Story of the power loom riots at Colne

A BEST-SELLER: Wilfred's "Mills of Colne", 1958. (S)
A BEST-SELLER: Wilfred's "Mills of Colne", 1958. (S)
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Regular readers of this column will recall my tribute to the late Wilfred Spencer.

Following that feature, Wilfred’s daughter, Frances, has forwarded to me a complete resume of her father’s life with some most interesting facts, which I felt warranted another column on the local historian, whose name lives on.

Firstly, a correction on Wilfred’s birthplace. I’ve always had it down as 46 Castle Road. However, Frances assured me her dear dad’s arrival in Bonnie Colne was at 29 Milton Road, the family moving to Castle Road some time later.

Wilfred won a scholarship to Colne Grammar School and during his years there developed a passion for woodwork, wanting to become a teacher of woodworking when leaving school. However, in 1934 at just 16, Wilfred began his first job as an assistant at Colne Public Library, in Albert Road.

On the outbreak of the Second World War, Wilfred became interested in the Quaker Movement, becoming a conscientious objector. However, in 1940 he was called up to Scotland for training in the medical corps and indeed Wilfred was most proud when in May, 1941, he was called on to guard the infamous Nazi leader Rudolf Hess (who had secretly flown to Scotland to negotiate a peace treaty) and brought him a urine bottle!

The rest of Wilfred’s army service was in India, returning to Colne in the summer of 1946.

For me, one of Wilfred Spencer’s greatest achievements was his dedicated research of Colne during the Power Loom Riots, as told so wonderfully well in Robert Neill’s best-selling 1958 book “Song of Sunrise”, with the paperback title of “The Mills of Colne”.

In this week’s picture, we see the cover of that classic book, in which he did so much to bring the Colne of the past into the present.