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7 February 2011
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Peter - Oldham
I was born in 1941 at Hollinwood, just outside Oldham, in an area bounded by cotton mills, canals, and coal mines. My father worked at Ferrantis, and my mother in the mill. School was Limeside County Primary, and to get there, we had to pass the Fox mill.Early recollections are always of it being dark, but the lights of the mill were friendly, and the machinery made a pleasant whine. There was a warm blast of air coming from the air vents, and this was a joy compared to the rest of the walk under gas lights on a freezing winter morning. There was a carter who used to move raw cotton from the Fox mill to the Devon, a distance of maybe a mile, with a cart pulled by a pair of enormous cart horses. The carter himself was a little man, even to a small child, who would sit perched on the front of the cart, behind his team of horses. En route, they had to cross Hollins Road, which was the "main" road, at which they had to stop.The approach was slightly down hill, and in winter when there was ice, I have vivid recollection of these cart horses with steam coming from their huge nostrils, the smell and the heat,their hooves sliding on the cobbles as they tried to hold back the loaded cart, and the carter leaping off his perch to wind on the brake on the cart. This was as near as a young lad came to Dantes Inferno. Winters were also about fog. Pea soupers when you could not see a hand in front of your face.A fog was an eerie world in which you could hear people pass by without seeing them. When the buses were caught away from the depot, the conductor would sit on the mud guard telling the driver where the kerb was.A fog was perfect for playing "knock - a - door - runaway" It wasnt always winter, and summers were spent playing on the mill lodges,or sliding down the slag heaps from the coal mine on corrugated iron sheets, or climbing the lock gates on the canal. In retrospect all highly dangerous, and totally impossible in the modern age. Summer was also the mass migration for wakes week to Cleveleys, when the family and all the neighbours, who were always "aunts and uncles", would sit waiting for the Blue Bird motor coach down by the canal basin, to transport them and their luggage, via the Squirrel Hotel at Bolton for elevenses, to Cleveleys for the annual two weeks holiday by the seaside.We would all stay on the same road, at the same boarding house, every year until I was in my teens. It is now held to ridicule, but the fact is that we never did lock our doors, I could walk into our neighbours houses whether they were in or out,I was never aware of any vandalism, nor as a child was I conscious of threats of any kind. There is no doubt that we are infinitely "better off" than we were in those days in material benefits, and I do not believe there is a glory in denial, but the fact is that my parents had a strength of character born of necessity which no longer exists, and for that I hold them in eternal respect.


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