CORRESPONDENT editor Tony Bugby joined walkers from Hyde as they recreated the Peterloo protest march to St Peter’s Field in Manchester in 1819.As our hardy band of walkers, some holding aloft protest placards, strode out between Gee Cross and Manchester city centre, it was hard not to look back 200 years to the fateful day when disgruntled mill workers made the same march is pursuit of better working rights and the vote.
It was a day when one of those mill workers Joseph Whitworth, from Gee Cross, did not return home as the 18-year-old was one of 18 who lost their lives when the 60,000 crowd was charged by the military, many on horseback.
Hundreds were injured, including a sizeable number from towns which were later to merge to become Tameside.
Whereas we had car drivers sounding their horns and shouting words of support, that would not have been the case two centuries ago when motorised transport had yet to be invented.The near nine-mile route would also have been far removed than the today’s conurbations with towns merging into one another.
Councillor Jim Fitzpatrick, one of the walkers, also believed the mill workers in 1819 in all likelihood took a different route, probably along Apethorn Lane into Denton whereas our route was through Hyde town centre where most of the walkers began from Hyde Town Hall.
The group of walkers included Jonathan Reynolds, MP for Stalybridge and Hyde, and councillors Fitzpatrick, Helen Bowden and Jan Jackson.
The walk from Gee Cross to Manchester is an annual pilgrimage but this year was extra special due to the landmark anniversary. And as a result of the publicity the numbers on the event were larger than usually with around 40 walkers taking to the road.And many of the walkers had their own stories to tell, including Cecilia Weston, from Dukinfield, who was also at the 150th anniversary commemorations of Peterloo.
Cecilia was a 20-year-old history student with a keen interest in local events when she attended the event at the Free Trade Hall in Manchester.
She said: “It was a terrible thing to happen and it was also in this part of the world which brought it home even more.
“I can still remember what it was like in the Free Trade Hall with trade union officials attending and banners displayed. The Oldham Tinkers also played the famous Peterloo song ‘With Henry Hunt We Will Go’,”John A Mercer, from Newton, wore a distinctive red cone-shaped hat which peasants wore 200 years ago.
He loves history saying he was brought up learning about Peterloo, explaining: “As a young boy my grandma would point out to me the place in Manchester where people died.
“I was indoctrinated by Peterloo from being young and that is why I go on the walk each year.”
Back on August 16, 1819 the event at St Peter’s Field was well organised given there was no public transport or today’s means of communications.
Protesters converged on foot from all corners of what is now Greater Manchester.
And it was by sheer luck we joined up with the Stockport contingent at Ardwick Green for the final stretch to St Peter’s Field for the commemorative event as Peterloo was marked by three days of events.