10 years ago | Old Trafford, Manchester | 13th May 2013
Ten years ago, Sir Alex Ferguson retired as Manager of Manchester United and the club won their last Premier League title. A decade on, it’s difficult not to conclude that one of those facts has largely determined the other. I hadn’t attended a trophy parade since an unforgettable afternoon on Deansgate to welcome The Treble winners in 1999 but I decided to drive to Manchester to add my appreciation for the 13th and final title of Sir Alex’s reign….
That wasn’t the only reason. A couple of years previously, I’d managed to interest my son Charlie in going to United matches, freeing him from the clutches of the Liverpool-supporting elements of the wider family before it was too late. This was to be his first opportunity to experience a League Title parade and I didn’t want to miss the occasion – because I distinctly remember wondering (against all hope) that it might be the last for some time.
As we would for a match day, we parked up at The Lowry car park and crossed the footbridge you can see on ‘North West Tonight’, over the Ship Canal, and walked from Salford Quays to Old Trafford. There, we joined the growing crowd of fans waving flags and awaiting the appearance of the team. Behind us were raised camera gantries with several familiar faces: well-known sports correspondents from BBC, ITV and Sky.
Before long, an open-top bus appeared and the crowd cheered its appreciation. Vidic and Evra at the front of the bus, just in front of Van Persie, Ferdinand, Chicharito, Carrick and Giggs. Towards the rear you could spot De Gea, stadium announcer Alan Keegan, Sir Bobby Charlton, a bored-looking Paul Scholes and, right at the back, the man himself, Sir Alex.
A microphone was passed around the players, giving each the chance to individually thank the fans. One or two took the opportunity to show off their singing talents (if that’s the right word). Eventually, it made its way to the back of the bus where The Boss gave a short speech about the determination of the team and his appreciation for the fans’ support over the twenty-five-and-a-half years of his tenure. Predictably, every sentence was raucously applauded.
I thought back to those drab days of November 1986, when the club lost patience with the cavalier style of Ron Atkinson and appointed this dour Scot who’d spectacularly broken the ‘Old Firm’s grip on Scottish football and shared a Scotland dugout with the legendary Jock Stein. Even to a football-mad 13 year-old, his credentials seemed impressive but the big question was whether or not that pedigree counted for anything in the greater challenge of English football.
For the next quarter of a century, we found out – albeit not immediately – that it would. And how! From the shaky beginnings of the late eighties and an FA Cup win in 1990 that began with a supposedly make-or-break win in Nottingham, an avalanche of trophies followed: the first two Premier League titles, two League & Cup doubles in three years and, gloriously, The Treble. A second decade of domestic dominance followed, with another European Champions League and a World Club Trophy thrown in. It was all a far cry from that first game, a 2-0 defat at Oxford United in 1986..
Many of those watching the 2013 parade weren’t old enough to remember a team not managed by Alex Ferguson; nor were they likely to be familiar with the experience of many trophy-less seasons. Those of us who were qualified thus knew not to expect an unbroken succession of trophies from whoever would follow. Pessimistically, maybe – but as things turned out, realistically. I mean it shouldn’t have been like that, given the reputations of some of those who’ve inhabited the Old Trafford hot-seat since then, but the relative struggles of the last ten years have only served to further underline Ferguson’s genius.
When he arrived, we were searching for our next Sir Matt Busby. He eclipsed Sir Matt half-way through his reign and went on to deserve all the adulation he received on that day and since.
We shouldn’t expect to see Fergie’s like again – but another ‘next Busby’ is still not too much to hope for…
30 years ago | The Plough Inn, Galgate, Lancashire | 3rd May 1993
It was hard to be a Manchester United fan in the 1980s. It was a decade of inconsistency, frustration and under-achievement. Worse than that, the dominant team of the age was Liverpool, whose relentless accumulation of trophies further highlighted the gulf between hope and expectation. With each season, the number of years since United’s last league title (in 1967) was quoted ad nauseam by newspapers and rival fans alike. Today, you may feel the need to refer to the word’s smallest violin but that’s largely because in 1993, the counter finally stopped at 26 years…
The inaugural season of the FA Premier League had been another rollercoaster of a season. Unsurprisingly, we’d lost our first-ever game in the new competition, 2-1 at Sheffield United, with Brian Deane scoring its first goal, after five minutes.
Six weeks later, I’d started University. Having chosen Lancaster over my second choice (Salford), I knew the opportunities to get to Old Trafford would be fewer than I’d enjoyed over the previous few seasons. While I was enjoying life as a Fresher, we continued to stagger into the season, drawing five games in a row and then losing to Wimbledon and Aston Villa.
Not that feelings were to be trusted. We’d finished the previous season in second place after imploding spectacularly with weeks to go. And then there was the heady 85-86 season which began with ten straight wins and ended with 16 points dropped in the last ten games. Bitter experience had shown that winning titles required more than mere excitement.
Cantona continued to galvanise the team, inspiring a crucial win at Norwich. Steve Bruce famously did the same, deep into added time, at home to Sheffield Wednesday. A midweek win at Crystal Palace meant that Aston Villa had to beat Oldham to stay in the race on the Sunday. When Oldham got an unlikely win, the wait was finally over – the title was coming back to Manchester.
