Oldham Historical Research Group

'Oldham Stories'

     'Oldham Stories'
by Mary Dickinson

  'Whit Friday'

Today is Whit Friday, but you wouldn't think so, everything is so quiet round here. Everyone is at work and I haven't heard a single band playing.

I was the eldest in a family of five and Whit Friday was a very busy day in our house. All our new clothes had been bought before Whit week. We also had to have special white clothes for walking round. We had white dresses slippers and socks and for weeks we had been taking coppers to school to buy a staff of flowers or a coloured cape and a wreath of ribbons for our hair. The Sunday before we had all wom our new clothes to go to church and afterwards all the children would go from one house to another showing our clothes off and getting a penny for them.

Our parents were very proud of us and would take us to see relatives to show us off. Sometimes our mothers would borrow pennies from us to give to other children who came to our door. We had to take off our new clothes before dinner and afterwards we would gather in the street to count our money and compare notes. The sweet shop did very well that day but we saved a few pennies for Whit Friday because that was the big day when we walked round.

Whit Walks - Oldham

On the Friday morning our parents got up very early and as I was the eldest I had to help get the other children dressed. I remember my mother used to sit one or two of them on the kitchen table when they were ready. She left them without shoes right to the last minute so they couldn't run off and get dirty. The house was a shambles with boxes bags and tissue paper. My mother would be saying we'd be late and I know the boys didn't really want to walk round but they had to go. We all went to school and our parents went away, their duty was done, and the teachers would dress us up. We all lined up ready for the Procession.

When we heard the band start we all got very excited. We felt like little angels but woe betide anyone who stood on our toes. The May Queen was the most important. She went first with her page- boys and maids of honour. Then came all the children from infants to the big ones. The ladies came next with the men bringing up the rear carrying the banners. It made us feel so proud of our faith. We walked round the main roads and met up with St. Patrick's and St. Anne's. Each church had its own special band. We used to see our mams, dads, aunties and uncles. They looked so proud of us. Usually the weather was fine but I remember one year it rained very hard. The girls were wearing red leaves in our hair and the dye ran down our faces, it must have looked like blood, but we carried on Walking. After the procession we all went to a big field Where there were lots of stalls, ice-cream, sandwiches and drinks. There were games and donkey rides and the bands were playing. Our parents came and found us and we all had a good time. My dad used to have a few pints. We were all very tired and didn't need any rocking that night.

When I got married we lived in Corpus Christi parish and we walked round on Whit Sunday, so we used to go to Oldham on Whit Friday to watch the Processions. Afterwards we caught the bus to Uppermill where all the bands had gathered for the Band Contest. We loved to hear them.

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