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Northern Weekly Salvo 285

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: paul.salveson@myphone.coop

Publications website: www.lancashireloominary.co.uk

No. 285 October 2nd   2020

Salveson’s half-nakedly political digest of railwayness, tripe and secessionist nonsense from Up North. Sometimes weekly, usually not; 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, sleepy Hungarians, members of the clergy and the toiling masses, generally. All views expressed are my own and usually nobody else’s. Official journal of the Station Cat Improvement Network, Pacer Dining Club, Station Buffet Acceleration Council 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

General gossips

We denizens of Bolton had been getting restless. Despite having slipped down the league table of infectious places, we were (until Thursday morning) the only town where all pubs, cafes and restaurants were closed, other than for takeaway. Seasoned drinkers hit on the clever ruse of driving over the frontier to neighbouring boroughs (some with higher infectious rates) for a drink.

This hardened Bolton boozer had to go all the way to Yorkshire to get a drink and fish and chips! She demurred on the pudding, opting for another glass of Chateau Mytholmroyd

They succeded in slipping round border guards at Radcliffe, Hindley and Walkden, or bribed them with tripe and cowheel.

The Tory leader of the Council, Conservative MPs and Labour mayor of Greater Manchester came to the rescue in a rare example of political unity, calling on the Government to relax the ban on pub opening in Bolton. The Government finally acceeded to Bolton’s just demands. But I wonder what would have happened, had the ban continued, if all cafe, pub and restaurant owners defied the Government and opened on the same basis as neighbouring towns? After all, the Governemnt seems to have a relaxed view about breaking laws. But anyway, such militancy proved unnecessary and we can now enjoy a sit-down fish and chips, a curry or just a pint without having to go to Radcliffe, Belmont or even Scarborough.

But…. it seems bizarre that these decisions are being taken by people in Westminster; it’s a great argument for why we need regional government which understands local and regional conditions (see below). Clearly this Government hasn’t the faintest idea what is going on outside its own bubble, as the North-East farce also demonstrates. This issue of The Salvo has an extended section on regional devolution, alongside the usual stuff.

Janet Tyndale

Many readers active in the community rail world will have known Janet Tyndale. I was shocked to receive an email from her partner, Peter, to say that she had died suddenly on September 3rd. She was a lovely person, highly creative and full of enthusiasm. My condolences to Peter and her family.

Taking the train….a joyless experience?

The last issue of The Salvo commented on people’s experience of train travel and what a joyless experience it has become. I remain to be convinced that closing down catering outlets and shutting toilets on stations is a good way to tempt people back. Many locked-down areas are once again being told that public transport should only be used for ‘essential journeys’. Some TOCs have a policy of not allowing food or drink on trains, but given that on-train visible presence is non-existent on many services, you can probably eat your cheese butties without challenge. And the Northern practice of cordoning off parts of trains so that guards ‘can carry out their duties’ has the effect of making some trains over-crowded, with no apparent sign of the guard going about their mysterious ‘duties’. As a former guard myself I’d like to know what they might entail. Still, the majority of trains are pretty empty. No wonder.

A joyful experience

After a moan about train travel, we had a lovely excursion to Scarborough, travelling via Blackburn and Leeds to York with Northern, from where we joined the last of the season’s ‘Scarborough Spa Express’ hauled by what purported to be 45562 ‘Alberta’. I say purporting because it isn’t really, as any self-respecting steam type will tell you. It’s former Bristol Barrow Road (82E)  ‘5X’ 45699 ‘Galatea’ done up to look like Holbeck’s finest (55A), 45562, which was cruelly scrapped in 1968.

So-called ‘Alberta’ arrives in York, bound for the coast

I have to say (call me sad, I don’t care) that ‘Alberta’ was one of my favourite engines and I have many happy memories of her/him, including a footplate ride on the Fridays-Only illuminations train from Huddersfield to Blackpool one October evening in 1966. So I was very happy to imagine what pulled into York was my old darling Alberta. It was a pleasant run to Scarborough and back to York, where ‘Galberta’ or ‘Albertea’ was detached. We spent a pleasant few hours in ‘the jewel of the Yorkshire Coast’ enjoying fish and chips in ‘The Golden Grid’, an open top bus ride to Peasholm Park and a ride on the North Bay Railway. We know how to enjoy ourselves. The run from York back to Blackburn was on time, with two class 47 diesels at the front. The schedule is somewhat relaxed, allowing long waits for scheduled services to pass in front. But the five hours seemed to pass quickly, even without (I hear you saying) the soporific effects of alcohol.

