By John Holloway
This is a photograph of the well known Irlams o’ th’ Height landmark the Britannia Inn which was situated at the junction of Bolton Road and Manchester Road, Pendlebury. My great grandparents John and Sarah Ellen Healy became the licensees at the pub in 1896. Prior to this John Healy, an immigrant from Galway in Ireland, had been a coal miner in the pits of Swinton and Pendlebury. Sarah Ellen (nee Rushton), shown in the photo taken about 1912, was also from a mining family with links to Stafforshire. In 1903 John died and Sarah Ellen took over the license of the Brit as it was known and remained there until 1937 when the licence passed to her daughter Laura who was by then married to her husband Nicholas Hankinson. The pub remained under their management well into the 1960s and it was sometimes known locally as “Hankinsons”. The Brit was eventually demolished as part of the road improvement scheme in the 1970s.
Sarah Ellen Healy bought a house “Violet Mount” 26, Bolton Road, opposite St John’s Church and lived out her retirement there with her Daughter Theresa who had married Stanley Morgan who ran a laundry service at the Height. Sarah Ellen died in 1945 and is buried in Swinton cemetery. She was a formidable character with a good head for business and worked her way up from the mining background of her early years through the pub trade to own her own home and several other properties in Swinton and Pendlebury which were rented out to tenants.
John and Sarah Ellen Healy had four children, Thomas (my grandfather), Herbert, Theresa and Laura. All lived at the pub and helped out with the running of the establishment to varying degrees. My great uncle Herbert Healy (pictured in 1915), a telegraphist at Manchester post office, joined the “Salford Pals” battalion of the Lancashire Fusiliers at the outbreak of the first world war and left the Height only to perish, aged 29, with so many of his comrades amid the carnage of the first day of the Battle of the Somme on 1st July 1916. He is remembered on the war memorial at St Mary’s.
My grandfather, Thomas Healy was married in 1912 to Rose Maria Yorke from Malton in Yorkshire. He had thought of joining the Benedictine order and was educated for part of his schooling at Douai. Rose had come to Swinton to teach with her sister who was the head at St Mary’s school. Rose was involved in the choir at St Mary’s where my grandfather was organist. He also worked as a music teacher, was involved in local politics and helped run the pub.
Thomas and Rose Healy had five children, Rose, John, Herbert, Catherine (my mother) and Michael all of whom spent part of their childhood years living at the Brit. Shortly after my Grandfather died in 1936 my grandmother and the children left the Brit and moved to a house in Park Lane.
The three boys attended St Mary’s school in Swinton and De La Salle College on Weaste Lane in Salford. The boys also went on to try their vocation with the De La Salle Brothers but only John (Brother Aelred) remained working in the order for the rest of his life. Herbert left to join initially the Territorial Army then enlisted as a regular soldier as he was aware of the increasing threat to the nation from the rise of the Nazis in Germany. He served with distinction throughout the war and was part of the expeditionary force evacuated from the beaches of Dunkirk. He won the military medal serving with the Desert Rats in North Africa. After the war he married and trained to be a teacher. He worked at St Luke’s school and later moved on to Ambrose Barlow as deputy head. He later relocated to Reading as head to the new Blessed Hugh Farringdon secondary school.
Michael stayed with the De La Salle Brothers for a number of years before leaving the order in the late 1950s to pursue a career in teaching, lecturing and research. He is the last surviving member of his generation and at 93 years of age he lives with his wife in Yorkshire where he spent much of his working life.
The girls, Rose and Catherine, also attended St Mary’s school and Notre Dame School in Manchester. My Aunt Rose was to work at Murray’s newsagents at 282 Bolton Road and also served with the Women’s Land Amy during the war. Catherine, my mother, became a nurse and specialised as a midwife before her marriage in 1949 to Joseph (Joe) Holloway.
Before his marriage Joe Holloway was living with his mother Isabelle Holloway on the Westwood estate at 82, Bolton Road. The house stands opposite the Agecroft Fire Station and Rabbit Hills playing field. Isabelle’s sisters Mary and Agnes Houlcroft also resided with them and would often attend St Luke’s church. My father was in the Military Police during the war.
After their marriage my mother and father lived on the Temple Lodge estate near the Children’s Hospital in Swinton. That is where I was born along with my brother and two sisters.
Michael Murray and his three daughters established their shop at the Height in 1906 and played a big part in the early days helping get the parish of St Luke’s up and running.
The Murray and Healy families became good friends both through running neighbouring businesses at the Height and through their shared Roman Catholic faith. My Aunt Rose was invited to work at the shop before the war and after her return from the Land Army she and her new husband Nick Couper moved in to the shop with Agnes Murray.
They remained there for the rest of their working lives and took over management of the business when Agnes Murray retired. Rose and Nick Couper had a daughter Mary who was educated at St Luke’s and Adelphi House school. She went on to Sedgley Park College to train as a teacher and worked at St Sebastian’s school in Salford for several years before moving away from the area. Later, Mary was married at St Luke’s church in 1976.
When Murray’s newsagents was forced to close in 1973 for the road redevelopment at the Height my Aunt Rose and Uncle Nick, a proud Scotsman, had planned to move up to Scotland for their retirement. However, Nick’s declining health meant that was not to be and the couple moved to a flat at Irlam Square for the rest of their lives. Rose Couper remained a stalwart member of the St Luke’s congregation until her passing in 1990.
(all photos from the family archive)