Photo-a-Day (Monday, 21st September, 2020)
Photo: Dave (Oy) (Nikon D850 : 24-70mm F/2.8 VR)
They've not fixed the clock yet
Another great clear shot Dave, I see the workmen have gone now.
Thank you for the photograph Dave.
Thank goodness they have removed the name Orwell , his book has done untold damage to our town. I hope viewers won't wind me posting the following , a rebuttal of his portrayal of Wigan.
A Book is Immortal.
It is often said that a book is immortal, how very true in the case of ' The Road to Wigan Pier ' the people of of Wigan know the truth of the saying to their cost. Wherever you travel in the world and you mention your place of birth it often becomes the topic of conversation . The book has done untold damage to the town since its publication in 1937 and that harm will continue because of books longevity. He claimed to like the people of Wigan, God knows what he would have written if he hadn't. The book will hang like an albatross round Wigan's neck for decades if not centuries to come.
On the 75th anniversary of the publication of the book The Wigan Observer carried a special feature. I was fortunate enough to be invited to contribute, mine was a very harsh critique .
Quentin Kopp from the Orwell Society fought Orwell's corner . At an event at Museum of Wigan to commemorate the anniversary , I pointedly didn't say celebrate ; Mr. Kopp seemed less that pleased with my criticism of the work , I think it would be fair to say 'if looks could kill ' however I was and still am firm in my assertion that Orwell came to the north with an agenda and we're told with a retainer in his back pocket.
My criticism was not of his writing, he is an outstanding descriptive writer and the chapters regarding coal mining were of great significance, and brought the terrible working conditions to the attention of the nation ; because of the upcoming unveiling of the mining monument I have revisited the book , to see if I had been unfair in my opinion that his description of Scholes and Wallgate were largely exaggerated to the point of being biased in the pursuit of a good story !
I must say that on rereading or should say listening again, on ' Audiobooks ', incidentally , many are free including this one . I can recommend this method of 'reading by ear ' , particularly helpful to me as I'm a very poor reader and can easily lose concentration, this is not a problem with the spoken word . However back to the subject at hand . In chapter 4 he speaks of back to back houses and reports he was told during his research of 36 people sharing a lavatory , this not in Wigan I should add ,he doesn't identify which town. To be fair to Orwell he says a miner told him, and he doesn't know if this is true ; why then included it ,in a book that claims to be factual ?
He speaks of' back to back houses ' frequently , and for clarity I would like to point out there were few if any of these dwellings in Wigan , we had hundreds possibly thousands of terraced houses where the back yards came 'back to back ' these are not the same animal . Houses of that description - share party walls on three of their four sides, with the front wall having the only door and windows , this may seem a trivial point but as many in Wigan use this terminology for the latter ;hence I think it right to highlight the difference lest people draw the wrong conclusion , easily done as in the early chapters the book goes from town to town . I say report because this is how the format of the first part of work is purports to sound . The book has had a world wide readership and of course most will see it as a report with facts and figures to be trusted .
I was born 8 years after the book was published so obviously have no recollection of the period itself .However I was born in Scholes as were my parents and grandparents . On first reading the book at about the age of 13, I took it on myself to to ask questions from my extended family , I can assure you not one had a good word for Mr Orwell , they felt betrayed by someone who had gained the trust of many people from all over the north , they now see as an interloper from the south who damaged the reputations of many northern towns none more that Wigan because of the tittle he choose for what I consider a biased and unfair depiction of my town .
I do not argue there was not great poverty in some areas , of course there was ,that cannot be denied . Many house were unfit for habitation that is also true ; but I do take issue with his betrayal of the cleanliness of the dwellings , I have no doubt there were houses as he describes but they would be in a tiny minority , a minority he sort out diligently to suite his paymaster Victor Gollancz. The vast majority of the houses were in need of repair and many demolition is also a truism but they we're spotless women mopping their steps on a daily basis even an oblong of the pavement .