A walk along th’cut

Those enterprising folk at Bolton and South Lancs CRP are still pushing ahead with plans for their ‘Clocktower Trails’ – a series of self-guided walks starting at the Bolton station clock tower and paralleling (roughly) the railways to Wigan, Preston, Manchester and Blackburn.

Vernon Sidlow struggles to reach the button for ‘the green man (four legged version)’. Maybe next time he’ll go by horse

We might even do one to Bury as well. Trail-blazer Venon Sidlow and myself did an exploratory walk from Bolton towards Manchester, using the two viaducts on the former Bolton – Bury Line, now converted for walking, cycling and horse-riding. After Darcy Lever Viaduct we dropped down to join the former canal, which now forms part of ‘The Kingfisher Trail’.

The canal is filled in as far as Little Lever, though the course is very clear and well-signed. After crossing the Farnworth – Little Lever Road the canal is intact as far as Nob End (no childish giggles in the back row). In parts it is very wide, reflecting the level of traffic that once occupied this section of ‘the cut’, serving local collieries. At Nob End the Bolton section of the canal was joined by the Manchester branch, reaching the junction by a flight of locks, which stand derelict. Beyond Nob End towards Bury the waterway was severed back in 1936 when the embankment burst. Beyond there, parts of the canal are intact through to Radcliffe and it makes for a grand walk. We went down the path alongside the locks and crossed the Croal by a footbridge which takes you up towards Farnworth station.

Famous railway battlefields (1) Clifton Junction

MY appetite was whetted for further canal exploration and the following day we started our ramble at Clifton Junction, a station that keeps itself very much to itself with only two trains a day. Or is it three? Certainly none on a Sunday anyway. It was, once upon a time, the junction for the East Lancashire Railway’s line from Bury, joining up with the Lancashire and Yorkshire’s Bolton – Manchester route. It was the scene of a famous battle on March 12th 1846 over ‘running rights’ and access payments.

The railway parallels the canal from Clifton Junction towards Salford Crescent

The East Lancs took umbrage at the L&Y’s insistence that all its trains should call at Clifton Junction to have tickets inspected (so the host company could calculate what it was owed) and a row ensued. The L&Y placed an obstruction on the East Lancashire branch ensuring trains would have to stop whether they liked it or not. The scene was witnessed by a large gathering of police officers who had been sent up from Salford, who no doubt enjoyed the spectacle.  Trains from the rival companies faced each other angrily across the junction. Malcolm Borrowdale takes up the story ”there ensued a pushing match between the two trains, a rather unfair contest since the L&Y unsportingly sent up another engine from Manchester to help. It must have been a splendid and noisy spectacle with the three engines at full steam and going nowhere! During the contest the ELR scored a point by using a heavy train of wagons loaded with stone to block the L&Y’s down line (the track from Manchester). Within an hour and a half there were eight trains blocking both railways at Clifton Junction and nothing was being gained by either side. The senior officers of the Lancashire & Yorkshire sloped off and left their passenger superintendent in charge of the mess. Being a man of common sense he demobilised the army of platelayers and labourers and sent away the L&Y trains and so the Battle of Clifton Junction fizzled out with the East Lancs train whistling its way all the way to Manchester.”

After the situation was resolved, Clifton Junction settled into a century or more of a sleepy existence, until the last train to Bury and Bacup ran on December 5th 1966. My canal-walking mate Vern was with me on that last day, 54 years ago when we slipped and slid up the steep gradient to Ringley on a near-empty diesel railcar.

This time, the route was along the former Manchester, Bolton and Canal which is clearly walkable, linked by a path from the station alongside the former Chloride factory. Close by was the L&Y’s old generating station for electric trains on the Manchester – Bury line, which it energised in 1916.

One of the original milestones along the canal towpath

The canal is partly filled in but as you get towards Pendleton parts still have some water, along with old prams, dead dogs and the like. Several of the original milestones survive. The canal path ends close to what was Brindle Heath Sidings. You’re on your own after that, though with a bit of map-reading and local intelligence, you can soon pick up the path along the River Irwell, which takes you into Salford and central Manchester. We chose to head back to Clifton, using the river path which is pretty but of less interest.

