We Mancunians are a very proud bunch, with a whole wealth of traditions and values that might seem baffling to outsiders – especially to our friends across the pond.
An American in Manchester is bound to stumble across situations they find downright confusing, from navigating our unnecessarily complicated bus network to trying to work out why Piccadilly Gardens is called a ‘garden’.
Let’s face it, we do things differently round here – to borrow an overused phrase. So, to make things easier for any Americans visiting our great city, here’s seven things you might find confusing when visiting Manchester, explained.
The first thing an American will encounter is our vast array of different and sometimes confusing accents.
While the UK on the whole is home to a vast selection of accents, from Glaswegian to the Queen’s English, the North of England is home to probably the widest variation – from Liverpool to Newcastle via Yorkshire, you don’t have to travel far to hear something completely different.
Nowhere is this more pronounced than in Greater Manchester and the surrounding areas, where a person can travel from Bolton to Salford to Rochdale and be greeted by a series of strong local accents that will baffle the average American.
But the most confusing thing for anyone from the US visiting Manchester, is probably the realisation that everyone in England doesn’t sound like the Queen, r’kid.
2) Local slang
To make your life easier, it’s best to learn some local Mancunian slang.
If someone calls you ‘r’kid’ when you’re having a gander round town (looking around the city centre), you’ve made a friend, as the term is usually used to refer to a sibling or a very close mate (friend).
If someone says something is dead good, don’t panic, they don’t mean it no longer has a pulse, just that something is ‘very’ or ‘really’ good, i.e dead nice, dead cold, dead boring.
When you eat or drink something you really like, you can say it’s ‘mint’, and if you really want to triple-down and impress the locals you could say it’s ‘dead mint, r’kid’.
‘Hanging’ (or ‘angin’ if you’re a proper Manc, because the ‘h’ is always dropped, as is the ‘g’ at the end) means bad/awful/disgusting, and ‘sound’ means a person, place or thing is good, as in ‘r’kid is dead sound’.
If someone offers you a brew then take them up on it, as you’ll get a proper cup of Northern tea (brew = cup of tea).
3) Piccadilly Gardens
Once you’ve finally started to work out what we’re saying, you might want to head out into the city to see what’s going on in Manchester.
Chances are you’ll head to the bustling epicentre of the city – Piccadilly Gardens. Sounds nice, right? Wrong.
To all born and bred Mancunians, Piccy Gs has now become a byword for the decline of Manchester, with everything that’s bad about our city seemingly epitomised by what goes on there. Drugs and anti-social behaviour are rife, and you definitely don’t want to be hanging around the area at night.
More importantly, however, you might ask where the actual gardens are, you know, with flowers, trees and bushes? They’re gone, sorry lads…
4) Local food
Once you flee Piccadilly Gardens after you’ve been asked by the 100th person if you want some spice – warning, they’re not trying to sell you hot sauce – you might want to escape to a local food purveyor for a scran (some food) and a pint (a delicious cold glass of alcohol).
Some local dishes include a chippy tea, which is usually fish and chips, although any combination of items from a chippy (chip shop) will suffice. You should also try chips and gravy, which is a Northern specialty, or pie and chips with gravy – if you head over to Wigan you can sample their local delicacy, the Wigan kebab aka a pie butty (a pie sandwich, basically).
While in town you can also try a Manchester egg, black pudding, Eccles cake and a Manchester tart, all washed down with an ice cold can of Vimto.
But beware of any mealtime confusion, as the three main meals are known as breakfast, dinner and tea in Manchester – not breakfast, lunch and dinner, as they call it down South. So if someone offers you tea, it’s not the same as the delicious brew you tried earlier.
As part of your time in Manchester, you’re probably going to want to watch a football match, as the city is home to two of the biggest teams in the world, Manchester City and Manchester United.
Don’t be alarmed when the players start kicking the ball with their feet rather than picking it up and running into each other – this is real football, aka ‘soccer’ (never, ever call it soccer out loud, though).
Of course everyone knows City and United, but if you want to see football with a proper atmosphere, stripped back from the glitz and money of the Premier League, then head down to one of the Greater Manchester teams that are less well known internationally – Bolton Wanderers, Wigan Athletic, Rochdale or Oldham Athletic (or even one of the many non-league teams).
It’s pretty much compulsory to have a pie and a pint at the football, so don’t miss out.
6) Talking about the weather
The weather – we have it in Manchester, and we won’t let you forget it.
More often than not the weather will be rain, but sometimes it changes slightly and we’ll get wind and rain, or just grey clouds. Then sometimes, just sometimes, the clouds clear up completely and the sun comes out (you’ll probably be more familiar with this concept than we are, being from America).
It’s a hot topic of conversation round here, and any little change in the weather is sure to fire up some heated conversation – your best bet is to just say ‘this bloody rain’ repeatedly, while tutting and looking skywards (you’ll fit right in).
7) Saying ‘you alright mate’ without expecting a reply
We have a habit of greeting people by saying ‘you alright mate’, or sometimes just ‘alright’, and absolutely not expecting a reply – in fact, it’s weird if someone does tell you if they’re okay or not.
