PADDY'S Blunder was a wasteland area of enchantment, excitement, danger and occasional tragedy.

Up to at least the mid-1950s it was a favourite haunt of local schoolkids and of gipsies who set up camp there twice a year.

Recent mention of that Blunder zone and the equally mysteriously-named Paddy's Ackle (a deep stretch of water which proved an irresistable magnet for generations of youngsters) had customers of this column reaching for their pens.

Among them, Richard Waring of Moore Drive, and Johnny Clough of Pimblett Road, both Haydock, together with senior citizen A. Foster, from Bernard Wood Court, Billinge, who lived close to that open-air Parr 'wonderland' from 1913 until 1930.

All three pinpointed the old Ackle site as having lain behind Parr St Peter's churchyard, with Paddy's Blunder, a derelict lime works, located across an old railway track and bounded by Chancery Lane and Boardmans Lane.

Richard Waring recalls the chemical tips, no more than 6ft at their highest point, which marked all that was left of Paddy's Blunder during his postwar schooldays.

"Paddy's Ackle," he says, "was an old rectangular pond, about 30 yards long and 18 feet wide." Drowned cats and puppies could occasionally be seen bobbing on the surface and the pond was used as a dumping ground for old bike frames, worn-out washing tubs and other assorted household junk.

But this did not prevent youngsters from rafting or skinny-dipping in it during the warm summer months.

"And it held some really big fish," says Richard. "My line was snapped by a massive pike while I was fishing there in 1953. And there were roach, big perch and exceptional gudgeon to be caught there, too."

A section of that waste land, close to the churchyard wall, was fairly flat and a favourite place for tinkers -- "the proper gipsies" -- to set up camp.

Richard remembers them as "friendly folk who would let me pat and talk to their horses." Among these travelling folk were the Price family, who held high status in gipsy circles.

"I was always told that the oldest family member was King of the Gipsies," recalls Richard. "His traditional caravan was bigger and more elaborately painted than the others, in gold, green, yellow and red.

"The womenfolk sold pegs and told fortunes door-to-door in return for a few pence. The gipsies kept chickens and rabbits while some of them had ferrets."

No doubt the latter were used to catch a few rabbits for the pot.

"One day, when on my way to Parr Central School, I noticed a lot of smoke rising from the gipsy camp." Then 20 to 30 feet flames shot skywards.

"I later learned that the old man of the family had died and his wagon was burned. Apparently this was the custom among the gipsies. I did also hear that his horses were shot. I didn't witness this, but was told that it was normal practice in such circumstances. Can any other reader confirm this?

"Paddy's Ackle was -- and still is -- a very special place in my memory," says Richard, who is soon to chime in with further episodes from that particular spot on the map.

Johnny Clough was brought up in Bramwell Street, Parr, 150 yards from that water-filled pit. "Sadly," he writes, "the Ackle did claim a few lives. Two of my childhood pals drowned there, also a gipsy named Price after drinking in the Ashcroft Street British Legion club."

Pensioner A. Foster sheds some interesting light on both the Ackle and the Blunder, supplying an intriguing hand-drawn map identifying various features on that large wasteland feature.

Paddy's Blunder, he says, was the name given to a lime kiln off Boardmans Lane close to what are now playing fields.

"As the big lumps of limestone were fed into the kiln, the noise as it hit the iron plate sides of the kiln sounded like a clap of thunder. The thunder, he opines, became corrupted to blunder.

He suspects that the Paddy in question was Paddy Baxter, who mined coal and owned a nearby clayfield and brick kilns, as well as the lime works.

"It was said that before and after the first world war, Irish immigrants leaving the boat at Liverpool, would ask: 'Can you show me the way to Paddy Baxter's pit?'

"Presumably, Paddy offered them employment at a very low rate of pay -- robbing local miners of work."

In summer, the Ackle pond was a great place for youngsters to bathe in the nude. "One hot Sunday, a lad of about 13 was trapped in the rubbish dumped into the water and was drowned. I remember family and friends pulling him from the water and not allowing any part of his body to touch the ground," says our pensioner penman.

"There was apparently a widely-held belief then that no inquest would prove necessary if the victim's body was kept clear of the ground and that the family could take him home for a normal family funeral."

ALL fascinating stuff, and there's more to come soon from additional details contained in that very welcome correspondence.