Muddy day that brought back so many memories

A PHOTOGRAPH published by us a couple of months ago has brought a good response from readers - and also shed light on people's lives at the time.

The photograph was sent in by Mr Albert Norton, who now lives in Dunscroft, Doncaster, and it was of the Cornholme Methodians football team in the 1947 season, when October 18 that year proved to be a landmark match for Cornholme Methodians - their first and last match on a pitch at Rattenclough, Portsmouth!

That weekend a mudslide hit the Cornholme valley, as the October 24, 1947, issue of the Todmorden News and Advertiser showed.

Albert Norton himself remembered: “Our game was played on a pitch which had mud bulldozed over it and a stream running the length of it. A field drain had been broken and we never played there again.”

A look back in the archives at that newspaper revealed that the incident made national headlines after traffic was held up for 17 and a half hours after “a couple of thousand tons” of mud slithered down Rattenclough and crossed the main Burnley Road at Portsmouth.

Cottage tenants were forced to leave their homes temporarily and the speed with which the mud was cleared actually left some disappointed sightseers who arrived a couple of days later to survey the damage after reading or hearing about it in national news reports.

It is believed soil excavated from an open cast coal working site towards the top of the hill caused the mudslide. Bulldozers were used to clear it and spread across the pitch used by the Methodians, bringing their new home to an early end!

Several readers rang in with extra bits of information about the team members and one of team, Mr Albert Hanley, has been able to name all the team and the adults who made up the management committee.

Mr Hanley, who is 76, remembers the mudslide: “It all came down, then into the field where we were playing. When we’d finished, the ball wasn’t rolling, it was floating! We were over the ankles in mud.

“The club had to move to Shore. The pitch sloped everywhere and there was even a ridge on it. You could hit a ball level and it would be five feet high when it reached the goal area!

“I still look at it when I go up to the chapel every June and think ‘how did we play here’. We played up there for a number of years, in the Burnley Sunday School u18s League. The game at Ratten Clough was against Burnley Boys’ Club.

In those days local sports leagues were still thriving, and the Methodians team had to travel to teams in Burnley, Nelson, Briercliffe, Brierfield and Padiham to play games. “It was like Wembley when you played on Towneley Holmes,” remembers Mr Hanley.

Travel was by bus and when the team travelled to Nelson a Todmorden bus was specially chartered to take the players and supporters over

“We also played at Millwood, and at Woodhouse. The shirts on the photograph were of sky blue and white stripes and the cloth had been specially provided for us by Joshua Smith’s cotton mill ,” he said.

Albert has three sons, Scott, Steven and Derek, and lived in Australia for 14 years before returning home. Derek stayed in Australia and clearly some football talent runs in the family as Albert’s granddaughter Jenna plays for a football team in Altana City, which is about eight miles round the bay from Melbourne, and quite successfully too.

This Christmas Mr Hanley is expecting some DVDs which include Jenna displaying her football skills and have been sent by the Australian branch of the family. His other two sons are closer to home, Scott at Hapton and Steven at Portsmouth.

Another family football connection is there with his sister Rosemary Sweeney - in the 1960s Rosemary was a Burnley Football Club landlady and her boarders included greats such as Brian O’Neill and Willie Morgan.

Albert says the Methodians team ran until around 1955, having won a 1953 Coronation five-a-side competition.

He names the team of 1947 included on the photograph as follows.

Back row, from the left, Donald Dean, Albert Norton, Geoffrey Rawsthorne, Neville Crossley, goalkeeper Eddie Hargreaves, Peter Horsfall, Fred Crowther, father to Steven and Gordon in the front row, Arthur Lord, and Edwin Banks and, front, Bernard Crowther, Steven Crowther, Jackie Gore, Gordon Crowther, Frank Shirt, Albert Hanley and Reggie Norton, Albert Norton’s father.

Albert says that of the players Geoffrey Rawsthorne, Frank Shirt and Jackie Gore, who was best man at his wedding in 1956, have passed away, as have the older men on the photograph. He remembers that Donald Dean used to run a newsagency in Cornholme and Bernard Crowther was a long serving councillor in the village, a true son of Cornholme.

Bernard was projectionist at the village’s Gem Cinema and in 1947 Albert Hanley was his “number two”.

Of that muddy weekend back in 1947 Albert remembers: “We stood on a hillside that Friday night and heard the mud rumbling.

“But then we had to get back to the Gem in time to show that night’s films!”