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Faith in the familyA lived religious history of English Catholicism, 1945-82$

Alana Harris

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780719085741

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: May 2014

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9780719085741.001.0001

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(p.271) Appendix Oral history interviews

(p.271) Appendix Oral history interviews

Faith in the family
Manchester University Press

Nineteen oral history interviews in 2007 were drawn from two parishes, in distinct and contrasting locations, in the Diocese of Salford.


St Anne’s parish church, Crumpsall

Located in the north of Manchester, Crumpsall had been transformed at the end of the nineteenth century from a rural village into a working-class suburb caught up in industrialised urban sprawl. It is now characterised by a diverse multicultural community and relatively inexpensive rental accommodation. The existing parish church replaced an older structure built in the 1950s and there remains a large local parish school.

St Antony’s parish church, Trafford Park

Trafford Park was built on the Manchester Ship Canal at the turn of the twentieth century, within the world’s first industrial park, and was inhabited by many of the employees of the nearby factories and warehouses, including Westinghouse, Hovis and Kellogg. St Antony’s ‘tin hut mission church’ was built for the workers in 1904 and is still in use today. As industry declined in the second half of the twentieth century, and with the drive towards slum clearances in the 1960s, Trafford Park has become purely industrial and St Antony’s has changed from a parish church to a commuter, ‘gathered community’. Nevertheless, as an adjunct of its longstanding mission to the working classes, a ‘Centre for Church and Industry’ was founded on the old primary school site in 1979.

(p.272) Interviewees


Interview at St Anne’s, Crumpsall on 15/09/07, STE 019

Born in Liverpool in 1967, the youngest of four children, Bernard comes from a strong Catholic background and his uncle is a priest in the Archdiocese of Liverpool. He works selling and installing sound systems, very often within church buildings, and met his wife Helen when installing a sound system at her place of work. He moved to Manchester in 1993 when they married, and he is now an active member of St Anne’s parish – co-ordinating a social group with Helen some years ago, and currently organising the Eucharistic Ministry programme in the parish. He and the family keep up to date with Catholic and diocesan news via various websites.


Interview at St Anne’s, Crumpsall on 15/09/07, STE 017

The middle child of Francis and Kathleen L., Christine was born in Crumpsall in 1959 and was baptised, made her first communion, and was confirmed and married in St Anne’s parish church. She married young and drifted away from the church, and regular mass attendance, in late adolescence. Her marriage ended after seventeen years and she found support and comfort in her family and, gradually, within the church to which she returned. She now regularly attends St Francis’ parish church, near Gorton Monastery, and has served as a Eucharistic minister. She is also involved in the pro-life movement, regularly reading the Pro-Life Times, and has a strong devotion to St Thérèse of Lisieux. She works as a medical laboratory assistant.


Interview at St Anne’s, Crumpsall on 15/09/07, STE 016

Born in Eccles, Salford in 1928, Francis was the second child of seven children and on the death of his uncle and aunt very suddenly, the family moved to Lower Broughton to take care of their two orphaned girls. His local parish was St Boniface’s church, where he served on the altar from age seven until married at twenty-six to Kathleen by his brother, Father Joseph. Leaving school at fourteen, Francis had a good and stable job with a heating and ventilating firm, travelling with his work for thirty-five of (p.273) the forty-three years he was employed by the company. In his ‘retirement’ he attends daily mass at St Anne’s church, helps to maintain the premises, and is an essential mainstay of the community. He regularly reads The Universe.


Interview at St Anne’s, Crumpsall on 15/09/07, STE 018

Helen was born in Manchester to Irish parents in 1965, and moved with her parents, two brothers and a sister to Crumpsall when just a young baby. She attended the local parish school, received her first communion and confirmation in St Anne’s church, and some years later she and Bernard were also married here. They have two children, Joseph (then 11 years) and Anastasia (then 7 years). Both children attend the parish primary school and volunteer as altar servers in the parish. Helen balances household responsibilities with part-time work as a teaching assistant at a local high school.


Interview at St Anne’s, Crumpsall on 16/09/07, STE 021

John was one of seven children born into an English Catholic family (with some Irish heritage generations back) in 1930 in Ancoats. His father died young in 1937 and, as the second youngest child, he and his brother were raised by their mother alone and evacuated to Longridge, Preston during the Blitz. In 1942, John and his brother re-joined their mother and relocated to Gorton, where he remained throughout adolescence, and for a further ten years following his marriage in 1955. In 1965, John, his wife and young family emigrated to Australia, but returned in 1967 to Cheetham Hill before finally settling in Crumpsall. During his working life, he was employed as an electrician and telephone engineer, and his wife Joan worked as a secretary. He has been a member of St Anne’s church since 1972, serving as a Eucharistic minister, reading daily at mass and, since 2007, has undertaken catechetical work with young children. Both John and Joan read The Universe.


