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Northern Weekly Salvo 274

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: paul.salveson@myphone.coop

No. 274 January 15th 2020 dawn of a new decade special

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. Full of creative ambiguity, possibly. Promoting moderate rebellion and sedition, within reason.

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

General gossips

Where it did it go, eh? Y’know, Christmas and New Year. Very much back to business as usual now, but the editorial team hope you had an enjoyable and restful Christmas and New Year. Maybe it’s just my age and my social circle, but whenever I ask people if they had a good Christmas, they always, without exception, say “Oh yes, very nice. Quiet.”

City of Sanctuary walk sets off from Entwistle on December 28th

No wild parties, orgies, bank robberies or street riots then. But there are things ahead to excite interest, not least what’s happening in the Labour Party, the railway industry, and on a personal level my new publishing venture, Lancashire Loominary. I just wish it would get a bit colder and dryer. A bit of snow wouldn’t go amiss. Open to invitations for wild parties, etc. if it isn’t too noisy, somewhere comfy to sit and finishes by 10.30.

Politics, debate, controversy. Remember Abe Lincoln’s words

We enter the new decade with the Labour Party in the throes of a leadership battle. Keir Starmer, Rebecca Long-Bailey, Jess Phillips, Lisa Nandy and Emily Thornberry have made it to the shortlist. Five women and one man. So Keir gets the job then? Perhaps that’s being cynical. I can understand the attraction of Starmer, but it is a very conservative sort of attraction. Speaks well, dresses impeccably, an articulate speaker. Not right wing but not too left either. And he doesn’t fail to remind us of his working class roots. You’d even think mum and dad called him ‘Keir’ (after Keir Hardie) with a view to him standing for the Labour leadership when he grew up. So, speaking as a former party member (several times) I have to say I’ve nothing against Starmer at all. He’s the safe option and may help Labour to regain lost ground. Emphasis on ‘maybe’.

He is a classic social democrat of the late 20th century mould. Much to be said for that. But remember the words of Abraham Lincoln, “The dogmas of the quiet past, are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country. The guardians of the quiet past are inadequate for the stormy future.” Powerful words, and Starmer comes over too much as a guardian of the quiet past.

Who could rise to the occasion? Rebecca Long-Bailey comes over as weak and rudderless other than being the ‘continuity Corbynite’ candidate. Her pitch for ‘progressive patriotism’ sounds like something one of her advisors has come up with. As Oscar Wilde said, it’s the last resort of scoundrels, progressive or otherwise. Jess Phillips? She has never said much so far, other than telling us what a wonderful person she is. Wednesday’s article in The Guardian suggests she is starting to think out of the box a bit. Emily Thornberry, another upper middle class Londoner fond of stressing her poverty-stricken roots, is unconvincing. Actually, I really liked what Clive Lewis was saying (extending democracy, inclusivity, fresh thinking) but he’s out of the race. Pity.

That leaves Lisa Nandy. She shares many of Clive Lewis’s ideas on democracy and even though she can’t claim to have been born in a hole in the ground, she has a common touch. She should have, representing Wigan. Back in 2016 she co-edited a very interesting collection of essays called The Alternative: towards a new progressive politics, with Caroline Lucas and Chris Bowers of the Lib Dems. There’s lots of really good stuff in the book(published by Biteback Publishing, £12.99) and unless he’s changed her mind a lot, what she and her fellow writers say, gives me a lot of confidence, even enthusiasm. Nandy is an ‘ideas’ person and has shown she can put what she says about reviving ‘left behind towns’ into practice. Her ‘Centre for Towns’ initiative – a think-tank for the sort of communities she represents – is all about practical solutions. There are some worries. She seems lukewarm on voting reform. She should capitalise on the groundswell within Labour for a package of ‘democratic’ measures which would transform the UK. PR is at the heart of it, but so too is democratic devolution in England, federalism, and reducing the voting age to 16. For all that, if I had a vote, I’d support Lisa without any shadow of a doubt. Should I rejoin?

Wet Sunday afternoon in Warrington

What do you do on a cold Sunday afternoon when it’s pissing it down? Go to Warrington, obviously! Inspired by a fascinating piece in Big Issue North about the paintings of Eric Tucker, we boldly set forth down St Helens Road to find Warrington Art Gallery and Museum. We bravely fought our way through queues of Sunday afternoon shoppers getting into soul-less retail parks, close to where Warrington Dallam loco shed (8B) once stood. We found the art gallery and were not disappointed. Eric Tucker has been lazily described as ‘the unknown Lowry’. Personally, I’d say he was better. He was botn in Warrington in 1932 and died in 2018. His paintings depict the life of working class people in his home town. It’s easy to say ‘ordinary working class people’, possibly the most annoying phrase used by lefty politicians. These people are not ‘ordinary’. They are special, and Tucker’s work really brings that out. And he was no ordinary bloke, either. He hung around Manchester’s illicit drinking dens and was a regular at the bookies. He was better known as a boxer in his youth, but did all sorts of jobs as a labourer and lorry driver’s mate. After he died, his family discovered over 400 paintings and thousands of drawings. A good selection are on display at the exhibition ‘Eric Tucker: The Unseen Artist’. Go and see it, you won’t be disappointed. It runs until February 23rd.

The immortal Tom Burke

In the same neck of the words, another great, extra-ordinary working class figure who had a chequered life, was Tom Burke – ‘The Lancashire Caruso’. Coming back through leigh we passed ‘The Thomas Burke’ Wetherspoon’s. We should have called in, ‘Spoons often do a good job in celebrating local talent; I also like their steak pudding, chips and mushy peas. So a trip is in the offing. What reminded me of Tom Burke was the very sad death of Guy Harkin, former Bolton councillor, Thornleigh boy  a couple of years before me) and of impeccable Lancashire Irish working class background. Like Tom. For many years Guy was vice-chair of Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Authority, supporting Joe Clarke as chair. Joe was of the same ilk, from an earlier generation. Like Tom Burke he’d worked as a miner in the pits around Atherton. I have fond memories of getting drunk in the Catholic Club on Derby Street, with Joe and Guy, waiting for the arrival of ‘Mr X’. Now ‘the famous Mr X’ was Joseph Locke, the great Irish tenor, who did a runner after the tax people realised he owed them rather a lot of money. He never showed up, neither to the tax men nor the throng in the Catholic Club. By 3 a.m. who cared. We made our own entertainment with a fine selection of Irish ballads. There’s a great film about him called ‘Hear My Song’. Joseph Locke had a very similar repertoire to Tom Burke. Whether they ever met, I don’t know. But for a while Tom was one of the most celebrated tenors in the world. He performed alongside Nellie Melba, with whom he had a fraught relationship. The great Enrico Caruso admired his singing and told him “One day you shall wear my mantle.”

He was a passionate Lancastrian and developed ambitious plans for a Lancashire opera company. It wasn’t to be.  His fall from fame was as rapid as his ascendance and he ended up singing around pubs in Leigh and Atherton for a few bob. There is a CD of him singing some of his most moving songs – Tom Burke: Centennial Edition (Pavilion Records ). My favourites are the Irish ballads, Killarney, Kathleen Mavourneen and The Minstrel Boy. But his songs from Rigoletto, Tosca and Turandot are beautiful too. I will report back on my visit to ‘The Thomas Burke’ in the next issue. If you want to know more of his life, I can recommend John Vose’s biography  The Lancashire Caruso – the Life of Tom Burke(1982).

Hannah Mitchell Foundation: the old band re-forms

Say what you like about the Hannah Mitchell Foundation, we always meet in good pubs. The HMF is the North’s very own think-tank dedicated to promoting elected regional government, named after socialist and suffragist, Hannah Mitchell. After last gathering in the Sowerby Bridge Station Refreshment Rooms, this time it was the turn of The Grove, in Leeds.  It was the first steering group meeting we’ve had for a while, but was well attended with a lively discussion. The main point of agreement was that not only should we continue in existence, but up our game a lot. We’re holding a conference (and AGM) on Saturday March 28th in Huddersfield (Brian Jackson Centre, handy for the station) and looking to revive the website. We discussed a possible name change, which will be debated at the AGM. More details soon.

Last days of The Erecting Shop

About 200 people gathered in the former Works’ Offices for a final farewell to what remains of Horwich Loco Works. Donning hard hats and hi-vis vests we were shown round the former Erecting Shop, which is due for demolition over the next few weeks. A ‘heritage core’ of the Works will remain.

Last days of the Erecting Shop before demolition starts

We didn’t get as far as the old Spring Smithy, the scene of my first job. Just as well, the thought of it still brings me out in a cold sweat. But some great people worked there and it was all part of my railway apprenticeship (which continues). I’ve a feature appearing in Steam World soon about my time at Horwich, with background on the history of the Works. It also features in my forthcoming novel The Works (see below).

Afoot across the Moorlands

January is a good time to get out onto th’moors. Shake away the cobwebs and all that. I’ve done three good walks since Christmas, mostly around Belmont and Holcombe. All were great, going well off the beaten track and discovering industrial remains and ruined farmhouses. The most interesting, and also the most challenging, was from Belmont via Lower Pasture Farm to Moorside and Owlshaw Clough. The OS map shows ‘track of former tramway’ which was bound to be a great attraction. The tramway went up to some mine workings which must have ceased operation well before the First World War.

Along Moorbottom Road

The shafts are clearly visible, and fenced off. This area is far removed from the neatly manicured areas around Rivington. It’s rough going, with some paths marked as public footpaths impossible to trace. Some parts of the route we took were completely water-logged and we had to turn back. But worth it all in the end. An easier route goes through Roddlesworth Woods past the remains of Hollinshead Hall, though it’s a nuisance having to do part of the walk along what is now quite a busy road. Another fine walk is from Holcome Village up Moorbottom Road, beneath Holcombe Hill. You can loop back through Reddisher Woods, which are lovely. From the old road you get fine views across South Lancashire, to Manchester, Rochdale and Oldham.

Cultural matters; curry

Lovely to see the Portico Library getting such prominent coverage in last week’s Observer. The work of several Northern writers were featured in the magazine – what they all had in common was being shortlisted for the Portico Prize (‘The North’s Booker’). Winners will announced at the awards evening in Manchester on January 23rd. Membership of the subscription library was one of my best investments of 2019. Must remember to pay up for 2020 when I’m in next week. Non-members are welcome and are able to take advantage of the lunches available from the kitchen. Entrance to the library is at the junction of Mosley Street and Charlotte Street.

We had a rare outing to Blackburn on Thursday to hear the BBC Philarmonic Orchestra perform a great programme of Dvorak, Tchaikovsky and Humperdinck. The King George’s Hall is a wonderful venue and was well filled. The Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto was phenomenal, with some really impassioned playing by Aleksey Semenenko, conducted by Holly Mathieson. The Dvořak 8th Symphony was also well done though it’s not my top Dvořak favourite – I like his smaller pieces best. But I’m not complaining, honest. And he was of course an avoid steam enthusiast, a propos of nothing at all. Our next trip to Blackburn will be to see Aida on February 21st, one of my all-time Verdi favourites. It’s being performed by the Russian State Opera. Another bonus of going to Blackburn is the option of calling in at Anaz in Darwen on the way home. One of Lancashire’s best Indians I’d say with very friendly and welcoming staff.

Along The Cut to The Bank of England

Canal walks are easy and often full of interest. This one was no exception. We started from Droylsden, visiting the Fairfield Moravian Settlement, a fascinating place, very much unchanged for decades (which was the last time I visited). The Moravians also have a settlement in Pudsey but this seemed slightly larger. The Moravians sound a bit like the Quakers and Unitarians – not frightened of ‘business’ but having ethics and a sense of social responsibility. From there you can get on the Ashton Canal and head down into Manchester, via Clayton. It’s a classic post-industrial landscape, not without interest but hardly ‘pretty’. The Strawberry Duck pub looked worth a call but fading light prevented us on this occasion. As you get towards Ancoats you begin to see signs of regeneration – mills coming back to life as apartments and workspace. We came off close to the old ‘Bank of England’ pub, currently derelict and up for sale. It used to be a rough old boozer but you can imagine it rising from the ashes as an up-market hipster bar. And why not. From there we were able to hop on a tram and get back to Droylsden in comfort and speed.

Bolton nudges forward: we’re hiring

Phil has been busy panting the floor of the Platform Gallery in readiness for Spring exhibitions. Later in the year we’re hoping to repeat the popular ‘Railway Workers’ Art’ show. Our work with City of Sanctuary is moving forward after a very enjoyable walk round Entwistle Reservoir over the Christmas holidays, which attracted about 20 people including a couple of young Nigerian lads who’d never been on a train. We’re looking at ways of getting children involved, through a ‘Train Kids’ Club’, with appropriate supervision. Negotiations between the University of Bolton, Northern and Network Rail for a tripartite lease on the ‘community’ space seem to be moving ahead positively and work on the roof is steaming ahead. During May the Community Room will host some of the ‘Worktown 2020’, events organised by the University Arts Faculty.

Funding for the CRP’s paid officer is now all in place, with commitments from Northern, CrossCountry, Avanti West Coast and Bolton at Home. We will be advertising the full-time job shortly using our new website www.communityrailbolton.org.uk. The website will be up and running very soon but expressions of interest can be emailed to boltonstncdp@gmail.com. TransPennine Express has also been a very generous funder for the Gallery and Community Room.

All change for Northern? and insults fly over HS2

At the time of writing there’s much uncertainty about the future for Northern. The Secretary of State, Grant Shapps, has made announcements about announcements but it still isn’t clear what will happen. A difficult time for staff at all levels who’ve had to grapple with problems many of which were not of their making. Let’s see. What Northern needs is stability and long termism, which must involved continued investment – not least in infrastructure. The Deansgate Corridor is the key to sorting out reliability issues and there is no cheap solution. Ask any time-served rail professional and the answer is always the same: it has to be four-tracked from Deansgate to Piccadilly. We still don’t know what the Government has decided about HS2, which I regard as an un-needed vanity which will do the North few favours. Trans-Pennine electrification and gauge clearance, capacity improvements and more trains are what the North needs. That’s pretty much what Lord Tony Berkeley says in his ‘Dissenting Report’ on HS2. Good for him. Richard Leese’s snide comments about a ’peer who spends his time travelling from London to Cornwall’ are typical of the nastiness and ignorance of too many Labour politicians who claim to speak ‘for the North’. Richard, you were elected to represent your ward in Manchester, you don’t ‘represent’ anything more. And you don’t know much about railways (which Berkeley does).

New trains abound

It’s great fun travelling around the North-West at the moment, you can’t move for new trains. Northern’s diesel class 195s and electric 331s are common sights around the network and both are comfortable and speedy.

What we used to have..a Birmingham RC&W sets arrives in Bolton

I remain critical about the poor window visibility, something that train designers seem to care nothing about. Note: passengers do.  TransPennine’s various flashy new trains are even better and I particularly like the Hitachi 802s, which look stunning and are a very good ride. The push-me-pull-you Nova 3s with class 68 diesel traction are fun too. I have to reluctantly admit getting a real kick from hearing one of those on full power accelerating up Platting Bank out of Victoria.

What I’m reading

I’ve got several things on the go. John Nelson’s Losing Track (an insider’s story of Britain’s Railway Transformation from British Rail to the Present Day) makes for fascinating reading, both as autobiography and perhaps even more as a high-ranking insider’s story of the transition from state ownership to privatisation. It’s published by New Generation. Irish politics has a tendency to come back to haunt us. Although it’s very good news that the Stormont Parliament is coming back to life, the thorny question of ‘the Border’ won’t go away. Diarmaid Ferriter’s The Border is a very good history of how the Irish border came to be created – or imposed – and the different interests at work in either maintaining or removing it. Published by Profile Books. English regionalism is an issue on which few books have been written (a plug here for Socialism with a Northern Accent..) so Alex Niven’s New Model Island is a welcome addition. A very quirky book, and no harm in that. He argues for ‘egalitarian regionalism’ within England, in response to the near-certain breaking-away of Scotland and the creation of a united Ireland. Published by Repeater Books.Just through the letterbox this morning is Peter Macfadyen’s Flatpack Democracy 2.0 – power tools for reclaiming local politics. It goes very well with New Model Island and The Border, in an odd sort of way. It’s about looking for different solutions to politics in the UK. I’d advise all of the contenders for the Labour leadership to study it carefully,i s this is the way local politics is slowly, but inexorably. Moving – whether you’re in Farnworth, Horwich or Frome. It’s published by Eco-logic Books.