Constitutional conundrums – special feature!

Bubbling below the surface of Covid-19 and Brexit is the vexed question of what becomes of our ‘United Kingdom’. In this series of articles, friends as well as myself speculate on the future, from a Northern and Scots perspective. Comments welcome! My own article is quite long so it’s downloadable from my website, the piece below is just a summary. For the full works, go to http://www.paulsalveson.org.uk/2020/10/01/the-case-for-progressive-regionalism/

A very disunited kingdom…Paul Salveson

The United Kingdom is less united than it has ever been. Scotland is moving increasingly towards independence, whilst Wales is showing growing interest in taking devolution much further, with support for independence also going up. Prospects for a united Ireland are becoming ever more pronounced, stimulated by Brexit and changed attitudes and life styles. The ‘Britain’ that we have known for generations is slipping away and unless we splinter into (at least) three parts, it needs to be re-imagined, based on a federation of equals.

The English left is completely at sea with issues around identity. There is a view that being ‘internationalist’ means that loyalties to nation, region and even perhaps locality are dangerous. So we have left the door open to the right to seize on identity and propel it in a reactionary direction, with English nationalism being its outcome, now shared by many Conservatives as well as the far right fringe.  Starmer appears to be making a pitch for it – but it’s a really dangerous road to tread and a ‘patriotic’ English Labour will always be outbid by the right.

With the devolved nations increasingly moving apart, where does that leave England? Calls for an ‘English Parliament’ continue to be raised by politicians on both the left and right of the political spectrum, though ‘English nationalism’ remains the preserve of the right, despite occasional opportunist attempts by sections of the left to capture it for a more progressive political trajectory.  It will struggle; and the reality is that an English Parliament would be dominated by the South and London – with the regions, particularly the North, more neglected and isolated than ever.

Progressive regionalism for England

The alternative to an increasingly right-wing English nationalism which is the antithesis of the progressive nationalisms of Scotland, Wales and Ireland is, in England, progressive regionalism. It is showing some signs of life, particularly in the North. It is the truest form of patriotism, recognising and celebrating the diversity of the English nation and not accepting regions being subservient to the centre (London, obv.). Neither is it antagonistic to other nations within the UK, recognising that we have much in common and share a similar sense of neglect by a traditionally over-centralised state.

What does ‘progressive regionalism’ actually mean? It’s partly about taking power out of the centre – in the case of the UK, Westminster – and devolving functions to sufficiently large entities. In a way, what Scotland and Wales have is ‘regional devolution’ that would be recognisable to a continental politicians. Certain powers, for example defence, etc. are ‘reserved’ for the central body. In the case of Scotland, the Scottish Parliament has devolved power over a wide range of areas including transport, health and education. The same could work for the English regions. Scotland – a majority, if polls are to be believed – wants to go further to full independence which is only a decision that the Scots (i.e. those living in Scotland) can make.

An English regionalism would want to see powers over all ‘domestic’ areas devolved to regional bodies, with tax-raising powers. Size is important. You wouldn’t devolve powers over transport policy to a local authority, neither would you do that for strategic aspects of health, education and planning. British political thinking has been very slow to understand there is a ‘middle tier’ of government that could do what the central state currently does but which too local focus would be inappropriate.

This is a shortened version of a longer piece The case for progressive regionalism. See http://www.paulsalveson.org.uk/2020/10/01/the-case-for-progressive-regionalism/

Interested in the debate on regionalism? Let me know and I’ll add you to the Hannah Mitchell Foundation mailing list.

Rant from Radcliffe: why we need a Campaign for Northern Democracy. Richard Walker

Do we need Campaign for Northern Democracy?  Well certainly ‘yes’ because without it we are heading for an unnecessarily acrimonious break-up of the UK, and some kind of mean-spirited, angry, impoverished Little England remnant state.  But we also need it because in the North of England we don’t currently live in a meaningful democracy.

