Children’s Books – CGN talk with Chorlton High students

As part of Chorlton’s Book Festival, 7 CGN members went up to Chorlton High school on Tuesday 21st November to meet with some year 8 pupils to discuss children’s books and fairy tales and how they have changed over the years. Several CGN people even took books they had kept from their childhood, and MCC brought a selection of very old books including one which had the Manchester bee depicted in it.

Everyone gained a lot from the session, and conversation flowed easily amongst the generations. We have agreed to meet with the school’s marketing and community office to try and find further ways to bring young and old, and even older, together on a regular basis Lots of students there but no photos (permission problems)

Mickie Mitchell’s 100th birthday

Last Thursday. the 9th November. we all celebrated Mickie Mitchell’s 100th birthday, the third CGN member in two years to reach a century.Cards, flowers  balloons and two cakes meant all 70 people in the Hall could join in celebrating with such an inspiring and wonderful lady.

To read about Mickie’s amazing WW2 exploits, read this post on the website from 5 years ago:
Mickie Mitchell in WW2

At the same time Jo from the Body shop was down selling Christmas gifts and raising money for the Care Group. Thanks to everyone who supported that.

Films celebrating 50 years of Chorlton Good Neighbours

Films celebrating 50 years of Chorlton Good Neighbours can be seen at:

Impact Film


Volunteering Film


Sustainability Film

All films have been funded through a Celebrate Lottery Grant , and been produced by Hannah Powell from MACC community reporters, with input and support from volunteers and members of Chorlton Good Neighbours, and staff and pupils of Chorlton High School.

Helen Hibberd, Co ordinator
0161 881 2925

June 2017

Bob Cowan and the Arctic Convoys – a memory

Bob Cowan

Bob Cowan, was born on July 5th 1919 and grew up in Moss Side. He died on 25th Sep 2016.  Together with his wife Joyce he was an active member of Chorlton Good Neighbours for many years. He was a veteran of the World War 2 Arctic convoys and we have featured many stories about our successful attempts to ensure that Bob got the Ushakov medal from the Russian government to acknowledge the bravery of those sailors who kept the Russians supplied with armaments to enable them to fight the Nazis in the darkest period of WW2


Bob Cowan

Bob was in the navy from 1940 to 1946, starting as an ordinary seamen and then climbing through the ranks – able seaman, leading seaman and ending up as a petty officer

Bob was aboard the tribal class destroyer, Mashona when she took part in operations resulting in the sinking of the Bismarck on 27 May 1941. She came under heavy air attack from the Luftwaffe while returning to port the following day, and was bombed and sunk off the coast of Galway with the loss of 48 men. It seems it was a sitting duck as it was proceeding very slowly due to lack of fuel. Bob was swimming around in the water for 30 mins or so before he was picked up by HMS Tartar which took the survivors to Greenock

The Arctic Convoys

“The Arctic convoys, described by Winston Churchill as the most dangerous of the entire war, transported four million tons of crucial supplies and munitions to Russia between 1941 and 1945, supporting the Red Army in the conflict. As Germany occupied Norway, the British ships had to take a treacherous northerly route, often skirting the Arctic ice floes, before dropping south into Russian ports including Murmansk and Archangel. In bitter cold, the merchant seamen and their Royal Navy escorts endured repeated attacks from both U-boats and Luftwaffe bombers, often sustaining heavy losses.

Just under 3,000 British seamen were killed during the convoys, the majority never recovered from the icy waters. More than 100 British ships were sunk during the campaign” Bob Cowan was on two of these convoys PQ16 and PQ18, In each a third of the ships in each convoy were sunk

Bob  was eventually discharged from the navy on Jan 1st 1946 exactly 6 years after he had joined the navy. He later trained as a company accountant and worked as a manager at Procter and Gamble in Trafford Park until his retirement

Here are links to some of the stories and videos about Bob and the fight for recognistion of the Arctic Convoy sailors

bob Cowan

Bob Cowan   Chorlton’s Arctic Convoy veterans on Granada TV    Video of WW2 Event at Chorlton Good Neighbours    Arctic Convoy medal presentation at Manchester Town Hall   Bob to get Arctic Convoy Medal     Bob Cowan and the Arctic Convoy medal    Bob Cowan  WW2 Arctic Convoys   Another Russian medal for Bob Cowan

