Haunted Memories. Part I

Growing Up in Sixties Salford

by Brian M Clarke

We are pleased to post a selection of pages from the unpublished book  Haunted Memories by Brian Clarke about his memories of experiences in Salford during the 1960s. It was fascinating to learn that the inspiration for this book was the screening of the documentary The Changing Face of Salford initiated by Philip Tipton at the University of Salford in 2019. It was this very event that also initiated The Modern Backdrop and I have learned since, that many participants in our workshops and oral history conversations also had been there. 

In his humorous account Brian provides the point of view from the perspective of a child as well as that of on insider who grew up in Ordsall during the 1960s. Brian is a local writer who began his career with community and local magazines. Since then he has been a professional writer of comic books as well as an in-house writer with three social housing providers.

The pages below are the first of three posts that we will post in the next weeks. They all take readers on a trip down memory lane. This one contains the vivid recollections of young Brian seeing the terraced house at Goodiers Lane for the first time; houses that were rather ‘typical’ for Salford prior to its redevelopment.

Goodiers Lane was a deceptively rural name. It joined at one end to the madly busy Regent Road, which ran one way to Eccles and beyond and the other to Manchester (or more simply ‘Town’). 

We were having a look around one of seven terrace houses just ten seconds walk from the main road. What was odd about ‘our’ row was that, unlike all the other houses on the street, each house was set back at a slight angle and this left us each with a triangular patch of dirt and a wooden fence. Mam liked her tiny ‘garden’ because it meant people didn’t past right next to the window when they walked by. I liked it because it could be a fort, a jungle world or space planet. In the end it was none of these things; but it did keep people away from the window.

The best bit about the house was the cellar! It might have been the first cellar I had ever been in and I loved it. It was damp, dark and dank with stone flags on the floor, peeling whitewash on the walls and a chute for coal deliveries. Every week or so a couple of bags worth of coal would slide down the chute to form a black pyramid against the far wall.

The cellar was illuminated by a single bare low-watt bulb and you would swear it was a place where tough-guy spies were interrogated by Soviet or Nazi agents. Was that blood on the wall or just rust?

More excitingly for a young naturalist was the likelihood that it was overrun with every type of insect and vermin you could expect in that kind of place. Naturally I wanted to make it my bedroom.  

“Mam, can I have this as my bedroom?”

“We’ll see…” 

“I could keep animals down here in cages and tanks. We could have our own zoo and charge people to come and see the animals.”

“Let’s get other things sorted out first.”

“Brilliant! I’m going to get my own zoo!”

Upstairs was a kitchen that even Euclid would have a hard job describing. Somehow, whoever had built this house had ignored the classic shapes of squares, rectangles, circles and suchlike and instead had walls that began as straight lines, morphed into a curve, crashed into a dead-end of a corner and roared back at you as a wall that was neither straight nor curved.

As if the shape of the room wasn’t crazy enough, about the only space available for a table and chairs was underneath a huge Heath Robinson-like invention of pulleys, slats and rope that formed a rise-and-fall gizmo for drying clothes. When it was too rainy outside Mam was forced to use this clothes dryer. Many would be the times when I would sit at the Formica table with last week’s underwear hanging overhead as the steam transported me to the depths of the Amazonian forest. 

From the tiny misshapen afterthought of the kitchen we stepped into the large and spacious living room with a ceiling so far up that I couldn’t reach it even if I stood on a chair. Of course, there was no way this could be a straightforward box shaped room. It had two alcoves next to a big open fireplace, super large windows that ran to only inches below the ceiling, and two doors set at about 45 degrees, one of which led into the hallway. I loved the windows. Not only had I never seen windows that big, but these had lead diamond designs. In summer they threw colourful patterns on to the floor.

This would be the heart of the house and the room where Mam, Dad, my sister Sylvia and I would spend most of our non-sleeping time. Later on, we would also be joined by a brother, Martin, but for now it was devoid of anything that made it homely. The room reeked with a melancholy otherness as the bare floorboards accentuated footfalls and the walls distorted and echoed each word spoken. The whole house was like that; something tired and unlived in, waiting for new life. 

From the living room a twenty-foot hall connected the stairs to the front door. Even at the best of times a hallway is a nothing space: devoid of personality whose only purpose is to join up the proper rooms. From there we came to the ‘front room’ at the, er, front of the house. It was the room that would be kept ‘for best’. We did our living in the Living Room and pretty much nothing in the front room.

There were three bedrooms upstairs; a big one (Mam, Dad and three-year-old Sylvia), a middle one (empty) and a small ‘box room’ that was to be mine. I never thought to ask about the empty room.

