My Lancashire childhood growing up in the post-war years
Our family home was at 8 Hall Street, Colne, which we shared with my dad’s prize collection of 500 cage-birds. Here in over 100 custom-built cages were budgerigars, canaries, British birds and foreign birds all chirping, whistling and warbling all day long!
For the first 13 years of my life, before we moved to 4 Linden Road (my mum said no cage birds in our new home) I awoke every day to a magical dawn chorus from my dad’s many feathered friends.
Growing up during the post-war years was special indeed. When my dad’s cage birds were selling well my parent’s would book the Municipal Hall and for the years 1949 to 1951 my birthday parties were celebrated there with all our street being invited. Trips in summer to Blackpool with mighty steam locomotives pulling into the Colne Station in a cloud of smoke and steam, followed by dozens of carriages to take us excitingly to the coast. Festival of Britain year 1951 sees my sister Christina being born and from Lord Street School our class, led by teacher Fred Melling, goes on a trip to Castor Cliff. To our delight two Roman coins are found, which still survive today.
Going to school was many a day in our milkman John White’s wooden milk-cart, pulled by his friendly, heavy horse Prince.
I also have fond memories of races up and down our tragically doomed Cloth Hall’s 32 entrance steps with my great pals Graham and Allan Lister, we three childhood friends would also go up Tum Hill looking for newts in a now long-gone pond.
Sledging from the top of Duke Street right down to the stumps on Shaw Street was always great fun and every November 5th a giant bonfire at the bottom of Hall and Duke Street would be kept burning for days.
We played out for hours under the warm glow of our street’s gas-lamps: “tin-in-the-ring”, “relieve-o”, “stroke-a-back” and “Queenie-o-cocoa”. We played until our dear mum or dad called us in for bed. Football, cricket, setting fire to the gas tar between the setts with a magnifying glass and playing marbles down our street: we had marvellous times.
However, a new phenomenon was to burst onto the scene. I’m now at Primet Secondary School, year two and it’s 1955 (the same year we cheered our Queen on her royal visit to Colne), I’m in the school-yard with my classmate Granton Burrows. Suddenly on Granton’s newly purchased transistor radio came the joyous sound of Bill Haley and his Comets playing “Rock Around the Clock”. We both went berserk and within those two minutes and 11 seconds of magic our lives were changed forever.
Two years later in 1957 at number 30, Albert Road, J.P. Hey’s music shop, the sound of Buddy Holly and the Crickets momentous single “That’ll Be the Day” was also life-changing.
As our much-loved Primet school-teacher Joe Dowson said to me, “Geoffrey, we all need heroes and yours are every bit as relevant as mine”. Throughout my life I’ve been truly privileged to meet so many of mine.
I’ve met and shook the hands of legendary cricketers Sir Frank Worrell, a master batsman and S.F. Barnes, England’s finest bowler, plus John Arlott, writer and commentator par excellence.
Unparalleled footballers Sir Tom Finney, a master of the game and Gordon Banks, England’s finest goalkeeper, plus Sir Geoff Hurst, our 1966 World Cup hat-trick great.
Other heroes of mine I’ve proudly met include: L.S. Lowry, an artist of immense stature; Fred Dibnah, a truly renowned character; and not forgetting the one who got away, Nelson Mandela, who I missed by just five minutes in 1992 at Sharpe Ville, South Africa. To my great delight, the following festive season, Nelson sent to me a personally signed Christmas card.
I’ve been fortunate indeed throughout my three score years and 10: I’ve had some wonderful vocations, with great friends and colleagues, especially at the Leader Times where the late great Noel Wild put in my very first feature 40 years ago in the summer of 1973. Four years later, my very first book was published and my total to date is now standing at nine.
Yes, indeed, the world’s been good to me and my greatest gift is the love of my dear family and here we all are in my great friend Colin Bean’s superb picture.
From the right we see “yours truly”, then my dear wife of 45 years Ruth. Behind is our number one son Shaun, followed by at front our darling daughter Janette. Then next along is our jesting son-in-law Darren, with our dearest grandson Nathan behind his mum and dad.
From my dear grandparents to my dear grandson, throughout my 70 years I’ve been truly blessed and as our Nathan always says, “God bless”.