The Third Leader: Pier pressure

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Striking workers. A no-nonsense, self-made employer who calls trades unionists "Communists" before going off on holiday. The ghosts of troubled mills and hard-hearted folk up at the big house. And where is this? Wigan. Perfect.

Poor old Wigan. That George Orwell has a lot to answer for. And those other Georges, Formby père et fils, who made a joke and a fair bit of money out of the old place. Try as it might, Wigan is stuck with its teased past, along with Bognor Regis, Tunbridge Wells, Cheltenham and Cleethorpes. And Mr David Whelan, strikebound supremo of JJB Sports, and the Wigan soccer and rugby clubs, although a benevolent figure in some, other ways, doesn't help much.

Down in this space, we like to. So, another attempt to alert you to the real Wigan. Sir Ian McKellen grew up there, you know. The Romans lived there in some style, too. According to reasonably reliable chronicles, King Arthur fought several battles in its defence. Indeed, Whitaker, the 18th century historian, argued that Sir Lancelot was not from France, but from nearby Ince (although when I inquired about this once at Ince Library, they said "it doesn't seem to ring any bells with anybody").

How am I doing? Sorry? Pies? A much-exaggerated taste; and, besides, you will do better with Pimbletts, from St Helens. But in Leigh, part of the borough, Patak's have the largest Indian food factory in the world. And food brings me to what we call "the killer fact": the Asda in Wigan sold 2,016 oysters last week. Thank you.

PS: Cheltenham can be a bit rough these days, apparently.

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