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The amazing reason Manchester has an Abraham Lincoln statue and square in the city centre

Believe it or not, the statue isn’t just there to brighten the place up…

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Anthony Parkes / Geograph & Waymarking.com

Located just off Albert Square in the smaller, more easily missed location of Lincoln Square, there stands a statue of the late US President Abraham Lincoln.

But why?

You’d be forgiven for being a little puzzled at the presence of an American politician who seemingly has no connection or place in our city, especially in a location as quiet and hidden away as Lincoln Square is.

But, as it turns out, the statue stands tall today as a poignant reminder for the role Victorian Manchester played in the US Civil War and the eventual abolishment of slavery.

David Dixon / Geograph

Let’s start from the beginning: As the largest processor of cotton in the world at the time, Manchester took a strong moral and political stance by supporting President Lincoln, despite his blockade of the Confederate states and the cotton supply beginning in April 1861.

Even though Manchester and its surrounding areas found a huge proportion (an estimated 60%) of its mills were struggling to stay afloat, largely as a result of the blockade, in a meeting at the Manchester Free Trade Hall in 1862 workers agreed to maintain their support for Lincoln – who was aiming to out-manoeuvre the Confederate states, win the civil war and ultimately abolish the US slave trade.

In supporting Lincoln and the Union the working people of Manchester had selflessly put their principles ahead of their own economic self-interest, leading to unemployment and hardship for the workers.

Thomas Hawk / Flickr

President Lincoln wrote a letter in 1863 to thank the people of Manchester for their support – the letter, currently held by Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, reads: “When I came, on the 4th of March, 1861, through a free and constitutional election to preside in the Government of the United States, the country was found at the verge of civil war.

“Whatever might have been the cause, or whosesoever the fault, one duty, paramount to all others, was, before me, namely, to maintain and preserve at once the Constitution and the integrity of the Federal Republic.”

Just two years later and months after the US Congress passed the Thirteenth Amendment which officially abolished slavery, Lincoln was assassinated. 

Despite his death, however, Lincoln continued to be regarded as somewhat of a Mancunian legend so, shortly after the First World War, a statue in his memory was sculpted by George Grey Bernard. The original statue was completed in 1916 and exhibited in New York before its sponsor, wealthy businessman Charles Taft from Cincinatti, said he would pay for a replica to be erected in England.

The statue was actually intended to stand outside the Houses of Parliament, in a tribute from the United States marking 100 years of peace between the two countries. However, the American sculptors’ depiction of a ‘vigorous pose’ was far too controversial for London’s tastes at the time, so the statue subsequently came to Manchester where it remains today.

Waymarking.com

The monument was initially unveiled at Platt Fields Park, where it remained until the late 1980s before being moved and mounted on a new pedestal in its home today, Lincoln Square. 

And, in 2013, after years of enduring pollution and dirt build-up, the plaque was eventually cleaned and the message to the people of Manchester was revealed at long last.

It reads: “The support that the working people of Manchester gave in their fight for the abolition of slavery during the American Civil War… By supporting the union under President Lincoln at a time when there was an economic blockade of the southern states the Lancashire cotton workers were denied access to raw cotton which caused considerable unemployment throughout the cotton industry.”

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Here’s what happened to the infamous Kersal Massive after their early viral fame

The ringleader of the notorious rap trio was tracked down a few years ago…

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YouTube

Back in the early days of the internet, before the birth of TikTok and when YouTube reigned supreme, an unassuming rapping trio from Manchester were catapulted to viral stardom.

C-Mac, Little F*****g Kevin and Ginger Joe, all from Salford, made up the Kersal Massive, a rap trio that would go on to become instant internet stars thanks to their rap song about day-to-day life in Manchester.

Instead of using their music to address social inequality or political issues, the Kersal Massive instead opted to rap about life in Manchester, grand theft auto and using their day saver bus passes. 

