Monday, 4 September 2017


St Helen's Church, Northwich, aka 'Witton Church'                                                     Photo: WTFK Collection

by Dave Roberts

Here's a sad memory from my third year at Sir John Deane's Grammar School in  Northwich. 

Founder's Day was always a big occasion for the school and every October 21st we all made our way through the streets of Northwich from the school's preesent site in The Crescent, off London Road,  to St Helen's church (usually known, more simply, as 'Witton Church') to celebrate the life and times of Sir John Deane.

Really, it was the school returning to its 'Witton Grammar School' roots, as the site of the original school was close to Witton churchyard.

And when I say 'made our way' I really mean that we were marched to the church in the closest we could get to 'impeccable' school uniform. 
It was impressed on us all that we were 'representing the school' on this most important day in the school calendar and warned to be on our best behaviour.

I was astonished to hear the admonitory speech we were given each year before starting out spoken almost word for word by Michael Palin in 'The Life Of Brian'. This 'representing the school' schtick must have been a standard grammar school thing all over the country. 

My recollections of the service of thanksgiving for the life of SJD and his benevolence in founding the Grammar School are lost in the mists of time.

All I can remember are the school song: 'Floret, Floruit, Floreat Wittona' and the hymn 'God is working His purpose out, as year succeeds to year'.

I must have been a part of this Founders Day service five times from 1964 to 1968, but the only one I really remember was in 1966.

After the service I went home on the North-Western Road Car Co's bus to King Street, Middlewich and switched on the TV, where the story of a horrific happening in Wales was unfolding.

It was the day of the Aberfan disaster in which 116 children and 28 adults were killed when a coal tip above the village was undermined by water seepage, turning the whole structure into a mass of slurry which slipped down the hillside engulfing the school.
Dependable, friendly old Cliff Michelmore was there on the screen telling us of the almost unspeakable horror of what had happened.

It was the second major disaster to impinge upon our young lives (the first being the Kennedy assassination three years earlier) and it was all very hard to take in.

What gave me, personally, pause for thought was that I was at the time reading Robert Llewellyn's 'How Green Was My Valley' in which something like the Aberfan disaster is explicitly forecast. 

Even now, fifty-one years later, I can't hear 'Floreat Wittona' or 'God Is Working His Purpose Out' without thinking of that dreadful day.

Illustration: WALES ON LINE

© Dave Roberts/Salt Town Productions 2017

Wednesday, 19 July 2017


Hot on the heels of the Artisan Market (June 2012 - March 2014) and the Makers Market (April 2014 - May 2017) comes a brand new and this time purely local venture, the Middlewich Mexon Market!


From Middlewich Town Council:
Middlewich Town Council, Middlewich Vision, partners and volunteers would like to announce the creation of a new market for Middlewich. The market will be a not-for-profit venture and all proceeds will be used to sustain the market over the coming months. It will take time to develop but we hope that you will give it your support to make it a success and a welcome enhancement to our town centre.


Find out more about the Middlewich Mexon Market at:


Middlewich Heritage Society   Photo: Salt Town Productions July 2017

There's a long history of markets in Middlewich, stretching back to at least the 13th century (our first Market Charter was granted in 1260), and the Mexon website features an article with information from Allan Earl giving a brief run-down of that history and explaining where the name 'Mexon' comes from. 
 'Mexon' doesn't appear in the OED, so it may be that the word is obsolete. Or it may be a word of purely local origin, like 'Lompon'.

Photo: Bill Armsden

Historical note: This is not the fIrst time that the name 'Mexon' has been revived. In the 1970s local businessman Steve Wells used the name The King's Mexon for a restaurant in Wheelock Street, where the Blue Ginger Indian Restaurant & Takeaway currently (2017) is. In the interim years this former furniture shop and warehouse has always been a restaurant on one form or another. After Steve Wells moved out, for example, it became Franco's.


And here's our celebratory MD Masthead for July 2017 featuring the advent of this

great new venture...

We wish the new Middlewich Mexon Street Market every success!

