Clogs On Broadway

Thanks for the Memory  by Albert Pattison 1972

This entry won First Prize in a Memories of Bacup Competition in 1972.


Fifty years ago, I was attending the old St Mary’s R.C. School, on Bankside. Bacup at that time was a dimly lit cotton town, composed in the main of pubs, chip shops, cloggers  and butchers shops, and local characters. We were in the era of the knocker-up and the lamplighter, clogs and shawls, horse and cart, silent pictures, tippler toilets and tup’enny mixture.


Cattle, sheep and pigs were driven through the streets, on foot almost daily.


The old centre had not yet been altered, and there was the open River Irwell. Where the St James Street gardens are now situated. There were two iron bollards at the entrance to Yorkshire Street, one on either side of the street, where a chain gad been drawn across in former times. There were two more, at the top of Union Street, and two at the top of Gas Street.

Of our four main roads, Todmorden Road was never paved. It was than an earth road, later covered with loose stone chippings. We youngsters have played football on Todmorden Road, with nothing to interrupt us, except for the odd horse and cart and Joe Walsh the bobby.


Times were hard, and we had to make our own pleasure. Every street was full of happy children, playing the popular street games, whilst parents sat on their door steps, chatting and watching the games. Some poor old soul would wander up the street, singing for a few odd coppers. The cries of the street vendors would be heard, “knives or scissors to grind”., “all sizes of pan lids”, “ hoops for the washing tubs”, etc.  A figure would be going from door to door, selling boot laces, needles and bobbins of thread.


Meanwhile, most vacant plots of land were teaming with activity, with men of all ages playing football, cricket, or billet and stick, till daylight faded. Then along would come the lamplighter. If the road was “up” we would gather round the night-watchmen’s hut, and his coke brazier, until bedtime.


Our hills and moors were criss-crossed with public footpaths, and hundreds of local people were to be found, walking, or sitting, “on the tops”. Almost all the summer evenings, and especially at weekends. The “Maden” lodges were also bee-hives of activity, with swimming in the summer and skating in the winter. Suicides were most attracted to them, and a policeman would wheel the body, on a two-wheeled hand-litter, to the mortuary on Henrietta Street. Walking funerals were a common sight, and the coffin of a child would be carried all the way, with ropes slung through the handles. The numerous slaughter houses and smithies cold command a good audience round their open doorways, and we even watched Levi Holt, the local undertaker, in Lanehead Lane, making coffins. There was always a bigger” gate”, locking over the wall, ay the Bacup football and cricket home matches, then there were people inside the ground. We “boys” nipped over the wall.


Bacup abounded with local characters and personalities. The memory of them invokes nostalgia. He is not a full blown Bacupian who never tasted “Owd Mathers  home made cough drops. A little old, man with a long white beard, he made them at his home in Newgate. His pitches were the Kozy and Empire picture houses, and the Bacup football and cricket matches. They were ha’penny a bag.


“Mickey Luke”, ( Micky son of Luke)  was known to generations of Bacupians. A tiny, harmless old man, with a “swilling brush” moustache, he always wore an old raincoat which reached down to his ankles. He lived at the doorstones lodging house, and she stood around Bacup centre all day long. No-one ever knew his real name until he died, when the Bacup Times identified him as Michael O’Mahoney. “Happy Jack”  ( John Whitehead) was another well known Bacup characters for donkeys’ years. He was a rag and bone dealer, on his own account, in Lanehead Lane. Unfortunately, he had a faulty voice-box which  made him rather intriguing. His street “cry” was the sound of a ricker ( a football fans rattle). He was 83 when he died in 1939.


A familiar scene for many years was the commanding figure of Dr Rigby with his inseparable bulldog which even accompanied him when patrolling his favourite hotels. He was an outstanding personality in the Armistice Sunday parade for many years, when he always appeared in his old 1914-1918 army medical officers’ uniform, complete with puttees. He was reputed to having performed many minor but necessary operations on very poor patients in his surgery for no fee.


“Joe Spratt” was a well known firwood dealer in Newgate. He never wore anything on his feet but Sunday clogs. These had a hand carved pattern on the uppers, the uppers and wood soles being fastened together with brass nails all around the clog which had a pointed toe and were highly polished. Most colliers had a pair for Sundays only. His claim to fame was having walked down Broadway, New York, in his clogs.


The towns acknowledged expert of the mouth-organ was “Hughie” Dunn, who lived at the Hare and hounds lodging house on Yorkshire Street. Bacupians were enthralled by his masterly rendering of this instrument. He had been badly wounded the Dardanelles and lost and eye and was crippled in and arm and a leg. The British Legion took charge of the funeral arrangements when he died in 1940.


“Sammy Buckskin” was always roughly dressed, and a few days growth on his chin. He also liked a drink. Sammy was a lover of cricket, and with a few drinks inside him he would wander round the crowd on Bacup ground shouting out comments to the huge delight crowd.


“Robert” (Taylor) was on the Bacup scene for sixty or seventy years until he died about eight years ago. He was the last of our long line of cherished characters to these, and to all of them, I am sure that Old Bacupians everywhere will join me, with a sincere Thanks for the Memory.