Publications here and in the offing: Back to ‘The Works’

I’ve alluded to my forthcoming novel in previous issues. The ‘squalid tale’ as one reader called it, is about life in Horwich Loco Works, the campaign to save it, and what might have happened if the workers had won. It was originally going to be called ‘The Works’ but I changed it to ‘Song for Horwich’. I’ve now changed it back to ‘The Works’. That’s the nice thing about publishing yourself, you can do what you want and don’t have to convince anyone else. The ‘Song for Horwich’ was the title of a poem written (I think) by one of the works employees to support the campaign against closure. It’s show below. If anyone knows who wrote it, I’d love to hear from them. The book will be published in February price £12.99 (Salvo readers will however get a discount). The new imprint will be called ‘Lancashire Loominary’, as previously warned and will have its own website www.lancashireloominary.co.uk. ‘The Lankishire Loominary un’ Tum Fowt Telegraph’ was published by J T Staton in the 1850s and 60s and it seemed a good idea to resurrect the clever title, if not the eccentric spelling of Lancashire.

My new book on the Settle-Carlisle line was published last Autumn (see below in ‘Salvo Publications List’).  It’s published by Wiltshire-based Crowood and is now available, price £24.

My extended essay – with the rather cumbersome title of ‘Walt Whitman and the Religion of Socialism in the North of England, 1885-1914’ – is complete. It will be part of a collection of Walt Whitman-related essays being edited by Kim Edwards-Keates at the University of Bolton. Hopefully it will be out sometime in 2020, to be published by Manchester University Press.

Crank Quiz:

This time it’s a picture quiz, and very topical. Thanks to Paul Abell for suggesting it. What has this locomotive got to do with the history of the Labour Party?

 

Salvo 273: The Annual Christmas Shed Code Quiz: it’s BACK (and gone again)

Many, many years ago in a far-away land east of the Pennines, an obscure revolutionary sect called TR&IN was in the habit of organising a ‘Christmas Party’ which was attended by down and outs, weirdos and misfits. One of its more outrageous activities was ‘the shed code quiz’. Not by any popular demand, nor even unpopular demand, The Salvo brings you an up-dated, non-compliant (with anything) SHED CODE QUIZ 2019.

To qualify for entry, participants are forbidden from consulting Ian Allan ABCs, Locomotive Shed Directories, or ‘WikiShedCodia’. No cheating! Our spies are everywhere….Oh, go on then (1960/1 edition).  The Questions….and the Answers!

  1. Which shed or sheds was ‘Two Sheds Jackson’ shed foreman of? Retford GC and GN 36E
  2. Which shed had the largest number of sub-sheds? Stratford 30A
  3. Which sub-shed of which main depot was flat? Pelton Level 52H
  4. Which shed was good if you had a headache? Newport (Pill) 86B
  5. Which sub-shed of which depot was well-defended? Moat Lane Junction 89A
  6. Which shed was especially environment-friendly? Lancaster Green Ayre 24J
  7. Which sub-shed was the end of the line? Southampton Terminus 71A
  8. Which shed was a good place to pop into for a pint? Bricklayer’s Arms 73B
  9. Which shed was noted for its flora and fauna? Bath Green Park 82F
  10. Which shed was always at its peak? Middleton Top 17C
  11. Which sub-shed of which depot was popular with ornithologists? Leighton Buzzard 1E
  12. Which shed should be adopted by The Woodland Trust? Sutton Oak 8G
  13. Which sub-shed did railwaymen go to for their holidays? Cromer Beach 32A
  14. Which sub-shed was the setting for ‘While Shepherd’s Watched Their Flocks by Night’? Sheep Pasture 17C
  15. What sub-shed was above 24D? Upper Bank 87D
  16. Which sheds mainly celebrate the marriage of two Northern gardeners? Rose Grove 24B and Hull Botanic Gardens 50C
  17. Which shed was noted for its river? Heaton Mersey9F
  18. Which river separated two sheds and how were they connected? North and South Blyth (River Blyth) chain ferry 52F
  19. Which shed was a good place for a quick nap? Kipps 65E
  20. To which shed did you have to show exaggerated respect? Devon’s Road (Bow) 1D

Well done Geoff Kerr of Littleborough. There are possible variants, have to admit!

Special Traffic Notices

  • Until February 23rd ‘Edward Tucker – The Unseen Artist’  Warrington Art Gallery
  • January 28th: Cheshire Best-Kept Station Awards, Hartford
  • February 3rd Bolton Station Community Development partnership AGM. 18.00 Community Room Platform 5
  • February 6th: Meeting of Irish Railway Record Society in Manchester, with Dick Fearn
  • March 19th: ‘The Enterprising Railway’ – open meeting of Rail Reform Group, 18.00 The Waldorf, Manchester (to be confirmed)
  • Saturday March 28th: Will The North Rise Again? Hannah Mitchell Foundation AGM and Conference, Huddersfield

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

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/

 

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Northern Weekly Salvo 273

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: paul.salveson@myphone.coop

No. 273 December 21st  2019 Election  Christmas Special

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, 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. Full of creative ambiguity, possibly. Promoting moderate rebellion and sedition, within reason.

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

General gossips

I did threaten to issue a shortened pre-Christmas Salvo, and I’ve decided to carry out the threat. Here it is, a mixed bag as usual with election comment and a few thoughts on ‘where next?’ for politics. Thanks to Simon’s efforts, may website is now ‘clean’ and free of nasties. You may find that some anti-virus programmes still tell you it’s dodgy, but it isn’t, and WordPress (mein host) seem OK with it. The previous Salvo (272) is also available on the website now, if you missed it. And yes, Christmas will soon be upon us! It has been good catching up with mates over the last couple of weeks and I’m looking forward to seeing at least some of the grandchildren (Stockport branch) and having a relaxing time wandering around post-industrial landscapes. There’s the City of Sanctuary/Bolton Station walk round Entwistle coming up on the 28th and maybe a trip on the East Lancs Railway. Have a wonderful Christmas and 2020.

Christmas Greetings from Bolton Shed (9K). Nice photo by Vern Sidlow used for station partnership/CRP card

That election : Grim Up North? (based on ‘Points and Crossings’ piece in forthcoming Chartist magazine www.chartist.org.uk)

For us lefties, there’s very little festive cheer in the outcome of the General Election. Labour did particularly badly in the North of England, and there was little evidence of the ‘progressive’ vote switching to the Greens, Lib Dems or civic regionalists like the Yorkshire Party. As someone who isn’t a member of the Labour Party (although I voted for them, despite wanting to support the Greens), there’s a need for a hard and perhaps uncomfortable assessment of the election.

The results can be put down to a number of factors, Brexit being almost certainly the most significant, closely followed by Corbyn’s unpopularity. The unedifying spectacle of leave-supporting Northern constituencies who have traditionally voted Labour showing marked swings to the Tories, is too obvious to ignore. Hindsight is a wonderful thing but if Labour had negotiated for better terms based on May’s deal we wouldn’t be where we are now. Yes, I was a reluctant supporter of a second referendum but sometimes you just have to recognise you were wrong. It was a mistake not to accept the original result (and yes, even if it was to some degree based on lies and misinformation).

Back to last week – in some places, it could be argued that the other progressive parties helped the Tories win. In my neighbouring constituency, Bolton North-East, the Tory had a majority of 337 votes. The Greens picked up a miserly 689 and the Lib Dems 1,847; almost certainly costing the highly respected former shop steward, David Crausby, his seat. The Brexit Party, whose sole existence was about undermining Labour, gained 1,880.

Should the Greens have stood down (as they did in neighbouring marginal Bolton West, in 2017)? They’re a legitimate political party with radical and imaginative policies. Labour has done them no favours and stood a candidate against Caroline Lucas in Brighton. The party has been averse to any semblance of pacts or alliances and it could be argued that they got what they deserved. But, to paraphrase Neil Kinnock when he said ‘Scargill and Thatcher deserved each other, but the country didn’t deserve either’ – the rest of us don’t  deserve to be saddled with an arrogant Tory Government that can now act with impunity for at least five years, and maybe longer. The very clear message in England , specifically, is that Labour remains the dominant force in progressive politics and that’s not likely to change very fast. But we need a different sort of Labour Party from what it has become if it is going to recover lost ground.

Labour will soon be in the throes of a leadership campaign which will sap energies but is obviously necessary. Politicians like Alan Johnson, many defeated MPs and indeed Tony Blair, are already calling for a return to ‘the centre ground’ to win back the Labour heartlands, or rebuild the so-called ‘red wall’ which has crumbled in the North of England.

I don’t think that’s the answer. Labour needs to be radical but much more inclusive and collaborative. Working with other progressive forces isn’t just about tactical advantage, it’s showing that you’re a grown-up political force that shies away from tribalism and sectarianism. Yet both characteristics have plagued Labour these last few years. I’m sick to death of hearing people talk about such-and-such being ‘a true Socialist’ whilst someone else isn’t, as though Socialism is some sort of theological belief and the slightest deviation from the canon risks consigning you to the burning fires of hell.

Alongside a cultural shift within Labour, the party needs to embrace voting reform. The tide has shifted away from traditional binary politics yet the voting system continues to prop up the crumbling edifice. Compare the European elections with the General Election, you’ll get a much more accurate view of people’s political aspirations. The Greens won seats in the North-West and Yorkshire and Humber – a pity they are not going to have much chance to use those positions. It’s reasonable to assume that a proportional voting system would result in a strong Green presence in Parliament. Small civic regionalists such as the Yorkshire Party might be able to make more headway. It could also mean that fringe right-wing parties win some seats – an argument often used by Labour to oppose PR. But that’s democracy. You don’t oppose the far right by excluding them from the political process.

Many on the pro-Corbyn left will argue that some of Labour’s policies were popular, e.g. rail nationalisation. Yet how radical were Labour’s proposals? Despite rhetoric about ‘new forms of ownership’ what seemed to be on the cards was a very traditional post-1945 model of state ownership. Corbyn’s populist call for a third off rail fares would have caused chaos on a rail system struggling with already-overcrowded trains. It isn’t that wanting fare reductions is wrong – but it needed thinking through in terms of more trains, staff and extra infrastructure. All of which would take years, not a few weeks.

Labour’s manifesto was silent on many areas of ‘democratic’ policy. Nothing on PR, nothing about bringing the voting age down and an absence of anything concerning regional devolution, such as making city-region mayors more accountable. Labour under Corbyn seems to accept that the current British political system is the best of all possible worlds. Many would disagree.

Back in 2012 I argued in Socialism with a Northern Accent that Labour needs to address issues around English regional identity and build a politics which is inclusive and radical. We don’t seem to be any nearer that, with some on the left still pursuing the case for an ‘English parliament’ that would further marginalise the North. Why not have devolution within Labour and build a semi-autonomous Northern Labour? Scotland and Wales have their own devolved party structures, it would make sense for the North as well (taking in Yorkshire, the North-East and North-West).

The coming year it would be good to see a flowering of radical ideas which the Left can mould into a progressive politics that chimes with the times. It means accepting Brexit and trying to make the best of what may well be a bad job. But let’s look for opportunities, not obstacles. It also means being much more collaborative, working constructively with a range of progressive forces including the burgeoning number of non-party movements, often at a very local level.

Salvo forecast

The Salvo forecast in issue 272 was broadly correct, apart from the Tories winning 🙂 I did suggest that we were in for a Tory win, though not on the scale that actually happened.  My comment on the Liberal Democratswas that ‘they’ve run a lacklustre campaign dragged down by their daft idea to revoke Article 50 in the rather unlikely event of them forming a government. That will haunt them in these last few days, despite the generally sound stuff they say in their manifesto.  So they’ll do less well than they might have done.’  Which was accurate. I added ‘So, maybe a narrow win for Johnson, perhaps without an overall majority – and it’s unlikely to imagine the DUP rushing in to prop him up. I can’t see the Brexit Party gaining any seats, their historic role has been to push the Tories to the right and help Johnson win. Watch them fade away, no loss to anyone.’ So less near the mark, but hey ho. People who are paid to forecast these things didn’t do any better. I did expect to see the SNP do well, which is what happened. Sturgeon shone during the election campaign and maybe it got a few people south of the border changing their jaundiced views about Scottish nationalism, mainly influenced by a hostile London media. The Scottish result, for me, was the only good news in the election. OK, getting Caroline Lucas re-elected and seeing the DUP’s vote slip, also deserved getting the Maltesers out.

OK, so what now?

Sometimes you just need time to think – and discuss. I’m looking forward to the meeting of the Hannah Mitchell Foundation, early in the New Year, when different views will be aired about the future of radical politics in the North. The Labour leadership campaign will bring out, hopefully, some fresh ideas and not divide into a Corbynite/Blairite dichotomy, which would be profoundly unhelpful. I’m not of the view that any positive change is on the back-burner for the next five years. There are always opportunities that can be grasped. There will be a lot of new Conservative MPs who might welcome some fresh thinking about how to address challenges in the North. At the same time, there will be an obvious need to challenge Johnson on a whole range of issues.

On rail, the Williams Review will published soon; let’s see what it has to say though I suspect it won’t be anything like as a radical in its conclusions as we’d be originally been led to believe. A single ‘guiding mind’ for the railways will be a good thing, as long as it doesn’t become a ‘controlling’ mind. As for ‘management contracts’ they can mean different things. Taking any semblance of commercial freedom away from train companies doesn’t sound like a particularly good idea. I wouldn’t want to work for any business that is told what to do, down to the tiniest detail, leaving no space for a bit of entrepreneurial flair.

Bolton Goings-On

The Station Christmas Market went well, despite a chilly day. After standing around for a couple of hours many of our stallholders were getting distinctly chilled. But it was a lovely event, organised by Bolton Station Community Development Partnership.

Julie and Vern with our newly-acquited blackboard (originally from Bolton Trinity St.)

A total of 18 community groups and businesses set out their stalls on Bolton Station’s Platform 4, offering a warm seasonal welcome to visitors arriving in the town. They included social enterprise Justicia, Maisha African crafts, Live from Worktown, the Woodland Trust, Bolton Rail Users’ Group, local publishers Preeta Press, Halliwell Local History Society, Bolton City of Sanctuary, local artists and craft workers and the Salvation Army. Food was provided by Pretzel and Spelt offering delicious pretzels and stollen cake (not, as the press release said, ‘stolen’), with Indian food by Mistry’s Bakery.

Members of Bolton Model Railway Club had created a special Christmas-themed layout which delighted both adults and children.  “It was a delightful event, with lots of interest from the public and great to see the different stallholders chatting to each other and networking,” said Julie Levy, chair of the station partnership.

The Justicia stall

Some special visitors included three elves who arrived – by train of course – from Manchester. They entertained passengers with elf-like activities and gave out toffees to fascinated children. The Christmas Market was supported by Northern, Diamond Buses, Transport for Greater Manchester and Network Rail.

The main activity over Christmas is the joint walk with Bolton City of Sanctuary, on Saturday December 28th. We’ll be getting the 11.01 train from Bolton to Entwistle for a relaxed walk round the reservoir, followed by lunch in the Strawbury Duck. Salvo readers are welcome to come along but if you want lunch we’ve got a full house (though the pub would probably accommodate a few more if you book directly with them).

