Geoffrey Shryhane’s Wigan World

Geoffrey Shryhane
Geoffrey Shryhane

APRIL is approaching – and you could be forgiven for thinking this story is an early April fool’s joke. It’s not.

Did you know that a member of the Russian royal family once helped run a family shop right here in Wigan? And when it came to going home, she headed for Dalton?

It almost defies belief. Read on.

The all-powerful Tsars had ruled Russia for centuries and in the end, as they say, the peasants were revolting.

During the 1917 Russian Revolution, Tsar Nicholas II his wife and five children were massacred. Then, to put it mildly, Mr Lenin took over.

Apparently Tsar Nicholas’s brother Prince Oblenski and family (including Princess Maria) were rescued by ship by England’s Queen Alexandra and taken to exile in Paris in 1918. In fact, the British Royal Family had planned to rescue Nicholas and his family but the plan failed.

Now Mr Sidney Ranicar appears on the scene.

He was a sea captain and met Princess Maria Oblenski who was a direct relative of the slain Tsar – either his niece of granddaughter. The two married against her family’s wishes and she went to live in his impressive Dalton home, near Wigan, with her maid.

What happened to the Princess remains a mystery, but there is no doubt that the Ranicar’s ran a textile and millinery shop in the centre of Wigan.

It is said that Mr Ranicar and the Princess had many bee hives and sent the honey to Saudi Arabia where it was used on horses with breathing ailments.

At the moment, little is known of what happened to the Princess, but I recall that the late Molly Isherwood, who married in 1944, had lodgings with husband Gordon above Ranicar’s shop and she spoke of the mysterious Russian princess.

She remembered: “She sometimes came down to the shop, walking about in a gown that touched the floor. She never said very much but I remember she was always smiling.”

IT’S fend for yourself at Asda after 10pm.

Imagine the scene.

It’s two minutes after 10 and the Wigan World shopping trolley is almost full to overflowing. Mind you it’s only one of those shallow ones.

I head for the tills.

Funny, me thinks, there doesn’t seem to be one with an assistant.

Now let me tell you. I like many things in life, and one is the till with a friendly assistant; the lady with the red hair.

Well we always have a laugh and sometimes a bit of a moan. But, like the other assistants, she’s helpful, offers to help me with my packing and asks me what the weather’s like outside.

They are a human face on what I regard as probably the worst job of the week.

Anyway, back to two minutes after 10 as my eyes dart about.

Then I realised there’s something new about the layout of the cash register area.

It’s changed so I remind the Asda lady on duty that the checkouts are deserted.

It’s then the bomb drops ... in the future there won’t be manned tills after 10.

Customers, whether they have done large shops or small, have to put the stuff through themselves.

It’s the new rule you see.

New rule? New rule? Yes it jolly well is.

Well my crest has definitely fallen as I grumble along with several other shocked customers.

Let me say right here and now – I’ve always used the self-service checkouts when I buy a handful of items. But putting through a whole shop seems a bit much. Well a lot much.

I know the answer is go do the shopping earlier. But it isn’t always convenient.

Anyway, I managed. Even fathoming out how the loose bananas are weighed.

The bottom line is this ... most of all I’ll miss the friendly lady with the red hair.