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 at 109 Harpers Lane Bolton BL1 6HU email: email@example.com
Publications website: www.lancashireloominary.co.uk
No. 279 May 1st 2020
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, weirdos, misfits, steam punks, yes women, no men, gay Swedenborgians, cat-spotters, discerning sybarites, bi-guys, non-aligned social democrats, 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, and the Campaign for a North with a capital ‘N’.
“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
A long gap in this supposedly ‘Weekly’ Salvo. It hasn’t been a lack of things to report on, to be honest. I’ve been busy, but busy in different ways than normal. This ‘Salvo’ will be a change from the usual thing but hopefully still have plenty to interest you, especially if you’re locked down and out. Meanwhile, I can only add my thanks and support to NHS staff and all key workers – particularly rail, bus and tram staff – who have been putting their lives at risk on our behalf. Perhaps one good thing to emerge from all this will be a greater recognition of the hard and difficult job these essential workers do, and how shamefully they’ve been ignored and under-valued in the past.
What will the ‘new normal’ look like?
We don’t know, do we? There has been the start of an interesting set of debates on a ‘new politics’, as well as the impact of Covid-19 on transport patterns. Taking transport first, SYSTRA has produced a study which suggests a severe drop in bus use for the first 12 months after relaxation of restrictions, with a lesser – but still significant – reduction in rail travel. It has been suggested that whilst intercity rail will manage OK, and possibly growth with reduced air travel options, commuting journeys will suffer. There is a real possibility that many people will abandon public transport and go back to using their cars. Whilst everyone likes the quiet roads and reduction in pollution levels, what we could well see is an attitude that thinks “my journey is more important than yours and I am entitled to use my car.”
There needs to be strong intervention by government to discourage this. Cities like Milan have taken the initiative to drastically reduce car access to city centres and this will be permanent. Towns and cities in the UK should be looking at this example and seizing the initiative. For rail, operators need to work with governments and local authorities to find ways to encourage people back to the rtains. The ‘community rail’ sector has a big part to play in this. The papers in The Enterprising Railway (see below) offer some ideas for how that might happen.
The big winners in sustainable transport terms ought to be cycling and walking. Many people (self included, he says pompously) haven’t used their cars for weeks and have been out on their bikes for exercise and essential journeys. Much of that should continue – cycling is very much an activity that grows on you by doing it. It’s partly physical but also a mental thing, with greater confidence in traffic. That said, I just wish people out for a walk would look before they cross the road! There’s lots that local authorities, with central government support, can do to build on the sudden upsurge in cycling.
As for politics…we’ve a new leader of the Labour Party who seems set to usher in some changes. Perhaps more in the ‘culture’ of Labour. Corbyn promised a ‘kinder form of politics’ but that never really happened, more like the opposite. I hope that Starmer will take a collaborative approach but not be afraid to challenge and attack when needed. Working positively with other progressive parties and organisations should be a ‘must’. Issues such as voting reform, the green agenda and democratisation should be much further up the agenda. As for Brexit, it really should be the last thing on anyone’s agenda but it looks like Johnson is determined to carry on with it. Oh well, he’s got the numbers.
What I did during my lockdown
I’ve never been so busy. Gone are the meetings, long journeys to and from London, being stuck on over-crowded trains. Instead, lots of time at the computer working on new projects (see below) and promoting ‘The Works’. Work with the community rail partnership, particularly the recruitment of our new officer, which is reported on below. On top of that, Rail Reform Group and publication of its papers on The Enterprising Railway has taken up time. But also I’ve been able to get out and about on foot and bike. I’ve been discovering some lovely footpaths within easy reach of home – around Harwood, Egerton, Belmont and Smithills. I’ve been getting out further afield on the electric bike, which is a Godsend. I’ve sailed up to the top of Winter Hill, meandered around Belmont and Roddlesworth and pedalled through Rivington, Anglezarke and Adlington. I’ve been able to combine it with book deliveries, within a reasonable distance. Yes, I miss social interaction, going to the pub and restaurants and helping out at the station. But the garden is looking very good and I’ve been able to stock up through deliveries from council-run Heaton Fold Garden Centre. So let’s face it, I’m one of the lucky ones.
