Friday Fictioneers : The passing of Boneshaker Bill




Boneshaker Bill, they called him.

Every weekday morning at five he would cycle along the cobbled streets of Ancoats on his way to the mill, bike frame rattling like a sack of old bones from the butcher. The noise would bounce from one gaunt terraced house to the next, jabbing at sooty windows, sneaking past nets to pull curses from those still lulled by sleep.

On the day Bill died, five workers were late clocking in at the Vulcan Works on Pollard Street, nine at the flint glass works.

Ancoats was a little quieter after that – some said a little greyer.


Written for Rochelle Wisoff-Field’s Friday Fictioneers. Use the photo to inspire you and visit here to share and read the other stories.

Ancoats is an area of Manchester in the north of England, once crammed with cotton mills and foundries, a hub of the Industrial Revolution. See here to learn more about the area.


75 thoughts on “Friday Fictioneers : The passing of Boneshaker Bill

    1. Thank you so much Helen! I do love a little grimy, industrial history – the toil and grimness make for the most interesting bits, don’t they? Having grown up not too far from Manchester and having lived in the city for a while too, I often feel the call of the soot stained stone, the limstone crags of the Derbyshire hills. Then I see the weather report and am glad I live in the South West now! 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Just went up north for a visit. Driving across the moors, the landscape is striking but all I could think was how tough must have been for people crossing them before the car was invented! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. It was, though we went through park I’ve used as a setting for my WIP and found I remembered it wrong – the bandstand’s on the opposite side of the river! My memory 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Excellente! Bravissimo! What a scene you’ve created for us. I can just hear the bike making its way down the cobblestones, and feel the bone jolting jerks as it goes. Great write! 🙂 ❤

    Liked by 1 person

      1. hey, if it works…. just sayin’. This morning, promptly at 0520 our resident red-winged blackbird woke me up, again. Every morning now for three weeks. Try that one. And, I still can’t hear the alarm clock buzz.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Well, at least something wakes you, even if it isn’t your alarm! I’ve lived in a city for years, but when I lived in the country with my dad I was alarmed by how noisy the dawn chorus was. Those birds didn’t hold back for anyone!

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    1. Oh my word, the din must have been terrific – wood and hobnails on cobbles! I like a rock band who originally came from Bradford and made a point of wearing proper, working man’s clogs on stage. As an item of footwear, they’ve never struck me as looking all that comfortable. Thanks so much Michael 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much Sandra. We loved in Manchester for a while and my son was born within view of Man City’s stadium, so we have a great fondness for the place 🙂


    1. Ha! How very true – their lives were hard beyond imagining, thankless and often short. I always think myself lucky to have been born where and when I was.


      1. Very true. Life (at least in this country) was not always better in the past in pretty much every way we can imagine. Even WWII, supposedly a time of great national unity, had huge murder rates. Using rose coloured spectacles is a misleading way to view the past.


      2. Thankfully we never had to find out, though the recent TV adaptation of Len Deighton’s SSGB gives interesting, if chilling possibilities


    1. Thank you so much, Louise. I enjoy writing that era, the late 19th / early 20th century, when our world is just emerging but there was still gas lighting and such terrible poverty and toshers and pure gatherers. Have a novel idea set in 19th C Manchester I’d love to get round to writing one day. I clearly read too much Dickens when I was younger!

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      1. Haha! I leaned towards darkness too 🙂 The story is half baked, but a strong idea I think. A street kid makes a very unusual friend on the back streets of Manchester – a friend with an interesting taste in jewellery and a lot less skin than most folk … I will write that one day – the characters live in my head 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I have a book here about England in the Victorian age, actually a compilation of essays from a number of more well-to-do writers who ventured into the poor side of town and recorded what they experienced and learned. Some of their works helped to change public perception about life on the other side of the tracks. But it’s a grim tale. Indescribable working conditions, poverty, starvation, oppression by landlords and such.

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      3. That sounds like a fascinating book. Many better off people saw how desperate life was for the urban poor and wanted to help. Dickens was a prime example. Interesting how philanthropic – though perhaps a tad patronising – many rich people were.


    1. Thanks so much Gabi. We did love Manchester when we lived there. It’s an old, lumbering giant of an ex industrial city reinvented into something quite modern and stylish with a fantastic night life! Not a bad city to live in.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Michael. You’re right. We certainly have plenty of characters round where we live and they’re often folk marginalised, a little odd or off kilter if harmless. But the world would be so much duller without them.


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