St Helens 50 years ago this week

This week’s 16 stories include a protest march against plans to scrap Parr baths, St Julie’s Church is consecrated, what St Helens folk thought of the demise of the ha’penny, the lorry drivers caught short in Pewfall, the Pilkington Gala Girls and the council tenants without a TV that still had to pay for a wired service.

However we begin with the Vicar of Haydock’s comments in his monthly parish magazine in which he lamented a general decline in church attendances:
“Are we drifting towards a situation when only a handful of people will turn up for church services?”, pondered Rev. Wilson.

Ashton’s Public Heath Committee heard on the 8th that women in Liverpool Road in Pewfall were complaining about lorry drivers using the hedgerows to relieve themselves.

The councillors were, however, sympathetic to the plight of the men as there were no public toilets in Pewfall or Garswood and they felt the drivers might well have travelled some distance on the M6.

The council’s Surveyor said he would look for possible sites for public conveniences and report on how much such a scheme would cost.

A company director called G. L. Woodcock submitted a survey on culture to the council’s Libraries, Museum and Arts Committee meeting on the 8th.

Mr Woodcock had studied the level of arts spending in Bolton, Blackburn, Wigan, Huddersfield and Halifax and then compared his results with the expenditure in St Helens.

He found that the town came bottom with only £1,000 a year spent on the arts, compared to Blackburn and Bolton, which expended £24,000 and £12,000 respectively.

A professional co-ordinator was needed, said Mr Woodcock, to work closely with the newly-formed St Helens Federation of Arts Societies.

Parr Central held their annual school sports day on their Fleet Lane field this week with a highlight being a tug-of-war contest.

On the 10th dozens of angry parents and children staged a three-mile walk to St Helens Town Hall to protest over the council’s decision to scrap plans to build baths in Parr.

Last week it had been announced that the councillors had plumped for a 9-hole golf course in Sherdley Park rather than the long-promised pool.

The reason was mainly down to cash. The golf course could be installed for £63,000 but new swimming baths would cost £500,000 (around £9m in today’s money).

But the Parr pool had been promised for nearly 40 years and the St Helens Reporter said the council’s decision had sent a “wave of bitterness” throughout Parr.

So campaigners had collected 4,000 signatures for a petition demanding that the decision be reversed, which the march delivered to the Mayor of St Helens, Tom Wilcock.

It was organised by the Cherry Tree Drive Flats Tenants Association who promised they would “not be fobbed off by dross talk from the authorities”.
Their chairman Joan Gallimore said they were not begrudging anyone a golf course but the decision should have been put to a public vote.

Schools in Parr had supported the protest, allowing petition forms to be circulated within their premises.

A deputation of three marchers spent almost two hours with the Mayor who explained why the decision had been made.

One of the organisers, Richard Coulburn, said: “We shall be at the next Council meeting. The Mayor has listened to us, but we are not happy yet.”
On July 31st the halfpenny would cease being legal tender and the St Helens Reporter decided on the 11th to canvass opinion on its withdrawal.

The consensus of the man and woman in the street was that prices would rise as shopkeepers added an extra ha’penny to the price of goods.

Thomas O’Brien of Lyon Street was one cynic saying: “I think they should knock the halfpenny off prices. I don’t think it fair to the public. I don’t understand the new decimal currency, but I am sure we will get used to it.”
Fred Ashley from William Street in Prescot agreed, saying he could remember the time when you could buy a ha’penny worth of cigarettes, adding: “I have used the ha’penny for the last 77 years, so I am going to miss it.” However an unnamed woman from Clyde Street thought its removal could keep prices down in the long term:

“I think it will stop this idea of putting on a ha’penny here and there”. However she felt that many shops had already put their prices up by a halfpenny in advance of the coin’s withdrawal from circulation.

Thomas Dempsey from Nuttall Street said: “Of course shops will charge the extra ha’penny, rather than knock it off. I don’t think it is a good thing to withdraw the ha’penny. I don’t see why they have to do it. I don’t understand decimalisation either.”

The decimal version of the halfpenny coin would be introduced in February 1971 at the time of decimalisation.

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‘St Helens 50 Years Ago This Week’ is written and researched by Stephen Wainwright.


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