Wakes week and school holidays

As a teacher I did enjoy the long summer holiday, not only did it allow me time to prepare my lesson material for the next term, but I was able to spend more time with my family and that to them meant 'holidays'.

There was one week in the year when Burnley became like a ghost town, that was Wakes Week. All the mills and collieries closed down, the chimneys stopped belching out their smoke and those who had saved up enough money went off on holiday.

Most families went to the seaside for a paddle in the sea, to sit in a deck-chair, to build sand castles and for a good breathe of fresh air. Whilst any went off to Blackpool, I took my family to Lower Heysham, Fleetwood, the Lake District and Scotland, and on summer filming expeditions, we spent holidays in lesser known places like Soutergate, Silecroft and Dalton. Conference time for teachers also meant holidays in Southport and Bournemouth, but by far the most memorable holidays we enjoyed as a family - Heysham near Morecambe must head the list.

We went to Heysham by car and stayed at Rose Cottage in Lower Heysham. Rose Cottage was a large guest-house, it was pleasant, spacious and not far from the sea. From the bedroom you could hear the waves breaking on the rocks. There was plenty to do, even if the weather was wet.

Across the road from the cottage was a 'private' garden, with a 'secret' door that opened out on to the rocks above the shore. But, being war time, the gate was seldom used as the whole area between the garden wall and the sea was barricaded with miles of barbed-wire, all part of coastal defences.

There was, however, Heysham Head, I even made a publicity film for the owners of this pleasure park. Heysham Head covered several acres and there was a walled rose garden with a stage at one end and rows of seats for spectators. There were 'talent shows' for children and adults, a comedian, singers, often a 'mind-reading act' and other specialities which were there for the whole season.

Beyond the rose garden was a mansion house where meals could be bought; there was a small zoo with monkeys, parrots, rabbits and even a lion. The penny slot machines were popular on a rainy day, but on the headland itself there were free swings, seesaws, swing boats, and for the adults - a line of cages which, the skilful could stand inside and swing in large gyrations, hovering at the peak of the swing in order to look out over Morecambe Bay.

Open air concerts, puppet shows and clowns made it a place where the family could stay quite happily for the whole day. An attendant, in a hut above the cliff, would, after stamping the back of your hand with a ink-pad rubber 'pass', allow you to go down the path on to a long stretch of firm sand, even better than Blackpool ' a beach. It was less crowded, there were donkeys to ride, it was pleasant for swimming and there was plenty of space to play with a bat and a ball.

Lower Heysham was noted for its nettle-beer, and following a day on the beach it was a refreshing drink to have. Although Morecambe was not far away, we seldom had need to leave the village and each year we went to Rose Cottage, we all had a pleasant holiday.

Larcombe farm near Fleetwood gave us a chance to have a holiday and to get to know a few animals. The farmer even named one of the calves after our daughter Zena. We enjoyed farm holidays and even stayed on a farm in Scotland where we joined in the life on the farm, bringing in the cows for the early morning milking, feeding the pigs, collecting eggs and delivering the lunches to the workers in the hay fields.

On the holidays that took us to quiet villages, where I had filming to do, the children enjoyed the streams, fish, fields and flowers. John would go off sketching buildings - churches and ruined abbeys, Zena too liked drawing and collecting flowers whilst Bob found exploring and walking much to his liking. Edith and I shared in their pleasures and took an interest in whatever they were doing.

When I made my film - The Red Squirrel, we were on holiday in Coniston. The weather was beautiful and the children on one of their walks had seen a family of squirrels. It was an opportunity I could not miss to make another film.

In the 40's it was not unusual to see Red Squirrels in the woods near Coniston. I went with Zena and Bob on their next walk and sure enough the squirrels were still there. The drey was high up in a tree, so I arranged to borrow a portable fire escape from the village Fire Station. The children helped me to trundle the fire escape through the village and along the path into the wood.

I was able to film the shots I required and with some careful editing I produced a short film telling the story of children on their way to school, stopping when they discovered some baby squirrels at the base of a tree. Then the mother squirrel is seen watching from high up in the tree. The children clap their hands and the squirrels run away.

Our Queen, at that time Princess Elizabeth, accepted a copy of my film 'Red Squirrel' for her baby son Prince Charles.

After the school holidays I continued to do my filming at weekends. Often my next film location would be found by chance. I would take Edith and the children for a ride round the villages near Pendle and see if there was anything that might be interesting to film.