When I visited the US and Canada on holiday I kept greeting people by asking if they’re alright, and the look on their face was something, as they desperately tried to figure out if they were acting weird, bleeding, or just had toothpaste on their face.
Just make sure you don’t actually tell someone how you’re feeling when they say ‘you alright’, as an outpouring of emotions to a stranger is a big no-no over here.
We also say ‘cheers’ instead of ‘thank you’ and apologise all the time – unless we’re behind the wheel, in which case we’re angry, very angry.
FORGOTTEN MANCHESTER: The dark secrets buried under Victoria Station
Something lurks beneath it…
Next time you’re stuck at Victoria Station late at night when your Northern train is inevitably delayed, again, keep an eye out for any spooky goings on.
That’s because Victoria has a dark history, one that stretches back to the time before it became a bustling transport hub.
Back in the early 1800s Manchester was hit by a cholera epidemic that killed thousands of people, and most victims were buried at Walkers Croft – a 19th century church and graveyard.
Victoria Station was built on top of this burial area in the 1840s, with most of the site submerged as ground level was raised during construction.
Walkers Croft was situated next to a workhouse and primarily catered for pauper and public grave burials, with those who couldn’t afford a proper funeral piled on top of each other in mass graves.
The death toll from cholera was incredibly high, although thousands managed to survive by drinking beer instead of the disease-ridden water.
Like other burial sites during the 1820s, the cholera pits were pillaged by body snatchers who would steal corpses and sell them to anatomy schools for dissection, which was a very lucrative trade at the time.
The next decade saw a huge public scandal hit the burial site, after three-year-old cholera victim John Brogan was delivered to Walkers Croft without his head, which had been mysteriously replaced by a brick.
A surgeon eventually tracked down the young boy’s head to Robert Oldham’s house. Oldham was a dispenser of medicines at the hospital, and although a warrant was issued for his arrest it’s thought he fled the country before he could face justice.
The cemetery lies underneath the Metrolink tram platforms, while the old workhouse was situated over on the northern side of the station, where Manchester Arena sits now.
Over the years some of the bodies were dug up due to various redevelopments and extensions, and as recently as 2010 human remains have been found – these were carefully excavated and reinterred at Southern Cemetery.
So next time you’re getting a pre-train Greggs, do a double-take to make sure that pale looking child out of the corner of your eye is real…
The Manchester Canal Pusher: a real serial killer or just an urban myth?
Since 2006, there have been over eighty ‘accidental’ deaths down Manchester’s canals with no suspect ever being apprehended…
For over a decade, rumours of a serial killer lurking down the canals of Manchester have been rife – however, there’s yet to be any evidence of any such killer.
So why is the Manchester Canal Pusher such a famous phenomenon, and is this so-called killer even real?
Let’s start from the beginning…
Rumours of the ‘Canal Pusher’ were born on January 11th, 2015 when the Daily Star Sunday published a two-page article headlined ‘Manchester’s Killer Canals.’ The article cited sixty-one deaths in the canal way, which stretches for over ten miles through central Manchester, since 2006 – though since then, that number is estimated to have grown drastically to eighty-five, though an exact figure for more recent years is unknown.
The paper labeled the mysterious pusher as a ‘serial slayer’ while pointing out that it’s ‘extremely unlikely such an alarming number of bodies is the result of accidents or suicide.’
A number of the alleged victims have since been identified – in 2011, the body of trainee sports teacher Nathan Tomlinson was discovered in the River Irwell two months after he went missing following a Christmas night out.
According to Nathan’s mum, he had texted her regularly throughout his evening, saying he had been pacing himself on shandies. And, when his body was found, his coat, wallet, phone and passport were all missing, leading his mum to believe there had been foul play and that his death was not an accident. However, thanks to the lack of evidence, the coroner recorded an open verdict in his case.
A year on from that incident, twenty-one year old student David Plunkett was found dead in Manchester Ship Canal in 2012 after attending a music event in Trafford Park. A coroner ruled his death as an accident, though his parents protested otherwise, saying they had heard ‘screaming and howling’ in their last phone call with him.
GMP insisted that they had ‘no evidence’ of foul play and, similarly, a pathologist said there was ‘absolutely no evidence’ that David had been assaulted and that the most likely cause of death was drowning.
Have there been any witnesses?
While any evidence of this so-called murderer is yet to be unearthed and the countless deaths remain either unaccounted for or labeled as tragic accidents or suicides, there is one man who claims to have escaped with his life from one of the infamous canal attacks.
Speaking anonymously to the BBC, a man known under an alias name as ‘Tom’ recalled the moment a mysterious man ‘swung at him’ as he was cycling home along the Bridgewater Canal one evening in April 2018.
He fell into the icy waters of the canal as a result of the push and, when he tried to pull himself out, the man allegedly kicked his hand away. Tom recalled: “I started to think, ‘This is quite serious. It’s pitch black down there. There’s no lights. You look up, someone catches your eye and then in four seconds you’re in dirty water.”
