Tuesday, 12 April 2011

History of Greater Manchester on Radio Manchester


YESTERDAY it was Salford, last Friday it was Rochdale, today it's Stockport but Wednesday it will be Tameside. John Stapleton's 'History of Greater Manchester' continues tomorrow on BBC Radio Manchester with coverage of the Tameside towns: Ashton, Stalybridge, Hyde, Dukinfield etc. With Salford it was Marx and Engels drinking at The Crescent pub, L.S. Lowry, 'Love on the Dole', 'The Classic Slum', Ruth Frow and the Working Class Movement Library, the wealth of local actors and playwrights and, horror of horrors, even Hazel Blears. The Rochdale one included Rochdale's neo-Gothic Town Hall and its architect, the Co-op and the Pioneers, the Chartists, Our Gracie and even former Chairman of the Planning Committee Councillor Norman Smith on his brother Big Cyril Smith - the notorious local politician who dominated politics in the town for decades. Former Alderman Cyril Smith, who died last September, was a giant character rather like 'The Workhouse Donkey', Charlie Butterwaite, in John Arden's play of the same name: Butterwaite was born in a Yorkshire Workhouse and Smith was born in a Rochdale slum and both went on to triumph in politics. John Stapleton’s had an emotional interview with Norman Smith, who describes growing up with his brother Cyril in 1930’s Rochdale. He reflects on his brother’s political career and recalls how Cyril made his mum Mayoress in 1966.

Yet, on Wednesday the 13th April it will be Tameside's turn. Tameside is a name for a collection of small towns in East Manchester. It will be Tameside's link to the Spanish Civil War that will interest some of our readers. From Tameside more than half a dozen of its citizens in the 1930s set off for Spain to fight in Civil War to defend the young Spanish democratic republic, plus one young woman, Lillian Urmston from Stalybridge, by then in her twenties, who went off to nurse the wounded in that war. At that time, in 1936, there were only three democracies left in Western Europe; these included Great Britain, France and the then threatened Spanish Republic, which at the time in July 1936 had been presented with the treachery of military uprising by many of its Generals led by General Franco and General Mola and supported by the dictators Chancellor Hitler of Germany and the Italian Mussolini. This year Tameside MBC is going to commemorate one of their number, James Keogh, from Ashton who died fighting in Spain in March 1938 in the mountains of Aragon where George Orwell earlier had served in the POUM militia, by installing a Blue Plaque for him and other local combatants in the town. Tameside Trade Union Council and the local publication Northern Voices have been campaigning for this almost since the 70th anniversary of the Spanish Civil War in 2006. Besides the young James Keogh and Lillian Urmston, other Tamesiders who are known to have gone to fight in Spain in the 1930s included: Albert Godwin from Dukinfield, Daniel Albert Boon, William Brown, James Greenwood - all from Ashton. Some others are suspected to have lodged or stayed in the Tameside towns and also believed to have served in Spain. None of these seem to have been affiliated to a political party of any kind and in James Keogh's case, as an apprentice tailor working in central Ashton, he was not even a member of a trade union. This suggests great strength of character in Keogh's case and in that of Lillian Urmston for she didn't belong to a political party either: and yet both of these, perhaps because they were not members of the Communist Party had derogatory references to them when recently documents were revealed in the Moscow Archives - containing reports of them both from communist spies to the Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin. The Secretary of Tameside Trade Union Council will be being interviewed on the participation of these volunteers in the program.

With this years Oscar winner (for his part in 'The King's Speech') Colin Firth about to play George Orwell in the coming film 'Homage to Catalonia', which records Orwell's own experiences in the Spanish Civil War between Christmas 1936 and May 1937, any coverage of the Spanish Civil War is bound to be topical. This is the 75th anniversary of the start of that war in July 1936.

1 comment:

tba said...

this is a great programm! Too bad it is available only for a limited amount ot time. I assume it's for legel reasons the BBc does that?