Leave your email above, and enjoy below.
Chapter 8 Garston from The Morning After
July 3rd Friday 1981 Lunchtime
“Does anyone know the way?” asked Macca
“Yeah, I do, my nan lived here.” Vinny led the way as they scrambled up from the shore. The road in front of them was at the back of the estate. This was the industrial end nearest the river.
“We go through factories and were there.”
They walked up Brunswick st and took a left at Blackburne St. The road ran parallel with the river. Industrial buildings ran along both sides of the street. Vinny didn’t like it. Unlike the steel shed factories built in the early ’60s in Speke, high brick walls and black chimney stacks marked their progress along the street. They looked like figures in a Lowry painting passing buildings darkened by the smoke of dirt of decades. After Window Lane things improved and the terraced housing ran in lines. At the end of Blackburne St on the left were the docks, facing the dock gates was King St, this ran straight out under the bridge and into Garston village.
“Are you sure you know where you’re going?” Macca asked.
“Yeah,” Vinny answered but, as he got closer to the dock end of Blackburne street he realised something was different.
“It should be up here, turn left at the dock gate and bit further in that where me nan’s house was.
“Come on then lads, nearly there,” Macca said. “Nearly rich, we’ll be loaded. We’ll get you on the bus, we could get on with you and go into town.”
“Yeah,” Sammo added, “it’ll be great, we can go the pictures. Go to St John’s market.”
“It should be up here.” Vinny was pointing.” but this looks new.”
“What do you mean?”
They were standing in front of the dock gates, facing them was King St, the parts furthest away were as Vinny remembered old terraced houses on the right. His nan lived at 26. And on the other side pubs, The Cock n Trumpet, the Kings Vaults there was another one that looked boarded up. But all the old houses were boarded up too. Windows and doors covered with sheet metal. What remained of King street was empty, and new houses had been built in the space nearest the docks.
“Where’s the pawnbrokers?” Sammo stood in front of Vinny.
“I don’t know. It was all here, it used to be here. It was called Frank Ketts you used to go down the entry next to me nan’s, but it’s all gone.”
“For fuck’s sake.” Macca kicked a stone down the road.
“What do we do now?”
“I need to get the bus home,” Jaime said.
“With no bus fare?”
“I can bunk it.”
“Let’s go into the village if we can find a jeweller they might buy it,” Vinny said.
“I guess we’ve got no choice,” Macca replied.
Vinny led the way, crossed the road and started up King St.
“All this fuckin way. I can’t believe we walked all the way from Speke to Garston.” Macca moaned.
“It’s not his fault the place has changed,” Sammo said.
“Yes it is, he should’ve known. He’s full of shit that’s what he is.”
Vinny was striding ahead, he could hear everything but was hoping for something to turn up in the village. As they moved toward the village, traffic increased, Banks road was the main road through the area.
“Where can I get a bus?” Jaime asked.
“In the village, we’re going that way anyway.” Said Sammo.
Ahead of them was St Michael’s church and to the right of it the Gas tanks that dominated the skyline away from the docks.
Vinny led the way under the railway bridge. “Can you hear that?”
“What is it?”
At first, it sounded like a train, way off, rumbling.As they emerged from under the bridge it became clearer. “Maggie Maggie Maggie, Out Out Out, the chant was rhythmic and insistent, voices loud and clear. Ahead they could just see a group of marchers coming down St Marys Road. The front of the march had a large banner, a green background with yellow lettering ‘ People’s March for Jobs’. Behind this banner, there were hundreds of youth. Then lots of Trade Union banners and placards demanding ‘Jobs not Dole’, the whole scene was one of movement and noise. People with megaphones led the chanting. What do we want? ‘Jobs not dole’ was the shouted answer. The front of the march moved passed the boys and continued up past the Bath House. People ran alongside the march with collection buckets and selling newspapers.
“There are police everywhere,” Macca said
“Yeah, but they are not interested in us, they’ve got this lot to deal with,” Vinny replied.
The police were controlling the traffic in front of the march, and at the rear of the march. Traffic was building up on St Marys Road. In the village, there was enough room to shepherd the traffic past the march and keep some kind flow going.
“Come on,” Vinny said, “Let’s join in.”
Vinny stepped onto the road and began walking alongside the marchers.
“Fuck,” Macca complained. “Come on.”
He caught up to Vinny. Sammo and Jaime were behind them.”
“What are you doing?” Macca asked.
“If we’re with the marchers, the cops aren’t gonna take any notice of us.”
“Yeah ok, but what about the treasure?”
“If we see a shop, we can nick off and get it checked out.”
The truck leading the march pulled over opposite the Job Centre. The marchers stopped, and everyone gathered around the truck, a second van came up, parked beside the truck, Within seconds a trestle table was produced and teas and sandwiches were being given out to the marchers.
“Come on, let’s get some. I’m starving.” Jaime said.
