Wigton Salvation army band.

James Eric Lightfoot (CSWig21a)




2017 Cumbria Speaks Oral History Project


Respondent Code: CSWig21a
Respondent: James Eric Lightfoot
Date of birth: 24/4/1936
Date of Interview: 7th June 2018
Interviewer: Trevor Grahamslaw
Interview conducted at Trevor Grahamslaw’s home.


TG       Where do you live?

EL        Union Street Wigton.

TG       And where were you born?

EL        I think I was born in Wigton but I just can’t say where.

TG       Do you have any brothers or sisters?

EL        I have a brother, but he is dead now.

TG       And what did your mother and father do for work?

EL        My Father worked at the paper factory, and later he worked as a steward at the Legion with my mother who were both Steward’s in the Legion.

TG       Now you were born in Union Street, what’s your earliest memories of Union Street?

EL        Characters in Union Street, Mick Wiggins with his fox, the Wiggins families and other families in Union Street. McNeil’s and that, we had some fun in Union Street in them days, you said there with his fox? Ye Mick he had a fox.

TG       A pet fox?

EL        Right.

TG       And what did you all think of that?

EL        It was just part of the Street.

TG       There was also the dole office as well?

EL        Yes the dole office and Matt Wiggins lived above the dole office, you went up a lane and he lived above and you hard a yard at the back what he kept his fox and things in.

TG       What friends did you have down Union Street?

EL        Everybody was friendly all the kids were friendly, Joseph Hardon lived next door.

TG       And you used to play with Joseph?

EL        Yes. 

TG       What games did you play and what did you get up to?

EL        We used to get over the fence at the back and what’s the factory car park is now and Ernest Chicken had a horse in it and we used to make the old bikes with no tyres just wheels and that and we used to ride down the hill, and Ernest used to come with the policeman after us and chase us out of the field and it was and the police new everybody and he used to shout “come back, come back, we know who you are.” and he got his pencil out and he wrote with his blunt end, all of you names and ‘I’ll see your fathers’, and that made Mr Chicken very happy, but we were there the next day, and he was, his wife had the little corner shop now which is a café, it was a sweet shop, Turner’s

TG       Where’s that now?

EL        Where the café is on the end of the fountain.

TG       The fountain café?

EL        Ye. And then right opposite was Penrice’s.

TG       Yes I know where you mean. So you went to school, which school did you go to first? EL           Next door.

TG       The old national school?

EL        Yes.

TG       Did you go straight there or did you go to the infant school first?

EL        I don’t think there was an infant school in them days. So you went straight there. Ye, and the Nelson Thomlinson was separate the girls was there and the boys were here.

TG       What was the school like, what’s your memories of the school? 

EL        Fun I should of learned instead of being messing about.

TG       Messing about?

EL        We use to go from the school here down to the parish rooms for woodwork with Cyril Robinson.

TG       Did you like woodwork?

EL        No, but I had to go, right.

TG       And swim at the baths? You were a very good swimmer.

EL        Yes I used to do quite a bit of swimming, with Anne Proudlock which was Anne Hetherington at the time, we were there 5 times per week, there was nothing else in the town, there was a picture house Joe Cusack’s but I mean during the week most night’s we went swimming and swam in a gala on a Saturday night, maybe Workington, Whitehaven, Carlisle go to Workington, Whitehaven on the train, but you were a very good swimmer though? I wasn’t a bad swimmer because you were telling me that you got close to a record is that right? Yes, so thing said Frank Noble. And his stop-watch, it’s won by one of the famous one of the Swedish swimmers? Ye, you were in the water polo team, who else was in the water polo team? Chips Johnstone, Frank Noble, all the lads that swam were put together in the water polo team.

TG       What was a water polo game like?

EL        It was interesting, Bill couldn’t play for the county because he knew all the dirty tricks, but it was good fun. And with Anthorn there, we used to swim against the sailor’s and they used to have the chair in for going over the equator and tip you into the baths, you know in them days I mean, nowadays it’s all computers but in them days we just enjoyed ourselves.

And Mr and Mrs Cook form the swimming baths they used to go on the train with us to Workington and Whitehaven.

TG       Was there many people came to watch the gala’s?

