Three score and ten . . .

18 November 1948. Today is my 70th birthday. Septuagenarian. The Biblical three score and ten (Psalm 90:10)!

Steph and I have come away for the weekend to celebrate my birthday with The Beatles in Liverpool.

We are staying for a couple of nights at Jurys Inn close to the Albert Dock. Later this morning we’ve booked to visit the National Trust-owned Beatles’ Childhood Homes (of John Lennon and Paul McCartney). And after lunch, we will tour The Beatles Story where I’m hoping to see, displayed there, something special from my childhood.

How the years have flown by. Just a month ago, Steph and I celebrated our 45th wedding anniversary. And I find it hard to believe that I started university over 50 years ago.

That got me thinking. I’ve written quite a lot in this blog about the years after I graduated, my time working overseas, about travel, and what Steph and I have been up to since retiring in 2010.

However, I written much less about my early years growing up in Cheshire and Staffordshire. This is then an appropriate moment to fill some gaps.

A son of Cheshire
I was born in Knowlton House nursing home in Congleton, Cheshire (map), third son and fourth and youngest child of Frederick Harry Jackson (aged 40), a photo process engraver, and Lilian May Jackson, also aged 40, housewife.

Mum and Dad, around 1959/60 after we had moved to Leek

My eldest brother Martin has been able to trace our family’s ancestry (mainly on my father’s side) back to someone named Bull, who was my 13th great-grandfather, born around 1480 on the Staffordshire/ Derbyshire border, just one of my 32,000 plus direct ancestors then. I must be related to royalty in one way or another (as are most of us), although looking at the occupations noted for many of them in various official documents (birth and marriage certificates, census data), we came a long way down the pecking order. Definitely below the salt! We’re Irish on my mother’s side of the family.

A punk before it was fashionable!

I am also a child of the National Health Service (NHS) that was founded in July 1948. In fact, I’m (approximately) the 190,063rd baby born under the NHS!

Knowlton House on Parson Street in Congleton – it’s no longer a nursing home.

I wonder who assisted at my birth? It could well have been our family Dr Galbraith, or Nurses Frost and Botting.

Dr Galbraith (R) was our family doctor, who (with his partner Dr Ritchie) often attended births at Knowlton House, and is seen here with resident midwife Nurse Rose Hannah Frost, who assisted at more than 3000 births. There is a very good chance either Nurse Frost or Nurse May Botting (who ran the nursing home) assisted at my birth. In this photo from 1936, Dr Galbraith and Nurse Frost are holding the Nixon triplets. Photo courtesy of Alan Nixon, who was apparently named after Dr Galbraith.

My dad registered my birth¹ on 22 November (Entry No. 442). There are few ‘Michaels’ in the family; Thomas is my paternal grandfather’s name.

My eldest brother Martin was born in September 1939, just a couple of days before war was declared on Germany. My sister Margaret was born in January 1941. Martin and Margaret spent much of WWII with my paternal grandparents in rural Derbyshire. My elder brother Edgar (‘Ed’) is, like me, one of the baby boomer generation, born in July 1946.

The difference of around 55 years – 1951/52 and 2006

I’ve often wondered what sacrifices Mum and Dad had to make to give us all such a good start in life.

Growing up in Congleton, we lived at 13 Moody Street, close to the town center’s High Street.

There’s not much to tell about my first couple of years, other than what I can surmise from a few photographs taken around that time when I was still in my pram or just beginning to walk. Two things I do remember clearly, though. The hens my father used to keep, and even the large henhouse he constructed at the bottom of the garden. And our female cat, Mitten, and all her kittens. That must have been the start of becoming an ailurophile (cat lover).

My best friend was Alan Brennan, a year younger, who lived a little further up Moody Street at No. 23 (and with whom I reconnected through this blog, after a gap of around 60 years!).

With Alan and his parents (and friends) at Timbersbrook, in 1955. I clearly remember Mr Brennan’s Vauxhall car – a Wyvern I believe.

