READER MESSAGES May-June 2003
Berne Leng aged 18 with projector and todayI AM VERY SORRY TO HAVE TO ANNOUNCE that Berne Leng, ex-projectionist at the Gaumont Cinema Manchester, and writer of many fascinating and informative messages to this website, died on the 17th of June 2003. I never met Berne, but exchanged e-mail messages with him many times. We have all enjoyed his wonderful articles on the subject of cinemas in Manchester which he kindly contributed to this website. He has taken with him an irreplaceable fund of knowledge about the recent history of our city. Thankfully, a little of Berne's wit, wisdom, intelligence and love of Manchester will live on in the photographs and messages he sent. Deepest condolences to Berne's family from EWM and all readers of these pages.

Subject: Reunited
From: Nadia Howarth-Najjar <nadiahn@bigpond.com>

My dear friend Aidan .....

.....and I call you "friend" because that's how I think of you. Through your random act of kindness to me a couple of years ago, I have recently been re-united via the Internet with my daughter Shireen who I lost touch with a very long time ago.

Nadia Howarth-Najjar and Central Library ManchesterI still remember when I first wrote to you, complimenting you on your EYEWITNESS segment on Manchester Online. I'm a Collyhurst girl, born and bred, who has now lived in Perth, Western Australia since 1970. When I first discovered "Manchester Online" I was delighted to be able to read all the local news from back home and especially enjoyed the Mancunian link to your own website. I really love all those fascinating letters that ex-pats all over the world send to you and so I decided to tell you a bit about my own adventures and misadventures.

I mentioned something about the fact that I'd gone to live in the Middle East years ago; had eloped with a young Jordanian man and sadly eventually got divorced .... losing my little daughter when my ex-husband stole her by taking her overseas to his own country and never returning her to me.

You were touched by my story and asked for more details, which I sent you and then you were kind enough to offer to create a website for me called "FINDING SHIREEN" and which I was then able to refer many people to. The website contained every scrap of information that I could possibly give you and all the photos I had and you made a wonderful job of it, for which I have always thanked you from the bottom of my heart.

It was by sheer chance that I read an article in our own local Perth newspaper back in January about a young Jordanian woman who had written a book about some of the difficulties of life in modern Jordan, and it gave me cause for deep concern for the welfare of my daughter, Shireen. I had maintained some degree of contact with her for a number of years but she had suddenly stopped writing to me around the time of the first Gulf War.

In spite of me writing many times to her at her Post Office Box number, which was the only address I had for her, Shireen did not respond to any of my numerous letters, and so the months turned to years and I cried a river, but never gave up hoping that one day I'd hear from her again. A mother never gives up hoping.....!

I wanted desperately to contact that young lady author to seek her help but the newspaper could not give me a contact number, then about a week later, I turned on the radio and the announcer was just introducing her for an interview. My ears pricked up ..... I ran to the radio and activated the "record" button. Luckily for me, I always keep a tape in there in case I hear something good.

At the end of the interview she gave out an e-mail address and within minutes I was on the computer dashing off a letter to young Norma Khouri, telling her of my own fruitless efforts to find my daughter who I believed may have been living in Amman. I referred her to the website that you had created for me and which contained so much information that I thought she might be able to use. That evening Norma rang me from Brisbane, sympathising with my dilemma and saying that she still had many contacts in Jordan and would try to help me by forwarding my website details to all her friends back there.

She was about to set off on a book promotion tour of America but urged me to have courage and keep my spirits up. I was so happy to think that here was yet another kind stranger willing to put themselves out to help me in my desire to find my lost daughter.

I knew that she was married by now to a religious man and the last time I'd heard from her she had four young children. I felt that not only had I lost my daughter, but I lost four grandchildren too. Nobody who hasn't gone through it can know what very deep pain this kind of loss can cause to a mother. For years, ever since she had been taken by her father as a small girl, I had lived with a gaping hole in my heart. I went to many English-language websites in the Middle East and left messages referring people to look at my website and begging for any information about any of the family. Unfortunately, I didn't seem to be reaching the right places because nobody wrote back to me.

The following week, Norma rang me from New York, just to let me know that her friends were searching on my behalf and she wanted me to know she was praying and thinking of me. Norma was to be my last-ditch effort because I was convinced that it was impossible to break through the culture barrier ...... but a miracle was about to happen....!

