Exiled Valiant Barry Edge lives in Perth, Western Australia and is a regular columnist for onevalefan. This story tells, in part, of Barry’s Cellarhead schooldays sweetheart who lived in Dilhorne.
Dad had purchased the Rudge second hand from a mate at the Michelin and had ridden it all the way from Stoke to Bucknall. No mean feat really because he was early 40s at the time and the Rudge was not a full size treadly – as we used to call them. At the time my sister and I were in our early teens.
Prior to the Rudge I had tried to ride my second eldest brother’s fixed wheel racing bike. But I never could get the hang of it, falling off it more times than I care to admit. In the end my brother warned me away from his ‘racing machine’ – as he called it – under threat of dire consequences. Fortunately I was smart enough never to find out how dire his threat was.
The fact that the Rudge was a girl’s treadly didn’t bother me because it gave me mobility across the Trent valley and beyond. Mind you, my mates thought it funny that I rode my sister’s treadly. But we were true blue Valiants and, according to them, although they were allowed to enjoy a laugh at my expense others weren’t – especially strangers.
Compared to my brother’s light framed, lightweight racing bike the Rudge was all steel and very heavy. Perhaps as well because I had a few prangs on it. Towards the end of its useful life the front wheel was slightly buckled, permanently, and would incessantly scrape against the forks. But by then I was adept at using trains and buses to get in and around Staffordshire. That’s another story for another day perhaps.
My mates’ bikes included Phillips, Robin Hood, New Hudson, Humber and Raleigh. It was a time when repair kits were considered ‘on board’ essentials. These variously included a small tin of oil, carbide, extra batteries, a local map, inner tube repair patches, a small tube of glue, powdered chalk, a small tyre lever and spanner, cotter pins, and an assortment of nuts, bolts and washers, and with lights back and front plus personalised stencils on the framework we were aristocrats on two wheels.
It was posh being able to ride across country, up hill and down dale to the far reaches of the ‘Bucknall Empire’ – as we used to say. Places like Biddulph, Leek, Alsager, Dilhorne, Cheadle, Croxdon Abbey, Dilhorne, Barlaston, Stone, Dilhorne, Blythe Bridge, Draycott, Dilhorne, Upper Tean, Caverswall and Dilhorne.
Did I mention Dilhorne?
I will never need to be reminded of the girl from Dilhorne. But if I do I can go across town to East Perth, Western Australia where the name Dilhorne (minus the e) is emblazoned in large relief on the frontage of a building now owned by the Defence Service. But there was a time, mid nineteenth century, when a young man from Dilhorne emigrated from Stoke-on-Trent to Western Australia and later built, named and lived in that house he called Dilhorn.
We met at Cellarhead Secondary Modern School and would spend four years studying in the same groups and classrooms. She walked with poise and style, was always smartly dressed, and her Mona Lisa smile beguiled most boys to the point where some would trip over their tongue just trying to say hello to her. She would tease the blazes out of most of my school peers before glancing over her shoulder to cast a knowing smile in the direction of yours truly.
She lived with her folks in a small cottage in Dilhorne which, to a lad bedazzled by the attention given to him, seemed a million miles away. Our school buses were PMT, Proctors and Beresford. She came to school in a Bassett’s Coach – now there was posh. But then again, so did most of the other students from the villages and hamlets in and around Dilhorne.
It was the usual schoolroom behaviour of quickly scribbled notes passed via third parties saying how much we liked each other plus…erm…well you all know the stuff young sweethearts write and say to each other. Ah, the innocence of youth. Then one day I received a message, including directions, suggesting we meet the following Saturday. Wow!, I was almost speechless – at least momentarily. But my heart was fairly racing with the prospect of us being together out of school hours. It was Thursday and Saturday just couldn’t dawn quickly enough. And the big, big bonus?! Port Vale was playing away.
With a small gift of a box of chocolates tucked in my jacket pocket I rode my sister’s trusty Rudge all-steel bicycle like never before arriving with plenty of time to spare.
As instructed I waited at the agreed rendezvous. I waited and I waited. But still no heart’s amour. And whilst I waited I checked time and again that I was standing at the correct road junction. Yes, the signs were clear enough –Dilhorne Lane and Caverswall Road. By nightfall it had became blatantly clear there would be no secret meeting, and as the chill night air descended it was time for yours truly to make his way home via Dilhorne Lane, The Hollow, pass the high walls of Caverswall Castle, through Cookshill, Weston Coyney and Ubberley, then Bucknall.
My ego was well and truly wounded. My pride badly dented.
With the flame of eager excitement extinguished my journey home was made even more miserable when the night skies opened up and bucketed down the rain. And yet, had the rendezvous been successful the darkness, cold and rain would not have been a consideration.
I was not looking forward to seeing the girl from Dilhorne on Monday morning for it seemed to me that all and sundry would have heard that I had either been stood up, tricked or whatever, and would be laughing in my face. However, it was very much the opposite. In fact, a large slice of cold shoulder awaited me.
During the next few days the girl from Dilhorne neither spoke to me or acknowledged my furtive glances aimed in her direction, and when she did catch me looking towards her she simply snubbed her nose and turned her back to me. ‘Why?’ I kept asking myself, ‘Why had our budding romance wilted and died so quickly?’
Hurt and somewhat bewildered by the turn of events I confided in my best school mate, a Forsbrook boy, that it seemed to me that I was the injured party. He listened whilst I relived my sorry tale of being left high and dry at the junction of Dilhorne Lane and Caverswall Road. Then, somewhat surprisingly, he informed yours truly that he had heard a different version – one where I did not show. Indignantly I protested the truth of the matter, and even showed him the ‘invitation’ with its directions.
It seems folks that I had got it very, very wrong, and in hindsight I remember thinking to myself how silly it was that the meandering link from Caverswall to Dilhorne was named in reverse. That is: you leave Caverswall via Dilhorne Lane which, at the junction of Tickhill Lane, becomes Caverswall Road and continues on to the junction of Dilhorne Road – the place where my heart’s amour had been waiting.
My mate from Forsbrook offered, and then acted as a broker to promote my misunderstanding of the directions given, and to ask for a second chance for me to personally apologise and re-establish our friendship. Two days later he gave me a sealed envelope with the letters S.W.A.L.K. on the back – which meant she had sealed her letter with a loving kiss.
With my heart once more at a racing pace I opened and read her note. Yes, yes, yes!, I was forgiven. Plus there was a second invitation to meet the following Sunday with the rendezvous clearly marked and underlined…at the Junction of Caverswall Road and Dilhorne Road.
Although we were to drift apart when later she went to work and live in Stafford I can honestly say that the girl from Dilhorne will remain indelible on the tapestry of my youth.
See you later…
August 21, 2003