GEOFF CRAMBIE: Local toy collection from 1952

“CHRISTMAS is a coming and the geese are getting fat, please put a penny in the old man’s hat, if you haven’t got a penny a ha’penny will do, if you haven’t got a ha’penny, God bless you”.

Yes, Christmas will soon be here and this is the jingle we used to sing as we went round knocking on doors during those happy post-war years. Just as our Happy Christmas picture this week, given to me many years ago from the Wilfred Spencer archive by his dear wife, Helen.

Here we see a bumper crop of toys and books given for the less fortunate children of Colne and collected by the Colne and District Round Table for Christmas, 1952.

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From left to right, we can see Round Table stalwarts Edgar Hepworth, Wilfred Spencer, Norman Hartley, Father Christmas and Ronald Whittaker. Wilfred was, at the time (since 1948) our borough librarian and would become a Colne historian of great substance until his tragic early death at just 56 in January, 1975. Edgar Hepworth, on the left, has been an august and notable Methodist for many decades now and I can still recall his smiling features during my Sunday school years. Edgar, a true gentleman, is happily still with us, being well into his nineties.

Back in the 1940s and 50s, it was always a great joy going round the gas-lit streets carol singing and the Oxo tin receptacle we would hold out would echo into the night to the sound of ha’pennies, pennies, three-penny bits, sixpences and, just now and again, a shilling dropping into make us sing even louder!

Plot night was also a great event with us singing with gusto, “Remember, remember the 5th of November, it’s gunpowder plot, we never forgot. Put your hand in your pocket and pull out your purse, a penny or ha’penny will do you no worse. Guy, guy, stick him in the eye, hang him on a gas lamp ten feet high. Knock on the knocker, ring on the bell, see what we get for singing so well”.

Just once, over those happy years, did our Hall Street gang of singers get the Holy Grail of a magical half-a-crown. Christmas, 1953, and as we sang out knocking on No 41 Hall Street, a beaming Mrs Lily Garnett opened the door saying, “Well done boys, here’s something for some sweets”. It was a shiny new half-a-crown - we all felt like kings.