EL        Quite a few because in them days in Wigton baths there was a balcony and you used to go up the steps and below the balcony was were the changing rooms were, yes you used to get quite a few on a Saturday night watching.

TG       A good atmosphere?

EL        Ye.

TG       Getting back to the school did you have any favourite lessons at school?

EL        No.

TG       Not your thing?

EL        No not my thing.

TG       Did you have any favourite teachers?

EL        Ye Bob Postlethwaite, Bob just stood there with his blackboard duster and he knew who he wanted to hit and when it came flying, it hit who he wanted it to hit, Freddy Shaw, Freddy must have been black and blue with that duster, I mean you couldn’t do it nowadays,

TG       Why was Freddy the target?

EL        Oh Freddy was just a character Freddy was just giving a bit of, I don’t know.

TG       But you didn’t get the cane very much though did you?

EL        No not till secondary modern and Bob Postlethwaite was walking down a corridor and he said, “Hey Lightfoot you come here,” he said, “I never had you down there so you better come to my office because you better have the cane before you finish.”

TG       What was the secondary modern like? Because you were one of the first years there? EL         For me when we moved up here to the secondary mod, and we were the first ones and when we were the older ones we took the people round showing them what the new school was gonna be like.

TG       So it was only half finished really?

EL        The bottom end when then it was the woodwork place, and the metalwork place it was built but it wasn’t finished, you know they were still working on it.

TG       Was there anything up there you particularly liked because it was a school made for mischief that wasn’t it?

EL        Aye all things used to happen Freddy used to get the gardeners jackets and all things like that some of the lads used to do, Arthur Walker was up there, and Arthur was quite good at sport.

TG       How old were you when you left school? 

EL        I was 15, 15.

TG       And where did you first go to work?

EL        Harry Moore’s to serve my time as a mechanic, and all I was doing was serving petrol dishing TT oil to farmers and putting accumulators on for batteries because the farmers had no electric and that, accumulators for the wireless’s, so I was only there 12 month and got the chance of a job at Arnisons and both my uncles worked there my uncle Ronnie and my uncle Harry so I got a job there and I started as a bottle washer and messing about and then I went on to doing all the bottling and then later on I went to drive the sales van.

TG       How much pay did you get when you started?

EL        I can’t tell you what I got when I started but when I first got married I got £8 per week and I spent £2 a week rent.

TG       You said you started to wash the bottles and then you started to drive, how would you describe your job?

EL        Just a … a job.

TG       But you had quite a large area to cover?

EL        We covered from Allonby right round the Silloth coast, Burgh by sands, round Carlisle and right up to Ireby and back through by Dalston, Caldbeck, Hesket New Market right round that area and when it sold out we done Brampton up as far as Alston and places like that and through the valley they through Cumruddick and Cumwhinton and through that way.

TG       What were you mostly selling?

EL        Well everything when we were taken on we used to supply pubs with beers more or less the full thing. But at first at Arnisons it was just pop and crisps and things like that.

TG       Just remind me what kind of flavours was there?

EL        Orange, Lemonade, Ginger beer, vimto, cream soda, it depended on the different areas if you went up to Ireby area everyone liked orange, and if you went down to the bottom area Burgh By Sands everybody liked limeade, and then you went to Silloth and they liked cream soda or ginger beer, every area had their own particular flavour.

TG       And you would have regular customers?

EL        Yes you have regular journey every week and then when we worked for Arnesons we used to do shops and that, and we would call in farms and sell farmers crates of lemonade and boxes of crisps and you had your stops in certain places you used to sit down to dinner with a farmer and things like that.

TG       So how many bottles a week would an average family buy?

EL        We used to go round the town and maybe some would buy 3 bottles and some half a dozen, some farms would buy a crate every fortnight and things like that.

TG       When it was the summer on hot summer days what was it like?

EL        It was hectic because when I worked for Arnisons one of the Arnison brothers, we were that busy at Silloth they couldn’t make it in the factory fast enough to get it out there was my uncle was loading it at one side and someone else was taking it back off the other side of the wagon and then in water street there right opposite there was 2 houses one above the other and thingy what do you call him erm Haneys lived in one and White’s, whiteside lived in the top one and when we first went there we never lived there then, there was wooden steps up the front  to get up to the top and when we knocked it all down because it was a stone one and we made it into a garage for a lad eh, and also in the yard there had been two old houses and in old days the cider used to come in big massive crates and we used to take it in there and it was all packed in with straw and we used to  pack it in with a lot of  lemonade cases for the other one.

