Terry Cooke - Local Historian


THE BEST CHIPS IN LIVERPOOL!

This 1975, photograph features brothers John and Frank Gianelli behind the counter of their well-known fish and chip shop on the corner of Christian Street and Islington Place.

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The popular Gianelli family were in business in the neighbourhood for eighty years and provided a service to generations of families.

Frank Gianelli, was born in a room over the shop in 1902, and besides being in the family business all his life, he was a very prominent member of the Holy Cross Church community.

During the war years the area around Christian Street, was devastated by enemy bombing and during an air-raid one night in May 1941, a bomb exploded near to the shop which shattered all the windows. But with typical 'Scottie Road' determination, the family cleared up the debris and had the 'chippy' open for business by dinner-time the next day.
Their determination was typical of the resolve demonstrated by the residents of the area during the blitz whose message clearly was, "It will take more than the Luftwaffe to break our spirit."

Gianelli's had a reputation for making the best chips in Liverpool, and the shop attracted customers from a wide area. A former employee of the Empire Theatre in Lime Street, revealed that in the 1950's, many top American show-business personalities appeared at that venue.
Some of the cleaners who worked in the theatre, went over to nearby Gianelli's to buy something for their lunch, and when they returned the tempting smell of the fish and chips prompted the likes of Frankie Laine, Johnny Ray, Russ Conway and Liverpool's own Michael Holiday, to send someone over to Gianelli's for fish and chips for them!

Sadly like many other shops and pubs' which had served the community for years, Gianelli's, was also a victim of the planners dreams to create a motorway out of the city, and the famous old shop was demolished as part of the second Mersey Tunnel project.


The People of Scotland Road

The selection of photographs featured here, illustrate the warm friendly environment which existed in the many pubs which once stood in the Scotland/Vauxhall neighbourhoods. The area was renowned for the vast number of pubs, which dominated the locality, and this made it one of the most vibrant districts in the city. What made the area so unique was that strangers were made so welcome, and in the pubs they were assured of a 'good night with good people'. The pubs possessed an inviting warmth and were part of community life, providing a service to generations of families. Each pub had its own loyal customers some 'regulars' having drank there for more than thirty years. It was not uncommon to discover that three generations of a family patronised one particular pub.

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The lively pubs were the meeting places for generations of residents, who celebrated all the important family events in the corner pub.

The locality really came to life on Saturday nights with 'sing songs' in all the pubs. Among the customers there were many gifted musicians, singers and natural comedians who were always prepared 'to get up and do a turn'. The piano player would perform all night for a few pints off the licensee, and when the local talent got going on the guitar, banjo, accordion and spoons, the good humoured customers really enjoyed themselves. Sometimes visitors came into the pubs intending to stay for only one drink, but because of the friendly entertaining atmosphere, which prevailed - they stayed all evening.

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The pubs played a very important role in the lives of local people who knew each other all their lives.

Going to the pub was much more than going somewhere to drink beer, for the 'local' was a community meeting place where the residents from the side-streets could enjoy good humoured chat and genuine friendship. Many of the regular customers cultivated deep friendships with each other which were to last a lifetime. There was a tremendous social atmosphere and a feeling of belonging, with customers participating in the pub football, darts and billiards teams. Several times a year the customers organised coach trips where they all went off on day trips together. The customers were mainly working-class and for many of them times were harsh, with some families experiencing real difficulties. But throughout their dilemma they remained clanished as a family unit. The photographs featuring family and friends socialising in their local pubs, clearly captures the mood of community spirit, which prevailed in the pubs of the old neighbourhood. It was in these little locals that all the notable family occasions were celebrated; events such as birthdays, christenings, engagements, marriages and anniversaries were all reasons for 'family get-togethers'. During the first and second World Wars, many young men and women from the locality enlisted for military service, and it was in pubs such as the ones featured that these brave youngsters had their last drink with family and friends before going off to war.

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The personality of the licensee and his family, played a very important role in maintaining a pleasant environment in the pub.