“What do you think, Terry?” asked Mam of Dad.

“Better than where we live now. I’m happy if you are.”

“Dad! Mam said I can have a zoo downstairs.”

“That’s nice. Might put you in one of the cages.”

The house must have felt okay to me because I don’t recall my objecting to anything beyond the realisation that I would no longer pal around with my mate Roy and the other people I knew. It would also mean that I would have to start at another new school. This would be my third after changing primary school and switching between St Mary’s Junior School and Crumpsall Open Air School (because of my asthma). Three schools and I was only eight. If we moved here I would be leaving open air school to live in one of the smokiest cities in the north.

Boys playing football in street, c1950s. University of Salford, Walter Greenwood Collection, WGC-4-6-4. Colorised with Deep AI. https://deepai.org/machine-learning-model/colorizer

Moving day began with a big burst of excitement and little sense of loss. Right up to this moment I hadn’t left my ‘old’ home and things seemed mostly as they were; the normal before the abnormal. I had nothing to miss because I was still there. I woke up in the same house. I had breakfast and I got dressed the same. I was sent to the same shop on a similar errand to any other day. I was still there and it was mostly normal. Okay, Mam had wrapped the washed breakfast bowl in paper and carefully placed it in a box marked Kitchen rather than on the side to dry but the day still felt the same.

Having nothing to play with or read (all boxed away) I stood at the door waiting. A large blue moving van with ominous scratches and bumps on its sides pulled up and I was told to keep out of the way as men marched out of the house with furniture, tea chests full of crockery and boxes of clothes. I checked on the important stuff – my toys and books – and watched as the van void filled with our earthly possessions. Funny how a whole house can fit in one removal van with space left over.

By now I had learnt the real reasons for my parents moving: Dad wanted to be closer to where he worked in Trafford Park and Granny from Ireland ‘might’ be coming to live with us and we needed more space. Because I was a naïve buffoon, I didn’t connect the ‘might’ with the deliberate leaving empty of the spare big bedroom. 

The house we were leaving was a terraced two-up, two-down and when it came to it, we had very little to move. The telly man had come the day before to take back the rental tv and the rent man had called to give the place the once over and thank Mam for being a good tenant. Our furniture was little more than tables, chairs, wardrobes and beds. The only white goods we owned was a washing tub with a mangle, and a cooker and both were being left behind.

I should mention one other thing about this house because it relates to things that happened in our new home. I remember being in bed late one night when I woke for some reason. I was ready to get up except for the fact that it was pitch black. My room was big, maybe 15 feet across and on the wall to my right was a window. I slept with the curtains open and as it was late November it was as dark outside as it was inside. 

Mam and Dad were downstairs preparing to go to bed when they heard me screaming for them. Dad dashed up the stairs two at a time and barged into the room to find me sat up in bed in a right state. By the time Mam joined us I was telling them about the woman who was looking at me through the window. 

“I saw her! An old woman at the window.”

“Did you know her?” asked Dad.  

“Stop it, Terry. Don’t get him started.”

“I was only asking…”

“Well don’t.”

Mam stroked my back and calmed me down as I told them what the woman looked like: elderly, deep wrinkles, with wild, matty hair. I tried to explain how she was just there, looking at me. Looking. At. Me. But it must have sounded daft.

Mam explained that it was obviously all a dream and how sometimes when we wake, bits of our dream are still in our head. Like last year when I woke up thinking a dinosaur was after me. I nodded and Mam said I could sleep with them that night.

This midnight incident must have been even more terrifying for my parents because, as I learnt many years later, they were delayed in going to bed that night because they had just received a telegram from relatives in Ireland. My Aunty Kate had died earlier that day. She doted on me and whenever she came to visit, she showered me with gifts and hugs. I still recall her now: elderly, deep wrinkles and with wild, matty hair. Mam could never explain what happened that night and I can do no better.

With clothes and bedding fitted around the furniture to protect them we were ready to set off. Dad was talking with the driver and pointing at me. Was I to be left behind? Dad called me over and explained that there wasn’t enough room in the driver’s cab. I was to be left behind! I would have to fend for myself and either turn to crime or learn to live off the land. 

“You will have to go in the back of the van.”

            The back! Of the van! Where I would literally look at my old world fading away as we drove off. Fantastic!

I had never been in a van before and here I was with the best view possible. I made myself comfy on a pile of blankets, squeezed up next to the tailgate and was ready for the ride of my life. There were no other doors at the back and the openness and closeness to the road provided just enough danger to be exciting without brimming over into terror. The engine roared to life with a cloud of nose-stinging diesel as my street became a blue-hazed memory.

