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Spotlight On: Dame Beryl Bainbridge

Dame Beryl Bainbridge
1932-2010

Beryl Bainbridge was brought up in Formby and became one of the most respected and successful writers of her generation.

She led a colourful, yet turbulent life. Expelled from Merchant Taylor’s School for Girls, she carried on her education at a school in Hertfordshire which specialised in the arts. After school, she took up acting and met her future husband in the theatre.

She married the artist Austin Davies in 1954, had 2 children, but divorced in 1959. By this time, she was living full time in London. A third child, Rudi, appeared after a relationship with writer Alan Sharp.

To make ends meet she continued to act with a variety of roles including one on Coronation Street, and also took manual roles such as working in a bottle factory. In the late 1960’s she took up writing and published her first novel in 1967.

Soon the novels were flowing and she became a full-time writer. Her works were dark, mysterious and comic, characterised by strong storylines – and critically acclaimed. By the end of the 1970’s and early 1980’s she was acknowledged as one of the most important writers of her time, and soon the accolades were to flow.

In 2000, she was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE). In June 2001, Bainbridge was awarded an honorary degree by the Open University as Doctor of the University. In 2003, she was awarded the David Cohen Prize for Literature together with Thom Gunn. In 2005, the British Library acquired many of Bainbridge’s private letters and diaries. In 2011, she was posthumously awarded a special honour by the Booker Prize committee.

Musician Mark Knopfler included a song titled “Beryl” dedicated to her and her posthumous award on his 2015 album Tracker.

Beryl Bainbridge died in 2010 aged 77, although she always claimed she was 2 years younger. She is buried in Highgate Cemetery.

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Spotlight On: Sefton’s Maritime History

Sefton is synonymous with its maritime history with two important stories of the 20th Century not to be forgotten.

Edward Smith was the captain of the famous RMS Titanic, a British passenger liner that sank on its maiden voyage after hitting an iceberg in the North Atlantic Ocean in 1912.

Smith began his life at sea as a teenager, following his half-brother to Merseyside he began his apprenticeship aboard the Senator Weber, owned by A Gibson & Co. of Liverpool. Smith rose up the ranks quickly and in 1880 joined the White Star Line.

Founded in Liverpool in 1845 it had grown to become one of the most prominent shipping lines in the world.

In 1887 Edward Smith married Sarah Eleanor and they moved into a house in Waterloo where they lived for almost ten years.

Edward Smith was considered one of the world’s most experienced sea captains when the RMS Titanic left Southampton for New York on 10 April 1912.

However, days into the voyage she hit an iceberg and The Titanic was severely damaged and shortly after 2 am on April 15 the ship slipped into the cold, dark waters of the Atlantic Ocean. Smith, along with over 1,500 crew and passengers perished at sea.

Separately, The Lusitania was an ocean liner that was sunk off the coast of Ireland on May 7, 1915. The liner had a number of American citizens on board and this attack on a civilian vessel presaged the United States Declaration of War on Germany in 1917.

There were at least 145 local crew members on board the Lusitania when it was sunk.

Joseph Parry from Aintree, along with Leslie Morton from Wallasey are widely considered to be heroes of the Lusitania.

When the liner began to sink, the two men jumped in the sea after a lifeboat that had begun to float away, they ripped off the cover of the boat and rescued around 50 people. They took them to a safe place before returning to save around more 30 people from a sinking lifeboat. Together, the men saved nearly 100 lives and in recognition of their bravery, they were awarded medals for gallantry.

Parry and Morton showed exceptional courage and determination that day and fortunately survived.

Others were not so fortunate. John Henry Hayes was a junior engineer at the time of the disaster. He had left his pregnant wife in their home in Bootle, unaware he would not see them again. No record of his final moments survived nor was his body ever found.

In the days following the sinking of the Lusitania, anti-German riots swept through the region. Despite the misguided, xenophobic anger of many, many residents sheltered and protected German neighbours and friends. These people displayed a heroism which teaches us all to be tolerant and accepting in the face of xenophobia and racism.

Finally, Captain Frederic John Walker became the most successful anti-submarine warfare commander during the Battle of the Atlantic, spending most of his service based in and around Bootle.
Educated at Royal Naval College, Walker served in WW1 as a sub lieutenant and went on to become an expert in anti-submarine warfare.

Johnnie Walker’s statue stands at the Pier Head in Liverpool and the bell from his most famous ship, HMS Starling, is rung in Bootle Town Hall to commence every council meeting. A blue plaque marks his home close to Bootle Town Hall.

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Spotlight On: Frederick J Hooper

Frederick J Hooper
1891-1955

From Southport to the South Pole, Frederick J Hooper makes Southport’s local history global. A 19-year-old boy from Southport made his name half way around the world.