Eventually, Tom was able to haul himself out of the water. However, following the assault, the city’s police and coroner continued to deny that there was any evidence of a serial attacker. Greater Manchester Police said the ‘speculation’ surrounding the deaths has been made without ‘examination of all the facts and evidence.’ The force said it would reinvestigate if ‘new credible evidence comes to light.’
And what have the police had to say on the matter?
To this day, the police have continued to insist that the canal pusher doesn’t exist – Pete Marsh, a Detective Superintendent of GMP, pointed to a review the force had conducted into eighty-five waterway deaths and insisted that ‘most have definitive explanations,’ adding that ‘there’s no evidence to support the theory that a serial killer is at large,’ The Mirror reported in 2018.
And, to support the myth theory further, former Detective Chief Superintendent Tony Blockley said in a Channel 4 documentary: “If a serial killer decided to cause their deaths by pushing them into the water, how could that person guarantee they would die?
“In which case survivors would have come forward. Also none of the individuals have marks [on their bodies] which are consistent with a violent attack which one would expect to see. In the three cases I have looked at I don’t feel there’s a serial killer involved.”
If the notorious Pusher doesn’t exist, what on Earth is going on?
It’s probably worth mentioning that a large proportion of Manchester canal deaths are blamed on drugs and alcohol – hundreds of people make their way home along the narrow pathways of the canals after a heavy night out every year, making the likelihood of people tripping up and falling in all too high.
The risk of waterway deaths in Manchester has also risen dramatically over the last few decades during which the city centre has boomed, with more people living and working there than ever before.
And after all these years, the lack of any clear evidence – or even a suspect, for that matter – suggests that the notorious serial killer doesn’t exist at all. Serial killers are known for making mistakes, slipping up, and eventually giving themselves away. This simply hasn’t happened with the so-called Canal Pusher, suggesting that the myth could sadly be a product of grieving families searching for an explanation for their loved ones’ tragic deaths.
FORGOTTEN MANCHESTER: The Blackpool Tower is actually from Manchester
I mean, all the best things come from Manchester…
I hate to break it to you, Blackpudlians, but your iconic Blackpool Tower actually reigns from Manchester.
Well, Newton Heath, to be precise.
Now, this will hurt the feelings of many proud Blackpool residents because let’s face it, the Blackpool Tower – which stands at 518 feet tall, making it the 125th tallest free-standing tower in the world – is easily the most famous monument the town has to offer.
So, why exactly did it come from Manchester?
Well, the Blackpool Tower Company was actually founded by (brace yourselves) London-based Standard Contract & Debenture Corporation in 1890; they bought an aquarium on Central Promenade with the intention of building a replica of the Eiffel Tower.
Two Lancashire architects, James Maxwell and Charles Tuke, were then put to the task of designing the tower and overseeing the laying of its foundation stone.
Newton Heath-based company Heenan & Froude were then put in charge of supplying the materials and actually putting the tower together – the company began its life as the Newton Heath Iron Works in 1884; a partnership between Mr Hammersley Heenan, an engineer with the East India Railway and the Public Works Department and Richard Hurrell Froude, English engineer, hydrodynamicist and naval architect famous for being the first man to formulate reliable laws for the resistance that water offers to ships.
Anyway, the company was truly put to the test when they were appointed as structural engineers for the Blackpool Tower construction in 1892, supplying and constructing the main tower, the electric lighting and the steel front pieces for the aquariums in Manchester before transporting it to Blackpool.
It was truly a sight to behold – never before had such an architectural challenge been attempted in the town – when it was built, over 10,000 lightbulbs were used to illuminate the tower (though these have been swapped today with 25,000 eco-friendly LED lights). 2,493 tons of steel and ninety-three tons of cast iron were also used, as were 985 tons of steel and 259 tons of cast iron for the base of the tower.
On the tower’s opening day in 1894, it was the tallest building in Britain at the time and the second tallest in the whole world. Over 3,000 guests were able to enjoy the the first of many lift rides to the top of the tower – an estimated 70,000 more people from not only Blackpool but the whole country swarmed the town to catch a glimpse of the seaside town’s new addition.
At the time of its opening, tourists paid sixpence for admission, sixpence more for a ride in the lifts to the top, and a further sixpence for the circus – ah, those were the days.
However, it wasn’t all plain sailing – the tower wasn’t painted properly during its first thirty years and became corroded, leading to council discussions about demolishing it. Thankfully, the tower was never brought down and, instead, the corroded steelwork was replaced and renewed between 1920 and 1924.
Following this new lease of life, Blackpool Tower enjoyed a number of monumental occasions – such as being painted silver in 1977 as part of Queen Elizabeth’s Silver Jubilee celebrations, having a giant model of King Kong placed on the side in 1984 and even hosting a cage-suspended wedding in 1985.
Yep, the Blackpool Tower truly has seen it all.
And as for Heenan and Froude? Well, by the end of the the First World War, they had been bought up by a Company in Worcester. Their name continued for some time but, by the mid 1930’s, they were no longer in Manchester.
Since the grand opening all those decades ago, the Blackpool Tower has become a staple part of the famous seaside town, and has enjoyed a rich and eventful history – though let’s always remember that it’s Manc born and Manc made – maybe we should rename it the Manchester Tower?