The Northern Weekly Salvo

From Th’Edge O’Leet

Incorporating  Slaithwaite Review of Books, Weekly Notices, Sectional Appendices, Tunnel Gazers’ Gazette and Northern Umbrella. Descendant of Teddy Ashton’s Northern Weekly.

No. 252  April 10th  2018

Salveson’s nakedly political digest of railwayness, tripe and secessionist nonsense from Up North. Sometimes weekly, often not; but definitely Northern. Read by normal Hawaiians, the highest officers of state, Whitmanites, steam punks, yes women, no men, gay Swedenborgians, cat-spotters, discerning sybarites, bi-guys, pie-eaters, tripe dressers, nail artists, self-managing VIMTO drinkers, truculent Northerners, grumpy Norwegians, absurd Marxists, members of the clergy and the toiling masses. All views expressed are my own and usually nobody else’s. Official journal of the Station Cat Improvement Network, Pacer Dining Club and Station Buffet Society. Full of creative ambiguity, possibly. Promoting moderate rebellion and sedition, within reason.

“we are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.” – Jo Cox, maiden speech in House of Commons, June 3rd 2015

General Gossips

Welcome to Salvo 252, almost exactly a month since the last edition of the so-called ‘Weekly Salvo’ appeared. It seemed a good idea to do one, in advance of my forthcoming trip up north (again) to the far-famed Isle of Skye. Hopefully the weather south of Perth will be a bit less dramatic. The journey will include a visit to Robert Owen’s New Lanark Mill and then a night at Rogart, prior to the 150th anniversary celebrations of the Far North Line. Lots to look forward to. Quite a bit of my time these last few weeks has been focussed on the Bolton Station Community Gala. It is shaping up to be quite a big event – look out for some further announcements shortly.

Data protection

As many of you will know, new data protection laws come into place at the end of May. Most of you reading the salvo have already given your consent to receive the scurrilous organ but if you haven’t, please let me know that you’ve no objection to receiving it in the future. I can assure all readers that their contact details are not shared with man, woman nor beast.

Simple Salvo Says

Generally I try and steer clear of commenting on world events. What is there to say that hasn’t already been said? Yet the latest news from Syria should make anyone feel outraged. Using deadly gas to kill your own people is beyond any sort of comprehension or justification. Thanks to the support of Russia, and the relative indifference of much of the West, Assad is back in control so why not kill off a few ‘rebels’ even if they are infants? What has been going on in Syria shames us all.

Meanwhile the rumpus over anti-Semitism continues to rock the Labour Party. Having been a member of the party in the past, for quite a few years, I can honestly say I have never seen any examples of that particular, odious, form of racism. I’ve witnessed racism directed at black people and Asians, but not towards Jews. Maybe it is there, under the surface, and no organisation is ever completely free of prejudice amongst its members. Yet I wonder if some of the hoo-ha is coming from people who are scared that a pro-Palestine political party might just win the next Gener al Election? To be pro-Palestine isn’t to be anti-semitic. Lots of Jewish people support Palestinian rights and are horrified at the recent massacres on the Israel-Gaza border, which have received far less media coverage than the ‘antisemitism’ row within Labour.

