The Northern Weekly Salvo

From Th’Edge O’Leet an’ Bowtun

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

No. 259  October 14th 2018

Salveson’s half-nakedly political digest of railwayness, tripe and secessionist nonsense from Up North. Sometimes weekly, usually not; but definitely Northern. Read by the highest (and lowest) 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, and delusional thinking, probably. Promoting moderate rebellion and sedition, within reason, obviously.

“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

I’ve been up in Scotland for nearly two weeks, so this issue has a strong emphasis on what’s going on North of the Border. It was good to see daughter and grand-children and visit the new ‘Skye Gift Co.’ shop – Natasha’s new venture – in Broadford. Do pop in if you’re passing, there’s also a fascinating second-hand bookshop next door to it, and a pub on the other side.

Alice with Lucy and young Sam catching up on some railway reading

A rather special event took place while I was away. In the immortal words of Lancashire poet Samuel Laycock “tha’s welcome bonny brid” –to  latest grandchild Lucy, love to Alice and Jim. My move to Bolton is nudging forward and I’m hoping to be settled in, with garden railway running, well before Christmas.

Brexit conundrums and future scenarios: Britain’s Difficulty – Scotland’s Opportunity?

It’s always interesting to get a different perspective on politics when north of the border. Our trip coincided with the SNP’s annual conference in Glasgow, preceded by a 100,000 strong pro-independence march in Edinburgh, which hardly got a mention in the London media. The SNP leadership is playing a clever game in managing demands for another ‘indy’ referendum, trying not to discourage the party’s grassroots which is pushing for an early poll, whilst recognising that there isn’t – yet – anything like a comfortable majority for a ‘yes’ vote. That could all change following Brexit. A perceptive article in The Herald suggested that the SNP leadership, whilst being strongly anti-Brexit and in favour of a ‘People’s Vote’, actually stands to benefit from the UK leaving the EU. The argument goes that Scotland will become further disadvantaged by being part of an independent UK – a variant of the traditional Marxist ‘immiseration theory’ (the poorer the workers get under capitalism, the more likely they are to rise in revolt). That theory was always a bit dodgy and wasn’t born out by experience, in most cases. But the SNP leadership may be onto something in this particular case. It’s one of the ironies of Brexit that the places likely to do OK, economically, are the areas that voted ‘remain’ – in particular, London. Scotland will, however, suffer, which as we all know voted strongly to remain. But many parts of pro-Leave England, particularly the North, are likely to fare badly in a post-Brexit Britain (see various reports by IPPR North and others).

So where’s this leading? Well, it’s looking increasingly likely that we will leave the EU and a last-minute deal will be done, based on ‘The Chequers Plan’, with some modifications to appease the Tories’ right-wing. It’s hard to see May going for a second referendum on any basis. Her hand could be forced if the DUP withdraws its support but I can’t see them being that daft (and don’t underestimate their Ulster canniness). It’s always desirable to keep options open and a collapse of the current administration leading to a General Election, as Labour is hoping, might just happen. But unlikely.

So what happens then?

The Commando Memorial above Spean Bridge – when Britain was a united kingdom

A likely scenario is that we leave the EU with a deal that nobody really likes and which leaves many parts of the UK, including Scotland, Wales and the North of England, worse off. It’s hard to imagine the Tories going for an early General Election with May in charge, but entirely possible that they get a new leader and then go for a snap election next year, which they would stand a good chance of winning. Labour remains far less popular than they need to be, and should be, outside the big cities. They haven’t made the dramatic comeback in Scotland which they’d been hoping for and their performance even in traditional Labour areas isn’t brilliant.

That isn’t to say Labour isn’t in with a chance, and some on the left are hoping that Brexit will open up opportunities to reach the sunny uplands of ‘socialism in one country’. Certainly, not being bound by EU directives would make rail nationalisation easier, and avoid compulsory competitive tendering (aka ‘race to the bottom’) for public service provision. But beyond that, there is little fresh thinking being done within Labour’s ranks about what a progressive strategy for a post-Brexit Britain might look like. There are exceptions. Blue Labour’s Jonathan Rutherford wrote an interesting piece for New Statesman this summer which I have a lot of sympathy with (see He argues for a ‘progressive’ populism with a strong emphasis on cultural identity.

