Characters of the Colne Times of yesteryear

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As one of two survivors of the Colne Times staff just after the war, I was delighted to see Geoff Crambie’s (I knew his dad) article celebrating 140 years of the Times.

Editor Joe Sunter took me on as a junior reporter in July, 1947. Apart from being a literary genius (Joe could produce a quote from Shakespeare to illustrate every human experience), he had a good sense of humour. His early instruction to me was “never let work interfere with tea drinking”. Among my first jobs was to carry his morning cuppa on a silver tray with teapot, hot water, milk and sugar from Riley’s Corner House Cafe at the top of Windy Bank.

The only other member of staff at that time was Clem England, probably the most familiar character in Colne who, unfortunately, just failed to achieve his ambition to have worked for the paper for 50 years. He took ill and died while I was away doing National Service. Clem worked in the days when he was expected to help in printing the paper as well as reporting and writing for it.

West Craven was covered for the Barnoldswick and Earby Times by Alan Halstead, who lived at the Quaker cottage in Salterforth, and I had to cycle there to collect his copy on Wednesday afternoons. I was plonked in his favourite chair while wife Mary supplied me with a welcome pot of tea. (I had yet to work for Noel Wild who preferred something much stronger!)

Other stalwarts who began in journalism about that time included Keith Henderson, who left for the Nothern Echo, Kathleen Pickles whose brother ran the butcher’s shop next to the Times Office in Market Street, and Ray Horsfield, whose career took him to Burnley, Blackburn and to Bournemouth as news editor of the Bournemouth Echo. He now lives in retirement in Christchurch near Bournemouth and is the second survivor I mentioned at the outset.

Kathleen used to visit Albert Road Police Station for news, fell in love with PC Joe Dewhurst and married him. Members of the Times founding family, Tom and Harold Hyde worked at Coulton’s Nelson Leader offices as Linotype operators and Tom told me he had played next to Titanic band leader Wallace Hartley in Burnley Road Bethel Independent Methodist Church orchestra.

This was a period when Colne was full of characters.

“Little” Johnny Duxbury climbed Pendle at 90, Sam Ansell, clogger and shoe repairer at the top of Colne Lane, was a supplier of news and gossip for the Times, as well as being one of the leaders in the revival of the game of knur and spell, and Coun. J.E. Driver conducted his own Mayor’s Day service at Cottontree Inghamite Church and welcomed the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh as first citizen in 1955. John Varley Doyle broke his elbow on the day he was made Colne’s tallest mayor and went through the mayor-making ceremony in agony.

Other town council stalwarts included Aldermen George Wilmore, Walmsley Riddiough, Frank Wilson, John Y. Ball and Lawson Wharton, father of Alan, opening bat for Lancashire, and Colin, also a cricketer. Alan set the record for throwing the cricket ball at Colne Grammar School sports which was never beaten. Bill Alley and Stanley Jayasinghe were wowing the cricket fans at the Horsfield, the latter helping Colne to win the league championship and Worsley Cup in 1959.

First signs of the collapse of the dominant textile industry were beginning to show, but Colne Co-operative Society, under the leadership of general manager Trevor Muir, also a town councillor, announced annual turnover had exceeded £1m. for the first time.

I could go on, but suffice it to say I was fortunate to work for over 50 years in the most prosperous years of local newspapers.

Happy days!

Peter Daykin

Chapman Court, Barnoldswick