Interview at St Anne’s, Crumpsall on 17/09/07, STE 023

Joseph was born of English working-class stock in Collyhurst, Manchester in 1917, worshipping at St Patrick’s church before moving in adolescence (p.274) to St Monica’s where the parish priest was Father Marshall, later Bishop of Salford. When Joseph married in the 1950s he moved to Crumpsall and has remained there ever since, with his two children attending the parish and local school when young. After a stint away during the Second World War, he returned to Manchester and worked for forty years as a postman. His association with St Anne’s parish now stretches over fifty years – he enjoys the sense of community, the chats with a ‘cuppa’ after mass and, while over ninety, continues to serve on the altar at mass and welcome people on entering the church.


Interview at St Antony’s, Trafford Park on 17/08/07, STE 009

Judith was born on a farm in North Yorkshire in 1936, the daughter of an Anglican father but with strong Catholic, recusant links through her maternal side back to the Venerable Tom Atkinson. After boarding at a Sisters of Charity secondary school, she joined the Order in 1954 and taught in a succession of schools in Manchester, Dundee and St Helen’s, rising to headship positions. She left the Order in 1987 and took up a full-time role in the parish of St Antony’s, helping to co-ordinate the liturgy, run a scripture and church history group for lay parishioners and to assist with administrative work in the parish. She regularly reads The Tablet and enjoys the theological writings and spiritual reflections of John O’Donoghue and Daniel O’Leary.


Interview at St Antony’s, Trafford Park on 17/08/07, STE 011

Born the third of six children to Northern Irish immigrant parents in Trafford Park in 1923, Kathleen has been part of St Antony’s parish for the entirety of her life – going to school and living and working in the Industrial Park (at Hills’ aircraft factory) save for a brief sojourn in Stretford during the Blitz. She is an avid supporter of Manchester United, a committed member of the parish, and has a strong devotion to St Antony and St Jude. She never married and reads The Universe now and again.

Kathleen L.

Interview at St Anne’s, Crumpsall on 15/09/07, STE 017

Like her husband Francis, Kathleen was born in Salford in the inter-war years (1927) and was raised by her maternal grandmother, as her mother (p.275) died when she was six weeks old. She worked as a full-time mother, raising three children. She has recently ‘made the acquaintance’ of St Anne and is working on improving her prayer life through meditation and spiritual reading, such as the writings of John Paul II. She has read The Universe for many years and attends daily mass at St Anne’s church.


Interview at St Antony’s, Trafford Park on 07/08/07, STE 000 and STE 001

Kevin was born in 1954 in Old Trafford (St Alphonsus’ parish) and raised within a traditional Irish-Catholic, working-class family. Both parents emigrated from Ireland, his father working as a local bus driver and his mother combining raising a family with employment as a ‘dinner lady’ at a local school. Moving from teenage involvement in the Young Christian Workers’ movement (YCW), Kevin’s studies in the brewing industry and strong involvement in the trade union movement prepared him for his current role as Director of the Centre for Church and Industry. Established in 1979 in collaboration with his old school chaplain Canon Jo, then priest at St Antony’s, the Centre was built on the old site of the St Antony’s primary school and is situated in the middle of Trafford Park Industrial Estate. He studied theology and Catholic Social Teaching at Plater College, Oxford and reads The Tablet, the Catholic Herald and The Universe. He is married to Elizabeth, whom he met through the YCW, and they have three grown children.


Interview at St Antony’s, Trafford Park on 17/08/07, STE 007

Born in Trafford Park in 1967 to Irish immigrant parents, Mary and her family were moved by the ‘compulsory purchase order’ clearing housing from the Industrial Park to nearby Stretford. Despite the shift, Mary continued to cycle back to St Antony’s church every Sunday for mass and to participate in the very strong Young Christian Workers’ group, given the headquarters were located in Salford. She has continued to come to the parish ever since, bringing her two daughters (then aged 17 and 14) who serve as altar girls. Mary is also a Eucharistic minister and part of the sacramental preparation programme for first communion in the parish and at St Hugh’s, Stretford. In addition to her family responsibilities, she works part-time.

(p.276) Margaret

Interview at St Anne’s, Crumpsall on 17/09/07, STE 022

The younger sister of Nora, Margaret was born in 1935 and migrated in 1951 (two years ahead of her sister) to Manchester to take up a nursing position. She met her husband, an Irishman and underground pipe layer, at an Irish dance and they were married for forty-three years, until his death just before Christmas in 2005. She has two sons and the youngest, Seamus, is a university lecturer in Ohio. Both she and her sister help out in the parish by cleaning the church, and do ‘a wonderful job with the brasses’. She has read The Universe for many years.


