Like Two Peas in a Pod

It's probably because they're so alike that they make so much of their differences.  Yorkshire and Lancashire – two sides of the same coin; mirror images.  Who does bleak moorland vistas better?  Who does scruffy little mill towns better?  Who has the best chippies?  Where can you get the best curries?  Where can you get the best pint of mild?  Who's got the brashest, most vulgar seaside town?  Actually I think Lancashire wins that one, but who's got the best brass band?

As far as the Lancs. Labour History website goes, I was born on the wrong side of the Pennines.  I don't recollect being consulted about it, and I live in Bolton now, so that must say something. I grew up in Queensbury near Bradford, home of Black Dyke Mills and that famous best brass band. The Lancashire border wasn't much above fifteen miles away, just over Soil Hill, whence all the rain and bad weather.  I didn't realise Yorkshire's evil twin lay thither.

 

 When did I first venture over there?  On a trip to the 'lights' when I was five.  Not the Northern lights and not even the Blackpool lights. There was a coach company in Queensbury called Westercrofts.  They did excursions to Scarborough, Bridlington, Filey, New Brighton, Blackpool, etc.  They also did mystery tours.  The destination board would proclaim 'Mystery Tour.'  Everybody in the village knew it always went to Temple Newsham near Leeds.  The only mystery about it was why they didn't just put that up on the board.

   My first foray into Lancashire was to the 'lights' at Morecambe.  Morecamble had its own illuminations in Happy Mount Park.  Yorkshire folk in droves wandered round, open-mouthed at the incandescent extravaganza.  Why Morecambe?  Was it because at Blackpool they'd have had to pay the tram fare to see the lights properly? Was it because they knew Blackpool would be full of Lancashire folk?

 

Bradfordians have had a  love affair with Morecambe that goes back to the days when it was known as Poulton-le-Sands.  In 1850 a railway line was opened from there to Lancaster and Skipton, with connections through to Bradford and Leeds. Folk began flocking to the resort on day trips.  In 1887 Bradford's mayor Angus Holden took 1,200 Bradfordians there on the train. Poulton-le-Sands changed its name to Morecambe in 1889.  At Whitsuntide in 1894 5,500 Bradford folk visited Morecambe by train, almost half the total number of visitors.

 

The Midland Railway introduced a special daily train service from Morecambe to Bradford, allowing wealthy business men to commute.  They could leave Morecambe at 7.40 and be in Bradford by 9.15.  Coming back, the train left at 5.10 and got into Morecambe at 6.50, in good time to get to their villa residences in Bare for dinner.

 

Apart from trips to Morecambe and New Brighton, which was another popular destination, I didn't get to know Lancashite till I moved there when I got a job at Blackburn library in 1971.  Did it seem like a foreign country?  Did people do things differently there?  Being in a library one difference I noticed straight away: everybody said book with a long sound, 'oo', as opposed to in Yorkshire where it's a short 'o' sound.

 

Otherwise everything was much the same.  The chip shops tended to offer  pies and sausages and curry sauces, which you didn't get so much over the border. The pubs though were much the same.  The steep, cobbled streets were much the same.  The terraced houses were much the same, though there was more red brick than in Bradford.  There were mill chimneys everywhere much the same, and much the same as in Yorkshire, not many of them were smoking.

 

There were the same chain shops: Woolworths, Marks and Spencers, British Home Stores, Littlewoods. Both Bradford and Blackburn had demolished much loved arcades to make way for new development - the Swan Arcade in Bradford; the Thwaites Arcade in Blackburn.  Both towns had substantial, bustling Asian communities.

 Is there nothing to the Yorkshire v Lancashire malarkey then?  Is there no such thing as a typical Lanky or a typical Yorkie? Is the stereotypical Yorkshireman a myth - that blunt, bluff, hard-headed, tight-fisted lump of Pennine gritstone, who calls a spade a bloody shovel when he does speak at all.- is that just a myth? And is there even a stereotypical Lancastrian? Is it a droll innocent like George Formby who always seems headed for disaster, but slyly comes out on top and gets the girl?  It seems easier to think of a stereotypical Lancashire woman, an amalgam of Gracie Fields and Hilda Ogden, someone feisty, sharp-tongued, who has to knock her gormless menfolk into shape, but has a heart of gold.

