Short Stories About Rishton

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Story 1

As a child I used to walk east along Spaw Brook through a long tunnel that came out in an orchard where you could grab a few crab apples and disappear back in to the tunnel! We used to venture in to the west tunnel but it was far too long and scary to go far! My brother reckons the stream would have been polluted with sewerage from the houses but I remember the water being clear with little fish and lots of frogs and tadpoles!

There were lots of allotments or 'pens' where people kept pigs or chickens or grew veggies ....probably a hangover from WW2. Rishton rec was a great playground...does it still have a football field? I remember opening up the air-raid shelter by the playground and finding old tins and bottles and other stuff. There was a second shelter at the other side of the field by the Parker St entrance. Every year when they cut the grass on the rec all the kids used to build dens with straw and wood and sometimes sleep overnight in them. I can recall the sweet smell of wet straw!

English Electric 1966

There was also a hut on the rec near the farm (protected by barbed wire) that the football team used as a changing room. The playground had a great collection of apparatus including two types of roundabout, a rocking horse and swings. They would probably be considered dangerous these days!

Also enclosed for your possible interest are a couple more of my sketches from 1966. Again...use them if you wish (an acknowledgement would be appreciated. The English Electric sketch brought back memories of those strange buildings - also leftovers from WW2 I think. EE used to have a really great open day once a year with all sorts of enjoyable activities! Happy days!

James McDonough 29th July 2001.

Story 2

Take a break from the grind and remember when................

Close your eyes and go back in time...Before the Internet or the Apple Mac.

Before semi-automatics, joy riders and crack....

Before SEGA or Super Nintendo...

Way back........ I'm talking about Hide and Seek in the park. The corner shop. Hopscotch. Butterscotch. Skipping. Handstands. Football with an old can. Fingerbobs. Beano, Twinkle. Roly Poly. Hula Hoops. Jumping the stream, building dams. The smell of the sun and fresh cut grass. Bazooka Joe bubble gum. An ice cream cone on a warm summer night from the van that plays a tune:

Chocolate or vanilla or strawberry or maybe Neapolitan or perhaps a screwball. Watching Saturday morning cartoons....short commercials, The Double Decker's, Road Runner, He-Man, Tiswas or Swapshop? And Why Don't You â€" or staying up for Star Trek.

When around the corner seemed far away and going into town seemed like going somewhere.

Earwigs, wasps and bee stings.

Sticky fingers. Cops and Robbers, Cowboys and Indians, and Zorro. Climbing trees.

Building igloos out of snow banks.

Walking to school, no matter what the weather.

Running till you were out of breath, laughing so hard that your stomach hurt. Jumping on the bed. Pillow fights. Spinning around, getting dizzy and falling down was cause for giggles. Being tired from playing....remember that?

The worst embarrassment was being picked last for a team.

Water balloons were the ultimate weapon Football cards in the spokes transformed any bike into a motorcycle. Choppers and Grifters, Eating raw jelly. Orange squash ice pops.

Remember when... There were two types of trainers - girls and boys, and Dunlop Green Flash - and the only time you wore them at school was for P.E. You knew everyone in your street - and so did your parents. It wasn't odd to have two or three best friends. You didn't sleep a wink on Christmas Eve. When nobody owned a pure-bred dog. When 25p was decent pocket money When you'd reach into a muddy gutter for a penny. When nearly everyone's mum was at home when the kids got there. It was magic when dad would remove his thumb. When it was considered a great privilege to be taken out to dinner at a real restaurant with your parents.

When any parent could discipline any kid, or feed him or use him to carry groceries and nobody, not even the kid, thought a thing of it. When being sent to the head's office was nothing compared to the fate that awaited a misbehaving student at home.

Basically, we were in fear for our lives but it wasn't because of drive-by shootings, drugs, gangs, etc.

Our parents and grandparents were a much bigger threat! - And some of us are still afraid of them!

Didn't that feel good?

Just to go back and say, Yeah, I remember that! Remember when....

