What to see
You’ll find accounts of Bolton’s tourist attractions in Towns of Two Halves (and of 91 other places: order the book now for £8 from firstname.lastname@example.org). For additional information plus shopping, eating out etc there’s Visit Bolton.
Comment and colour
This is the story of how Bolton Wanderers come to be known as The Trotters:-
Northerners are famously friendly and welcoming and will put the kettle on for a stranger at the drop of a hat. Remember that kettle – its part in the tale is not finished.
Northerners are also notoriously competitive, especially in local rivalries. For example, this is a chant said to have been heard at Spotland, Rochdale, to the tune of Que Sera Sera:
When I was just a little boy,
I asked my mother what would I be,
Should I be Bury, should I be Dale,
Here’s what she said to me.
“Clean your mouth out son,
Fetch your father’s gun,
Shoot the Bury scum,
Shoot the Bury scum.”
So a Bolton welcome to someone from a nearby town might not be joy unconfined. On the contrary, according to a painting in Bolton Museum, it could easily involve unpleasant deceptions. The picture records a trick played in the Swan Inn on a visitor from Rochdale.
The bet was simple: who could abide his leg in boiling water the longest, the Swan regular or the man from Rochdale? In the picture the Bolton man is calmly smoking a pipe. He looks a little like George Washington in Howard Chandler Christy’s Scene at the Signing of the Constitution of the United States, except that his right leg is in a bucket up to mid-calf level. His rival seems to be bearing the ordeal with fortitude but it looks as though he has only just plunged his foot into the bucket. The trick was that the local man had an artificial leg. And this was known as ‘trotting’.
As an explanation it sounds unpersuasive, doesn’t it? If the drinkers looked more ruffianly, you’d think it might disguise a more violent reception. Who in his right mind would put his foot anywhere near boiling water, whatever the bet, whatever the threat to civic pride? And why ‘trotting’ rather than ‘hopping’? It’s just as likely that some sort of forerunner to Only Fools & Horses (possibly involving Denzil) was enacted in the picture.
(This is an update from Towns of Two Halves. To read about other football towns, order the book for £8 from email@example.com)