Geoffrey Shryhane’s Wigan World

Geoffrey Shryhane
Geoffrey Shryhane

SHE’S more famous than Billy Boston. And even if you don’t watch Sky TV news, you are more than likely to know of Kay Burley.

A product of Beech Hill, Kay doesn’t only present the news. She makes it.

Just now, the 54-year-old has told the Radio Times that she has 11 television sets in her home in Richmond on the Hill. It’s very posh there.

She was there at the hospital when the new royal baby was carried out.

And her enthusiasm presenting live TV knew no bounds. She certainly gives value for money.

But looking back to the early 70s, high school girl Kay decided it was a journalist’s life for her.

It was during her work experience week at the Observer that she met her future husband, Steve.

I attended their engagement party at Upper Morris Street Workingmen’s club. It was a real good do.

They wed but sadly it didn’t stand the test of time. But she kept Steve’s name.

Back to those 11 televisions.

Kay says she’s one in every room of her home and adds: “I just need to know what’s happening every moment I’m home.”

Kay’s become something of an “A” lister when it comes to show business parties. It’s no show without Wigan’s Kay.

But she’s said that when she has a day off, she likes nothing better than snuggling up in her duvet, her beloved red setters on the bed, drinking a glass of good wine (Kay not the dogs) and watching her favourite films.

The phone, she says, goes unanswered.

There was a “whoops” moment for reporter Kay recently. During an interview with David Cameron, her bra snapped.

And like the trooper she is, she simply carried on.

WIGAN’S biggest ever firm – a company with a world-wide reputation – has slipped into the history books.

Few people today remember Walker Brothers of Wigan.

So today, let’s put Walker Brothers back into the spotlight for a moment or two.

The company was established during the 19th century to supply equipment to the ever-expanding coal mining industry.

Their first premises comprised a small factory off Queen Street set up in 1866 by J S Walker who had been chief draughtsman at Haigh Foundry which made mine steam winding engines and pumps.

Walkers enjoyed rapid expansion, so much so that in 1873, the works – renamed Pagefield Works – moved to a new site west of the town centre.

Throughout the decades the company’s output continued to be dominated by orders from mining companies, and one of their great specialities was in supplying ventilation equipment and high-capacity air compresses which were dispatched world-wide.

After the turn of the century a commercial motor department was formed which produced lorries and buses and even refuse collection vehicles.

The company also developed a range of diesel railcars which sold particularly well in Ireland Peru and Australia.

During the Second World War, many thousands of artillery shells were produced by Walkers together with marine steam engines for both naval and merchant fleets.

The poor trading conditions in the 1930s, together with the ravages of the war years, had taken its toll on the company’s finances and in 1946 the company was acquired by Walmsleys of Bury, which specialised in the manufacture of paper and cardboard manufacturing machinery and was thus able to use Walker’s facilities and skilled workforce.

By 1950 the mining vehicle side of the business had been eliminated and the final closure came in 1983.

A FRIEND of mine – she’s not a close friend any more – said with conviction: “If I had a gun I’d shoot the starlings on my bird table.”

This, of course, begs the question - why do so many so-called bird lovers loathe one of the cheekiest birds in the garden?

This morning there were about 45 bobbing and hurrying over the lawn, pecking the turf and then scooting on. One flies away, they all fly away. But a minute or two later, they’re back. It’s true there’s a bully boy element to these iridescent-feathered flying friends.

The bottom line is that the flocks of starlings which make the garden at No 5 their home seem to have scared off all the other birds.

Yes, a fantastic male

peacock – a true giant male model in the ornithological world – appeared but disappeared when he saw the usual shiny Gestapo flock strutting about making awful noise. Sad to report – no sparrows, no blue tits, not robins, no finches any more.

The starlings have won the battle.

But not wholly. There are still quite a few magpies and rooks, but these are also disliked bullies.

Me? I love ‘em.

Follow Geoffrey on twitter @WiganWorldGeoff