10. Characters that made the Old Town tick

There were quite a number of local characters in the Old Town years ago; some who provided quite a useful service to the local community, other who were just someone to be pitied, but people would be concerned if they were not seen around.

There was Charlie, who would follow a policeman, imitating his walk and watch him directing traffic at the junction of High Street, Savages Bridge, and Devonshire Square. When the policeman had left Charlie would take up his position, don his white gloves and proceed to direct the traffic.

Another character was Tommy who would sing and dance to any music he heard, especially when the fair visited the town. The two vagrants, Nobby Cook and Bert Rolls; these two characters lived in the common lodging house in Fryer Street. These vagrants earned their living alternating between the Transporter Bridge and the railway station, carrying luggage for the traveller, providing it was not too heavy.

Many local tradesmen were well known for the produce they sold and the service they provided. Josh Eden, who was blind, kept a shop in High Street at the bottom of Penketh Lane. He sold crockery, kitchen utensils and paraffin oil, but his most sought after produce was his blend of tea. He could supply any blend of tea required. He was a frequent sight around the town selling his wares with a horse and van, and with his daughter as his guide. Another well known local tradesman was Joe Lewis whom everyone knew as Darky Joe. He lived with his wife in a wood and corrugated iron shack near the Stenhills, working a smallholding, growing vegetables which he sold around town, with an old horse and cart.. This site is now occupied by the Boys Club in Boston Avenue.

Charles Osborne, who kept a pig farm near the Top Locks basin. He collected swill from the local factories and shops in a trailer drawn by a wonderful Austin Twelve car, which he kept in immaculate condition. He ran this car for over 34 years and never had an accident. When he retired he sold it to a Vintage Car dealer.

One of the characters I was always pleased to visit was Jimmy Gough, the clogmaker in Regent Street. We would visit his shop to have new irons fitted to our clogs which only cost a few pence. He always had his mouth full of clog nails and it was amazing how he could converse with us and tell us some fine stories with his mouth full of clog nails.

The Undertaking business of Booths in Bridge Street, who also provided a cab service and ran a waggonette to Warrington Market. I can recall making this journey with my parents and we had to alight when we came to hump back bridges over the canal, to lighten the load for the horses. They provided white horses for weddings and black for funerals. The horses were also used to draw the local fire engine from the fire station on Delph Bridge to local fires.

Many of the local tradesmen were household names and provided the townsfolk with many home made products. Billy Worrall for his tripe and cowheels; Billy Wickstead for his humbugs and pork pies; Kennedys and Watkins and Parks groceries; Savage's butchers at the foot of Savage's Bridge - all their beef was slaughtered on the premises. He would give the boys pig and sheep bladders which they would blow up and use to play football and rugby. G. Duckett, fruit, fish, and vegetables - I can recall my mother giving me a shilling on a Saturday night to go to his shop just before closing and I would be able to purchase a rabbit, turnip and a bag of potatoes all for that shilling. All these fine characters have now disappeared and the townsfolk still remember them with nostalgic pride, the laughter and service they once received from these characters of the past.

11. The Wind
of Change
Joe's Jottings
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