We can start either at the top or the bottom of the government hierarchy to demonstrate we haven’t got a democracy.  Here’s the list from the bottom up:

  1. Local councils are elected as three-member wards elected by first past the post which leads to crazily disproportionate outcomes in terms of share of votes -v- share of seats. The contrast with Scottish local councils which have switched to single transferable vote (STV) PR for local elections is powerful.
  2. Local districts in the North are too big for real democracy for local issues – Bolton at 250,000, Kirklees/Bradford/Leeds at 400,000+ are very large for the lowest tier of local government. We need a new tier of local neighbourhood, parish and town councils, as advocated by the Flatpack 2021
  3. Although the Government appears to have pulled its “Devolution” White Paper due to Tory party internal opposition, the thrust of its plans was nothing to do with devolution and everything to do with making units of local government bigger in order to achieve cost savings (easier outsourcing) and to make it easier to control from the centre.
  4. Mayoral Combined Authorities (which the pulled White Paper was going to create more of) have no proper elected democratic scrutiny – incredible.
  5. Local media is dying out and so there is weakened local media scrutiny of what is going on in council chambers and Mayors’ offices.
  6. There is no regional tier.
  7. The Westminster Parliament is not a democracy when one of its two houses was always unelected and its membership is now more blatantly than ever based on party corruption/patronage…and the other is elected by first past the post from single member constituencies.
  8. Everything about the local, Mayoral and Westminster tiers is more about sustaining the two-party duopoly than delivering genuine democracy.
  9. We have no written constitution, the government is undermining the independence of the judiciary, and is trying to wriggle out of being bound by the European Convention on Human Rights (which NB is not an EU thing), so we have even less protection than we thought we had under our ramshackle constitution.
  10. And the monarchy – well nobody dares say the words Federal Republic, so maybe let’s not go there…

Let’s be clear what happened recently with passage of the Internal Market Bill by the Commons on 29 September 2020.  Every single Conservative candidate for the December 2019 general election had to sign a pledge that they would back Boris Johnson’s ‘oven ready’ Brexit deal, which put a customs border down the Irish Sea.  Johnson signed the deal and every single Tory MP in the new parliament voted for it.  It’s now an international treaty with the force of international law and now last night not a single Tory MP voted against the Government giving itself the powers to unilaterally break that treaty, which not only turns Britain into a rogue state at risk of EU sanctions but also defies the Good Friday Agreement and risks reigniting the Northern Ireland troubles, meaning bombs, deaths and misery.  The Bill also just happens to empower the Westminster government to completely cancel Scottish and Welsh devolution.

All very well, high power politics, but the reason we are not a democracy is that nowhere today in the national media is anybody pointing out that the entire ‘Get Brexit Done’ election campaign was a blatant lie and the mandate Johnson won is a fake.  The media is completely complicit and that is before the government installs Charles Moore and Paul Dacre to roles supposedly reserved for political neutrals.

What’s the Northern angle on this?  Well, guess what, ‘levelling up’ was also a complete lie from the word go too.  There is literally no plan and no clue on what to do or how to do it.  When the good voters of the Red Wall work that out, they are going to be either very angry or just switch off entirely.

My take on a Campaign for Northern Democracy is that we need to demand:

  1. PR for local elections,
  2. New resources for democratic scrutiny of Mayoral Combined Authorities,
  3. PR for House of Commons elections and a regional ‘Bundesrat’ House of Lords as well as and on an equal footing with the call for:
  1. a democratic regional tier of government.

To me that is a call for a comprehensive constitutional convention.

This should also come with a message to Keir Starmer’s Labour Party as follows: in 2021, either to get behind a progressive alliance for an electoral pact to offer a platform of electoral and constitutional reform at the next general election, or prepare to be fought by the Campaign for Northern Democracy.

The above is almost exactly the manifesto put forward by the Green Party’s Natalie Bennett, who may have started off very much as a southerner (being from Sydney) but is now a proper Northern lass, having moved to Sheffield!

