1965, the year that changed my life
Chris wrote in 1967: "…From [Bolton] we got a bus into Manchester, after we had written letters home assuring our parents that we were alright. When we arrived in Manchester, we had nowhere to stay, and intended to make the best of a derelict house. We had come prepared for this having brought a few blankets with us. We went to the Granada Television studios and asked if they knew where Sharon Church was, but there was only a night watchman on duty, and he had not got access to the files, so he could not tell us. We walked out of the building, wondering which way to turn. Then another amazing thing happened, we met a man who had a flat in Salford, and he offered to put us up for the night. We were extremely grateful, and thanked God for undertaking once again."
Wednesday 13th January 1965
24. It was a Bolton Corporation Transport maroon-and-cream Atlantean bus that we got from Bolton, which headed for Manchester along what was then the A666, through Farnworth. We think it was the No.12 bus that we got; there were two routes into Manchester from Bolton, the other being the No.8.
Although the bus was marked “Manchester”, the terminus was actually on the Salford side of the River Irwell.
 Atlantean: a rear-engine, front-entrance bus manufactured by Leyland and introduced ca.1960.25. Having alighted, we walked over the nearest bridge into Manchester, and then went rather indirectly through the centre of Manchester. We needed to find the Granada Television studios, and in connection with that, were looking for a /ki:/[IPA] Street (spelt K-E-Y). Eventually we found the street, and were surprised to find that it was /ki:/[IPA] Street (spelt Q-U-A-Y). So we must have asked somebody where the studios were, and been told the name of the street. Presumably, then, we went up Deansgate or Piccadilly, and someone said that the studios were in /ki:/[IPA] Street.
26. Having found the street, we were able easily to identify the Granada Television building because it was clearly marked with big red letters. Chris was elected as spokesman (as usual: I was shy and Gooding stammered, so Chris was the obvious choice) and he mounted the steps and entered the building to enquire where Sharon was. After a short while he emerged and reported to us that there was only a night watchman on duty, and as he didn’t have access to the files he couldn’t tell us where Sharon was.
We began to walk away, and then one of us — Chris? — had the idea to go back and ask the watchman if he knew any places to stay. Chris went, and came back saying that he had suggested that we might try the YMCA, which, he said, “is a hundred yards down the road.”
As we came away from the studios, feeling full of doubt, we walked up Quay Street. And there was a big building under construction opposite, just before the Opera House. It was very windy; it wasn’t raining, but it was very windy — and there were big hoardings around this construction site on the other side of the road, shaking and banging in the wind, thus adding a chilling effect to the mood of uncertainty which had already taken us. Now that we had finally got to Manchester our feelings of adventure had died down. The prospect of sleeping rough, when it faced us, seemed rather less attractive now than at the planning stage!Perhaps 11.45pm
27. As we stood there, not knowing where we were going to go next, we saw a slightly-built man in his twenties, walking briskly along the right-hand street, Mount Street, towards us. We were standing on the corner, and as he was about to pass us we — again, Chris? — asked him if he knew of anywhere we could stay the night. (We were standing across the road from the Midland Hotel!) He considered for a moment, said he didn’t, then after another pause just said, “You can come to my flat.” I remember feeling a little apprehensive about this; as a child, one is always warned by one’s parents never to talk to or go with strangers. But the group’s decision was quickly made, to go with him; and so we set out.Albert Square, and made our way on to Market Street, then over Blackfriars Bridge. We walked under the metal railway bridges which carried the tracks to Manchester Victoria and Exchange stations, and on down Blackfriars Road, Salford, which leads into Great Clowes Street. It seemed to me to be a long, long way that we walked. We were walking four abreast on the left pavement [sidewalk], with the man on the right, Chris to his left, Peter to his left, then me to the left of Peter. The man’s name was Tom Bennett, and he was Irish. I didn’t hear much of the conversation between him and Chris: this could be because of the noise of traffic, even at this late hour; or it could be because of the noise of the wind and weather; or that Tom was quietly spoken; or even that my hearing acuity wasn’t good. I do know that Chris told him that we had run away from home to find a cure for his fits, but that in his story he substituted Grimsby for Blackpool as our home town. How that was supposed to save us from possible betrayal, I don’t know. Eventually, we came to a cross-roads and turned sharp left into Camp Street.
28. On the right-hand side of Camp Street, there was a block of three-storey buildings; and we entered the last front door in the block, No.73, and climbed several flights of stairs, right up to the top flat. A young Irishwoman, Grace, was there. Tom introduced us, and asked Grace to make us some supper. Tom also introduced another man, “a mate of mine from Ireland,” he said, who was staying there that night.
As we sat talking to Tom, he asked us what school we went to in Grimsby. He was looking at me, and a feeling of panic rose up inside me. Chris interposed quickly with the name of a Grimsby school.
Eventually we retired to bed; they all three slept in a double bed, and we lay down below the foot of the bed on the floor and shared out blankets. I remember being uncomfortable because the floor felt hard, but also because I was lying on something hard — money, probably — in the pocket of my jeans.
The hospitality of Tom and Grace — I nearly wrote “Bennett”, but we seemed to think that they weren’t married; whether or not, in fact, they were, I don’t know. Their hospitality, anyway, was the third in the series of miracles which took place.
29. The police were notified that first night; it was Chris’s parents who notified them. Police from three counties were involved in looking for us, apparently. There was the Lancashire Constabulary, obviously, because we lived in Lancashire. And the Lincolnshire Police were informed, because when Chris ran away before — twice — he headed for Grimsby, which was then in Lincolnshire. And there was a third force involved, I assume, the Cheshire Constabulary, because Peter came from Cheshire and relatives, such as his older and almost idolised cousin Harry, still lived in Northwich.
It was the worst night for about thirty years; that is what the papers said. In Thornton, there were debris all over the streets and slates off the roofs. The chimney of the bungalow across the road from our house — Gardine is its name — blew down. The row of bungalows there was constructed by a builder called Gartside, and he built Gardine, I think, for his mother; it looked about the same as the other bungalows, except that the chimney was taller. And this chimney blew down, making two holes: one where it had stood, and one where it had fallen through the roof.
"By his stripes I am healed"
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