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Northern Weekly Salvo 285

The Northern Weekly Salvo

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

Published at 109 Harpers Lane Bolton BL1 6HU email: paul.salveson@myphone.coop

Publications website: www.lancashireloominary.co.uk

No. 285 October 2nd   2020

Salveson’s half-nakedly political digest of railwayness, tripe and secessionist nonsense from Up North. Sometimes weekly, usually not; definitely Northern. Read by the highest and lowest officers of state, Whitmanites, weirdos, misfits, steam punks, yes women, no men, gay Swedenborgians, cat-spotters, discerning sybarites, bi-guys, non-aligned social democrats,  pie-eaters, tripe dressers, nail artists, self-managing VIMTO drinkers, truculent Northerners, grumpy Norwegians, absurd Marxists, sleepy Hungarians, members of the clergy and the toiling masses, generally. All views expressed are my own and usually nobody else’s. Official journal of the Station Cat Improvement Network, Pacer Dining Club, Station Buffet Acceleration Council and the Campaign for a North with a capital ‘N’.

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

General gossips

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

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

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

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

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

Janet Tyndale

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

Taking the train….a joyless experience?

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

A joyful experience

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

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

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

A walk along th’cut

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

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

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

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

Famous railway battlefields (1) Clifton Junction

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

The railway parallels the canal from Clifton Junction towards Salford Crescent

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

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

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

One of the original milestones along the canal towpath

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

Constitutional conundrums – special feature!

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

A very disunited kingdom…Paul Salveson

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

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

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

Progressive regionalism for England

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The United Kingdom – an Asymmetric Union…from David Prescott

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The status quo is no longer sustainable.

Reflections on ‘Moorlands and Memories’

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

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

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

Small Salvoes

Last Train from Horwich

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

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

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

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

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

Bolton Station Mela

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

Thatcher’s Prisoner

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

Wanderings to Windermere

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

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

I’m still getting a steady flow of orders for The Works, though it has slowed a bit recently. The novel is set mostly in Horwich Loco Works in the 1970s and 1980s, but bringing the tale up to date and beyond – with a fictional story of a workers’ occupation, Labour politics, a ‘people’s franchise’ and Chinese investment in UK rail.  I’ve had lots of good reactions to it, with some people reading it in one session. If you want a copy I can offer it for £10 plus £2.50 postage to Salvo readers. Please make cheques payable to ‘Paul Salveson’ and post to my Bolton address above or send the money by bank transfer (a/c Dr PS Salveson 23448954 sort code 53-61-07 and email me with your address). If you are local I can do free delivery by e-bike (so just a tenner). There is a kindle version available price £4.99 and you can also buy it off Amazon. See www.lancashireloominary.co.uk

The Red Bicycle

The next big project after Moorlands is another novel. I’m trying to learn from the experience gained from The Works, including reader feedback. This one will be called The Red Bicycle and is partly set in Bolton in the early 1900s – featuring mill life, working on the railway, local socialist politics, the Clarion Cycling Club and ‘everyday life’ – but also having a modern, post-virus aspect too. The narrator, for part of it, is a bicycle. Flann O’Brien (cf The Third Policeman) would have approved. Probably an early 2021 publication.

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ALL STILL CAPED…But

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The Salvo Publications List  – see www.lancashireloominary.co.uk

The Works (2020) published by Lancashire Loominary. My first novel , set in Horwich and Bolton in the 1970s and 1980s but bringing the story up to the present and beyond. Much of the action takes place in Horwich Loco Works and the campaign to save it from closure. In real life, it closed down in 1983. In the novel, after a workers’ occupation it is run as a co-operative, building both steam for heritage railways and modern eco-friendly trains for the world market. Price £12.99 from Amazon but special rates for Salvo readers buying direct (see above). Also on Kindle £4.99. ISBN 978-0-9559171-6-5

The Settle-Carlisle Railway (2019) published by Crowood and available in reputable, and possibly some disreputable, bookshops price £24. It’s a general history of the railway, bringing it up to date. It includes a chapter on the author’s time as a goods guard on the line, when he was based at Blackburn in the 1970s. The book includes a guide to the line, from Leeds to Carlisle. Some previously-unused sources helped to give the book a stronger ‘social’ dimension, including the columns of the LMS staff magazine in the 1920s. ISBN 978-1-78500-637-1

The following are all available from The Salvo Publishing HQ, here at 109 Harpers Lane, Bolton BL1 6HU. Cheques should be made out to ‘Paul Salveson’ though you can send cash if you like but don’t expect any change. Bottles of whisky, old bound volumes of Railway Magazine, number-plates etc. by negotiation.

‘Lancashire’s Romantic Radical – the life and writings of Allen Clarke/Teddy Ashton‘ (2009). The story of Lancashire’s errant genius – cyclist, philosopher, unsuccessful politician, amazingly popular dialect writer. Normal Price £15  – can now offer it for £10 with free postage. There are a few hardback versions left – Normal price £25  – now at £15 with free postage. This book outlines the life and writings of one of Lancashire’s most prolific – and interesting – writers. Allen Clarke (1863-1935) was the son of mill workers and began work in the mill himself at the age of 11. He became a much-loved writer and an early pioneer of the socialist movement. He wrote in Lancashire dialect as ‘Teddy Ashton;’ and his sketches sold by the thousand. He was a keen cyclist and rambler; his books on the Lancashire countryside – ‘Windmill Land’ and ‘Moorlands and Memories’ are wonderful mixtures of history, landscape and philosophy.

‘With Walt Whitman in Bolton – Lancashire’s Links to Walt Whitman‘. This charts the remarkable story of Bolton’s long-lasting links to America’s great poet. Price £10.00 including post and packing. New bi-centennial edition published in May 2019. Bolton’s links with the great American poet Walt Whitman make up one of the most fascinating footnotes in literary history. From the 1880s a small group of Boltonians began a correspondence with Whitman and two (John Johnston and J W Wallace) visited the poet in America. Each year on Whitman’s birthday (May 31) the Bolton group threw a party to celebrate his memory, with poems, lectures and passing round a loving cup of spiced claret. Each wore a sprig of lilac in Whitman’s memory. The group were close to the founders of the ILP – Keir Hardie, Bruce and Katharine Bruce Glasier and Robert Blatchford. The links with Whitman lovers in the USA continue to this day.

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

 

 

Categories
Current News

The case for progressive regionalism

For a progressive English regionalism

Paul Salveson

Disunited kingdom

Covid-19 has highlighted how centralised we are. It’s bizarre that someone in London can stop me from going out for a pint in Bolton.  There are suggestions that a white paper on devolution will be published soon. Now is the time for some radical thinking on how England can be democratised. This paper argues for ‘progressive regionalism’ as a solution to the ‘English Problem’ – what to do with a highly centralised, outdated and undemocratic model of political governance which has presided over an increasing gulf between London and the South with the rest of England which is only likely to get worse with the economic effects of Covid-19 (as well as Brexit) starting to make themselves felt.

A disunited kingdom

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

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

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

Progressive regionalism for England

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

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

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

A further differentiator between civic regionalism and English nationalism is that it is inclusive: it embraces all who live and work in the region: it isn’t about ‘birthrights’ and blood loyalties. Leave that for the far right.

Not local, not national. The importance of the regional

The importance of regional government lies in providing a strong ‘middle tier’ of government between the national and local. Within England, an aversion to ‘regional’ government has often led to either an over-centralised approach with central government taking on inappropriate powers, or to an expectation that local government can take on functions which are really too strategic for them. This can lead to a dog’s dinner of ‘combined authorities’ which are very poor substitutes for democratically elected and well resourced regions, working with local government.

A democratic deficit

There are suggestions that white paper on devolution will be published soon. Now is the time for some radical thinking on how England can be democratised. The ‘combined authority’ model, pushed through by George Osborne, is not real devolution and needs to be scrapped. It’s astonishing that this apology for devolution, with an elected mayor but without elected members, has been accepted so meekly. Once the mayor is elected they have virtually no accountability.

We are seeing combined authorities such as Greater Manchester and Merseyside take on increasing powers, often at the expense of local authorities who are fobbed off by being members of various combined authority committees. At least when we had the metropolitan county councils (abolished by Thatcher) they were accountable to directly-elected politicians. Democracy in the ‘combined authorities’ hardly exists. The chain of accountability if you have concerns over transport, planning, the environment and health are very long and tortuous, with no obvious way of influencing policy. The alternative is very clear, using the model that works for Scotland and Wales: directly-elected assemblies, using a fair voting system. The London model of an elected mayor overseen by an elected assembly (based on PR) works up to a point but the assembly members need more power.

The North of England

Over the last 30 years the growth of regionalist politics in the North of England has been slow and hesitant. The Scottish nationalist and socialist Chris Harvie called it “the dog that never barked”. Since then, we’ve seen the emergence of regionalist parties in Yorkshire, the North-East and Cumbria. None have yet to make a significant breakthrough, but give them time. The Hannah Mitchell Foundation was set up in 2010 to provide a non-party ‘think tank’ on Northern issues and the need for ‘democratic devolution’. More recently, ‘Same Skies West Yorkshire’ has emerged as a lively outlier which takes the need to be fully inclusive of Yorkshire’s diverse communities seriously.

Currently, the Hannah Mitchell Foundation is considering its future role, with a suggestion to re-name it ‘Campaign for Northern Democracy’ (CfND). Civic Revival is developing a niche as an informal network of local civic activists with a base in the North.

One super-region, or several Northern regions working together?

Should Northern regionalism aim for a pan-Northern governing body? There are arguments for and against, but the reality is that a ‘Northern’ political body – a ‘super region’ – would be very large, covering a population of over 15 million. This is larger than any of the existing German lander. Arguably, it would be simply too big for a viable regional body. At the same time, it would rub up against current campaigns, admittedly still at embryonic stages, for regional government in Yorkshire and the North-East.

‘Identity’ is an important thing and as things stand, regional identities for some parts of the North, e.g. Yorkshire and to some degree Lancashire and the North-East, are stronger than an overarching ‘Northerness’. In fact, the two could easily co-exist.

Going for ‘historic’ regional identities, suitably configured to represent modern day realities, makes more sense. This could combine with close working across the North on a range of sectors. Already, Transport for the North is an example of this, though it needs more power and resources, as well as greater accountability.

Historic ‘reconfigured’ regional identities could include:

  • Yorkshire, covering North, West and South Yorkshire, plus unitaries north of the Humber
  • ‘Northumbria’ – Co. Durham and Northumberland (i.e. ‘The North-East’)
  • Lancashire – Existing Lancashire plus Greater Manchester and Merseyside
  • Cumbria – the existing county
  • Cheshire – the existing two ‘Cheshires’ plus Warrington and Halton

These are just suggestions – there’s a need for a debate. It wouldn’t suit everyone – some Lancashire campaigners want to see Lancashire ‘North of the Sands’ return to Lancashire. Yet the existing ‘Cumbria’ makes a lot of sense and there is nothing to stop the people of Ulverston, Barrow and Grange from celebrating their historic cultural identities as Lancastrians. The county of Cheshire, before it was split into two (or more) parts makes sense as one small region. There would be an argument for Merseyside (population 1.4m) being a separate regional authority. This would still leave ‘Lancashire’ as a sizeable region, with Greater Manchester absorbed into it. Discuss.

A key point is that regions do not have to be the same or similar size. They certainly need to be big enough, both in population and geographical size, to do things that a local authority would struggle to do. Cumbria for example has a population about half a million but covers a geographical area of 6,768 square miles. Compare that with Greater Manchester which covers 493 square miles but has a population of 2.8 million. The final outcome should depend on what people want, rather than having something imposed (as in 1974) which nobody is really happy with.

There would be much scope for pan-Northern collaboration. Transport is an obvious sector, with east-west links traditionally having low priority. The existing Transport for the North forms a starting point to address that problem, with five or six regions collaborating rather than the current twenty-plus authorities which make up TfN. A ‘Council of the North’ could be formed to bring together regional assemblies to share and debate issues of common interest and when appropriate speak with a common voice.

A comparison with Germany

The position in Germany gives food for thought. It has a strong, well-established system of regional government. The 16 lander (states) vary in size a great deal. Nordrhein-Westfalen has a population of nearly 18 million covering a land mass of 13,565 square miles. However, only five states have a population between 18 and 6 million. The remaining eleven have populations of between 4 m and the smallest, Bremen, with just 683,000. Equally important in considering English regionalism is what the German lander actually do, and don’t.

The jurisdiction of the federal government includes defence, foreign affairs, immigration, citizenship, communications, and currency standards. The states have powers over police (excluding federal police), most of education, transport, housing, health, among others. The states often choose to work together on specific issues. The current devolved powers for Scotland are similar in many respects, though in Germany the states have stronger embedded powers under the ‘Basic Law’.

A Federal Britain

The logic of the UK’s current direction (or at least, ‘one kind of logic’) is for a Federal Britain, an idea that has been advocated by a few thoughtful politicians. It wouldn’t satisfy all the aspirations of Scots and Welsh nationalists, but may well be seen by many as a good compromise, providing it is a genuine federation of equals, not the current Westminster-centric approach. But if Scotland does decide to go for independence, there should still be scope for collaboration on the huge range of issues where there are common interests.

The federation should comprise the devolved nations and, within England, regional assemblies (i.e. not an English parliament). England itself could have a national forum based on the English regions, agreeing to co-operate on relevant issues, but the power should lie in the regions.

The federation should have a degree of flexibility, with some nations (and regions) having perhaps more powers than others. There should, however, be an agreed number of ‘reserved powers’ for the Federal Government, which could include defence, foreign affairs, immigration and citizenship. The position of Ireland is an interesting and challenging one, and even a future united independent Ireland should have a special, close relationship with this new Britain.

The question of where the location of a British federal government should be located is a minor issue. Given London’s historic role as the capital of the UK, there are sound reasons for keeping it there and avoiding the tokenism of putting it somewhere ‘in the middle’.  In any case, the political centre of gravity will have changed fundamentally, making Manchester, Birmingham, Edinburgh, Belfast, Cardiff and other great cities infinitely more important than now – and London less so.

There would be a much smaller civil service, given that most of their functions would be devolved. The number of MPs should be much less, elected on the basis of a fair voting system. The Lords should be re-structured as an elected body reflecting the national and regional diversity of the UK, again through a proportional voting system.

Local and hyper-local

The debate around regionalisation and federalism should not neglect the importance of local government, which has suffered a serious loss of power, status and resources over the last 30 years. Regional government must go with well-resourced local government with strong powers. As a principle, regional government shouldn’t take powers from the local but from the centre.

The current trend towards ever-larger local authorities should be reversed. Local government should mean what it says it is, not an under-resourced sub-regional set of councils without any deep-rooted identities and no support from the community. Local government needs fundamental reform, with a move back towards smaller authorities which have the powers to co-operate with neighbouring authorities and do whatever they want to do that is legal (e.g. running their own buses, housing provision, commercial activities as well as the traditional core responsibilities including schools, local health and social care.

The last few years have seen the growth of ‘hyper-local’ political parties and groups of radical-minded ‘independents’, who are coming together under the ‘Flatpack Democracy’ banner, first unveiled in Frome, Somerset. This is a very positive development and again highlights the need for grassroots democracy. If we are to bring local democracy back to the people, we need more town and parish councils which would work positively with reformed district councils to revitalise their communities. In many cases, this needs the establishment of new parish/town councils, particularly in areas that are more urban and have seen their identities lost through centralisation. Within my own area, places that stand out include Farnworth, Radcliffe, Colne Valley, Nelson and Darwen.

Making it happen

No-one would say that any of this is going to be easy. The big questions are “would it be an improvement? Would it help revive struggling communities? Would it help safeguard the best of what we have created in the UK these last 200 years?”

If the answer is ‘yes’ to at least some of these questions, there is a need for networks that can push the agenda for radical reform. In some cases it may be about political parties promoting change (including at the ‘hyper-local’ levels) but it is important that thinking within all the existing mainstream political parties is influenced.

As the main opposition party in Westminster, Labour is well placed to promote civic regionalism, but it would need to shed decades of centralist and sectarian thinking. Starmer should avoid the siren calls of English nationalism and look at the progressive alternative that is regionalism. Greens, Lib Dems and even some Tories should be open to ideas that run counter to English nationalism.

And the problem is England and we, the English. We are not prepared to think through creative ways forward that ‘threaten the union’. But the biggest threat to the union is to sit back and do nothing. The union that has existed for centuries, based on a centralised state in London, is no longer fit for purpose and we must not repeat the mistakes that were made with Ireland in the 1920s which – after a lot of bloodshed and bitterness – led to complete separation. We need constructive engagement with people in Scotland, Wales and Ireland – not to try and persuade them that we live in the best of all possible worlds, but that we should all be partners in helping to create one, at least one that is better than we’ve got. That means a big change within England.

“The dog that never barked” – English regionalism – needs to wake up and start yapping. It has enough to yap about, and there are growing opportunities to intervene. Probably the most immediate support will come from the Northern regions but there may be similar rumblings in other parts of England. The forthcoming white paper is the obvious immediate issue. Step forward Campaign for Northern Democracy!

Paul Salveson,   September 30  2020

Categories
Current News

Northern Weekly Salvo 284

The Northern Weekly Salvo

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

Published at 109 Harpers Lane Bolton BL1 6HU email: paul.salveson@myphone.coop

Publications website: www.lancashireloominary.co.uk

No. 284 September 4th  2020

Salveson’s half-nakedly political digest of railwayness, tripe and secessionist nonsense from Up North. Sometimes weekly, usually not; definitely Northern. Read by the highest and lowest officers of state, Whitmanites, weirdos, misfits, steam punks, yes women, no men, gay Swedenborgians, cat-spotters, discerning sybarites, bi-guys, non-aligned social democrats,  pie-eaters, tripe dressers, nail artists, self-managing VIMTO drinkers, truculent Northerners, grumpy Norwegians, absurd Marxists, sleepy Hungarians, members of the clergy and the toiling masses, generally. All views expressed are my own and usually nobody else’s. Official journal of the Station Cat Improvement Network, Pacer Dining Club, Station Buffet Acceleration Council and the Campaign for a North with a capital ‘N’.

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

General gossips

These are strange days if you live in Bolton, even stranger than the last six strange months. One minute we’re out of lockdown, next minute we’re in. The general feeling seems to be one of irritation and anger though there hasn’t been rioting on the streets. I have to confess to some sympathy for our Tory-controlled local authority. They were pushing for Bolton to come out of the Greater Manchester ‘special measures’ lockdown and this was agreed by the Government. Then infection rates suddenly grew – maybe people got de-mob happy – and the Council had to say “on second thoughts, can we stay locked down?” It made them look a bit daft but what other option was there? Bolton now has the dubious distinction of having the highest infection rate in the UK. The reality is that U-turns are a necessary part of handling the coronavirus and trying to make political capital out of it is unhelpful.

Where the Government has been seriously at fault goes back to the early days when the response was bordering on indolent, though the political opposition wasn’t, from my recollection at any rate, urging Johnson to lockdown sooner. Then there’s the appalling treatment of the care sector and the ‘one law for us, another for you’ exemplified by Dominic Cummings’ outings. It looks like Johnson has lost it. Will Starmer be able to offer a compelling alternative vision? So far, I’m not convinced but let’s give him time.

Taking the train….a joyless experience?

I’ve been getting back into taking train trips to places around the network – Halifax, Buxton, Clitheroe and Barrow have all featured recently. I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how busy some trains are, though others are very quiet. It feels like the leisure sector is more buoyant than commuting, though I realise my impressions are very partial. It seems that the railways have found, by accident, the ‘holy grail’ of evenly-spread rail travel, throughout the day. But it’s at a price.

It doesn’t have to be dismal! The ‘Staycation Express’ crosses Ribblehead Viaduct (masks on charter trains not compulsory, at least then)

A friend recently said that train travel for her as been ‘a joyless experience’ recently and I can see what she meant, with lack of catering on long-distance trains and a degree of regimentation which isn’t pleasurable even if it might be necessary. And masks and specs make a poor combination. On Northern we’ve never had the luxury of on-train catering (S&C apart) but what I do find a bit strange is the practice which seems to apply to some though not all services to block off a third or more of the ends of each train to allow the guard ‘to carry out their duties’. I’m not entirely sure what these duties are, other than opening and shutting doors. As a former guard myself I’m instinctively supportive of that hardy breed of men and women but the problem with this isolation policy is that there is less space for passengers so people are more bunched together on busier services (e.g. my experience on a Calder Valley train with a 3-car train). The guard/conductor is an invisible force with no revenue protection and no attempt to enforce wearing of masks or just make sure his/her train’s passengers are OK.

Meanwhile at stations the picture is similarly customer-unfriendly. My admittedly subjective experience of station facilities is that some TOCs have kept basic facilities open, e.g. toilets, whilst others haven’t. At Piccadilly station (managed by Network Rail) shops are mostly closed. I was pleased to see the Coffee Station at Hebden Bridge open. The Northern-run toilets there are closed.

Trains are running normally on the Cherry Tree Loop

The Coffee Shop on Bolton station, run by W H Smith, is shut. Maybe this is a decision by the retailer, we don’t know.  Meanwhile, the Railway Safety and Standards Board has published research showing that there is a 1 in 11,000 chance of getting the virus by using a train. The risks are minimal.

Can we get back to making train travel a bit more joyful? Because if we don’t, people will stick to car travel and all the hard work of the last two decades in persuading people that rail travel is a better alternative, will be lost.

The shadow of Beeching?

My friend Christian Wolmar is a good journalist and an even better railway historian. There’s a ‘but’ in this…The ‘but’ is Christian’s longstanding journalistic ploy to suggest, periodically, that there is a nefarious plan to close down rural railways. It makes good ‘copy’. It has surfaced recently on the basis of suggestions that the Treasury has instructed the DfT to prepare a list of ‘temporary’ service cuts in the event of a second lockdown. There was a clearly stated message that the ‘temporary’ closure could become permanent.

Last train from Horwich – September 25 1965) with Salvo age 12 waving (in a suit!) and members of 9K cleaning gang

The story didn’t exactly go viral but a lot of mainstream media covered it.

Nobody in Government has substantiated the claims and I have my doubts as to how serious the threat is. If it is true, I would hope that any line closures, temporary or otherwise, are strongly resisted by rail campaigners and allies. It’s the line in the sand.

But we should be careful about ‘talking up’ the risk. The issue now is to get people back onto the trains, not scaring them with talk about potential closures. People make long-term decisions based on perceptions about transport. Already, there has been a worrying rise in car sales as people decide that public transport is ‘unsafe’. Let’s not make it worse by suggesting that they might not have a rail service at all, unless we know the threat is real.

Will Yo’ Come O’ Sunday Mornin’? Winter Hill, 124 Years on

“Ay, the moors lie round Bolton like a magic mantle; a magic mantle from the Goddess Hygiene; and there be those who would take this mantle, the people’s property, from those who have every right to it.”

