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My Gran

by Auriol Robertson

The death was reported in 1934 of Jane France aged 79, of Wynne Street. Halliwell, Mrs France was a well known Bolton Woman, reported, in the B.E.N. to be Bolton's oldest Hawker. She was not a Gypsy. She was reputed to have walked 70,000 miles in the years following her occupation.

She began Hawking at the age of 17, and was selling hat guards on Liverpool landing stage. When still in her teens she tried a new line of business selling clothes horses or maidens. With a girlfriend she visited Southport, and she sold her first one at the first big house she called at, their payment was 14 shillings and as much cast off clothing as they could carry. Later in life she went round selling cotton, needles, pins, tape etc, in a large basket. I remember her basket lying about four inches deep, lying on a chair in her house. She was my Grandmother.

During an interview with a newspaper reporter she was reputed to have said: 'I have been a Hiker all my life, and Rivington Pike Ramblers will remember me as the Peppermint woman. I have visited the Pike for the Past fifty or sixty years.' My own Mother, her Daughter, told me my Grandmother, when at the Pike she used to call out, 'Come on you lads and lasses this will warm the cockles of your heart.' My Mother well remembers one day going with her, and it turned out to be a dreadful day, so they buried all the bottles of peppermint in a field, and the next day they walked all the way back to recover them and sell them. My grandmother used to say that she enjoyed life both work and pleasure, and remembered the days of the wagonette drawn by three or four sprightly horses. Their favourite trip was to Blackpool, Southport or Morecambe, and on one occasion they arranged a picnic, and decided to be modern, so a steam wagon was selected. At 7.30 there was a great crowd of people to cheer them off to Blackpool. This trip was probably from the Greens Arms on St Helens Road. which her son frequented, my uncle Walter France who lived at 24 Adelaide Street. He had a disability and wore a large shoe for a club foot, he also had a withered hand. For a short time he was the doorman at the cheap side of the Rumworth Cinema, later known as the Majestic. He was also a night watchman at one time.