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From the Lancashire Evening Post 13/11/09

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by Pam Norfolk

 

The small world of Tommy Hopkins in the mean streets of Manchester during the late 19th century was very different to the one most of us know today... Homes with no running water, gas or electricity, primitive outdoor toilets shared by hundreds of residents, and families stalked by the constant fear of unemployment, illness and death.


But it was also a time when a problem shared was a problem halved, when poor folk rallied to help their friends and neighbours and that long-lost sense of community spirit was alive and well.


This is the seventh book in Billy Hopkins' moving and humbling tribute to his family whose trials, tribulations and tragedies evoke an age of almost unbelievable hardship.


Now retired and living in Southport, Hopkins has devoted his latest saga to his beloved dad Tommy who was born in 1886 in Collyhurst, one of the poorest inner city suburbs in England.


A charming mixture of fact and fiction, the book is based on the many stories told by Billy's dad about his experiences of living and working in the slums of Manchester where every road name told a story of its industrial heritage ... Iron Street, Zinc Street, Pump Street, Foundry Street.


Tommy always counted himself lucky just to have been born ... his mother suffered a series of miscarriages before he 'popped his head out' and he remained an only child.


His mam and dad didn't have two ha'pennies to rub together and if diphtheria, whooping cough, scarlet fever or measles didn't get you, then the fleas, lice, cockroaches and bed bugs certainly did!


Despite the untimely deaths of some of his childhood pals, Tommy was blessed with loving parents who worked hard and lavished unconditional love on the child who was 'the centre of their universe.'


His dad Thomas worked long hours in the local shoe blacking factory while mam stayed at home fighting an endless battle against dust, dirt and soot.


Life was tough for all the hard-pressed families in Collyhurst but it was also a world where comradeship was paramount to survival ... while a few neighbours would steal the shirt off your back, many others would give you theirs.


And it wasn't all work and no play... there were too the simple joys of a Sunday trip to the park, enjoying a kickabout with a ball, listening to the band playing and perhaps helping dad to fly a kite.


But only months before his fifth birthday, a terrible tragedy struck the family and Tommy's life was set to change forever...


Tommy's World is a delight from start to finish ... told with warmth, humour and that special bond of love that exists between father and son, this is a revealing and uplifting tale of an ordinary man and his extraordinary life.

 

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