The Illustrated Northern Weekly Salvo

Incorporating Slaithwaite Review of Books, BikkiRail, Weekly Notices, Tunnel Gazers’ Gazette. Descendant of Teddy Ashton’s Northern Weekly. Contains no Isinglass

No. 181   April 9th 2015

Salveson’s weekly diatribe of railwayness, tripe and secessionist nonsense from Up North. Read by the highest officers of state, Brechtian punks, yes women, no men, Chartists, cat-spotters, discerning sybarites, pie-eaters, tripe dressers, truculent Northerners, grumpy Norwegians, members of the clergy and the toiling masses

“In a daft, vertiginous world The Salvo comes through like a shaft of sunlight” – Professor Christopher Harvie

Quote of the week – who said it, where, and when?

”Further devolution for Scotland is inevitable and must be accompanied by broader constitutional change, including the abolition of the House of Lords, which should be replaced by an elected second chamber, perhaps of the nations and regions.”

It’s been a long gap, what with holidays, elections and spending a bit of time playing trains in the garden. But here at last is Salvo 181, with updates on various things I’ve been up to, including the inevitable politics.

Ey up lass, The North’s awake

The case for democratic devolution to the English regions is gathering pace. It’s funny how things that don’t seem all that relevant really are.

Colne Valley YF campaigner Robyn says YES for York

Colne Valley YF campaigner Robyn says YES for York

I’m thinking of the ‘leaders’ debate’ the other week, which hardly touched on devolution at all. Yet the performance of Nicola Sturgeon and Leanne Wood in particular, representing what the metropolitan media condescendingly call ‘the peripheral nations’ of Britain, has really had an impact up here in t’North. Despite the English public apparently being exposed to the new face of Scottish politics during the referendum, the general view of the SNP amongst many people south of the border was quite hostile, largely a result of the virulence of the London media. That popular attitude has changed dramatically following Sturgeon’s performance in the debate. I keep meeting people during my own campaigning saying they think she’s wonderful and one long-term Labour voter said he’d happily support Yorkshire seceding into an independent Scotland, if the Scots voted to leave the UK! (note: not Yorkshire First policy)

Things are certainly shifting. Last week The Northern Party was launched, offering a radical devolutionary message to voters in five Lancashire constituencies. That’s in addition to the North East Party fielding four and Yorkshire First running 14 candidates. What I’m finding is distaste for ‘the establishment’ which is seen to include not only the Tories and Liberal Democrats, but Labour as well – with a healthy contempt for Farage and UKIP. So let’s see what happens on May 7th; in the meantime there is everything to play for as the old party loyalties melt in the Spring sunshine (and thanks to the gentleman from Kashmir who offered me a can of coke as I toiled up Moorbottom Road in Lockwood today!)

Some interesting links for political cranks….

If you want to know more about ‘the Northern Party’ take a look at this link from the excellent ’Mancunian Spring’ blog:

Arianna Giovannini, a good Yorkshire lass who lives in Sheffield and works at the University of Huddersfield Politics Department (commuting regularly on the Penistone Line) has published this really interesting paper on English regionalism:

My piece for Soundings magazine on English regionalism is now out and available on subscription or at radical bookshops in gradely places like Nottingham Five Leaves, People’s Bookshop in Durham, Freedom Bookshop in Whitechapel, Bookmarks and Housman’s (Kings Cross). The long unedited version is here: The magazine itself (not to be confused by the Hydropathic Society journal or one about trawlers) is here:

And most up to date, Irvine Welsh has published this great piece on the ‘Bellacaledonia’ website about England, Scotland and the shifting times we’re in. Nice mention for Yorkshire First, thanks Irvine:

From Three Cocks to Torpantau and Talyllyn

Enough of all this politics for now (but will return to it…). We’ve had a nice couple of weeks on holiday, interspersed with hustings events, leafleting and campaigning. Our first week was spent at Clyro, a village in the Wye Valley just across from Hay-on-Wye, the much-celebrated book town.

