By MERVYN EDWARDS, Local Historian and Burslem History Club Speaker Secretary

Have you ever had a friend tell you that you MUST read a certain novel,  or go and watch a particular play and when you do, you’ve been singularly underwhelmed?  Well, this is one of the reasons I prefer not to make hectoring recommendations about anything – even about Burslem History Club.

So let’s just say that what follows is a celebration of aspects of club activity that have given me pleasure over the thirteen-plus years I have been involved.  I’m being purely subjective, extremely nostalgic, but above all, very grateful for some wonderful times.  If in writing the following ruminations, I persuade you, dear reader, to give the club a try, then so much the better.

It’s a club that is only as strong as the bonds of friendship and mutual respect that underpin it.  In this sense, “club” describes us far better than “society” ever could.  Our monthly get-together sees an inevitable focus on whosoever is addressing the audience that night – and we’ve enjoyed no end of silver-tongued, authoritative speakers who have charmed, amused and informed in equal measure.
However, it is the camaraderie – and to put it simply, the fun – of the evenings that keep people coming.  Bob Adams is a long-serving member, and can always be relied upon for a well-timed wisecrack if our evenings are flagging.  Like many seasoned Boslemites, he has a wealth of stories and a very visual memory.  Here is Bob talking about his childhood:
“The other thing about growing up near to the Vale Park ground was that kids used to ‘save cars’ – in other words, there would be the threat to drivers that the tyres would be let down on their parked cars by the time they returned from the match, unless they gave kids a shilling.  I lived in Gordon Street, and my patch was from Jackfield Street to Dartmouth Street.  Other kids had different patches nearby.  You’d write the car registration numbers down and if you were lucky the owners would give you some money when they came back after the match – especially if you’d got a duster and polish and cleaned it a bit.  But one youth went over the top.  One car on his patch had got some rust on it, and so he used sandpaper and a wire brush.  He must have done about £200 of  damage, scrubbing down to the bare metal!”

On the occasions when the club embarks on a day excursion, you discover what really makes people tick – or doesn’t.  We visited the Black Country Museum in 2008, and in a mad moment partly triggered by three pints of beer, three of us decided to have a go on the helter-skelter on the museum fairground.  We climbed up the spiral staircase leading to the top, with our then-chairman, seventy-something Harold, leading the way.  With great brio, he whizzed down on his mat.  Being acrophobic, I just about kept my cool in order to tentatively descend at about half  the speed managed by Harold.  I was surprised to see our fifty-something friend Alan (now our vice-chairman) waiting for me.  He’d been right behind me as we had ascended the staircase.  What I hadn’t known is that he has an aversion to anti-clockwise movement, and he had walked back down again.

The trips out – to destinations such as Bakewell, Liverpool, Stratford and York - have been special. Scrutinising the paintings at the Lowry Centre in Salford and visiting the nearby Imperial War Museum North did much to broaden the minds of some of us, though I couldn’t help noticing on that visit that one particular club contingent had asked the coach driver to drop them off a local pub, where they stayed all day.  Then again, what makes a memory?  Eating cod and chips outside a chippy in sun-baked Llandudno, whilst watching the goats on top of the Great Orme took a bit of beating for me.

Personally, I relish every aspect of my involvement with Burslem History Club, and on the nights when we gather, it is very agreeable to be able to extend the evening with further drinks in the Leopard, the Duke William or the Bull’s Head.  The nights are so much fun that perhaps I really should be bullying people into joining us.  Come to think of it, I’ll be banging on your front door tomorrow!

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