There were several shops on the main roads which had been there
all through my childhood. Competition was low then and each shopkeeper
was simply in business to make a living for himself. Chain stores,
expansion and supermarkets were light years away.
The chemist shop was owned by Mr. Andrews. He had an artificial
leg and was known to everyone as 'Corky Andrews'. His shop, like
all the others surrounding it, was drab and dreary. It had not
seen a lick of paint in years, nor did it whilst we lived there.
The window sported the usual apothecary jars, filled with coloured
water, this was, like the barber's red and white pole, a symbol
of the trade. A few fly blown notices decorated the bottom of
the window which usually had some faded crepe paper covering.
Chemist's shops then were strictly business and sold medicines,
cough and cold mixtures, powders to alleviate indigestion and
stocked drugs to be used in the making up of home remedies. Doctors
dispensed their own medicines and pills from the surgery.
Corky Andrews had the distinction of being able to 'draw' teeth.
Whether he had any training for this I don't know. Dentistry
then was something akin to black magic and for the most part
people ignored the care of teeth until decay and deterioration
led them to visit someone who would extract all the teeth and
fit false ones in their place. Corky didn't reach those dizzy
heights but when the need arose, would do the necessary extractions.
There were no such things as injections, the victim had to bear
the pain and hope it wouldn't take long. More than once, however,
when Corky didn't get the forceps (maybe they were just pliers)
firmly gripped on the tooth, and the pain became too much, the
victim leapt from the chair, spitting blood and bits of tooth
and dashed from the room, with Corky doing a bop, skip and jump
after him. It's a wonder we all survived with this primitive
Another colourful character was 'Clogger' Wainwright. His trade,
as the name implies, was making and mending of clogs. His shop
was simply the front room of one of the many terraced houses
which were built flush with the road. A little sign, in the shape
of a clog, hung above his door, swinging and creaking in the
wind. Once inside the shop, the smell of his tiny coke fire,
leather soaking in water, dust and the rubbish of years was overpowering.
The walls were lined with clog irons, soles and heels, from adult
to children's sizes. There were bits of discarded leather everywhere,
and nails, which had been wrenched out of clogs to allow new
irons to be put in place, lay on the floor for weeks. Mr. Wainwright
wore a leather apron and his lips were always clamped tightly
over a dozen or so nails which he was using to make or repair
Clogs were much more substantial than shoes as the road surfaces
were usually stone 'setts' (or 'setls') (those square blocks
of stone that Dad worked in the quarry) or simply topped with
small loose stones. These were very hard on shoe leather but
the iron soled clogs took much punishment and survived well.
To be near a mill yard when it was time for entry or departure
was to hear a symphony of rhythmic tapping as all the workers
half walked, half ran to the door or gates.
Wearing shoes meant being 'dressed up' or working in an office,
a cut above the average worker. Clogs were warm, weather- and
waterproof, and did not need to be repaired as often as shoes
did. Like today's health sandals they did require getting used
to, but once that was overcome, clogs became the only thing to
On Kerridge, we had two rather colourful characters. Sampey
Hunt, getting on in years, lived alone in the terraced houses
which were built high in the fields and named Cheshire view.
No doubt he had been christened Sampson but he was always known
as Sampey. He liked to entice anyone, particularly children,
to go into his house. I fear he had ulterior motives. I recall
my sister Peggy being invited in once and when Mother knew she
was off over those fields like a steam engine. She told Sampey
what she would do to him, if ever it happened again, and I know
she meant every word. I don't think Peggy came to any harm, she
probably escaped when she realised what he had got her there
The other person was a Mr. Brimelow, I never knew his first
name. He and his wife and family arrived, literally from nowhere,
and we played with the children as small village life demanded.
He used to make cough toffee and stand the markets to make a
living. How he did this, I don't know as any kind of sweets,
medicinal or not, came under the list of luxuries then. However,
nothing daunted, he had his stall in Macclesfield market each
weekend, and as a gimmick had a little monkey which either sat
on his shoulder as he gave the spiel, or sat on the naphthalene
light bracket, where a naked flame burned, swaying to and fro
in the wind. Mother forbade us ever to buy any of his cough candy
as she said the monkey might have peed on it! No doubt she was
right - she usually was!
A strange feature of this family was the obvious mismatching
of husband and wife. She was of a much higher social caste than
was Mr. Brimelow and it must have been gall to her soul to have
been reduced to such a living. Strange, at that time there was
a rigid class consciousness, much more than is observed today.
Whatever circumstances you were born into, you were expected
to remain thus and marry within your station.
I remember Mary Jackson who was a farmer's daughter. She gained
a scholarship to the Girls High School in Macclesfield and from
there went on to the University in Manchester. She would travel
backwards and forwards by train, walking over the canal side to
her father's farm, and help with the milking and other farm chores.
She must have been brilliant to have achieved all this from an
ordinary village school education. The villagers however, never
gave her the credit due, she was a misfit, belonging neither to
one side nor another. The same thing happened to anyone who married
out of their class, either above or below it. General opinion was
that they 'should have known better' because 'no good could come
of the match'. This attitude, I'm sure, dated back to the feudal
times when the lords and barons were on one side and the serfs
and peasants on the other and there was no common meeting grounds.
© 1985 Enid Simpson