Not surprising that in Lancashire the feminine example comes to the fore.  In Lancashire women were a significant part of the workforce.  Women outnumbered men in the mills.  Not that there weren't women working in Yorkshire mills but some industries – mining steel-making, fishing were all male. Is that why Yorkshire can seem more challenging, more forbidding?  Walking into a works' canteen full of Lancashire women would be daunting and you would be fairly effectively dismantled, but it would be done with wit and a wink, a canteen full of Yorkshiremen would be more bloody-minded and confrontational and if you didn't give as good as you got, you'd not be accepted.

 

Is that all there is to it then?  Is there nothing else to distinguish the two counties?  Well, if you accept that Liverpool is still Lancashire, there does seem to be an awful lot of Lancashire comedians - Ken Dodd, Arthur Askey, George Formby, Les Dawson, Eric Sykes, Hilda Baker, Victoria Wood, Peter Kay.  The list goes on and on.  Of course a cruel Yorkie would say you need a sense of humour to live in Lancashire.  But how do you account for it and who have Yorkshire got – Alan Bennett?  He's not going to have them rolling in the aisles at the Glasgow Empire, till they've missed the last tram.

 Is it the way they tell it?  Is it all in the accent?  A Yorkshire accent is 'thud, thud, thud', like a succession of doors slamming; a  Lancashire accent is more beguiling, more guileful. Doesn't the Lancashire accent lend itself to telling a funny tale?  Go back to the way they say book.  Doesn't the long 'ooo' have echoes of 'ooer' as in a Ken Dodd's 'ooer Missus,' or a George Formby's 'oo Mother', as he contemplates an unfolding calamity?  The Yorkshire short 'o' is a full stop, saying 'shut up', before you say something stupid.

 Of course it's all nonsense.  What is a county boundary after all?  In the long unfurling of the world's history it's as enduring as a flicker of lightning. Once the Danish vikings ruled on one side of the Pennines and the Norwegians on the other.  Once the whole shooting match was Brigantia.  A wise old lady from Todmorden summed it all up back in 1974 when asked what she thought of the boundary changes that meant she was now living in Yorkshire.

  “I don't mind really, only they have awful winters in Yorkshire.”

   You can be a Lanky one minute, then a Whitehall wunderkind has a wizard wheeze and you're suddenly a Greater Mancunian or a Cumbrian, or worse still a Yorkie.

   And yet stereotypes persist.  Few more enduring than that of the mean obdurate Scotsman. They say copper wire was invented by two Scots arguing over a penny.  And you can see them at it – shaggy eyebrows bristling, knobbly knees all a quiver, kilts flying, nostrils flaring.  If you said copper wire was invented by a Yorkie and a Lanky arguing over a penny, it wouldn't ring true.  Everybody knows the penny would drop; the Lanky would rush off to his workshop to invent a copper extruding machine and the Yorkie would be off to his broker, telling him to sell wool and buy copper.

 But surely there's some basis for the stereotypes.  Could you have a more typical Yorkie than Emily Bronte's Heathcliffe – a bloody minded tyrant, wuthering hither and thither over the Yorkshire moors, laying down the law?  Only trouble is he's a scouser, an orphan found wandering on Liverpool docks.

  What about Henry Tudor then, the first great Lanky, champion of the Red Rose, who hit White Rose Yorkie, Richard, for six.  Lancashire 1 Yorkshire 0. Fact.  Except Henry was Welsh and Richard born in Northants.

 Sport then.  Take Manchester United and Leeds United, rivals from the biggest commercial cities of the two counties..  Who represents Yorksire grit and never-say-die more than Jack Charlton and who Lancashire guile and skill more than Bobby Charlton?  You can't argue with that - only to point out that they're brothers and both born in Northumberland.

 The fact of the matter is the only difference between Yorkshire folk and Lancashire folk is personal circumstances.  Hugh Grosvenor, Duke of Westminster, who owns Bowland Forest in Lancashire and much else, has more in common with David Lascelles Earl of Harewood who owns Harewood House in Yorkshire than either have with gamekeepers on their own estates.

