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Winnie Grimshaw's Story

Winnie Grimshaw was born in a row of stone houses near the Shakespeare pub on Glynne Street. In those days it was an area with lots of small streets running off Glynne Street, such as Smithy Street over the road from Winnies.

The row she lived in was owned by Magees brewery along with the pub. The problem with this was that while everybody else had gas lights in the house, those in the Magees cottages had to use paraffin lamps. Woe betide anyone who knocked a lamp over. This went on until 1933 when Magees put electricity in.

It was a poor area, but because it was on a main road people thought it was a bit posh. Winnie knew different, although there wasn't as much poverty as in Kent Street, Swift Street, Smith Street and Roe Street. On the other hand, it didn't match up to Albert Road or Market Street, which were supposed to be higher class.

Winnie's mother came from Manchester where she was bought up with the Jews, although she was a Catholic. In those days Jews and Catholics went to the same school, at least at St Alban's school they did (it was bombed during the war). Her mother grew up admiring the Jews because she saw them as hardworking, making baskets for sale during times of hardship, for example. In fact, people thought she was a Jewess because she was dark.

Winnie's mother moved to Farnworth when her mother and father died. It was here she married Winnie's father. He told her he owned one side of Northumberland Street (off Glynne Street), but he'd been done out of it.

Her father was one of five, four brothers and one sister. He was in the army during World War One along with two of his brothers, while another brother was in the army fighting in Ireland during the 19214 "Black and Tan" troubles.

After the army he was a postman, then worked on building sites as a hod-carrier. In those days you had to serve seven years apprenticeship to be a bricklayer, but he only did a few so he ended up a labourer. He worked on the "New" Shakespeare, Ramsay Avenue and McDonald Avenue when they were being built.

It was in 1927 when he worked on the Shakespeare, it was for Seddon's Brothers. He'd never worked for them before and didn't think much of them. One plasterer fell off the top of the new pub and was killed. What made it worse was when he overheard one of the brothers who was stood watching the men work, he said "these are the people I keep out of work". So Winnie's dad hit him and nearly knocked him down to the bottom of the building. He never worked for Seddon's again.

He did work on the Beehive Mill in Bolton during a winter when there was a seventeen week frost (the longest on record). Even though they were working inside, eighteen men (out of twenty eight) fainted with the cold. They were taken to the card room to bring them round. Some ended up in the infirmary they were that bad. But you had to work because there was no money if you didn't.

If Winnie's dad worked near a lodge and the ale house was on the other side of it, he has been known to swim across to get the billy cans filled, rather than walk round.

To get back to Winnie herself, she went to St Thomas's school off Egerton Street. It was a Protestant school, but it was the nearest. As she got older she went to St Gregory's. Everybody says that you only learn religion in Catholic schools. Winnie reckons that's not true. Although in those days all the teachers were Irish, who had the idea that you had to be cruel to be kind.

This meant it was very strict. If you missed Mass you were pointed out and a priest was sent to have a word with you.

Once a priest asked her what "hate" meant, Winnie said "Can't abide" because she'd heard somebody say it sometime. He laughed and gave her 6d, but the teacher took it off her "for the black babies". That was in 1920 when she was twelve.

Another time they were doing history and the teacher asked what was Queen Elizabeth to Henry the Eighth. A girl called out "32nd cousin to a buttonhole" - she got clouted and all those laughing had to go out too.

In those days sport or games was called ‘Swedish Drill' and Winnie was no good at it. This didn't matter to the teacher, a big sporty type. She'd see you cowering against the wall and push you into line. (Exercises were always done in a line).

Apart from this sort of stuff they also did a lot based on the 3Rs, "reading", "riting" and "rithmatic". The school day started with prayers, then there might be dictation, composition and sewing or knitting in the afternoon. Winnie was no good at sewing or knitting. Her work would be held up as a bad example and she'd get ridiculed. One day she got so upset about this, she snatched her knitting off the needles and threw it on the floor. But despite being no good at sewing or knitting, you can guess where she started work when she left school at 14.

Winnie worked at Horrocks weaving and winding mill from 1922 to 1927/8. They were constantly being laid off as well as getting poor wages. It was one week on, one week off for a lot of the time, so she never had much money.

Despite this she could look smart for going out to the local dances. You could get a pair of high heels for 6/1d from Timpson's on Market Street and she was given her dance dresses (second hand) by a generous friend, who's dad worked regular down the pit.

This using other people's clothes was very common. A lot of kids had their shoes given them. Winnie's Gran (on her dads side) used to get them for her off a local doctor. Once she had a frock given her that had red letters on the collar saying it had come from the "Sally Army". Her mother tried unpicking the stitching but couldn't get it out, so she ended up wearing it while she was picking coal off Ashton Field during the miners strike.

This has been a story of Winnies childhood. She moved to Sutherland Street in 1933 and on to Masefield Drive, New Bury, in 1956. She's had a happy life, including bringing up a son, now she enjoys it even more living in Hilary Grove, off Westland Avenue.