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Jack the Ripper ‘grew up in Ashton and went to University of Manchester’

Ashton – home to Ikea, PG Tips and… Jack the Ripper..?!

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It’s widely agreed that we do not know the true identity of Jack the Ripper, but one author has claimed that he was actually from very close to home.

This claim comes from an author called Richard Patterson, who wrote a book titled ‘Jack the Ripper: The Works of Francis Thompson’ – with Francis hailing from Ashton.

In case you’ve got no idea what or who ‘Jack the Ripper’ is – I’m not entirely sure how you’ve got this far in your life without knowing – I’ll clear some things up for you.

Essentially, Jack the Ripper is what we now know as a serial killer. Jack famously stalked the streets of Whitechapel in London in 1888, and brutally murdered five sex workers.

Illustrated London News/Wikimedia

The true identity of Jack the Ripper was never discovered. Even back then people were desperate for fame and claimed to be The Ripper, but nothing was ever concluded.

It was the level of gruesome horror of the murders that was shocking at the time – and now – with the killer removing internal organs, and mutilating the genitals, face and abdomen of the women.

What was often noted was the intricate surgical skill and knowledge of the killer which indicated they knew what they were doing, perhaps they were a surgeon or even a butcher?

Well, Richard certainly thinks so. He claims that Francis Thompson was a poet that grew up in Ashton, attending Owens Medical College in Manchester as a surgeon, before moving down to London, living on the streets in Whitechapel and then becoming famous for his ‘works’.

essaysinhistory/Wikimedia

Richard makes a few main points in his book to argue his case; the childhood of the Ripper; the skill required; and finally, fame and fortune.

So we’ll kick off with the skill because we’ve already touched on that.

The accuracy, speed and expertise required to do the horrendous acts the Ripper did means they needed to have some pretty high skills with a knife or a scalpel.

The poet Francis Thompson, Patterson is very keen to note, would have been very proficient in the use of knives and scalpels. Thompson also had extensive knowledge of the human anatomy due to his six-year long medicinal studies at Manchester’s Owens Medical College.

jtrforums/Wikimedia

Next, the Ripper’s childhood and how the heck he became a dab hand with a surgical knife.

It’s now known that serial killers often are categorised as ‘psychopaths’ and have a very particular set of behavioural traits that often show from a young age.

Of course, Patterson has got good reason to believe that Francis Thompson had all these behavioural characteristics.

From bed wetting to animal cruelty and arson – which even made it to the Ashton Reporter newspaper – Thompson had all of these.

National Police Gazette/Wikimedia

He also had an unhealthy attitude to women and has been quoted as writing the following about a doll: “With another doll of much personal attraction, I was on the terms of intimate affection, till a murderous impulse of scientific curiosity incited me to open her head, that I might investigate what her brains were like”.

The book concludes that Thompson’s childhood ‘that included fire-starting, mutilation of dolls and refusal to communicate’, showed he was unsound and most likely a psychopath.

And finally, fame. Thompson completed his studies at Owens Medical College and headed for the bright lights and big city to pursue a career of writing in London.

Many argue that he pretty swiftly had a ‘mental breakdown’ when he discovered that the streets of London were pretty unkind to a Northern poet.

He became destitute and homeless, living in shelters in the East End. During this time he became outrageously addicted to opium, he also entered a relationship with a sex worker whose identity was never revealed, who looked after him.

Robert Lamb/Geograph

Patterson attributes the later breakdown and failure of this relationship as the main motive for Thompson killing sex worker on the streets.

What was also important, Patterson points out, is that Thompson was similar to his victims, i.e. ‘destitute and undesirable’ so he would be ‘invisible’.

The book states: “They needed to be like Francis Thompson. When the murders happened, Thompson, then an ex-medical student, lived just a 15-minute walk to where all five women were knifed. The bed of this man, whose writing shows a hatred of prostitutes, was only 100 metres up the road from the last victim. At this time Thompson was carrying, under a long coat, a knife, which he kept razor sharp. All while he was hunting for a prostitute after their failed relationship.”

The Ripper murders ended abruptly with little fanfare but Patterson has got a reason for that too.

Around the time of the murders in 1888, Francis Thompson sent his poetry to a magazine, Merrie England, and was somewhat ‘discovered’.

From there, Thompson was off the streets and writing, out of trouble and less likely to get caught.

There are about five other people that it could be according to this blog, but Patterson makes a pretty convincing case for Jack the Ripper being Francis Thompson from Ashton-Under-Lyne.