Denis Pye

Denis Pye’s funeral took place at Overdale Crematorium, Bolton, on March 27th. A large crowd gathered to say their goodbyes to a very lovely man. An evening event to celebrate Denis’s life will take place at Bolton Socialist Club on April 27th. My own memories of Denis are so numerous it would fill a book. I first got to know him when we both commuted into Manchester, with our bikes, and used to have a friendly race out to south Manchester where we both worked. In those days, early 1980s, it was easy to get your bike onto a train! We got to know each other through activities at Bolton Socialist Club and the People’s History group. Between us we revived the Bolton Clarion Cycling Club, which is still going strong. We discovered some precious Clarion CC crockery hidden away in the club together with a framed late 1890s copy of ‘The Socialist Commandments’. We worked together on plans to mark the anniversary of the 1896 Winter Hill Mass Trespass and mobilised about 1500 to march up Halliwell Road, in September 1982, headed by Eagley Band. Denis, and his wife Wendy, were very active in the Workers’ Educational Association (WEA) and we ran a joint class called ‘Cycling to Socialism’ which included bike rides out to locations popular with the early Clarion movement, such as Bucklow Hill, Ribchester and of course the wonderful ILP Clarion House at Roughlee. During the 1984-5 Miners’ Strike we organised a fund-raising bike ride from the Socialist Club to Bickershaw and Bold collieries where we were made welcome by NUM members and Miners’ Support Groups. Denis was always a bit of a railway enthusiast, as was Wendy (perhaps more than Denis!) and they had many happy times at their favourite holiday flat in Dawlish (Gay Court, since re-named!) overlooking the Great Western main line and the sea. Denis’s politics were not the standard Labour or far left stance that could easily slip into authoritarianism and centralism. He identified closely with the non-violent anarchist tradition and was a subscriber to Peace News (as well as The Morning Star!) for decades. He embodied ‘the larger socialism’ which Edward Carpenter espoused. He will be missed, but celebrated.

Bolton Station has a party

Plans for Bolton station’s community gala are coming along nicely. The event marks the 50th anniversary of the end of steam at Bolton loco shed (9K, or 26C for those older readers) but also the present-day role of rail in the community and the investment going into the local network. The gala, on Saturday June 30th, will feature stalls, music, food, theatre performances and general bonhomie.

There will be a vintage Bolton Corporation bus and a steam miniature railway. We’re getting lots of interest from potential stall-holders and performers.

Bolton loco shed April 1966 with Beehive Mills in background

The event is being co-ordinated by Bolton Station Community Development Partnership, a sort of new model of rail partnership for a larger station. Those involved include Northern, Network Rail, Community Rail Lancashire, Bolton Council, Bolton University, Octagon Theatre, Bolton at Home and Bolton CVS. Plus several individuals, arts and community groups. If you want to have a stall please contact laura.calvert@northernrailway.co.uk or c/o The Salvo.

And they twin with Kilmarnock…

Trustees of Kilmarnock Station Railway Heritage Trust have agreed to a suggestion from Bolton Station Community Development Partnership Rail to form a ‘twinning’ arrangement between the two projects. At Kilmarnock, the trust (established in 2014) has worked with train operator ScotRail and Network Rail (now together as ‘The ScotRail Alliance’) to transform the large station into a community hub, providing a base for social enterprises, a rail heritage group, cafe, gift shop and Active Travel Hub.

The formation of Bolton Station Community Development Partnership (BSCDP) is much more recent. Ian McHugh, of BSCDP, visited Kilmarnock recently with other members of the Partnership: “We were really inspired by what we saw at Kilmarnock station and this new twinning arrangement will encourage us to share ideas and good practice.”

The two projects are strongly supported by the railway industry. ScotRail Alliance Managing Director Alex Hynes said: “The Kilmarnock Railway Station Heritage Trust has done a fantastic job in developing strong roots in the local community that’s enabled them to transform the station into a vibrant community hub. “I’m really looking forward to seeing what this new partnership with Bolton Station Community Development Partnership will bring.”

South of the border, Liam Sumpter, Regional Director for Northern commented: “We are delighted that the Bolton CDP, alongside Northern and Network Rail, have taken on the challenge of improving Bolton station for their community. It is an excellent chance to show that the railway can have a huge impact on its surrounding areas, and we are looking forward to supporting the project in any way we can.”

Chair of Bolton SCDP, one Prof. Paul Salveson, added “Potentially, the twinning could extend beyond the stations. Both Bolton and Kilmarnock have a shared railway engineering heritage and it would be great to build contracts between community, educational, public and private sector bodies, using our respective stations as a focus but going much further.”

