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Friday, September 20, 2002
You may well wonder where I got my title from this week. Well, I’ll put you out of your misery right away, ‘Ticky Tock’ was what Newton Pickles called the Burnley Ironwork’s engine at Clough Mill because it ran faster than any other engine in Barlick at 93 rpm and Newton said it just went ‘ticky tock’!
Clough was the first mill in Barlick to have a steam engine. We aren’t sure when this was but we do know that it was insured with the Sun Insurance Company in 1827. This engine ran the mill, probably supplementing the power from the water wheel, until 1879/80 when a big Furneval engine from Haslingden was installed. This was very uneconomic and in 1891 the Cotton Times reported that the big engine had been shut down and the beam restarted because of a fall in loom numbers. A further report said that this was not successful because the beam engine was ‘too tight’ however, we know that the big engine was sold in 1900 and moved to Whalley. As ‘Ticky Tock’ wasn’t installed until 1913 we must assume that the mill reverted to running on the water wheel and the beam engine combined. As such, it must have been the last use of water power to drive a textile mill in Barlick.
So what brought all this to mind this week? I was looking at the picture of the engine and trying to remember the name of the engineer in the 1930’s. I remember that he was called Albert but can’t remember his surname. I reflected that if Newton was still alive I could have asked him and this brought to mind a story Newton told me about Clough engine.
In 1932 Newton Pickles was 16 years old and was working for his dad, Johnny. One day, Newton was working on a lathe in the shop at Wellhouse when Johnny came in and said ‘Run me up to Clough in’t van, they’re stopped.’ When they got up there, Leonard Parkinson and Harry Crabtree were working on the engine but they told Johnny they couldn’t find out what was wrong with it. When they opened the steam valve all it did was roll over half a revolution and then bounce back. Johnny asked them if they were sure the eccentrics were set right and they said yes, so they tried it again. It did exactly the same thing.
Just then, 16 year old Newton, surrounded by four experienced engineers piped up, ‘It never will run like that will it!’ He’d spotted the mistake they had made which meant that they had timed the engine valves half a turn out. Johnny wasn’t best pleased and told Newton that if he was so clever, he’d better fix it! Newton and Leonard Parkinson moved one of the eccentrics round the shaft half a turn, tightened it up, and they tried it again. Newton said it just went ‘Ticky Tock’ and started perfectly, the weavers were in business again!
Johnny watched for a minute and then he said ‘Right! That’s it, if a sixteen year old lad can tell me my business it’s time I stopped bothering with engines!’ From that day forward, unless Newton was really stuck, Johnny never went to any engine stoppages, he always sent Newton. This caused Newton quite a bit of trouble because many a time he had to deal with engineers who were old enough to be his grandfather and they didn’t take kindly to being told what to do by a lad! Remember that the engineer was God in the engine house, he was master of all he surveyed and even the mill owner would think twice before he upset such an essential worker.
Brown and Pickles looked after Clough mill until it stopped in about 1949 when Slater’s went bankrupt and failed to pay the bill for the last repair done on the engine. In 1946 the engineer was poorly and so Johnny sent Harry Crabtree and Newton to Clough to fire the boiler and run the engine. There was a shortage of coal and Harry and Newt were trying to burn American soft coal that had been sent over as lease lend. This was terrible stuff and they were having to burn old motor tyres with it just to keep the fires alight. At this point a coal wagon pulled up and the driver shouted out ‘Is this Clough Mill?’ Newton told him it was and the driver told him that he’d taken this load of coal to Crow Nest and a bloke called Arthur Dobson, the engineer, had told him he wouldn’t burn rubbish like that but if he took it up to Clough there were a couple of silly beggars who’d burn owt. Newton said it was good coal and it was obvious that Arthur had some stock in and had taken pity on them. They tipped the coal and it solved all their problems while it lasted.
I had this experience myself during the fuel shortage in the 70’s. We had dug right back through the stockpile at Bancroft and right at the back had come across this stuff that had gone rusty! I asked Newton what it was and he told me it was soft coal left over from the 1940’s! It was so bad they hadn’t tried to burn it. It was all we had so we had to give it a try and Newton was right, it was rubbish. I swear we had two barrows of ash for every barrow load of coal we burned! Just then a wagon pulled up and enquired whether we were Bank Field Shed. I said yes, we backed him in and tipped twenty tons of Sutton Manor’s finest into the bunker! It burned like candle ends and saved our bacon. It was four days before Rolls at Bankfield twigged we had pinched a load of coal off them! Bancroft paid up and we never heard any more about it.