   The guy behind the counter in a fast food shop in Manchester's curry mile has more in common with a guy in a fast food shop in Bradford's Lumb Lane than either has with fellow county men living in a Ribble Valley or Dales cottages.

 Alas it's bred into us to think of others as different.  Friendly banter between Lankys and Yorkies does no harm, but it's the thin end of a wedge that leads to the less amusing - 'they're coming over here getting our jobs.' or 'they go straight on benefits,' or 'they get council house given.' Folk are just folk, no matter which side of the Pennines they come from. We're all the same under the skin, though they are notoriously thick skinned in Yorkshire.  Enough!  Let it lie.

  I'll end with another magical mystery tour.  An elderly Bradford couple, too poor to go on holiday, spent their week off every year in the city's Manningham Park.  One year though they saved up enough money to go to Morecambe.  They didn't have good weather, so when they saw a local coach company advertsing mystery tours, they decide to give it a whirl. No prizes for guessing the mystery destination – Bradford's Manningham Park!

Author:  Allan D Born 

‘Little Moscow’ – Nelson Lancashire.

 

In the remote corner of north east Lancashire lies the little town of Nelson. At the turn of the 20th century, like so many other Lancastrian towns, Nelson was a hive of nonconformist religion, namely Methodism, and a town in great flux. Immigrants wandered into the district from Cornwall, Ireland and the West Riding of Yorkshire looking for work in the rapidly growing weaving industry. Nelson was also a hub for workers’ representation and both the Independent Labour Party (ILP) and the Social Democratic federation (SDF) were socialist parties that established branches in the town. Selina Cooper was one such Cornish immigrant who initially joined the SDF, and then over time, enacted her socialist principles by taking numerous individual initiatives across a broad range of local organisations inclusive of the Womens’ Institute Guild, the National Union of Womens’ Suffrage Societies and the Cooperative Society.

 

In a joint undertaking that includes, Project Leaders Kevin and Gary Webb, Nelson Town Council and the University of Central Lancashire, the old venerated ILP building on Vernon Street is this year staging a history renovation project funded by the Lottery Heritage Fund. The group are implementing an exhibition to celebrate the town’s labour history. The project is to entail stained glass window renovation and will celebrate aspects of the town’s memorable people and institutions. Displays depicting some of the prominent local labour personalities and memorabilia make a powerful and exciting display worth any educational visit. Needless to say, Selina Cooper figures prominently as does the Clarion movement which was Robert Blatchford’s socialist off-shoot to the said newspaper of same name.

 

Though Nelson is not normally associated with radical rebellion, the town hides a well documented ‘labour’ history past. It was one of the first towns to elect a Labour led council in 1905 and Cooper and that other starlet of labour, Katherine Conway, were the two ladies who laid the opening stones at the ILP building on Vernon Street in 1907. After the industrial weavers disputes of 1911/12 and 1928 a local newspaper tabbed the town as ‘little Moscow’. The motivation behind the epithet is unknown but in reality Nelson would be more renown for Labour Party representation rather than socialist upheaval. The first Labour MP of the town, ‘Giant’ David Shackleton, abhorred socialism and guided the town’s politics along the straight and parliamentary narrow.

 

However, Nelson certainly possessed its fair share of socialist heroes. SDF leader Bryan Chapman was the embodiment of socialist resistance and served time behind bars on several occasions for his commitment to the workers’ cause. Another famous socialist woman who lived at separate times in Barrowford, Heptonstall and Brierfield, was Ethel Carnie Holdsworth. Holdsworth, who began working as a weaver in Great Harwood in 1897 when she was eleven, wrote for Blatchford’s Clarion, several of her own novels and fought belligerently against conscription prior to the First World War. Ironically and tradgically, she was informed that her husband had been killed in action in 1918 only for him to turn up alive again after the War one year later. The rebellious clergyman Reverend T. A. Leonard, who had his initial posting at the Dockray Street Congregational Church in Colne, was yet another socialist firebrand who developed the Christian Holiday Association (CHA) in an attempt to lure workers away from alcohol and cheap thrill holidays. Leonard set up holiday ‘communes’ in the West Riding and actually married Cooper and her husband Robert in 1896. Local lad Seth Sagar was present at the founding of the Nelson Communist Party at Herbert Thorup’s house on Victoria Street in 1920/21, and in 1928 the town bore witness to the last weavers lock-out in the county when union representative, John Husband was sacked from Mather Bros mill for producing faulty cloth. The event remembered in town not for any political break through but more because of the junior manager’s frustration at a belligerent Husband which compelled the manager to bluster out in desperation, ‘well come and see dad then!’