Their rap song was actually an entry for a contest to win a Kano-themed BMX, hosted by former record label 679 Recordings. Shockingly, the Kersal Massive didn’t win, but the video wound up on the internet, where they found online fame instead.

The video was one of the first viral sensations to ever grace the internet, and today has over 1.8m views on YouTube alone. 

For years people have been trying to decipher the meaning behind the song, with one YouTuber optimistically commenting: “By referring to a ‘day saver’, Little Kev highlights the struggle of the working class, while at the same time bringing up questions about religion and culture with the following ‘laid low, did a grand theft auto’ line, and how the incarceration of the young in today’s western world is affecting our society.

“Such a lyrical genius. A poet in his own right.”

Another commented: “It has been said Ginger Joe now travels the globe giving lectures on philosophy and ethics… and is also a UN spokesman answering questions on the [meaning of] being human.” 

Someone even went to the bother of creating a lyric page to search for any hidden meanings or political agendas behind the track – unsurprisingly, none were found. 

Despite their initial success and claims of having ‘all the money ’cause we know how to rap’, however, the Kersal Massive only ever released the one song, and were as quick to slip out of the spotlight as they were to enter it. 

This has caused many people to wonder what exactly happened to the Kersal Massive over the years, and what the rapping trio are up to these days. 

Well, The Tab claimed to have tracked down the infamous ringleader of the Kersal Massive, C-Mac, back in 2016.

They said at the time that C-Mac – real name Callum – still lived in Salford and was working for a law firm in Manchester.

He told the publication of the video: “It was uploaded to the internet over ten years ago. It was done as a joke and then it just went viral. I don’t actually know who uploaded it to YouTube, it wasn’t me.”

Then, Callum went on to break the hearts of Kersal Massive fans far and wide by adding: “I am not in touch with the other two lads anymore.”

While the beloved Ginger Joe is yet to be identified or tracked down, many social media users believed a man on the run from GMP for a series of gun-related offences was in fact a grown-up Little F*****g Kev… though this was never proven. 

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Did you know the NHS was born in Manchester 74 years ago today?

Happy birthday to the NHS!

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University of Liverpool Faculty of Health & Life Sciences / Wikimedia Commons & Peter McDermott / Flickr

Today, as our treasured National Health Service marks its 74th anniversary, we’re taking a look back on its extensive history and the substantial role Manchester played in its creation. 

Life before the NHS was a bleak one; before 1900, healthcare was typically provided by charities, poor law (the local welfare committees who operated workhouses) and a criminally unregulated private sector.

Others, including many in the lower middle class, struggled to afford treatment, relying on hospital casualty departments, kind-hearted doctors or dubious folk remedies – as a result of these archaic conditions, women frequently died during childbirth and the life expectancy for men was just forty-eight.

But in 1911, that was all set to change.

Science Museum Group / Wikimedia Commons

The National Insurance Act of 1911, something that many regard as the original groundworks for the NHS, was introduced and, for the first time, provided access to general practitioners for manual labourers and lower paid non-manual workers earning under a certain income. 

However, this groundbreaking new system wasn’t without its flaws – fees for GPs were increasing for the middle class and wealthy who were outside the system, and the wives and children of National Insurance members were excluded, as was hospital treatment, meaning that many had to pay further fees or rely on older workers’ society insurance schemes or free, less reliable clinics for mothers and children.

Something needed to change.

Nearly two decades later, the Local Government Act 1929 gave authorities the power to transform Poor Law institutions and develop them into the modern hospitals we know today. And, fast forwarding another two decades and another world war, Aneurin Bevan was appointed as the minister of health and thus, the wheels for the UK’s first National Health Service were set in motion.

Bradford Timeline / Flickr

On July 5th 1948, after years of hard work from various medical and political figures who felt the current healthcare system was insufficient and needed to be revolutionised, the first NHS hospital offering free healthcare for all, regardless of class, was launched at Park Hospital Manchester – known today as Trafford General Hospital.