Delivering The Works
I’ve had a steady flow of orders for The Works, my new novel set mostly in Horwich Loco Works in the 1970s and 1980s, but bringing the tale up to date and beyond – with a fictional story of a workers’ occupation, Labour politics, a ‘people’s franchise’ and Chinese investment in UK rail. I’ve had lots of good reactions to it, with some people reading it in one session! It has been positively reviewed by Anthony Smith of Transport Focus in Rail Professional (https://issuu.com/railpro/docs/april_2020_issuu) and The Bolton News gave it a 3-page spread See https://www.theboltonnews.co.uk/news/18396473.horwich-loco-works-inspiration-pauls-debut-novel/
If you want a copy I can offer it for £10 plus £2.50 postage to Salvo readers. Please make cheques payable to ‘Paul Salveson’ and post to my Bolton address above or send the money by bank transfer (a/c Dr PS Salveson 23448954 sort code 53-61-07 and email me with your address. If you are local I can do free delivery by e-bike (so just a tenner). There is a kindle version available price £4.99 and you can also buy it off Amazon. See www.lancashireloominary.co.uk
This year is the centenary of Allen Clarke’s first edition of Moorlands and Memories. It’s a neglected classic and probably my favourite book. It is a heady mixture of history, culture, landscape and nature, covering the moors north of Bolton (stretching up to the Dales and Pendle). I’m working on a celebration of his book – more in the way of a discursive conversation, picking up particular themes that Clarke loved to talk about. So there’s lots on local heritage and culture, Lancashire industry and transport, cycling and walking, literature, philosophy and life. It started off as a sort of ‘then and now’ but it isn’t really. It should be ready by October. To whet your appetite I’ve put one chapter (‘Over Belmont Moors’) on my website – comments welcome. It will be published by Lancashire Loominary and will be priced round about £20. http://lancashireloominary.co.uk/index.html/over-belmont-moors
The other big project is another novel. I’m trying to learn from the experience gained from The Works, including reader feedback. This one will be called The Red Bicycle and is partly set in Bolton in the early 1900s – featuring mill life, working on the railway, local socialist politics, the Clarion Cycling Club and ‘everyday life’ – but also having a modern, post-virus aspect too. The narrator, for part of it, is a bicycle. Very Flann O’Brien, for those who’ve read The Third Policeman – but with a Lancashire accent. Probably a November publication.
Community Rail News: Steph will be our new Community Rail Officer
Dr Stephanie Dermott has been appointed as the new Community Rail Development Officer for Bolton and South Lancashire Community Rail Partnership. She is expected to take up the post in the next few weeks.
The community rail partnership is one of the newest of the rail partnerships in the UK, having been formed last year. It covers the routes from Bolton into Wigan, Manchester, Preston and Bromley Cross. The new post will be about strengthening links between the railway and local communities.
The post is for two years initially and is funded by Northern, with additional contributions from CrossCountry, Avanti West Coast and Bolton at Home. Other key partners in the CRP include the University of Bolton, Transport for Greater Manchester, Network Rail, TransPennine Express and Bolton Council. A growing number of community groups are involved with the CRP’s work. The CRP is part of the national Community Rail Network (formerly Association of Community Rail Partnerships).
Steph is currently employed by Bolton Inter-Faith Council as their co-ordinator. She has worked extensively with Bolton’s diverse communities and has a PhD on Religions and Theology (Faith, Social Cohesion and Socio-Religious Action in Contemporary Britain) from the University of Manchester. “I am delighted to have been appointed to the position of Community Rail Development Officer. I have always been passionate about community engagement, and I am excited to be involved in helping develop links between the railway and local communities,” she said.
