The (Original) Wigan Pier Website

Like the coal mining industry of old Lancashire — hell, like the coal mining industry of modern anywhere — there's not a lot left of the original riches of years past, website-ly speaking. But a journey on the Internet's “Wayback Machine” did yield a decent seam of old material. Below, click through the remains of that old website. Navigate your way through the major topics covered in the play and have a look at those who made it all happen, back in the heady days of ’04.

👉 Click here to learn more about the 2019 semi-reboot of this storied ol’ theatrical affair.


Research about several and sundry subjects covered in the making of the original The Road to Wigan Pier.

👉 Orwell

👉 Wigan

👉 Mining

👉 Football

👉 Trade Unions

👉 Working Men’s Clubs


Those what helped put the original The Road to Wigan Pier on the boards of the old 7th Street Working Men’s Club — from the players to the backers to the fillers — and a wee bit more information about the songs, films and writing. Plus, the uncategorizable stuff found only on your local “slag-heap.”

👉 Songs

👉 Film

👉 Script

👉 Workers

👉 Slag-Heap

👉 The End of the Road

Sing along to the songs of The Road to Wigan Pier


George Orwell was the pen name of Eric Blair, the English novelist, journalist, essayist and iconoclastic socialist.

Orwell was born in June 1903 in Bengal, India, where his father worked in The Opium Department of the British Raj. His mother took the children back to England the following year and Orwell saw his father only once in the next seven years. A sickly child, Orwell was unhappy at prep school, but won scholarships to Wellington and Eton. His generally miserable school experiences are recalled in his essay “Such, Such Were the Joys” (1947).

Orwell ranked low in his Eton class and did not win a scholarship to Oxbridge, so at age 19 he went to Burma. Five years as a member of the Imperial Indian Police provided material for Burmese Days (1934).

In 1928, Orwell spent a year and a half living among the most destitute of his own culture, which became the basis of the book Down and Out in Paris and London. When publishers rejected the manuscript, he asked a friend to destroy it and save the paper clips. Instead, she took it to a literary agent and the book was expanded and published in 1933.

Orwell’s next books were A Clergyman’s Daughter (1935) and Keep The Aspidistra Flying (1936). Following that, he was commissioned by the Left Book Club to write about the English unemployed — a project that eventually resulted in The Road to Wigan Pier (1937). That year he also married Eileen O’Shaughnessy.

Following his journey to Wigan, Orwell went to Spain to fight with the anti-fascists, an experience which impressed him vividly with socialism’s great hope and equally great potential for abuse. He was wounded and escaped back to England where he wrote his account of his experiences, Homage to Catalonia (1938).

Orwell wanted to fight in World War II but was found unfit due to tuberculosis he had acquired in 1938. He and his wife adopted a son in 1944, the same year he wrote Animal Farm. Eileen died during an operation in 1945. Orwell moved to an island off the Scottish coast where, in 1946, he wrote 1984, his best-known anti-totalitarian novel. The Scottish climate aggravated his tuberculosis, making him ill and gloomy. He remarried in 1946 and died in January 1950.

Learn more about George Orwell

The archived website The Chestnut Tree Café devoted to exploring the life, times and work of the English novelist and journalist Eric Arthur Blair.

Orwell E-texts Online. Warning!!! This site is not meant for US access.

Students for an Orwellian Society: a nationwide student group whose (one assumes) parody site hits much too close to home. (Last updated in February 2016, after which one imagines they may have downed tools for good.)

👉 Back to the top

Sing along to the songs of The Road to Wigan Pier


Chartered since 1246, Wigan is one of the oldest towns in England. When George Orwell visited in 1936, it was a Lancashire coal town, population 87,000, but hard hit by the worldwide depression. Thousands of miners were out of work. Orwell estimated that “ at any moment more than one person in three out of the whole population — not merely the registered workers — is either drawing or living on the dole.”

Today Wigan, which sits halfway between Liverpool and Manchester on the Leeds and Liverpool canal, is a city of over 300,000 people with an economy based on a variety of industries, including electrical engineering, mail order and paper and textile manufacturing. The city is also famous as the home of Uncle Joe’s Mint Balls.

At Wigan’s peak as a coal town in the late 19th century, there were over 1,000 pit shafts within five miles of the town center. There isn’t a single pit there now. The last Wigan pit was closed in 1992.

Learn more about Wigan

Wiganworld is a very useful page built by a Wigan native for “Wiganers home and away,” including current and historical photos of the town, facts, timelines, local cemetery indices and an amusing dialect page.

And, of course, no mention is complete without a link to Wigan Athletic Football Club — up The Latics!

👉 Back to the top

Sing along to the songs of The Road to Wigan Pier


Romans in Britain probably used coal, although they did no extensive mining. In Wigan, informal coal mining can be traced back to the 1300s, but did not become profitable until the 1600s and was not a major industry until the 19th century (when Wigan was briefly known as “Coalopolis”). After shocking working conditions were exposed in 1842, causing a nationwide scandal, women and children were forbidden to work underground. But women continued to work, either below ground dressed as men, or as “pit brow lasses” above ground.

By 1900, over one million miners were working in the United Kingdom. Wigan alone had 32,000 coal miners in 1912. Mining was dangerous, and a thousand miners died every year in the UK even as late as the 1930s and 1940s.

