There is no pier in Wigan

Wow, three days in a row! That’s because this is all still new but don’t expect me to keep up this pace!

During one of my visits to the UK in 2001, I think it was, I stayed with a friend in Chorlton, just outside Manchester city centre.  I made plans to visit another friend in Liverpool and see a few of the sights there. But Sod’s Law came into play (like Murphy’s Law but more personalized, that is, “it’s just my typical luck”).

A rainy day in Manchester on the M56

I was not really familiar with the city centre of Manchester, this being only my second visit to the city and not really having much of a chance to spend much time in it the first visit other than to visit some shops. I received instructions as to how to find my way to Piccadilly station from the big bus terminal and told my friend I’d be on the train that left here at 9:37. It takes about 45 minutes to Lime Street Station in Liverpool. Good so far.

The bus to the city centre was late. And naturally when I got off the bus, the heavens opened and I got wet. I hurried along and found the train station. Oh Hell! The ticket machines were either out of order or I didn’t have enough change and there was a long queue at the ticket windows.

I got the day return ticket but the platform was way the back of beyond, up and over a walkway. I finally arrived at the platform to see a train, my watch indicating it was about 38 seconds before the 9:37  departure so I hopped on and found a seat, and tried to rearrange my damp hair, purse, bag with the gifts that I had brought for my friend.

Oh Hell! The ticket machines were either out of order or I didn’t have enough change and there was a long queue at the ticket windows. I got the day return ticket but the platform was way the back of beyond, up and over a walkway. I came down to the platform to see a train, my watch indicating it was about 38 seconds before departure so I hopped on and found a seat, and tried to rearrange my damp hair, purse, bag with the gifts that I had brought for Phil.

About 10 minutes after the train pulled away, the conductor came around and inspected my ticket. He frowned. Oh don’t tell me I’m on the wrong train!!! Well.. he started, you *can* get to Liverpool on this train but you’ll have to change at Wigan!

That’s not all, apparently I also have to change train STATIONS! But.. but… It seems there are lots of trains that pass through that back-of-beyond platform and later on when I checked my notebook, I had written down that the train should be green and say something about a Central line on it. Which this one wasn’t and didn’t.

*SIGH* I sat there stressed, wet, and chilled. If there’s one thing I HATE is being late and it *always* happens when there’s someone waiting for me at the other end!!! Sod’s Law. Mobile phones being relatively scarce so far in Halifax, mainly being used by business folk on the whole (this was 2001, remember) I really didn’t have much reason to have one and many of my British friends still didn’t have one either, including the friend I was meeting.

I had about 20 minutes to run across the road in Wigan to the other station. I tried calling from a pay phone but of course he had already left for Lime Street. The damp clothing wasn’t the only thing causing steam to rise off my body! Nobody’s fault of course, not even mine really. I was at the  correct platform, the time was correct and there was a train ready to leave. It was a reasonable assumption. If I had taken the time to ask someone, Sod’s Law again would have come into play and it would have been the right train and by stopping to ask, it probably would have left without me in those 37 precious seconds! That actually might have been preferable as trains to Liverpool were 3 or 4 an hour and I wouldn’t have been that late arriving at the other end. Live and learn.

This little detour made me 45 minutes late though I knew he wouldn’t leave the station without me. He didn’t and he wasn’t too concerned at all. Later when someone later asked me if I had seen the Pier in Wigan, I was a bit disappointed I’d missed it. How was I supposed to know “Wigan Pier” was a fictitious town described in the book “The Road to Wigan Pier”?

Wikipedia says: “The name Wigan Pier was possibly invented by and was brought to popular attention by George Formby, Sr. in the Music Halls of the early twentieth century and later by George Formby, Jr. who incorporated it into his songs. Someone looking out of an excursion train to Southport in the fog and seeing a coal gantry asked “Where are we?” and was told “Wigan Pier”

Between the book and the running Formby joke, it’s part of the urban legend in the northwest and that’s where my friends must have picked up and ran with the teasing!

Wigan itself was a town built around the coal industry and was historically quite unattractive and not very wealthy. The original pier was likely a dock for the ships transporting coal on the canal though it’s long gone now. The canal area around where the pier used to be is now being built back up and gentrified with cafes, posh condos, shops and the like. It’s quite an old town and these days might not be such a bad place to visit though it wouldn’t really be high on most tourists’ list of places to see, not as it’s that close to Liverpool which has much more to occupy you.

That reminds me. I must get back to Liverpool again. My day visit on that rainy day 11 years ago really did only skim the surface though we did at least get a tour on the Liverpool Yellow Duckmarine!

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