On that historic day, Bevan arrived to inaugurate the NHS by symbolically receiving the keys from Lancashire County Council. Nurses formed a ‘guard of honour’ outside the hospital to meet him and, from that day forward, the healthcare of the nation changed forever.

In the early days, there were of course some teething problems – not long after its launch, expenditure was already exceeding previous expectations and charges were considered for prescriptions to meet the rising costs. However, by the time the 1960s rolled around, these early adjustments were altered and it was considered to be a strong period of growth for the NHS, characterised by new developments in the availability of drugs.

Since its birth here in Manchester, our NHS has gone through many changes, improvements, updates and modernisation processes, with no one back in 1948 ever fathoming the way in which the service has developed, pioneered and expanded from Manchester across the entire country.

Nicolas J Leclercq / Unsplash

However, there’s still room for improvement.

Today, the NHS continues to face a national crisis – the Covid-19 pandemic highlighted the impact that years of underfunding has had upon our health care service and the long-serving staff members and medical professionals that continue to hold it together.

In October 2020, it was revealed by the International Council of Nurses (ICN) that as many NHS nurses died from Covid than were killed during the entirety of the First World War.

But regardless of the hurdles thrown in its path, the NHS continues to valiantly serve the British public – the idea of a National Health Service once upon a time would have been unheard of, yet today we cannot imagine a life without it.

Happy 74th birthday to our wonderful NHS!

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FORGOTTEN MANCHESTER: The rise and fall of Tommy Ducks

From coffins as tables and knickers stapled to ceiling, there wasn’t a lot that didn’t happen at Tommy Ducks…

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Salford_66 / Flickr

Out of all of Manchester’s weird and wonderful institutions, the legacy of Tommy Ducks remains today as one of the all-time greats.

 But what exactly happened to this infamous boozer?

Tommy Ducks stood proudly down what is now Lower Mosely Street, and is known to have roots dating all the way back to the 1800s. 

While it is widely believed that it was originally named The Prince’s Tavern, the pub underwent a name change at some point in the 1870s after its egotistical landlord Thomas Duckworth wanted to name it after himself. 

Manchester Libraries

But rumour has it that the painter-decorator hired to replace the pub’s sign either ran out of paint and supplies or found he didn’t have enough room to fit in the full name, so improvised and come up with the name Tommy Ducks, instead.

Of course, there’s no solid evidence for this mishap actually happening, but it is certainly one of the more believable rumours about the pub’s namesake.

Anyway, the pub settled with its abbreviated name and went on to quietly serve the good people of Manchester throughout the 1900s.

But then the 1970’s arrived, and Tommy Ducks started to gain a different kind of reputation, with it quickly becoming one of the most sought after boozers in the city – quite the accomplishment considering it was stood in the middle of a recently-demolished estate.

Rose McGivern / Facebook

One of the pubs more popular legacies is its makeshift tables – for reasons unbeknown to most Mancunians today, someone had the bright idea of using glass-topped coffins as tables, one of which was kidnapped by a rival pub for a while.

One of the coffins even featured a skeleton, which many people were adamant was a real one.

Tommy Ducks was also renown for having ladies knickers and bras stapled to the ceiling above the bar, with female punters allegedly been invited to remove their undies upon arrival (yes, before their first drink!).

The pub played home to these kind of shenanigans for the next couple of decades and, by the 1990s, it was one of the last standing buildings in the area, which lay in ruin following a mass demolishment.

Andrew Simpson

However, in 1993 the pub’s temporary preservation order – arranged by punters and supporters back in the 1970s – expired, plunging its future into uncertainty and doubt.

Greenalls Brewery, which ran the pub, was also coming under increasing pressure by fat cat developers to sell up and shut shop.

Tragially, the temporary preservation order expired on a Friday, meaning that the council offices were closed for the weekend. And because the order couldn’t be renewed until Monday morning, demolition began in the early hours of Saturday.

While Greenalls was eventually fined £150,000 for their act of destruction, it was still too late – Tommy Ducks and its abundance of coffins and bras was gone forever.

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