Old Raiwlay Doctor at Old Railway Line Garden centre, Three Cocks ex-Junction

Old Railway Doctor at Old Railway Line Garden Centre, Three Cocks ex-Junction

Hay used to be quite a railway centre until the early 60s. The last line to go, between Hereford, Hay, Three Cocks Junction and Brecon closed on December 31st 1962. It was a very unhappy New Year for Brecon, which lost all its railways in one fell swoop of the axe, slightly before Beeching produced his infamous report. I was always fascinated by the names of many of the stations along the line, such as Three Cocks Junction, Torpantau and Talyllyn Junction. The ownership of these railways was complicated. The Midland Railway had perhaps its most remote outpost here, operating Hereford to Three Cocks, where the Cambrian continued down to Talyllyn Junction and north-westwards to Llanidloes and Moat Lane Junction. At Talyllyn Junction the Brecon and Merthyr continued south over steep gradients to Torpantau and deeply industrial Merthyr and westwards to Brecon, with an end-on junction with the Neath and Brecon which carried on over mountainous terrain to Craig-y-nos and Neath (I hope you are taking all this in because you may be tested on it). Craig-y-nos was the home of the great opera singer Adelina Patti who insisted on having her own station, which I think survives to this day in some shape or form. The Brecon Mountain Railway uses part of the Brecon and Merthyr from Pant to Torpantau. Didn’t get chance to see it this time though.

It’s always fascinating to see what remains. There’s not much to see at Three Cocks Junction but ‘The Old Railway Line Garden Centre’, sited on the track bed, has some nice photos of the station in the cafe (which is recommended). Erwood station, on the line up from Three Cocks to Llanidloes in the lovely Wye Valley, is an art gallery with some railway bits and bobs, including a diesel shunter. It has recently been taken over by new people who seem less interested in the railway heritage, which is shame.

It shunts your wagons...the art gallery at Erwood

It shunts your wagons…the art gallery at Erwood

But if you are interested in having your very own diesel loco, for all those awkward shunting movements you have to do, they might sell it to you. The art is of a very high standard and there’s a cafe which ministers to more mundane needs. But what a real shame this line closed, even if not many people lived here, admittedly. A route from Cardiff via Merthyr and ‘Brecon Parkway at Talyllyn Jc) to Builth Wells – intersecting with Heart of Wales Line at Builth Road – and Llanidloes to join the Cambrian at Moat Lane Jc (near Caersws) might actually be a better way of linking south, mid and north Wales than Carmarthen to Aberystwyth, or maybe an additional option as it serves very different markets. Clever dicks say these things can’t be done but they can if there’s the political will to do it. It’s just like building a new road, only more useful.

Around the bookshops of Hay: Hwyl and Hiraeth in the council chamber

We probably visited about 20 bookshops in all, including some not-quite bookshops which masqueraded as antique shops. In that category is Fleur de Lys which had a very good selection of obscure railwayana including a lovely Gauge 1 model of an LNWR ‘Precedent’ which I was tempted by, but resisted. Maybe I should have gone for it. Ooooh. But lots of good railway publications including .

A bustling scene at Abergavenny's Market Hall

A bustling scene at Abergavenny’s Market Hall. Note the flying pigs.

Hard to pick out a favourite but if pushed I’d say the Hay Cinema Bookshop. We also visited Broadleaf Bookshop in Abergavenny which is very good on politics and history. The nearby market hall is always a delight especially on market days – the New Market Cafe does great faggots and chips (with peas). Back to Hay, a particularly rare find was Timothy Gaukroger’s Oops and Doons and Sayin’s and Doin’s ov Timothy Goorkrodger, his Aud Deeame and Darter Meary, published in Huddersfield in 1875. The reason I know it was published in 1875 (there was no year shown in the frontispiece) is because there is an advert by the Midland Railway for ‘First and Third Class’ tickets from Leeds, dated July 1875. The 3rd class fare to Brecon was 26/- but if you carried on Neath it would set you back 29/6. I also found some back issues of Transactions of the Yorkshire Dialect Society which included some very good poems by Lockwood laureate Fred Brown. See, I’m becoming reet Yorkshire now.

