Parish Room

St. Luke’s Parish Room was situated in Mount Pleasant and served the communities from several villages.  It was replaced by a more up-to-date building, opened by Jimmy Saville in the mid 1960’s.  The new Parish Room is sited between Bank and Mount Pleasant. 


 I wonder how many people from Mow Cop remember the old Parish Room at the top of the Intake in Mount Pleasant.  It was an austere grey wooden building constructed on two levels.  The ‘bottom’ room was not very big and a huge immovable billiard table made it even smaller.  Any meetings or activities held in there had to be conducted round the edges where the lighting was minimal, producing a gloomy atmosphere.  A long steep staircase led up to the main room, which had a stage at one end with pink and blue curtains at the back.  There was also a piano.  This room was the major venue for a variety of functions and entertainments that were an integral part of village life, particularly during the 1940’s.

 After the First World War Gilbert and Sullivan operas had been performed on the stage .My parents often talked about having been in the chorus of Pirates of Penzance and H.M.S. Pinafore.  Nothing so ambitious was on offer in the early years of World War2, but a few Red Cross concerts were organised, and we got quite excited about them.  The object was to raise money for the Red Cross to send parcels to the troops on active service.

 The performers were local amateurs who were willing to do a turn.  I still remember a few of these acts more than 60 years later.  Florence, a petite lady from the village, would play a large piano accordion and sing at the same time-usually popular wartime hits like ‘Kiss me Goodnight Sergeant Major’ and ‘Run Rabbit Run’.  Her repertoire contained a unique item that I think she had composed herself.  It was entitled ‘Never Let Your Braces Dangle’.  The punch line was something like ‘You’ll get them caught in the mangle’.  For some reason this ditty never failed to bring the house down.  I suspect it was considered a bit risqué .  I have never heard it since.

 Another wartime song ‘We’re going to hang out the washing on the Siegfried line’ probably inspired a ‘comedy’ act that appeared more than once on the Parish Room stage.  Two washing lines were strung up as if in adjacent back gardens, then two local chaps dressed as housewives complete with cross-over pinnies, headscarves and curlers (a la Hilda Ogden) came on with baskets of outrageous garments which they proceeded to ‘peg out’ while gossiping about local characters and grumbling about shortages, ration books and similar deprivations.  Much of the dialogue was not particularly funny, but the sight of two men in drag and the voluminous knickers and corsets that were pegged on the lines caused a great deal of merriment.

 There was usually a serious item.  I seem to recall hearing someone sing ‘Bless This House’ on several occasions, and was very proud to be asked to fill this slot one evening.  I could play the piano and my best friend Joan was a good singer.  We spent a long time rehearsing a number that must take first prize for the most maudlin sentimental song ever written.  It was called ‘Christopher Robin is saying his Prayers’, and was very popular at the time.  Joan and I thought it was wonderful! How times- and tastes change!

 Top of the bill at these concerts was the most unusual act I have ever seen.  Our local Red Cross nurse strode on to the stage in full uniform carrying a set of Indian Clubs.  She then proceeded to manipulate them through a series of complicated exercises with great skill and dexterity.  The strange thing was that as far as I can remember it all took place in silence.  Perhaps I was concentrating so intently on the spectacle, and wondering what would happen if she let go of one of the clubs, that I was oblivious to everything else.  Needless to say her performance was faultless.  With present-day stage lighting, smoke effects and stirring music this could have been a dramatic finale, but in the early 1940,s our valiant Red Cross nurse had to do her best under a 60 watt bulb against a background of pink and blue curtains, and no sound effects other than the clink of coin as the organisers added up the takings to present to her at the end of the evening.