This section of the site attempts to document the ways in which we celebrated special events in Longsight over the years.
In the much more culturally diverse Longsight of today, I'm sure there are many important celebrations that weren't part of life in Longsight when I lived there. Hopefully, those will also be added to the site when information becomes available.
The photograph opposite shows the street party held in Harper Street on the occasion of the Coronation of King George VI in 1937. It was donated by Alma Morton (Turner). Alma's mother, can be seen standing on the left. Hilda, Alma's sister, is sitting on the left side of the table, hand-on-brow.
My memory of Christmas, as a child, is of going to the circus at Belle Vue; the Christmas Party at my father's factory, Fairy Aviation in Heaton Chapel; and a trip to Lewis's to see Father Christmas in his Grotto. I remember queuing up for ages and then getting a gift which seemed to always be a bagatelle!
Pamela (Greenhalgh) Pugh sent this photo of her visit. She added the comment, "Scared stiff of Father Christmas", and looking at it, I can see why.
In one reference to Whitsuntide, the holiday was described as the birthday of the Christian Church. Whitsuntide is the week following Whitsunday and the eighth week following Easter. It is celebrated in commemoration of the descent of the Holy Ghost on the apostles on the day of the Pentecost. Whitsunday, the seventh Sunday after Easter, begins the week and is believed to derive its name, White Sunday, from the practice of wearing white robes for christenings on that day.
above: Whitsun in Ross Place - picture donated by Vivianne Wainwright
The earliest known "Walks" can be traced to Manchester around 1800. Walking Days or Whit Walks as they became known sprang out of the Sunday School movement first pioneered in 1784. The idea behind this movement was to free the children:
Who worked under wretched conditions during the week in the manufacturies... were on Sunday allowed to run wild and free from all restraint.
To celebrate the anniversary of the Sunday School movement in Manchester the founders decided to assemble the children in St Anne's Square and parade through the Market Square to attend church. Although these parades became later associated with the Whit holidays and walks, the main features of the walks, the parading of the churches, still remained an intrinsic part of the tradition in Manchester well into the 1950s.
In "Manchester - A Short History of Its Development," W. H. Shercliff has an account of the centenary processions which took place in 1901:
Of the "Walks" in Warrington Vanessa Toulmin said:
In her novel "Shirley" Charlotte Bronté gives a vivid description of the Whit Walks in Yorkshire. She describes them as "a joyous scene and a scene to do good." In Saddleworth each church or chapel walked in the morning and in the afternoon there were band concerts, cricket matches and children's games.
Actually it all seems rather tame compared to this account of Whitsun by Blount in 1679: "the custom is, that on Monday after Whitsun week, there is a fat live lamb provided, and the maids of the town, having their thumbs tied behind them, run after it, and she that with her mouth takes and hold the lamb is declared 'Lady of the Lamb'... attended with music and a Morisco dance of men, and another of women, where the rest of the day is spent in dancing, mirth and merry glee."
Well I don't remember any sheep chasing in Longsight during Whitsun but it was one of the most important dates on the social calendar. If you look through the photograph collections of ordinary folk from the 50's you notice something right away - almost all the pictures were taken either on holiday, of which there were few, or on Whit Sunday. I think the reason is obvious, because on our street that was when you got a new outfit of clothes. Whit Sunday meant going around showing off your new suit or dress, watching parades and, more often than not, an afternoon in Platt Fields. We have very few family pictures but those we have were taken of us and our neighbours in their best bib and tucker outside our houses or up against a tree in Platt Fields.
I remember going to Whit walks all day as a kid. We had local walks in Longsight with bands and church banners and Rose Queens and girls in white dresses.
circa: 1953 (Courtesy of Lynda Lynch) - scanned by Ant
Beryl Bullock - Rose Queen (Courtesy of Bill Bullock)
circa 1957 (Courtesy of Lynda Lynch) - scanned by Ant
Rose Queen (Courtesy of Lynda Lynch) - scanned by Ant
The local walks were just the tip of the iceberg because in the center of Manchester there were huge processions of all the Protestant churches and church schools. I remember going on different occassions to see the Catholic procession and the Ukrainian processions. I always liked those processions best because in addition to the bands and the banners they had groups of men carrying biers that held statues from their churches.
Of course, kids will be kids and one thing about Whit Sunday we all looked forward to was the fact that all the neighbours gave you a treat of money for looking so posh in your new outfit. A pocketful of copper and "frepneybits" and silver was the high point of the day. Much like Halloween in North America the kids kept circulating around the street to make sure they hadn't missed someone. For some reason we saw more silver three penny pieces on Whit Sunday than any other time of the year. We also saw more Kodak Brownies on Whit Sunday too, with parents skenning into the little window on the top, turning it sideways to go for a wide angle shot, holding their hand infront of the eyepiece to cut the glare.
