Death Of A Babe

R.I.P to one of the Busby Babes, Harry Gregg, 87.

The Manchester United goalkeeper was hailed as a hero after rescuing survivors from the burning wreckage of the plane in Munich, 1958.

Among those who died were eight members of a young team that had been standing on the verge of greatness.

I’m a Man City fan, and from all accounts I’ve heard, both personally and through media, the disaster brought the city of Manchester together, in the days when football existed before an often toxic and tribal rivalry.

I remember my Mum saying that when the accident happened she was, aged fourteen, in bed ill with Scarlett Fever. Her twin brother was a City fan, whereas her older brother, Jim, was a United fan. This brother came in to the bedroom to make the fire up for her, and my Mum said “I’m sorry about United, Jim.”

He didn’t reply, just silently cried with his back to her as he went about his task.

The fiftieth anniversary of the Munich Air Disaster fell, in 2008, on, of all fixtures, Derby Day, with my team travelling to Old Trafford. As a City fan I was dreading the possibility of the moment being ruined by a few idiots, but felt proud as both sets of teams marked the occasion perfectly.

This year, a friend of mine was chosen, along with her son who is a teammate of my son, to travel to Munich to represent the fans at the annual memorial service. Having lost her father a year ago on Christmas Day, she commented:

The occasion itself held an extra poignancy for me, travelling in the footsteps of my father who had made this same pilgrimage twice himself. I know he’d have been so proud of his grandson, reading out the players’ names and laying a wreath down for those who died, players and non-players alike. That is why the Busby Babes and their legacy will never be forgotten. Each generation passes the torch of remembrance on to the next.

R.I.P Harry Gregg

Brave New World

First morning since we left the EU.

Still had no milk for my coffee.

My lad was worried. “Will it mean no more Champion’s League? No more World Cup? No more EUROs?!!!”

In truth I don’t know what it means (beyond my son will still get his football). We’d been a member for all of my life except the first twelve months, and beyond the scare stories and counter-patriotic statements it’s an unknown quantity.

Then, seeing and loving this old photograph, I was reassured that there was a time when we was not a member of the EU.

It is of people waiting at a railway station in Glasgow, 1895.

And I bet the train still hasn’t arrived yet. Some things will never change.

The Fields And The Feels

The other night, waiting to meet friends of ours, I took this photo of a part of my hometown that will soon be transformed. For better or worse is a matter of perspective. Greed v Need, or the wont of a bartered balance? I suppose it depends what side of the fence you are on. So to speak.

Bowlee is a part of our ever-shrinking green belt, a portion of which is destined to vanish for housing. I think the neighbouring fields that my son played football on are safe.

For now.

The affects of this change, though, away from the obvious, objective changes, are emotive.

The following night I took this next photograph. The emotions felt this time were, for once, not mine (self-avowed creature of nostalgia that I am), but for my wife. This path to my daughter’s high school, which we were walking down for Parents’ Evening, is also a trip down memory lane for her. This school, now styled as an Academy, no less, is built on the site of a previous school that she attended decades before.

A different name, a different building, but there is a part of it that feeds into a surviving portion of the school that went before it. Imperceptible to my ignorant eye, it was there that she got the feels, know what I mean?

It was like the Christians among us, a few years back, when we were escorted deep below St.Peter’s in Rome, burrowing into the Scavi, a 1st Century cemetery housing tombs that held, as well as pagan remains, some of the very first adherents of their faith. And also, reputedly, the body of their first Bishop, better known by the name of Saint Peter.

Though the school holds no bones, and goes back mere decades rather than millennia, it demonstrates, for my wife at least, history is more deeply experienced when it is personal.

On The Centenary Of His Death

I’ve mentioned this man before on City Jackdaw, usually around Remembrance Sunday, but I feel that I should mention him again as today is the centenary of his death.

He is my Great Grandfather Albert Cartwright, of the Lancashire Fusiliers.

This is him with his wife, Ada. Maybe they had the photograph taken on his enlistment in 1914 because, you know, just in case . . .

He died at home, on this day in 1919, after being gassed during the second battle of the Marne in 1918. He was just forty. He lies in an unmarked grave at Phillips Park Cemetery, not far from Manchester City’s Etihad stadium.

That battle marked the beginning of the end for Germany. He almost made it safely to the end of the war.

He almost made it to 1920.

It wasn’t the first time he’d been injured. This photo, of course in black and white, shows Albert wearing his ‘hospital blues’, uniform they were given while recovering in hospitals back in England.

His war record states that he died on New Year’s Eve, though his death certificate says it was the 30th.

Perhaps it was either side of that midnight hour, when twenty four hours later the city would be ringing in the New Year, while his newly widowed wife Ada and his children, my Grandmother Lilian among them, would be grieving their loss.

It was a loss that reverberated down the years with my Gran.

And so, even further down the line, I remember him now, and always ❤️