21 June 2005

Trip Down Memory Lane

BBC2 are repeating The Lost World of Mitchell and Kenyon. I know, I know, I can hear you cry "but it was only one a few months ago if that!" But I for one am glad they are repeating it, because the films themselves are of such ordinary subjects and their lives the programmes are showing a remarkable record of mostly Northern Edwardian life.

Some of my family come from Lancashire (not something you say loudly if you lived in Yorkshire for 15 odd years!). Preston though, not Blackburn but even if the buildings were different the culture was not, Wakes weeks, the factories and the mills, their workers the food and their lives, so the programme has resonance for me although my Great Grandmother grew up on a farm not in a mill town.

I've still got relatives all over Lancashire, when we lived in Yorkshire we would occasionally go over the Pennines to either visit cousins or to go to Tommy Ball's in Blackburn. Tommy Ball's sold cheap shoes in an old mill. All the pairs of shoes were linked together by string, not through the eyelets but through holes pierced through the heels. The pairs were then hung over long poles. Each floor of Tommy Ball's would be full of long poles with thousands of pairs of shoes hung over them, untangling a pair you were interested in was often a fustrating process. I can't remember if I ever got any shoes there I doubt it as they didn't cut the mustard fashion wise. The reason why they were cheap was because they were the end of lines, the unsold stock of a few years ago, the fashion mishaps - court shoes in camouflaged pattern anyone?. But they sold the suede desert boots my Dad liked and as he had size 11 feet he was always able to get a few pairs.

Outside the mill, they had a stall selling the typical examples of Lancastrian cuisine, meat and potato pies, sarsaparilla and dandelion and burdock fizzy drinks.

I haven't been back in over twenty years but I bet they still haven't shifted the camouflage court shoes though!

Gratuitous photo of Tom Finney in his prime with Preston North End for my Mum!


  1. I bought some camouflage court shoes once... Problem is, now I can't find em!

  2. Joanna No I can't believe it! these court shoes had little bows in camo pattern. You are too stylish surely?

  3. Nah... was joking... but they would be perfect for the 1st Battalion Transvestite Brigade: Airborne wing

  4. Mrs Triffid here, I remember Tommy Balls - the legend goes that he started off with a single stall on t'market in Blackburn followed by shops around North West into one of the millionaires of Blackburn - the other being the previous owner of B'burn Rovers. The main problem with Tommy Balls was that the shoes were all strung up with string which meant they drilled holes into the back of all the shoes - dead give away in playground! I also enjoyed the BBC TWO programme - being from near Blackburn - went down a storm at home. Regards, Mrs Triffid.

  5. Anonymous30 May, 2006

    I live in Lancashire and grew-up wearing Tommy Ball's Footwear, my mother always insisted. The holes in the backs of the shoes became quite a talking point. I still visit Tommy Ball's now following in my "mothers footsteps", purchasing shoes for my own children aswell as my self, things seemed to have changed lately, the strings have now gone and the thousands of "camouflaged court" shoes seem to have all but dissapeared. But I can honestly say along with all things LANCASHIRE there will always be TOMMY BALL'S.


  6. Thanks Maureen, I'm glad the camo court shoes have gone if only if it means future generations don't have to suffer the horror :-D