Decisions were made by going Ip Dip Dog Ship (yeah I know) and the race issue meant arguing about who ran the fastest.

Money issues were handled by whoever was the banker in Monopoly The worst thing you could catch from the opposite sex was germs. And the worst thing in your day was having to sit next to one. It was unbelievable that British Bulldog wasn't an Olympic event. Having a weapon in school, meant being caught with a catapult. Nobody was prettier than Mum. Scrapes and bruises were kissed and made better. Taking drugs meant orange-flavoured chewable aspirin. Ice cream was considered a basic food group. Getting a foot of snow was a dream come true. Older children were the worst tormentors, but also the fiercest protectors

Just for the memory...... Thank you.

Supplied by the Great Harwood Appreciation Society

Story 3

My first day at school by David Haworth.

I have vivid memories of my first day at school, St. Peter & St. Paul’s infants, even though it was in 1956, and I had just turned four at the time.

My mother and I arrived, on that first day at the School Street entrance, and crossed the schoolyard and walked up the ramp to enter the building.

On entering the classroom, as I recall, the area to the left of the door was the coat area. A wooden rail, painted pale grey, and holding coat hooks each identified with the picture of an animal. I was allocated the crocodile.

The schoolroom itself was a source of great excitement. Scanning the room there were treasures to behold. On the left just past the coat area was a Wendy house, in the corner a sandpit, toys of all descriptions in front of the far wall and in the far corner bookshelves. Small chairs and tables, equipped with paper, paints and crayons, were to be found in the area in front of the bookshelves.

Play started immediately and having met, for the first time, lots of new children time flew. Mid morning play was interrupted when we were ushered through a door opposite the cloakroom.

This was the kitchen and contained two large tables butted together covered with blue and white plastic table cloths. We were each given a small bottle half filled with milk from a crate in the corner of the room. While sitting and sipping my milk through a waxed paper straw I remember noticing how the pattern on the tablecloth had worn away in places.

After drinking the milk play continued until noon when, remembering the crocodile, I collected my coat and met my mother at the door to be taken home for dinner.

I can’t remember what I ate that day but I know it disappeared in record time. I wanted to get back to school for more of the same. After what seemed like hours the time finally came to return for the afternoon session. I practically dragged my mother over the canal bridge and into school every extremity tingling with anticipation of what was to come.

Hurrying into the cloakroom and locating the crocodile picture above the hook I removed my coat and climbed the bench to hang it up.

Turning around I saw….…….. horror!!!  Wait! What’s this?

Laid out in a neat line extending from the bookshelves to the kitchen door was a row of small beds. Yes that’s right, a row of beds, all constructed of tubular steel, cream in colour and covered with woollen blankets of varying colours. Each of the blankets had a small picture stitched to one corner, I imagine for identification purposes.

You’ve guessed it! The bed fourth from the right with the dark grey blanket was intended for me!

To a boy of my advanced years bed in the afternoon was not an option. Bed was for babies, I was not a baby any more and I had grown up and started school.

No force in this world would get me into that bed.

So battle commenced, the teacher and my mother fighting to get me into the bed and me resisting with all my strength. The other infants watched in amazement as the battle raged for what seemed an eternity but was probably only a few minutes. The bed migrated from one end of the room to the other, with me clinging to the rail, legs and arms flaying, snot and tears everywhere, the contents of the bed strewn across the room in our wake.

The battle came to a sudden end when I heard the teacher utter those immortal words “you’d better take him home and bring him back tomorrow”.

Victory was mine!

My mother persuaded me to return to school the following day using the argument I didn’t have to go to sleep, just go to bed and pretend for a few minutes.

I am not sure of the name of the poor teacher I think it may have been Miss Ward. Mrs. Grimshaw was the headmistress and taught the third year. Miss Burns was in charge of the second year.

I think the trauma I suffered on that first day was the reason I hated school until I finally escaped in 1969. I know that the memory of that day will stay with me for the rest of my life.

