Geoffrey Shryhane’s Wigan World

Geoffrey Shryhane
Geoffrey Shryhane

WITHOUT doubt November 5 went with a big bang. Driving over to Manchester it was a treat to see so many bursts of light in the sky. A great free light show.

But ...

It never fails to puzzle me that despite health and safety the good folks of this country are allowed to buy explosives and light giant bonfires a couple of feet from their homes.

And nobody cares a jot.

Had there been any proper sense, bonfire night would have been banned decades ago.

But no ... tradition rules and kids and adults suffer burns and domestic animals, wild animals, and farm animals are frightened out of their wits. Seems totally crazy to me. Now the years have whizzed by as fast as one of those rockets that light up the sky.

It true to say that bonfire night is, by and large, safer than when I wuz a kid.

Come early October, we were out looking for wood and burnable rubbish, always attempting to have the biggest bommie in the area.

Sometimes rival gangs would steal each others’ fire material. Or set fire to it.

It always took ages to make the Guy, stuffing old clothes from far and near with newspaper. Special attention was always paid to the head.

Alas, Guy-making seems to be a lost art.

Last week, outside a Wigan petrol station, three squabbling lads asked for money for a pathetic teddy bear.

In those good old days, organised community bonfires were rare, and it was left to the dads and the older lads to light the fire. Generally safety-rules were non-existent and most lads carried their fireworks in their pockets.

Despite the dangers, the bonfire night had a magic all of its own ... little kids with sparklers, snow showers and spinning wheels and rockets lifting off from milk bottles.

Lads loved setting off Jack Jumpers – and boy, did the girls scream.

These out of controlled jumpers are now banned.

Many years ago, tragedy came to Whelley when one little lad suffered a serious bonfire night injury, resulting in him having his hand amputated.

IT’S a new world. Truth is lots of folks don’t like it much.

As one Wigan World reader says in a long diatribe: “Life’s not been the same since the Pac-a-Mac went out of fashion.”

And yes I have to admit I had one – in glorious translucent brown. It was the last word in style! (For those out of the loop it was a plastic rain raincoat).

So what does our green-ink correspondent long for? Read on.

He misses the “Pink” sporting newspaper which came out on Saturday. And before that the “Green”.

He writes: “I know I live in the past, but it seems to be that the local scene now lacks atmosphere.

“I don’t know when I last saw washing flapping on a line, or attendants at petrol pumps.

“And why the heck did they take clippies off our buses, meaning the driver has to do two jobs?

“I miss the Wigan dialect. I miss those funny mill girls in the street in their curlers before a good night out. I miss those great old Coronation Street characters, Ena, Minnie and Martha who were totally real, and I would like to see the TV comedy Bootsie and Snudge rerun.

“I miss seeing lads playing marbles in the street and girls using coloured chalks to mark out their ‘hop scotch’ flags.

“I miss the tea stall in Wigan Woolworths, eggs on toast in Lowe’s Cafe and the sound of the roar from Central Park.”

All cries for a lost world. What do you miss? Drop me a line at or here at the Wigan Observer, Martland Mill Lane, Wigan.

EVEN when Wigan’s Avril Fishwick left her hometown to live in posh Bowdon in Cheshire, many still regarded her as Wigan’s First Lady.

For much of her life, she immersed herself in a host of good causes and when made a Deputy Lord Lieutenant her task was to welcome royalty. The perfect person for the job.

News that Avril has died at the age of 90 – a long life and a good life - will have saddened and gladdened many local people. Sad at the loss of a great lady and glad that she had such a fulfilling life.

Avril, daughter of Wigan solicitor Frank Platt, met her to-be husband Tom at university where both gained top law degrees. They married, had two daughters and for many years lived at Haighlands in the Plantations.

Leaving behind the law, Avirl was in great demand - and her charities were listed in last week’s edition of this newspaper.

She earned the love and respect of thousands of Wiganers and there was sadness when, following Tom’s death, she announced she was resettling in Cheshire.

By her own admission, the settling processes wasn’t easy – and she returned to Wigan at every opportunity. The Observer remained an important part of her life.

Avril gained great satisfaction from her charity work – and one of her highest profile jobs was leading the appeal for an MRI scanner for Wigan Infirmary. High tributes were paid to her at her funeral yesterday at St Mary’s Church not far from her home. She had been cremated earlier.