We didn’t go to the same primary school. Like my brothers and sister before me, I was enrolled (in September 1952 or April 1953, maybe as late as September 1953) at the small Church of England school on Leek Road in Mossley, south of the town. By then, Martin had moved on to grammar school in Macclesfield; Margaret had also transferred to secondary school in Congleton.

Each morning, Ed and I would catch the bus in the High Street together for the short, 1½ mile ride to Mossley. And even as young as five, I would sometimes walk home alone from school during the summer months, along Leek Road and Canal Road/Street. How times change!

I remember the headteacher, Mr Morris, as a kind person. My class teachers were Mrs Bickerton (on the left) and Mrs Johnson (on the right). Courtesy of Liz Campion.

There was a real community of children around Moody Street, Howie Lane/Hill, and Priesty Fields. In summer, we’d all wander up to play on the swing bridge over the Macclesfield Canal (beyond the cemetery – where we would also play in a WWII air raid shelter). The bridge has long been replaced, but from comments on a Congleton Facebook group I belong to, it seems that over the generations, many children enjoyed the swing bridge as much as we did.

In winter, we had fun in the snow at Priesty Fields just round the corner from Moody St. And, as you can see below, we enjoyed dressing up. Happy days!

In the upper image, taken on Coronation Day in 1953, I’m fifth from the right (carrying the stick). Alan Brennan is the little by to the left of the ‘clown’, and in front of the ‘pirate’, my elder brother Ed. The lower image was taken on May Day, probably 1953 or 54. I’m on the left, carrying the sword, uncertain whether to be a knight or a cowboy.

c. 1955. L-R: Veronica George, Carol Brennan, Jessica George, my elder brother Ed, me, Margaret Moulton, and Alan Brennan. Taken in the garden of No 13 Moody St. The George sisters lived at No. 21 Moody St.

I often joined my father when he went out on photographic assignments for the Congleton Chronicle (where he was Chief Photographer), often to Biddulph Grange when it was an orthopedic hospital, also to Astbury, and out into the beautiful Cheshire countryside.

I remember one outing in particular, to Little Moreton Hall in May 1954. This is my father’s photo of Manley Morris Men dancing there, an image that stuck in my mind for many years. So much so that when I went to university in the later 1960s, I helped form a morris dancing side, the Red Stags, that’s still going strong (albeit in a slightly different form) 50 years later.

The Manley Morris Men at Little Moreton Hall on 8 May 1954.

For family holidays I remember those in North Wales, at a caravan park or, on one occasion, a camping coach, a converted railway carriage alongside the mainline to Holyhead next to the beach at Abergele.

During these early years, until July 1954, rationing was still in place that had come into effect at the start of the Second World War. I often wonder how my parents managed to raise four children during these difficult years. One thing I do recall, however, is how we shared things, particularly confectionery. No individual treats. My father would buy a Mars bar (I’m sure they were bigger then) and cut it into six pieces. Funny how these things stick in one’s memory.


The move to Leek
April 1956. A big change in my life. My family upped sticks and moved 12 miles southeast to the market town of Leek in north Staffordshire, where my father took over a retail photography business. As I was only 7½ when we moved, I’ve come to regard Leek as my home town. My parents lived there for the rest of their lives. My father passed away in 1980, and after my mother had a stroke in 1990, only then did she move away from Leek to spend her last couple of years in a care home near my sister in South Wales.

We lived at No. 65, St Edward Street, and within a couple of days of arriving there, I’d made friends with three boys who lived close by: Philip Porter (next door), Geoff Sharratt – whose father was publican at The Quiet Woman pub a few doors away, and David Phillips who lived over the road. Geoff’s younger sister Susan sometimes joined in our games, as did Philip’s sister Jill. We were the ‘St Edward Street Gang’.

Here we are in the late 1950s, in the yard of The Quiet Woman pub. L-R: Sue, Geoff, me, Philip, and Dave. 60 years later, here are four of us. I’m still hopeful to receive a photo from Dave to include.

