What’s in the box? Bits & bobs that may come in useful – as kept by most men

This innocuous wooden box (you can see the side of it above) which I’m guessing was made to store a form of fishcakes, started life in the early 1960’s or even 1950’s. I know where it was sourced from and what it’s been used for through two generations of my family; my Dad and me that is.

It came from The Fish Shop on The Hill in Kirkby-in-Ashfield and if memory serves the shop was run by a Jean Parks or Parkes who was a friend of my Mother Sheila Robertson (nee Calladine). I recall being taken into the shop as a very young lad in the early 1960’s as we lived close to The Hill in Orchard Road.

It’s been used firstly by my Dad (George Robertson) and since by me for storing bits and bobs in; things that men seem to collect which we think will come in useful one day so to speak.

My Dad kept screws, nails and bolts in it whereas I, in tune with modern day living, keep phone chargers and cables in it.

It may be just an old wooden box but there’s some family and Kirkby-In-Ashfield history in it for me, which I often think of when use it.

We left Kirkby in 1964 when I was but 6 years old.

40 years old – I’ve just re-watched my favourite ever railway programme

I’ve been a railway enthusiast ever since my Grandad on my Mother’s side took me to watch trains in Kirkby-In-Ashfield Nottinghamshire as a toddler. Unsurprisingly, I watch most railway programmes that come on the TV but every now and again I have to go back and watch my favourite one from the original 1980 BBC series of Great Railway Journeys. It’s called Coast to Coast and is in my view a masterpiece with my all time TV presenter Ludovic Kennedy at the helm throughout the 1 hour programme.

I’ve blogged about it before and here’s a link back to that previous posting

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2018/03/30/american-railways-amtraks-first-40-years-ludovic-kennedy-bill-withers/

So why raise it again now? Well to celebrate the episode’s 40th birthday and why not. If you would like to watch it here’ a link:-

www.youtube.com/watch?v=_tsNhK6vlwc

Thomas Cook – It’s why I’m a Nottinghamshire ‘exile’ living on Merseyside

The fact that I live on Merseyside is down to Thomas Cook. I’m a Nottinghamshire born lad but left my Notts mining community of Kirkby-in-Ashfield at the age of 6 and headed for Rochdale. Then at the age of 10 I left the home of the Rochdale Pioneers and wandered due west to Maghull on the outskirts of Liverpool. These moves were in effect organised by Thomas Cook, not as holiday trips of course but as a consequence of my Dad working for this famous travel agency.

This is dad (George William Robertson) back in 1957 at work in Thomas Cook Nottingham

Dad first worked for them at their shop in Nottingham, which if memory serves was originally a Dean & Dawson, and our family move to Rochdale followed him getting his first shop to manage in the Town’s Drake Street. We stayed in Rochdale for 4 years until he gained a bigger shop to manage in Liverpool’s Lord Street. That move brought us to live in Maghull where both Mum and Dad died in retirement in 2008 & 2009 respectively.

The last shop Dad managed was in Lord Street Southport so no further move of house was required and he retired from that Southport shop around 1991 if memory serves.

Watching Thomas Cook go under in the past few days I have wondered what Dad would have thought? Thinking back to the odd thing that he said about the company I seem to recall that he felt the company lost its way when it was sold to HSBC many years ago.

My cricketing heroes – Derek Randall, Richard Hadlee, Garfield Sobers & Harold Larwood

Coming from the Nottinghamshire coalfield and from the very same district (Kirkby-In-Ashfield) as Harold Larwood (who was born in nearby Nuncargate in 1904) it’s probably no surprise that my sporting heroes are all cricketers; Notts cricketers unsurprisingly.

Statue of Harold Larwood in my (and his) own home town of Kirkby-In-Ashfield. Before it was moved for redevelopment.

Harold Larwood

history.trentbridge.co.uk/players/harold-larwood.html#.W4E7ubgnbIU

Derek Randall

history.trentbridge.co.uk/players/derek-randall.html#.W4E5n7gnbIU

Richard Hadlee

history.trentbridge.co.uk/players/richard-hadlee.html#.W4E6xrgnbIU

Garfield Sobers

history.trentbridge.co.uk/players/sir-garfield-sobers.html#.W4E7grgnbIU

As a young man in the 1970’s I was often found listening to Test Match Special on the radio in the middle of the night and of course back then cricket was on the regular TV, no pay to view exclusivity. The John Player Sunday League was a delight on BBC2 which my old Dad and I would regularly watch. I would add that I think cricket has been done a great disservice by becoming significantly inaccessible on free to view TV, a penny that I think has finally dropped with the cricketing powers that be.