Can Labour win in The North?

This is something the SNP has been very good at, Labour much less so. It doesn’t do culture, nor ‘identity’ unless it is of the modern ‘identity politics’ kind, which doesn’t leave much room for many of its traditional white working class supporters. Rutherford supports ‘English patriotism’ draped in a red-ish flag. I don’t. English nationalism, still more an English parliament, would be inimical to the interests of the North. A Federal British isles, of the nations and regions, would give the right balance and avoid a reactionary southern English rump dominating everyone else.

Labour has toyed with a new, progressive regionalism but it hasn’t got much traction in leadership thinking, which is very London-centric (or even North London-centric, as Jo Cox once reminded me). The Hannah Mitchell Foundation, albeit a cross-party group, tried hard to influence Labour thinking but had only limited success; it should perhaps be revived as an explicitly Labour pressure group. At the same time, Labour does not – and never will – have all the answers. The next few years will see the emergence of centre-left regionalist parties which will steal some of Labour’s progressive clothes (as the SNP has done in Scotland, and Plaid in Wales). Labour has had an easy ride in the North, which has resulted in many former Labour voters either not voting or supporting the right. That should change. Already, the Yorkshire Party has won a few council seats, similarly in the North-east the regionalist party there has picked up respectable votes in local elections. I suspect a Lancashire Party (and Cumbrian?) would do well if it positioned itself so that it picked up votes from across the spectrum. Obviously, having a fair voting system would help small, emerging parties. But we don’t have that, and we never will get it under a Tory Government. There’s a teeny-weeny chance it might happen under Labour, but pulling it away from its traditional centralist and sectarian instincts won’t be easy. Good look to those who are trying.

(this is based on an article which will appear in Chartist magazine shortly)

Autumn in The Highlands

Autumn is a very good time to visit the Highlands and Islands. The midgies have gone, and so have most of the tourists. But perhaps more importantly, the colours are absolutely glorious.

Killicrankie Gorge – a northbound ScotRail service passes through

I got chance to have a stroll through the Killicrankie gorge, which I’ve seen from the train many times but never had a really good look at from the ground. There are some good vantage points for railway photography too. A confession – we went by car. The demands of taking black puddings, tripe, potato cakes and other essentials to family on Skye required the use of a vehicle. It did allow us the opportunity to visit places that aren’t that accessible by public transport, so don’t judge us too harshly. The route was Bretherton – Glasgow (lunch stop at Eastriggs); on to Skye (Broadford) with a call at Falls of Cruachan Power Station. Then returning via Pitlochry and Bo’ness. A highlight of the trip was ‘The Enchanted Forest’ in Pitlochry. This highlyn popular event is run by a communitybtruista dn brings thousands of visitors into the town each Autumn.

enchanting and amazing: The Enchanted Forest

Guests are taken by coach from the town centre to Loch Faskally, where you can wander at will and be amazed by spectacular light and sound effects.

Community Rail Awards in Glasgow

ACoRP did a brilliant job with this year’s Community Rail Awards, held in Glasgow. It attracted just short of 500 guests, an all-time record. It included a very good welcome speech by Deputy First Minister John Swinney MSP and a positive up-beat speech by ACoRP’s Jools. Nice to see ScotRail MD (and ex-Northern lad) Alex Hynes so positive and full of beans. The full list of winners is here As always the event was a good way to meet up with old friends, as well as making some good new contacts. The previous evening’s reception, in the palatial City Chambers, was a welcome addition, organised by ScotRail who certainly pulled out all the stops to ensure a successful event. There was a range of fringe events and trips on the Thursday and Friday. It was good to see Severnside CRP getting the top award – they’ve done a grand job in an area which isn’t traditional ‘community rail’ territory. And also great to see Women in Community Rail getting a first prize for ‘influencing positive change’.