The Poetry Bookshop was Hester’s favourite and it is very good indeed. I picked up a copy of Mike Jenkins’ Invisible Times, which I used to have but it was lost long ago. I met Mike at a poetry event in Oxford aeons ago. I love his poem ‘Industrial Museum’ (dedicated to Adrian Mitchell) which could so easily apply to so many places in the North of England but with Welsh specifics. The tour guide invites you to ‘eat authentic cawl at an austere soup kitchen’ and then:

In the ruins of the Town Hall the council

Give public performances, meeting

To discuss the valley’s future:

Their hwyl is high but their hiraeth higher

Note for English folk: ‘cawl’ is a sort of Welsh hot-pot. ‘Hwyl’ is described in World-Wide Words thus: ..”. in Welsh the word more often refers to a complex and intangible quality of passion and sense of belonging that isn’t easy to translate but which has been said to sum up Welshness in a word.

not pining for the fjords, this sort of thing - the Brecon Beacons

not pining for the fjords, this sort of thing – the Brecon Beacons

The Geiriadur Prifysgol Cymru (the big dictionary of Welsh recently published by the University of Wales) lays out its ramifications like this: “A healthy physical or mental condition, good form, one’s right senses, wits; tune (of a musical instrument); temper, mood, frame of mind; nature, disposition; degree of success achieved in the execution of a particular task &c; fervour (esp religious), ecstasy, unction, gusto, zest; characteristic musical intonation or sing-song cadence formerly much in vogue in the perorations of the Welsh pulpit.”Its origins lie in a much older sense of the sail of a ship and hence elliptically one’s course — in life rather than on the sea. Most broadly, in Welsh hwyl refers to a person’s mood. By itself it can also mean “goodbye” as a common short form of hwyl fawr, roughly “all the best”, as can pob hwyl. ‘Hiraeth’ is equally hard to translate but means a kind of longing. Am I correct Dafydd? Wikipedia says “literally translates into English as ‘longing’, though in Welsh the concept of yearning for a place removed in space or time is far more powerful and evocative than in English. The Univesity of Wales Lampeter attempts to define it as homesickness tinged with grief or sadness over the lost or departed. It is a mix of longing, yearning, nostalgia, wistfulness, or an earnest desire for the Wales of the past”.

Ceiriog: bard, station-master and 24-hour party-person

Another good find in The Poetry Bookshop was a copy of English Verse Translations of the Welsh Poems of Ceiriog Hughes by Alfred Perceval Graves (father of the more well-known Robert). The collection was published in Wrexham in 1926 and is a little gem. ‘Ceiriog’ is often referred to as ‘The Welsh Burns’. His poetic output may not be totally unrelated to his employment on rural railways of Mid Wales, where he may not have been unduly over-worked. The book includes a short biography and it is worth giving you an outline. He was born in 1832, at Penbryn in the Vale of Ceiriog (well-known for its Ceiriog Valley Railway). One of his earliest jobs was a clerk at Manchester (London Road) station. As a young man he wrote the prize-winning poem ‘Myfanwy’ and in 1860 had his first book published, Evening Hours (Oriau’r Wwyr). He lived and worked in Manchester for some 20 years, returning to Wales in 1865, taking up the post of station-master at Llanidloes.

