This article was published in the 1984 Newburgh Fair Programme. Harry Hunter’s family kept a shop at what is now the Post Office at the corner of Back Lane.
I well remember the time, in about 1910, when people would come to Newburgh to stay for their summer holiday. Two of the houses where they stayed were Moorcroft House and Doe House. They obviously found Newburgh a pleasant place and would spend their time walking round the various footpaths and fields. Walking was very popular in those days, and there were many walks through Parbold and up the Common, cut through round to the Eagle and Child, right over the , up over Hoscar Station and back to Newburgh. Along Cobbs Brow leading out of the village and turning right at the first bend into the road leading past Mug House Farm and on to Lowes Farm. You could turn right and come back into Tears Lane or carry on until you came back into Cobbs Brow by the quarry. All along the left-hand side of this cart track was a shallow dry ditch with dead grass and ferns, where the pheasants would lay their eggs.
The Latham Estate was big in those days and the Shoot was one of the main events, starting in October. I remember seeing the Shooting Party coming back at night through Newburgh with a little cart driven by a pony, laden with hanging pheasants, hares, rabbits and woodpigeons. In the daytime there was a workman belonging to the Latham Estate who had a peg leg and he stood there all day and anyone roaming about would be challenged.
In the springtime someone from the Estate would come round the houses and enquire if we had any sitting hens, which were borrowed for hatching out the pheasant eggs. After hatching there would be hundreds of pheasant chicks in coups with a hen in each. During the war there was an Army Remount Depot in the grounds of Latham Hall and the fields were covered with huts with horses in. The horses were waiting for service in France. The local farmers would be up at 4.00am in the morning to collect the hors much for their own fields as it was available (I think free of charge) on a first come first served basis. The Army personnel would, of course, come to the Red Lion in the evenings and many a time a party of them would call into my Father’s shop (which remained open for business till very late at night) on their way home to buy toffee.
I went to school when Mr Harry Halton was the Headmaster. At that time Newburgh had one of the finest cricket teams in the Southport League and Mr Halton was the best bowler in the League. The Cricket Field was at that time not the KGV field but a field further up Cobbs Brow opposite the road leading to Mug House Farm. Mr Halton would allow us boys up for practice on the Cricket Field and would put two or three pennies on the stumps and anyone who bowled him could have the coppers that dropped off, so we all scampered for the ball for the chance to bowl next at him.
One of my best recollections of my time at school was being a member of the team which won a nationwide ‘Bird and Tree’ competition for Newburgh School. You could choose a variety of bird and follow its habits for twelve months and tree at the same time. We wrote down and painted pictures of all that we had found out.
As a schoolboy we spent many an hour with games of hopscotch and marbles. I would play marbles all the way to school with the other lads in the morning with what they called a ‘hembie’. It was like a one inch steel ball-bearing. Also, I would run many a mile with my hoop with the iron hook to guide it. Another game I particularly remember was ‘Peggie’. You all know the big stone at the corner of the Post Office. The Peggie was a piece of wood – I had one made out of boxwood – about two inches long, one end being tapered and scooped out. You would place it on the stone and with a stick you would tap it and when it came up you hit it hard. And when you were playing with someone you would say ‘ten yards’ and he would try and do it in ten yards, and if he were successful he would win, and if he didn’t do it in ten yards he paid me, but I forget now what we played for. The furthest I drove it was from that stone right as far as the old School House down the road and strode the distance, but you daren’t stride it today or you would be knocked over.
A very popular pastime was bowling. There was a green at the back of the Eagle and Child in Newburgh (now Derby House Saddlery). Dances were held in the school on a Saturday night. We had a three piece band to play the music, comprising a pianist, a violinist and a leading cornet player, who played for the Windgate Temperance Band and the Callenders Cables. The Newburgh dances were organised by a committee and my Mother used to cater for them with about ten or fifteen dozen pork pies. We danced all the old-fashioned dances until about half past eleven, in the old school building with the sliding doors pushed open. Whist Drives were also held there and were very well attended.
Through the cloakroom at the far end in the infants room was where the table was set for the refreshments. A lot of people came in from the Red Lion when they closed at ten o’clock and there was never any trouble.
When I was old enough to go to the Lion we played dominoes until closing time, Penny Knock and Tuppence Chip, in a little snug through the bar. If you made a chap knock – he couldn’t go – he gave you a penny, and then if you chipped out you got tuppence, probably a shilling in all. I have gone out and lost ten bob a night and then gone out next night to see if I could get it back and lost another ten bob but then, by the time you had finished and taken it all through, you were no better off, neither won nor lost.