Opposite the recreation grounds was another road on a still
higher level. To support this road a high brick wall had been
built and in order to provide a short cut for those people who
lived there, a flight of steps had been cut into the banking.
This, of course, necessitated a hole in the wall where the steps
began. Originally, I'm sure, it had been nicknamed 'the hole
in the wall', but time had corrupted this to 'THOLYWALL' steps
and this is what I always called it! It was near to this opening
that the canal had to be carried over the road by an aqueduct.
Again, local dialect had turned this word into 'THAKADOCK' -
much easier to say, I'm sure! But baffling for a little girl
who liked the sounds of words.
As you walked along this road, toward the railway station, another
ugly, but extremely useful edifice had been built - a men's urinal.
Comparing modern sanitation to those days, there is only one
way to describe the difference - earthy. This particular piece
of masonry was simply a brick wall, perhaps 8-10' high, with
the necessary ablutions behind it. There was no top or sides
to disguise it. The front was used for bill-posting and in winter
weather the wind would manage to whip most of the bills from
the wall and leave scraps of paper flapping untidily. No euphemisms
were used to name this urinal - it was (and probably still is)
known simply as the 'pee stump'.
There was another building, ugly as far as architectural design
went, but of great use to all and sundry. To whom it belonged,
who built it and who administered it's allocations, I don't know.
Known to all as 'the Old School', or in local dialect 'TH'OWD
SCHOO', it stood in the centre of the village. It was used for
all kinds of things. Primarily it's use was for an nondenominational
Sunday School and it had a great following each Sunday for those
who did not attend any of the other designated churches or chapels.
So many rooms and so many miles, or so it seemed, of the stone
flagged corridors that their uses were legion. The Employment
Exchange - the place where you 'signed on' if your place of employment
was on 'short time' - had it's headquarters there. The Welfare
Clinic met weekly for the free consultation on babies and children
up to five years old. Several of the rooms were put into use
as extra classrooms when domestic science, (known then as Housewifery)
was added to the local school's curriculum. Any meetings, concert,
or anything demanding a large audience met there.
Twice in each winter season, the local Cooperative Society held
a concert on these premises. A local concert party was hired
as an attraction, then in the interval, one of the executive
members would speak for about half an hour on the virtues and
advantages of belonging to the Co-Op. As most people in Bollington
were Co-Op members, it was a bit unnecessary, but the concerts
went on regardless.
Posters would appear announcing the forthcoming attraction and
would end thus: 'Doors Open at 6.45 pm. Admission 2d'. So few
entertainments had we then that the prospect of something costing
only 2d each was too good to resist. Most people sent their children
to be first in the queue and off we would go, leaving home around
5.30 pm to take our places. The idea was, of course, that we
reserved places and seats for our parents.
No matter how early we were, there was always another family
before us - the Potts'. Bertha Potts was a notoriously belligerent
woman who worked in one of the mills. She was always the strike
leader, the spokeswoman or the agitator. Her daughters, Alice
and Phyllis, were not quite as fierce as Bertha, but had been
brought up to stand firm and speak up for themselves. So, on
these nights, they would be first in the queue and would stand
with their backs to the huge double doors. No-one would dispute
their rights (heaven preserve them if they had done!) It was
winter and therefore cold with a thin east wind buffeting us
as we stood in the open air. We shoved a little nearer and huddled
together to keep warm. This meant a tight little mass around
the doors, and when the time came for someone to open up from
the inside, everyone, including the Potts' girls, fell inside.
Always quick to recover, they would regain their equilibrium
and dash off like mountain goats to be first up the stairs, pay
their money and then spread themselves out over the front seats,
with places saved for their parents. It was first come, first
served then and we accepted this ruling.
It always seemed like hours before our parents came and we would
wave frantically over the heads of the audience who now rapidly
filled the hall.
The concert parties were all fifth rate, but for 2d what could
you expect? There would be a bright young man who played the
piano, Always wearing an ear to ear smile. A powerful baritone
who would render 'Asleep in the Deep', an earnest contralto,
usually wearing a drab brown dress, would sing coyly about the
Cuckoo putting her hand to her ear to 'listen' for the bird's
reply to her trills. For some reason this always sent us into
paroxysms of laughter and we'd stuff handkerchiefs into our mouths
to stifle the giggles. Then a comedian, an older man, who told
corny jokes (he probably did the pub on Saturday night). Someone
would do a monologue, great favourites then, and they were usually
imploring father to come home from. the pub, as one of the children
lay dying. Real tear jerkers, they were.
The interval, when we had to listen to the dreary monotonous
exhortation to join the Co-Op was something to be endured rather
than enjoyed. There was always the second part of the concert
to look forward to - the soulful rendering of 'The Two Gendarmes'
from the baritone and tenor, the warbling 'Pipes of Pan' from
the slightly off-key soprano (more hysteria from us) and then
the National Anthem which ended every meeting, theatre and film
It was a good evening and even though we had nothing with which
to compare it, we had our own criteria. These concerts were always
Called the 'Twopenny Rush' and it was a good two pennoth.
© 1985 Enid Simpson