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Billy Charnock's Story

Billy was born in Hindley, near Wigan, in 1918. When he was a youngster his family moved to Scotland, staying in two or three places such as Alloa and Dumphries. There was his father, mother and three sisters and he spent all his school and teenage years with them in Scotland.

Two schools he remembers were High Valley Field School and Toddyburn School. He was there during the 1923 strike, when they used to make scotch broth in big copper pans to feed the hungry strikers. One thing he remembers about school was the play. He didn't want to be in it and told them. So they said he'd have to pay to watch it, his own school play.

As a teenager in Scotland he did all kinds of jobs hardly known round here, such as plantation work - gathering trees - and potato picking. A lot of his spare time was spent walking. He used to walk about ten or twelve miles a day, just for a walk, there wasn't much else to do. He's always done a lot of walking since then.

Unfortunately, he lost his mum and dad in Scotland so he and his sisters moved back to England. Billy worked at. a few places round here doing different jobs. His first was Loomsweeping at J.P. Prestwiches on Longcausway. Loomsweeping was done when the looms knocked off, they had to be cleaned out including the chanels they ran up and down in. From there he went to Draycotts in Bolton as a sidepiecer, but his boss wanted to put him back sweeping so he left.

After that, he worked for a time at Magnesium Electron in Clifton Junction, where he also did firewatch during the wars. But the longest job he had round here was at the Grecian Mill on Worsley Road. It was here that one of the paths he knew came in handy, because there was a cut-through the field from Cleggs Lane to Worsley Road. It came out near the pit shaft.

Billy was a Jack-of-all-trades at Grecian Mill. He sorted out the spindles when they were stuck, took the cotton off the bobbins and carried the laps for the carders. Lap is made out of the bails of raw cotton. He used to take these out of the lap room and put them on stands in the card room, where they were carded in machines. Cards were like wire brushes (or staples) held together on a backing. These machines were never stopped unless it. was for something major. The overlooker used to hold a brush over the moving cards to clean the excess cotton off. Sometimes they refit them by putting fresh wire in altogether. Another job there was going for the dinners to a shop in Albert Road. During Wartime he worked on top off the mill, right up on the roof. One day a plane went over head on its way to bomb somewhere in Kearsley (another mill). Billy's mate got scared and he had to help him down. Another story was when he was on a long repair job (or 5 nights at one go) and the carder sent him for a bit of a sleep. The boss came and found him, he kicked Billy awake, threatening to sack him. But Billy told him to see the carder, he explained, and the boss told him to get back to sleep.

Grecian mill closed down and Billy was made redundant. From there he went back to Prestwiches, which had now become Universal in Lorne Street. He retired from there on a job release scheme.

Billy reckons that all this was "just a job". Some people were okay with him and tried to help. Others mithered and tried to stop him working. But life isn't all work. Apart from walking, he used to like cycling, but definately not swimming. "There's one thing about it, I'm no good at swimming" he says.

On the drinking side, the first pub he went in was the Market Tavern, when Sid Walker was the landlord. Now he goes in the 'Brit' (Britannia) when he gets the chance and money.

One of his sisters and his nieces still come to see him and he reckons people were pretty fair when he moved round here. He's had mates he's known for ages, like Jim Garrity, but people are always friendly and talk, even now. "You can't put anything wrong with them", says Billy.