Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Lord street

Ken Dodd came to open the refurbished east side of Lord St yesterday. A goodly crowd had gathered as he made his way into the garden in front of Sainsbury's where the refurbished mermaid once again spouted fresh water-more of her and her origins later.

Dodd was on excellent topical form. The Mayor(whose day job is with the Inland Revenue) came in for gentle banter as did the frozen assets of the Icelandic banks. Interestingly he picked out two Labour Councillors visiting from Bootle as archetypal 'money men'. I thought that they looked more like a couple of Russian Oligarchs.

After the opening I fell into conversation with Mr Conard from the Jewellers, Brian Rimmer and the Cambridge Ward Councillors. Interestingly it was Mr Conard's father who had commissioned the statue of the mermaid. Apparently there was some dispute between the Conard's and the Council about the land. The borough was busy buying up all the land on the east side of Lord St to create the gardens that now stand there. These, as every sandgrounder will tell you, are the model for Paris's boulevards. The resolution of the dispute appears to be that Mr Conard's ancestor was allowed to design the statue. It should be made clear that all this happened before Freud explained the workings of the sub-conscious.

We got to talking about the shrimping trade up in Marshside with people recalling the sight of the shrimps being shelled by the local women. In the mosaic and on the benches in the refurbishment there are reminders of the shrimping that was and still is important to Southport. Mr Conard told us tha this Aunt Gwen was a Methodist lay preacher and went to speak at Marshside Methodist Women's Fellowship when 10 minutes into her talk all the ladies stood up and walked out. She was devastated, what on earth had she said to upset them. She was reassured that it was nothing she had said only that they had heard the handbells being rung signalling that the shrimping carts-or shankers as David Pearson told us the were called-had come in and they were needed for shelling.

Methodism and non conformity was strong in Southport and was one of the key reasons that the seat was won in 1923. Micheal Stead, the academic psephologist, produce a 'political atlas' at a Liberal History group meeting held during and annual conference in Plymouth a few years back. Some sad researcher had collected lists of memberships -golf clubs, drama societies, churches and chapels etc and it appeared that Southport was in the top ten of constituencies ranked by membership of chapels. The 1923 General Election was the high point of correlation between chapel membership and voting Liberal and so Southport was won in that year but not in the much more successful year 1929 .
This was not the first time that non conformity had impacted on Liberal politics in the town. In 1910 the Women's Liberal Federation had refused to back the parliamentary candidate because he would not support temperance legislation which rather brings us full circle to Mr Conard who I understand is chair of the Southport Temeperance Society