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

Part 57 (of 92 parts) - Memories of Sutton Part 8

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 57 (of 92 parts) - Memories of Sutton Part 8
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 8
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.

'Childhood Days in Peckers Hill Road' by Anne McCormack (née Murphy)


Joseph Murphy of Sutton, Mayor of St.Helens between 1960 - 61 and his mayoress wife Bett Murphy


Joseph Murphy the Mayor of St.Helens from 1960 - 61 and mayoress Bett Murphy


Mayor of St.Helens Joseph Murphy

Jimmy Gill, signal man retirement party
I was born and bred in Sutton, living at 32 Herbert Street until I was about 7 years old and then at 84 Peckers Hill Road. My dad was Joe Murphy, the local Labour councillor from 1947 until local government reorganisation in 1973. He was then honoured to be made an Alderman of St Helens after being mayor between 1960 – 61. His parents owned the garage at the bottom of Junction Lane, my grandma being the local undertaker, taxi service and petrol station owner.

My mother, Bett, was the first woman porter at the Junction station and she married dad in 1945, who was a widower with three boys. The story is the boys used to hang around the station with their pals and my mum would let them have free rides in the guards van to the next station and back. They told her they had no mum and asked her to meet their dad and the rest is history!

Her father, Jimmy Gill, was the signal man at both Lancots Lane and Clock Face boxes during his long service with the railways. In this photograph he’s receiving a clock at his retirement party aged 70 years.

Playtime at St.Anne's RC School c.1956 - contributed by Anne McCormack

Playtime at St.Anne's RC School in Sutton, St.Helens c.1956

Playtime at St.Anne's School c.1956

I went to St Anne's School and these photographs show us children at playtime about 1956 (above) and in a class photo c.1958-59 (below). There were always about 35 kids in our class which is unheard of today, yet each and every one of us left St.Anne's able to read and write. Not a claim that can be made by some schools today. Many of my classmates were very poor and would wear a cotton frock and wellies during summer and winter but I don't ever remember any bullying or snobbishness. We all played together very well.

St.Anne's School Class Photograph c.1958-59 - contributed by Anne McCormack

St.Anne's RC School Sutton class photograph c.1958-59

St.Anne's Class Photo c.1958-59

As kids we ran in and out of one another's houses. We played out all day, went to the Tip, the Moss, Sutton Park and Billy Woods', which was a big pond off Watery Lane behind the old Rolling Mill. It was a play area for all the local kids but was probably polluted to high heaven. It's a miracle we all survived! The houses there were terrible slums with no hot water but the residents kept them spick and span. Many a time one of us would walk all the way back to get chips from Maggie Rigby's chippy in Peckers Hill Road, but most of the time we took butties and bottles of water. Happy days!

'Hospital Chaplain Memories' by Patrick Smith

Rev. Reg. Smith at a garden party at the vicarage in Sutton, St.Helens
Rev. Smith at a vicarage garden party
As I’ve written in my previous Memories articles, my father Reg Smith was the Vicar of Sutton from 1959 to 1966. Dad was also Chaplain at St.Helens Hospital and he used to visit almost daily, which could prove quite eventful. One day Mum was at home preparing lunch when Dad came in. All he would say was "I'll eat my meal and then I'll tell you what I have been doing." Very mysterious! As I recall the story was that Dad had driven into the front car park at the hospital and seen an ambulance being hastily loaded with supplies. The doctor was Dr. Mal Lewis, I think, and he called to Dad to follow the ambulance.

This Dad did and they rushed to an industrial site not far away where a drag line excavator had been working. I think that the line had snagged or some such accident and it had toppled over and down the side of a spoil heap. In the accident the driver had been thrown around inside his cab and become trapped by his leg in the chain drive. He could not be extracted without amputating his leg and Dr. Lewis and Sister Brown, who I remember well, followed by Dad, crawled under and into the cab.

Dad held the tray of instruments whilst the amputation took place. Dr Lewis and Sister Brown, I believe, received awards for bravery. Dad got his meal! Sister Brown married Percy Fenn, a tenor in St.Nick’s Choir, and he drove a Daimler Majestic.

