The Journal of Peter T Dean
The Early Years
I first saw the light of day, and drew my first breath, after a smack on the backside from a midwife, in the Haslam maternity home on Chorley New Road Bolton, on the fourteenth of August 1933.
My mother Florence, up to getting married was a confectioner, working at a Holden's confectioners on Blackburn Road, in the middle of a block of shops just passed the Pineapple Pub at the junction of Crompton Way in Astley Bridge. She had after leaving school served her apprenticeship working for her uncle a Mr Partington. Who owned a confectioners on Manchester Road Bolton.
My father Peter William (Bill) was a side piecer (cotton spinning) at the Falcon Mill in Handel Street Halliwell. He used to tell me he earned 29 shillings and five pence (£1-85) for six day forty-nine & half hour week (good old days), in those days in the spinning room the mule spinners, known as bare foot aristocrats, from the fact that they and their piecers worked bare footed, because the floor boards where slippery with oil from the machines, were paid by the amount of spun cotton they produced. It was then up to the spinner to pay his little and side piecer out of his earnings. Dad was paid more than a side piecer was normally paid, because at that time the spinner had no little piecer, so he gave dad half the little piecers wage, and kept half himself. Dad often used to say that no matter how much the spinner earned that week, he always paid me Twenty-nine and Five Pence, he never made it up to a round Six Pence. This is typical; mule spinners had a reputation for being mean. A story was told, that a spinner on his way to the mill stepped out in front of a tram without looking, and was snatched in the nick of time by a bystander. He thankfully shook his saviours hand, pressing some paper into it, and said, "ay lad tha saved mi bacon theer, goo an get thisen a drink". After the spinner had left, the man opened his hand, only to find some tea and sugar wrapped in a piece of newspaper that the spinner was taking to work for his brew.
My early years where spent, feeding, dirtying nappies, and sleeping in a clothes basket in the home of my mothers parents, Florence and John Trevana, in Lowndes Street in Bolton. Also living there at that time where my mothers three brothers, Norman, Jack, and Tom and Two sisters, Mildred and Phyllis. Mum also had another sister, Elsie who was married to Frank Rothwell, and lived at No.33, Empress Street, off Chorley Old Road. She did have another brother Thomas, who died at a very early age, from severe burns when his nightgown ignited from an open coal fire. My grandfather was a gardener at Queens Park Bolton, (a skill that was not inherited by me). He originally came from St. Ives in Cornwall, he came with his father and mother and his brother in the mid 1800. I was told as a youngster, that as the railway system was not complete at that time, all the family travelled by ship to Llandudno, then by train to Lostock near Bolton, there they set up home where his father was employed at Crosses and Heaton's spinning mill. My grandma "Ena" as I called her as a youngster, had a brother and sister, her brother was the Mr Partington my mum served her apprenticeship with, her sister married a Peter Hunt who went on to own a chain of bakers and confectioners shops in The Bolton district, and a large bakery and function room in St George's Road, next to the Palais dance hall. Uncle Norman worked at De Havaland propellers, uncle Jack was a coal bagger at the Co-op coal merchants, and Uncle Tom worked in the butchers in Lower Bridge Street Bolton. Auntie Mildred worked in the textile mill across the road from grandmas house. Auntie Phyllis was the lift attendant at the Co-Op store in Knowsley Street in Bolton, (she was at the time in very poor health).
My grandparents on my dads side were Jim and May Dean, and lived at no.11 Harvey Street, Halliwell. My dad had two brothers, Jack and Frank and a sister Alice all worked in textiles. Uncle Frank at this time was living at No1 Harvey Street with auntie May, and had a daughter Maureen, he was not married at this time, because my grandma had forbidden it, he actually got married when he was twenty-one, after a small legal action with his parents. They later moved to No. 300 Halliwell Road, and had two more daughters, Angela and Francis. Dad to this day insists that he had an elder brother Johnny, he was in fact his cousin, who lived with and was brought up by my grandma, he at this time was married to auntie Emma and lived at the top of Harvey Street, on the opposite side. My grandfather worked at Crosslys Packings at hill Mill, manufacturers of asbestos packings for pipe joints etc. Grandad used to tell me that Crosslyd (check spelling) packings won the battle of Jutland in the First World War. This was due to the fact that there packings stood up to the strain of the battle, where as the ones in the German guns did not. Grandma before her marriage had been working in service as a cook. I can still recall to this day, the pleasant aroma from the kitchen whenever we visited the house. I remember the house in Harvey Street well, No. 11 in a row of stone cottages, a small garden at the front, and at the rear a large cobbled yard, shared by all the houses from No. 7 to No. 13, (No.5 was the Methodist church), the toilet and middin in pairs along the dirt back street, the back street bordered onto a playing filed surrounded by wrought iron railings, two of which had been spread by my uncles to gain access to the field.
I have no recollection of life with my grandparents, but they later moved to 1048 Chorley Old Road, so that auntie Phillis would be nearer to the tram stop because of her heart problem, unfortunately she in her early twentys shortly after this move. This was a council house, one of a block of four, access to the rear was through a ginnel. The downstairs layout was rather unusual in that the bathroom was downstairs off the kitchen, and the toilet was outside the back door on the left in a small porch. It had a rather spacious lounge, a front hall with a staircase leading to three bedrooms. To the front was a medium sized garden, and a very large garden at the rear. Both these gardens where kept by my granddad, not by his labours but by his instructions, the work being done by my three uncles. The front garden was a picture, with a lawn like a snooker table, the grass was cut with a pair of hand clippers, (I was not allowed on the grass), on the centre was a rose bush in a circular bed, and down each side of the path narrow flower beds containing carnations. The garden was surrounded by a well-trimmed privet hedge, in the rear garden he grew vegetables. This is the only house I remember my grandparents living in. At this time my parents move into lodgings with a Mrs Swinby in Burnece Street, near Holy Harbour playing field, and then to a rented house at No.2 Gresham Street in Astley Bridge. This was a two up and two down gable-ended cottage, the front room contained a large cast iron grate and oven, this mum used to polish every week with "ZEBO" black lead. The kitchen had a small gas burner and grill for cooking, in the corner near the window was a cast iron wash boiler heated by a coal fire and under the window a slop stone with a cold-water tap. The small back yard which was surrounded by a wall of York stone flags, contained a tippler toilet (about eight foot deep) and a middin shared with Mrs Fogg who lived next door with her large black cat called Tom, there was also a small coal shed which Mrs's Fogg's cat used as a toilet, much to my dad's displeasure. Upstairs the front bedroom was my mum and dad's, the back bedroom was mine. We had no bathroom, we had to use a tin bath in front of the fire, which when not in use, the bath hung on a nail in the back yard. The house was lit by gas. It was in this that I spent all my school days, and except for a spell in the R.A.F my early adult life. The move to Gresham Street must have been before I was eighteen months old, because at that age I suddenly became interested in things mechanical. Mum was washing at the time, it must have been Monday, the washing was always done on Monday's. She was using a mangle at the time, a large thing with wooden rollers. I must have been fascinated with the large gear wheels on the side, because I put in the second finger of my right hand between the gears which almost severed the end of my finger. Panic stations! Help came in the form of a neighbour who was an ambulance driver, and put on a splint and bandage. In time the wound healed, although I still have the scar to this day, along with respect for machinery.