My childhood dream of dressing as a Burnley player or Superman to greet Her Majesty was scuppered by my parents
It was 1953, the year of the Queen's Coronation.
There was a big carnival and parade in Todmorden and my mother and father had dragooned me into taking part dressed in a garb that was so awful, I still have flashbacks.
There was I, a typical, robust, rumbustious sort of lad, played out with pals, kicked a ball around, and they dressed me up as a bloomin’ page boy!
The historical pageant processed through the streets ending at the local park. You had to dress as something that reflected the history of the nation. In short, something that had put the Great into Britain. We were a proud nation back then; Woke hadn’t been invented. Nobody toppled statues. There were big maps at school that still showed the British Empire coloured red.
But the costume: I have never forgotten the humiliation. I was a normal lad, read the Eagle and Dan Dare, the Beano and Dandy, built dens in the woods, played in the local graveyard, fired catapults at Post Office vans and was cheeky to passers-by.
For a dare we tip-toed across the canal lock gates to the other side. God knows what would have happened had we fallen in. The dead dog floating below in the lock was probably a hint. We sneaked up to the railway lines near the station to put pennies on the track and watch when a steam train and 30 trucks ran over them. Boy, they sure were squashed alright.
We carried on doing that until the station master caught us one day and gave us hell, plus a clip round the ear. You could do that back then.
We tramped for miles up on the hilltops and one day got as far as Stoodley Pike a great stone tower that looked out over the valley. There were steps inside so you could climb up to the balcony and see for miles. At the top of Longfield Road there was an old quarry that we climbed up pretending to be General Wolfe attacking Quebec.
You can bet for sure that today’s kids won’t have a clue who General James Wolfe was.
In short, I was not a wimp, but it was still decreed that I should dress in this outlandish get-up as a page-boy. I dressed in pantaloons, tights, a skimpy jacket, a fancy hat with a feather in it and carried a big cushion upon which was placed a cardboard crown.
My father had a habit of sticking me in various costumes, one was in a Scottish kilt and beret; then I was taken to old Will Gibson’s portrait studios in Todmorden. Luckily no picture taken of me in this appalling page-boy outfit has survived. I wouldn’t have minded a picture of me in a cowboy outfit but it was not to be.
Of course, I protested about the page-boy outfit, argued, objected, but all in vain. I was a picture of utter dejection.
But there was no persuasion. Why could I not go dressed as a footballer in a Burnley shirt?
This was given short shrift. Why not Robin Hood, King Arthur, a soldier, or with a bit of disregard for British History, Superman? But no, the decision was the page-boy outfit, the nearest I ever got to royalty.
To this day I can remember parading through the streets in the procession with crowds lining the roadside until we got to Centre Vale Park. We started the procession at Fielden Square at the other end of town.
The John Fielden statue now stands in the park, unless the wokists have toppled it for his cotton trade connections.
I have to say I had a great childhood. The day of the page-boy however, was a definite blot.