Grand finale to Wigan pensioners' book series

Joan, Mary and Joannie
Joan, Mary and Joannie

A trio of pen-wielding pensioners are preparing to bring their successful series of children’s books to a close - for now at least.

Joan Brickley, Mary Gonzalez and Joannie Preston have decided The Wiggin Town That Was, which incredibly is the 25th story of its type they have published, will be the last.

However, the group from Ashton are far from bidding farewell to writing, with Joan and Mary already working on their own series of books for youngsters called Flip Flop and Izzy Beaver respectively.

They have also not ruled out further That Was adventures, but say they need to have a break to explore other projects first.

Appropriately the series end in the authors’ home borough with the characters being transported back to medieval times and looking at the market and lives of Wiganers hundreds of years ago.

Joan, 78, said: “This is definitely going to be the last one, or at least we’re saying so!

“The Wiggin Town That Was is set around the 1300s, so we’ve used the old-fashioned spelling of the town in the title. It looks at how the market began and what it was like in medieval times.

“One of the main characters is a great-gran who is always getting into trouble and mischief. She’s a bit like us, actually!

“We may go back to That Was in the future but it will be when we’ve had a break. It’s nice to have a change.”

The 25 books in the series have explored a huge range of historical time periods as they revolve around two characters going back in time with the help of a magic doll.

The three authors have also regularly delved into local history, with books based on aspects of the past in Wigan and in several parts of Liverpool and Merseyside where they were raised.

The series has achieved some success, with schools using the books to engage young pupils in history and the authors getting to do a number of signings.

Joan is now preparing a lavish memory book with all their press cuttings and photos of literary events and says she looks back proudly on what they have achieved.

She said: “It’s amazing how much we have done. When we started with our first book it was a hobby rather than anything serious and it just built up over the years.

“A lot of local people like the books and buy them for their grandchildren because they enjoy looking back at the different times in history.”

Both Joan and Mary are still working hard at their writing desks with new stories for young readers.

Joan is penning a series of adventures about a rabbit called the Flip Flop series, which is all based on tales she used to tell her granddaughter.

Mary, meanwhile, is teaching young readers about the importance of caring for the environment and cherishing Wigan’s wildlife and green spaces with her Izzy Beaver books.

The scrapes and activities of a group of animals, including the beaver of the title, a hedgehog and a squirrel, all take place on Brocstedes Field in Ashton and other local wildlife havens such as the Three Sisters, Viridor Wood and Pennington Flash in Leigh.

Mary says she was inspired to write them while taking a walk in the field near her home and has developed a close link with the primary school which is next to the open land.

For more information about The Wiggin Town That Was, visit

Information about Joan’s books can be found at while Mary’s writing can be discovered online at