Geoffrey Shryhane’s Wigan World

Geoffrey Shryhane
Geoffrey Shryhane

DURING an interview last week, the name of a great Wigan character came up.

And suddenly, memories of Billy Davies came flooding back. Who was Billy? Well he was probably the first openly gay man in the town.

Billy was a great character. A card. He didn’t care what people thought of him. Folks had to take him as he was.

Camp as Christmas, in his young days Billy lived off Chapel Lane and rumour has it that when his dad realised his son was “different” he tried to beat it out of him.

As Wigan history records, he failed. Spectacularly.

For years, Billy was an usher at Wigan’s Ritz Cinema (ABC) on Station Road, and was particularly keen that patrons should not put finger marks on the polished glass doors.

Billy was no softie – and if he thought a person looked unsuitable, he would send them packing. “We’re not having Teddy boys in ‘ere.”

Folks said Billy, who, like Roy in Coronation Street, carried a shopping basket over his arm, wore a dab or two of make-up. And did he wear a wig? Who knows.

Billy later took up residence in a multi-storey flat near Warrington Lane.

Folks who visited said his home was the last word in good taste and cleanliness. Excessively house-proud, they said.

I used to see Billy entertaining the lunch-time tipplers in the Menorca.

He had a vast catalogue of stories and every one would end in mirth, with cries of: “Oh Billy. You are a one.”

Billy spent his last years in a care home. When he died the staff were the mourners at his funeral.

As folks said ... what a card.

TOO many to keep, a shame to throw them away.

This week’s Wigan World competition is for a couple of hundred theatre programmes of productions at Manchester Palace and Opera House and the Lowry.

For a reason I can’t explain, began to save the programmes seven years ago and as you can imagine, seeing around 30 professional shows a year, they’ve built up and built up.

They tell a varied story of serious theatre, comedy, opera, ballet, and pantomime. And they weigh a ton.

Dear things these days are theatre programmes, but as a reviewer I’m given one to help write my report. I reckon they’d be a great read for any theatre lover.

Now these little booklets of information are looking for a new home. And that’s why it’s competition time.

Question: Name the theatres in Manchester and Salford?

Answers on a postcard or the back of a sealed envelope to Geoffrey Shryhane, Wigan World Desk, Wigan Observer, Martland Mill Lane, Wigan. WN5 0LX.

YEARS and years ago, a TV advert asked: “Another cold of is it ‘flu?” and it went on to encourage those afflicted to buy their cure-all.

I asked myself the same question as I staggered to bed a couple of weeks ago. I was, as they say, laid low. Very low.

But harking back to the TV ad, I asked myself: “A bad cold ... ‘flu...or pneumonia?”

I’m somewhat obsessed with pneumonia since it claimed Mrs S in 2007. She had all the symptoms of ‘flu which turned out to be community-acquired pneumonia which is far more common than people believe. It killed her.

Anyway, feeling like an unmade bed in an unmade bed, I struggled on, feeling like my throat was being wrenched by fish hooks and my breathing sounded akin to millions of little pebbles doing the conga in my lungs. Not funny.

After three days, phoned the doctor who asked all the right questions, said I had a virus doing the rounds and it would last a fortnight.

Better now, I’ve read up on colds and influenza and pneumonia.

And the fact emerges that often people who do have pneumonia wait until it’s too late before they seek medical help.

It’s another area of life where you just can’t be too careful.