TG       This is when you were taken over wasn’t it?

EL        No this is with Arnisons there ye.

TG       And you were taken over by Dunn and Curry’s, when was that? Can you remember when that was?

EL        Not really, never mind.

TG       How long did you work for them?

EL        Roughly about 8 year I thought they were gonna take the company over but, it didn’t work and they went back to Dumfries, because they sold soft drinks as well didn’t they? Yes they sold everything, that’s when they went back to Dunn and Curry’s.

TG       and then you were bought out by Stalkers?

EL        No, I got a job through a lad called Jonny Troughter for Stalkers.

TG       So when Dunn and Curry went, it shut?  

EL        It shut at Wigton yes, and went back to Dumfries.

TG       So after that then you got this job?

EL        With Stalkers yes I went to Stalkers when I was 58 stayed with them till I was 64 and retired and I helped them out when they were short because it was a good firm to work for done that from I was 65 until I was 70 and I helped them out when they were short of drivers.

TG       They had a bigger area though didn’t they?

EL        Oh they travelled all over the country and I would only do certain parts of it, the boss said when I went to him, I said I will only do some and he said you’ll do as you want likely? So I just done West Cumbria, Sellafield maybe Barrow the Lake District and, I wouldn’t do Carlisle, I hated Carlisle all them narrow streets in Carlisle. I would go to Barrow before I would go to Carlisle, just getting about.

 TG      And also didn’t they have a special contract called cola?

EL        Not special cola, we had our own cola, but we bought proper Coca-Cola in.

TG       So you worked there until you retired?

EL        Yes at Stalker’s yes.

TG       When you retired what happened after that?

EL        I worked occasionally first of all doing the same, because we had the Coca-Cola contract at Stalkers and I was delivery to Barrow and Lancaster and that way delivering to schools and factories and shops and everywhere, and then they lost the Coca-Cola contract, not through themselves through different companies and I stayed with them and he kept me on for a while and then he had to pay me off because he was paying me a drivers wage for more or less sweeping up. So he had to pay me of and he said “if a job comes up I’ll ring you up” and I thought well that just a load of bluffing just to keep me happy, but then three week a month later he rang the wife up and said send snowy to see me, because I was christened snowy at Stalkers, and I went to see him and he said I think I have a job for you on light haulage so I went back to work for him on light haulage and I finished my time off on light haulage doing the areas that I wanted to do.

TG       Going back to your youth again you were always sporty?  

EL        Yes when well I was young I delivered papers for Harvey Messenger and pick John Reays up and dropped them at the shop for him I picked them up from the bus station the bus driver just threw them off the bus and we carried the parcels up to the shops, and also I worked for Jimmy Blair the grocer and that was delivering, I had a bike with a basket on and I delivered to the factory to Mr Munwer he owned the factory at the time, and he was the chef down there and he had all these big paintings on the wall in the canteen had Mr Munwer.

And also I did Wigton Hall and there was a lady there called Mrs Hill she was the housekeeper for the people who stayed there for the bosses while they were working here or coming here for business. And I went down to Wigton Hall delivering and Mrs Hill said to me “do you play rugby”? I said no and she said well go down to Barton Laws and see the lads down there, and that set me off in my rugby career.

TG       Because you played for Wigton?

EL        Yes I played for Wigton, and they weren’t a great side then really, ye well we used to go to places like Keswick and Keswick had all the lads who had just come back from college, and if you went to Keswick and Keswick only beat you by 10 points psychologically came away that you had won. Same at Whitehaven that had a hell of a side at the time but you know we enjoyed our rugby, there was Bill Johnston, Frank Holick, Jim Graham and you know.

TG       Good days.

EL        Them was good days better rugby than there is now, sorry to say that. And also I got on to the county committee and was a selector at U17’s and U19’s I finished up as the chairman of U19’s. I was North of England U17’s vice chairman I was with them, and as I say I was on the County committee as youth chairman and I was youth chairman for about 20 years and I was also on the competitions committee which was to my sins.

TG       Go back a bit again because you got married, you met Joyce when you were 21.