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SCG/28 May 2002
OPEN WIDE PLEASE!
It looks as though dental hygiene is going to become even more important for anyone who lives in Barlick. I see that we are to lose our last remaining regular dentist. Of course the authorities rush in to tell us that it will be alright, we will still have treatment available in the town and if we want to be a registered patient we can always travel to Accrington, or anywhere else for that matter.
I share the scepticism that this news generates among potential patients and thank my lucky stars that my mother was not totally aware of the benefits of brushing teeth regularly during the war years. (The Second World War of course) You may be struggling to make the connection, I shall explain.
By the time I was 23, in 1959, I was living at Hey Farm and had what was probably the worst maintained set of gnashers in the town. To be blunt, my teeth were rotten. I’d already had one experience with Mr Atkinson at Croft House when I had a half-crown extraction, the coin, not a dental term. For twelve and a half pence in today’s money, he sat me in the chair and pulled a rotten molar without anaesthetic. Every time I go into the reception at Windle and Bowker’s I remember him throwing that tooth into the corner!
Bearing this in mind, I went to Mr Pinder on Park Avenue and let him have a look. His conclusion was simple, get them all out. He did this and fitted me with a set of false teeth and apart from a cracked bottom set about 25 years ago, those same teeth are still serving me well. So, thanks to my mother’s lack of knowledge I lost my teeth.
Nowadays this would be regarded as unthinkable; all your teeth gone by the age of 23? How times change. I was delighted because it meant that I’d never have to endure the pain of toothache or dental work again. This was common in my generation or earlier. In fact, one of the best presents you could give a bride in pre-war days was to pay for her to have all her teeth out as a wedding present! Look at any picture of people in those days and the main reason they look so old is because they have most of their teeth missing. It was seen as natural, part of growing older and apart from the cost, anything that relieved you of the pain was to be welcomed.
So, the fact that the dentist is to close doesn’t really affect me. Perhaps there were advantages after all in having all my teeth out. How many people can say that their teeth have given them no trouble and have only cost them eight pounds in the last 43 years? Perhaps it’s bad customers like me that have caused us to lose our regular dental surgery. If so, I apologise to you all.
On another level, the news disturbs me. I think you all have a fairly good idea about my attitude to Barlick, I love the town and time after time I go on about the fact that we must be very watchful and make sure we fight to preserve our amenities. The problem with the dentist is only one in an insidious catalogue of attrition. Cravenside, Rainhall Road School, the decline of town centre shopping, all these are indications of the way progress is taking us. We are at the mercy of arbitrary decisions made by accountants who know the cost of everything and the value of nothing.
Fifty years ago we had three dentists in Barlick to my knowledge, Fernbank Avenue, Station Road and Park Avenue. Now we are going to have none. This is not progress and in many ways is just as serious as the closure of Cravenside. Think of the extra travelling time involved and recognise that not everyone has access to personal transport. If you are old or disabled or have a raging toothache this is real hardship.
Unfortunately I don’t have an answer. All I can suggest is that if this matter concerns you, get on your hind legs and start shouting! One thing is certain, if we all keep quiet and refuse to rock the boat, we will lose out. I was derided not long since for suggesting that we could become a dormitory town. Quite right, I may be wrong but if you look carefully at recent events there are signs of decay in our services and environment. My advice is that we should assume the worst and ask ourselves what sort of town we want to leave for our children and grandchildren. The ball is in our court.
On a completely different subject, I’m getting very worried about street furniture. We had enough clutter on the pavements but of late we have seen ‘Olde Worlde’ signposts, ‘traffic calming’ by obstructing the streets and now a bad attack of bollards! How do you manage if you are visually impaired? Wouldn’t it have been better to do something about the old obstructions, many of which are decayed and held together with duct tape? Have you noticed that when the new crossing was installed outside the Post Office they left the stump of the old standard in place? It probably contains some essential electrical connections but looks surplus to requirements!
Looking back at this, I apologise for the fact that I’m whingeing again, I do try to be positive but every once in a while there are things that have to be said. I hope I haven’t depressed you too much!
Wednesday, September 18, 2002
THE COST OF LIVING.
