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Mary Ann Harrison's Swing Boats

by Jackie Taylor

Mary Ann O’Connell was born 1878 in Derbyshire. Her parents were Daniel O’Connell born 1851 in Ireland and her mother Jane Pinkney born 1854 in Derbyshire. Jane was the daughter of Richard Pinkney and Catherine. Richard was a hat maker and would often work with mercury. He would brush a solution of a mercury compound - usually mercurous nitrate - on to the hats for sealing and stiffening. Hatters would work in poorly ventilated shops and breathe in the poisonous fumes. This led Richard to have the Mad Hatter syndrome which would leave him arguing with a hat stand on frequent occasions.

Mary Ann worked in service when in Derbyshire. She, along with her family, walked to Farnworth from Derbyshire as Mary's mother Jane had family there.

Mary Ann met William Harrison born 1873 in Farnworth. His parents were Abraham Harrison born 1828 in Farnworth and Catharine Collins born 1833 in Sligo, Ireland. Abraham's parents were John Harrison born 1799 and Jane Whip c1799 from Astley.

More about Jane's mother Betty Whipp

Mary Ann and William married at Saint Greg's Church, Presto Street, Farnworth on 15 August 1896.

In 1901 she along with William, lived at 5 Hill Street, Parish of St John, Farnworth. Mary Ann worked in a Cotton Mill and her husband a brick maker.

Mary Ann had plenty to keep her occupied with over 10 children and many small businesses.

Children and Partners

Catherine Harrison 1903-1906
Rose Ellen Harrison 1907-2003 married Thomas Taylor 1907
Abraham Harrison 1908-
Mary Harrison 1910- married James Darlington
Frances M Harrison 1911-1911
Ellen Harrison 1913-1914
Margaret Harrison 1914-1999 married Wilfred Mort
Harrison 1916 married Harold Hilton
Kathleen Harrison 1918-1923
Harrison 1920

She was renowned for washing and laying out dead bodies mainly for the travelling families who would park their caravans near to her home. She had very close links with the travellers who were keen for her to belong to the Showman's Guild but she refused.

She also owned and ran the swing boats and roundabout on Farnworth Market. I remember them situated near the Post Office and Asda Store. Mothers would leave their children swinging happily whilst weekly groceries were bought. After many years the swing boats were sold and located in Moss Bank Park.

She also had a pig pen. This was situated on what is now the land off Frederick Street.

Her children, grandchildren and in-laws would all help to keep the businesses going. Her son in law Wilf Mort used to help on the pen, including laying bricks. Her other son in law Harold Hilton was a partner in the business. Her grandson Frank once said that he would spend many hours working on the pen. When he went to school he would often play and have fun and often be mischievous. After one incident the teacher decided to cane him. After looking at his hands, which were full of segs (hard skin), he decided not to bother.

On the back door of her home she had hooks where she would hang the pigs and then slaughter them with a large knife. The blood was drained and the pig was cut up for selling.

Mary Ann lived for many years in Brackley Street, although died at her daughter Margaret's home, on 29 March 1962 at 80 Ellesmere Street, Farnworth, Bolton.


Jane Pinkney
Jane Pinkney, mother of Mary Ann
Mary Ann with Bertha Banks
Bertha Banks & Mary Ann Harrison née O'Connell
Mary Harrison swingboats Farnworth
Mary Harrison arrowed
Maery Harrison in pub