Gordon Galloway and his wife Lily lived in Holt Street, Longsight, during the period from the 1920s until the 1960s. Gordon grew up as a child in Longsight and his memories of that period are as sharp today as ever. Below are selections from a book written by his daughter Pamela, entitled "A Longsight Family", based on her father's memories. It includes prose and poetry created by Pamela and are published here with Pam's permission. Also included is a piece by Lily Galloway called "Ages Past" in which the writer takes a walk through her Longsight.
All of the material that follows is the property of Pamela Galloway, Gordon Galloway and Lily Galloway - Copyright © 1996 Pam Galloway All rights reserved. The use of any part of this publication without the permission of the author by any means is an infringement of copyright law.
As I walked through the area I had known in my childhood, it filled me with memories. The houses, row on row, were now just rubble and dust. Blackened with the soot of high on a century, the product of that age could not be repeated, at least we hope not. The industrial revolution, although brought wealth to many, brought also neglect, poverty, and misery to others.
I walked along, and my mind recalled the stories my grandmother would relate of the grand folk. They were from the select quarters of Manchester. There the streets were called Groves. The trees lining each side of the pavements, some meeting overhead, making a grand bower; beneath where the fashions of the day would be flaunted. Now the well worn flags cracked with age, and the green moss spreading out, covering some completely. The cobbled roads and streets long disappeared, beneath the tarmac of later years. These were revealed as the bulldozers clawed at the surface. The long hot summer days, when the tarmac bubbled. It was great fun as children popped them with sticks and stones. While mothers would constantly wale at the sight of our clothes and hands covered in the obnoxious fluid. Butter, although precious, was though the best way to remove the offending matter.
My footsteps echoed in the now empty streets. The sun blazing down, the wind catching dust and papers, making them swirl, as if in a dance. As the wind dropped a little, the litter would lie in the many crevasses. An old gas lamp, leaning somewhat dejectedly, its usefulness long gone, rusted its paint and splendor that was no more. Just scrap now. Maybe with a little luck it would be recycled and become someone's gate or a spade or a fork, who knows.
My mind turned to thoughts of the old lamp lighter. The little man, who at dusk would come to light the gas mantles; these would be strategically placed on the corners of the street, with maybe an odd one here and there if the street was a long one. His cloth cap and his shabby coat and baggy trousers, he was typical of the times. The muffler wrapped tightly around his neck, to keep some of the cold and often foggy murkiness out. More often than not this would be wrapped around his braces. Many men wore their scarves in this fashion in those days. His long hooked pole over his shoulder, he would reach into the glass holder; where the dim yellow glow would hiss, as it sent out its beacon on a dark and foggy night. I often saw the lamps lit, but I don't recall ever seeing them put out. One of the biggest thrills of my childhood was to throw a rope over the two arms of the lamp, and make a swing. We would go around the lamp from side to side for hours. It was great to stay out till dark and play beneath the comforting light of those lamps. It may have been the same man who would come to the houses very early and tap on the window panes to wake up the early morning shifts in the mill areas. It was nothing to have to be out by six in the mornings, hale, rain, or shine! The sound of clogs going down the street would make us turn over until Mam called us for school.
I walked on, beneath the great archway, water trickling down those slimy walls. It would run into rivulets across the pavement, then into the grimy litter choked gutters. This great archway was a Victorian Monument, its blackened stone covered in green moss, with patches of fungi. Here in 1876, three Fenian men ambushed a police van taking prisoners to Bell Vue Goal, from Salford prison. The men were hanged later outside Salford Goal, for the murder of Sgt. Brett (taken from "The Manchester Martyr's" by Paul Rose).
Some would say a fitting tombstone to the men who had attempted a flight to freedom; only to leave a policeman dead, and only a walk to the gallows for them.
The train rumbling overhead bring my thoughts back to the present, and as I walked from the shadows back into the sunlight, a shiver passed through me; someone walking over my grave, as the saying goes. The train now diesel, long gone the steam Iron horses we once knew, just a clickety click click soon in the distance.
My next encounter with the past was the now dilapidated ruins of the old vinegar works. Its huge vats of steel rusting away, the acrid fumes of the fermenting malt, which once filled the air abound for miles, now to no more. Only small birds and a few moth eaten pigeons flew in and out of the deserted buildings. Their twitterings and cooings were the only sound in the forlorn silence.
