Geoffrey Shryhane’s musings and memories...
I was on my third cup of coffee when the news flashed onto the TV... a General Election on for June 8. A surprise or what? I was a little miffed because the PM had stated that she wouldn’t call a snap election. But we all have the option of changing our minds.
Things will remain the same in our Labour-stronghold, despite some thinking it’s time for a change. And times are changing. Look at the figures. Former MPs Alan Fitch and Roger Stott polled more than 30,000 and 34,000 votes,
In the 2015 election, current MP Lisa Nandy pulled in 23,625 votes.
Next year, Wigan will have been in Labour hands for a century. I come from solid Labour stock and believe that my dear old dad would have voted for a donkey if it had a Socialist tag. My dear old mother used to sing a rhyme. It went something like this : “Vote, vote, vote for Mr such and such a body (Labour). He is sure to win the day. We’ll get a salmon tin and we’ll put the Tory in and we’ll never see the Tory any more.”
Never a political animal, I’ve voted every which way over the years.
Our first MP back in 1295 was William le Teinterer. In those early days Wigan, on occasions, had two MPs. At another time, the town didn’t have a member in Parliament.
Wigan front bench MPs of note: The Hon Algernon Egerton, who was parliamentary secretary to the Admiralty.
Alan Fitch was Vice Chamberlain of the House, and was a mid-level whip in the Wilson administration.
Roger Stott was a long-time joint Chairman of the Council for the Advancement of Arab-British and Parliamentary Private Secretary to Prime Minister James Callaghan.
The last MP holding the Wigan seat for the Conservatives was Ronald James Neville just short of 100 years ago.
Looking at the polling figures over the last few decades, MP Alan Fitch polled 30,664 votes and then later MP Roger Stott pulled in 34,910.
What excellent news. It’s on the cards that we are to have a statue honouring the tens of thousands of miners who made Wigan great.
The pitmen – and my dad (Mossley Common and Bold Collieries) was one of them – kept the country going. Our town is what it is today thanks to King Coal.
Sadly coal had its day. The mines closed and the coal industry died a long and lingering death.
The last local pit closed around 30 years ago and the legacy slipped into the history books. It’s going to be a marathon for the Wigan History and Mining Monument organisation who are now faced with the not-all-that-easy task of raising £100,000.
And the group will work long and hard deciding on the style of the statue, its creation and final resting place.
Some folks may have forgotten that we already have a mining monument – the pit winding gear wheel which now adorns the side wall of Wigan College.
Wrong place. It needs to be where it falls into silhouette with the changing light.
It’s early days and it’s good that locals will have their say at a public launch at The Swinley (formerly Swinley Labour Club opposite the Bowling Green pub on Wigan Lane) at 7.30pm on April 28.
Tickets are £7 and there’s live music. Further details from Sheila Ramsdale (Chairman) on 01942-244309.
Queens Hall, the handsome church standing tall and square on Market Street, had a rocky start. A very rocky start.
In the early part of the last century, the church was formed with an open door policy to help those unfortunates who’d fallen by the wayside.
A report in this newspaper said: “The converts number some of the most notorious drunkards in the town.
“An expert Christian worker, with full knowledge of the facts, has described this as ‘a mission to drunkards’.
“A vigorous mothers’ meeting is doing splendid work amongst poor women, children who are cared for by the Sunday School Band of Hope and Children’s Lantern Mission.
“By song, speech and flowers they bring a little brightness into many darkened hearts and homes.
“It is true that open-air meetings, cottage services, lodging-house meeting, band marches and processions have all contributed to the success of this Mission.
“The work carried in such a short time is remarkable.
“At least 20 meetings are held each week.
“In the near future it is hoped the church will tackle the problem of unemployment.”
I’m amazed. And I bet you’ll have a sudden intake of surprised breath when I tell you that jigsaws, of all things, are making a big comeback.
Admittedly, I’ve still never finished that 25-piece jigsaw of a forest in Bavaria. Just can’t make the pieces fit together.
But the office of national statistics says that jigsaws as well as gin are now being used to help calculate inflation prices.
In fact, gin has made its way back to the inflation basket for the first time in a dozen years.
Bicycle helmets are also back … thanks to the increasing popularity of cycling and Bradley Wiggins. Sorry, Sir Bradley.
The shops are selling more soya, almond and oat milk and that reflects the increasing popularity of vegan-influenced diets.
Children’s scooters have replaced swings. And menthol cigarettes, which are being banned across the EU from 2020, have dropped out of the inflation basket altogether.
So what other things are new in the basket?
Four-can packs of cider, flavoured bottles of water, and cough mixture.
Out: Mobile phones (we are switching to smart phones), single drainer sinks, and the fees for stopping cheques.
The Finch family is in the news again. For years, it was the father, Brian, who made the headlines with his television writing success over 30 years.
But now one of his daughters has hit the heights in a very different field.
Mother Margaret tells My World that Charlotte, now 42, from Carnoustie in Scotland, was the first female home and fourth overall in the recent Glasgow-Edinburgh 55-mile face with a time of seven hours, 42 minutes.
And Charlotte, born and bred in Wigan, admitted, that she ran the race whilst “not feeling in full fitness.”
Charlotte, who is head of the Guide Dogs Training School in Forfar, began running about 12 years ago in a bid to get fit having hit 30 and given up sports due to work commitments.
A former pupil at St Peter’s in Orrell, Winstanley, and Durham and Cambridge Universities, Charlotte initially worked in the world of children with special needs. Promotion came quickly. Then along with a friend she was a partner in a restaurant.
The guide dogs position came along and Charlotte was delighted to get the job.
She is now one of the Guide Dogs for the Blind top officials. Money raised on the run went to them.
Said Margaret: “Running is her life. She has a job she adores and a hobby she loves. She’s very lucky and I’m very proud of her.”