Avril Raw - "The original Blackpool Belle"
Avril was born in Bridgewater Street. I find it really good knowing that friends can and do last a lifetime.
Avrils grandparents David and Mary Raw moved into the small two up, two down house in Bridgewater Street as a young married couple. They had five daughters and lived there for over 60 years. Her grandmother died in that house at the grand old age of 85.
Avrils grandfather was an amazing character who ran a hardware shop from the house. David also had horses and a cart, which he took around the streets even as far a field as Whitefield, selling hardware goods such as toiletries, lamp oil etc, Avril recalls being told of the time when her grandfathers' horses were "called up", well used in the war.
After the First World War David worked down Brackley pit, then down Ashton field pit where he lost the use of his arm in an accident. Avril tells me "He was brought home on a horse and cart and left on a rug downstairs because he was expected to die from his injuries. Happily, he didn't die, however he did lose the use of his arm completely.
Another near fatal tragedy in Avrils' grandfather's life came after a night out in The Travelers Rest, Market Street, Farnworth. It was after a meeting of the "Buff's Club", (or as Avril describes it, a poor mans Freemasons). David and his pals, Tony Easterway and Stan Whalley walked past some young men who had just left Powell's Milkbar, which is also on Market Street. One of the young men bumped into David, but David, Tony and Stan ignored them and carried on walking to the toilets on the arcade. The young men followed them into the toilets, where Tony confronted them, saying "you nearly knocked this old man over" but before he could say anything else, Arthur Burns (later laughingly nicknamed Trigger) produced a gun to shoot Tony, but missed and it hit David instead. Avril recalls that the bullet went through the right hand side of his torso, but had it gone through the left hand side he would have been killed. The case did go to court, the Crown Court in Manchester, but David decided not to go ahead with the case and didn't press charges because he believed the lad didn't know what he was doing at the time, because he'd been drinking.
Avril's mother used to own McGee's off license at the bottom of Brackley Street. Avril has moved homes in a full circle, starting in Bridgewater Street, then Kildare Street, where she ran the Treetops guest house for over 20 years, before moving to "the new estate", (at the side of Asda where Bridgewater Street used to stand.) One of her happiest memories as a young girl was sitting outside the Vets Club listening and dancing to the music coming from inside. But not anymore though, because she is now a respected member of the club with the rest of the Bridgewater Street Boys.