A Manchester lad's life - the poverty, the markets, and the search for love…
Tommy Hopkins' early years aren't promising. Born at the end of the nineteenth century in a slum district of Manchester, he's blessed with loving parents, but they don’t have two ha’pennies to rub together. A series of tragedies knocks him back but even as a boy Tommy's a survivor. At school he makes lots of friends (along with an enemy or two), and together they plot money-making schemes, settle scores and play lots of football – while still taking in a little learning.
Then it’s time to leave the playground behind. Tommy finds employment in the market, working his way up to becoming a porter. Amongst the young women who catch his eye as he becomes a man is Kate Lally – who may be the love of his life…
With warmth and humour, Billy Hopkins vividly evokes the sometimes tragic, sometimes hilarious and always touching story of his beloved dad, and gives us a richly nostalgic glimpse of people who knew how to make the best of what little they had.
When my dad was just over eighty years of age, I used to go with him to his local pub The New Broom on the Langley Estate, Middleton. There, over a pint, he would tell me about some of his experiences of living and working in Manchester around the beginning of the last century. Whilst I was unable to tape-record his story as I did a few years later with my mother's tale, I did jot down a few notes later from memory. The present book told in Tommy's voice is based on these notes.
While I obviously cannot vouch for the accuracy of the actual words used in dialogues that took place, I can give every assurance that the basic facts of the story are true. Some of the characters in the book are composites of people described by my dad and the names of people, with the exception of close relatives, have also been changed to protect their privacy and that of their families and descendants. The names of streets and places however are authentic being those that appeared on nineteenth century maps of Manchester though many street-names have since changed.
At the present time (2009) we are being warned that we must expect to go through a tough period of belt-tightening because of a severe economic recession. In addition, we are faced with threats to our health and well-being from terrorists, crime, bugs and I don't know what else. But in writing this story, I was given a sharp reminder of the extreme hardships of poverty and deprivation that our predecessors had to undergo just over a century ago, and I could not help feeling that in the context of their sufferings, we are still having it easy by comparison.
I hope you derive some pleasure from reading the book because our great grandparents always enjoyed a ready sense of humour no matter what and Tommy's life story may help us to see our own trials and tribulations in perspective. And if the story conveys to you only a fraction of the hard times that our forefathers underwent, then I feel my labours have not been in vain.