Archive | March, 2014

Lost in Mancslation: The Dictionary of Mancunian

14 Mar
Lost in Mancslation. © 2014 HistoryME.

Lost in Mancslation. © 2014 HistoryME.

I’m sure I’m not unique amongst Mancunians (people from Manchester) when I say from time to time I’m misunderstood. It is particularly noticeable in the environs of fellow Mancs and/or when I’m in a salubrious pub (one with original mahogany, etched glass and a vault) after a beer or two or three, when my Manc dialect becomes its most lyrical and poetic – a composite of liquid fuel and local accent – that ignites a unique prose, that is audible to the many, yet understood by predominantly only the lucky few.

Language is ever-evolving and dialects are no different as I’m sure the developers behind the new speed reading app Spritz – which aims to change the way we read – have already found out.

In my quest, like most Mancunians, to find the quickest and easiest (some may wrongly say lazy) route to being understood, it seems that other people don’t always agree that we’re on the right path to our very own Manc-Esperanto.

Our notable dulcet toned Manc dialect, again some may argue, isn’t always the easiest on the ear and to this day even some of my own family would concur as much. In addition, my girlfriend – owner of the most delectable ‘worldly’ accent – a mixture of tones from Kashmir via the Middle East and the London melting pot – would in true Judas-style support this claim.

The Manc dialect is a non-rhotic accent, where ‘r’ sounds have gone missing. Vowels are over-enunciated, a’s are cut-throat sharp, u’s become terrace like chants, starting h’s and finishing t’s become invisible, g’s have absconded and glottal stop middle t’s abound.

“A person with increasing knowledge and sensory education may derive infinite enjoyment from wine”, Ernest Hemingway once said.

Similarly to the Mancunian dialect, few people know a fine wine of the highest order, even if its flowery bouquet has the power to render the olfactory bulb into a orgasmic state straight out of Woody Allen‘s 70s comedy sci-fi classic, Sleeper. I for one fit the bill as an anosmic and whom all olfactory arousing sensory pleasure is wasted. Even Sex Panther won’t awake my cilia! So it’s no surprise that Mancunians are so misunderstood. The Manc dialect like the finest Chateau Cheval Blanc 1947, is mature,  incredibly rich and textured like fine velvet, not too bitter on the palette and with a peacock’s tail of linguistic complexity, that only the most erudite among us, truly understands.

I feel a letter to the Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove is on the cards. International trade! Never mind learning Mandarin, a billion Chinese students out there should be learning Mancunian.

In my journey to be at least understood by my love ones, I have compiled a mini dictionary – in no particular order – of some typical Mancunian words and slang. Please feel free to practice your beautiful Manc diction and add to the list:

Angin (disgusting)
Bobbins (rubbish)
Bog (toilet)
Buzzin (ecstatic)
Dead (very)
Dibble (police)
Fool (daft ‘apeth)
Gaggin (thirsty)
Ginnel (alley)
Keks (trousers)
Mam (mother)
Mingin (horrible, unpleasant)
Mint/nice one/ top (excellent)
Mither (bother, trouble, aggravation)
Nah (no)
Scrikin (crying)
Snide (ungenerous, tight, fakes esp. stolen goods)
Sound (good)
Tantrum (strop)

If you would like to add any further information, memories, pictures or stories regarding the post, HistoryME would love to hear from you.

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On the trail of Manchester’s Sherlock Holmes

14 Mar
Jerome Caminada. Image courtesy A. Buckley.

Jerome Caminada. Image courtesy A. Buckley.

My research into the extraordinary life and groundbreaking detective work of Jerome Caminada, a real-life Sherlock Holmes, has given me a unique opportunity to re-discover the colourful history of my home city. I grew up in Manchester but left almost 30 years ago to study in London and haven’t quite made it back, so I’ve thoroughly enjoyed wandering exploring places from my past, whilst bringing Detective Caminada’s story back to life.

Free Trade Hall. Image courtesy A. Buckley.

Free Trade Hall. Image courtesy A. Buckley.

Jerome Caminada was born in 1844 in Peter Street, opposite the Free Trade Hall, at the time when the original wooden pavilion had just been replaced by a brick structure. (The current building was erected in 1853). His parents were from migrant families who had arrived in the city for work at the turn of the nineteenth century, along with thousands of others, in the wake of the Industrial Revolution. Jerome’s father, Francis, was a cabinetmaker from Italy, and his mother worked in a textiles factory. Her family was originally from Ireland.

When Jerome was just three years old, his childhood was shattered by the deaths of his older brother and then his father soon afterwards. Along with his mother and three remaining siblings he was forced to move to the other side of Deansgate, into the notorious rookery around Spinningfields. The Caminada family lived in Quay Street, on the site of the Opera House, where poverty was endemic and crime rife. Determined to change his life, in 1868 at the age of 23, Jerome Caminada took the momentous decision to join the Manchester City Police Force.

