There was plenty of entertainment for all tastes if you could afford such expense
Jack Lanigan, ‘Thy Kingdom Did Come’, 14.
In his memoir, ‘Thy Kingdom Did Come’, Jack Lanigan gives a true insight into the recreational activities of his time, however, as he states here the type of activities you would engage in depended on your class and affordability. As a child, despite hardships, Jack Lanigan conveys fond memories of happy and fun times as he states, ‘we kids had our fun and games, but had to walk a long way from our homes to the nearest park or playground’ (6). Parks and playgrounds were a free way of finding adventure and fun for working-class children, whatever the weather, Jack Lanigan ‘thoroughly enjoyed’ (7) the many trips to these parks, particularly Peel Park situated in Salford.
In discussing happy childhoods, Jeremy Seabrook suggests that ‘childhood is sweet to adults. Perhaps there are no happy childhoods, only happy memories of childhood which, because they are beyond the reach of alteration or change, take on a significance and a lustre which they may not have had at the time’ (117). It seems that although Lanigan experienced hardship and poverty as a child, as an adult he reminisces on the little joys of childhood that may not have been acknowledged as a child due to the overwhelming struggles of poverty and the death of his mother and father.
Jack Lanigan had a lot of interests as a young boy, particularly in music and sport and was proactive in these activities to the extent that he lost his job as a counter hand and butcher’s assistant as he ‘thought more about going on stage’ (17), according to his manager. Music was an important part in Jack Lanigan’s life, he would sing and dance at music halls and pubs and enter music competitions, he states, ‘I was stage mad’ (16), music had significance in his life as it would bring Lanigan and his future wife together.
His other love, that being sport, began in the Hugh Oldhams Lads Club and came in the form of boxing, football and the newly discovered sport of Ju-jitsu which Lanigan took a great interest in. Through the Hugh Oldhams Lads Club, Lanigan was introduced to an array of opportunities including holidays which he would of otherwise not have experienced. This club, as were many, was sponsored by City business men ‘and a splendid piece of work they achieved’ (11) according to Lanigan, he states that these City business men;
..enabled to keep boys off the streets, and made men of the majority of us. We could hold our own in a scrap, but one thing they taught us boys was to “respect our elders”. (11-12).
It was this respectability that these clubs aimed to engrain in the working-class youth as opposed to the disrespectability and hooliganism typically associated with the working class. Nevertheless, this club proved beneficial for Jack Lanigan as it created these happy memories of childhood and provided a form of escapism from the harsh realities of working-class life. His love and enthusiasm for music and sport was hard to keep up in adult life due to commitments to work as a Sanitary Inspector and to the war.
1:421 Lanigan, Jack, ‘Thy Kingdom Did Come’, TS, pp.92 (c.42,000 words). Burnett Collection of Working Class Autobiography, Brunel University Library.
Lanigan, Jack, ‘Thy Kingdom Did Come’, TS, pp.92 (c.42,000 words). Extract in J. Burnett (ed.), Destiny Obscure. Autobiographies of childhood, education and family from the 1820s to the 1920s (Allen Lane, London, 1982), pp.95-9. Brunel University Library.
Seabrook, Jeremy. Working-Class Childhood: An Oral History. London: Victor Gollancz Limited, 1982.
Figure 1. ‘1920s-1930s’. www.TheLowry.com. N.D. Web. Accessed 16 January 2015.