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My Memories of Farnworth Wakes

by Vera Berry

Alan Burrows is my husband and we were both born and bred in Farnworth attending the same schools and frequenting the same places, but whilst our memories are often very similar, I sometimes think that we were on different planets at times! Maybe it's a girl thing as girls remember what boys prefer to forget. However, we did both go on Farnworth Wakes and Alan's description really doesn't fall far short of mine. His vivid description leaves very little to the imagination. His gift of being able to transport us back in time with his wonderful ability to paint with words, triggers off memories for almost anybody, especially me.

My first memories, like Al's, are of my Mum and Dad taking my sister and me on the "Little Wakes" near the market when we were quite young, maybe seven and five respectively. We loved the roundabouts and I always made for the car, the fire engine, or the bus so that I could drive round and round in never-ending circles. Even at that young age, I knew that I had nothing to do with the carousel going round and round in a circle, but I had that feeling of power in that I was "driving" the vehicle for a few minutes. Sometimes, popular toys were included on the roundabouts and I especially liked the little white horses that went up and down when you stood on the footrests. The swingboats were also a favourite of mine and I'd get my Dad to push me as high as possible whilst I pulled on the rope which dangled in front of me to make me go higher still.

I remember walking up Brackley Street, closed to all traffic for three days and there were side stalls - hoop-la, hooking a plastic duck to reveal what prize you had won, clowns monotonously turning their heads from side to side, mouths wide open expecting little fingers to drop in a ball and win a prize (I can't remember ever winning anything) and there were men with trays of magic jumping beans precariously toppling their way towards the edge, but never falling off. How we delighted in the little novelty we won even though it might only be a plastic penny whistle that would only ever play one note, or a string of beads that broke before we got them round our necks. There was candyfloss and toffee apples, snakes dangling from sticks, even yo-yos on sale. Then when we were approaching the big fair on what my Dad always called the brick ground between King Street and Brackley Street, there were jacket potato vendors selling little potatoes cooked in their skins, a bagful for 3d and doused in salt to make them more tasty. I can still feel them burning my fingers and my tongue and I can also see numerous other people furiously blowing the hot steam out of their mouths suffering like me. Back on the market, you could go into Ma Purcell's for black peas and she did a roaring trade in the typically cold and wet weather.

As a teenager, for weeks I would save up my spending money for September when the fair would come to Farnworth. It was only on for three days - Friday, Saturday and Monday, before the travellers packed up and went on their way. Alan remembers the way the fairmen gave most of their attention to screaming girls; I remember that some girls made a point of trying to impress the travellers, but I was more intent upon enjoying the rides, the faster the better. I recoil now to think how "brave " I used to be. Nothing in this world would get me on a big wheel, or a Waltzer now. I tried a few years ago in Leverhulme Park and was quite nauseated after the ride! I've taken my grandson on a couple of rides in Moss Bank Park fairly recently, but he's only 7, so I had to try and recapture the spirit of my youth! In bygone days, I went on everything as many times as my money would allow and my insides always stood up to the spinning and retching they suffered from the carousels and the big wheel.

I usually went on the fair with my friends and we always hoped that we'd meet the boys we were keen on whilst we were there. Most of us had a few kisses on the Caterpillar and came out smiling when the hood came up at the end of the ride. Alan says he missed out on taking a girl on the Caterpillar, but he did win a few goldfish which he carried home in a plastic bag. I only ever won a coconut.

I have been to Alton Towers several times and marvelled at the Corkscrew, Nemesis and The Black Hole. I have stood and watched the Big One on Blackpool Pleasure Beach without any desire to put myself through the agonies I think I would suffer if I could summon up the courage to go on it. I haven't been in Australia long enough yet to visit the places Alan talks about in his account, but who knows, we might recapture our youth one day soon. Pity the Caterpillar isn't around! I could show Alan what he missed all those years ago!!

See also:

Memories of Farnworth Wakes by Alan Burrows