The photograph showing the licensee with his family and members of staff 'behind the bar', personify the public-house manager of times past. One of the essential factors in the administration of a successful pub was an efficient licensee whose personality and demeanor set the standard for the establishment. The licensee provided a very important service to the community and both they and their families played a very prominent role in maintaining the pleasant environment of the pub. Many of the managers had been resident in the pub for years, often succeeding their parents as licensees. Traditionally the customers had great respect for them and at closing time when they heard, "Time ladies and gents please", they knew they had to drink up and leave the premises.

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A family gathered together to enjoy a drink in their local, it is significant that the group includes several generations of the family.

When the demolition of the area commenced in the early 1960's, residents were rehoused on the estates on the outskirts of the city. But that didn't prevent them returning each weekend to have a drink in 'their locals' with lifelong friends. Over the years there has been several 'demolition projects' implemented which have seen the once bustling neighbourhood reduced to almost a derelict area. These interesting photographs, which reflect life as it was in the wonderful old pubs of bygone days, will rekindle many happy memories for former residents and customers of the pubs of the old neighbourhood.


Scotland Road's 'Little Italy'

A steady flow of Italian immigrants arrived in Liverpool between 1880 and 1912, and settled in the cobbled side streets on the eastern side of Byrom Street. A census report for 1891, reveals that there were a significant number of Italians living in Gerard Street, Hunter Street, Lionel Street and Whale Street. The growth of the community was very distinctive and by 1913, it was estimated that there were in excess of 400 Italian-born settlers in the tiny cluster of streets which by then had become affectionately known to local residents as 'Little Italy' Although in the early days the immigrants suffered some hardships, by 1920, the residents of this close-knit community had become an integral part of Liverpool's society. Many of the residents earned a living as musicians, organ-grinders, hotel workers, knife-sharpeners and street entertainers. But it was in ice-cream making that several families distinguished themselves. Working to their own recipe the delicious commodity was made in the homes of the individuals then sold around the streets from little carts. Other families opened fish and chip shops throughout the city and as a result of their business enterprises, the Santangeli, Gianelli, Podesta, Chiappe and Fusco families became part of the folk-lore of the locality. The area was also world-renowned for the many outstanding boxers developed in the amateur boxing clubs of the neighbourhood. One of the 'all time greats' was Dom Volante, born of Italian parents over a former pub in Gerard Street. Educated at Holy Cross school, he became an exceptional boxer and 'topped the bill' at New York's Madison Garden. The mid-thirties saw the introduction of a massive slum clearance programme which led to the destruction of many of the streets and businesses in 'Little Italy', with the residents re-housed in newly built corporation walk-up tenements.

I have recently undertaken some in-depth research in relation to the history of this once vibrant community which produced some outstanding citizens, and whose heritage should be permanently preserved. With this in mind, 1 would like to appeal to anyone who may be able to provide material such as photographs, articles, interesting stories or observations about the streets and characters of the old locality. I would be particularly interested in details of the boxers amateur and professional; The little businesses; The cosy pubs' where the residents celebrated family occasions: The traditional weddings in the area: Stories concerning Holy Cross and St Joseph's school/church; Incidents involving the local beat-bobby and Rose Hill police-station; Memories of Christmas: Other famous personalities: Recollections concerning the difficulties experienced by some residents during the second World War; It was said that a walk down Gerard Street on a sunny Sunday morning was a very pleasant experience, with caged birds chirping and the sounds of violins and mandolins playing. Can anyone rekindle such warm memories? Events recalled can be amusing or otherwise, providing it conveys an insight into the community of yesteryear. If we can record such events for the benefit of future generations then we will have made a very valuable contribution. In present day society, nostalgic recalls of the once bustling old neighbourhood, would be welcomed by former residents and local history enthusiasts.

Contributions to - ronformby@scottiepress.org


Gerard Street - 1928

Gerard Street, 1928

One of the narrow cobbled streets in Scotland Road's 'Little Italy'. It was in such densely populated streets that the ice-cream and chip-shop enterprises had their humble beginnings. It was also in this locality that world-renowned boxing champions were born and bred. The photograph also shows Whale Street and Lionel Street in the background. As always in the working-class neighbourhoods there is a well-stocked little corner-shop adorned with brand name adverts. This one which served the community for years, is located next door to what appears to be a social-club for the unemployed men of the area. From the frontage of the building it is evident that the premises previously functioned as a public-house.