In 1947, British coal mining was nationalized. British coal mining was cut back drastically in the late 20th century; the 1984 – 1985 miners’ strike offered the Tory government the excuse it needed to accelerate pit closures (as well as tear apart Britain’s once-powerful trade unions). In 2004, only 13 working coal mines remained in England.

Learn more about mining

The Northern Mine Research Society is dedicated to the preservation and recording of the British mining history (coal and other industries). Lots of material here.

The Northern Mine Research Society’s map of coal mining in the British Isles (archived in 2015).

Even more material at the Mining Institute — the world’s oldest professional mining organization, dedicated to the professions of mining engineering, mechanical engineering, mining electrical engineering and related professions.

The story of British coal mining, told through BBC radio and TV broadcasts from the last 70 years and a gallery of images from the 1930s.

Archived website of the Coal Mining History Resource Center — includes a database of UK mining deaths and disasters, texts online, information on women in the pits, a glossary of mining terms, a collection of mining poems and much more.

Archived page of photographs of a 1908 Wigan pit disaster, in which a mine caught fire, killing 70 men.

Many more archived coal mining prints and photos.

👉 Back to the top

Sing along to the songs of The Road to Wigan Pier


What may have begun as a bunch of Genghis Khan’s soldiers celebrating victory with an amusing little battlefield kick-around — using enemy skulls — has evolved over the years into “the beautiful game,” played or watched by billions of people all over the planet.

For a game of football you need a ball, a field (a “pitch”) up to 100 – 130 yards long by 50 – 100 yards wide, two teams comprised of ten outfield players and a goalkeeper, all overseen by a referee. Teams try to outscore each other in a game that combines skill, power, stamina, intellect, guts and luck. All you really need is a bit of open land and a ball: the beautiful game has found a home on sandlots in impoverished African villages, on the beaches of Brazil, on urban streets, in the temple-like stadiums of the major teams around the world and on innumerable suburban pitches where youngsters hone their skills in the hopes of becoming the next Pelé, Beckenbauer, Maradonna, Messi or Robbie Fowler.

The English lay claim to having created football, “soccer” in America, and the first governing body of the sport, the English Football Association (F.A.), was founded in 1863, establishing rules for the game. In 1871 the F.A. founded a knock-out competition — the prestigious F.A. Cup. In 1888, twelve English teams started The Football League, which formalized the football season, each team playing each other twice for the right to be called the best in the land.

It didn’t take long for football to cross the English Channel to Europe and then continue its march across the globe. Practically every country on earth has a professional league and cup competition. And every four years, each member country of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association, better known by its acronym, FIFA (there are more members of FIFA than there are of the United Nations), attempts to win the World Cup: a tournament of national teams that crowns the best team in the world. France is the current men’s champion (having won the competition twice; Brazil is the undisputed king of the sport, having won five World Cup competitions); the United States currently boasts one of the world’s best women’s soccer team. The U.S. men...not so much.

Learn more about football

Scroll down to the “History” section on the English FA’s “What We Do” page, which offers a history of the game from the perspective of the world’s oldest football association.

Youngsters grew up reading of the heroic exploits of long-time comic book footballing hero Roy of the Rovers, sadly now out of publication.

A font of up-to-date information from some of the best football writers in the business can be found at The Guardian Unlimited Football Page — especially worth reading is their often amusing daily email The Fiver, the Guardian’s “tea-time take on the world of football.”

And if you want to enjoy grass roots footie, beyond the extortionate ticket prices and exorbitant salaries and corruption in the highest places, take a look at When Saturday Comes.

👉 Back to the top

Sing along to the songs of The Road to Wigan Pier


Before the rise of British trade unions, there were few ways for workers to ensure that they were earning fair pay for a fair day’s labor in safe working conditions. The ruling classes sought to stymie socialist tendencies at every turn, yet the desire to find ways of working together for the good of their communities led many to march towards unionization. In the 17th century proto-socialists, the Diggers, and 100 years later Thomas Paine in his book, “The Rights of Man,” offered examples to the working class of the possibilities of what a truly democratic world might offer.

In the 18th and early 19th centuries, combinations and friendly societies were formed (often secretively due to the ruling classes’ contempt and fear) where groups of workers could meet and examine ways to make their lot better. Repeatedly, Parliament acted against such collective organizations. History is littered with Combination Acts (1799, 1825) and Trade Union Acts (1871, 1927), designed to crush worker organizations. But the movement couldn’t be stopped.

By the 1860s the Trades Union Congress was established — an annual meeting of all sorts of groups representing workers in all sorts of industries. The TUC pressed for positive change for the working class. Workers’ rights often intersected with other progressive movements: women’s suffrage, state-supported education, health care and so on.

By the early 20th century, the TUC had spawned the Labour Party, and unions were growing in power. Organized labor suffered a huge setback in its ability to support its striking members, when, after a General Strike brought the country to a temporary standstill in 1926, Parliament enacted the Trade Disputes and Trade Union Act of 1927, forbidding one union to go on strike in sympathy with striking workers from another union. In the 1970s, unions began to flex their muscles again — with some union leaders wielding too much power, toppling governments with their strike actions. But the rise of Margaret Thatcher turned the tide once more in favor of the ruling classes, and today unions have seen their effectiveness decline.

Learn more about trade unions

A history of the UK Trade Union Congress (TUC) told through several key moments and movements on the TUC History Online site, including documents, reports, cartoons, photographs and more.

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) represented an active membership of about 170,000 mineworkers in 1981 but only 100 in 2015.

The British Trades Union Congress.