We’re almost there with funding for a full-time Development Officer to support the work of Bolton and South Lancashire Community Rail Partnership. We’re hoping to advertise the job early in the New Year. If you’re interested, or know someone who is, please let Julie Levy or myself know by emailing boltonstncdp@gmail.com

Publications here and in the offing

I’ve alluded to my forthcoming novel in previous issues. The ‘squalid tale’ as one reader called it, is about life in Horwich Loco Works, the campaign to save it, and what might have happened if the workers had won. It was originally going to be called ‘The Works’ but I’ve changed it to ‘Song for Horwich’. This was the title of a poem written (I think) by one of the works employees to support the campaign against closure. It’s show below. If anyone knows who wrote it, I’d love to hear from them. The book will be published in February price £13.99 (Salvo readers will however get a discount). The new imprint will be called ‘Lancashire Loominary’, as previously warned and will have its own website www.lancashireloominary.co.uk. ‘The Lankishire Loominary un’ Tum Fowt Telegraph’ was published by J T Staton in the 1850s and 60s and it seemed a good idea to resurrect the clever title, if not the eccentric spelling of Lancashire.

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.

I’m also working on an extended essay with the rather cumbersome title of ‘Walt Whitman and the Religion of Socialism in the North of England, 1885-1914’. It will be part of a collection of Walt Whitman-related essays being edited by Kim Edwards-Keats at the University of Bolton. Hopefully it will be out sometime in 2020, to be published by Manchester University Press.

Who Signed the Book?

The last couple of Christmases I’ve reproduced my short story ‘Who Signed The Book?’  (first published in ASLEF’s Locomotive Journal in 1985). It’s based on my time spent as a signalman at Astley Bridge Junction. For anyone who hasn’t read it before, or wishes to re-acquaint themselves with it, go to: http://www.paulsalveson.org.uk/2019/12/21/who-signed-the-book-a-christmas-railway-ghost-story/

Christmas Crank Quiz:

Readers were invited to suggest names of railway installations, locomotives etc. with a Christmas theme. Some excellent and truly crankish contributions, but once again ‘Christmas Tree Sidings’ on the Settle-Carlisle Line (near Baron Wood Tunnels) was left out. They are long gone but I remember several Blackburn drivers referring to them.

John Kitchen struggled a bit:  The new railway in Barbados is the St Nicholas Abbey Railway. All in all my lateral thinking is definitely letting me down  –  Greek mythology / Empires / military derived  /racehorse names seem to have dominated the naming policies of the main line railways except for the Southern who used Arthurian legends / public schools / west country locations. That leaves the GWR who did have Saints but neglected Nicholas. Other than that they seem to have been obsessed with piles of stones. Ok they did have some military stuff and the odd monarch and celestial references, but the Christmas Class regrettably never emerged. I wouldn’t be surprised if Virgin named something seasonal but I am not an expert on modern namings. Heaven forefend that something as frivolous as Christmas would be celebrated by the 19th century railway. So after all this all I can add is the Pines Express – all the best.

A rare intervention from the Sage of Crosland Moor: Christmas railway associations seem scarce – perhaps I’m not trying hard enough.  70026 features in the biblical tale and I suppose it’s not hard to imagine three ‘Kings’ in the yard at Old Oak Common.  And there must have been a Sheep Pasture involved, albeit not specifically referenced.  Otherwise, how about Hollybush, on the Dalmellington branch?

Martin Higginson has a Saintly contribution: Christmas railway nomenclature poses quite a problem. My first hope was dashed: No BR/ER LNER B1 called Reindeer, as I had though there was, but just 61040 Roedeer – not good enough. So to stations:  Noel Park & Wood Green, on one of London’s few closed branches lines (Seven Sisters – Palace Gates) seems the only one, but according to the trusty Handbook of Stations there were Nowell’s Colliery and Siding in Warwickshire. Then, at last, the Great Western obliged: Saint Class 4-6-0 2926 Saint Nicholas

A truly crankish contribution from Stuart Parkes: I am invited to 61600 for Christmas lunch with the former 46201, along with 46202, 60508/61996. The menu consists of 60022 with vegetables from 1029, washed down with flagons of cider from 1017. 1011 will provide the cheese course and the dessert will be made from 60526. After the meal we shall watch recordings of games between  61662 and 61664. Best wishes from 30794 aka Stuart Parkes

The Annual Christmas Shed Code Quiz: Yes, it’s BACK

Many, many years ago in a far-away land east of the Pennines, an obscure revolutionary sect called TR&IN was in the habit of organising a ‘Christmas Party’ which was attended by down and outs, anarchists, train-spotters and general ne’er do-wells. One of its more outrageous activities was ‘the shed code quiz’. Not by any popular demand, nor even unpopular demand, The Salvo brings you an up-dated, non-compliant (with anything) SHED CODE QUIZ 2019.

To qualify for entry, participants are forbidden from consulting Ian Allan ABCs, Locomotive Shed Directories, or ‘WikiShedCodia’. No cheating! Our spies are everywhere….Oh, go on then (1960/1 edition). Maybe one year I’ll make it into a crossword, but for now….just have a go.

The Questions….please give the correct shed code/s and if relevant name of shed

  1. Which shed or sheds was ‘Two Sheds Jackson’ shed foreman of?……..
  2. Which shed had the largest number of sub-sheds? Name them………..
  3. Which sub-shed of which main depot was flat?………….
  4. Which shed was good if you had a headache?………………………
  5. Which sub-shed of which depot was well-defended?……………………………
  6. Which shed was especially environment-friendly?……………………………….
  7. Which sub-shed was the end of the line?…………………………………………….
  8. Which shed was a good place to pop into for a pint?…………………………….
  9. Which shed was noted for its flora and fauna?……………………………………..
  10. Which shed was always at its peak?…………………………………………………….
  11. Which sub-shed of which depot was popular with ornithologists?…………..
  12. Which shed should be adopted by The Woodland Trust?……………………….
  13. Which sub-shed did railwaymen go to for their holidays?………………………
  14. Which sub-shed was the setting for ‘While Shepherd’s Watched Their Flocks by Night’?…..
  15. What sub-shed was above 24D?………….
  16. Which sheds mainly celebrate the marriage of two Northern gardening couples?……………
  17. Which shed was noted for its river?……………………………………
  18. Which river separated two sheds and how were they connected?…………….
  19. Which shed was a good place for a quick nap?……………………..
  20. To which shed did you have to show exaggerated respect?………………..

Good luck! You can send your entries to The Salvo for adjudication by our panel of experts. You can also share it, confer on it, or just rip it up and throw it away.

Special Traffic Notices

  • December 28th: City of Sanctuary Walk; 11.00 train from Bolton to Entwistle. The walk is about 2 miles.
  • January 28th: Cheshire Best-Kept Station Awards, Hartford
  • February 3rd Bolton Station Community Development partnership AGM. 18.00 Community Room Platform 5
  • February 6th: Meeting of Irish Railway Record Society in Manchester, with Dick Fearn
  • March 19th: ‘The Enterprising Railway’ – open meeting of Rail Reform Group, 18.00 The Waldorf, Manchester (to be confirmed)

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

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/

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Who Signed The Book? A Christmas Railway Ghost Story

Who Signed The Book?

A Christmas railway ghost story

Paul Salveson

This was originally published in ASLEF’s Locomotive Journal in December 1985. This is a slightly updated version. Two years of my railway career were at Astley Bridge Junction signalbox, in the 1970s.

I’ve spent the last 40 years as union branch secretary getting other people out of trouble. I’ve done more disciplinaries than you’ll have had hot dinners, and I have had some strange ones. But you want to know the strangest?  I’ll tell you. It happened over 30 years ago and there’s enough water flown under the bridge for me to talk about it. I’m long since retired so there’s not much anyone can do to me now.

I must have represented hundreds of my members at what they used to call ‘Form 1 hearings’. But this one found me in the hot seat. What led me to getting charged happened in 1983. Up to now the only people who knew anything about it are myself and Jack Bracewell, former Area Manager and he’s been retired even longer than me. He lives out Blackpool way. I promised I’d keep my mouth shut about the affair until Jack had finished and was getting his company pension. As a good union man, I’ve kept my word.

It was Christmas Eve 1983. I was working nights at Astley Bridge Junction; a small cabin just north of Bolton on the steeply-graded line to Blackburn. It’s long gone of course – it shut when the branch to Halliwell Goods closed in the late 80s. It was the draughtiest box I’ve ever worked, stuck on top of Tonge Viaduct with only the birds and the circuit telephone to keep you company, apart from the occasional platelayer’s visit, usually Derek begging a brew of tea.

We’d had plenty of rows about it on the LDC – the old ‘Local Departmental Committee’ where we battled things out with management – usually good naturedly. Astley Bridge  was one of the ancient Lancashire and Yorkshire (L&Y) boxes with facilities which could best be called ‘primitive’. Heating was by an old stove that Stephenson probably invented, gas lighting and an outside toilet that froze every winter. And then that bloody draft that blew up from below, through the lever frame. Management kept telling us it was ‘in the programme’ for modernisation, but nothing happened.

It had its compensations. You could look across Bolton and see the dozens of mill chimneys, mostly still working then, while turning north the moors stretched out before you. And it was cosy when you got the fire going, and no-one could say you were killed for work, with just a couple of trains each hour and the occasional goods on and off the branch. Years ago it had been on a through route to Scotland. Lancashire and Yorkshire expresses joined up with The Midland at Hellifield. Well before my time. Or so I thought.

At the time, we were working short-handed. My mate Joe Hepburn had retired three months previous and management were dragging their feet about filling the vacancy. So we were on regular twelve hours, George Ashcroft and myself. Good for the money, but not for your social life; nor, as I began to think, for your sanity.

Have you ever been to a Form 1 hearing? It’s probably different nowadays but back then it probably hadn’t changed since Victorian times. You sat there like a naughty schoolboy, usually accompanied by your union spokesman. If it was serious, the Area Manager would take the case and he’d read out the charge: “You are charged with the under-mentioned irregularity….etc.” A clerk would be sat in the background, taking notes of the ordeal and loving every minute of it, most times.

A good union man will use every argument in the book – and out of it – to get the poor bugger on the charge as good a deal as possible. I had a better success rate than many full-time union officers. I had just one rule: I never told a lie to get a member off the hook. If you pull that one, it might work the first time, but the boss would make it bloody hard for you the next. And that next time you might have had a genuine case.

So can you imagine how I felt, with 30 years’ service, including 20 as branch secretary, when I got that Form 1 addressed to me. But I’d been expecting it. And I thought I’d be the up the road.

The hearing was on a Friday morning in January 1984 at 09.00, in the Area Manager’s Office on Bolton station. Jack Bracewell, the AM, was an old hand whom I knew him from his days on the footplate. He was one of that dying breed of railway manager who’d started off at the bottom – as an engine cleaner at Plodder Lane shed – and worked his way up the ladder.

Ironically, I’d got him off the hook, years ago, by which time he’d got booked as a driver at Bolton. He was driving a loose-coupled coal train from Rose Grove to Salford Docks and I happened to be on duty at Astley Bridge Junction at the time, on relief. I got the’ train on line’ bell from Bromley Cross box but I had an engine off the branch waiting at my starter to go back to the shed, so I couldn’t give the coal train a road. He’d have to wait at my home signal, just up from the end of the viaduct.

I heard a long piercing wheel then a series of short ‘crows’ – the steam whistle code for a runaway. I saw the train coming down the bank, with one of the old ‘Austerity’ locos, passing the home signal at danger. She was away, no doubt about it. Not going that fast but fast enough to give that light engine a nasty surprise if she caught up with it. Just as the loco passed the box I got ‘line clear’ from Bolton West and I quickly offered the light engine. It was accepted and I was able to clear my starter to get the light engine out of the way. The coal train shuddered to a halt just a few wagon lengths beyond my box.

The driver – Jack Bracewell – was quickly out of his cab and up the cabin steps. “Sorry mate – there was no holding her. Overloaded to start off with – we nearly stuck in Sough Tunnel – and that old wreck’s brake wouldn’t stop a push bike, ne’er mind 40 o’coal. Anyroad, put it in t’book and I’ll answer for passing that home board”.

Now some signalmen I knew would book a driver for not having his hair combed right, but I wasn’t going to get anyone into trouble if I could help it – even if he was an ASLEF man and I was NUR! “Didn’t you see?” I asked, “I pulled off for you to drop down to my starter just as you approached. Forget it.” We exchanged looks and Jack turned to leave. “Thanks mate – if you’re ever stuck, I’ll return the favour.”

I looked out of the cabin window and saw him climb back into the cab of his grimy ‘Austerity’, wheezing steam from everywhere but now looking calm and innocent after her wild descent from Walton’s Siding. I soon got ‘train out of section’ bell from Bolton West for the light engine and was able to pull off for Jack’s train. The wagons shuddered and screeched and he was back on his way to Salford Docks. The guard in the brake van looked a bit ashen-faced after his experience but I got a friendly and slightly relieved-looking wave from him.

That must have been….. what? 1959? Jack had come a long way since then, getting into management somewhere down south then promoted to Area Manager back in Bolton. Poacher turned gamekeeper we used to say. And the battles we had on the LDC! But at least you knew where you were with him. He was a railwayman and knew his job, and everyone else’s. That’s more than you can say for most of today’s management whizz-kids.

That day of the hearing I broke one of my golden rules. Never go into a disciplinary hearing without union representation. We’d fought hard for that right and many genuine cases were lost because someone thought they didn’t need any help. With me, it was more embarrassment than anything. I thought of asking Benny Jones the full-time officer, or some of my old mates on the NEC. But no, none of them would believe my story and I’d look a bloody fool. I went through that door on my tod, feeling very alone: one of the worst moments of my life.

Jack was at his desk, with the young woman clerk, Joyce Williams, sat at his side, pen in hand. She was one of the better ones, and I think she had a TSSA card.

“Good morning Mr Hartshorn. Please sit down.” Jack was looking more bloody nervous than me. And Christ! I was a nervous wreck. He read the charge: ”You are charged with the under-mentioned irregularity. That on Wednesday December 24th 1983 you made incorrect entries in The Train Register Book, contrary to Signalmen’s Instructions and Rule Book Section such-and-such….What have you got to say in your defence?”

I looked across at Mr Jack Bracewell, Area Manager, London Midland Region. He’d put on weight since leaving the footplate; his face was a bright red and his hair receding. Maybe down to the hard time I’d given him at LDC meetings.

But today the advantage was firmly his – though you wouldn’t have thought so by the look of him. Beads of sweat rolled down his forehead, he shuffled uncomfortably in his chair. “Joyce” he blurted out…”turn that bloody heating down before we all roast.” The clerk jumped up and obeyed the command. The ball was now in my court.

“Before I give you my explanation Mr Bracewell I just want to remind you that I’ve always been straight when I’ve been representing my members in front of you. And I’m going to be straight with you now – however unbelievable it all might sound.”

“Of course…of course, get on with it.”

“Right. I relieved my mate at 6.00pm, as you know we were on 12 hours. I was sober, you can ask George to verify that if you want. We chatted for a few minutes about what we were doing over the holiday and then George signed off. “Could be a bad ‘un” I remember him saying about the weather; the snow had already started though lucky for him he didn’t live that far away. We wished each other ‘all the best’ and off he went down the cabin steps.

He’d left a good fire; the pot-bellied stove was glowing red. I settled myself down in the easy chair, with a quiet night’s work ahead of me. I saw the last ‘passenger’ through at 21.30h. It’s in the book. The only other scheduled train that night was the empty stock for Newton Heath at about 03.00. After it had gone I had permission to close the cabin early and not re-open until the following Monday, when I was early turn at 06.00.

I made a brew and settled down with my book – a thriller, funnily enough. To be honest I probably dozed off, at least for a few minutes. I was jolted out of my snooze by a ‘call attention’ bell from Bolton West.  I wondered what on earth it could be. I looked at the clock and it showed 23.35. I gave the ‘1’ signal back to Bolton West and they offered me a ‘4’ – the bell code for an express passenger train, as you know, sir. The first thing that came into my mind was that the wires were down on the main line and Control was diverting some trains for Scotland via the Settle-Carlisle Line. It happens quite often, though it was very odd that I hadn’t got a circuit to tell me. Perhaps I’d been in more of a sleep than I thought and had missed the wire. I sent the signal on to Bromley Cross, got ‘line clear’ and pulled off – home board, starter and distant. Five minutes later I received a ‘2’ – train on line from Bolton West. I expected to hear the roar of a diesel engine, but instead I heard the steady, slow puff of a steam locomotive, obviously labouring on the gradient out of Bolton.

