Our columnist Geoffrey Shryhane with his latest memories and musings...
Now this is a bit of a conundrum...just what do you do with unwanted Chirstmas presents?
You know how it is – on the festive morning, you carefully remove the glittery paper (or rip it off) and say (warmly): “Well, this is just what I wanted.”
In fact, you didn’t want the complete works of J.R R Tolkien, but a subscription to the National Geographic. Or the Beano. Suit yourselves.
Then there’s the bottles of booze snugly resting in those big sausage shaped bags with handles. Sometimes I’m sure the bag costs more than the wine it holds.
Bought with care and love, the £2.99 Chardonnay is a Christmas lunch must.
And there’s extra delight at the realisation that auntie has bought not one but two bottles. And yes, it will take some supping.
I might have put on a pound or two over the years, but the jumper among my presents would fit an elephant.
And I’m not all that fond of lime. Too acid.
I wonder how many presents opened with enthusiastic thanks soon end up at the back of the cupboard? The bread maker, the spluttering and spitting coffee machine, the nostalgic whistling kettle.
And what about vouchers. Like me, do you dither with delight when one for those well-known store vouchers pops out of the merry envelope. What will a fiver buy...well the mind boggles.
Where will all the unwanted gifts end up? The mind boggles again. Perhaps they’ll arrive around Easter at the charity shop. Or left to fester, half forgotten at the back of the drawer.
Truth is that probably most people got just what they wanted for Christmas. And I can report with some certainty that they were truly and festively thrilled.
In a little cafe on the outskirts of Wigan, a pile of new books with the invitation to “Please take one.”
The book was The Billingers by Richard Donal Lewis which first appeared 1976 and has twice been reprinted.
It’s an excellent history of Billinge, with fascinating stories and photoghraphs of people and places of yesteryear.
But of particular interest were some examples of dialect. Here are some for your new year entertainment.
Jack says to Bill: “How dust spell wottle? Heh dust use it in a sentence?”
Bill: “Wot yer saying?”
Jack: “Av you a knife wottle cut this string?”
Bill: “Lad it’s not ‘wottle’ it’s “uzzle.”
Poss (Purse); Comm (Comb), Chonge (Change), Bally (Belly), Hommer (hammer), Mardi (Softie).
Lap up (Wrap up) Coddin’ (Kidding), Afoor (Before),
Scrwpin,(Scraping a living), Favver as if (look like).
It must now be obvious that some of the words used by the good folk of Billinge were unique and not found in general dialect lists.
Here are some more.
“That pie was takle” meaning tasty.
But: “Watch that man, he’s tackle” - meant “He’s a rum un.”
Folks will know by now – and be saddened by the death of one of the town’s best known men.
Without doubt, the Market Hall will never be the same without the ever-smiling and always friendly Frank Ryding. From a local point of view, the newsagent deserved a medal for his newspaper services to Wiganers.
He was a grand chap who never lost that special ability to make his customers feel special. His death at 82 came as a shock to so many.
I penned an article on him to mark his 80th birthday and he was, as you expect, a gold mine of information about the industry.
His family assisted him in running the business, but it was Frank who was at the Market Hall before 6am six days a week to sort out mountains of newly printed newspapers and magazines.
“I enjoy it,” he said. “Getting up early is part of my life.”
ndeed he saw the Wigan streets before they were aired.
Frank originally worked for the newsagent Sid Smith, but then went it alone and set up his own business. He admitted that selling newspapers was his life.
The arrival of news on the internet didn’t affect the sales at Ryding’s. The family also ran the card stall next door.
A trader of the old school, Frank was a man with a total likeability factor whose customers were his friends.
High tributes were paid at his funeral at St John’s Church, Standishgate, and were more than well deserved.
Goodbye Frank, it was good to know you.
Ethel and Doris, friends and neighbours for half a century and more, were in total agreement. The festive season was too much hard work.
“I used to ‘andle it easy” said Doris, her bony fingers straightening out imaginary creases in her pinny. “Now get to Boxin’ Day, I’m powfagged. Wor about you Ethel?”
Ethel’s lip tightened and she paused before answering.
“Well cock, I’m proper shattered. But I blames ‘im. He never lifted a finger. Just kept sayin’ he could do it wi one arm tied beind ‘is back.”
Doris responsed: “Ooooooooo.”
The ladies – who were partaking of a couple of left over festive bottles of milk stout – turned the talk to presents.
Doris: “Did ‘e buy you out.”
Ethel: “Aye. I towd ‘im I’d like some new curlers so wot did ‘e get me? A pair of them gloves from’t Pound Shop and a jar of pickled walnuts. Excitin’ or wot?”
Doris: “And wot did you get ‘im?”
Ethel: “Nowt. Well I sez nowt I gid ‘im a fiver fir some cigs.”
Then it was time to give festive praise to their friends... and the general agreement was that they were a lot of mean buggers.
One by one they named those who had failed to send Christmas cards.
Doris: “How many did you send?”
Ethel: “Well to be truthful, none. I’m givin’t money to charity.”
Ethel: “I’m still decidin’ … I think it might be fir them plastic childer.”
A shocking shooting took place in Scholes through the incautious use of firearms. So told a report in this newspaper in 1884.
A lad aged 11 named Thomas Green of Lowe’s Square entered the clogger’s shop of Daniel Lees to exchange some clog irons.
While he was there, Lees’ son, aged 13, who had been playing with a revolver entered the shop and fired at the deceased.
The bullet entered through the back and came out by the ear, and though he was attended by doctors, he died the same night.
It seemed that only the barrel of the revolver, which had been obtained during the Fenian disturbances, was loaded and that Lees’ son did not notice this.
Earlier he had been playing with the gun and firing at a cap near him and he unluckily discharged at the youth with the loaded chamber.
Sarah Lees, daughter, said she knew the revolver was kept in an open bag behind the counter. After the incident she said the young man began to cry.
Green bled freely from a wound in his head.
She said she knew the revolver was loaded but her brother did not. It seemed the boy had acquired the gun after his father chastised him for firing at caps.
The Coroner attached blame to the person who had left the loaded gun in the bag.
A verdict of death by misadventure was recorded.