The remarkable scene inside the locomotive shed at Moat Lane Junction on the occasion of Ceiriog's daughter's wedding, possibly

The remarkable scene inside the locomotive shed at Moat Lane Junction on the occasion of Ceiriog’s daughter’s wedding, possibly

He was promoted to station-master at Tywyn and in 1872 was made manager of The Van Railway, a light railway serving mines and quarries in the hills above Caersws. He died in 1887. Lewis Cozens, in his Mawddwy, Van and Kerry Railways describes ‘Ceiriog’ thus: “He was a man of eccentric habits and his admirers o visiting the railway would one day find him dressed in his best frock coat, cravat and top hat, whilst on the next day he would appear in an old coat and rough cap.” Cozens records the wedding of the poet’s daughter Deliah, an event unique in railway history. The ceremony was held in with due formality but the all-night dance which followed took place in the locomotive shed. The depot “was transformed into a Palais-de-danse. Walls and ceilings were cleaned down and whitewashed and a splendid new flooring fixed. Chinese lanterns, flags, bunting and flowers helped to complete the metamorphosis,” Cozens records. The musicians included “a famous Newtown family of musicians, Messrs. Roberts the harpists who went on to become the Royal Welsh Harpists after a Command Performance before Queen Victoria.” Some party! Little-known fact: the event helped to influence the Northern Rail brass band performance at Newton Heath depot, some 125 years later.

Coffee time in the Erecting Shop

In previous Salvoes I’ve mentioned the splendid emporium in what was once the Cambrian Railways’ Oswestry locomotive works. The former erecting shop (where I once spotted LMS Jubilee Eire undergoing repair) also boasts a very nice cafe in the former shop foreman’s bothy, perched high above the shop floor. A place where you had to watch your Manors.

The scene inside Oswestry main erecting shop, with Cambrian Coffee, gratuitous nudity, Welsh flag etc.

The scene inside Oswestry main erecting shop, with Cambrian Coffee, gratuitous nudity, etc.

We visited the both on the way down and on return, to collect a table and bird box. I also purchased a very fine framed photograph of a dinner of The Australian Canned Fruits Board and their counterparts in The Liverpool Wholesale Canned Fruits Trade Association. The venue was The Adelphi Hotel and the date was February 3rd 1939. I intend to send a copy to my good friend Sir Norman Wrassle, chairman of the Tripe Marketing Board and a staunch supporter of canned fruit.

In old London town

The second week of our pre-Easter break involved a brave visit to the capital. We were well looked-after at The Wesley Hotel, close to Euston station. The hotel, you’ll not be surprised to know, is that it is run by the Methodist Church. It is Britain’s first ‘ethical’ hotel and was a very good place to base ourselves. Day One featured a trip to Hester’s ancestral home in north London. The ancient family pile, resembling a post-war semi, was reached by tube to Arnos Grove, designed by the famous Bolton Whitmanite Charles Holden. We returned from another Holden masterpiece, Southgate tube station. The evening included a visit to a ‘hustings’ event on international development at Friends Meeting House.

Southgate station, pronounced colloquially as 'Sarfgate' one is informed

Southgate station, pronounced colloquially as ‘Sarfgate’ one is informed

Labour, Tories, UKIP and Greens were represented but unaccountably Yorkshire First were not invited to aprticipate. The speakers all acquitted themselves well but I’d say the star of the show was the Liberal Democrat, Baroness Northover. The Green speaker got most support (no surprise there really) though we found his manner a bit aggressive and post-Trotskyist.

The following day featured a stroll through some of London’s less-known historic spots, taking in Clerkenwell and Farringdon. We’d hoped to visit the Marx Memorial Library but it was closed. However, political batteries were charged with a visit to the anarchist Freedom Bookshop in Whitechapel. (Karl, who was a bit sectarian and hated anarchists, wouldn’t have approved). It’s next door to the excellent Whitechapel Gallery which in turn is next door to Aldgate East tube. The bookshop is friendly and well-stocked and I came away with a good haul of cut-price bargains including a 1962 collection of articles published in Freedom, including several on railways. Railwayman George Woodcock was a regular writer for the paper and published a booklet on anarchist policy on rail, including an account of Spanish railways in Catalonia under anarchist control during the Civil War (thought you’d like to know that). The famous Brick Lane is close by with an amazing mix of present day Bengali culture super-imposed on its traditional Jewish heritage. We headed up to Spitalfields and the old Truman’s Brewery which now hosts Rough Trade Records. We also managed to get a good view of work in progress for CrossRail.

