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Ince-A story Empty Ince-A story

Thu Nov 12 2020, 16:46
By David Barnett

Ince, the close-knit working class community in Wigan where I grew up, was a place of the dead.

It was home to three cemeteries that were linked by the rewilded ghosts of defunct collieries, expanses of scrubland and moss-knotted grey slag heaps that formed still, eerie buffer zones between the necropolises where ordered ranks of graves were bounded by soot-blackened stone walls.

We liked to dig, in Ince, it seems; down deep to extract the coal, a little shallower to deposit the bodies. It’s no wonder the place was haunted, or seemed like it on the damp Autumn nights in the week that was bookended by the shrill chills of Halloween and the rage of bonfires, “bommies”, the crackle and fizz of splintering, purloined wood counterpointed by the pop and whoosh of rockets launched from milk bottles.

They say today that Halloween is an American import, not a British thing at all. Tell that to those 1970s children industriously hollowing out a stubborn turnip and begging from their mums the stub of a candle kept under the sink in case of power cuts, and an England’s Glory with which to light it. And thus equipped with a lantern to ward off evil, perhaps wearing a black bin bag, the only Halloween costume that existed, we would set off. To look for Red Clogs.

Red Clogs was a miner, back when the pits were open for business. Maybe he dug the coal at Ince Moss, or Ince Hall, perhaps Alexandra pit in Whelley, or the evocatively-named Edith and Mabel mines at Hindley. Wherever he worked, he came to grief; an accident crushed his feet to pulp and he was doomed to wander in eternal agony, his clogs stained red with blood. If we played at those abandoned pit sites, crept under the rusting barbed wire coils to tread, giggling and terrified, on the infill that could surely collapse at any moment, then Red Clogs would surely get us.

Ince Hall sounds grand for the place where I grew up, and indeed it was, in the nineteenth century, when it had expansive gardens and a moat. It was also the haunt of Peggy Beawt Yed (though her name might have been Kitty, depending on which bit of Wigan you were from), so-called because this terrifying apparition was beawt (without, in Lancashire speak) her yed at its usual place on top of her neck, and she carried it tucked beneath her arm instead.

It's very brave and very sexy of me to continue living.

We lead, others follow.
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Thu Nov 12 2020, 18:56
Must have been written yonks ago, Now the mine workings are all gone, the pit hills too and in its place trees, bushes filled with wildlife and it's the playground for people like me who like to wonder about the paths and open meadows where you see, deer , rabbits , hawks , stoats, and if your lucky Minks .The only standing reminder of the coal mining is the concrete hopper which, Kevin uses for shelter,
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Fri Nov 13 2020, 08:00
Brilliant. I told my kids and now my grandkids about my meetings with Kitty Beawt Yed and Redclogs. Wife goes mad she says they'll have nightmares, but I can see in their little faces that they enjoy a bit of a scare.
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