After only another week I nearly fainted when I opened an e-mail from Norma saying, "We've found Shireen.......!!!!!!" Can you imagine how reading those words made me feel? Instantly, tears spring from my eyes (just as they are now I sit here writing to you). My heart was thumping and immediately my hands began to shake. I thought I must be dreaming...! I read and re-read her words over and over ........... Norma's own aunt had started making some phone calls and by a fluke had hit the jackpot, landing on my ex-husband's home. She was given my daughter's phone number and rang her right away to tell her that her mother in Australia had been searching for her for years.

Shireen herself was shocked and amazed to hear that news and immediately gave the lady her e-mail address for me to contact her. All this information was relayed back to me so fast, thanks to the wonderful Internet, and within minutes of receiving it I wrote my first e-mail to my dear daughter.

I'm so pleased to tell you, Aidan, and all your readers, that I am the happiest woman in the whole world now. Shireen and I now have a well-established correspondence and I have learned that I have two more grandchildren born since we lost touch. We have exchanged many photos and letters and I have also been put back in touch with some of my ex- sisters in law with whom I used to have close friendships when I lived in Jordan all those years ago.

Thanks a million Aidan for all your compassion and kind actions. You've continued to be supportive to me over the past couple of years and I really appreciate that. You, young man, were pivotal in bringing this all about because if you hadn't created that website for me I might not have had the courage to press on with my search. The Internet is a marvellous technological tool that only a few years ago I would never have imagined myself using, but I've just experienced for myself just how fantastic it can be.

There must be someone reading this today who remembers me from the old days and I'd love to hear from them. Up to when I was a teenager, I was known by my middle name of BERYL HOWARTH and went to Abbott Street School up to 1955. Then I dropped Beryl and started using my other name, so now I'm known as NADIA HOWARTH.

My address is 14 / 42 Aristos Way, MARANGAROO 6064, Perth, Western Australia.
My home number is PERTH (08) 934 33779.
My e-mail address is nadiahn@bigpond.com.au

I wish you continuing success with your business, Aidan and many years of happiness with Ann and Adele. Please keep in touch.

ALL THE VERY BEST ......................................... NADIA

Well thank you very much for this and I'm very glad you found Shireen. The web page I put together made the information accessible, and the author Norma Khoury was able to refer her contacts to it. So it was thanks to an Internet author and a book author, both with Middle East connections, that you were able to track down your daughter. We should also thank the technology of course, and the power it has in disseminating information and bringing people together. I lived in the Middle East for five years. The homesickness I experienced there, and the money I saved, led me to what I'm doing now. It's a fascinating part of the world and very different from Manchester! I saw Norma Khoury's book 'Forbidden Love' on sale in Books Etc at the Trafford Centre and in the Printworks, it's one of their recommended books. Nadia has told me about many amazing experiences in her life, I hope she will tell the story of her journey from Manchester to Perth via the Middle East in a book of her own some time!


Subject: Memories, photgraphs and an invitation to a 130th birthday party!
From: Norah Bohan <bohan@richnfreeinc.fsnet.co.uk>

Aidan - Oh what a great site you've created!

Victoria Baths Chorlton-on-MedlockWe lived in Longsight for most of my young life (1953 to 1970), before moving to Fallowfield and after many years living down south, I now live near Crewe, visiting Manchester at least twice weekly to see my family.

The picture of High Street baths brought instant recall of those early years and the first time I went swimming with a friend from St Josephs, primary school in Plymouth Grove, Nora Doherty, who it seemed, like us and everyone else in Manchester was Irish descent.

I'd only seen pictures of people swimming and assumed it came as naturally as walking, so jumped into the pool and remember going down and down and nearly drowning - a salutary lesson for an 8 year old which has left a lifelong preference for 'terra firma'.

A week ago I celebrated my 50th with family dinner in an Indian restaurant in Levenshulme, competing the day before in the first Great Manchester Run, in a city to be so proud of!.

Fitting perhaps for a 'Coronation baby', born in St Mary's, recipient of a commemorative silver Spoon from Manchester Council because of the timing of my birth whilst my poor Mum, who did the hard work, just got a tin of biscuits!.

At home, we have many black and white photographs (some attached) of Mum and Dad and friends, their marriage and of our family as we grew up in the less than affluent Longsight.

The area was poor but the people kind, decent and honest and a real sense of community existed - we were the pre designer label kids (unless you count C & A and M & S!), kitted from vests and liberty bodices out every Whit with 'your good clothes' only to be worn to church on Sunday and for special days and holidays.

