Stunning film from the Edwardian days

Geoffrey Shryhane takes his weekly stroll down memory lane...

Wednesday, 8th March 2017, 12:36 pm
Updated Friday, 24th March 2017, 11:02 am
Geoffrey Shryhane

Because our Queen (God love her) has reigned for so long, folks born after 1953 have never known the thrill of a Coronation.

In fact, when the present Queen was crowned, there were moves to ban the television cameras in the abbey. One toff said if shown on TV, the ceremony might be watched by men in pubs wearing flat caps.

A load of nonsense of course and on that rainy day in June live coverage of the long, long service was shown on TV. Alas not that many folks had sets in those days.

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I’ve always been a bit of a royal watcher and it’s the total continuity that intrigues me most.

There was much mourning in 1901 when Queen Victoria went to her big royal sleep.

But a year later, her son was crowned amid much enthusiasm and flag waving.

Anyway, trawling through some computer YouTube stuff the other day, I was more than chuffed – and chuffed in a big way – to find eight minutes of Wigan film showing the Royal celebrations in 1902.

The black and white treat was shot by famous film-makers Mitchell and Kenyon and showed the celebration march.

The camera had been set up at the top of King Street, and the buildings in the background are just the same today.

Initially, people in bowlers and flat caps, long dresses and shawls are seen milling about. They are waiting for the procession hoping that the weather won’t rain on their parade.

It didn’t.

The film progresses with lots of horse-drawn carriages, soldiers, the mayor and council members, about 200 chaps wearing top hats, and then the general public. A dog also makes his excited presence felt.

The vastly varied fashions of the day are obvious, and the men’s flat caps are much bigger than those I recall in the 1950s. White mufflers are also worn.

Also on the film, the great and the good pouring out of the main entrance of Wigan Parish Church.

The massive hat of one rich woman may just have been a true view blocker.

Most impressive of all... the numbers in the procession which goes on for about five or six minutes.

As you’d expect. The films are silent.

The cameraman also takes his huge apparatus to record happenings in the town centre. Lads and young men strike poses for the lens and a huge tram makes its appearance, and is also seen at the end of the royal march.

I found the film on YouTube by tapping in “royal procession in Wigan in 1902.”

The year is 1907 and Wigan is a bleak town.

The town gives work to tens of thousands of miners and pit brow lasses are a common sight on the cobbled streets.

And we can imagine how these ladies who toiled in the mines smiled and smirked and laughed when told that an artist wished to paint them. Not in their Sunday best but in the working garb.

Now Wigan’s Museum of Life on Library Street is celebrating International Women’s Day with the acclaimed play “Sylvia” about the life of Sylvia Pankhurst, the artist and suffragette who came to Wigan in 1907 and painted the pit brow women as part of a unique series of works of art of women at work.

Slides of the paintings will be shown at when the play is performed at the Museum of Life tomorrow (Wednesday, March 8) between 10 and 11am and 2 and 3pm.

In 1907 women were working hard for equal rights and the play will be performed by Jackie Mulhallan, who penned the thought-provoking piece.

Many today believe that Sylvia Pankhurst played a big part in getting votes for women.

Admission £5 for adults and £3 50 for children.

It’s true. We have lots of entertainment venues here in the North West, but we are short of “world class names” to tread our boards.

Well let me be the first to tell you that later this year, two of Hollywood’s greatest – Ryan O’Neil and Ali MacGraw – are coming to Manchester to appear in a new play.

For theatre lovers, it’s the greatest of great news.

As I recall, the last big names were to come were Jack Lemon and Charlton Heston 30 years ago. Perhaps more.

Now, Ali and Ryan – who tore out people’s hearts in the film Love Story – are appearing in a similarly heart-wrenching piece with the title Lover Letters.

The plot is wonderfully simple – Andrew Makepiece (Ryan) wrote his first love letter to Melissa Gardener (Ali). Both were seven at the time. For the next half century, the two corresponded telling each other how their lives were progressing.

They wrote about the good times and bad and they also shared their secrets.

They also defied a fate that schemed to keep them apart when both had an underlying love for each other.

Love Letters plays at Manchester Opera House from November 20 to November 25.

It will soon be a century since the Wigan artist J Lawrence Isherwood was born in the upstairs bedroom of a terraced house in Brookhouse Street.

Will anyone hold a show to mark his centenary?

The eccentric artist, who lived opposite Wigan Infirmary, died of cancer in 1989, leaving just £239.33p in the bank.

Isherwood courted controversy throughout his life. It’s true, he always had his supporters who bought a painting for a handful of pounds, but they were few and far between.

But mostly Wiganers – thought Isherwood a fool and said their kiddies could paint better.

That wasn’t true.

The impressionist artist developed his own style. Copied no one.

And it was only after his death when locals flocked to buy a painting when his sister-in-law Molly organised exhibitions. Success came too late.

As the years have gone by, the work of Wigan’s eccentric artist has been recognised more and more.

The best ones go for thousands. Last week, at Hepplestone’s Gallery at Eccleston, Isherwood’s were marked up at several thousand pounds.

Collectors are spread far and wide.

I recall those days when nobody wanted his oils. At one show at Billinge, he waited all day but not one sold.

Little wonder he was depressed. Like his work or not, Isherwood was a true artist who devoted the whole of his life to his art.

I have my doubts that the controversial artist is resting in peace.

Today, My World sends best golden wedding wishes to former Euro MP Terry Wynn and his wife Doris.

And as I toasted their health, Terry whispered: “Don’t forget Joseph Bates.”

“I won’t,” I said, treating myself to a second strong soda water.

So who was Joseph? I’ll tell you… he was a famous British speed skating champion. And today, a forgotten hero.

Born in Leigh’s Bold Street, Joseph took to ice skating as a duck takes to water, and

enjoyed a notable skating career, despite a heart condition. He even had a limp.

But he possessed a kind of double ankle which enabled him to put great power into his skating strokes.

This helped to make him one of the fastest skaters in the world. In the early part of the century, he was awarded an impressive range of important trophies.

One career highlight was when Joseph skated one and a half miles in four minutes and 38 seconds before a crowd of 4,000.

His last season was in 1908.

Joseph was awarded a gold medal in a celebration at Leigh’s Theatre Royal, where he appeared on stage in his full skating costume plus skates.

He died in 1924 at his home, being taken ill whilst on his way to his work in the Leigh Corporation Highways Department, aged 52