Alexander Graham Ainscough

Recollections of Alexander Graham Ainscough

Retired Padstow Postmaster, written in 1973.

Editors note: These recollections were transcribed from a typewritten copy of Alexander’s handwritten memoirs.  It covers his time growing up in Hindley, working in the mines and serving in the Royal Navy during the First World War. Apart from correcting minor errors, the text is reproduced “as is” and is uses the language of the day.

1. Early Memories

My youthful recollections begin very early at my parents’ house and shop (Clogger & Boot Repairing) at 50, Chapel Green, Hindley, Wigan, Lancashire.

I was born on the 13th March 1898 during the Boer War which ended on 31st May 1902.  The Boer leaders surrendered at Pretoria when I was 4 years old.  Great peace rejoicings were held thoughout our country on June 6th.  I seem to vividly remember this, but sometimes I doubt it because I was so young at the time.

At that time many people could not read or write. I do remember my mother reading our newspaper to people who came to enquire about the War News.  I recall their sorrow at bad news – such as when Mafeking was being besieged – and their unbounded joy when it was relieved.  Incidentally, the guns of my first traingin ship in the Royal Navy played a big part in this relied although it took place on dry land.

Hindley was a coal mining town having 11 collieries and 4 cotton mills. It had a population of about 25,000 and was very prosperous.  There was much house and shop building – those for sale and those for rent – no council houses then.  The town grew rapidly.  Sad to relate that now there are no mills and no collieries.

In my father’s youth, he told me, miners tooks their whole families underground with them to help get the coal.The seams were very low and children were employed to pull boxes of coals on skids from the coal face to the tubs.  They had a harness from their shoulders attached to long chains connected by a hook to the boxes.  In those days the safety lamp had not been invented ( by Humphrey Davey, the Cornishman from Penzance statue of him and his lamp).  They used candles and explosives which they had to buy themselves.  The mine owners bought the coal from the miners.  It was the ambition of parents to put their sons to a trade.  It was only possible for rich parents to send their sons to colleges and grammar schools.  Universities were for the very rich people.  So my father was lucky, his father was an Innkeeper and the local  ‘carrier’.  No railway, so he was able to put my father to a trade.  He was apprenticed to a Clogger in Wigan, and had to walk there and back to his home in Aspull daily.

When he finished his apprenticeship, he bought his own house and shop in Blackrod – six miles or so from Wigan.  There was no industry there so he went to Ormskirk where now a new town is being built.  He learned that Hindley was a very thriving town, so he bought a new house and shop there1.  I think he paid £250 for it.  How prices have increased since then, but then wages and food prices were also low.  The house had three large bedrooms, a shop, large kitchen  and pantry, living room, two large cellars and an outside privy closet.  The latter was  all that the houses had then and I remember it being emptied every so often by horse and cart belonging  to the Council. Phew!

Editors note:
1. I understand that this was 50 Chapel Green Road in Hindley, which can be seen on Google Street View by clicking here The date on the house opposite is 1879.
2. My Father's Shop