Pomona Gardens in Old Trafford is one of Manchester's 'lost' gardens. Listen to songs sung by Mancunians about their very own pleasure garden.
At its peak in the mid-nineteenth-century it was was the first choice for people in Hulme and the south of the city in search of fresh air and entertainment. After the Pomona Palace was built in the 1860s Pomona became an important indoor meeting place. The Gardens closed in the late 1880s and its part of the grounds was used to build the southern docks of the Manchester Ship Canal. Pomona is now one of Manchester's few wild green places.
Pomona Docks, no date
The Pomona Gradens Manchester, 1875 (front cover)
Paul Graney (1908-1982) knew Manchester from walking the city and talking to whoever he could. He built up a unique archive of oral history, radio and folk music from the 1950s to the 1980s. Part of his archive is what he calls the 'memory tapes'. These are recordings of Paul telling his life story, which have been edited into a book 'One Bloke' by Barry Seddon. Paul knew the docks area well - here he is talking about collecting firewood just down the road at Trafford Park in 1919. Even then, when Paul was a boy, Pomona Palace and Gardens was long gone. But, many years later, he was intrigued about a Pomona song that crops up a few times in his archive. So much so that he made a lovely little feature on the song. The lyrics involve a drunken man meeting a veiled girl in a dark and rainy Albert Square and taking a taxi with her to Pomona. Only there does he find out that she is his wife! Mrs Stubbs was one of the dozens of ordinary Mancunians Paul Graney interviewed over the years about their life experiences. The interviews aren't 'proper' oral history but they are fascinating glimpses into life in Manchester. Paul purposely sought out those at the edges of society - he interviewed the homeless men and the prostitutes of the city. He was also interested in working peoples' lives. He interviewed the Rochdale mill girls, the Baguley poachers and the Salford canal men. Here is Mrs Stubbs remembering the song her father used to sing when he'd had a bit to drink. Paul explains the geography of Pomona and speculates about the similarities between the Pomona song and a Cornish song about Lamorna, a fishing cove near Penzance. As a folk collector, Paul would know that the same songs travel down the generations and around the world, developing local versions as they wander. Clearly these two songs have the same folk root. Paul Graney spent a good part of the 1960s and 1970s travelling around the folk clubs of the north west recording live folk performances. His archive includes live material by artists such as Ewan MacColl, Mike Harding and Peggy Seeger. This is a live audience-participation version of Way Down to Lamorna by Brenda Wooton, a talented Cornish folk singer. In the first verse she's hamming it up and hitting the wrong notes on purpose, singing the song in the character of something between Vera Lynn and a drunken reveller. After the first verse the audience get involved, singing the line 'It was wet, wet, wet!' the loudest. To round off his little Pomona feature, Paul Graney throws in a recording of some Welsh fishermen singing the Pomona song. It's unclear where he sourced this from but it's probably taken from a BBC radio broadcast. Paul's archive contains thousands of off-air BBC radio recordings he made for this own reference down the years, mostly about folk and world music but also including lots of history, politics and comedy. He explains that the fishermen are singing before the Second World War, but the radio clip was probably broadcast in the 1960s or 1970s. The Pomona tape is available to listen to at Manchester Central Library, along with the rest of the Greater Manchester Sound Archive. The Lost Gardens of Manchester is a major exhibition at Manchester Art Gallery until 30 November 2015. Come along to see original archives of Belle Vue and Pomona Gardens at the next Thursday Late at Manchester Art Gallery on 10 September.