Fifty-five years ago this week, on 20 July 1965 a there was an event that shocked the people of Speke and Garston. In a way, it was a foreshadowing of what the recession of the seventies would do to the industry in the area. In this case, it was a Cambrian Airlines plane that had technical difficulties coming in to land and crashed into a local factory.
Mothaks as it was known locally, or Thompson and Capper to give it its full name was on the corner of Speke Hall Road and Speke Boulevard. The company had an unusual history and was founded by Quaker chemists.
1798 Thomas Thompson started in business on his own as a homoeopathic chemist in Liverpool. 1843 S. J. Capper joined as a partner. The firm became Thompson and Capper the company grew to include a manufacturing facility as well as several retail outlets in the UK. The company survives to this day under new ownership and is based in Astmoor Runcorn, producing nutritional tablets and supplements for leading multi-nationals.
The Speke factory was built in 1937 and initially included Manesty Machines a subdivision of the company that made tablet machines. This was later split off to a separate company. Two of my sisters worked at Mothaks, and a brother did an apprenticeship at Manesty. They moved from Speke to Runcorn in 1976 and were part of the decline in industry in the area from the later 70s, a decline that had tragic effects into the 1980s and 90s.
This crash features heavily in one chapter of Under The Bridge (available later in the year) in my book it becomes the trigger for a character to turn away from crime. In real life, the Cambrian airline crash caused only temporary damage to the factory and production was resumed, although tragically two flight crew and two Thompson and Capper staff were killed.
The destruction of industry that followed in the late seventies and early eighties was part of the decline of the communities in Speke and Garston. People knew each other from work, from belonging to the same union, going to the same social club, sending kids to the firms Xmas party, together with the church and schools these were the special glue of local communities. The destruction of industry in the late seventies, with Dunlops and Standard-Triumph, that continued into the eighties laid the groundwork for the rampage of drugs and violence that consumed many young people.
The wave of drug and criminal violence were not only individual choices, although that is always a component, they are also the consequences of how society operates. If you destroy the social glue of a community, you shouldn’t act surprised when that community comes apart.
Today due to COVID 19, we face another deeper, longer economic crash than any we have lived through and the results will affect what happens for decades to come. The current government in the UK seem to be sleepwalking through the health crises only mandating the wearing of masks in shops, four or five months after the pandemic began to hit. The economic effects on individuals and small business will deepen over the next months as various subsidies are withdrawn.
Mothaks may have moved to Runcorn, but the communities remain and will be left to pick up the pieces of the economic crash. Multinational companies come and go – so financial support should be centred on community infrastructure, building new schools, nurseries, hospitals, community centres, care homes and council housing. These are the glue that our communities need and have the skills to build.