The day that Farington postman ‘caught the King’s eye’

Farington postman Hugh Cross
Farington postman Hugh Cross

Flashback takes an excerpt from historian Joan Langford’s book, ‘Lest we Forget’, about a postman from Farington who received a royal compliment from the King.

“Hugh Cross was born in 1862, the youngest of eight children of John and Betty Cross.

“The family lived on Fiddler Lane, Farington, where John was both a farmer of eight acres and also a ‘railway labourer’.

“It was not at all uncommon in the second half of the 19th century for men to have two jobs – to try to ‘make ends meet’, especially when they had a large family to look after. Betty also worked, as a ‘reeler’ at the nearby cotton mill.

“In June 1875, aged just 13, Hugh decided to join the Navy and was signed-on as a ‘boy able seaman’.

“His naval record shows that, over the course of the next 25 years, he served on some 30 different ships, rising through ranks with such strange sounding titles as ‘Captains Coxwain’, ‘Coxwain of the Barge’ and ‘Captain of the Mast’.

“In 1895 he became a Chief Petty Officer and his records say he was of ‘very good character’.

“Some ships he served on more than once, and one such was HMS Vernon which was originally a 50-gun frigate but by 1895 it had become a shore based establishment for torpedo training.

“In 1890 Hugh married local girl Margaret Culshaw and, with a family soon coming along, he decided to leave the Navy in 1900 (after 25 years’ loyal service), and settled for a life at home, as Farington’s postman.

“In all probability Hugh was one of the local postmen who cycled out, in all weathers, to Sod Hall Meanygate to deliver mail to the Roundhouse, Heath House and Sod Hall.

“In 1913 it was announced that King George V and Queen Mary would be visiting Preston on July 8 and as the day approached there was great excitement.

“Everyone who could possibly get to Preston made their way into town in the hopes of catching a glimpse of the Royal couple, and literally thousands of loyal subjects squeezed into the flag market where a ’dais’ had been erected in front of the Town Hall.

“In those days a Royal ‘Walk-about’ was completely unheard of, and nor was it usual for them to stop for casual chats with members of the public.

“When the speeches and loyal greetings had been delivered the King and Queen then went to the Bull & Royal Hotel for lunch.

“Postman Hugh, who had served under the King on HMS Vernon when he was still a Prince, was allowed to stand at the entrance to the hotel and, much to his surprise and delight, the usually shy King stopped and looked at him for a moment then said “I think you were in my fore turret” and then wished him well in his job as a postman.

“The headline in the Lancashire Daily Post the following day read “Postman Catches the King’s Eye”.

“In 1914, at the outbreak of WWI, Hugh re-enlisted and served for a further two years at the land- based HMS Vernon torpedo training centre. He died in May 1927 age 65.”