A Kerridge Childhood

An early 20th Century upbringing


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Introduction

Below is a further chapter from A Kerridge Childhood written by Enid Simpson. For a full introduction and index to all the stories please see the head page.

SUMMER NIGHTS

Industry, in the form of cotton mills, dominated much of the scenery of Bollington, but there were many very pretty parts. One of these was the Recreation Ground and here, amongst the lovely trees, shrubbery and flowers, the local cricket team had their home. In this part of the village, the roads ran on different levels, and Wellington Road, the main street running through the village, was on a higher level than the Cricket Ground. Steps, which were quite steep, were necessary to descend from the road and they wound through a lovely rock garden, forded a brook (the same one that passed through the school yard), and came out in the centre of that rich patch of green turf where the cricket team played each week. The grounds were kept in superb condition, mowed and rolled each day in the season, until the ground was like a green billiard table - smooth and flat.

Seats were placed on the sloping banks near the steps, with plenty of shade from the trees and so great was the interest of the village people in the weekly games that these seats were filled to capacity well before the coin was tossed. At that time, Bollington had a pretty good team, retaining the services of a professional cricketer (Alice Cook's father) and being a member of a minor Cheshire League.

We were all keenly interested in watching 'our' team though I never clearly remember being told specifically the rules of the game. When we lived on Kerridge, Mother and Dad used to go down after tea to see the last part of the match before stumps were drawn at 7.30 pm. After the tea interval, no charge was made for entrance. We had our favourite teams, and our favourite players. All, except the 'pro' were local men and each had his particular skill - opening batsman, spin bowler, fast bowler, wicket keeper, slips fielder etc. Woe betide these men should they fail in picking up a ball, being out first or second ball, or failing to bowl out a batter who was piling up runs for the opposing team!

It was a lovely pastoral scene, the rich, lush turf amidst the country setting and sounds; birds flying over the grass, bees and other insects droning between the flowers and the incessant murmurings of the leaves as the breeze gently moved them. The white clad figures would be concentrating on the moves of the game, whilst the umpire, usually clad in several of the players' sweaters on top of his white coat, would call the verdict on a tricky point.

As well as the ever-changing pattern of the cricket, the recreation ground offered tennis courts, a rose garden, a football pitch and plenty of space for the children to play. Pride of place always went to the cricket ground and its vociferous supporters.

Bollington boasted one cinema 'The Picture Palace' although its real name was the Bollington Empire. It was a run-down seedy little building but having no competition, it flourished. We knew little else and accepted it for what it gave to us.

Films, or as we called them, pictures, were very popular then. Silent films were in their heyday, and we knew the stars almost as if they lived in the village.

We were allowed to go to the Saturday afternoon matinee and for the cost of 3d, watched many of the old favourites. psychology hadn't raised it's head then, so there were no films made specially for children. We saw the same picture as the audience saw in the evening.

First we waited at the box office and having paid our money were allowed to go in the cinema and fight for our seats. The Pathe Gazette News was always the first item, and we watched avidly as Ruby Price, the local pianist, pounded out 'March of the Gladiators' on the tinny piano. On Saturday nights she was accompanied by Wilfred Hartley on his violin - this greatly added to the pathos, of which there was plenty in those days of silent films.

Then came the serial 'Perils of Pauline'. Pearl White played the heroine and each week she was involved in some escapade, ending with her being tied to the railway lines in the way of the oncoming express, or hanging head first over the cliff which was rapidly eroding.

Then the 'big' picture - Rudolph Valentino dashing across the desert with his hapless victim tied to the saddle of his horse. Though we knew little of sex then, we were stirred with all this chasing to and fro. Silent films did not necessarily mean silent audiences. Many were the cries of "He's behind you" and "Don't tell him" etc., etc., from the enthusiastic crowd. It was all good clean fun. Orange peel flew fast and furious between the kids and the more obstreperous ones were thrown outside. After wallowing in this make believe world, we would make our way home and act it all out again in the garden, or house, after tea was over.

© 1985 Enid Simpson

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