Mancunians are forthright, innovative and naturally rebellious and Manchester historically has an independent spirit. The Manchester Ship Canal was constructed due to the Liverpool Dock trust imposing crippling levies on Manchester’s export trade. With a defiance that is characteristic of Mancunians, the city mayor, Sir Bosdin Leech, decided to commission Daniel Adamson, an engineer, to build the Ship Canal. This resulted in Manchester being able to ship their own exports and take Liverpool out of the equation.
What we now know as the premier liberal newspaper in the UK, The Guardian, was founded in Manchester by John Edward Taylor in 1821. Until 1959, the vehicle was universally known as The Manchester Guardian. The paper was a dissenting voice in a media that was considered free but in practice, was complicit to the wishes of the authorities.
The first Trade Union Congress was held in Manchester in 1862 at The Mechanics Institute. The TUC gave access to education, culture and protection from exploitation that had previously been denied to proletarians. Emmeline Pankhurst (nee Goulden) was born in Moss Side in 1858. In 1889, Mrs Pankhurst founded the Women’s Franchise League and revolutionised the patriachal society that she lived in. Mrs Pankhurst was instrumental in the succesful campaign of women getting the right to vote which commenced in earnest in 1903 with the formation of the Women’s Social and Political Union (colloquially known as the suffragettes)
Manchester has historically been a hotbed of football. Players of Manchester United football club were instrumental in the first ever players dispute with The FA in 1909 which eventually resulted in the formation of the PFA. This was in protest of the serf like working conditions that footballers in general were expected to happily live with. Nearly fifty years later, Manchester United gained international recognition by being the first English club to participate in European football in 1956, in defiance of the wishes of the Football League. Chelsea (as League champions) were invited to take part in 1955 but as is the way with London, they did what they were told with full compliance. Ultimately, Mancunians as a collective are not rude, just honest, straight talking and down to earth. The last word on Manchester, it’s identity and it’s people I will leave to a Parisian, Eric Cantona whom in 1996 said
“I feel close to the rebelliousness and vigour of the youth here. Perhaps time will separate us, but nobody can deny that here, behind the windows of Manchester, there is an insane love of football, of celebration and of music”
Manchester Ship Canal photograph copyright of Martin Clark and used courtesy of Creative Commons licence