We were loved, fed, educated, went on holiday to Ireland every summer, we ran errands, we played and home was warm and secure - what more could there be to life ?.

Memories of taking a crocodile of brothers, sisters and other kids to and from school and coming home to Mum's lovely dinners, a home full of noise and chatter, with a welcome for everyone and the not infrequent sibling arguments.

Of Dad and all the men we knew working 'on the buildings' - leaving home in the cold and dark before we were awake and returning the same.

Trying to spot Dad on the TV news as he worked on the Piccadilly Plaza. Now a concrete monstrosity to many but then a revolutionary, cutting edge design and the place he was given the nickname of the 'Concrete King', so adept was he at achieving a smooth finish and his pride is taking us kids one Sunday morning to show us this amazing building he'd worked on!. There are still many places in Manchester, where 'your Grandad built that' is said as we pass.

Of Mr Feltham the greengrocer, an innovator in Home Shopping long before Tesco thought of home delivery service, with his door to door shop like a market stall drawn by a horse, a lovely old gentleman - I remember him leaving a first seen pomegranate for us kids, telling us how to pick the seeds with a needle - luxury!.

Of Hunts the Butchers on Stockport road - Auntie Marion and Uncle Harry's shop - the poor and elderly often receiving surprise packages of meat from a man who's heart was bigger than himself!

Of the man who came in his little 3 wheeled vehicle and sat in front of Timothy White & Taylor's chemist on the corner of Mitre Rd and Stockport Rd, sharpening knives and putting 'mends' on saucepans - little round pieces of aluminium which he attached to give each pan a new lease of life.

Of the Shaftesbury and Kings cinemas within a three minute walk of home and the fun of Saturday kids flix!

Of the smell of the lovely sweet shop on Stockport Rd just before St Johns Rd and the Hardware shop a few doors away where you could find everything (including a, rarity in those days, left handed Lancashire style potato peeler!!)

Of the coal man coming, black as the coal itself and putting bag after bag of coal down the grid in front of our house - always a couple of bags of 'slack' part of the order to 'keep the fire going'.

Of steps stoned to spotless creamy white, of dolly blue bags, of outside loos and a tin bath in front of the fire on a Saturday night, of windows iced up on the inside in winter and a shovel full of lighted coals being brought upstairs and put in the grate in the bedroom fireplace on absolutely freezing nights .

Piccadilly Gardens flower beds - before redevelopmentOf sitting upstairs on a kind of tram or trolley bus to see the Christmas lights, of Queen Victoria's statue in Piccadilly and the immaculate Piccadilly gardens WITH flowers, of Kendal Milne being too posh to go into! .

Of the smog and the Town Hall when it used to be black!

Of playing in the back yard, of picnics with banana butties and orange squash in Birch or Crowcroft Parks, of trips to Belle Vue for the animals and sometimes the circus there - of different, happy and decidedly innocent times.

Next Saturday, our family celebrates a joint 130th birthday in a very different Manchester and time has moved on for us all.

Dad is 80 on June 10th, (two weeks after my 50th) and we will share this celebration with about 140 people from the UK, Germany and Ireland - some schoolfriends reunited through the website of the same name, some relatives and family friends known for a lifetime, others friends for a few years - whatever, a good time will be had by all.!

If you'd like to join us and make yourself a record of our unique event for your collection you'd be very welcome - it's at St Johns Club, Edge Lane, Chorlton from 7.30pm on 14.6.2003. If you'd like to, drop me an email.
kind regards
Norah Bohan

Thank you very much for that fascinating and superbly written piece, which ought to merit a special prize - An 'Eyewitness in Manchester ballpoint pen' wouldn't do it justice so let's just say it's an excellent contribution, one of the best I've received. Well, it's not often I'm invited to 130th birthday party, so I went along to Chorlton on the 14th of June and met Norah her dad, and hundreds of other people, and enjoyed it very much! They are obviously a very happy family, and the accolade which Norah gave her dad was quite touching. He's from Ireland, so when I said my parents were from Co Limerick, I got a very firm handshake! Thanks very much Norah. Here's a picture of Norah and dad and some copies of old photos on display at the party.

Norah Bohan and fatherSubject: A quick Hello and thank you!
Date: Sunday, June 22, 2003 11:31 am
From: Norah Bohan <bohan@richnfreeinc.fsnet.co.uk>

Hi Aidan - I meant to contact you earlier but last week flew by in a blur of family visits and goodbyes as one by one (or indeed two by two) family and friends left Manchester after the 130th birthday party.

