Charles Graham - Much to look forward to after a year of change

Ian McKellen was back in Wigan
Ian McKellen was back in Wigan

I think 2019 will go down as a comings and goings sort of year for Wigan.

While Brexit dominated the national headlines from beginning to end while our cricketers and rugby union players enjoyed differing fortunes in World Cup finals, here in the borough our headlines were more about saying farewell or welcome to people and institutions.

It was all change in the hot seats at Wigan Council and the hospital trust while Prince Charles made his first ever official visit to the town, dropping in to see the Old Courts, the Uncle Joe’s factory and the Little Theatre.

Meanwhile Sir Ian McKellen, who very much considers himself a Wiganer having been raised here, was back again this time with his 80th birthday one-man show.

We bade a sad goodbye to the town centre’s Marks and Spencer store, thus ending an association lasting more than a century, and there was more despair as Sports Direct shut down its huge Martland Park depot, losing 300 jobs in the process.

Haigh Hall is back to being an empty relic after the experiment of turning it into a hotel ended with the tenants’ being evicted for not fulfilling contract obligations. Campaigners were delighted but one hopes that a plan B can now be brought swiftly into action.

We won’t be welcoming back convicted killers to the borough as their licences prohibit it, but both Darrens Pilkington and Ashurst are now free men again.

While in darker areas we also must reflect on some particularly frightening incidents involving arson and firearms in Bryn and Bickershaw which, happily of late, appear to have died down.

On a more optimistic note there are hopes that the defunct UTC on Parson’s Walk can become a university annexe and this year should see the rebirth of the Wigan Pier buildings as a new entertainment hub.

So plenty to look forward to. May I wish all our readers the happiest of new years.