On Sky’s Monday Night Football, the match at home to Blackburn became the coronation of the first-ever Premier League champions. Kevin Gallagher threatened to dampen the party by scoring for the visitors before goals from Giggs, Ince and – improbably – a Gary Pallister free kick made it 3-1 to United.
I was watching with friends at the Plough Inn in Galgate, a short walk from Lancaster University. At the final whistle, it was a scene of celebrating United fans finally exorcising the ghosts of Charlton, Law and Best. For many, like me, the wilderness years had extended well beyond their lifetime.
As Bruce and Robson lifted the trophy, we witnessed the genial smile of an octogenarian Matt Busby and knew that, truly, the flame of greatness had been passed. For as long as I could remember before that point, I had supported a team, that weren’t the best in England. Now, finally, the pecking order had changed…
A story of my great-great grandfather: a man from Standish who visited the residence of the President, dined at the US Capitol and didn’t quite become a wine mogul in California…
Lots of us have discovered the joys and frustrations of researching our family history online. I’ve created a Family Tree on Ancestry.com and posted before about some of the exploits of my ancestors that I’ve been able to uncover.
The process is very similar to physical archaeology or, I imagine, gold-mining. It involves long periods of frustration punctuated by short instances of blinding discovery, the thrill of which is enough to sustain the addiction to persevere through the next, inevitable long period of frustration.
This time, it was my cousin, Adam, who found the nugget of gold while out prospecting. He was following up on a totally different part of the family story when he came across this story in the 25th January 1913 edition of the ‘Wigan Observer’ – exactly 110 years old.
It appears our great-great grandfather, James Bentham, former cattle dealer and farmer had, in December 1912, been part of a delegation of wine investors to inspect a vineyard in Wahtoke, just outside Fresno, California. If you Google ‘Wahtoke’, you find the settlement is now abandoned but but was established enough to have a US Post Office between 1905 and 1916.
What’s most interesting about the letter is his description of arriving in Washington DC, en route, and managed to find themselves being received at the White House “where the President [William Howard Taft] and Cabinet were sitting in one portion of the building”. They subsequently visited other Governmental buildings, including the Capitol, where they witnessed an impeachment hearing and were then invited to dine.
The letter includes a number of interesting details of the trip from Liverpool to Wahtoke, via New York, Washington, New Orleans, El Paso and Los Angeles, including something of a fixation with the quality of paving. Remember also that they made that Liverpool to New York crossing, in “exceptionally rough” seas, only eight months after the loss of the Titanic.
Here is the letter, transcribed in full, by Adam and copied and pasted, by me:
From The Wigan Observer and District Advertiser, Saturday 25th January 1913.
A Wigan Gentleman in California
Mr Samuel Taylor, J.P. the Chairman of Directors of Anglo-California Vineyards Ltd. has received the following letter from Mr. James Bentham (of Wigan and Blackpool) who is now on a visit to California.
Alameda Vineyard, Wahtoke, California December 26th 1912
Dear Mr. Taylor
I left Liverpool on the 30th November with my friend, Mr. Crompton of Preston, for the purpose of personally inspecting this vineyard, which was recently acquired by friends, principally in Wigan, Southport and Blackpool districts, and floated as the Anglo-Californian Vineyards Ltd. about which I shall have more to say later on.
The sea journey was exceptionally rough, even for this time of the year, as we had to face north-western gales and high seas for about seven days, and we landed in New York on the 9th day. We found this city with 16 degrees of frost, and were not long in making up our minds to go out west. Our impression of New York, with its badly paved streets and network of tram and railway lines, was not good enough to induce us to spend much time there.
We, therefore, made our way in the afternoon to Washington. The whole of the land between these cities, so far as could be seen from the train, was nothing but swamp and barren land. We were delighted with Washington, the streets being very wide and well laid out. The public buildings are also of a very high order, and we were privileged to enter the ‘White House’ where the President and Cabinet were sitting in one portion of the building.
We visited the Treasury, Army and Navy, and other public buildings (inside) including the Capitol, where we had the pleasure of listening to a debate of the Senators (who were trying to unseat the member for Philadelphia for corruption at his election) after which we had the privilege of dining in the building.
In the evening we left for New Orleans, passing through Mobile, which is the great shipping port for timber in the Gulf of Mexico. On arrival at New Orleans we were introduced to several members of the Cotton Exchange, who were kind enough to make us members for 10 days, thus enabling us to be present at the sales when the important announcement of the total cotton crop was made. It is impossible to describe the excitement that took place for about half an hour. The city is wretchedly paved outside the principal streets, but the buildings are fine.
We left at midnight, the whole train passing over the Mississippi River by ferry in three sections, and in the morning we were in Texas, which grows more than one fourth of the cotton in America. We were two days and nights passing through this large state, which is called a ‘dry State’ which means that you cannot even get a bottle of lager to dinner.
We picked up a lot of soldiers who were going out to quell the rebellion in Mexico, and put them off there at a place called El Paso. Finally, we reached Los Angeles, where we might have spent a day or two in a beautiful city, but we were anxious to get to our destination, and went on to Fresno, where we had to remain two days before coming here.
