The Northern Weekly Salvo
Incorporating Slaithwaite Review of Books, Weekly Notices, Sectional Appendices, Tunnel Gazers’ Gazette and Northern Umbrella. Descendant of Teddy Ashton’s Northern Weekly and Th’Bowtun Loominary.
Published from 109 Harpers Lane Bolton BL1 6HU email: email@example.com
No. 269 October 2nd 2019
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. 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
Whatever happened to September? Sorry for the long gap, here is an Autumnal Salvo, written just ahead of the annual Community Rail Awards, taking place this year in Telford. I’ll tweet details of the winners….Bolton is up for three awards so fingers crossed. So much going on politically and more generally. I’ve included the latest bulletin from ‘The Northern Umbrella’ edited by my good friend ‘Billy Bolton’ (not to be confused with the excellent dialect writer ‘Billy Button’, aka Robert Brodie, who lived in Eagley). This issue has a mixed bag of stuff, including some snaps of my recent holiday in the Isle of Man.
We got back the day before the rains came down and flooded Laxey. Highlight of the trip was probably falling off a cliff, while blackberry-picking in Peel. Only a slight exaggeration: I probably fell a few feet but managed to stop before tumbling down a 12’ drop onto the road beneath. Dangerous occupation, blackberry-picking. I’m hoping the pie was worth it.
Going back to politics, writing on the day that Johnson is giving his end-of-conference speech in Manchester, it’s worth reflecting on his recent speech to us plain Northern folk in Rotherham, where he made the interesting suggestion that ‘community rail partnerships’ could take over the running of rural branch lines. Has he been reading too much Salvo? Anyway, the full text is here: https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/pm-speech-at-convention-of-the-north-in-rotherham
OK, to make it easy for you, the relevant bits are here: ”On your local lines in metropolitan areas, we will give greater control over fares, service patterns, rolling stock and stations. And outside the combined authority areas, I want communities to take control too. That might be through county councils taking on similar roles, in their areas, for stations or branch lines. Or it might be by transferring local branch line and rural services to community rail partnerships, owned by local people”. As we know, 27 years on since New Futures for Rural Rail, easier said than done. But maybe it opens out some opportunities, assuming he stays PM for more than a few weeks. One for the Rail Reform Group to take a look at.
Political comment: the end of socialism as we know it?
What can you say that hasn’t been said? The Supreme Court decision was a welcome shaft of common sense shining through our increasingly broken body politic. Let’s see what happens in the next few weeks. A General Election is inevitable but it’s anyone’s guess who will win. Thanks to our stupid voting system, it will depend less on what people actually want so much as how the votes for the Brexit and Lib Dem parties pan out. Labour is likely to lose votes to Lib Dems (and Greens, Plaid and SNP) while the Tories will suffer at the hands of the Brexit Party if Johnson doesn’t get us out by October 31st.
As someone who has identified as a socialist and ‘of the left’ since I was 14, the current state of left politics in England is making me re-think a lot of long-held beliefs, or at least ‘labels’. Would I describe myself as a ‘socialist’ anymore? No, I don’t think I would, after enduring Labour conference on TV and the intolerant ranters who pass themselves off as ‘socialist’. It’s a long way from the inclusive, joyous socialism of the old ILP – Hardie, Glasier, Blatchford and the much-reviled Snowden. What today, far too often, passes itself off as ‘socialist’ is narrow, intolerant, authoritarian and centralist; with a fixation on state ownership as the solution to all the problems in society. I’ve written about ‘The Corbyn Cult’ before; it seems to have grown as his wider popularity has declined. I think what finally pushed me to reject the socialist ‘label’ was some people being ‘outraged’ at my writing for a Lib Dem publication. Horror of horrors! The ‘Yorkshire Yellow Book’, reviewed later in this Salvo, has some extremely good material in it, but I only wish some of the same radical and creative thinking was coming out of Labour. But I’m not a ‘Lib Dem’ and neither am I really a ‘Green’ much as I like a lot of their policies. But if someone asks me to write something for them (and I’d do the same for a centre-right organisation) I’d happily do it. It’s important to engage (and hats off to Maurice Glasman of Blue Labour who isn’t afraid to get out of his comfort zone and talk to the likes of the EDL).
If anything I’m a liberal-minded social democrat with an anarchist/regionalist tinge. I’m inspired by the writings of Leopold Kohr, Edward Carpenter, Dora Russell, Murray Bookchin and that interesting US thinker who advised Clinton, Gar Alperovitz. Looking at my collection of political books, I think classical Marxism has become pretty pointless and best dumped – not just the heavy, dogmatic authoritarianism of Marx, Engels and Lenin but also Gramsci and more recent writers including Hobsbawm. A trip to Oxfam is in the offing, unless anyone wants them.
