Short story publication set in Cottonopolis

Cotton mill, Yorkshire, Hebden Water, Gibsons Mill
Image : Pixabay

I grew up in Derbyshire, just a short, uphill train ride from Manchester.

Living in a small town there was little excitement – scouting for bargains at the local Kwik Save supermarket, a tatty nightclub on the market place called the Gaslight, Saturday nights watching drunks evicted from the Gaslight fighting outside Kwik Save …

In comparison, Manchester was impossibly exciting, kind of glamorous in a dirty, dishevelled way and not a little unnerving.

Yes, it was grubby back then, all tumbleweed chip papers and drunks begging for a light, and the valleys of old mill buildings channelled the wind so your face was constantly sandblasted by good Northern grit, but even before its financial and cultural renaissance over recent decades, the city held its head high.

All those towering brick edifices spoke of the great wealth that had poured into 19th century Manchester as the cotton spun in its many mills poured out (The city had 108 cotton mills at its peak in 1853, hence the sobriquet Cottonopolis) and that impressive architectural legacy left an impression on me.

Perhaps that’s why I’ve set my People’s Friend short story

A Straw Hat for Hetty’

in nineteenth century Manchester. The young heroine has grown up in the shadow of the mills, in the choking city slums of the Industrial Revolution.

Writing Hetty’s story has given me a grand excuse to use a smattering of the dialect words I grew up with – ‘summat’, ‘owt’, ‘nowt’ – and to explore the slums of Angel Meadow and the mills of Ancoats.

If you’d like to learn what happens to Hetty, The People’s Friend Special number 171 is due out tomorrow.

So, stop mitherin’, pour yersen a brew and let me spin you a tale, lad.

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21 thoughts on “Short story publication set in Cottonopolis

    1. Sorry for the late reply, Dale. Not sure if you’ll be able to get a copy, though I know it has reached Canada, or so it says on the mag’s website. Thank you for your lovely, supportive comment, Dale

      Liked by 1 person

      1. We lived in an area called Chorlton cum Hardy, not too far out of the centre of the city. One of the nicer areas, I admit, but not the most expensive – we loved it.

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      2. Well, tis a bit posh compared to some areas. Had a fair few health food shops and nice cafes that opened up onto the pavement (like that’s an option most of the time in Manchester weather!) We could only afford to rent a tiny one bed flat there at the time, but it was close to my other half’s work, so it was convenient. Not as expensive as Didsbury though

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  1. Ooh, what a great setting to choose! Ever since reading Gaskell’s North and South, and especially after watching the adaptation with my favorite heartthrob Richard Armitage, I’ve found Manchester in that era to be darkly romantic.

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    1. Well, it’s certainly an impressive city with an impressive industrial heritage. I grew up seeing the mills like the one in the picture, but Manchester’s are built on a different scale entirely. If you ever get over here, you should visit – it has quite a reputation for its nightlife! 🙂

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      1. I would love to, but I’d probably spend more time in the museums than out enjoying the nightlife. One of my academic specialties in my earlier career was labor economics, so I’m fascinated. I loved my visit some years ago to Tampere, which is billed as the “Manchester of Finland” — a very miniature version, that is — and loved the history there. And the food, mmm.

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  2. Congratulations on another story published, Lynn! I shall buy a copy of People’s Friend and read it.
    I too grew up near Manchester, in Macclesfield. While the dialect words were very similar, the accent was not, especially the “oo” sound. In north Cheshire, where Macclesfield is situated, that is pronounced like “u-umlaut” in German.

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    1. I know Macc well. Not so far from Buxton at all. It’s amazing how many dialect words do cross over. I’ve been looking at Yorkshire dialect words and they use owt and nowt like we do, aye, cack-handed, intit, mardy, cob on, the list goes on. Perhaps their words just spread to us. Funny researching it though. I’ve lost a lot of those terms since moving south. Thank you for your support, Penny

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