MAHATMA GANDHI visited Darwen’s India Mill in the early 30s to see the problems his boycott of British goods was causing our workers. Except that he never got close to the mill and its famous chimney.

It was just one of those urban myths which is still being written about today, mainly on wonky web sites.

Gandhi actually visited Greenfield Mill – in September 1931 – at the invitation of the Davies family of Quakers.

However, there was a world-famous visitor to India Mill just a few years later – Australia cricket captain Don, later Sir Don, Bradman, probably the best batsman the world has ever seen.

It was a visit shrouded in secrecy ... but it didn’t miss the eagle eyes of the Darwen News reporters.

On the morning of the third Test match at Old Trafford, Thursday, July 8, 1948 the newspaper reported on the “secret” visit in some detail.

It reported that the famous “Don” who would lead the Australian team in the third Test starting at Old Trafford that morning had visited Darwen on the Monday in a far different role.

In his business life, he was a stockbroker and also Australian agent for one of the biggest customers of India Mill yarn. He toured the mill at the invitation of managing director Tom Mather [of Newhaven, Ross Street].

“The invitation was accepted several weeks ago” said Mr Mather, “but as Don was coming in a purely private capacity, it would not have been fair to subject him to undue publicity and his visit was kept dark.”

He had lunch at India Mill with the directors and some members of staff and then spent over an hour on a tour of every department.

He listened with deep interest as the various processes were explained to him and he was, of course, very interested in learning of the Mill’s famous chimney.

It was not until after the dinner-time break that work people were let into the secret and they were asked to carry on as usual and make as little fuss as possible.

They co-operated fully and during the whole of the stay in Darwen he was not asked to sign a single autograph.

Bradman’s agency, Heymanson, also acted for the Audley Spinning Mill in Blackburn, run by Darwener George Eric Yates, a close friend of Tom Mather.

The only “official” duty he undertook while in Lancashire was a visit to the Mayor of Chorley accompanied by local mill owner and cricket enthusiast Bill Blackledge who became the first chairman of the Northern Cricket League when it was formed in 1952. Bradman, who was his Australian agent as well, took on the role of league president.

The drawn match at Old Trafford was the only test match Australia did not win in 1948.

Among the stars who played in the match were Aussies Ray Lindwall and Keith Miller and, for England, Denis Compton, Cyril Washbrook and Godfrey Evans.

Bradman retired later that year with a Test batting average of 99.94 and the following March he was knighted. As Sir Don Bradman he continued his business career before taking on administrative roles with Aussie cricket. He died in 2001.