Geoffrey Shryhane’s Wigan World

Geoffrey Shryhane
Geoffrey Shryhane

MANY were delighted that some of Wigan’s great buildings have been officially recognised thanks to Wigan Civic Trust and given “well done” plaques in the name of former Rector Malcolm Forrest.

So today, Wigan World is making its own series of awards – to the biggest eyesores in our town.

The “Orrible Eyesore” medals are already laid out and ready for presentation.

Top of the list are THREE buildings on Wallgate opposite the North West Station. The Victoria Hotel has been empty for some time and this once gracious building is looking a sad mess.

Yesteryear it had one of the finest dining rooms in the town centre, with a silver service restaurant.

In the early part of last century, the Victoria Hotel was a favourite stopping-off point for posh folks, who were able to stable their horses at the rear.

Next door, the old Poole’s pie shop. In its day, the cafe and shop were one of the most popular in Wigan. Get there late and it was impossible to book a table and often the queues for pies stretched ... well at least a mile.

Next door to Poole’s the former carpet shop is empty and falling into dereliction.

The once grand Grand Hotel on Dorning is boarded up – and like the Victoria it had top pop stars in its beds. Buddy Holly was one. The restaurant was excellent and for years, Wigan French Circle met there.

Sad fact is that Wigan Council has spent a fortune improving Wallgate – only to be severely let down by these horrible eyesores.

The two derelict churches in Lower Ince Cemetery – viewed from Westwood Lane – have been in an unhappy state of utter dereliction for many years now. These once fine religious edifices date back to the 1800s and one locals says there hasn’t been a funeral there for over 50s years.

Another blot on our local landscape – Grimes Arcade which linked King Street with Library Street. Years pass and nothing improves there.

And soon to be award an eyesore medal is the former arts facility Drumcroon on Parson’s Walk. This once fine residential building deteriorates more and more with every passing month.

THE years have gone by but I reckon that, on occasions, there’s still a bit of a nip in my pen.

Not long ago, chatting to a reader in the town centre, he asked me to write about some of the unusual stories I’ve scribbled over the years.

And in an instant, an old lady from Ince – and her beloved ancient budge Joey – came to mind. A local councillor suggested that the old bird and her old bird would make a bit of a story.

And boy a great story it turned out to be.

The grand old lady was deaf as a post and her budgie was totally bald. Well, perhaps a feather here and a feather there.

I trotted along and the kettle was on before I even got through the door. And there, in the corner, the featherless bird on top of his cage and chirping like a good ‘un.

I swear he whistled: “It’s ‘im from’t Observer. Gerr out.” But I couldn’t be sure.

First question – to the lady, not the budgie – was: “Does he eat well.”

She replied: “Oh yes, but it’s the whiskey that’s keeping him going. Me too.”

Turns out that twice a day, using a pipette, she gave Joey two drops of the hard stuff.

“If he doesn’t get it, he flies about making a heck of a skwarking racket.” she said.

“Alcoholic budgie” came to mind. But I didn’t say anything. Anyway, photos of Joey having his fix were taken and folks talked about Joey for months.

The drunken budgie from Ince even made it into the Daily Mirror.

What a great story.

NOW here’s a question. God willing, what will happen on September 10 next year?

That question thrown into my court, I’d ponder, scratch my chin and throw in the towel and not mention a big birthday I’d prefer to forget.

So what’s the answer?

On September 10 the Queen will become the longest serving monarch in British history beating Queen Victoria’s unique record.

For monarchy-supporting Wigan World readers, this will be a great day. All are invited to attend a free 12-course dinner at Haigh Hall at the taxpayers’ expense. Little leg pull there.

Next year Her Majesty will be 89 and I’d certainly take a bet on her beating Victoria reigning record.

Another fact: If the Queen lives to 98 years and 36 days she’ll be the longest reigning female monarch of a major European country. I reckon she will.

Well done girl.

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