A group formed with the intention of saving the graveyard of St Mark's church, record and catalogue the graves and transcribe their inscriptions.
Further details soon. In the meantime see Facebook Page 'Friends Of St. Mark's Cheetham'
I was told, recently about a local poet, Tony Connor, and that he had written a poem about St Mark's - Here it is.
ST MARK'S, CHEETHAM HILL
DESIGNED to dominate the district -
God being nothing if not large
and stern, melancholic from man's fall
(like Victoria widowed early)-
the church, its yard, were raised on a plateau
six feet above the surrounding green.
There weren't many houses then; Manchester
was a good walk away. I've seen
faded photographs: the church standing
amidst strolling gentry, as though
ready to sail for the Empire's farthest parts; -
the union jack at the tower's masthead
enough to quell upstart foreigners and natives.
But those were the early days. The city
began to gollop profits, burst
outward on all sides. Soon
miles of the cheapest brick swaddled landmarks,
the church one. Chimes that had used to wake
workers in Whitefield, died in near streets.
From our house- part of the parish -
St. Mark's is a turn right, a turn left,
and straight down Coke Street past the 'Horseshoe'
The raised graveyard - full these many years -
overlooks the junction of five streets;
pollarded plane trees round its edge,
the railings gone to fight Hitler.
Adam Murray of New Galloway,
'Who much improved the spinning mule',
needs but a step from his tomb to peer in
at somebody's glittering television;
Harriett Pratt 'a native of Derby',
might sate her judgement-hunger with chips
were she to rise and walk twenty yards.
The houses are that close. The church,
begrimed, an ugly irregular box.
squatting above those who once filled it
with faith and praise, looks smaller now
than in those old pictures. Subdued
by a raincoat factory's bulk, the Kosher
Slaughter House next door, its dignity
is rare weddings, the Co-op hearse,
and hired cars full of elderly mourners.
The congregations are tiny these days;
few folk could tell you whether it's 'High' or 'Low';
the vicar's name, the times of services,
is specialized knowledge. And fear has gone;
the damp, psalmed, God of my childhood has gone.
Perhaps a boy delivering papers
in winter darkness before the birds wake,
keeps to Chapel Street's far side, for fear
some corpse interred at his ankle's depth
might shove a hand through the crumbling wall
and grab him in passing; but not for fear
of black religion - the blurred bulk
of God in drizzle and dirty mist,
or hooded with snow on his white throne
watching the sparrow fall.
Now, the graveyard,
its elegant wrought-ironwork wrenched,
carted away; its rhymed epitaphs,
urns of stone and ingenious scrolls,
chipped, tumbled, masked by weeds,
is used as a playground. Shouting children
Tiggy between the tombs.
I walk there sometimes - through the drift
of jazz from open doors, the tide
of frying fish, and the groups of women
gossiping on their brushes - to see the church,
its God decamped, or dead, or daft
to all but the shrill hosannas of children
whose prayers are laughter, playing such parts
in rowdy games, you'd think it built
for no greater purpose, think its past
one long term of imprisonment.
There's little survives Authority's cant
that's not forgotten, written-off,
or misunderstood. The Methodist Chapel's
been bought by the Jews for a synagogue;
Ukrainian Catholics have the Wesleyan's
sturdy structure built to outlast Rome -
which clings to its holy snowball down the street;
and men of the district say St. Mark's
is part of a clearance area. Soon
it will be down as low as rubble
from every house that squeezed it round
to bed a motorway and a new estate.
Or worse; repainted, pointed, primmed -
as becomes a unit in town planners'
clever dreams of a healthy community -
will prosper in dignity and difference,
the gardened centre of new horizons.
Rather than this , I'd see it smashed,
and picture the final splendours of decay:
Opposing gangs in wild 'Relievo',
rushing down aisles and dusty pews
at which the houses look straight in
past broken wall; and late-night drunkards
stumbling their usual short-cut home
across uneven eulogies, fumbling
difficult flies to pour discomfort out
in comfortable shadows, in a nave
they praise with founts, and moonlit blooms of steam.