EL        I got married at 21 yeah, I met her at a Wigton dance in the Market Hall.

TG       What were the dances like at the market hall?

EL        Alright aye, they had decent bands playing in them days, Billy Warman and Stan Foster, you know and she lived at Grey-southern. I had to ask for a road map how to find my way there.

TG       And then when you got married where did you got to live?

EL        The house I am living in now and I’ve been in it over 60 years, we were on top of the list first I was living apart and she was living at home at Greysouthern and I was living at Wigton and we were at top of the list because nobody wanted the houses because I mean my wage at Arnisons was just over £8 a week, and I think the house rent was £2 a week.

TG       And you also worked part time?

EL        And after when we got moved in and I was living at Maggie Lightfoots my grandmother at Brackenlands a grand old lady my grandmother, every time she came to visit she brought a copy or a little mat or something like that, just to put some furniture in our house, so I went from Arnisons on a night to Joe Pughs house the operators Billy Ingledow for 3 nights a week and I got paid in one hand off Joe and went to Billy’s around the corner and paid for my television.

TG       So the cinema was paying for a television?

EL        Yes, I was putting pictures on to watch pictures.

TG       You mentioned earlier about your future in Cumbria rugby you know, and when you finished playing you went to be a referee?

EL        Yes I went to watch my lads playing at Wigton one Saturday afternoon because I had finished playing, I was about 30 odd at the time and no referee turned up for the second team game so they said, “you can ref” and I said, “I can’t I know nowt about refereeing and I had just finished playing, so I said “Ill referee as long as they take notice of what I know,” so they said go and get your tackle, so I refereed this game and can’t remember if it was the second or the third team I can’t remember it’s that long since I went and ref’d it then about a week later I had a telephone at the time but this was a week later I got a letter from Alf Cartwright Cumbria referee society secretary. “I believe, Mr Lightfoot, that you refereed a game at Wigton on Saturday, so here’s the rule book have a look at it and we will fix you up with some fixtures from now on”.

That’s how I got roped into refereeing rugby and I refereed form I was about 35 till I was over 60.

TG       But you enjoyed it?

EL        Ye, Ye I enjoyed it, I mean the people that you met and the comments and the things that were said and done to you in them days, players used to come into the changing rooms, I won’t mention which teams but if they didn’t win they would thump you. But it was all part of the…. If they done it today, they would get banned for life! But there were certain clubs you went and there was certain players you got to know them all and you had to be prepared for certain things as well.

TG       What about spectators as well?

EL        I had one spectator I can’t mention his name, I’ll mention the club Netherhall he used to stand on the touch line and give you blazing….insight violence it was at Netherhall, this day and Netherhall had the corner and I went over and said can I speak to a committee member please, and he said I am a committee member so I said, “will you escort this gentleman off the playing area I said he is causing violence”? And at the end of the pitch there’s a little wood and all you could hear was this voice shouting in the wood, so after the game I, it was in the school they played at the time so after the game I went onto the changing rooms and I was in the showers with the lads then 2 of the lads came out and said you did one thing right today but you didn’t do the second thing, they said you sent him off into the wood but across the road from the wood near where he was standing there’s a bus station you should have put him back on the bus to Workington.

And at Greengarth there was a lad called Nick and he was a little scrum half and he was lethal all he did when you passed it was just a straight arm straight in! So after you got to know them you used to go in the changing rooms before the game and say hey Nick behave yourself today.

And then different places I could say different things to different players, Sam Fork at Penrith he used to be one of them players that used to either start arguing with you if you argued with him all day it was a case of instead of stopping it you kept on doing it, and if you said right Sam I’m having nothing today I’m doing you and if you told him twice all the players would say hey Sam shut your mouth!  

TG       Would you say you were more disciplined then than generally? 

EL        Oh in them days if you sent somebody off, you had to report them and they had 3 pages. Some things were stupid. I think in my career I sent 2 players off, one at Aspatria and one at St Benedicts. And I had no option but to send them off it was the sort of things where they were deliberately putting themselves offside just being stupid and for a lot of work, all I did in my days of refereeing was I didn’t want a red card just a yellow went so I could have said to you your off for 10 minutes but I can tell you one story it was at Workington. A lad called Loppy O’Neil his father played rugby league for Workington Town, and Loppy was captain of Workington and he was being real stupid so I called Loppy across and said can I speak to your captain Loppy he swore but he said you know who the captain is and I said yes Loppy I do but do me a favour replace yourself before I replace you, and I always see Loppy now hes still high up and when I see him he tells the tale about when I asked him to replace himself.