And now I must say something of Alameda. After a week’s stay and general inspection we have come to the conclusion that there is no better cultivated land or better kept vineyard in California; the houses and buildings are quite equal to the land.
I see from the papers (one of which I am sending you) that the value of land is going up greatly in this district.
I am, yours faithfully,
I’ve learned that it’s dangerous to take anything like this at face value so there are some layers of verification to apply before we take for granted that this story is as it appears.
First, James and his wife Alice lived in Standish for many years, first on High Street, then at While Hall on Cross Street (approximately where Standish Library now stands) and then at Broomfield House on Bradley Lane, where both my Dad (Jim) and Adam’s mum (Anne) grew up. In the 1911 census, James and Alice are shown as living at ’42 Chesterfield Road, Blackpool’. The specific reference of “Mr. James Bentham (of Wigan and Blackpool)” leaves far less possibility that it applies to another James Bentham.
Having moved out of the family farm and (as we’d say today) ‘downsized’, it’s also more likely that he would have the capital to both invest and travel. I’ve often wondered why he and Alice moved to Blackpool. Alice died in December 1913, aged 66, so my theory always was that they moved to “take the [sea] air”, as was common for people living with poor health in those days. There’s no reference to Alice accompanying him on this journey. She may have been unwilling, unwell or simply uninvited.
What happened next? Was James one of the team of investors? What happened to the Alameda Vineyard? Aside from family rumours about of swindling, I can’t say if, or by how much, James was financially involved. Prohibition in 1919 would not have helped the business plan but the loss of the Post Office, during wartime, in 1916, suggests that the town’s fortunes may have receded even before that.
I can say my grandad was born, six weeks after the publication of this letter, on 6th April 1913, although I’m not sure if James, his grandfather, was back in England by then. Two days after Christmas that year, James’ wife, Alice, died and only six months after that, Archduke Ferdinand was assassinated in Sarajevo, leading to the outbreak of the First World War, within weeks. As we now know all too well, James seemed to have been in the process of making plans in a world that was about to change out of all recognition. He lived on until the age of 81 and died in Blackpool in November 1930.
30 years ago | Old Trafford, Manchester, UK | 12th December 1992
Thirty years ago, we saw a shift in the tectonic plates of English football – and I was there to witness it: a 1-0 victory over Norwich City…
Manchester United spent the 1980s as perennial under-achievers and the 90s as a dominant force. Many people believe the single turning point was in their Third Round victory at Nottingham Forest in 1990, won by a Mark Robins goal that supposedly saved Alex Ferguson’s job.
While it was certainly a significant moment, it still only led to a Cup win, something United had done twice in their under-whelming previous decade. Even more elusive, over the previous 26 years, was any sense of expectation of league success.
In December 1992, the inaugural Premier Leagues season, recent Champions Liverpool and Arsenal were in transition. Leeds United were Champions, Blackburn had arrived as a cash-rich challenger and Norwich had somehow climbed to the top of the league.
Over at Old Trafford, 5th-placed United had been cajoling performances from a team that had faded dismally the previous spring, handing the last ‘old’ League title to Leeds. There were moments of quality but, as ever, inconsistency seemed to limit the team’s potential. Yes, the Youth Team had – as is now legend – won their cup, months previously, but it was still too early to see the ‘Class of 92’ realise their potential.
Two weeks earlier, an astonishing transfer coup had taken place, with the arrival of the mercurial Eric Cantona from Leeds. He’d only in played the second half in the derby victory six days beforehand and was making his first United start against the league leaders.
Played against the backdrop of a half-built ‘new’ Stratford End, with twinkling Christmas lights on the cranes and free plastic capes for fans sitting in the uncovered seats, this was my first sight of ‘King Eric’ in a United shirt.
The game wasn’t a classic but it wasn’t as close as the 1-0 scoreline suggests. United spurned several chances before Mark Hughes seized on a defensive error to spin and finish in his usual emphatic fashion. Here’s the highlights:
More impressively, this was a team with the grit to withstand an impressive Norwich team who were eight points clear at the top, after eighteen games. As we streamed out of the ground after the game, there was a sense in the crowd that Cantona could really be the final piece of the puzzle after so much unfulfilled promise.
The next two games were both away draws (at Chelsea and Sheffield Wednesday), with Cantona scoring in each. The next home game seemed to confirm the optimism of the Norwich game: an impressive 5-0 victory over Coventry City, with that man Cantona scoring a penalty and providing two assists. I was there for that game too.
Something had changed in this team. Maybe they were capable of finally emulating Busby’s ’67 team. An increasing number of the crowd began to dare to dream again – but it would take another five months before the hope became a reality. I’ll tell you where I was that night, when we get to 30 years after that event…
Elizabeth Alexandra Mary was born to the Duke and Duchess of York at 2:40am on 21 April 1926, the eldest daughter of the second son of King George V.
Third in line to the throne at birth, she was never expected to inherit any title beyond the Duchess of York. The young princess was the third grandchild of the King and his eldest grand-daughter. ‘Lilibet’ formed a close bond with her grandfather, whom she called “Grandpa England”.
