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{$text['mgr_teal1']} Cook 7a

The long and winding road from Barton to Barton: Part 1. "Marching as to War"

by Eva Unwin


Annie and Elizabeth Cook  on holiday

Annie and Elizabeth Cook

Eva Unwin

Eva Unwin, The Author

I was born in July 1919 in a part of Eccles, now Greater Manchester, called Patricroft. My mother, Ada Annie Cook, met my father, Arthur Unwin, when she and her sister, Auntie Betty, went to Blackpool for their holidays. Dad was working in the shipyards in Barrow in Furness at the time. They were married in May 1917 at the Primitive Methodist Chapel, Hinckley Road, Leicester where my grandfather was a lay preacher. Before me, they had my brother Jack who was born in May 1918.

Mother was born in Leicester and before she married she worked as a machinist. The family lived first in Tudor Road and then Bosworth Street in the west end of the city. After the marriage they moved to Patricroft which is the area where my father’s family came from. To begin with Dad worked as an engineer on the Manchester Ship Canal (you can read more about him in my previous article: Quite a character was my dad). The neighbouring community of Barton upon Irwell is famous for the Barton Swing Bridge which crosses the canal. Mum did not go to work in Manchester but was the housewife and looked after her growing kids. She was a good cook.

My mother was very fair but very firm with us. She was a very enthusiastic bowler. She did crown green bowling which she loved. She would go to matches all around the area. In the holidays I and two or three other girls used to go with our mothers for afternoons out in the park. We would spend our time in the park playing whilst they were doing their bowling. I went to school in Barton and in term time, if she was playing I used to run like hell from school just to get half a scone from the refreshment table.

Patricroft, Eccles

Jack and Eva Unwin at play

Jack and Eva Unwin

Our house was in Woodfield Road Patricroft. It was not really very suitable for young children. There was a back kitchen, a living room and a front room. The stairs went up between the living room and the front room to the bedrooms. My first recollection was of suffering from whooping cough. Jack and I were put to bed together and whooped together.

Next door a fireman lived and whenever he was wanted the bell used to go off. Then the engine would start up and go like the clappers down the street. We got used to it eventually but the chief fireman had to ask all the mothers to keep the kids in so that the firemen could run down the street unhindered. We kids used to get in the way because we were all fascinated by the fire engine. That was in the days when the men used to sit on the back of the fire engine and the vehicle was all open. They weren’t under cover.

I mentioned before that Grandfather Cook was a Methodist minister. However Mother started going to church when she still lived in Leicester and she continued doing so after she got married and moved to Manchester. I went along with her from an early age and the church has been part of my life really ever since. We initially went to St Michael and All Angels, which was a small church in Peel Green but then Jack joined the choir at the main church. Very soon he said to mother “We had a procession but there was nobody there to see me”. So we then transferred to Patricroft Parish Church. We used to go morning, noon and night.

Old postcard view of Christ Church, Patricroft (1)

Christ Church, Patricroft (1)

Schools Restoration Bazaar, Patricroft: Sale of work 1935

Sale of work

Brother Jack in the choir procession, Whit Walk

Jack in procession

Guides in the Whit walk (about 1933)

Guides in Whit Walk

103 Bosworth Street, Leicester

103 Bosworth Street

I was not in the choir but I attended the Sunday School. We used to have two anniversaries a year – one for the Day School and one for the Sunday School. We used to go to both of them whether we went to the Day School or not. On the Sunday afterwards we would put on our white frocks again and we took our girls with us and go around to the Workhouse to sing to the people who lived there. Although we girls didn't, the choir also went down to the padded cells to sing to the inmates there. It was just like a scene from Dickens. I couldn't eat my tea having seen the food that they were served. However, we used to enjoy the Whit walks. Your relatives used to run up to you as you went by and give you a sixpence. That was a lot of money in those days. We would proudly show what we had been given but we had to put it away to save it for our holidays.