Supplied by David Haworth, 8th November 2003.

Story 4

On the 10th August 1944, thanks were expressed to Mr. R. H. Clarke and his son for their assistance in rescuing the horse from the canal, and they were paid ten shillings, by the Rishton Urban District Council,  for services rendered.

Story 5.

Rishton Methodist by J. Achaski.


I can remember back to when the large brick building on the Canal Bridge was a Church, and below it, a school. I attended both the school and the Church, and remember it with affection.

I can particularly remember standing at the Church entrance, for what I thought was the event of a lifetime! There was to be a big wedding, of a famous son of Rishton, Martin Dobson, that legendary Burnley football player.

When I saw him I immediately fell in love, I think I was only about 11 at the time, but I can still remember the atmosphere that day.

The building is now used as flats, but at the rear of the building in the playground was a pole that was used as a May pole every year. Mrs Wade was my favourite teacher, and we used to get free milk and had to have a sleep in the afternoon.

The church and school have been re-established at the top of George Street now.

Supplied on the 25th September 2004.

Story 6.

Even after emigrating to Oz in 1982 with my wife and two young children, I kid you not that my thoughts often go back to my home town of RISHTON - especially now that I have taken early retirement. Although being born in Blackburn Infirmary in 1946, I was raised in Rishton. I spent my first 10 years in Knowles street, then 15 great years in a lovely gable ended triple in St. Charles Road, before getting married and moving to my wife's home town of Bolton. 

As a school boy, my mother frequently used to say to me "Geoffrey these are the best years of your life", I guess it's not until you reach a similar stage in life that you realise how accurate those words are.

I doubt that any other place in the world could have beaten Rishton as a place to grow up in - and I mean that quite sincerely. Rishton in the 50's had a superlative living environment ; the 2nd world war had just finished, there was was plenty of employment locally or in Accrington or Blackburn, and things were on a roll. The fact that we are direct descendents of John Wesley (my son has traced the tree back to his sister - I don't think John himself had children) no doubt accounted for the fact that I attended the Wesleyan Primary School, run by the somewhat hawkish headmaster Billy Shaw.

Could I say to you that Norden Secondary Modern in the late 50's was also a terrific school to attend (even though some of us at the time were unsure whether to be envious of the lads who had got through to Grammar School)  As it turned out the latter uncertainties didn't matter, and I carry the rewards of those 4 years with me to date. The teachers were all unforgettable characters and many had all-round talents, apart from there immediate profession.

One standout was the PT teacher John Ingham who "pro'ed" for Great Harwood cricket team during the fifties and went on to play for his home town team Haslingden until 1987; he could also do card tricks was was a very good tenor and pianist. Making me Captain of the school football team in 1960 got him a few more brownie points. The Head Master Earnest T. Hooper was the epitome of the true English gentleman - author, artist, historian and German linguist after learning Dutch from a guard in a POW camp in 1917/18, and with his grey moustache and chiselled looks, he was "the very model of a modern major general".

Without mentioning these personalities, I'm not sure that I can convey the background of why my formative years in Rishton were/are so special to me, and why I am enjoying experiencing your web site.

Perhaps to emphasise the point could I mention that my next door neighbour in St Charles Rd, Mr Ted Hope, who worked  in a mill in Accrington,  once showed me his 3 goldfish which he kept in a tank in his kitchen ; he pointed out to me that one was an albino fish which was a bit special. Would you believe because of that, I have spent around 45 years searching for one, and would you also believe that 5 weeks ago I found one in downtown Melbourne ; Ted now resides in a nice tank in our living room (talk about the patience of Job) Some people were unsure about him, because apart from walking home from work during the summer months, he used to pick bluebells on Sunday mornings from "Bluebell Wood" - adjacent to the Hyndburn river ; however he went on to score 90 years, so I reckon he knew a thing or two that others didn't. 

Our local playing field was called the scrap (now demolished in favour of housing) and was located 200 metres south of St Charles Rd with 30% of the perimeter being the road to the Golf Club.