Sweeping up the dog’s breakfast. Thoughts from a railway doctor (aka Jim Ford)

The more I see of this issue (local and regional government – ed.), the more problems become apparent because so many politicians have monkeyed around with local (i.e. below Westminster) democracy. Leaving a complete dogs breakfast, as we can see with what is happening with Covid. Blackpool with rising cases not locked down because it is a unitary and Southport locked down simply because it is part of a Merseyside Metro, similarly with Wigan initially locked down as part of Greater Manchester. Better to debate the issue, rather than get too bogged down in detailed proposals. The general opinion in Merseyside is that the Liverpool City Region is too small already (and too much politically aligned with Labour!). Liverpool likes it because it allows a city which has halved its population to appear to punch above its weight, but the west side of Wirral (where my in-laws reside) would if given the chance, secede from Merseyside and join an independent Cheshire (they already managed to shed L postcodes and get CH ones). Given half a chance, Southport would similarly join Lancashire. Leaves just Liverpool and St Helens, which is definitely not viable. Manchester by contrast is surrounded by a constellation of towns and is a true agglomerator. This doesn’t apply to Liverpool.

The way the NHS does it is to regard Cheshire and Merseyside as linked for re-configurations etc. and similarly with the Fire and Police. That is a problem locally for us in Southport as it means that we have a ‘regional’ boundary running so close to our town that many of our streets cross it, as does ironically our split site hospital, but that is a local issue and relates probably to the future status of West Lancashire. Adding Cheshire into the Liverpool City Region would make it more balanced – town and country, Tory and Labour with more than one powerful city to call the shots.

I suppose that leaves Cheshire/Merseyside and Lancashire/Greater Manchester, but there will always be boundary issues – e.g. with Macclesfield and Manchester Airport ending up in Cheshire/Merseyside! I like the idea of ‘Northumbria’, which many in the non-Lancashire leaning parts of Cumbria would identify with, so maybe Cumbria and Northumbria, again giving a town and country mix (Workington/Whitehaven tend to look that way anyway). And Morecambe Bay (NHS speak), basically the area south of Broughton which is known locally as ‘the Peninsulas’, could actually revert to Lancashire/Manchester, as it looks to Manchester and to a lesser extent Liverpool for its services and transport.

In population terms, I think that Cheshire/Merseyside, Manchester/Lancashire and Northumbria and Cumbria would have largish, similar sized populations with good political and town/country mix, just like Scotland and Yorkshire.

As for Transport for the North, I really need convincing that this is the right model for anything other than competitive dissent. I haven’t quite recovered from their conference in Manchester last year when they had Northern, TPE and Network Rail presenting their visions but in practice mostly apologising. I asked why Merseyrail Electrics were not there as they have by and large done what it says on the can and are as responsive to local circumstances as possible and the TfN head honcho said that they had forgotten to consider them. A railway at the time falling to bits and he didn’t even think about the one model that was working…….

The United Kingdom – an Asymmetric Union…from David Prescott

The United Kingdom has recently started to be described as ‘four nations’, as in a four-nation approach to tackling Covid-19, where health is a completely devolved matter.  This quickly demonstrated both the strengths and weaknesses of devolution. Once they recognised that Westminster did not set the health rules the three devolved nations appears to have generally managed well, within the limitations imposed by the lack of devolution in certain areas such as border controls and finance.

One regular problem was and remains the constant reporting of English only policy and instructions by a national media, because it was presented by “UK” ministers was confusing and potentially damaging.  This is the norm in the national media reporting of all areas of devolved activity, where Scotland is subjected to a constant barrage of ‘national’ news, but which only applies in England.

However, viewed from Scotland the biggest threat to the union is now the new UK single market legislation, which was rejected by all the parties in the Scottish Parliament except the Conservatives. This issue illustrates how unworkable the United Kingdom has become. The problem is simple and in two parts:

  1.    The intention is that standards that are set in one of the four nations will be accepted by the other three.  That is fraught with all sorts of risks with producers seeking to press their case in one of the four nations because they will gain acceptance in the other three.  There is a risk that one of the four will become the equivalent of a flag of convenience for producers with easier or more lax standards.
  2.     This proposal has been put forward so that the UK government can agree standards with other nations on trade deals that can be applied to the four nations, which has its own issues.  But it also means that if the UK government, acting in its role as the English government, want to change wholly internal and otherwise devolved matters it can inflict those on the other three nations.

This has brought into sharp focus the confusion of roles that has so unbalanced the UK. From Scotland it now looks and feels as if we are living in a greater English state, one for which we cannot vote, but which is presenting itself as the United Kingdom.

All a matter of branding?  No, it is much more important than branding as, where they can, the devolved nations are moving in different social and economic directions, with the English moving more towards an American model driven by the Westminster clique and the demand of London, big business, wealthy people, and its finance industry.  The Scots are moving more toward a European model (trespass laws and planning are examples) but have also led the way with the smoking ban and alcohol pricing.