Bernard Leach


Visit to Chorlton High School



A group of us from Chorlton Good Neighbours visited Chorlton High School on Tuesday Nov 14th for an event which was part of Chorlton Book Week . It was an inter-generational event organised by Chorlton Library staff in which members met with year 7 & 8 students from Chorlton High to discuss our own experiences of being at school – with some people’s memories going back to the 1930’s

One thing that was clear as we entered the imposing entrance to this large school which has 1,500 students, was how important security had become. Schools are now required to have sophisticated security systems which are impressive but somewhat daunting. We each had to sign into a large console where we typed our name, who we were coming to visit, what organisation we represented and our car registration number. Then a photograph was taken and a label printed that we then stuck on our coats or jumpers (see below). Swipe cards were needed to get through doors and access the lift


chorlton high ID

How different to even a few years ago when entry into school was much more informal. I am sure it is necessary but it did feel a bit intimidating. It certainly doesn’t help in making the school feel part of the community

The school is very impressive and the students and staff were wonderfully welcoming. For the activity there were a range of photos and school log books dating back to Victorian times and brought there by a representative from Manchester Archives. On each table there were Good Neighbours members and students. We discussed what school life was like from our own experiences and we compared things like discipline, our favourite subjects, school uniforms, teachers and dinner hours (though we were told that students only have 30 mins for lunch nowadays)

chorlton high

Students and older visitors discussing topics about school days
whilst a member of the Chorlton High News team looks on

Altogether an enjoyable experience all round and I hope we can do it again in next year’s book week.

History Group at Manchester Histories Festival

Chorlton History Group at Manchester Histories Festival

Chorlton History Group had a prime spot in the Lord Mayor’s Parlour in Manchester Town Hall at the Manchester Histories Festival Celebration Day 2014 on Sat 29th March 2014. It was an excellent event and we had a very good response from people with 67 signing up to receive regular email updates from us

We also used it as an opportunity to explain to people the transformation planned from June this year to transform the group into the South Manchester U3A History Group. We think this will support the sustainability of the group and out what we do into a clearly educational context of mutual learning

Here are some photos from the day

histories12Andy Simpson & Angela Downing on the stallhistories17Paul Mary and Tony answer querieshistories16

Bill Williams, a frequent speaker at the History Group meets Tom, one of his ex-students from Manchester Universityhistories15

Two local historians – Andy Simpson and Bill Williamshistories13

Pauline, Joyce – two CGN regulars- and Allan Downing, take a break from the very busy History stallhistories11

Angela answers a queryhistories08

Bernard & Joycehistories05

Pauline, Bernard & Joycehistories07

Lots of people dressed up for the eventhistories06histories04 Pauline and Joyce on the stall

Longsight Traction depot

Longsight Traction depot &  a Long Lost Photo

Danny Heathcote attended the talk on “the Lost Railways of South Manchester” given by Roy Chapman at Chorlton Good Neighbours History group on 06-03-14. Here is a letter from Danny and an interesting photo to go with it

“Today’s lecture about the Lost Railways of South Manchester was very, very good. Like Roy, I am an ex-railwayman,  who retired over 2 years ago.

I started on the railway, straight from school and became an apprentice fitter at Longsight E.T. Traction Depot <now  Alstom Transport Service Manchester Traincare Centre>. I’m 64 now.

One day, while I was still an apprentice, there were 6 of us, a professional photographer came to the depot to take a photo of a class 82 electric locomotive lifted on the jacks. This was done. We ran out one of the bogies, attached chains to the electric motor, with the intention of lifting it out with a crane.

2 fitters were on the top as though preparing to do this. The photographer said, ”I want one more.” We apprentices all looked at each other, but no one moved. I did eventually and got up with the fitters. I stood there. The photographer said, ‘‘Well look as though though you’re doing something!” I picked up a big spanner. ”Hold it,” he said. Click. Done. I was 17 then.


That’s Danny on the right.
“Well, look as though you’re doing something!
the photographer said, ha, ha,ha!”

The caption on the photo reads:an electric locomotive undergoing treatment in the maintenance shed. If necessary the body is removed from the bogies and a new set of bogies is fitted. This leaves the old pair free to be serviced

For many years I never saw the results until a Longsight train driver brought in a train book he bought on the nearby market for his 5 year old grandson. He came in to the depot and went to show the picture to the yard inspector who he knew. He recognised the layout of the depot. The yard inspector who knew me, saw me in the picture. Both of them sought me out to show it to me. I asked if I could photocopy it. ”No, I’ll cut it out for you” said the driver. He did so and I had it plastisized. It’s in my lounge to this day. In later years, I worked on the Pendelino.

The chap with the beret on<in the photo>  is Stan Greenhalgh (greenhouse we called him) And he’d learned his trade in the R.A.F. We, for devilment, used to get him talking sometimes, especially if he’d crept out for a pint, as we all did, about his time in the R.A.F. He had a habit of leaning against the wall on his elbow. We would engage him in conversation near an emergency button (it tripped out the 25,000v overhead wire in the event of an emergency). Without thinking, he’d do just that and…..all the claxons would howl, the overhead would trip out and he’d call us apprentices all the names under the Sun!!!

The other chap, Charlie Potts, what he didn’t know about electrical work, wasn’t worth knowing. He liked a pint though, in fact a bit more than that. He would, on occasions, take an apprentice out for a haircut to a nearby barbers. No funny business, just a visit to a pub after. Both Stan and Charlie were heavy smokers, it was the norm in those days to smoke, though I never did, but got cancer anyway. When I started on the railway, as the youngest apprentice at the time, it was my job to go to the canteen and get the toast, egg and bacon sandwiches and cigs for the men. Park Drive-2/6d ! There were a lot of people we’d all call friends, both in and out of work. In those days, the railway was a family and no matter what, we’d all work together to get the jobs out, even foreman if need be. It was a pleasure to go to work.It was easy also to get a brother or sister a job on the railway.

I was the only one ever in my family to work for the railway. My dads family were 3 generations of chimney sweeps.  Then John Major, in the dying weeks of the Tory government, privatised the  railway. That was the start of the end of the family. In came consultants, lots of managers and graphs, pie charts and wall charts. Then when Alstom took over, things got even worse.-even MORE managers. I keep in touch with those still working at that place but I’m glad I got out when I did
Daniel Heathcote.


Bob Cowan presented with Arctic Star medal

Bob Cowan presented with Arctic Star medal 

Chorlton Good Neighbours has run a long campaign to get a medal awarded to our member Bob Cowan, 94,  who is a veteran of the WW2 Arctic Convoys and who’s story we have told before (see


The campaign was successful in that the UK government agreed to an new award – the Arctic Star medal. However, the medal arrived in the post over the summer in a jiffy bag. As Bob’s eyesight is so poor, he wasn’t aware of the medal. It is only when I rummaged around with Bob did we find it

As part of Chorlton Book Week, I was asked to give a talk about the Arctic Convoys. I thought it would be a good idea if we could make a presentation of the medal to Bob and link his personal story of the Arctic Convoys with a wider history of them

arctic event 05

Here is Bill being given the medal by local Chorlton Councillor Cllr Sheila Newman


Bob show his medal to Mary O’Mahoney, A Chorlton Good Neighbours volunteer

arctic event 06

Some of the audience at the talk on the Arctic convoys and presentation to Bob Cown held on Friday Nov 22nd 2013arctic event 13

Bob talks to Fred Ryder (also 94) who is another local Chorlton Resident and is a veteran of the Anzio landings and Italian campaign in WW2arctic event 02

Bob looks at the model he made on his ship HMS Ashanti whilst on an Arctic Convoy missionbob cowan MEN 25-11-13 smallThe Manchester Evening News ran a story about Bob and his receiving the Arctic Star medal on Mon 25th Nov 2013

The campaign for Bob and other Arctic Convoy veterans began when Bob received a letter from the Russian Embassy in 2012 offering the Ushakov medal for his wartime service on the Arctic Convoys. We found out that the British Government was blocking the award of this medal. However, this decision has recently been reversed and Andrey Makarenko, the Russian Embassy representative who cam to Chorlton Good Neighbours to present Bob with a medal in Feb 2013, has said that the Ushakov medal should be awarded to Bob early in 2014

When that happens we will have another celebration with Bob!

Stars & Stripes day out





Day out at the RAF Burtonwood Heritage Centre

On 14th of September 2013, a group went along from Chorlton Good Neighbours  to RAF Burtonwood in Warrington, where allied forces were based from 1940 right up till 1996, when the site was closed.

stars&stripes 08


It was a fantastic day, and despite the terrible weather forecast, we were lucky to get a sunny spell.


There were lots of uniformed officers and ladies in their wonderful 40’s and 50’s garb. Great 40’s music was provided by the Sunnyside Swing band, which Lily particularly enjoyed, insisting on a personal introduction from the DJ!

stars&stripes 06

Lily and Dorothy with 1940’s style American Army ‘officers’


Vintage stalls sold lots of 40’s and 50’s clothing, memorabilia and military effects, which was very interesting to see.After a good walk round, looking at the vintage and retro American vehicles, we had a cuppa and good old American doughnuts!

stars&stripes 04

Dorothy eyes up the cakes


It was a fun and interesting day and will make sure we organise a CGN visit there next year. Indeed Dorothy and Lily thought it was so good that they thought Good Neighbours should consider having a 40’s themed event sometime in the future

stars&stripes 07

Dorothy & Natasha get in the spirit stars&stripes 05

Dorothy and Lily get friendly with the troops

 stars&stripes 03

Lily meets a US officer

stars&stripes 02

Dorothy admires a vintage Chevrolet pick up truck

stars&stripes 01Dorothy and Lily at the entrance to the Burtonwood Heritage Centre

Manchester Jewish History Walk

Manchester Jewish History Walk, Thurs Aug 29th 2013
12 of us from the Chorlton Good neighbours History Group talk a walk down Cheetham Hill Road led by Bill Williams, to discover the history of the Jewish community in Manchester. Starting outside Chethams school of music, in Long Millgate and ending at the Jewish History museum

history walk 001 Bill started the walk outside Chethams Music School and on the spot at 144 Long Millgate where stood the Nathan Brother’s house, one of the first places where the itinerant Jewish pedlars first settled in Manchester


This an old photo of the Nathan Brother’s house, taken later when this part of central Manchester became known as Poet’s Corner. The X on the top right of this postcard was marked by a son of one of the Nathan brothers to show which one was their house

history walk 01

Oy Chee and Carolyn sit on a big chair outside what is now a furniture store at the beginning of Cheetham Hill Road, near Victoria and which had been one of the first synagogues to be opened. It had been previously a Christian chapel, but was surplus to their needs and so was converted to a synagoguehistory walk 02

Bill talks to the group at the bottom of Cheetham Hill Road, opposite what was was the Red Bank district whose poverty was described by Engels in “The Condition of the Working Class in England”.and in which many of the first Jewish immigrants to Manchester from Eastern Europe settled. Bill is sur[rised that no recognition is given to this historically important community and the district has now been renamed the “Green Quarter” to help sell the new blocks of flats


Photos of the Redbank district (close the the MEN Arena)  taken by the City Planners just before it was demolishedPicture15

history walk 03

What used to the ‘new’ synagogue, built almost next door to the Great Synagogue (now demolished) with which there was no love lost


The Great synagogue

Built in 1856-8 the Great Synagogue on Cheetham Hill Road, remained the most prestigious synagogue in Manchester until the 1960’s when most of its users had moved further down Cheetham Hill Road or further afield and so were unable to walk to the synagogue as orthdox Judaism requires. It was demolished in 1981;

history walk 04

Oy-Chee, Carolyn, Paula  and Phillip walking up Cheetham Hill Roadhistory walk 05

The group walking past the site of the demolished ‘Jew’s school’ just off Cheetham Hill Road


“The Jew’s School ” 1890 approx (headmistress Miss Raphael in background)

jews school

“The Jews school” in Derby St off Cheetham Hill Road, Built in 1869 by the richer Jewish community to help the assimilation of the more recent and poorer East European immigrantshistory walk 06

The original Marks and Spencers warehouse, built 1900-02 in Derby St.  Michael Marks, originally a stall holder in Leeds then set up series of shops.Marks and Spencers was founded in Manchester when Marks got together with Spencer an accountant; their first shop was on Cheetham Hill Rd. This was the warehouse they supplied the shops from; their motto was “don’t ask the price, it’s a penny”

history walk 07The original Marks & Spencers warehouse   history walk 11

the group stop to look at the sign “J.Cohen” on the building opposite the M&S warehouse. He was Spencer’s brother in law and claimed to have invented the ‘penny emporium’ which M&S would later claim was their invention

 history walk 13

What used to be the Manchester skating Rink where the World Ice Skating Championships were held in 1911 history walk 14 Bill addresses the group on Derby Street

  history walk 17

Tony, Carolyn and Oy Chee  history walk 19

This building was set up to provide additional schooling (bit like Sunday schools), and students would make their way to this after attending the Jews school round the corner. The sign above ‘Cuba’ says “Harry Cohen memorial wing, erected 1931, 5001”

history walk 20 This building students would pass on their way from the Jews School to the “Harry Cohen memorial wing”. It was a sausage factory at the time. Workers where known to have called out to the Jewish students to have a sausage and sometimes animal fat was thrown at them

history walk 21

We finally made it to the Jewish Museumhistory walk 22

Bill then told us the background and some history of the Jewish museum, which we were then able to look around

history walk 23

Everybody thoroughly enjoyed the walk and we thanked Bill for his informed commentary throughout the walk       Picture35The Manchester Jewish Museum,
190 Cheetham Hill Road, Manchester, M8 8LW

The origins of the NHS in Manchester

Chorlton History Group, 4th July 2013

This is part of the talk given by Martin Rathfelder, Director of the Socialist Health Association about the NHS

The July session marked a departure for the History Group in that this was a session session which as well as looking at historical issues also linked them to important contemporary issues

Martin gave a run through of the setting up of the NHS, the changes in its structure since then and the role of the private sector and the debate over privatisation.

ppt 02Pre NHS system of Health Insurance

Before Martin’s talk, Bernard Leach gave the historical background to two local hospitals,  Park Hospital, Urmston (now Trafford General), where he was born and Manchester Royal Infirmary where he spent some time as a child after contracting polio

bernard mri

Bernard in MRI in 1954

5 July 1948: the then Health Minister Anuerin ‘Nye’ Bevan arrived to inaugurate the NHS by symbolically receiving the keys from Lancashire County County. Nurses formed a ‘guard of honour’

park 01

Nurses form an ‘guard of honour’ at Park Hospital for Nye Bevan 

nye bevan at park hospital

Sylvia Diggory, age 13,  meets Nye Bevan at Park Hospital,
5 July 1948

nhs 1948 leaflet

Part of the Leaflet about the new NHS sent to every household in 1948

old mri 1910MRI in Piccadilly Manchester, 1910

mri 02

King Edward VIII officially opened the new MRI building, on 6th July 1909

mri 1912

History Group: June & July Programme

A reminder that Bill Williams will be giving a talk on

“The origins of the Manchester Jewish Community”

at Wilbraham St Ninian’s Church, Egerton Road South, Chorlton, M21 0XJ this Thurs June 6th 2013 at 1.30pm.
All welcome; £1.50 for tea, coffee & biscuits

Also the talk on Thurs July 4th 2013 at 1.30pm will be:

“The National Health Service in Manchester: its past, present & future” 
by Martin Rathfelder, Director of the Socialist Health Association

The July session marks a departure for the History Group. Occasionally we will hold sessions where we depart from the normal format of a history talk and instead discuss important contemporary issues. In this case it will be the NHS. The focus of this session will be hospital care, and we will follow this up with the Thurs October 3rd meeting dedicated to looking at Primary Care – GPs, Clinical Care Groups. In future we might also look at mental health care issues.

nhs 1948 leaflet

The Leaflet about the NHS that every household received in 1948

Bernard Leach will start off by giving the historical context of hospital care in Manchester and this will be followed by Martin Rathfelder talking about the current situation regarding the central and south Manchester Healthcare trusts

nye bevan at park hospital

Aneurin Bevan at Park Hospital, Urmston, on 5 July 1948, when it became the first hospital in the world to offer free healthcare to all

In between the two parts of this presentation, there will be an interactive element where we will split people in groups to discuss a historical question – their first memories of being in or visiting hospital and also a contemporary question – what contacts have they had in the last month with the health services. We will use this information in the second part of the programme

The NHS and its future is important to us all and this is an opportunity to have a series of sessions that look at different aspects of healthcare in some depth and in a way that enables us all to become better informed.

For further information about the History Group contact:

Bernard Leach,, or ring Chorlton Good Neighbours on 881 2925

History Group – May and June meetings

The Chorlton History Group meets on the first Thursday of each month starting at 1.30pm, at Wilbraham St Ninians Church, Chorlton

Next meeting: Thurs May 2nd 2013:   Roy Chapman will give a talk on “The Lost Railways of South Manchester”

chorlton station

roy chapman

Roy Chapman  (on the right), Officer Commanding,  Manchester 1940 Squadron Air Training Corps, as he welcomes the arrival of “The Lancashire Fusilier” steam locomotive


The talk on Thurs June 6th 2013 will be on
“The origins of the Manchester Jewish Community”

by Bill Williams


The former Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue in Cheetham Hill, now the Manchester Jewish Museum