I think I can best show how unfair the book is by an article in The Wigan Observer ,13th March 1937, the same month as the publication of the book . The article reports that Mr. Bennett the Director of Education for Wigan being interviewed on the wireless ' The National Programme ' the woman announcer who introduced Mr. Bennett to the microphone paid this tribute to Wigan - I paraphrase . ' As you approach Wigan , the traveller will be shocked and surprised as he draws near to what must be to south countrymen the most fabulous of all northern towns . For you comes into it through suburbs filled with thoroughly good modern houses. Non-looks jerrybuilt all suggesting an air social content
No Lancashire can show as many well built small houses as can Wigan on it eastern side indeed there is nothing about Wigan that looks as those as it had fallen into decline. Wigan is not a cotton town though a certain amount of cotton is spun and woven there . It is a colliery town , the difference between a colliery town and a cotton town is the coal pits are kept well away from the town centre whereas as cotton mills are always protruding themselves into the very heart of the towns of their choice.
The centre of Wigan is very attractive it's shops are made out of old black and white timber houses. The centre Wigan is still further dignified by it's magnificent Parish Church and the Market Place adjoining it. Altogether the face of Wigan is anything but what a musical hall comedians suggest .it isn't a place where the collier beat his wife is a matter of course every Saturday. There are many things in which Wigan is a shining example to all the Lancashire boroughs .' I am sure an amount of hyperbole in her comments but what 'she has said she has said !'
Can these two observations possibly be of the same town ? I don't try to expunge the poor housing conditions in Scholes and Wallgate in 1937, but fairness demands that if you are to give a balanced view of a town , you should show some of the good side too ! As Cromwell said ' Paint me as I am warts and all.' The programme didn't seek gloss over Wigan problems ,on the contrary . In Mr Bennett's address he mentions the high unemployment in Wigan , he says there were 11, 000 children of school age and confronts free school meals issue for some children.
The woman announcer , ( the article doesn't give her name) entered Wigan from Chorley coming through Standish and presumably Wigan Lane , and I imagine left by the same route , consequently didn't see the poor housing conditions in Scholes and Wallgate .I can not but think had she visited these areas her judgment would have been more merciful and considered than that of Orwell .
This programme was not broadcast as a rebuttal of The Road to Wigan Pier it was a coincidence that it was broadcast during the same month as the publication of the book . Talking of rebuttal , I in my own tinpot way have written a rebuttal. The last chapter reads - I hope that some of the contents in this book lead readers to look at my home town with fresh eyes (mine) and in so doing see through the mist of bigotry and misinformation deliberately peddled by a one-time police officer from Burma, today I think it would be described as 'fake news' . I may seem to have been dilatory in taking up the cudgel to right a wrong that incensed me on first reading it almost 60 years ago at St John Fisher Secondary Modern School , but is no less heartfelt for the delay. I hope I have managed to portray my love for Wigan ,to show why I have been moved to put pen to paper, or more correctly finger to i pad . You see for me WIGAN has no PEER ! I
To say book , in truth it's a collections of articles many of which have been published in The Wigan Observer and it needs serious editing and refining .if any reader would like to have a copy , in the raw , so to speak , email firstname.lastname@example.org I will forward a copy with pleasure.
Although I seem to have upset George Orwell's devotees and in danger of doing so again . I'm not alone in criticising the book , The Manchester Guardian for example carried this review -' Set down in Wigan or Whitechapel Mr Orwell would still exercise an unerring power of closing his vision to all that is good in order to proceed with his wholehearted vilification of humanity.' I would remind his devotees of his passion for freedom: one of the quotes attributed to him
" Intellectual honesty is a crime in any totalitarian country; but even in England it is not exactly profitable to speak and write the truth.” and another " Freedom of speech is real " . If he has the right to that freedom , then so have I . I imagine he would defend my right to it , at least I hope he would !
Have I got space for my comment.
Lovely photo Dave, well done, always something different.
Wigan and Wigan Pier is known all over the world Tom because of George Orwell
Good George Orwell, great bloke in my opinion.
Perhaps the clock should be striking thirteen ?
