More on Ludworth Characters

My sister recently sent me a copy of SLS Community News. Issue 28 contained an article on “The Old Characters of Ludworth” and she knew that this would interest me. Just who was the writer? Whoever it was brought back a lot of memories.

It seems to me that everybody who lived in Ludworth about 50 years ago was a ‘character’ in one way or another. I certainly remember most of those discussed – and others who perhaps deserve a mention.

My father (Johnny Winter) used to tell a story about Arthur Smith (of motorbike and sidecar fame) who saw twin lights coming towards him one night. Thinking it was two motorcycles he shouted, “Watch yersells – ahm cummin between yer.”

Unfortunately, it was one of those new-fangled motor cars . . .

One of my most prized possessions as a child was a kite fashioned out of an old Union Jack. It was much taller than I was, exceptionally well made and created by Arthur Smith. He was very clever with his hands and I was honoured to have a ‘proper kite.’

It tended to carry me away so ‘Me Da’ and Uncle Alb had to help me fly it – usually up the pit heaps or on the golf links amongst the buttercups and cowpats.

Can you remember Billy Redfern? He was in a wheelchair because of an accident sustained down the pit and was a familiar figure sitting at the bottom of the road in Barnard Avenue. One of his unofficial jobs was keeping the bairns in check! ‘Me Da’ used to take him to the pictures most Saturday nights and I used to ride shotgun on the invalid chair. I don’t know if there was any film classification then, but the Hippodrome at Thornley didn’t seem to bother too much. I remember a film entitled “The Beast With Five Fingers” that frightened me to death. Coming home that night and having to walk past the cemetery was particularly difficult. Still gives me nightmares!

One of my earliest memories was sitting in Mr Simpson’s or Mr Bramwell’s class and hearing the sound of the pit pulleys and the ‘tanky’ echoing around the village. Mr Black was Headmaster when I first started and then ‘Ralphy’ Walton took over. He was very small and his nickname was ‘Twinkletoes’. He was very handy with the stick (cane) I seem to remember.

When I left school it was inevitable that I started working down the pit. Was Ludworth pit closed by this time? Anyway, I started at Thornley colliery working on the surface, gained an electrical apprenticeship and completed about nine years before moving on to pastures new.

There were three pubs in the Front Street and the bottom one was called, I think, “The Standish Arms”. As a young electrician my first major job (all on my own) was to completely re-wire the pub when Ray Perry bought it for living accommodation. Wasn’t it Ray’s Mum, Rene who kept the Post Office? As a kid you could never understand relationships but the Graingers were part of the same family.

Louis Stogdale had the Middle House – and a good darts team! I remember going up for crisps one day and my Uncle Tosh beckoned me into the bar. Now Tosh was rather fat and thus not very agile. He had dropped a tanner and said that if I found it, it was mine. I scrabbled amongst the sawdust and spittle and emerged triumphant clutching ‘a fortune’. It didn’t matter to me that Geordie Whittle’s aim invariably missed the spittoon. The phrase, “where there’s muck there’s money”, comes to mind.

I recollect all of the characters mentioned in the unsigned article. Jimmy Weirs, whose job had something to do with locomotives at the pit, also had the unofficial job of chimney sweep.

Tommy Williams had the first television set in the village – I remember knocking on his door one day (with my cousin Dorothy Briggs) asking if we could watch it. We were entranced watching Laurel and Hardy struggling with that piano!

Jimmy Sunley, the bookie, had his pitch down in the old school and his ‘office’ was the telephone box. I used to place me Da’s bet on my way to school. His nom-de-plume was JEW (John Evans Winter).

Every other Sunday Geordie Lofthouse used to cut my hair. And I hated it! He used to perform his torture in the greenhouse and nourish his award-winning tomatoes with the discarded hair.

The guy in the Co-op store was Dicky Cass and then Eddie Welsh. I don’t remember a ‘Dicky Carr’. Could this be an error? One thing that I just can’t eliminate from my mind is our Co-op number, 13042. Eddie Welsh and I had something in common for we both stammered. He was one of the few adults I wasn’t afraid of.

My Aunty Mary (Miller) and Aunty Sadie (Briggs) lived next door to each other and both kept open house. As a kid, I would lift up the latch, go in and sit down; sometimes say nowt then just return home. Aunt Mary always (it seemed) had a cauldron of something hissing and bubbling on the fire – I guess it was mash for the pigs, although my only (hazy) memory of a pig is one hanging up on the wall outside. A more vivid memory is that of a tree stump in the back garden where Uncle Ted would dispatch the hens (we never called them ‘chickens’). He would give us the legs and we would practice making the toes move by pulling the ligament – and frightening the smallest person we could find. I was a very naughty little boy and one of my pastimes was to release Aunt Mary’s hens. She wasn’t very pleased. And neither was my Mother. Winnie had a belt hanging on a nail in the back kitchen and she used to exercise it regularly on by backside.