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Monday, 9 March 2009

The Manchester Man

The Manchester Histories Festival is nearly upon us, and if you want a gripping read about the city’s past, see if you can track down a copy of ‘The Manchester Man' by Mrs G Linnaeus Banks. The book covers the time of the Napoleonic Wars, one of the most turbulent times in Manchester’s past, including the Peterloo Massacre. The hero of the story is Jabez Clegg, a foundling rescued from the waters of the River Irk. Jabez is lucky enough to get a place as a Blue-Coat boy at Chetham’s Hospital, then as an apprentice in a cotton mill. His career is contrasted with that of Laurence Aspinall, the cruel son of a wealthy merchant. Aspinall, who joins the Manchester and Salford Yeomanry Cavalry, is Clegg’s rival for the hand of Augusta, daughter of the charity boy’s master. Blood is spilt during a fateful meeting at Peterloo…
There is so much incident in the book, I’m surprised it has never been adapted for TV (at least I don’t think it has), but its high moral tone and relentless body count for little children may be too much for modern audiences to stomach.
But do get hold of a copy if you can; Mrs Banks knew the city and its history inside out.

Image: Chetham’s Hospital, Manchester, Pictorial History of Manchester, 1844.

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