One Hundred Years of Worktown is a play staged recently in the Bill Naughton Studio at the Octagon Theatre.

It is a dramatised documentary, produced by Stephen Fielding and based on a number of taped interviews with people from the Bolton area, reproduced in this series.

Here, the transition from being a young builder to playing professional football for Bolton Wanderers is recalled by Arthur Barnard.


I WENT working down the pit for a bit after leaving school. Worked underground on the haulage -- putting clips on the tubs.

But I could never settle to a job cooped up. You'd be locked away in lovely summer weather, so I left that after a bit for a job in the building trade.

One February teatime 1950, I was on me way home and I saw me mum down the street, waving something on the front door step, and calling to me. "It's a telegram, Arthur. A telegram." Them days a telegram meant someone had died, and there she is waving one at me. So I opened it very carefully and I had a read of it.

"What's it say, love?" she asked. "What is it?"

"It's the Wanderers," I said.

"The telegram said: 'Come to Burnden. Discuss terms as soon as possible.'

Well, I left me tea on the table. Quick wash and I was out. I couldn't get there fast enough.

After I'd signed up, they said, "Right, Arthur, your job's here now. So bring your cards in tomorrow morning."

This was Thursday night, so half past nine the following morning I was back at the building site, dressed up in the only suit I've got, and they're all staring at me and saying "What the flaming heck's going on here?" All that carry on.

But, soon as I told them I'd signed for Bolton Wanderers, they were all over me.

First time I walked into the dressing room at Burnden, all the players all looked up at me -- sizing me up, like.

They were all of them sat on benches around the walls, everyone in his own chosen place, like, and I'm the new boy. I don't know no-one, and I don't know where to sit.

Then Nat Lofthouse, he called over: "Here y'are, cock, there's a place here if y' want it."

I didn't dare sit down next to a star, but he were reyt nice about it. So I walked over and I sat down next to him, and there I was -- stuck between two Internationals -- two stars. Nat Lofthouse and Harold Hassall. And me.

First week there, I was introduced to the weekly routine. Mondays off. Then a full-scale practise match on Tuesday. Then training all week, always finishing by dinner time. Fridays, we'd wind down, just half an hour running round, then a bath or a shower.

So that were two hours a day doing something you love, and all that spare time in the afternoons. A great life, eh?

Coming from a working class family and then going footballing was another league entirely. It was moving up a class.

All that free time you got, it was easy for a young player to go off the rails and get hooked on snooker halls and pubs and the bookies, gambling, like.

So a player needed a strong wife to keep him in line or, if he wasn't married, a strong manager like Bill Ridding at the Wanderers.

He was the boss and you knew it. When Bill Ridding told you to jump, you asked how high.

I remember a run-in I had with him one time just after I'd got married. I was late 'cos I missed the bus.

Finally I get to Burnden, but it's ten past ten now, and they'd all gone -- all the team. I'm rushing in and the trainer says, "Bill wants to see you" -- meaning Mr Ridding, the manager. Oh, heck.

He wouldn't take no excuses. Nothing. "Do you realise," he said, "There's men bin down the pit since seven o'clock this morning. And them lads have turned up for work at half past six, 'cos it takes them another half hour to get down to the coal-face?"

Then he said: "If this happens one more time, just once, you don't bother coming in, Right? Ever." Well, I were frightened to death.

Just imagine that today. A manager telling a player that? They'd just say "Get lost." But he put the fear of God in you.

I were never late again, I tell you, I bought a car not long after that.

When the Wanderers first signed me, they put me playing for the third team. And, first game, I were feeling a bit shy. In fact I were shaking that time an' all. But we won, so that settled me a bit.

We'd got some name players in that third team -- Roy Hartle, Dennis Stevens, Ray Parry.

They all went on to big things -- Cup Finals, Internationals -- which I never did. But chances aren't that many if you're in goal. It's a bit harder, I think, if you're a goalie.

First team goalkeeper when I started was Stan Hanson, and he was a fixture in the team. He was never injured.

Today they're injured every two minutes, and people get their chance that way. But Hanson, I never once saw him injured. He didn't even catch a cold, the way a normal human being would.

I might even have won a Cup Final medal -- in the Bolton-Blackpool Final of '53 -- "The Matthews Final", as they call it.

It could have been me sitting on the subs bench. But they didn't have a bench to sit on in them days.

Bill Ridding , he once said to me: "When you leave here, son, you leave home."

And he was right. It was like a close-kit family, the Wanderers. They were all great people. You realise it when you leave.

After Bolton I was three years at Stockport -- a regular in the first team, like, but it was going down the ladder after Bolton, down the divisions. After Stockport, I played for Southport.

I go past Burnden now, where the ground used to be, and a lump comes to me throat. All them memories I've got.

I remember how I first got into goalkeeping.

It were when I were a lad in the 1930s and I could never afford a proper pair of shoes, so I wore clogs. Me pals wouldn't let me play football with them 'cos they thought I'd burst their ball, kicking it with clogs. Then one of them said: "Arthur, you'd best go in goal, eh?"

They'd let me handle the ball, like, but they wouldn't let me kick it.

So that's how I started off goalkeeping. I've a lot to thank clogs for. The life I had. A lovely life. It all started with clogs.