Geoffrey Shryhane’s Wigan World

Geoffrey Shryhane
Geoffrey Shryhane

LISTEN, do you want to know a secret? The steeple of Birkett Bank St Catharine’s Church had never stood plumb bob straight since built in 1840.

And in the fullness of time, the steeple would have crashed down.

As the Victorian workmen toiled away erecting the steeple, they realised their building efforts were a tiny bit out.

And over the years, St Catharine’s impressive steeple became known as the Leaning Tower of Wigan.

Of course, today, after a major straightening scheme, the tower stands tall and proud.

But the bottom line was that had it been left to lean, there’s no doubt it would have toppled down.

Not even experts could have estimated when.

In charge of the restoration project was architect Rebecca Grimshaw, daughter of well-known Wigan architect Anthony.

Now Rebecca and the restoration team have received a commendation from the Stone Federation’s Natural Stone Awards in London for their reconstruction the “Leaning Tower of Wigan.”

Rebecca said: “The projected lasted for a year and we were delighted to find stone very near to that used in the original build.

“In the end, the steeple was one and a half metres out of true.

“Completing the job was akin to doing a bit of a complicated jigsaw, although to the untrained eye, it looks as through very little has been done.”

Rebecca added: “The problems with the lean actually started when the steeple was finished and various efforts were made to halt it. Not one worked.”

English National Heritage provided £500,000 to finance the restoration work.

ONE of my claims to fame is that I once worked with Phil Rickman who today is one of this country’s top supernatural, mystery writers.

Phil and his wife Carol both worked on the Wigan Evening Post, but settled in Wales quite a while back, living in a medieval farm.

Mystery writer Phil has penned 21 novels and has readers all over the world. Now the good news for 2015 is that one of his stories is to be filmed for television.

The film is a three-parter of Midwinter of the Spirit in which Merrily Watkins is appointed Dioscine Exorcist for Hereford and gets involved in a murder investigation with aspects of the paranormal.

The author is more than pleased that filming will be in both around Manchester and Wales and will start sooner rather than later this year.

The films are being made by ITV Studios for the new ITV Encore channel.

The programmes are a pilot for what could become a long-running series.

Phil told Wigan World: “The stories have been optioned by ITV.

“Its good to see that something is finally going ahead. I’m delighted.”

WHEN I told a mate that I save my loose change in a little dish at the bottom of the stairs, he gave me a sideways look and quipped: “Isn’t it time you got a life?”

Well perhaps it is or perhaps it isn’t.

We seniors wallow in our comforting little routines. We’re reassured at being set in our ways.

With some it’s waiting until 11 o’clock – coffee time – before opening the morning paper. Or polish their shoes every Friday night. Or only using red ink in that special fountain pen.

Anyway, back to the money in the little dish.

I emptied the coins into a polythene bag – honestly, I did. Then took myself off to the supermarket to put the coins into the machine to get a note refund. Or use the receipt against the shopping.

I tell you – this story is getting more exciting with every line. Approaching the supermarket jauntily swinging my bag of hundreds of coins, it happened.

Yes, that’s it. The bag burst and the coins flew everywhere. What a shame. I can hear myself now saying: “Oh dear. My goodness me.”

I had the utmost difficulty picking up the coins because I’d sheared my nails the previous day. But a Good Samaritan came in the shape of a young man from Eastern Europe – a baker who wants to go into computers - who picked up every coin.

My faith in human nature was renewed. Meanwhile I’m concentrating on getting a life.