On past the deserted school, its blackened walls now stood grim and threatening; that would soon be gone. The years of leaning by rote and strict order were the norm. The church hall was now a bingo palace, at least for the time being. The demolition men were not that far away. Most of the occupants had been placed in other accommodation. They too would take their memories of the past with them.
I has almost at the end of my walk. The traffic thundered alongside of me now. The fumes of their engines filled my lungs. The motor vehicle had taken over as generations had moved on with the times. Gone were the days of the "pea souper" but what had we replaced it with? Only time would tell. Back then the fear of cancer had not yet begun its insidious hold on us. The factory chimneys, mostly all gone from this area. Mills had closed down. Only the echo of clogs remind us what our ancestors had worked for - to make a better world. Or was it?
I walked by the old wash house, where mothers and others came week after week to spend hours within the steam and wet, not to mention heat. The constant stream of suds gushed under their feet, on cold stone floors, winter and summer. They would bring push chairs, old prams, wooden carts, anything with wheels would do. Wit enough wash for an army, many would bring neighbours' washing just to earn a few shilling. Threepence would buy you an hour: a number for the steel sink and a drying rack. The sinks stood row on row, where the women would scrub and rub to create a cleaner and whiter wash than ever a packet of today's detergent could do. It was almost impossible to make conversation because of the deafening noise of the great steam rollers. The sheets snowy white, with tablecloths starched to perfection, would emerge from these great machines. As a child I loved the clean smell and the warmth which oozed from the place, especially coming from school on a winters day. Little did I realize what drudgery it was.
All this gone forever, some would say for the best. They could be right, but I wonder what will the next generations hold for memories? Launderettes with robot machines. Bright neon lights. Hot chocolate from yet more machines. Piped music. Now I made my way into the centre of the city. My journey done, scores of pigeons now milled around my feet. Between the hurrying feet, I wondered, do they retrace their footsteps through time? Perhaps not, why should they? They are only concerned with food for the day, and a warm place to sleep for the night.
Perhaps they are wiser for that.
Longsight in the Thirties
I got a pair of roller-skates and I became very good on them but the roads were cobbled at the time so the only place I could skate was on the pavement. Then, they started to concrete the roads and it was a smooth surface, obviously. The first street they did was Earl St. It was great for the roller-skaters! So we all used to make our way to Earl ST. and skate up and down. We used to call it "On the conky", "Let's go on the conky-great!" Then eventually they did Morton St.
I used to do my errands on my roller-skates. I used to go off to the Co-op on a Friday night and get Granny's weekly groceries. I'd come back with a bag full over by shoulder, tearing along, taking all the routes that had conky.
Of course, there wasn't much traffic about because in the thirties a lot of things were horse-drawn. The milk floats were horse-drawn and the refuse carriages were horse-drawn, great big Shire horses. And the dustbins then were huge metal things, full of cinders as well as all the household rubbish. Can you imagine what those guys had to lift when they came to empty the rubbish? And they'd pull up with this great big Shire horse pulling a massive cart and they'd pick the dustbin up and just throw it on top. All the dustbin men used to carry a metal hook to open up the back doors.
My father used to keep chickens in the back-yard of Holt St. They lived at number eighteen then. He used to go for a pint Sunday lunch-time, bring his pals home and ask them it they wanted a chicken. "Yeah, we'll have a chicken, Teddie." So he'd get an axe and lay the chicken on the sink and swipe it! "Here y'are."
Of course, I lived with Granny just round the corner on Morton St. But when my father was out of work in the thirties her used to claim benefit for me and he'd say to me, "Now, don't forget, when you go to school, you live at number 10 Holt St." Before this, when I was asked my address at school I'd say "172 Morton St." Now, I'd go into school and the teacher would say: "Gordon Galloway - your address?"
"10 Holt St."
The benefit wasn't much. It was what was called P.A., public assistance. It was some benefit that they could claim for children. They had to have something as my mum didn't work then.
So many of us lived in Holt St. It's funny how things follow. Of course, I'm a fatalist but it certainly seemed like we all had to live in that street: my mother, father, Auntie Annie, Uncle George, us.
Bricks and water
left out in the grimy rain.
Ours is end of the row.
on the chimney wall,
just right for warming bums
A dozen round a table made for six,
three in each bed, whispers and cries
Walls and windows drip,
steam pressed to be let out.