Geoff was my best friend, and we spent a lot of time playing together. There were several upstairs rooms at The Quiet Woman, one of which was the Lodge of the Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes (RAOB, the Buffs, a fraternal organization somewhat similar to the Freemasons). During inclement weather, we often took refuge in the Lodge, playing among the benches and high chairs.

Playing with my Hornby ‘O’ gauge clockwork train at ‘Congleton’ station – it would be a collectors’ item today. Taken around 1958.

I was also a cub scout, as was Ed.

Around 1960, the lease on No. 65 came due, so my father decided to to find a better location for his business. First, he moved across St Edward’s St to No. 56 (while we lived in a flat at the top of the Market Place). In 1962/63 my father acquired No. 19 Market Place as premises for his photographic business, with living accommodation above. This was just what he had been looking for, centrally located in the town, lots of footfall. But the whole property had to be refurbished; there was only one water tap – in the cellar. He did much of the refurbishment himself. I’ve never ceased to be amazed at his DIY talents, something I sadly have not inherited to the same degree. My parents remained at No. 19 until they retired in 1976.

Sandwiched between Jackson the Optician (no relation) on the left, and Victoria Wine on the right, No 19 Market Place was my parents home for 14 years.

Around the same time, Geoff’s parents left The Quiet Woman and moved elsewhere in the town. I was also traveling every day to school to Trent Vale on the south side of Stoke-on-Trent (a round trip of about 28 miles), while Geoff continued his education in Leek. As a consequence, we drifted apart, but through my blog we reconnected in 2012.

Mr Smith

My mother’s family were Irish Catholics, and although we had not been brought up in the faith while in Congleton, both Ed and myself were enrolled in St. Mary’s RC primary school on Cruso Street, a short walk away from home. We were taught by Sisters of Loreto nuns. Headmistress Mother Elizabeth or my class teacher, Mother Bernadine, were never averse to wrapping us across the knuckles with the sharp edge of a ruler. In my final year at St Mary’s (1959-60), we were taught by Mr Smith. But my recollections don’t tally so much with many others who also attended St Mary’s. And I have been horrified at some accounts of how unhappy they were at the school in the 1950s and 60s.

In the late 50s and early 60s, just Ed and I would join our parents for holidays in Wales, most often camping or in our own caravan.

Some of my happiest memories though come from our visits to my grandparents² (my father’s parents) in Hollington, a small Derbyshire village between Ashbourne and Derby. My grandfather was almost 76 when I was born; Grandma was 68.

Family picnic at Hollington, c. 1952, with cousins. Grandma in the center, my mum is on the left. I’m center front ‘guarding’ the bottle.

With Grandad and Grandma Jackson, and our cousin Diana, c. 1959 at Ebenezer Cottage.

Grandma and Grandad celebrated their Golden Wedding in 1954, the occasion of a large gathering of family and friends in Hollington.


Enduring high school
I passed my 11 Plus exam to attend a Roman Catholic grammar school, St Joseph’s College, at Trent Vale on the south side of Stoke-on-Trent. Founded by Irish Christian Brothers in 1932, the school took boys only (but is now co-educational). I had to be on the bus by 07:50 each morning if I was to get to school by 09:00. This was my daily routine for the next seven years.

On reflection, I can’t say that I found the school experience satisfying or that the quality of the education I received was worth writing home about. Yes, there were some good teachers who I looked up to, but much of the teaching was pretty mediocre. I’ve written elsewhere about the gratuitous use of corporal punishment at the school.

Perhaps one of the school’s claims to fame was the priest who attended to our ‘spiritual needs’. He was Father John Tolkien, son JRR Tolkien, the author of Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. My first impressions of Fr Tolkien were not favorable. He came across as cold and authoritarian. When I got to know him later on, however, I found he was a warm person with a good sense of humor. I was saddened to learn that his last years were blighted by accusations of abuse, later dropped.


On to university . . . and faraway places
I was lucky to secure a place in October 1967 at the University of Southampton to study botany and geography, beginning three of the happiest years of my life. I’ve already blogged about various aspects of my time at Southampton, and you can read them here. Little did I think that I would have a career in botany, and that would lead me to fulfill one of my ambitions: to visit Peru.