At the age of 4, she gained a younger sister, Princess Margaret. As the two young princesses grew up, the young Elizabeth showed early signs of understanding duty and leadership. Their father noted this character trait and referred to his two daughters as his “Pride and Joy” – Elizabeth the ‘pride’ and Margaret the ‘joy’. Winston Churchill marvelled at her “air of authority and reflectiveness astonishing in an infant”.
On 11 December 1936, at the age of 10, her life changed irrevocably when her uncle, Edward VIII, abdicated the throne in order to marry the divorced Wallis Simpson. Instantly, her father ‘Bertie’ became King George VI and she became the heir to his throne. Her family moved from the relative calm of Clarence House to Buckingham Palace.
Her own sense of turmoil at these events was heightened by the instability in Europe at the time. She was 13 when Britain declared war with Hitler’s Germany. As bombs fell across Britain, her parents resolved that the whole family would remain in the country, despite offers of safe passage to Canada.
While many children were evacuated away from Britain’s cities, the teenage Princess Elizabeth spent most of the war in and around Windsor Castle. In early 1945, aged 18, she was appointed to the Auxiliary Territorial Service, where she trained as a lorry driver and mechanic.
Two years after the end of the war, aged 21, Princess Elizabeth became engaged to Philip Mountbatten, a Naval officer descended from the royal houses of Greece and Denmark. On 20 November 1947, they were married at Westminster Abbey.
Almost a year later, 14 November 1948, she gave birth to a son, Charles. At the age of 24, on 15 August 1950, she bore her second child, a daughter, Anne.
Not for the first time in her life, the idyll of a young family life was interrupted by fate. In early 1952, her ailing father was at London Airport to wave off Elizabeth and Philip as they left to represent him on their planned tour to Australia and New Zealand. Days later, with the young couple still on the African leg of their tour, in Kenya, George VI died and the 25 year-old Princess became Queen Elizabeth II.
Once again, her life would change irrevocably. The young queen returned home to a future for which she had been undoubtedly prepared but was perhaps not expecting to occur so soon.
Her coronation took place the following year, when still aged only 26, she took the oath to serve her realms across the Commonwealth for the rest of her life. Shortly afterwards, she and Philip embarked upon a seven-month world tour, visiting 13 countries over 40,000 miles. It’s estimated that three quarters of the population of Australia saw her during that particular leg of the tour.
The accession of a young queen was seen by many to be symbolic of a new Britain, rebounding from post-war austerity and leading the world in many areas of technological development. The new Elizabethan era seemed to represent a forward-looking contrast to the traditions and protocols of previous generations.
In the earliest years of her reign, she was guided in statecraft by her first Prime Minister, Winston Churchill and learned how to re-define not only her own role, but that of the wider royal family as well as re-engineering the purpose of the Commonwealth.
Towards the end of her first decade on the throne, she and Philip chose to add to their family, with the birth of Andrew in 1960 and Edward in 1964. At the age of 37 and now a mother of four, she became the visible matriarch of the nation. And visible she was – decades before the world knew what an image consultant was, she favoured a wardrobe of bright, solid colours, famously declaring “I need to be seen to be believed”.
The 1970s brought challenges as Britain experienced economic and social challenges. Closer to home, her daughter Anne was the subject of a failed kidnapping and Phillip’s uncle, Louis Mountbatten, was murdered by Irish Republicans. Britain was becoming a les class-riven, less deferential nation and Elizabeth once again had to steer a path of both constancy and modernity to ensure that the monarchy retained its relevance. The success of her Silver Jubilee, despite negativity and even hostility in some quarters, was another major milestone in the life of a monarch who was by then 51 years old.
As the 1980s dawned, the Royal Family was once again at the centre of worldwide attention with the engagement of her eldest son, Charles, to Lady Diana Spencer. Their wedding in July 1981 was another era-defining event and an opportunity for the profile of the monarchy to be raised to levels that it routinely held decades before, especially following the birth of her grandsons, William and Harry, in 1982 and 1984.
The wedding of her second son, Andrew, to Sarah Ferguson later in the decade and the addotion of their two daughters meant that by the end of the decade, the Queen, by now 63, was a grandmother to three girls and three boys.
In Elizabeth’s own words, 1992 was her “annus horriblis”. It was to be the year of her 40th, ‘Ruby’ Jubilee but ongoing negative press about her daughter’s divorce and the failing marriages of her eldest sons led to her deciding to scale down the significance of the event. Before the end of the year, even worse was to follow, when a major fire broke out at her beloved Windsor Castle, causing extensive damage and concern.
As the world began to enter the Internet age, Elizabeth was once again required to re-define her role. Many felt that her greatest challenge was in 1997, following the death of Princess Diana in Paris. Having delayed her return to London, for family reasons, she gave a rare address to the nation to re-affirm her connection with the grieving population. In doing so, she demonstrated that, even as she entered her 70s, she retained her willingness to learn and adapt.
As a new millennium began, Elizabeth completed her transformation to become, effectively, the nation’s grandmother. The loss of her younger sister and her own mother re-iterated her seniority. Her 2002 Golden Jubilee signalled a return to the levels of public affection that she’d enjoyed in 1977.
