Wigan author takes readers on nostalgic trip through time

Retired engineer Alan Irving has penned Hands Up If You Lived In A Council House, covering his upbringing in Wigan and his career.

Friday, 4th September 2020, 12:30 pm
Retired engineer Alan Irving with his book

Alan's book includes a witty account of his childhood on an estate in Hindley before going on to talk about his marriage and his time working in the UK and abroad.

The book’s sections covering Alan growing up in the borough are sure to strike a chord with many Wiganers who grew up at the same time when life was very different to how it is now.

Alan, 66, originally started sketching out some of his memories while on a cruise with his wife Pam after retiring, and the stack of anecdotes steadily grew larger during subsequent similar holidays.

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He managed to get the manuscript of Hands Up If You Lived In A Council House finished during lockdown and then, having initially intended just to produce a few paperback copies for family and close friends, got it self-published on Amazon.

Alan, who now lives in Bolton, said: “I started writing down things I did and got up to when I was a child.

“I know nothing about my father’s childhood so I thought it would be good for my son and granddaughter if I wrote about my school days in Hindley.

“I write about things like the coal hole under the stairs with a curtain across it.

“Our parents didn’t want my brother and I playing there so they told us Bogey Sam lived there and he would get us and take us away.

“I also remember going to the circus in Hindley and there was a competition to win a ride on a baby elephant. These kids sat in the centre of the circus ring on a chair with a bucket of water at the side.

“There was a brush and a metal doll and you had to wash this doll.

“The kids that could do it longest won the free ride.

“The catch was that the brush was connected to electricity, so every time you touched it you got a shock. I twigged early on that the secret was not to put too much water on the brush. In those days electrocuting kids was quite acceptable.

“I think anyone who was brought up on a council estate, particularly round the North West, will be able to relate to lots of things in there. There’s things about treacle toffee and going round collecting wood for bonfires.

“I’ve been getting some good feedback, people have told me it made them laugh and at times made them sad.”

Alan was educated at All Saints Primary School and Hindley and Abram Grammar School before becoming an apprentice at The Metal Box Company in Westhoughton.

That was the start of an association of more than 40 years with the firm, with Alan finishing his career as the operations director for the food division for the UK.

His time with the company including a stint living in the capital city of Hungary, Budapest, after the Westhoughton factory closed.

Alan says Hands Up If You Lived In A Council House is not a book about his work, but contains a number of anecdotes that have happened to him throughout the course of his life.

He said: “I remember as a young lad at work the foreman said there were 10 little words and if I worked to them I would do well.

“They were: ‘If it is to be, it is up to me’. That means, don’t rely on anybody else, work hard and hopefully you will get the reward. I did that and I managed to retire and travel the world.

”The book only goes up to me finishing work but there’s quite a bit about holidays and travel in it.”

Since retiring Alan’s adventures have included he and Pam spending several years touring Europe in a motorhome.

He says he is also not ruling out penning a second book.

Hands Up If You Lived In A Council House, by Alan Irving, is available now to download for Kindle or as a paperback from Amazon.