Rev. Reg Smith with Sister Radcliffe-Woods (centre) inside St.Helens Hospital - contributed by Patrick Smith

Rev. Reg Smith with Sister Radcliffe-Woods (centre) pictured inside St.Helens Hospital

Rev. Smith with Sister Radcliffe-Woods

In this photo, Dad poses with the hospital matron and Sister Radcliffe-Woods, who is donating what appears to be a defibrillator. Two unknown men, probably hospital administrators, look on. Sister Radcliffe-Woods was a nursing sister at, I think, Bold Colliery. She was of the no-nonsense type of nurse and Dad used to joke that men who had a broken leg, would get up and walk before they would let her treat them. A slight exaggeration but not too far from the truth! Anyway the story was that during the course of an operation for what I think was a hernia, Sister went into cardiac arrest. The hospital phoned Dad, who was playing cricket for Liverpool Clergy. Mum phoned the ground and Dad immediately left for the hospital where he prayed for her, although the staff had by then restarted her heart. Dad returned to the game but was called back as she had "died" again. He hurried back but they had got her going once again. When Sister came round she said that she had been to the other side and “the grass was green and the light was wonderful". She then became very inspired to tell everyone who would listen of her story and was, I think, interviewed by ‘Woman’s Own’. Dad reckoned she had "got Religion" in a big way, and one result was the donation of this piece of equipment to help to save lives.

Later on Sister Radcliffe-Woods decided to knit a jumper for Dad to wear at the graveside in winter, where it was none too warm. This jumper duly arrived and was huge! Dad actually put it on over the top of his cassock, surplice and cloak! Trust me it was enormous. What to do? Mum gave it to parishioner Lilian Anders who unpicked it and from the wool made me a very long jumper, a bobble hat and a scarf. Honestly the amount of wool in the original was prodigious!

Back row (L - R): Ref u/k, Keith Hewitt, u/k, Norman Evans, Frank Knowles, Stuart Rimmer, Les Johnson, linesmen u/k;
Front row (L - R): Stuart ?, Rev Bill Harrington (Curate), Rev. Reg Smith, u/k, Patrick Smith - contributed by Patrick Smith

Football team at St.Helens Town ground with Reg Smith and curate Bill Harrington

Football match at St. Helens Town

Dad was a keen sportsman and as well as cricket enjoyed playing football. In this photo c. 1965 he’s captaining a team at St. Helens Town’s Ground, down by the Junction, which included myself. The match finished 2-2 with one goal scored by Dad and I got a toe poke for the second! This was one of only three or four times that I played in the same team as Dad. Curate Bill Harrington was also in the team and is pictured (below) with my father and two other parish curates John Lewis and Fred Cheal. John later became Archdeacon of Europe but died sadly all too young. Fred was a lovely man, a great croquet enthusiast and lover of things mechanical. I think he went to Accra and again died too young. Bill was last seen in Wigan. Perhaps he'll see this and get in touch.

Rev. Reg Smith (seated) with curates Revs. John Lewis, Fred Cheal and Bill Harrington - contributed by Patrick Smith

Rev. Reg Smith (seated) with curates Revs. John Lewis, Fred Cheal and Bill Harrington

Sutton curates Revs. John Lewis, Fred Cheal and Bill Harrington

'St.Anne's Schooldays and the Clock Face Plaque' by Herbert Eden
I was a pupil at St. Anne’s in the 1930s and well remember the steeple. I recall that a steeplejack had fallen from it and a stone had been positioned just inside the graveyard gate to commemorate the accident.

I have fond memories of my schooldays and of the teachers at St.Anne’s. I can still remember Father Felix, a giant of a man who took food to the poor of the parish in sack cloth bags hanging from the handlebars of his cycle. In 1937 he died and we schoolboys were paraded into the church to see the dead priest. It was then that I discovered that the man that I was looking at was none other than the Duke of Westmorland.