You can get his book here and come to your own conclusion, I’ve got it on good authority that it’s an interesting read (It’s also only £3.50 on kindle – bargain).

Feature

Meet the legendary Pret barista from Piccadilly Station who recently went viral

‘It was just crazy, mind-blowing.’

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A barista who works at Pret a Manger in Piccadilly train station has spoken about a tweet that went viral about him. 

The tweet was written by Nathan Bryon, who celebrated Morgan’s quick coffee making skills calling him an ‘MVP’ (most valuable player) and a ‘don’ on his Twitter page.

Nathan, 31, is an actor from Shepherd’s Bush who you may know him from the hit TV series Benidorm.

Morgan Bishop, 23, has worked at the coffee shop for three years after previously working as a chef. Used to working under pressure, he said he ‘thrives’ off the busy peak times early in the morning as people are commuting for work.

He said he first heard about the tweet when a friend messaged him to let him know. Morgan told us: “My friend said, ‘oh Morgan, I think this is about you,’ so I looked and I didn’t think it was going to do anything, but then people kept messaging me and putting up really nice comments.

“It was just crazy, mind-blowing. It’s really, really sweet to see posts and comments from strangers that are all about positive vibes. People have been saying things like I’ve got high energy when I serve them and stuff. I’m very grateful.

“I do briefly remember serving Nathan. Normally I remember peoples’ drinks but I don’t really remember his drink. I remember he was a really nice guy, really cool and dressed well. 

“I remember complimenting him on certain things, and then I think he turned around and said ‘thank you’ again before walking away. I didn’t expect him to put something up which was really cool. It’s really nice for people to see that you work hard or try hard.”

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Followers commenting on Nathan’s post immediately knew who the barista was and quickly commented to share if they too had been served by Morgan.

Grace Dent said: “I met him today!!! He was lovely.”

Claire Heavy added: “His name’s Morgan and he is a LEGEND. Makes my day every day.” Andy C wrote: “Served me on Saturday. Well fast.”

Morgan, who’s originally from Shrewsbury, went on to say that he’d love to have a coffee shop of his own in Manchester one day, and that he loves the city, adding: “It makes me want a coffee shop of my own. I love it here.”

When we posted the tweet on our Facebook, even Morgan’s mum got involved, writing: “Two things I love about this. 1. Morgan Bishop is my son (proud mummy right here) and 2. How lovely and kind the comments are. This is why we can’t get Morgan to move back home and why he loves Manchester so much “.

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The market traders facing closure after 53 years thanks to developers

The future is uncertain for three longstanding city centre market traders.

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In the row of units that extends around the corner to High Street by the Arndale, where Cafe Metro now stands empty, three market stall traders remain.

On the corner of a small stretch of Church Street, nestled between the edge of the city’s cool and quirky Northern Quarter and the trusty Arndale Shopping Centre, are the last few remaining outdoor market stalls.

It’s a funny little area that holds some remnants of the old Manchester, and it’s not pretentious in the slightest. Graffiti is scribbled across any spare patch of wall, post box and phone booth — no solid space gets away with it.

There are just three stalls remaining in the run-down plot, which sits beneath a tall concrete brutalist tower that used to hold a dental practice. 

Around the corner on the same development, the once bustling Cafe Metro — a much-loved coffee shop that served hot cuppas to Mancunians for more than four decades — now stands derelict and shuttered.

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“It’s a sign of the times,” says McCall’s grocery owner Mark McCall, a 59-year-old from Cheetham Hill who’s been trading in the city for 25 years. Mark is very hands-on and always appears busy. He’s either taking deliveries, disposing of boxes, taking calls or serving his customers. 

McCalls is a family-run greengrocers that provides shoppers with a variety of fresh produce sourced from other parts of the world. The McCall family have been trading for 122 years and customers young and old visit this stall to shop in a more personal way.

Asked why customers enjoy the experience of shopping from his stall, Mark replied: “In supermarkets, you don’t get the same value as you do in market stalls, you don’t get the same service, and you don’t get the same bargains.

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“We’re the last place where you can get a variety of produce, we’ve got Jamaican produce, and as you can see, the quality is a lot better. We get a lot of young ones coming in now, and they do enjoy being able to pick one or two things instead of a packet of things. 

“They’ve got their iPhones and they find a recipe on them and then come and pick the things they need for it from here.”