Her work at the Inter-Faith Council has been very much around social cohesion and community engagement. She has lots of skills which will transfer very well to the community rail partnership including event organisation such as Holocaust Memorial Day, Faith Trails, seminars, and working with a wide range of stakeholders.
Bolton Community and Voluntary Services (BCVS) worked closely with the rail partnership in the recruitment process and will be the employing body. Helen Tomlinson of Bolton CVS said: “Bolton CVS was delighted to work with the Bolton and South Lancashire Community Rail Partnership in the recruitment of this new post. This exciting project will ensure the community is at the heart of the development of stations within the partnership, promote engagement in our social and industrial heritage and provide lots of opportunities for people to get involved through volunteering their time and skills.”
Bolton Station Community Partnership is a core member of the CRP and focuses on developing Bolton’s large station as a community hub. Its chair, Julie Levy, welcomed the appointment. “Steph will make a great difference in extending the reach of both partnerships into the wider community. We’re very much looking forward to involving Steph in a wide range of projects including our planned ‘mela’ event next year.”
Lancashire Authors Association: Library set to move; Librarian stays awhoam
The Lancashire Authors Association was formed in November 1909 but it wasn’t until after the First World War had ended when serious thought was given to creating a collection of books on or by Lancashire authors. The association’s Southport meeting, on June 25th 1921, devoted some time to discussing the need for a library. The LAA’s vice-president, Major David Halstead, initiated a discussion on the need to “devote attention to the collection and compilation of historical and literary data”, for the benefit of future historians. His comments were echoed by a Mr. Thomas Phillips of Southport “who urged the Association to form a Library of Lancashire books, pamphlets, etc. written by LAA members and others.” The Executive decided to pursue the library project “with vigour.”
The next full meeting of the association, held at the Railway Mechanics’ Institute, Horwich, on September 17th, formally agreed to establish an L.A.A. Library. R.H. (‘Harry’) Isherwood was elected as Librarian. In Mr Isherwood’s report in The Record for November 1921, he said that the main objects of the library would be:
- To provide a collection of the literary and artistic work of L.A.A. members (past, present and prospective) for the interest and inspection of their fellows
- To provide a collection of books, prints, cuttings etc., on matters distinctly pertaining to the literary, artistic and historical aspects of Lancashire, whether written by LA members or others.”
He added an appeal for the donation of books and other manuscripts. He said that the LAA Executive Committee was keen to celebrate the works of the classic dialect writers such as Tim Bobbin, Waugh and Brierley, but other writers including Harrison Ainsworth, Mrs Gaskell and Stanley Houghton should also be included.
The library was to be located at the librarian’s home, which was then 29 Greenside Lane, Droysden, literally a few doors’ away from Alf and Edith Pearce, who were at no. 23. Alf was editor of The Record and Edith was ‘editress’ of the association’s Circulating Magazine and the LAA magazine Red Rose Leaves.
By early 1922 the library’s collection comprised over 200 books. This was augmented further buy the donation of 50 books from the late J.T. Baron’s collection. These had been purchased from Baron’s estate by LAA member JW Cryer who then donated them to the library.
Early in 1923 Harry Isherwood moved home, to a larger house called ‘Hulwood’ on Windsor Road, Clayton Bridge. Whether the growing demands of the library meant he needed more space isn’t recorded, but the move certainly enabled him to offer better facilities for visiting members. A regular message in each Record was that members were welcome to visit the library by giving two days’ notice. They could catch a train from ‘Platfrom 9 at Victoria Station’ and alight at Clayton Bridge, from where ‘Hulwood’ was a short walk.
By the following year the library had increased to 350 volumes. Getting a comprehensive catalogue of the collection had become a major challenge but one was issued in May 1923. From then on, the story of the library is one of incremental growth, with donations of books by authors of their own work, and other contributions. The librarian brought a ‘touring library’ to each meeting of the association, using his car.
