Thursday, 25 November 2010

Haslingden Workingmen's Club, Spring Lane - And a few memories....

(Please click over photo to enlarge and click again to supersize). (Many thanks to Jackie Ramsbottom for sending in this photo of the "workers" just before it was demolished).

I suppose my first recollections of Haslingden Workingmen's Club, Spring Lane, was once a week, getting a nice suprise when my dad would go off there for his game of snooker, and it felt so special to get a treat which was a bag of crisp made by either firms of the name Rishy (XL Crisp), Bensons or even Smith's Crisp, and it would have had a little salt bag with twisted top, very much like the shape in miniature of what ladies used in their washing and called a "dolly blue", I would try and stop awake excitedly awaiting those crisp, but more often than not would drop off asleep and I would then get my treat the following morning. To think that those days little things (or where they big things?) seemed so much more exciting and worthwhile and yet today we just take things like that for granted. It really meant something special then.... and how values have changed... What was once one bag of crisp per week, could now be two bags per day. Also going to their Annual Christmas Parties which started for me when I was about 6 or 8 years of age. I can clearly remember being met at the door by Peggy Flynn the stewardess and then chatting with her husband Tommy who was behind the bar.....

My father at the time played snooker on a weekly basis for the "Workers", and very occasionally he would let me go with him to watch. Sometimes I also managed to go to some of the away games, at places where they did not sell alcohol. I remember going to St. Peters Church Hall, and also the Liberal Club at the bottom of Park Street, a beautiful old building with wide steps with timber polished balustrade from where you would go upstairs into the main room where there was two full size snooker tables. I must have gone with him many times because I can still remember some of their (Haslingden Liberal Club) players from that time (Mr Duxbury - the Auctioneer and later his son), Veril Riley, Josh Knowles, Ernie Taylor.... Another place I remember going to was Townsendfold Social Club which them days seemed a million miles away!!

Back in the 50s and possibly into the 60s top snooker/billiard players would visit the "workers" and do exhibitions. From memory my father used to tell me about the famous names such as Jackie Rae, and Fred Davis (top man in billiards those days), and John Spencer would also come to the Club.

When we first got married I remember us going on many a Saturday night, where we would play bingo, whilst sat on the well upholstered seating which bordered the full perimeter of the snooker room.....

There where also concerts at the Club and I can remember a great local performer "Willie Horan" a local popular drag act, who would from time to time pack the Club. Jimmy Hill was the pianist at the Club and he was also in the "workers" snooker team along with my dad, and also Jimmy Collinge, Dick Garnett and others.

Nearer to the latter days of the Club, I remember attending a Charity function which was organized by Jimmy Paton and can even remember him saying to several of us that were sitting with him at the same table, "we have all these variety acts coming and appearing here tonight, but we need a "name personality" to do the raffle etc.", no sooner had he mentioned it to us that he jumped up and proceeded to the phone and there and then rang Granada Studios in Manchester, and asked if "Tony Wilson" the newscaster would be able to appear at the event..... its was quite unbelievable when I think back, but sure enough Jim managed to persuade Tony who said he would come straight after presenting the evening news, which he did, a couple of hours later. What a fabulous chap he was, I remember him asking one of the variety acts if he did'nt mind if he could use his guitar for a number or two, and up Tony got to the stage, and what was to come was a real treat..... I don't think anyone was ready for Tony Wilson (the great local newscaster of the day) to play out some raunchy heavy blues, before us and it was really quite superb.... he brought the house down.

After witnessing that evening, that great mans kindness, and enjoying such insurmountable skills he provided that night, I couldn't help but then be attracted by various news reports over the years of Tony's career. I was never suprised that he later took time out from television to open and promote Factory Records with such involvement towards Joy Division, New Order, Happy Mondays, and the list goes on and on. In later years his energies furthered and he opened up the famous Manchester Hacienda.... It was such a tragedy that he died in August 2007, but what a legacy that man left us.

Going back in time! I can sort of remember sometimes when going home from the "Top Church School (St. Jame's) would go through the Churchyard, and then follow the pathway past a long row of cottages which overlooked Blackburn Road (been demolished years ago) and then would go past the "Workers" Club on the right, and then it was all waste ground at the side of the Club (long before the West View Estate was even thought of). And I remember somewhere around here there was some very large "air raid shelters", or at least that is what I was lead to believe they were.

Also just to the right hand side of the Club, was the "Spring Well", a natural Spring well which is fed from the side of Cribden, the well is still in the same place today. In the past I would often take refreshment here! (so pure a water!). This same waterway in the distant past would have been collected higher up, by the Baxters Brewery, before reaching this point. On the opposite side of Spring Lane and almost directly across from the Club was a couple of terraced properties (still there today) and one of them used to be the stewards house, and was owned by the Club. Spring Lane itself in those days was a steep cobbled road with well worn shiny "setts", and it was one of the last places in Haslingden to receive a tarmac covering (probably in the 80s).

Closeby to the Club was the Baxters Brewery (pre: Beverleys, Wilsons). I can remember the building well from my childhood days, but not has a brewery. I would pass the building regular and it would have wagons either delivering or picking up large bales of cotton waste...

It was so sad for some of us when that Club closed down.

Lots and lots of happy memories.....

Another photo here which shows the "workers" in situ and also the long row of houses which have long been demolished which overlooked Blackburn Road.

Haslingden Workmens Club at one time must have had a Library Section
Scan: thanks to Marie Ives and uploaded here on 26th February 2016.

This is a email I received from Chris Reid on 10th January 2012:
Hi Bryan, I have just finished reading your blog on the hwmc. we must have spoken or met that night tony wilson appeared as i was on the committee with jim patton who i had known all my life. we had just had the club refurbished. tony wilson actualy got up on stage to play a guitar, not succsessfully. however. i helped jim run the club for a good while before i left haslingden.
there were some great nights there. i was gutted when the club closed as i was in canada at the time. i used to take horses to drink at the well on spring lane, i often wonder if it is still there running. i think it is time i revisited haslingden with a new pair of eyes. i am sure we must be close to the same age 55. i can only thank you for the time and effort you have put in to the has helped me no end to restore my memory. if i can recall anything more as i read through i will e-mail you. please feel free to post any info i send that you consider useful.I think there should be a list of town characters and some of their antics.
all the best
chris reid
Response: "Housey Housey" them days not "Bingo"
Hi Chris,
Like you say it was a really great Club and held special memories for me (like yourself), especially going to the Christmas parties as a child etc etc. I then became a member at the start of drinking age, and went regular on Sat nights when I got wed, it was a sort of bingo night (I think they called it housey them days - not bingo)
Yes the Spring is still there and running. Well it was a couple of years ago.
I am a little older than you at 64, and have for the past 3 years been living in Burton In Kendal in Cumbria, but I do get chance usually at least bi-monthly to visit the old place.
I am extra pleased this is helping you to get better with your memory illness, that makes it all the more worthwhile.
Keep remembering!
All the best,
Three of the final stalwarts to the Club
Jim Patton, Laddy Pilling and Ronnie Clough
Photo: Kindly shared to us by Peter Fisher