Even though I graduated in 1970 with only an average BSc degree, that didn’t hold me back. I had ambitions.

I was fortunate to be accepted into graduate school at the University of Birmingham, where I completed MSc and PhD degrees in plant genetic resources, and returned there in 1981 for a decade as Lecturer in Plant Biology.

After my PhD graduation at The University of Birmingham on 12 December 1975 with my PhD supervisor, Prof. Jack Hawkes (L) and Prof. Trevor Williams (R) who supervised my MSc dissertation.

My international career in plant genetic resources conservation and agriculture took me to Peru and Costa Rica from 1973-1981, to work on potatoes for the International Potato Center (CIP). And then in July 1991, I moved to the Philippines to join the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) for the next 19 years as head of the genebank then as Director for Program Planning and Communications.

I had good opportunities to publish my research over the years, in terms of journal articles, books and book chapters, and presentations at scientific conferences.

I retired in April 2010, at the age of 61. But I haven’t rested on my laurels. Scientifically I have:

In the 2012 I was honored to be made an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, or OBE, for services to international food science (in the New Year’s Honours).

I set up this blog in February 2012, and have written more than 460 stories for a total of around 470,000 words since then, and posted thousands of images, most of which I have taken myself.


Family
Steph and I were married on 13 October 1973 in Lima, Peru. We’d met at Birmingham during 1971-72, and after I’d moved to Lima in January 1973, she joined me there in July and also worked at CIP.

At La Granja Azul restaurant near Lima (on the left) after our wedding in 1973. And on the right, exactly 45 years later during one of our walks at Croome Court in Worcestershire.

Hannah, our elder daughter was born in Costa Rica in April 1978. Philippa was born in Bromsgrove in May 1982, a year after we had moved back to the UK (in March 1981). When we moved to the Philippines in 1991, they both attended the International School Manila, and then went on to university in the USA (Macalester College in Minnesota) and Durham in the UK, respectively. In 2006 and 2010, they completed their PhD degrees in psychology, respectively at the University of Minnesota and Northumbria University.

PhD graduands! On the left, Hannah is with her classmates in Industrial-Organizational Psychology at the University of Minnesota, Emily and Mike, on 12 May 2006. Philippa (on the right) is with one of her PhD supervisors, Prof. David Kennedy of the Brain, Performance and Nutrition Research Centre in the Dept. of Psychology at Northumbria University on 7 December 2010.

In those same years Hannah married Michael, and Phil married Andi. We now have four wonderful grandchildren: Callum (8), Elvis (7), Zoë (6), and Felix (5). The family came together for the first time in a New Forest holiday in July 2016.

On holiday in the New Forest in July 2016. L-R (sitting): Callum, Hannah, Zoë, me, Steph, Elvis, Felix, and Philippa. Standing: Michael and Andi

The 2018-19 school year started for Callum and Zoë in August, and for Elvis and Felix in September. It was also Felix’s first day at school.

In September, Steph and I spent a week in Cornwall exploring many National Trust and English Heritage properties around the county.

Foldes and Fenner family photos in July and September


So, as I look back on the past 70 years, I can’t say I have much to complain about. Steph and I have a beautiful family. An interesting career took me to more than 65 countries (and Steph to some of those). We’ve lived and worked in three countries and made some wonderful friends.

Je ne regrette rien

At 70, though, what does life have in store?

I think Fleetwood Mac (one of my favorite bands) sum it up quite nicely. If it was fine for Bill Clinton, it’s good enough for me.

Retirement is sweet. Who could ask for more?


¹ I no longer have my original birth certificate. That now sits in an archive somewhere in the Miraflores Municipality building in Lima, Peru. When Steph and I married there in October 1973 we had to present our original birth certificates, not realizing these would be filed away in perpetuity and never returned to us.

² I did not really know my mother’s parents, who died before my sixth birthday. They lived in Epsom, Surrey.