👉 Back to the top

Sing along to the songs of The Road to Wigan Pier


The original production of The Road to Wigan Pier, A (Socialist) etc., was set in a working men’s club. Such clubs emerged in England in the 1840s as part of the “rational recreation” movement, which also promoted parks, circulating libraries, public lectures and other alternatives to gambling and drinking for the middle and working classes. Henry Solly, the Unitarian minister who founded the The Working Men’s Club and Institute Union in 1862, was a dedicated teetotaler. He hoped that working men’s clubs would draw laboring men away from pubs; but the clubs were not successful until he reluctantly permitted beer to be sold in 1865.

In the late 19th century, members increasingly resented the fact that most of the clubs were run buy middle- and upper-class people for the benefit of the working class. By the 20th century, however, most clubs were run largely by their own working-class members. Many still do not allow women to serve on their governing councils.

Although Solly had grand plans for the clubs as centers for self-education and politics, they now function mostly as community centers for games, drinks and entertainment by “artistes” who travel the club circuit. The 90s pop band The Verve, which was formed in Wigan, got its start at working men’s clubs in that area.

Learn more about working men’s clubs

A history of Henry Solly and the Working Men’s Club and Institute Union.

Henry Solly’s review of the origin and nature of working men’s clubs and institutes.

Henry Solly’s prospectus for the working men’s clubs and institute union.

Working men’s clubs and the music hall tradition. A good site for first-person memories of WMCs, too.

A list of typical weekly events at the Rosegrove Unity Working Men’s Club in Burnley, a town near Wigan.

👉 Back to the top

Sing along to the songs of The Road to Wigan Pier


Mr. P penned all the tunes you hear in the show, except “Dark as a Dungeon,” which was written by Merle Travis in 1947.

Below, a quick note as to the inspiration for the songs, or at least a hint at what they are (supposed to be) about. [ 2019 note: if Mr. P can get himself properly sorted out, there will be some rehearsal quality MP3s of the songs posted here. Some day. ]

Once Upon a Times

👉 Click here for the lyrics

“In the metabolism of the Western world, the coal miner is...a sort of grimy caryatid upon whose shoulders nearly everything that is not grimy is supported.”

— George Orwell, The Road to Wigan Pier

A Quick One (A Row-House Made of Brick)

👉 Click here for the lyrics

“The front houses give on the street and the back ones on the [alley], and there is only one way out of each house...The lavatories are in the [alley] at the back, so that if you live on the side facing the street, to get to the have to go out the front door and walk round the end of the block — a distance that may be as much as 200 yards; if you live at the back, on the other hand, your outlook is on to a row of lavatories.”

— George Orwell, The Road to Wigan Pier

Cheap Luxuries

👉 Click here for the lyrics

“You may have three ha’pence in your pocket and not a prospect in the world, and only the corner of a leaky bedroom to go home to; but in your new clothes you can stand on the street corner, indulging in a private daydream of yourself as Clark Gable or Greta Garbo, which compensates you a great deal.”

— George Orwell, The Road to Wigan Pier

The Nation’s Shopkeeper

👉 Click here for the lyrics

“Ladies and gentlemen, I stand before you tonight in my red chiffon evening gown, my face softly made up, my fair hair gently waved...the Iron Lady of the Western World!”

— Margaret (spit!) Thatcher, 1976

You Won’t Know Me

👉 Click here for the lyrics

“Nowhere is the closure of a pit anything but an economic and social disaster in the locality and beyond...The pit is the heart of a mining community, and its whole reason for being; when it stops beating, life slowly ebbs away.”

— “The Social Impact of Pit Closure”: report 1992

(But There Isn’t Any) Wigan Pier

👉 Click here for the lyrics

“Mr. Orwell was set down in Wigan for quite a while and it did not inspire him with any wish to vilify humanity. He liked Wigan very much — the people, not the scenery.”

— George Orwell, The Road to Wigan Pier

Dark as a Dungeon

Our “cover” tune (music and lyrics, Merle Travis). Travis’s father was a Kentucky coal miner who urged his son not to follow his line of work. Travis wrote this song in 1947.

👉 Back to the top

Sing along to the songs of The Road to Wigan Pier

“A Short History of Coal and Coal Mining in England”

We were chuffed to present this trailer for our wee production. Created by Lowell Bartholomee, the trailer debuted to great acclaim at our June 23, 2003 fundraiser. The (finished) film was a highlight of our 2004 production, and clips will appear on this site, as if by magic, as we get closer to...*

*That, of course, did not happen. Hey, we were working! We had a play to put on!

👉 Back to the top

Sing along to the songs of The Road to Wigan Pier

An Excerpt fromThe Road to Wigan Pier:
A (Socialist) Tea-Time Travelogue & Historical Musical Revue

MC. Ladies and gentlemen, once more we give you, “Our Beloved North.”

[Pause. Indecision. Shyness.]

MC. I’m waiting...

GARRY. Tonight, you’ll get all cozy with North of England and th’unemployed working-class men and women who live ’ere.

MC. Can’t really avoid ’em, I’m afraid. Who’s next?


MC. Anyone?

JEFFERY. [Clears throat.] We’ll take a train ride through beautiful countryside. Ta daa!

MC. Well done, yes, yes. Next!

BRENT. Uh...You’ll see all manner of colorful local characters.

MATT. That were a good’un.

[General agreement.]

MC. Do you want a medal? Keep going.

KEN. You’ll see us willfully ignoring our poverty in pursuit of Cheap Luxuries.