Mile End

Blitz

During the War the German High Command, recognising the immense strategic importance of the Liverpool Docks and surrounding industrial facilities, ordered sustained air attacks on the city. The Scotland Road/Vauxhall district being located alongside the line of docks was directly in the 'line of fire' and throughout the 'Blitz' the residents took horrendous punishment. Night after night sirens sounded warning people of approaching German bombers, and residents trooped wearily to the air-raid shelter where they experienced many sleepless nights as exploding bombs destroyed the neighbourhood. When daylight neared it brought the welcome sound of the 'all-clear' and as people dragged themselves from the shelters they were met with scenes of devastation such as the one pictured above. This followed a fearful night of bombing when a high explosive bomb caused a huge crater in Scotland Road at the junction with Cazneau Street, ripping up tram-lines and shattering nearby shop windows. Many of your readers will recognise some of the former well-known shops in the background such as 'Boots - Sheehan's - and Eric Lloyds'. The 'Mile End ' pub can just be seen on the top left of the picture.


Athol Street Bridewell

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Many years ago the cobbled streets of the Scotland Road/Vauxhall area were regularly patrolled by policemen from several police-stations within the locality. In those days the beat bobbies were part of the community and many of them were on first name terms with the residents. In the 1920's there were a number of policemen living in the area. The famous old police-station featured here was built in 1852, and the high defensive perimeter walls were designed to discourage any attempt to release prisoners. The Bridewell served the community for more than a century and many older residents will recall their parents sending them to the Bridewell to get change for the penny-in-the-slot gas-meter, or to find out the time or to ask the burly Station Sergeant to make a phone call for them. The 'character bobbies' who had walked the beat for years, were lost to the community when the building was demolished during the mass clearance of the area in the 1970's.


The Homer Cinema

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The Homer Cinema featured here, was located in what must have been the busiest shopping area in Liverpool. Built in the early 1900's the building was situated on the corner of Great Homer Street and Kew Street. It was from this point that little Mary Blunn, one of Scottie Road's famous Mary Ellens sold her fruit to the droves of people going to the cinema each night. In 1962, the cinema was the venue for a charity concert presented by Alderman David Cowley, a local man who was to become Liverpool's youngest Lord Mayor. One of the acts which entertained locals on that occasion, subsequently achieved international fame in the entertainment world with world tours and numerous hit records.


Richmond Row - circa 1900

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This scene pictured in Richmond Row about 1900, shows one of the numerous public-houses which dominated the locality. At the time there were 9 pubs' in Richmond Row. To the right of the pub doorway can be seen the entrance to one of the many lodging houses situated in the bustling street. A prominent overhead sign denotes 'cocoa rooms' located to the rear of the building. At this period there were several Italian families in nearby Gerard Street, who were making ice-cream in their own homes and selling it around the side-streets from little carts such as the one featured in the photograph.


Jim Clarke

Jim Clarke was an outstanding Liverpool athlete, who for many years carried the banner of the Scotland/Vauxhall district to all parts of the country through his prowess as a champion swimmer and life-saver. He was admired and respected not only in his own community, but also in many other districts of Liverpool where his enviable reputation had spread.

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Born in Georgetown, British Guyana, Jim arrived in Liverpool in 1900, as a fourteen-year-old stowaway aboard a cargo vessel. The priests of St.Augustine's, Great Howard Street, found him cold and hungry wandering around the streets, and took him into the presbytery where they provided food and shelter. Later they arranged lodgings for the youngster with a local Irish family, and soon the well-mannered likeable young-man became a popular member of the community. In 1914, he was married to Elizabeth Murphy, in the church of Our Lady of Reconciliation, Eldon Street, and set up home in Elizabeth Terrace, Silvester Street. In later years as the family grew-up, the family moved to Ashfield Cottages, in St Sylvester's parish. He was a natural athlete, ideally built for the sports he loved - swimming, running, and boxing, yet despite his incredible sporting achievements, he remained a humble and kind person who cherished his family and friends The family were very close and in the summer months Jim often took them all over to New Brighton on the ferry-boat. He had a passion for music and particularly liked to listen to the renowned American singer Paul.Robeson. He worked as a docker in the North-end of Liverpool, and each evening, groups of youngsters would wait for him coming home, because he always brought them 'handfuls' of peanuts, which they took home and roasted on a shovel over a coal-fire.