Dum-dee dum-dee dum-dee dum, dum-dee dum-dee dum dum . . .

I guess many readers of my blog outside the UK will have no idea at all what this apparent gibberish title is all about.

But I bet there are some UK readers—and avid BBC Radio 4 listeners—who will understand it right away.

Yes, it’s Barwick Green, the theme to the BBC’s long-running radio soap opera, The Archers, by Yorkshire composer Arthur Wood.

Normally, it’s only the first 15 seconds that’s ever heard, so it’s quite a treat to listen to the whole composition.

The Archers, ‘an everyday story of country folk’ has been broadcast continually since 1 January 1951, with more than 17,600 episodes. Can you imagine that?

I grew up listening to The Archers, and that continued through the late 60s while I was at university. But since the 1970s, I can’t remember the last time I heard an episode. Not surprising really since I was abroad for about 27 years.

Created by Godfrey Basely, The Archers was originally a radio drama that also served up practical farming advice. I read somewhere that the Ministry of Agriculture was also part of the team that developed the drama. Central to all the storylines were ‘Dan and Doris Archer’ and their family at ‘Brookfield Farm’, and set in the Midland county of ‘Borsetshire’, the mythical Archer country located somewhere south of Birmingham.

I live in Bromsgrove, about 13 miles south of Birmingham and more or less the same distance north of Worcester. Bromsgrove, a small market town (or at least it once was) in north Worcestershire is generally considered as the model for ‘Borchester’. And villages in the rural areas around Bromsgrove, such as Hanbury and Inkberrow, are also considered as ‘Archer models’. Perhaps the cathedral city of Worcester (with its own university) is the model for ‘Felpersham’.

Now I’m no longer a fan of The Archers (although it still has a faithful following) and haven’t been for a very long time. So why this sudden interest in the program, and the urge to write something here on my blog.

Well, a couple of days ago I was looking through some old slides I’d digitized, and came across a set of six that took me back more than 60 years. As I’ve written elsewhere, I was born in Congleton, Cheshire, and didn’t move to Leek until I was seven in 1956. Although we lived close to Congleton town centre at 13 Moody Street, I (and my two brothers and sister) attended primary school in the village of Mossley, a couple of miles to the southeast.

And from about 1954 it must have been (I don’t think earlier), and for the next four or five years, my dad was one of a team helping to raise funds for a new village hall in Mossley, on a plot of land donated by the Chappell family who lived close by.

Each year the highlight was a May Fair, quite large even by today’s standards. And of course, there had to be ‘celebrity’ to open each Fair. So for each one, a member of the cast of The Archers was invited in that capacity.

Denis Folwell, who played ‘Jack Archer’, son of Dan and Doris, and landlord of the local pub, ‘The Bull’, was the first Archer invited. Then came Doris, played by Wolverhampton-born actress Gwen Berryman, see in this series of photos below.

Other Archers characters invited were ‘Tom Forrest’ (Bob Arnold), and ‘Walter Gabriel’ (“My old pal, my old beauty”, played by Chris Gittins). I don’t think Dan Archer (Harry Oakes) came to Mossley, but I did meet him one year at another May Fair in a village near Congleton when I went along with my father to cover this event, as he was Chief Photographer at the Congleton Chronicle. I seem to recall I also met Dan and Doris’s other son, ‘Phil’, played by Norman Painting, but whether this was at Mossley or elsewhere, I just don’t remember.

The May Fairs were a lot of fun. A big marquee for afternoon teas, sideshows, fancy dress competitions (which my elder brother won at the very first Mossley May Fair, dressed as a press photographer, and with a message on his back: Following in Father’s Footsteps!). And they were always held in the grounds of a Chappell family home, a large house across the road from Mossley Holy Trinity Church, at the crossroads of Biddulph Road (A527) and Leek Road/Reade’s Lane where an old friend of my parents, the Rev. Cyril Green was the vicar. From a quick look at Google maps (satellite view) it looks as if the Chappell’s house has been demolished and the whole site redeveloped.