As Elizabeth approached her 80th birthday, the marriage of her son and heir to his long-time companion, Camilla, was thought by some to be a divisive, even unconstitutional union. Instead, it signalled a more mature, more modern face of royalty that was seen as more reflective of the lives of many British people. The wedding of William and Kate in 2011 was also seen by many to elevate the status of the monarchy still higher. When the Olympic games came to Loindon in 2012, the 86 year-old monarch proved that she could still surprize and amaze, with her playful participation in Danny Boyle’s epic opening ceremony.
By her tenth decade, Elizabeth continued to negotiate with skill the twin forces of fate and ever-shifting public opinion, just as she had done since the age of 25. The impact of Harry’s marriage and subsequent withdrawal from royal duties, of Andrew’s legal difficulties and of a global pandemic continued to test her resolve to do her sworn duty. Even the loss of her husband Philip, her greatest supporter did not deter her from fulfilling her lifelong oath. This year, another Jubilee, celebrating an unprecedented 70th year on the throne gave us the chance to reflect on her remarkable service and unstinting grace.
Even at the age of 96, she was able to meet and advise her fifteenth British Prime Minister, an unbroken span of influence that included every post-war UK leader except Clement Atlee.
Queen Elizabeth II was a unique monarch. Not just in terms of longevity or even length of service. Her reign coincided with unparalleled levels of change. As a consequence, she has travelled more miles, met more people, seen more history and touched more lives than perhaps any human being who has ever lived.
Elizabeth inherited an ancient institution and ensured it was relevant, respected and loved for 70 years, more than any other monarch. She did this in a world that has developed at dizzying speed, compared to any other period in human history.
As a young lady, Elizabeth ascended to a throne of Empire and Cold War in a country still rationing food after a devastating war. It was a world where older certainties were becoming increasingly uncertain and, throughout her monarchy, she continued to respond to the changes around her. In doing so, to her people, she became the greatest certainty.
We now live in a world where the greatest challenges do not sit neatly within national boundaries and require global solutions. Her unwavering commitment to the Commonwealth shows that she understood that decades before most.
Today, the role she bequeaths is just as relevant and elicits just as much affection as it did in 1952 and yet it is in a world almost unrecognisable to those who cheered her own coronation. Her ability to achieve that single objective may be an accomplishment we can only truly appreciate in the years to come.
30 years ago | Old Trafford, Manchester, UK | July 1992 In the close season before the first Premier League season, I made my regular summer trip to Old Trafford to purchase the new home shirt on the day of its release from the Club ‘Superstore’ (the small rectangular building in the bottom-right corner). I remember walking around the ground to see the demolished Stratford End and peering over the construction site wall, to see the interior of the ground. Incidentally, the beige bit of land across the Quays is now the Lowry and the green bit behind that is now the BBC.
Our recent blogpost about CSG’s heritage showed the importance of history to this company. Developing the idea, we thought it might be interesting to take a closer look at one of our sites, our processing facility in Cadishead, near Manchester.
Like many towns in the swathe of territory between Manchester and Liverpool, Cadishead became thrust into the heart of the Industrial Revolution by the construction of the Liverpool & Manchester Railway from 1826. In fact, Chat Moss, an area of marshland just north of our site became notable for the challenge it provided to the railway’s engineers, led by the renowned George Stephenson. Four years later, on September 15th 1830, the new line, a marvel of the Victorian age, opened to wide acclaim – with Robert Stephenson’s famous Rocket among the first locomotives to run on the line.
Cadishead’s significance was further assured in the late 1880s, with the construction of the Manchester Ship Canal. On the day it opened, January 1st 1894, it was the largest canal of its type in the world and would enable Manchester, a city located some 40 miles inland to become Britain’s third-busiest port. With such strong transport links, this previously agricultural area had, within a couple of generations, become one of the most strategically important locations in the country.
If you’ve ever used the stretch of the M62 between its junctions with the M6 at Birchwood and the M60 at Eccles, you may have noticed just how uneven the road can be – and how often it seems to be re-surfaced. Local wisdom suggests that the ground beneath is so criss-crossed with mine shafts and extracted coal, even after over a hundred years, the soil is still settling into place, disrupting the surface. In the early 1890s, with the advent of the Ship Canal, nearby Cadishead suddenly became a hugely important location to load millions of tonnes of coal onto waiting barges.
An early map of the canal shows a high concentration of recently-laid railway lines nearby, crossing the canal and terminating at a loading areas on both banks – the viaduct remains today, albeit unused. It also indicates that while the immediate area around our Liverpool Road site remained quite agricultural in nature, even then, a mineral line ran alongside the canal, where today’s Cadishead Way by-pass (A57) begins.
As the area began to prosper from its now enviable location, it was clear that the site around Hayes Farm was far too important to be left unexploited and a local railway historian suggests that around the turn of the 20th Century, it became the home of the Lancashire Patent Fuel Company, a manufacturer of fuel briquettes. Around the time of the First World War, the company was acquired by the Manna Oil Refinery, a name which would make newspaper headlines in 1915.
It was on the 8th October that year that a fire broke out at the refinery. With highly flammable liquids stored on site and no public fire-fighting service in the vicinity, there was grave concern that a deeper tragedy may occur. Quickly, the Works Fire Brigade of the nearby Co-operative Wholesale Society (CWS), a volunteer force of 25 men and their horse-drawn appliance. With seven police constables holding back growing crowds, they were eventually supported by the Eccles Fire Brigade with their more modern, motorised, fire engine.
