Wembley

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These days, the Saturday of the August Bank Holiday is the Rugby League Challenge Cup Final Day. This year Wigan, despite a rather mediocre season,  managed to book a place in the final to face Hull FC. So early morning, tickets in hand, we boarded the coach that would take us to Wembley. A long journey. The journey home seemed even longer as, consistent with their form Wigan didn’t play brilliantly and with Hull having done their homework, playing to Wigan’s weaknesses,  Hull took the cup home with them. It was close. Both teams scored the same number of tries but Wigan missed two conversions. And, controversially,  they had a try chalked off by the video ref.  Wigan didn’t disgrace themselves and kept on battling to the end, having a try disallowed for a forward pass in the dying seconds. But it was a fair result as overall Hull were the better team on the day.

Ah well, you can’t always win! 😦

It’s taken me a couple of weeks to recover from the disappointment, but, other than the result, it was an enjoyable day. Here’s a few photos I snapped.

 

 

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A Rose in Wigan – Part 1

I’ve just finished reading Rose, a novel by the American thriller writer Martin Cruz Smith. Best known probably for his books set in Russia during the Cold War, one of which Gorky Park was turned into a film starring William Hurt that I watched quite a few years ago. This book, however, is set somewhere equally exotic – Wigan in the 1870’s.

It tells the story of one Jonathan Blair, an American mining engineer who, on returning from Africa in disgrace is employed, reluctantly, to visit the town to investigate the disappearance of a curate who was engaged to his patron’s daughter.

Rose, of the title, is a “Pit Brow Lass” – a young woman employed in a local coal mine. The Wigan Pit Brow Lasses were somewhat notorious. They worked on the surface (women being forbidden to work underground by the Mines and Collieries Act 1842) at the coal screens on the pit bank (or brow) picking stones from the coal after it was hauled to the surface or loading wagons.

They wore distinctive attire– in particular, trousers covered with a skirt and apron, old flannel jackets and shawls or headscarves to protect their hair from the coal dust.  Although practical, their clothing was not considered to be feminine and this provided some with an excuse to object to women working in the mines. Underlying this, of course, were the real reasons, economic and social and there were attempts made to ban the women working. But they fought back with spirit and there were women still working at the pit brow in Wigan right into the mid 20th century. Not now, of course, there aren’t any pits left.

For whatever reasons (some probably not so savoury) there was a public fascination with the women and the way they dressed and portraits and postcards of them in working clothes were produced commercially. We saw this rather romanticised small statue of a Wigan Pit Brow Lass on display at the Hepworth in Wakefield (another mining area) a few years ago.

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A number of photographic studios in Wigan produced postcards showing posed images of local women. Here some examples from the Wigan World website.

Wigan Pit Brow Lass card.

4 Pit Brow Lasses

A Wigan Colliery Girl. 1909.

Colliery Girls, Wigan.

A walk to Worthington Lakes

Although we live close to the centre of talk, a short stroll down the hill and we’re by the side of the river and can walk for miles away from roads and traffic through woodland, along the canal and through the countryside. So, last Sunday, on a sunny afternoon, we decided to walk to Worthington Lakes. It’s about 9 miles there and back, but an easy walk.

Down to the Dougie

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following the path through woodland

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Through the Plantations

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Then along the canal

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Narrow boats at the Red Rock moorings

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Winter Hill visible now across the fields

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Canal side sheds

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Carrying on along the canal

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We cut across the Golf course, past Arley Hall

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and took the path across the greens (keeping an eye out for flying golf balls!)

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and into Arley Woods

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Lots of bluebells in bloom

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We crossed over the Dougie

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and then emerged alongside Worthington Lakes

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a chain of three small reservoirs built in the 1860’s to supply Wigan with drinking water.

We did a complete circuit of the lakes

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Stopping part way round for a brew at KIlhey Court Hotel

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Back through Arley Woods

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and on to the canal towpath, this time avoiding the golf course

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We retraced our route back along the canal

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and through the Plantations back home.

Wigan Hall

Wigan Hall

Wigan Hall was actually the Rectory for Wigan Parish Church which stands at the opposite end of Hallgate. It replaced an older building that stood on the site. The Rector was quite a powerful individual in old Wigan as he was also lord of the manor – a hang over from the Feudal system – and a major land owner.

It looks Medieval or Tudor but it was actually built in in 1875 in the Arts and Crafts style. The architect was GE Street who was also responsible for the Royal Courts of Justice in London and was usually associated with the Gothic Revival style. It’s a Grade II Listed Building and described on the Historic England website.

The building was derelict for many years, but has recently been renovated to become the headquarters of The Sports Office, a software company owned by former Wigan Rugby League player and Sky Sports pundit, Phil Clarke.

A drawing of Wigan Hall, thought to be created by architects in 1873

Architects drawing (Source: Wigan Today)

Champions of the World!

Wigan 22 Cronulla 6:

Almost 30 years ago, on 7th of October 1987. I was one of the 36,895 Rugby League fans who Packed into Central Park to watch Wigan take on Manly, the Australian Rugby League champions in the first Rugby League World Club Challenge. It was a memorable occasion. A hard fought. very aggressive, contest which Wigan won 8 – 2. No tries scored, but decided on penalties (unusual for a game of Rugby League). I was there in Liverpool in in 1991 when they beat Penrith and watched on TV with hundreds of other fans at the RIverside Club at the former Central Park in 1994 when they defeated the Brisbane Broncos on their own turf to lift the trophy for the third time.

And I was there on Sunday afternoon this week with over 21,000 fans when Wigan won the trophy for a record 4th time defeating Cronulla 22-6, scoring 4 tries. A particularly important victory as the World Club Championship had not been won by a British Club for 5 years.

It was a good weekend for British Rugby League as Warrington had turned over the Brisbane Broncos 27-18 the previous day . Two nil to the Super League!

Waiting for the match to start.

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Entrance of the Gladiators

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The final score

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Receiving the trophy

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Applauding the fans

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A happy coach

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Showing the trophy to the fans in the South Stand

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A great day and electric atmosphere.

Art? In Wigan?

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It’s well known (by me, at least) that Wigan is something of a cultural black hole. It’s a great town for sport but the Local Authority have no real interest in art and culture (unlike Wakefield, a very similar town over the other side of the Pennines). They closed the only gallery in town a few years ago.So I was surprised to pick up a leaflet advertising and Arts Festival in Wigan. Turns out that it was organised by a local Arts group based at the Old Courts building at the back of the Parish Church. One of the things they’d organised was an exhibition of works by local artists, so last Saturday I popped in to take a look.

It wasn’t a large exhibition, and I wouldn’t say that any of the works were ground-breaking, but there were a number of pictures I liked.

This painting by Mike Fahey – Mill Girl Wallgate 1907 – referenced the town’s history as a centre of cotton production. I like the way he’s superimposed his figure and cotton spinning machinery on top of a map of the town.

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This mixed media abstract landscape by Sharon Barnes – Sylvan Twilight  – is based on the coast at Sefton (Formby and Southport). I like the way she has incorporated found objects and the colours are very atmospheric, suggesting a stormy afternoon.

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This Untitled work by Joyce Carlton is made from folded paper. The individual pieces are perhaps a little slim to represent books. But they rather reminded me of my collection of vinyl record or, possibly, CDs.

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A sample of other works on display

Crompton’s Nog and acrylic painting by David Stanley

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Shrinkining Shelters – Tripytch by Georgia Marlowe

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Over mountain and dark sea, the sun made our wings bronze by Elaine Philips

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I enjoyed the exhibition and hope the Old Courts group can build on their efforts. Good luck to them!