With a little help from my friends . . .

These days, I feel I can easily remember things that happened decades ago during my childhood. Ask me what I did yesterday or at least during the past few days and I often struggle to remember the details.

But recently I’ve been reminded of things that did happen 50 or more years ago that I had most definitely forgotten. And through the power of the Internet, and most probably Google, I have reconnected with a couple of childhood friends who I had not been in contact with for more than 50 years.

When I started this blog more than two years ago I never expected that long-lost friends would be in contact with me.

Almost two years ago, on 5 April 2012, I posted a story about the Beatles and my childhood love of skiffle music. I included this photo, and mentioned that the boy and little girl listening to me and my brother Ed were my best friend in Leek, Geoff Sharratt, and his sister Susan. A few months later I was contacted by Susan who had been doing some genealogy research and came across my blog. I’ve been in touch with Geoff on a regular basis since then, and posted another story in November 2012 about us renewing our friendship. We certainly had a lot to catch up on.

skifflepic

The Jackson Duo strutting their stuff, watched by their mother and friends Geoff and Susan Sharratt

5. Geoff, Sue and Mike Jackson above Rudyard Lake

Geoff, Susan and Mike in the late 50s, overlooking Rudyard Lake near Leek

Geoff and Sue

Geoff and Sue

Then in the middle of February, out of the blue I received a message from Alan Brennan, my first and best friend when I was growing up in Congleton. Alan has certainly filled in some gaps in my memories. I left Congleton in April 1956 when I was seven; Alan is 13 months younger than me. Although we lived just a few doors away from each other we didn’t go to the same school. But whenever we were home it seems to me that we were inseparable and got into some scrapes.

That’s me in the center of the photo below, partially dressed as a native American (sans war bonnet) and carrying a stick. Alan is to my right, the little boy looking rather shy in short trousers in front of the pirate, my elder brother Ed.

Coronation Day 1953

Alan has continued to live in Congleton, and like me has now retired. Here are a couple of photos he sent me recently. In the 1955 photo we were having a picnic at Rocky Pool near Timbersbrook, just east of Congleton. Alan’s parents are standing, a family friend is seated. In the background is the Brennan’s car – a Vauxhall Wyvern. I mentioned to Alan in one of our emails that I did indeed remember the car and thought it was a Wyvern, which he confirmed. The old memory was certainly working on that detail!

Summer1955mjPhotos (1)

May Day celebrations, pre-1956. That’s me on the left, and my brother Ed on the right. I’m not sure if that’s Alan standing on my left. Looks like Alan’s Dad’s car in the top left corner.

Alan with his wife Lyn

Alan with his wife Lyn

A walk down memory lane . . . literally

We took the opportunity of a National Trust outing to Little Moreton Hall a couple of days ago – a glorious and warm early September day, hardly a cloud in the sky at times – to explore the Cheshire market town of Congleton, where I was born almost 65 years ago, in November 1948. I lived there until April 1956, when we moved to Leek, another market town in North Staffordshire, about 12 miles away.

I’ve only ever been back to Congleton a handful of times in 60 years. So it was a real walk down memory lane – literally – to visit where we used to live in Moody Street (at No. 13) and other nearby places where we all used to play.

Coronation Day, 2 June 1953; at the bottom of Howey Lane.  Back Row L → R : Margaret Jackson; Jennifer Duncalfe; Josie Moulton; Meg Moulton; Susan Carter; Ed Jackson; Richard Barzdo; NK: Peter Duncalfe; NK; George Foster; David Hurst; Stephen Carter; Martin Jackson. Front Row L → R : NK; Carol Brennan; NK: Alan Brennan: Robert Barzdo; NK; Mike Jackson.

Coronation Day, 2 June 1953; at the bottom of Howey Lane.
Back Row L → R : Margaret Jackson; Jennifer Duncalf; Josie Moulton; Meg Moulton; Susan Carter; Ed Jackson; Richard Barzdo; NK: Peter Duncalf; NK; George Foster; David Hurst; Stephen Carter; Martin Jackson.
Front Row L → R : NK; Carol Brennan; Patricia Stringer: Alan Brennan: Alex Barzdo; Janet Stringer; Mike Jackson.

