- Raymond Broome -

I was born in April 1946 at home, 21 Ross Street, Ardwick - anybody remember Nurse Marsden?

It was a two up and two down house with no cellar and a small back yard in which the lean-to toilet stood. I shared this home with my mam, dad and elder sister, Pauline. The extent of my world for many years was bound by Devonshire Street, Grey Street, Stockport Road and Hyde Road. In this small area you knew almost everybody and everybody it seemed knew you ( especially if you were doing something wrong ).

Opposite: Pauline and Ray 1950 outside the back yard at Ross Street Ardwick.

Ray & Pauline
Pauline & Ray
 Pauline and Ray ready for
Whit Walks 1949.
Taken outside
St Matthew's Church,
Devonshire Street, Ardwick.

The church played a large part in our lives, driven by my nana we used to attend St Matthews Church on Devonshire Street. Sunday morning service, Sunday School and Evensong always dressed in our best - no games on Sunday.

There was an active youth club and mothers union at the church with many organised events and day trips to Blackpool or Southport and Llandudno and at Whit week the big event of the year. It was through the church that I met my future wife, Christine , who lived in Richmond Street at the far end of Tiverton Street. We were both in the church choir and eventually I became a church server. That sweet smell of incence from the burner still comes back sometimes.  

Pauline &

Pauline as Rose Queen probably 1955. In the centre is Ray's future wife Christine Smith holding the train. Taken in Tiverton Street Ardwick.

I attended Ross Place County Primary School ( Ross College my uncle George used to call it ), The school was almost opposite the house so we didn't have far to go. My earliest memory , and one which has stayed with me always, is of the smell of hyacinths in the corridors of the infant school. The other smell I remember is the pink carbolic soap from the mobile showers which used to call at the school regularly. The head teacher I recall was Mr Thorpe, he is featured on one of my photographs. He seemed a giant of a man with a booming voice but he had a heart of gold and was an excellent teacher.

Ross Place School
Class 1951 at Ross Place County Primary School, Ardwick.
Taken in the playground which bordered onto Ross Street.
Ross Place School
Class 1952 Ross Place County Primary School, Ardwick.
Ross Place School
Class 1954 Ross Place County Primary school, Ardwick.

Every week we would walk crocodile style to High Street Baths for swimming lessons. I didn't actually learn to swim until I was about seven or eight but then I passed my life saving test and got a free pass - they couldn't keep me away after that! During the holidays we would go to the baths in the morning - the attendants would check your fingers for wrinkles or call out your colour band and send you out. We would get dressed, go out and come straight back in again! On the way back from the baths we used to call at the bakers for stale cakes and a cup of hot oxo.

It's funny how you only remember the hot summers, they seemed to go on forever. The pitch would bubble up - just right for a lolly stick to make a pitch bomb. The corner gas lamp made a great swing with a rope and perhaps an old tyre. Whips and tops were popular especially with different colours chalked on top. My favourite toy was a matchstick gun made from a piece of firewood, hair clips and the thick red elastic from a fizzy pop bottle. Pea shooters, diabolo's and alleys were also firm favourites. They seemed to come and go out of fashion. Conkers were great fun, with all kinds of weird mixtures and treatments in an effort to make them harder. Didn't they make your eyes water when you missed ?

My uncle George who lived next door , bought me a bike but would not give it to me until I could deck on from both sides without falling over. I sweat blood learning to do that. I used to keep it in the back yard opposite the toilet which, incidentally, had a cracked wooden seat for a long as I remember and it used to hurt like hell if you pinched your bum in it. Like everybody else we had newspaper on a string and a candle on the cistern box in winter to stop it freezing. It was so annoying to read a story and not find the ending on another piece or the candle ran out!

Saturdays were busy. Papers followed by a regular trip with an old pram to Kirkhams coal yard in Ross Place for coal bricks and deliver the radio battery to the shop on Hyde Road next door to Joe's lolly shop ( the vimto were best ). My Gran lived in Slack Street off Tiverton Street so I used to call in there sometimes. The minors at the Appollo was a must on saturday mornings. I recall Fess Parker coming on stage when Davy Crockett was all the rage. A neghbour of mine had won a competition and was presented with a coonskin cap by Fess - we were all green with envy.

The cinema organist used to play a song and we all joined in:-

Di dah di dah dah dah dah dah dah
We're minors of the ABC
And every Saturday we line up
To see the films we like and shout aloud with glee
We like to laugh and have our singsong
Such a happy crowd are we
We're all pals together
We're minors of the ABC

I know the tune but who remembers all the words ?