So wrote Allen Clarke in 1899, when the issue of public access to the moors was still a hot topic and the area around Winter Hill was still barred to the likes of you and I. Clarke continued “Wolves have been mentioned as prowling round these regions in olden time. No doubt they were a pest and a danger, but one wonders if they were as much a nuisance as some of our modern gentry, who enclose lands and bar people from footpaths over the moors……On Sunday September 6th, 1896, ten thousand Boltonians marched up this Brian Hey to pull down a gate and protest against a footpath to Winter Hill being claimed and closed by the landlord.”

It was a remarkable demonstration which grew as it surged up Halliwell Road, drawing people from the many terraced side streets which still exist today.

A contemporary report in the Bolton Journal and Guardian

The crowd continued up Smithills Dean and then along Coalpit Road until they reached the gate, which had been closed off by the landowner, Colonel Ainsworth. There was a melee and the gate was smashed. Thousands of demonstrators burst onto the disputed road and carried on over Winter Hill and down to Belmont, where they were said to have had a great time in The Wright’s Arms, drinking the pub dry. The Black Dog did an equally brisk trade.

The demonstrations continued over three more weekends, as well as on a Wednesday afternoon to permit shop workers to attend on their afternoon off. The following week it was estimated that 12,000 joined the march, which was unimpeded by police or gamekeepers. Meetings were held in Bolton to raise support for the campaign. If the public was on the side of the campaigners, the law wasn’t.  The court case brought by Ainsworth against the ‘ringleaders’ – mostly local socialists like Joe Shufflebotham of Astley Bridge, but also the venerable radical Liberal, Solomon Partington – was successful. Although nobody went to jail, they had to pay heavy fines, most of which were covered by public contributions.

It’s interesting that both events were organised, in the main, by local left-wing activists.

Salvo and Benny Rothman in the old Shooting Hut

In 1896 it was Bolton branch of the Social Democratic Federation, fore-runner of the Communist Party of Great Britain, whose members organised the Kinder Trespass. I was able to show Benny Rothman, leader of the Kinder Trespass, the site of the Winter Hill events in 1982; he joined us on the commemorative march later that year.

The revival of interest in the Winter Hill ‘trespass’ came about through a talk at Bolton Socialist Club early in 1982. It was suggested we should organise a commemoration later that year on the nearest Sunday to when the demonstration occurred, which was September 5th. The Socialist Club and Bolton branch of the Workers Educational Association helped to set up a committee which made preparations for the march.

The 1982 march heads up Halliwell Road

A play was written by Les Smith which was performed in pubs and clubs around Bolton, including several on Halliwell Road, in the run up to the commemorative march.

On the day, about a thousand people assembled at the bottom of Halliwell Road, where the original march had begun. We set off to the tune of ‘The Happy Wanderer’ performed by Eagley Band and picked up several more recruits as we headed up towards Brian Hey – mostly local kids.

The 1982 march heading up to Winter Hill (this spot has been recently improved with construction of a bridge)

It was interesting to discover recently that the famous Bolton-born actor Maxine Peake was on that march, as a tiny eight-year old accompanied by her step-grandad Jim Taylor.

The centenary of the demonstrations was marked by another march, in September 1996 and a stone plaque was erected by the gate. It includes the words ‘Will Yo’ Come O’ Sunday Morning?’ a reference to Allen Clarke’s song, published in his paper Teddy Ashton’s Journal following the first demonstration. The chorus goes:

“Will yo’ come o’ Sunday mornin’

For a walk o’er Winter Hill?

Ten thousand went last Sunday

But there’s room for thousand still!

Oh there moors are rare and bonny

And the heather’s sweet and fine

And the roads across the hilltops –

Are the people’s – yours and mine!”

You can now walk over Winter Hill without fear of prosecution. When you get to the gate, salute those thousands of Boltonians who asserted their rights over those of the landowner’s. It’s a fairly easy walk all the way up to Winter Hill from here, though strong footwear is recommended. The further you go, the better the view becomes. You pass the site of the recently-demolished Ainsworth’s shooting hut on the left, beyond the steep gully which was once crossed by a bridge. Remains of ancient coal pits are dotted about the place. Why not take Allen Clarke’s advice, from his Moorlands and Memories, published a century ago:

Sit down here, on a summer’s day, on the green moorland under the blue sky, and though you own not a yard of land nor a stick of property, you are on a throne, and king of the world – a happier and far more innocent king than any ruler who ever held tinsel court and played havoc with the destiny of nations – you are monarch of all the magic of the moorlands, of healthy air for the lungs, of Nature’s pictures for the eye, of Nature’s music for the ear…”

(a longer version of the story forms a chapter in my forthcoming Moorlands, Memories and Reflections).

Civic Revival’s Richard: They call him ‘The Wanderer’

Richard Walker, former Bolton Schoolboy, DfT civil servant and now executive director of Civic Revival has produced an interesting two-part account of his wanderings in the North-East.  It includes visits to the ‘toon’ of Newcastle, explorations around the attractive market towns of Hexham and Morpeth but also a look at the former pit towns of Ashington and Amble. Fascinating stuff and relates to current debates around planning and ‘place’. The link is here: https://www.civic-revival.org.uk/tag/walker/

Tours by Train

I made another expedition to Roa Island, near Barrow (see Salvo 283) and this time it stayed fine. We used the excellent X11 bus from Ulverston and had just over an hour at Roa before getting the ‘Blueworks’ community bus back (the next one wasn’t for three days so we had to make sure we caught it).

Roa Island looking across to Piel and its castle

Roa Island is one of those quirky places that any self-respecting Salvo reader should visit. It has a cafe and remains of a railway. We had time to wander round Ulverston and visit the market hall. A grand day out and a stunning train journey along the coast.

Buxton is a place that I tend to pass through but not stop. That said, the last time I was there I made an impulse buy of a 1960s-era Soviet youth banner and a 1950s Elswick Hopper which i took back to Huddersfield on the train. This time we set off with the intention of seeing what the town had to offer apart from old bikes and communist regalia and weren’t disappointed. We had lunch in the Old Hall Hotel which was excellent and the miniature railway was operating in the Pavilion Gardens. And I very nearly bought a lampshade; might have to return.

John Jones on his accordion in Buxton

We met John, a retired BR bridge engineer, who visits Buxton regularly to play his accordion. He raises money for the East Cheshire Hospice. I promised I’d give him a plug, so here it is: https://www.eastcheshirehospice.org.uk/john-jones/

Buxton station was looking good (apart from toilets being closed). The work of Friends of Buxton Station was very apparent: we loved the sculpture dedicated to NUR activist Joe Sayle (and father of Alexei).

Immovable object: Station sculpture at Buxton

If I descended into nostalgia mode I’d tell you about a thrilling footplate run from Stockport to Buxton and Chinley on Bolton’s BR standard 5 73069 in late October 1967. But not for now.

The other outing was to Halifax, with a very pleasant afternoon in the Piece Hall after fish and chips at Pearson’s, always a delight. The Book Corner is an excellent independent bookshop, I just wish Bolton had something like it. We were forced to sample both the Wine Barrel as well as the Trading Rooms. Both very good, excellent service.

Another trip along the Calder Valley Line took me to Hebden Bridge to meet with Pam and Caroline from Pennine Prospects. PP is developing an exciting vision for a ‘regional park’ covering the South Pennines: more on that in the next Salvo.

Inside the restored Mytholmroyd station: Geoff shows us round

Then on to Mytholmroyd to meet Sue, Geoff and Marcus and take a look at the restoration work on the station. It’s been a long haul but they’re nearly there and the building looks great.

Finally, if you’ve not done it yet you’ve a few days to sample ‘The Staycation Express’ from Skipton and Settle to Appleby.

Cab view from a class 37 on Haydock – Teesport sometime in 1977, passing Mytholmroyd

It’s a great initiative and I hope loadings have been good enough to justify another season. Congratulations to Rail Charter Services and the Settle-Carlisle Railway Development Co. The on-board staff were great and the accommodation really is ‘first class’. One small quibble: having some sort of welcome desk at Skipton, using the Dev Co’s cafe (currently closed, like the toilets) would have added to the overall experience. As it was, people were hanging around on the platform with nothing to do. Quite a few coffees, teas and cakes could have been sold and you’d have felt more like you were at the start of a very special experience.

Review: How to Count Trees

Chris Chilton is the energetic chair of Bolton Socialist Club; he’s also a very talented poet. His new collection – How to Count Trees and other poems has some really great stuff and I’d strongly recommend it. There are so many superb pieces it’s hard to single out a particular poem in the short space I’ve got here. Chris is strongly influenced by Whitman and has played a key role in keeping Bolton’s links with ‘the good grey poet’ alive. ‘With Whitman in the Woods’ reflects the Whitman Day celebration and the climb up ‘Sixty Three Steps’ where ‘beneath this tree of no particular merit/we evoke Whitman in his centennial year’

Chris has a great talent and I hope he’ll keep on writing. I can’t wait for his next collection to appear. For ordering and payment details please contact Chris at chri_chilton@hotmail.com, Facebook or Instagram. Also available on Amazon.

Moorlands, Memories and Reflections

Latest update on my Moorlands, Memories and Reflections marking the centenary of the publication of Allen Clarke’s Moorlands and Memories, sub-titled ‘rambles and rides in the fair places of Steam-Engine Land’. It’s currently at the designers, with Rob hard at work integrating the 90-odd pictures into the text and making something which should look good.

There are 28 chapters, covering locations and subjects which Clarke wrote about in the original book, with a few additions. It includes the Winter Hill rights-of-way battle of 1896, a few additional snippets about the Bolton ‘Whitmanites’, handloom-weaving, eccentric signalmen, the remarkable story of ‘The Larks of Dean’ and Lancashire’s honourable tradition of supporting refugees. Maxine Peake has very kindly written a foreword.

I will publish it as my second ‘Lancashire Loominary’ production and it will sell at around £25 depending on final costs for printing. It should be out in October. In the next Salvo I should have details of a pre-publication offer.

Small Salvoes

When Coal was King

I’ve started doing a regular feature for The Bolton News’ ‘Looking Back’ feature. It will cover some of the less well-known aspects of Bolton’s history. The latest piece tells the story of Bolton’s coal mining history. The link to the feature is here:

https://www.theboltonnews.co.uk/news/18684368.coal-king-bolton-boasted-100-pits/

The previous feature was on the work of town planner and landscape architect T.H. Mawson who developed some visionary plans for Bolton in the period 1910-7. The feature is here: https://www.theboltonnews.co.uk/news/18652646.visionary-town-planner-sought-make-bolton-beautiful/

Train Traveller is launched!

I’ve always thought that there was a gap in the market for a publication aimed at people who just enjoy train travel – not enthusiasts, people who don’t care whether it’s a class 37 or a HST they’re travelling on as long as they’ve a good seat with a nice view out of the window. Train Traveller, edited by my old friend Graham West, fills the gap. The first issue was launched recently and it has several great features on train travels around the world. It also carries a very kind review of my book on the Settle-Carlisle.

It tells us “travelling by train is one of life’s great pleasures, enjoyed by people of all ages across the world. Whether it’s enjoying moments of nostalgia travelling on historic steam-hauled services, absorbing the breath taking scenery of the Canadian Rockies, Inter-railing across Europe on an budget or taking in the novelty of riding delightful narrow-gauge railways, or simply whiling away the time on the growing number of luxury services available across the globe – Train Traveller is the go-to platform for all travellers, casual or intrepid.” Published by Key Publishing, price £7.99 but see the website for a discount: https://shop.keypublishing.com/product/View/productCode/SPECTRAVEL/Train%20Traveller

Along the West Highland Lines

Few train travellers would disagree that the West Highland Lines – to Oban, Forth William and Mallaig, are among the world’s most spectacular routes. They are supported by the Friends of the West Highland Lines who produce an excellent magazine. The most recent has just been published; it’s well worth signing up to FoWHL just for the magazine – but you’d also be helping a very active and positive support group. The current issue is a good mix of contemporary news and historical articles. Many readers will be interested in the update on the ScotRail conversion of class 153 trains to carry extra bikes and other leisure equipment including skis. The conversion will be able to carry up to 20 bikes and is likely to be launched later this year on services to Oban. As well as the internal conversion, the trains have been liveried with superb images of the Scottish landscape. For more on FoWHL go to www.westhighalndline.org.uk

Pendle Radicals

I zoomed into an excellent talk by Nick Burton last week, on the history of countryside access campaigns in East Lancashire. Nick is part of the ‘Pendle Radicals’ project which comes under the umbrella of the Pendle Hill Landscape Partnership Project. Nick’s talk covered the pioneering work of Tom Leonard (Colne) and Tom Stephenson (Whalley), as well as the Clarion cycling and walking clubs. The Clarion Tea Room at Roughlee continues the great tradition and is currently open every Sunday, but only serving teas and biscuits outside. For more on Pendle Radicals go to https://midpenninearts.org.uk/programmes/pendle-radicals/

Lakeland Gallery

If you happen to be in the Lakes, call in and look round the Lakeland Gallery on St Martin’s Parade, Bowness. It’s tucked away round the back of the main street and opened a few weeks ago. Gallery owner Matt Nuttall is a talented landscape photographer and there’s a huge selection of his work on display. And you can buy a selected range of Salvo publications!

Flatpack Democracy

Peter Macfadyen of Frome has just issued some fresh/ refreshing thoughts on local democracy. He says: “The pandemic has highlighted how some local organisations can play key roles in their society, while others have failed to respond in ways that are fit for purpose. With Mutual Aid and other groups emerging to provide crucial support throughout the UK, the last few months have clearly illustrated the need for a massive change in the way local councils operate. Many councils have proven to be totally inadequate during the pandemic. More than ever, at the town and parish level, it is crucial for a well-functioning council to work in genuine partnership with these community groups…..

Now is the time when these newly engaged and empowered people, who have come to know where they live and what is needed, can step forward. Not just to prop up the creaking structures and systems of local government, but to get elected and to fundamentally change them to bring about a truly participative democracy. This means changing the way most local councils and the councillors operate. They can and must be constantly looking for how to truly engage and involve the people they serve – exactly as has happened independently in the past few months.

Change has to come from below. Central government has never really been interested in community – as has been proven over the last months. In any community there will be groups working together for their common good.  If these people (and they could be you) insert themselves into the arcane structures that are local councils and rebuild them for this century, not just in one town and parish, but in every town and parish, then we will have a movement, free from the poison of Party Politics that is fit for the needs of 21st century.

Possibly with great naivety, certainly with great optimism, a group of us have just launched Flatpack2021. Its purpose is to encourage and support groups to take over their local councils in the May elections next year.  If you can see the potential for this where you live, or know of others for whom this is true, please direct them to the new website.  We need to grab the best things that have come out of working together during the pandemic and find real alternatives to the disaster that is the national government.” Go to https://flatpack2021.co.uk/

John Hume

I was sorry to hear of the death of John Hume. A truly great politician who championed the cause of civil rights in Northern Ireland. He opposed British Government policy which exacerbated an already bad situation but wasn’t afraid to speak out against violence on all sides. I had the privilege of meeting him in Derry during the ‘Save Our Railways’ campaign some twenty years ago. Here he is with DUP MP and Assembly Member Gregory Campbell at Waterside station. The campaign to stop rail closures in Northern Ireland was a unifying issue and I remember speaking at a meeting of Stormont politicians of all shades of opinion, including the former Loyalist paramilitary David Ervine, who described me as a ‘pragmatic visionary’. It was possibly one of the best compliments anyone has ever given me.

Bolton station, Wigan and other stuff

The latest combined newsletter of Bolton and South Lancs CRPand Bolton Station Community Partnership is now available. It’s here: http://www.paulsalveson.org.uk/2020/09/04/bolton-community-rail-news/

A taste of Bolton

A plug for the delicious collection of ‘food stories’ assembled in A Taste of Bolton, edited by Gulnaz Brenan. It’s a superb collection of recipes, but more than that. You get ‘the story’ about where the dish originated from. The book reflects Bolton’s diversity: Lancashire Cheese Croquettes and Pumpkin Pie along with Nepalese Dumplings, Falafel, Khitchri and Tindas. The publication is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and is published by Women in Neighbourhoods, price £6.99. Last time I asked, Cllr. Hilary Fairclough still had some copies left for sale. Contact her at Hilary.fairclough@bolton.gov.uk

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

I’m still getting a steady flow of orders for The Works, though it has slowed a bit recently. The novel is set mostly in Horwich Loco Works in the 1970s and 1980s, but bringing the tale up to date and beyond – with a fictional story of a workers’ occupation, Labour politics, a ‘people’s franchise’ and Chinese investment in UK rail.  I’ve had lots of good reactions to it, with some people reading it in one session. If you want a copy I can offer it for £10 plus £2.50 postage to Salvo readers. Please make cheques payable to ‘Paul Salveson’ and post to my Bolton address above or send the money by bank transfer (a/c Dr PS Salveson 23448954 sort code 53-61-07 and email me with your address). If you are local I can do free delivery by e-bike (so just a tenner). There is a kindle version available price £4.99 and you can also buy it off Amazon. See www.lancashireloominary.co.uk

LATE NEWS: Wright’s Reads bookshop in Horwich has re-opened Monday to Friday 10.30 to 14.30, copies of The Works on sale.

The Red Bicycle

The next big project after Moorlands is another novel. I’m trying to learn from the experience gained from The Works, including reader feedback. This one will be called The Red Bicycle and is partly set in Bolton in the early 1900s – featuring mill life, working on the railway, local socialist politics, the Clarion Cycling Club and ‘everyday life’ – but also having a modern, post-virus aspect too. The narrator, for part of it, is a bicycle. Flann O’Brien (cf The Third Policeman) would have approved. Probably an early 2021 publication.

 

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Special Traffic Notices: Coming Events

ALL STILL CAPED…But

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The Salvo Publications List  – see www.lancashireloominary.co.uk

The Works (2020) published by Lancashire Loominary. My first novel , set in Horwich and Bolton in the 1970s and 1980s but bringing the story up to the present and beyond. Much of the action takes place in Horwich Loco Works and the campaign to save it from closure. In real life, it closed down in 1983. In the novel, after a workers’ occupation it is run as a co-operative, building both steam for heritage railways and modern eco-friendly trains for the world market. Price £12.99 from Amazon but special rates for Salvo readers buying direct (see above). Also on Kindle £4.99. ISBN 978-0-9559171-6-5

The Settle-Carlisle Railway (2019) published by Crowood and available in reputable, and possibly some disreputable, bookshops price £24. It’s a general history of the railway, bringing it up to date. It includes a chapter on the author’s time as a goods guard on the line, when he was based at Blackburn in the 1970s. The book includes a guide to the line, from Leeds to Carlisle. Some previously-unused sources helped to give the book a stronger ‘social’ dimension, including the columns of the LMS staff magazine in the 1920s. ISBN 978-1-78500-637-1

The following are all available from The Salvo Publishing HQ, here at 109 Harpers Lane, Bolton BL1 6HU. Cheques should be made out to ‘Paul Salveson’ though you can send cash if you like but don’t expect any change. Bottles of whisky, old bound volumes of Railway Magazine, number-plates etc. by negotiation.

‘Lancashire’s Romantic Radical – the life and writings of Allen Clarke/Teddy Ashton‘ (2009). The story of Lancashire’s errant genius – cyclist, philosopher, unsuccessful politician, amazingly popular dialect writer. Normal Price £15  – can now offer it for £10 with free postage. There are a few hardback versions left – Normal price £25  – now at £15 with free postage. This book outlines the life and writings of one of Lancashire’s most prolific – and interesting – writers. Allen Clarke (1863-1935) was the son of mill workers and began work in the mill himself at the age of 11. He became a much-loved writer and an early pioneer of the socialist movement. He wrote in Lancashire dialect as ‘Teddy Ashton;’ and his sketches sold by the thousand. He was a keen cyclist and rambler; his books on the Lancashire countryside – ‘Windmill Land’ and ‘Moorlands and Memories’ are wonderful mixtures of history, landscape and philosophy.

‘With Walt Whitman in Bolton – Lancashire’s Links to Walt Whitman‘. This charts the remarkable story of Bolton’s long-lasting links to America’s great poet. Price £10.00 including post and packing. New bi-centennial edition published in May 2019. Bolton’s links with the great American poet Walt Whitman make up one of the most fascinating footnotes in literary history. From the 1880s a small group of Boltonians began a correspondence with Whitman and two (John Johnston and J W Wallace) visited the poet in America. Each year on Whitman’s birthday (May 31) the Bolton group threw a party to celebrate his memory, with poems, lectures and passing round a loving cup of spiced claret. Each wore a sprig of lilac in Whitman’s memory. The group were close to the founders of the ILP – Keir Hardie, Bruce and Katharine Bruce Glasier and Robert Blatchford. The links with Whitman lovers in the USA continue to this day.

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

 

 

Categories
Current News

Bolton Community Rail News

South Lancashire Community Rail Partnership (B&SLCRP) and Bolton Station Community Partnership (BSCP).

September 3rd 2020

Dear Colleague

We hope you are keeping safe and well and getting back to some normality in your lives. Please find below some news items from our recent joint committee meetings.

Best wishes,

Paul and Julie.

Committee Meetings

We have now held three joint committee meetings by Zoom and the last one, held on the 14th August, was filmed for Northern to use as an example of how Community Rail organisations have adapted during lockdown. Although Zoom has its limitations, it does allow ease of participation and we have had some very far flung locations featuring on the calls as people have been away on holidays and day trips when they have dialled in.

Guided Walks Programme

We are developing a programme of guided walks and a pilot route has been mapped out by a group of walk leaders. Steph Dermott, B&SLCRP Community Rail Officer, made a successful application to the Station Adoption Fund for boots, coats and equipment that can be loaned to people who do not have these but who would like to take part in the walks. The first walk will hopefully be held towards the end of September. Clothes and boots will be sanitised between uses in the way clothes and shoe shops are doing this. There will also be an appeal for donations of other equipment including walking poles and Ordnance Survey maps.

Update from the University of Bolton

Good progress has been made with the University of Bolton’s involvement in the building refurbishment project. The Deputy Vice Chancellor, Dr. Kondal Kandadi, came for a visit and gave assurances that the University are still very interested and looking to progress the lease arrangements as soon as possible. A member of the facilities team has been appointed to work with the Council regarding the rates payable on the premises. Sam Johnson (Head of  Schools of the Arts and Creative Technologies) is now talking to students and staff as to how they can be involved and a successful internal funding proposal has been made for a £5,000 research project to look at this. The initial plan is for two community groups from Farnworth, working with Bolton at Home, to make art works for display at the station. Students will be involved and research papers will be written to evaluate the project. Sam is hoping to start the project in September. Sam said, ‘There is lots on the horizon with many opportunities coming up including exhibitions in the Platform Gallery. The University sees the station building as a long-term project, not a short investment.’

