St James Haslingden

Growing up in the Lancashire textile town of Haslingden during the 1950’s going to church was an inescapable aspect of my childhood. Trussed up in my Sunday best I was marched off with sister Valerie to the nearest church to be bored scared witless by a man in a big white frock and purple collar promising eternal damnation or salvation based on your personal behaviour. Now, for a naughty wee lad like moi, this horror show was guaranteed to turn me off established religion for ever and a day. Much rather would I be listening to the cowboy serials on the radio or trying to split an apple with an arrow from my trusty toy crossbow.

A little sand passes through the glass and I’m carrying my guitar case along Blackburn Rd with a Beatles tune in my head. One of the early ones – maybe ‘Ticket to Ride’ or ‘Help’. Thinking about the chords and how to shape them on a cheap gloss white f-hole guitar with an action like pressing hawser wire onto a steel girder, bought from the legendary Mary’s Music in Accrington. Mary’s Music was run by a kindly, knowledgable yet not-to-be-messed with lady. Walking with rhythm guitarist Ian Brown and singer Chris Hardman past the imposing walls that held the churchyard up off the main road to the lead guitarist John Cowpe’s house. Lucky John whose dada had fixed up their mains radio to act as a guitar amplifier, lucky John who owned a Selmer Futurama a guitar that closely resembled the mythical Stratocastor, lucky John who was deeply musical and who could play lead like Hank Marvin. Steven Proctor bashed out the drums with an uncanny sense of timing whilst Ian and I laiked about trying to work out the difference between E7 and E9. It was great. We never played any gigs, but we did carry on for what seems like a couple of years regurgitating the hits of the day by the Beatles, Stones, Yardbirds, Byrds et al, playing from old fashioned sheet music in the days before guitar tablature and internet.

All of this within shouting distance of St James’s church whose churchyard walls were once breached by the floodwaters of a local storm. A landslip ensued leading to the loss of  a few coffins out of the cemetery slipping on to the road.  Someone had the job of sorting out the remnants!
Painting the picture evoked these and other memories, including one of drinking cheap Woodpecker cider in the churchyard before miming to the latest Manfred Mann tune at the end of term school dance, sneaking the bottles into the hall within our guitar cases. Ah – that good old rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle!

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Left with the use of my left arm/hand only, after a serious motor cycle accident in 2005, I am learning to adapt to life with a brachial plexus injury and have developed a style of playing guitar using open tunings. I love drawing, painting and generally messing around in a fairly loose fashion. Can't describe myself as an artist, but perhaps a doodler with intent.

11 thoughts on “St James Haslingden”

  1. Chris Hardman as the singer…that I would have paid to hear! Hi Steve, Keith..hope you guys are well. Any chance you’ll follow the trend and reform to tour again and make a few quid? Just come across this site and managed to spot both of you in the school pix. John Wardle

    1. Hi John
      Great to hear from you. Yes – we would consider reforming. Obviously the money would have to be commensurate with a band of our standing but its a possible possibility. Ian (Brown) now lives in Canada but his punching rhythm guitar is critical to our sound so he would have to flown back. John Cowpe (Horse) has retired from being officer in charge of knocking down Haslingden Grammar School and is now living who knows where. Chris Hardman may not speak to me again since his last visit to Cockermouth when I put him up in our haunted attic, and Steve is still knocking the skins off in Darwen. Me – I’m one of a very few one-armed guitarists! So its a possibility – and if you can sort the venue – I’ll do the rest.

      Up the Clarets


  2. This is a bit of a long shot, but when I read your post on Haslingden, I wondered if you might remember my Grandfather who was vicar of Haslngden sometime in the late fifties I think. He was called the Reverend Fergus McBride? He was a very kindly scholar but to a small child, me included he could be a touch intimidating! Don’t remember the fire and brimstone though!!!

      1. It could be slightly before your time maybe. I’m not sure of the exact year etc. I remember going some years ago to visit the church after he had died (1980). It was just a coincidence. It would be nice to know if anyone still remembers him and his wife Dora though. He went on to become vicar of Terling in Essex and then Chaplain of Bromley College Kent, which was a beautiful Wren building. Best, Nicholas.

  3. Hi Keith,I was art Primary and Secondary School with your sister Valerie and remember you too;I think Keith Spencer was a contemporary of yours too.
    Best wishes David Peat.

  4. Rev. F.J.McBride played rugby in Liverpool for my club Sefton in 1924-25, but have no photo of him.
    Any ideas why he was in Liverpool at the time.
    Kind Regards
    Dave Bohl
    Historian Sefton RUFC

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