An Illustrated History of Old Sutton in St. Helens, Lancashire

Part 66 (of 92 parts) - Memories of Sutton Part 17

Introduction: Memories of Sutton is a series of recollections of Sutton's past that have been contributed by visitors to this website. If you have any memories or personal experiences - perhaps from your childhood - that you'd like to share, do please contact me. I'll be delighted to hear from you!  SRW
An Illustrated History of Old Sutton in St.Helens
Part 66 (of 92 parts) - Memories of Sutton Part 17
Introduction: Memories of Sutton is a series of recollections of Sutton's past that have been contributed by visitors to this website. If you have any memories or personal experiences - perhaps from your childhood - that you'd like to share, do please contact me. I'll be delighted to hear from you!  SRW
An Illustrated History of
Old Sutton in St.Helens
Memories of Sutton 17
Researched and Written by Stephen Wainwright ©MMXVII
Introduction: Memories of Sutton is a 25-part series of recollections of Sutton's past contributed by visitors to this website. If you have any memories or personal experiences that you'd like to share, do please get in touch.

'My Dad Jack Smith' by Frank Smith

Frank Smith with his mother and father Jack Smith
Frank with his mother and father Jack
My Dad Jack (John) Smith worked at Clock Face Colliery for more than fifty years, (55 years I think). He took me to his workplace when I was a boy in the fifties and I recall standing up high with my Dad on a metal platform in the freezing cold. There was a strong wind and there didn’t seem to be any protection. He called it the ‘hoist’ and gave me to understand that it was used to haul the wagons out of the mine. I recall being terrified at all of the massive machinery! The sheer enormity of it all that only a young inexperienced boy can appreciate. Due to the low wages, he would always seek to do extra shifts, i.e. 2 x 8 hours consecutively. When there was a fire in the pit, there was plenty of extra work filling sand bags. He rode on his push bike to and from work starting at 4.30am but always built and lit a fire for us before he left for work. God Bless him!

One of the few additional benefits of being a miner was the free coal with 10 bags per delivery. He would make me stand in our tiny back yard at 13 Morgan Street in Parr and make a show of counting the empty bags that the delivery men threw down after emptying the coal into our shed. One other benefit was a fortnight in the Miners’ Home in Blackpool each year. A hugely impressive building on the sea front that was being renovated the last time I was there.

Dad never had much to say to anyone and had few friends. Still I never heard him complain even when he would come in and sit away from the fire because his hands were frozen and he wanted to avoid chilblains. He would be in a lot of pain anyway and, of course, filthy black with coal dust. We would be relegated to the front room while he washed in a tin bath near the fire. Like many people at that time he wasn’t much for a hug or a cuddle, least of all use the 'love' word. He would toss some coins on the table to my Mother on her birthday and tell her to "Go and get yersel a card" – which amazingly she always did. He did however show his love by giving us all roof over our heads and putting food on the table, a fact that I have only realized late in life.

I always remember him saying to my Mam when he got thrown out after they closed the pit that "They didn't even shake my bloody hand". This was despite all his years of service at Clock Face Colliery through the big strike when he felt betrayed by the "bloody communists" and throughout the war years. Then he served nights as an Air Raid Policeman. He got 'nowt' as it was in those far off days.

Jack Smith from a young man to old age and in the middle as an ARP warden - contributed by Frank Smith

Three photographs of Jack Smith from a young man to old age

Three photographs of Jack Smith

Dad left school at eleven years old and when the pit closed he would have been sixty. He went on to have a short stint at Bold Colliery and then he worked as a handy man in factories for another fifteen years before the employer found out he was 75 years old and he had to leave. Other than the odd trip in a long distance lorry with my brothers to Scotland he had never been out of England (not counting Rhyl) until he came to visit me here in Sydney three times (1975, 1978 and 1981). He was simply astounded by the 747 that he flew on and the far-away places he flew over, making feverish notes the whole trip. I came to Australia in 1970 as a 10 pound Pom and in my career I have had several senior executive roles in the financial services industry. Whenever the stress in these roles became too much or whenever I had to counsel a less senior employee who was worried, I would just mention my Dad. That is: "He never once complained about his lot in life and simply got on with the dreadful repetition and serious responsibilities of his life with very little financial reward – the choice was that or starve on the dole. Either way he simply rose above it all and got on with it."