Platform Planters’ Garden Project

Dave Mills, together with the other members of the Platform Planters, has produced a power point proposing the re-planting of the existing troughs on platforms 4 and 5 and to have other containers along the platforms planted up. The group are concentrating on 2021 now and are initially looking at red and white flowers planted separately as well as larger foliage plants. They also want to include different herbs and spices and have plants linked to the moors. The presentation is an interim plan – a full plan will be developed later in the Spring of 2021.

Richard Walker, Treasurer, asked David if the group could create some costings for the project so that funds can be identified.

Anyone who is interested in joining the Platform Planters gardening group, please send an email to Julie Levy julielevy9@yahoo.co.uk in the first instance.

Community Rail Officer’s report

Steph reported that she had been visiting other Community Rail and Station Adopters groups including the Station Friends at Westhoughton. She has also met Martin Keating, the Regional Community and Sustainability Manager at Northern. Steph recently submitted a successful bid for the Guided Walks programme (see above) and attended various Zoom meetings online, including one delivered by Community Rail Network which looked at how to encourage people back to using the railways as many are afraid to use them again. Steph has also completed Level 3 Safeguarding training course and will now become the Deputy Safeguarding Lead. She also reported that she had assisted in taking the new display boards to the Platform Gallery and had visited Bromley Cross and Walkden stations.

Platform Gallery

Phil Porter, a Horwich based artist who was artist in residence at the station last year, has been working since then on a series of paintings of passengers travelling to and from the station. We hope to open the Platform Gallery (P5) with his exhibition called ‘This Journey’ in late September.

Maddie Smith, a Bolton based artist, is writing an Arts Council bid to work in partnership with the Platform Gallery and other art venues to make artworks exploring the concept of ‘shielding’. This will include community workshops for artists with disabilities. The application will be submitted soon and there have been two meetings with Steph and Julie to discuss the project.

Any Other Business

  1. The ‘Cotton Queens’ project, lead by Kath Thomasson from the City of Sanctuary in partnership with Gaynor Cox from Bolton at Home, has been shortlisted for the Community Rail Network annual awards. This project was featured in the University’s online Worktown Festival and included the creation of different textile pieces in the Community Room as well as the writing and recording of an audio drama piece recreating the lives of some mill workers, which has been very well received.
  2. Mark Foster, Chair of the Bolton Model Railway Society, has offered to make films for our two organisations to be used for marketing, documentation and promotional purposes. Everyone agreed this was a good idea and thanked Mark for this offer.
  3. Paperwork has been prepared by Richard to register the B&SLCRP as a Community Interest Company. This process was completed on the 26th August and the CRP is now officially Bolton and South Lancashire Community Rail Partnership Ltd. Bolton Station Community Partnership currently remains the same, though we are having a look at whether charitable status would suit our purposes.
  4. Nigel Valentine reported he is still working on the task of getting some poster cases for the groups to use. An application will be made to the Station Adoption Fund in the first instance.
  5. Poetry Competition update. The deadline for the 25 years and over applications is the 31st August 2020. Terms and conditions are available on the website.

https://www.boltoncommunityrail.org.uk/

  1. We are looking at a possible twinning of our station with the Hauptbahnhof – the main station in our twin town of Paderborn. There is a very active Anglo – German group there and a newer PaderBolton group here in Bolton that would welcome this move.

If you have any items of news you would like to contribute to the newsletter or know of someone who would like to join our group, please get in touch with –

paul.salvesson@myphone.coop   or

julielevy9@yahoo.co.uk

 

 

Categories
Current News

Lancashire Loominary No. 1

The Lancashire Loominary

www. lancashireloominary.co.uk
An occasional update from Lancashire Loominary 

No. 1   August 11th 2020

Hello, this is an update about publications and events at Lancashire Loominary, my modest little publishing business. It’s about publishing fiction and non-fiction on the history and culture of Lancashire (by which I mean all of it) and its people. It’s not about ‘the great and the good’ but so-called ‘ordinary’ working class people who did extraordinary things. I’ll do this roughly every 4-6 weeks. Let me know if you don’t want to receive it.

The original ‘Lankishire Loominary’ was published by James T. Staton in Bolton in the 1850s and 1860s. The name changed on a fairly regular basis; at one point it was ‘The Bowtun Loominary, Tum Fowt Telegraph Un Lankishire Lookin’ Glass’. But I like the alliteration of Lancashire Loominary and its textile connections. The reason you’re getting this is because you’ve either bought, helped or promoted previous examples of my work and I thought you might be interested in future titles. The coronavirus carry-on meant that the launch of The Works was muted to say the least. But hopefully Moorlands, Memories and Reflections will strike a chord with people in the centenary year of Allen Clarke’s masterpiece, Moorlands and Memories. But it still looks as though ‘public’ launch events will be difficult. Maybe an open-air launch on the top of Winter Hill? (only half joking).

This newsletter complements my Northern Weekly Salvo – here is the latest one: (http://www.paulsalveson.org.uk/2020/08/04/northern-weekly-salvo-283/) If you don’t already get it and would like to, please send me an email address.

Moorlands, Memories and Reflections

Coming soon: the next production from Th’Loominary……… 2020 is the centenary of the publication of Allen Clarke’s Moorlands and Memories, sub-titled ‘rambles and rides in the fair places of Steam-Engine Land’. It’s a lovely book, very readable and entertaining, even if he sometimes got his historical facts slightly wrong. It was set in the area which is now described as ‘The West Pennine Moors’ It also included some fascinating accounts of life in Bolton itself in the years between 1870 and the First World War, with accounts of the great engineers’ strike of 1887, the growth of the co-operative movement and the many characters whom Clarke knew as a boy or young man.

My book is a centenary tribute to Clarke’s classic – Moorlands, Memories and Reflections. It isn’t a ‘then and now’ sort of thing though I do make some historical comparisons, and speculate what Clarke would have thought of certain aspects of his beloved Lancashire today. There are 28 chapters, covering locations and subjects which Clarke wrote about in the original book, with a few additions. It includes the Winter Hill rights-of-way battle of 1896 and Darwen’s ‘freeing of the moors’;  a few additional snippets about the Bolton ‘Whitmanites’, handloom-weaving, railway reminiscences, the remarkable story of ‘The Larks of Dean’ and Lancashire’s honourable tradition of supporting refugees (including the much-loved Pedro of Halliwell Road). The story of Lancashire children’s practical support for the locked-out quarryworkers of Snowdonia in 1900-3 is covered in some detail, including the remarkable ‘Teddy Ashton Picnic’ of 1901 in Barrow Bridge, which attracted 10,000 people. It will be profusely illustrated.

It will sell at around £25 depending on final costs for printing. It should be out in mid-October when I’m back from my birthday break on Skye. I will offer a modest discount to previous customers with option of home delivery if within cycling distance of Bolton (which for me is about 7 miles).

Late news…I’m delighted to say that Maxine Peake has written a lovely foreword to the book.

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

I’ve had a steady flow of orders for The Works, my novel set mostly in Horwich Loco Works in the 1970s and 1980s, but bringing the tale up to date and beyond – a fictional story of a workers’ occupation, Labour politics, a ‘people’s franchise’ and Chinese investment in UK rail.  I’ve had lots of good reactions to it, with some people reading it in one session. The Morning Star hated it. If you want a copy I can offer it for £10 plus £2.50 postage to those of you on this mailing list. Please make cheques payable to ‘Paul Salveson’ and post to my Bolton address above or send the money by bank transfer (a/c Dr PS Salveson 23448954 sort code 53-61-07 and email me with your address). If you are local I can do free delivery by e-bike (so just a tenner). There is a kindle version available price £4.99 and you can also buy it off Amazon. See www.lancashireloominary.co.uk

If you’ve already read and hopefully enjoyed The Works it would be great if you could do a short review of it on my facebook page (Lancashire Loominary). Feedback on how it could have been better is also welcome, especially as I’m starting work on the next novel (see below). Here’s a review by Mike Pedler:

 “I enjoyed reading The Works. It is a warm hearted (and counter factual!) tale of how the world-famous Horwich Loco Work is saved from British Rail Engineering’s attempted closure by a workers’ cooperative drawing inspiration from the Upper Clyde Shipbuilders. I enjoyed the descriptions of the local politics and trade union life of the 1970s and ‘80s before and during the Thatcher years. Populated by some admirable Lancastrian characters and underpinned by a strong belief in what working people can endure and achieve, it displays an optimism of the will much needed in our current crises.”

The Works is available in the following outlets – please support them!If you know of any local shop which might like to take my books please let me know. I do a third discount, sale or return.

  • Rivington Village Tea Rooms
  • Justicia Fair Trade Shop, Knowsley Street, Bolton
  • Kev’s Cuts, Halliwell Road, Bolton
  • The Wright Reads, Winter Hey Lane, Horwich
  • Horwich Heritage Centre
  • A Small Good Thing, Church Road Bolton

The Red Bicycle

The next big project after Moorlands is another novel. I’m trying to learn from the experience gained from The Works, including reader feedback. This one will be called The Red Bicycle and is mainly set in Lancashire in the early 1900s – featuring mill life, working on the railway, local socialist politics, the Clarion Cycling Club and ‘everyday life’ – but also having a modern, post-virus aspect too. The narrator, for part of it, is a bicycle. I’m aiming for an early 2021 publication date.

Look out for my features in The Bolton News

The Bolton News runs a local history supplement each Wednesday called ‘Looking Back’. I’ve started doing a regular feature, each fortnight, on different aspects of Bolton life. The last one (July 29th) was on Bolton’s trams (see https://www.theboltonnews.co.uk/news/18621143.boltons-first-rate-tram-service-kept-town-move ). The previous feature was on ‘The Colne Papers’, the newspaper train which ran through Bolton in the middle of the night, at great speed. It was also published in The Lancashire Telegraph, here: https://www.lancashiretelegraph.co.uk/news/18572514.paper-train-brought-news-high-speed-east-lancs/?ref=rss. This Wednesday, August 12th, it’s on the work of T.H. Mawson and his visionary plans for the development of Bolton and its surrounding area.

and in Chartist……

I write a regular column called ‘Points and Crossings’ for Chartist magazine, one of the brightest and most intelligent magazines of the left. A recent column was a critique of Labour’s nationalisation plans for the railways: https://www.chartist.org.uk/labours-british-railways-mark-2-is-a-dead-duck/. The current one has my thoughts on the cycling revival: stillborn or a new lease of life for the bike? Let me know if you’d like a sample copy.

Still in print: previous publications

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

‘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 for previous purchasers of The Works. 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 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. 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. Only a couple left, but the forthcoming Moorlands, Memories and Reflections has quite a lot about it.

Other titles still available:

Socialism with a Northern Accent (Lawrence and Wishart)

This was my take on a progressive Northern regionalism, with a foreword by the much-maligned but admirable guy, John Prescott. Time for a new edition really.

Railpolitik: bringing railways back to communities (Lawrence and Wishart)

This is an overview of railway politics from the early days to semi-monopolies and current arguments for nationalisation, or co-operative ownership?

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Current News

Northern Weekly Salvo 283

The Northern Weekly Salvo

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

Published at 109 Harpers Lane Bolton BL1 6HU email: paul.salveson@myphone.coop

Publications website: www.lancashireloominary.co.uk

No. 283 August 4th  2020

Salveson’s half-nakedly political digest of railwayness, tripe and secessionist nonsense from Up North. Sometimes weekly, usually not; definitely Northern. Read by the highest and lowest officers of state, Whitmanites, weirdos, misfits, steam punks, yes women, no men, gay Swedenborgians, cat-spotters, discerning sybarites, bi-guys, non-aligned social democrats,  pie-eaters, tripe dressers, nail artists, self-managing VIMTO drinkers, truculent Northerners, grumpy Norwegians, absurd Marxists, sleepy Hungarians, members of the clergy and the toiling masses, generally. All views expressed are my own and usually nobody else’s. Official journal of the Station Cat Improvement Network, Pacer Dining Club, Station Buffet Acceleration Council and the Campaign for a North with a capital ‘N’.

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

General gossips

Greetings from Locked-Down and Out Bolton. The ‘Lockdown Phase 2’ hasn’t gone down too well here in Trottertown, I have to say. Unsurprisingly, the Far Right has jumped on to the bandwagon and blamed ‘The Asians’  but at least Bolton’s ruling Tory group has had the sense to suspend one of their councillors who posted a blatantly racist rant about BAME communities, the Chinese and whoever else he could think of (including his own Government) to blame. Yes, across parts of the North we’re seeing a rise in the infection rate, though not here at the moment.  Maybe we are all to blame to some extent, following the relaxation of lockdown last month and mixed messages about what’s safe.

I accept that you can’t have too localised lock-down rules and perhaps ‘Greater Manchester’ and parts of Lancashire is the sort of scale you need. The big issue though is consent.  This was imposed on us by a London-centric government which hasn’t much of a clue about anywhere north of Watford and whose handling of the Pandemic has been shambolic.

Tasteful eh? My Ammanford Colliery brick, complete with battery-operated flickering candles. See below ‘What we did on our Welsh holiday’

What trust they did have has been largely squandered through numerous U-turns and the antics of Cummings.  It seems that Andy Burnham was ‘consulted’ about ‘Lockdown 2’ and gave it the OK, but the whole thing highlights how marginalised the North of England is. Compare us (population of over 15 million) with Scotland and Wales, which have got a degree of control over their nations’ destinies. The ‘North’ isn’t a nation (might be a good idea) but is a very large region with a growing sense of identity (discuss). Covid-19 has shown how powerless we are.

One example of the impact of the latest pronunciamento is the effect on local restaurants. The new rules don’t say we can’t go out for a meal, but the effect of the media hype, and lack of detail, has been to scare people into not going out. We had a lovely meal at our favourite Indian (The Lagan, Lostock) last night but there was only a handful of other diners. The manager said they’d been doing well recovering from the lockdown – until last week’s announcements. Empty tables, cancellations – despite all the trouble they, and thousands of other small businesses, have gone to in making sure they are safe. It’s not good and we currently have a toxic mix of general frustration, business set-backs and racist provocation. It’s a big conceptual leap, but the North needs its own accountable and trusted government which could handle crises such as this one with the consent of the people, not arbitrary impositions by a remote bunch of silly billies in London.

Take the train, somewhere, please….

It’s OK to use the train. Official. I’ve made a few journeys in the last couple of weeks, including a pleasant outing to Barrow-in-Furness (see below).

Bolton town centre looking quieter than usual. No beheadings on this weekend

The train was about 10% full, with part sealed off so the conductor could avoid contact with passengers. A trip to Crewe a few days earlier had no such arrangements. Some trains have got seats taped off, others haven’t. All a bit odd and inconsistent. Maybe different depots are determining their own procedures, even if it’s the same company. I’m obviously missing something, maybe friends in Northern will lighten my darkness.

But anyway, punctuality is high and you’ve no trouble finding a seat. Trains are still very, very quiet. Compare my recent trip to Barrow with throngs of motorists heading up the M6 to the Lake District. We’ve a lot of persuading to do if rail is going to make a recovery to patronage levels anywhere near pre-Covid.

It’s going to be particularly hard to get people using the more rural parts of the network, typically those covered by community rail partnerships. Services on some routes were cut completely during the worst of the lockdown, with ‘rail replacement buses’ provided to carry round fresh air. Some routes around England are still suspended with replacement buses provided instead. I can understand the logic but I don’t accept it.

In a different age: crowds join a Carlisle train at Settle

If you’re running a large network with a mix of commuter, long-distance and for want of a better word ‘rural’ services, it will always be the rural services which get chopped first, with staff redeployed to operate ‘busier’ services. Yet the impact on rural communities will be serious, as well as deterring visitors from using the train.

All the arguments which have been made since the mid 90s for locally-managed railways come back to play. We have yet to learn the lessons from the local railways of Germany, Switzerland and other countries where the local train is the top priority, not the bottom one; because that’s their only priority. More on this on the Rail Reform Group website www.railreformgroup.org.uk

Lancashire day out to Ulverston, Barrow and Walney Island

Ulverston and Barrow-in-Furness are Lancashire towns. ‘Lancashire North of the Sands’ to be precise. As with comments above, nobody asked them if they wanted to be part of ‘Cumbria’ back in the 1970s. It would be interesting to see if Barrovians and Ulverstonians still regard themselves as Lancastrians; I suspect many do, just as most Boltonians, Owdhamers, Rochdalians and Wiganers regard themselves as Lancastrian. Ulverston still has its ‘Red Rose Club’ and the Barrow RMT banner proudly displays the red rose. In an age in which we get ‘consulted’ about everything under the sun, the really big decisions about identity, place, whether we go to war – avoid the consultancy game.

Sorry, didn’t mean to go into a rant, I was just going to tell you about my enjoyable day out with Martin Bairstow, the noted railway historian and Yorkshireman. We ‘took train’ to Ulverston, knowing the weather forecast was dire.

A bedraggled Martin Bairstow poses in front of a Blueworks bus in Ulverston

The coastal scenery between Carnforth, Grange and Barrow is always wonderful regardless of the weather. We didn’t have long in Ulverston, about an hour and half to look round and find somewhere to eat. The sit-in facility at The Chippy Bank was closed so we opted for their take-away fish and chips. It was absolutely delicious, though finding somewhere dry to eat proved a challenge. We managed after a fashion and then set off to look round the attractive town. A coffee would be nice, we agreed. Gillam’s Tea Rooms was closed but nearby Poppies on Union Street was open and we got a table. Throwing caution to the wind we went for the scones with jam and cream to go with our coffee. Truly scrumptious. By now, rather bloated, it was time for our ‘express’ bus to Barrow via Roa Island, the X11. The cafe staff knew exactly where to catch it from, top marks again.

Buses in Ulverston tend to shirk the town centre for understandable reasons – the streets are quite narrow – though I think our little minibus would have made it. Service X11 is operated by local company Blueworks whose main business is taxis. The service would, in bygone times, have been a classic ‘tendered’ route funded by the local authority. Sadly, Cumbria County Council don’t do that sort of thing anymore. Instead, the operator runs it for the benefit of the community and gets a bit of help from local people, via ‘Friends of the X112’. Blueworks runs two ‘rural’ routes: ours (X11) from Ulverston to Barrow along the coast road and Roa Island, and the X12 service from Barrow to Coniston, on alternate days.

It’s a good business model for a lightly-used rural bus service. Instead of the vagaries of tendering where a good operator might lose out to a predatory but cheaper large company, you get a degree of continuity and local support. It’s that man again

The former Roa Island Hotel to the right, the station was just beyond

This is community transport par excellence, not something provided ‘for’ you, but a service run with you. The driver was friendly and helpful, offering help with the one other passenger get her bags out of the bus and dropped off at the doorstep. She was also happy to do a photo stop at Roa Island for a picture showing the bus by the site of the old station. Thanks, Blueworks, I will be back to sample your X12. For timetables see https://blueworksph.com/ Friends of the X112 has a facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/FriendsoftheX112/

We got to Barrow unsure of what to do for the next two hours, having just missed a train back down the coast. Conveniently, we got to a bus stop just as a Stagecoach service announcing ‘West Shore’ hove into view. We correctly assumed this would take us to Walney Island, with time to take the air, now it had stopped raining. The no. 4 service is well used, operating at 15 min intervals, serving the large council estates on the island.

So a grand day out. Gradely even. We got back to Barrow with time to look round the town centre, mourn the passing of Dixon’s Cafe, and head for home on the 15.52 Airport service.

What we did on our Welsh mini-holiday, pubs mostly

It was a spur-of-the-moment decision to go to Wales, but a good one. A very sociable trip, great to catch up with friends Penny, Les and David. It had to be made by car, enabling visits to Aberglasney Gardens and the National Botanic Gardens of Wales, located close to each other in rural Carmarthenshire. We stayed the first night at The Red Lion in Knighton, good to see that Neil is doing OK with the B&B business. Unlike England, pubs and restaurants are, for now, only able to service drinks and food to be enjoyed outside.

Llanwrtyd: The Neuadd Arms on left (looking suitably askew) with HoWL Trail signs in foreground

The Red Lion hasn’t got a beer garden so we had an enjoyable breakfast in our room. We stopped off for coffee/coffi at The Sosban in Llanwrtyd; they were making good use of the riverside gardens. Nice to see the directional signs for the ‘Heart of Wales Line Trail’ and sorry we missed the HoWL Trail Bitter in the Neuadd Arms, which also serves as the Official HQ of the Monster Raving Loony Party.

Both gardens we visited are magnificent though I’d say that Aberglasney has the edge. When I went 15 years ago it was still being restored; it’s amazing what they’ve achieved. That isn’t to say the Botanic Gardens aren’t fabulous, though the site is crying out for a miniature railway to take you round. Between Aberglasney and The Botanic Gardens is Dryslwyn Castle (7018) and its associated railway station.

A case of ‘stop and await instructions’ at Dryslwyn

Much remains, clearly very well looked after by its owner. I mean the station of course. Odd that loco 7018 carried the name ‘Drysllwyn Castle’ with two ‘l’s. A Swindon mistake?

We spent the night at the St Govan’s inn at Bosherston. Another lovely pub trying its best in difficult circumstances. It wasn’t raining and we were able to eat outside. There’s much to see and do around here – we did a circular walk taking in the ‘lily ponds’, Stacpole Quay and the magnificent coastal walk back. It must be done of the best coast walks in the UK.

We then headed north via Pembroke, Neyland and Haverfordwest to the very un-Welsh sounding village of ‘Rosebush’.

Welcome to the Zinc Hotel

Connoisseurs of unusual pubs will know it as the location of Tafarn Sinc, or ‘The Zinc Hotel’, built from corrugated iron sheets. It is by the site of the old station on the loop from Letterston Junction (south of Fishguard) to Clynderwen which closed back in 1937. The pub, which is community-owned, has created a ‘railway garden’ with some track and part of the original platforms.

A long wait for the next train, but who cares? The beer’s good

The semi-covered annex was very handy in the driving rain. Rosebush itself had some of the richest slate quarries in Wales, if not the world, but they were worked out by the 1930s.

From Rosebush we headed across the Preseli Mountains via Newcastle Emlyn to Lampeter where we’d booked in at The Falcondale Hotel. It’s a magnificent mid-Victorian hotel, built in the Italianate style with lovely grounds. The rain had stopped sufficiently to enjoy a meal on the terrace. In the morning we had breakfast in our spacious room which was a real treat. We then headed for home, pausing to look round the fascinating second-hand shop on the outskirts of Lampeter (on the road to Tregarron). I came away with some much-desired crocosmia and also a brick from Amamnford Colliery. You never know what you find in these places. We stopped off at The Boathouse, by Ellesmere, for a cream tea. Excellent scones. So a good few days, for pubs, cream teas, coast walks, gardens and bricks.

Black guards matter: In praise of Asquith

Good to see that the man who challenged BR’s colour bar at Euston is being recognised by the BBC. The family of a black train guard who overturned a racist recruitment policy at Euston railway station in the 1960s has said he has been omitted from history lessons. Asquith Xavier won the right to work at the station in 1966, but received hate mail and death threats. “I think he’s such a positive example, and one we really need at the moment,” his grand-daughter Ms Xavier-Chihota said on the centenary of his birth on 18 July.

