Growing up in North Liverpool

In the early days of this blog we had a look round Liverpool in 1953, the place I was about to get born into. In this follow up to that one we’re going to come in a bit closer. Having spent much of my life with no early photographs of my early days, I’ve recently gathered up a few, courtesy of my Dad. And they’ve got a story to tell.

But before I arrive, of course, my parents have to meet.

My Dad, Joe Hughes, with his sister Terry.
My Dad, Joe Hughes, with his sister Terry.

In this lovely picture Joe is eight and Terry four. Meaning it’s 1936. They are living in North Liverpool down by the Dock Road.

“Even at that age, in those days, we were allowed to roam wherever we liked and I was trusted to look after Terry’ Joe says now. ‘We’d go to church on our own and then go off wandering around the docks and streets and even into town. I remember me and Terry being in town together even after it had gone dark. We had a much bigger Liverpool to play in than children seem to be allowed now. It was great.”

When the war comes three years later Joe is still too young to join the forces. But we walked round Liverpool a couple of months ago talking about his days as an office boy in 1943.

As the war ends though Joe volunteers for the RAF before he’s conscripted and is part of the occupying forces in Germany, at Lubeck. He is an engineer, working mainly on Meteors, the RAF’s first jet fighter plane.

Joe, on the left, with fellow engineers.
Joe, on the left, with fellow engineers, 1948.

By the early 1950s Joe is back in Liverpool and working at the English Electric on the East Lancs Road. He’s an engineer but has hopes of moving on to becoming an engineering draughtsman, as his older brother Danny has just done.

Then Joe meets my mother.
Then Joe meets my mother.

Roseanne Gerrard, always known as Rose is from Canal Street, near the docks in Bootle. Though the family are by these days living in Marsh Avenue, just off Southport Road. Rose has been working at Vernon’s Pools. But when they decide to get married she is ‘finished up’ as always happened to young women back then.

They get married in December 1952 and in January 1954 they have their first child, me.

Growing up04
Marsh Avenue, Orrel Park, Bootle 1954.

That’s my nan, Elizabeth Gerrard on the left. My mum Rose in the middle. And me, grinning, on her sister Ellen’s lap. Winston Churchill is the Prime Minister still at this time and I’ve clearly modelled my early look on him.

We’re not living in Bootle though. We live here.

Diana Street, Walton. As it is today, by Everton's football ground.
Diana Street, Walton. As it is today, by Everton’s football ground.

When I get a bit older I’ll stand in the window and marvel every other Saturday at the thousands of people walking down our street to get into the ground. Goodison would hold over 70,000 in those days and I can still remember the roar of the place. Joe rarely goes there though because he supports Liverpool and teaches me from very early on that I support them too. I still do.

We live in two shared houses here. In the first we live upstairs, while the man who owns the house lives downstairs. He is called Johnnie something and he keeps and raised dogs for sale. Joe also remembers him as a leading local ‘fence’ for stolen goods. He goes down to the kitchen one evening and unexpectedly comes across Johnnie and some mates counting out cash on the table. ‘It looks like a thieves kitchen in here’ quips Joe as they all laugh!

We move into the other shared house in Diana Street when we need a bit more room.

It's 1956 and my brother Colin has been born.
Because it’s 1956 and my brother Colin has been born.

I remember walking into Walton Hospital to collect him, 18 months old and holding on to my push-chair.

“Rose was kept in hospital for ten days after each of you were born’ Joe tells me. ‘And I was only allowed to visit once a week, on a Sunday. It may have been the NHS by then but they were still running it like a workhouse.”

In the other shared house we moved to there were two ‘big girls’ living there too, though I can’t remember their names.

Here I am with one of the 'big girls.' Me, aged 3.
Here I am with one of the ‘big girls.’ Me, aged 3.

Doesn’t actually look all that big does she?

Around this time Joe moves from being a welder at English Electric on East Lancs Road and gets his ‘office job’ as an engineering draughtsman, so now goes off to work each day in a tie. He also fulfils a life long dream to move to the suburbs.

When Joe had been very young his own mother and father had argued and campaigned very hard with Liverpool Corporation to get their family moved out of the crowded slums they were living in and give them a house on the huge new suburban estate they were then building at Norris Green. Many of their neighbours managed it, but the furthest the Hughes family got then was Owen House, a tenement walk-up block in Kirkdale.

But now, a generation later on, we all move to Marsh Avenue to live with my Nan in Bootle for a while as we wait for our new house ‘out in the suburbs’ to be ready.

Then in 1957 we move out to Maghull.
Then in 1957 we move out to Maghull.

A small village with a railway station that’s expanded overnight into one of Liverpool’s post war overspill estates. Not that it’s called that, because these are mostly ‘bought houses’. Our’s cost just over £2,000 – though who knows how much by the time the mortgage is paid off?

We’re now in a land of new roads, steamrollers, a co-op mobile shop coming round and farms still hanging on as the houses gradually crowd them out. It’s a great place to grow up and I ramble around to my heart’s content as much as Joe and Terry used to do down by the docks. In fact, it’s when I begin the long walking that has stayed with me to this day.