Dad died in 1989 of cancer just past his 84th birthday. He passed away very quickly after being admitted to hospital because he never told anyone he was ill in spite of the horrendous pain he must have endured for a very long time. He just didn’t want to be any trouble to anyone and would have been very embarrassed to have to go into hospital. That’s the story of my Dad. A little memorial to one of the many unsung heroes who helped make the North of England wealthy - at least for a while anyway. My advice to all is look back and find out now about your family because a little bit of our predecessors on this planet lives on in us. Pity we only come to appreciate this later in life.

'Lancashire Miners Gala Queen 1964/65' by Pat Beesley (née Rigby)

I won first heat as Gala Queen for Sutton Manor Colliery, St Helens in May 1964 when I was studying for my GCE O’ levels aged 16. My Dad, Albert Rigby, a fitter at Sutton Manor Colliery, entered me for the competition. I was taking my GCE exams during the heats of the Lancashire Miners’ Gala Queen competition. There was no national contest in those days, although it was being proposed.

Pat is made Lancashire Miners Gala Queen in 1964 - contributed by Pat Beesley

Pat Beesley (née Rigby) is made Lancashire Miners Gala Queen in 1964

Lancashire Miners Gala Queen 1964

Pat Beesley as Lancashire Miners Gala Queen
The Lancashire Miners Gala was held at Clock Face Colliery Social Club. A neighbour had made my bright red dress especially for the event. I had come through the preliminary heats in Blackpool where we had to be interviewed and there were further interviews and a parade – not in bathing costumes! – for the final. Dee Wells, a journalist for the Daily Herald, was one of the judges. I was so surprised to win – the prizes were £50 and a free week’s holiday at a bed and breakfast hotel in Morecambe.

Looking back I would say that my year as Lancashire Miners' Gala Queen was valuable in giving me confidence, especially in public speaking and in meeting people. I attended Gala Planning meetings at the NUM office in Bolton and met people like Dee Wells, Harold Wilson and George Brown. My involvement in the Gala Queen year also made me much more conscious of issues affecting the mining industry.

My family had been miners in St Helens for several generations and several including my grandparents, Albert and Gertrude Rigby and my Uncles Joe, George and Jack Rigby lived in Sutton Manor and Parr. My grandparents lived at 124 Forest Road but our family lived in what were called the 'Miners Houses' in Ditton, Widnes which were built by the NCB to accommodate miners' families from Sutton Manor and Cronton Collieries. When the estate was first built, there were no schools on the estate and we were bussed to West Bank School and called the 'Dittonites'. I especially remember the Sutton Manor Gala when I walked through the streets with the bands, the morris dancers behind and the Miners Union Banner.
PAT BEESLEY (née Rigby)
'My Penlake Memories' by Marie
Penlake House, Sutton, St.Helens
When I was born my parents were living with my grandparents, Mr and Mrs Morris, at Penlake House in Penlake Lane by 'Pudding Bag' and my earliest years were spent there. This photo of the footbridge and Penlake House beyond it is almost as I remember it. The building was divided into three dwellings. I remember the Doorbars living in the gabled corner section on the left in the photo, the Abbot family lived in the middle section and we lived in the three up, three down section on the right. A railway line ran a metre or two from the front of the house and on rare occasions a steam train would chuff slowly along it and we children were thrilled when it came so close. It was known in our family as The Penlake Flyer!

My grandfather was a railway wagon sheet maker. He was due to retire as WW2 broke out but carried on working throughout the war. After the war he was asked to continue training young men in the trade in Liverpool. At the age of 80 he was still doing a 12 hour day leaving Penlake at about 7.30am to catch the train to Liverpool, crossing Liverpool to the dock area for his day's work and then doing the return journey arriving back at about 7.30pm. My grandmother looked after us all devotedly. She was a saint, particularly as her first child was severely handicapped and needed round the clock care. Dr Leslie (his surgery was in Junction Lane) was a frequent visitor and was most caring. No respite breaks in those days. Nan had daily help from her youngest sister and other members of the family but she did most of the work.