The amazing Battersea Mural

The amazing Battersea Mural

A further walk covering the less commonly-visited parts of London took place the following morning, covering the Battersea area. We used Rebel Footprints by David Rosenberg (Pluto Press, 2015) for our promenade, an invaluable guide to London’s radical history, which is deep and fascinating. We saw what was once the NUR’s Unity Hall in Battersea and toured one of the earliest examples of public housing, the Latchmere Estate dating from 1902. Battersea was a hive of radicalism and an amazing mural on Dagnall Street celebrates its revolutionary past, showing first black mayor and pan-African nationalist John Archer, suffragette and Irish rebel Charlotte Despard, Labour pioneer John Burns, Communist MP Shapurji Saklatvala, and other great but near-forgotten figures from London’s radical history. We returned via Lavender Hill and Labour’s campaign HQ for Will Martindale, who is hoping to overturn a small Tory majority. Let’s hope he succeeds (Yorkshire First is not standing in Battersea, in case you wondered). We returned via Clapham Junction and Waterloo with a look round the lively Lower Marsh area (with its Ian Allan transport bookshop) and then on to the celebrated King’s Arms pub on Roupell Street returning by underground. Grand Central’s 14.48 departure was well-filled with happy Yorkshire folk escaping London for the Easter holidays.

On the campaign trail

So that’s two hustings sessions so far. The first was on a snowy night in February at Milnsbridge Liberal Club, organised by The Red and Green Club when we were in temporary lodgings. More recently, the five doughty candidates answered a series of questions at a well-attended event at St John’s church, Golcar, chaired by the Bishop of Huddersfield on March 30th. So far we’ve contrived to be polite and friendly to each other, which might make for slightly dull discussions but it’s preferable to throwing insults. I’ve been busy tweeting and face-booking like it’s going out of fashion (maybe it is, wish it was). My manifesto for Colne Valley is now on my website, here:

I’m working on an arts strategy document for Colne Valley which will also help to inform Yorkshire First policy as a whole. If you’ve any ideas on what should go into it, or would like to see the current draft, let me know. It’s not secret.

Our policy for rail is here:

I’ve done a series of letters to people from other political backgrounds – and none. The first one was to people who don’t normally vote. They can be persuaded. The best thing that has happened in my campaign so far was being accosted by a woman in Crosland Moor last week who said “It’s my 44th birthday today and I’ve never voted in my life – but I like what you’re saying and I’m going to vote for you”. I just hope she remembers to register (she’s got until April 20th). So the three letters so far can be viewed here:

So onwards…and onwards. Yesterday I was out leafleting with a mate in Lindley and got plenty of positive feedback from people who were outside enjoying the sun. Back to Crosland Moor tomorrow then a street canvass in Honley on Saturday. Help always welcome, and we really need some money. We’ve our election address to get sent out to every household and that makes for expensive printers’ bills. Tony Blair won’t be sending us any cheques, neither will the corporate giants who are funding the Tories. Cheques (to ‘Yorkshire First’ please) can be sent to YF c/o 90a Radcliffe Road, Golcar, Huddersfield HD7 4EZ or you can contribute on-line at

Lockwood’s poet laureate

I mentioned that I picked up a copy some old copies of Transactions of the Yorkshire Dialect Society when I was in Hay. Fred Brown was an active many of the YDS for many years and lived at 21 Moor End Road, Lockwood. He died aged 86 in 1980. He was a loom-tuner and his poetry reflects the rhythms of the weaving sheds that Fred was so familiar with. He had several collections of his poetry published, starting with Songs of The Factory and The Loom in 1943. The Muse Went Weaving (1972) is a collection of new and previously published poems and gives a good cross-section of Fred’s poetry, which is very good indeed. However the YDS Transactions for 1961 includes ‘Bonny Lockwood’ which I’ve not seen published anywhere else. It’s quite a long piece, about the changes afflicting his community, particularly the demolition of the old weavers’ cottages and their replacement by soul-less blocks of flats. How good it would be to have a ‘Fred Brown Night’ at The Shoulder of Mutton!