And though I’ll move back into inner Liverpool the minute I’m grown, I never feel as if we’ve moved away. Very few weeks go by without us getting the bus back to Walton or into town.

Where me and Colin are taken to the Grotto at TJs.
Where me and Colin are taken to the Grotto at TJs.

Joe tells me this photo’s actually taken at a studio in London Road, up near to TJs. It was clearly the year they had Pinky and Perky on. 1959? Colin seems to have inherited my black coat from first moving into Maghull. While I’ve got a new gaberdine. He looks cooler than methough doesn’t he?

And now we’re coming into the 1960s. Another story for another day, though one already started by me and my school-friend Barry Ward’s posts about food and sweets.

Just a few more photos though.

I've started school.
I’ve started school.

This was St George’s infants, up near the train station in Maghull. An old sandstone school-house with a prefab block hastily erected to deal with us lot, the influx from Liverpool.

It’s a Catholic school and soon I’m making my first communion and then being confirmed.

Not sure which of them this is, but I've certainly been dressed up for the occasion.
Not sure which of them this is, but I’ve certainly been got ready the occasion.

Unlike my support for Liverpool FC, the religious belief won’t stay with me.

In these days there’s been the final addition to the family. Born, at home, in 1959 – my sister Debbie.

Here she is, on the left, with Rose, me and Colin.
Here she is, on the left, with Rose, me and Colin.

All on the ferry as the 60s roll on.

Rose still goes back to Marsh Avenue to look after her now increasingly infirm mother twice a week, until, in 1970 Elizabeth Gerrard dies. Elizabeth, my Nan, had been a committed socialist all her life, going out canvassing with Bessie Braddock in the 40s and 50s. And the final glorious thing I remember her saying to 16 year old me just before she died was:

“I never thought we’d let the bloody Tories back in again.”

Here she is, late on with Rose, in front of the same house in Marsh Avenue.
Here she is, late on with Rose, in front of the same house in Marsh Avenue.

Last year sadly Rose too died. Her and Joe having been together for 62 years. The first photograph of the young Rose at the beginning of this post is from her Order of Service. Joe’s sister Terry, 82 now, was at the funeral too by the way.

Which, in a roundabout way, is how come me and my Dad are sitting around looking through old photographs. Our lives are full of stories and these have been just a few of them.

I originally drafted this story in early 2015, shortly before my younger sister Debbie also died.


10 Replies to “Growing up in North Liverpool”

  1. Lovely life story Ron. Many memories good and not always so good, but still memories nonetheless. Each photo has its own recall of the time, occasions, why it was taken and where.

    All to invoke more memories, well done Ron

  2. Categorising your Pa as being a part of “occupying forces” in Lubeck after the war seems a tad judgemental. Surely he could equally and, historically, more accurately be described as being part of the “liberating forces” in Lubeck given the circumstances? Nick

  3. Ah that is a lovely story! I tweeted you earlier because I thought you had put the grotto picture just on twitter, I didn’t realise that it was part of a post. I was a second generation Pinky & Perky fan and was so excited to see them. I also thought the picture was taken in Blacklers but no, it seems now, it wasn’t even actually taken in TJ’s. I will have to speak to my 83 year old mother in law because,my husband says she has the same picture but of his two older brothers. Such fab memories your dad has! He seems to have had a happy life, I dare say hard at times, but happy nonetheless! Thank you for sharing.

  4. These photos you have shared are just precious. I have some framed snapshots of my older brother Roy and me back in those days of the fifties. Your sister Debbie looks a lot like me back at that age. I should post my framed treasures just as you posted your family photos. Sadly my Mom, June, passed ten years ago and my Dad seven years ago. They were married for 63 years. It’s fascinating to revisit those days and stories through black-and-whites. Enjoy these wonderful days with your Dad. They are precious and will live on in treasured memories. x

  5. It was lovely to look at your photographs and read about you and your family as you were growing up. I was born in 1953 and my life, I think, was pretty much the same … lots of freedom to roam in the outdoors and lots of family round about us. We moved from Glasgow to the new town of East Kilbride, built for Glasgow’s overspill and the town was reasonably small then, so easy access to the surrounding countryside and being chased by the farmer out of his fields. It was great fun! Nice that you can still share these memories with your dad, Ronnie.

  6. I loved seeing all the old pictures.

    I was rather surprised that you were a Liverpool supporter if you were raised Catholic. My mother told me that it was more usual for Catholics to be Everton supporters. Her father was a devoted Everton fan and followed the Toffees all over the place!

    1. The family I grew up in were all Catholic and mostly supported Liverpool. It seemed to me then to be a family tradition who you supported and not a religious one.

      Later on, after Hillsborough had happened, we saw that many families contained supporters of either team and we all grieved together. While Liverpool supporters often have ‘Catholic’ Celtic as their second favourite team and Everton favour ‘Protestant’ Rangers I don’t think sectarianism has ever divided Liverpool as seriously as other cities.

      And I’m glad you loved the photos!

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s