Reflections on Scousers

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Ann Tilling's article on genealogy (see Previous Articles) set me thinking about my upbringing. Despite being born in idyllic Hampshire, I was taken at a very young age to my father's home on the Wirral. It wasn't the posh side of the peninsular and the pupils at the local junior school were a very mixed bunch. A bit like in Woody Allen's school — "My school was so tough we had our own coroner. We used to write essays on what we would like to be — if we grew up!"

We were all fans of Tranmere Rovers, the one League football club the rest of the country doesn't know where it comes from. Well it's Birkenhead. And while only a short ferry ride across the Mersey from Liverpool, the fans are not Scousers as their song says only too clearly:-

"Don't be mistaken, don't be misled,
We are not Scousers, we're from Birkenhead,
So stick your Cathedrals & your Pierhead,
We're Birkenhead born & We're Birkenhead bred!"

Indeed, everyone on the Wirral has their way of describing its location without mentioning the 'L' word. "It's a peninsular to the north of Chester," or "It's just off the North Wales coast". It was only later, when my first real job was working on the Liverpool Echo, that I came to meet real Scousers. I was lucky. I had a real fun job, producing the weekly TV ads promoting the paper, running all the competitions, meeting the celebrities and dreaming up new ideas. And I was only in my twenties.

Amongst my successes was newspaper Bingo. I have to admit I pinched the idea from a smaller newspaper in Blackpool, but it was great for sales. My first job each morning was to pick the day's Bingo numbers. Now that's responsibility. Later, I dreamt up the idea of making readers' dreams come true, an idea that later mutated into 'Jim'll Fix It' on TV.

We fixed the big dreams and the small. We re-united families in Australia who hadn't seen each other for thirty years. We fixed up one old lady with a massive crane with a huge demolition ball on it. She'd always wanted to demolish a building. Despite the attentions of the crane driver, this meek little lady became crazy with power behind the controls and managed to swing the ball so far she hit the target building and the one next door, unfortunately a building that had a preservation order on it.

One poignant 'fix' was for an elderly couple from a Nursing Home who were getting married. They hadn't a bean. So we fixed them a honeymoon in Llandudno. They went by boat, the St Tudwal, which used to sail from Liverpool to the North Wales resort. The old gent had been in the navy for years so we fixed it for the captain to let him steer the ship. On arrival, they were met on the pier by the Mayor of Llandudno and a brass band. Then it was a champagne dinner at their hotel. In my office early the following morning, I was wondering how they'd got on when the phone rang. It was the lady ringing from Llandudno. "We had a lovely night. Really lovely," she said. "There's only one thing, George hasn't woken up this morning." It took a few seconds for me to realise what she meant. "But don't you worry, Mr Cartwright. He died after having the time of his life".

The last job of the week was seeing if we had a jackpot winner on the paper's 'Place the Ball' competition. If we did, it was round to the house to check it was their entry form and to break the good news. One week the prize was £35,000 (probably worth over £250,000 in today's money) and a Phillips 17 inch colour TV as a bonus. And we had a winner — the address, '6 Everton Brow'. "But it's all been knocked down up there", we said. But sure enough, in the middle of the bulldozed urban wasteland that was that part of Liverpool in the 1970's, there was one house. It had been in the middle of a terrace. You could tell because it had wallpaper on two outside walls. But there on the door was chalked a figure '6'.

When we knocked, a voice came from the letterbox: "If you're from the ####### council, we're not ####### moving". "We're from the Echo about your Place the Ball entry". The door opened in flash. "That's me Ma's, she's in the back", said this giant of a woman with, as my newspaper colleague later said, 'A face that had munched a thousand chips'. In the back room we found her mother, watching TV with her head going up and down — we saw that the horizontal hold had gone on her old TV. When we told her about her good fortune, she seemed totally indifferent to the money. "Oh, lovely, a new tellie, and in colour. That'll be the first in this street".

Don't you just love Scousers, I thought, as we stepped back into the urban wasteland. "The first in this street". It was the only house left standing for miles around.