All I could think was that it must have been some sort of special working back to the museum at Carnforth, routed by Hellifield. It was a strange time to run it, but what was I to know?  It was snowing very heavily by now, the wind blowing the flakes against the cabin windows so you could hardly see out. The tracks were completely covered.

The headlamps of the engine came into view; she’d slowed down even more and was barely moving though sparks were coming out of the chimney like a firework display.

“Aye the fireman would have the dart in to get the fire going,” said Jack reverting to his old footplate patter, quickly adding “but well, that’s if there was an engine…obviously. Delete that comment, Joyce.”

When the engine was almost level with the cabin the steam was shut off and the train came to a stand. I managed to open the cabin door, pushing the snow back, to get a better view.

Through the blizzard I could see that it wasn’t one of the usual preserved locos you sometimes get – she looked older, but well kept. The paintwork looked jet black and across the tender I could make out the words ‘Lancashire & Yorkshire’.

She looked like one of those ‘Lanky’ Atlantics that some of the older signalmen used to talk about, when I was a train booker in my teens. ‘Highflyers’ they called them, with high-pitched long boilers. Very fast engines. But i couldn’t recall any being saved from the scrapheap.

The coaches looked vintage too, though i couldn’t see much of them through the snow. It was blowing like an arctic gale, and curious though I was, I had to shut the door.

A moment later I heard footsteps coming up to the cabin. There was a rap on the door window. I took off the snack and opened the door to what looked like an oldish man – a gnarled face with a drooping moustache and eyes like red-hot coals. His hands were pitted and scarred. This didn’t look like some middle-class train enthusiast who did the occasional firing turn for the fun of it.

He walked in, shaking the snow off and carefully wiping his boots on the mat. “Short o’steam mate – they’re givin’ us rubbish t’burn wi’t’colliers on strike.”

By now I could get a proper look at him. He was dressed in old fashioned railway overalls which I’d only seen in history books. He had a very dignified appearance, reminding me of some of the old Methodist preachers I knew as a kid.

It was news to me that the miners were on strike, but that didn’t click at first. It took me a few seconds before I could say anything – though I offered him a brew and asked him to sign the Train Register Book, according to rule.

A few moments later more footsteps told me that his mate – the driver – was coming up for a warm as well. He looked about the same age as his fireman, slightly smaller with a long greying beard speckled with snowflakes and coal dust. He had similar overalls to his mate but wore a shirt and tie, with a shiny watch chain disappearing into his waistcoat pocket. He wore the L&Y insignia on his lapel. I remember thinking that if these two lads were steam buffs, they were certainly sticklers for historical accuracy.

The driver said, to no-one in particular, “There’ll be hell to play o’er this. Runnin’ short o’ steam on this job, we’st booath be on th’carpet o’Monday. It’s noan mi mates fault though – it’s that bad coyl they’re givin’ us. Tha cornt wark this sort o’job, wi’ nine bogies an just an hour to geet fro’ Bowton to Hellifield, wi nowt but th’best coyl. Th’bosses durnt give a bugger though – they just put th’blame on th’men.”

I didn’t know what to think. Was I caught up in an elaborate practical joke? Or was I in a time warp? I reminded myself that I hadn’t been drinking. Maybe I was still asleep and this was a very vivid dream. Yes – that was it. I’d soon wake up and get ‘call attention’ for the Newton Heath empties.

But it continued. The fireman went over to the stove to warn his pock-marked hands. “Th’company thinks as it con do what it wants wi’ us. It allus has done. But it’s geet a shock comin’. There’s talk o’one big union for all railwaymen after last year’s strike. Federation ‘ud be a good start. They’ve kept us divided for too long, grade agen grade, men agen men.”

The fireman halted for a while, feeling the heat return to his hands, and then continued “Aw’ve waited for th’day when we’d beat the company for a long time. Aw’ve suffered through bein’ a union man and socialist, like mony another. Moved fro’ shed t’ shed. Tret like dirt. Neaw there’s a change comin’.

The driver explained that his mate had been victimised following his part in the Wakefield strike…I’d never heard of it, even though I’d been a union man myself for 20-odd years. I had read about something kicking off around Wakefield in the union history, but that was way, way back. The bearded driver continued the story, explaining that the strike was broken by the company using fitters to drive the engines, with passenger guards providing the route knowledge. “Usual tale – divide an’ rule!” he added. The leaders were either sacked or transferred and told they’d be married to a shovel for the rest of their working lives.

His fireman finally ended up at Newton Heath shed, after several moves to holes like Bacup, Lees and Colne Lanky. He was still a fireman after 40 years service with no prospect of getting booked as a driver.

But hang on, was I playing a bit part in some union-sponsored costume drama? I could just remember reading about a big strike in 1911, before the NUR was formed. Were these blokes having me on?

“Aye,” said the driver. “There’ll be changes soon, reet enough. Anyroad, Aw’ll goo an’ oil reawnd. Valves are starting to pop so looks like we’ve got steam! Good night mate, and all the best.”

The fireman stayed a few moments longer and stood gazing round the cabin. “All reet these modern cabins, eh? Tha’s a bloody sight better off nor us locomen. Look what we’ve to put up wi’!” pointing outside to the snow-swept cab of his engine. “Still,” he continued, we know the long heawrs you lads have forced on you – sixteen hour days wi’ no overtime pay.” I thought of some of my mates, for whom the idea of working sixteen hours would be heaven – providing they got time and a half.

“Well brother. Aw’ll geet back – she’s blowin’ off neaw. She’ll get us up th’bank to Walton’s. Sooner we’re at Hellifield and relieved bi Midland men, the better. Hellifield lodging house allus does a gradely breakfast. Good neet and thanks for th’brew. Aw con tell a comrade when aw meet one.”

I watched him climb back onto the footplate and start shovelling more coal into the firebox. His mate stood by the long regulator handle, lit up by the glare from the fire. A shrill high-pitched whistle pierced the blizzard and the train began to move, with a powerful exhaust cutting through the snow storm.

I turned to my desk and looked at the Train Register Book. I noticed the fireman’s entry: “Detained within protection of signals. Rule 55.” The signature looked like ‘J.Weatherby’. If they were ghosts, they could sign their name!

I looked out of the cabin window and could just see the tail lamp in the distance. Suddenly it was gone, consumed by the blizzard. I gave a ‘2’ – train entering section – to Bromley Cross and sent the 2-1, train out of section, back to Bolton West. The entries are in the book and they were accurate to the minute. Both were recorded at 23.55.

The phone rang. It was Ernie Woodruff at Bolton West. “What’s that 2-1 tha just sent? Hasta gone daft?”

We nearly had a row. I told him he’d sent me a ‘4’ and the train had been detained at the box. I didn’t tell him what sort of train it was. Ernie denied sending the signal and said there’d been nothing on the block since the last passenger at 21.30. Anyway I thought, the proof would be when the train reaches Bromley Cross. That would show who’s daft, so I thought.

It never reached Bromley Cross. Ten minutes later, the signalman – Jack Seddon – rang to ask where this ‘4’ was. There was no sign of it on his track circuit. I told him he’d been having trouble and had maybe stuck again. It’s not unknown, even in the modern age, on that steeply-graded stretch of line.

We let another ten minutes pass and then decided something was up. As luck would have it, the Newton Heath empties were running early and were approaching Bromley Cross from Blackburn. Jack ‘put back’ his signals and cautioned the driver of the diesel train to inspect the line ahead. The train arrived at my box and the driver came into the box. He reported not having seen anything.

The driver – it was Jim Woods, an ex-Bolton man I’d know for years – asked how I was. I knew what was going through his mind. I’d had a few Christmas Eve drinks too many before signing on. I said I was OK but I was anything but. At 01.00, as you’ll see in the book, I rang Control and asked for relief. I was no longer sure of my own sanity, and that’s the truth of it. I felt faint and disoriented. Jim made me a strong cup of tea and stayed with me until the block inspector, John Brooks, arrived to relieve me and close the box.

“You’ve heard the lot – make of it what you like Mr Bracewell.”

Jack sat back in his chair – so far he nearly overbalanced. It was a few seconds before he spoke…it seemed like a very long time.

“Joyce, love, go and make us a cup of tea will you. And one for Mr Hartshorn.”

The clerk got up and left the room, leaving us alone. “Right John. This is off the record, just thee an’ me. You’d had a few, right? It was Christmas. Just tell me the truth. I owe you a favour, we’ll get round this somehow. Listen, if anybody else had told me that load of bollocks I’d have had ‘em cleaning out the carriage shed shit house before they could say boo to a bleedin’ goose. Now come on.”

“I’m sorry Jack, I don’t expect you, nor anyone else, to believe it. I wouldn’t myself if someone else I’d been representing had told me all that.

Bracewell was quite for several minutes. This was the man I knew. Working out a plan, weighing up the options.

“Look, he said at last. “I’ll tell you what. You’d been under strain with all those 12 hour shifts. You’d had a lot of union work on too. Maybe you’d had a few pints before coming on duty and you fell asleep. You’re brain wandered.”

“Sure Jack. But how can anyone explain the entry in the Train Register Book?”

“Easy.  We’ll just say you’d been dreaming and….err….” he dried up.

“Who was it that signed the book Jack? That’s not my signature. It looks like ‘J. Weatherby’. Who was this character that signed the book?”

“Who signed the book….who….” he mumbled and went quiet.

He came up with another ‘solution’. “I know. There’s a platelayer called ‘Weatherall’ isn’t there?”

“Aye, I responded. Dave Johnny Weatherall. He was on snow duty at Bolton East that night as it happens but didn’t came anywhere near Astley Bridge.”

“Never mind that. We can say he came up to check the points and made a balls-up of the entry in to the Train Register Book.”

“Listen Jack. I’m not getting anyone else into bother over this. It’s my problem, no-one else’s.”

“Look you awkward bugger. I owe you a good turn. And I’m going to do you one if I have to get paid up for doing it. Nothing ‘ll happen to Weatherall, I’ll see to that. Trust me.”

I did. I went along with his tale. I got off with a reprimand; I was lucky. Extremely lucky. If it had been that young Assistant AM – fresh out of college – taking the case it might have been dismissal. But it didn’t solve the problem for me. What had happened that night? Had I temporarily gone mad? I could never really trust myself handling traffic again until I was sure, one way or the other.

I took a few days leave that were due to me and then resumed at Astley Bridge Junction. I was on days – we were back to 8 hour shifts. On the first day a group of workmen arrived.

“You’re in luck mate!” the foreman beamed. “You’re getting them mod-cons you’ve been after all these years”. The gang set to work taking out the old fittings, removing the old stove and putting in a gas heater, new toilet, modern block equipment and even new lino for the floor.

It wasn’t until the following day they started work on the last job, stripping out the old linoleum floor covering, that had been polished zealously by generations of signalmen. It was a messy and disruptive job getting it out.

I was trying to complete a member’s  accident claim for head office when one of the lads piped up: “Hey, look at these old newspapers stuffed under the lino. Bet they’re worth a bob or two!”

I went over and picked one of them up. The paper was perished and discoloured. But I could read it well enough. It was the front page of The Bolton Evening News for December 26th, 1912.

“TERRIBLE CHRISTMAS EVE TRAGEDY –  EXPRESS  CRASHES OVER VIADUCT IN BLIZZARD. MANY KILLED”

I read on. The train was a Scotch extra for the Christmas holidays, routed via Settle. The viaduct had collapsed at about midnight and the train careered into the river below. There was a list of casualties who had been identified so far. The catalogue of men, women and several children made tragic reading.

At the end of the list was “Mr James Weatherby, the fireman of the locomotive”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Northern Weekly Salvo 272

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: paul.salveson@myphone.coop

No. 272 December 12th  2019 Election pre-Christmas Special

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, 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. Full of creative ambiguity, possibly. Promoting moderate rebellion and sedition, within reason.

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

General gossips

Technical problems with my website continue, so this issue is a return to the old days of emailing an attachment. Not everyone’s preferred method I know, but one or two did say it suited them. So let me know what you think. For this one, I’ll stick to a very basic page layout, which does at least have the merit of being readable. I won’t include many photos as they take up too much space.

Obviously, the election is a key issue but so too is the question of “what happens after?”, particularly for the ‘left behind’ North. This issue raises a few possibilities. What I’ve enjoyed about writing the Salvo over several years is the mix of politics, culture (?) and railways. Not forgetting chip shops, interesting cafes, cakes and the like. So this melange will continue. I hope non-Bolton folk don’t get too bored with references to Trottertown, my idea of a complementary ‘Bowtun Loominary’ hasn’t gone away.

One question for readers. I always used to like wearing a beret. A proper one, ideally French or Basque. Funnily enough, it was my dad’s preferred headwear in the limeyard at Walkers’ Tannery. But I lost mine ages ago. Where can I obtain one? Without having to go to Bilbao or somewhere. I would like to try it on before purchase, so the internet doesn’t help.

I may do a short Salvo before Christmas, when the results of the election are in and digested. But if I don’t (it could be that bad I need to lie in a darkened platelayer’s hut), have an enjoyable Christmas, whatever the outcome.

That election continued

We’re in the final throes and many people (myself included) will have voted by post. I cast my cross for Julie Hilling, the Labour candidate. Apart from being a railway person (TSSA sponsored) and a good sort generally, she is best placed to defeat in the Tory incumbent (who despite his strong pro-Brexit stance isn’t that bad a chap in terms of constituency issues). If we had a fairer voting system (not on Labour’s agenda at all, which is disappointing) I’d probably vote Green. So maybe that’s why it isn’t on Labour’s agenda. But it should be. The days of two-party politics in the UK are gone and we’ve got a huge democratic deficit whereby people like me (and we are many, not a few) feel increasingly disenfranchised. In Bolton West, both the Greens and Liberal Democrats are standing, with good policies. But the sad truth is, that the more the Greens and Lib Dems eat into the progressive vote (here in Bowtun West), the more likely a Tory victory is.

I can’t say that I find the Labour Manifesto particularly inspiring. It’s classic old-style ‘transactional’ politics, to use Jon Cruddas’ telling phrase. In other words, give us your vote and we’ll give you lots of goodies. It’s paternalistic and centralist, with an undue emphasis on state control. Yes, we need to have more state involvement but use that to facilitate grass-roots initiatives. So for rail, why not follow the Co-operative Party’s suggestion and develop a rail network that is run as a co-operative (or, preferably, several regional co-operatives) involving users and workers? The Rail Reform Group has come up with some deliverable ideas on this, on which Labour has shown zero interest. But for all that, a Labour government would be better than a Johnson regime, ideally one that is supported by other progressive parties which will force PR onto the agenda. So, my advice, which I know you’re not asking for, is to vote tactically for the progressive candidate best placed to defeat the Tory. And that means different things in different parts of the UK, obviously. Having listened to most of the debates, I have to say that the star of the show has been Nicola Sturgeon, closely followed by Plaid Cymru’s Adam Price. England doesn’t, at the moment, have much to offer in terms of political talent. Caroline Lucas comes nearest.

