Saturday, 16 September 2017

SADNESS ON BARLOW MOOR ROAD ........ a story from John Parker

From November 1943 to June 1958 I lived with my parents in their house on Barlow Moor Road, just opposite The Crematorium. 

Barlow Moor Road, 1959
Most of my memories of living there are happy, but one is of a sadness still felt today.

On Thursday February 6th, 1958, the Airspeed Ambassador chartered aircraft carrying the Manchester United team, club officials and sports journalists from several English newspapers, crashed on take off from Munich Airport.

Twenty one people died at the scene. The bodies of the victims were repatriated to England on the evening of February 7th.; four victims were off-loaded from a Vicker's Viscount transport plane in London before the flight continued to Manchester with the remaining seventeen.

My fiancée and I had spent Friday evening at my parents house planning for our wedding in June 1958. She was a Staff Nurse at Withington Hospital and lived in the Nurse's Home there. She had to be back there at 11:00PM, before the doors of the home were secured, and on this particular evening decided to return there a little early.

We got on my motor bike about 9:30 and headed up Barlow Moor Road towards Princess Road, Nell Lane and ultimately Withington Hospital. We had passed the main gates of Southern Cemetery and were approaching The Oaks pub when we saw a motor cycle coming at us on our side of the road. It was a police motorcyclist and he waved us down to stop. Very quietly he said “They're coming”, that was all - “They're coming” - before he rode on very slowly, still on the wrong side of the road.

The Oaks, 1959
We had stopped the bike, a little puzzled, and looked towards the junction with Princess Road.

We saw the first vehicle turning from Princess Road into Barlow Moor Road, coming very, very slowly with dimmed lights.

It was a hearse and was followed by another and another. By now we stood at the side of my bike with our crash helmets in our hands as the cars continued to approach very, very slowly.

Hearse after hearse, after hearse continued their progress on to Barlow Moor Road.

We had heard no announcement of the return of the bodies of the crash victims on television or radio but that was what we were witnessing. As the cortège slowly progressed, patrons came silently out of The Oaks, down the front steps and into the car park to view the passing scene . Down Barlow Moor Road, lights appeared in porches and front rooms and people came out to stand at their front gates, watching the sad procession of hearses in silence. Seventeen vehicles passed in all on their way the United's Old Trafford Ground. The coffins containing the bodies of the victims were held in the gymnasium at the ground before being returned to their grieving relatives over the weekend.

This remains, for me, one of the saddest and most moving sights I have ever witnessed in my life.

John Parker © 2017

Picture; Barlow Moor Road, m17542 1959 and  the Oaks Hotel, 1959, m17565,  by R.E.Stanley, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council,


  1. I watched from Hardy Lane,it was a night i will never forget,along with thousands more who watched along the route.

  2. I lived in Chelsfield Grove at the time and I remember several funerals passing along Mauldeth Road West over the next weeks on their way to the crem and cemetery. My Mum worked at the MEN and knew some journalist, particularly " Sketchbook " Johnson ?? who is buried in Southern with his nickname on his stone.

  3. I remember being lifted to the upstairs window of the shop above the veranda on Barlow Moor Road by my father as the funeral procession went passed, a very sad early memory.

  4. I remember being lifted to the upstairs window of the shop above the veranda on Barlow Moor Road by my father as the funeral procession went passed, a very sad early memory.

  5. What a very moving story. I was 9 years old at the time and lived in Preston. Little did I know I was going to move to Manchester and live close to the story.

  6. My mother took me to the corner of cundiff road as they passed..
    She said there were so many tears that day..

  7. In the early 50s my mum was caretaker/cleaner just off Barlowmoor Road in the doctors we all live there for a few years by 1958 we had moved to Benchill and I ran to Brownly Road to watch the coffins return I was 13 and remember it well, I wonder if any one remembers us Mcguires from the Doctors on Maitland Ave .

  8. What a an amazing, tragic story I have just read, A few yeears after this crash, George Best would come to Manchester and live a stone's through away from Barlow Moor Road. I live near to Barlow Moor and many a night I have seen close up swirling mist come off the school playing fields, swirl up and through Mottram Archway and along Barlow Moor Road. Makes you wonder? Many thanks for all your stories to have presented over the years.

  9. Do u have any old pics from Barlow moor road street by oppsite Dr David area I want see it what like in my home pls

    1. Hello Unknown, no I din't by Manchester Libraries has a large collection.