An awarding night in Glasgow

Next year the event will be in the West Midlands, so looking forward to a visit to The Great Western at Wolverhampton. While in Glasgow we hopped on the subway to Patrick and had a look round the new (ish)  Transport Museum, which is a wonderful place. The no. 100 electric bus took us to Kelvingrove Art Gallery to admire the ‘Glasgow Boys’ exhibition and hear some of the lunchtime organ concert. Then it was afternoon tea at Miss Cranston’s Willow Tea Rooms on Hope Street, which was very nice.

Pitlochry always in bloom

I was invited to speak to the Highland Main Line Community Rail Partnership back in March. I made it down from Skye to Pitlochry without much trouble, but the same couldn’t be said for most other potential attendees. The ‘beast from the east’ seemed to come up from the south, resulting in Scotland’s central belt being immobilised for several days. The tale of my journey south from Pitlochry has been told in a previous Salvo, involving a considerable amount of hitch-hiking.

The station bookshop at Pitlochry – most books priced at £1

I promised to return later in the year, so this was the reconvened meeting which took place without any extreme weather events getting in the way. My talk covered the early days of community rail and the early days of the Highland Rail Partnership, encouraged by the then MD of ScotRail John Ellis. John Yellowlees and Frank Roach were early activists and supporters and we all met up at a conference in Inverness, in 1995, which kick-started ‘community rail’ north of the border, taking what was a distinctive and successful path. John Yellowlees’ work, spread over numerous franchise changes, has been marvellous, with dozens of stations benefitting from the JY treatment. While in Pitlochry we visited the excellent station bookshop and made a few purchases. It is run by volunteers and has contributed over £250,000 to charities since its inception.

Charging my Batteries in Bo’ness

By a stroke of luck we were able to take advantage of an invitation to travel on the Vivarail battery-powered class 230 train. It had been shipped up to the Bo’ness and Kinneil Railway, on the banks of the Forth, to give a series of demonstration runs to rail industry and Scottish Government folk.

Our battery train arrives at Manuel

As many readers will know, the ‘class 230’ train is a former London Underground ‘D Train’ which was surplus to LUL’s requirements. Adrian Shooter’s Vivarail company bought a large number of the trains and is in the process of rebuilding them. Some are about to start operating in normal service, as diesel trains, on the Bedford-Bletchley Line and others will operate services on the Conwy Valley and Wrexham-Bidston routes as part of the new Keolis ‘Transport for Wales’ franchise, which happens to start today (congratulations mes amis).  What is particularly interesting in 230.002 is that it is battery powered. There is growing recognition that the days of diesel traction are numbered and even the most enthusiastic advocates of overhead electrification (me being one) recognise that not every line is suitable for such major infrastructure investment. Vivarail is also developing a hydrogen fuel cell train which should be a UK first. The Vivarail trains are ideal for relatively local operations. Look on it as a replacement for a ‘Pacer’ or a class 150/3, perfect for many ‘community rail’ lines. I think people were impressed with what they saw. We ambled down the  line from Bo’ness to Manuel (with a Vintage Trains crew), stopping adjacent to the newly-electrified Edinburgh – Glasgow main line. Passing trains gave friendly toots. It felt a bit like we were making history. We had time to have a quick look round The Museum of Scotland’s Railways next to Bo’ness station – and came away wishing we’d had more time. It’s an excellent museum, with a great range of exhibits and also a strong ‘people’ element to it. Current exhibitions include one exploring the contribution of Scotland’s railwaymen to the First World War. Outstanding.

Culinary delights

No trip to Scotland, or anywhere else for that matter, is complete without visits to interesting tea shops, cafes and restaurants.