Wigan is wonderful

I went along to some of the Ctrl-Shit conference held in Wigan recently. It was a remarkable eventwhich brought together people involved in a range of projects up and down the UK. I did a short slot on ‘Northern Umbrella’ with Richard, my co-conspirator.

Roy Gregson admires the handiwork of Wigan Wallflowers

I popped in to see Wallgate station supervisor Roy Gregson and admire the work of Wigan Wallflowers – mostly Wallgate station staff and rtain crew, with help from ex-Carillion staff. The raised beds are looking great and will help inspire ideas at Bolton, where Bolton Urban Growers are working with the station partnership to look at installing raised beds to grow veg. Roy will be bringing some of his miniature steam locos to the Bolton Gala on June 30th.

Bacup in festive Mode

Bacup is always the place to be on Easter Saturday. The Britannia Coconut Dancers parde round the town, visiting various pubs on their jolly way.  It’s a great event, whose origins are obscure, maybe not the sort of thing that you could get away with if you were starting it today, but it has nothing to do with race…the ‘blacking up’ probably reflected the mining traditions from the area. Also performing was Stacksteads Band, who were in good form. Bacup’s Natural History Society centre was open and busy. Well worth a visit. What a great pity Bacup lost its rail link. If it had survived, the town would be as thriving as nearby Todmorden.

Ructions on Rawson Street

In previous rants I’ve commented on the appalling state of the town where I spent most of my childhood – Farnworth – and questioned why people weren’t rioting on the streets. Well it’s started. A ward by-election a few weeks ago saw new political party Farnworth and Kearsley First (FKF) win by a substantial margin over Labour. Traditionally, Farnworth has been a rock-solid Labour area. Yet  FKF’s Paul Sanders won with 1,204 votes while Labour came second with 969. UKIP got 169 votes while the Tory garnered a mere 153. The Lib Dems did much worse, polling just 23, with the Greens getting 18.

So what’s going on? Part of the problem is the marginalisation of small to medium-sized towns following local government reorganisation in the mid-1970s. There’s something about having your ‘own’ council that bolsters identity and engenders a sense of pride, and participation, in a place. Being part of larger units, often with meaningless names which mean nowt to nobody (Kirklees, Tameside amongst others) only make things worse. ‘Huddersfield’ is a big enough place to have its own council, but so is Dewsbury and possibly Batley.

Farnworth Town Hall

Lumping them all into one unit and calling it something meaningless in the hope that people won’t think Huddersfield, Bolton or Bury dominates, is laughable.

In the case of Farnworth, Horwich and Westhoughton whoever decided these things had the sense to call the new council ‘Bolton’ which is the obvious dominant town, but it didn’t make the loss of your local council any more palatable. Westhoughton and Horwich at least got their own ‘town’ councils, with limited powers. The Labour politicians then ‘representing’ Farnworth, in their wisdom, declined. The fine town hall ceased to echo to debates of political heavyweights like its fiery leader the socialist Rev. John Wilcockson (see below) and became an administrative branch office for Bolton. Yet at one time Farnworth Council was a pioneer in health care, slum clearance and environmental improvement. Its council houses were among the best in the country. All lost at the stroke of a centralising bureaucrat’s pen. Then the mills and engineering factories shut down.

With even the best of intentions, a local authority in which one centre dominates will always be seen by the smaller towns as being against their interests. And often there’s more than element of truth in the perception. It’s a particular problem (in my experience) with Labour authorities in which most of the elected members are from the large centre, which is often economically deprived. Again, it’s not uncommon for the smaller ‘satellite’ towns to be more affluent and often returning non-Labour councillors. So the governing Labour elite can justify ignoring the ‘satellite’ towns on the basis that a) they don’t vote for us and b) they’ve fewer social and economic problems anyway. Yes it stinks, and it’s politics. In cases like Farnworth, where the ‘satellite’ town is both Labour-voting and economically dead or dying, the excuses are even thinner.

