Cleator Moor

We were in a small pub in Keswick. I had a trunk full of spades, hammers, saws, a pickaxe and loads of 4 & 6inch nails. The destination was Frizington in West Cumbria where I was due to set up an Easter playscheme on a windswept field behind the school. Frizington is a neighbour to Cleator Moor. An old man, hearing of my plans told us, “When I was a youngster, my Mam would tell me that if I didn’t stop behaving- she’d send me to Cleator Moor.”

It’s an oddity- it gets to be called Little Ireland on account of the huge proportion of immigrants from the likes of Counties Donegal, Galway and Mayo. The women for work in the jute mill- the men for the coal and iron ore mines and quarries. Most of those industries were dead or on their last feet by the early 70s. Local unemployment was high and it was a long time after I arrived that I met my first overt Protestant. It was, and probably still is a “rough spot” but I remember it warmly.

The town had been chosen as an example of rural deprivation by the Home Office and a Community Development Project set up. I was to work for a local committee and set up the Big Hill Adventure Playground in a 5 acre disused iron ore quarry donated to the town by the Catholic Church. Many of the committee had been on the strike, (for union recognition), committee at Brannan Thermometers. They didn’t need any lessons in determination and confidence- and soon co-opted some of the playground kids onto the management panel.

The County Council- Tory-led and with Martin Brannan as chair of Policy and Resources Committee- hated us. We set up an Information Centre staffed mostly by locals, an Old People’s Co-Op, a youth-run Cellar Project, renovated whole rat-infested streets, helped set up Industrial Co-Operatives…and the Big Hill. They accused us of “being political” when we uncovered multinational fiddles and made us all redundant. The Union made the case for us all being wrongfully dismissed- and we won.

My last job was to make photographs of the town for York University and The Home Office.

I retained my copyright. My job had lasted 2 years & was the end of my work with children & young people

I spent my pay-out on a pair of disco decks and we headed off to Alston Moor. (Sue had joined me after a spell as teacher in the East End of London.)

Farewell to Moffats and The Knights of St Columba Club. Hello The Miners’ Arms, Nenthead and a life of discos and smallholding, (9 and 14 years).

  • Thomas Dunn, Arthur "Paki"/"The Mexican"Dunn, Carl Salmon at the front. Market Day

    Thomas Dunn, Arthur "Paki"/"The Mexican"Dunn, Carl Salmon at the front. Market Day

  • Billy Smith - left
Bubbles  aka Jeffrey Law with the hat.NO. It’s Martin Herald!

? One of the Shuts from Egremont.
"The Smiths had some wonderful hunting terriers and lurchers"

"Cleator Moor lurcher club badge. MOTTO was gentle when stroked fierce when provoked." acc Mick Pattinson

    Billy Smith - left Bubbles aka Jeffrey Law with the hat.NO. It’s Martin Herald! ? One of the Shuts from Egremont. "The Smiths had some wonderful hunting terriers and lurchers" "Cleator Moor lurcher club badge. MOTTO was gentle when stroked fierce when provoked." acc Mick Pattinson

  • Joe Mather- landlord at the Fox & Hounds, Ennerdale Bridge- walked with a limp- with his trail hound, (part shaved to avoid overheating during the trail).- Right. It was said that, after a successful fox hunt, (with all followers on foot, Lake District style), a hotpot would be made in the pub- and the fox's blood poured into it.

    Joe Mather- landlord at the Fox & Hounds, Ennerdale Bridge- walked with a limp- with his trail hound, (part shaved to avoid overheating during the trail).- Right. It was said that, after a successful fox hunt, (with all followers on foot, Lake District style), a hotpot would be made in the pub- and the fox's blood poured into it.

  • Grasstrack ravers- 2nd from L Gerald McKarten possibly Ivan Morris 2nd from R

    Grasstrack ravers- 2nd from L Gerald McKarten possibly Ivan Morris 2nd from R

  • Cleator Moor. Kids' picnic on Keir Hardy Avenue. Scratched neg.

    Cleator Moor. Kids' picnic on Keir Hardy Avenue. Scratched neg.

  • Chemist's shop Cleator Moor. I never discovered the origins of the habit but the pharmacy held a wine, beer & spirits licence.

    Chemist's shop Cleator Moor. I never discovered the origins of the habit but the pharmacy held a wine, beer & spirits licence.

  • Chemist's shop Cleator Moor. I never discovered the origins of the habit but the pharmacy held a wine, beer & spirits licence.

    Chemist's shop Cleator Moor. I never discovered the origins of the habit but the pharmacy held a wine, beer & spirits licence.

  • Big Hill Adventure Playground was sited on a 5 acre,(2 hectares) old iron ore quarry. The land was gifted/sold cheaply to the parish by the R Catholic Church adjoining.
The playground was always open and staffed on a Sunday, (by me). Folk would be seen walking down for morning Mass- dressed in their "Sunday best". After Mass, quite a few would go to the pub or Working Men's Club- maybe even the Knights of St Columba Club for a drink before dinner. No-one of the Catholic population would dream of entering the Freemason's Club- also on the main Square. In my first week I was shown the spot where, "We once shot a Protestant". It is thought that Orange marches are still not permitted by law to pass through C Moor.
Women from the CDP offices- mostly locals- once invaded the Men Only bar at the W M Club- after which they were "allowed to join the menfolk there! The Club has ceased to operate- its site now a medical centre, (2016)

    Big Hill Adventure Playground was sited on a 5 acre,(2 hectares) old iron ore quarry. The land was gifted/sold cheaply to the parish by the R Catholic Church adjoining. The playground was always open and staffed on a Sunday, (by me). Folk would be seen walking down for morning Mass- dressed in their "Sunday best". After Mass, quite a few would go to the pub or Working Men's Club- maybe even the Knights of St Columba Club for a drink before dinner. No-one of the Catholic population would dream of entering the Freemason's Club- also on the main Square. In my first week I was shown the spot where, "We once shot a Protestant". It is thought that Orange marches are still not permitted by law to pass through C Moor. Women from the CDP offices- mostly locals- once invaded the Men Only bar at the W M Club- after which they were "allowed to join the menfolk there! The Club has ceased to operate- its site now a medical centre, (2016)

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Simon Danby - Cleator Moor