This has become more apparent as Brexit unfolds onto a European supporting (or at least tolerating) Scotland with a perceived stronger performance with the pandemic and where polls are now showing a consistent move to over 50% support for independence, for the first time.

Ultimately the whole construct is being shown for what it always was a gesture to keep the two other mainland nations quiet, but without thinking through the implications of having no independent English parliament.  Without a separate English parliament, the UK will not be a United Kingdom but an English empire.

And this is driven home by the opening in Edinburgh of the UK government’s major new offices to bring together all the UK civil servants under one roof, which has the (unintentional?) feeling of being the new Governor General’s office.

What is clear is that the UK parliament and government cannot continue to also act as the English parliament and government.  A unionist fresh start needs to introduce a suitable form of self-government in England, determined by the English and reflecting the emerging needs of England and its different regions, leaving Westminster as the UK government.  This would result in four equal nations and a much smaller United Kingdom government, on the Australian/Canadian model.

However, if this is not acceptable to the English, then they must accept that the rights to self-determination are just as reasonable in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland as they were in the British colonies in the 1950s and 60s and negotiate an independence/self-determination settlement with any of the other nations that requested it.

The status quo is no longer sustainable.

Reflections on ‘Moorlands and Memories’

Moorlands, Memories and Reflections is now with the printers. It marks the centenary of the publication of Allen Clarke’s Moorlands and Memories, sub-titled ‘rambles and rides in the fair places of Steam-Engine Land’.

There are 28 chapters, covering locations and subjects which Clarke wrote about in the original book, with a few additions. It includes the Winter Hill rights-of-way battle of 1896, a few additional snippets about the Bolton ‘Whitmanites’, handloom-weaving, the remarkable story of ‘The Larks of Dean’ and Lancashire’s honourable tradition of supporting refugees. There’s railway interest in several chapters: the last trains from Horwich and Lostock Junction, summer evenings with signalmen at Entwistle and the renaissance of the East Lancashire Railway. Maxine Peake has very kindly written a foreword.

I will publish it as my second ‘Lancashire Loominary’ product. It should be back from the printers by about October 15th. The price will be £21 plus postage but Salvo readers can benefit from a special price of £20 including postage until November 15th. Go to my website www.lancashireloomionary.co.uk or just send me a cheque (made out to ‘Paul Salveson’) or transfer £20 to my account 23448954 bank sort code 53-61-07. Don’t forget to email me to say you’ve done it, with your postal address. I am doing a ‘3 for the price of 2’ offer. i.e. £40, until November 15th.

Small Salvoes

Last Train from Horwich

The most recent story in my Bolton News’ ‘Looking Back’ feature was about the last train from Horwich, which ran on September 25th 1965. Along with eight others, I was privileged to ride in the cab of 42626 on

A disreputable bunch on board 42626 about to leave Horwich, September 25th 1965

the 12.05 from Horwich to Bolton. The tale is here:

https://www.theboltonnews.co.uk/news/18749864.end-era-last-train-pulled-horwich-station/

The next feature will be on the remarkable head teacher of Prestolee School, Teddy O’Neill, known to his foes as ‘The Idiot Teacher’.

Bolton Station Mela

We’ve just heard that we’ve been awarded £4000 from Bolton Community and Voluntary Services to put on the first-ever ‘community rail mela’ next year. The multi-cultural festival will take place at the station and in other venues across the town, bringing together Bolton’s diverse communities.

Thatcher’s Prisoner

I’m enjoying reading Thatcher’s Prisoner by Olivia Frank. It’s the story of a North Manchester Jewish girl growing up in the late 1950s in a male body. She gets recruited by Israeli intelligence (The Mossad) and experiences a range of adventures including the Entebbe Raid in Uganda. She falls foul of MI5 and is imprisoned, initially at the notorious Risley, then the only slightly less unpleasant Walton Prison. Despite her obvious allegiances she recognises that the Palestinians do have a case and hates the war-mongering Ariel Sharon. I’ll do a longer review in due course, but the book is available on Amazon.