Those Starlings are making the most of the sunshine lazing the hours away perched on the roof, wonder if they mimic the ring tones of Mobile Phones like they did with the Trim Phones, it was nice to hear them warble away to themselves on an Autumn afternoon and their iridescent feathers are beautifully coloured when caught in the rays of the sun. A common bird at one time, but they like the House Sparrow are rarely seen now.
An interesting documentary here: BBC. Arena. George Orwell. The Road To Wigan Pier. https://youtu.be/l7EhMnytZoQ
Tom - the Road to Wigan Pier is not Orwell's best book and I agree with much of what you say.
I have only seen genuine back to back houses in Leeds (Hunslet) in the mid 60s and in Orwell's time, one might wonder what most of the ladies of Wigan and elsewhere were doing with "donkey stones."
The old film Night Mail captures Wigan better, the multiplicity of coal mines and night flares.
Wigan's greatest loss was Central Park - known throughout Australia, New Zealand and France in RL circles. A greater legacy than Orwell's book.
Yes it might Thirteen 0-Clock, Poet
Cyril your can thank George Orwell for showing Wigan as a mucky place in his book and in doing so made our council and government to clean the place up, and thats why we now have clean canals and al-sorts of wildlife knocking about, including deer appearing in back garden up in New Springs
Orwell certainly wasn't popular with the working class in Wigan.
Thanks Tom , a great read again . It’s interesting how even today the views on the book are so vehemently divided . Some agree and praise it , whilst others it absolutely infuriates . I think you are on the right track when you say ‘biased in pursuit of a good story ‘. That could have been Orwell’s journalistic side coming out , or maybe Gollanz had greater influence than is known.
We grew up in great poverty , my mam working in the mill across the road . It was the bond you had with your neighbours, and those in the same situation that gave you the back bone and foundation you never forget . Don’t know how you put that chemistry into words .
Maybe Orwell succeeded in painting one side of it. Thanks for the post Dave .
When I first visited London in the 1970s I found it very strange to see immaculate, pin striped gentlemen wading knee deep through the muck and filth covering the pavements. I had never seen anything as bad as that on the streets of Wigan.
Put me off cities, and London in particular for many years.
A very interesting read Tom, and I agree with all you say. Also like XPat says we and our parents grew up in extreme poverty.My dad was born in Wallgate, and later lived in Scholes.He was away 6 yrs in WW2. and like many others who did the same, they were the backbone of this country.You can't choose were you were born. But the people in the poverty areas of Wigan had high hope's and strong principles.
Well said Edna, I agree with Tom, yet some good did come from the outrage of what was written in Orwell's book, even though he did not take into account the pride and stoicism of the 'ordinary' working classes who strived every day to pull themselves up by the bootlaces. It wasn't their fault in the hungry thirties if there was no work for them 'The Depression' happened everywhere - and not just in Scholes. It was as if Orwell took a pin and stabbed it on the map and Scholes was the result he came up with. This in turn was never forgotten by the people of Scholes.
If George came back tomorrow and took a pin and stabbed it on the map and Scholes was the result he came up with, he would find that nothing as changes much,
John Hilton's book on Wigan points out that slum clearance and house building projects were underway in 1934... 3years before Orwell. 5iem8
Scholes has changed and changed for the worse! He should have gone to Manchester - he would have found far worse than Scholes and the surrounding areas.
But he didnt go to Manchester did he Veronica, he went and wrote about Wigan and how it was in them days and in doing so put Wigan on the world map
Wigan would still have been on the map with the Pier Mick. Was it George Formy Snr or his son who was responsible for that? Even the Rugby players brought recognition for Wigan...
Veronica the rugby team are only known in Australia and New Zealand and nobody outside of Wigan knew anything about the George Formby joke, I should know because Ive been and worked all over the world, so I say its the Orwells book that put Wigan on the map.
Noooo, noooo, nooo, Mick not true at all!
Jackaknorie jackaknorie jackaknorie. Mick.
Yon Mick blokes in Cuckoo land.