Before they all ended up in Salford it seems lots of our family lived in Ancoats, Manchester.
What is truly amazing is how some of our ancestors lived so close to each other in the 1850s and 1860s yet it would take another 100 years before these families were joined together by the marriage of my mother and father who also met each other when they lived in adjoining streets although these streets were some miles and many decades distant from this district.
In 1851 Mary Callaghan, my great-great-great grandmother (she was Hannah Keogh, grandma Nally’s great-grandmother) was living in the area around New Islington, Pott Street, she was widowed by the age of 36 and left with five children to care for alone. She was Irish, born in 1815 , her eldest daughter Mary was born in Ireland in 1833 and the younger ones were born in Manchester. Her daughter Mary Callaghan married Laurence Nolan who was also born in Ireland. It seems they were born in Westmeath and must have emmigrated during the potato famine. They all lived in the same street ten years later. In the next decade they moved to Salford and their daughter Ellen Nolan married Matthew Keogh (whose father Daniel Keogh was born in Ireland) they brought Hannah Keogh into this world. Hannah Keogh (who married Arthur McNally) was the dearly beloved mother of my dearly beloved father who married his dearly beloved wife, my mother.
In 1851 my mother’s mother’s families were living not too many streets away in much the same conditions. George Clunie was living at 49 Portugal street, his son James Clunie’s future wife Martha Regan was living with her Irish born father, John Regan, a street sweeper and her capmaker mother, Sarah, not so far away on the other side of what was then St George’s road, now Rochdale Road.
By 1861 the Clunies had moved a few doors down Portugal Street to number 51. Martha’s father John and his family were nearby in Loom street. Martha and James would marry and give birth to Edward Clunie who married Laura Ann Ashman the parents of our beloved grandma Laura Armstrong (born Clunie).
Meanwhile, not too far away on the other side of the river Irk, Agnes Armstrong, born in Scotland and recently widowed was living at 64 Stocks Street with her two sons who had been born in Rochdale a few years earlier. Her younger son James Charles Armstrong would marrry Sarah Myers to produce Charles James Armstrong who married Annie Hodkinson to give birth to James Edward Armstrong, our grandad Jim, who married our dearly beloved grandmother Laura Clunie.
Sarah Myers was the daughter of Robert Myers and Jemima Baxter. Robert Myers marrried Jemima Baxter in 1853 but it seems they had already had a few children born before they married. Robert Myers was a pawnbroker at 294 Deansgate which is certainly in a pretty different category to the rest of the workers in this family.
Ancoats was the original ‘Cottonopolis’. The area described by Frederich Engels in his 1845 ‘The Condition of the Working Class in England’ the work of a 24-year-old German middle-class boy, who incredibly rejected all his bougeoise background to eventually team up with Karl Marx and start one of the most influential movements in history.
His impassioned descriptions of the slum living conditions of the workers in this area make for depressing reading. The exact areas he describes can be pinpointed on the map as dwelling places of our family. The most surprising thing about this work is the chapter on Irish immigration, which he begins by saying is an attempt to discover the causes and effects of this immigration. The analysis of causes is notable for its complete absence and the analysis of effects turns into a surprisingly rascist diatribe comparing the Irish to savages.Their southern facile character is used to living in filth, they only know potatoes and drunkeness. What does such a race need higher wages for he asks. They live with their pigs as Arabs live with their horses. They are specifically responsible for spreading the habit of going about with no shoes on their feet and generally responsible for bringing down the level of civilization of the English working class.
This is particularly upseting as Laurence Nolan is listed as an engine driver, which as I understand from other readings, was a job that was pretty much on a par with an airline pilot these days.
The most poignant irony is that much of these same living and working conditions can be seen today in 2010, in modern day China (and other cities of what we quaintly call the developing world). What we now call globalisation is pretty much the same as what one hundred and fifty years ago was called industrialisation and capitalism. Now it is carried out under the auspices of a system called communism which was sparked by this eager, young German boy, who, apalled at the conditons of the working class in Manchester, teamed up with a fellow German, Karl Marx, to create a movement that was meant to improve their condition.
In 1841 the life expectancy in Manchester was 26.6 years.