Salvo forecast

In the 2017 general election The Salvo went against conventional media opinion by forecasting a narrow win for the Tories, possibly without an overall majority. This time it’s much more difficult to call, but I’m less optimistic. It will be an interesting night, for sure, and I’ve got a couple of bottles of Shiraz in stock to see us through. A lot of seats will change hands but maybe the result will not be, overall, that much different. It’s ironic, and really quite shameful, that the North seems to have warmed to the phoney prat Johnson. Is it just about Brexit? Or is it more deep-rooted, with an historic shift away from Labour and class-based politics? In the South, Labour may well pull off some surprises. If Milani can defeat Johnson in his near-marginal Uxbridge seat, I’ll down one of those bottles of Shiraz in one gulp. All will depend on tactical voting, though the Liberal Democrats have run a lacklustre campaign dragged down by their daft idea to revoke Article 50 in the rather unlikely event of them forming a government. That will haunt them in these last few days, despite the generally sound stuff they say in their manifesto.  So they’ll do less well than they might have done. So, maybe a narrow win for Johnson, perhaps without an overall majority – and it’s unlikely to imagine the DUP rushing in to prop him up. I can’t see the Brexit Party gaining any seats, their historic role has been to push the Tories to the right and help Johnson win. Watch them fade away, no loss to anyone. But what of Labour? Yes, an interesting night ahead.

OK, so what of Labour?

Yes, I’ve asked the question but I don’t know how to answer it. The Labour Party should appeal to the likes of me, but doesn’t. Having served time in it, I’ve been put off by its tribalism, fondness for centralist and statist solutions which might have made some sense in the 1940s, but don’t any more. It’s failure to embrace voting reform, or democratic devolution, puts it on the side of reaction, whatever promises it makes in other areas. If Labour does very badly on Thursday, there will be talk of a split. I can’t really see it. Corbyn should stand down if he’d any sense. Perhaps there will be some fresh thinking but I have my doubts. What we could see is a gradual withering away – the slow death of Labour Britain. There have already been attempts at progressive re-alignment at a national (primarily English) level, with Change UK. That’s been a flop, with most of the changers defecting to the Lib Dems when it became clear it was going nowhere. In Scotland, progressive realignment has already happened, with the SNP sweeping the board and marginalising Labour, which seems unable to come up with a credible socialist alternative. The Scottish Socialist Party if it nudged more towards a centre-left stance, could take their place. But of course Scotland and Wales have PR in their own elections, which allows smaller parties like the Greens to flourish. My own view is that any re-alignment within England should – and it will take time – happen at a regional level. I hope the Yorkshire and North-east Parties do well on Thursday but for now they will most likely be squeezed by the bigger parties. But they need to keep at it, and develop a ‘liberal social-democratic’ position that can appeal to a wide cross-section, including some disenchanted Tories. There must be quite a few.

On the subject of which, a Yorkshire (and Lancashire) call to arms

The Yorkshire Party’s manifesto is well-considered document. It’s available here https://www.yorkshireparty.org.uk/general-election-2019-manifesto/ . I have reservations about some aspects of its approach, not least on Brexit. But I can understand their position. I played around with the document and produced a spoof ‘Lancashire Party’ manifesto. As my website isn’t functioning, I can’t offer a link but if anyone wants to see it, please email me and I’ll send it to you. Here is the first bit:

LANCASHIRE DESERVES BETTER: OUR VISION FOR A LANCASHIRE OF FAIRNESS AND OPPORTUNITY

The Lancashire Party is founded on the social and democratic principles of subsidiarity, dignity, community and cooperation. We believe that by moving powers as close to people as possible, we can empower communities to be ambitious and allow individuals freedom for creativity and enterprise. We believe service to humanity should be the foundation of government and that as members of society we share a responsibility to participate in building a region of fairness, equality and opportunity.

Westminster isn’t working. Across Lancashire – including Greater Manchester and Merseyside – we see the same failures – in housing, health, transport, education, the decline of our towns and a threatened environment. These are failures caused by a system where every major political decision is made in Westminster. Lancashire itself has been butchered by local government ‘reform’, with the historic county split into Greater Manchester, Merseyside and parts of Cumbria, leaving a small rump of what was once a great and powerful unit that made economic as well as cultural sense. Yet many Lancastrians, young and old, from a huge range of backgrounds and ethnicities, persist in identifying as ‘Lancastrian’. They’re right – and there is nothing at all backward looking about it. A re-united Lancashire would be a powerful region, working with its sisters in the North – Yorkshire, the North-east and Cumbria – enjoying friendly relations with Wales, Scotland, the North and South of Ireland and all the other English regions. And, crucially, having positive and economically beneficial relations with Europe and the rest of the world. (and so it goes on….)

Meanwhile, the Campaign for a Yorkshire Parliament is pushing their ideas for ‘One Yorkshire’. They launched a new paper in York recently: http://www.yorkshireparliament.org.uk/ It’s very good. Here’s a flavour:

“Empowering Yorkshire requires a rebalance of power between the ordinary citizen, politicians and the government – a new way of making decisions. This includes replacing the current, old fashioned adversarial way of doing things, with one of co-operation and shared sense of direction, one where ideas emerge from discussions within local neighbourhoods and communities on what’s best for their area and the county as a whole. This parliament would have three key objectives written into its constitution: An inclusive Yorkshire, where every citizen would be given the opportunity to fulfill their maximum potential whatever their background or part of the county in which they live. This will require a prosperous Yorkshire capable of competing with the rest of the world to provide the jobs and income required to provide the necessary opportunities and thirdly an ecologically sustainable Yorkshire, fit to pass on to our children, grandchildren and future generations of Yorkshire boys and girls.

Members of the Yorkshire Parliament would be elected on their ability to deliver on these three key objectives on behalf of the people of the county, not for their party political dogma and prejudices on behalf a particular sect or interest group. Ideas for government would emerge from our new approach to empowering the people of Yorkshire. We firmly believe that the public is highly capable of both grasping the issues and of bringing much-needed knowledge, experience and expertise to the table of government themselves.

Members of the Yorkshire Parliament would be elected under a fair voting system or proportional representation in place of our current first-past-the-post system. This way, every citizen would be fairly represented; every person’s vote would count. Such a parliament of course, cannot achieve its objectives in isolation. New partnerships would need to be formed with central government, the local government, other devolved authorities, large and small employers, our universities and colleges, trade unionists, faith groups and other interest group.”

Clearly, their efforts complement those of the Yorkshire Party, while being non-party political. In the case of Lancashire, perhaps that model, for now, could be the right approach as long as it doesn’t duplicate the efforts of ‘Friends of Real Lancashire’.

Enough of all that, it’s Christmas and it’s steam on the main line. Tales of then and now.

The world beyond politics goes on. Yesterday (Saturday) was taken up by indulging in an ancient Salveson pre-Christmas tradition: chasing steam specials. This is a profoundly un-sustainable activity but it’s great fun. Our aim was to see as much as we could of the ‘Pennine Moors Seasonal Special’ which which we were informed could be hauled by one of 70000 ‘Britannia’, 34046 ‘Braunton’ or 46100 ‘Royal Scot’. Part of the fun is not being sure what would be on it. So we got to Winwick Junction, where the West Coast Main Line splits away from the ‘old route’ up to Earlestown. This was an old haunt from steam days and I’ve a nice shot at this location of 70045 ‘Lord Rowallan’ on a northbound freight. You get a good side-on view. The former Vulcan Foundry was close by, most of the houses built to create a genuine industrial community, remain.

 

The train was showing pretty much on time and we waved to a northbound Virgin ‘Pendolino’, heading for Glasgow on the last day of Virgin operations. A few minutes later we saw a whisp of steam and hard a recognisable three-cylinder roar. It was ‘the Scot’, without question. It came thundering past us in fine style. The question was, could we make it to the next possible spot, on Hoghton Bank. With some smart work by Driver Rosthorn of Upper Darwen shed, we got to within a mile or so of Hoghton and decided that our chances of catching ‘the Scot’ would be better if we headed for Pleasington. Sure enough there was a handful of folk on the platform and overbridge waiting. This was another favourite place in the 60s. My first visit (cycling over Belmont from Bolton) was August Bank Holiday Monday 1966. The station was still staffed, with a fine stone-built booking office and waiting room, and an eccentric ‘station master’. Several Farnley Junction (Leeds) Jubilees came storming through on Blackpool extras. ‘Bihar and Orissa’ and ‘Sturdee’ being two.

Low Moor’s 45565 ‘Victoria’ worked a Bradford – Blackpool special. A Lostock Hall Black 5 (see below) worked an eastbound special. So happy days and nice to be there, over a half a century on (and none the wiser) waiting for steam. Back then, it would have been exceptional to have seen a ‘Scot’ – there was less than a handful left. So – ‘who’d ha thowt it? – waiting for a Scot in 2019 seemed pretty amazing. And it was worth the wait. In a couple of minutes after our arrival we heard that three-cylinder roar again. The Winwick episode was clearly not a one-off, the engine was being worked consistently hard. It had a full train plus dragging a class 47 diesel for heating purposes, so it had a substantial load, probably equal to 13 coaches. It flew through Pleasington to a small crowd of very happy children and adults.

 

Our final spot was on the climb from Burnley up to Copy Pit, that wild and quite remote borderland between Lancashire and Yorkshire. It’s a very tough climb for steam in both directions, averaging 1 in 65 from Gannow Junction (Rose Grove) to the summit, and much the same coming up from Stansfield Hall (Todmorden). For whatever reason, most steam I’ve seen in recent years comes up from Tod direction so it made an interesting change watching the ‘Scot’ head south. We turned up in a field overlooking the line at Walk Mill, where a small gathering of photographers and children were waiting. It’s a good spot, looking down to the line and  Burnley beyond.

Last time I stood in that field was late July 1968, photographing now-preserved Stanier 8F 48773 on a rake of coal empties bound for Healey Mills. Once again, the ‘Scot’ was pretty much on time and working hard – but not excessively. To the fireman’s credit, a whisp of steam from the safety valves and no sign of black smoke. And shifting, considering the load behind the tender. Whoever the crew were, they were masters of their craft. We could still her ‘Royal Scot’ blasting up to Copy Pit summit, then silence. The small crowd dispersed, to their humble cottages and plates of tripe and onions, or perhaps to their handlooms to finish off the day’s work.

OK, stop it. We headed back to the car and stopped off for a pint at Rawtensatll station, with the added bonus of seeing 34092 ‘City of Wells’ on a Santa Special. “Whod’ a thowt, in 2019, we’d be seeing a Bulleid Pacific in Rawtenstall…” yes, OK, enough’s enough. Time for my pills.

Bolton Station Christmas Market: Saturday December 14th

Following the success of the ‘Food and Drink Fringe’ in August, Bolton Station Partnership is planning a Christmas Market at the station on Saturday December 14th, assisted by Northern and Transport for Greater Manchester. The format will be much the same, but we can’t honestly promise the weather will be as good! (But it’s all under cover).  So far we’ve a dozen stalls booked and room for a few more. It will run from 10.30 to 4.00 but stallholders are asked to be there earlier to set up. The event helps to promote the town’s ever-popular Christmas Market; we want people to travel to Bolton by train, and they will be met by our own ‘mini’ Christmas market on Platform 4.

Lancashire Day Celebrated in style!

Probably the most unusual celebration of Lancashire Day (November 27th) took place on the 11.05 train from Manchester to Preston. Eighty guests of the newly-formed Bolton and South Lancashire Community Rail Partnership (BSL CRP) were entertained with music, song and dialect poetry. Guests, including the Mayors of Bolton, Horwich and Adlington, joined the train between Manchester and Preston before returning to Bolton fir further celebrations.

At Bolton station, four poems were unveiled on the large bridge supports on Platforms 3 and 4. Two were quintessentially Lancashire – ‘A Lift On The Way’ by Edwin Waugh (1817-1890), and ‘A Gradely Prayer’ by Bolton author and mill worker Allen Clarke (1863-1935). Two other poems unveiled were by the great American poet Walt Whitman (1819-1892) who had close links to Bolton. ‘A Passage to India’ features railroading across continents while ‘To a Locomotive in Winter’ is a celebration of steam locomotion. The ‘poetry pillars’ is an initiative of Bolton Station Community Development Partnership, which is a core member of the CRP.

The day was the official launch of the new community rail partnership for Bolton and South Lancashire. It covers routes from Bolton to Manchester, Wigan, Preston and Blackburn (as far as Bromley Cross). The partnership will be looking at innovative and creative ways of bringing communities closer to their railway network, and today’s event was an example of what can be done.

After the unveilings, guests enjoyed a hotpot lunch provided by The Kitchen, a local social enterprise, in the Community Room on Platform 5. Further entertainment was provided in the adjoining Platform 5 Gallery by Sid Calderbank, Alyson Brailsford, Mark Dowding and Julie Proctor. The event was supported by Northern, Network Rail, Bolton at Home and TransPennine Express.

“The series of events were an amazing celebration of Lancashire culture and history,” said Partnership chair Paul Salveson. “The four poems are now displayed on the station platforms for everyone to enjoy. I’m particularly pleased that the work of Allen Clarke, one of the North’s most neglected writers, is celebrated in his home town, at the station where he often departed on his travels across Lancashire.”

It is hoped that more poems, including contemporary work by local writers, will be displayed at the station over the coming months. “The poetry complements the paintings and photographs we are showcasing in the Platform 5 Gallery,” said Julie Levy, gallery co-ordinator. “Our next exhibition will feature the work of Westhoughton artist Andy Smith, starting Tuesday December 11th.”

More festivities took place that evening at The Wayoh Brewery, Horwich, with the indefatigable Sid, Jennifer Reid, Phoenix Knights choir and other a range of other performers adding to the fun.

Settle-Carlisle book published (reminder)

My new book on the Settle-Carlisle line has just been published (see below in ‘Salvo Publications List’). The book-signing at the Moorcock Inn, Garsdale, went very well indeed. Highlight of the afternoon was meeting Sylvia Caygill, whose family stretched back to the building of the line. Her grandfather  was on duty at the time of the Hawes Junction crash, on Christmas Eve 1910. He was the railwayman to whom a dying passenger uttered the immortal words, “tell my mother, she comes from Ayr.” These lines were put into poetic form by Colin Speakman, who read the piece at the Moorcock event. History was made! Thanks to the friendly staff at the Moorcock for hosting the event and for a lovely lunch.

The book is published by Wiltshire-based Crowood and is now available, price £24.

Crank Quiz:

There was quite a good response to the quiz but I can’t access some of the entries owing to the aforementioned technical difficulties. The poser, which tramways were owned by railway companies? Martin Higginson cunningly avoided the website comments and emailed me with this very worthy entry:
“Railway owned tramways included Grimsby-Cleethorpes, which survived to receive the glorious BR bright green multiple unit livery, Wisbech & Upwell (a ready to run 00 gauge model of one of its trams has just been issued at £110 each), Cruden Bay Hote (GNSR), Burton & Ashby (MR) and Wolverton & Stoney Stratford (eventually LNWR). You could include Weymouth Quay, even though it was part of an international main line rather than an urban tramway: still I believe technically mothballed, rather than closed. Moving in the opposite direction, parts of the Manchester and Croydon tramways and most of Birmingham’s, are ex-railways.”

Paul Abell also managed to sneak this in: “I know more about tramways than politics, so I will confine myself to railway-owned tramways and mention the Cruden Bay Tramway, owned by the Great North of Scotland Railway then the LNER, and replaced in 1932 as far as passengers were concerned by an LNER Rolls-Royce car taking guests from Aberdeen station to the railway-owned Cruden Bay Hotel.”

So, clearly worth doing a pre-Christmas crank quiz. Readers are invited to suggest names of railway installations, locomotives etc. with a Christmas theme. And, assuming I do a Christmas Salvo, I will include a Christmas Crank Quiz covering a wide range of obscure political, railway and other topics. In a spirit of inclusion and diversity, readers can suggest a question (with the right answer!).

Literary ramblings and reflections

Not had much time for reading recently but I was very pleased to receive FOFNL 25 through the post the other day. What? You might ask. It refers to the 25th anniversary of Friends of the Far North Line. The group, covering the Inverness to Wick and Thurso route, well deserves this tribute and good to see a foreword by Bill Reeve, Director of Rail at Transport Scotland. I was reminded by the book’s editor, Ian Budd, that I spoke at the inaugural conference that launched the organisation, in Inverness in 1995. John Ellis, then director of ScotRail, was the main speaker. And it was the first time (I think) that I met Frank Roach, who has done so much for rail in the North of Scotland. The group has gone from strength to strength, promoting this remarkable railway. One of my earliest musical memories is an old 78 that my dad kept, called ‘The Railway Guard’ by (I think) Sandy Macpherson. It starts like this:

“I’m the gaird upon the train that goes from Inverness to Wick

…and comes back again from Wick to Inverness…” (etc.)