St.Annes RC Church with steeple which was demolished through subsidence

St.Annes RC Church with steeple which was demolished through subsidence

St.Anne’s RC Church with steeple

I have recollections of a brass plaque which had the names of soldiers who served in the 1914 -18 War. My father was a miner at Clock Face and was also a ‘War Hero’ having been decorated at Chester Castle by King George on 17th May 1917. He received the D.C.M. and from the Duke of Westminster he received the D.S.O. I believe that the plaque is now in the Clock Face Miners Club (see here). During the war my father was directed to move to a new position in Southport where I attended an Evacuee School, thus losing all contact with St Helens.
'St.Anne's, Neil's & Blood Curdling Monsters at Sutton Bug!' by Alan McDermott
I attended St. Annes Primary School under the tutelage of headmaster James Duffy, who was a strict disciplinarian. I was an altar boy at St.Anne's church and used to serve 7 o'clock mass at the convent. Thermos flasks were not available then and so I took a bottle of hot tea wrapped in a woollen sock. Adjacent to the convent in Waterdale Crescent was the Blinkhorn Parish Rooms and they served free breakfast to the poorer pupils. After leaving St.Annes school, I spent five years at West Park before starting work as an apprentice draughtsman at William Neil's in St.Helens Junction.

My starting wage in September 1948 was one pound six shillings and threepence per week. At that time my cousin Joe Banks worked in the Drawing Office and he later joined the board of directors. His younger brother Teddy started work on the butter counter at the Co-op shop in Peckers Hill Road and was phenomenally successful. He became Managing Director of Lennons Supermarkets which entitled him to a company Rolls Royce.

In my previous Sutton Memories article, I mentioned how during the war years due to a beer shortage, crowds would gather outside pubs awaiting opening time. Well one enterprising local had the bright idea of entertaining the crowd and making some cash. He persuaded a stooge to lie on his back and hold a flagstone on his chest which his partner broke with a sledge hammer. Unfortunately one time the erstwhile Thor missed his aim and emasculated his stooge! They resumed operations later but sensibly used the less lethal three card trick.

I also recall an amusing incident at the Sutton Bug cinema. One day during very warm weather there was a plague of midges. Some entered the projector and images of giant blood curdling monsters were thrown onto the screen, to everyone's amusement!
'Robins Lane Plays & the Street Party' by Janet Watson (née Whitfield)
Make Believe - Robins Lane School
I was pleasantly surprised to see myself on the website in the photograph of the play 'Make Believe', which Miss Gee directed for Robins Lane School. I left there in 1952, so the photograph is dated around 1951. I am the one at the back on the right of the photograph. Robins Lane was a happy school to be educated in. Miss Gee saw to that and she created a wonderful time for us there with lots of sport and drama. She also directed Toad of Toad Hall, which I was Rattie in.

Every year there was something to be enjoyed and I was in every one of her plays. Except one that is. She directed Snow White and chose somebody else to play Snow White. How could she? I can remember how desperate I was to play the role. In Make Believe I was the Cannibal, perhaps that's a clue!

Robins Lane Junior School 2A 1946/7 - Janet is fourth from right in the second row - contributed by Janet Watson

Robins Lane Junior School 2A 1946/7 - Janet is 4th from right in second row

Robins Lane Junior School 2A 1946/7

Another teacher was Miss Jones who was the daughter of the vicar, and they lived in the Vicarage in New Street. My mother knit (yes knit) all Miss Jones's vests during the war, which of course gave me an advantage over the other kids in the class and I was monitor. I think though she was in the junior school. My favourite teacher was without doubt Miss ‘Music’ Ashton, she was just lovely. Dorothy Woolerston was my best friend and her father had a small holding in Bold and sold fruit and veg in St Helens market. Dorothy and I stood in the queue at the Savoy every night for a week to see Mario Lanza in The Toast of New Orleans. I went to All Saints where the wonderful Rev. Myers preached. He had a friend who was deaf and dumb and while he was taking the service, his friend had his hand on Mr Myers' throat so he could follow what was being said from his 'voicebox'. Mr Myers took him everywhere with him.
I am also on the photo of the street party in Oxley Street, celebrating the end of the war. The young girl standing on the chair is Janet Walmsley, who was in fact called after me and her brothers Dennis and Alan are nearby. I would love to know what happened to the Walmsley family. They lived at the back of Normington’s photography shop and I think they went to live in Yorkshire. The boy with the bare legs in the street party picture is my brother Len.
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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