Hooper was a member of the British Antarctic Expedition 1910-1913. The aim of the expedition was to study various scientific and geological topics. However, he was ultimately famous for being a member of the search party sent out to discover the grim fate of the members of the Terra Nova Expedition.

The aim of the Terra Nova Expedition was to carry out scientific and geological experiments as well as to join the race to be the first people to reach the geographic South Pole.

The Terra Nova team were unlucky on all accounts, not only was their mission ill-fated, but they also failed to be the first to reach the geographic South Pole, a Norwegian team got to the Pole first.

The team got into difficulty on their return journey. Battling the elements, disease and lack of provisions; the team finally succumbed in March 1912.

Hooper and the other members of the search party found the bodies of most of the Terra Nova team eight months later, some members of the team were never found.

Hooper is a fine example of Southport’s kind heart and spirit. Upon discovering the bodies, Hooper sacrificed his own skis to fashion a cross as a memorial to the fallen men.

The cross was placed atop a cairn of snow to mark their resting place.

Hooper returned to Southport with the skis of Captain Oates, a member of the team who is believed to have sacrificed himself for the survival of his fellow expeditioners.

These skis are held in The Atkinson, Southport in memory of both men.

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Spotlight On: Thomas Fresh

Thomas Fresh

1803-1861

Resident of Freshfield, Thomas Fresh is considered by many to be the pioneer of British environmental health.

Fresh, praised for his ‘zeal and devotedness,’ lay the groundwork for a cleaner, safer space for all of us.

Born on a farm in Dalton-in-Furness into a mining and trading family, Fresh did not receive a formal education, instead working for the family business.

In 1839, Fresh was working as a policeman in Liverpool and was promoted in 1841 to ‘Inspector of Police.’ Despite his lack of formal education, Fresh ‘showed such intelligence, zeal, and activity’ that he was promoted to Inspector of Nuisances in Liverpool in 1844, and later worked alongside Dr William Henry Duncan, the first Medical Officer for Health, and James Newlands, the Borough Engineer 

This role was varied and built upon his work as a policeman where he was involved in various environmental health projects. He served as Superintendent of Alms Houses and Superintendent of Scavengers which involved working with the very poor and dealing with waste and refuse collection.

Fresh also arranged for Liverpool’s ‘night soil’ to be transported to Freshfield for use as a fertiliser on unproductive land. This was essential in the development of potato and asparagus farming and cultivation.

Fresh’s team were not trained and his department was established without existing infrastructure to assist them. Fresh built a functioning system with very little resource and the department became a model for other local authorities.

Fresh received a small salary compared with other colleagues and his team made a big difference with very little.

One paper hailed his work saying: ‘Their services are secured for little more than £1200 a year, a proof that in this department, at least, no extravagant salaries are given. The inspector, who brings to his work a zeal and devotedness rarely witnessed in public service of long standing, has only £170 a year.’

His work led, in the words of a contemporary, to ‘an astonishing decrease in those particular diseases which are generally considered to prevail in badly sewered and badly ventilated districts. Much good has undoubtedly been done by the Health Committee and their officers.’

Alongside his work in environmental health, Fresh was a prominent member of the community, with enough local influence to have the area, Freshfield, named after him and a rail station built on behalf of his neighbours.

Freshfield Station was built in 1854, a lasting testament to Thomas Fresh and his contribution to community and local health.

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Spotlight On: Sir Henry Segrave

Sir Henry Segrave
1896-1930

Henry Segrave was an American-born British automobile and motorboat racer who set four world speed records.

Segrave served as a fighter pilot in the Royal Flying Corps (now the Royal Air Force) during the First World War. Following the war’s conclusion Segrave became a motor car racer, winning Britain’s first long distance car race at Brooklands race track in 1921 as well as the French Grand Prix (1923) and the San Sebastian Grand Prix (1924) in Spain.

On March 16, 1926 Segrave broke his first land speed record at Ainsdale beach, Southport driving his Sunbeam Tiger ‘Ladybird’ at 152.33 miles per hour. The following year he became the first person to travel over 200 miles per hour, regaining the land speed record that had been broken just a month after his achievements on Ainsdale beach.

The final land speed record set by Segrave came on March 11, 1929 at Daytona Beach Road Course in Florida, USA. Racing in his ‘Golden Arrow’ Segrave clocked 231.45 miles per hour. This was the final land record ever attempted by Segrave after he witnessed the death of fellow racing car driver Lee Bible, who was trying to break the land speed record Segrave had set just two days earlier.

Segrave had begun racing motor boats in 1927 and it was in 1930, only a few months after receiving his knighthood, that he set the water speed record on Windermere Lake. On the third run the boat capsized killing chief engineer Victor Halliwell, Segrave was rescued from the wreckage but died shortly afterwards.

The Segrave Trophy was established in his memory and is awarded for “Outstanding Skill, Courage and Initiative on Land, Water and in the Air: the Spirit of Adventure”.

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