The new leader of Bolton Council, Linda Thomas, has gone on record suggesting that the regeneration of Farnworth is a high priority, but a lot of people would say it’s far too late in the day and the rot set in back in the 1980s, with precious little having been done since. The so-called ‘trickle down’ theory that investing in a large centre will somehow help the peripheral towns is a fallacy. It isn’t true for Manchester and its own, larger satellites, and is no more true for the ‘sub-satellites’ like Farnworth (or Radcliffe, Middleton, Darwen, etc.).

Turning it all round is difficult, but not impossible. Where smaller towns have their own council (be it parish or town) they can make a difference and bring a focus, in a way that Labour’s much-loved ‘area committees’ or similar, never will. But it’s ultimately down to the communities themselves, supported by their councils, having the guts to get stuck in, stop blaming everyone else, and just do it. So, forming your own political party – like Farnworth and Kearsley First – could be part of the solution. It will almost certainly bring out the worst in many Labour politicians but they should realise their own failings and understand why groups like FKF have come into being. If they had any sense, they’d extend a hand of friendship to the new councillor (and others to come) and work with them in the interests of the town.

A town council for Farnworth and Kearsley, matching what other Bolton ‘satellites’ Horwich and Westhoughton already have, would make a lot of sense and give a real focus for the town’s regeneration, even though town councils have limited powers. That should change.

The debate on what makes for an appropriate size for a local authority is an interesting one and I would always go for small units with a manageable size and identity. Farnworth has a population of 30,000 which for local authorities in many towns in countries like France, Germany and Italy is on the large side. Yet in the UK there’s still a mentality that going for bigger and bigger councils (as in Wales at the moment) brings benefits. It’s blindness. Small councils bring focus, good governance and strong community support. It makes sense to share appropriate facilities with neighbouring councils but above all maintain that local democratic base. Let elected regional authorities have responsibility for the strategic stuff.

From what I’ve seen of them, FKF supporters aren’t local UKIPers – they’re the sort of people who would be involved in community activities and probably in the past would have naturally inclined towards Labour. The May elections will show whether Farnworth and Kearsley First was a by-election flash in the pan, or the beginning of a much bigger shift in people’s thinking. Like its more affluent neighbour in Frome, Somerset, Farnworth could shake the establishment’s foundations. I hope it does.

Farnworth’s Turbulent Priest: The Rev. John Wilcockson

Some years back I remember an old Communist Party activist talking about Farnworth politics between the wars. It was dominated by the figure of the Rev. John Wilcockson who led the Council and became mayor of the town. He was a socialist of the left but one who would brook little opposition. When the Communists dared to challenge him, he responded that “I am the dictatorship of the proletariat, not you lot!”

Dictator or not, his achievements were enormous. The ‘Bolton Mayors’  website (http://www.boltonsmayors.org.uk/wilcockson-j.html) has this to say of him: “He came to Farnworth in 1915 as Vicar of St Thomas’ Church, Dixon Green. He started a ‘sanitary crusade’ in 1916, opening a campaign against dirt, disease and bad housing.

John Wilcockson in ceremonial robes, including chain of office which he objected to!

He became involved in politics because of his belief that it was a parson’s job to look after the welfare of his flock in all its aspects, not just spiritually. It was his dynamic personality and political career that made him a household name in Farnworth and District for almost 30 years….

He was first nominated as a Labour candidate in 1919 and soon demonstrated he was a man of action as well as words. Housing and Health were his main concerns and he chaired both Committees. It was due to his initiative that Farnworth became the first local authority in the country to clear slums under the 1930 Housing Act and embark on new housing developments. He became the first Mayor of the Municipal Borough of Farnworth.

When he was appointed Chairman of the Urban District Council in 1930 he refused to wear the Chain of Office stating that ‘had he wanted decorations he would have joined the Freemasons or Oddfellows and would therefore have had plenty of decorations.’

He was active in the local co-operative movement and became President of Farnworth and Kearsley Cooperative Society in 1931 and Chairman of Bolton Board of Guardians in 1935. He was also Chairman of the Fire Brigade Committee and Chairman of the local ARP Committee.

