Friday, 16 October 2015

In Piccadilly Gardens at the Tree of Remembrance

Now I have passed that metal tree in Piccadilly Gardens countless times and only once wondered about its story.

But in my defence I have always been in a hurry and rarely linger in the gardens, all of which is a shame and a lesson about looking more carefully at what you pass because this is a memorial to all those who died in Manchester during the Second World War.

The first to die were the Andrews’s family on August 30th 1940 in Hulme and the last was Ms Lilly King of Beswick on July 28 1942.*

The heaviest death toll was during the Manchester Blitz in December 1940 when on two nights 680 people were killed and 2,360 were wounded.

Many of these are buried in Southern Cemetery where there is another memorial.

But for now I want to stick with the Tree of Remembrance which stands on the Mosley Street corner of the gardens.

It was commissioned by the City Council and completed to coincide with the anniversary of Victory in Europe Day in May 2005.

The memorial was designed by the artists Wolfgang Buttress and the ten metre high tree has metal rings around the trunk that have engraved upon them the names of the Manchester people who lost their lives.

Now I am sure I will have been aware of its official opening back in 2005 but never made the link with the sculpture that I pass regularly so I have David Harrop to thank for reminding me of its presence.

David also has a permanent exhibition commemorating the lives of those who lived in Greater Manchester during the two world wars.

Fittingly it is in the Remembrance Lodge at Southern Cemetery close to the Blitz memorial and during the next few months running up to December David is mounting a special display of memorabilia focusing on events of 1940-41.

Amongst the items there are letters, postcards and official communications including a leaflet on what to do if your home had been bombed.

These are the very personal sides of what was one of those great events in that war and it is easy sometimes to overlook that fact.

So setting aside the statistics and the cool judgement of historians, those bombs fell on people, and some of them we will have known.

Now Mr Richard Arthur Dunkley of Whitfield Street, Chorlton on Medlock was not known to me, but he appears on the tree and I discovered he was killed during the air raid of December 26th.and was taken to the Mansfield Street Mortuary.  He was 39 and had been born in Hazel Grove.

He was one of twenty people killed that night in Chorlton on Medlock of whom three were unidentified.

Pictures; Tree of Remembrance, 2015 from the collection of David Harrop

*Luftwaffe over Manchester, The Blitz Years 1940-1944, Peter J C Smith, 2003

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