A Tanner for the First
May, 2009

I don't remember my very first trip to Blackpool.
First Blackpool trip
But I do remember most of the trips since the first. I seem to think we went once a year, at least from when my dad first got a car. We often took one friend of mine or another with us, and were always excited to try and win sixpence (2½p) if we were the first to see Blackpool Tower. I even had my photograph taken in a studio there, on a motorbike with my dad.
And, it has to be faced, there's nowhere in the world like Blackpool.
For over a hundred years, Blackpool has been brash, breezy, unremittingly vulgar, and the most popular holiday destination in Britain.
For decades, every town in Lancashire — and many in Cheshire and Yorkshire — would empty its workers into Blackpool for Wakes Week. And they came from the Midlands and Scotland, too; Glasgow Fortnight was one of the busiest periods of the year in Blackpool, and it even sent its police to the town, presumably in the belief that no-one
Tanner for the First_02
knew Glasgow's villains as well as Glasgow's police did!
For most of the last century, the railway companies daily disgorged thousands of holidaymakers into the town. Arriving at the station by North Shore, the first stop was often Yates' Wine Lodge, which used to offer champagne breakfasts for a shilling.
Most of my own memories of Blackpool are from the 60s, when many thousands of people still flocked from the grimy streets of industrial towns for a week by the sea. When there was still such a thing as Wakes Week, people often went to the same boarding house for the same week year after year, to find their next-door neighbour in the room next door.
One Blackburn lad actually went to live in Blackpool when he was nine years old; Alfred Gregory, who was to become a photographer, and was the official stills photographer to the Edmund Hillary ascent of Everest in 1953. But, in the 1960s, he took his Nikon F and shot a whole series of pictures in Blackpool pubs during one particular Saturday.
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They typify all that I remember of Blackpool: the old men playing dominoes while supping black and tans, their wives gossiping over their stout, the youngsters feeding the juke box, and the inevitable gooseberry with her pursed lips and strained face.
It's out of print now, but it's well worth seeking out a copy of Alfred Gregory's book, Blackpool: A Celebration of the 60s (ISBN: 9780094731004)
Blackpool may well be the epitome of vulgar, but it always has been.
One of the most successful music hall entertainers ever in Britain was Frank Randle, a Northerner from Wigan (Aspull, if you care), who was the rage of the Blackpool variety summer season for years. His shows were 100% sell-outs for every single show. And he was also the epitome of vulgarity. At a civic reception at the beginning of the season, he was the guest of the new Lord Mayor, who turned to Randle and said, "Mr. Randle, may I introduce you to my wife?' Frank looked at the Mayor’s wife, then back at the Mayor, and uttered in his broad Lancashire accent, 'Well that's your f*****g fault, isn't it!.
Randle was banned from the town for the rest of the season, officially for the obscenity of his act. In retaliation, Randle hired an aeroplane and showered the Lord Mayor at another outdoor reception with a deluge of toilet rolls!
Love it or hate it, there is nothing quite like Blackpool style.