Cum­mings Go­ings

Cotswold Life - - CONTENTS -

The BBC Ra­dio Glouces­ter­shire break­fast show pre­sen­ter on his own old grey whis­tle test

And so it came to pass: bring­ing the Hol­loway whis­tle back to Stroud. This mo­ment had been in the plan­ning for months and then, just be­fore 8am at Brick Row in Stroud, we had a steam en­gine, the owner of the whis­tle, a cast of for­mer work­ers, TV crews, peo­ple po­si­tioned around the Stroud Val­leys to mon­i­tor how far away it could be heard and a ner­vous ra­dio host won­der­ing what could pos­si­bly go wrong?

Thank­fully noth­ing. It was heard as far away as Edge, Pain­swick, East­ing­ton, Whiteshill and Rod­bor­ough and the mem­o­ries and emo­tions it brought back flooded the air­waves.

It all started with my love of the hoot­ers, whis­tles and sirens that used to re­sound across the Cotswolds from Lis­ter Pet­ter in Durs­ley, to the Gloster Air­craft Com­pany in Brock­worth, to the North­ern United siren near Cin­der­ford. The Hol­loways cloth­ing com­pany had a steam whis­tle which Faye Wood­ward just hap­pened to have on her man­tel­piece. Her Dad worked at the fac­tory and was given it as a leav­ing present. Her abid­ing mem­ory of her fa­ther was the daily rou­tine of join­ing him at the fac­tory ev­ery evening and her treat was to sound the whis­tle to an­nounce it was the end of the work­ing day. With the help from the team at Spi­rax Sarco and their stream propul­sion ex­per­tise, we got it go­ing again at their base in Chel­tenham. Now it was time to bring it back to the site of the fac­tory in Stroud and wake up the Five Val­leys again.

The sub-plot to our noisy ad­ven­ture was the won­der­ful sto­ries and char­ac­ters we un­earthed in the mak­ing of the show. The com­pany came to Stroud in the mid 1800s and was fa­mous world­wide for many in­no­va­tions. They were the first to use steam for the man­u­fac­ture of clothes, the first off-the-peg man­u­fac­turer of clothes (pre­vi­ously, your items would have been made-to-measure by a tai­lor). Ge­orge Hol­loway thought of him­self as a phi­lan­thropist. His the­ory was if you looked after your work­ers, their loy­alty and hard work would reap rich re­wards. He was the first to in­tro­duce a sys­tem of sick pay and a lump sum pay­ment at re­tire­ment way be­fore we had any no­tion of a ben­e­fits sys­tem. This was the be­gin­ning of The Hol­loway Friendly So­ci­ety which is still go­ing to­day. He also in­tro­duced the first rent-to-buy scheme ac­quir­ing over 70 cot­tages in Stroud and rent­ing them to his work­ers. If they paid a lit­tle ex­tra than the go­ing rate they got to own their home.

The best bit by far was meet­ing many of the work­ers who all seemed proud to have been as­so­ci­ated with Hol­loways. I recre­ated the 1950s bus jour­ney into work from Chal­ford with Mar­garet and She­lia who were just 15 at the time. They be­haved very badly on my coach with deeply in­dis­creet sto­ries about the bosses they didn’t like, the boys they fan­cied and the lunchtimes they spent eat­ing chips in Stroud when they should have gone to the works can­teen. I also met Iris and Peter who met at the bus stop out­side the Sub Rooms and this year cel­e­brate their 60thwed­ding an­niver­sary. It all started with Faye and her Dad and to see the look on her face when she heard the whis­tle sound again in the ex­act spot she used to go ev­ery evening with her late fa­ther made all the work, worry and stress worth­while.

The Hol­loway whis­tle re­turns to Stroud

EMAIL: cum­mings@bbc.co.uk

with BBC Ra­dio Glouces­ter­shire’s Mark Cum­mings

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