It’s been a pretty rough week.
Last Monday a suicide bomber killed himself and 22 other people at the Manchester Arena, many more were injured. On top of that a close colleague of mine lost her mother suddenly (nothing to do with the bomb) and, perhaps not as tragic but still sad for me, Roger Moore died.
Monday, was coincidentally our 24th wedding anniversary. Now that date will have a second, darker, relevance. We had talked about next year’s silver wedding anniversary as a celebration, it will now also be the one year anniversary of the bomb. A time, like this week, where we reflect on the victims and effects of this senseless act.
Out of all the pain and suffering, one light of hope has shone bright though. The response from the people of Manchester.
I was born and raised in Manchester and I live there still, I love Manchester and I’m immensely proud of the way everyone has come together to try and help their fellow man. There are numerous stories, which you’ve probably seen on the media; taxi drivers offering free lifts, queues at the blood donation centres, the homeless man who ran in to try and help the victims and many more. One thing has struck me though.
Many of the people offering their support and love for the city have mentioned that they were not born here. I have been surprised by how many of the people I know came here from somewhere else. My wife is one of them. She was born on the Wirral but has lived more of her life here in Manchester than back where she grew up.
Some people would say that she isn’t a true Mancunian because she wasn’t born here.
Well, if you think of Manchester itself, how much has been built by people who were not born here?
In 1773 Manchester had a population of approximately 25’000. In less than twenty years that had risen to 95’000 due to the industrial revolution. That wasn’t down to more babies being born, that was because people came here. If they hadn’t, the prosperity of the city would never have happened.
When we think of Manchester, what do we think of? The Manchester Ship Canal was built by 12’000 navvies, many of whom were Irish. Chinatown and the Curry Mile are both the result of immigration from other countries. The Gay Village has drawn people from other parts of the country, looking for acceptance and tolerance, that is why it has grown. How many Manchester City/ United players come from here? George Best? Eric Cantona? David Beckham? Sergio Aguero? Pablo Zabaleta?
One of City’s most celebrated goalkeepers, Bert Trautmann, was German and fought on the Eastern Front. He was awarded the Iron Cross for bravery. Sir Matt Busby was born in North Lanarkshire. Sir Alex Ferguson was born in Govan.
People talk of Manchester as a vibrant, exciting, city, but where does that come from?
The city is kept young by the constant influx of young people. Over 9’000 students start at Manchester Metropolitan University each year (over 50’000 apply), and the MMU has a student population of over 35’000 – many, if not most, were not born here.
Media City has approximately 40 companies based there and the BBC alone employs over 2’000 people. One of the criticism’s has been how few came from the local area, so most of them, apparently, are not from here.
Noel and Liam Gallagher are from Manchester, but their father was originally from Ireland. Peter Kay’s mother is from Northern Ireland. Sir Charles Hallé, who started the famous Hallé Orchestra, was from Westphalia in Germany.
The Nobel Prize for Physics that Manchester won in 2010 was more specifically won by Andre Geim and Constantin Novoselov, both born in Russia. In fact Ernest Rutherford, who won the Nobel prize for Chemistry, back in 1908, for splitting the atom here in Manchester, was originally from New Zealand. Neils Bohr who won the Physics prize for Manchester in 1922 was born in Copenhagen. Look at the MMU’s list of Nobel prizes and there are quite a few, many of which were won by people not from here.
Alan Turing, the father of modern computing, who did much of his great work here in Manchester, was born in Maida Vale.
Manchester’s strength and prosperity is built by people from far and wide. It has been for hundreds of years and it will continue to do so. If we close the door to outsiders or we lose our famous warmth and welcoming nature, we will start the decline of this great city.
If you were one of those brave emergency services personnel who ran into the Arena last Monday, when everyone else was running out, or you queued to give your own blood to help other people, or you opened your home to strangers so they might have somewhere to sleep because they couldn’t get home – then you’re a Mancunian as far as I’m concerned. I don’t care where you were born.
Mancunians are Mancunians by choice, not by accident of birth.