Marie pictured at the 'intersection' end of Penlake Lane c. 1950 with the end of the sheeting sheds on the left of the photograph. The Manchester to Liverpool railway line is on the right and the Intersection Bridge can be seen in the background.

Marie pictured at the 'intersection' end of Penlake Lane c. 1950

Marie in Penlake Lane c.1950

There was a weekly walk to Junction Lane and we'd call at Winstanley's at the bottom for some provisions. They also delivered "The Order" in their little cream van each Friday evening. We then went to a greengrocer and on up to the newsagent/tobacconist at the top end owned by a Mrs. Pendlebury. We’d purchase Pa's pipe tobacco as well as some Uncle Joe's mints for him, a Woman's Weekly for Nan and a comic each for us. Nan produced scrumptious roly poly puddings, cake, scones and jam tarts, hotpots, rabbit stew, roast beef and Yorkshire pudding etc all from a small gas cooker. And there always seemed to be a pot bubbling away with the hens' mash in it.

There were three hens roaming free in the back garden and I can still hear Nan calling to us children "Stop chasing those hens, they'll stop laying" and we'd call back "We're making them fly, Nan". The daily house activity slowed and quietened for Mrs Dale's Diary on the radio and Listen With Mother for us children but other than that we children amused ourselves playing in the freedom of the garden and the lane. Penlake was almost cut off from the rest of Sutton. There was no need for strangers to be there and any strangers would be easily spotted, so other than the danger of the main Liverpool/Manchester railway line, we were safe. Most of the line was fenced off but there was access to it via a large gate opposite the house and we were certainly in trouble if caught climbing it.

However one day, when I was 4 or 5, I did manage to get knocked down when playing outside the house. Young neighbour Eric Abbot came home on his bike and I got in his way. We tried to dodge each other but I was knocked over and rolled into the lamp post by the house and cut the top of my nose close to my eye. No one could stop the bleeding and I ended up at St Helens Hospital having my nose stitched. It eventually became something of a joke in the family that with all the empty space in Penlake Lane and no traffic I managed to get "run over"! I lived there until 1952 when our family moved to our own house. My Penlake years were very happy years indeed!
'The Pudding Bag Blood Splashers!' by Jim Lythgoe
I was born in 1949 at 33 Railway Terrace in Pudding Bag. When I was a lad we used to play in the street on our bikes that our dads made from bits abandoned on the railway. The shunting of wagons going up the bank meant that they lost a lot of coal which kept the street warm and snug!

Golden Cross, Sutton, St.Helens
The Golden Cross in Pudding Bag
I remember the first TV in the street which was rented by Olwyn Dearden and all the kids would sit round watching it after school. Bonfire night was always special as the whole street joined in with bonfire toffee and home made cakes. Our gang was called the ‘Pudding Bag Blood Splashers’ and we were very protective over our wood. The lads from Edward Street used to come across the railway sidings to try and pinch it and we had stone throwing fights across the sidings to keep them at bay!

I used to have a weekend job looking after the pub geese for Mr Caulfield at the Golden Cross in between bundling sticks at the allotments up on the moss before moving on to a paper round. That was with Mr Carol’s paper shop on Station Road, next to Fred Davies's Transport yard. I left Railway Terrace about 1967/68. My mum was one of the last few to move out before it was knocked down in the early ‘70s.
Stephen Wainwright
This website has been written and researched and many images photographed by myself, Stephen Wainwright, the Sutton Beauty & Heritage site owner. Individuals from all over the world have also kindly contributed their own photographs. If you wish to reuse any image, please contact me first as permission may be needed from the copyright owner. High resolution versions of many pictures can also be supplied at no charge. Please also contact me if you can provide any further information or photographs concerning Sutton, St.Helens. You might also consider contributing your recollections of Sutton for the series of Memories pages. Sutton Beauty & Heritage strives for factual accuracy at all times. Do also get in touch if you believe that there are any errors. I respond quickly to emails and if you haven't had a response within twelve hours, check your junk mail folder or resend your message. Thank you! SRW
This website is written and researched by Stephen R. Wainwright ©MMXVII  Contact Me
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