He was unanimously elected as Charter Mayor in 1939 and became the first Church of England clergyman in the country to be Mayor of a Borough. He was the Mayor in the most important year in Farnworth’s history, when it was granted ‘Borough’ status by King George VI and received its Charter of Incorporation from Lord Derby.

He left Farnworth in 1943 citing the war and all its consequences as his reason for leaving, as well as the fact that he felt he could achieve no more. He retired to Worthing and died in 1969 aged 97. He is buried in Farnworth Cemetery”.

More celebrations: Heart of Wales Line

The ‘birthday special’ to launch the Herat of Wales Line 150th celebrations took place on Friday March 23rd and the general view was that it was a roaring success. Mayors, morris dancers and many others took part in the proceedings which began with the arrival of the 10.09 to Swansea and carried on down the line right through to Swansea, where passengers were met by the voices of the Morriston Orpheus Male Voice Choir. A few days later the southern section of the Heart of Wales Line Trail was launched at a well-attended event in Pontarddulais. All that remains to complete the UK’s latest long-distance trail is a section through Powys. Hopefully the entire route can be declared open before the end of the year.

Meanwhile, Rachel Francis is the new Development Manager for the Heart of Wales Line Development Company, on an interim basis to the end of the year. All very best wishes to Rachel and a huge thanks to David Edwards who has retired as General Manager.

More details about the 150th events at http://heart-of-wales.co.uk/. The Heart of Wales Line Development Company is still looking for more offers of help from local artists and musicians. All enquiries to Moira Davidson at moira@bluekite.org.uk

Amazing Women by Rail

I was sorry to miss the launch of ‘Amazing Women by Rail’ at Elizabeth Gaskell House, Manchester, on March 27th. ‘Discover Amazing Women by Rail’ invites you to leave your car at home and use the train (along with buses and trams) to explore the fascinating, and often hidden, histories of women who lived and worked in areas along the Mid Cheshire and Calder Valley railway lines.

The launch event took place at Elizabeth Gaskell House on Plymouth Grove in the Longsight area of Manchester. The invited guest were first entertained by local women’s music group Herizons singing one of their ‘Strong Manchester Women’ songs. Then Sally Buttifant (Project Co-ordinator) and Richard Lysons (Researcher), gave short speeches about the project.

This was followed by a rousing song by a ‘Votes for Women’ group of suffragettes and then refreshments were served and the guests were able to explore the house and see the fabulous renovations that reflect the house as it would have been in Elizabeth Gaskell’s time. It’s good to see that great working class women writers like Ethel Carnie (weaver from Great Harwood) being featured.

Full details of the project and to find out which women have been included, visit the website on www.amazingwomenbyrail.org.uk/. The project booklet can be found in tourist information offices, in local stations or by downloading the interactive PDF at https://www.flipgorilla.com/p/25441453291342216/show

Salvo’s Travelling Post Office

For some reason, people couldn’t post comments on the last salvo (251). I don’t know why this happened – maybe there’s too much junk on the site. Will try to resolve. In the meantime email me at paul.salveson@myphone.coop. Thanks!

Hi Paul Good to hear about the Northern Umbrella turning into a publication. I will try to fight off the torpor and contribute something sensible. We are in desperate need of quality journalism for the North since our newspaper upped stick and went entirely to London in the eighties and now reads like an upmarket version of the Standard supplemented by occasional patronising pieces about the impact of closing steelworks and coal mines on coffee shops which reflects the depth of research which can be achieved by perusing the desktop and purchasing a day return to the area in question (Jon Harris and Owen thingummybob excepted!). Jim Ford, Southport

Crank Quiz: Fruit and Nuts on the Line

Starting afresh…readers are invited to nominate railway locations (stations, junctions, depots etc.) with a fruit and/or nut connection.

Special Traffic Notices

Saturday May 5th: Stockport Community Rail Gala – all day, Edgeley station. In the evening Paul Shackloth will be giving a talk at Stockport Art Gallery (7.30, admission £2.50) on Stockport in the Age of Steam and Corporation Transport.