Thankfully, no lives were lost although three of the men who fought the fire were severely burned. The damage to the site resulted in a £3,500 insurance claim (£370,000 at today’s value) and the resulting inquest decided that the Eccles Fire Brigade should take responsibility for Irlam and Cadishead. It would be another eight years until Irlam was afforded its own Fire Brigade and Engine.
In 1916, British Tar Products opened a site at the end of Hayes Road, making explosives for the war effort, gaining a capability that extended beyond the war with the production of other oil-based products. Tar became an even more important part of the local economy when, a few years later, the Lancashire Tar Distillers opened a plant in the shadow of the Cadishead Viaduct.
In1932, the then Duke of York – later to become King George VI – the father of Queen Elizabeth visited Irlam to be given a tour of the nearby CWS Margarine factory and Steelworks. Around the same time, this aerial photograph of Cadishead was taken – our Liverpool Road site is unfortunately just out of shot to the left of the picture.
With the country at war once again between 1939 and 1945, the area was vital to the war effort, supplying coal, steel and household goods to power and sustain the country. The strategic importance of the Manchester Ship Canal was not lost on the Luftwaffe, who repeatedly bombed Salford Quays, famously damaging Manchester United’s Old Trafford ground in the process. With so much vital industry and infrastructure, Cadishead did not escape the bombing, with properties on Liverpool Road amongst those hit by the bombs.
By the end of the war, Cadishead was given an eerie reminder of the reason behind the hardships of the previous six years. With victory in Europe declared, the U1023, a 500-ton German U-boat, captured by the Royal Navy, embarked on a tour of the country to raise money for the King George’s Fund for Sailors. She was sailed along the Manchester Ship Canal, passing a matter of yards from our Cadishead site, to Salford Quays, where she was on display between 6th and 11th July 1945.
With the war won and, eventually, rationing over, Britain began to recover her prosperity and, by 1957, with the words of the Prime Minister, Harold MacMillan that “most of our people have never had it so good”, Irlam and Cadishead was indeed teeming with industry and opportunity. Aerial photographs of the time show a thriving steelworks in Irlam separated from the British Tar Products site in Cadishead by the Cheshire railway line approach to the Cadishead viaduct. Britain’s post-war resurgence was quite literally forged in places like this.
On the morning of Tuesday April 14th 1970, five men were killed while being ferried over the Manchester Ship Canal by “Bob’s Ferry”, a service that had existed for almost a hundred years, which operated from Bob’s Lane, adjacent to our current site. Further upstream in Partington, a Dutch vessel was being loaded with 1,800 tons of petrol and, due to the negligence of those who should have been supervising the operation, upto 14,000 gallons had overflowed into the canal. It was never known what sparked the fuel but within seconds, upto a mile of the canal became engulfed with flames upto 60 feet high. On April 30th, a sixth man died, as a result of the injuries sustained.
In the 1970s, times were changing and Cadishead seemed to be a perfect example of the transition from one era to the next. Like many heavy industries in Britain in the that decade, it was clear that decline had set in and in 1979, the Irlam Steelworks closed, resulting in redundancy and uncertainty for hundreds of local families. In the same year, a Cadishead-born graphic designer called Ray Lowry saw the release of his most famous work – the iconic cover of The Clash’s most famous album, ‘London Calling’. The demise of heavy industry coinciding with the rise of the creative economy and popular culture were apparent in many places in 1979 but in this respect, Cadishead seemed to be a microcosm of the whole country.
In 1981, the Manchester Ship Canal railway closed, leaving the British Tar company to operate its own rail connection. By the mid-1990s, the Tar production stopped and the site was cleared, eventually used for housing development a decade or so later.
Our site at Liverpool Road in Cadishead was by this point operated by Lanstar, a derivative company of the Lancashire Tar Distillers who had occupied a site in Cadishead for over 80 years and had developed an expertise in treating industrial and hazardous waste.
With the emergence of ever-tightening restrictions on waste, this was an industry in its own throes of revolution and opportunity, just like Cadishead had seen with coal, oil and then steel over the previous century. With its enviable facilities and strategic location (although now, proximity to the motorway network had become more important that the Manchester Ship Canal), it was a prime candidate for acquisition and in August 2000, Lanstar Holdings was acquired by CSG.
With such a rich history, and a key part in the Industrial Revolution, the Co-operative movement and then the subsequent decline of mining and steelworks, Cadishead and Irlam’s development has, to a large extent, become a textbook example of the very history of industry in the UK over the last two hundred years. With CSG’s focus on recycling and commitment to development to achieve better waste outcomes in future, it combines two of the most sought-after elements to meet the challenges ahead: environmental sustainability and the so-called knowledge economy.
In many ways, this part of Cadishead is as well-placed to meet the needs of the future as it was when Stephenson’s Rocket raced past, all those years ago.
The final excerpt of a verbatim record of a diary I wrote while visiting friends (Paul & Rice) in Austin, Texas during the Easter holidays of my second year at University in 1994. Re-blogged on the anniversary of each entry. 2017 Commentary, where necessary for context, added as footnotes in italics.
