Oldham Historical Research Group

'Oldham Stories'

     'Oldham Stories'
by Mary Dickinson

The Lamplighter

Do you ever think what we did for light before electricity came? When I was a girl there used to be a lamp at every street comer and what a dismal place it was just before Lighting Up Time as we used to call it. You could see the lamplighter coming along carrying a long pole with a brass holder and a gas flame. There were always a lot of children following him - he was like some kind of Peter Pan to them. When he came to the lamp he would push up some kind of flap and light what was called a gas mantle. He always carried a few spares in case any were broken.

When he had lit the lamp we thought it was wonderful — now we could play in the light. The first thing we did was to ask a tall person from our street to throw a rope round the bar at the top of the lamp. Then we had tums swinging round and round. Parents always knew where to find their children in those days Later on older children would gather under the lamp — it was a real meeting place. Parents would come out looking for their teenagers, go back and say "They're only at the lamp."

Not long ago I heard that people were buying these old street lamps to decorate their gardens. I'm sure they look very artistic but they can never give as much pleasure as they gave to us all those years ago.

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