Taking morning coffee with Lady Fiona McTaggart of Kittybrewster, in the Glengarry Castle Hotel

Our first stop en route to Glasgow was at the superb ‘Devil’s Porridge’ museum at Eastriggs. This community-owned and volunteer run museum celebrates to the contribution of thousands of workers, mostly women, to the First World War. The huge munitions factory at Longtown/Gretna employed over 20,000 at its peak and it was hard, dangerous work. The so-called ‘devil’s porridge’ was the claggy porridge-like explosive that went into shells. The museum also has an excellent cafe and we had an enjoyable lunch in fascinating surroundings. The museum also has a ‘fireless’ loco parked outside which once operated within the complex. I have to confess to a growing liking for up-market Scottish hotels. This is probably a characteristic of old age. We called in at various salubrious establishments, often just for a glass of wine or morning coffee. The Duisdale on Skye offered a warm welcome with a splendid open fire. Heading back south we called in at The Glengarry Castle Hotel, near Invergarry. Again, the surroundings were magnificent, with fine view over the loch. After a superb walk through the Killicrankie gorge we called in at the Killiecrankie Hotel for an early evening aperitif. Also recommended. We enjoyed drinks on the lawn of the Green Park Hotel in Pitlochry, overlooking the loch and the A9 bridge, which is actually quite attractive.

We didn’t get chance to sample Skye’s Kinloch Lodge this time. The management team were off down south to collect a well-deserved award, so looking forward to visiting next time. We had good meals at Kyleakin’s ‘Taste of India’, Broadford’s Cafe Sia and Pitlochry’s Fern Cottage , which has a Turkish theme and is within earshot of the railway. Cafe Biba, just across the road, did a very nice mince and onions. Good homely fare. And a mention for the station tea room at Bo’ness. It had a nice ambience, friendly staff and the cakes laid on for our special visit were scrumptious. The shop is well-stocked too. The cafe at Falls of Cruachan Power Station not only does excellent soup, it offers great views of Loch Awe on one side and the railway on t’other.

The Rail Review

The Department for Transport’s Rail Review is underway, with the appointment of Keith Williams, who is deputy chair of John Lewis and Partners. Chris Grayling told the House of Commons: “The panel will ensure the review thinks boldly and creatively, challenging received wisdom, to ensure its recommendations can deliver the stability and improvements that rail passengers deserve. They will be supported by a dedicated secretariat and will now begin engaging with the industry, passengers, regional and business representatives and others across the country, drawing on their expertise, insights and experiences to inform the review. It will consider all parts of the rail industry, from the current franchising system and industry structures, to accountability and value for money for passengers and taxpayers. It will consider further devolution and the needs of rail freight operators, and will take into account the final report of Professor Stephen Glaister into the May 2018 network disruption, due at the end of the year”. Good, it’s needed. I’m aware that some commentators have said we don’t need another review, we know what needs to be done. Do we? Let’s see what ideas come up. I’ve been working with a few friends and colleagues on ideas for a regional, vertically-integrated railway for the North (but not as far as the North-east) which is informed to some degree by experience in Japan and elsewhere. More on this in future Salvoes, but ideas welcome in the meantime.

Allen Clarke’s Barrow Bridge

This coming Tuesday I’m giving a talk to local members of the Woodlands Trust on ‘Allen Clarke’s Barrow Bridge’. Who? Where? Well Allen Clarke was the great Bolton writer, cyclist and philosopher who, back in the late 1890s, became fascinated with the ‘deserted’ mill village of Barrow Bridge, just north of Bolton (and very near where I’m moving to). The village was once a ’model’ community, visited by Disareli and Prince Albert. It features in fictionalised form in Disraeli’s novel Coningsby.

The derelict mills at Barrow Bridge before demolition in 1913 (Bolton Library and Archives)

The mill closed in 1877 and the associated cottage gradually emptied. By the mid-1880s it had become a ‘deserted village’. Clarke wrote Tales of a Deserted Village and began to organise visits there. The highpoint was in May 1901 when he organised a picnic which attracted 10,000 visitors. The event was in support of the locked-out Penrhyn quarry workers and raised a huge amount of money for their cause. The local Clarion Choir sang and everyone had a great time. Even the local policeman enjoyed it and personally thanked Clarke for putting on such an enjoyable and trouble-free event. The talk is at the Barrow Bridge Mission at 18.30 on Tuesday evening.