DRUMMER. [Offers the BASSIST a small bag of sweets.] Chocolate?

BASSIST. [Takes one from the bag.] Oh, ta.

BRAD. And if you’re very, very good, we’ll all take a romantic stroll down Leeds & Liverpool Canal to visit world-famous Wigan Pier.

ACTORS. You’ll love it. Quite a sight, tha’. Aye. Oh, aye. [etc. Some of the lads snicker quietly.]

MC. Aye, aye, you. Stick to the script. [Steps back in to take control. Addresses audience.] I trust you’ve purchased plenty of raffle tickets for the fabulous “Dinner for Two and a Movie” we’ll be giving away at ’alftime.


MATT. Is it me?

MC. Yes, yes, it’s you.

MATT. Sorry. Later, we’ll take you on a tour down a coal mine where you’ll see us at work.

GARRY. We’ll even give you a taste of local Lancashire accent.

JEFFERY. Say something to nice people in stalls, Brad.

BRAD. [Thinks.] Ah’ve no ad job since ah wur bu’ lad.

[A translation is projected on an upstage scrim: “I haven’t been gainfully employed since I was seventeen.”]

MC. Confusin’, in’tit? Well, don’t worry, we’ll be having a quick lesson shortly, to help you better understand beauty — poetry — of Lancashire accent, or as we lefties like to call it:

[MC prompts ensemble; they sound as if they’ve heard this one a million times.]

ALL. [Glumly.] Dialectic.

MC. Smile for the ladies, lads — ladies like a man with a charming smile. Oh, never mind. Carry on!

Excerpt copyright 2002, 2003 Robi Polgar. All rights reserved.

👉 Back to the top

Sing along to the songs of The Road to Wigan Pier


By “Workers” of course, we mean everyone what mucked in to make the original 2004 production such a raging success.

2019 Editor’s note: There’s a lot of verbiage here, I know. And I loaded it all, this “Who’s Who” of (the original) Wigan Pier, because this ENTIRE lot deserve some serious kudos. And, if you will indulge me a moment, I want to send a special shout-out to Dr. David Nancarrow, who left us for the brighter lights of the after-life just weeks ago. He was my professor when I was a graduate student at UT; he was a friend and comrade during those frantic creative years and well after; and, for this Wigan escapade, he truly mucked in — hand-crafting shit (we built all sorts of tech stuff in the man’s driveway that fall of 2003), climbing rickety ladders, giving advice and (best of all) telling stories. You’ll note that this re-boot is dedicated to him because he is (still) a special presence in the life of this show and in my own meagre existence. To David. Cheers, lad! (And now back to the 2004 verbiage...)

What did it take to put together a top-flight team for a production such as this? (Uh, the headline should give you a bit of a hint...)

It took racing the clock to beat last-minute trading deadlines, all-night negotiations with expensive lawyers, secret meetings with nefarious agents, padded travel expense accounts, ridiculously lavish gifts. It didn’t get more complicated than that when putting together a world-class team like we ’ad at the 7th Street Working Men’s Club. And well worth it, it was. Lifted the cup, we did! (Editor: do all Lancastrians speak like Yoda?)

Okay, okay, so most of this lot said they’d pity me and work the show, so long as they came away with more than a beer-soaked rag. (Ed. — Oh dear, they didn’t even get a beer-soaked rag!)

Never mind. Just take a look at this veritable Who’s Who of local talent that mucked in on the project (thank you, all!).

Let’s start with...

The team behind the team

We scoured Central Texas to find a nearly all-English or of-English-descent creative team for this Lancashire dance of dearth. Be impressed, won’t you? We are! (Interestingly enough, we discovered over the course of the play that several of us are connected to miners or mining villages across Europe and the U.S. The black stuff flows through us it does!)

Costumes — Ms. Buffy Manners
Lights — Dr. David Nancarrow
Sets, Props, Makeup — Señor Marco Noyola
Film & Visual Media — Mr. Lowell Bartholomee
Sound — Mr. Polgar (with help from the Gunn Bros.) I would like, at this juncture, to remind everyone of the good and gracious work of one Mr. Jimy Gunn, also alas no longer with us in the corporeal realm, but most certainly making sure we hear the best sound mix this earth-bound existence affords us mere mortals. Rest in Peace, lad!
Choreography — Ms. Jillian Ardoin
Dramaturg — Ms. Kathy Catmull
Dialect Coach — Ms. Bernadette Nason
Production Stage Manager — Mr. Andrew Smith
Director — Mr. Polgar (also “The Gaffer”)

The team

Below, read all about our on-the-pitch squad of hard workers with this handy-dandy in-no-way-have-we-altered-the-facts-whatsoever biography section.