Crank Quiz: Ghosts of MPs past

The question is about previous Colne Valley MPs. Who said:

“The very first joy that comes to my mind is this, that this epoch-making victory has been won for pure revolutionary Socialism. We had not trimmed our sails to get a half-hearted vote. We have proclaimed our Socialism on every platform”.

“All I am..and all I hope for, I owe to Spiritualism”

“Socialism is brotherhood; and brotherhood is as wide as the heaven and as broad as humanity. The growth of international Socialism is the promise of the realisation of the angels’ natal song ‘On Earth, peace; good will towards men’

And a more general one – please submit unusual quotes from MPs, living or deceased. Any featuring railways, GWR Manors, etc. especially welcome.

Salvoes in print: regionalism still on the rise

The latest issue of Red Pepper magazine has a Salveson piece on radical regionalism in the North, with lots of good stuff on Green politics, SNP and much more. The estimable Barmcake magazine has something about Yorkshire First that I wrote a while ago. You can pick it up in various pubs and shops in Manchester, including The Cornerhouse close to Oxford Road station.

Special Traffic Notices

Colne Valley Election Hustings will be happening at several places including:

  • Monday April 13th, Holmfirth Parish Church 7.15
  • Monday April 20th: Wills o’Nats pub, Meltham, 7.15
  • Monday April 27th: Marsden Mechanics, Peel Street 7.15

Further details nearer to the event, all take place in the evening

Jewish history walks: a series of three fascinating walks in West Yorkshire

Sunday April 12th: Jewish Bradford: The Merchant’s Villas, the Synagogues and the Kindertransport Hostel. Meet outside Cartwright Hall Art Gallery, Lister Park Bradford, BD9 4NS at 11.00

Sunday, April 19th. Politics, Textiles and Rugby League, the Story of the Jews of Huddersfield   Meet by the statue of Harold Wilson outside Huddersfield Railway Station, St George’s Square, Huddersfield, HD1 1JB at 11.00

Sunday, April 26th. Jewish Leeds: the City Centre and the Leylands. Meet at the Wade Lane entrance to the Merrion Centre LS2 8NH at 11.00

All tours last approximately one and a half hours and cost £5 per person. The leader for the tours is Nigel Grizzard, a well known commentator and guide on Jewish life in Yorkshire.To book your place mail:

Sunday April 12th: ‘Listen to the people’s voice on planning’ – demonstration in support of planning reform: 11.00 to 12.30 St George’s Square, Huddersfield (part of National Day of Action)

Saturday April 18th; Palestine Day at the Red and Green Club. A full day of talks, discussions and stalls. Afternoon session free; evening film £5. Things kick-off at 1.00pm with lunch between 1.00 and 2.00 (lovely Palestinian food). In the evening there is a showing of The Gatekeepers, at 7.00pm. For the first time ever, six former heads of Israel’s domestic secret service agency, Shin Bet, share their insights and reflect on their actions and decisions in this 2012 documentary, directed by Israeli filmmaker Dror Moreh. The film offers an exclusive account of the sum of their successes and failures and sheds light on the controversy surrounding the occupation in the aftermath of the Six-Day-War in 1967. The Gatekeepers was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary in 2013. Organised by Palestine Support Network Huddersfield M: 07808 920 600

Quote of the week: New Statesman editorial, March 27th 2015