Geoffrey Shryhane’s Wigan World

Geoffrey Shryhane
Geoffrey Shryhane
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THE heart-breaking images of flooding in the south should make us all feel fortunate that, by and large, we have escaped the terrible torrents.

Some of those homes have been flooded since just after Christmas.

Watching the TV news film of the chaos, my mind went back to a particular Saturday morning of March 22, 1987, when “the big flood” quite literally took a private estate at Appley Bridge by storm.

Even now, more than a quarter of a century later, the images I saw on that disastrous morning at Millbank remain vivid and shocking.

After a mind-numbing amount of rain, the brook which ran under the estate became blocked with tree branches and began to dramatically overflow.

As the hours went by, the flood water invaded homes – some up to the bedroom floors. Cars floated. Attempting to rescue possessions from the water had proved almost impossible.

Throughout that dark night, all the residents of Millbank could only look on in disbelief as the rescue services did all they could against the enormous forces of nature.

Come morning, the water had drained away, leaving a scene of devastation. The houses at the bottom of the cul-de-sac came off worst.

The culvert flowed in the open before going under the estate, and bars have been erected at the culvert entrance to stop children going inside in dry weather.

Some say that safety measure might have prevented the flooding. Others say that the one-in-75 years rainfall would have still resulted in flooding.

The midnight news was the first to break the story that the Millbank Estate was flooded.

The next morning, as word of the catastrophe spread, hundreds turned up to see the havoc wreaked by the water and the concert of most utterly horrified and stunned residents was: “Could it happen again?”

A temporary culvert solution was put in place, but it took years before the Calico Brook Flood Risk Management Scheme was finalised.

IT had been a fine afternoon in Manchester. True it rained, but what the heck.

But the journey back on the good old M62 spoiled the delights of the day.

Just after Salford, traffic slowed to a stop. Then a crawl. Then a stop. And so it went on for over half an hour.

An accident? Well what was I complaining and pulling out my hair for when somebody just a few miles down the motorway may have been killed or seriously injured. Life demolishing stuff.

Around six hours later (or so it seemed) there were indication that the traffic in lanes two and three would all have to melt onto lane one.

Another day went by and finally the single queue materialised, and finally we crept passed a mile or two of cones connected with the road works.

But at the end of this frustrating experience, no work was being carried out on the cordoned off highway whch had resulted in all the frustration.

Had people been going to the airport, they’d certainly have missed their flights.

And all for what?

Nothing as far as I can see. Complaining is, of course, futile.

A FEW days ago I said goodbye to a dear old friend of 93.

Les Geldart of Shevington passed away after a full life in which, with his wife Monica, he brought up children, and saw his grand children grow into successful adults.

Every Christmas morning, it was our custom to have a festive drink and he was a familiar figure in the district. Not long ago I last saw him in Wigan Market Hall buying his favourite sweets.

This war veteran was one of the most optimistic and warm-hearted of people, but hated ostentation or anything that smelled of showing off. At the end he was tired and went to the big sleep without fuss or bother.

As we made our way to grave in a storm of biblical proportions, I thought how the traditional wooden casket with his shiny carrying handles and the plate with his name were totally appropriate for a dignified gentleman such as Les.

I wonder what he would have thought of the cardboard box decorated with flowers which appeared in Coronation Street a couple of weeks ago?

I suspect – I know – he’d have said: “Well Geoffrey, each to his own but not for me.”

Rest in Peace Les.