Richmond Hill Dairies, in years gone by
• The really cold winter of '63. The snow and ice seemed to last forever and certainly slowed milk delivery down. I remember that the freshly cleaned kits had to be sterilised with a steamer before being placed outside to take back to the farms. The hot kits sank into the thick ice and froze solid and we had to use the steam pipe again to free them.
• During the cold winters, I remember going into the walk-in fridges to get warm as they were always kept above freezing point.
• Hot milk straight from the pasteurisers tasted like ambrosia in winter as did channel island milk in summer.
• In those days we didn't have special clothing to keep warm and dry. We had to rely on wearing two of everything and constantly running to keep warm. There was no escape from the rain however - when it rained you got wet, very wet and shoes usually had a detached sole or large hole.
• I remember the time I was assisting Ken Philpott in Spring Road Orrell in deepest winter. The road was still icy and Bonnie (I think that was the horse's name), a large black majestic colossus couldn't hold the weight of the milk cart and proceeded to slide down the slope on his haunches with his front legs fully extended. He only came to a halt at the bottom of the slope under the motorway bridge. He just stood tall again and continued on his way; nothing stopped us delivering our milk in those days.
• Delivering milk with horses and carts in those days was the most efficient way. It is hard to believe, but true, that the horses not only remembered the route of the milk round but also each customer. It was unnecessary to move the horse on because he heard you remove the bottle from the metal crates and simply walked to the next customer. Every house had milk delivered then which made for really compact rounds that suited horse and cart over van which had to be constantly moved ten yards at a time.
• Horses also remembered where they received treats off customers and would wait patiently until they received their usual carrot. I remember being told (although I personally didn't witness it) about the time that the horse stopped at one of these customers (I think it was Peggy's little brown and white horse) and waited patiently but ....................... they were on holiday and didn't appear as expected. Instead of moving on, the horse decided to go and seek out the carrot through a gate which was wide enough for a horse but not a cart. The horse and cart was eventually extracted to continue on their way.
• I think most of the horses were "rescue" horses and were generally good natured and loveable but one horse was a veritable monster and would kick out at the slightest noise. It was massive and scared the life out of me as a youngster. It didn't take him long to stamp a large hole in the concrete floor of his stable and if I remember right the final straw came when it kicked the complete wall of the stable out. At the end of the working day, the horses would be fed and bedded down and on one particular day I was asked to feed and bed down the "monster" who was already in his stable. There was no way that I was going to walk around the back of this horse so I proceeded to do my chores from the safety of the stable rafters. I dropped his bran and hay suspended from the woodwork above and bedded him down using a very long handled fork. I wasn't at all sad to see him replaced with a more placid version.
People I remember:
• Dick Ishmael (the boss): A real hard-worker and family man. At times he must have had the weight of the world on his shoulders but I never saw him lose his temper or fail to come up with a solution to a problem. He thought nothing of using his personal transport (a beautiful two-tone Vauxhall Cresta) to deliver milk from the back seat and boot. (pictured - Tom Hutchinson, Don Neill and Dick Ishmael L - R).
• Tom Hutchinson: An ex bus driver who I used to assist on Sundays. Our round included Winstanley, Worsley Hall and Marsh Green. I got on well with Tom who was really good natured and who lived in Valley Road off Tunstall Lane.
• Ken Philpot: A bachelor who lived with his parents in Peter Street Kitt Green. He had a real sense of humour and I really enjoyed helping him on his Orrell/Gathurst/Kitt Green round with Bonnie. I remember he used to idolise Ken Dodd and spent many a weekend attending his numerous shows in Blackpool.
• Ken Greenway: Never really assisted Ken but a nicer fellow you couldn't wish to meet.
• Peggy (pictured above right with husband Bill Silcock) and Vera: Dick's sister and niece were a double-act who delivered around the Pemberton and Orrell areas using a really attractive brown and white horse. They had the same pleasant disposition as all the other Ishmaels and went to live in the farmhouse of a recently purchased farm in Spring Road Orrell.
• Hilda: She lived in a house attached to the dairy and was truly dedicated to the well-being of the business. I don't remember her cracking too many jokes but she was honest as the day is long and ruthlessly efficient.
• Ossie: I can't think about Ossie (Oswald Gaskell) without picturing him in his blue boiler suit driving his blue Austin A55 pickup with the column change. He was also steward of Upholland Conservative Club where I think Dick Ishmael was a member.
• Don Neill:
(Pictured) Don was recruited from Pemberton Conservative Club I think where Dick was also a member. Don was a great guy but I must have really annoyed him when I first passed my driving test. I would report for work deliberately early so that I could drive off on my own to deliver milk. He must have been really annoyed when I got back to pick him up but he never showed it. I think I was suffering from the common ailment suffered by newly qualified drivers and referred to as being "cab-happy". I met him again in later years and regret never apologising to him.
• Margaret Aspey: Really nice lady who worked in the dairy, she worked really hard and always had a smile for you. I also went to Thomas Linacre School with her son Clive.