 Bolton station updates

We were delighted to be short-listed for an award in the ‘small arts projects’ at the Community Rail Awards in Glasgow. We didn’t win anything but it was a start – and just wait til next year! Julie Levy attended the awards on behalf of the station partnership. Our next open meeting is on Tuesday October 23rd when Simon Walton, chair of Campaign for Borders Rail, will speak about the campaign to re-open the southern leg of the former Waverley Route, from Tweedbank through Hawick to Carlisle. The full partnership meets the following Thursday, October 25th. Ian Davis of ACoRP will be speaking on diversity and inclusion issues, including ‘the dementia friendly railway’. Our trip to irlam and Edge Hill is being rescheduled, hopefully it will take place in the next few weeks. We’re also having a trip to see the Carnforth Station Trust developments. Initial talks with the Prince’s Trust on ideas for raised flower beds have been very productive.   For more information about the Partnership email us at or like us facebook BoltonStationCDP or on twitter @BoltonStnCDP

Bolton Art School Celebrated

Bolton Museum has just re-opened after an extensive re-fit. It looks great. There is space upstairs for temporary exhibitions, and the first one is well worth a visit. It covers the history of Bolton Art School, established in 1857. It now forms part of the University of Bolton, which is sponsoring the show. The origins of the Lancashire ‘art school’ movement are fascinating.

Sam Johnson opens the exhibition in Bolton Museum

It was very much linked to the emerging textile industry, with a need for skilled textile designers. They sprang up in the big textile centres including Bolton, Bury, Blackburn and Burnley. In Bolton, the Mechanics Institute was running classes in drawing, weaving and pattern design as early as 1825. The ‘Bolton Government School of Art’ opened in 1857 on Silverwell Street. In 1868 Anthony Trollope opened a ‘Fine Arts and Industrial Exhibition’ at the Mechanics’ Institute in 1868. As well as works of ‘fine art’ the exhibition included samples of printing, coal tar and magnesium products and examples of cotton manufacture. There was no ‘hard and fast’ distinction between fine art and industrial design. More details of the exhibition from Sam Johnson but do try and get to see the exhibition and get a copy of the exhibition brochure which has a fascinating history of the arts in Bolton written by Donna Claypool, Anthony Roocroft and Bob Snape.

Film Festival

Bolton’s second film festival took place last week. I went along to the opening night, which showed a series of short films produced from far and wide. I was impressed by Maxine Peake’s directorial debut – a short film (set in Filey?) about a young couple’s experience of having a thalidomide child. The event has grown substantially since its first year and congratulations to Adrian Barber and his team for putting Bolton on the film map. More details:

Bretherton Bibliophile

I had hoped to finish off the rather long and at times tedious – but often challenging – Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. I did get a very interesting response from Mike Weinman in the US who says this about it: “Ayn Rand modeled her fictional railroad after my old road, the New York Central.  In 1946, she shadowed our then-General Superintendent – Freight Transportation, Karl Borntrager, for several months, to learn what a senior operating officer does.  Then she converted the role to a woman, and since then, many of the few railroad female officers have used ‘Dagny Taggart’ as a role model.  Indeed, a privately owned railcar in the US is named Dagny Taggart. Borntrager, in 1946, was the president of the American Association of Railroad Superintendents, in its fiftieth year.  I am proud to have served as a Director of that organization for eleven years, and am still a member. He later became Vice President – Operations, for the New York Central, and wrote a book which is somewhat similar to Gerry Fiennes’ book “I Tried to Run a Railroad”.  Borntrager’s book is called Keeping the Railroads Running. The area Rand portrays as a steel-making area near Philadelphia is believed to be Conshohocken, which indeed had a steel plant there, now closed. Interestingly, she published Atlas Shrugged in the mid-1950 era, even though her research had taken place almost ten years prior. I suggest you skip the science fiction parts of the book about planes going into a different dimension, as well as the 100 or so pages on political philosophy.  You will then be left with a mediocre railroad story.  At one point, she orders the locomotive engineer to pass a stop signal, or do some other preposterous thing, which would get her sacked instantly”.

