Click here to go to the www.aidan.co.uk home page
EWM Home Page | Aidan O'Rourke on Twitter and Facebook | Pinterest | Google+ | Contact


Issue number 31Monday the 11th of August 1997


Huron Basin, the Swing Bridge, and beyond, Erie Basin, Salford Quays. Despite the warning signs, youngsters have been bathing here during the current spell of hot weather
LAST WEEK
HOME PAGE
THIS WEEK
50 YEARS AGO
NEXT WEEK

It's been a week of bad news from Manchester. It all started on Tuesday night with the tragic shooting of five year old Darren Hull as he walked along Jauncey Street, Bolton with his stepfather. Darren was shot dead, and his father sustained stomach injuries. The crime was apparently drug-related. Further facts soon emerged: Stepfather John Bates had already been targeted by a gunman the day before, and the four-week-old baby of mother Darren's mother Jane was born addicted to heroin.

Neighbours reacted first with fear and disbelief at the incident, then anger, and they soon demanded that the family quit the rented house for the safety of others living on the street. As of today, there are conflicting reports as to the whereabouts of the family. John Bates has, against police advice, returned from an undisclosed hospital location to Jauncey St. According to the Manchester Evening News, the family left the property this afternoon, but according to BBC1's Northwest Tonight, they were still in residence. There have been police officers guarding the front door of the house since the incident happened.

There is no doubt that the drug problem is a serious cause of crime, deprivation and ill-health in certain areas of Greater Manchester, but not, local people are anxious to make clear, in the Bolton neighbourhood where the shooting took place. This was a tragic, but isolated incident, and is not an indication that the conurbation is descending into a mire of drug-related crime.

Would such a shooting have received nationwide news coverage if it had happened in certain cities in the United States?

The next piece of bad news I have to report to you is the problem of child sex offenders in Manchester. According to an Evening News article, it's estimated that 700 convicted sex offenders are living in the city. The national BBC news headline this evening is that new guidelines are to be introduced to warn schools, youth groups and the public of the presence of sex offenders who have served sentences and been released. They will be listed on a national police register which will track the 10,000 convicted paedophiles currently in prison, on probation or on parole.

As Manchester Airport got back to normal after the ATP incident of just over a week ago, news of an air disaster came through from Guam on Tuesday night, to be followed by another in Miami later in the week. And now in the last twenty-four hours, two aircraft have crashed in Lancashire. Yesterday a light aircraft came down in the Rossendale Valley, about eighteen miles north of Manchester, after it took off from a private airstrip on a farm. Both occupants survived. And this afternoon, a helicopter exploded in mid-air and crashed next to the M6 south of Carnforth, near Junction 35, around 60 miles up the motorway. The pilot and the passenger, said to be from West Yorkshire, were killed.

Tragedy also struck on the Metrolink at Sale on Saturday, when a man in his twenties got his foot caught between the door and the platform, and was dragged 70 feet, before the tram came to a halt. He has had to have his foot amputated. There were also three serious car accidents in Greater Manchester over the past few days.

As if all this wasn't bad enough, two reports came out today with bad things to say about Manchester and the surrounding region. The survey "Death in Britain", commissioned by the Rowntree Foundation, found that death rates among children in Manchester and Salford were among the highest in the country: Among one to four year olds, mortality rates in Manchester during 1990 and 1992 were eight times as high as in Gloucestershire. There are more bad figures for Salford and St Helens. And another survey finds that Manchester has the highest rate of teenage pregnancy in Europe: Among 13-15 year olds, there were 15.5 pregnancies per 1000 girls, more than four times as many as in places like Holland and Sweden.

As a proud resident of this city I'd like to stress that I have never come into contact with a drug addict, and never witnessed any drug-related violence. As for the danger of paedophilia, I know that friends with children are more on their guard than at any time in my childhood, but I'm not aware of any incidents that have occurred here recently. As for the other misfortunes reported this week, let's not forget that every day there are hundreds of safe and successful take offs and landings of planes at Manchester Airport, and of helicopters, which are frequently to be seen over the city. Road accidents in the UK as a whole continue to fall, and are much lower than in many other countries, including the United States. And the Metrolink, now open five years, continues to be highly successful, and there have been comparatively few accidents. No-one acquainted to me in Manchester has had a teenage pregnancy in the family, and all the under 10's I know of are in good health. And let's hope it stays that way, touch wood!

The Old Shambles was featured on the BBC 2 architectural heritage programme "One Foot in the Past". During the early seventies, the last remaining fragment of Manchester's medieval town centre was marooned in a concrete jungle, as a rooftop camera shot shown during the programme, illustrated. Now the building, which houses the Old Wellington Inn and Sinclair's Oyster Bar, is going to be dismantled piece by piece and rebuilt on a new site next to the Cathedral. But regular drinkers at the pubs, as well as the Manchester Civic Society, are calling for the building to be left where it is. Time is running out, as work is set to begin in the Autumn. What do you think?

The weather during the past few days has been swelteringly hot. The temperature today was around 27 degrees celsius, 81 degrees fahrenheit. The weekend was sun-parched but today was cloud-covered, very humid and slightly drizzly. In conditions like this, many children head to Salford Quays and other canals, where, despite warnings from the police, they jump into the water unsupervised. Instead of authorities telling children they should stay out of the water, or else go to expensive indoor pools, (currently around 2.20 per adult swim), there ought, in my opinion, to be more open-air swimming pools in the city. Fifty years ago families could go to the Galleon, West Didsbury (where I went as a child thirty years ago - now it's a private fitness club), as well as open air pools in Platt Fields and Stretford Park. What happened to them?

The "good old days" weren't all good though: Manchester had a drug problem then as now, and fifty years ago last week, there were race riots in Manchester and Salford. Read about it in Manchester Eyewitness.

Well, if you're hot and thirsty, there's one place you can go, so I'll leave you with pictures of a couple of friendly locals.

Cheers and here's hoping for better news next week.



Text and photos by Aidan O'Rourke
LAST WEEK
HOME PAGE
THIS WEEK
50 YEARS AGO
NEXT WEEK




Join Aidan on his Manchester Photo Walk.
Eyewitness in Manchester Home Page | Aidan O'Rourke on Twitter and Facebook | Contact