A few likely lads
Mr. Paul Norton as your Master of Ceremonies
Mr. Gray G. Haddock as Our George Orwell
Mr. John McNeill as the Referee

Dig They Must: The Miners
Mr. Garry Peters
Mr. Brad Carlin
Mr. Brent Werzner
Mr. Ken Bradley
Mr. Matt Hislope
Mr. Jeffery Mills

Give a shout for Wigan’s whimsical warblers, The Late Joys
Mr. David Jones — guitars & vocals
Mr. Gordon Gunn — bass & vocals
Mr. Steve Hopkins — drums & vocals
Mr. Robi Polgar — guitars & vocals

The Tea Ladies of the 7th Street Working Men’s Club
Serving hot tea and good cheer on cold winter nights, these charming dears warmed yer cockles, aye, indeed. Steady on there, lad!
Ms. T. Lynn Mikeska
Ms. Maggie Gallant

Mr. Paul Norton
Paul (aka Paul Roberts) began his career as a trainee for Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Arts in London, following a schoolboy stint with his hometown Leicester City. Although never a winner of European football’s coveted Golden Boot, he has had an eerily similar experience, having been kicked out of his most recent employment situation, whereupon he was picked up on a free transfer to play for Texas Workforce Commission. There he operates in a defensive role (hell, who doesn’t for TWC?) with a few million other veterans of what the administration likes to belittle “the current economic slump” but what we like to think of as a conveniently timed throwback to the good old days of the Depression, when our play is set.

Paul has also had played a variety of positions for The State Theater, including Sir George Crofts (midfield) in Mrs. Warren’s Profession and more recently as Arthur “Shanked It” Kipps in The Woman In Black, as well as Soapy Smith, The Lovable Tramp(r), in The Gifts of the Magi, where he reconnected with manager Robi "The Gaffer" Polgar and hurt his back — the two are not necessarily connected. Paul’s career includes an earlier stint with The Gaffer, playing the deranged goalkeeper for King Lear United (record: 0 wins, 38 losses; goals for 16, goals against 212).

In his off seasons (and face it, who hasn’t had an off season or two?) Paul has been spied quaffing ale and smoking Silk Cut cigarettes at his local WMC, the Braunstone & District Working Men’s Club, where he’s a fully paid up member. Paul collects union memberships like some collect butterflies, and has at one time or another donned the red jerseys of NATKE and British Actors’ Equity (where he went a whole season on the bench), as well as BAE’s sister squad, Actors’ Equity Association F.C. Always a "player’s player," Paul urges his teammates to unionize, even in a “right to work” state such as Texas, where it may be right but there’s nay much work.

Mr. Gray G. Haddock
Gray, though never “downsized” (ladies, be warned), walks the knife’s edge of local high-tech employ like a swashbuckling swordsman armed only with Elgin link sausages and a “Live Music Capital of the World” utility bill envelope. Early promise on the pitch included a stint for The Gaffer as the swashmanling swordsbuck, Hotspur (ladies, be warned), in the semi-outdoor league of the rather chant-like yet numerically challenged 1, 2, Henry IV. He also played a variety of positions in The Gaffer’s record breaking (budgetary) final game in charge of UT Master’s Thesis (North) End’s slightly less lengthy, Oh, What A Lovely War, where everyone sat on the bench for the dour scoreless draw (ask Michael Barnes).

Gray has lately played the specialty literary position of “prominent writer” for a variety of local clubs, including the highly suspect money-grubbing James Joyce at Travesties Town before signing on here. Not content to merely play a writer on the pitch, Gray does his own writing, but the tabloids just aren’t biting yet. More Page 3, Gray, lad (ladies, be warned).

Between early promise and current form, Gray dropped completely out of sight — or he went to Dallas (is there a difference?) — where he is said to have donned the haunted black jersey of Undermain United on loan (yes, he gave it back). Most recently, he served as assistant manager to Mrs. The Gaffer, for the stunningly brilliant cup run of The Woman In Black. Could a career in management be far away? Not in this play, laddy!

Mr. John McNeill
John has been aping English referees since before you were born, mate, his Anglo-centricity leading to spells giving little toots on his whistle for the likes of the Austin Shakespeare Festival Cup, where he officiated in the scandalous (and tragic) all-Italian final played between Montague FC and AC Capulet. John’s history with this dubious Shakespearean competition also saw him blowing his horn in the bribe-ridden (accusations still fly today) Much Ado About Nothing. In his pre-refereeing days, John played a mean Pistol — a tough-tackling, take-no-prisoners sort of bloke — in more than one top league for the likes of Zachary Scott dis-United (formerly Austin City) as well as Shakespeare Festival Austin (bet you can’t figure out who they are). That couldn’t last however, and as hard times came upon him, John was once forced to suit up for The Gaffer for PDFC, playing a stalwart Peachum against a younger, fresher striker, MacHeath — the game ended fortuitously in a score draw.

A true veteran of the Thursday through Saturday night leagues, John can boast of being more than a talented player. A one-time managerial candidate, he found that he was less than appreciated on one nameless local team, being forced out as technical director by ideas-above-their-station management. Luckily for all, he’s found his niche giving little toots on his whistle, and keeping the game from getting too out of hand.

Mr. Garry Peters
Garry brings a wealth of both football and rugby football talent to this enterprise, having played a variety of positions for teams in the theatre and film leagues. Most recently, for upstart Italian club, gruppo dirigo, Garry did dual duty, playing on the exteme left as Aunt Julie, then switching to the far, far, far right wing as Judge Brack, assisting the titular Hedda with a perfectly timed (lead) ball to the head for what proved a last-second Golden Goal in the aptly named period of sudden death. The only goal of the game, sadly, ’twas an own goal, but at least it was a beautiful one.

A brief foray into Brazilian football saw Garry playing the position of to-be-assassinated federal judge (what is with that man, judges, and death?) for the double-winning double-nomenclatured Santos y Santos; and he made it a hat trick of jurisprudence appearances when he signed on for a run as “The Juror Made Famous by Henry Fonda” for a season of Twelve Angry Men, a team that pathetically always fields one player more than FIFA permits. Red card, anyone? In the bruising world of the cinema, Garry’s seasons are many, yet he has most often been left on the bench, or, worse, cut entirely. He has managed trials with several Second Division sides, appearing for multiple teams that have found success in the “Indie” leagues.