My picture this week is, I admit, slightly boring. That is, unless you like bonny babies or know who it is. It’s a picture of my first daughter Margaret in her new Pedigree pram at Hey Farm and the date was 1961.
I practice what I preach and of late have been spending a lot of time scanning negatives on to CD so that my three daughters can have a copy of all the family pictures from 1956 to the present day. This snap of Margaret is one of them. So, what is it about this snap that could possibly spark off an article for the Times?
The great thing about pictures is that they trigger the memory. I looked at this and wondered how much that pram cost us. I rang Vera and asked and she knew exactly, it cost twenty three pounds and at the time my wage was eleven pounds a week for seven days driving for Harrison’s of Elslack picking milk up from the farms and delivering bottled milk to depots for West Marton Dairies. I reckon that this is about the equivalent of eight hundred pounds in today’s money.
Just think about that for a minute, eight hundred pounds! You could buy a car for that now. It would be easy to conclude that this is evidence that people are far better off nowadays than we were then. But hang on a minute, there’s something wrong with that. Even though my wage was so low, Vera was able to stay at home and look after the children and we were paying the mortgage on a four bedroom house and seven acres of land. This just wouldn’t be possible now. What’s going on here?
While I was thinking about this I noticed another piece of information. Some financial guru was forecasting that by 2020 house prices on average would be three times what they are now. Add to this the fact that in areas of high house prices essential but low-paid workers like nurses, teachers and bus drivers can’t afford to live near their work and you have a worrying situation. It’s tempting to think that we are lucky in Barlick because we have reasonable property prices but I know at least one couple in the town who are both nursing, paying a mortgage on a terraced house and living in fear of two things; first that one of them might fall ill and second that the wife might become pregnant and have to give up her job.
This raises another problem, the number of potential grandparents who are dying to have grandchildren to cherish but have no prospects of this because their children can’t afford to start a family. The bottom line of all this is that we are living in the most affluent age this country has ever seen and young people find they can’t afford to have children. How does this square up with the eight hundred pound pram?
All I can do is go back to my own experience, I’m not an economist or social scientist. The differences I can see are that in 1961 we didn’t have the pressure to spend on us from modern technology and advertising. We had a house, a gas cooker, fridge, washing machine and some furniture but that was it. We didn’t even have carpets! Also, there were six of us in the house, Vera, Margaret and myself, my mother and father and my brother. So one of the essential differences between then and now is that this same grouping would need three houses, three sets of house contents and all the trappings that are part of modern living. Add to this the fact that the population has risen and you can begin to see why demand is pushing property prices up.
That’s enough facts and analysis, we know there is a problem, what really concerns me is the consequences. The big difference I see, and I suspect that most people of my generation would agree, is that even though our standard of living has improved and many things are cheaper nowadays than they were 40 years ago, the quality of life may have deteriorated along the way. Life was much more simple then, there were less pressures on us and we could afford to buy a house. When I bought Hey Farm in 1959 it cost £2,200, that was roughly 100 Pedigree prams. The top of the range Pedigree pram today costs twenty nine pounds but Hey Farm will be worth slightly more than £2,900!
All right, I accept that this is very simple economics but it does demonstrate the basic problem, in terms of the cost of prams, property has gone up at least 50 times as much. I suspect that you would get roughly the same answer if you used the price of eggs, Mars bars or travel.
So what’s the answer? I have to admit I haven’t got a clue. I sit here and look at my three daughters and six grandchildren and thank God that things worked out the way that they did. I feel so much for young people struggling to start a family and, because I am so lucky, am terribly sad for all the frustrated grandparents out there.
Have I any advice for the youngsters? All I can say is that all those years ago it still looked an impossible task to support a family but we decided to risk it and it worked out all right. I know this isn’t the best basis for planning your life but with hindsight, the cost of not having children in terms of happiness and satisfaction later in life is far greater than the cost of rearing them. This was true then and I’m sure it is true now. It was hard working seven days a week, more often than not for more than eighty hours, but we survived somehow. It may be that some things haven’t changed, the poor people have to work harder than the rich to get even the basics of life. They call it ‘progress’. Depressing isn’t it.
