Moorlands, Memories and Reflections by Paul Salveson REVIEWED by Michael Higgins
Moorlands, Memories and Reflections by Paul Salveson (Lancashire Loominary 2020)
Hot on the heels of The Works, a feel-good novel featuring the old Horwich Locomotive Works, comes Paul Salveson’s re-make of an old Lancashire Classic. Allen Clarke’s original Moorlands and Memories was published in 1920. This ‘update’ builds on its scope – with bicycle or train tours round and about Bolton. Allen Clarke, known better under his pseudonym, Teddy Ashton, was a sincere socialist prose writer, versifier, newspaper editor and of course an even keener moorland cyclist.
Today he is remembered by Lancashire dialect lovers for his poem A Gradely Prayer in which he seeks God’s patience with ‘some of us duffers’. But Dr Salveson, also a keen cyclist and socialist, visits other memories of Allen Clarke’s past, and our own present, by retracing his tracks through the changing neighbourhoods of the past century.
After a brief look at Allen Clarke’s own life and works, this journey meanders by Smithills, Barrowbridge, Belmont, and countless lesser known and half- known communities in and around Bolton. There is even a tour to Waugh’s Well on Fo’ Edge, the Rochdale end of this meandering. Dr Salveson loves railways almost as much as bikes and there are plenty of old Railway routes and romances along the way. Likewise literary routes leading to the Bolton Walt Whitman appreciators of the 1880s.
Despite the author re-visiting political folk and political movements-avowedly socialist – linked to neighbourhoods still reached by two wheels and pedal power, not every reader is a socialist and not every reader is a Boltonian. But we are all Lancastrians and in the final chapter. ‘Visions of a New Lancashire’ he quotes Allen Clarke’s dream of seeing Lancashire as ‘ a cluster of small villages and towns, each a small mix, each fixed solid on its own agricultural base, doing its own spinning and weaving; with its theatre, gymnasium, schools, libraries, baths and all things necessary for body and soul’.
Paul Salveson muses that the all-embracing cotton industry, with its pollution and poor health, now lives only in local memory. But a civic pride once manifest in mill chimneys and public works has faded too. Can Lancashire today build its own new utopia out of all the mill ruins, but yet pervading goodness, of the past? This is the ultimate question of this ‘reflections’ bit hinted at in the book’s apt title.