A certain amount of tribalism existed even in those days, generally speaking the Church of England mob played off Harwood Rd, the Methodists and others played over the bridge ; however I was the only non-catholic in a gang of around 20/25 who played in the St Charles Rd Catholic Church area. I think I was accepted because I was nieve and over enthusiastic about football, cricket and games in all seasons, 7 days a week. The walks, cycle rides, bow & arrow activities ( dare I mention bird nesting) amongst other things in idyllic locations such as close brow, Tottleworth and the local golf club area etc, brought us close to nature. I shudder now when I think about us walking out on a frozen reservoir. The Baptist Boy Scouts provided more nature activities and walking/marching up High St along with the pipe band to the Cenotaph on the 11th of the 11th with hands frozen to the flag pole, provide lasting memories. I recall winning two trophies playing for Methodist Utd in Accrington Combination, before retiring injured at the ripe old age of 18. One major regret was that the injury curtailed my lifelong ambition to emulate my father and grandfather, who both played in the first 11 for Rishton in the Lancashire League.

I nearly jumped out of my skin when I saw the 1951 photo in your cricketing segment, I was hoping when I first saw it, that it was the 1948 photo that also used to be displayed alongside the one you call up, in the the foyer of the pavillian. The 1948 one showed my father alongside the aussie pro Freddy Freer ; that was the year I think they won a trophy. 

May I say that during the days of Johnny Wardle, people used to take their own folding chairs to the cricket ground, because there wasn't enough seats to cater for everybody during those beautiful lazy hazy days of English summer time in the early 60's. I attended in game in 1999 during my last visit and apart from some children of the opposition players, I was literally the only person on the ground ; if somebody could explain this phenomenon I would be grateful.

Could someone also tell me why it hurts so much to see the Rovers languishing at the foot of the premier league, when I'm 12,000 miles away ; perhaps some part of me is still there on the terrace of Ewood Park or floating around the streets of my hometown.

I recall that Rishton at "village" status was the perfect size, I knew every single street and every child of my own age group ; I knew whether they were "well off" or like me from a working class background, and most importantly at the time, whether they were any good at football or not.

I do apologise for prattling on, but how else can I explain why I can't forget that little village in Lancashire.

Again genuine thanks for the web site.

Geoff Landon, Australia (via Email), 4th November 2004.

Story 7.

My great Auntie Mollie along with her friend Phyllis, used to have a sweet shop in Rishton (in the 50s and 60s). The shop was part of their house, as was the way in those days. We, as kids, loved visiting as we were allowed to go into the shop and choose what we would like - much more exciting in those days when the sweets had to be weighed and put into little paper bags!

Auntie Mollie was a Salvation Army person too, and taught me to play the tambourine while i was only 3 or 4 yrs old. Our family lived briefly in a flat above a hall or similar which was used by the Salvo's for their Sunday services. The gardens of the building were quite wild, but I remember being able to pluck berries from the rampant bushes and eat them. They seemed so tall, but I was only 4!

lovely memories. Thanks for your site.

Jackie Softly (via email), 18th November 2004.

Story 8.

MARY LORD was born into a different world. She has lived through two world wars, the decline of the textile industry and the introduction of cars and television. And Christmas too has changed beyond recognition since she was a little girl growing up in Rishton. To mark her 100th birthday, Mary spoke to IAN SINGLETON of the Lancashire Evening Telegraph at December 2004, and looked back on a century of East Lancashire Christmases. . .

WHEN Mary Lord was a young girl, she was lucky if she got so much as a piece of fruit for Christmas.

She has seen the festive period change from a predominately religious festival to the commercial enterprise it is today.

Mary, who turns 100 on Wednesday, was born in Rishton and has spent most of her life in the town, save for 30 years running a shop in Lynwood Avenue, Darwen.

At 12 she worked from 6am till dinner in Victoria Mill and then afternoons at St Charles's School, before going into full-time employment there at 13 as a spinner.