This also appears on THE MIDDLEWICH DIARY

Saturday, 3 June 2017

Friday, 2 June 2017


by Dave Roberts

Winston's New Shoes is, quite simply, another old joke made into a piece of verse. Although it wasn't written in anything like a 'Northern' dialect it has its roots firmly in the Northern tradition as exemplified by Stanley Holloway and Marriott Edgar.
Ted's shoe shop could be anywhere in the country, I suppose (though Ted betrays his Northern origins with 'By the 'eck!') but there's little real doubt that it's somewhere north of  Watford.
This 'Northern-ness' has been magnificently exploited by none other than Monologue John, Master of the Monologue, who I first met back in the 1990s at the old Crewe & Nantwich Folk Festival. We worked together on  numerous occasions during the days of the Salt Town Poets and I was pleased to present the John Brunker Trophy (the last one ever, actually) to John and his then performing partner Dorothy Fryman in the days when they called themselves 'Song & Story'.
This trophy, named for one of my own early school teachers, was awarded for excellence and originality in performance, something 'S&S' had in spades, and John still has.

'Song & Story' ('Monologue' John Bartley and Dorothy Fryman) with the last-ever John Brunker Trophy
John has performed thousands of monologues over the years, and I couldn't help but be flattered when he latched onto Winston's New Shoes.
I suppose he must have seen the potential of the poem as a 'Lion & Albert' style monologue (for want of a better phrase) and pulled out all the stops.


Here he is on Youtube telling the tale of Ted, and Nellie, and Winston's odd shoe requirements in fine style. You'll note, if you follow the original text, that John has embellished the poem with even more Northern touches

Watch the gleam in his eye as he delivers the 'sting in the tail' ending.
That, my friends, is how it should be done!

Here's the original poem:


IN the shoe shop one cold morning, Ted was working very hard
Writing down the retail price of pairs of shoes on bits of card,
When suddenly the door flew open, and in came charging Nellie Hughes.
'Hello Nellie!' Ted said, brightly, 'have you come to buy some shoes?'

'Yes I have, they're for our Winston - him as lives with Auntie Rose'.
She looked around the shop, then pointed - 'they're nice, give me three of those!'
'By the 'eck!' said Ted, 'your Winston must be doing well at school!
'Three pairs of shoes! How very generous!' Nellie scowled. 'Don't be a fool!'

'Do you think I'm made of money? I can't afford three pairs of shoes!
'Three single shoes is what I'm after!' Ted said, 'they only come in twos.
'Besides, why would the lad need three shoes? That's one too many, can't you see?'
Nellie tutted with annoyance. 'I don't know, Ted, you tell me...

'It's been three years since I've seen Winston, back when he was only ten,
'Rose has written me a letter, saying how he's changed since then.
He's got a new school uniform, he's clean and neat, his hair's been cut...
'But here's the bit that's got me flummoxed - she says he's grown another foot!'

© Dave Roberts/Salt Town Productions 2017

Wednesday, 12 April 2017


The final Odd Exception masthead from July 2014
by Dave Roberts,

'The Odd Exception' was an attempt to find a home for all the bits and pieces - the poems and songs and articles etc. which didn't really fit into the Middlewich Diary, with its heavy emphasis on the town of Middlewich (and what other emphasis would a blog with such a name have?).

The problem with the name of the Diary's 'sister blog' was that no one except me really knew what it meant. (The actual meaning, for those who care to know, is explained here.)

I felt that the time was right for a new blog, with a new name, which more accurately represented what these bits and pieces are all about.

So, farewell to The Odd Exception, and hello to The Queen Street Collection!

All the material formerly published on the old blog, with (if you'll forgive me) the odd exception of a few 'topical' posts which are now out of date, has been transferred to this blog.

Scroll to the bottom of the page for an alphabetical index and watch this space for a whole lot more in the future.

And, of course, in a parallel universe, the Middlewich Diary continues on its merry way...

Dave Roberts



This first appeared on THE ODD EXCEPTION in 2012