Left: Ron Taylor and Right: Keith Parry
The outstanding quality shared by Ron Taylor and Keith Parry was a sense of place. You had only to spend a few hours with them to know they had an abiding love for and a commitment to Littleborough and to the special character of the South Pennines.
On returning to Littleborough from London in 1970 Keith was soon extolling Littleborough's unique virtues, a small town with a village character, with ready access both to a thriving, vibrant city and to remote open countryside. On the doorstep yet much valued by visitors from further away was Hollingworth Lake, an obvious recreational treasure. Local footpaths and tracks offered great walking with links to the Pennine Way, a route that could take you to Derbyshire in one direction and to the Scottish border in the other. As far as Keith was concerned there was one remaining but derelict asset which was the Rochdale Canal. At the time that sections were being cut off by roadworks or being 'shallowed' for safety's sake Keith was saying, "Mark my words, in 30 years time we can get this open again". He dedicated much of that time working to make that confident prediction a reality.
As a skilled communicator Keith's first move was to convince enough of us that Littleborough needed a Civic Trust. Not surprisingly with Ron Taylor he was one of the four founder members of the Trust. Soon afterwards another group of enthusiasts was fired with Keith's dedication to re-opening the Canal and the Rochdale Canal Society was born.
Ron Taylor's zeal for serious walking made him aware of the opportunities offered by a Civic Trust. It could promote healthy interesting outdoor exercise while at the same time helping Littleborough retain its essential Pennine character. 'Industrial Archælogy' was a relatively new activity in the 70s: Ron was one of the first in this area to demonstrate it on the ground. He was fascinated by the significance of the Summit Gorge with its road, canal and rail links with Manchester and West Yorkshire. He had after all walked along and across all the known, but now little used, tracks.
To illustrate this I can do no better than quote his own words which he wrote for the report compiled by the Civic Trust in 1972. This made the case for a Country Park being established at Hollingworth Lake and for a South Pennines Regional Park to be considered for parts of East Lancashire and West Yorkshire:
"Perhaps most remarkable and badly neglected by historians is the Summit Gorge. Here on the ground can be seen a living museum of the history of communications. Standing on the oldest road, at the edge of the gorge one sees two pack horse causeways (one of them subsequently improved for wheeled traffic), two turnpikes with Tollbar and signboard, the first canal to breach the Pennines, the first railway to link Lancashire and Yorkshire, while in the distance the Roman Road and the turnpike to Halifax appear and, to bring history up to date, the A58 and M62 can be seen away to the South East.
Is there anywhere else where such a picture of the history of transport lies spread before the eye?"
He never failed to research the industrial history of the area. How for instance the names Limers' Gate and Salter Rake Gate identify their early use. How the coke ovens hollowed out of the hillside at Tunshill remain an obvious relic of an industrial process linked with the nearby Britannia Colliery. Ron would point out the line of the track connecting the Kilns to the back of Hollingworth Lake known as the Tunshill Tramway.
Both Ron and Keith were strong supporters of the Civic Trust's efforts to get Hollingworth Lake Country Park status, something it achieved in 1974. The re-opening of the Rochdale Canal would take rather longer but Keith's dedication was crowned with success in July 2003.
Both were keen to retain or re-introduce events that are part of the essential character of the place. Ron took a leading part in attending and in organising sheep dog trials. Keith felt that the town needed activities that would provide a focus of interest and activity. Rushbearing, a Christmas Retail Fair and an Arts Week are now part of the yearly calendar of events.
As it might be expected both Ron and Keith were active supporters of the efforts in the 1980s to refurbish the derelict Coach House, restore the fabric and give it a new lease of life as a focus of community and heritage activity.
There is so much more one could say about each of them: about Keith the author, scriptwriter and broadcaster: about Ron the teacher of Geography and Technical Drawing from 1943-1975 at the Central School and after at the 'new' High School on Whitelees Road.
Perhaps it is sufficient to add that every community needs its Ron Taylors and Keith Parrys: we were privileged to have them both.
