POSTAL services in the Radcliffe Hall area were a family affair for more than a half-century.

The district post office, which faces possible closure, provided a source of employment for most members of the Clegg and Finney family at some point.

John Finney, of Bury Road, was the authorised assistant at Radcliffe Hall sub post office from 1939 until 1942.

But, as the son of sub-postmistress Agnes Finney he had actually been there much longer.

The office was opened in January 1889 by John's grandfather James Clegg, who remained sub post master until his death in 1907.

His widow took the helm for several years, before handing over responsibility to her daughter in 1915.

Agnes had already been an authorised assistant at the office, as had her sisters Hannah and Rebecca, and their brother, Richard.

Back then, the office was in a different location, standing on Bury Street.

It was part of a row of cottages that served as shops, where town houses now stand opposite Radcliffe Hall school.

The building was a three-up, three-down and was also the family home until 1956.

Among the shops nearby were a grocers, a haberdashers, a sweet shop and a tripe shop.

John and his brother Deric were born at the address, and both later worked there.

And as sub-postmistress, Agnes was something of an agony aunt to the many customers who passed through her doors.

John explained: "My mother was one of those people who would help anybody if they had a problem.

"All sorts of people, of whatever age, male or female, would ask for her advice about all sorts of things.

"She was one of the best-known people in the district."

John remembers the shop having a wooden counter with a large glass screen.

Although security concerns were not nearly so great as they are today, there was a mesh and serving slot between customers and staff.

Those going about their business could write out forms and envelopes on a special screened writing desk, so that prying eyes could not intrude.

When John took up his position at the age of 15, telegrams were a major form of communication.

The counter employee at Radcliffe Hall took messages, which were telephoned to the main telegraphy office in Manchester.

All incoming telegrams came through the main post office in Radcliffe and were delivered by telegram boys on bicycles.

"That was how a lot of postmen started out," said John.

There were standard forms for the messages, and specially decorated ones for birthdays, weddings and Christmas, which cost extra.

John said: "Although it was wartime, there weren't many going out to the forces. In fact I'm not sure if they were allowed to receive them.

"The messages going home to the families were not something that we would have dealt with."

Other business included payment of pensions, issuing postal orders and, of course, selling stamps.

"In those days you could send an ordinary letter and be virtually guaranteed that it would arrive the next day," said John.

Agnes stood down from her post in 1942, due to ill-health.

The lady who took charge, Mrs Swindells, moved the office to Cross Lane, while the Finney's turned the office area into a living room. They stayed at the address until 1956.

"It was an interesting place to live and work because we always met a lot of people."

The possible closure could be a problem for many people, John believes.

He said: "The nearest post office could be half-a-mile away for some people.

"It will be very inconvenient for some of them, especially those who are used to having their post office nearby."