Going further back, there’s some interesting and still relevant stuff from the old ILP, not least by Philip Snowden, but also the municipal socialism of Fred Jowett of Bradford. And of course the Tolstoyan-influenced Lancashire radicalism of Allen Clarke, perhaps best expressed in The Eternal Question and his novels like The Red Flag. Hopefully one of these days I’ll try and put all of this together in a new edition of Socialism with a Northern Accent – with a different title! Maybe in time Labour will recover its sanity, but I’m not so sure. It has become an increasingly intolerant body– more so than the other parties, at least in my own experience.
For decades, it has seen ‘true socialism’ as being about how far you can take state ownership, forgetting that ‘larger socialism’ of Carpenter and the ILP. Its tribalism is expressed in silly slogans like ‘I’ve never kissed a Tory’, but harks back to Bevan’s ‘vermin’ speech. But the venom is increasingly directed at people within their own ranks who don’t toe the Corbyn/Milne line, or those who ‘betray the cause’ and leave because they’ve had enough.
For now, I’ll support radical alternatives to Labour – which in England boils down to the Greens and the Lib Dems. I’ve had enough of being lectured about ‘splitting the vote’ – people have a right to support who best represents their thoughts and aspirations. I might – just might – vote Lib Dem in a General Election because of an electoral system which Labour and the Tories have colluded to maintain decades after it should have been ditched for something better (and the report by Roy Jenkins came up with probably the best solution, in 1997).
The Socialist Republic of Man
After all that, it was interesting to spend a few days on the Isle of Man, that little-known socialist playground of rich tax exiles. The transport system is a model of public ownership. There is one operator, owned by the Manx Government. The buses are reliable, comfortable and frequent. The drivers are courteous and helpful. Even the heritage railways, mostly, are government-owned. The wonderful Isle of Man Steam Railway is the responsibility of the government, as is the Electric Tramway from Douglas to Ramsey, and the Snaefell Mountain Railway. The only railway not owned by the mini-state is the Groudle Glen Railway, which is wholly volunteer-run (oh yes, Laxey Mines Railway too). And the ferry company, rejoicing in the title of the Isle of Man Steam Packet Co., is also government owned. I can recommend their steak pie, in the passenger lounge. It all works, it works extremely well (the transport system, as well as the on-board catering). Whether that makes the Isle of Man ‘socialist’ I somehow doubt it, but perhaps points to the increasingly irrelevant and unhelpful term in itself.
With Kissack and Fenella
The Isle of Man is a crank’s paradise, it has to be said. But who could not delight in travelling behind an 1894-built gleaming steam locomotive in (comfortable) wooden coaches, watching delightful scenery go by? We made go use of our G-Explore cards (another example of socialism gone mad, valid on trains, buses, electric trams and even Groudle Glen and Laxey Mines railways).
Our stay was very much at the tail end of the season, but there were still four trains a day running in each direction using Port Erin-based Fenella and Douglas-shedded Kissack. We managed to get to see the fascinating Laxey Mines Railway on its last day of operation, on Saurday. And the day after, the stunningly beautiful Groudle Glen Railway had its final running day before closing for winter (apart from its busy Christmas season). Brown Bear was in operation and we were able to sample the extension out to Sea Lion Cafe, close to the remains of the long-abandoned zoo by the rocks.
Around the towns and villages
We stayed in the delightful little town of Port St Mary, which is pleasantly situated on the south-east corner of the island close to its larger neighbour Port Erin, which has suffered a bit from considerable development since my last visit in 1990. Port St Mary seems pretty much untouched. We can recommend The Albert pub and Andrea’s Italian restaurant. Our hotel – Aaron House – was an absolute delight and deserves its 5-star rating. Like everywhere else, Port St Mary has an excellent bus service and steam trains stop at the gaunt, unoccupied station, some 10 minutes’ from the centre. Douglas seemed more alive than it did back in the early 90s; a lot of investment has gone into the Promenade though
The Horse Tramway is not yet ready to recommence operations. A good reason to return next year. But great that the track is being re-laid when it could so easily have gone. We had a pleasant couple of hours in Castletown, including a pint in The Sidings, just outside the station. Nice to find a good quality mild on tap. On our last day we visited Peel and had a coffee in ‘The Coffee Station’ in the old station booking hall. Peel is a very attractive and quirky place, with a couple of good second-hand bookshops. A particularly good find was Tramway Junction, a secondhand bookshop next to Laxey station which specialises in railway, tram and bus publications. Heaven! I picked up a bound volume of the 1952 Trains Illustrated which fills a gap in the collection. Also a rare pamphlet on The Belfast and County Down Railway. A treasure trove, and not at all over-priced. I hope they escaped the recent floods.