Friday 1st April 1994,18:30 (CST) / Saturday 2nd April 1994,00:30 (GMT)
OVER LAKE MICHIGAN AND CLIMBING
With a setting red sun on the left and what seems like an ocean on my right, we’re climbing out of Chicago, out of the USA and out of my Easter adventure.The good news is:
I have a window seat
There is no-one next to me
Filet Mignon is still on the menu
The bad news:
‘Beethoven’s 2nd’ is the film.
Ah well, maybe I will sleep well.As always, travelling eastwards, the dusk is short.At a rate of climb, this is negated but at 26,000 feet, we only have 11,000 left to go.We’re an hour ahead of schedule (07:50 ETA) and heading for Detroit.
The reason I said “seems like an ocean” is because Lake Michigan is huge, about twice the size of Wales*, by my reckoning and therefore, you can’t see the shores — I guess they don’t call them “Great Lakes” for nothing!It’s practically dark outside now and hopefully, it may induce some sleep!
The flight time is approx. 6½ hours as opposed to 9 hours westbound. That’s the Jetstream for you!
I see land again. We’ve crossed Michigan lake……into Michigan state (presumably).I see lights below but we have absolutely no idea what town it is!The sky behind us goes red, orange, yellow, green, blue; while in front, it’s a sort of murky navy blue.It’s still very clear and, from the black floor, you can see lights arranged in that familiar criss-cross pattern Americans call towns and cities.
The colours behind fade as the navy blue consumes all.And yet, looking along the plane (inside), there is illumination, a duty-free video, a hive of steward(/ess) activity and the occasional remark (or child’s shriek) of those adjacent.Eventually, the sky will darken (inevitably), the ground will darken (in Canada) and even the cabin will darken as people decide they would like to be awake during their first day in England.
What have I learned in Austin?
Despite my insistences that the US is not to be viewed as a single entity, I think for the purposes of this observation, I should contradict myself.Therefore, we have the UK and the USA.In many ways, Austin is extremely similar to Lancaster.Lancaster does not have a cityscape skyline, a ‘downtown’, an airport or any shopping malls.The similarity lies in equivalent terms. Austin, like Lancaster, is an historic, provincial capital.It is now a university town, partly dependent upon the adjacent campus for its wealth.It is relatively of similar proportion (in relation to overall population) although Austin is slightly proportionately bigger.
So what?If we see Austin and Lancaster as equivalents, microcosms of the United States and United Kingdom respectively, here’s the difference: the amazing things I’ve seen and written about — the stadium, the airport, the shopping malls, the trading and commerce therein.The number and variation of food emporia, the transport systems and the television channel variation.That is the distance between us and them.I haven’t mentioned the weather because that’s not Lancaster’s fault, but it does make a helluva bonus!
America is a place where, if you have the money, you have the choice also.Attempt to draw me into an argument about the ethics of wholesale commercialism if you may, but I warn you: it’s not nearly so linear as you think I mean.Yes, there are people without.Yes, it does not prohibit the creation of an underclass.It is not, however, simply a case of more money = more fun.While I concede that money increases the choice of fun, you can still exist in America on a moderate allowance.The temptations to overspend may be greater (who is this addressed to?) but I can testify 2 weeks of US living for under £200 — and that’s a holiday.Ask Paul or Rice how much you need to *live* in America.
The inherent advantage of the American Dream is not simply to earn more money.The financial motivations act as a catalyst to self-improvement, the desire to ‘make it’.If everyone believes this, life improves.Even the postage stamp salesman knows that if he strives, he can sell more stamps.By striving, he improves his standard of service.If everyone’s service improves, so do expectations.Then the stamp salesman must strive further.Some dismiss this as greed or money-grabbing.Does this negate the value of a country where motivation to please the customer is almost a religion?I say no.Yes, there are dangers in the plan; aren’t there dangers anywhere?“Try telling that to the people who have to work Sundays”. you cry.I agree.No-one should be *made* to do what they don’t want to do.Isn’t life about compromises, though?Do these people consider that their inconveniences are a by-product of a system which offers greater potential for them than any other country on earth.
Do you realise the cost of living in the States is remarkably low?Fast food, borne of competition and old-fashioned economics, much cheaper than at home — because it *has* to be.
I’m not trying to indoctrinate anti-Marxism onto the globe but remember this message the next time your meal is under-cooked or your train has been motionless for an hour.Something has gone wrong because someone has let it go wrong……de-motivation.
I hope I’ve motivated you to understand why I never tire of the USA.
I’m sure your next question goes like this: “If you’re so bloody enamoured with the USA, why don’t you sod off there, then?”.The answer is simple.As Roy Walker puts it: “It’s good but it’s not right.”