Garry has never been sacked, made redundant, nor laid off, so he brings a refreshing freshness to our stale tale of unemployed miners of 60 years ago. He has seen a job pass him by like one of The Gaffer’s fluffed shots into the stands, opting to stay in the Austin Leagues rather than move out of town when his employer felt the need for better tax breaks across state lines. Who can blame him for keeping put? Not us.

Mr. Brad Carlin
Brad is a good lad, which sadly makes for disappointing reading, really. He’s yet to lose a job, even though he has three going currently, so far as we know. In fact, we doubt if he ever sleeps, or, if he does, it’s at that pesky "day job" of his, but don’t tell anyone, okay? We certainly won’t, and thanks for the copies, Brad.

A diligent player, Brad has mainly seen action in the role of sweeper, a sort of Franz Beckenbauer type — without either the accent nor the UEFA aspirations — and is capable of playing left to right (not as easy as it sounds, nor as rewarding), as well as right to left (the proper attitude in a good working-class game). Brad was noticed and signed as a 17-year old prospect by St. Edward’s University, a feeder team to the cream of theatre leagues throughout the world. He’s turned out here at the advice of his agent who stands to profit greatly if all goes well. Scouts in the audience will have to speak to Brad through his agent, if you can wrest him from his cellular phone, martini, and vivacious tea lady escort.

Mr. Brent Werzner
Brent, like Brad before him, hails from the footballer-making machine that is St. Edward’s University, where he played a variety of positions, including “Miner” in a game so long it became known as The Kentucky Cycle even though there wasn’t a bicycle to be seen in the entire production. Last season, his non-stop work ethic (huffing and puffing on his cycle) and knack for scoring timely goals (or taking shots in the fortnight-long booze-up at the most un-Soviet stadium in Texas, a/k/a The Grove) landed him the coveted Deacon Crain Award, given to the player most likely to make a career of it in top-flight football, so why he’s slumming it with the likes of us, we’ll never know.

No stranger to the sack, Brent found himself on the wrong side of the unemployment line (that would be standing directly upon it) after a controversial sending off while playing for Mexican side, Pappasito’s, the hen-pecked husband of Mammasita’s. Calling the club “a faceless corporation,"”Brent has unintentionally hit on the underlying anthropomorphic contradiction that is our current capitalist paradigm. Cough.

Mr. Ken Bradley
Ken started his career as the bad boy of many a feeder league, and so this bio should make for much more interesting reading than Brad’s for a start. Complete disregard for the law, and a Eulenspiegel-esque sense of “fair” play, often landed young Ken in awkward situations with the law. F’rinstance there was the “water filled sandwich bag” escapade, and the “adult magazine” episode, and the notorious “slinging things at busloads of tourists at Houston Intercontinental Airport (now the George Bush International Airport — Ken would never, ever sling anything at anything named after our 41st president)” thingamywhatsit. Shame, shame, shame rained down on the Bradley household. Ya daft get. Things would soon change, unexpectedly, for the better.

Signing as an apprentice for High School Drama Club FC turned Ken from an individualist (okay, “criminal,” but let’s try to look on the positive side, eh?) into a true team player. After a few years finding his feet, Ken landed on both with The Company United, where he was part of an astonishing run of games that saw multiple nominations for player of the year honors. Sadly, his trophy case is bare, and this production isn’t about to change that.

In keeping with the spirit of our wee theatrical effort, it is noteworthy that Ken has been made redundant from more than one job while plying his part-time trade as a creative right winger (yes, yes, there are one or two; don’t blame Our Ken for redistricting, Arnold, or flight-suit diplomacy — we’ll turn him, we swear we will). Both layoffs were tinged with scandal: One involved a high-steaks food fight at a fine eaterie, the second a scam worthy of many of the top Republican fundraisers, though we note that unlike Our Ken, they’ve managed to keep their jobs — a lesson for you, Ken, eh?

Mr. Matt Hislope
Matt is a relative newcomer to the local league, having honed his footballing skills as a schoolboy in some foreign land the locals call “Kansas” — though none of us has ever heard of the place. Matt has caused a local sensation playing the position of Mister Z who, apparently, loves company, and roves the field in a fierce tackling, epithet swearing stopper role of sorts, which has him in hot water with the disciplinary committee, who like to lavish his rap sheet with long words we don’t understand.

Neither officially employed nor officially unemployed, Matt straddles the netherworld of part-time football, taking brief assignments with Temp sorta-United, clinging to the dream of a call-up from Soviet bigshots, Workers of the World United (it’s embarrassing, innit?). We’d tell him to get a job, but we’ve none ourselves.

Mr. Jeffery Mills
Jeffery rounds out the trio of former St. Edward’s schoolboys who have gone on to make their mark (a big fat “x,” usually) on contracts for some of the league’s best clubs. Again, how we landed him is anyone’s guess. An honest-to-goodness union member (or not-all-dishonest-to-goodness, anyroad), Jeffery has discovered that in these post-Thatcher years, being union doesn’t always equate to being employed. Actually, it hardly ever does, now does it, Jeffery? That said, we’re pleased to be paying him what he’s worth, and that’s not much, is it?