Perhaps wisely, the song does not feature in the book. Copies can be obtained price £5 – go to www.fofnl.org.uk

Song for Horwich: next Salvo production and a request

I’ve alluded to my forthcoming novel in previous issues. The ‘sqaulid tale’ as one readers called it, is about life in Horwich Loco Works, the campaign to save it – and what might have happened afterwards. It’s nearly ready, if that same reader can hurry up and get the proof reading done. It was originally going to be called ‘The Works’ but I’ve changed it to ‘Song for Horwich’. This was the title of a poem written (I think) by one of the works employees to support the campaign against closure. It’s show below. If anyone knows who wrote it, I’d love to hear from them. The book will be published in February price £13.99 (Salvo readers will however get a discount). The new imprint will be called ‘Lancashire Loominary’, as previously warned. ‘The Lankishire Loominary un’ Tum Fowt Telegraph’ was published by J T Staton in the 1850s and 60s and it seemed a good idea to resurrect the clever title, if not the eccentric spelling of Lancashire.

Special Traffic Notices

  • December 7th: Christmas lights and market at Glossop station
  • December 14th: Bolton Station Christmas Market

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

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/

 

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Current News

Northern Weekly Salvo 271

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: paul.salveson@myphone.coop

No. 271  November 23rd     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, 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. Full of creative ambiguity, possibly. Promoting moderate rebellion and sedition, within reason.

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

General gossips

Sorry for the gap. This has mainly been caused by operational difficulties. Not leaves on the line but a nasty case of hacking.

Autumn in Barrow Bridge

Thanks to help from my technical advisor (Simon) everything is back in good order, with the exception of the ‘comments’ section of the website. If you want to make any comments on this issue, please send them by email under subject heading ‘Salvo 271’ but give the comments section a try just in case…

This issue covers a varied range of stuff. Did someone say something about a General Election? Can’t really avoid it, but there’s also some snippets about Lancashire authors, my forthcoming novel, Settle-Carlisle book and lots more. There should be another issue before Christmas so I’ll refrain from premature greetings.

That election

We needed to have a General Election. The Parliamentary stasis couldn’t continue and the only way to break the Brexit logjam is to get a new government. Yet the prospect of a Johnson-led government fills me with dread, I have to say. Assiduous readers of the Salvo will remember the relatively optimistic forecast of Labour’s prospects in 2017. I find it hard to be as positive now, with the ‘remain’ vote fragmented and the Tories having marginalised the Brexit Party (or should I say, have become ‘The Brexit Party’). I’ve never been an admirer of Corbyn (still less the people he surrounds himself with) but the reality is, here in England, in most places Labour offers the best chance to defeat Johnson’s lot. Take my own constituency, Bolton West. It’s a Tory marginal. In 2017, the TSSA-sponsored Labour candidate, Julie Hilling, came close – but not close enough – to winning. The Liberal Democrats came a poor third. There’s a risk that some disillusioned Labour voters will switch to Lib Dem, or Green – and I understand their feelings. Sadly – and I hate to say it – the bigger the Lib Dem and Green vote in many places, the more chance there will be of letting the Tories back in.

What would Harry Pollitt (devout Lancastrian, communist and railway engineer) have said? Vote Labour but vote tactically where it makes sense

I could, I suppose, stand on my principles and censure Labour for not bringing in PR when they had the opportunity, under Blair, and say they are the architects of their own misfortune. But we are where we are and it makes political sense to vote for the candidate best placed to defeat the Conservatives. So well done Plaid, Greens and Lib Dems for coming to an agreement for a ‘progressive alliance.’ But in most places up North, a vote for Labour, with all the misgivings about their useless performance on Brexit, is the best option. Not exactly a ringing endorsement, but let’s look at their manifesto in the next issue. Compass (www.compassonline.org.uk) offers good advice on campaigning for a progressive alliance. Meanwhile, a quick note on ‘The Leaders” question time. All four performed reasonably well but the person who really shone, in my view, was Nicola Sturgeon.

Autumn at Barrow Bridge

It was wonderful to get away from Brexit, Trump and the election by a morning stroll up to Barrow Bridge (or ‘Barrowbridge’), on a fine cold Autumn morning. The route was ‘down the cobbles’ from the house, over Moss Bank Way and then up the woodland path off Temple Road to Smithills Hall. Then by Smithills Deane, in the footsteps of the Winter Hill rights of way campaigners of 1896, to Sheep House Farm, with commanding views across Bolton to Manchester and the Derbyshire Hills.  Crystal clear apart from the low-lying city smog. One or two mill chimneys left – at nearby Barrow Bridge, Falcon Mill and not much else.

Barrow Bridge, with Bleach Works chimney beyond. Deane Mills were to the left of the picture but closed in 1863

The fine Bee Hive Mills were destroyed a couple of weeks ago. A century ago Allen Clarke, writing in Moorlands and Memories, wrote of ‘the grand view’ from up here, despite the hundreds of mill chimneys which then covered the urban landscape below. I think he was more interested in the views looking up, to Winter Hill and Rivington. He also wrote of ‘the model village’ Barrow Bridge. It’s still a very pretty place and the mill cottages have been brought back to use after falling derelict when the mills closed in the 1860s (yes, that’s not a typo!). Walking down by the Deane Brook is a delight at any time of year, but particularly in Autumn, on a day like this. I took the ‘semi-official’ route back, by the side of Victoria Lake which brings you out in the woods near Smithills Croft. Another wooded path takes you up to Forest Road and across Moss Bank Way. There’s a further path through the woods and above the old quarry back to Harpers Lane. Lucky to live close to such a delightful walk.

Summat good fro’ Yorkshire

Over the last few months I’ve been working with Barnsley, Wakefield, Doncaster and the combined authorities for South and West Yorkshire on ideas for a new community rail partnership. The area roughly covers the former coalfield area and it made sense to call it ‘The Yorkshire Coalfields Community Rail Partnership’.

Typical Yorkshire scene

The CRP was formally established at a meeting in Barnsley last week. The key elements of the Action Plan comprise four main areas of work, based on implementing appropriate parts of the DfT Community Rail Development Strategy. The following are cross-cutting themes which relate to each of the four pillars:

  • Promoting Access to Employment, Training and Education
  • Making stations part of the communities they serve
  • Promoting the town and city centres served by the local rail network
  • Making ‘The Yorkshire Coalfields’ a unique and attractive visitor destination
  • Promoting use of a customer-focused transport network, making best use of rail and bus

In addition, it is intended to go forward with some quick wins, including a leaflet promoting the network and the communities it serves. The routes which the CRP will cover, initially, are:

  • (Leeds) – Castleford – Wakefield Kirkgate – Barnsley – Chapeltown – Sheffield
  • (Leeds) – Wakefield Westgate – Moorthorpe – Sheffield
  • (Leeds) Wakefield Kirkgate – Knottingley/Doncaster (via Askern)
  • (Sheffield) – Moorthorpe – Sherburn-in-Elmet – (York)
  • (Sheffield) – Rotherham – Swinton – Doncaster

Until funding is sourced to employ a development worker, the CRP will be resourced by Alan Hart of Barnsley Council, supported by his colleagues at Wakefield and Doncaster councils. It will work closely with the Penistone Line Partnership, which covers the section of route between Barnsley and Sheffield.

South Pennines Community Transport – breaking boundaries to connect communities

And while I’m in that part of the universe, it was good to pop in to the reception organised by South Pennines Community Transport, in Honley.

Kevin Carr at the SP CT event

Not just in Honley, but in a brewery in Honley. I seem to be spending quite a bit of time in breweries recently, on both sides ‘o’thPennines. But anyroad. South Pennines CT is developing a number of new projects assisted by Hackney Community Transport. Yes, Hackney, down south. Actually HCT has grown to take in a remarkable range of services up and down the UK and even in the Channel Islands. South Pennines CT is operating a number of scheduled services, using its fleet of nine vehicles. Hopefully, SPCT will play an active role in the new Yorkshire Coalfield CRP; it isn’t just about trains. Nor for that matter buses – it’s all about people and communities.

More brewery references

The other brewery I’m developing a fond-ness for is nearer home, close to Blackrod station. It’s The Wayoh Brewery and is run by old school pal Steve Hyland.

Steve pours a beer in The Wayoh Brewery bar

The brewery is located on an industrial estate just beneath the M61 and next to the former Blackrod-Horwich branch line. Steve is trying to develop a ‘Horwich Loco Works’ theme and is currently displaying some of my Loco Works photos from the early 1980s. Next Wednesday, November 27th, he will be hosting a Lancashire Night, celebrating Lancashire Day, on th’basis that one follows t’other. Sid Calderbank, Mark Dowding, Jennifer Reid and Phonenix Nights choir will be entertaining and prato’ pie will be available. It’s on Lodge Bank Estate, and is about 6 minutes’ walk from Blackrod station. Starts at 7.00pm

Will The North Rise Again? (from current issue of ‘Chartist’ magazine)

It’s about Brexit but it’s more. What’s going to become of the North of England in the next ten years? Assuming that Brexit goes through in some shape or form, the economy of the North will take a big hit, and it’s unlikely to be short term. Some major companies have already said they’d up sticks and leave. Replacing those, and the jobs that will be lost, with thousands of new, dynamic SMEs seems a bit unlikely. A recent Guardian article by Aditya Chakrabortty (‘Salvaging the union will need imagination – and we’ve lost it’ October 17th) speculated on the destructive impact of Brexit on the integrity of the UK, particularly through Scottish independence. Other commentators have suggested that a united Ireland will become virtually inevitable, and Wales may well follow Scotland’s lead. The assumption that ‘England’ will soldier on, embattled, alone, increasingly right-wing and isolationist, hostile to its neighbours, is widely shared.

The North on the march…against Brexit (in London). Time to march FOR the North?

In much of the debate on Brexit and ‘the break-up of Britain’, it’s assumed automatically that ‘England’ will continue as a single entity, with perhaps a bit more devolution here and there to ‘city regions’. Real devolution, as shown by the response of the Tory Government to proposals for a ‘One Yorkshire’ devolution settlement, is not on the Tories’ agenda.

The North of England will be the biggest losers from Brexit, despite having largely voted ‘leave’ in 2016. The reasons for that leave vote were many and complex, not least a deep-rooted sense of abandonment by an ill-defined elite. The decline of the great traditional industries of the North, roughly coinciding with joining the EU, created a potent but often unconscious sense of grievance which lacked a clear focus. ‘Europe’ provided it, encouraged by the rhetoric and bigotry of the ‘leave’ campaign.

Across the North of England there is a tangible sense of ‘victimhood’. Whether it is lack of investment in transport, poor health care or the decline of once-great towns, it’s there. The perpetrators of this are sat somewhere ‘down south’, perhaps in the corridors of Whitehall and Westminster. ‘They’ don’t care about ‘us’.

Why doesn’t this find political expression, in the way that Scottish and Welsh grievances have coalesced into support for progressive nationalist parties? The Scottish historian (and passionate European) Chris Harvie once described English regionalism as “the dog that never barked”.  Of course, ‘The North of England’ isn’t a nation, you could even argue whether it’s a ‘region’ or an amalgam of three separate regions (Yorkshire, The North-east and the North-West). Yorkshire, with perhaps the strongest identity of the three regions, has a young but growing ‘Yorkshire Party’ and has a handful of local councillors. In local elections it typically gets about a third of the vote, which isn’t bad. There is an equivalent in the North-East but nothing that aims to represent Lancashire, Cheshire and Cumbria. Perhaps there was a time that the Labour Party could claim to be ‘the voice of the North’ but that is becoming less and less the case.

The different parts of ‘The North’ have much in common with each other, notwithstanding the myth of Lancashire v Yorkshire antagonism.

Lancashire lasses – can we tap into their radicalism?

And it is a myth, played out in country cricket and good-humoured banter, but not much else. At the time of the Scottish independence referendum, there was much traffic on social media about ‘the North’ joining with an independent Scotland. It got hundreds of thousands of ‘likes’, though it misses the point. ‘The North’ has much in common with the Scots, but joining an independent Scotland probably isn’t a sensible approach, even as a debating room topic. For one thing, it’s three times as big as Scotland, in population terms. But – for the long-term – the idea of a quasi-independent ‘North of England’ may not be quite as fanciful as it seems. Put aside the jokes (and the potential is massive) e.g. of cloth-capped soldiers on border patrols – there could be something in it.

In his Guardian piece, Chakrabortty quoted the work of Benedict Anderson who wrote in Imagined Communities that the nation “is an imagined community”. In other words, it is created, no ‘nation’ has always been there and many across Europe are quite new. Many have disappeared or become parts of different nations, willingly or unwillingly (often the latter).

Back in the day…when I was a member of Yorkshire First (now ‘The Yorkshire Party’, about to take to the barricades in Slawit, after a nice cup of tea. YP is fielding several candidates

Whilst nations often begin as works of imagination, taking decades and sometimes centuries to emerge as real, existing nations with a state apparatus, sometimes the process can be accelerated by external events, typically wars and revolutions but also major shifts within existing states. I would argue that the United Kingdom is going through just such a change, albeit a largely non-violent one (putting aside the legacy of the Troubles in Ireland).

A distinctly ‘Northern’ consciousness is taking shape which in years to come may find political expression in a party which could have similarities with civic nationalist parties within and beyond the UK. As the prospect of a Tory England which enshrines free market economics with a myopic, isolationist approach to the outside world becomes ever more possible, the alternative of a progressive and outward-looking federal Britain with the North of England working with Scotland, Wales, Ireland and other English regions may become increasingly more attractive.

Bolton community rail moves forward.

The new Bolton and South Lancs Community Rail Partnership is now a full member of ACoRP and has won funding from Northern and Bolton at Home. It covers a network of routes

  • Bolton to: Preston
  • Bolton to Wigan
  • Bolton to Bromley Cross (linking with Community Rail Lancashire, to Blackburn and Clitheroe)
  • Bolton to Manchester (Victoria/Piccadilly)

The CRP is also a member of Bolton CVS and works closely with Community Rail Lancashire. The CRP has its public launch on Wednesday November 27th , which happens to be Lancashire Day. We will be joined by The Mayors of both Bolton and Horwich, who will unveil four panels of poetry relevant to Bolton and railways. Invited guests will enjoy a train ride from Manchester to Preston, with poetry and song along the way.

Leyland is on the route of the CRP and there’s a very active – and creative – station friends group

Meanwhile, the Platform Gallery at Bolton station is preparing for a new exhibition by Westhoughton artist Andy Smith. We hope to open most afternoons but please check opening times with gallery co-ordinator Julie on 07789 725753. We’re on the lookout for volunteers to assist; contact Julie if you’re interested. We have been helped enormously by financial support from TransPennine Express. Their generous grant will enable us to get some proper heating installed and create an even more welcoming environment!

The CRP has made some very positive new contacts recently including bus company Rotala and Bolton Wanderers FC Community Trust.

The CRP is already looking at a number of practical initiatives including a summer Sunday bus link to local attractions, and a series of four self-guided walks – ‘The Clock Tower Trails’, all starting from Bolton station and shadowing our four routes to Manchester, Preston, Wigan and Blackburn. Now our  monthly ‘sanctuary’ walks have ended for winter, we’ve time to plan the detailed routes. Volunteer planners welcome! However, we will be doing a Christmas Walk on Saturday December 28th around Entwistle, with a Christmas meal included at The Strawbury Duck. Look out for further details.

Bolton Station Christmas Market: Saturday December 14th

Following the success of the ‘Food and Drink Fringe’ in August, Bolton Station Partnership is planning a Christmas Market at the station on Saturday December 14th, assisted by Northern and Transport for Greater Manchester.