TG       Because you’re also heavily involved with Aspatria rugby club as well?

EL        Now I am yes well I used to be involved at Wigton but that’s another story.

TG       Because your two sons are very good at sports?

EL        Yes Phillip the oldest lad he played rugby union, but he wasn’t as good as Colin, but also he played rugby league for Wigton when they started their side up and also he had a couple of games for Carlisle Crusaders but just as an amateur, at the end of the season when they had injuries he had a couple of games for Carlisle Crusaders. But Colin was a good rugby player he was a good scrum half, Workington town was after him for signing but he wasn’t interested but also he was a good runner, he was a good fell runner he won the U12, U14 fell champion during the summer, until you were 18 you could run at professional meetings so he ran all around Scotland in the professional games, he even ran at Meadow Bank during the running season.

But when he was 18 he had to make his mind up whether he was staying as amateur or going professional and so he packed his running in.

TG       Because you were telling me a story about him when he was at school winning every event?

EL        Oh it’s true all the running events and there was a thing at school that you could win in all the sports and there was this lad Gibson he used to just win at javelin every year but one year Gibby wasn’t there so Colin won everything so he got the he turned it around.

TG       Thank you for bringing this little brochure of Wigton shops and adverts with you and I’d just like to ask you is how do you think the life in Wigton and the high street and king street has changed since you were a boy until today?

EL        Every shop was full in Wigton in them days and now they’re either charity shops or they are closed I mean there was Manuel’s fish and chip shop next to that was erm wallpaper shop Donnley’s and then Bell’s the butchers then a little sweet shop on the corner and Penrice’s across the road Jimmy Blair’s, Dodd’s television shop Harley Messenger’s, Sam Tait’s next to that there was a big shop there can’t think what it was called and then Saundersons and then there was Jimmy Wallace’s the barbers, and then there was the Coop and right opposite the Coop there was the Coop hardware department, and there was Jimmy Fisher’s fresh fish shop next to that theres was Miss Twentyman’s little chaos, Bobby White’s saddlers, then the Vic, Ronny Graham’s the Barber’s, Johnstones the shoe shop, Pearsons the little grocery shop, then you went down to Gilbertsons little shop, then Spotted Cow, then Henry Sharpe’s, next to there was Christies, then Bewshire Smith’s, then you went across the road it was all houses then, there was the bus station, there was a bus office on there, there was a big pub on the corner The Bluebell, across the road was Jinny McGoughy’s, sweet shop, they sold pies, bakeries, and then there was the pub that Eddie McColl had and next to there was another confectioners shop, then Noel Carricks then the Bank, and then there was loads of shop up there and where B &M is there was a fishing shop in the front you can still see the arch way and there was  a big yard to the back and they made Cumbria Crisp’s in there.

TG       That was King Street?

EL        That was in King Street, alone.

TG       And what was it like? You knew everybody?

EL        Oh you knew everybody and everybody knew you and back to the story about the police, I mean you didn’t hide form the police they were there from birth I should think and then they knew everybody.

TG       So would you go into most of those shops you described?

EL        You would go in every shop I think, yes! For Summat.

TG       Could you get everything you needed here?

EL        Yes everything you needed in the town in them days because there was all the shops. TG        And today?

EL        There’s only Sanderson’s if you want any hardware stuff or you go down to West Cumberland Farmers, or somewhere like that.

TG       What do you think about the town itself because on those two streets because everybody lived above the shop’s in those days?

EL        Ye, it’s a bit more anonymous don’t you think? Aye ye.

TG       And what about Wigton itself?

EL        Well Wigton has changed, and it hasn’t changed for the good, I don’t think because they’re building all these houses but there’s no businesses in the town and there should be for the amount of people living in the area.

TG       And yet when I see you on the street you know so many people?

EL        I should do, I’ve lived here all my life, I’m just like a bad penny, known to millions!

TG       But you still like the town?

EL        Oh I was bred and born here, so what do you expect?

END (part 1)