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Thursday, 23 October 2014

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Names and places: The streets of Bernard's childhood

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HERITAGE: Bernard’s mother, Hannah Catherine, was an O’Hare before marriage and this is her as a girl (far left) outside the family business, a clothing and furniture store at 41 Market Place. On the right is Bernard’s grandmother Annie O’Hare and in the centre are two of Hannah’s sisters, Ellen and Sarah Anne. The picture was taken around 1910.

NUMBER 4 Albion Street, where I was born in 1927, wasn’t exactly salubrious; being situated in the bottom corner of a rag warehouse, it was draughty, having the front door and back door in line with each other.

On the ground floor was a kitchen, parlour and passage and two rooms upstairs. The front faced Albion Street and the other side looked out onto Dobsons Court. There was a water tap outside the back door and the lavatory was one of a row of six, up some steps at the back.

(It was hardly a des res, says Bernard, but he nevertheless has fond memories of it and the people who lived all around him and his family).

There was Walter Smith who lived in the last house in Dobson Court. He was a collier and the whole family were Salvation Army people. I liked him.

Then there were the Calvins, Alex and Annie his daughter and the rest of the family living at 1 and 2 Albion Street. Alex was a road ganger and later worked for the electricity company. Ethel Thompson lived at No 3, and used to look after me if my mam had to go out. The Hanrattys were at No 4 and Nos 5-7 was the store.

Then there was the Vulcan Foundry which was run by Alex Dickson, a Scotsman who had bought it from the Lindow family and installed electricity and machines to the engineering department. He seemed to have plenty of work what with the pits and the harbour, the tannery, the coke ovens, corn mills, brickworks, iron ore mines and drifts at Cleator Moor, Egremont, Beckermet and Millom. By the 1930s, however, those heady days had gone and it was simply a case of surviving.

Across the road at 21 Rosemary Lonning lived the Maulkins family – Richie, Billy and young Billy, who was my friend, and his grandma. My dad owned the flat and the garage below.

No 12 Albion Street was Ramsay’s office (later to become our house) and No 14 was Ramsay’s Phoenix Foundry. It was an old grain mill and the Whitehaven Hardware Co was run from there by Ramsay Bros, founded in 1866, a well-established business with cast iron and brass smelting and finishing facilities. They employed a lot of men, directly and indirectly. Unfortunately I only remember the gates at the end of the archway as being closed.

No 13 was the home of the Frays, Mr and Mrs and two sons. Mr Fray was a fireman and probably looked after the foundry premises. The family moved away to Southport.

No 15 was the Connaways (later occupied by the O’Neil family), then Fye’s bakers and then Nurse Knox’s house. The O’Neils were a nice family. Mr O’Neil was a winding man at the pit, brother of Joggera O’Neil at the pub (the Kings Arms). His wife, a quiet lady, was a friend of my mother and they had a son, and a daughter Doris, who became deputy head of Bransty School. And the Fyes were Mr and Mrs Richard Fye with their two sons, Henry and Albert, and two daughters, Gladys and Violet. Henry was badly burned in the war when his tank, in the desert, was hit by a German shell. He later worked for the corporation building department until his retirement. Albert worked with his dad and was later employed reading electric meters.

The Dusty Miller was kept by Mr Gibson, who was to fall into his cellar and die. Below the stobbs lived Mrs Pye and her daughters, Sally and Edie. Then there was Mrs Cooper and next door to her, James Stewart had his boot and shoe repair shop. Finally there was Routledge’s printworks and newsagents.

Old Town to Barkers Court: Starting at the two stobbs outside the Dusty Miller front door, next door lived the Kilbain family, then there was a passage, always clean and whitewashed, with houses at the end. Among others living there were the Robbs and the McDonalds.

After that there was Crewdson’s house, in front of them forming a square, Florrie Tunstall’s shop and Miss Rae’s shop. Outside her doorway were steps leading up to a house and next to the steps was a passage to James Street and the big building occupied by Roans’ furnishers (previously the Refuge School). On the other side was Fish Inn Yard and Mrs Fee had the house next door (her son Lennie had drowned in the harbour, near Devil’s Elbow).

Next door was the Fish Inn pub (kept by Mrs Hudson), then the McGlashen family, who were mostly girls, and then Billy Wilson, cattle buyer and butcher, and so on to Steele’s seed shop and Barkers Court.

No 1 Barkers Court was the side door of Steele’s shop and Nos 2 and 3 were occupied by a lady called Sally O’Fee (married to Dan O’Fee, and aunt to Alex O’Fee who kept the The Canteen pub at Low Road). My Uncle Jimmy stayed with her until he moved to South Shields where he set up a very successful scrap business. Next door, at the end house, lived George and Annie Tinnion, William Sheppard and Oswald Joseph and family.

Facing down the court towards the market was the back door of the Foundry Engineering workshop which stretched to Rosemary Lonning. There were two houses where Billy and Miah Crofts, and Mrs Bates lived. Billy was later killed in the William Pit disaster of 1947. There was a short passage and wash houses and lavatories and coming back down on the left lived John Bell and his family. At the bottom was Dickie Pearson’s pub.

On to the Back Lane (Swingpump Lane). On the left hand side looking down towards Quay Street was Harmless Hill, a cobbled square in front of Joggera O’Neil’s pub, the Kings Arms. To the left of the pub were two houses and a gateway to the yard at the rear where various small businesses and stabling took place. In the first house lived Danny Graham and some of his wider family, the Cowans.