On the beat

Manchester Town Hall. Image courtesy A. Buckley.

Manchester Town Hall. Image courtesy A. Buckley.

When Jerome joined the police as a constable, he was allocated into A Division, whose headquarters were at Knott Mill Police Station. His beat was the crime-infested neighbourhood in which he had spent his teenage years. The ‘apprenticeship’ that he had served whilst growing up in the labyrinthine alleys of Deansgate gave him an encyclopedic knowledge of the habitual criminals who lived there, which became an effective weapon in his daily work. The young police officer showed such aptitude for detective work that he was soon transferred to the detective department, which was based in Manchester Town Hall. He would spend the rest of his 30-year-long career there, reaching the lofty position of Detective Superintendent.

Manchester Cathedral. Image courtesy A. Buckley.

Manchester Cathedral. Image courtesy A. Buckley.

The landmarks of the developing cityscape of Victorian Manchester feature throughout Detective Caminada’s exceptional career. He regularly caught thieves and pickpockets on the platforms of the city’s railway stations. He infiltrated gambling dens, illegal beer houses and brothels in Manchester’s hotspots. In Ancoats and Angel Meadow, he tackled the infamous gangs of ‘scuttlers’ (street fighters), as well as tracking swindlers and forgers through the fashionable district around King Street. His signature case, the Manchester Cab Mystery, also took place in the heart of the city. In 1889, a wealthy businessman hailed a cab on the steps of Manchester Cathedral with a young friend. A few hours later, the cabman found him dead and his companion had fled. The search for John Fletcher’s killer would test Detective Caminada to the limits and, in the manner of Sherlock Holmes, he solved the crime in record time, using his knowledge of chemicals and of the city’s underworld.

Family life

Jerome Caminada’s family life was also rooted in Manchester. After he married Amelia Wainhouse in 1881, in the church of the Holy Name on Oxford Road, the couple settled in the suburbs of Old Trafford. Later, following the tragic deaths of their first three children, they moved to Denmark Road, in Moss Side, where they saw happier times. Their final two children survived to adulthood and the family became very prosperous, owning a number of properties, including their large family home opposite Whitworth Park. When Jerome retired from the police in 1899, he became a private detective and also represented Openshaw on the Manchester City Council. On 10 March 1914, he died at home and was laid to rest in the family grave in Southern Cemetery.

As I explored the city of Manchester and pieced together Detective Caminada’s story, I felt as if I were also re-living my own past and there were some uncanny links between our histories. I grew up in Old Trafford, not far from where the Caminadas had lived, and I went to school in Hulme, where his wife’s family came from. The most amazing coincidence came about when I discovered that my 3x great-grandfather had kept a brothel on PC Caminada’s beat in 1868. I don’t know if they met, but I like to think they did!

The Real Sherlock Holmes: The Hidden Story of Jerome Caminada by Angela Buckley is published by Pen and Sword Books. For more details, see her blog at


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The Hulme Crescents, Manchester: bringing ‘a touch of eighteenth century grace and dignity’ to municipal building

6 Mar

Hulme Crescents – modern masterpiece or doomed concrete folly.

Municipal Dreams

In 1978 the chair of Manchester City Council’s Housing Committee described the Hulme Crescents development as an ‘absolute disaster – it shouldn’t have been planned, it shouldn’t have been built’. (1)   By that time, the estate was already a byword for the failure – worse, the inhumanity – of sixties’ mass public housing. That reputation has lingered long after the demolition of the Crescents in 1994.

This won’t be a revisionist piece but let’s at least look a little more closely at what went wrong.

The Crescents The Crescents

As we saw when we looked at the city’s early municipal housing in Ancoats, Manchester was the ‘shock city’ of the Industrial Revolution.  Hulme was also the home of many of those first industrial workers.  In 1914, a Special Committee of the City Council reported a population of 63,177 living there in just 13,137 homes, 11,506 of which lacked baths or any laundry…

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1 Mar

Very nice framing, almost like a painting. Ancoats – one of Manchester’s most interesting places. Wouldn’t have liked to have worked in the mills myself, but would have loved to have seen Ancoats before some very brutal demolition. Still plenty to see, but surely if it hadn’t been demolished, it would have been on par with some of most visited places on the planet. Just look at The Rocks in Sydney – one of Sydney’s most visited places. What Ancoats loses on sun, it certainly more than makes up on history.
























Pictures taken in Manchester, Ancoats neighbourhood and Saddleworth Moors, taken with Canon AE-1 and expired film,


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