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A Shout From The Attic: Lurid Tales

Ronnie Bray visualises the home-town streets of his boyhood.

In between Wakefield Road, and Newsome Road, but below Almondbury, was Lowerhouses. There were stories about the boys and girls from Lowerhouses, particularly the girls, that do not bear repeating. It was a place from which I kept well away and, therefore, I am still alive to tell the tale.

In spite of the lurid tales, I did meet Shirley Owen, a wonderful but tragic girl from Lowerhouses.

The end of Buxton Road poured downhill past the big Methodist Chapel and past the Model Lodging House to surrender to Folly Hall a couple or three hundred yards further on, where it levelled out into the calm of Lockwood Road. Yet, the top of Chapel Hill was a natural boundary, beyond which only those born in the wild ventured.

Manchester road took off sharp south-west from the top of Chapel hill where it abandoned Buxton Road and wandered away past the misnamed Grand Cinema, past the huge forbidding piles of Haigh’s mills that sat at the causeway edge and on to Longroyd Bridge. A careful boy could walk to Longroyd Bridge, but not as far as Thornton Lodge that lay around the corner across the murky canal and the trickling waters of the shallow Colne River.

Wagon drivers set off down Manchester Road, braving Thornton Lodge, along the south bank of the Colne to navigate each of the settlements along the route as far as Marsden, seven miles from town, then chugged at slow speed all the long climb over the Pennines at Standedge, past the Floating Light pub, then their engines rested on the long downhill run into Oldham where the doors of old houses were shorter than normal men and the doorknobs were in the middle of the door instead of at the edge and the fish and chips were not as good but you could still get Ben Shaw’s fizzy yellow lemonade and Dandelion and Burdock.

But I was no motor lorry and the cluster of villages along the river and canal sides were ‘out of bounds’ until my more mature years, although I did see a huge steam-driven road tractor with massive over-man-high iron bound wheels puffing and grunting as it pulled four heavy-laden trailers down Manchester Road from Thornton Lodge and turn on St Thomas’ Road, where I stood gawping outside the tram sheds, and knew I was looking at a world that was slipping away from our grasp.

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