Mrs Mulholland, her mother and daughter Elsie lived between Danny and the pub. Joggera O’Neil had two sons, Harry and John and two daughters, Elsie and Winnie.

The first house past Harmless Hill was occupied by Joe Curran and his family and the next house belonged to Pilkingtons. Ribton Lane was one of the first slum areas in the town to be demolished. There was Mrs Todd’s shop, her husband had been killed in the Great War. There were storage buildings, Cowan’s warehouse, Benny Leech’s barber shop and Leech’s furnishers and upholsterers on the corner.

Across from the Butter Market was the Queen’s Cinema yard, entrance to the Queen’s itself and Barker’s sweet shop (incorporated in the cinema frontage). Mrs McVay lived next door and had a shop selling soup.

Quay Street started here and across the road was O’Conner’s barber shop, Lappin’s dairy and Kinsella’s house, a back lane entrance, then the Vine Hotel. Next door again was either Carr’s furnishers or Billy Wilson’s butcher shop (I can’t quite remember who was there first). Walter Willson’s grocers were on the corner.

In pride of place was the Butter Market (the Market Hall) with its imposing construction and town clock. On market days farm women brought eggs, butter and poultry and sold their produce from trestles inside the hall. Outside, between the buttresses, opposite the Pineapple pub, the butchers sold their wares. I particularly remember Mr Atkinson, a big man in his butcher’s apron.

The top floor of the building had been a silent picture house but in my day was a billiard hall with 11 tables, owned by Mr Charnley who had a second hall in King Street (where Woolworth’s was).

At James Street there was Routledge’s on the corner with Albion Street, then Bewshers, then Clem Jackson’s butchers, the lane to the Old Town and Roans. Across the road, Barra Jack’s pub, Charlie Cross’s sweet shop and cafe and next door, but in the same building his fish and chip shop which made the best scallops I ever tasted (a slice of potato fried in batter). He made his own ice cream too in old zinc containers and sold it in the shop and, originally, around the area by horse and cart.

Next was Allan’s grocery shop then a passage and a house where old Mary-Ellen Grearson lived. She had been there, with her husband Jack, until it was demolished with the rest of the court... she would rise at daylight and go to bed when it got dark. She had a six feet high wall in front of her house and behind another wall and an oil lamp. Mary-Ellen ended her days in 8 Albion Street with the luxury of electric light and big windows. The furthest she ever travelled was to Bransty and had no idea about anywhere else outside the town, but she was an avid reader.

A flight of steps led to where the Douglas family lived and next door was the Presbyterian Church. Past a couple of houses then Drurie’s watchmakers shop and Mrs Lithgow’s shop and bakery. At Irish Street, facing down the market was the YMCA and the other Routledge’s tobacco shop.

Outside the YMCA the buses for Kells and St Bees would stop and I often used to take messages for Uncle Frank to his Croft Terrace home and the fare to Basket House was a penny. I saved half the fare by running back down the hill.

The square in front of Roans to No 41 (Peter O’Hare’s) was at one time, according to my Uncle Billy, known as Paddy’s market and sold old clothes and secondhand items.

Next to No 41 was Hugh Gibson’s grocery, owned by Mr Gibson and his two sons. Then there was Fanny Stafford’s confectioners (I am still nostalgic for her pies), Snook’s grocery, Donaldson’s butchers and Peeney’s fish and chip shop and cafe (a Peeney’s ‘mixture’ of a bowl of chips and peas with plenty of salt and vinegar was wonderful).

Ike Bewick had his barber shop next door, then there was Tom McCoy’s fruit shop and the Pineapple pub. Thomas W Dixon’s was fish merchant, trawler-owner and importer of Loch Fyne kippers. In between Dixon’s fish shop and Kennaugh’s the ship’s chandlers lived Joe Carr and his family, upstairs in the flat.

Across the road inside the Green Market were Ferguson’s grocery and ships provisions, Callander and Dixons stationers and printers, Whitehaven Dairies and the chemists, Timothy White & Taylor’s, later bought out by Boots.

At the bottom of Roper Street, and the building is still there, was the Golden Lion Hotel and next door by Aunt Ellen’s fruit shop with a flat upstairs.

Mr and Mrs Davidson and their son Colin owned the shop and lived above it. The market post office run by two Reynolds sisters was next, then Stacy Gees chemist shop (later Fare’s), Joe E Brown’s grocery shop was next with a narrow passage opening into a court with a few houses... John Salari, amongst others lived there. The Big 13 belonged to Mrs Cowan who sold fireworks, there was McGrady’s and Youll’s barbers and tobacconists next door.

Trainor’s pub was the Queen’s Head with a passage and yard at the rear. Then there was Miss Aplin’s fruit shop, and S J West’s pork butchers with its gleaming black and white tiles. I remember Mrs Ginnie West, who wore large amber beads resting on her ample bosom, and her two daughters were always immaculate in their starched white coats.

Gazzi’s shop and cafe sold sweets and tobacco and the seats were open cubicles that ran back to back along the wall. Next door was another butchers, Ernie Kemp, then Dodgsons Court, a fruit shop and Martin’s pub, the Anchor.

Have your say

My grandfather Harry Bewick was born in Whitehaven, and his half brother was Ike Bewick who looked after the barber shop at 51 Market Place .. enjoyed reading your story.

Posted by Linda Malpass on 31 March 2014 at 04:24

Fab read! Thoroughly enjoyed it.

Posted by Amanda Garraway on 27 March 2014 at 01:09

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