• The first time I visited Winstanley Hall filled me with awe. To see that fountain in the courtyard with Neptune and Horse rising from the deep was truly amazing. My visits must have been in the early sixties and I remember that even then Captain Bankes was only living in a small part of the hall and the rest was already falling into disrepair. I find it hard to believe that we take the trouble to preserve the childhood terraced house of a less than average drummer but let a magnificent building such as this fall down. It truly is a national scandal.
• Visiting all the farms in Winstanley before all the various housing estates were built. It was a magical place with picture-postcard scenes, duckponds, foxes, pheasant, rabbits, with every kind of bird and rodent. The journey to Tanpit Cottages was an expedition down a long pot-holed dirt road in those days as they were in the middle of nowhere. Today these cottages are still standing but are now incorporated in the ugly morass of the new housing estate. If ever there was a case for town planners to be totally exterminated then this is it.
• Watching the progress of the M6 motorway construction from the new bridge at Windy Arbour. I passed this way every Sunday with Tom Hutchinson on our way to Windy Arbour Farm (I think that was it's name). I remember that this farm always had a "side of meat" curing in the porch on a very large hook. I seem to remember also that it was salted and covered in a kind of gauze and it was the way that meat was preserved before the advent of fridges. The side of meat always seemed to attract flies but it didn't seem to affect the meat or the people who ate it.
• The Arab/Israeli war was one of the subjects of conversation I remember as Tom Hutchinson and myself viewed progress from the Windy Arbour bridge.
• Pony Dick drift mine was still in operation at this time but it was only a small privately owned operation at this time.
• Whilst delivering milk, I never stopped running apart from when I was delivering milk to an old cottage down the unmade section Brook Lane at Pemberton. It was like stepping back in time; the cottage was very old and overgrown and inhabited by a lady who seemed equally old. The gate was rotted and had to be lifted to open. The path was overhung by bushes and trees and covered in a liberal coating of the slimiest moss you could imagine. Running was impossible and tip-toeing was the order of the day.
pump• The manual petrol pump near the dairy gate. I seem to remember that there was no gauge on the pump but two and a half turns equalled one gallon. There is no way that our present "Health and Safety" culture would have sanctioned such a set up; even I cringe retrospectively at the danger involved.
• There was a farm on the first left hand bend after St Matthews church (where yet another housing estate is built). This again was a very old farm whose name I can't recall but I do remember that I had to leave milk at the front door. The route to the front door was via a large five barred gate and a large farmyard which was guarded by two of the most ferocious dogs you can imagine. Each dog had a kennel on either side of the front door and were attached to chains which in turn were attached to long wires running from the farmhouse wall to the boundary wall. This meant that as soon as you opened the gate the dogs would compete with one another to be first to tear you apart. The chains and wire were perfectly positioned to leave a safe (unmarked) path to the front door but any deviation would be met with lots of pain and blood. I remember vividly to this day the sensation of the dogs' hot breath on either cheek as I made my way to the doorstep trying to make myself as thin as possible.
Miscellaneous Happy Memories:
• Tips at Christmas - everyone appeared to appreciate and respect each other then.
• The all-prevailing smell of cooking bacon on Sundays when customers opened their doors.
• Kitt Green was posh then (although I did come from Worsley Hall)
• The smell of oats, bran and hay from the stables.
• The number of mice in the boiler house. They must have been the most contented mice in all the world - always warm and more delicious food than you could shake a stick at.
• As previously stated, I would run for hours and obviously became very fit. At school (Thomas Linacre) we would visit Christopher Park for football and cross country running. I am fairly certain that my weekly milk round training would have enabled me to be a leading light in our cross country races and I actually enjoyed running but .................................. a couple of friends and myself decided that it would be better to cheat. We put our cigarettes and lighters down our shorts and ran around the course backwards under cover of the changing hut. We ran up Giants Hall road until we came to a grass verge and relaxed with the odd fag until the first of the runners appeared. We let about half a dozen past and then joined the race back to the changing hut where our sports master (who also ran the school cross-country team and was a past champion) was waiting. As an incentive he would let us go as soon as we had finished which was why we only let a few runners by and not more. After doing this a couple of times, the games master shouted us out and we feared the worst; we thought someone had snitched on us. Instead of detention however, he gave us words of encouragement. He told us that he had noticed that we never actually won any of the races but he was impressed that, on finishing, we were not exhausted like the other runners. He was convinced that, with a little more effort we could make the school team. We found this really amusing but in future we let more runners past, ran through every muddy puddle we could find and slapped our own cheeks to make them red.
• The money I earned from the milk round was my only source of income and it financed my early love life. I would run like mad to finish as early as possible on Sundays so that I could get changed and meet my girlfriend in Wigan Park cafe. It was absolutely brilliant especially in summer but I always spent everything I earned in about four hours and often had to walk home because I didn't even have the bus fare. I am still not sure whether the pay was poor or whether I was too extravagant in trying to impress the girls. If it was the latter it didn't work because she dumped me soon afterwards.
• One lady in Orrell actually gave me a tip because she liked my dimples.
Alan R 2010
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