Sunday, April 2, 2023
Book Review – Penny Lane And All That

Book Review – Penny Lane And All That

Ann Carlton

PENNY LANE was made famous by The Beatles. The importance of four young boys from Liverpool singing about an area of the city, which had little more than a few shops and a roundabout was not lost on Ann Carlton’s father who became the Liverpool Town Clerk and eventually the CEO of Merseyside City Council.

Like father like son they say but in this case it was his daughter Ann who in her own right has brought Penny Lane to life once more in her latest book Penny Lane and All That published by Y Lolfa. The book begins by setting out the very fabric of Liverpool life. One gets to know just how its people and its industry ticked. Ann skilfully sets out the social melting pot, which saw the city taking in the Irish who were fleeing from famine and looking for work as were the Welsh, the Chinese and Africans. With them they brought their own cultures, traditions and religions, which were added to the already colourful pallet of a city where fortunes were made and poverty lay around every corner.

Ann’s social portrait depicts times where people looked out for one another and had solid resolve. Where opposing religions, opposing cultures and opposing social standings mixed and where social pioneers and altruistic philanthropists including Ann’s father contributed to the founding of England’s first children’s society and the opening of the World’s first public baths and wash houses.

The book provides a real sense of community void of the rose tinted glasses. Ann’s reflections on life in Liverpool concede that she herself was fortunate enough to escape the poverty which befell so many and highlights the rise of what we would call ‘socialism’ today. Whether it was political, religious or class led something special happened in Liverpool during the 19th century. Ann tells us just how that unfolded and left her with a life long longing to return to her roots but to also accept that she would never return to settle in a city, which has now returned as many U.K. cities have to harbour social ills of every sort as well as unprecedented poverty, which can no longer rely on a tight knit community network for redemption.

Ann takes us on a journey through a city’s heart. A Liverpool we have had glimpses of through populist platforms including music, television, literature and comedy. It becomes all the more real when Ann rolls out her own tapestry of life on the pages from her childhood within a family with Welsh roots to leaving Liverpool and eventually settling in Llanelli with her husband the MP Denzil Davies. It is a wonderful slice of social history and a highly relevant social commentary on the people of Liverpool in the 19th Century.

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