DIGGING IN THE MEADOW (Letter to the Genealogists #WhoDoYouThinkTheyWere?)

Beneath this fallow meadow of compacted soil,

gnarled roots twisting, twisting in eternal toil


Remembrance for butterflies that once charmed you in flight,

and rekindling images of passion and delight


Of endless golden days and rolls in the grass,

just another shy dreamer and his favourite lass


Of when Manchester's skies shone honest and blue,

before the Tempest of progress rained down upon you


Waiting to reap secrets of a harvest long past,

and grow new branches to your forgotten tree at last


Shedding light on this neglected corner of foreign field once more,

a once mighty oak weighed down by heavy sandstone door


Yet demanding of a key to raise you from your state,

your carved epitaph signed and sealed by your fate


An inscription to those who followed and then left,

and to those who didn't stay leaving others bereft


This silent Orpheus in song of the battles once fought,

beside his legion of lost soldiers whom Charon had sought


Voices silenced by obols for crossing o'er the river,

their instruments laid down with no dirge to deliver


His Eurydice by his side in a cold fixed embrace,

softly sobbing and reeling from her own fall from grace


But by clearing the leaves which had hidden your glory,

we're igniting bytes of energy and revealing your story


Scraping back all the moss which grew over your name,

to the clatter of new looms, stitching you together once again


Revealing sadness and joy within woven cobweb scrawl,

and in old yellow tomes which recorded your fall


And you still entombed in the presence of now,

singing choral refrain of what, where and how?


An answer to prayer that your memory might live on,

and hoping we'll flower too in this place once we've gone





The Meadow is rocking

people slotting into every space

get your mortgage provider

to help you reside there

a compact community of

back to backs side by sides one on top of the others

town houses apartments mews

with stunning aspect and mill views

and for those who like alternative living

we're giving you the chance of a cellar apartment

breathtakingly close to the Irk's famous vapours

or step up the property ladder to a first floor house-share

animal-friendly, lice a speciality

en suite facilities combine with fragrant utilities

the possibilities of fatalities are second to none

floor to ceiling ventilation

open wc irrigation

everything the first-time buyer could require

sign your x on the line

put the deposit in my pocket

one bare foot on the property slum

work for you work for your children

abandon the school run

get them in the mill

instill a good work ethic

it's atmospheric, carcinogenic

watch how they scuttle between shuttles

that steal their fingers

break their arms

stoop their bodies

disposes of the expense of outgrowing their clothes

you're on the doorstep

if you've upgraded to doorstep luxury

so walk to your 13 hour day

the daily commute has never been so polluted

take the Angel challenge

spin those unlucky wings

can you tolerate cholera

ride the typhoid tide

survive cotton fibres

stitching up your lungs

lip read in deafening machines

resist the temptation of open aspect sanitation

we offer a selection of

south-facing open-plan sewers

all bespoke so you can choke in

sell-by air that coagulates in shared spaces

ideal for al fresco eating and barbecues

made UV safe cos the sun can't find you

state-of-the-art water pumps

off-road parking for a dozen children

rats are in your complimentary pack

for after- work nibbles with a quinoa snack

all set to the rhythm of the Spinning Jenny rap

gin palaces and laudanum providers on site

keep those screaming babies quiet

it's a northern slaughter

sought-after area

buy to let leave to die

when your threadbare life has been ripped out

get rehoused with a free downgrade

in our multi-storey as yet unpaved communal grave

room for 40,000 men women and children

and children

and children...

Lynn Walton



Outflows the breaths infected by bad air

The Cholera of these times has taken hold

No font of vinegar can cleanse this space

nor values of puritan endeavour

Their bones fertilise these meadows of failed harvest

laid under flags to silence dissenting voice

You destroyed your altar with their sacrifice made

leaving fallow all hope for redemption

before moving yourself right out of their view

No more the rattling looms bring early death

for death here is a slower process and much less mechanised

RichardPaulLong 2011




Angel Meadow, mass graves paved with tombstones

the overflow cemetery under the forecourt of Victoria Station

destitute Irish fleeing the famine, those who survived the crossing,

Ashkenazi Jews fleeing central European pogroms

The Rookeries at Ancoats, the dark continent . . .

Angel Meadow: the face at the window (Kertesz)

How shall we sing our song in a strange land? (Passionately!)