I'll begin with an apology. Not from me personally but from the Committee as a whole. The apology is for failing to produce a Newsletter as often as we should. At our last meeting of the Committee it was decided to form a Newsletter sub-committee which would be responsible for gathering material which can be used in a future newsletter and so relieve the burden on your poor editor!
It should go without saying that a newsletter can only be as good as the material we receive to put in it. This is not necessarily down to the Committee alone and those of you who have been disappointed at the lack of one might well ask yourself whether you could have contributed something on an issue which concerns you. I don't want contributions solely to fill the pages but those which express strongly held views on Littleborough. Heaven knows there are enough problems with our town that ought to rouse the most comatose of fire-side members. Get your pens and note-paper out, not just for the next issue but all the future ones.
Littleborough Canalside Development Group
Members of this group arranged to meet the Preferred Developers of the Ealees site to put forward some of our own ideas. We thought we would be proactive rather than reactive to any developing situation.
It was a disappointing meeting.
We were asked to begin, as we had requested the meeting through Councillor Ashley Dearnley. We said we had felt the recent Planning Department response to our proposals, only one of which they had seen, had been 'extremely negative'. We had been disappointed that Rochdale Development Agency's own response had seemed to indicate that it felt we were in opposition to the proposals of the Preferred Developer rather than trying to help. We assured them that this was certainly not the case and that we had wanted to ensure that they considered the sort of ideas we felt were best for Littleborough.
It became clear that our proposals, in the main, were not being taken seriously. Very aware of our lack of knowledge of what would be economic on this site, we felt unable to counter many of the points made by the Estate Surveyors representing the Developer, all of which were of an economic basis. The Rochdale Development Agency which is, we understand, staffed by professionals in this sort of business and should be looking to our best interests did not counter any arguments put up by the Developer.
Everything we had suggested had a price tag (naturally) and there came across to me personally the feeling that nothing had really changed since the previous April. The Developer's surveyor said that a hotel was a 'no-no'; likewise a youth hostel - I think we'd done more research into this than they had. The possibility of building across the canal had never been considered and was brushed aside (British Waterways "would never concede the narrowing of its canal because of the need for a prolonged closure" etc. - but no, they hadn't actually asked British Waterways!). Everything was problematic, costly and time-consuming. Again Rochdale Development Agency which would be expected to be pushing our case were not doing so, accepting practically everything the Developer said.
Not to put too fine a point on it, with the present approach this 'regeneration' site isn't going to be one. The Group feels that the Planners Brief is in danger of being changed substantially. Beverley Hirst (of Rochdale Development Agency) conceded that the final likely development would be 'slightly' different to that outlined in the brief. The Group feels that this 'slight' change means many dwellings on the site, not connected in any way to either the shops, the canal or Littleborough (except in the latter case were they will be a further burden on local services). Barry Dean indicated their new proposals would include 'at least as many' dwellings as shown on the plans we saw in April. We went through the arguments about more housing in Littleborough and met with a point of view which considered this scenario to be inevitable. A telling comment from him was that Littleborough was already a dormitory town and we should accept this status!
We made the points inherent in our proposals about making the best use of the site area. Placing car parking for a hotel at ground level but beneath the building didn't seem to be acceptable (they were already considering underground parking beneath their blocks of flats but said this was extremely expensive!). The stressing of a 'way through' to Littleborough centre beneath the Viaduct, by arranging the buildings appropriately seemed to be agreeable, but the Developer's surveyor's opinion that the suggested bridge over Ealees Brook would lead directly onto this route made me wonder if he really knew the site. (Initially we had been told that this bridge was not possible because of the Environment Agency's new flood defence walls but it was finally conceded by Beverly Hirst that the Environment Agency had said they would be prepared to look at it).
Water features were sources of 'danger, pollution, etc.' We referred to the extremely pleasant one in Manchester near the Urbis building as an example. There was a repeated reference to the 'need' for housing because of the economic necessities and realities of the site and because of the need for self-policing against vandals and louts. This latter point is in reality a police matter. These vandals and louts are here now; they are not going to spawn spontaneously with the advent of this development.