Same location, 60 years on.

My parents, Fred and Lilian Jackson, moved to Congleton in 1940 from Bath where my eldest brother Martin was born on the day the Germans invaded Poland: 1 September 1939. My dad returned to the photographic business Marson’s in the High Street, and remained there before being called-up to serve in the Royal Navy during the Second World War. While he was away serving King and country, my mother and two children (Margaret had been born in January 1941) moved to my grandparent’s village of Hollington in Derbyshire.

After the war, my father returned to Congleton in the expectation of regaining his former employment – but things didn’t work out. Instead, he joined local newspaper, The Congleton Chronicle and remained as head of the engraving department then as photographer until we moved to Leek 10 years later. In the meantime, my elder brother Edgar had appeared on the scene in July 1946, followed by me a couple of years later. And 13 Moody Street was a ‘tied’ house, opened by the Chronicle’s proprietors, the Head family. In fact, Mr Lionel Head and his wife, who was editor of the Chronicle, lived next door, at No. 15.

13 Moody Street was the end house of a Georgian terrace (Moody Terrace) of eight houses. It still has the same door as six decades ago – but I don’t remember it being red then. And even the same brass door knocker, door knob and letter box.

Just up Moody Terrace lived my best friend, Alan Brennan (at No. 21 or thereabouts); we got into some scrapes. But what I do remember, as the Coronation Day photo shows, is that the various age groups among all the children close-by did interact. One of our favorites was playing in an old air-raid shelter near the local cemetery, or wandering up to the local canal – the Macclesfield Canal – and playing on the swing bridge. Of course, 60 years ago there were few cars. When Steph tried to take the photo of me above, standing at the bottom of Howey Lane, a car came by every few seconds. Moody Street (and surrounding streets) was a very safe place to play in the 1950s.

May Day 1952 (?). I'm on the left and my elder brother Edgar is on the right.

May Day pre-1956. L to R: me; Martin Firth; ?; ?; Patricia Stringer is the May Queen; Deirdre Firth; ?; my elder brother Edgar.

Just round the corner from Moody Street is Priesty Fields, and today this has been joined to a network of public paths connecting Congleton and Astbury, and many other local places. Just off Priesty Fields is The Vale and allotments, with rear access to many of the houses in Moody Terrace.

In the winter, when there was snow on the ground we all used to go tobogganing in Priesty Fields. After six decades, it’s more like ‘Priesty Woods’ there has been so much vegetation grown up.

Part of the town centre is now a traffic-free pedestrian area, in what was Bridge Street. The High Street is still open to traffic. Look at the difference between 1952 and today in these next two photos.

The Congleton Chronicle still occupies the same building in the High Street – I just had to have my photo taken outside. But then, somewhat emboldened, I decided to go inside and introduce myself, with no plan whatsoever as to what I hoped to achieve. Almost immediately the current Chief Photographer, Glyn Boon – who joined the newspaper in 1961 – came in, and once he realized who I was, fetched his camera, and took my photo outside as well. There might be a story in the Chronicle before too long. But then he invited Steph and me to go upstairs and view my dad’s old workroom on the top floor. The very last time I could have been there was in March 1956 – probably earlier. I used to visit him there all the time when I was a little boy. I remembered the stairs as if it were yesterday, but now it’s a quiet building – everything digital now. I remember lots of noise as the printing presses were running, pulleys running everywhere, the smell of ink, Under similar circumstances Health & Safety would have a field day today – just imagine a five year old in such a ‘dangerous’ place. We didn’t think about it then.

It was very special seeing my dad’s work room. And having now been back to Congleton and had quite a good look round, it has triggered many more memories, which I have been sharing on Facebook and through Skype with Martin (now living in central Portugal) and Edgar (who’s been in Canada since 1968).