Interview at St Antony’s, Trafford Park on 17/08/07, STE 015

Mitzi was born in 1956, the second of four children. Her parents were Irish post-war migrants who emigrated seeking work, met at an Irish dance in Manchester, and then settled in Longsight. When Mitzi was 11, the family moved out of Manchester to Sale and, after a stint in Gatley when first married in 1985, she has now returned to Sale. She commutes into Manchester regularly given her role as deputy head and Year 6 teacher at a large Catholic primary school in Wythenshawe. She has attended mass at St Antony’s church for the last decade and she and her children (her husband is not a Catholic) are drawn here by the pastoral leadership and sense of community in the parish. She often reads The Universe, as did her parents, who also subscribed to The Catholic Messenger and were sent Ireland’s Own from relatives remaining in the Republic.


Interview at St Anne’s, Crumpsall on 17/09/07, STE 022

Nora was born in Galway, Ireland in 1933, the second child (but eldest surviving) of devout Catholic parents. She followed her younger sister Margaret over to Crumpsall, Manchester in 1953 for nursing work and there she met and married William (a Belfast-born Catholic three years her senior) who worked as a joiner. They had six children and she returned to nursing work when her youngest child started secondary school. She is blessed with many grandchildren, some close by in Manchester and others living in Melbourne. She reads The Universe and her parents read the Far East Messenger.

(p.277) Patrick

Interview at St Antony’s, Trafford Park on 17/08/07, STE 015

Patrick, the youngest of Mitzi’s three children, was born in Sale in 1990. He attends St Ambrose’s College (a Catholic all-boys’ school) where he is in the upper sixth and plans to study religion and philosophy through to A-level. Following in the footsteps of his older sisters, he made a pilgrimage to Lourdes in 2007, helping the elderly and sick pilgrims and carrying the Diocese of Shrewsbury banner in one of the torchlight processions. He also does volunteer work in the summer in Romania and enjoys reading, football and politics (youth cabinet). He hopes to read history at university when he leaves school.


Interview at St Antony’s, Trafford Park on 07/08/07, STE 003

Peter was born in 1944 in Fairfield into what he describes as ‘a Manchester family with Irish stock’ – the link to Ireland traced through his great-grandparents. He taught for forty-two years, initially training in maths, moving into literacy and special needs, before taking on leadership positions in schools. In his retirement, he is a school governor and magistrate. Peter’s connection with some of the parishioners of St Antony’s church and its long-time parish priest Father Jo was forged in 1974 when he took up the deputy headship of St Alphonsus’, Old Trafford. He has two grown sons and his wife, also a committed member of the parish, has just retired from her role as a special needs teacher. Peter regularly reads The Universe, the Catholic Times, The Tablet, The Crusader and The Catena.


Interview at St Antony’s, Trafford Park on 17/08/07, STE 010

Richard was born in Trafford Park in 1947, shortly after his twin brother, and was raised a Catholic within a mixed background. His mother was brought up in Trafford Park within St Cuthbert’s Church of England parish by an Orangeman father, but converted to Catholicism upon her marriage. In contrast, Richard’s father was the son of a foundry worker in the nearby Westinghouse factory, with Irish/American parentage and through this an Irish Republican Brotherhood lineage. He has just retired from a position as Senior Lecturer in Electronics at Manchester Metropolitan University. Richard’s connection with St Antony’s church (p.278) extends over sixty years – his two children were raised in the parish, and he continues to play an active part, providing music at each Sunday mass and helping to organise the centenary commemorations in 2004.


Interview at St Antony’s, Trafford Park on 07/08/07, STE 005

Tom was born of English parentage in Trafford Park in 1946, an only child raised mostly by his mother from the age of seven onwards following the death of his father from injuries suffered in the Royal Navy. His connection with the parish and the local area stretches back to these childhood days, and has been further cemented by working in the Centre for Church and Industry since 2000 and as a magistrate. He and his wife are strongly involved in the parish community, as readers and Eucharistic ministers, and their three children and grandchildren also worshipped at St Antony’s church when young. He occasionally reads The Universe.


Interview at St Antony’s, Trafford Park on 07/08/07, STE 006

The son of a steelworker from Warrington, Tony was born in 1943 in Irlam and was a stalwart of St Teresa’s parish church there, where he served as an altar boy well into his twenties. He met his wife, Anne, in the parish and they adopted a child, Ruth, from the Catholic Rescue Society. The family became involved in St Antony’s church around 1976 or 1977, initially due to the flexibility of mass times but over the years they have come to value the sense of spiritual community. He regularly reads The Universe.