The Honeysuckle Inn stands in the shadows of two former industrial giants, Trencherfield Mill and Swan Meadow Mill or Eckersley’s. It’s as working class as they come and hundreds of former mill workers must have frequented its doors since it was built in 1850. They are certain to have had a thirst for a pint or two after working in the noise and heat of the mills. The biggest threat though came from the cotton that swirled through the air like deadly white snow.
My Dad worked in both those mills and I can still recall waiting for him at the top of Miry Lane Wallgate when I was a lad of around 8yr old. He would be covered in bits of cotton, on his clothes and in his hair. He wasn’t a great one for the ale but he had a drink now and again and I’d like to think he visited the Honeysuckle on the odd occasion.
Last Friday evening I paid a rare visit to the old establishment to watch The Empty Seats perform. I could hear them from three streets away as they rehearsed upstairs in the pub. It was early and the only customers in the place were congregated around the bar like survivors clinging to a lifeboat. One of them was resplendent in a Warriors shirt and I thought he’d be the first one they’d eat if they don’t find land soon.
Thankfully this cannibalistic thought was interrupted by the sight of Bernard Ramsdale’s cheerful grin and hand shake. We went upstairs to watch the band finish their warm up set on the very spot that the Verve played at for the first time in August 1990. As the band struggled to carry their equipment down the narrow staircase, myself, Jimmy and Bernard pretended not to notice and chatted away about the forthcoming gig and future fundraising events.
The Empty Seats played another warm up song downstairs to check the sound was ok and then disappeared outside to take in some fresh air. The pub had begun to fill up now and the band re-emerged from their outside sabbatical to perform their first ever set. The nerves that had been there before, lead singer Bernard was never off the bog that day, were blasted away in seconds of them performing. They grew in confidence with each passing song and the appreciative audience played their part by responding with warm enthusiasm.
The band played to a background of latics flags and a homemade “Empty Seats” banner that somehow summed up this brash, loud and proud group. Passion, pride, history and love runs through their debut album. My personal favourite “Sit Down” almost brings a tear to my eye as the lads sing about our history, the cup ties, the giant killing, the heroes, it’s all there. Be proud of your team and don’t listen to the ignorant with their constant “You have no history” carping.
“The Team I Love” and “This is my Team” will make your chest swell and gird your loins for the battles to come this season and every other season to come. “Ronnie Stam” may be a bit part player this season but he’s honoured with his own song on the album. The lively “Torquay Promotion Party” is a real crowd pleaser and the gangs of Kitt Green, Norley Hall, Scholes, Lower Ince and Whelley all get a mention! “We Live in Mudhuts” will surely be picked up by the East Stand massive as a regular chant and deservedly so!
The band also played a couple of extra tracks including one from Wigan’s very own “The Tansads” Ed Jones will be well pleased with that one. A cracking night and if you’re going in the supporters club on Sunday then I’m sure you’ll have a great time and the band will get you in the right mood for our must win game.
I started this review by telling you a little about my Dad. He introduced me to the latics and my son now follows in our footsteps. The song “500 Miles” tells the story of this ritual that runs through football and our club in this instance and includes the lyrics “This was his team, this is my team, it’s the team my father gave to me”
Fathers and Sons…
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