Despite all the grousing about the country going to dogs, falling standards of behaviour and our ‘hell in a handcart’ attitudes, I suspect that there lurks within all of us a spark of civic pride in the place where we live and what they have contributed to history, society and the world at large.
In my case, it’s Manchester. The Industrial Revolution, William Cobbett and the reform of Parliament and the Corn Laws, Rutherford and the atom, Boddington’s bitter, the Tolpuddle Martyrs, the Manchester Guardian, Harold Evans and Alistair Cooke, Oasis, MUFC, the Co-Op, Freddie and the Dreamers (okay, maybe not), Joe Bloggs’ jeans, rhe 2002 Commonwealth Games, the Velodrome and the Wheeltappers and Shunters Club. Again maybe not, but the contribution of Granada Television to British comedy cannot be ignored.
The list goes on, not least what you’re doing now, looking at a computer screen. Perhaps it was destined to see its birth somewhere, but it happened to be in Manchester and the genius that was Alan Turing. Not Manchester perhaps, but Manchester Made, as the saying goes.
But just when you think you know all these things you come across another scrap of knowledge that you were previously ignorant, and sometimes it is something that that makes your heart swell with a little more pride.
“The country’s first large petition against the slave trade was sent to parliament from fast-growing industrial Manchester, where it was signed by 10,000 people, an astonishing 20% of the city’s inhabitants.”
The year was 1788, no doubt influenced by Thomas Clarkson’s sermon in 1787 at what became Manchester Cathedral in 1847.
The question is: “Given the above, do I feel the need for this country to apologise for the slave trade?” Actually; No. Given that one in five of my forebears said it was wrong nearly a decade before the practice was outlawe and I had no say in the matter, why should I?
Like good old TB, I can go along with this expession of sorrow, but not the shame.