 

‘Little Moscow’ is perhaps somewhat of an over-exaggeration and not really appropriate to the little mill town on the West Riding border. However, there can be no denying that Nelson certainly accommodated and reared a fair selection of activists who, like Selina Cooper, were committed to improving ordinary workers and weavers’ lives and without whom social progress may have been much curtailed. The ILP building on Vernon Street is a living memory to these men  and women who dedicated themselves to social improvement and well worth a visit to any student of labour history.

ILP Building -Nelson

A Short Interview with Ross McKibbin

 

Ross McKibbin is a Fellow of St John’s College Oxford and a Fellow of the British Academy. In a long and reputable career McKibbin has written much including, The Ideologies of Class and The Evolution of The Labour Party 1910-1924. A well-known labour history historian who has contributed much to the study of the labour movement in the country one historian said of McKibbin’s work that it ‘embraced an unprecedented range of life of the ordinary man’. A legend of labour history LHL was delighted to engage Ross in dialogue and ask him a few fun questions.

Knowing that Ross had done a great deal of work in the north west we began by asking Ross to name his most influential Lancastrians. Back came the answers, not necessarily in any order of favouritism; Jimmy Anderson, the England fast bowler (aka. the Burnley Express), George Formby and Frederich Engels. Why these choices we asked?

Ross replied. ‘Jimmy Anderson is a remarkably fast bowler, a loyal team-mate and a thoroughly decent man, which cannot be said for all fellow cricketers. George Formby deserves attention because he was probably the best known Lancastrian in the 1930s and 1940s’. McKibbin’s added in that his grandmother liked him a lot too and this may well have swayed his choice! The final choice was Frederich Engels. Though most questionably a Lancastrian, McKibbin thought the German political economist come sociologist ought to have been adopted anyway by the county and that he was undoubtedly of world importance for his Condition of the Working-Class, which he wrote in Weastle Salford/Manchester. As Ross pointed out, ‘it did not establish Manchester as a tourist hot spot, but it certainly contributed historiographically to the labour movements thinking to a significant degree’.

 

One of McKibbin’s great pieces of written history was his article, ‘Why was There No Marxism in England’? We asked Ross if he still held to the hypothesis many years on. Ross answered: ‘Why No Marxism? Yes, on the whole I do still hold to it – as long as we remember it is an historical article. Some things would probably no longer be true: parliamentarism, for example, as a popular and agreed idea. That seems now much weaker. The other obvious part of the argument that would no longer be true is the standing of manufacturing and mining  and with it, the standing of the industrial male working class. That has undermined the kind of labourism I was talking about even though much of its cultural narrowness and implicit xenophobia has survived. Which I regret’.

 

Finally, we put Ross through the mangle with a few of those psychological one-liners that reveal ALL about you as a person:

Desert or Artic? ‘I think I prefer the desert to the Arctic. I have, however, been to a desert but not to the Arctic so that is not a very well-informed judgement’.

Football or Cricket? ‘I prefer football to cricket but not by a wide margin.

Fish and chips or Indian? I prefer Indian but occasionally the need for fish and chips (with lots of salt) is overwhelming. Unfortunately I think all the fish and chip shops in Oxford closed pre-virus. If you want it you have to go to M&S. Australian fish and chips are superior’.

 

Hmm? There you go. All you ever needed to know about the legend of labour history himself. He obviously has not compared his Aussie fish and chips to our Baxendale’s pride. Holland’s pie chips peas and gravy. Maybe a 4-pack in the post from Asda would help influence that opinion?

 

 

Peter John Fyles

" The Burnely Express"

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