A mid-year 08 party will celebrate the international road which helped make Liverpool the World in One City and the European Capital of Culture. David Charters reports
TO HIM, it’s the most important place on God’s Earth. You can rattle off the names of other places that have made their marks in history – the Pyramids, the Taj Mahal, Stonehenge, Canterbury Cathedral, the Eiffel Tower, the Empire State Building, the Sydney Opera House and so on.
Well, they all have stories to tell. But not compared to this place.
The passion of the man is rising because he loves his subject and his subject is Scotland Road – famously the 1,640 yards which stretched from Scotland Place to Boundary Road, in the Vauxhall neighbourhood of Liverpool.
For Ron Formby, community champion, this old road has a message for the world which should be heard by everyone, as we approach the mid-point of Liverpool’s year as the European Capital of Culture.
It was here that the people of many races and creeds settled in the 19th and early 20th centuries, often seeking sanctuary from persecution or poverty in their homelands.
Germans, Poles, Italians, Jews, Scots, Greeks, Lithuanians, the Welsh, Russians and, of course, the Irish, were among the people who joined the indigenous population on Scotland Road and the many terraced streets running off it.
So Liverpool presented itself as “the World in One City” when seeking the 2008 European prize.
Without Scotland Road and the communities in the immediate vicinity, it would not have been possible to use that slogan.
It was a poor, tightly populated area dominated by docks and the big ships, which sailed in and out. Crews called the main corridor running down the middle of ships, Scotland Road, respecting its place in maritime history. That was true even of the Titanic.
To make sure the point is not forgotten amid all the cultural celebrations and congratulations, the Scottie Roaders, old and new, are holding their own 08 party to make sure that their special contribution to this city is remembered in these high times.
THE Scottie 08 Reunion is being held at the Silvestrian Club, Silvester Street, from noon on Sunday, June 8.
Organisers believe it will reflect the road’s international heritage with Italian music and dance coming from the Wirral Mandoliers. There will also be Scottish pipers and Irish dancers. A varied programme of songs and music will come from bands including Liverpool Tradition and the Gardens (which features Ged Fagan and Paul Sudbury, who were brought up in Gerard Gardens, the tenements built on what had been Liverpool’s Little Italy). Other acts are still to be booked.
Obviously, this being Liverpool, there will be comedians, but in the spirit of the old days when nearly everyone, from children to their grandparents, could do an act of some sort, it is hoped that people will perform on the day.
Although, he is too modest to say so himself, the credit for organising this event belongs to Ron, below, editor of the monthly Scottie Press run by the Vauxhall Neighbourhood Council.
It began in 1971 and is now the country’s oldest community newspaper.
Ron, 58, suggested a follow-up to the party at the Silvestrian Club, which marked the 200th anniversary of Scotland Road, which was a great success, reviving the community spirit of the old days.
He is convinced that the sense of belonging, which once bound the area, has many lessons for today – a sentiment that will be heard in My Mother’s Lullaby, written by Tony Flanagan, who will sing it at the party.
“I wanted to write something that showed that us so-called street urchins went home to a mum that tucked us up in bed, gave us a goodnight kiss and sang us a lullaby, as we gently closed our eyes and went to sleep,” he says.
“Maybe today’s new Liverpool could learn something from that.”
Gerry Murphy, of Liverpolitalia (which sustains the memories of Little Italy), will be playing Sweet Liberty, a ballad about immigrants, and The Ballad Of Dixie Dean.
Early in the 20th century, there were 246 pubs on Scotland Road – one on every corner. Some blocks had one in the middle as well.
Only the three bird pubs now survive – the Parrot, the Eagle and the Throstle’s Nest.
But the spirit lives on. Ron, who will be showing his Changing Face of Local Communities photo exhibition, is hoping people will come with their own photographs, memories and diaries.
“Everyone has heard of Scotland Road,” says Ron. “This will be the Capital of Culture celebrated in the local community, which became home to people from all over the world.”