The riverside at Castlefields

The riverside at Castlefields

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Shrewsbury Station Just After Six

Available now: Phil Gillam's new novel, Shrewsbury Station Just After Six. Check it out on amazon.

Sundays - When Pride Hill Was Silent

Back in the days before retail parks, before giant garden centres, in fact before Sundaytrading, the weekend had a very different feel.
The youngsters of today will doubtless have some trouble imagining a world (or a Shrewsbury at least) in which Sundays could be quite eerily quiet – and pretty much the only thing you could purchase on the Lord’s Day would have been an ice cream from the Sidoli’s van parked outside the gates of The Quarry.
Mind you, Sidoli’s ice cream was absolutely delicious!
My mates and I, when we were 12 or 13 or 14, would often, on a Sunday, wander aimlessly around Shrewsbury town centre, just to, as they say, kill time.
Not a single shop would be open. Pride Hill would be silent.
But we quite enjoyed the odd atmosphere of the almost empty shopping streets.
We just talked and walked, had a moan about school, dreamt of fanciful futures involving flying cars and holiday cruises to the moon. You know. All that sort of thing.
I suppose you might say: we were at a loose end.
Legendary comedian Tony Hancock once featured in a classic sketch about Sundays, perfectly expressing the boredom felt by many back then when there seemed so little to do.
Not only were all the shops closed, but in the late 1960s and early 1970s it wasn’t so easy to travel. This was an era before the motor car became the dominant form of transport.
Millions of citizens still relied on buses, coaches and trains, and they could be prohibitively expensive.
Certainly, our mum and dad didn’t have a car for great chunks of our childhood.
Well, there was a half-broken-down Hillman Minx, I recall, which – during its couple of years with the Gillam family – spent most of its time parked in West Street, round the corner from our house in North Street.
The reason it spent most of its time parked and idle, I imagine, was because (a) it was notoriously unreliable, and (b) we couldn’t afford the petrol.
So there were Sundays (and again this is possibly a measure of just how bored we were) when my little brother and I asked Dad for the keys to the Hillman Minx and then just went and sat in it for an hour or so, pretending to go on a trip to the seaside.
Blimey. How sad is that?
Other Sundays, my little brother and I would go for very long walks with our big sister, Jan. These very long walks (or was it just that, at that time, we had very short legs?) would give us an appreciation of our home town.
Not only would we get to understand the geography, but we would get a feel for its rich history too and its fine architecture.
So – looking back now – our Sundays were not all about Bob Monkhouse presenting the Golden Shot and the radio adding to our boredom with Sing Something Simple. What’s more, our Sundays would seem positively exciting when compared to the Sundays of Victorian times.
The world of the 1860s was far more austere.
I had to smile when I read in last week’s Shrewsbury Chronicle an item referring to a publican who had had the audacity to serve beer on a Sunday back in 1863.
Sundays then were clearly held in even higher regard by the authorities than a century later, in 1973, the period to which I was referring earlier.
Fans of the other regular column which appears each week on this page (Memory Corner, compiled by the charming Dave Jones) – and I count myself among its admirers – will recognise the following.
Just get a load of this:

Friday, July 10 1863
THE Case of Richard Rowlands, Bell Inn, Abbey Foregate – On Wednesday evening last, a meeting of persons friendly to and sympathising with the landlord of this hostelry, took place, when very strong dissatisfaction was expressed with the recent decision of our borough magistrates, who had inflicted a fine upon Mr. Rowlands under the belief that he had drawn and sold ale on Sunday during church hours. The amount of fine and costs was subscribed and presented to Mr. Rowlands, who acknowledged with gratitude the kindness of his friends.

You see what I mean?
At least you can go down the pub on a Sunday nowadays without the serving of beer being considered an offence!