“They won’t let us.” Macca replied.
Jaime approached a woman giving out sandwiches.“Can I have one?”
“Shouldn’t you be at school?” she asked.
Yeah, but we wanted to march for a bit, so we missed our dinners.”
“Yeah sure, come on. She handed Jaime a sandwich, “here bring your mates over.”
As she said this a voice boomed out over the crowd. “Welcome friends and brothers. This is the first day of our long March to London, two hundred and eighty miles to tell Margaret Thatcher that we do not accept mass unemployment as the price for her policies.” The boys collected a sandwich and tea each and regrouped at the back of the crowd. They sat on the ground eating and drinking as the speaker’s voice droned on. “We demand an end to this government of spending cuts and unemployment…”
“Our John had to go to Bournemouth to get a job.” Said Sammo. “He comes back between jobs, he’s been there ages now.”
“Loads of people are doing it. Maybe these lot will stay down there,” said Macca.
“Wait, look over there.” Vinny was pointing to where the speaker was.
“Let me introduce comrade Joe McCarthy co-ordinator of the Speke Area Trade Union Committee.”
“Look who it is?” Vinny nudged Macca
“Look at the guy on the back of the lorry.”
“Who is it?” Sammo asked.
“It’s the guy from this morning, who’s grandfather you robbed,” said Vinny.
“Good afternoon comrades and friends. As chairman of the Garston and Speke Area Trade Union Council, let me welcome the People’s March for Jobs on the first day of their long march for justice. There was general applause. “There are over four million unemployed in Britain today and we have the most vicious Tory administration in modern times, a government that is determined to destroy effective Trade Unionism in Britain. Make no mistake, we are faced with a life and death question. That question of life and death is for working-class communities all over this country.”
“We should get out of here,” Vinny said. “Before he recognises us.”
“He didn’t see us earlier,” Macca said.
The four boys stood and began working their way through the back of the crowd.
The speaker’s words followed them as they snaked their way through the audience. “They watch as we turn our anger, our frustration on each other, destroying the very communities we live in.” The speaker paused, “He doesn’t half go on.” Macca pushed Vinny in the back, “Come on, get a move on.”
“I am! There are people in the way.” Vinny said.
Joe continued. “The choice is whether we tear ourselves apart and create a dog eat dog society- the employed against the unemployed, the healthy against the sick, the young against the old. A society where we destroy the values of trade unionism and solidarity. For the profit of the elite, whether we fight each other instead of fighting them. Or we fight for our class interests against a government and state that wants to take us back to the 1930’s – private railways and transport, where we have to pay for education and health care. Make no mistake these things weren’t given to us as a charity, our fathers and forefathers had to fight for them, and if this government or the next can take them away and turn back the clock they will.”
They boys reached the edge of the crowd and they turned to face the speaker.
“You know beyond the politics,” he said, “What this means for our communities our estates? With no work, no future, no unions, we fight each other. We turn the clock back. English against Irish, black against white, women against men, British against foreigner,” he paused for a second. Vinny thought he was looking straight at them. “young against old.”
“Come let’s get out of here,” Vinny said
They walked back down toward the centre of the village and the bus stop outside Woolworth. “What are we gonna do now?”
The four boys were at the bus stop.
“I can get the bus into town,” Jaime said.
“We can walk back with the marchers, their next stop is Widnes so they will have to go through Speke.”
“What about the treasure?”
“I could sell it for you.”
“How could you do that
“I know people.
Vinny took the watch out and gave it to Jaime.
Macca went to grab it, Jaime pulled back. Macca launched forward. “Give me that.” He grabbed Jaimes’ arm.
Jaime and Macca were pulling against each other. Macca let go. Jaime stumbled back, he missed his footing on the kerb and fell backwards into the road and an oncoming car. A woman waiting at the bus stop screamed. Jaime bounced off the front right corner off the car and hit the bonnet, there was a screech of tyres as the driver slammed on his brakes and Jaime was thrown sideways landing half on the kerb and half in the road about five feet in front of the car. The watch went flying through the air and skidded along the pavement. Sammo picked it up.
“Shit look what you done.” Sammo pushed Macca.
A crowd was gathering around Jaime. Police were running over from the march. Vinny could hear Joe on the microphone “Where’s the march doctor? A kid’s been hit. Quickly!”
“Here, here.” A man ran over to the group, police were pushing people back.
“I’m a doctor.”
“Let him through.”
“Who is it?” One of the coppers asked.“Does anyone know him?”
He was with those lads, the woman who screamed was pointing at Vinny and Macca. Vinny and Macca backed away.
“Do you know who he is?”
“No,” said Macca shaking his head.
“How about you?”
Vinny shook his head.
“He’s with me,” Sammo said.
“Come here.” The copper pulled him through the group of bystanders.
Macca pulled Vinny in the opposite direction, “Come on let’s get out of here.”.