Infant mortality among the Manchester 'Low Irish' 1830s: 50%,

among the Kalahari Bushmen 1970s: 50%

. . . the angel of

Angel Meadow that shall pull me out of this sink

or  toss me into the death traps we call home, our

promise to love and our infant mortality rate, our lives

renewed and cancelled ten times a day.

Peter Riley




The angels in Angel Meadow

woken by cries and alarms

opened the gate to death's orphans

laid them in flower beds

folded their wings

and slept, then woke again.

David Keyworth 2017




Dark steps beneath a leaden sky,
Rain falls incessantly, coating the steps in dull silver
Shawls bob along wet streets,
Their wearers fighting the cold rainain falls incessantly, coating the steps in dull silver

Frozen baskets carry little comfort
For the kitchen table and waiting stomachs.
Children die before having the chance
To escape from the dark slums.

Daily trains, barely half a mile away,
Offering escape from their dark doors, are a dream.
The city creates its own darkness
On the grimy streets, strangling them.

Faces stare out of squalor
With wide eyes and thin hands
Tenement houses offer little warmth
Except by dint of numbers, but it's still cold

Spring, Summer, offer little change
To the cramped hovels - dry, dusty, sweaty, dark.
Invisible walls offer no escape
For the innocent inmates of this prison.

Hope fails, as daily life
Grinds the poverty even lower. People die.
Burial grounds fill up quickly here
Life is cheap, poverty is expensive

Life's grindstone works easily on this corn.
There is little resistance to the millstone.
It hangs over all heads,
The old aren't really old, just ground down.

Angel Meadow: The name is a lie.
Angels never came here, not even for the dead
Angel Meadow: An evocative name
Hiding the truth from a deaf city

Alan McKean




Once: the Angelic Meadow

above which skylark sang;

And sound of Sunday's call

when Saint Michael's church-bell rang.


But then came a defilement

of cholera and grime;

Of poverty and squalor

and every sordid crime.


What brought about this cruel intent

of meadow-land defiled:

No skylark or church-bell

or vista that beguiled.


The pull that some call progress

impelling humankind;

Spreading brick and slate and mortar

without a decent mind.


And hordes of rural people

not knowing how to live;

In harsh and alien setting

that had nothing good to give.


Reject bad brick and mortar

where bird and flower should stay.

Let not Angel Meadow's lesson

be allowed to fade away.

William Kenneth Jones



I was once an Arab boy and lived on the street

without either stockings or shoes on my feet

And at night cold and hungry, in dirt and in rags

I have cast myself down and slept on the flags

Anon. Charter St Ragged School pupil (circa 1900)




He was born in a slum down on Angel Meadow

Grew up wild with even wilder oats to sow

An' in each street an' in every back yard

He had to prove himself tuff an' prove himself hard

With his belts an' chains, his knuckles an' his chivs

Gonna be a scuttler for just as long as he lives

Just as long as he lives


An' he joined in every fight an' he led the line

Never worried about police or about doin' time

From St Michael's flags all the way to Hanky Park

He'd knock them down an' he'd leave his mark

The King of the Scuttlers with his scarred up face

A cauliflower ear an' a nose that's outta place

A nose that's outta place

A Bengal tiger to the left

A Sanford to his right

A fella from Adelphi

Screamin for a fight

With his belt round his knuckles

His hat pulled down

He's King of the Scuttlers

The hardest man in town

One day in Gould Street he put on the captain's band

Went after the Bungall boys in a way they'd understand

He laid out their leader with a buckle to the eye

Took a chiv in the chest thought he was gonna die

He staggered to Ancoats in his blood soaked clothes

Seen the police arrive an' he took it on his toes

He took it on his toes


The Bungall boys were drinkin on London Road

The Captain's eye was patched the pain it showed

The King of the Scuttlers with his wound stitched neat

Walked in laffin' an' said "come out on that street"

The Captain he fled an' the Bungall boys lost face

An' his reputation as top boy was cemented in place

It was cemented in place

A Bengal tiger to his left

A Salford to his right

A fella from the Plattin'

