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Wigan was as real then as Weatherfield isn’t now. Naughty lads and lissome lasses made love in the churchyard beneath the falling snow. Boys on trolleys terrorized rush hour bus queues. Brainy but puny, the Millgate gang challenged the Lodgers, brawny but thick, and a phantom rabbit stalked the cobbles.


A true story from A Rocket for the Lodgers


Jimmy and I had already rehearsed our attack. On the word of command, he would go down on one knee and I would rest the home-made Rocket Launcher on his shoulder before striking the match and lighting the blue touch paper. A rocket of this enormous size, launched into the heart of the opposition’s unlit bonfire, would set it on fire without the possibility of error. The plan seemed fool proof and all might have gone well if the Lodgers had not taken it into their heads to mount a simultaneous raid on our bonfire site.

Deployed in open order, and shaking with nerves, we had reached the mid-point of Harrogate Street, within two hundred yards of their bonfire, when the Lodgers suddenly debouched from a side alley in a shambling column and converged on us at their usual whooping run. It was still too far for a feasible attempt on their piled-up combustibles, and I knew that if they closed with us, they would paint the cobbles with our blood. So I took a split-second decision to take a pot shot, not at their bonfire, but at them.

‘Kneel!’ Like a seasoned rocketeer, Jimmy went down on one knee.


I fumbled with the matches.

A sputter. 

An agonizing moment as the tiny flame hesitated, caught the blue touch paper, and grew into smouldering life.

A fizz.

Then a glorious WHOOSH as the rocket leapt from the launcher.

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