The station market in August with Northern’s Nigel Valentine and Mayor Bolton Cllr. Hilary Fairclough

The format will be much the same, but we can’t honestly promise the weather will be as good! (But it’s all under cover).  So far we’ve a dozen stalls booked and room for a few more. It will run from 10.30 to 4.00 but stallholders are asked to be there earlier to set up. The event helps to promote the town’s ever-popular Christmas Market; we want people to travel to Bolton by train, and they will be met by our own ‘mini’ Christmas market on Platform 4.

Lancashire Authors Gather over Prato’ Pie

The Lancashire Authors’ Association was formed in Rochdale in 1909. It was one of Allen Clarke’s ideas, to bring together Lancashire writers, many of whom wrote for his publications such as Northern Weekly and Teddy Ashton’s Christmas Annual. He was the first chairman, and made a bit of a hash of it. It was subsequently rescued by more organised members and developed as a network ‘for writers and lovers of Lancashire literature’. The association recently gathered in Rochdale once again, for an afternoon of music, poetry and history. The main presentation was one the remarkable life of Oldham suffragette, Annie Kenney, by Carol Talbot. Carol has just published an excellent biography of Annie, which was timed to coincide with the unveiling of a statue of Annie in Oldham town centre. Carol’s book is reviewed below. There was also some splendid readings by Sally and Ron Williams and singing by Alyson Brailsford and Sid Calderbank, whow as called on to improvise at the last minute, owing to the prato’ pie being delayed (driver shortage?).

The Lancashire Authors Association possesses a valuable library which has developed over the decades. Its future is currently subject to discussions with the University of Bolton who may be able to offer a more accessible home for it, if the membership agrees.

Red Rose flies in Bar’lick

A risky venture, flying the flag of Lancashire in the White Rose county! But in a display of Northern solidarity, the good people of Barnoldswick seemed relaxed about the red rose flying, just for one day, mind, outside the Bancroft Mill Engine House.

Clog dancing i’ th’Engine Heawse

It was a gathering of Lancashire Society folk organised by that insatiable dialectician Sid Calderbank. The backdrop was the last working of the year by the remarkable steam-powered mill engine. He even persuaded Salvo to do a couple of renditions, unaccustomed though he is/was/might be.

Dodgin’ th’trams

Trams have featured quite a lot this Autumn. We had a very pleasant trip to Blackpool in October to ride on Bolton Corporation tram no. 66, followed by a visit to Heaton Park to enjoy a sunny Autumn day riding tye trams. It was the first day of operating after the disgusting vandal attack earlier in the year. Thanks to support from Metrolink and other companies the stolen wiring was replaced and trams were able to run, to the delight of young and old.

No. 53 route tram in Heaton Park

I went along to the launch of Tony Young’s book on Bolton trams, at Bolton Library. Making Metrolink ‘happen’ owes much to the work of Tony Young when he was at Greater Manchester PTE. It’s very fitting that Tony has written this excellent book (see ‘reviews’) and I look forward to his plans for extending Metrolink to Bolton (dream on – ed). Well OK, but I am the editor…Further trammery took place earlier this month with a talk by David Lloyd and Derek Shepherd at Bolton station’s community room. The absolutely fascinating talk covered the history of Bolton’s trams and the restoration of tram no. 66. The story would make a great film!

Settle-Carlisle book published

My new book on the Settle-Carlisle line has just been published (see below in ‘Salvo Publications List’). Seems to be going OK so far and next Friday I’m up in Garsdale for a book-signing at The Moorcock Inn. All Salvo readers very welcome, from about 12.45 until 15.00. The book is published by Wiltshire-based Crowood and is now available, price £24. Colin Speakman has enthused over the book but modesty precludes me from quoting him. Then again, Colin is the world’s most enthusiastic person.

Station Buffet Updates – Shedcode Snacks

Good to hear that Hellifield station buffet has reopened as ’24H’. It is open Tuesdays to Sundays and does a range of hot and cold food. The Salvo looks forward to more shed-coded buffets appearing soon.

TasteBuds@thestation Wakefield Kirkgate is 56A A previous meat pie pictured with peas

A long-standing favourite is 56A (Wakefield Kirlgate, Taste Buds) which was visited recently. I opted for the Croque Monsieur instead of the more usual meat pie and peas, and was not disappointed. The coffee is also of a very high quality.

Crank Quiz:

The despicable hacking of my website means that I have had no comments from readers, at least none that I can retrieve. Merdre! Apologies for those who suggested non-phonetic railway names (you can always email them!). As things stand, I currently can’t use the comments bit of the website but feel free to email suggestions for this Crank Quiz, viz., which tramways were owned by railway companies? Feel free to wax lyrical about their activities and ultimate demise.

Literary ramblings and reflections

I’ve mentioned Carol Talbot’s biography of Annie Kenney elsewhere. But Carol’s book deserves further mention. Working-class suffragette: The Life of Annie Kenney is a fine book about an interesting character who has been neglected by both labour and feminist historians. Maybe she was neither sufficiently ‘socialist’ nor ‘feminist’ to gain approval? The book is available price £9 on Amazon and from local booksellers, if there are any left, in the Oldham area.

Another working-class biography, in fact a whole series, makes up David Bell’s book, Reds, Rebels and Radicals published by Five Leaves Publications price £7.99. There are some familiar figures in this ‘hall of the unfamous’ in the East Midlands  including Hannah Mitchell, ‘Inergordon Mutineer’ Len Wincott and resident beastly Bolsoverite Dennis Skinner. Others were unknown to me, including Alice Hawkins, ‘Leicester Suffragette’. I think the idea of having a series of ‘regional’ profiles of working class activists has much to recommend it, perhaps something that Nottingham-based Five Leaves should consider.

Also mentioned elsewhere in this Salvo is Tony Young’s Tramways in Bolton, co-authored with Derek Shepherd (we share the same barber, Pete, on Halliwell Road – an old tram route).Whatever you could conceivably want to know about trams in Bolton is there, but it isn’t just a book for the tram-crank. It’s a fascinating contribution to Bolton’s social history and should be in every child’s Christmas stocking. Published by the LRTA.

Readers will be aware that I do my bit to promote Big Issue North, which always has something in it to interest me, including recipes. It has launched a daring new venture called The New Issue. It’s a very attractively-designed and illustrated magazine, and will appear quarterly. The launch issue has a fascinating piece on Kellingley Colliery and the aftermath of closure, by Roger Ratcliffe. The accompanying photos by Mark Pinder are amazing. It also has pieces on fracking, Bauhaus architecture, community allotments and more. Well done editor Kevin Gopal, let’s hope it takes off. A year’s subscription costs £40 and won’t be available ‘on the streets’. So go to https://www.bigissuenorth.com/the-new-issue/ and subscribe.

Also recommended is Bolton Asian Migration vol. 2, a superb photographic huistory of Bolton’s Asian communities since the 1960s. One or two Savo photos, taken around Daubhill in 1969, are featured. Well done Ibrahim Kala for getting this done (pictured left). To obtain a copy, email me and I’ll forward it to the group.

Films as well!

Go and see Official Secrets if you haven’t already done so. It’s one of the best political thrillers I’ve seen for quite a while. Ken Loach’s Sorry We Missed You is also good but maybe not on a par with I, Daniel Blake. But a good reminder of why we need to change how we do things.

Song for Horwich: next Salvo production and a request

I’ve alluded, obliquely, to my forthcoming novel in previous issues. Sometimes with my publishing projects they can be delayed, or even cancelled altogether. Sounds familiar, eh? But not this time. My novel about life in Horwich Loco Works, the campaign to save it – and what might have happened afterwards, is nearly ready. It was originally going to be called ‘The Works’ but I’ve changed it to ‘Song for Horwich’. This was the title of a poem written (I think) by one of the works employees to support the campaign against closure. It’s show below. If anyone knows who wrote it, I’d love to hear from them. The book will be published in February price £12.99 (Salvo readers will however get a discount). The new imprint will be called ‘Lancashire Loominary’, as previously warned. ‘The Lankishire Loominary un Tum Fowt Telegraph’ was published by J T Staton in the 1850s and 60s and it seemed a good idea to resurrect the clever title, if not the eccentric spelling of Lancashire.

Sibelius in Bolton

I have to confess never having been to a concert of Bolton Symphony Orchestra before last Saturday. I’ve really been missing out. The ‘Autumn Prom’ was held in the magnificently-restored Victoria Hall, the ancestral home of Bolton Methodism (so sadly no bar, but The Light is just across the road). The conductor was Ben Crick and the leader of the orchestra was Anita Levy. It was a good programme of favourites: Mendelssohn’s ‘Hebrides Overture’, Beethoven’s Symphony no. 2 and Sibelius’s Violin Concerto. And it was the Sibelius which really soared. The soloist, Helen Brackley Jones, (who is also involved in Stockport Community Chopir) was really outstanding. The Finnish composer is one of my all-time favourites (alongside Elgar, Bax and Shostakovitch), I don’t know of anything that he’s written that isn’t beautiful. But that performance of the Violin Concerto would have convinced any doubters that Sibelius was one of the greatest 20th century composers.

Special Traffic Notices

  • November 23rd: Open Day at Poppleton Nursery
  • November 27 Lancashire Day and Night festivities – 7.00 Wayoh Brewery, Blackrod: music, poetry, pies
  • November 29th Salvo book signing at The Moorcock, Garsdale. From 13.00
  • December 7th: Christmas lights and market at Glossop station
  • December 14th: Bolton Station Christmas Marke

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

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/

 

Categories
Current News

Northern Weekly Salvo 270

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: paul.salveson@myphone.coop

No. 270  October 9th   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, 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. Full of creative ambiguity, possibly. Promoting moderate rebellion and sedition, within reason.

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

General gossips

Just like the buses, eh? You wait for weeks and then two come along at once. Well maybe not quite, but just under a week since the last Salvo, here is no. 270. I had to leave quite a few things in abeyance and there’s also lots to say about the Community Rail Awards, responses to my political crie de coeur in Salvo 269, and various other things including Brexit. I can also report that the blackberry pie, the fruit of my spectacular Manx double somersault down a cliff, was worth the scratches and ruined jacket.

JOB VACANCY After a lot of hard work, we are now moving forward with a new community rail aprtnership for ‘Bolton and South Lancashire’. Thanks to the generosity of Northern  and other partners including Bolton at Home, we will shortly be able to advertise what we hope will be a full-time community rail officer post. The focus of the job will be very much on linking local rail with social inclusion and community cohesion – i.e. we are not necessarily looking for a railways expert. If you want to be put on the circulation list once the job is ready to be advertised, please email me now (paul.salveson@myphone.coop); if you know of anyone who may be interested, please pass the message on.

Now I’m 67…weaving fresh ideas for 2020

I celebrated my 67th birthday with ‘luxury afternoon tea’ in the magnificent surroundings of the former LMS Midland Hotel in Morecambe.

The surviving Eric Gill fresco at the Midland Hotel

Very nice it was too and the awful weather didn’t put us off a stroll along the prom. Birthdays, like a new year, are an opportunity to think of ‘what’s next’ rather than looking back, at least for me. I’m no longer tied to any particular organisation, at least professionally, and I’m hoping to use my time to develop a few new projects. Top of the list must be finishing off my novel, The Works, set in Horwich in the 1980s but taking the reader to the present day and beyond. It would be nice to think it will be done by Christmas, but I doubt it. It will be published by my new publishing venture ‘Lancashire Loominary’ – a title first used in the 1860s by the remarkable Bolton writer J.T. Staton.

A fellow diner at the Midland Hotel indulges herself, lowering the tone considerably

He played around with the name, at times using the more vernacular ‘Lankishire’ spelling. There are a few ideas for publications which will mostly be ‘booklets’ of around 100-150 pages covering historical, cultural and political issues relevant to the North. I’d really like to do a new and completely revised edition of my book on Northern regional politics (Socialism with a Northern Accent) published by Lawrence and Wishart a few years ago. For reasons explained elsewhere in this and the previous Salvo, I’ll re-name it to Politics with a Northern Accent. I’m also planning a shorter booklet on J.T. Staton himself and other radical Bolton working class writers including Allen Clarke, James Haslam and Robert Brodie.

A larger project, which I must settle down to writing next year, is a history of Lancashire dialect literature from Tim Bobbin (mid-eighteenth century) to the present day. Next year is the centenary of the publication (by Tillotson’s of Bolton) of Allen Clarke’s finest work Moorlands and Memories. I collaborated with George Kelsall on a reprint, back in 1985, so I don’t think a further reprint would sell, unless someone was willing to fund it. However, a new book that looks at places Clarke visited in the book, on foot and bike, would be interesting and fun to do. So look out for Moorlands, Memories and Reflections next year. Some of the funding for ‘Lancashire Loominary’ comes from a bequest from a very good friend, the late Henry Lewis, who wrote the dazzling Brief Encounters on the Penistone Line as well as other sadly neglected shows. I also want to do an occasional review, something along the lines of ‘Lancashire Loominary and Bolton Trotter’. Staton also coined the title ‘Bowtun Trotter’ and Allen Clarke used it for a couple of years in the early 1890s. It was a mixture of satire, commentary, reviews and silliness (mostly in dialect). I’m not totally sure how, or if, it could work now but would certainly have to be on-line rather than print. Something that helps to promote a strong but modern Lancashire identity, for sure. Beyond that…? Welcome ideas.

Tea at the Midland but no Nettle Beer in Heysham

My birthday treat was to be taken for afternoon tea at the Midland Hotel, in Morecambe. Where better? The high-point of pre-war railway hotel building, commanding a magnificent view of Morecambe Bay.

The spiral staircase in The Midland Hotel

Lovely sandwiches, cakes and scones and the company wasn’t bad either… We had time to visit Heysham Village and explore the fascinating remains of St Patrick’s chapel and the stone graves, probably 8th century. The relatively modern St Peter’s, nearby, also has some Saxon remains. Heysham village itself is a delight but sadly we couldn’t find anywhere selling that traditional local beverage, nettle beer. Maybe it has been banned on safety grounds, it can be very combustible if left too long, so I’m told. No visit to this part of Lancashire is complete without venturing over the sands to Sunderland Point and we were able to get across while the tide was out.

The remains of St Patrick’s chapel, Heysham, looking out across Morecambe Bay

The former slaving port has an eerie feel to it, only reached at low tide. We didn’t have time to lay a stone at ‘Sambo’s Grave’, a young slave who died after the long crossing from Africa. The tradition of laying a stone at the lad’s grave is continued by schoolchildren today; long may it last.

National Community Rail Awards

The national Community Rail Awards were held in Telford on October 3rd and nearly 450 guests attended at what was a superb event.  West Midlands Trains really pulled out the stops as ‘host’ body and the ACoRP team laid on a truly memorable evening. The full list of winners is here: https://communityrail.org.uk/events-training/community-rail-awards/

Bolton Station Community Development Partnership (CDP) had three short-listed entries:

  • Best Community Engagement Project
  • Involving Diverse Groups
  • It’s Your Station

We didn’t win any prizes, but it’s a good start for what is still an embryonic project. We were represented at the event by Julie Levy, Frankie Hahlo and Richard Walker.

Members of Bolton Station Community Development Partnership with Penistone Line Partnership friends at the Telford awards

It was great to see Friends of Hindley Station winning the prestigious ‘platinum’ award in the ‘It’s Your Station’ category. Our good friends in the Penistone Line Partnership, who visited Bolton earlier this year, won a first prize for their arts project, Dwell Time. Mytholmroyd Station Partnership, with whom we have close links with, won the ACoRP award for ‘outstanding contribution to community rail’. Community Rail Lancashire, with whom Bolton Station CDP has shared membership, did particularly well. They won first prize in the ‘involving children and young people’ category for their Stand Clear of the Closet Doors project. They also picked up second prize in ‘involving diverse groups’ for their On Track to Train project. They scored another first in the small projects award for Bringing Sunshine to Morecambe. Well done all of you. Peter Roberts picked up the prize for ‘outstanding lifetime achievement’ which was well deserved. The Heart of Wales Line Trail, which I had a bit to do with in its early days, picked up first prize in the new ‘tourism and heritage’ category.

