With Christmas approaching it’s time for one of my favourite annual traditions – the unveiling of National Museums Liverpool’s free online advent calendar! Each year we ease you into the festive season with daily treats from our collections and displays, including a few surprises, incredible tales and fascinating facts along the way. Last year’s advent…
Today is International Day of Peace and events will be going on all round the world. I wish I could be at Liverpool to hear primary school choirs singing John Lennon’s Imagine at LIVERPOOL ONE. There are outdoor pianos at College Lane, near Waterstones, and Paradise Street and this will be going on from 11-12pm. I can’t be there, but will be thinking of them and all the people watching and listening.
Take a look at the Museum of Liverpool’s blog (link below) for news of a project that will be of interest to those interested in family and local history.
Rare picture that all of my siblings and both parents are in as one of us would usually be taking the picture. I still can’t keep my eyes open in pictures! Heritage consultant Heather Roberts will be leading our Tell your story- How to archive workshop on Saturday – the latest of our fantastic free…
When you walk through a storm
Hold your head up high
And don’t be afraid of the dark.
At the end of a storm
Is a golden sky
And the sweet, silver song of a lark.
Walk on, through the wind,
Walk on, through the rain,
Though your dreams be tossed and blown.
Walk on, walk on with hope in your heart,
And you’ll never walk alone,
You’ll never walk alone.
When we read or sing these words, what do we think of first? Chances are, if we are a football supporter (and even if we are not), we will think of fans singing their hearts out and waving their scarves to and fro above their heads. This has always been one of my favourite songs, sung many a time at family Hogmanay parties, weddings and any occasion to have a good sing-song.
You’ll Never Walk Alone was written by songwriters Oscar Hammerstein II and Richard Rodgers for their Broadway musical, Carousel, originally produced in 1945.
Here’s a brief synopsis of the story:-
In a Maine coastal village toward the end of the 19th century, the swaggering, carefree carnival barker, Billy Bigelow, captivates and marries the naive millworker, Julie Jordan. Billy loses his job just as he learns that Julie is pregnant and, desperately intent upon providing a decent life for his family, he is coerced into being an accomplice to a robbery. Caught in the act and facing the certainty of prison, he takes his own life and is sent ‘up there.’ Billy is allowed to return to earth for one day fifteen years later, and he encounters the daughter he never knew. She is a lonely, friendless teenager, her father’s reputation as a thief and bully having haunted her throughout her young life. How Billy instills in both the child and her mother a sense of hope and dignity is a dramatic testimony to the power of love.
So, how did this great song come to be a football anthem? There were many cover versions, but one of the best known was released by Gerry and the Pacemakers, one of the many famous Liverpool bands, in 1963 and it hit number one in the UK pop charts, retaining its place for four weeks. Gerry Marsden, lead singer of the Pacemakers, presented a copy of the single to Bill Shankly, the manager of Liverpool Football Club He loved it so much that it was adopted as the team’s anthem, sung before kick-off at every Liverpool match at Anfield. It became so popular as a football anthem that many other teams adopted it too, including Celtic, Borussia Dortmund and F. C. Tokyo.
Returning to the musical, Carousel, here is the final scene where Billy’s ghost returns. As stage/film productions go, this scene, for me, is up there with all the great weepies, such as Jack drifting away to his death in Titanic, the Von Trapp family escaping over the mountains from the Nazis in The Sound of Music and, of course, when Lassie limps home to her master in Lassie Come Home. Okay, the film clip might seem a tad sentimental to us these days but whether the song is sung by football fans, a pop diva or a gospel choir, it will always be inspirational.
I first saw Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral on the t.v. programme, Salvage Hunters, (aired on 14th September, 2016 on Quest Channel) when Drew and Tee were invited to visit. The Dean showed them round the cathedral and took them down to the crypt to look over some no longer needed items that Drew might want to buy. I was only mildly interested in the pair of rare chairs that Drew acquired, but the cathedral blew me away and, at that time, I never thought it possible that I would soon be visiting it for myself. When I went to Liverpool earlier this year, the Metropolitan Cathedral was the first place I made for.
As I entered the Cathedral, the sight that met me far exceeded my expectations (photographs don’t do it justice) and I wasn’t prepared for the overwhelming beauty and ethereal quality of light – blues and greens, with some touches of red – that flooded the interior. Yes, I’d seen it on television, but this was so much better.
