Thursday, 19 November 2015

Canals - flowing through time.

I spent my mid-childhood, from six until eleven, in Maghull. Dad opened a new pub there called the Everest in 1962.  Named for the pioneering ascent in 1953, the pub was surrounded by Hilary Crescent, Tensing Avenue, Hunt Road. Although now part of Greater Merseyside, the small town was then in Lancashire and I happily attended the local county primary. The main A59 ran through town but there was a pedestrian subway connecting to the shops and beyond that, the Leeds and Liverpool Canal flowed towards the city, eight miles away. 

It was a safe place to live and my memories of growing up there are very happy.  I walked to school, often rode my bike to Aintree or Melling and even at the age of nine, took the Ribble bus into the city alone, trusted by my parents not to speak to strangers and to return at a pre-arranged time. 

The Leeds and Liverpool Canal links the two cities, stretching over a distance of 127 miles (204 km), crossing the Pennines, and includes 91 locks on the main line. The canal at Aintree passes close to the racecourse and gives the name to the course's Canal Turn. In the early 21st century a new link was constructed into the Liverpool docks system, via Vauxhall. 
Vauxhall is more famously known as the 'Scottie Road area' because Scotland Road runs through it. Scotland Road was created in the 1770s as a turnpike to Preston via Walton and Burscough. It became part of the stagecoach route to Scotland. It was widened in 1803 and streets of working-class housing developed either side, as Liverpool expanded. Demolished as slums in the 1930s, they were replaced by corporation flats. By the mid 19th century the area was densely overcrowded, with appalling living conditions, worse than anywhere in the country. Eldon Grove (now Grade II listed) was built as model housing as part of a labourers’ village and was officially opened by the Countess of Derby in 1912.

In Victorian times the area had over 200 public houses. Scotland Road was the centre of working class life in north Liverpool. Home to most of Liverpool's migrant communities: almost "a city within a city". There were four main migrant communities; Irish, Welsh, Scottish and Italian as well as the native Lancastrian community and pockets of German and Polish.  It was a cultural melting pot.  A place close to the city centre and the docks, it could be a place of both romantic nostalgia and brutal hardship. Community, often dictated by faith, was at the centre of Scotland Road. 
Urban clearance and the construction of the Wallasey Tunnel in the 1960s and '70s led to a shift in population of the area to various parts of the city such as Huyton, Kirkby and Norris Green, to new modern housing, leaving Scotland Road in a state of steady decline. Demolition particularly around the north end of Scotland Road continued in the 1980s and beyond. In the 1978, a new housing estate breathed life Into derelict land to the west of Vauxhall Road: Eldonian Village. 'Our Cilla' and the children of Vauxhall opened The Vauxhall Bridge in 1994.


Minnows (In the shadow of the bridge)

In the year of World Cup glory,
when The Toffees won the cup,
a tiddler rides her push-bike
through The Northway underpass,
past the shops and out of sight.
Picnic packed for pleasure
in the shadow of the bridge.
She leans her trusty metal steed
against the cobbled wall,
just below the stone humped-back
and walks along the towpath,
her only apprehension,
leggy nettles, reaching out to
sting the flesh above her ankle socks.

She sits, legs dangling over,
soles inches from the foaming scum,
drifting on the Leeds-Liverpool Canal. 
Keen eyes pierce the murky flow,
scanning rapidly until
a sudden fleck of silver, flickers,
in the shadow of the bridge. 

She lifts the bamboo pole,
in goes the yellow, nylon net
and skilfully she scoops, then lifts  
a trio of sparkling minnows.
Now they sit beside her in a jar,
brim full of happiness,
riding home, strung to her handle bar.
The same canal now flows where Scottie Road
and Tate and Lyle kept company.
The residents campaigned
to keep their old Eldonian community.
On Sunday, they found a minnow,
with a bullet through his back,
in the shadow of The Vauxhall Bridge.

On hearing of the sad death of Lewis Dunne on Sunday 15th November 2016.

Thanks for reading.  Adele 



Steve Rowland said...

A most interesting blog and very poignant poem.