When we referred to the need to reflect the heritage of Littleborough, the Developer's surveyor said he had toured the town extensively and been unable to identify anything which could be regarded in that light. He appeared to be completely oblivious of the irony of his statement in that our parsity of much of what could have been labelled as of heritage value had been destroyed by people such as he over the last thirty or more years. He challenged us to take photographs of items and buildings which we regarded as examples of heritage. We directed him to look at the Rochdale MBC website and read the Littleborough Town Design Statement. Beverley Hirst said nothing.
We came away severely depressed because there seems to be no way out of this dilemma. Without funding from some other source there appears to be no way we can expect any development other than dwellings in the main. Rochdale certainly do not appear to be prepared to put the necessary work into what might be viable - of course they should have done that long ago before the brief for the site was drawn up. It would presumably reflect badly upon them if they were now to concede that much more work was needed to identify successful types of development.
Since that meeting we have heard that an informal approach has been made to the Planning Department with a 'revised' scheme. The Developer was advised that it was likely that it would be refused if Planning permission was formally applied for due to excessive housing content; more apparently than had been shown on the first scheme shown last April!
As described in our last issue difficulties are being experienced in purchasing the various pieces of the site from the owners. Some of these owners who have joined our group have more or less said that they've never been approached about this in any formal way. There are proposals afoot to apply for a compulsory purchase order for the site, using the Authority's powers but the Preferred Developer's money. Within the Group this is generally felt to be a bad decision because it would tie the site irrevocably to this developer who, as described in detail above, has shown himself to be totally unsympathetic with the desires of Littleborough people.
Akzo Nobel site.
Hot on the heels of the worry created by the sudden loss of this long-term industrial complex, which has its own connotations for this area with the loss of jobs and income for the town, came the concern for the future of the site.
Ever the 'good neighbour' Akzo Nobel left no time, following its decision to leave Littleborough, to approach the Council and ask them how they would like to see the site developed when they finally left.
Rochdale Council put the negotiations into the hands of the Rochdale Development Agency (groan!).
It has to be understood that the company's decision had not been expected and therefore no plan of action had been thought out by the Council. The situation was dropped into its collective 'lap' like a hot coal.
Starting from such an unpromising beginning it appears, from what little we know so far, that the Rochdale Development Agency is considering a number of possible solutions. These include a hotel complex with possibly an attached sports centre (with swimming baths?), and a canal mooring basin with all facilities.
This latter idea, while looked upon favourably by some, might have insurmountable problems. The part of the site considered suitable for a marina is on the towpath side and British Waterways simply never allow marina developments on that side of a canal for obvious reasons. It is also contaminated, although Akzo Nobel have good documentation as to where and what has been placed there over the years.
The idea of a hotel hasn't got universal blessing, some questioning the need for such a premises, but the present needs are not the only criterion - if Littleborough is to be developed to its full potential as a tourist venue a large hotel could be a necessary requirement.
The idea promulgated by some, to develop the site as a new high school for Littleborough is unlikely to be considered even possible by Rochdale Council who, as usual, will be working to its own agenda. The idea however has huge merits in creating a local focal point for our community not only for the schoolchildren who will not have to commute daily out of town for their education, considerably reducing the traffic on our overburdened roads, but for 'out-of-hours' activities for them and the rest of us. It isn't just a hotel which would be suitable to accommodate adjacent sports and baths facilities!
The real reason for my earlier groan was that the Rochdale Development Agency, truly blind to reality on this issue, are suggesting that at least a third of the site (5 acres) should be developed for housing! This cannot be acceptable and we clearly will have a fight on our hands. With 'friends' like the Rochdale Development Agency on our side who needs enemies?
One good bit of news was that the Farfield part of the site, the recently wooded area alongside Hollingworth Road, was not included in any redevelopment plans and was likely to be left as an accessible woodland area for the public.