Looking back on those days, she is keen to point out that she was never without anything. But recalling Christmas, she said: "All we got was an apple or an orange, or perhaps a box of pencils.

"It wasn't as business-like as it is now. It was more of a religious festival. We never really got presents or had a Christmas tree. We would go to church and look at the crib and make paper chains for the house ourselves.

"Christmas dinner would be chicken. We never had turkey. Chicken would be a special treat.

"Sometimes during the war we even had potato pie for Christmas dinner because of the shortages."

Mary married James, who worked at one of the Co-ops in Great Harwood in 1936, and the couple had their only child Doreen, who died last year.

Mary said when she was a young mum Christmas was still as it had been when she was a child.

By the time she became a grandma in the 1960s, it was beginning to change.

James, who died in 1981, and Mary had taken over the shop and had more money, while the world was becoming more commercial.

She said: "We were a bit better off and bought presents for the grandchildren, but we still did not make a big thing about Christmas.

"Today it is not Christmas now as far as I am concerned because people think of it to get gifts, rather than as a religious festival."

Mary, whose father died in World War One, has seen so many changes in her life.

She has never learned to drive, but is a keen fan of soap operas, which she will be glued to over the festive period.

She added: "I was amazed at the television at first but wasn't a bit interested.

"But I do like Coronation Street, Emmerdale and Neighbours now. You have to have something to look forward to."

As youngsters get ready to unwrap their Play stations and spend hours on them, Mary recalled how she used to play in the road in clogs.

She said: "You can't play in the road today. Clogs were comfortable and you didn't get corns, that only started when shoes came in."

Mary will celebrate her birthday over a meal with her four grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren, with some family from New Zealand for the big day.

Story 9.

Praise for Grandad who caught escaped crook

A GRANDFATHER has been commended by a judge for capturing an escaped prisoner who broke into a neighbour's house while on the run. Geoff Wolstenholme leapt into action when his wife spotted prisoner George Murphy trying to run off after raiding a nearby house. His brave action's not only earned him a commendation, but the judge also rewarded him with £200. Judge Raymond Bennett told Burnley Crown Court that 66-year-old Geoff was brave and public spirited.

Murphy, 30, of Manor Street, Accrington, admitted burglary and escaping from prison and was sent back to jail for 21 months.

The dramatic capture started when Geoff was having a shave in the bathroom at his home in Westwood Avenue, Rishton, and heard his wife, Marion, shouting for help from the kitchen. She had spotted Murphy clambering over their garden back wall while being chased by neighbour Laraine Wall who was hanging on to his leg. Still with shaving foam on his face, Geoff dashed out of his bungalow's front door and cut off Murphy's escape route after he broke free from the neighbour's grasp. The retired fitter caught Murphy - who was on the run from Kirkham Prison - as he emerged from a passage at the side of the couple's home and pinned him against a garage door. His 64-year-old wife telephoned the police and within minutes Murphy was under arrest. All the property was recovered except for an engagement ring which is believed to have been lost during Murphy's failed escape.

Modest Geoff, who worked at GEC, Clayton-le-Moors, said: "I would always help a neighbour if I could. I just did it on the spare of the moment. I didn't really know what was happening - my wife just told me to get out of the front door quickly and I caught him. I didn't know until later he was an escaped prisoner. I wasn't really scared I just got on with it."

Neighbour Laraine said Geoff deserved the commendation for catching Murphy who had tried to run off with a bag loaded with her property. She said: "I was holding the burglar's leg as he tried to climb over the wall and at same time shouting for help. It was a good job Marion heard me and sent Geoff to help."

Murphy broke into her house on Blackburn Road when she went out for 20 minutes.

Lancashire Evening Telegraph, Thursday 11th December 1997.

Story 10 - Mercy men come home.