A kettle heats water
for washing pots and ourselves.
mother scoops onto the pram
gone beyond its child-carrying years.
push through sleet and snow...
Mother has her three-penny ticket.
She joins the women
shawls thrown aside, wet aprons bright.
They stand in soap-sud streams, mist of steam.
pushes them into the raised volume of song.
slapped against a scrubbing board
is the backing rhythm:
my back is killin' me, me fingers red raw too...
the women leave for the baths,
dip themselves, take the waters,
Down the hill mother brings home
soap scent and smooth linen.
(My Great-Grandmother - Pam's memories)
I visited my great-grandmother (we all called her Granny) at least once a week. Entering her house from the street, the hallway was deep brown, dark and shadowy. I only remember the downstairs, probably because at the time, she was in her eighties and spent most of her time propped up in bed in the front parlour.
I remember going into her room with some nervousness but also with some anticipation because she always allowed me to help myself from the soda syphon she kept on a tray on the table beside her bed. I was fascinated by the contraption that was the syphon, knew it to be something rare, connected in some misty way with rich folks and, as my fingers closed on its cold metal trigger and pressed, I sensed a latent power. The challenge was to control that power. Not to press so quick and hard that the fizzy water splashed down into the small glass I'd chosen and immediately back up again and all over the tray. Pressure had to be firm and steady - just enough to get a flow of water to fill the glass. I rarely accomplished a perfect fill.
The glass I chose was a small thick shot glass with a gold rim and a picture of Blackpool Tower etched into it. If I sipped from it very slowly and delicately I could make the exotic tasting liquid last quite a while. If I was thirsty it would be gone in two mouthfuls. I replaced the glass on the tray. Granny's trays always had pictures of Spanish ladies on them or bright red roses. Elaborate enough to impress me.
I don't think my mum and dad owned any trays at all. Trays were posh. Why would you need a tray when the distance between the kitchen stove or cabinet and the table was mere inches? As my mother would say, there was barely room to swing a cat in our house in Holt St. so trays were definitely superfluous. There was no T.V. then for T.V. dinners and it was too cold for trays of food or drinks in bed. Bed was for sleeping in and for getting dressed under the covers in winter.
Granny had a fire in her room and she often dosed as I sat on a small wooden stool beside her bed, drinking my soda water. I don't remember conversation, I don't hear her voice in my head. I left her to sleep and went into the back room where my Auntie Winnie would offer me a sandwich.
From hers and Nana's kitchens I got white bread with cheddar cheese and H.P. sauce. The bread felt damp and probably was, coming from such a damp kitchen. This kitchen, like others I remember from that time, (Nana's, Auntie Molly's), was small, dark, and cold. There was a slab of a sink, a stove and a kitchen cabinet. This provided the only storage space in the room. It had a pull-down door that became a work surface when lowered. In most of the kitchens I knew it was never raise up. It was there, ready for bread buttering and sandwich making and a line of breadcrumbs gathered at the back in the groove cut in from the flat work surface and along where the hinges were attached. Crumbs always fell to the floor between the pull-down door and cupboard space. The cabinets had painted surfaces, most often the doors were in bright colours: orange or yellow, striking a contrast to the pale surrounds.
There was also a larder, of course, at the back of the kitchen - an even colder, more remote corner I tended to avoid. The kitchen itself was threatening enough as it loomed, its surfaces glistening with a clammy unsavouriness, suggesting a lack of cleanliness and hygiene. Despite my reserve about the kitchen, the sandwich sliced into four triangles or four squares and carried into the back room and to the fireside still tasted wonderful.
The kitchen door led into the backyard and I went there to go to the toilet which was at the end of the yard on the left. The yard door led out onto the back alley and with a sharp turn to the right onto the street that ran alongside Ganny's house as hers was the corner one. I can just see my dad and his friends leaning against it for warmth in the winter when they were outside sneaking a few Woodbines they were still really too young to be indulging in! I remember playing ball against that wall - both inside and outside the yard. Those old houses had marvelous spreads of outer walls because there were so few windows in the old houses and the ones there were were small.
I don't remember any particularly special events in that house but I do have memories of being there with some of my cousins. Maybe it was Whitsun when we'd all be dressed up and visiting to show off our new clothes and looking to get a sixpence for our trouble.