Iain S Gerrard
Many people grew familiar with these from London streets. The blue plaques celebrate outstanding figures from the past and the buildings with which they were associated. Actors, politicians, painters, scientists, sportsmen, campaigners and reformers and many more have all been commemorated in this way. The scheme has been run in London for more than 140 years and there are now over 760 across the city .
Of course other cities and towns have their own schemes (and different plaque colours) and Rochdale is no exception. Here in Littleborough, after consultation with the Civic Trust and the History and Archaeological Society, some years ago, the Council put up several plaques on buildings, mainly around the centre. Trust members will be familiar, for example, with the one on the Falcon pub, which is at a very 'readable ' height. However, the ones in Littleborough are all associated with buildings and their historic importance - and very interesting too. Some of us now thought it was time to put up plaques for people who had lived in Littleborough and who had played some important role in national life or achieved some acclaim.
We therefore chose three people:
Nineteenth century novelist, of some ability, particularly in depicting a northern mill town. She was the daughter of one of the founders of the large textile firm, Fothergill & Harvey. She lived in a house, now demolished, next to the former Sladen Wood works, Todmorden Road. Today, Trust members will know the former factory as the New England Furniture factory and shop.
Entrepreneur, nineteenth century 'enlightened' industrialist., he built Fothergill & Harvey into a textile company of national importance. He was also an early environmentalist wanting to restore Littleborough to a 'green' town after the ravages of years of industrialisation. He had planted hundreds of trees including the beech wood behind Town House. He was also a very active MP, a pacifist and a supporter of the League of Nations, a forerunner of the United Nations
Enid Stacy lived with her husband, Percy Widdrington, at Calderbrook Vicarage from 1901 to her death in 1903.. She was part of the Christian Socialist movement, a strong supporter of the early Trade Unions, a suffragist, and a writer and speaker on economics, socialism; even crossing the Atlantic at the end of the 19c. to carry out speaking tours in the United States..
All three satisfy the RMBC criteria for recognition i.e. they have been dead for more than 20 years and they have been recognised outside the immediate town for their work.
People will now have seen our wonderful restored bandstand in the Park and the fine job that was made of it. The same firm that carried out this work gave us the best quote for the plaques and we are very pleased to say that the Pennine Township Committee have now given us the money to go ahead.
We will be working out the details during the coming months and will announce when, and where, the plaques are to be finally unveiled. Watch this space!
You can read more about all the above people in the 'The Story of Littleborough' compiled by John Street and you can borrow Jesse Fothergill's novels, 'Probation' and 'Healey' from Rochdale Library
In our autumn Newsletter space was made to discuss the MoorEnd Development Trust.
The review started by covering Rochdale's 'Pride of Place' initiative, which is a response to tackle some of the Authorities most severe problems such as adequate living accommodation, poor sports facilities and areas of poor employment opportunities.
This initiative affects nearly all aspects of living and called for great efforts from the authority employees to master the framework they were to work in. The results are now starting to be delivered.
During the development period it became clear that the economic and related statistics precluded the Pennine District from benefiting from a wide range of the new opportunities and funding that was to be available. It was concluded that the Pennine District must develop a different structure to fully benefit from the overall Regeneration plan.
Having seen the Pennines could not qualify along with the other Districts for large sums of regeneration money, it had to consider an alternative way of funding its position in the regeneration plan. As outlined in our autumn Newsletter this situation lead to the birth of the MoorEnd Trust. Some detail was also given of the relation of the initiative to the rest of the Authority Canal Corridor Regeneration initiative.
What follows is a brief summary of what is new or has developed since the autumn article.
Moor End Trust is now a reality with a team of Directors and over 200 members in the Pennine District. The Trust is a recognised activity within the 'Pride of Place initiative. We also have our first project, up and running at Butterworth Hall in Milnrow. To the credit of all our voluntary staff and directors, some very important goals have been achieved. At Butterworth Hall they have done an extensive face lift and improvement of the facilities and the surrounding area. The quantity and quality of the users is improving and there is a positive plan for the next stages of development.
