Geoffrey Shryhane’s Wigan World

Geoffrey Shryhane
Geoffrey Shryhane

OH dear. I’m grovellingly sorry to have to tell you that it is about 90 days to Christmas.

That news will have some Wigan World readers having to have a serious lie down. In fact, I feel a bit dizzy myself.

And believe me, you’ll be receiving festive cards and cooking those four-in-box turkey burgers before you can say a festive “hell’s bells”.

Despite the fact we’re having a bit of an Indian summer of sunny warm days, festive fingers are casting distinct shadows.

Those little catalogues with lots of over-priced items nobody really wants are plopping through the letter box. Hotels are entreating folks to make early festive bookings, the cards are in the shops.

The season of peace and good-will is a many-edged sword. Great for the kiddies and young folks but a vast amount of work for others.

But looking back, I remember that Christmas was always a big let down.

The build-up to Christmas Day was, to me, far better than the day itself. Those letters to Father Christmas (when I was 18), unfurling those streaming, highly-coloured decorations and pinning up the festive cards.

One wage coming in, four kiddies. Money was always in short supply and I could never understand why the other kids’ families were having a giant turkey for Christmas dinner whilst we were having “a nice piece of pork”. And no Christmas cake – just a sickly chocolate log.

It didn’t seem right.

For me as a kid, the magic of the big festive day was not as exciting as those warm feelings of anticipation on Christmas Eve knowing presents had been wrapped and hidden away. And yes, I did drag a chair to clamber up to see if the presents were atop the wardrobe. And they were.

There’d be a trip to the market for tinsel and treats – a box of biscuits, a bottle of sweet sherry, little crackers and one cigar for dad.

All a long time ago but the memories still linger.

THE marking of the war to end all wars has thrown up heroes whose names had, until now, been consigned to the military history books.

We know that Wigan had three Victoria Cross holders. Their stories have been told more than once in Wigan World.

But now I can reveal that Wigan had not THREE but FOUR Victoria Cross heroes.

We know about soldiers Grimshaw, Keneally and Woodcock. But what about Pt. Alfred Wilkinson, who was born in Leigh, returned from war to work at Bickershaw Colliery.

Alfred served with the 5th Manchester Regiment and was awarded the VC for outstanding bravery in the taking of Marou in France a month before the war ended.

Pt Wilkinson volunteered to deliver a message despite having four of his comrades killed in attempting the task. He, like his fallen pals, was exposed to heavy fire as he ran ducking and diving across 600 yards of no-man’s-land. Thankfully Alfred was successful.

After the war he resumed working at Bickershaw Pit and died of mine gas poisoning in 1940 at the age of 49. Wigan’s four VC holders are to have local streets named after them, thanks to Wigan Council. Quite right too.

Don’t miss the exhibition of First World War documents and artefacts at Wigan Museum of Life at the bottom of Library Street.

It’s superb in a sad kind of way.

EVER wondered how a phrase is born?

Ladies from Ince and Aspull are always phoning Wigan World asking for help. “We’re that moidered we can’t sleep,” they say. And I believe them.

Last week, one rang saying she was going to see “The Full Monty” at Manchester Palace and wanted to know where the name originated.

Time to investigate. But in the end, it seems there’s not one definitive answer.

The one that seems most plausible involves Burton’s the tailors. Sadly the Wigan store has now closed its doors.

But years and years ago – when we old people were young – the owner of Burton’s was one Mr Montague Burton. Those able to afford a regular two-piece suit were in the majority. But a few bought a three piece suit with an extra pair of trousers.

And this became known as the full monty. Another theory is that wartime leader Montgomery had such an enormous breakfast it became known as “The Full Monty”.

Any other suggestions, let me know my emailing g.shryhane@btinternet.com

FOLLOW GEOFF ON TWITTER @WiganWorldGeoff