In December 1927, LAA member TR Dootson donated 50 books from his collection to mark the 80th birthday of the Association’s president, Henry Brierley. The collection had increased to 560 books. By then, the library was referred to as being in a ‘temporary’ home at ‘Hulwood’. Maybe Mrs Isherwood was starting to get a bit fed up at the ever-encroaching collection!
A recurring theme in the librarian’s reports is a slight sense of disappointment at the number of visitors coming to borrow books. In 1927, just 53 visits were made, though books could be borrowed at association meetings or posted to members if they paid for postage costs. The Librarian’s report for 1930 record borrowings down just 23, with an appeal by Harry for more active involvement by the members in the library. At the same time he was able to record a substantial number of donations to the library.
For details of membership of the LAA (you don’t have to be an author but have an interest in Lancashire literature and history) see http://www.lancashireauthorsassociation.co.uk/
The Enterprising Railway
The Rail Reform Group has just published a set of papers on rail reform and development, collectively titled The Enterprising Railway. We are a small, informal group of rail professionals with a shared interest in developing new and innovative idea on how to develop our railways. We don’t have a ‘party line’; neither have we any party political axes to grind.
The papers are based on talks that were to be given at a seminar in Manchester on March 19th, organised by the Rail Reform Group. The theme was ‘the enterprising railway’ – aiming to look at ways of building a more dynamic, entrepreneurial and customer-led railway that could make a strong contribution to combating climate change.
The Manchester event was cancelled owing to the coronavirus situation. However, we agreed that it would be helpful to the debate about the future of Britain’s railways to publish a series of papers based on what would have been said on March 19th. At a time when ‘business as usual’ is suspended indefinitely and the railways are firmly under government control, now is the time to be looking to the longer term and not assume we will return to doing the same old things in the same old ways.
The full document is available here. The publication has a foreword from Peter Wilkinson, Managing Director, Passenger Services at the Department for Transport:
“Over the past few weeks I and my colleagues across the Department for Transport have been impressed by how the rail industry, its’ fabulous supply chain and many of the Industry’s key stakeholders have come together to support the country’s efforts to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic. In my mind this altruistic, can-do attitude highlights everything good within the rail industry. It’s the willingness of the industry to push itself to evolve, to ask itself the difficult questions which results in exceptional and innovative ways to support and care for its customers, staff and its communities that stands out for me.
As we look at how the Rail Industry has had to face up to the COVID-19 crisis, we must now capitalise on what we have achieved as we chart our course towards a societally more value-adding horizon. The railways have to evolve to meet the ever changing needs of its passengers whose expectations will almost certainly be different again after this current COVID-19 crisis.
These articles are important as they should prompt everyone across the industry to ask the hard questions of themselves and their organisations. Questions such as ‘Are our customers and our railway communities being cared for in the way we need them to?’ and ‘How can we be better?’ To my mind, asking these questions every day will help create a truly enterprising and inspirational railway.”
Labour launches its Rail Policy (from Chartist magazine, May 2020)
Labour launched its new rail policy on April 1st. (https://labour.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/GB_Rail_Labour_Opposition_White_Paper.pdf) The most remarkable thing about the document is its timing, and I don’t mean April Fool’s Day. Four months after a general election and days before the announcement of a new leader seems an odd time to produce a major piece of party policy. Is the document is some sort of ‘last gasp’ of Corbynism? The new shadow transport secretary, Jim McMahon, has not had much to say about this lengthy document, overseen by his predecessor as shadow transport secretary, Andy McDonald.
The essence of the approach is that Labour would re-integrate track and train and create a single, UK-wide body to be called GB Rail. For which you might as well just call it ‘British Railways’ and have done with it. There are concessions to devolution, with the creation of ‘devolved transport authorities’ that look awfully like the make-up of 1940s style state corporations in miniature, matching the over-arching governance structure of ‘GB Rail’.