Wanderings to Windermere

An early Autumn treat featured a train trip to Windermere. I like the station – it’s well-designed and welcoming, with a cycle hire facility next door. We strolled down to Bowness and visited Matt Nuttall’s Lakes Gallery in Bowness and the delightful gardens in the Quaker Meeting House grounds at Gatesbield. Then a pleasant bus ride to Haverthwaite on the no. 6. No, we didn’t go on the lovely Lakeside and Haverthwaite Railway, instead opting for a very pleasant walk to Backbarrow, once home to a large iron works. The site has now been sensitively re-developed for housing. Then it was bus to Ulverston and a pleasant hour in The Rose and Crown before taking the train back to Preston. We changed onto the Liverpool service and caught a glimpse of 6201 ‘Princess Elizabeth’ heading north, reminding of my first sighting of a ‘Prinni’ at the tender age of six. 46201 drifted into Platform 4 at Preston a Euston express.

The Works: a tale of love, lust, labour and locomotives

I’m still getting a steady flow of orders for The Works, though it has slowed a bit recently. The novel is 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. 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

The Red Bicycle

The next big project after Moorlands 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. Flann O’Brien (cf The Third Policeman) would have approved. Probably an early 2021 publication.

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ALL STILL CAPED…But

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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 (see above). 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.

You can get a better idea from going to my website: http://www.lancashireloominary.co.uk

 

 

4 replies on “Northern Weekly Salvo 285”

Hi Paul, thanks for the latest Salvo – which I always enjoy. Interesting to read of your ramblings along the M, B & B Canal. Hope you liked the article. I have also written one on Spring & Port Wine which I will dig out for you. I have been exploring the M,B & B for over 30 years. You may have heard about the housing development plans for the area near Moses Gate. The developer is promising to restore some of the canal. I will believe it when I see it. When the Huddersfield Narrow and Rochdale Canals were fully restored a couple of decades ago, the M, B & B was sort of left behind. It is a trickier challenge, not being part of the national canal network and going through some remote areas – Agecroft, Clifton – where it might be hard to establish a “canal culture”. The canal society publish an excellent magazine and Paul Hindle is an inspiration. Great idea to link the canal to rail walks. Best wishes, Richard

Enjoyed your piece on walking the towpath of the Manchester Bolton and Bury Canal. It reminded me of an expedition in the spring of 1969 starting at Clifton. Some things have changed and others not. I remember passing the huge Irwell Bank Mills near Ringley .This seven storey mill was claimed to be the largest by size in the country until its demolition in 1977. The flight of locks at Prestolee, now smothered in trees, was completely clear of growth then. Further on there were the remains of Hall Lane chemical works, where a pipe spewed a yellow liquid into the Irwell below. I wondered if my shoes would dissolve as I crossed the site!
Even more interesting lower down towards Clifton was the tunnel and siphon under the Irwell built by Brindley to power drainage from his Wet Earth Colliery on the south west side of the Irwell. At that time it was possible to scramble down the river bank and enter a ‘washout’ from the tunnel, which led into the main tunnel near the point where the siphon under the Irwell started. The main tunnel was dry because I think the construction of Ringley sewage works had cut through it, depriving It of water. I wouldn’t want to visit it again if it is still there !

Sorry Paul, you got the year wrong on the Battle of Clifton Junction, right date but it was 1849. Having studied what went on for a college thesis in 1966/7 I have always, always wanted a time machine and a camera to go back watch and record events. It must have been a complete pantomime.

The comment about Hall Lane chemical works takes me back to the 1950s, when I visited my aunt at Moses Gate, whose house (now under the A666(M)) overlooked the then desolate Irwell valley, now Crompton Lodges Park. I was told never to venture into this vegetation-free, polluted landscape dominated by what was most probably the last working chemical works in the UK operating the Le Blanc alkali process. So polluting was this process (still described in most “O” level chemistry books at the time), that the mid-19th Century Alkali Acts were passed partly because of it. For it to survive into the 1950s was an indicator of how chemical pollution was still being treated 100 years later! As a schoolboy whose career was focussing on the chemical industry at the time, my ignorance of this works continued well until after the works shut in the 1960s – this was probably a consequence of my chemistry master doing his best to avoid alerting us to the “mucky side” of industrial chemistry at the time. The marvel of course, is how over a period of only a few years the whole area could be remediated to current level where the site is an SSSI!

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