Other popular picture houses with saturday shows for kids were the Kings, Queens and Shaftsbury on Stockport Road. Flash Gordon, Three Stoogies, Laurel and Hardy, Bowery Boys, Lassie, Rin Tin Tin, Roy Rodgers, Chaplin and my favourites Laurel and Hardy. What great entertainment it was. At the Ardwick Hippodrome there were some great shows and Pantomimes at Christmas.

Like a lot of youngsters I used to do a paper round in the morning and at night and weekends. I worked for two different shops -both on Grey Street. One was near the Sand Park and was run by an Irishman and the other on the corner of Rose Grove. After getting out of bed in all weathers to do that job, getting up for work was never difficult.

As I got older we used to venture further afield. Ardwick Green Park, Gorton Park, Debdale, Crowcroft, Reynolds clay pits for fishing, train spotting at Longsight station and fishing in the pond at the back.

The Sand Park was our main place when it was wet. The covered area was ideal for football but you had to get there early to get picked ! The parky, Joe as I recall, was a right old sod who was so big and fat he couldn't chase you more than 5 yards. We made his life hell. I used to like the umberella ride. Every year , a fair used to set up in the play area of the park - remember the swing boats. Bonfire night was brilliant. In the weeks leading up to the 5th each gang would raid one another's bonny wood usually stored in somebody's back yard. There seemed to be fires in every entry and on every croft which lasted from tea time until well into the night. The lads would stuff their pockets with penny bangers and rip-raps , do a tour of the area and chuck them at the girls or rival gangs. I suppose it was really dangerous but nobody seemed to bother in those days. I recall a few times when I didn't part with a lighted banger quickly enough - it numbed the fingers for quite a while! We used to sit round the fires on old sofas and chairs eating parkin and spuds until some wag put a banger under it or set fire to it.

I can't remember what age I was, probably 11, when I joined the Sea Cadets, but it was in a hall on Grey Street. I still have my cap band - T.S. Trafalgar. We used to march around the area and go to the T.A. Barracks at the back of Ardwick Green park for rifle shooting practice - my favourite. Does anyone remember the big fire at Kiaora drinks factory on the Green. The big occasion of the year was Remembrance Sunday when we marched into Manchester to take our part in the big parade.

My father, John who was at different times a plumber and bricklayer, died suddenly in June 1954 aged 32 ( he had contracted a fever in India on army service and it had left him with a weak heart ) . Up to his death we used to go on Holiday every year to Middleton Towers Holiday Camp in Morecambe - I still have the pin badges. At that time there were top acts on at the camp. In particular I remember Norman Evans and Frank Randall.

holiday snap
Ray on Holiday 1954
at Middleton Towers Holiday Camp
with parents John and Margaret .

To the credit of Mr Thorpe, somehow I passed my 11 plus and elected to go to Central Grammar School . The new school had been built in Kirkmanshulme Lane and my year were the first, first years to occupy the building. The playing fields at the back were not ready so we went to Parrs Wood by bus every week for sports. Those changing rooms and showers were so cold it's a wonder we survived, and the playing fields were so far away , you were shattered by the time you got to the pitch!

Central Grammar

Class 1960 form 4c Manchester Central Grammar School,
Kirkmanshulme Lane, Longsight.


De La Perrelle was the Headmaster. A very tall, slim and elegant man I recall. Some of the teachers were stars - Mr Rorke the music teacher could hit you with a board duster from 10 yards without looking over his shoulder - never figured out how he did that. The woodwork teacher, can't remember his name, used a steel rule on your hand - he was a right so and so. The deputy head was also pretty strict. Our form teacher towards the end was a Mr Thomas - English Lang. and Lit. - a gentle welshman who was too nice for the likes of us. We made his life unbearable at times but a few of us used to visit him after we left school, he was such a kind man.

In the holidays and at weekends I was working at Belle Vue. I started by working at the boating lake near the bear pits with my pal Mike Kingsley and then in the evening would go round to the Dodgems or Waltzer run by Wadbrooks to work with my other pal John Doyle who also lived in Ross Street and went to Ross Place and Central Grammar.

Ray with winners Cup for
under 18 recorder solo
Blackpool Musical Festival 1961.

I have lots of memories of Belle Vue. In beween working I would go round the zoo and got to know lots of the characters there. At the end of a long and tiring day I frequently finished up in the Palm Court drinking Youngers Number 3, but don't tell my mother because I was only 15 !

By now we were living in Denton, having left Ardwick in 1961. The times I cycled back to Denton from Belle Vue the worse for wear - it's a wonder I survived. The house was a far cry from Ross Street - a room of my own, a bathroom, an inside toilet and a garden, it was like heaven.

I went back to Ardwick recently. I think it's been rebuilt and pulled down a couple of times since my days there but the Sand Park is still around. Just looking at it brought back so many happy memories.