We certainly always went to Nan's at Whitsun. I remember walking through a park though I don't know which park it was. I have a photo of mum and I taken when I was about six. We are posing in the park, I am wearing a new dress and coat ensemble and my dolly has a matching set. Pansy material, I remember. Where did my parents get the money to pay for these wonderfully swish outfits we got every year for the Whit Walks? Some were totally impractical and would be worn only once, as if for a wedding. I remember one so clearly: it was pale blue and made of a material that had a fuzzy surface, almost like a semi-velvet, so hard to describe but it felt wonderful and the front of the skirt, from waist to floor was layer on layer of lace flouncing down. It had a little cap-sort-of-hat or would you call it a bonnet? I'm not sure but it was extremely fancy all the same. I think I had some special role in the Walks that year though I'm unsure what. I know there is a picture of me and Stephen from my class at school walking together and I am carrying a shield-like banner with the initial C on it for Carol, I think, the name of that year's Queen. Queen of what? What were the Whit walks anyway - this strange mix of Christian and pagan rituals, part walking to witness our faith and part Spring fertility rite with scattered flower petals and May queen and all?
When we were first married we lived with Granny in the parlour but eventually she asked the landlord if he had anywhere we might go and he had number ten Holt St. And so we moved.
The rent was 8s / 4d. And what we did to that little house! Everybody was so proud of them. I flushed all the door, we had a new fir-place put in. When we first moved in we had one of those great big black grates with an oven door. A tile fir-place was posh. But, you lost the oven. And Granny Wise used to do all her baking in the oven.
Yes, we worked like mad to make those houses nice. Even before we moved in we went and painted and white-washed the back-yard. Lil scrubbed the wooden stairs, no carpet or anything. Then one of our friends who'd recently got a two up two down in Victoria St., came round and she said, "Hey, is there an old brown sink in there?" We said, "Yes."
"Well," she said, "you know what I did - I put the hammer through the old brown one and the men came round and they put me a white sink in."
Well, a white sink was posh in those days, so of course, Lil puts the hammer through our sink and the men came round and put us in a new brown sink!
In Holt St. the one sink was it. No bathroom. So we'd wash down in a bowl. One Saturday morning your mum decided to have a wash down in the front bedroom. She took the bowl of water upstairs, stripped naked and started to have her wash down. Then, all of a sudden, the window cleaner propped his ladder up and started to climb up to the front bedroom window. So, she grabbed the bowl and her towel and dashed across the tiny square of landing into the back bedroom only to find the window cleaner's mate cleaning that window. All she could do was to stand between the two rooms on the tiny landing, shivering until they'd gone!
Of course, the one sink in the kitchen with its one cold tap meant that washing had to be taken to the wash-house. Lil has memories of going there before we bought a copper to heat the water in the kitchen and later a gas water heated that went over the sink (eventually there was the washer itself with its hand wringer).
" There were dryers like metal cabinets which pulled out from the wall, all heated by gas burners. The clothes dried in half an hour. Ironing rollers, as long as a row of houses, well, three anyway! I only used them for the sheets and tablecloths, etc.... All this was before Pam was born because then I decided to get the Hoover machine with the small rollers. I recall we bought Pam a replica and little Veronica Davies used to play with her and later on she gave it her.
There were no wash baths at South St. but there were at High St. and Gorton. The ones at Gorton I used when I worked at the kennels. I used to go on my way home and I loved it! The bath was huge! There were no taps and a woman assistant had a large key to turn on the water. You had to tell them not to make it too hot as the water was boiling. The first time I went I came out like a cooked lobster. The bath was so big I'm sure three would have fitted in it!"
The only time I was ever really ill and had to stay off work and stay in bed, under Dr.'s orders, under no circumstances was I to get out of be, for some reason Lil chose this time to clean the chimney because the chimney's used to get full of soot. They used to throw salt up it which would burn off the soot but somebody told Lil that there was a better way. She had to get a fir-lighter, put it on a small fire and put the blower up against it. She was told not to take the blower away whatever happened. She followed instructions, leaving the blower till it glowed red! Then, it exploded! All the doors blew open, all the windows rattled and there's me seriously ill in bed. I jumped out of bed and ran downstairs to see what was up. There were great big pieces of soot like lava all over the room! It even burnt holes in the lino. But we never had a bad sooty chimney again.