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Our Mam

by Dick and Mary Berry

Our mam, Elizabeth Howard was born in Flash Street in June 1908. When she was about 12 months old her dad who was only 36 years old died suddenly of a heart attack in his local pub, The Dog and Partridge, he left a widow with thirteen kids, although the two eldest were married. Her mother went to see if she could get any help from the 'Parish Relief,' but all they could offer was to put them in the work house. Her mother dragged them all out of there and went straight to the market hall, made enquiries and sold her sewing machine for 10/- (5Op). That 10/- kept them' going until she found work in the card room in Flash Street mills.

Andy Billy and Jim were farmed out with an old couple. Mum was taken into the mill under her mothers shawl and hidden in the bobbin boxes. Her mother used to sneak off and feed her while her friends looked after her job. This kept on until she was to old and too big to be hidden and kept quiet and then she went to join her brothers with the child minders.

Her mother couldn't afford the house in Flash Street anymore, so they moved to an old back to back in Chorley Street. Andy when he was 16 joined the army and was killed on the Somme.

With her mam working our mam had to go down to the market on Saturday night with a basket and 2/6d (12½p). She would spend l/- (5p) on potatoes, onions carrots and turnips, and a Rabbit, and with the rest she had to get as much bruised fruit as she could, like apples and oranges, she all ways had to take a pencil and paper to write down all the prices so that she could see how her money was being spent. That taught her how to make every penny count. All, her young life she had to make do with Hand-Me-Downs and second hand stuff.

When she was about 4 years old her mother met and married Billy Naylor and another daughter was born, called Minnie. When she was about 8 years old her brother Jim was talking to a Jimmy Trodden, a well known person on the wholesale market, whose wife Biddy was ill in bed. She was sent to help Biddy who lived in Dawson Lane, with housework and doing errands and things. One night the noise of young lad throwing stones at tin cans on the hen pens at the side of the house was annoying Biddy, so she told mam to put a sheet over her head and creep out making groaning noises, the boys fled. After that the locals would talk about the ghost on the pens. Mam never owned up to it being her.

When mam was 12 she was allowed to go half time in the mill at Lord and Hampsons in Gaskell Street, on the bobbin machine. When she was 13 she went fulltime and moved to Haslams No 3 mill 'Setting On' in the card room for 12/- a week. She had to tip up her wages at home and got 1/- a week back. So to get extra pennies to save up to buy clothes she would run errands at dinnertime for the tenters for 3d a week and mind extra frames for 2/- a week. By now uncle Billy was married, his wife was called Ada, and they lived in the same house as the rest of the family and it became very overcrowded, as Billy and Ada's children started to arrive.

Mam used to come home from work and be asked what shoes she would be wearing that night, and she found that what she wanted to wear, Grandma and Auntie Ada had pawned, as well as her umbrella and anything else they could find. What money Mam had managed to save up, she hid in the stags head hung on the wall and they even found that. They were always promising her 'Club Cheques', but she never saw them.

She married our dad Richard Blackledge Berry in 1930, and because he was out of work, mam bought him a suit out of two shares in a Didlum Club, It cost 30/- and a shirt and a pair of shoes thrown in with the price. They had four children 3 boys and 1 girl but only two of the boys survived, Richard and Kevan.