Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Tony Warren's inspiration?

Pat, Doris and Vi ... did Vi's
singing inspire Tony Warren?
There are all kinds of stories about what might have inspired Tony Warren to come up with the characters in Coronation Street.  I used to know an old actor who claimed he'd paid Tony's train fare from London to Manchester and he'd talked to him about the people he knew back home in Wigan as they waited for the train.  Then, lo and behold, Tony invented Corrie.  Another possible inspiration was the Samuel Laycock poem Bolton's Yard, which is about the back streets of Stalybridge in Cheshire.  This was set to music by Eddie Cotty, a local folk singer and member of the folk group Fivepenny Piece.  Eddie died in 2009 and I was reminded of him today as I passed what used to be his family deli shop.  Anyway, here's a modern translation of Bolton's Yard (it was written in local dialect originally) for you to judge.  One other interesting side to this is that Vi Carson (Ena Sharples) used to sing it, and indeed, sang it to a young Tony Warren.  On his This Is Your Life programme she sang it again and reminded him that it could have inspired him. 

 At number one, in Bolton’s Yard, my granny keeps a school, But hasn’t many scholars yet, there’s only one or two; They say the old woman’s rather cross, - well, well, it may be so; I know she boxed me good one time, and pulled my ears, and all.


 At number two lives widow Burns – she washes clothes for folk; Their Billy, that’s her son, gets jobs at wheeling (transporting) coke (coal);They say she courts with Sam O’Neds, who lives at number three; It may be so, I cannot tell, it matters not to me.

 At number three, right facing the pump, Ned Grimshaw keeps a shop; He has church cakes, and gingerbread, and treacle  beer, and pop; He sells oat-cakes, and all, does Ned, he has both soft and hard; And everybody buys off him that lives in Bolton’s Yard.

 At number four Jack Blunderick lives; he goes to the mill and weaves; And then, on the weekend, when he has time, he pours (drinks) a bit, and shaves; He’s badly off, is Jack, poor lad; He’s rather lame, they say, And his children keep him down a bit; I think they’re nine or ten.

At number five, I live myself, with old Susannah Grimes; But I don’t know that she likes me very well – she turns me out sometimes; And when I’m in, there’s never any light, I have to shower in the dark; I cannot pay my lodging brass (rent), because I’m out of work.

At number six, next door to us, and close to the side of the spout, Old Susie Collins sells more drink, but she’s really always about; But how it is that is the case I’m sure I cannot tell; She happens to make it very sweet, and drinks it all herself.

 At number seven there’s nobody lives, they left it yesterday, The bailiff came and marked their things, and took them all away; They took them in a donkey cart, I know not where they went. I reckon they’ve been taken and sold because they owed some rent.

 At number eight – they’re Yorkshire folk – there’s only the man and wife, I think I’ve never seen nicer folk than these in all my life; You’ll never hear them falling out, like lots of married folk, They always seem good tempered like, and ready with a joke.

At number nine the old cobbler lives – the old chap that mends my shoes. He’s getting very weak and done, he’ll have to leave us soon; He reads his Bible every day, and sings just like a lark, He says he’s practicing for Heaven – he’s really done his work.

 At number ten James Bolton lives, he has the nicest house in the row; He has always plenty of something to eat, and lots of brass, and all; And when he rides and walks about he’s dressed up very fine, But he isn’t half as near to heaven as him at number nine.

At number eleven my uncle lives - I call him uncle Tum, He goes to concerts, up and down, and plays a kettle-drum; In bands of music, and such things, he seems to take a pride, And always makes as big a noise as all of the place beside. At number eleven, my uncle lives - I call him Uncle Tom.

At number twelve, at the end of the row, Joe Stiggins deals in ale; He has sixpenny and fourpenny, dark-colored and pale; But I never touch it, for I know it’s ruined many a bard, I’m the only chap that doesn’t drink that lives in Bolton’s Yard.

And now I’m done, I’ll say goodbye, and leave you for a while; I know I haven’t told my tale in such a first-rate style; But if you’re pleased, I’m satisfied, and ask for no reward; For telling who my neighbors are that live in Bolton’s Yard.

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