Despite taking a good haul of books to read on Skye, even the often wet weather didn’t give me enough time to read any of them. My thanks to Andrew for sending me a copy of Andy Lynch’s new novel Mallard: Spies, Speed and Murder. It’s sub-titled “how the Nazis tried to sabotage the world’s fastest locomotive”. We’ll see – I’ll do a review in the next Salvo.

A few magazine articles are worthy of comment, particularly Robert Skidelsky’s feature article ‘How austerity broke Britain’ in the latest New Statesman. There’s so much very good stuff in this, as well as some insights elsewhere in the issue including Gerry Hassan on Dundee and Isabel Hilton’s reviews of recent books on China.

Finally, the latest ‘annual report and accounts’ of the Railway Heritage Trust has just popped through the door. Always produced to an extremely high standard with superb illustrations, the report covers recent projects of the trust, 2017/8. Forget the balance sheet stuff, the reports of the excellent projects the Trust has funded make for fascinating reading. Highlights include Bognor Regis, the new micro pub at Durham (on ‘to do’ list), another one at Dunbar, Leamington Spa, and the ‘men’s shed’ at Nairn. The Trust contributed over £1m to the refurbishment of Wigan Wallgate station and a sizeable grant for Perth, supporting Caledonian Sleeper’s lounge and training centre. More info:

Finally, the draft of my book The Settle-Carlisle Railway: a new history and guide has been despatched to the publisher, Cowood. It should be out next Spring/Summer. A very big thanks to all who have helped, I hope you will think it’s been worth it! Now back to The Works – a novel of railway life and love, set in Horwich and Bolton in the 1970s and 80s.

Crank Quiz: Up the Junction

This week’s quiz is one where the answers may not be found on Google! Or not all of them. Readers are invited to suggest names of towns or villages which have a railway name – typically, this will be ‘Junction’ but maybe not in every case. They can be anywhere in the world. One location had a poem written about, in Russian.

Readers’ rants

Alan Brooke asks: “What’s the point of getting from London to Leeds , for e.g., a hour quicker if, by the time that’s possible, it takes over a hour to get from A to B in Leeds ? In other words High Speed rail is a vast waste of money and diversion of resources so long as the basic problems of local commuting and urban transport are not solved. But above all HS2 is an environmental and heritage disaster”.

Steve Brown comments on electrification: “I know that it may not be popular in some quarters, but it strikes me that the problems of partly electrified routes across the North could be side-stepped by adopting hydrogen trains such as the ones currently operating in Germany. Imagine not having to worry about tunnel height for overhead lines and suddenly the costs of infrastructure and associated engineering problems start to disappear! Let’s forget about hybrids and go the whole hog!”

Aidan Turner-Bishop: “I had a nice experience about Samuel Laycock recently. I was leading a Lancashire Rail Rambler walk around Marsden, Yorkshire, and we paused at a monument in the park to Laycock who was born near Marsden. I began to recite, from a crib card, his moving poem ‘Welcome bonny brid’ when a woman in our group took up the poem and recited it from memory. Laycock’s works are not unforgotten. Marsden Park is opposite the Marsden Socialist Club where Victor Grayson, the legendary and mysteriously vanished Labour MP, laid the foundation stone”.

David Browning on Labour: “Thanks as ever for an engrossing Salvo! It would be useful to add some further detail to your comment about Tony Blair’s role in the achievement of the Good Friday Agreement. I suspect that without the profound and systematic negotiations developed by Mo Mowlam MP when she was Secretary of State in Belfast this would not have been achieved. I first met Mo Mowlam when we both worked at Northern College Barnsley as tutors during its early founding years. And our paths crossed a decade or so later when I worked for Oxfam and was based in Belfast during a period of personal development with Industrial Training Services [ITS]. Inevitably, our paths crossed again – and she was supportive of Oxfam’s work across the whole island of Ireland. She was not the usual Cabinet Minister. When I needed to meet with key groups and politicians in Stormont it was usual simply to do that in the foyer. But one day, Mo passed through and noticed me in discussion – and came to greet me and asked what I was doing. I explained that there were no private rooms available. She told me to use her private room – saying she would work in the Library. On another occasion, I was running late for a flight back to my office in Oxford – staff could not find an available taxi. Mo insisted that I use her [Secretary of State’s] car and told her driver to get me onto that flight. He did – by going through every red light from the city to the airport.”

