ASK Star readers between 1973 and 2009 what page they turned to first every week and it’s a pretty safe bet “Whalley’s World” would be the answer on most lips.

Alan Whalley kept St Helens smiling over four decades as he served up a magic menu of larger than life characters and nuggets of nostalgia every week with his sublime storytelling skill.

Alan passed away last October, but we’re sure he’d be tickled pink to know his award winning words were making a timely comeback to the Star’s pages to inject a little cheer in these days of unprecedented darkness, tragedy and fear. 

This week’s piece from the archives shares a reader’s memories of Peasley Cross from his boyhood.


DAYS of the long vanished street cries are recaptured for us by a faraway pensioner who got to know, by a fluke, of my weekly Nostalgia Nook column.
He is 83-year-old Arthur Jones of Rhosnesni, Wrexham, who was born at Peasley Cross.

Arthur was presented with a bundle of local newspapers including the St Helens Star when he attended his brother’s 86th birthday party at Grappenhall, Warrington.

And lo and behold! It contained a memory provoking article about Arthur’s old birthplace.

What he most vividly recalls is the noisy hustle and bustle of those turn of the century times – long before noise abatement regulations were brought in.

Droves of peddlers haunted the pavements, bawling out the merits of their wares.

As a former sergeant-major with the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, Arthur must have hit a fair number of decibels when exercising his tonsils on the parade ground.

But this was as nothing compared with the ordinary ‘domestic’ racket of the Peasley Cross of his boyhood!

“I just don’t know how my dad managed to sleep during the daytime after being on night-shift at McKechnie’s chemical works,” he writes.

Yet dad did manage to slumber against a backdrop of rattles, bangs and shouts from the army of vendors. Arthur builds up an impressive list of these ‘racket makers’.

“The coalman, the milkman, the cockle and mussel man from Southport. The ragman collecting his old scraps and bones. Then we had the barrel organ players, sometimes called the hurdy-gurdy man.

“The postman used always to give a hard rap on the knocker when delivering letters.”

At dawn there was a clatter of clogs as the knocker-up arrived at 4.30am, to rattle on windows with is long pole, rousing the slumbering workmen.

And at night there was the sound made by the local bobby rattling the locks of shop doors, to make sure the premises were secure.

And through it all, until midnight, the clanging of trams between Dentons Green and St Helens Junction.

Arthur’s family lived oposite the tramways... yet his father slept through all this mighty chorus of street sounds.
And there’s perhaps a a simple explanation. For in tough times of long hours and sheer physical graft, the son of toil fell exhausted into is bed!

Arthur as he so neatly puts it in his welcome letter, has “seen life with the lid off”.

He adds: “I have known those hard times of low wages when people just existed – rather than living in the true sense of the word.

“They were times of the pawnshops and workhouses, the days patch and mend and sock darning.

“Widows living on seven shillings and sixpence (37p) a week parish relief; and people picking coal off the slag heaps at Groves Colliery to keep their home fires burning.”

And in his clear and descriptive hand, Arthur goes on: “Medical science was primitive then.

“My father was our family physician and many times I was sent to the Fever Hospital with a bottle to obtain lime water if there was any about”.

Upon knocking on the hospital door, a nurse would answer to fill up the bottle.

“I never then, and still don’t know what possible effect that lime water could have had in preventing fever,” Arthur admits.

Many died prematurely in those days before the advance of medical science.

And people turned to the churches, which played an important  part in the social and spiritual life of the parish.

“I well remember,” says Arthur, “the Peasley Cross Station right opposite the older Congregational chapel which we attended for Sunday School.

“I also attended the old British day school, now demolished, before bring transferred to Robins Lane council school in 1911.”

A highlight of the year for the Sunday School kids was a train ride to Frodsham Hill, for the annual outing and tea party.

And he adds; “I believe I am one of the oldest to recall going to the first moving picture shows at the YMCA in St Helens with my father and to the cinema in the top room of the St Helens Co-op Buildings.”

THANKS for that splendid peep at times past, Arthur.