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Back to the past in Tamworth's rich history

By Tamworth Herald  |  Posted: July 04, 2011

  • READY FOR ACTION: Tamworth Volunteer Fire Brigade on parade with their steam fire engine.

Comments (0) Alec Gibson turns back the clock to the lively Tamworth of yesteryear

IT'S early morning in our town. Much like any other.

There are signs of life. A man pushes a three-wheeled barrow up the street, armed with a huge brush and shovel used with much dedication on picking up last night's rubbish, gathering the leaves, disposing of the horse droppings, all the relics of yesterday.

Then comes another public factotum. His equipment is a long pole with a hooked end.

His task is to put out the gas lamps he lit just last evening. His twice-a-day round keeps him busy. There's no time to chat to the barrowman beyond a 'Mornin' Joe'.

A clatter from the other end of the town street announces the arrival of a dignified man in a military-style suit, peaked cap, sharply-creased trousers.

It's our postman on his stop and start mission, pushing his wicker basket on wheels, loaded with the first post of the day.

There'll be another two before he can call the day his own.

A non-commissioned officer in His Majesty's Forces before he was 'civilianised', it's from those ranks that the Royal Mail picks its postmen.

It's a long-standing practice, though you can also get there by starting as a messenger boy in a slightly oversize outfit and a natty pillbox hat.

His job is delivering the yellow-enveloped telegrams that most folk would rather not have.

What a noise! An almighty clanking of churns, hooves a'clopping, cries of 'Milko'.

You're a bit early, milkman, but we'd better nip out with our jug or we'll have no milk for our breakfast tea.

There's a rumour that the Co-op are thinking of delivering it in bottles. We'll believe it when we see it!

The cheeky errand boys have dropped their brooms and window leathers to pinch a ride on the back of the milkman's cart.

The first omnibus of the day in its dignified Midland Red livery stops to pick up passengers from the back of the town hall's butter market.

The conductor stands at his door, ticket rack in his hand.

Offer him your penny and he'll give you one of is multi-coloured tickets after punching a hole with a satisfying 'ping'.

Our town is beginning to bustle with early-morning life. The paper boy props his bike against the kerb before making sure everybody gets their morning paper.

This is an absolute essential for keeping up with the world's goings-on, and the name of the 3.30 favourite.

In the evening the same paper boy will be shouting something like 'Spossaggis' which comes in pink and is translated as 'Sports Argus'.

A stately figure in size 12 boots, polished to perfection, approaches at a stately pace.

It's the town constable on his regular morning beat.

One of the four town bobbies tasked with keeping us in order, his dog-collared tunic, silver buttoned and immaculate, tells us he is a no-nonsense individual so mind your cheek.

Despite his sergeant-major bearing and voice, he's well liked and respected. When we are in trouble we know who to call.

He's confident in his authority and knows that if anyone was rash enough to lay an unlawful finger upon his person it would result in an automatic gaol sentence.

Nobody challenges a copper!

Under the town hall's arches there's a fire engine.

It used to be pulled by horses borrowed from the railway but progress is unstoppable. It now has an engine under its bright red bonnet. It is shortly to be moved to its new home, a specially-built brick shed in Lichfield Street.

One of the volunteer firemen is busy polishing the brass helmets without which no self-respecting fireman would approach a blaze.

The streets are becoming aired. Our town is up and doing.

A funny old cart makes its way up the street. It's built like a big box with a canopy to protect the driver, and it carries along with it a most appetising smell, that of freshly baked bread.

Nobody in these modern days goes to the shops to buy their bread. It comes to them every day by way of the funny cart.

More often than not it is still warm from the baker's ovens and woe betide the breadman if he tries to pass a yesterday's loaf on to us.

A hefty lad is pushing an unwieldy truck-load of 'wet' batteries – freshly charged, they're for the posher end where they are beginning to get these new fangled wireless sets. They'll never take on!

He also carries tins of acetylene powder, still the main power source for most of our bicycle lamps.

Harry, the railway carter, is delivering his daily quota of parcels along with things that don't lend themselves to paper and string. Providing there's a label on them, they'll get delivered.

We dodge a bunch of cows on their straggly way to the Victoria Road cattle market. Young lads will take temporary charge while the drovers nip into 'The Bricklayers' for a quick one.

Our town is a lively place. It's a place where folk expect personal service, and get it.

It's a town that knows that time is rolling along and it's got to keep up with it. After all, it will soon be 1925!

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  • AlloVerasity  |  July 05 2011, 12:22PM

    I love Alec Gibson's writing - has he written a book?