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Backwords: Holidays In The Rain

…Clammy moor grime crept down the valley slopes to create a depressing cloud of gloom. And even the weather-beaten faces of families from the hills grimaced like gargoyles in the drizzle…

Mike Shaw recalls the holidays of Yorkshire mill village folk half a century ago.

It was just the sort of morning you don’t want for the start of a summer holiday.

Clammy moor grime crept down the valley slopes to create a depressing cloud of gloom.

And even the weather-beaten faces of families from the hills grimaced like gargoyles in the drizzle.

One thing that hasn’t changed with the times is our weather. It’s still unreliably foul today, exactly as it was on that damp Saturday morning more than 50 years ago.

By a supreme piece of irony it was the Glorious Twelfth when the Colne Valley holidays started in August, 1950.

But the rain-doctor was still working flat out as the weavers and warpers made their way up the hill to Marsden station for their special trains to the seaside.

Loaded down with a suitcase in each hand, it was a fair old climb up Station Road. But the lads offering rides for the luggage on their hurry-carts at the foot of the hill were not doing much trade, I recall.

Holidays in 1950 for most of the Colne Valley workers were a world apart from the jet-set affairs of today. Blackpool, not Benidorm, was still king and Majorca had not yet come along to take the place of Morecambe.

Hundreds of holidaymakers from the valley still used their local stations and the steam locos belched forth their black smoke as they hauled the special trains westwards to Blackpool and Southport and eastwards to Bridlington and Scarborough.

The headline on my piece in the following Friday’s Guardian summed up the miserable scene accurately if not very imaginatively. “The Holidays -- A Rainy Opening” we said, over a picture of gloomy holidaymakers huddled together at Marsden station.

For the record, Blackpool was top of the holiday pops with Marsdeners that year. Eighty people went there by train, with the same number going on the “special” for Bridlington, Scarborough and Filey.

Llandudno had a huge boost in popularity, with a rise from 19 to 60, while Morecambe’s star was on the wane as its numbers dropped from 76 to 50.

The Marsden Cuckoos obviously weren’t too keen on travelling very far for their vacation. Only 30 went on the train bound for the West of England and a mere six booked for Bournemouth.

At Slaithwaite the Moonrakers’ favourite resorts were also up North. In order of popularity they were Blackpool, Scarborough, Morecambe, Southport and North Wales.

After the mass exodus, the Colne Valley in those days was a strange place indeed. No smoke, few folk and shuttered shops.

In the ghost towns of Marsden, Slaithwaite, Linthwaite and Golcar the mills, too, were deserted except for the hard-working “Black Gang” doing all the maintenance jobs they couldn’t fit in during the rest of the year.

When the holidaymakers of The Fifties finished their week at the seaside there were always plenty of trains again to bring them home.

They may not have had much sun. But at least they weren’t kept hanging around in airport lounges for days on end.

Now that the jet-set are beginning to wonder if it’s worth all the hassle, perhaps the seaside holidays of yesteryear might be heading for a comeback.

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