Alan Hay Raw Interview
Resource Type: Audio | Posted on 21st February 2011 by Jenny Porter
Full length interview with Alan Hay
Interviewee: Alan Hay
Interviewee Age: 67
Interviewee Gender: Male
Interviewee Address: Edge Hill
Date of Interview: 8th August 2009
JAM: Is it a library book?
AH: I saw this when I was fifteen. I went down the cutting I was an apprentice plumber.
JAM: This is the kind of thing that we want.
AH: Do you see this here, he’s had a bit of artistic licence, its not as wide as that, but that’s how it looked to me but it was very derelict and we came up and err there was a burst. In here this was…I remember seeing that staircase going right up. You know I’m 65 now, that was fifty years ago, something like that, I was only 16 and I think to myself even now even today, how the hell did they walk down there what’s happened to the handrail..but they didn’t have a handrail people come down so steep and the shunters had their own…it was units cut into the rock you know the way the passenger waiting room and the shunters used to have a little plaque on the wall that said the first train station in the world or something like that and even at 16 I thought bleedin hell why don’t they do something
AH: it was just left…and you know, even at 16 I thought this is historical its always the same with me and I just seen that there…
JM: Its lovely that…what’s this book…it would be good to photocopy ‘The Liverpool Mancester Railway’.
AH: Have you been to Stephenson’s house?
JM: No where is it?
AH: Upper Parliament Street
JM: Oh right can you go in
AH: Theres a little plaque outside and thats where he lived, Stephenson lived there, so I’ve had a look at that but you can’t go in
JM: So you worked at the station?
AH: Yeah, well I started, there was a famous band that Edge Hill had a British railway band and they went back, the conductor was in his 60s then, I was 16 then and his father conducted it before him so it must have gone back maybe to the 1800s or something in Manchester and that area theyre very keen on brass bands and there was first section, second section, third and fourth and the Edge Hill band was first section band so we used to go and we were on radio once or twice a year cos they were a good band I was only 3rd cornet because you know I wasn’t very good
JM: I think we might have a photo of that
AH: I don’t know, my sisters got most of the stuff, Edge Hill silver prize band it was called, they were the only brass band in the area in this area but as I say, they were well known. You know the leading cornetist and Euphonium, they were known as great players and when we used to go to Manchester and places like that – Bolton, they used to sign autographs now would you believe that they used to sign autographs and we won the British championships a couple of times not while I was there but it was like a world of its own the brass bands and thats Edge Hill so they were on the map Edge Hill British rail. We had our own little place where we used to practice 3 times a week we used to practice in Spekeland road which goes on to Edge Hill. But do you wanna know where I started, I mean being with them they got me a job I started in the Telegraph office at exchange station and what I used to do, I was just on 16 then I used to work 3 shifts half 6 in the morning, and then the middle shift from ten till whatever, five. That was the middle shift and then I’d work nights I was 16 and I had to get the bus I had to leave and get up at 5 o’clock and make my own way and then open the telegraph office
JAM: Did you live in Kensington then?
AH: I lived in Edge Hill, off Earle road and it was a good community
JAM: What was it like then?
AH: It was great, you know, people had time for each other, do you know what I mean. You knew everybody in the street – I don’t know these people now. I’m sorry but the young ones don’t communicate – I’m not being funny like but they don’t want to know now I mean fair enough but everybody knew each other. Our street all used to go in the summer over to erm, what was it? Over the water somewhere and we’d take all the kids and a big tent, the street used to go. You know there’d be about 10/15 adults and then the kids and we all used to get the train to Harrison drive over the water and it was a big field, oh Moreton. You know there’s the community spirit the men used to go for a pint and we used to play on the beach
JM: I think thats whats so important about this archive though, we want to gather memories because it upsets us to see all those houses getting knocked down and communities getting broken up and we feel like, as an organisation working in Kensington its kind of our duty to get all of these memories and celebrate what it used to be like and try and get it back to that somehow.
AH: Well where your talking in Edge Hill Spekeland road, that was a fantastic community all the streets used to run all the way up and they knocked them all down and there’s still nothing there, they knocked the whole community down. I used to have mates I used to have mates that went to Sefton park school and we knew eachother you know and they just knocked it down and left it and its nothing now all them terraced houses.
The telegraph offices – have you ever seen the very old movies? Wells Fargo. But this is going back, it was all done in morse and they had, you know them hammers they used to read the metal strips and they used to send them out on pegs like that.