Encouraged by this start we now have a whole new set of requests to ask of ourselves.
First, although 200 members is a good start we must double that number soon to remain credible when we get into more competitive bidding situations, or are scrutinised by providers who are concerned about our size and experience levels. To join MoorEnd Trust just ring your local Township Office (see your local telephone book). Establish you are living and/or working in the Pennine District and ask for papers to apply for free membership of the MoorEnd Trust.
The Directors have to establish the number and content of the next batch of projects to be carried out. The process has started, but this is the time when any sound suggestion will be evaluated very carefully. To help anyone to think if they have a positive suggestion here is a list of recent ideas.
An annual Pennine Music Festival: A Community Centre in the Upper Roach valley: Development of specific Gateway Visitor Centres, Specific developments on defined canal sites e.g. museum of flora and fauna, Group of Sports Developments, The start of a National Heritage project etc.
There are of course many facilities needed for the restored canal for parking, buying supplies, etc.
Finally to encourage you to be interested: I write this material as the representative of the MoorEnd Trust who currently attends at the appropriate meetings of our Authority relating to the Pride of Place initiative. I am happy to record that I have been shown enormous courtesy and have had help from all levels of staff in all parts of our Borough. It is a very live project with real opportunities where you can help now.
Some people say that the new traffic layout in Littleborough has improved traffic flow and pedestrian safety but that most certainly is not my opinion.
I have lived in Littleborough for around 5 years and even when I first came here traffic, during peak times was very congested especially during school term times. It took me anywhere between 20 minutes and 1 hour to travel to Queensway, some 4 miles.
Since then over 300 houses have been added into the community with another 100+ approved by RMBC Planning authority and another 30+ proposed for the Ealees site with nothing at all added to support the infrastructure of Littleborough.
Added to the above we have to ship out of Littleborough on every school day some 2000 11-16 year olds because we no longer have a secondary school.
And, the latest news that Akzo Nobel and Nampak (formerly Plysu) are closing down means that even more people will have to commute outside of the area to find employment.
All this adds up to congestion on a major scale.
The Rochdale Unitary Development Plan defines Littleborough in its strategic planning as a potential area for increased tourism.
How do you expect Tourists to get here - and if they could, where will they park?
What RMBC Transport/traffic has done for Littleborough to improve things:-
Narrowed the road through the town centre. - Truly inspired - NOT!
Moved the existing zebra-crossing nearer to the traffic lights so that it jams up the traffic even quicker, plus pedestrians from Lodge Street rushing onto the crossing are obscured by the stone wall.
Placed another zebra crossing on Church St immediately after a blind bend and a busy T-junction.
Ignored community request for a pavement from the Wheatsheaf to Church Street.
Put up a roundabout road sign for the mini roundabout and then totally obscured it with a sign for the Railway Station.
6.Done nothing about the fact that the Railway Station has no access for the disabled.
We in Littleborough have no confidence whatsoever in the Highways Department or RMBC in improving our Town.
The first day at school has probably always been an important time in a child's life - sometimes unpleasant but more often an exciting time. Children in the late 30s and early 40s, going to the Central School for their first day's schooling, made the acquaintance of Miss Whipp, a highly respected infant teacher, much loved by several generations of Littleborough children. A favourite 'member' of the 'baby class' was Dobbin, a large rocking horse on whose back all of those generations of children rode. This seemed a real treat in those rather austere days, giving the impression that school was going to be fun; and indeed, many of the happiest days of childhood were associated with school.
Pancake Tuesday was the first 'high-day' of the year, eagerly awaited and always enjoyed, even if some of the pancakes did have to be scraped off the floor, table or cooker by the time everyone had taken a turn at the 'tossing'.
Shortly afterwards, great excitement began to build up as older brothers and sisters whispered together about their parts in the Central School annual Pace-egg Play. Little boys rushed around searching for pieces of scrap wood, then begging hammers and nails from Dad, somehow managing to produce quite presentable swords and shields ready for their own versions of the play. The Easter holidays, when the whole school from Infants to Seniors, assembled in the big hall.
