Stories about John Alfred Prestwich

John Alfred Prestwich

My grandmother used to tell many stories of the 'old times', but often as not, they would be about her father, John Alfred PRESTWICH. He worked as a carter, carrying coal from the pits in Ashton-under-Lyne to the ever hungry 'magpie' that was the cotton industry. But like his kind, he enjoyed a pint or two. Or three. Or four. Or more. He would stop at the pubs along Ashton Old Road on his journey home, particularly the Halfway House and imbibe. Fortunately, the horses that pulled his cart were better trained than him and could be relied upon to bring him back home, asleep in the coaldust in the back of the cart!

Sometimes, it didn't go quite to plan and the cart hit a street light, knocking it over. Jack simply put it in the back of the cart and took it to the corporation the following day to collect a one shilling reward!

His grandson, Arthur WRIGHT told me that Jack carried coal from the Snipe Pit in Ashton all the way to Irlams o' th' Height (or Eight as Jack pronounced it). On the outward journey, the carter had to walk the horse and was only able to ride back, so Jack walked about ten miles every day. It may not appear so, but a horse walks quite quickly, so he took a breather at hostelries en route. Just how many can be judged by the following story:

Whitelands Terrace

Jack developed a rash on his hand and went to see the doctor. "Well, Johnny, I think you should start by cutting down the beer." Jack balked at this, but the doctor assured that cutting down to six pints a day would be beneficial. "Ah dinna sup that much," insisted Jack, but the doctor coaxed him into counting up how many pints he had on a typical. Jack began counting off the pubs he called in at going out and coming back, and those he stopped off at walking home from the Snipe. The total came to nineteen!

Another grandson, Frank, has another tale to do with drink. Every evening after the men got home from work, they would sit on their doorsteps, passing the time of day and sharing a jug of beer from the local pub. The laws of license were not so strictly imposed and it was often the job of his son, Arthur, to get the beer. Of course, this was an era of temperance and one evening, Jack was admonished for sending 'an innocent child for ale' by a passing do-gooder. "Well! If you don't like me lad going, YOU get it for me!" When Frank tells the story, he usually stands up and points his finger at the said do-gooder in a most threatening 'John Alfred' sort of way. This did the trick, apparently, and the busybody did indeed go to bring the jug of beer and was never seen again.

Arthur told me that it was his grandad who introduced him to drink. His mum and dad were living at the Mudd in Mottram at that time and Jack would visit them on Saturday night. That entailed a trip to the White Hart for a few pints, then he would fill up a pop bottle with roughly one and three quarter pints to take to his daughter's house. He drank most of it, but there was always some left on Sunday morning with which he would ply Arthur on his way to sing in the church choir, with the words "Ee lad. Get this dahn yer."

One last story of Arthur's memories of my mum and her brother who were a few years older than him. Like all siblings, they would 'fratch' with my Uncle Jim chasing my mum. Jack would storm out of the kitchen, carving knife in hand, and shout "Damn and bloody set it on fire! I'll chop yer bloody fingers off!"

A man I would have liked to have met.

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