Known locally as ‘Paddy’s Wigwam’, the cathedral stands on the site of the Workhouse which had served the destitute of Liverpool since 1771.
Liverpool’s population increased dramatically after the Irish Potato Famine, which stretched from 1846 to 1852. Many immigrants passed through on their way to Canada and America, but a large number stayed and, by the end of the famine, there was a large established Irish community – 25 per cent of the population was made up of Irish. With the re-establishment of the Catholic hierarchy in England in 1850, the need was felt for a cathedral for the Catholics of Liverpool.
The first cathedral (shown above) was designed by Edward Welby Pugin (1833 – 1875), but it was never completed when other pressing needs, such as parish churches, schools and orphanages came to the attention of the diocese. Only the Lady Chapel and flanking side-chapels were actually built, which became the parish church of Our Lady Immaculate. It served as a local parish church until the 1980s when, weather-beaten and structurally unsafe, it was demolished.
The idea of a cathedral was reborn and in 1930 the diocesan authorities purchased the nine-acre site on Brownlow Hill. Sir Edwin Lutyens was commissioned to design a cathedral to contrast with the gothic Liverpool Anglican Cathedral. The constructed building of Lutyen’s design would have been colossal, as can be seen in the above picture and in the one below, which shows its proposed size in comparison to The Houses of Parliament in London.
The foundation stone was laid on Monday, 5th June, 1933 and work on the crypt continued until 1941, when building ceased during the lead up to the Second World War. After the war, the crypt was completed, but the grandiose Romanesque super-structure that would sit atop the crypt was never to be built as it was now costed at an impossible £27 million. Once again, the dream of a great Catholic Cathedral was put aside.
The next step of the journey took place in 1960 when a competition was proposed, inviting architects all over the world to design a cathedral for Liverpool. Stipulations included that it would need to relate to the existing Crypt, be capable of construction within five years, cost no more than a million pounds at current prices and every member of the congregation should be able to see the altar. There were 300 entries and Sir Frederick Gibberd’s design was chosen. Building began in October 1962 and the completed cathedral was consecrated five years later on 14th May, 1967. At last Liverpool had its Catholic Cathedral, a journey which spanned 200 years.
This remarkable place of worship made such an impression on me that I am beginning to see its image in all sorts of objects.
Left: Plastic funnel for adding salt to dishwasher. Right: Portion of toilet roll carton on top of dessert container (it was Tiramisu, for those interested). When I start making models with my mashed potatoes, that’s when I’ll know I’m in trouble!
You know you’re in Liverpool when you see this, the Liver Bird.
In fact, there are two.
Made from copper, they stand 18 feet tall with a wingspan of 24 feet and weighing 4 tons each.
They even have names, though it is not known how these names originated. The female, Bella, faces out to sea to guide sailors safely into port, and the male, Bertie, faces out across the city to protect its citizens (or is he waiting for the pubs to open?). There are numerous legends surrounding the Liver Birds. It’s said that if they ever turn to face each other, Liverpool will no longer exist. Football fans have their own speculations too – Evertonions have said that should Liverpool ever win the FA cup, the Liver Birds would leave the Liver Buildings. Liverpool has indeed won the cup though, thankfully, the birds remain firmly fixed to the clock towers.
I said that there are two Liver Birds but, if you look round the city, you will see many variations of them.
Go on a Liver Bird trail.
They’re everywhere – even on a purple wheelie bin.
There’s a miniature version too.
So, what kind of bird is the Liver Bird? It seems to be an ornithological enigma which all began with King John (1166 – 1216) who acknowledged Saint John as his patron saint, the eagle being Saint John’s emblem. He needed a seal to emboss important documents in his dealings with Liverpool, so he commissioned an artist to design one in the image of an eagle. This was the result:-
What was intended as an Eagle turned out more like a duck, and it is to be wondered if the artist ever knew what an Eagle looked like. As the years rolled by, confusion has grown as to what the bird was really supposed to be. It has been likened to the Cormorant, a Dove, Heron and even the Great Auk, provoking much discussion between historians, biologists, ornithologists and just about everyone whose imagination is captured by the Liver Bird.
Whatever species the Liver Bird may be, it has been a part of the fabric of the city of Liverpool for hundreds of years, since the 1350s. It is unique and inspirational and a wonderful emblem for a spectacular city.