"Will St. George kill the horrible dragon?" was the question buzzing around the hall and "What if the dragon falls on us?" came from the smallest infants sitting cross-legged on the front row. The Senior School boys and girls took part in the play, and very good they were too, giving a tremendous amount of pleasure to the rest of the school. Many a young girl sighed longingly over handsome St. George, boldly slaying the dragon!
For at least a week after the school production, the streets of Littleborough were awash with St. Georges attired in all manner of tunics (sisters' gym-slips 'done-up' with coloured scarves and head-dresses) and dragons with chenille tablecloth skins (all without Mum's permission). No mediæval knight ever set out more proudly than did those youngsters with their swords and shields, strutting their stuff around the town.
Chocolate Easter eggs were not much in evidence in those days because of sweet rationing. But somehow mothers managed to provide fresh eggs for breakfast on Good Friday, dyed with onion skins or otherwise decorated, accompanied by toast soldiers and probably enjoyed just as much as the chocolate version of later years.
Very soon after, with May Day on the horizon, it was time for the girls to have their special day, although brothers were usually enlisted to help put together the Maypoles. These were usually made with great ingenuity, from long brush handles on clothes props, topped with hoops (Dad must have joined the workforce here!) and decorated on May Day morning with greenery and flowers and tapes with ribbons fastened on for the dancers to hold.
There was great rivalry between the different neighbourhoods as to who could produce the best Maypole. The May Queens were chosen more for their ability to hold the pole steady than for their regal appearance, but mothers pooled their resources to make pretty outfits - the old net curtains proving pretty useful for this! (Did they coin the phrase about necessity being the mother of invention?).
The girls meanwhile were busy practising their dances, which were carried out with more gusto than grace (hence, the 'strong' May Queen). But what a pretty sight they were on May Day, brightening up the streets with their colourful poles and dresses, competing for attention with the beautifully decorated horses pulling the milk floats, drays and carts. Even the rag and bone man would decorate his pony and cart.
The Sunday School Anniversary usually fell around this time, when it was the custom to have new clothes, which had to be paraded first before the neighbours and grandparents, the latter often giving a penny or two for looking nice (and clean!). After the special afternoon service, the older boys and girls would usually walk up to Hollingworth Lake and show off their new outfits, walking along the Lake Bank, the boys rather re-faced and slightly embarrassed, but weighing up the giggling girls very thoroughly, nevertheless.
Depending on what date Easter fell, the next big day to celebrate would be Empire Day on the 24th of May, which was enjoyed as part of the school activities. Red, white and blue flags, streamers and rosettes were made as part of the handwork classes, learning at the same time about Britain's role in governing its Empire. The flags and streamers were used to decorate the hall in the Infant School (I don't remember ever doing this in the Junior School), after which all the children joined in carefully rehearsed marches round the Hall singing "We come to school this morning on the 24th of May and we join in celebrating what is known as Empire Day….etc." This was much more fun than learning spelling and tables and a very enjoyable way of learning to be proud of our country and its traditions.
Whitsuntide followed very quickly and what a lovely time it was. Whit Friday was the day for the Parish Church and Chapels to join together in the Whit processions. The individual Chapels and Churches each walked in procession, with their big banners, to meet together around the bandstand in Hare Hill Park for a joint service. The ladies and older girls would meet at the Chapel early in the morning to make up the baskets of flowers which would be carried by the small girls of the Sunday School. The men would be busy attaching streamers to the big Chapel banner ready for the little boys to hold. The weather obviously played a major part in the success and enjoyment of the day and the men particularly would hope and pray for a calm day as the large banners were extremely difficult to hold steady in a blustery wind.