I was delighted you were able to come to our party and hope you had an enjoyable time and that the photos were ok.

The evening went by so quickly, I felt I hardly had time to do more than just say hello to everyone - it seems though, a good time was had by all, which made it all worthwhile!.

Mum's house next morning was more like the aftermath of an Irish wedding than a birthday resembling a mix between a card shop and Father Christmas's workshop, so many cards were opened followed by present after present - it was simply overwhelming - people were so kind and generous!.

Coming back to emailing you, I couldn't remember which bit of the Manchesetr Online site you were in, so did a search and found your brilliant article about 'your' Manchester - gosh did it bring back memories - especially the music - I wish I'd seen it before the party, as there were some I'd happily have added to the request list!.

Norah Bohan old family photosWe used to have a reel to reel tape recorder at home (think Mum still has) which Dad used to record his Irish music and he and Mum recorded the current hits (many from Radio Luxembourg Sunday night Top 20).

The tapes were played so often that when I hear something from that time like The Springfields, Island of Dreams, my mind automatically goes onto the next song, Spanish Harlem - music is so great for recall isn't it.?

I remember on certain days a holiday only special bus service from town to Manchester airport and being allowed to go on my own - it seemed the most exciting place in the world back then (and is still quite exciting now!).

And the Sunley Tower was another of those buildings about which we say - 'your Grandad built that'!.

Also did you ever go to the Portland Lodge - on a Saturday night it cost 10 shillings/50p to get in and that included a sausage and mash supper with onion gravy!!!. On arrival, there was a little trap door within the main door which was slid across and you only got in if they liked the look of you - it was the darkest place, low ceilings, funny little rooms and the song I remember most of all 'Me and Mrs Jones'. It was always a great night with great music.

Anyway I'm burbling on again!

Keep in touch - if you're ever out this way (the quite leafy, green Cheshire near Crewe), you're welcome to drop in.

best wishes
Norah

Portland Lodge - wasn't that in the basement of the Portland Bars? - that's where we went with St Josephs girls Carol, her friend Tib and others... That reminds me of another incident from around the same time. We were all aged seventeen but told bar staff we were eighteen. Once a group of us went into the Ring o' Bells pub in Marple. In No1 position for the bar, Denis (Duignan) raised his index finger to order the first pint of lager and lime, the barman asked 'How old are you?", Denis replied 'S.........' and we all turned round and filed out again.


Subject: Re: Hello from Aidan O'Rourke in Manchester
From: Brenda <starkey@archon.aunz.com>

In the he course of surfing a couple of evenings ago I found your photos of Manchester, Urmston, Stockport, Flixton etc, and had a happy hour looking at places which I can't recognise as we've been left U.K. since 1960 but seeing the names and the odd place was enough to bring on an attack of "Hiereth" (?spelling ) and I'm truly grateful for them.

Now of course, I have a request. Through the same website I got in contact with an old lady who had been to the same school as myself albeit a few years before.She tells me it has been demolished (Quell Domage!) and I'm hoping you have on archive a photo of Notre Dame High School in Cheetham Hill and would add to your others. It would give me a real kick to see a picture of it again, even these many years on I still occasionally dream of it - it's splendid central staircase, made I think of mahogany, and with five floors it really had some place in the building. I'm also told the altar from the chapel is now in a local pub.......one is prompted to ask 'is nothing sacred?' but that's a bit obvious.

Brenda M.Starkey

Unfortunately I don't have any archive photographs - My photos in Eyewitness in Manchester are all taken in recent times - mostly since 1996 - though people assume, because the locations remind them of old times - that I also have photos from the 50's and 60's. I'd love to have a time machine, but the next best thing is the Archives and Local Studies unit at Manchester Central Library. They have a fantastic selection of old photographs, which I regularly look at myself. They also have a website http://www.manchester.gov.uk/libraries/arls/ and the staff are very helpful! By the way, Norah Bohan went to Notre Dame and a few of her schoolmates were at the party.


Subject: MANCHESTER CHILDHOOD
From: DominicCarman@aol.com
To: <aidan@aidanorourke.co.uk>

Aidan
I very much enjoyed your musical journey through your manchester childhood - well-written and wonderfully evocative.
I was born in 1961 and lived in the city from 1961 to 1980. My early years were in Hale from 61 to 68 and then Didsbury from 68 to 76, before spending my late teens - from 76 to 80 - in Altrincham. I was at MGS - so spent much time in Rusholme and commuting to it from 1972 onwards. I too have a passion for music too and could list hundreds of associations with songs and different places in and around the city. I recalled some small fragments in a book I wrote last year, No Ordinary Man.

