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Photos of Wigan
Photos of Wigan

Photo-a-Day Archive
Photo-a-Day Archive

Photo-a-Day  (Monday, 27th December, 2021)

The Galleries

The Galleries
The Galleries, Standishgate Entrance.

Photo: Dennis Seddon  (Sony DSC-WX500)
Views: 2,177

Comment by: Thomas(TomWalsh. on 27th December 2021 at 00:09

I thought this article I wrote sometime ago for The Wigan Observer may be of interest to viewers .

Christmas Stories to Melt the Heart.

I started work at Lowe's Department store in 1960; before then I could never have imagined how important the Christmas season was to the retail trade, every department had a large increase in trade, particularly toys. Lowe's had one of the largest, if not the largest toy department in Wigan.

To give an idea of the importance of this department, it was managed by a younger member of the Lowe family, Mr Jim Lowe; a hackneyed phrase I know but he really is one of nature’s gentlemen, now in his eighties and living in North Wales. A massive date in the festive calendar was when Father Christmas came in great fanfare to the store; it brought the town to a standstill.

This brings me to the first part of the story. I can’t be sure of the exact date when this heart warming incident happened, however I know it was December 1962. Father Christmas, as usual, had been very busy in his grotto, parents with children in tow would queue for an hour or more to see Santa Claus .The department was set out with toys of every description, Silver Cross Dolls Prams display, a favourite for girls; an absolute must for boys and dads was the layout of train sets with trains going in every direction, in and out of tunnels, signals changing as they went. The showcases helped relieve the boredom while awaiting your turn to go into the magical grotto.

I must admit, I had always wanted an 'electric train set' but Mam thought that electricity and children didn't mix well, no matter how I tried to explain that transformers resulted in a reduced voltage and are completely safe; alas to no avail, no amount assurance would convince her. I had to be, and was, satisfied with a clockwork version. However, I must confess a little bit of envy crept in when a lad from my class became the proud owner of a ' Hornby Electric Train Set' with tunnels and signals to boot. I am happy to report that I made a tunnel out of a shoebox covered with green crepe paper.

Being completely unpractical (then, as now) in every way, I was quite pleased with my, at least as I saw it, ' ingenuity'. Mam readily agreed and thought me very clever. Mothers can always be relied upon to say the right thing - I think it's called 'humouring’!
However, back to story and in particular the day in question. Father Christmas had gone to the tearoom for a well earned break, as had the lady who took payment and issued a ticket, to give to Father Christmas who would give a present. Whilst they were away for their tea break a lady with 2 children was seen by a member of staff to take 2 tickets without payment The member of staff reported the matter to management and she was taken to Mr.
Harold Lowe's office. The incident of course went through the store like wildfire. Everyone was expecting the police to be called or more likely the family to be escorted from the store in disgrace.
What happened next will bring a lump to the throat. Mr. Lowe asked the staff from the top floor to decamp to the second floor; he then accompanied her and the children from his office which had been created in the loft space of the store , to the third floor, opened the door to the fire escape stairs situated on the outside , so the family didn't have the embarrassment of walking through the store. Nobody knows what was said in the office that day but it was assumed the reason the lady took the tickets was because she couldn't afford to buy them, this I must add was conjecture on the part of the staff; nevertheless what happened next, I think gives credence to that notion.
Mr. Lowe never mentioned the occurrence to anyone with the exception of Tommy Moore, the van driver, who was sworn to secrecy and instructed to deliver a selection of toys to the family's home in time for Christmas. Tommy never betrayed the trust placed in him; thus fortunately the family's name and address never came to light. This episode shows what a caring family firm Lowe's was. You could never imagine anything like that happening today when most family run department stores have disappeared from the High Street and society is the poorer for that. It almost seems that this part of the article could have come straight from the pages of a Dickens novel.

The second part of the story comes from more recent times, but no less moving for that. For well over 25 years I've been a 'stand in' for Father Christmas at several schools and Christmas Fayre's I must say it's something I greatly enjoy doing, it is a wonderful privilege to be able to share in children's dreams. Of course I've picked up many amusing stories and a few sad ones along the way, such as; requests ranging from a “ Real Unicorn” to a “Jig Saw that would do itself"; a puppy is a perennial request. One child, when asked what he would like, replied in a truculent way " I told you at Debenhams "!

During the whole time I've played the part, asking many hundreds possibly thousands of children "What would you like Father Christmas to bring on Christmas Morning?", only on three occasions, in all those years, has a child asked for something for someone other than themselves. The most recent was at a Christmas Fayre; a child asked for a wallet for his Dad, it transpired that his Dad had lost his wallet that morning. Another time at a school, when I asked the question of a young boy, he replied " A ring for me Mum", just that, not a mention of anything for himself. I asked his teacher to let his Mum know that he had asked for something for her; I'm sure she must have been proud of him and I'm certain he will become an outstanding son to her.

However, the one that will live with me forever, a little girl asked in a matter of fact, and thankfully in an unemotional way, "Can my Nan come from heaven for Christmas "? What made it all the more heart wrenching, her Mum was with her and burst into tears, which she tried hard to stifle. If there is one thing more harrowing than watching someone crying, it is to see someone trying not to cry. I don't mind telling you the situation traumatised me , I honestly can't remember what I said, it was so moving; you would have to have a heart of stone not to be overwhelmed by such a heart-breaking appeal . In truth, and I am not ashamed to say, I wasn't very far from tears myself !