JAM: So did you have to do Morse code?
AH: I couldn’t do it no, I was just the office boy wasn’t I used to send all these, they were all in code, I don’t know why they were all in code, it might have been because of the war, you know. I used to have a console with all the different stations on and they had a Morse, I used to send the Morse signal and that’d ring through all the stations on the Southport line, not the Southport line the Ormskirk line and they’d hear their signal and pick the phone up and then I’d read the message to them. They had to ring me and I’d have the telegram. The clark – he’d be in touch with Manchester or where ever sending the Morse out to them and they’d send Morse back to him on these bell things.
Remember them old coaches, the cowboys with the stage coaches?
AH: Well it was going back to them times. Mad when I think about it.
JM: Yeah, it is, its so fascinating the way technology has changed over the years isn’t it.
JM: I don’t know if its for the better sometimes
AH: Yeah, Everything is a lot slower, everything got done, but everybody knew what they were doing and there was no panic, you know.
JM: People can get to you like that, in an instant cant they. I find it quite stressful really.
AH: I’m sorry I ever left it thinking back now, I was under pressure to get more money because I was going to get married, so I was under pressure and I left the job. I didn’t want to, I was there for about ten years I think. I was at Lime Street Station as well as an apprentice plumber. I started an apprenticeship when I left, I didn’t want to be a Clark so I got an apprenticeship then at Edge Hill Station. I can’t remember if I was 16 then, but I was with the plumber was an ex sergeant major, Regimental sergeant major and Tommy Cassidy. He was a character! I mean everybody loved him you know, he used to put it on with all the porters and that and say ‘come with me boy’. He was a big man, he used to march like that and the porters would go-as if they were scared of him er ‘morning sergeant major’ and he used to say ‘look at this bloody rabble son’ you know ‘smarten yourself up’ and all the rest of it. When he died, he knew he was dying and he was getting on a bit then he put a hundred pounds in the coffee house behind the bar, a hundred pound, now you’re talking about a lot of money for the whole of the station and all of the bosses and everybody on a Sunday afternoon. I couldn’t go because I was too young, I was upset because I loved him, but that’s where they went, to the pub. I believe the pub was absolutely packed. But . . . what was your name? Tommy Cassidy. I remember him, we used to do the Adelphi hotel because that was owned by the railway and before race day, we used to go in and do all the ovens on each floor and all the Hollywood film stars used to stay there, Danny Kaye was there, he was a big star you know and in the kitchen there would be hundreds . . .not hundreds but so many cooks, it was like Dante’s inferno. They had that many ovens-young commy chefs that were so busy you know because it would be full and it was a top class hotel then. There was one, you know Gordon Ramsay? This fella was ten times worse, he was the head chef and he used to push-you know all the young commy chefs. He was effing and blinding, he was worse than Ramsay and I remember Tom, we had to do the ovens and Tom said ‘I don’t like him’ and when we were doing the oven-Tom was down doing the oven and he came up this ignorant bastard and said ‘How long will you be?’ and Tom got up, and when he got up Tom was a big man, you know. Then he saw him and he walked and put his nose about half an inch from his face, he was looking at him and he was a big man and all he said ‘as long as it takes, now get on with your beans on toast’ and Tom looked at him and he walked away and do you know what, we couldn’t go wrong he used to come out and cook for us. Silver service we had chicken, whatever and it was high class food. ‘you and the boy, you and the boy’
JM: He must have respected him because he stood up to him.
AH: Oh yeah, he had that manner about him, you know. I mean he was in two wars wasn’t he. Do you want me to tell you a bit more about him? Or do you want more about the railway?
JAM & JM: Yeah, whatever you want.