However, I am very keen to find a book which shows Manchester in photographs in the 1960's - Do you know/ can you recommend any?

Would be very grateful for your help

best Dominic Carman

I thought I recognised the surname. Your dad is a very famous person - The book is on sale in bookshops, looks very interesting. As for books with photos of Manchester in the 60's, I can't think of one - The two 'Manchester Memories' books by True North Publishing concentrate mainly on the early to mid 20th century, though, and there are some photos from the sixties, Maybe it's time for a definitive book focusing on Manchester during that decisive decade...


Subject: Levenshulme pages
From: dave <dellswor@soli.inav.net>
To: <Aidan@AidanORourke.co.uk>

Wow! Thanks for the great Levenshulme pagse on Manchester Online! I live in Iowa, USA and have visited my gal in Levenshulme twice now and am coming back in 2 weeks for over a month's visit. It's nice to see a bit of history for the area - helps me get some perspective.

Tthanks again and keep up the good work!
Dave

Oh yeah, we've listened to ALL fm - good stuff.

Thanks very much - Must do a return visit to Levenshulme, as it has changed again since I did that feature.


Nicholls School Hyde Road ArdwickSubject: Eyewitness - Ardwick
From: Hana <hana@cohenlaw.co.il>

Dear Sirs,

Just wanted to say what a beautiful article. Took me totally "back" to the times when I grew up in Chorlton-on-Medlock and at school -- Ardwick - Nicholls High School, great times indeed.

One mention regarding the name of Ardwick - its origins. My best friend lives in Northern Holland in a little town - 30 minutes from Amsterdam and her hometown is called Hardevyk ...... I'd say translated into Old English "Ardwick".... . What do you say?

Great article.
Lorraine N. Cohen (nee Graham)
Tel-Aviv, Israel.

Ardwick and Hardevyk could well be related, though I'd have to look into the origins of both names to be sure. I see you're in Israel, have you seen my photo-feature on Jewish Cheetham Hill?

Subject: Re: Eyewitness - Ardwick
From: Hana <hana@cohenlaw.co.il>

Hey Aidan ---

As I wasnt born jewish, when I lived in Manchester my family is Scottish - Irish Roman Catholic origins ... I became Jewish when I was at university in Vancouver, Canada, but I'd be happy to get a copy of the article and send it on to my ex husband and his family (they are all from Jewish Cheetham Hill) and I'm sure they'd enjoy it.

I very much enjoyed your article 'The Magic of Manchester' about music of the times -- in the 60s and 70s - esp. soul (later coined Northern Soul). I too as a teenager went to the Twisted Wheel lots of times with my "gang" of friends .... including Barry Tasker who was my mate and is now appearing "still" at the Twisted Wheel nites at a club in Manchester on the old Wheel premises - (Follies, i think its called) . Small world anyway.

Whilst living in Manchester and specifically the 60s soul music era there, I never realised what revolution was happening ... I presumed everywhere was like that in GB. But Manchester is unique and it took me all this time to realise what a unique city and unique "folk" live there.

I too, today apart from working in law, am still involved in the underground music scene in Tel Aviv Israel, in particular I really love hard tecno and progressive house, in fact I tried to encourage one of the Mancehster clubs to have an Israeli nite, with a couple of great Israeli djs appearing there that I'd send, but they didn't feel it was worth their while to invest any money unfortunately, and even though I myself was willing to invest it would have had to be all on my part and nothing on the clubs, so in the end I just forgot the whole idea.

I by the way am having some poetry published by Noble House GB at the end of the summer. My poetic writing is totally involved in and with the subject of the Middle Eastern conflict. The name of the anthology is : Theatre of the Mind published by Noble House end summer beginning autumn 2003. My full English name which my work will appear under is Lorraine Nancy Cohen

Anyway keep on writing, luv your articles.

Lorraine Hannah Cohen

Thanks very much for your comments. I'm glad you like my Magic of Manchester article I put a lot of work into it, and didnÕt receive much response at first, but IÕm getting a steady flow of positive comments about it. ŌKeep on writing, luv your articleÕ - ThatÕs what I like to hear, especially from a published writer!

 

 

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