Asquith, who lived in Chatham, Kent, worked as a guard at Marylebone Station and in 1966 applied for a promotion at Euston, where guards were paid an extra £10 a week. At the time the station was operating a whites-only recruitment policy, a ban enforced by the local unions and station management. His story made its way to parliament, and the then secretary of state for transport Barbara Castle. As a result of his action, on 15 July 1966 BR announced colour bars at London stations had been scrapped. When he began work he continued to face racist abuse and at times had a police guard. Mr Xavier, who died in 1980, was part of the Windrush generation, moving to England from Dominica after World War Two. “He believed that black people’s lives mattered equally,” Mrs Xavier-Chihota said.

Civic Revival is launched: kindred spirits sought

We were able to participate in last Friday’s launch of ‘Civic Revival’ after we’d found reception up in the Preseli Mountains. It’s the brainchild of Peter Stonham, publisher of Local Transport Today, and is being run by Richard Walker, another good mate who is on secondment from his job at the Department for Transport. Civic Revival’s website tells us:

We believe people across the country are looking to, willing to, and able to take greater responsibility for reviving their local communities. Many are already doing so, inspired by one or more of the five themes we identify above…”   It continues…

At Civic Revival we are seeking to connect these important building blocks, each one of which helps support the others. Together they add up to a framework for empowerment to create places that feel attractive, lively and thriving because they have kept and are using the qualities that make them distinctive, rather than struggling because they have lost them. Read our mission statement in full here.  Civic Revival is based in Hastings, Bolton and London. Meet us here. Across our five themes, we are gathering reports and curating what we find to be useful thinking about the necessary and the possible. Our own views are found at ‘In Our Opinion’. We’d love to meet like minds. See how you can connect with us.”

I like it being based in ‘”Hastings, Bolton and London”, with the capital coming third after Bolton. It’s early days but I think there’s a niche for Civic Revival and I hope Salvo readers will take up the offer to ‘connect’.

A bit more from Civic Revival…People, places and empowerment

For most of us, the places we live and regularly go are part of the structure of our lives.   They are the setting for our own life stories and give us a feeling of belonging, continuity with the past, a set of common experiences and a sense of pride: they form part of our identity.

A small good thing: The Justicia stall at Bolton Station’s Food Festival

In Britain we have a fabulous heritage of thousands of towns, villages, cities, city neighbourhoods and suburbs that are all distinct ‘places’. Each has its own history and character, its own genius loci – spirit of place. In each can be found things that have meaning: telling stories of achievement in the past, or examples of people striving to do well now.  By and large people are proud of their place, and love to see it thrive.  They are also pleased to tell the story of their place, and share it with visitors.

At Civic Revival we are searching for the crucial factors that determine whether a particular place – neighbourhood, town or local area – has the feeling of identity, custody and self-esteem that make it a good place to live in or go to:  the ‘something special’ that distinguishes it from elsewhere.

But instead we find far too many of our places seeming threatened or beaten by an economic system gone malign: some neglected, hollowed out; others actively ruined by greed and soullessness.  Four decades of ‘the wrong kind of globalisation’ have damaged not only our places; they have damaged our sense that we can be active custodians of our own destiny.

This era may now be passing.  At Civic Revival we believe there is an opportunity now to shape the next economic era, and repair that damage.  We believe that action at the local level must be placed centre stage.  Getting places right can be the key to recognising and nurturing people and their aspirations, as well as being a general source of delight.

Bolton station is a good example of civic revival. Just need to get that carpet down and a bit of furniture…

We argue that the worst form of ‘governance’ is when things are done to people. It’s slightly better when they are done for people, although that is not a very good way to support the sharing of responsibility. It’s positive when things are done with people, as that brings a genuine sense of involvement. But it’s best when they are done by people for themselves – which is the empowerment of communities and groups that we call civic activism.

In places across the country exciting things are already happening, and glimpses of a better future can be seen.  But, sadly, they feel like they remain generally the exception, not the rule.  Our mission is to find out more about the good things happening, develop and share understanding of what works and what doesn’t, and do what we can to spread the word of what we call the civic revival.

On this website you’ll find the background and intentions of the group who have come together to do this. We hope that you’ll share our passion and ambition, and connect with us and others of like mind.”

From https://www.civic-revival.org.uk/

Moorlands, Memories and Reflections

No Salvo is complete without an update on my Moorlands, Memories and Reflections. 2020 is the centenary of the publication of Allen Clarke’s Moorlands and Memories, sub-titled ‘rambles and rides in the fair places of Steam-Engine Land’. It’s a lovely book, very readable and entertaining, even if he sometimes gets his historical facts slightly wrong.

Allen Clarke (left) with his mate ‘Owd Tom’ from Wigan, cycling to Wembley in 1924. No sign of lycra there!

It is set in the area which is now described as ‘The West Pennine Moors’ stretching from Bolton to Chorley, Blackburn, Pendle and Rossendale. It also includes some fascinating accounts of life in Bolton itself in the years between 1870 and the First World War, with accounts of the great engineers’ strike of 1887, the growth of the co-operative movement and the many ‘characters’ whom Clarke knew as a boy or young man.

My book is a centenary tribute to Clarke’s classic – Moorlands, Memories and Reflections. It isn’t a ‘then and now’ sort of thing though I do make some historical comparisons, and speculate what Clarke would have thought of certain aspects of his beloved Lancashire today. There are 28 chapters, covering locations and subjects which Clarke wrote about in the original book, with a few additions.

Darwen’s Jubilee Tower, built to celebrate Queen Vic’s Jubilee and ‘free-ing of the moors’, features in the book

It includes the Winter Hill rights-of-way battle of 1896, a few additional snippets about the Bolton ‘Whitmanites’, handloom-weaving, the remarkable story of ‘The Larks of Dean’ and Lancashire’s honourable tradition of supporting refugees. I will publish it as my second ‘Lancashire Loominary’ product and it will also sell at around £25 depending on final costs for printing. It should be out late September/early October.

Little Salvoes

Gondolas of the People: a tram celebration

I’ve started doing a regular feature for The Bolton News’ ‘Looking Back’ feature.

A Farnworth-bound tram at Moses Gate Station

It will cover some of the less well-known aspects of Bolton’s history. Here is the latest piece, telling the story of Bolton’s trams – a fine example of municipal enterprise. The link to the feature is here:

https://www.theboltonnews.co.uk/news/18621143.boltons-first-rate-tram-service-kept-town-move/

Bolton’s Community Rail Hub’ takes shape

Nearly, nearly there. The restoration of Bolton station’s upstairs offices and meeting rooms on Platforms 4/5 is nearly complete. Some of the partitions have been taken out to create larger spaces making it feel less cramped. The toilet facilities have been completely renewed as well as kitchen space. The last bit of the jigsaw will be the lift, to make the facility fully accessible. That will go in later this year  – work has already started. It is hoped that the University of Bolton will take on the lease for the space but the use will be for a mix of community, and student purposes, rather than academic.

Garden Railway Phase 3 Complete

The extension of the Heights of Halliwell Garden Railway, also known as GR Phase 3, is complete.

Phase 3 complete, on time and to budget

Trains are running but the hoped-for official launch has been postponed due to Lockdown Phase 2. Phase 1 has been slightly delayed owing to Phase 4 being prioritised, coupled with an unexpected surge of tripe infection at Phase 2b.

Con tha speik Lanky?

Catherine Green is presenting a series of talks for Radio 4 on ‘Dialect’. She now has an online link to ‘Tongue and Talk’: the Dialect Poets’. The first episode – from last year’s Dialect Festival – goes out at 4:30pm on Sunday 16th August and will available for a month on BBC sounds: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000lsv2

Sheep rush for last cheese and onion pie at The Pike Snack Shack

A warmly recommended place to stop for a light snack is The Pike Snack Shack on George’s Lane, on the way up to Rivington Pike. It has been open since March and offers takeaway food and drinks which can be enjoyed from the adjacent benches. You can even see what remains of Horwich Loco Works.

Sheep on the rampage at Rivington, after the last cheese and onion pie at The Pike Snack Shack

On a recent visit our lunch was interrupted by the incursion of about 500 sheep, on their way down from Winter Hill to the nearby farm for their annual trim.

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

I’ve had a steady flow of orders for The Works, my novel set mostly in Horwich Loco Works in the 1970s and 1980s, but bringing the tale up to date and beyond – with a fictional story of a workers’ occupation, Labour politics, a ‘people’s franchise’ and Chinese investment in UK rail.  I’ve had lots of good reactions to it, with some people reading it in one session. If you want a copy I can offer it for £10 plus £2.50 postage to Salvo readers. Please make cheques payable to ‘Paul Salveson’ and post to my Bolton address above or send the money by bank transfer (a/c Dr PS Salveson 23448954 sort code 53-61-07 and email me with your address). If you are local I can do free delivery by e-bike (so just a tenner). There is a kindle version available price £4.99 and you can also buy it off Amazon. See www.lancashireloominary.co.uk

The Red Bicycle

The next big project after Moorlands is another novel. I’m trying to learn from the experience gained from The Works, including reader feedback. This one will be called The Red Bicycle and is partly set in Bolton in the early 1900s – featuring mill life, working on the railway, local socialist politics, the Clarion Cycling Club and ‘everyday life’ – but also having a modern, post-virus aspect too. The narrator, for part of it, is a bicycle. Flann O’Brien (cf The Third Policeman) would have approved. Probably an early 2021 publication.

James Kay of Turton Tower

Richard Horrocks has written and published an important book on the life and work of James Kay, once resident at Turton Tower. He invented the ‘west spinning process’ for flax in 1825 which enabled the Irish linen industry to take off. His invention enabled very fine linen yarns to be produced by steam-driven machinery. It is comparable in importance to Crompton’s invention of the spinning mule which revolutionised cotton spinning. Kay’s wet spinning process is still the basis of modern linen spinning, mainly concentrated in Russia and China. The price from the author/publisher is £10.00 including 2nd class postage. It can be purchased from Turton Tower for £7.50 when it opens again. Contact arichardhorrocks@hotmail.com; address 10 Easedale Road, Bolton, BL1 5LL.

In Excited Times

Nigel Todd has just re-published a fascinating account of anti-fascist campaigns on Tyneside and Wearside. In Excited Times: The People Against The Blackshirts, first published in 1995, reveals the extensive web of fascist sympathisers that existed in the North-east, the shadowy presence of MI5 and the work of anti-fascist campaigners “for whom the Second World War began long before 1939.” It includes a lot of contemporary material including photographs. He highlights the work of the writer Jack Common, son of a Heaton railwayman, who became editor of The Adelphi arts magazine. But the book has a very strong contemporary relevance. Nigel writes:  “Once more, fascism is virulent in Europe. From gangs of swastika-waving thugs fire-bombing refugee hostels and black families, and on to political parties attracting millions of votes…we again face the elements of a nightmare thought to be dead and buried half a century ago. So, how our predecessors dealt with a similar challenge is surely of more than passing interest?”  Published by Bewick PressTyne and Wear Ant-Fascist Association ISBN-898880-0-1-8

A Lakeland Boyhood

I reviewed David Clarke’s fine autobiography, A Lakeland Boyhood, in the last Salvo. Here’s a reminder that it’s well worth buying. It’s a very important addition to the large corpus of ‘Lakeland’ literature, written by someone who knows and loves the Lakes, but doesn’t have an over-sentimentalised view of what life was really like. Warmly recommended at £12.99 from Hayloft Publishing Ltd.

Yorkshire’s traveller through time

Same goes for Colin Speakman’s latest book –  the biography of a remarkable Yorkshireman, John Phillips (1800-74). A very well written, engaging book which is superbly produced at a highly affordable price.  John Phillips: Yorkshire’s traveller through time is published Gritstone, price £15.

 

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Special Traffic Notices: Coming Events

ALL STILL CAPED…But Bolton City of Sanctuary walk being planned for later this month

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The Salvo Publications List  – see www.lancashireloominary.co.uk

The Works (2020) published by Lancashire Loominary. My first novel , set in Horwich and Bolton in the 1970s and 1980s but bringing the story up to the present and beyond. Much of the action takes place in Horwich Loco Works and the campaign to save it from closure. In real life, it closed down in 1983. In the novel, after a workers’ occupation it is run as a co-operative, building both steam for heritage railways and modern eco-friendly trains for the world market. Price £12.99 from Amazon but special rates for Salvo readers buying direct (see above). Also on Kindle £4.99. ISBN 978-0-9559171-6-5

The Settle-Carlisle Railway (2019) published by Crowood and available in reputable, and possibly some disreputable, bookshops price £24. It’s a general history of the railway, bringing it up to date. It includes a chapter on the author’s time as a goods guard on the line, when he was based at Blackburn in the 1970s. The book includes a guide to the line, from Leeds to Carlisle. Some previously-unused sources helped to give the book a stronger ‘social’ dimension, including the columns of the LMS staff magazine in the 1920s. ISBN 978-1-78500-637-1

The following are all available from The Salvo Publishing HQ, here at 109 Harpers Lane, Bolton BL1 6HU. Cheques should be made out to ‘Paul Salveson’ though you can send cash if you like but don’t expect any change. Bottles of whisky, old bound volumes of Railway Magazine, number-plates etc. by negotiation.

‘Lancashire’s Romantic Radical – the life and writings of Allen Clarke/Teddy Ashton‘ (2009). The story of Lancashire’s errant genius – cyclist, philosopher, unsuccessful politician, amazingly popular dialect writer. Normal Price £15  – can now offer it for £10 with free postage. There are a few hardback versions left – Normal price £25  – now at £15 with free postage. This book outlines the life and writings of one of Lancashire’s most prolific – and interesting – writers. Allen Clarke (1863-1935) was the son of mill workers and began work in the mill himself at the age of 11. He became a much-loved writer and an early pioneer of the socialist movement. He wrote in Lancashire dialect as ‘Teddy Ashton;’ and his sketches sold by the thousand. He was a keen cyclist and rambler; his books on the Lancashire countryside – ‘Windmill Land’ and ‘Moorlands and Memories’ are wonderful mixtures of history, landscape and philosophy.

‘With Walt Whitman in Bolton – Lancashire’s Links to Walt Whitman‘. This charts the remarkable story of Bolton’s long-lasting links to America’s great poet. Price £10.00 including post and packing. New bi-centennial edition published in May 2019. Bolton’s links with the great American poet Walt Whitman make up one of the most fascinating footnotes in literary history. From the 1880s a small group of Boltonians began a correspondence with Whitman and two (John Johnston and J W Wallace) visited the poet in America. Each year on Whitman’s birthday (May 31) the Bolton group threw a party to celebrate his memory, with poems, lectures and passing round a loving cup of spiced claret. Each wore a sprig of lilac in Whitman’s memory. The group were close to the founders of the ILP – Keir Hardie, Bruce and Katharine Bruce Glasier and Robert Blatchford. The links with Whitman lovers in the USA continue to this day.

‘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 wrote a great song about the events – ‘Will Yo’ Come O’ Sunday Mornin’?’ Only a couple left, but forthcoming Moorlands, Memories and Reflections has quite a lot about it.

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

 

 

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Northern Weekly Salvo 282

The Northern Weekly Salvo

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

Published at 109 Harpers Lane Bolton BL1 6HU email: paul.salveson@myphone.coop

Publications website: www.lancashireloominary.co.uk

No. 282 July 8th  2020

Salveson’s half-nakedly political digest of railwayness, tripe and secessionist nonsense from Up North. Sometimes weekly, usually not; definitely Northern. Read by the highest and lowest officers of state, Whitmanites, weirdos, misfits, steam punks, yes women, no men, gay Swedenborgians, cat-spotters, discerning sybarites, bi-guys, non-aligned social democrats,  pie-eaters, tripe dressers, nail artists, self-managing VIMTO drinkers, truculent Northerners, grumpy Norwegians, absurd Marxists, members of the clergy and the toiling masses. All views expressed are my own and usually nobody else’s. Official journal of the Station Cat Improvement Network, Pacer Dining Club and Station Buffet Society, and the Campaign for a North with a capital ‘N’.

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

General gossips

Just to keep you on your toes, here is yet another Salvo, a mere couple of weeks since the last. It’s raining, I’ve done enough picture editing and negative scanning for the ‘Moorlands’ book, and there were a few things left over from last time anyway. Some good things happening on the rail front, with progress on work at Bolton station. But some bigger worries about the future for post-pandemic local rail. Politically, it’s hard to disagree with the New Statesman’s overall assessment of the Government’s handling of the pandemic – shambolic. There’s worse to come, with mass unemployment looming. But cheer up, we’ve got Brexit and a strong possibility of a ‘no deal’ departure, to look forward to.

As I said in the last Salvo, most people were inclined to give the Government a chance in the early stages, but they’ve blown it through indecision and muddle. Would Labour have done any better? Maybe, who knows? Looking out from England, the handling of the situation by the Scots, Welsh and Irish (north and south) has been considerably more effective and clear. And that isn’t about party politics, given the widely differing politics of each of those places. As the evidence of failure mounts, it’s no surprise that Johnson is seeking to blame everyone but himself and his Government. So care homes are in the firing line for now. Let’s see who’s next. Somehow, I don’t think most people will wear it. I don’t even think that a lot of Tory MPs will wear it.

On a more positive note, that major infrastructure project – The Halliwell Powerhouse High-Speed Garden Railway Project Phase 3 – is going ahead. Odd that it didn’t figure in Rishi Sunak’s statement but hey ho. Preliminary works are complete and final track-laying and commissioning is going ahead within days. A mere 3 weeks from start to finish. Beat that, China. The project team is open to offers for other work which may become available, at suitably exorbitant rates.

Lastly, I’ve been whiling away my time scanning some old negatives. Most of them were taken in the late 60s through to the early 80s. In a few cases I’d never actually seen them before. Here’s one. It’s of Benny Rothman (right), leader of the 1932 Kinder Scout Trespass with a younger Salvo, on Winter Hill in 1982. We were preparing for the celebration walk of the original 1896 Winter Hill rights of way demonstration which attracted some 10,000 local people.

Paul and Benny descending from Winter Hill, September 1982

Second Age of The Car?

There’s a lot of speculation about what is going to happen to travel patterns in the coming months and years. Some writers are already talking about ‘another Beeching’ being on the cards, which runs the risk of becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. But there are big problems ahead without a doubt. We’ve been told, relentlessly, these past three months not to use public transport. Even now, the messages are unclear.

One of the winners..?

Can we go back to using the train for ordinary ‘non-essential’ trips? I have to say I’ve yet to travel on a bus or train since March 23rd and it doesn’t sound a particularly inviting experience. A lot of people remain nervous about being in crowded public places, as the relatively low numbers going pubbing at the weekend showed. Add to that the news that a few pubs have had to close again because some customers tested positively for the virus, it will deter more people. The winners at present are the car and bike. Yet if the roads become clogged once again (as they are doing) that will deter some of the recent converts to cycling and we’ll be back to square one – the ‘old normal’.

For the longer term, it seems likely that forecasts of a change in working patterns will impact on all forms of transport. More people will work remotely, using the hated ‘zoom’ or ‘teams’. So glad I’m not in regular employment.

Use of rural trains by leisure travellers could grow again

Commuting by any form of transport could drop quite a lot, with the decline most pronounced on public transport. Maybe – and it’s a big ‘maybe’ – leisure travel will not fall as much, which would be good news for less well-used rural lines.

The role of community rail partnerships in helping to promote rail travel, particularly on local, perhaps more rural, lines will be critical in the next year. While there’s a need for strong community-based local promotions, there’s also a need for national marketing initiatives urging people to ‘use your local train’.

There will inevitably be talk of reducing costs. Personally I’d axe HS2 in its entirety and divert the cash into the conventional network and get on with a programme of re-openings and capacity improvements which are still going to be needed. The one benefit of HS2 is to create employment in the construction sector, even if it is in the South. Re-openings, electrification and capacity enhancements in the North would really help to re-balance the country, sooner rather than later. As argued in the last Salvo, we need to look at ways of making rail central to local economic and social development, rather than an added extra. We need real vision and some strong counter-arguments to the doom merchants who see this as an opportunity to get the axe out.

Lord Leverhulme’s Legacy

The debate over pulling down monuments to famous figures seems to have abated, which is perhaps no bad thing. The idea that we should be auditing every statue of ‘great people’ across the country to assess their moral credibility is a crazy way to expend energy. The fact is we are a post-imperial nation and most of ‘the great and the good’ profited from the Empire. Even within the working class, as a certain V.I. Lenin pointed out, there was a ‘labour aristocracy’ that had been bought off by Britain’s imperial prosperity. Yes, you can take it too far and most working class people in 19th century Britain endured lives of poverty. Children worked in the mills and mines, many enduring harsh treatment. There were some benign employers who endorsed the relatively modern idea that treating employees – and the wider community – well, made for ‘good business sense’.

William Hesketh Lever, later ‘Lord Leverhulme’, is held up as one of those enlightened capitalists and his home town of Bolton is not short of public tributes to the chap. Not just one, but two public parks are named after him. Politically, he was a Liberal and supported women’s suffrage.

Yet there was a dark side to him, which shouldn’t crowd out some of the positive things he did, but need to be weighed in the balance. His attempt to turn the Hebridean communities of Lewis and Harris into modern industrialised communities may have sounded worthy, but came up against local people’s unwillingness to change their crofting lifestyle and become a modern industrial ‘proletariat’, or highly-paid wage slaves. Lever might have sold his idea of developing a modern fish processing industry better if he had recognised the people’s fundamental desire for land and the continuation of their crafting way of life. But compromise wasn’t part of Lever’s DNA. He wanted total control.

When he took a group of Harris ‘community leaders’ to see his ‘model’ factory at Port Sunlight one of them described it as ‘a prison’. Even more unsavoury were his activities in the Belgian Congo. His subsidiary company HCB took advantage of the system of ‘forced labour’ which was little short of slavery. There’s a detailed account of the company’s activities, which Lever was by no means unaware of, in Jules Marchal’s Leverhulme’s Ghosts. For his Hebridean adventure, Roger Hutchinson’s The Soap Man should rid anyone of overly tender feelings towards the man. Lever’s activities in the Congo and the Hebrides do show some similarities. He relished power, and the control that went with it. He wanted the African forced labourers, Hebridean crofters, and also his Port Sunlight employees to accept him as their supreme leader.

Reading both Hutchinson and Marchal’s books, he was less interested in amassing a fortune per se, so much as being all-powerful. Of course there is a positive side to Lever, and the people of Bolton benefited more than most from his generosity. The gift of Lever Park to the people of Bolton, and the restoration of the fine Hall’ith’Wood, should go on the positive side of the balance sheet. He could be, on a personal level, a kind man. Allen Clarke mentions Lever visiting his elderly mother in Bolton after his return from Australia, where he had met Clarke’s younger brother in Melbourne. Lever called in at Mrs Clarke’s modest terraced house on Settle Street to tell him of his meeting and wished her well. Clarke responded by penning a dialect poem in his honour, describing his lordship as ‘a gradely mon’.

