are quite a few names which are the same.
Thank you Kath for responding. I bet they were related -the furthest back I got was a James Moore born 1802 in Aspull sub district.The names Joseph and Henry crop up quite a lot in the preceding generations. It's not far from Oxford St to Vauxhall Rd either. Strangely enough I was born and lived around the corner in John St. The Moores were on my Mother's side of the family. I remember My Grt Grandmother Elizabeth who died in the early fifties. She would press pennies in my hand when we visited her. When Elizabeth married Samuel Yates they lived in Wallgate before moving to Pemberon.
Hello Dorothy...I lived at the lower end of St Davids Crescent...I believe right around the corner from Manor Grove...Merry Christmas to you too.
Kath..I'm afraid I don't know your family.