The United States has achieved so much in its 200 years-plus of independence.Without the constraints of tradition or nepotistic perpetuation, it has excelled on its own merit.It has mineral wealth, room to spare and (if necessary) waste, a variety of climes and a massive resource of labour.We have a lot to learn from America but it does not embody utopia.We may not be able to match its impressive wealth of resources but what we can match and in many ways improve upon are much more important than mere commodities.We need the attitude of success if we are to succeed; how many champion athletes just walk onto the track and simply run?None.They have the attitude for success.We have the foundations for success: the best and most respected education system in the world, a history of innovation in science, technology and arts.Yet all this from a small, seemingly inconsequential nation.We have got something in the system right.What we do not seem to have is the knowledge of what is right, what else needs to be right and the belief that it can be made right.We tolerate ineptitude, we limit our ambition, we pretend to be the poorer cousins of the fold and we spread pessimism like a plague.We can never compete with the acreage-related strongholds of leading agricultural produce worldwide.We can use our advantages properly and have faith in our ability.This sounds like an assertion seminar because we need one.If this was a preach to the converted, the message would seem as regular as the Queen’s speech.America has these advantages but they are not exclusive.And the sooner we learn to appreciate this, the sooner we can stare them, as a nation eye-to-eye, instead of squarely in the navel.**
I’m sorry if this sounds like a combination of ‘Mein Kampf’ and the American constitution but a visit to America provides so much insight as to what we in Britain lack.It is only through reflecting on the successes across the pond that we can be made to fulfil our own potential.Just as denial of what we take for granted helps us appreciate it so does exposure to that which we choose to ignore in the pursuit of ‘fitting in’, which is fine as a day-to-day existence but limits the horizons to which you can aspire.Travel, as they say, broadens the mind.Does that go for travellers too?
03:25 (BST) <— Yes!
Yes, it’s completely black now (as promised).The steak was divine, as was the caramel ice cream which followed.I’m hoping that the Bailey’s that I’m now sipping will facilitate my quest for sleep.It’s been a pleasure talking to you.If you do feel preached to, there remains one final piece of advice: go to America.See for yourself!!
In the meantime, here’s to being British and being in Britain.Cheers!
Thank you; Goodnight.
PB (SOMEWHERE OVER CANADA)
* My reckoning was a little inaccurate: Wikipedia says Lake Michigan has a surface area of 22,404 sq mi and Wales covers an area of 8,023 sq mi. Lake Michigan is therefore 2.79 times the size of Wales. I’ve no idea why Wales is considered to be a standard unit of measurement for such purposes.
** Is any of this any less true in 2017 than it was in 1994?
Originally published as a FB Note, on 28 May 2008 at 00:19
Two weeks ago, I was very close to writing a post on the disgraceful trashing of Manchester by Rangers ‘fans’ during and after their appearance in the UEFA Cup Final. Exasperated in equal measure as I was by all concerned, I saw no real injustice, so I decided to leave the subject alone – until now.
To recap, where there are 100,000+ Glasgwegians, copious amounts of alcohol and a high potential for disappointment, it doesn’t take a genius to work out what might happen next. Given what did happen, it’s easy to paint the Rangers following as the villains of the piece. Of course, they were the ones charging the police and breaking windows so whatever way you wish to look at it, they are hardly able to complain of victimisation.
Consider though for a second the role played by Manchester City Council here. Despite toeing the sensible line of advising ticketless United fans not to go to Moscow the following week, when it came to their own gig, the Council mysteriously and repeatedly trotted out lines beginning with ‘Despite all the advice, we know that more Rangers fans will want to be here than can be accommodated in the City of Manchester Stadium…’
When it comes to the injection of a few Bank of Scotland notes into the city’s coffers, it seemed the Council ‘bottled’ it – rather ironically. Hey, what’s a bit of extra police overtime against a potential £50m in extra revenues? At the last minute, the City Council decided to lay on some big screens to make “better provision” for these fans that, had they been similarly following United in Moscow, the same Council would have advised not to travel.
So, as sure as a hangover follows a party, we had the flashpoint, the violence, the clean-up and the recriminations. Another of the ironies of the situation was that the reported failure of one of the big screens was cited as a spark to the flame. Like a rowdy regular, the Rangers fans took a certain delight in having their pint spilled and so had their fight to make their night. Like a greedy landlord, the city knew who they were letting in and only did it to sell a few more pints. Both parties deserved what they got.
What about those caught in the crossfire, though? The real injustice only occurred eight days later when Manchester United’s Champion’s League victory was denied a civic parade by the same Council, on police advice. That’s right, the same supporters who voted for and pay their Council taxes to Manchester were asked to accept that the previous week’s maurauding Scots had irrevocably changed the risk levels of such a gathering that had caused no problems only eight years previously.
I was in the crowd at Deansgate on May 27th 1999. The city’s main thoroughfare was carpeted with scores of thousands of people, all waiting patiently for the five minutes or so that they would have to see the team pass by. Aside from the odd over-enthusiastic building-scaler or lamp-post-climber, I saw nothing that would worry a police officer. The mood was overwhelmingly good-natured. The atmosphere was almost identical to that at a festival or a major concert before the main act came on, euphoric and full of anticipation.
At the time, I was struck by the uniqueness of the situation that combined a Glastonbury feel with a city centre location. Now the moment has passed and calls for a parade can only diminish to the extent that even if one happens, it will be a pale imitation. Damn the brainless Rangers fans for their drunken idiocy. Damn the spineless City Council for their greed and double standards and damn then feckless Greater Manchester Police for having the nerve to suggest that the two situations are even slightly similar.
Sadly, it seems I was right about the ’99 parade, but not in the way that it turned out to be unique. We may have a football team to be proud of , but
Manchester’s supporters deserved much, much more than they got from the people paid to act as a team supporting them.
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