What caught scouts’ attentions in Our Jeffery is his lilting voice, which landed him a spot on a squad bound for an exciting European Tour, including matches in Austria, France, Germany, and London’s Heathrow airport — shame when the money runs out, just like those old-fashioned professional footballers what get stuck on the booze and live out their sorry sodden lives in aeroport lounges the world over. Ah the big leagues! We plan to learn all we can from jet-setting gin-soaked Jeffery.

Mr. David Jones
David sports a coal miner’s last name and a host of player honors for his years of service on the footy pitch, but he’s not a dirty player, if that’s what you surmised. Suave, neat, clean, he’s often found playing in the sweeper position; there is little that gets past this lad. A subtle and shrewd distributor of the ball, David makes everyone look good while making his own play appear effortless. His knowledge of the game and its various facets has led to short managerial stints for a host of local teams, including PDFC where he helmed the Bingo squad that played its games at the downtown Hideout stadium a few years back. He also played Robert for Betrayal Wanderers, a cunning defensive role in which he was never shown the yellow card, but could never completely account for the bloody noses of the man he marked. David frequently dons the kit for Hyde Park, a traditional footballing name if ever there was one.

Besides sweeper and other defensive duties, David often plays guitar, usually on the rhythm wing; he was team captain for a spell on the much beloved Big Ed Town (formerly United), and now he helms the Spanish La Liga outfit, Crystal Flavola (Ole Ole Ole). Now would be a good time to mention the lad’s union affiliation. He has one. And he has a real job, too, which puts David on something of a pedestal around these parts.

Mr. Gordon Gunn
Gordon boasts a long and varied career, mostly on the sidelines supporting the on-the-field antics of others. This production changes all that, but let’s stick to the positives, shall we? We shall. Not so much the physio with the magic sponge as the sound man with the magic mini-disks, Gordon has been seen on the touchlines of so many different local teams, it’s hard to put a number on them, always putting noise in its proper place, usually somewhere between costumes and props.

Born, or bred, take your pick, in the football hinterlands of Southern Lousiana, Gordon can turn an alligator into four or five FIFA-approved soccer balls and still have enough guts left over to string 12 basses. Perhaps his Scots/Welsh blood has something to do with his innate ability to drive on the left-hand side of the road. His anglophilia does this production proud, even if he won’t let any of us drive his MGB.

Gordon has been seen playing for The Late Joys, Crystal Flavola, and the ubiquitous Jumpstart, as well as other teams, but we only care about The Late Joys — as do you — so on to more pressing topics.

At last count, Gordon has outdone all of us with his redundancies, having had the satisfaction of being fired from five different jobs in his short life, our favorite being his 1973 free transfer from Pak-A-Sak Town because he wouldn’t cut his hair. Ah, those were the days, weren’t they now lads? Weren’t they? Lads? Lads? Ah **** it.

Mr. Steve Hopkins
Steve has been a terrace favorite for years now as the entertaining creative midfielder with the skewed vision and outlandishly comedic off-the-ball antics. So it has come as something of a shock to the poor lad to be foisted into goals for this match, not having played there for nigh on 30 years. Still, Steve is keeping his own between the sticks, providing the squad with a sense of rhythm that makes even Brazilians envious.

No matter his distantly familiar role as the last line of defence, Steve has plenty of familiarity with the world of the working man. Or rather, he has a semi-familiarity with the working man’s world: He either works, or he doesn’t. A part-timer with I.R.S. Unlimited, Steve has been called a "seasonal" player, but then, what player hasn’t? Still, is it relief or a shock, when, come the end of the season, Steve finds himself back on the dole queue, as usual? At least he’s not slaving for the Texas State government.

Mr. Robi Polgar (“The Gaffer”)
Ah, the vanity project. Nothing beats it, eh? Seeing your name all over posters, playbills, and letterhead (right, Guy?). Ego stroking has never been more egregious than when The Gaffer started this theatrical endeavor, oh so many ill-spent years ago. Not only did he write this bio (hence its extraordinary lack of brevity, honesty, or interest, as well as the sad attempt at hiding behind a cheap device like the royal “we”), but he also wrote the play through which you will soon be snoring. And he produced it. And he directed it. And he is in it. And he... oh, as if you haven’t already clicked over to a new page. Hello? Hello?

Suffice it to say that this may be The Gaffer’s final outing as player-manager, having sworn, 20 years ago, give or take, that he would never ever be a player-manager again, not after that Bundesliga disaster with the thoroughly disfunctional and relegated side, Mephisto Unathletic. Now older, yet lacking the wisdom of a man half his age, he’s at it once again, ordering the team about and still demanding to take penalty kicks.

Still with us? Sorry. Well, continue we must. The Gaffer’s illustrious-in-his-own-mind career includes brief stints as a trainee with Tufts, the oddly canine-sounding northeast collegiate outfit that gave such footballing legends as William Hurt, Hank Azaria, and Oliver Platt their starts, although none has admitted it at award ceremonies as of yet. The Gaffer’s career path then took a decidely 90-degree turn when, instead of pursuing a full-time on-the-boards gig, or even starting on a managerial track, he set off with the quintet-turned-quarter-turned-trio, Lower Wacker Drive, a diminishing pop combo that played in the lower echelons of Boston’s cruel, cruel, winter league. It was there that The Gaffer suffered his first falling out with Management, finding himself summarily dismissed in mid-season, in mid-game even, booted from his mixologist position at Rosie’s Bar & Grille Disingenuous.