AH: Well he used to specialise in-he was a gas fitter as well he said to me-I’d only been there three days with him. There was a gas fire like that (points to gas fire in house) but they were a bit more, cast iron and there were a lot of parts. He said to me ‘now boy’ no, he didn’t call me boy, he said ‘now listen son, you are going to change this gas fire, strip it down’ I said ‘I can’t do that’ he said ‘you can and I am not going to help you, you are going to do it yourself’ so then he said ‘I taught men soldiers to strip down a machine gun wearing a blindfold, so I can teach you to do that’ so he said ‘kneel down, but your tools on the right hand side and on the left hand side is all of the parts that you are going to take off, don’t lose any of them because ill kill you on the spot’ I can remember this now he said ‘look on the right hand side, take the screwdriver keep them in line-don’t throw them everywhere-get the first screw-turn it anti clockwise-keep that on your left hand side, tools on the right and see them days they were very fragile as you take them out he said ‘don’t break any of them, cos your mum and dad won’t have a son anymore’ you know what I mean! I tell you what – he talked me through it and I stripped that down, I’m only like a kid-stripped it down, I’d never done it before. Stripped that down and put it back together again and I can still remember to that day how to do it. Fantastic! There was loads of characters you know. What else do you wanna know? Did you know about the blood tonne where a lot of men got killed in Edge Hill? A lot of men got killed it was nicknamed the blood tonne, it used to come up from Crown Street with the coal that was the Marshalling yards just along side the station and all the trucks used to come down. I forget basically because it wasn’t my job. They’d come down and the shunters-you know the shunters used to shunt them down but it was frightening to watch them as they were marshalling the trucks into the lines where the trains were coming the locomotive would come and hook up and take them away. As they came down they had big sticks like that to slow them down, solid sticks like that and they’d run along side on the track, they’d run along side the trucks and just slow them up. They used to put this brake stick in, did I tell ya?
JAM: No, no somebody was talking about this last week, I only know that bit-that they stuck it under.
AH: The lever came up like that and they’d stick it in and jump on it and ride alongside the truck. Now a lot of them would fall underneath and get killed. Once I ran across with a plumber and he said ‘we’re going to have to be quick’ because there was a burst ‘watch out, its every man for himself’ he said because you think they are going towards you or they are going that way and they are going towards you and that’s how bad it was. I was absolutely petrified-I didn’t do it again. I said ‘I’m not doing that again’ but these men, some of them you’d see. There was one man, he went underneath and the truck had taken half of his face away and he was still working there he had a big massive scar there. It was a very dangerous place you know!
JM: Sometimes you think about health and safety gone mad these days don’t you, but in this instance it’s a good thing.
AH: Oh, they did take some chances then especially then. But when I was there, they weren’t taking as much coal up then. That’s the cutting (Points to painting of Edge Hill Station in a book) – that’s where that is. The cutting used to go off the main line and you’d come to that station. I never went down to Crown Street. But what they’d do, they used to take the wagons down there with an engine in front, it was an electric engine this and they used to like freewheel and they used to put the brakes on to stop them as they were coming into ground a lot used to hit the buffers and smash them. But the steam trains used to go through-I love the steam trains! There used to be some beauts, you know they all had names and they’d go through doing about sixty miles an hour and the plumber I was with then Bob, he used to like to have a little sleep and these things when they went through-I’m not joking and he’d get up and go ‘these bloody trains, there’s no need for them to go that fast, its only a mile to Lime Street’
Do you want to know anything else? I just wrote a few little things down. There was cottages they used to call the Railway Cottages and my mate lived in one and they were really nice you know up steps and lovely little gardens you know they were for all the railway workers but they used to build, you know the Victorians used to make an effort didn’t they. We lived in a place called The Cotts, they were off Spekeland Road but they got knocked down, they should never have knocked them down.
JM: Imagine now if they were still there, they’d be a tourist attraction wouldn’t they. Did they used to back off on to the railway did they or where were they in relation to the railway?
AH: Well they were more or less erm, you know you’ve got Edge Hill Station, they are more over this way towards Spekeland Road that’s where they were. They were beautiful them they should never have just knocked them down when they knocked all that area down.
JM: I mean, did they even say why they were knocking them down?
AH: No, no, we just got out. We lived in Annelie Street since we were kids and mum and dad. We loved it there and they just said ‘Compulsory purchase, we’re knocking these down, out’ and we had to go
JM: Is that when the neighbourhoods started declining when you had to move or was it alright for a bit after that? What do you think made it happen?
AH: They just destroyed it, they knocked it all down.
JM: So there was just nothing there any more?
AH: I mean I’m talking like there was about twelve streets going up, going from Spekeland road to Earle Road with all terraced houses so it was hundreds of people living there. I used to go and mop Lindsay street, I used to have fellas, mates of mine in certain streets, my sisters had mates up there, you know so we were up and down Spekeland road. Your talking about a lot of people, you know hundreds of people living there and it was a great community, it was a good community – St Dunstan’s Church you know where that is don’t you? Well they all run up that way and it was all pubs up there and all the rest of it so my dad used to go up there. They just knocked it all down.