But in this city of constant construction, with skyscrapers cropping up here, there and just about everywhere, it will come as no surprise that potential developers have swooped in and want to potentially transform the empty tower block into apartments — meaning the row of stalls that skirt its base may have to go.

It has recently been announced that MRP, the developing arm of Irish firm McAleer & Rushe, have now bought the plot at 20-26 Hight Street from previous company CEG. It has been passed from one developer to another since 2019 with nothing coming to fruition so far.

Mark said: “Manchester city centre, as you know, is under development and we’re under threat at the moment because the building behind us, the old dentist hospital, has been sold to turn into flats. To develop that site, they actually need the land where we’re situated. We’re still under negotiations with them about the future, and what the future holds, we don’t know.”

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On the changing face of the city centre, Mark added: “For me, myself, personally, all the city centre is becoming plastic. If we go, all we need is another McDonalds or Starbucks. 

“We’re doing okay, but we’re surrounded by supermarkets, we’ve got Tescos, we’ve got Co-op, we’ve got Aldi, we’ve got Morrisons. This is the last bit of character left in Manchester city centre.

“If you could show me somewhere else in the centre that’s not been redeveloped, I’ll give you a million pounds. Show me a piece of land that’s left — there is none. The city has changed massively. I’m a bit old fashioned, I preferred it the way it was.

“I’ve built this up over 25 years and the lad next door to me has been here all together 53 years. I’ve done this since I was 14 years of age so I don’t know what else I would do.”

The ‘lad next door’ being Eddie Hopkinson, the 78-year-old owner of Manchester Bookbuyers. Eddie has a great sense of humour and his regulars pop-in to browse his hand-selected book collection and say ‘hello’ — as I witnessed on my visit.

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About whether he thinks the city has a future for market traders, Eddie said: “Well electricity has gone up. My last bill was £49, this bill was £185. Electricity is needed to keep these things running,” he said gesturing across to the Arndale’s indoor food markets, making a point about running costs not being sustainable in the long run.

He joked: “I’ve been here for 53 years, it could have been worse, I could have had to work for a living. Well, I got sacked from a job and I had the chance to start a business so that’s how I got into this.”

Eddie told me that he doesn’t read books and has probably read ‘about six in my life’, but he hand picks them himself from people with unwanted books, and tries to find interesting ones for his customers. He adds:“I keep getting feedback from the customers saying that they don’t want to see us go, but on the other hand, I can’t go on forever.

“You’ve only got to walk around and see the massive developments taking place and it’s mainly apartments. The commercial enterprises obviously think there’s a demand for them but personally, I don’t think there is a demand for all of them.”

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On how he feels about the direction the city is taking and the sudden appearance of multiple apartment blocks to fill with young professionals and city dwellers, he shrugs and says: “I’ve got no choice.” 

“Hobson’s Choice!”, chirps a regular, standing nearby and listening to our conversation. He laughs as he makes a joke with reference to a film set in Salford in the Victorian era, a romantic comedy about a family boot making business. He asks Eddie: “Are you alright, young man?”

I suppose you can’t always take life too seriously and times are always changing, regardless of whether or not we want them to. Eddie continues: “I guess I’ll have to like it or lump it.”

Another customer comes along with a hard-back book and asks him how much. Eddie looks at the book and says: “It’s an expensive book. Well it was when it was made, it was £54,” pointing to the old price label. “I’ll give it you for 20,” and the customer accepts.

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In a third stall Emmy, 30, works at McCall’s Organics. They stock sustainable and organically sourced goods — great for the eco-minded and hipster types that frequent the area. She’s been working here for two years and has lived in Manchester for 10. Emmy seems quite positive, with a sunny outlook and a warm smile to go with. 

She believes that if they have to move out of their Church Street premises, then there will always be another opportunity to do something similar elsewhere. “There’s always hope,” she says.

Manchester City Council have asked the developers to support the stall-owners to continue to trade, or to be compensated. Though the land that is up for development isn’t owned by the Council, it said: “The Northern Quarter is a special part of Manchester’s city centre, and part of its appeal is its mix of independent businesses. The site on Church Street is owned by a private developer.

“The Council is currently working with the new owners of the Church Street site to bring forward development. The Council has been clear throughout – both with the former owners and the current – that their proposals must include provision for the market traders to either support them to continue trading at the site, find a suitable alternative site close by or should any traders wish to cease operating come to an adequate compensation agreement. 

“We will continue to work with the developer in the coming months to ensure an acceptable resolution for the trading businesses.”