The document makes some legitimate criticisms of the privatised structure introduced by the 1993 Railways Act, which is pretty much a dead letter anyway, with Coronavirus achieving what Corbyn and RMT never could – the effective re-nationalisation of the railways, with existing franchises being run on management contracts with the Department for Transport. This will be an ‘interim’ measure but how long that ‘interim’ might be is an open question.
To return to McDonald Rail, it’s an example of the thinking which, despite protestations of Labour ‘winning the argument’, helped us lose the election. It’s as though the last fifty years never happened. It’s ‘vision’ is far worse than the BR of the 1980s, which encouraged innovation and entrepreneurial drive. Working for ‘GB Rail’ would be a bit like working for an Eastern European railway in the 1950s, with orders despatched from on high by headquarters. Am I being a tad unfair? The proposed ‘Devolved Transport Authorities’ will have some powers but with such things the devil is very much in the detail. They would be overseen by ‘boards’ with allocated seats for the unions, passenger representatives and others. Business or regeneration agencies don’t get a look in. I suspect, if they ever came into existence (they won’t) they will be powerless talking shops.
A particularly bizarre suggesting is to bring rail freight under the control of GB Rail, reflecting the determination of the documents’ authors to leave not one jot of ‘privatised’ railway untouched. Freight transport is a competitive and highly complex business where the existing rail freight operators have had to fight for every tonne of traffic. Handing it over to a government bureaucracy means you can kiss goodbye to a lot of the traffic won for rail these last few years. I’m not sure where the ‘passenger benefit’ is from nationalising rail freight, nor for that matter the wider public interest. But it would make the unions happy.
And this is a very union-driven document. Some readers might welcome that, but where was the engagement with the user and community rail groups that have flourished on Britain’s rail network? The ‘community rail’ movement doesn’t get a mention – presumably such airy-fairy liberal concoctions won’t be needed in this brave new world.
There is an alternative to the privatised railway, which isn’t about going back to the 1950s. The current ‘interim’ nationalised railway offers an opportunity to look at alternatives which can build on rail’s green credentials and compete with road and aviation. ‘Enterprise’ and ‘competition’ are absent from the document yet rail is competing with the car and lorry above all. And Labour can’t nationalise cars and won’t touch road haulage. We need to find ways of making rail, and complementary transport including bus, cycling and rail, attractive options, not ones that you’re forced to make do with. And give incentives to the rail freight companies.
There’s a need for an overall ‘guiding mind’ in rail, but one that is light touch and not heavy-handed. Rail operations need to be close to the market and able to respond flexibly to demands. Track and train need to be re-integrated. There are alternative models available to Labour, for rail and for other sectors, which don’t necessitate a return to post-war ‘austere socialism’. Existing franchises could be converted into mutual enterprises, there for the long-term, with governance models involving users, workers and other stakeholders.
Socialism should not be synonymous with state ownership and control. But we need particular sectors – rail being one – to be run in the interest of ‘the public good’ and not private shareholders. At a time when even major private companies are asking themselves how they can move away from an excessive dependence on narrow profit, there must be an opportunity for the left to intervene with some positive ideas which reflect modern reality.
Labour’s new transport secretary, Jim McMahon, has a reputation for being an open-minded and progressive thinker, having achieved some good things when he led Oldham Council. He should read the ‘McDonald Rail’ document, take on board its criticisms of privatised rail and then bin it. There’s time to create an imaginative Labour transport policy based on engagement with workers, users, local authorities, the wider community and business interests.
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The Salvo Publications List – see www.lancashireloominary.co.uk
The Works (2020) published by Lancashire Loominary. My first novel , set in Horwich and Bolton in the 1970s and 1980s but bringing the story up to the present and beyond. Much of the action takes place in Horwich Loco Works and the campaign to save it from closure. In real life, it closed down in 1983. In the novel, after a workers’ occupation it is run as a co-operative, building both steam for heritage railways and modern eco-friendly trains for the world market. Price £12.99 from Amazon but special rates for Salvo readers buying direct. Also on Kindle £4.99. ISBN 978-0-9559171-6-5
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/