Tuesday, September 17, 2002
GISBURN OLD TRACK
It’s easy to forget that Gisburn Old Track behind Whitemoor is part of Barnoldswick. It lies on this side of the Black Dyke which on the 1580 map of the moor is marked as ‘dividing Whitemoor from Admergill’. I knew this road well in the fifties as I used to deliver groceries at all the farms up there when I had the grocer’s shop at Sough. There was John and Mae Wallbank at Brown House, Abel and Maude Taylor at Greenbank, Tommy and Sally Carter at Peel House, Ben Chaffer and his daughter Clara at Star Hall, the Harrisons at Lower Sandiford, Gordon Sutcliffe and his wife at Higher Sandiford and a family whose name I can’t remember at Stoops House at the top of the road.
What triggered all this off was this week’s picture of Jim Boss. He was Sally Carter’s father and lived with them at Peel House. He must have been about 90 when I took this picture of him in 1957 and so we are looking at a man who was born in the 1870s. It’s quite a shock when you realise that a picture you took reaches back over 130 years!
Sally used to work for Mother Hanson when she kept the Moorcock public house just over the hill on Coldweather. She lived with her son John at Admergill and I delivered groceries to her as well. She was a hard woman but a wonderful person. She lived in a small house in the yard and always had a good coal fire burning because she did most of her cooking on it. Even in the 50s she still wore long skirts and a pinafore right down to the ground.
Next time you go past the Moorcock, take notice of the car park, Mrs Hanson’s sons dug it out of the hillside by hand! She told me that they used to brew their own beer and she could remember one Easter they sold £100 worth of beer to trippers coming out from Nelson for the day.
The Greystone Hotel used to be run by a bloke called Bob Feather and Mother Hanson told me a good story about it. One day, George Rushworth from Colne was coming back over Coldweather from Gisburn and he decided to call in for a drink at the Greystones. It was about nine o’clock at night and he was surprised to find the pub was shut. Being George Rushworth and not being used to being thwarted he hammered on the door until eventually an upstairs window opened and Bob Feather poked his head out. ‘Can’t you see we’re closed! We’ve gone to bed!’ ‘Get down here and open up! It’s Rushworth fra Colne and I want a drink !’ Bob said ‘Well, tha can’t have one.’ George said ‘Feather, if tha doesn’t come down and open up I’ll buy this pub tomorrow and chuck thee out!’ ‘Tha mun do that then!’ and with that, the window slammed and Rushworth didn’t get his drink.
Mother Hanson told me that George Rushworth was as good as his word, he bought the pub but he didn’t throw Bob out. Years later when Massey’s at Burnley bought the Greystone with ideas of doing it up as a roadhouse they found that there was a clause in the contract which said that Bob Feather was to keep the licence as long as he wanted it. Mother Hanson said that this was why it was never refurbished as long as Bob had it, the brewery didn’t fancy having him as one of their managers in a newly converted pub!
Tattersall’s, who farmed over the road at Greystone Farm had an old Morris car that they used as a portable milkstand. They ran it down to the end of the road each day from the dairy and I picked the milk up off the back of it. Eventually they swapped it for a new Morris car with a dealer in Nelson and when Roy, the son, went to collect the new car, nobody told him the accelerator and brake pedals were the opposite way round to the old one. He got in it and drove it straight into a wall in the forecourt!
Tommy Carter at Peel House was a character. He only had a small piece of land, usually had no job and yet always seemed to manage. He had a good sense of humour and needed it one day when the police turned up to ask him why he had a railway wagon tarpaulin covering his haystack! He had some explanation how he had got hold of it which satisfied the bobbies but before they went he asked them how they knew he had it. They pointed out that it had LMS (London, Midland and Scottish) on it in large letters and it could be seen for miles!
I’ve got particular reasons for remembering Mrs Harrison at Lower Sandiford. She baked my sister’s wedding cake and when I went up to collect it I came away with a Jack Russell pup that was a mate for many years. On the way home I called in at the Craven Heifer for a pint and it wasn’t until I woke up the following morning that I realised I had left the wedding cake in the van! Luckily, even though it had rained all night, it had come to no harm. It was a very lucky escape.
Funny how one picture can trigger a rush of memories about that piece of road. I could fill this column ten times over with no difficulty at all. It goes to prove what I always tell you, look after the old photographs, write some description on the back and if there are stories that go with them, tell them to your children and grandchildren. I promise they will be interested and they won’t forget. Years later they will pass the stories on to their children. We are constantly told that TV is killing conversations and reminiscence. It may be damaging them but old tales still have their power to fascinate. Let’s try to keep some of them alive.
