I have just returned to France from Manchester, I have been preparing and decorating my house in the south of the city ready for renting. It was up for sale but the market is in a slump and nothing is selling, it looks as though I will have a tenant in the new year.
It feels strange not to have a home in this great city, I have family and friends there and will perhaps in the future have more time to explore it’s delights, it is is a city I love and I am proud to have lived there. Manchester has been occupied continuously for 2000 years, nothing of any significance happened after the Romans left in the 3rd century until the 18th when someone discovered that it’s damp atmosphere was good for spinning cotton. The fist steam powered mill was opened in the 1780’s by Richard Arkwight and things began to take off. Manchester became the worlds first and greatest industrial city, dubbed ‘ cottonopolis’ in the victorian era. It had the first railway station at the end of the first intercity railway line, (presumably Liverpool had the second but perhaps they didn’t bother with one at that end). The first wholly artificial waterway the Bridgewater canal was built to bring coal into the city from the Duke of Bridgewater’s mines. The first atom was split in the city, the first progam-stored computer was built there. It had the worlds first industrial estate at Trafford park still Europe’s largest, the first trade union congress was held there and was the site of Britains first gay supermarket. Famous former residents include, the Pankhursts, Freidrich Engles and Karl Marx for a while, he lived and died in London but as Engles kept him in cash he popped up north now and again. (I once met someone who lived in Karl’s old house in London, he could barely get out of his gate for Chinese tourists), Mary Gaskell, Charlotte Bronte, Antony Burgess, Henry Royce, Robert Donat, Oswald Mosley, Burt Kwouk and the Gibb brothers. Famous for it’s music it has produced bands such as The Smiths, Oasis, The Buzzcocks, The Fall, Joy Division, The Happy Mondays, Inspiral carpets and James, further back in time there was Hermans Hermits, The Hollies and of course the Bee Gees. It is twinned with the cities of Los Angeles, Cordoba and St Petersburg amongst others. It has it’s own Lincoln Square with a statue of Abraham himself, Lincoln honoured Manchester workers for their support during the American civil war refusing to accept cotton from the Confederate states, known as the ‘cotton famine’ it caused great hardship and starvation.
The first McNee to live in Manchester as far as I know was my great great grandfather Robert, he moved from Glasgow in the 1870’s he was a ‘Cloth Lapper’ a occupation which involved cleaning the cotton threads before it went into the carding machine. They lived on the edge of an area called ‘little Ireland’ which was described by Engles in his book ‘the condition of the working class in Britain’ 30 years earlier as ‘the worst spot in Manchester’ and I think he had seen a few bad un’s.
The photograph is one I took some time ago, it is taken in an area called Castlefield, so called because it was the site of a roman fort founded in 79AD. The tall building is Beetham tower, a 47 story tower constructed in 2006, it houses a Hilton hotel and apartments and it is the tallest residential building in the UK. The old building in the foreground is a former lock-keepers cottage at the start of the Rochdale canal which passes through the city centre.