It wasn’t long before The Gaffer packed his kit and headed to this once entirely progressive city to play a masterly thesisly role at UTFC. Following three-years studying the fine art of attacking football, The Gaffer joined up with a small rowdy band and formed PDFC the often underrated, overheated, yet strangely misremembered semi-professional team whose beloved ramshackle stadium was turned into a posh singles bar and harem by a local banker with a fondness for musicals (why he hasn’t contributed to this musical is anybody’s guess; c’mon, Eddie, bung us a fiver!). In those halycon days, PDFC went from anonymous frisky startup to anonymous city-funded bureaucracy, cementing its place as a stable mid-table outfit. Occasional glorious Cup runs aside, after eight years, The Gaffer called it quits, attempting to move on to “other projects.” Hired for brief spells by State Theater United and The Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum City Town End Wanderers, The Gaffer has been freelancing for years now, and look where it’s landed him.

On the dole, of course. Well, not currently, but two summers ago, The Gaffer joined the lot of many of you beloved workers as the high-tech league was forced to reinvent itself as a more streamlined enterprise, with fewer teams, and, therefore, fewer players. Yes, it was the sack, redundancy, the pink slip, the lead handshake. Still, The Gaffer has found a new freedom to create epics such as this windy effort (no, no, not this bio, the play, the play!).

There are thank yous peppered throughout the production, this website, the million letters mailed to contributors of all stripes, and so on, but please indulge us in one more: Thank you to everyone who took even the slightest interest in this project. It is truly of the community, for the community, and by the community — and it could never have happened without you.

Thank you.
— Mr. P

👉 Back to the top

Sing along to the songs of The Road to Wigan Pier


The slag-heap is where you’ll find all the detritus of a working coal mine; an ugly mountain of waste it is. And just as the impoverished mining communities pored over Lancashire’s grim, grey heaps of slag hoping to find anything of value, we invite you, dear reader, to pore over our ugly mountain of waste from our theatrical efforts over the past year: Snippets, tidbits, any salvageable remains of our digging are here for the gleaning. Though you may never find exactly what you’re looking for...


Aye, mate, we took a few. Or rather, Dirk Van Allen and Kathy Catmull did. Here are several action shots for your amusement (captions might be forthcoming, but ya never know. Now that we’re all out of work, we’re a rather listless and sedentary lot).

Reviews and testimonials

(We take our lumps with pride!) Here is the Austin Chronicle’s review of the 2004 production. In addition, we’ve added your reviews and comments. If you saw the play and have summat to say about it -- good or bad -- you may write us, and we’ll post your opinion on the site, along with all the others we get. Let the people decide what they like and what they can’t abide!

The production poster by Lisa Lee

Here is the way cool poster, which we hope you’ll be seeing all over town.

Some o’ the lads what work down pit

Before they head off for their pithead showers or basins of luke warm water by the indoor stove (coal-burning, naturally), our lads pose for the clicky device that captures them forever. Yes, this was our press photo, you’re probably sick to death of it! And yet, it never goes away, like “buttons down the back.”

Membership card

The original Coat of Arms of the 7th Street Working Men’s Club: Thanks, Dawn Larned!

The Late Joys in full song

Here’s a few photos of The Late Joys in rehearsal.

A right good time at Orwell’s 100th

It’s been a while since those cool June nights that heralded the start of summer’s oppressive heat (but enough about Texas redistricting). Think back, instead, to that coolest of nights at the Lounge on June 23, 2003 when we hosted George Orwell’s Centenary Birthday Bash. Here’s our cool fundraiser poster, also by the brilliant Lisa Lee. Didn’t we share a right good time? (No, no, no! At the fundraiser, not with Lisa!)

We played bingo, as called by Mr. Paul Norton with the assistance of the lovely Ms. Lara Toner (thank you Karen K. for barbed witticisms throughout).

We read from Mr. Orwell’s various works of prose and poetry.

We watched un film de Mr. Lowell Bartholomee that had us in stitches.

We listened to the debut of The Late Joys in near-stereophonic sound.

All this amusingly under the guiding hand of our Master of Ceremonies on the night, the dapper Mr. Robert Faires.

If you missed it, or if you were there and wish to reminisce, here are the snapshots from the night.

To the audience, readers, musicians, staff of The Lounge and the many helping hands behind this effort: THANK YOU!!!

👉 Back to the top

Sing along to the songs of The Road to Wigan Pier


Suddenly it all goes dark as down pit; but that’s what happens when you turn off the lights for the last time, innit? We had a blast putting on this play, and we hope that those of you who dropped by the 7th Street Working Men’s Club had as big a blast as we did. But before we’re gone for good, there’s this website, which is still up and running. We’ll miss performing Wigan for you, but what a good night out it was! Thank you. Intrepid souls who wish to produce this monster on their own may click here to contact Mr. P.

Just what is The Road to Wigan Pier, anyway?

Cor, lad, ’ave ye been deep down the shaft or summat? The Road to Wigan Pier: A (Socialist) Tea-Time Travelogue and Historical Musical Revue is a play, and a mighty fine one at that. If this website can’t answer your every question, check out the original answer Mr. P penned as to why oh why oh why he dug so deep on this project. If that still doesn’t answer your questions, drop us a line, and we’ll do our best to unearth an answer to your coal mining queries!

Cheerio, weeaffertguffertbuzz. (trans.: We must go now, our bus is due.)

👉 Back to the top

Sing along to the songs of The Road to Wigan Pier