POWER TO THE PEOPLE?
As most of you know, I am in favour of ordinary people being allowed to have a voice and being able to make their opinions known. We may yet see a change in policies on care homes in the district because the taxpayers and voters are making their opinion quite clear. Unfortunately, self-expression can sometimes be misdirected and result in damage to our amenities.
As we all know, there has been a problem with mountain bikers using the parapets of the gardens on Fernbank Avenue and in the Town Square. At the time I commented that to a certain extent, I had sympathy with the bikers because the town as a whole hadn’t recognised that it would be a good thing for them to have their own space to practice what is, after all, a fairly healthy outdoor activity. I’d rather see them doing this than smoking crack in dark corners!
My boss Eigg, the Jack Russell, demands that I take a bit of exercise every morning and we usually go up to Letcliffe Park. I noticed after the Easter weekend that there were some excavations above the planting in the south corner and it was obvious that the bikers had taken matters into their own hands and constructed some fairly impressive obstacles and jumps. The problem was that in order to do this they had dug up the path and created some fairly dangerous holes, especially if someone was visually impaired. In addition, although it may not be the bikers, the example of the unauthorised alterations had encouraged someone to cut down several small saplings in the immediate vicinity. So what we end up with is self-expression leading to what can only be described as vandalism which is sad.
There are other examples of anti-social behaviour on Letcliffe that are even worse. It is a favourite spot for the lads to take their cars, and judging from the tyre tracks, their Urban Assault Vehicles, and drive round on the grass, cutting it up and generally making a mess. Add to this the odd bit of stone and turf stealing for garden improvements and the scattering of fast food litter and bottles after a midnight picnic and we have a situation where what should be a pleasant open space for exercise is being degraded despite the valiant efforts of the Leisure Services to keep it tidy.
When the Barnoldswick Urban District Council bought 12 acres of Letcliffe Farm on the 5th of July 1901 and the Chairman of the Council, the Reverend F W Patten opened it as a leisure ground for the town on the 20th of June 1902, the Council; was responding to a country-wide movement to provide space for the workers to take ‘rational leisure’ in order to improve their health.
This debate on ‘Physical Efficiency’ was triggered off originally when it was found that a high proportion of volunteers for the Crimean War were simply too unhealthy to serve. The realisation dawned that conditions in the greatest industrial nation on earth were so bad that the workers were desperately unhealthy. It was this that led to the provision of parks and open spaces in every town and city in the land during the late 19th century. Barnoldswick was no exception and one of the results was Letcliffe, surely one of the most beautiful parks in Britain with its extensive views and country situation.
Apart from the general beauty of the park, it had a miniature golf course, a hedged bandstand, a First World War tank on a plinth, the War Memorial and the Jubilee Fountain which used to stand in Church Street at the top of Butts. The fountain and war memorial have since been moved to more accessible sites in the town, the golf course fell into disuse and Lord knows where the tank went! However, what we have left is a tidy, well-cared for public open space with a kiddies playground, clean toilets and pleasant walks. By any standards, this is an asset to the town and one we would do well to defend.
So how do we improve behaviour in the park? Twenty four hour security, floodlights and video cameras might be one route but apart from the expense, this would be as great an act of vandalism as taking an old car up there and burning it. (three have been burned in the last twelve months) I can only think that we have to try education and persuasion.
My message to those who use the park for damaging activities is that tearing up the turf, cutting down trees, serial littering and setting fire to the litter bins is an insult to your grandparents who paid for the park out of their hard-won wages in an era when pennies counted. They didn’t have the advantages or the income that you have and yet they sanctioned a massive expenditure on a public park for the good of all. Don’t do anything up there that you wouldn’t do in your own garden at home. If you don’t take heed of this appeal you will eventually lose the park and the ability to do the non-aggressive things that it is useful for. Where will you go for a quiet snog on a summer’s evening? Where will you practice pitching your tents and having a sleep-out? Give it a bit of thought, in years to come you will be taking your children up there to the swings, do you want them to be surrounded by squalor? Use your heads!
One last thought about Letcliffe. I was watching a man with a model aeroplane having a good time flying it off the dirt car park. He told me that he was actually breaking the law as it is banned. Is this true? I can’t really think of anywhere more suitable for doing this than Letcliffe or have I missed something here?