I’m not at all convinced he was a gradely mon. Complex, contradictory yes. Controlling, and at times ruthless, definitely. But with a streak of generosity too.

Moorlands, Memories and Reflections

Let’s stick with Allen Clarke or ‘Teddy Ashton’, a bit longer. This year is the centenary of the publication of his Moorlands and Memories, sub-titled ‘rambles and rides in the fair places of Steam-Engine Land’. It was published by Tillotson’s, publishers of The Bolton Evening News and other local titles which Clarke wrote for. It’s a lovely book, very readable and entertaining, even if he sometimes gets his historical facts slightly wrong. It is set in the area which is now described as ‘The West Pennine Moors’ stretching from Bolton to Chorley, Blackburn, Pendle and Rossendale. It also includes some fascinating accounts of life in Bolton itself in the years between 1870 and the First World War, with accounts of the great engineers’ strike of 1887, the growth of the co-operative movement and the many ‘characters’ whom Clarke knew as a boy or young man.

The last time the book was reprinted was in 1986, thanks to the efforts of George Kelsall of Littleborough. I did a short introduction to it,which was based on the expanded third edition which he published himself in 1924. We launched it at ‘Teddy Ashton’s Well’ on the moorland road between Belmont and Hoghton, just south of Abbey Village.

Copies of the early editions, and for that matter the 1986 reprint, are difficult to come by. I’m contemplating doing a limited run of say a hundred (an appropriate figure for the centenary) numbered copies with a new introduction. It would probably sell at about £25, hardback. I’d welcome expressions of interest from readers who would be willing to buy a copy. It could work as a ‘subscriber’s edition’, the way many nineteenth century writers got their works funded. So please let me know if you would like to be a ‘subscriber’.

What is a bit more certain is the publication of my own centenary tribute to Clarke’s book, which will be called Moorlands, Memories and Reflections.

Allen Clarke with his mate ‘Owd Tom’ from Wigan, cycling to Wembley in 1924

It isn’t a ‘then and now’ sort of thing though I do make some historical comparisons, and speculate what Clarke would have thought of certain aspects of his beloved Lancashire today. There are 28 chapters, covering locations and subjects which Clarke wrote about in the original book, with a few additions. It includes the Winter Hill rights-of-way battle of 1896, a few additional snippets about the Bolton ‘Whitmanites’, handloom-weaving, the remarkable story of ‘The Larks of Dean’ and Lancashire’s honourable tradition of supporting refugees. I will publish it as my second ‘Lancashire Loominary’ product and it will also sell at around £25 depending on final costs for printing. It should be out late September.

The Colne Papers and The Ghost of Colonel Cut-off

I’ve started doing a regular feature for The Bolton News’ ‘Looking Back’ feature. It will cover some of the less well-known aspects of Bolton’s history. Here is the first piece, telling the story of a little-known but rather important train that ran in the early hours, bringing your daily newspaper from the Manchester presses. I’ve added a bit more detail.

It was the fastest train through Bolton but you weren’t allowed on. It left Victoria at the unearthly time of 3.45, taking newspapers to Bolton, Darwen, Blackburn and the bigger East Lancashire towns through to Nelson and Colne.

It was also the fastest train worked by Bolton footplatemen. The ‘job’ was split in two. A driver and fireman would sign on the previous evening at Crescent Road sheds and work a parcels train to Stockport, then go to the Red Bank carriage sidings to collect the vans. At about 3.30 a.m. the train would drop down to Platform 11 for loading. The men would work the train as far as Bolton and get relieved by another Bolton crew to take the train on to Colne.

Manchester Victoria, in the middle of the night, was another world. A succession of trains took newspapers from the Manchester presses (‘The Other Fleet Street’) to Scotland, Yorkshire and most Lancashire towns.

Platform 11M Manchester Victoria, where the 03.45 Colne was loaded. Bert Welsby inspects his loco 73014 on arrival from Wakefield. ’14 was a regular on the Papers, with Bert driving

Vans displaying the famous national titles –the Daily Mirror, Express, Telegraph and many more – would screech down to the station from Withy Grove and drive at a furious pace along the platform to be sure of getting the papers loaded in time. Methods not approved by the railway rule book would be used to hold back trains from departure if a particular edition was running late.

‘The Colne Papers’ was one of a handful of newspaper trains that had staff on board, sorting out the bundles of papers for each town. The men had to work quickly to get the papers ready for collection at each station, using sharp knives (known as ‘piggies’) to cut the bundles that had come off the press and sort for each town on the route. So the train required not only fast running but also a smooth ride to avoid risk of injury to the sorting staff.

Once the signal for the 3.45 cleared, the guard gave the ‘right away’ and they were off. The timing from Manchester to Bolton was 17 minutes, quicker than any other train on the line. The driver had to run fast after negotiating the complex trackwork coming out of Salford.

I travelled on the footplate on a couple of occasions, going out on the Stockport Parcels the previous evening. On both nights we had a BR ‘Standard’ class 5MT.Bolton inherited a fleet of the handsome locos from the former Western Region sheds in the West Midlands in 1966. Two were in green livery, as we discovered when we started to clean the grime off 73014 and 73026. My first run was with 73026 and Driver George Ashworth, whom I think was a former Bury man who transferred when that shed closed in April 1966. We had a fast but uneventful run to Bolton. On the second occasion the driver was Fred Halliwell with 73040.

73014 with Driver Bert Welsby yet again and Fireman Malc Frost ready to leave Bolton shed

We got away from Victoria in fine style, with Fred saying ‘we were gooin’ fert catch th’pigeons’ with that engine. Unfortunately we came to a halt just before Clifton Junction. It transpired that the signalman had fallen asleep and took several long whistles before the signal cleared. We got to Bolton a few minutes late, to scathing comments from the relief crew.

One of the regular relieving drivers at Bolton was Bert Welsby, otherwise known as ‘Colonel Cut-off’ on account of his military bearing and obsession with locomotive technology, cut-off settings on valve gears in particular. On the ‘Papers’ he would drive like a man possessed, covering the 10 miles from Bolton up to the summit of the line at Walton’s Siding (on a rising gradient of 1 in 72) well within 10 minutes and sometimes nearer seven, so it has been said.

It was usual for the newspaper men to offer ‘free samples’ to the railwaymen on arrival at Bolton and copies were taken back to the shed for distribution in the mess room. On one occasion the ‘perk’ was refused. Tommy Sammon was booked on the first part of the job and he was determined to get to Bolton in record time. According to his fireman, he set off ‘like a bat out of hell’. On arrival at Bolton Tommy went to the van to see the newspaper staff and asked for his free copies. He was met by a burly red-headed Scotsman who told him in no uncertain terms that as long as he drove the train like that, he’d be getting no papers. So that week, Bolton loco shed’s mess room ‘library’ was devoid of its newspaper supply.

In the early 1970s ‘The Colne Papers’ was cut back to Blackburn. All newspaper traffic on British Rail ceased on July 10th 1988; and ‘The Other Fleet Street’ is no more. Maybe if you linger on the lonely windswept moors above Entwistle at around 4.15 in the morning you might hear the ghost of Colonel Cut-off, going hell for leather up the gradient with a ‘Standard 5’.

(thanks to Terry Bowles, Andrew Rosthorn, David Whitehead and Malcolm Frost for help with this)

Bolton’s Community Rail Hub’ takes shape

It has been a long time coming, not helped by Coronavirus, but we are nearly there. The restoration of the upstairs offices and meeting rooms on Bolton’s Platforms 4/5 is nearly complete. The transformation is amazing. We had a socially-distanced conducted tour last week, hosted by Northern and contractors TMT.

Partnership members with colleagues from University of Bolton, Northern and TMT take a look at the near-completed work

A further visit, with Network Rail (who funded most of the work) and Northern is planned next week. When work started there was a total of 11 rooms in what was the former Admin block and in more recent years Northern’s Training Academy. Some of the partitions have been taken out to create larger spaces making it feel less cramped. The toilet facilities have been completely renewed as well as kitchen space. The last bit of the jigsaw will be the lift, to make the facility fully accessible. That will go in later this year (work has already started). It is hoped that the University of Bolton will take on the lease for the space but the use will be for a mix of community, and student purposes, rather than academic.

The Works

I’ve had a steady flow of orders for The Works, my novel set mostly in Horwich Loco Works in the 1970s and 1980s, but bringing the tale up to date and beyond – with a fictional story of a workers’ occupation, Labour politics, a ‘people’s franchise’ and Chinese investment in UK rail.  I’ve had lots of good reactions to it, with some people reading it in one session. The Bolton News gave it a 3-page spread See https://www.theboltonnews.co.uk/news/18396473.horwich-loco-works-inspiration-pauls-debut-novel/  . If you want a copy I can offer it for £10 plus £2.50 postage to Salvo readers. Please make cheques payable to ‘Paul Salveson’ and post to my Bolton address above or send the money by bank transfer (a/c Dr PS Salveson 23448954 sort code 53-61-07 and email me with your address. If you are local I can do free delivery by e-bike (so just a tenner). There is a kindle version available price £4.99 and you can also buy it off Amazon. See www.lancashireloominary.co.uk

Next projects: The Red Bicycle

The next big project after Moorlands is another novel. I’m trying to learn from the experience gained from The Works, including reader feedback. This one will be called The Red Bicycle and is partly set in Bolton in the early 1900s – featuring mill life, working on the railway, local socialist politics, the Clarion Cycling Club and ‘everyday life’ – but also having a modern, post-virus aspect too. The narrator, for part of it, is a bicycle. Very Flann O’Brien, for those who’ve read The Third Policeman – but with a Lancashire accent. Probably an early 2021 publication.

I’m also working on an update of Socialism with a Northern Accent. It was first published by Lawrence and Wishart in 2012. Not sure quite what shape it will take, yet, but it feels timely.

Festival of Worktown: coming up on July 14th

Come and join in a celebration of ‘Worktown’ – the term used by that weird assortment of folk from ‘down south’ to describe Bolton in the 30s, as the ‘quintessential’ industrial town in their Mass Observation project. Whatever its dodgy origins the name has stuck and the University of Bolton is doing a great job in broadening the ‘Worktown’ theme. They even have a ‘Visiting Professor in Worktown Studies’! What next?

The University of Bolton’s School of the Arts is organising a ‘Festival of Worktown’ on Tuesday July 14th which is free. It covers a big area, and full details are given here: https://wwwboltonschoolofthearts.co.uk/worktown-festival-programme

The programme includes sessions on creative writing, happiness, the original ‘Worktown’ Mass Observation survey, Bolton’s ‘Cotton Queens’ and a piece by me on Allen Clarke and ‘The Factory System’ which he so loathed. To join in you’ll need to be on Zoom…..but apart from that, it costs nowt.

A Lakeland Boyhood

David Clark – Lord Clark of Windermere – is a man of many parts. He grew up in a rural working class community in the South Lakes and went on to become a Labour MP, representing the Colne Valley and South Shields constituencies. These days he sits in the House of Lords as a Labour peer. He is a historian, having a particular fascination for his mysterious predecessor Victor Grayson, elected for the Colne Valley in 1907, on a radical socialist programme. He went on to disappear, after he lost his seat three years later. David’s book outlining the history of socialism in that West Riding textile and farming community is a model of socialist historiography.

So you’d expect his autobiography to be a good read – and you wouldn’t be disappointed. He writes well and at times movingly. The family’s experience of being evicted from their tied cottage was particularly well expressed, showing the contradiction of living in idyllic surroundings but liable to being out on your ear if circumstances changed – which in the case of the Clark family, they did. It’s easy to see how David was receptive to the socialist message of one of his teachers at Windermere Grammar School.

One of the stories in the book that will endear him to some Salvo readers concerns the socially cohesive role of train-spotting. David spent much of his boyhood in Bowness, just a couple of miles down the hill from Windermere. Yet they were worlds apart and there was a strong rivalry between the two places. The one thing that brought local boys together was a shared interest in train spotting, with the Bowness lads cycling up to Windermere to ‘cop’ the more interesting trains of the day, such as the Manchester Club Train (which I can remember as a kid going through Bolton, usually with a Britannia Pacific).

So there’s something in this for everyone. David’s book is a very important addition to the large corpus of ‘Lakeland’ literature, written by someone who knows and loves the Lakes, but doesn’t have an over-sentimentalised view of what life was really like.

Warmly recommended at £12.00 from Hayloft Publishing Ltd (includes postage). To order: Cheques made to D G Clark and sent to: Cherry Trees, Cornbirthwaite Road, Windermere, Cumbria, LA23 1DG. Alternatively pay by direct transfer to D G Clark, Acct no. 19158477, sort code 08-90-06.

Chris Dale

I was saddened to hear of the death of Chris Dale, a tireless campaigner for rail and a thoroughly good guy. He died of a heart attack last week. Chris was a regular ‘feature’ at rail conferences and seminars and was a strong advocate of community rail. He will be sadly missed by very many people. May his onward journey be as fulfilling as this one has been.

Jennifer Nuttall-Wolf

Jennifer was a highly accomplished violinist who started playing the instrument at the age of just seven and went to perform across Europe has died.  She was also a good friend. Professor Jennifer Nuttall-Wolf died in Bolton Royal Hospital, aged 81 on May 23.

She made her first concert appearance at the Whitworth Hall, Manchester in 1956, performing Mozart’s 5th Violin Concerto with Sir John Barbirolli at the age of 16. The great conductor was said to have predicted a wonderful future for the young violinist.  Jennifer learned to play the violin with Martin Milner, future leader of the Hallé Orchestra, at his home in Tonge Moor (Bolton) when she was seven. She went on to win an open scholarship to the Royal Manchester College of Music at the age of 14.

She told friends “I began to play when I was seven years old because I guess I was jealous of my elder brother playing the violin. My music had to compete with my burning interest in horses and show jumping. But my lessons at Danesbury Road with Martin Milner, leader of the Halle, settled it. They were a wonderful family. Martin was most inspiring and Mrs Milner gave me tea before every lesson.”

She went on to perform in Scandinavia, Switzerland and Germany with symphony orchestras, chamber orchestras and on Swedish Radio.  After a 1956 solo performance of Mendelssohn’s Concerto in E for Violin and Orchestra, a critic reported, “Miss Nuttall, who has the youth, skill and spark of unusual emotion to become a leading concert figure, was magically untroubled by the technical demands of the concerto and, best of all, she displayed a beautiful tone, consistent in complete range in the slow movement.”

In 1959, as ‘Soloist Diploma with Distinction’ from the Royal Manchester College of Music she joined Swedish Radio in Stockholm, performing and teaching in the 18th century castle which became the Edsberg Institute of Music.  In Sweden she married her former tutor Endre Wolf, the world-famous Hungarian violinist, whose appointment to the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra in 1936 was said to have probably saved him from the German death camps.

Between 1979 and 1983 she was a professor at the Norwegian Academy of Music in Oslo and from 1984 lectured at the State College of Music in the University of Lund.  In 1989, she flew back to Lancashire from Sweden to be welcomed at The Bolton Festival as ‘a daughter of Bolton’ for a solo performance in the Bolton Library Theatre.

Alex Stemp plays excerpts from Sibelius’ Violin Concerto at Jennifer’s burial

Jennifer and Endre frequently played together in later professional careers, often in concerts of works by Bach, Bartók, Sibelius and many others.

She returned to her home town of Bolton not long after the death of her husband Endre in 2011 and lived near Lostock. She had been ill for some time and she passed away peacefully.

Her funeral took place near to her home on the Bolton/Horwich border in private woodland. There are plans to make her grave a publicly-accessible shrine to a hugely talented musician and a very lovely person.

 

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Special Traffic Notices: Coming Events

ALL STILL CAPED…But

One or two things at an early planning stage including Bolton City of Sanctuary ‘railway’ walk on Saturday August 8th, taking in parts of the old Bolton – Bury line and the former canal from Darcy Lever to Farnworth. Look out for further details soon.

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The Salvo Publications List  – see www.lancashireloominary.co.uk

The Works (2020) published by Lancashire Loominary. My first novel , set in Horwich and Bolton in the 1970s and 1980s but bringing the story up to the present and beyond. Much of the action takes place in Horwich Loco Works and the campaign to save it from closure. In real life, it closed down in 1983. In the novel, after a workers’ occupation it is run as a co-operative, building both steam for heritage railways and modern eco-friendly trains for the world market. Price £12.99 from Amazon but special rates for Salvo readers buying direct (see above article ‘Delivering The Works’). Also on Kindle £4.99. ISBN 978-0-9559171-6-5

The Settle-Carlisle Railway (2019) published by Crowood and available in reputable, and possibly some disreputable, bookshops price £24. It’s a general history of the railway, bringing it up to date. It includes a chapter on the author’s time as a goods guard on the line, when he was based at Blackburn in the 1970s. The book includes a guide to the line, from Leeds to Carlisle. Some previously-unused sources helped to give the book a stronger ‘social’ dimension, including the columns of the LMS staff magazine in the 1920s. ISBN 978-1-78500-637-1

The following are all available from The Salvo Publishing HQ, here at 109 Harpers Lane, Bolton BL1 6HU. Cheques should be made out to ‘Paul Salveson’ though you can send cash if you like but don’t expect any change. Bottles of whisky, old bound volumes of Railway Magazine, number-plates etc. by negotiation.

‘Lancashire’s Romantic Radical – the life and writings of Allen Clarke/Teddy Ashton‘ (2009). The story of Lancashire’s errant genius – cyclist, philosopher, unsuccessful politician, amazingly popular dialect writer. Normal Price £15  – can now offer it for £10 with free postage. There are a few hardback versions left – Normal price £25  – now at £15 with free postage. This book outlines the life and writings of one of Lancashire’s most prolific – and interesting – writers. Allen Clarke (1863-1935) was the son of mill workers and began work in the mill himself at the age of 11. He became a much-loved writer and an early pioneer of the socialist movement. He wrote in Lancashire dialect as ‘Teddy Ashton;’ and his sketches sold by the thousand. He was a keen cyclist and rambler; his books on the Lancashire countryside – ‘Windmill Land’ and ‘Moorlands and Memories’ are wonderful mixtures of history, landscape and philosophy.

‘With Walt Whitman in Bolton – Lancashire’s Links to Walt Whitman‘. This charts the remarkable story of Bolton’s long-lasting links to America’s great poet. Price £10.00 including post and packing. New bi-centennial edition published in May 2019. Bolton’s links with the great American poet Walt Whitman make up one of the most fascinating footnotes in literary history. From the 1880s a small group of Boltonians began a correspondence with Whitman and two (John Johnston and J W Wallace) visited the poet in America. Each year on Whitman’s birthday (May 31) the Bolton group threw a party to celebrate his memory, with poems, lectures and passing round a loving cup of spiced claret. Each wore a sprig of lilac in Whitman’s memory. The group were close to the founders of the ILP – Keir Hardie, Bruce and Katharine Bruce Glasier and Robert Blatchford. The links with Whitman lovers in the USA continue to this day.

‘Northern Rail Heritage’. A short introduction to the social history of the North’s railways. Price £6.00. The North ushered in the railway age  with the Stockton and Darlington in 1825 followed by the Liverpool and Manchester in 1830. But too often the story of the people who worked on the railways has been ignored. This booklet outlines the social history of railways in the North. It includes the growth of railways in the 19th century, railways in the two world wars, the general strike and the impact of Beeching.

Will Yo’ Come O’ Sunday Mornin? The Winter Hill Mass Trespass of 1896′. The story of Lancashire’s Winter Hill Trespass of 1896. 10,000 people marched over Winter Hill to reclaim a right of way. Price: £5.00 (not many left). The Kinder Scout Mass Trespass of 1932 was by no means the first attempt by working class people to reclaim the countryside. Probably the biggest-ever rights of way struggle took place on the moors above Bolton in 1896, with three successive weekends of huge demonstrations to reclaim a blocked path. Over 12,000 took part in the biggest march. The demonstrations were led by a coalition of socialists and radical liberals and Allen Clarke (see above!) wrote a great song about the events – ‘Will Yo’ Come O’ Sunday Mornin’?’ Only a couple left.

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

Categories
Current News

Northern Weekly Salvo 281

The Northern Weekly Salvo

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

Published at 109 Harpers Lane Bolton BL1 6HU email: paul.salveson@myphone.coop

Publications website: www.lancashireloominary.co.uk

No. 281  June 29th 2020

Salveson’s half-nakedly political digest of railwayness, tripe and secessionist nonsense from Up North. Sometimes weekly, usually not; but definitely Northern. Read by the highest (and lowest) officers of state, Whitmanites, weirdos, misfits, steam punks, yes women, no men, gay Swedenborgians, cat-spotters, discerning sybarites, bi-guys, non-aligned social democrats,  pie-eaters, tripe dressers, nail artists, self-managing VIMTO drinkers, truculent Northerners, grumpy Norwegians, absurd Marxists, members of the clergy and the toiling masses. All views expressed are my own and usually nobody else’s. Official journal of the Station Cat Improvement Network, Pacer Dining Club and Station Buffet Society, and the Campaign for a North with a capital ‘N’.

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

General gossips

June’s nearly over and it would have been the start of ‘Bolton Holidays’ – hence the torrential rain since Saturday. Time was when the mills and factories would be closed for two weeks and it would feel a bit like, well, lockdown I suppose. The streets would be eerily quiet and the newsagents shops would be closed. Enterprising local kids set up stalls on street corners.

Holiday Special: a returning Saturdays-Only Scarborough train at Manchester Victoria 11M, worked on that day (Saturday June 25th 1967) by a Bolton crew. Driver Bert Welsby inspects the damage…

But let’s not wallow in nostalgia (much as I enjoy it). We will certainly look back on the Spring of 2020 with a complex mix of feelings. I have to admit to having had a ‘good’ lockdown, with time to write, walk and ride the bike on quiet roads. I’m conscious of being lucky and privileged, lots of people have not been so fortunate.

Politics has been perhaps more interesting than usual. The sense of ‘giving them a chance’ in the early days of the pandemic has gradually evaporated as it has become clear that opportunities by the Government to limit the spread of the virus were missed. A few days made all the difference. Johnson and his team haven’t handled the situation well, with the possible exception of Sunak who must be on course for being our next Prime Minister. But how will Johnson, Sunak and the rest handle Brexit?  There’s no sign of a common sense approach which might delay the whole thing, or at the very least make a determined effort to get a deal.

Oh well, stick to trains then. But that’s all a mess as well. Government and the transport industry have been all too successful in getting across the message ‘don’t use public transport’. It’s going to take an awfully long time to get back to anywhere near pre-Covid levels of rail and bus travel. Before long there will have to be some imaginative campaigns to entice folk back: locally, regionally and nationally. Making it hard for people to travel (e.g. suggestions that eating food is banned, even on long distance journeys) is not going to help.