AFTER more than four years in a war zone, two East Lancashire men have returned to their safe havens in Hyndburn. Geoffrey Rawcliffe, of Shakespeare Avenue, Great Harwood and James Randles, of Hermitage Street, Rishton, have spent the last four years of their lives working out in Croatia, helping to make sure life returns to normal after the war which tore the former Yugoslavia apart.

Working with the United Nations Overseas Development Agency, Geoffrey and James assisted on the aid convoys during the war, ensuring aid reached its destination untouched by the rebel factions. More recently, the duo have help move thousands of refugees back to their original homes as they try to pick up the remains of their shattered lives. At their emotional reunion with their families, Geoffrey's wife, June Rawcliffe, who met her husaband with daughter Lisa, said the best thing would be being able to spend some time together. She said: "After 22 years in the army before going out on this convoy, I am determined to keep Geoffrey in this country for a long time. It's nice to know he is safe."

But the couple didn't stay on home ground for long, flying out for an long-awaited family holiday to Grand Canaria. June added: "They have worked so hard out there, but their work has gone largely unreported by the media. They put their lives on the line to help out. Their work has made sure the Croatian's have been able to get back to a normal life quicker than expected."

Geoffrey and James travelled back with Lytham man Phil Jones, who has also been out in the region - under a team led by Lady Chalker - for four years.

Lancashire Evening Telegraph, Thursday 20th November 1997.

Story 11 - The Fable of Four Film Stars!

Returning home on the train after a good night out in Blackburn, four young lads duly arrived on the station platform, only to find the local bobby waiting for them!

This was possibly Sergeant Ball, one of the last officers to work Rishton.

Marching up to the first of the lads, the bobby boldly asked his name. "James Dean" replied the young man.

"And what's your name then?" the sergeant asked the next youth, "Gary Cooper" said the lad.

Moving to the  third lad, the sergeant poised the same question again, only for the youth man to reply "Tom Sawyer".

The Policeman, now being to feel that he was being taken the Michael out of him, turned to the fourth and last lad, and said to him "I supposed your name is Hans Christian Anderson?"

To which the lad replied "No sir, my names Phil Anderson!!" Thus leaving the officer speechless!!!

Turning on his heels, the officer told the lads to bugger off home and stop wasting his time, the lads getting off lightly indeed!

Sadly big Tom Sawyer passed away at the beginning of September 2009, but I did have the chance to ask 3 of the 4 lads about this tale before this, including Tom, and it showed how much these lads had drunk that night as each one of their versions of this tale differed. The truth will never be known, and every time I hear this tale now it has a new twist to it, including the "I know, I was there" Max Boyce person! Already a tale handed down in Folklore, but it really was true, and the men are really called by the names that they used!!

Story 12

1950 IN RISHTON by John Dolan, Warrington.

Childhood Memories of a short-term resident

Having read some of the articles on the excellent Rishton website, I thought that I would add my own small contribution, despite the fact that I only lived there for two years as a very young child. Some time ago, I made a point of visiting the places which I remembered, so this account takes some of the changes which have happened over the years.

In the autumn of 1950, my father’s employment in the leather industry took him from our home town of Warrington to a branch of his firm in Blackburn. As a result, we had to move house â€" and our new home became Rishton. 

We soon noticed a difference from the flat Mersey plain, factories and tight, crowded streets of Warrington. Now we encountered a village atmosphere, rolling countryside, hills, woodland, a reservoir and open spaces â€" not to mention broad Lancashire speech! Home became a rented bungalow in Cutt Lane, a quiet, unsurfaced road leading to open country. Opposite our home was Cutt Wood â€" then fully wooded, not laid out as a park, as it is today. In the spring its floor was covered in bluebells and my sister and I would gather armfuls of them to bring home for mother to put in vases around the house. There were no restrictions on gathering wild flowers in those days! We were the only children living in the lane and the wood became our playground, where we spent many hours (unsupervised!) in complete safety. Next door were friendly neighbours, an elderly couple, Mr. & Mrs. Hargreaves, who showed us great kindness. They also kept a beautiful garden, which, even in childhood, I greatly admired.

