Friday, 29 January 2016

What was lost is found ............... remembering Allan Brown

I wish I had known Allan Brown longer than I did.

Alan Brown at Brookburn School, 2011
We got to know each other just a handful of years ago but quickly discovered a common fascination for Chorlton’s history.

The difference was that while I read, researched and wrote about it Allan had lived it.

Many of our conversations started with a name or an event and in the course of the afternoon we would wander over everything from Chorlton’s Brass band, to his early years in the school on the green and his memories of his grandmother who laid out the dead.

But he was never one to think he knew it all and was forever asking me about my latest bit of research and more often than not that in turn led back to an Alan story.

So it was with the barrage balloon on the Rec which my old dog walking friend John Telford first told me about it over thirty years ago even pointing out where the concrete based was to be found.

Then one day this tiny bit of wartime history was taken away during a refurbishment of the recreation ground and bit by bit I came to doubt my own memory.

But Allan had the picture of the balloon along with many more some of which found their way into my book.*

And two of the pictures that have stayed with me were of our own brass band which had begun in the 1820s and only folded in 1945.

Chorlton Brass Band circa 1930
Of these my own favourite was of the band possibly in the 1920s, including his grandfather and the young girl looking over the wall.

The other was of the band in full regalia at Barlow Hall in 1893, and for the historian what makes this photograph so important is that it contains the names of each band members which allowed me to track all but two of them across Chorlton.

It was one of those bits of research that caught Allan’s imagination and sparked off a train of band stories.

My regret is that we didn’t pursue the research into his own family which got so far but was interrupted by other projects and then when I was ready to start he had died.

I hadn’t seen him for a while mainly because I had been ill and then when I tried ringing he was out doing things.

So the weeks stretched to months and then on a pretty miserable day I went down to find the house was for sale.

I left a note but heard no more and then by chance today in response to one of Allan’s pictures I posted the current owners got in touch to say that his collection was safe with them and more recently I have spoken to his cousin Philip.

In the fullness of time they have promised that I can look through the material which includes those pictures, and a shed full of documents all of which will help add to the story of Chorlton and remind me of my old friend.

Location; Chorlton

Pictures; Alan at Brookburn School, 2011 with his picture of that barrage balloon, courtesy of  Chorlton Good Neighbours,** and Chorlton Brass Band, circa 1930s from the collection of Allan Brown

*The Story of Chorlton-cum-Hardy,

**Chorlton Good Neighbours,

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