A very nice feature of the event was the pre-awards evening outing to the Black Country Museum at Dudley. This is a remarkable place, with a trolleybus route (which we rode on), tramway and canal wharf. Original buildings representing Black Country life and labour have been painstakingly reconstructed, including a chip shop (very good fish and chips too!), several shops, houses and a working men’s institute. Thanks to West Midlands Trains for organising the ‘fringe’ event and many more events on the two days after the awards.

Beeching and Brexit

Larry Elliott in The Guardian (October 7th issue ‘Without Beeching there might never have been a vote for Brexit’) makes some very telling links between Brexit and Beeching.  It’s a common myth that the cuts fell mostly on rural branch lines. Many routes serving large industrial communities were also hit, such as Newcastle – Blyth- – Ashington, Bolton – Bury – Rochdale, Bury – Rawtenstall – Bacup  and many more. Not surprisingly, many of the towns that lost their railway registered strong Leave votes. The closures were part of a process of disinvestment that has blighted many towns – compare the success of rail-served Todmorden with nearby struggling Bacup. Both former textile towns of a similar size; one has a good rail link, the other lost it. It would be interesting to compare the relative ‘leave’ and ‘remain’ votes in the two communities; I suspect Bacup tilted much more towards leaving the EU.

It’s far easier to close a line than to re-open one, although many that have are now prospering, such as the ‘Robin Hood Line’ between Nottingham and Worksop and the Borders Railway from Edinburgh to Galashiels and Tweedbank (and let’s hope it eventually reaches Hawick and Carlisle).

The community rail movement in the UK has helped revive many lines that might have been targets for a new round of rail closures in the 1990s. This was, for a while, a real risk that has never been fully documented, and came at the time of a Labour government. Fortunately, it was headed off.

All that remains of the railway in Leigh…a line that should never have closed. Leigh voted pro-Leave

But we need to go beyond just making the most of what’s there and having a strategy for more re-openings which have wider social, economic and environmental benefits. The current Williams review is an opportunity to address that, with a dedicated rail development team within the over-arching rail authority which appears to be a favoured option. Ironically, one route which we don’t need is HS2, at least as currently configured. The former Great Central Line from London to Leicester, Nottingham and Sheffield (a Beeching closure of course) would have been a better and cheaper option, with money saved on the current scheme spent on ‘Beeching reversals’ across the country.

Time for a revived social democracy?

In the last Salvo I indulged in a bit of political hand-wringing (or ringing?) about ‘socialism’ and what it means today. My conclusion was that it had been rendered meaningless, and that decline began decades ago, perhaps in the ‘halcyon days’ of what Stalinists termed ‘actually existing socialism’ in the Soviet Union and eastern European satellite states. Today, in the UK, it has become little more than a label to define yourself as a loyal and uncritical follower of Jeremy Corbyn, which I’m emphatically not. I’m fed up with people banging on about ‘true socialism’ as if it is some sort of faith, with Corbyn as the pope.

Edward Carpenter, gay environemntalist, mystic, and ethical socialist

Even Marx would have been horrified at the reduction of a political theory/practice into some sacred texts and revealed truth. Having served my time in the old Communist Party of Great Britain, I can only long for the CP’s much greater willingness to challenge and engage with ideas, at least in its final years in the 70s and 80s, when Marxism Today, under Martin Jacques’ editorship, was probably the most inspiring and creative political journal of its era. The more progressive bits of the CP morphed into Democratic Left but it was too weak a flower to survive. A pity. I always thought the Labour Left back in the 70s and 80s, even in its mainstream sense with Tony Benn et al, was a classic example of what Lenin called ‘infantile leftism’. That has now reached its nadir, with ‘left’ politics reduced to a mantra of state control/ownership and a centralist mindset that even ‘old Labour’ wouldn’t have countenanced.

But it isn’t just the UK where socialism is in trouble. In Germany, the fortunes of the SPD have plummeted with ‘The Left’ party (former communists) doing OK but with a fairly traditional hard-line approach. It’s difficult to find examples of a revived progressive party of the left doing well anywhere in Europe, but I hope some readers will correct me if I’m wrong. In many countries, the Greens have taken on the mantle of being the main ‘progressive’ party, which I know is a vague and often unhelpful term. In Britain they struggle because of our undemocratic voting system, though where there is PR (Scotland, London, European elections for example) they do well.

The Labour Party itself is facing that much-overworked – but in this case relevant term: an existential crisis. Its traditional base in the industrial working class has shrunk as that demographic has changed and to a degree disappeared. The ‘great battalions’ of engineers, miners, textile workers and even railwaymen (and they were, mostly) that dominated the Labour Party, its branches, regions and its conference are no longer there. Instead, it’s an alliance of middle class professionals and self-employed with, in some areas, Asian activists and a residual ‘old working class’. I’m not sure it’s enough to lead a country, to be honest.

The Kurds are developing a really new form of politics that is decentralist, democratic and inclusive.

Meanwhile Corbyn has a -60 approval rate, worse than Michael Foot ever achieved. If Labour is to revive it needs to re-shape a new ‘social democracy’ that is open and inclusive, willing to re-shape the UK as a federal country, with a more democratic voting system and a flexible approach to ownership which combines public ownership with social forms and private capital. Integrating all of this must be a determination to take climate change seriously. If it doesn’t, we face decades of right-wing Tory rule for England, with Scotland opting to go its own way, probably followed by Wales, and a united Ireland.

Brexit balls-up belies belief

With each day that passes, the politics of Brexit shifts and changes, offering endless hours of entertainment to what Johnson sarcastically calls ‘our friends in Europe’. Or maybe they just feel pity and an element of sadness at seeing what was once a beacon of reason and stability descend into chaos, with a Parliament that The Economist described as having the two worst political leaders in living memory. . Whatever, it’s now looking like Johnson will have to go cap in hand to the EU for an extension to Article 50, despite all the bluster. Yet the longer the saga continues, the more damage the uncertainty and confusion is causing.

What would Harry Pollitt (CPGB General Secretary) have said? I think he’d have demanded a 2nd Referendum (maybe with the option of joining the Soviet Union)

The Salvo position is inconsistent. This is something politicians never admit to, as it is a mark of weakness and uncertainty. After the original vote, I fell out with a few friends for saying the vote had to be respected, despite the obvious manipulation and lies that went into the ‘leave’ campaign. I shifted from that position as time rolled on, accepting the arguments for a Second Referendum. Not ideal, but two (or now three) years on, we as an electorate should at least have a better idea of what the implications of leaving would be, with or without a deal. And it’s right that many of the young people who didn’t have a vote back in 2016 (on something that would have a disproportionate impact on their lives) should be able to do so now.

There are many ‘buts’ attached to this, but (there’s one!) it’s an open vote and anyone who still wants to leave (and some who may have flipped to become leavers) can cast their vote again. There’s no guarantee whatsoever that a Second Referendum would produce a different result, but it will at least be based on a pretty clear understanding of the implications of leaving the EU, which it wasn’t in 2016.

At the extremes of the debate are the Lib Dems who are now saying, if they formed a Government, they’d simply revoke Article 50.

Lots of good ideas for a social/liberal-democratic radicalism in ‘Flatpack Democracy’. A new edition of the book is now out

This is political madness and while it will mark them out as unequivocally pro-Remain, it will lose them a lot of votes they’d otherwise have won had they campaigned for a Second Referendum with a ‘Remain’ stance. At the opposite extreme we have ‘No Deal’ favoured by the Brexit Party and increasing swathes of the Tories. This chimes with the views of many people who just want to ‘get it over with’. The problem is, ‘no deal’ would be anything but a simple departure and will lead to years of negotiations, while the economy goes into ever-steeper decline, particularly in the North.

In the middle of all this, there is the original ‘May Deal’, which with hindsight looks like it wasn’t so bad after all. There’s very little chance of Johnson selling anything like that to either his own right-wing or to the DUP. The voices of reason within the Tory Party have nearly all jumped ship leaving Johnson to play the fool with political crazies like Rees-Mogg, Cummings and the rest. Labour’s current position, as a friend of mine described it, has some validity. Yet try and explain it on the doorstep and you’ll struggle. If I understand it right, Labour, if they form a government, will negotiate a new deal with the EU and put it to a Referendum, but without a recommendation to support their deal, or just to remain and revoke Article 50. There’s leadership for you, eh?

So, at least here in England, the only party with a credible position is the Greens who are saying they will press for a General Election and a Second Referendum with a clear position of being pro-Remain. If I understand it correctly, this is the position of the SNP and Plaid Cymru. A great pity that Sinn Finn isn’t willing to move on and abandon its abstentionist policy and take a similar position.

So here’s to enjoying seeing Johnson crawling to the EU for an extension, then  going to the country on a fraudulent ‘people v parliament’ position but outflanked by the Brexit Party which takes enough votes from the Tories to stop them forming a government. Labour isn’t going to do well, but it could form the basis of a progressive majority that could usher in a new referendum. I don’t envy the Lib Dems, Greens, Plaid and SNP having to negotiate with a Labour leadership which doesn’t have its own house in order with a weak leader subject to the dictates of his advisers, mirror images of Dominic Cummings, from the left. But it’s the best possible outcome that anyone could reasonably expect (from where I am, anyway). But maybe I’ve lost the plot, if there ever was one.

More on the Isle of Man

In the last Salvo I didn’t have space to mention a few things of interest to readers, or gave them insufficient space. I discovered, completely by chance, the excellent ‘Tramway Junction’ bookshop at Laxey, which really is next to a tramway junction (Snaefell Mountain Railway and Douglas – Ramsey electric tramway). It has a great range of second-hand railway, tram and bus books and magazines. I came away with a bound volume of Trains Illustrated for 1952 and a couple of useful booklets. I could have been tempted with more, including a 1961 bound TI but I’m never quite sure what I have at home and what I haven’t. Turns out I haven’t got it so I’ll be in touch. There are three second hand bookshops in Peel: the charity shop on the sea front had some very interesting books in the window, including stuff by Peter Beresford-Ellis, that fascinating druid/Marxist historian of Ireland and the Celtic nations. Shame it was Monday closing, which also affected what looked like an interesting shop on Michael Street. However, the shop opposite (can’t remember names and they aren’t on google) was open and had some interesting treasures. Lexicon in Douglas looked good, so too Bridge Books at Port Erin. All of which are further reasons to go back next year.

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. 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.

Crank Quiz: Non-phonetic railway names

Neil Buxton comments: “Non-phonetic names (sort of) along the Esk Valley would be:

  • Ruswarp – ‘Russup’
  • Sleights – ‘Slights’
    Grosmont – ‘Growmont’
  • Lealholm- ‘Leelem’
  • and of course, on the NYMR, Goathland = Go-thland ( so often pronounced ‘Goat-land’ by visitors!)…..”

Tim O’Connor writes from Well’ouse: “Is Gillingham phonetic, non-phonetic, or both? Gillingham (Kent) is pronounced with a soft G, while Gillingham (Dorset) has a hard G. Liskeard is borderline non-phonetic. Leominster is a definite”. Lawrence Marshall mentions Milngavie – pronounced “Mil-guy”.  Just to add from my own experience as a guard in east Lancashire during the 1970s: Blackburn was usually ‘Blegburn’ whilst Colne was ‘Cown’ and Darwen was ‘Darrun’. Bolton was invariably ‘Bowtun’ and Westhoughton could be anything you like, from ‘Owfen’ to ‘Keaw-Yed’ (‘cow head’, after a local legend about a cow having its head sawn off by the farmer when it got stuck in a five-barred gate).

Readers’ Rants, Ruminations and Reflections

Mr Buxton adds: “Enjoyed the piece on the IoM. I have happy memories of the now sadly defunct Castletown Brewery, whose product I always felt was superior to its rival Okells, both of course being brewed under the Manx purity laws!” (must say I found the Okells quite nice, as well as the more recent Bushy –ed)

Nina Smith writes from near Luddendenfoot (Rose Grove men called it ‘Foo-it’) observes:  “Very interesting read. When you go back to the IoM, go in May of June when the wild flowers are out. There is almost a continuous carpet of them from the edge of Douglas right the way along the line.  Also very interesting that you have set up a “suburban/commuter” CRP. I’d also associated CRPs with lesser used lines, so it will be interesting what yours can achieve and whether similar CRPs should follow e.g. out of Leeds”. (ed. yes but the fuchsias are at their best now. There is a need for more urban CRPs and look out for announcements soon of a ‘Yorkshire Coalfields CRP’ based on Barnsley/Wakefield/Doncaster/Sheffield.)

Huddersfield anarchist Alan Brooke writes: “Glad to see you are continuing to slough off the remnants of social democracy and Stalinism with the realisation that state socialism offers no answers to modern problems. Can’t understand tho why you still have illusions in parliamentary politics and political parties? You believe in federalism and grass roots democracy. Bookchin and Kropotkin are more relevant than ever, leavened by William Morris, Edward Carpenter et al. While even these are to be avoided as authorities to be ‘followed’ , there is a great wellspring of inspiration in their writings.

Goodbye Lenin: let’s dump the idea that he was a democratic radical in any shape. A clever politician who seized his chance when it came along, but hard to say that his ideas have any relevance to the present

The historical split between ‘ (Pseudo) Scientific Socialism and Ethical/Utopian Socialism in the 1840s – reinforced by the Bolshevik/Comintern dictat against any non-Russian form of Socialism and Social Democratic technocracy (e.g. Fabians and Wilson’s  ‘white heat’) – has had immense damaging repercussions. We must rediscover ethical socialism and put moral arguments for a better world at the centre of our vision. We must not shy away from being labelled UTOPIANS”. (ed: if someone can come up with something better than our parliamentary system which enshrines basic protections, that’s fine – the danger with classical anarchism is that it leaves the door open for unscrupulous authoritarians purposrting to be ‘libertaraian’ who end up dominating. Thank God we have got some protection in the presnet system which stops Johnson getting away with whatever he likes. But yes, we need our utopians, with or without capital letters).

Special Traffic Notices

  • October 9th 7.30 URC Church Rochdale: Edwin Waugh Society
  • October 19-21: Dialect Studies Conference Blackpool
  • October 21: Phil Porter exhibition in Bolton station Platform Gallery commences
  • October 26: Bolton Station CDP and City of Sanctuary walk: Farnworth and the Irwell Valley. Meet Bolton station 12.15
  • November 23rd: Open Day at Poppleton Nursery
  • November 27 Lancashire Day and Night festivities – 7.00 Wayoh Brewery, Blackrod: music, poetry, pies
  • December 7th: Christmas lights and market at Glossop station
  • December 14th: Bolton Station Christmas Market
  • An exhibition in Bolton Museum on Peterloo and the role of textile workers in the fight for democracy 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/

 

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Current News

Northern Weekly Salvo 269

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: paul.salveson@myphone.coop

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

General gossips

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.

Floods? What floods? Kissack leaves Santon last Saturday on the 09.50 from Douglas to Port Erin. A great example of a railway run by the community, through Manx Government (Boris please note).

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.

Edward Carpenter, gay environemntalist, mystic, and ethical socialist

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.

Philip Snowden – first Labour chancellor, Colne Valley MP – and at heart a radical liberal

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).

Most stations on the I o M Steam Railway are adopted by the community and look wonderful. Castletown is a good example. Are they int’union (ACoRP) I wonder?

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

‘Brown Bear’ at Sea Lion Central on the Groudle Glen Railway on its last day of the season

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.

ISS worker and artist Richard Hall (right) with Bolton artist Phil Porter who starts a residency in the Platform Gallery next week

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.”

Back in the day…when I was a member of Yorkshire First (now ‘The Yorkshire Party’, about to take to the barricades in Slawit, after a nice cup of tea

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/

Time for a new edition…

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: info@beecroftpublications.co.uk

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/