Northern Umbrella opens up
Taxi for Mr Cummings! It’s story time again at Northern Umbrella, and the scene is a certain cheesy nightclub that could be in any Northern town. https://northernumbrellablog.wordpress.com/2019/09/28/this-likely-lad-is-the-norths-problem-to-fix/ Please follow Northern Umbrella on Twitter @northernumbrel1 and retweet if you like it!
Another Settle-Carlisle book published!
My new book on the Settle-Carlisle line has just been published (see below in ‘Salvo Publications List’). It’s published by Wiltshire-based Crowood and is now available, price £24 (see below). A very big thanks to everyone who helped with the research. I hope it’s a useful addition to the enormous body of work on this remarkable railway.
Other Boltonish things
Lots going on. The big news is winning support from Northern (through its Community Rail Executive Group) to fund the community rail partnership for ‘Bolton and South Lancashire’. This will enable us to appoint an officer, details to be published here and elsewhere as soon as we can. The new CRP covers routes from Bolton to Manchester, Wigan, Preston and Bromley Cross (where there’s a soft border with Community Rail Lancashire.
The exhibition of railway workers’ art in The Platform Gallery ended last week and it proved very popular. Thanks to all who exhibited including Victoria guard Steve Cross, ISS operative Ricky Hall, Oxford Road’s Nigel Valentine, and Newcastle driver Les Pigg.
A very big thanks to RMT, whose banners from Manchester Victoria, Manchester South and the NW Regional Council really made an impact. Local artist Phil Porter has a residency in the gallery during October, so drop in and see hello and take a look at his work. We are very grateful to TransPennine Express for a further grant to complete the final ‘fitting out’ of the space.
Things coming up include a Christmas Market in December and a ‘Lancashire Day’ celebration on Wednesday November 27th. Current plan is to use a scheduled train from Manchester to Preston then back to Bolton, for a light ‘Lancashire lunch’ (tripe, cowheel, that sort of thing). In the evening there’s a do on at the new Wayoh Brewery near Blackrod station, starting at 7.00 subject to confirmation.
One project we hope to get moving on soon, under the banner of the new CRP, is a series of self-guided walks starting from Bolton station’s famous clock tower. The proposed ‘Clock Tower Trails’ would extend out to Preston, Wigan, Manchester and Blackburn and link in to each station along the way, so you can do it all in bite-sized chunks. We’re looking for volunteers to help with this exciting project (eat your heart out, Heart of Wales Trail).
Yorkshire ‘Yellow Book’ published (can we have one for Lancashire?)
The Yorkshire Yellow Book 2019 was published just in time for the Lib Dems’ annual conference in September. Sub-titled ‘essays on a Liberal future for Yorkshire and the Humber’ the book is in the tradition of Liberal Party policy reports which stretch back to the days of Lloyd George. The book’s range of essays have the idea of a ‘one Yorkshire’ regional assembly as the central linking theme, which makes the whole thing coherent and well-integrated. There’s a foreword from that interesting character Chris (Lord) Haskins, former Labour activist and ex-MD of Northern Foods. He makes the point that “a lot more has to be done if One Yorkshire is to take off. There must be a substantial and credible programme for devolution, including more direct taxation, more economic powers, more responsibility for education and social affairs.”
He goes on to argue for a ‘clear governance structure’ based on “an elected mayor, four combined authorities and clearly defined accountability…”. Not so sure about that. It’s up to the Tykes obviously, but I’d have thought one strong Yorkshire regional body with smaller local authorities with clearly defined responsibilities which reflect local identities, not four unwieldy ‘combined authorities’ which would be too big. The curse of local government was the Redcliffe-Maud reforms in the 1970s which destroyed a good system of genuinely local government in the mad rush to go for large authorities. But the point is, the Lib Dems have opened up a debate, and I hope my friends in the Yorkshire Party – and others – will engage with the ideas.
The essays cover a wide range of policy areas. My good friend Colin Speakman has an excellent contribution on ‘Yorkshire’s Countryside Heritage’. Other essays cover arts and culture, housing, youth issues, the green agenda and safety and security. There are several useful contributions on governance issues and I’ve got a piece on rail, which can be read here… http://www.paulsalveson.org.uk/2019/10/02/getting-yorkshire-back-on-the-rails/
The publication begs a very important question: why isn’t anyone doing a similar piece of work for Lancashire? The red rose county has suffered far more than Yorkshire, with its integrity wrecked by badly-thought through policies. Despite that and the existence of bodies like ‘Greater Manchester’, people still identify as Lancastrians. That’s true in Bolton as much as Barrow, Blackburn and Rochdale. And a ‘Lancashire region’ makes a lot of sense, just like ‘One Yorkshire’ does. So a job for the Lib Dems over here, where they don’t have a ‘Lancashire Party’ snapping at their heels. Or is that part of the problem?