After a quick and early dinner everyone met at their particular Church or chapel and took their places in the procession, youngest at the front with the banner and older children, then adults. The children looked lovely, the little girls in pretty dresses carrying their baskets of flowers and the little boys, looking quite angelic with scrubbed faces, holding hands with the girls (rather unwillingly) and holding on to the banner streamers. Although the small chapels couldn't afford to hire a band for the procession, the marching music of the Parish Church band could usually be heard by most of the other processions as they converged on the park from all directions. What a wonderful sight it was to see all the walkers gather around the bandstand and what a wonderful sound as everyone joined together singing the well-known hymns.
After the service, the processions re-assembled and walked back to their respective churches, often stopping on the way to sing for housebound people or to give flowers to anyone who was sick. Then it was off to the Whit Friday field to have races, enjoy refreshments and generally have a good 'get together'.
There was something of a lull in Annual Activities until school 'broke up' for Wakes Week, but the summer nights were extra long because of double summer-time and children made the most of nice weather to indulge in favourite pastimes. These included such things as making 'bogeys' from old pram wheels to race down the hills, or swinging on the arms of the old gas-lamps, and getting up to such mischief as knocking on doors and running away, often chased by irate adults shouting "Tha'll get a clip round th'ear-'ole if ah catch thee" (or words to that effect). It was generally accepted that said clip was just punishment if you were slow enough to be caught, and it was not a good idea to go home crying about it or a second clip would be quickly forthcoming!
Wakes Week usually meant the Annual Fair in Rochdale and occasionally one would turn up on what is now the Parish Church football field in Littleborough. But the highlight of the week would be a day trip to Blackpool, Morecambe or Southport on either Jay's or Yelloway's 'chara'. How exciting it was to set off with packs of sandwiches and bottles of 'corporation pop' to see the sea! There was always plenty of singing going on during the journey and much competition between the children for the first one to spot Blackpool Tower, Lytham Windmill or the sea. It was amazing how often such place were sighted even before the coach reached Belmont!
By the end of August, mothers and children alike were usually ready for the start of the autumn term at school, and in no time at all it was nearly bonfire time. Stocks of scrap wood, old rubbish and broken furniture (although there was very little of that in those days of make-do and mend) were guarded jealously until the great day arrived. Effigies of Guy Fawkes were made up from old clothes and bags of sawdust from the various joiners around Littleborough.
All the mums in the neighbourhood would get together to decide who should make parkin, treacle toffee, soup or potato pie - what a feast it was and what fun everyone had. Fireworks were usually pooled and set off by one of the dads - not in the quantities seen to-day, and far less frightening! Occasionally there would be a 'chara' outing to Belle Vue where there was a wonderful display of fireworks but it was a very rare treat.
Following on very quickly after the joys of bonfire night was the excitement of Christmas. Many children went out carol singing in the days immediately before the twenty-fifth, often with a group from chapel or church. Carols were learned and practised both at school and Sunday school and the singing in the streets gave much pleasure to housebound people - far better than the modern 'chant' of "We wish you a Merry Christmas" followed by a knock on the door with a hand outstretched! As many people were quite poor in those days, with the menfolk away in the fighting forces during the war years, it was more common to give home-made Christmas gifts. A lot of effort and love too went into the making of such gifts and they were appreciated just as much, or even more than the expensive presents given to youngsters today. It was just as exciting to delve into one of Dad's socks to find an apple, a few nuts and sweets, a brand new shining penny and, perhaps, a pink sugar pig. It never ceases to amaze me how mothers managed to make such a lovely Christmas feast out of the meagre rations allowed, and considering how many of the foods enjoyed today were just not available then.
Snowfalls were fairly certain during the Christmas holidays, so out came the sledges and all the children would be off to the park to play on the 'big hill'. Surprisingly, the strict rules about keeping off the grass were always relaxed when the snow appeared. It only took a few days for the novelty to wear off - when 'wellies' started to rub little chapped legs and chilblains made their presence (painfully) felt. Out would come the Snowfire ointment and games indoors would be enjoyed until the snow disappeared again.
Once school started up again thoughts immediately turned to the next big event - why, it was nearly Pancake Day again!
Editor: Iain S Gerrard