Lives matter

I went down to the ‘Black Lives Matter’ event in Bolton a couple of weeks back. Tensions had been raised by suggestions (aided and abetted by the ruling Tory Group on the council) that there was a threat to the war memorial and other statues. Complete nonsense but it gave the far-right an excuse to turn up ‘defending our heritage’ and throw a few bottles at the BLM demonstrators, who were peaceful and restrained.

But something quite exceptional happened. Two young black men from the BLM crowd went across to the far-right group and talked to them.

A powerful image (ABNM Photography/Manchester Evening News)

Hands were shaken. Then after a while it all reverted to name calling and scuffling. But it happened and that gives hope. Those two men who approached the counter-demonstrators were heroes, and it’s that sort of response that is required, not simply vilifying ‘them’ whoever ‘them’ might be. The story was reported in the Manchester Evening News. Most of it is printed below in ‘Mohamed’s Story’.

The police, it must be said, did a good job in stopping any serious violence but it was ugly. A funny way to protect our ‘national heritage’, but at least there were signs of some of the crowd recognising our common humanity.

So yes, ‘black lives matter’ and of course – as the far-right crowd chanted – ‘all lives matter’. In a British context, I don’t think ‘Black Lives Matter’ is the most helpful of campaign messages. Why not go back to Jo Cox and her message of  ‘More in Common’?

Not exactly a rampaging mob: Black Lives Matter demonstrators in Bolton

‘Black Lives Matter’, as a slogan, might well make sense in America where black people endure a quite different society than ours. Yes, there’s racism here (structural as well as individual) and it’s vital that people – white, more than black – speak out against it and stand up to be counted.  But trying to import a particular American model of radical politics into Britain is fraught with dangers and could exacerbate divisions, not heal them. About a hundred years ago some on the British left enthusiastically adopted a particular foreign political import – that time from the young Soviet Union – and in the process divided the left and put back the cause of radical change for generations. Let’s not do it again. There are lots of different political traditions we can learn from, America’s being just one. But don’t slavishly try to copy it. It doesn’t work.

And all this kneeling stuff adds to the sense of being part of a cult, apart from it being rather difficult for people of a certain age to actually do. It’s one thing getting down, another getting back up.

Racism won’t be ended by street confrontations, or by kneeling in the street. What could help reduce it is practical community-based activity where people come together from different communities. Civic pride and a love of your own town and community can be a very unifying force.

A small good thing: The Justicia stall at Bolton Station’s Food Festival, bringing people together

A few years ago that colourful and controversial Labour peer Maurice Glasman outraged liberal opinion by talking to the English Defence League. But he was right. It isn’t an easy thing to do, but of many of the ‘far-right’ crowd in Bolton, and other towns – honestly believed they were there to ‘protect’ their cultural heritage, however problematic it might seem to us on the left. There is a basis to talk. But read on….

Mohamed’s Story

The Manchester Evening News printed this fascinating story about the Bolton BLM demonstration, which I think is at least as significant, if not more so, than the story of the black man who rescused a far-right protestor after being injured in the demonstration in London. ” We found and spoke to Mohamed Ali – the 26-year-old security guard from Bolton who, during a time of division around the world, stopped the fighting and started the talking….Mohamed was born in Sudan and moved over to the UK, aged 18, forced to escape fighting in his home country. After fleeing violence in his early years, he says he wanted to show people that they must respect each other, no matter what. Faced again with conflict right before his eyes at the protest he did exactly that, bringing fiercely-opposing groups together for a moment. Now he shares why he chose to make peace.”

There were people at the protest people trying to fight and trying to make people fight each other, but that is not how we grow,” said Mohamed, who lives in The Haulgh in Bolton. “In Sudan there was a lot of fighting and we saw a lot of people dying. Once you’ve seen that, you have to decide what you are going to do. I want people to come together, that is what was on my heart at the time and that is what I believe.”

Mohamed knew he was throwing himself – arm-first – into a potentially dangerous, unpredictable situation, but felt compelled to show the counter-demonstrators that ‘we are all human’ in a bid to start an educational discussion.

Some people might be thinking, ‘why did that man put himself in a dangerous situation? Why did he shake hands with the opposite side?’ But I didn’t care what was going to happen to me, I was sure and I believed 100 per cent that if I showed them good, they would not hurt me and I would not be in a dangerous situation. I was determined to bring peace.”

Shortly after Mohamed took the lead and bravely walked across Victoria Square, others followed suit. What came after was a spell of reconciliation, when the two sides heard each other out, trading their views and listening meaningfully. He shared what he and the counter-protester were talking about during the moment that was captured by photographers: “The man I shook hands with was saying ‘black lives matter but all lives matter’. I said ‘yes of course, all lives matter, but respect us and what we are here for‘.

We were not protesting to hate other people, we were protesting to bring people together and to show that everyone is equal. Black, brown, white, rich, poor – we all need to understand each other and respect each other. That’s why I had the conversation with the man from the other side, it’s a good place to start.

Mohamed, who is going to become a new dad next month, hopes that both the Black Lives Matter protesters as well as their counterparts went home that day with a new perspective.  He said: “I was trying to show people, especially young lads on both sides, that this protest was for peace and justice, not for fighting. We’re trying to stop fighting and hate, not increase it.

“I didn’t know it was going to happen and I didn’t know people were taking photographs of it, we just started having a conversation. But I appreciate that so many people saw that photo and responded to it. “

Mohamed thinks kindness should be part of the way forward in the battle for equality across the world.

I was thinking about my daughter who is going to be born in July, I don’t want her growing up thinking that being black is bad,” he said. “You can face racist people everywhere, but not everyone is racist. I think if you try to show people kindness that’s how we can start build our lives together. If you can talk to people and make people understand that we are not different, you can change people’s minds. I want to build a better world for the next generation.” (Manchester Evening News, June 16th)

Monuments to remarkably ‘ordinary’ men and women

Monuments do have meaning and in a post-imperial country such as the UK, it’s inevitable that there will be statues to lots of people with questionable pedigrees. I shed no tears for Mr Colston when he took a dip, though the idea of chasing round the country identifying monuments to dodgy blokes that should be pulled down seems a bit daft.

Compston’s Cross on the Rossendale Moors. He was a radical Liberal who did much to promote rights of way and local culture

But it would be good to celebrate people other than great industrialists, so-called philanthropists, statesmen, royalty and warriors. Back in 1987 I wrote a little book called The People’s Monuments which was a record of monuments to ‘ordinary’ men and women across the North-West of England, published by the WEA. It included working-class herbalists (Joseph Evans of Boothstown), the many volunteers who went to fight in the Spanish Civil War, dialect poets (Edwin Waugh on Fo’ Edge and the Rochdale memorial), John Axon (Stockport railwayman) and several more. Jacob Epsein’s ‘Slave Hold’, presented to the people of Bolton for their support for the abolitionist cause, was included.

The new monument to Annie Kenney in Oldham town centre

It’s probably time for a new edition, with some very welcome additions included such as Annie Kenney, the Oldham mill-girl and suffragette, more celebrations of Lancastrians who fought fascism in Spain, and others. I’d very much like to hear from readers of their favourite monuments to so-called ‘ordinary’ people who did extraordinary things (doesn’t have to be in Lancashire either).

Opportunities for Rural Railways

(based on an opinion piece that appeared in The Yorkshire Post)

The coronavirus crisis poses huge challenges for the transport sector as a whole and for the more peripheral parts of the rail network in particular. Passengers have disappeared and some lines serving rural areas have had services temporarily suspended with bus replacements. The trains will come back, but it could take years to return to pre-virus patronage levels. And we will work and play in different ways.

The worst thing that the railway industry could do is to assume things will go ‘back to normal’ and Government will bail them out. There could even be a temptation in some quarters to use the pandemic to ‘do a Beeching’ and close some lines down permanently. Politically difficult but anything could happen.

The Rail Reform Group – an independent think-tank of railway professionals – recently published a series of papers called The Enterprising Railway, looking at opportunities to develop a railway based on ‘the common good’ rather relying on the discredited franchise system which is now effectively dead.

I contributed a paper which set out some ideas for how the more rural parts of the rail network could survive and prosper post-pandemic. The core argument is that railways in rural areas could be at the heart of local sustainable development which responds to people’s yearning for a better quality of life to the one we had pre-virus.

Local railways in the North of England are now operated by Northern Trains Ltd, a wholly-owned government company. Infrastructure is owned and managed by Network Rail, which is also state-owned. However, the ‘Northern Trains’ arrangement is not permanent and the big question is what will come after it.

Northern Trains is now state-owned. A Northern Blackpool – York service with a new class 195 descends Copy Bit on the last day that Arriva held the franchise.

Return to the private sector? Merging into a single, centralised GB Rail which Labour has proposed? Nobody really knows. There’s a vacuum waiting to be filled with creative but deliverable ideas.

The idea of learning from continental railways, where some rural networks are independently owned and managed, has been around for a long time. I delivered a paper at the National Railway Museum in York proposing local management and community control of rural rail networks back in 1992. Whilst the ‘community rail’ movement has grown and prospered, the basic structure of the rail industry hasn’t changed much since privatisation. What ‘community rail partnerships’ have achieved for many rural and semi-rural lines has been better services, improved stations, community awareness – and rising passenger numbers, until now.

It’s time to think how we can build on that success but recognise the realities of how today’s rail industry works.

The Harz Railway is a local government-owned business. A couple of HSB railcars at Eisfelder Talmuhle

Taking lines such as Middlesbrough – Whitby out of the current structure has its attractions but exposes rural lines to huge risks, such as the one we are currently going experiencing. Some of the independent ‘heritage railways’ are facing a very hard time ahead.

But what could work is a combination of greater local management, empowered to do much more than just run trains, with the security of being part of a much bigger network. Add to that a sister community-owned company responsible for marketing and promotion together with ‘complementary’ commercial activities.

In its submission to the Williams Review on the future of the railways, the Rail Reform Group argued for converting franchises – using ‘Northern’ as a pilot – into socially-owned businesses controlled by the community. It’s about applying a more co-operative approach. Government support would continue, but profits would go back into the railways, not to shareholders.

If ‘Northern Trains’ became a social enterprise with representation on its board from passengers, employees, local government and the business community, we’d be on the way to getting a railway that operates ‘for the common good’.

Looking at the rural network, trains should still be operated by Northern through a local business unit which could also take on routine track maintenance.

Busy scene at Settle station, with a northbound service about to depart. Catering is provided by the S&C Development Company

But alongside the operational side why not a development company that could provide ancillary commercial services including feeder bus links, electric and conventional bike hire and have the ability to invest in appropriate complementary activities, including in the hospitality sector? Part of the funding for the development company’s activities could come from share issues from what could be set up as a community co-operative.

This would be a jump from the current ‘community rail partnership’ model. However, this ’community business’ approach is already working with the Settle-Carlisle Railway Development Company, which operates trolley services and runs a station cafe at Skipton. It wants to do more.

The opportunity is there to think bigger, promoting affordable housing close to stations, complementary transport including bus and bike, and encouraging facilities at and around stations (post office, cafe, tourist information, accommodation). Supporting existing businesses to get back on their feet, and invest in new ones, should be part of the remit.

Now is also an opportunity to invest in the network bringing back links which were lost in the 1960s.

The trolley service on the Settle-Carlisle line is run by the Development Company, with friendly and helpful employees

Re-opening Skipton – Colne, Harrogate – Northallerton and York – Beverley and Garsdale – Hawes – Northallerton would provide much-improved connectivity in rural areas. Let’s take Mr Johnson at his word and ‘build, build, build’. Or just  ‘re-build’. (see www.railreformgroup.org.uk)

Across Belmont and Darwen Moors

During the lockdown I’ve been exploring parts of the Lancashire moors that I haven’t trod for many years. In some cases I’ve discovered entirely new places and paths. I’ve been able to justify it (as if any was needed) as part of my research for Moorlands, Memories and Reflections (see below).

Darwen’s Jubilee Tower

A particularly interesting area is that stretch of moorland between Winter Hill, Belmont, Withnell and Darwen. Two hundred years ago much of these moors were covered with coal mines, quarries and even (near Abbey Village) explosives factories. Many of the farms, where families eked out a very sparse living, were demolished when Liverpool Corporation took over much of the moors to develop water supplies for their growing population. You can still find the remains of farms such as Drinkwater’s, Great Hill, Pimm’s and many more – but it helps to have a detailed ordnance survey map. And watch out for sheep feigning injury (see below).

In the 19th century much of the land was out of bounds, with landowner’s ‘rights’ rigorously and sometimes violently enforced by teams of gamekeepers. The people of Darwen won their fight for access to the moors after a struggle lasting twenty years. Jubilee Tower (love it or hate it) was built partly to celebrate Victoria’s Golden Jubilee but also to mark the ‘freeing of the moors’. The same weekend that the Darreners celebrated their Victoria, in September 1896, people in Bolton were marching up Winter Hill in their thousands to reclaim a right of way that had been taken off them by the landowner, Colonel Ainsworth.

The Peak and Northern Footpath Society has done a great job in signing rights of way

Their fight, in the short term, was lost but today we are able to enjoy the lovely moorland scenery without being seen off by gamekeepers. A small monument celebrates that fight, along Coalpit Road where the disputed road to Winter Hill branches off to the right, as you come up from Bolton.

Beware of static sheep

One of the wetter walks across the moors was a mid-week wander from Tockholes to Hollinshead Hall (rems of) and over Great Hill to Drinkwater’s (rems of). We took the route taken by members of Bolton Labour Church on a walk in 1903. The family group of around 50 took the train to Darwen where they were met by more fellow socialists and then headed up Bold Venture Park and on to the recently-completed Jubilee Tower. They meandered down to Hollinshead Hall past ‘Owd Aggie’s’ and had a picnic amidst the ruins of the old hall. The old well house, which still survives, made for a good wishing well. They then set off across Great Hill and stopped at Drinkwater’s Farm where they were offered cups of milk from the farm.

Sheep at Drinkwater’s (rems of)

The party continued down through White Coppice and on to Chorley, where they caught the train back to Bolton. They were probably taking advantage of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway’s ‘special offers’ allowing parties to travel out and back on different routes.

Of course none of this counts as ‘essential travel’ so we parked the car at Roddlesworth and walked. Near the ruins of Great Hill Farm it started to rain, quite heavily. Along the path we came across a sheep in what seemed a rather uncomfortable position. It was lying on its back, wedged into a narrow part of the path. It wasn’t showing much sign of life and it it looked like we had a dead sheep on our hands, or one very close to being.

A quite healthy-looking sheep, Great Hill

A brief debate led to a decision to call the Lancashire Constabulary. We were within a few yards of their domain and they were probably more likely to be interested than their more ‘urban’ Greater Manchester colleagues. Reception wasn’t good but I managed to get through to someone in Preston. I explained that the sheep seemed badly injured and unable to move. I offered the police officer details of our location, explaining that although it was shown as ‘Great Hill Farm’ on the map, it wasn’t actually a farm any longer owing to the probably unnecessary actions of Liverpool Corporation in the 1940s.

At that point I lost phone reception. The officer rang back and we completed our discussion; he promised to try and get someone to come up. At that point the sheep in question began to show more signs of life. It was decided that I should try and wrestle the sheep into an upright position. This wasn’t easy; the sheep was not only soaking wet but also very smelly. But in the end the ill-tempered beast was shifted and immediately hobbled away into the mist. Our diagnosis of it being a seriously injured sheep was clearly wrong. So it seemed as well to ring the Police back to explain that the reported ‘injured sheep’ had experienced a miraculous recovery. I got through to a different person at Constabulary HQ who was similarly helpful, and thanked me for updating them on the situation. We had performed our civic duty and the sheep would live to fight another day and con some other gullible walkers. And did we get any thanks from the sheep? Not a word.

A century of Moorlands and Memories

Progress on my next book – Moorlands, Memories and Reflections – is coming along well and should be with the printer in a couple of weeks. It is a celebration of Lancashire writer Allen Clarke’s  book, Moorlands and Memories, published in 1920. As the title suggests, it is more than a book about ‘the moorlands’. The memories go back to his childhood and upbringing in mid-Victorian Bolton. It is an intensely personal account, speaking of people he knew and loved. It is a truly remarkable collection of anecdote, history, literature, philosophy and fine descriptions of Lancashire scenery.

The book introduced me to some forgotten aspects of Bolton’s political and cultural history: the Winter Hill ‘Trespass’ of 1896 and the remarkable story of Bolton’s links with Walt Whitman.

Moorlands, Memories and Reflections is a conversation with Allen Clarke about places which we both love. Cycling and walking is at the heart of both books, and places like Entwtistle, Rossendale, Anglezarke and Pendle. It features the Winter Hill ‘Trespass’ of 1896, Lord Leverhulme, The remarkable ‘Larks of Dean’ singers and musicians, Edwin Waugh’s Well and Bolton’s links to Walt Whitman. It includes a chapter on the great ‘Barrow Bridge Picnic’ of 1901 in support of the locked-out Bethesda quarrymen. The new book will be hard cover and well illustrated, probably selling at about £25.

It would be good to get the original Moorlands and Memories re-printed, but depends on costs. I’m looking round for a suitable sponsor, so suggestions are very welcome. The last re-print was done in 1986, in a joint venture between myself and George Kelsall of Littleborough.

The Works

I’ve had a steady flow of orders for The Works, my novel set mostly in Horwich Loco Works in the 1970s and 1980s, but bringing the tale up to date and beyond – with a fictional story of a workers’ occupation, Labour politics, a ‘people’s franchise’ and Chinese investment in UK rail.  I’ve had lots of good reactions to it, with some people reading it in one session. The Bolton News gave it a 3-page spread See https://www.theboltonnews.co.uk/news/18396473.horwich-loco-works-inspiration-pauls-debut-novel/  . The response has been generally very positive, apart from a rather sour review in The Morning Star. Can’t win ‘em all.

If you want a copy I can offer it for £10 plus £2.50 postage to Salvo readers. Please make cheques payable to ‘Paul Salveson’ and post to my Bolton address above or send the money by bank transfer (a/c Dr PS Salveson 23448954 sort code 53-61-07 and email me with your address. If you are local I can do free delivery by e-bike (so just a tenner). There is a kindle version available price £4.99 and you can also buy it off Amazon. See www.lancashireloominary.co.uk

Next projects: The Red Bicycle

The next big project after Moorlands is another novel. I’m trying to learn from the experience gained from The Works, including reader feedback. This one will be called The Red Bicycle and is partly set in Bolton in the early 1900s – featuring mill life, working on the railway, local socialist politics, the Clarion Cycling Club and ‘everyday life’ – but also having a modern, post-virus aspect too. The narrator, for part of it, is a bicycle. Very Flann O’Brien, for those who’ve read The Third Policeman – but with a Lancashire accent. Probably an early 2021 publication.

I’m also working on an update of Socialism with a Northern Accent. It was first published by Lawrence and Wishart in 2012. Not sure quite what shape it will take, yet, but it feels timely.

Bolton Station Refurbishment: Job Done!

Work on the upstairs area along Bolton’s Platform 4/5 is virtually complete. This week, a small, socially-distanced, group of partnership members are being given an escorted tour by colleagues from Northern and contractors TMT. The job has been challenging, with rot found in some of the roof timbers.

How it was: a last look round the upstairs room in January before major renovation works commenced to transform the space into a community hub

But we got there in the end. Many thanks to Network Rail, Northern and conrtactors TMT. All we need now is to get the lease signed and start doing things….Look out for photos and updates on our twitter feed @bslcrp

Bolton Station Community Partnership’s walks with Bolton City of Sanctuary are having a cautious re-launch. On Saturday August 8th, together with Friends of the Bolton and Bury Canal, we’re doing a walk from Bolton towards Darcy Lever and on to Farnworth. Details will be announced shortly. It should be about 4-5 miles.

Bolton Station Community Partnership is launching a poetry competition. Successful entries will adorn different parts of Bolton station, and there are junior and adult sections. The theme of the competition is ‘The Journey’. The ‘over 25’ competition is now open for submissions with a closing date of August 31st 2020. The ‘under 25’ competition will be open from September 1st with a deadline of November 30th.

There are two age categories for the under 25 competition – under 16 and 16 -24. Entry will be limited to children, young people and young adults under 25 who are past and present Bolton Borough residents.

To read the full submission guidelines please click on the link below –

https://www.boltoncommunityrail.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/Poetry-from-the-Platforms-Submission-guidance.pdf

Yorkshire’s traveller through time

Colin Speakman’s latest book is a biography of a remarkable Yorkshireman, John Phillips (1800-74). He arrived in Yorkshire in 1819 as a penniless youth with is uncle, the geologist William ‘Strata’ Smith. Phillips was a man of many parts, becoming a skilled cartographer and geologist. He was secretary of the Yorkshire Philosophical Society and first Keeper of the Yorkshire Museum.  He became the first secretary of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, launched in York in 1831. He also liked railways and produced one of the very first railway guidebooks, Railway Excursions by the North Eastern Railway in 1853. It was a popular guide to scenic routes which included the Whitby to Malton line, much of which now forms part of the North Yorkshire Moors Railway.

Colin does his subject justice; it’s a very well written, engaging book which is superbly produced at a highly affordable price. Colin tells us that “John Phillips was one of the pioneering interpreters of the Yorkshire landscape, especially of the northern, western and eastern parts of the county. As an energetic rambler, few writers before or since have covered so many miles on foot, or had such an intimate yet scientific knowledge of the Yorkshire Coast, Moors, Dales and Wolds. Few have written about these areas with such eloquence combined with a scientific understanding.”

John Phillips: Yorkshire’s traveller through time is published Gritstone, price £15.

 

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Special Traffic Notices: Coming Events

MOST STILL CAPED

Saturday August 8th: Bolton City of Sanctuary Walk…details to follow

……………………………………………………..

The Salvo Publications List  – see www.lancashireloominary.co.uk

The Works (2020) published by Lancashire Loominary. My first novel , set in Horwich and Bolton in the 1970s and 1980s but bringing the story up to the present and beyond. Much of the action takes place in Horwich Loco Works and the campaign to save it from closure. In real life, it closed down in 1983. In the novel, after a workers’ occupation it is run as a co-operative, building both steam for heritage railways and modern eco-friendly trains for the world market. Price £12.99 from Amazon but special rates for Salvo readers buying direct (see above article ‘Delivering The Works’). Also on Kindle £4.99. ISBN 978-0-9559171-6-5

The Settle-Carlisle Railway (2019) published by Crowood and available in reputable, and possibly some disreputable, bookshops price £24. It’s a general history of the railway, bringing it up to date. It includes a chapter on the author’s time as a goods guard on the line, when he was based at Blackburn in the 1970s. The book includes a guide to the line, from Leeds to Carlisle. Some previously-unused sources helped to give the book a stronger ‘social’ dimension, including the columns of the LMS staff magazine in the 1920s. ISBN 978-1-78500-637-1

The following are all available from The Salvo Publishing HQ, here at 109 Harpers Lane, Bolton BL1 6HU. Cheques should be made out to ‘Paul Salveson’ though you can send cash if you like but don’t expect any change. Bottles of whisky, old bound volumes of Railway Magazine, number-plates etc. by negotiation.