The Yorkshire Yellow Book 2019, Essays on a Liberal future for Yorkshire and the Humber is edited by: Elizabeth Bee, Kamran Hussain, Ian MacFadyen and Michael Meadowcroft Price: £8 plus £2 p&p (please enquire for bulk orders), trade price: £5 Available from: Amazon Marketplace or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Crank Quiz: Non-phonetic railway names
The last one had a Scottish theme. Readers were asked to name stations and railway locations (open or closed) in Scotland which have reference to months of the year or seasons. Frank Roach offered Springburn, Maybole, Easter Road, Fort Augustus (Pier and Town) and Lentran. While Nigel G Harris suggestsed Easterhouse and James Wilkin nominated Springfield, Summerston and Springside (Beeching closure).
Richard Hackford informs: “I can, indeed, confirm that Hunstanton is pronounced “Hunst’on” and that Snettisham is pronounced Snetsham, as I used to live in the latter village. Interestingly enough, I was there when the line was still operational all the way to Hunstanton. In fact, when they converted the manual crossings (of which there were quite a few as the coastal plain is very flat) into automatic half-barrier crossings, we all thought that this investment meant that the line was not under threat. This would be around 1970, I think. Not so! The line closed soon afterwards and local thinking was that the cost of the redundancies of the crossing keepers, plus the cost of the new installations, had been added to the “running costs” of the line and, hence, it was no longer economic. Does anyone have information to confirm or dispute this contention?” (there is a group which has been formed to lobby for the line’s re-instatement, worth contacting them – ed)
Following on from Richard’s interesting comments about Norfolk pronunciation, it seems fitting to throw the question out more widely and ask for non-phonetic renditions of stations or other railway locations. Obvious examples (so don’t waste your time) would of course be ‘Slawit’ for Slaithwaite (but correctly pronounced ‘Slath-waite’ not ‘Slay-thwaite).
Readers’ Rants, Ruminations and Reflections
Walter Rothschild adds to the debate: “I do realise this is not a forum for endless debate on foreign politics but let me please add, following the comments on my last posting: Nobody has ever said it is forbidden to criticise the politics of any state or any party within that state; the issue is whether the criticism is out of proportion and the consequent concern is then the worry as to WHY this out-of-proportion criticism becomes accepted as the norm. The State of Israel for example faces an array of hostile external threats (including BDS and within the UN and Iran) and internal ones. (Gaza, by the way, is external, also Lebanon, Syria… – I write this as I often get comments on the lines of ‘What is Israel doing to its Palestinians in Gaza?’) This is all often overlooked or swept aside as irrelevant – it is not. Arab Palestinians form 20% of the Israeli population, they have their own political parties, are represented (as a minority) in the Knesset, their places of worship are respected. Compare this please to the situation of Jews in Moslem countries to get a perspective on the question Jews ask: Why are only WE being criticised by Western politicians? 27,000 killed in Nigerian by Islamists, regular bomb attacks in Afghanistan, in Yemen, turmoil in Egyptian Sinai, Syria attacking rebels and killing children in Idlib – and yet all one hears is criticism of Israel. This makes one wonder why the interest in peace and rights is so selective. Incidentally, I am not an Israeli but when the first Intifada started someone thought it a relevant statement to throw bottles of petrol through windows of my synagogue in Leeds. This is an example of the reason British Jews get nervous when uninformed idiots involve themselves in Middle East politics. When defining sexism – ask a woman for her experience and feelings; when defining racism, ask a coloured person for their feelings and experiences; when defining anti-semitism, ask a Jew. Please don’t define such concepts unilaterally and self-righteously, without consulting the victims”.
Special Traffic Notices
- August 16/7/
- An exhibition in Bolton Museum on Peterloo and the role of textile workers in the fight for democracy starts this Saturday August 3rd and runs to November 10th
The Salvo Publications List
The Settle-Carlisle Railway (2019) published by Crowood and available in reputable, and possibly some disreputable, bookshops price £24. It’s a general history of the railway, bringing it up to date. It includes a chapter on the author’s time as a goods guard on the line, when he was based at Blackburn in the 1970s. The book includes a guide to the line, from Leeds to Carlisle. Some previously-unused sources helped to give the book a stronger ‘social’ dimension, including the columns of the LMS staff magazine in the 1920s. ISBN 978-1-78500-637-1
The following are all available from The Salvo Publishing HQ, here at 109 Harpers Lane, Bolton BL1 6HU. 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 £10.00 including post and packing. New bi-centennial edition published in May 2019. 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.
You can probably get a better idea from going to my website: http://www.paulsalveson.org.uk/little-northern-books-2/