Often in the afternoon we went up to "Kirky" Lane to catch the 53 bus for the ride to Platt Fields. Platt Fields meant footie on the grass, maybe a game of cricket, a row round the lake and without question an ice cream, which I usually managed to drip on my new suit or even worse on my suede shoes. If rowing was a bit too strenuous there was a bigger powered boat you could take as a passenger for a cruise around the lake. Then there was the sort of petting zoo at the back of the lake. As I remember it was mostly rabbits and goats and guinea pigs.
Lynda Lynch was a frequent participant in these walks and remembers them this way:
Earl Street Mission
image above is shown with the permission of Bill Bullock
I haven't been to a Bonfire Night celebration in more than 40 years so I cannot talk about Bonfire Night in the 90s. I did take my 3 year old daughter to a wonderful display on Bonfire Night at Akley Head in Durham in 1981 but that is something quite different from my childhood experience that was all tied up with collecting bonny-wood - building a guy - lighting a fire in the pouring rain - excitement in dark streets - treacle toffee and parkin.
I suppose that Bonfire Night was the night that every fireman dreaded. In Holt Street we had a croft on the corner that was ideal for building a bonfire without too much chance that we would burn down the street. The people in Edlin Street had their fire in the "back" between the houses which was "grass" and dirt covered and much wider than your run-of-the-mill back entry. I know that because we used to sneak over there during the course of the evening to steal their bonny-wood when ours started running short. In streets with no croft and no back though it wasn't unusual for people to put a fire in the middle of the street and it wasn't unheard of for the fire brigade to come and put it out much to the dismay of all and sundry.
On the other hand, Bonfire Night must have been a God-send to people wanting to get rid of old and broken furniture. Guys often went to their maker sitting comfortably in someone's old comfy chair.
I didn't know this when I was little but it fell to the older kids on the street to make the bonfire work. They were the ones who went out, sometimes as early as the summer holiday to collect the bonny-wood and store it for the big night. I remember one summer scouring everywhere and coming home with all sorts, from a life-sized cardboard lady from an advertising display at a chemists on Hyde Road, to wooden crates from a green grocer on Stockport Road. Probably the two most unpopular items we collected were several wooden kipper crates from a fishmongers on Stockport Road which for some reason no one wanted and the best part of a big tree with leaves attached that we pinched from over near High Street Baths. Now I say pinched because we waited until the bloke who was cutting down the tree went in his house and we pounced, grabbing several huge branches and running like "Billy-O" down the streets to home, leaving a trail of broken twigs and leaves behind us. Of course the bloke must have thought he'd died and gone to heaven when he came back out and found that some Good Samaritan had taken away all the branches he had cut off. The clean-up was a lot shorter than he expected. We had to go to a number of houses before we got anyone to store this bonny-wood but eventually my friend Jeff's Mam agreed. Going to the lavie was like going for a trek through the Amazon at their house for the next few weeks. As the time approached we had little piles of boxes and scrap wood on the roofs of lavies and in the corners of backyards around our street.
The next item on the agenda was making a guy, so we could get out there and beg for coppers to buy fireworks. You really needed an old trolley, a pram or a bogie too so you could be more mobile. I don't remember our guys being too elaborate just a pair of trousers and an old shirt stuffed with newspapers, a mask used for the face and a hat scrounged from somewhere.
The expensive item was, of course, the fireworks. Mithering your Mam and Dad was a major activity for weeks before to ensure you got at least a good sized selection box. In addition, it was running errands, taking back bottles and blowing all of your spends at Bills to buy rip-raps, Catherine wheels, volcanoes, bangers, Roman candles, sparklers and of course rockets, that Bill put away in a box for you until the night in question.
Cats and dogs hated Bonfire Night too. In my day kids would drop bangers or rip-raps through unprotected letter boxes and scare old ladies and pets. People taped up their letter boxes to avoid the shock and the possibility of a fire. Radio warned all owners to keep their pets in-doors.
My Mam got ready for Bonfire Night by making toffee apples, butter caramel, treacle toffee and baking parkin. Some people baked spuds in the fire in the ends of sticks.
The big thing each year was getting the fire going and it was the big topic of conversation at school, especially if it was raining on the day. Talk of putting firelighters in with the paper, meths on the wood or even petrol were common although almost always vetoed by the grown-ups. I remember rainy Bonfire Nights but I don't remember a year that we didn't get the fire going.
One year my Dad, who worked at Belle Vue, found himself walking home with a large newspaper parcel under his arm that, to his amazement, when he opened it at home, contained several large fireworks that had been intended for the Firework Presentation at Belle Vue. On the night, he was going to be the "Pièce de résistance" with a huge Catherine wheel and a large rocket. I was told all night, "Be patient, we are waiting for it to get really dark before we let them off." Guess who fell asleep before the show?
In the morning the pile on the croft would still be smoldering and in amongst the ashes you could see the metalwork of the furniture we cremated the night before. The street would be littered with the fragments of the fireworks we exploded the night before, including carelessly abandoned milk bottles used as launching pads for rockets. I don't remember anyone getting injured on our street, no bangers dropped down shirt backs, no misdirected Roman candles, no house fires. I do remember great fun, lots of oos-and-ahs and great treacle toffee and parkin I haven't had the like of since.