Throughout his lifetime he was a tremendously gifted swimmer and from an early age his capability was far superior to that of youngsters of his own age. During his adult life, Jim used his swimming skills to save the lives of many people who were in danger of drowning in the River Mersey and the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. The deep canal ran between Burlington Street and Athol Street, not far from where Jim lived, and many children although they had been forbidden to do so, went swimming or fishing in the canal and were soon in difficulties. As soon as he was alerted by neighbours or police that someone was in danger, Jim would race to the spot, dive in and swim at amazing speed to rescue the person. He saved the lives of many children in the canal, and between 1911-1916, he bravely rescued several seamen and dock-workers from the River Mersey. He started his swimming career with the Wavertree Swimming Club, where he won many medals between 1908-1910, but he also swam for Bootle, Waterloo, and Everton Swimming Clubs. He made a very valuable contribution to the history of the Everton Swimming Club, being instrumental in their winning the coveted North Lancashire League Cup on many occasions. During these years he was often called upon by the Liverpool Police, to assist with the coaching of the Police Boxing and Swimming teams. He was very involved in charity work, frequently donating some of his more elaborate trophies to various organisations to raise money for their appeals.

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There were instances when the police were unable to locate the body of a drowned person, and on these occasions they would enlist the assistance of Jim Clarke. Calling to his home or his place of work the police would quickly take him to the scene of the tragedy. He would dive in and remain underwater for an incredibly long period of time. Occasionally surfacing for air, he would dive repeatedly until he eventually located and recovered the body. Having saved numerous children from drowning, and having been involved in the recovery of so many bodies and witnessing the sorrowful aftermath, Jim was convinced that positive efforts should be made to ensure that all local school-children were able to swim. He expressed his concerns to the authorities and largely due to his initiative and enthusiasm, the children from local schools were brought along to Burroughs Gardens Baths, where Jim was responsible for teaching countless numbers of youngsters to swim.

For more than forty years he delighted swimming gala spectators all over the country with his skilful display of synchronised swimming. One of his favourite routines was a swimming demonstration he called 'Me and My Shadow', which he performed with one of his swimming colleagues. He would swim underwater whilst his partner swam on the surface, turning and diving in perfect harmony, the pair enthralled the crowds wherever they performed. Another display of his ability to remain underwater was to put a bucket over his head and sit on the bottom of the baths singing 'Oh My Darling Clementine'. Jim continued to give exhibitions of his swimming skills up to several months before his death in 1946, at the age of sixty. Swimmers and officials throughout the Liverpool area, were saddened at the news of the death of their old comrade, as were his friends and neighbours who had such genuine respect and admiration for him. He was regarded as a local hero in the Scotland/Vauxhall district and on the day of his funeral, the children from the local schools of St,Anthony's and St.Sylvester's, lined the pavements from Jim's home in Ashfield Cottages, to St.Sylvesters Church, where his funeral Mass was conducted. His great friend, Olympic Swimming Champion ,Austin Rawlinson, who became a senior officer in the Liverpool City Police, came to pay his respects to his pal, and to offer condolences to the Clarke family.

Jim Clarke, a well-respected gentleman, who made such a positive contribution to the well-being of his fellow man, remains a legend in the Scotland/Vauxhall neighbourhood, and today his family speak with pride of their fathers achievements and the honest way in which he lived his life, always looking for the good in people and helping out wherever he could. In 1986, a fitting tribute was made to Jim Clarke's name, when a local street was named after him. James Clarke Street, which runs between Tatlock Street and Hornby Walk, is not far from where he once lived, and where many of the older generation still recall his name with affection.

Readers of the Scottie Press website might be interested to know that the BBC have put an inclusion on their website featuring the Scottie Press. You can access this by logging onto www.bbc.co.uk/liverpool/localhistory Click Here to log on now.


Contributions and feedback to - ronformby@scottiepress.org

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