‘Lancashire’s Romantic Radical – the life and writings of Allen Clarke/Teddy Ashton‘ (2009). The story of Lancashire’s errant genius – cyclist, philosopher, unsuccessful politician, amazingly popular dialect writer. Normal Price £15  – can now offer it for £10 with free postage. 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.lancashireloominary.co.uk

 

 

Categories
Current News

Northern Weekly Salvo 280

The Northern Weekly Salvo 280

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

Published at 109 Harpers Lane Bolton BL1 6HU email: paul.salveson@myphone.coop

Publications website: www.lancashireloominary.co.uk

No. 280  June 3rd 2020

Salveson’s half-nakedly political digest of railwayness, tripe and secessionist nonsense from Up North. Sometimes weekly, usually not; but definitely Northern. Read by the highest (and lowest) officers of state, Whitmanites, weirdos, misfits, steam punks, yes women, no men, gay Swedenborgians, cat-spotters, discerning sybarites, bi-guys, non-aligned social democrats,  pie-eaters, tripe dressers, nail artists, self-managing VIMTO drinkers, truculent Northerners, grumpy Norwegians, absurd Marxists, members of the clergy and the toiling masses. All views expressed are my own and usually nobody else’s. Official journal of the Station Cat Improvement Network, Pacer Dining Club and Station Buffet Society, and the Campaign for a North with a capital ‘N’.

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

General gossips

Well, that’s May gone…and a very May-like month it was, in some ways. Except that it didn’t rain, you couldn’t go out much, and trains and buses were out of bounds to most of us. At least I was able to get out on the bike, quite a lot too; and the garden is looking good. I’ve been working on my next production – a centenary celebration of Allen Clarke’s Lancashire classic, Moorlands and Memories. More on that below, but hoping for September publication. Meanwhile, sales of the novel (The Works) are fairly steady, and I’m hoping to do a couple of ‘real’ events later this summer.

I’m reluctant to enter into the political fray, but oh – go on then. Dominic Cummings is obviously an easy target. I wonder if Johnson is regretting employing him? I suspect not. My impression of DC is that he is brilliant at organising campaigns but running a country isn’t part of his, or Johnson’s, skill set. Maybe we’ll end up with Rishi Sunak as PM, which wouldn’t be a bad thing. Typical of the Tories to have the first female PM and probably the first Asian as leader of the country. That is if there is a ‘country’ left to lead in the next few years. Scotland’s moves towards independence have been given a big push by the last two months, but more on that later.

As for Labour, Starmer seems to be doing a competent job, but is that enough? Not an easy time for him to be taking on the job I admit, but – and it’s a big but – it’s an opportunity to develop some new and radical policies that can capture the popular imagination. That means ditching much of the last few years’ thinking, not least the ridiculous ‘rail policy’ launched in April by the outgoing transport secretary. So far, we are not seeing much more than platitudes. And I wish Annelise Dodds (shadow chancellor in case you haven’t noticed) would get some media training, her performance on TV is embarrassing. She might have some good ideas, but so far it’s not at all obvious. The beacons of sanity in all this are Nicola Sturgeon, Caroline Lucas and Adam Price. Andy Burnham purports to ‘speak for the North’ but the reality is that nobody does, and that’s our problem. 

A gentle cycling revolution

Anyone involved in public transport, whether as an operator, planner or policy-maker, ought to be extremely worried at the moment. After spending several weeks of being told not to use trains or buses, the likelihood of people returning to public transport in the volumes we were used to, for a long time to come, seem small. Various studies have been done reflecting people’s current attitudes and likelihood to use trains or buses, but the reality is that nobody knows what is going to happen, until it does. What I, or you, might tell a market researcher now could turn out very different, post-pandemic. It isn’t just that we’ve got out of the habit of using trains or buses (I haven’t been on either for over two months now), people will also be scared of using public transport because of continuing fears of infection. We can fulminate about the rights and wrongs of this, but that’s how a lot of people will think, and act.

The winners will be the car, home-working and – the bicycle. As far as transport goes, the bicycle revolution is the one heartening thing, as far as transport goes, to emerge from all this. It’s become a  cliché to talk of people getting the old bike out of the shed, giving it a bit of oil and pottering around the streets, or further afield. Bike shops have done a roaring trade and I’ve heard of several local cycle shops being virtually cleared out. I’m surprised that no fruit-cake has suggested the Chinese orchestrated the pandemic to increase their bike sales. Or maybe Halfords.

But will that bike just go back into the shed in a few weeks’ time? Some might, but others will stay in operation. Why so confident? Two things really. Getting into cycling involves two big leaps – physical and mental. Riding a bike for the first few days can be uncomfortable, but it steadily gets better. Your bum will stop aching after a while. At the same time, starting to ride a bike needs confidence, which you only get through practice. If you were starting from fresh, or after a long gap of not cycling, it will take a few weeks of regular cycling (depending I suppose on age and general fitness) to have the confidence and physical well-being to cycle around towns and cities.

But it isn’t just an individual thing – you need to have the right infrastructure in place to really encourage the growth of cycling. In the UK, London is way ahead, but Greater Manchester is starting to do the right things. There’s a whole package of measures that are needed including reduced road space for cars, dedicated cycle lanes, car-free streets and wider spaces, as well as places where you can safely leave your bike. There needs to be a concerted effort to change car drivers’ thinking as well, which is currently characterised by animosity at worst, though usually just a lack of awareness.

There needs to be teams of people in local government working with employers, schools, colleges and universities to promote cycling. Rail stations should develop as cycling hubs, not just with space to leave your bike, but to have it serviced, buy accessories or rent a bike. New development – housing, industrial or commercial – should put cycling to the forefront, instead of ignoring it in favour of the car. And let’s not be sniffy about the electric bike! Or, to be more accurate, ‘power-assisted’ bikes; you still have to pedal. I had the perspicacity to buy one in early February and it really has changed my life. There should be battery charging points in workplaces and railway stations, as well as hire facilities at stations.

Three months ago this would have been dismissed as pie-in-the-sky. Now it’s starting to happen, with government money to back it up.

Who will speak – and act – for The North?

The last three months have emphasised the complexity of this ‘United Kingdom’, with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland diverging in some quite significant ways from the approach/es adopted by the Johnson Government. It’s easy for England-based politicos to dismiss this as political posturing, but nobody could accuse the Stormont Government of wanting to make life hard for poor Boris. The reality is, the devolved nations (whether you can call ‘Northern Ireland a ‘nation’ is a moot point so let’s leave that for now), have had their own specific issues which were not being addressed by Westminster. But what about the North of England? The impact of the coronavirus has been far from uniform across England, yet English towns and cities have been expected to adopt identical policies to those that suit London. So schools are being told to go back in towns like Middlesbrough and Barrow where there is still a high risk of infection. Andy Burnham has fulminated about ‘one size fits all’ approaches but the reality is that The North (editors please note the capital ‘N’) has its own interests, alongside the devolved nations.

Strong regional government could invest in new industries and make better use of our mill heritage

But there is no democratic ‘Northern’ voice and Andy Burnham, at best, only speaks for ‘Greater Manchester’ (or ‘Manchester’ as lazy journalists describe it, wrongly).

Maybe I’ve had too much time to think these last few weeks, but every time I pick up The Guardian, Observer, Times, New Statesman and so many other influential magazines and newspapers, it’s glaringly obvious that The North is completely marginalised and patronised by London-based media. We’re just a geographical entity, not even dignified by a capital ‘N’! Compare that with Scotland, which has three ‘national’ newspapers (Scotsman, Herald and The National). It helps having two major cities, Edinburgh and Glasgow, avoiding the country being too heavily skewed towards one or the other (I’m sure Aberdonians and others fulminate against undue power in both).But the fact is, Scotland feels – and is – very different from England; Wales too, perhaps to a lesser extent.

I suspect that the North of England would have responded differently, and suffered less, if it had its own devolved government. We’re a long way from achieving that, but maybe it will be time, post-Covid – to ramp up the campaign for elected regional government for the English regions. To could be a vote-winner for Labour and the Lib Dems, though there seems little enthusiasm amongst Labour ranks at present. And I wonder if the ‘city region’ mayors would see it as a threat to their power base?

A century of Moorlands and Memories

Lancashire writer Allen Clarke produced his finest book, Moorlands and Memories, in 1920.It was based on a series of articles he’d written for The Bolton Journal and Guardian. As the title suggests, it is more than a book about ‘the moorlands’.

Waugh’s Well – Salveson and dfaughters, 1984. The well commemorates the great poet Ewdin Waugh and features in ‘Moorlands and Memories’

The memories go back to his childhood and upbringing in mid-Victorian Bolton. It is an intensely personal account, speaking of people he knew and loved. It is a truly remarkable collection of anecdote, history, literature, philosophy and fine descriptions of Lancashire scenery.

Some of the articles were written when the First World War was still raging. It was published less than two years after the war had ended, leaving millions of dead and even more bereaved families. It casts a shadow across the book, though Clarke is never despondent. His attitude towards ‘the war to end all wars’ is sadness, and at times outrage. There is no glorification of it, nor mindless jingoism.

The book introduced me to some forgotten aspects of Bolton’s political and cultural history: the Winter Hill ‘Trespass’ of 1896 and the remarkable story of Bolton’s links with Walt Whitman.

I’ve written a celebration of the book, called Moorlands, Memories and Reflections, which I’m hoping to publish in September. It isn’t so much a ‘then and now’ book, more of a conversation with Allen Clarke about places which we both love. Cycling and walking is at the heart of both books, and places like Entwtistle, Rossendale, Anglezarke and Pendle. It features the Winter Hill ‘Trespass’ of 1896, Lord Leverhulme, The remarkable ‘Larks of Dean’, Edwin Waugh’s Well and Bolton’s links to Walt Whitman. It includes a chapter on the great ‘Barrow Bridge Picnic’ of 1901 in support of the locked-out Bethesda quarrymen. The new book will be hard cover and well illustrated, probably selling at about £25.

It would be good to get the original Moorlands and Memories re-printed, but depends on costs. I’m looking round for a suitable sponsor, so suggestions are very welcome. The last re-print was done in 1986, in a joint venture between myself and George Kelsall of Littleborough.

Delivering The Works

I’ve had a steady flow of orders for The Works, my new novel set mostly in Horwich Loco Works in the 1970s and 1980s, but bringing the tale up to date and beyond – with a fictional story of a workers’ occupation, Labour politics, a ‘people’s franchise’ and Chinese investment in UK rail.  I’ve had lots of good reactions to it, with some people reading it in one session! It has been positively reviewed by Anthony Smith of Transport Focus in Rail Professional (https://issuu.com/railpro/docs/april_2020_issuu) and The Bolton News gave it a 3-page spread See https://www.theboltonnews.co.uk/news/18396473.horwich-loco-works-inspiration-pauls-debut-novel/

If you want a copy I can offer it for £10 plus £2.50 postage to Salvo readers. Please make cheques payable to ‘Paul Salveson’ and post to my Bolton address above or send the money by bank transfer (a/c Dr PS Salveson 23448954 sort code 53-61-07 and email me with your address. If you are local I can do free delivery by e-bike (so just a tenner). There is a kindle version available price £4.99 and you can also buy it off Amazon. See www.lancashireloominary.co.uk

Next projects: The Red Bicycle

The other big project is another novel. I’m trying to learn from the experience gained from The Works, including reader feedback. This one will be called The Red Bicycle and is partly set in Bolton in the early 1900s – featuring mill life, working on the railway, local socialist politics, the Clarion Cycling Club and ‘everyday life’ – but also having a modern, post-virus aspect too. The narrator, for part of it, is a bicycle. Very Flann O’Brien, for those who’ve read The Third Policeman – but with a Lancashire accent. Probably an early 2021 publication.

I’m also working on an update of Socialism with a Northern Accent. It was first published by Lawrence and Wishart in 2012. Not sure quite what shape it will take, yet!

Community Rail News: Steph is Bolton and South Lancs’ new Community Rail Officer

Dr Stephanie Dermott has been appointed as the new Community Rail Development Officer for Bolton and South Lancashire Community Rail Partnership and took up the post this week.

The community rail partnership is one of the newest of the rail partnerships in the UK, having been formed last year. It covers the routes from Bolton into Wigan, Manchester, Preston and Bromley Cross. The new post will be about strengthening links between the railway and local communities.

The post is for two years initially and is funded by Northern, with additional contributions from CrossCountry, Avanti West Coast and Bolton at Home. Other key partners in the CRP include the University of Bolton, Transport for Greater Manchester, Network Rail, TransPennine Express and Bolton Council. A growing number of community groups are involved with the CRP’s work. The CRP is part of the national Community Rail Network (formerly Association of Community Rail Partnerships).

Steph was previously employed by Bolton Inter-Faith Council as their co-ordinator. She has worked extensively with Bolton’s diverse communities and has a PhD on Religions and Theology (Faith, Social Cohesion and Socio-Religious Action in Contemporary Britain) from the University of Manchester. Her work at the Inter-Faith Council has been very much around social cohesion and community engagement. She has lots of skills which will transfer very well to the community rail partnership including event organisation such as Holocaust Memorial Day, Faith Trails, seminars, and working with a wide range of stakeholders.

Bolton Community and Voluntary Services (BCVS) worked closely with the rail partnership in the recruitment process and will be the employing body. Bolton Station Community Partnership is a core member of the CRP and focuses on developing Bolton’s large station as a community hub.

Poetry from the Platforms

Bolton Station Community Platform is launching a poetry competition. Successful entries will adorn different parts of Bolton station, and there are junior and adult sections. The theme of the competition is ‘The Journey’. The ‘over 25’ competition is now open for submissions with a closing date of August 31st 2020. The ‘under 25’ competition will be open from September 1st with a deadline of November 30th.

There are two age categories for the under 25 competition – under 16 and 16 -24. Entry will be limited to children, young people and young adults under 25 who are past and present Bolton Borough residents.

The 8 selected winning poets from across all age categories, will have their poems printed and mounted on the pillars of the railway station platforms. 50 poems will be selected to form an anthology – free to all selected poets. There will be an exhibition of illustrated poems from the under 25 category in P5 – the art gallery on Platform 5.

To read the full submission guidelines please click on the link below –

https://www.boltoncommunityrail.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/Poetry-from-the-Platforms-Submission-guidance.pdf

The Enterprising Railway and The Elephant on the Line

The Rail Reform Group has just published two complementary sets of papers on rail reform and development. The RRG is a small, informal group of rail professionals with a shared interest in developing new and innovative idea on how to develop our railways. We don’t have a ‘party line’; neither have we any party political axes to grind.

The most recent paper is by David Prescott, a well-known figure in the railway world and one of the key figures in enabling ‘community rail’ to happen in the 1990s. David has written a paper entitled The Elephant on the Line: has the time come for vertical integration? It is here:

See https://railreformgroup.org.uk/elephant-on-the-line-time-for-vertical-integration

It makes a strong case for re-integrating infrastructure and operations and should be required reading by policy makers and planners.

The Enterprising Railway papers are based on talks that were to be given at a seminar in Manchester on March 19th, organised by the Rail Reform Group. The theme was ‘the enterprising railway’ – aiming to look at ways of building a more dynamic, entrepreneurial and customer-led railway that could make a strong contribution to combating climate change.

The Manchester event was cancelled owing to the coronavirus situation. However, we agreed that it would be helpful to the debate about the future of Britain’s railways to publish a series of papers based on what would have been said on March 19th. At a time when ‘business as usual’ is suspended indefinitely and the railways are firmly under government control, now is the time to be looking to the longer term and not assume we will return to doing the same old things in the same old ways.

The full document is available on the Rail Reform Group’s website www.railreformgroup.org.uk

The publication has a foreword from Peter Wilkinson, Managing Director, Passenger Services at the Department for Transport:

“Over the past few weeks I and my colleagues across the Department for Transport have been impressed by how the rail industry, its’ fabulous supply chain and many of the Industry’s key stakeholders have come together to support the country’s efforts to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic. In my mind this altruistic, can-do attitude highlights everything good within the rail industry. It’s the willingness of the industry to push itself to evolve, to ask itself the difficult questions which results in exceptional and innovative ways to support and care for its customers, staff and its communities that stands out for me. …..These articles are important as they should prompt everyone across the industry to ask the hard questions of themselves and their organisations. Questions such as ‘Are our customers and our railway communities being cared for in the way we need them to?’ and ‘How can we be better?’ To my mind, asking these questions every day will help create a truly enterprising and inspirational railway.”

Rail Investment for the North and Midlands: NIC Consults

The National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) has been inviting evidence regarding rail investment in the North and Midlands. Several groups including CPRE North-West Branch, Travelwatch North West, Cumbria County Council have submitted responses to the consultation, which has now ended. Issues that stand out across the submissions is the need to invest in the core network to increase capacity and improve connectivity within the North of England and Midlands. Pressing ahead with long-delayed electrification schemes (e.g. Windermere, Bolton – Wigan and extending Merseyrail’s operations) and addressing the fundamental problem of the ‘Castlefield Corridor’ (in fact, the Deansgate – Piccadilly – Stockport Corridor) being crucial. Links to the submissions will be given in the next Salvo.

Whitman Day celebrated in Bolton and New York

May 31st was Walt Whitman’s 201st birthday and the pandemic didn’t prevent a very enjoyable trans-atlantic gathering taking place, by zoom. It was organised by Chris Chilton of Bolton Socialist Club; the club usually organises a walk from Barrow Bridge to Walker Fold and Brian Hey, but this year we had to stay indoors. The zoom event enabled us to be joined by Caitlyn and Cynthia  from the Walt Whitman Birthday Museum on Long Island and Mike and Mary Pat Robertson from New Jersey. Participants read poetry and discussed Bolton’s links with the poet. Meanwhile in New York, under Brooklyn Bridge, Karen and other friends did their annual ‘Whitman Marathon’ reading Whitman’s epic poem Song of Myself.

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

Special Traffic Notices: Coming Events

ALL STILL CAPED

……………………………………………………………………………………………………

The Salvo Publications List  – see www.lancashireloominary.co.uk

The Works (2020) published by Lancashire Loominary. My first novel , set in Horwich and Bolton in the 1970s and 1980s but bringing the story up to the present and beyond. Much of the action takes place in Horwich Loco Works and the campaign to save it from closure. In real life, it closed down in 1983. In the novel, after a workers’ occupation it is run as a co-operative, building both steam for heritage railways and modern eco-friendly trains for the world market. Price £12.99 from Amazon but special rates for Salvo readers buying direct (see above article ‘Delivering The Works’). Also on Kindle £4.99. ISBN 978-0-9559171-6-5

The Settle-Carlisle Railway (2019) published by Crowood and available in reputable, and possibly some disreputable, bookshops price £24. It’s a general history of the railway, bringing it up to date. It includes a chapter on the author’s time as a goods guard on the line, when he was based at Blackburn in the 1970s. The book includes a guide to the line, from Leeds to Carlisle. Some previously-unused sources helped to give the book a stronger ‘social’ dimension, including the columns of the LMS staff magazine in the 1920s. ISBN 978-1-78500-637-1

The following are all available from The Salvo Publishing HQ, here at 109 Harpers Lane, Bolton BL1 6HU. Cheques should be made out to ‘Paul Salveson’ though you can send cash if you like but don’t expect any change. Bottles of whisky, old bound volumes of Railway Magazine, number-plates etc. by negotiation.

‘Lancashire’s Romantic Radical – the life and writings of Allen Clarke/Teddy Ashton‘ (2009). The story of Lancashire’s errant genius – cyclist, philosopher, unsuccessful politician, amazingly popular dialect writer. Normal Price £15  – can now offer it for £10 with free postage. There are a few hardback versions left – Normal price £25  – now at £15 with free postage. This book outlines the life and writings of one of Lancashire’s most prolific – and interesting – writers. Allen Clarke (1863-1935) was the son of mill workers and began work in the mill himself at the age of 11. He became a much-loved writer and an early pioneer of the socialist movement. He wrote in Lancashire dialect as ‘Teddy Ashton;’ and his sketches sold by the thousand. He was a keen cyclist and rambler; his books on the Lancashire countryside – ‘Windmill Land’ and ‘Moorlands and Memories’ are wonderful mixtures of history, landscape and philosophy.

‘With Walt Whitman in Bolton – Lancashire’s Links to Walt Whitman‘. This charts the remarkable story of Bolton’s long-lasting links to America’s great poet. Price £10.00 including post and packing. New bi-centennial edition published in May 2019. Bolton’s links with the great American poet Walt Whitman make up one of the most fascinating footnotes in literary history. From the 1880s a small group of Boltonians began a correspondence with Whitman and two (John Johnston and J W Wallace) visited the poet in America. Each year on Whitman’s birthday (May 31) the Bolton group threw a party to celebrate his memory, with poems, lectures and passing round a loving cup of spiced claret. Each wore a sprig of lilac in Whitman’s memory. The group were close to the founders of the ILP – Keir Hardie, Bruce and Katharine Bruce Glasier and Robert Blatchford. The links with Whitman lovers in the USA continue to this day.

‘Northern Rail Heritage’. A short introduction to the social history of the North’s railways. Price £6.00. The North ushered in the railway age  with the Stockton and Darlington in 1825 followed by the Liverpool and Manchester in 1830. But too often the story of the people who worked on the railways has been ignored. This booklet outlines the social history of railways in the North. It includes the growth of railways in the 19th century, railways in the two world wars, the general strike and the impact of Beeching.

Will Yo’ Come O’ Sunday Mornin? The Winter Hill Mass Trespass of 1896′. The story of Lancashire’s Winter Hill Trespass of 1896. 10,000 people marched over Winter Hill to reclaim a right of way. Price: £5.00 (not many left). The Kinder Scout Mass Trespass of 1932 was by no means the first attempt by working class people to reclaim the countryside. Probably the biggest-ever rights of way struggle took place on the moors above Bolton in 1896, with three successive weekends of huge demonstrations to reclaim a blocked path. Over 12,000 took part in the biggest march. The demonstrations were led by a coalition of socialists and radical liberals and Allen Clarke (see above!) wrote a great song about the events – ‘Will Yo’ Come O’ Sunday Mornin’?’ Only a couple left.

