John Ogden

Some time before he died, Mow Cop former wrestler Bill Ogden reminisced about how grown men played the same games as children in the early part of the last century.

Games of cowboys and injuns had never been heard of when we went to school, and for the most part we played whip and top, marbles, bowling hoops or British Bulldog, with the conker season providing a yearly change. Entertainment was in such short supply that even the grown men used to play marbles in summer, the game we used to call "rinkers." You'd see about a dozen of them, using their caps to dust down a flat surface to draw the circle where the marbles went, then starting to play. They didn't even bet on the outcome, but just like we kids the winner kept the marbles he'd knocked out of the ring. Everybody carried their bag of marbles around with them in those days. If the men did want to gamble it was a tricky business, because betting was illegal in those days, and they didn't just have to worry about the police, because all the preachers were against it as well, so they had to be watched out for too.

The men would form a circle near a spot where you could see a good way in all directions, then post a look-out in case the village policeman was prowling round. His reward for not taking part in the game was a few pence from the kitty, which would buy half a pint of beer or a packet of cigarettes. His other duty was to make sure that children didn't get too close, because they were never allowed to watch gambling. He'd just tell them to go away and they did, because they'd get a wallop round the head otherwise that would make their ears ring.

The most spectacular game they played was in winter, when everywhere was covered with ice, especially "The Brake" from what is now Halls Road down to the coal wharf at Kent Green. There was always water running down there, and in winter it became a sheet of ice, and we schoolkids sliding down it would be joined by the miners at the end of their shift, and they would form a "train" - crouching down in a long line, holding on to the waist of the one in front, and setting off down to the bottom. At the front of the train would be one of the school boys, held by the first man in the line and used as a "steerer." The roar of their metal-tipped clogs as they hurtled down to the bottom was pretty awe-inspiring, but nothing like the thrill of being chosen as steerer for the run, which was half-a-mile long. That was a fantastic experience. There was one other pastime that the adults shared with us kids: fighting. There was always a scrap going on in the playground between someone or other (quite often me) and being "cock of the school" was a real honour. Vernon Ball, who was unique among Mow lads in those days because he passed a scholarship and went to Macclesfield Grammar School, was another good boxer. He later came back to Mow as headmaster of Woodcock's Well school. Every Saturday afternoon all of us kids would go to the Oddfellows Arms, where it was guaranteed that there would be a fight between two of the drinkers. There were five pubs on Mow, but nearly all the fights seemed to take place at the Oddfellows.

We'd be already perched on the walls round about by the time the pub door suddenly flew open and two men would stride towards the open space in front of the chapel, taking off their coats as they walked. All the other customers would be following, with the landlord bringing up the rear, then it was caps and jackets flung to the ground as the two men set about each other, ringed round by cheering watchers, just like in the playground. The fights were fair in those days. If a man got knocked down his opponent would wait for him to get up - if he wanted to - and the fight would start again. There was no kicking people when they were down, because everyone wore clogs and the damage from the steel tipped wooden soles would have been horrendous. As it was there were cut lips, black eyes and bloody noses, but nothing more serious. I do remember one ferocious battle between two brothers, Shirley and William Mountford, which lasted a full half-hour. We were all talking about that one for weeks. The fights didn't usually last anywhere as long as that, but they always ended the same way, with everyone going back into the pub to continue drinking. Hope you would like to use this on your website.

John Ogden