By Brian McGaw.
I was born in 1948 and lived in Dover street until I was10 when we moved to Ellesmere Port. I had a brother and sister and we were quite happy living in a house with an outside loo and no bathroom. My father worked away on building sites so mum was in charge.
Growing up I felt safe and secure if mum and dad went out next-door kept an eye on us. Almost everybody in the street were friends not just neighbours. The back street was our playground except on Mondays when all the big laundry was out to dry from side to side .Being on an island it could be quite windy and one winter the snow drifted into the backyard and halfway up the back door
I went to school at Vickerstown by bus, but if you ran through the park and up the steps you could buy freshly baked bread rolls and still make it home for lunch. As far as I remember I started in Miss Harperís class. She was an old fashioned school mistress but she could teach and from her I gained a lifelong interest in books and reading. We were taught to write on slates and I can still hear the screech. I went to Sunday school at St Maryís. Sometimes in the church but mainly in the church hall on the other side of the park.
In the summer after school it was straight down to the beach, sandwiches and a flask and home at bedtime. We practically lived on the beach and in fact one family used to pitch a tent at the top of the beach. There was a breezeblock hut that sold pop and sweets and a playground just behind the sea wall but mainly it was paddling and sandcastles.
As I grew older I would wander up and down the beach or go to the park but not the garden part as the 'parkie' would chase you off. I would visit Auntie Lil (Messer) or my great Aunt Meg and Uncle George Tate in Strathmore Avenue where I was allowed to watch television in the evening. Uncle George was retired and used to beach comb for wood and other things from Biggar Bank down to North Shore every day regardless of the weather. He made me and my brother sailing boats and we used to take them up to the boating pond at Biggar. He arranged for us to see ship launches from inside the yard and I remember the Queen Mother driving in a big Rolls to launch one of them.
We also used to watch from the bank on Walney and watch the Townies run from the waterís edge when they realised the size of the wave coming across the Channel. As soon as the ship was under control swarms of small boats would stream out to collect the shoring which could be returned to the yard for cash.
We used to walk into Barrow across the bridge and either across the main bridge or round by the low level if we were going to the football .There is a museum there now. A three-penny bit to see the match. Sometimes you would see an ambulance and a fire engine driving towards Walney this usually meant the bridge was going up and you were stuck on one side or the other until it was closed again which could be some time as they had to get both sides of the bridge at the right point or one side would over run the other and it was start again from the beginning.
Knocking off time at Vickers also used to stop the traffic as hundreds of men streamed out of the gates. Some Saturdays we would go to the pictures so it was down the hill and buy some sweets at the sweet shop or the co-op (donít forget the divi number) then up the other side to the cinema. Flash Gordon or a cowboy serial. If we didnít have enough money then off to the beach or the park...
Where the secondary school and houses are now used to be covered in gorse and grass and we had circuses set up on this area .The animals used to be taken down to the beach at North shore for exercise ,anything from horses to camels and elephants.
As November approached it was build and defend your bonfire as 'bommie' raids were a part of the fun. The weather never seemed to bother us hot or cold we would be out and about, playing marbles or spinning tops watching people flying gliders or on the swings and roundabouts. Down by the channel in the early evening you could see the red hot slag being dumped at the slag heaps. When it got dark you went home for tea. Two pennorth of chips from the chippie at the bottom of the road
School trips were into the Lakes. We went by special train once. Several schools together and we had to get on at a siding. Then up to Windermere and on to the boat. We spent all afternoon playing and then back home by boat and train. If we were lucky some summer weekends we would go to places like Grasmere to the sports. Cumberland wrestling, races, fell running and hound trailing. It was an amazing sight as the pack appeared over the hill at the back of the field and poured down the slope with the owners calling their dogs. We moved away to Ellesmere Port in 1958 but we still spent our summer holidays on Walney staying in Strathmore Avenue for 4 or 5 years until my Great Aunt died followed a short while later by my Great Uncle. My mother and I came on a visit a few years ago with my 3 children just to show them where we used to live and I made a further visit 2 years ago on my own. Some things have changed but Walney is still my home town and always will be...
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