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

 

 

Categories
Current News Illustrated Weekly Salvo

Northern Weekly Salvo 279

The Northern Weekly Salvo

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

Published at 109 Harpers Lane Bolton BL1 6HU email: paul.salveson@myphone.coop

Publications website: www.lancashireloominary.co.uk

No. 279 May 1st   2020

Salveson’s half-nakedly political digest of railwayness, tripe and secessionist nonsense from Up North. Sometimes weekly, usually not; but definitely Northern. Read by the highest (and lowest) officers of state, Whitmanites, weirdos, misfits, steam punks, yes women, no men, gay Swedenborgians, cat-spotters, discerning sybarites, bi-guys, non-aligned social democrats,  pie-eaters, tripe dressers, nail artists, self-managing VIMTO drinkers, truculent Northerners, grumpy Norwegians, absurd Marxists, members of the clergy and the toiling masses. All views expressed are my own and usually nobody else’s. Official journal of the Station Cat Improvement Network, Pacer Dining Club and Station Buffet Society, and the Campaign for a North with a capital ‘N’.

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

General gossips

A long gap in this supposedly ‘Weekly’ Salvo. It hasn’t been a lack of things to report on, to be honest. I’ve been busy, but busy in different ways than normal. This ‘Salvo’ will be a change from the usual thing but hopefully still have plenty to interest you, especially if you’re locked down and out. Meanwhile, I can only add my thanks and support to NHS staff and all key workers – particularly rail, bus and tram staff – who have been putting their lives at risk on our behalf. Perhaps one good thing to emerge from all this will be a greater recognition of the hard and difficult job these essential workers do, and how shamefully they’ve been ignored and under-valued in the past.

What will the ‘new normal’ look like?

We don’t know, do we? There has been the start of an interesting set of debates on a ‘new politics’, as well as the impact of Covid-19 on transport patterns. Taking transport first, SYSTRA has produced a study which suggests a severe drop in bus use for the first 12 months after relaxation of restrictions, with a lesser – but still significant – reduction in rail travel. It has been suggested that whilst intercity rail will manage OK, and possibly growth with reduced air travel options, commuting journeys will suffer. There is a real possibility that many people will abandon public transport and go back to using their cars. Whilst everyone likes the quiet roads and reduction in pollution levels, what we could well see is an attitude that thinks “my journey is more important than yours and I am entitled to use my car.”

There needs to be strong intervention by government to discourage this. Cities like Milan have taken the initiative to drastically reduce car access to city centres and this will be permanent. Towns and cities in the UK should be looking at this example and seizing the initiative. For rail, operators need to work with governments and local authorities to find ways to encourage people back to the rtains. The ‘community rail’ sector has a big part to play in this. The papers in The Enterprising Railway (see below) offer some ideas for how that might happen.

The big winners in sustainable transport terms ought to be cycling and walking. Many people (self included, he says pompously) haven’t used their cars for weeks and have been out on their bikes for exercise and essential journeys. Much of that should continue – cycling is very much an activity that grows on you by doing it. It’s partly physical but also a mental thing, with greater confidence in traffic. That said, I just wish people out for a walk would look before they cross the road! There’s lots that local authorities, with central government support, can do to build on the sudden upsurge in cycling.

As for politics…we’ve a new leader of the Labour Party who seems set to usher in some changes. Perhaps more in the ‘culture’ of Labour. Corbyn promised a ‘kinder form of politics’ but that never really happened, more like the opposite. I hope that Starmer will take a collaborative approach but not be afraid to challenge and attack when needed. Working positively with other progressive parties and organisations should be a ‘must’. Issues such as voting reform, the green agenda and democratisation should be much further up the agenda. As for Brexit, it really should be the last thing on anyone’s agenda but it looks like Johnson is determined to carry on with it. Oh well, he’s got the numbers.

What I did during my lockdown

I’ve never been so busy. Gone are the meetings, long journeys to and from London, being stuck on over-crowded trains. Instead, lots of time at the computer working on new projects (see below) and promoting ‘The Works’. Work with the community rail partnership, particularly the recruitment of our new officer, which is reported on below. On top of that, Rail Reform Group and publication of its papers on The Enterprising Railway has taken up time. But also I’ve been able to get out and about on foot and bike. I’ve been discovering some lovely footpaths within easy reach of home – around Harwood, Egerton, Belmont and Smithills. I’ve been getting out further afield on the electric bike, which is a Godsend. I’ve sailed up to the top of Winter Hill, meandered around Belmont and Roddlesworth and pedalled through Rivington, Anglezarke and Adlington. I’ve been able to combine it with book deliveries, within a reasonable distance. Yes, I miss social interaction, going to the pub and restaurants and helping out at the station. But the garden is looking very good and I’ve been able to stock up through deliveries from council-run Heaton Fold Garden Centre. So let’s face it, I’m one of the lucky ones.

Delivering The Works

I’ve had a steady flow of orders for The Works, my new novel set mostly in Horwich Loco Works in the 1970s and 1980s, but bringing the tale up to date and beyond – with a fictional story of a workers’ occupation, Labour politics, a ‘people’s franchise’ and Chinese investment in UK rail.  I’ve had lots of good reactions to it, with some people reading it in one session! It has been positively reviewed by Anthony Smith of Transport Focus in Rail Professional (https://issuu.com/railpro/docs/april_2020_issuu) and The Bolton News gave it a 3-page spread See https://www.theboltonnews.co.uk/news/18396473.horwich-loco-works-inspiration-pauls-debut-novel/

If you want a copy I can offer it for £10 plus £2.50 postage to Salvo readers. Please make cheques payable to ‘Paul Salveson’ and post to my Bolton address above or send the money by bank transfer (a/c Dr PS Salveson 23448954 sort code 53-61-07 and email me with your address. If you are local I can do free delivery by e-bike (so just a tenner). There is a kindle version available price £4.99 and you can also buy it off Amazon. See www.lancashireloominary.co.uk

Next projects

This year is the centenary of Allen Clarke’s first edition of Moorlands and Memories. It’s a neglected classic and probably my favourite book. It is a heady mixture of history, culture, landscape and nature, covering the moors north of Bolton (stretching up to the Dales and Pendle). I’m working on a celebration of his book – more in the way of a discursive conversation, picking up particular themes that Clarke loved to talk about. So there’s lots on local heritage and culture, Lancashire industry and transport, cycling and walking, literature, philosophy and life. It started off as a sort of ‘then and now’ but it isn’t really. It should be ready by October. To whet your appetite I’ve put one chapter (‘Over Belmont Moors’) on my website – comments welcome. It will be published by Lancashire Loominary and will be priced round about £20. http://lancashireloominary.co.uk/index.html/over-belmont-moors

The other big project is another novel. I’m trying to learn from the experience gained from The Works, including reader feedback. This one will be called The Red Bicycle and is partly set in Bolton in the early 1900s – featuring mill life, working on the railway, local socialist politics, the Clarion Cycling Club and ‘everyday life’ – but also having a modern, post-virus aspect too. The narrator, for part of it, is a bicycle. Very Flann O’Brien, for those who’ve read The Third Policeman – but with a Lancashire accent. Probably a November publication.

Community Rail News: Steph will be our new Community Rail Officer

Dr Stephanie Dermott has been appointed as the new Community Rail Development Officer for Bolton and South Lancashire Community Rail Partnership. She is expected to take up the post in the next few weeks.

The community rail partnership is one of the newest of the rail partnerships in the UK, having been formed last year. It covers the routes from Bolton into Wigan, Manchester, Preston and Bromley Cross. The new post will be about strengthening links between the railway and local communities.

The post is for two years initially and is funded by Northern, with additional contributions from CrossCountry, Avanti West Coast and Bolton at Home. Other key partners in the CRP include the University of Bolton, Transport for Greater Manchester, Network Rail, TransPennine Express and Bolton Council. A growing number of community groups are involved with the CRP’s work. The CRP is part of the national Community Rail Network (formerly Association of Community Rail Partnerships).

Steph is currently employed by Bolton Inter-Faith Council as their co-ordinator. She has worked extensively with Bolton’s diverse communities and has a PhD on Religions and Theology (Faith, Social Cohesion and Socio-Religious Action in Contemporary Britain) from the University of Manchester. “I am delighted to have been appointed to the position of Community Rail Development Officer. I have always been passionate about community engagement, and I am excited to be involved in helping develop links between the railway and local communities,” she said.

Her work at the Inter-Faith Council has been very much around social cohesion and community engagement. She has lots of skills which will transfer very well to the community rail partnership including event organisation such as Holocaust Memorial Day, Faith Trails, seminars, and working with a wide range of stakeholders.

Bolton Community and Voluntary Services (BCVS) worked closely with the rail partnership in the recruitment process and will be the employing body. Helen Tomlinson of Bolton CVS said: “Bolton CVS was delighted to work with the Bolton and South Lancashire Community Rail Partnership in the recruitment of this new post. This exciting project will ensure the community is at the heart of the development of stations within the partnership, promote engagement in our social and industrial heritage and provide lots of opportunities for people to get involved through volunteering their time and skills.”

Bolton Station Community Partnership is a core member of the CRP and focuses on developing Bolton’s large station as a community hub. Its chair, Julie Levy, welcomed the appointment. “Steph will make a great difference in extending the reach of both partnerships into the wider community. We’re very much looking forward to involving Steph in a wide range of projects including our planned ‘mela’ event next year.”

Lancashire Authors Association: Library set to move; Librarian stays awhoam

The Lancashire Authors Association was formed in November 1909 but it wasn’t until after the First World War had ended when serious thought was given to creating a collection of books on or by Lancashire authors. The association’s Southport meeting, on June 25th 1921, devoted some time to discussing the need for a library. The LAA’s vice-president, Major David Halstead, initiated a discussion on the need to “devote attention to the collection and compilation of historical and literary data”, for the benefit of future historians. His comments were echoed by a Mr. Thomas Phillips of Southport “who urged the Association to form a Library of Lancashire books, pamphlets, etc. written by LAA members and others.” The Executive decided to pursue the library project “with vigour.”

The next full meeting of the association, held at the Railway Mechanics’ Institute, Horwich, on September 17th, formally agreed to establish an L.A.A. Library. R.H. (‘Harry’) Isherwood was elected as Librarian. In Mr Isherwood’s report in The Record for November 1921, he said that the main objects of the library would be:

  1. To provide a collection of the literary and artistic work of L.A.A. members (past, present and prospective) for the interest and inspection of their fellows
  2. To provide a collection of books, prints, cuttings etc., on matters distinctly pertaining to the literary, artistic and historical aspects of Lancashire, whether written by LA members or others.”

He added an appeal for the donation of books and other manuscripts. He said that the LAA Executive Committee was keen to celebrate the works of the classic dialect writers such as Tim Bobbin, Waugh and Brierley, but other writers including Harrison Ainsworth, Mrs Gaskell and Stanley Houghton should also be included.

The library was to be located at the librarian’s home, which was then 29 Greenside Lane, Droysden, literally a few doors’ away from Alf and Edith Pearce, who were at no. 23. Alf was editor of The Record and Edith was ‘editress’ of the association’s Circulating Magazine and the LAA magazine Red Rose Leaves.

By early 1922 the library’s collection comprised over 200 books. This was augmented further buy the donation of 50 books from the late J.T. Baron’s collection. These had been purchased from Baron’s estate by LAA member JW Cryer who then donated them to the library.

Early in 1923 Harry Isherwood moved home, to a larger house called ‘Hulwood’ on Windsor Road, Clayton Bridge. Whether the growing demands of the library meant he needed more space isn’t recorded, but the move certainly enabled him to offer better facilities for visiting members. A regular message in each Record was that members were welcome to visit the library by giving two days’ notice. They could catch a train from ‘Platfrom 9 at Victoria Station’ and alight at Clayton Bridge, from where ‘Hulwood’ was a short walk.

By the following year the library had increased to 350 volumes. Getting a comprehensive catalogue of the collection had become a major challenge but one was issued in May 1923. From then on, the story of the library is one of incremental growth, with donations of books by authors of their own work, and other contributions. The librarian brought a ‘touring library’ to each meeting of the association, using his car.

In December 1927, LAA member TR Dootson donated 50 books from his collection to mark the 80th birthday of the Association’s president, Henry Brierley. The collection had increased to 560 books. By then, the library was referred to as being in a ‘temporary’ home at ‘Hulwood’. Maybe Mrs Isherwood was starting to get a bit fed up at the ever-encroaching collection!

A recurring theme in the librarian’s reports is a slight sense of disappointment at the number of visitors coming to borrow books. In 1927, just 53 visits were made, though books could be borrowed at association meetings or posted to members if they paid for postage costs. The Librarian’s report for 1930 record borrowings down just 23, with an appeal by Harry for more active involvement by the members in the library. At the same time he was able to record a substantial number of donations to the library.

For details of membership of the LAA (you don’t have to be an author but have an interest in Lancashire literature and history) see http://www.lancashireauthorsassociation.co.uk/

The Enterprising Railway

The Rail Reform Group has just published a set of papers on rail reform and development, collectively titled The Enterprising Railway. We are a small, informal group of rail professionals with a shared interest in developing new and innovative idea on how to develop our railways. We don’t have a ‘party line’; neither have we any party political axes to grind.

The papers are based on talks that were to be given at a seminar in Manchester on March 19th, organised by the Rail Reform Group. The theme was ‘the enterprising railway’ – aiming to look at ways of building a more dynamic, entrepreneurial and customer-led railway that could make a strong contribution to combating climate change.

The Manchester event was cancelled owing to the coronavirus situation. However, we agreed that it would be helpful to the debate about the future of Britain’s railways to publish a series of papers based on what would have been said on March 19th. At a time when ‘business as usual’ is suspended indefinitely and the railways are firmly under government control, now is the time to be looking to the longer term and not assume we will return to doing the same old things in the same old ways.

The full document is available here. The publication has a foreword from Peter Wilkinson, Managing Director, Passenger Services at the Department for Transport:

“Over the past few weeks I and my colleagues across the Department for Transport have been impressed by how the rail industry, its’ fabulous supply chain and many of the Industry’s key stakeholders have come together to support the country’s efforts to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic. In my mind this altruistic, can-do attitude highlights everything good within the rail industry. It’s the willingness of the industry to push itself to evolve, to ask itself the difficult questions which results in exceptional and innovative ways to support and care for its customers, staff and its communities that stands out for me.

As we look at how the Rail Industry has had to face up to the COVID-19 crisis, we must now capitalise on what we have achieved as we chart our course towards a societally more value-adding horizon. The railways have to evolve to meet the ever changing needs of its passengers whose expectations will almost certainly be different again after this current COVID-19 crisis.

These articles are important as they should prompt everyone across the industry to ask the hard questions of themselves and their organisations. Questions such as ‘Are our customers and our railway communities being cared for in the way we need them to?’ and ‘How can we be better?’ To my mind, asking these questions every day will help create a truly enterprising and inspirational railway.”

The Enterprising Railway

Labour launches its Rail Policy (from Chartist magazine, May 2020)

Labour launched its new rail policy on April 1st. (https://labour.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/GB_Rail_Labour_Opposition_White_Paper.pdf) The most remarkable thing about the document is its timing, and I don’t mean April Fool’s Day. Four months after a general election and days before the announcement of a new leader seems an odd time to produce a major piece of party policy. Is the document is some sort of ‘last gasp’ of Corbynism? The new shadow transport secretary, Jim McMahon, has not had much to say about this lengthy document, overseen by his predecessor as shadow transport secretary, Andy McDonald.

The essence of the approach is that Labour would re-integrate track and train and create a single, UK-wide body to be called GB Rail. For which you might as well just call it ‘British Railways’ and have done with it. There are concessions to devolution, with the creation of ‘devolved transport authorities’ that look awfully like the make-up of 1940s style state corporations in miniature, matching the over-arching governance structure of ‘GB Rail’.

The document makes some legitimate criticisms of the privatised structure introduced by the 1993 Railways Act, which is pretty much a dead letter anyway, with Coronavirus achieving what Corbyn and RMT never could – the effective re-nationalisation of the railways, with existing franchises being run on management contracts with the Department for Transport. This will be an ‘interim’ measure but how long that ‘interim’ might be is an open question.

To return to McDonald Rail, it’s an example of the thinking which, despite protestations of Labour ‘winning the argument’, helped us lose the election. It’s as though the last fifty years never happened. It’s ‘vision’ is far worse than the BR of the 1980s, which encouraged innovation and entrepreneurial drive. Working for ‘GB Rail’ would be a bit like working for an Eastern European railway in the 1950s, with orders despatched from on high by headquarters. Am I being a tad unfair? The proposed ‘Devolved Transport Authorities’ will have some powers but with such things the devil is very much in the detail. They would be overseen by ‘boards’ with allocated seats for the unions, passenger representatives and others. Business or regeneration agencies don’t get a look in. I suspect, if they ever came into existence (they won’t) they will be powerless talking shops.

A particularly bizarre suggesting is to bring rail freight under the control of GB Rail, reflecting the determination of the documents’ authors to leave not one jot of ‘privatised’ railway untouched. Freight transport is a competitive and highly complex business where the existing rail freight operators have had to fight for every tonne of traffic. Handing it over to a government bureaucracy means you can kiss goodbye to a lot of the traffic won for rail these last few years. I’m not sure where the ‘passenger benefit’ is from nationalising rail freight, nor for that matter the wider public interest. But it would make the unions happy.

And this is a very union-driven document. Some readers might welcome that, but where was the engagement with the user and community rail groups that have flourished on Britain’s rail network? The ‘community rail’ movement doesn’t get a mention – presumably such airy-fairy liberal concoctions won’t be needed in this brave new world.

There is an alternative to the privatised railway, which isn’t about going back to the 1950s. The current ‘interim’ nationalised railway offers an opportunity to look at alternatives which can build on rail’s green credentials and compete with road and aviation. ‘Enterprise’ and ‘competition’ are absent from the document yet rail is competing with the car and lorry above all. And Labour can’t nationalise cars and won’t touch road haulage. We need to find ways of making rail, and complementary transport including bus, cycling and rail, attractive options, not ones that you’re forced to make do with. And give incentives to the rail freight companies.

There’s a need for an overall ‘guiding mind’ in rail, but one that is light touch and not heavy-handed. Rail operations need to be close to the market and able to respond flexibly to demands. Track and train need to be re-integrated. There are alternative models available to Labour, for rail and for other sectors, which don’t necessitate a return to post-war ‘austere socialism’. Existing franchises could be converted into mutual enterprises, there for the long-term, with governance models involving users, workers and other stakeholders.

Socialism should not be synonymous with state ownership and control. But we need particular sectors – rail being one – to be run in the interest of ‘the public good’ and not private shareholders. At a time when even major private companies are asking themselves how they can move away from an excessive dependence on narrow profit, there must be an opportunity for the left to intervene with some positive ideas which reflect modern reality.

Labour’s new transport secretary, Jim McMahon, has a reputation for being an open-minded and progressive thinker, having achieved some good things when he led Oldham Council. He should read the ‘McDonald Rail’ document, take on board its criticisms of privatised rail and then bin it. There’s time to create an imaginative Labour transport policy based on engagement with workers, users, local authorities, the wider community and business interests.

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The Salvo Publications List  – see www.lancashireloominary.co.uk

The Works (2020) published by Lancashire Loominary. My first novel , set in Horwich and Bolton in the 1970s and 1980s but bringing the story up to the present and beyond. Much of the action takes place in Horwich Loco Works and the campaign to save it from closure. In real life, it closed down in 1983. In the novel, after a workers’ occupation it is run as a co-operative, building both steam for heritage railways and modern eco-friendly trains for the world market. Price £12.99 from Amazon but special rates for Salvo readers buying direct. Also on Kindle £4.99. ISBN 978-0-9559171-6-5

The Settle-Carlisle Railway (2019) published by Crowood and available in reputable, and possibly some disreputable, bookshops price £24. It’s a general history of the railway, bringing it up to date. It includes a chapter on the author’s time as a goods guard on the line, when he was based at Blackburn in the 1970s. The book includes a guide to the line, from Leeds to Carlisle. Some previously-unused sources helped to give the book a stronger ‘social’ dimension, including the columns of the LMS staff magazine in the 1920s. ISBN 978-1-78500-637-1

The following are all available from The Salvo Publishing HQ, here at 109 Harpers Lane, Bolton BL1 6HU. Cheques should be made out to ‘Paul Salveson’ though you can send cash if you like but don’t expect any change. Bottles of whisky, old bound volumes of Railway Magazine, number-plates etc. by negotiation.

‘Lancashire’s Romantic Radical – the life and writings of Allen Clarke/Teddy Ashton‘ (2009). The story of Lancashire’s errant genius – cyclist, philosopher, unsuccessful politician, amazingly popular dialect writer. Normal Price £15  – can now offer it for £10 with free postage. There are a few hardback versions left – Normal price £25  – now at £15 with free postage. This book outlines the life and writings of one of Lancashire’s most prolific – and interesting – writers. Allen Clarke (1863-1935) was the son of mill workers and began work in the mill himself at the age of 11. He became a much-loved writer and an early pioneer of the socialist movement. He wrote in Lancashire dialect as ‘Teddy Ashton;’ and his sketches sold by the thousand. He was a keen cyclist and rambler; his books on the Lancashire countryside – ‘Windmill Land’ and ‘Moorlands and Memories’ are wonderful mixtures of history, landscape and philosophy.

‘With Walt Whitman in Bolton – Lancashire’s Links to Walt Whitman‘. This charts the remarkable story of Bolton’s long-lasting links to America’s great poet. Price £10.00 including post and packing. New bi-centennial edition published in May 2019. Bolton’s links with the great American poet Walt Whitman make up one of the most fascinating footnotes in literary history. From the 1880s a small group of Boltonians began a correspondence with Whitman and two (John Johnston and J W Wallace) visited the poet in America. Each year on Whitman’s birthday (May 31) the Bolton group threw a party to celebrate his memory, with poems, lectures and passing round a loving cup of spiced claret. Each wore a sprig of lilac in Whitman’s memory. The group were close to the founders of the ILP – Keir Hardie, Bruce and Katharine Bruce Glasier and Robert Blatchford. The links with Whitman lovers in the USA continue to this day.

‘Northern Rail Heritage’. A short introduction to the social history of the North’s railways. Price £6.00. The North ushered in the railway age  with the Stockton and Darlington in 1825 followed by the Liverpool and Manchester in 1830. But too often the story of the people who worked on the railways has been ignored. This booklet outlines the social history of railways in the North. It includes the growth of railways in the 19th century, railways in the two world wars, the general strike and the impact of Beeching.

Will Yo’ Come O’ Sunday Mornin? The Winter Hill Mass Trespass of 1896′. The story of Lancashire’s Winter Hill Trespass of 1896. 10,000 people marched over Winter Hill to reclaim a right of way. Price: £5.00 (not many left). The Kinder Scout Mass Trespass of 1932 was by no means the first attempt by working class people to reclaim the countryside. Probably the biggest-ever rights of way struggle took place on the moors above Bolton in 1896, with three successive weekends of huge demonstrations to reclaim a blocked path. Over 12,000 took part in the biggest march. The demonstrations were led by a coalition of socialists and radical liberals and Allen Clarke (see above!) wrote a great song about the events – ‘Will Yo’ Come O’ Sunday Mornin’?’ Only a couple left.

You can probably get a better idea from going to my website: http://www.paulsalveson.org.uk/little-northern-books-2/