McAleer & Rushe have been contacted by Proper Manchester for comment.

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Thousands of teachers take to the streets of Manchester in mass strike action

‘We have a massive retention crisis because people are quitting teaching within five years out of extreme stress.’

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Thousands of teachers gathered on a blustery, grey-skied and rainy afternoon in Manchester city centre to march through the streets as part of a national day of mass scale strikes across the country.

Dubbed ‘Walk-out Wednesday’, February 1st has seen huge disruption to services all over the UK as workers take ‘last resort’ action over pay, conditions and budgets.

The National Education Union (NEU) is one of seven unions on strike today. Around 500,000 workers are expected to walk out, including university staff who are members of the University and College union (UCU), such as those at the University of Manchester. Also on strike are rail workers and border control.

Many classrooms across the region are closed for the day while NEU members strike, with some year groups told to stay at home. Students with upcoming exams and vulnerable children have been prioritised for a limited place inside their school today, following guidance from the Department for Education (DfE).

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The NEU says today’s action follows a series of real-terms pay cuts over the past decade, while this year’s pay rise offer of 5% falls well below inflation.  The union insists that pay and conditions are seeing significant numbers of teachers quit the profession.

Talks took place earlier this week between the NEU and the DfE in an attempt to avert today’s strike action but proved unsuccessful, as the union claim education secretary Gillian Keegan had ‘squandered’ the opportunity. The DfE says today’s strike action is ‘highly damaging to children’s education’ especially following the pandemic.

Still going ahead, crowds flocked to a very wet St Peter’s Square, with the meet-up time of 12.30pm. In typical teacher fashion, the city centre was already bustling with those working in education, as they showed up early to ensure a prompt start and express their passion for their jobs, their rights, and the rights of their pupils.

Also with them were union representatives, some children and general supporters of their cause. Horns were sounding, drums were banging and cheers could be heard just about everywhere. In contrast to the miserable weather, many teaching staff wore bright colours including knitted hats and bold coats, and were seemingly cheerful. Upon speaking to them, it became clear that they’d had enough and that it was time to take a stand.

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Amongst the noise and sea of people, Cath D, a primary school teacher spoke about why she felt she had to take strike action, saying: “I really did not want to be here today, I really wanted to be in my classroom having a normal day with my kids. But, things have become so difficult recently. It’s not just that we want more money, education is under-funded massively.”

Cath attended the rally with a group of teachers from her school based in Salford. She went on to describe how school funding cuts had affected the classroom: “The poor children. I’ve literally seen children fighting over pencils, can you believe that in 2023? 

“I wish I could say ‘here’s 100 pencils, it doesn’t matter’, but this is where we are at the moment. We are doing this for us; our wages have come down in real terms over the years, but I’ll leave all the statistics for the unions.”

On why changes were also necessary for children in education, she said: “For some children, school is the one constant that they have in their life and we’ve got to come in refreshed and remunerated. For some children, we’re the one constant that they have, and we need to be there for them.”

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After speakers talked to the crowds and people cheered in agreement, they started off on their march around the city. Among the marchers, a retired GMB union member stomped the streets in solidarity, he said: “We support the TA’s, the kitchen staff and all the support staff, managers and office workers around Tameside.

“We’re here to show we support the lowering of the pensionable age and to pay workers a proper wage that they need.”

Three English teachers from a school in Cheetham Hill spoke about the reasons they took strike action today, as one said: “It feels like the last resort, where we’ve had to come together and join all these people to make a point that we’ve been trying to for years and years, but no one’s listening.”

Another said: “Our children will not get the results that they need and deserve and want, if we have to put up with these conditions.” The third added: “It’s not just about our salaries, it’s all of the funding and resources that have been cut too.”

A Greater Manchester teacher for children with English as their second language, called Ali, said: “I’m striking because of the unacceptable situation that teachers and the education system are being put under.

“We have a massive retention crisis because people are quitting teaching within five years out of extreme stress.

“What we need are more teachers and better pay. And, we can do that if we tax the people with more money, rather than what this government has been doing, which is tax rates for the rich and spending money in very unwise and corrupt ways.”

Despite what workers and unions are asking, the Education minister Gillian Keegan told the BBC that the government would not budge, and that giving in to demands for large wage increases would only fuel inflation.

“What we cannot do is give inflation-busting pay rises to one part of the workforce and make inflation worse for everybody. That’s not an economically sensible thing to do,” she said.

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