We lurched forward and because it was all so everyday familiar, I still had no real sense of leaving it behind. You miss things in the looking back and not so much in the leaving. As we drove along the street for the last time there remained a silly feeling of this being something temporary, like a day trip to the seaside or a visit to relatives. The shock of never coming back was too unreal to take in.

            As we reached the end of the street and made ready to turn into Oldham Road and towards Manchester, I saw Roy crossing the road a little way away. He was too far off to say anything but close enough for each to read the other’s face. We both waved but because I was the one setting off on an adventure, I waved faster. Neither of us smiled. If I knew the word, I would have said it was poignant.

Thirty minutes later we were at Goodiers Lane and caught up in the bustle and excitement of moving in. My ‘bird food’ was still on the backyard floor – maybe it was only for robins, and I hadn’t seen any of those red-breasted rogues around the area. 

I raced around the house, darting in and out of each room and getting under everyone’s feet. Hey! That might work to my advantage!

“Mam, can I go out for an explore?”

“No. Not now.”

“Aw – why not?”

“I don’t want you getting lost. You don’t know where things are.”

Ten minutes later: “Mam, can I go out for an explore?”

“No. Not now.”

“Aw – why not?”

“I don’t want you getting lost. You don’t know where things are.”

“But that’s the only way I will know where things are.”

“I’ve told you – not now.”


“You’ve heard your mother…”

I had another look around the house and then:


“What have I told you?”

“No, this is different.”

“What, then?”

“Can I live in the cellar?”

“Don’t be stupid.”

“But you said I might.”

“I’ve no time for all this. We have a thousand and one things to do. Just keep out of the way.”

“Well can I go out? I won’t get lost.”

“Yes, yes – just go! And don’t get run over! And remember where you live!”

Salford is a short bus ride from Manchester and in times past was the senior locality. Whereas Manchester became cramped with mills and merchants Salford became a place of factories and the ‘docks’ at the head of the Manchester Ship Canal (so named, although it was definitely in Salford). Where we had moved was called Salford 5 back then but is now known as Ordsall. An industrial area called Trafford Park was only a few miles from our house and that was where Dad worked at the BOCM – British Oil and Cake Mills, or as we called it ‘bockams’. 

Thirty years before I arrived in its smoky streets a survey identified parts of Salford as some of the worst slums in the country. Cockroaches and rats were more common than people and it was for very practical reasons that most houses kept a pet cat. But even in these dire circumstances the Salford Pride shone through. The report writers were struck by the courage and perseverance with which the greater number of tenants kept their houses clean and respectable under the most adverse conditions. This was still obvious as I took my first tentative steps around its streets and noticed how many houses had painted window ledges and steps and a ‘donkey-stoned’ flag stone outside the door. 

Copyright Brian M Clarke. All rights reserved. 

4 Replies to “Haunted Memories. Part I”

  1. This is an excellent excerpt of a story and should be published asap, I would love to read the whole book.

  2. I really enjoyed that and wish my husband was still alive to enjoy it.
    He came from Hanky Park. He always said I came from the posh side of Broad st. Upper Gloucester St.
    I met my husband to be when I was eleven, he pointed out his mother to me as she was chasing some boys with a broom. That’s my mum he said very proudly.
    I am looking forward to the next instalment.

  3. As Brians brother I now live in the US. I came along in 1963 was born in Goodies Lane and have fond memories of the house in question but also many ghostly encounters which I believe my mother and I were unfortunate to see and hear.

    The house discussed in this book was haunted and I can testify to my brothers ghostly encounter but my own… not until we moved from that house was I told by our parents and older sister what I heard and saw was indeed real.

    The empty room upstairs my bother talks about briefly was indeed a damp cold room unused apart from some storage and my toys – I remember racing up those stairs to bring down my toy fort, soldiers or cars and felt a ghostly presence in there, same with the cellar and the room downstairs which became my bothers room later on. Some of the stories were babies crying downstairs late at night although we were all upstairs at the time which would suddenly STOP soon as my mother would get up to investigate from the top of the stairs – to an old man floating up the stairs one time when my mother had got out of bed (our father worked late so was not home until I think 1 or 2 am). My sisters room Sylvia was across the landing opposite the stairs so seeing this my mother froze and this spirit went through her into my sisters room – my mum I was told later scared half to death checked on my sister and ran straight back to bed praying for our father to come home. Our mother went through hell in that house, we both did on many occasions, some of which I am not even sure my brother knows about even.

    The house is gone now and a new estate and offices are in its location but I sometimes wonder if anyone reports anything going on near them. Even today I look back on all of this and can only imagine what our poor mum experienced late those nights while in bed waiting on our father to get home alone with the 3 of us.

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