We used to go down to Leicester when grandma was still alive for our holidays. When grandma died my mum and dad realised that with two children growing up they couldn’t afford a boarding house to go on holiday. Dad met a man whose wife had a caravan on the banks of the River Ribble at a place called Wharton. It was a fixed caravan which didn’t have wheels but there was a proper loo, two bedrooms and a stove (coal fired) . There was a boiler on one side which you put water in so you always had hot water. We went there for many years and we were there the last time when the war broke out. I think I was about nine when we first went. It was always a cheap holiday and we didn’t have to go into digs. It wasn’t like they are today. I think caravans have become very sophisticated these days.

Continued in column 2...

Moorside, Swinton

11 Ashford Avenue, Swinton

11, Ashford Avenue

In the 1930s we moved to the Moorside district of Swinton. There were quite a few houses empty in Ashford Avenue at the time that we moved. It had the usual arrangement for the suburbs; a front room, living room and kitchen but it was much more modern. It wasn’t exactly new but hadn’t been built very long. It was attractive, particularly to Dad, because it had quite a big garden. He planted a big strawberry bed and used to grow gooseberries, rhubarb, potatoes and vegetables. He kept chickens at one time. There was a big lawn and Dad had a sun bed at the back of the house. He was as brown as a berry because he used to spend most of his days in the summer outside in the garden or on that bed.

It was at Ashford Avenue that George and Hilda (Craxford) would bring their children, Alan and Brenda, to stay in the 1950s. It was a cheap way for them to have a holiday and come and see the lights in Blackpool. They didn’t have to go to a boarding house or a hotel. I always used to have to sleep on the couch – or go out to my friends - because there was no room for me. We had some good holidays!! The kids were little b****rs. They used to swing on the gate or chase around the garden. It used to make me laugh. My mother used to say to their Dad: “You two buzz off out, I’ll look after these two” Our next door neighbour was an Irish girl and she had two boys – redheads I think.

It was just a short walk to the local shops and the Co-op on Clovelly Road. There was a trolley bus which served the local area and which stopped on Worsley Road. When I went out with my friends on a Saturday night in the tram or a trolley bus we used to push up and push up and push up together so we were all crammed up on the seats. Long distance buses stopped there too on their way to Manchester. I remember the Bolton bus was number 12.

After I left school I worked in clerical jobs. For many years I worked for a mail order company – Oxendales – and worked my way up through the departments. I used to collect and sell bad debts. I was working there when the war broke out and then went back after the war.

War service

The new recruit
Army Service book
Group photograph

The new recruit; Soldier's Service Book; Corps photograph

Eva at war

Corporal Eva

Veteran's lapel badge

Veterans' Lapel Badge

I joined the Royal Corps of Signals in 1942 and was made an acting lance corporal in May 1943. I was promoted to full corporal and received my "double bar service stripes" in May the following year. I moved around the country on various postings. I don’t remember much about what we actually did and ended up in Bristol. At one point we were billetted in Mullers Orphanage (2), a most austere institution in the Ashley Down district of the city which had been modified for the purpose. I do remember taking part in the victory celebrations and parade at the end of the war. I was awarded HM Armed Forces Veteran's Badge to commemorate my service

I used to go home at the end of every week and used to hitch lifts. The sergeant used to take me down to the main road to start me on my way. I rode in all kinds of vehicles over those years from posh cars to hearses to all kinds of things. I didn’t drive myself. My Dad didn’t have a car either – he said driving was too much like work – so we didn’t bother. Anyway public transport was quite good in those days.

I do remember one funny incident. There was an apple tree in the garden of the barracks. The sergeant major had been lovingly looking after these apples and when he came to pick them there wasn’t an apple to be seen. So he had a quick kit inspection and had everybody’s kit open – and it turned out the apples were in the sergeants’ kit.

Mullers Asylum, Bristol from an old postcard

Muller's Asylum

Victory Parade

Victory Parade

..... to be continued

References can be found at the end of part 2

Proceed to Part 2: Brother Jack

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Page added March 14th 2008
Last updated: April 6th 2012

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