Robert Paul White on HS2: “Regarding the HS2 debate, I’m afraid I have never been in favour of it. For me, the capacity argument wins hands down, and I would have preferred an approach that used more (if not all) of the “footprint” of the GC London Extension. I look at the section that runs parallel with the M1 near Lutterworth until it crosses the M1 on a bridge that must only have seen 5 years use, and dream of northbound trains overtaking me on my frequent journeys. You can hardly see the line now for undergrowth, but it could have continued on a gentle curve along the M45 to Coventry and Birmingham…….”.

Dave Walsh offers a fascinating anecdote: “Just a quick thought on the Irish question which you raised in the section on a federal Britain (a name for which was once seen as IONA (Islands of the North Atlantic).  You cite mainland views of Ireland, but leave one out – ignorance. An anecdote and some name dropping. I recall once talking to Ry Hattersley.  In June 1969, he was promoted in a very minor reshuffle (because no one else was around) to become Dennis Healey’s deputy junior Minister of State at Defence.  The very next month Healey went down with illness.But it was July, and stretching into August, and the world was quiet, so matters were left as they were.   Cue, in the first week of August, savage rioting in NI, and a demand from Stormont (as the civil power) for military assistance.  Whilst the Army Board official letter to the Minister was being prepared (which RH had to sign) it became quickly apparent that no-one at the MoD  (or the FCO or the NIO) had any more knowledge of the underlying issues in the province that could be got from the press – and that wasn’t much.  After all, both the Republic and NI had been quiet for decades and didn’t impinge at all on day to day Westminster or Whitehall consciousness.Rightly, the Minister’s private office did not trust Stormont to interpret for them, and accordingly, a MoD driver was despatched with a wad of notes to buy up from Foyles and Colletts on the Charing Cross Road  any books on recent Irish and Ulster history that could be found so that the GoC and his staff could get a background briefing containing parameters from Ministers.  By all accounts, the driver stood out like a sore thumb in the radical left Collets shop, stocked as it was with left journals and revolutionary literature”.

Finally, Mick McKigney takes issue with The Salvo’s prescription for a Federal British isles (including all of Ireland): “Comrade, your thoughts on a Federal British Isles are delusional thinking; your ideas could take us all back a 100 years. To cede a republic born of the very history that you note would never gain traction in Ireland. Irish people may have some respect for the individual who is your current head of state but in no respect in any shape or form for the institution and the bizarre succession regime and motley successors. The big problem of a Federal British Isles would also always be the likelihood of a dominant hard rump of reactionary English politics with deep roots in empire loyalism driving politics in such a federal state. George Dangerfield’s The Strange Death of Liberal England describes the mindset of the ultra-unionists that did for Gladstone and Home Rule but also continues in the political culture animating Farage, Johnson, Rees-Mogg et al.

A much more progressive solution would be the break-up of the Union, perhaps with a confederal united Ireland in the EU and very definitely with an independent Scotland with its own currency and in the EU. The crass superiority complex of the English (the people who vote UKIP, BNP, Conservative and Brexit) and still extant belief in the BS about the “good old days” of the British Empire needs fundamental economic and political shocks to make them wake up and move towards a democratic political modernisation emphasising equality and meritocracy and the death of elitism personified in institutions such as grammar and public schools, Oxbridge, and the trappings of aristocracy and royalism. Rees-Mogg is not a caricature; he is the very real face of a politics that wants to have us return to Victorian economic, social and political standards. He and the elitist fop Johnson want a deregulated UK good for the elite and its continuity where delightful salt of the earth working fellows can doff their caps to their “betters”. Yes, there could be another scenario where a great crisis or crises could lead to a reactionary rump English state as a long or short interregnum but that would be worth it if Irish unity and Scottish and Welsh independence happened.”

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, number-plates 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, unsuccessful 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 pioneer 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 literary 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: