Tuesday, January 04, 2011
Robert Roberts - A Ragged Schooling
These fascinating tales make for fine reading. But Robert's lyrical writing is also beautiful. The poignant suicide of a woman who can't take one more day in the mill is particularly moving, but the description of the river Irwell then will stick with me, every time I cross the local bridges, there
"tumbled a river on whose purling waters the very rainbows appeared, at times to melt, though basically it ran the colour of plain chocolate. But catch the stream in happy mood and under one's eyes brown would dissolve into Mediterranean blue, azure slide into rich crimson.... standing entranced upon a bridge, we threw quantities of rubbish over to mix the creeping palettes".
Stories that bricks would float near Victoria station are dismissed by the author as "libel", but the output of the dye factories around the river meant that Roberts thought it would be 2040 before salmon swam the Irwell again.
This is a lovely little book for anyone who wants to understand working class life in Salford 100 years ago. There are still those around who will recognise from their parents the place names and descriptions, but it is a vanishing world, and every time they erect another block of identity kit yuppie flats that will remain empty for years, they wipe away an important bit of history that should not be forgotten - the struggle of ordinary people simply to live in dignity in the face of the ever hungry capitalist system.