A new home meant a new school, after just over a year’s education in Warrington. I well remember being taken by my mother to St. Peter’s and St. Paul’s Infant School and being introduced to my new teacher and headmistress â€" Miss Ruth Grimshaw, who will be recalled by countless people in Rishton, before and after my time, who went through her able hands. The other teachers were Mrs. Horrocks, Miss Burns and Mrs. Howarth.

The school was then, of course, in its old premises in School Street. In Miss Grimshaw’s class, the children sat in long rows facing each other, with the teacher’s desk and blackboard at the front of the room. Each week, depending on progress in the 3 Rs, we would be moved up or down our particular row; the ‘top’ of the class was furthest from the teacher’s desk! Discipline was firm and learning was clearly structured. By today’s standards, the equipment would have looked quaint and basic. Television had still to arrive in most people’s homes, let alone in schools, yet no one could have complained of boredom. Sitting on the floor and listening to a story was a pleasure. We worked hard and made progress. Each day we got our milk portion; the bottles had cardboard tops, with a perforated top to put the straw through.

There was no school uniform at the time; children went to school in everyday clothes â€" shorts and shirts, and jackets for the boys, dresses or gymslips for the girls. But there was one difference from my previous school. Some children wore clogs, which I had never seen before. There were whispers in class that these were the poorer children, but I never sensed any discrimination by other children towards them.

The Rishton website shows a class of six-year olds from 1951. I was amazed to look at this and find myself on it â€" the first sight of my classmates in 59 years! I’m third from left on the front row, sitting on the mat. (I always had a fringe at my mother’s insistence and hated it!) I remember Philip Harrison, brother of the sender of the picture. First on the right on the third row is Edward Robinson. I’m also fairly sure that the boy second from the right on the front row was Clive Whitmey who is mentioned in one of the letters to the website. Unfortunately, I can’t pick out anyone else on the picture with any degree of certainty. Clive lived in one of the houses on the Esplanade. I remember that he told me that his family came from Sunderland; I assumed that Sunderland was the name of a foreign country, especially when I heard his mother speak!

Under Miss Grimshaw’s guidance, my reading skills developed and I became an avid reader, devouring everything which was put before me. This created a problem. Having read through all the ‘Beacon’ readers up to the level expected of middle infants, I needed further books which were not in the class cupboard. To obtain these, I was sent on a periodical trip through the back streets to the old junior school on Harwood Road, where the top infant class was located. There, Mrs. Haworth, who would later be my next teacher, would find me the next book and back I went. It shows how much more secure we were in the world of that time that a six year old child could have been sent alone on an errand of this kind between school sites, but it was normal practice and happened in other schools elsewhere.

In the same vein, I should add that we had not lived long in Rishton before I was making my own way to and from school unaccompanied, as other children did. However, I remember that a school crossing patrol officer (or ‘lollipop lady’, but I don’t remember a lollipop) was eventually introduced to ensure the safety of children crossing Harwood Road. On her first day, I completely ignored her and started to cross the road as I usually did. She promptly pulled me up and told me not to cross without her supervision. I was suitably indignant, feeling that my independence had been compromised!

One memory comes back which Miss Grimshaw would have preferred to forget. The class was in the playground for a rounders lesson and she was demonstrating batting technique. Unfortunately, I managed to move to a position directly behind her and suffered a direct hit from her enthusiastic swing. The result was a large bump on my forehead and a quick end to the games lesson! Perhaps my bad positioning on this occasion was an early indicator that I would never excel at any games involving a bat and ball!

In the autumn of 1951, I moved up to Mrs. Howarth’s class, feeling very grown up as we were in the same building as the juniors. I very much enjoyed my time there. The website story of the school mentions the various epidemics which occurred at the time. I was one of those who fell foul of the chickenpox outbreak and was absent for two weeks. I missed the whooping cough epidemic, but remember asking other children what it was like. I also remember heavy falls of snow, the subsequent icy conditions and making slides on the playground. (‘Health and Safety’ was still an unknown concept!)