Comment by: brryan francis traynor on 27th December 2021 at 08:27

Heart warming stories. Re the Galleries I understand they will be pulled down and replaced by boxes.They could have been adapted as per previous plans.This is an act of vandalism.

Comment by: Maureen on 27th December 2021 at 09:42

Tommy,what a beautiful story ...I have tears in my eyes reading your memories,and what a lovely Christian man Mr Harold Lowe was, and when I read about the little girl wanting her Nan for Christmas well..that put the tin hat on it so to speak..plus you yourself have always come across as a vary caring person..and I would like to wish you all the very best for the coming year.xx

Comment by: Veronica on 27th December 2021 at 10:01

A treasury of tales there Tom. The one that made me laugh was the little boy who had already told you what he wanted at Debenhams!! I can just imagine the sentimental scene and his voice piping up with impatience! ;~)

Comment by: Edna on 27th December 2021 at 10:28

Firstly, good photo Dennis, and it's a crime for this building to have been empty for so long, at least from the Standishgate end. Secondly, I have to say your story Tom was very heart warming, it brought tears to my eyes to hear about the little girl who asked could her Nan come from heaven for Christmas.Thank you for sharing.

Comment by: . Ozy . on 27th December 2021 at 17:57

I feel inclined to say that I enjoyed reading your reminiscences Mr. Walsh. If only for the fact that they took me back to a time long before this world became the madhouse that it currently is.

I recall my sister taking me to see Father Christmas in Lowe's.
The occasion would have been around about 1953 or thereabouts, so a few years before you started working there, but I still remember the gift that I was given. It was a cardboard box containing bits of different shaped and different coloured bits of softwood , a wooden hammer and a box of nails , with a rectangular cork base upon which it was intended to nail the other bits, in order to make shapes of things,........so not the bike I asked for exactly.....
But nonetheless, the thing got played with.
And in fact, I'm pretty sure there's a photo of me sitting on Santa's knee somewhere on this site, although I don't recall precisely where.

But I wonder,... what would the p.c. brigade make of a little kid sitting on an old blokes knee and being given a gift containing a hammer and a box of nails these days ?
.....Just a thought....

What I'm trying to say is this,.......that although humanity is constantly advancing........alas, it would appear to me to be advancing in the wrong direction.

So of late, I don't tend to do Christmas ,...New Year's Eve either, nor Easter, Valentine's Day, Mother's, Father's, second cousin's , Groundhog, or anyone else's day for that matter, but then maybe I'm alone in seeing it all as just a load of commercialised tripe.

Now If Charles Dickens was still around, I may well be prompted to wonder as to where he got the inspiration from for some of his characters.

So feel free to call me a miserable git if you will, and to be fair, you wouldn't be falling that far short of the mark.
But on this occasion, I'm prepared to make an exception and wish you all the best.

Regards. Ozy.

Comment by: Veronica on 27th December 2021 at 19:15

Nice to see you 'back' Ozy and a very interesting read. Even though you don't as you say 'do' Christmas/ New Year. I wish you all the very best for 2022. Hope you do bob up at times on here too.... I recall the photo you mention but you weren't sat on Santa's knee. It might be under Lowes.

Comment by: PeterP on 27th December 2021 at 20:07

Looked up the photo and it was 1951.

Comment by: . Ozy . on 27th December 2021 at 20:39

Hiya Veebs, many thanks for the favourable wishes, and please be assured that the feelings are reciprocated.

On reflection, I believe that you are correct. I now think that I was standing next to Santa, as opposed to sitting on his knee, but try as I may, I've been unable to find the photo in question, possibly due to the fact that the filing system on this site, notwithstanding the site proprietor's best intentions has, well, shall we say, descended into a maelstrom of digital minestrone.

The contributors are to blame for this situation of course, myself included.

Now if by any remote chance GW should surface at any point in the future, then please say hello to him from Ozy.
I never met either him or DTease, although I suppose I formed a kind of virtual kinship with the pair of them , and with yourself also over a period of time .

We had a bit of a laugh though didn't we eh?

A bientôt. Ozy .

Comment by: PeterP on 27th December 2021 at 21:28

Ozy type photos of Lowes into search box at the top of the page

Comment by: . Ozy . on 27th December 2021 at 22:03

Thanks Peter, I went back and tried again and found it eventually, and you're correct, it was 1951.
I'm still trying to figure out why I filed it under the heading " Work ".
All the best mate.

Comment by: Axcroft on 27th December 2021 at 22:23

The Galleries. Soon to be gone. And forgotten? I hope they keep the Standishgate facade.

Comment by: Veronica on 27th December 2021 at 22:39

We did have some laughs Ozy but it's gone very quiet these days, even Irene has gone AWOL at the moment. She'll be back no doubt.

Comment by: Thomas(Tom)Walsh on 27th December 2021 at 23:21

Ozy, the photograph of you was used in The Wigan Observer article. Best regards, Tom.

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