Shoutin' for a fight

With his belt round his knuckles

An' his hat pulled down

He's King of the Scuttlers

The hardest lad in town


On the steets of Manchester his name got known

Fight after fight well he won them on his own

The girls they loved him, in the meadow revered

Walkin' down Rockdale Road and everybody cheered

One night against Adelphi an' his belt took four

When he got through it was a blood covered floor

The blood it covered the floor

The police needed witnesses but nobody dared

Salford an' the Heath' an' Ancoats runnin' scared

The McElroy mob would flinch at his name

Where ever there was a scuttle he got the blame


But fate it was against him an' a bolt from above

He met a factory girl an' then he fell in love

The Scuttler fell in love

A Bengal tiger to his left

A Salford to his right

A fella from Fairfield

Ready for a fight

With his belt round his knuckles

An' his hat pulled down

He's the King of the Scuttlers

The hardest lad in town


Well she was an Irish girl from Cheetham Hill

Who worked in the card room at Murray's Mill

He was head over heels an' he wanted no other

Put on his Sunday best an' went to meet her mother

But she was a catholic who had seen the light

She told the Scuttler that he must never fight

The Scuttler must never fight


Walkin' home by Red Bank lost in his dreams

He heard a fight an' a young man's screams

The lad was from the Meadow so he went to his aid

Stood over the lad's body on the cobbles it laid

Lifted his belt heard the words of his would be wife

An' froze in his tracks an' was killed by a knife

He was killed by a knife

Bengal tiger to his left

A Salford to his right

As they carried his coffin

Nobody wantin' a fight

With his belt round his knuckles

An' his hat still on

He was King of the Scuttlers

But now he is gone

Mike Duff 



(some time Captain of the Meadow Lads)


Owen "Owny" Callaghan

With his face scarred mean

Workin' fifty odd hour weeks

Loadin' up a cardin' machine

The pride of the Meadow

Just a child of the night

Lost to John Joe Brady

In a twenty shillin' fight

Callaghan took it to heart

Cos you gotta understand

The can't be no second fiddle

When you wear the Captain's band


He never feared the Adelphi

Or the Tigers this is true

He took on the Bungall boys

An all the Deansgate crew

Dint know how to walk away

Had to stand his ground

A chip off the old block

An' as sound as a pound

He fought them all gamely

With his belt round his hand

Cos there ain't no second fiddle

When you wear the Captain's band


The night it blew crazy

An' blood was in the air

Screams an' cries of neighbours

An' scuttlers everywhere

Owen went after Brady

Stabbed him to his death

Laffed at the dyin' man

As he breathed his last breath

The Meadow never mourned

Owen had made his stand

Cos there ain't no second fiddle

When you wear the Captain's band


Owen "Owny" Callaghan

Wanted on a murder charge

The posters in the City sayin'

"this man still at large"

They cornered him in Bradford

An' they put him in a dock

"twenty years' penal servitude"

He nearly died of the shock

He came out insane an' beaten

No longer in demand

But you can't be second fiddle

When you wear the Captain's band

Mike Duff 




It's coming down to Manchester to gain my liberty,
I met a pretty young doxy and she seemed full of glee.
Yes, I met a pretty young doxy, the prettiest ever I see.
At the Angel Inn in Manchester, there is the girl for me.

Then early next morning, just at the break of day,
I went to my love's bedside, my morning vows to pay.
I hugged her, I cuddled her, I bade her to lie warm;
And she said: "My jolly soldier, do you mean me any harm?'

"To mean you any harm, my love, is a thing that I would scorn.
If I stopped along with you all night, I'd marry you in the morn.
Before my lawful officer, my vows I will fulfil."
Then she said, " My jolly soldier, you may lie as long as you will.'

Our rout came on the Thursday, on the Monday we marched away.
The drums and fifes and bugles so sweetly did play.
Some hearts they were merry, but mine was full of woe.
She says: "May I go along with you ? " " Oh no, my love, oh no."

"If you should stand a sentry go, on a cold and bitter day,
Your colours they would go, love, and your beauty would decay
If I saw you handle a musket, love, it would fill my heart with woe
So stay at home, dear Nancy." But still she answered, "No!"

"I'll go down to your officer, and I'll buy your discharge,
Ten guineas I'll surrender if they'll set you at large.
And if that will not do my love, along with you I'll go,
So will you take me with you now?" And still I answered:"No."

"I'll go down in some nunnery and there I'll end my life.
I'll never have no lover now, nor yet become a wife.
But constant and true-hearted, love, for ever I'll remain,
And I never will get married till my soldier comes again!'


From The Penguin Book of English Folk Songs, Williams and Lloyd
Collected from S. Gregory, Dorset, 1906

In 1745 Bonnie Prince Charlie's Jacobite Army camped by the River Irk by Scotland Bridge on their way to try to seize the English throne.

The Angel Pub mentioned was close to the cathedral and it is their ownership of the fields around St. Michael's Church which gave the name to the area.