Monday, 1 April 2013

Ye Olde Boars Head, Middleton part 3

So, we had quite a chat with Leanne. She told us a little about Samuel Bamford, a local poet and reformer, and his connection with the pub.  In 1817 he was imprisoned in the New Bailey Prison in Salford on suspicion of high treason (this was on account of his political activities). From there he was taken to London and examined before the Privy Council presided over by Lord Sidmouth. After promising to be of future good behaviour he was released and was then able to return to live in his cottage at Middleton with his wife Jemima.

In August 1819, Bamford led a group from Middleton to St Peter's Fields, to attend a meeting pressing for parliamentary reform and the repeal of the Corn Laws, where they witnessed the Peterloo Massacre. Bamford was arrested and charged with treason. Although the evidence showed that neither he nor any of his group had been involved in the violence, he was nevertheless found guilty of inciting a riot and sentenced to a year in Lincoln gaol. 

Bamford was the author of poetry, and his Passages in the Life of a Radical (1840 – 1844) is an authoritative history of the condition of the working classes in the years after the Battle of Waterloo.
Samuel Bamford pictured inside Ye Olde Boars Head
Sadly, Leanne had to go and get ready for her night out with her family and left us to our own devices. (Incidentally, I tried to read a couple of Mr Bamfords poems and found them unintelligible. Maybe it's my lack of education. Maybe they're crap. I don't know which.)

So we decided to go and pester a few of the locals in the bar. This is where Clint met Rod.

Leanne just walked me straight up to a bloke who was enjoying his drink with a friend, and barged in and exclaimed, "This is Clint, he's after a bit of local history, see ya later!"

Needless to say, I felt on the spot, but clearly Leanne knew what she was doing, as she'd introduced me to quite possibly the ultimate font of local (and international) knowledge. Rod is a lovely elderly chap, but at first he didn't seem to have anything to say, but with a little coercing and few more sips of his ale, he had a few tales to tell. One of those tales I am gonna share with you now.
      As Rod was an older gent, he was now retired, but in his working years, he was some sort of travel agent, and he used to do his fair share of globe-trotting. He was on a visit to Australia, and one night he was out at the local watering hole, and he proceeded to  get extremely drunk with two locals. After what he said was "A cracking night out", he thanked the the lads who he was drinking with, handed them his business card and then left. He had a few more days in Oz, then flew home. 
         About 6 months later, he was sat at home when his phone rang. It was his mate Paddy (is there a Paddy in every local pub?) Paddy told Rod that two big blokes were in the pub looking for him, and that they sounded "funny". Rod thought he'd better go and check this out, so he made his way down to the pub, and there was the two gents he'd been drinking with in Oz! They were in Blighty buying a boat on the south coast and, while in England, they made their way up to Middleton and asked for him at the travel agents he worked at. The staff there had, of course, refused to divulge any personal info, so they asked a local copper, who told them "Yeah! 'course I know Rod, he drinks in the Boars head!" So off to the pub they went, met up with Rod and they carried on their piss up! 
           Rod was a real nice bloke, and he was an infectious character, as the guys from Oz would tell you, I could have stood and talked to him all night, unfortunately he couldn't stop as his wife had had a tumble and broke her hip, and he was on his way to visit her. Fingers crossed that Mrs Rod was Ok...

Shortly after this I went outside for a fag and met another social leper (someone's gotta pay extra taxes, we're all in this together you know). We got talking and somehow the conversation got around to Rod and his exploits. This guy (sorry, but I've forgotten his name {cardinal sin for a blogger}) told me another story about the traveller. Once he was in New York at some big shindig and, after a few sherbets, was dared by one of his party to de-bag one of the other guests. So Rod crept up behind a guy, grabbed hold of his trousers and swiftly yanked 'em down, which all of Rods friends thought hilarious. It was only when the trouser-less man turned round that Rod realised it was Freddie Laker, the king of budget air fares!!! Not a particularly shrewd move for someone who works in the travel industry!

Sadly, by the time I'd finished my ciggy, Rod had left and I wasn't able to verify this tale with him, but I like to believe it's true.

There was a couple of guys with Rod who we had a chat with and they told us that Brian Kidd and Paul Scholes, both ex Manchester United, used to drink in the Boars Head. "Paul Scholes only ever drank orange juice, you know" one said. "Did he?" I asked. "Did he fuck!" he replied.

These gentlemen were obviously the early doors crowd and soon, they all left leaving me and my son alone to consider everything we'd heard. We thought we'd had a great start to our visit and even if we spoke to no-one else it had been worth the trip. We were chatting and I noticed a lady looking around the pub and thought she might be looking for us but after a couple of minutes came to the conclusion she was looking for friends who perhaps hadn't turned up yet. 

We were just discussing whether to go into the bar to try and engage some locals in conversation when a guy appeared at the doorway of the little room we were in. 

"Steve?" he enquired.

 "Yes" I replied.

"I'm Geoff Wellens." he said. "I'll just get a drink and I'll be with you.

We thought things were looking up. We weren't even sure whether he was going to turn up. After a couple of minutes he came back AND he had the lady who had been looking around the pub and her husband in tow. They'd turned up just to meet us after reading the piece in the paper! Things were just getting better and better!!!

Geoff, if you recall, was dads contact for the Middleton archaeological Society, and due to his kind words and contacts, he was the reason we made the front page. So we were both pleased he made it along. He told us he had returned early from a break in the national forest to come and see us, which was nice, but then he said that the day before he came back, the Friday, he was with his grandson, who was playing football against Moira united, Mine and Dads local football team. So 24 hours earlier, we were less than half a mile of each other... Talk about a small world...
               The Lady accompanying him was a regular local of Ye Olde Boars Head, Maggie, and she had dragged along her unwilling fella, Mike. He was not unwilling to meet us, you understand, but he was not happy about drinking in the Boars as he thought it was too expensive, and would much rather head down Wetherspoons for the cheap beer. I'd like to add, that beer must be proper cheap in and around Manchester, as I thought that the prices were quite good. Anyway, Mike reminded me of Gorgeous George, built like a brick shit-house, but dead likeable. But as every married/co-habiting bloke knows, no matter what you want/don't want, what she says, goes! He couldn't have been that bothered, cos the first thing he did was buy us a drink...
   Before long, Joanne, Maggie's niece, (I think..) joined us, along with her bloke, Aussie Dave! guess where he's from...
    So we all settled in for the night, and, unfortunately  this is where my information ends, as I remember drinking with them all night, but not much else...

Mike (Gorgeous George), Maggie, Joanne, Aussie Dave and Geoff Wellens

Sadly, a lot of my recollections are a bit blurry from this point, too. It seemed that everyone was in a race to buy the next round of drinks. The conversation became the normal thing in pubs, you know, putting the world to rights, talking bollocks, that sort of thing. At around 10 o'clock Geoff left and the rest of the crew decided they were going further into town (for cheaper beer) and asked us to join them, but, as we had been drinking since 4.30 we had to decline. It was time for pizza, a taxi and the hotel.

Next time we'll give our conclusions but for now, Cheers!