Sunday May 6th: Blackstone Edge Gathering: celebrate the 1842 Chartist gathering! Walk from Littleborough station. Details to follow but book the date.

June 30th: Bolton Station Community Gala 10.30 – 4.00

The Salvo Publications List

The following are all available from The Salvo Publishing HQ, here at 8 Moorhey Cottages, Bretherton, Leyland PR26 9AE. Cheques should be made out to ‘Paul Salveson’ though you can send cash if you like but don’t expect any change. Bottles of whisky, old bound volumes of Railway Magazine, numberplates etc. by negotiation.

‘Lancashire’s Romantic Radical – the life and writings of Allen Clarke/Teddy Ashton‘ (2009). The story of Lancashire’s errant genius – cyclist, philosopher, unsuccesful politician, amazingly popular dialect writer. Normal Price £15  – can now offer it for £10 with free postage. There are a few hardback versions left – Normal price £25  – now at £15 with free postage. This book outlines the life and writings of one of Lancashire’s most prolific – and interesting – writers. Allen Clarke (1863-1935) was the son of mill workers and began work in the mill himself at the age of 11. He became a much-loved writer and an early piopneer of the socialist movement. He wrote in Lancashire dialect as ‘Teddy Ashton;’ and his sketches sold by the thousand. He was a keen cyclist and rambler; his books on the Lancashire countryside – ‘Windmill Land’ and ‘Moorlands and Memories’ are wonderful mixtures of history, landscape and philosophy.

‘With Walt Whitman in Bolton – Lancashire’s Links to Walt Whitman‘. This charts the remarkable story of Bolton’s long-lasting links to America’s great poet. Price £9.90 including post and packing. New edition published in May 2016. Bolton’s links with the great American poet Walt Whitman make up one of the most fascinating footnotes in liteary history. From the 1880s a small group of Boltonians began a correspondence with Whitman and two (John Johnston and J W Wallace) visited the poet in America. Each year on Whitman’s birthday (May 31) the Bolton group threw a party to celebrate his memory, with poems, lectures and passing round a loving cup of spiced claret. Each wore a sprig of lilac in Whitman’s memory. The group were close to the founders of the ILP – Keir Hardie, Bruce and Katharine Bruce Glasier and Robert Blatchford. The links with Whitman lovers in the USA continue to this day.

‘Northern Rail Heritage’. A short introduction to the social history of the North’s railways. Price £6.00. The North ushered in the railway age  with the Stockton and Darlington in 1825 followed by the Liverpool and Manchester in 1830. But too often the story of the people who worked on the railways has been ignored. This booklet outlines the social history of railways in the North. It includes the growth of railways in the 19th century, railways in the two world wars, the general strike and the impact of Beeching.

Will Yo’ Come O’ Sunday Mornin? The Winter Hill Mass Trespass of 1896?. The story of Lancashire’s Winter Hill Trespass of 1896. 10,000 people marched over Winter Hill to reclaim a right of way. Price: £5.00 (not many left). The Kinder Scout Mass Trespass of 1932 was by no means the first attempt by working class people to reclaim the countryside. probably the biggest-ever rights of way struggle took place on the moors above Bolton in 1896, with three successive weekends of huge demonstrations to reclaim a blocked path. Over 12,000 took part in the biggest march. The demonstrations were led by a coalition of socialists and radical liberals and Allen Clarke (see above!) wrote a great song about the events – ‘Will Yo’ Come O’ Sunday Mornin’?’ Only a couple left.

 ‘Songs of a Northerner‘  by Jo Barnes. Photos by Paul Salveson. Price £3.50 inc postage  – please make cheques payable to ‘The Jo Barnes Fund’. A lovely collection of Jo’s poems written in the two years before she died; about landscape, emotions and day dreams.

You can probably get a better idea from going to my website: http://www.paulsalveson.org.uk/little-northern-books-2/