By Roger Chadwick
The school week at William Hulme’s G.S. was six whole days, there being lesons on Wednesday and Saturday mornings and compulsory sport until 4.00.p.m. on both afternoons. Drama and School Cadets added yet more hours to the schoolday and at busy times I would do homework in Manchester Central Library getting home around 9.30.p.m. only to be off again at 7.30.a.m. in the morning. Half term consisted of a Friday and a Monday tacked onto a weekend but the school holidays were longer. These factors meant that my time in and around Hyde was becoming increasingly sparse! In those days, Sunday truly was a day of rest with shops closed, bus services curtailed and nowt to do unless you were involved in a church.
Just after my 15th birthday, with the expenses of adolescence rising, some money had to be raised. In the summer of 1954, I started labouring at Ashton Brothers Bayleyfield Mill, hauling tubs of cotton bobbins to Italian lasses, (many of whom had already done 8 hrs in the Pan Yan Pickle factory in Glossop) in what was then called the Pirning room and then sorting boxes of cotton in the cavernous damp cellars. Weekday work began at 7.30.a.m. and finished at 5.30.p.m with 20 minutes for breakfast and 60 minutes for lunch. Saturdays began at the same time and work finished at 12.30.p.m. I was not allowed in the weaving shed because that was for skilled workers and overlookers only and I was very glad not to be in that infernal noisy place: nor was I allowed in cotton waste where men worked in cotton overalls and “plimsolls”. One spark in that department and the whole mill would have gone up like bomb! My first wage amounted to £6.8.10d (£6.44p) – a phenomenal wage at that time for labouring when teachers and other professions were getting much less. It was hard work with long hours but good money and I loved the smell and atmosphere, the views of Werneth Low from five floors up, the coarse cackle and vulgarity of the women in the cop cellar, the hot juice of lunchtime meat pies and endless tea from the steel urns provided. We have an old cotton bobbin in the kitchen which is converted to an egg timer. It still stinks of the mills….lovely!
Sadly, the days of Lancashire cotton were numbered and I had to find other work in the summers that followed. I biked to Harden’s Engineering, North’s Atomic Clothing, Redfern’s Rubber Works, Oldham Batteries, Daniel Adamson’s and a host of other industrial concerns but the message was always the same , “no vacancies for unskilled work…nothing part time….etc.” 1955 saw me cutting malt loaves and sorting hot white loaves and milk buns in the Bread Factory on the road from Denton to Brinnington. The following year I was clipping and weeding graves for six weeks in Denton cemetery. There I was a dab hand with the weedkiller and did untold damage through ignorance rather than malice. I started learning the art of gravedigging! But the money was poor compared with Ashton Brothers.
Whenever I see pictures of St Stephen’s Church, Floweryfield, I am reminded of an intensely sad time.
Coming home from holiday work in July 1956, I was told of the sudden death of a school friend, David Oldham. He had died of an unsuspected brain tumour. His father was the Organist of St Stephen’s and the family were closely connected with that church. It was my first experience of death and along with Pete Broughton and Barry Broadhurst(the son of George Broadhurst the painter and decorator), we bore David into church for the funeral service. His parents were much comforted by what we did but I am sure it was a case of “put a brave face on…”. David was an only one, like most of us in those years.
Some three weeks after this sad event I came home from work and found the family gathered in the back room. Straightaway I knew there was something up. “Where’s mi father….” I asked… only to be told that he had died on the 125 bus coming home from work. I had to attend Platt Lane Police Station in Manchester that night so we were glad of evening buses! My father had to be identified and my mother couldn’t do it. “Are you Roger Chadwick, the son of Harry Chadwick?....is this your Father? Having answered the questions, the paperwork had to be done and I could not say that the police sergeant was sympathetic. But then, he had to do his job and cards and sympathy and teddy bears were light years away. This was the first time I had seen a dead body. But my Vicar was brilliant and gave my atheist father a wonderful funeral!
I would like to thank Roger once again for sharing his wonderful memories with us !
They are a pleasure to read. :)