JM: I suppose a lot of people moved away from Kensington didn’t they, so that probably had an effect on the communities.
AH: Well they were, weren’t they, they were sent away. Sent away from Edge Hill a lot of them went to Speke. They just destroyed communities you know that’s why we’ve put a stand up here, they were going to knock us down here you know. (Referring to streets off Hall Lane)
JM: What, recently?
AH: Well its been going on for about ten years I think they said they wanted to and we said no we are not moving and we’ve still got our own committee now which meets in the club, and we said ‘no, why are you going to knock us down?’ and they said ‘oh there uninhabitable now’ my arse! We said ‘well what’s wrong with them over there?’ They think you are stupid! So I said ‘well what’s wrong with them? They went up at the same time!’ So we got our own surveyor and we paid him and he said ‘there is nothing wrong with these houses whatsoever’ he said ‘if you have a look at the brick here now he said ‘they’ve been up over 120 years maybe, and they’ll be up for another 120 years’ he said ‘there’s no need for it’ and he said no. They tried to force us so we said ‘ok, you do that and we’ll bring all of the cameras, all the press and we’ll say that you are knocking down houses that have no need to be knocked down’ so for all these years we’ve been not knowing if we were going to be knocked down.
JAM: Are they still trying to knock them down?
AH: No, because now we’ve won the day up to now. This is a conservation area now, its going to become. We’re going to get double glazing. This little bit here is called the triangle see so only terraced houses here
JM: That’s one thing I’ve noticed about this are and all around Edge Hill Station, there’s quite a few little community groups I think and little committees you know that meet up and try and make the community better because I think people are still. . .
JAM: Passionate about the place
JM: Yes, passionate about the place and the feel of community. Especially because of the history of it. We’ve got pictures from people who used to have street parties.
AH: The Coronation and all that, there were street parties, you used to just bring your own table out the living room and put it out in the street and all the chairs and all that and all the women would be like ‘oh I don’t like the look of her chairs, there a bit tatty! You know, look at mine!’ They used to just have all the kids there. It was great for kids you know because they used to just run up and down.
JM: it must have been great for the kids
AH: Yeah, I mean we used to disappear, there was four lads next door and two other lads. When we were kids, we used to just disappear to Sefton Park and we’d be there for about eight hours and nobody would bother. My dad would say ‘Where have you been?’ and that was it. You could do that, you know. When we were about twelve or thirteen we all got bikes and mine was an old heap of a thing. You couldn’t make it up, I had an uncle that was an old scrap dealer and he used to pick it up you know little bits and pieces and we rode to Chester and back
JM: I bet that was amazing though, the freedom to be able to do that
AH: Yeah, but we were only like, twelve/thirteen and five of us rode all the way to Chester. I was riding by the river Dee and a woman walked in front of me and I skidded into the brick wall so all of my front wheel was all buckled I had to walk all the way home, from Chester! When I think now! We had a lot of freedom, you know there was nothing to worry about I believe across here they knocked all of the streets along here down and that was left derelict, I’ve been here about twenty years bout twenty three years. I believe now they are building modern terraced houses, you know down south people want that type of house, you’ll pay a lot of money for them. The people with money like living in a terraced house in a terraced street again; So all of the ones that they’ve knocked down, now they are rebuilding modern ones.
JM: They just don’t last as long though, that’s the problem.
AH: Well they are trying to build better ones because people are paying a lot of money for them. There was a lot of community spirit you know
JM: Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about the area?
AH: I thought you were just interested in the railway
JAM: Oh yes, we are interested in the railway and the surrounding area, theres an open day on the 15th at Edge Hill Station.
AH: Isn’t it a shame that we left it to go to rack and ruin and Manchester jumped right on the bandwagon and my friend went to see it and what they are, well they’re not saying it but they are insinuating that it ran from Manchester to Liverpool. They’ve made a good job of it, a big display.
JM: Well we’ll have to make sure we set everyone straight then won’t we
AH: So that’s got to be the first station in the world
JM: Yes, the first passenger railway station still open today anyway
AH: Well is there any more stations in the world because that was the first steam train ever. It was invented by Stevenson and its left, I don’t know what its like now.
JM: Well we’ll see you on the 15th, thanks a lot for your time.
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