Albert and Ellen Mellor
So here are Albert and Ellen, some 40+ years after yesterday’s photograph and aboard the famous Lambretta that was their special present to themselves in their later years (they never owned a car).
Gorton Road at the time is virtually unchanged from the beginning of the century, except for the arrival of overhead electrics to power new locomotives.
The age of steam is about to pass and Beeching will close 55% of the stations in the UK and 30% of the network.
Having survived Depression, War and Austerity, the railway engineering works at Ardwick Green will never recover and, within 10 years, most of this site will be closed and the houses that have supported families for over 100 years will be demolished and replaced with industrial units for wholesalers and light industry.
The miles of 19th Century terraced houses will be gone and replaced with new council housing built with materials designed to last no more than a few decades before they fall into disrepair.
The challenge for Beeching was that 80% of rail revenues came from 20% of the passengers and routes – and there was no way to make “The Long Tail” of local lines pay – so we lost our rail heritage and the passengers and goods were transferred onto the increasingly congested road network that those of you who drive now suffer every day.
Sensible economics at the time – but rather ironic that we are now investing an estimated £42.6 billion in HS2, still focused on the head of The Long Tail in 21st Century rail transport.
The railway had provided employment for the whole of Albert’s working life and even my Dad (before he joined The Royal Navy) worked as a stoker on the Manchester to Sheffield line, shovelling coal into the white-hot furnace of his steam loco as they struggled uphill out of East Manchester and through the Woodhead Pass, back and forth across the Pennines in all weathers, around the clock and the year.
For Albert and Ellen, their road adventures were to be short-lived.
In 1963, they left home one Sunday morning to cross Manchester and visit with us in Whalley Range.
As Albert emerged from a junction in Ardwick Green, their scooter was hit by a car-driver who , for some reason, just wasn’t looking and they were both thrown to the ground and hospitalised.
Although the injuries themselves were not serious, more shock that damage, they both lost their confidence as a result of the accident.
The Lambretta was sold and my primary school pick-ups became a happy memory.
Albert’s health started to deteriorate at almost the same time and, although there is no direct link, his death from pancreatic cancer the following year was a terrible blow.
I’ve already said he was my best friend when I was a small boy.
My Dad was a shift-working police constable and tried his best but couldn’t be there enough.
Albert was retired and had all the time in the world – time that he clearly enjoyed investing in time with me that I will never forget.
Yesterday I mentioned that I spent time away from home as my Mum was in hospital with psychiatric problems.
As Albert’s health declined rapidly, the decision was made to move me to live with my Uncle Bill (Mum’s brother), his wife Ruth an only son David – in Macclesfield.
Bill, Ruth and David often accompanied us on those long treks to Cornwall in August and David and I were good friends.
Many is the weekend that we would wander the hills above “Macc”, looking for abandoned quarries as David began a passion for the study of rocks that continued through his school life and University, until he became a professional geologist.
I was kept in Macclesfield while Albert continued his swift decline and passing, my Mum in Crumpsall Hospital and my Dad pulling shifts for Greater Manchester Police.
One Sunday morning I was woken by Ruth with the news that “your granddad has passed away”.
That was it.
And for the first (but not the last) time I had to face loss and grief – alone.