Thursday, 10 October 2013


  March 1919 was the year my grandmother, Flora Milburn, died.
        Strange to think that more people died of the Spanish flu after the Great War than were killed in battle. Britain was no land fit for heroes and in 1919 during the August bank holiday weekend the Liverpool bobbies were on strike. The army was called in to help deal with the looting and violence that was taking place and altogether these were unsettling times for Liverpool. Especially as across the Irish Sea, trouble was brewing due to the demand for Home Rule. (see FLOWERS ON THE MERSEY) available as an E-book.   The police strike was the perfect opening for a new novel and I called mine SOMEONE TO TRUST. My heroine was young Lucy Linden and she supported her widowed mother and younger brother by selling firewood and toffee apples.
      A large part of the book is set in Everton, parts of which I knew reasonably well because, at one time, not only my Milburn grandfather and uncle Stan lived there but also my Uncle Jim and Aunt Lila Nelson. According to their daughter, she and her parents shared a home with my Nelson grandparents in St Domingo Road during the Thirties before moving to a house on Beacon Lane. I remember the warm welcome I received, and I’ve never forgotten that milk was poured from a jug made in the shape of a cow.  I also recall my Uncle Jim visiting us on Boxing Day and playing Snap with us children. More often than not he cheated so that we kids could win a penny or two, especially my younger sister.

    My jolly Uncle Jim and Grandfather William Nelson looking very serious.

       By the time I came to write my book, both uncle and aunt had passed away and the house had been demolished, so I could not ask for their help with research. I sought assistance from the vicar of St George’s church because I wanted a look inside the church. St George’s is one of two churches in Liverpool known as the cast iron churches (the other is St Michael’s in the Hamlet) because although its outer shell is made of brick, its internal structure is unusual in that it is made of cast iron. A grade I listed building, it was erected in 1814 in the days when rich merchants lived in Everton before people flooded into Liverpool in search of work and housing for the poor crept up the slopes and swamped the village of Everton. The rich merchants moved out but the church remains and stands out on Everton Brow and has a fabulous view over the north of the city and on a clear day one could see across the Mersey.

    The vicar passed me on to a member of his church, who not only showed me around St George’s, but also had contacts with the Beacon Archives Group. They met in the former Everton Library, situated on the corner of St Domingo Rd and Beacon Lane. Although closed, the library has a preservation order slapped on it. It was built in 1896 and is a Grade II listed building.
      Excellent photographs of the library can be seen on the website: 'The Streets of Liverpool' and there is also a book of the same name by Colin Wilkinson. It is one of many sites showing photos of old Liverpool and there are books specifically on Everton. e.g.  The Lost Tribes of Everton.

      In those days I used to take a small tape recorder with me. I had learnt from experience that it is so easy to miss what comes next when a person is talking if I tried to note down their conversation by hand. They were a great group.
     Annoyingly, a year or so later my tape recorder was stolen from the boot of my husband’s car when parked at the National Trust squirrel reserve in Formby.
       SOMEONE TO TRUST was  to be first published in 2000 and has been reissued twice since then and is now also available as an E-book. I really like the background in the picture cover because it gives a idea of the view that can be add from Everton Brow.

       The book is also special to me because apparently it changed someone’s life. A woman in New Zealand emailed me to tell me so. As a boy her father had lived near St George’s church and she hadn’t believed him when he had spoken of the poverty in the area. Then a neighbour passed my book over to her and she viewed her father’s reminiscences of his days growing up in Liverpool in a new way.
      I have several books in my own personal collection with photographs of Liverpool and one of them which was falling to bits was recently reissued in a larger format and with added commentary and photographs: Liverpool: It All Came Tumbling Down by Freddy O'Connor. I went along to Formby Books and met Freddy and bought a copy which he signed for me. He was serenading the customers at the time on his guitar but we had an interesting chat about the Liverpool we remember before it all came tumbling down.
       I’ve never forgotten my father speaking to me of having seen children playing in the street wearing no shoes. Dad was eight years old at the time of the police strike and it must have made a deep impression on him. But although life was tough for so many during that period in Liverpool’s history, there was escapism to be found for my grandparents, parents and their siblings, and that’s why in SOMEONE TO TRUST a picture palace features. The flickers, as well as light reading were an escape from reality. But they’re for another day.  

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