Randall, nick names Rags and Arkle, is my number one sporting hero; this eccentric fidgeting batsman could, on his day, take on any bowling and his fielding was probably the best the world has ever seen or ever will see.

The old saying was that when a fast bowler was required all you had to do was to call down a Nottinghamshire coal pit and one would emerge – Harold Larwood was one such miner called from the pit to break Australian hearts. What a bowler – speed and accuracy. That he was blamed for the Bodyline series down under was an utter disgrace as he was doing what his captain asked him to do. However when the sh1t hit the fan the poor working class bowler carried the can and the upper class captain all but got away with it.

It was fitting that a statue of Larwood was erected in my old home town (it’s pictured above) and whilst I have not seen it since it was moved as part of a town centre redevelopment I’m sure this old Kirkby lad will have a tear in his eye next time he sees it.

Richard Hadlee was a very accurate pace bowler and the fact that pitches at Trent Bridge were made for him is testament to his recognisable ability. A Kiwi who like all my cricketing heroes played Test Cricket, in his case for New Zealand, he was a delight to watch and batsmen hated facing him.

And then there’s the quite wonderful all round cricketer Garfield Sobers, that giant of West Indies cricket who could turn his arm over as either a medium fast or spin bowler. He was also pretty good with the bat too as this video clip from the BBC proves:-

www.bbc.co.uk/sport/cricket/45357768

And I say all this whilst Nottinghamshire have just completed a very poor 2018 season indeed, surviving in the County Championship Division 1 by virtue of winning just one more match than Lancashire with whom they ended up on the same number of points. If Lancs had scored just a few more runs in their last but one innings Notts would have been relegated instead of them. Oh how we need some heroes now as the present team could easily get Notts relegated to the 2nd Division again next year, indeed many Notts supporters will sadly be almost expecting that slide in the 2019 season unless some big changes are made at Trent Bridge.

Deep coal mining has come to an end in the UK – Should we miss it?

Watching the recent TV programme about the closure of Kellingley Colliery (the UK’s last deep mine) which ceased cutting coal in December 2015 was a odd moment for me as I come from a coal mining family.

Bentinck Colliery - Photographer unknown

Bentinck Colliery – Photographer unknown

Two of my uncles were miners; one long dead (Henry Wright was a winding man at Bentinck Colliery in Kirkby In Ashfield) but the other only passed on in the last couple of weeks. That was my Uncle Doug Depledge* who was a Banksman at Sherwood Colliery in Mansfield until he took what was in effect early retirement as the pits were being run down in the 1980’s.

Sherwood Colliery - Photographer unknown

Sherwood Colliery – Photographer unknown

To see the miners facing the closure of their colliery on TV was sobering. They were losing what generations living in their community had worked for and indeed why their community existed. Of course this closure process has gone on in mining communities across the UK’s coalfields for 30+ years now and as a consequence those communities have had to try to reinvent themselves. It is probably fair to say that few if any of the former mining communities have really prospered since their pits were closed, indeed many have clearly struggled greatly.

UK coal production was effectively ended/replaced by the importation of cheap foreign coal but of course we also now know that burning fossil fuels like coal is very bad for our environment and a contributor to global warming problems.

I moved away from the Nottinghamshire coalfield when I was 6 in the mid 1960’s but recall only too well how the demise of the industry was discussed when we went back home to visit family.

As a trade unionist I remember only too well the miners strike and the hugely divisive political differences between the NUM and UDM which was particularly the case in Nottinghamshire. I honestly don’t know whether my uncles were NUM or UDM, I never asked.

But the other aspect of the closure of the pits that struck me from watching the programme about the closure of Kellingley was what a hugely challenging job it must have been to have spent your working life 800 feet underground. I know I would not want to do it and I suspect that goes for many people these days. But when it’s pretty much all you know about working it must be gut wrenching to loose what is clearly a most dangerous of employments.

* It was Doug’s funeral I failed to get to last Thursday because of a huge traffic jam on the M6

Kirkby-In-Ashfield – Where I caught the train bug

Kirkby In Ashfield East Station

This is Kirkby in Ashfield East Station. It was a couple of hundred yards from my Grandad’s Urban Road terraced house in the Nottinghamshire (former) mining town where I was born and lived until the age of 6.

He took me to watch the trains at this very spot in the early 1960’s. Sadly there is no longer a railway or station here but just along the road, probably less than half a mile away, Kirkby has a new station (see photo below) on the Robin Hood Line.

IMG_2575 r

Click on the photos to enlarge them

The photos are amongst my flickr shots at:-

www.flickr.com/photos/86659476@N07/