One of my early memories of an event of national significance happened during that year. It was in 1952, shortly before we moved back to Warrington. One of the junior teachers, Mrs. Holden, came into the classroom and whispered something quietly to Mrs. Haworth, who then looked deeply shocked. A little while afterwards, the whole school was summoned to the hall to listen to the announcement on the radio that King George VI had died. Later, we stood in class to observe a two minute silence on the day of his funeral.

St. Peter and St. Paul was different from my previous school, which was ‘county’ rather than ‘church’. While I was accustomed to attending Sunday School, the experience of attending church services with the school on special occasions was a new one. So, too, was the experience of learning the words of the 23rd. Psalm. I remember them being written on the blackboard for the children to copy in ‘best’ writing â€" and then to memorise. Of course, the wording was that of the King James Version of the Bible; the numerous modern translations had still to make their appearance. I remember at the time thinking of the phrases which occur in Psalm 23 and having mental pictures of the green pastures, the still waters, the valley of the shadow of death, the table richly spread and the house of the Lord which I could only imagine as being large and majestic. Those pictures have lived with me over the years and, even though they have a deeper meaning for me now, I can still see the classroom and the blackboard where I first encountered them.

Although I attended the church school in Rishton, Sunday School meant the Methodist chapel, situated in a side street. I tried to find it a few years ago, but couldn’t. Would this have been Mary Street Chapel, now demolished? I have to confess that I was not enthusiastic about attending, yet the teachers, mainly young women, were always very kind and welcoming.

Other memories come flooding back â€" going with my father to watch the village cricket team; train spotting from the railway bridge (in the days of steam, of course); fishing in the reservoir and making my first ever ‘catch’ there; milk delivered to our home and ladled out from a churn in the back of a van; being sent to a farm down the lane for a sack full of straw for the dog kennel. (People still kept dogs in kennels in those days!)

But my most celebrated moment was getting lost in Blackburn. We had gone into ‘town’ by bus and were going around the shops in the arcade, when I suddenly realised that mum, dad and sister weren’t there. Somehow I’d got separated from them. For some reason, it did not occur to this independent-minded six year old that it might be an idea to try and get reunited with them! Instead, remembering the bus route from numerous other such expeditions, I set off to walk home from the town centre to Rishton, with not a thought in my head for the frantic search, involving the police, which would immediately ensue. Traffic, of course, was slower and there were fewer cars on the road then than now, but nevertheless, this impromptu expedition was hardly to be recommended. However, after the long trek from town to village, the intrepid traveller safely reached home and wondered why his parents still hadn’t arrived, as he thought the bus should have got them home sooner than him. After a seemingly endless wait, they did arrive and found him sitting on the doorstep. I will leave to readers’ imaginations the expressions on their faces and what they said to their errant son!

And so the years have moved on. Contact with Rishton folk is far back in the past, but the Rishton years have echoes in some of my later experiences. 

I went on to become a primary school teacher. My first post was at a school near Warrington, which then came under Lancashire County Council. While there, something happened to bring back memories of those years at Rishton. At that time (1966/7), the County used to produce a magazine for its teachers and I recollect picking a copy up in the staff room. In its contents was a list of headteachers who were retiring that year. Whose name should I spot, to my amazement, but that of Miss Grimshaw â€" the longest serving head by far. As the website account of the school shows, she had been head since 1929.

I spent 25 years as a teacher, the last 16 of them as head of a two class primary school in the village of Belmont, south of Blackburn, between Bolton and Preston. This felt very much like Rishton, with its stone buildings, authentic Lancashire accents and hilly surroundings. I have many happy memories of my time there (and at my previous schools) and have experienced over and again that privilege which comes to teachers of seeing the dawning of understanding in so many young lives.

If any of my former school contemporaries are reading this and remember me, I extend my good wishes to them.

John Dolan, Warrington

Pupil at St. Peter and St. Paul’s Infant School 1950-52.