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The Flowers of Manchester


10th Feb 2008

A big thanks to the large crowd this year, must have been a good few hundred there, many of whom sang lustily under the plaque one hour before kick-off.  We started with my new song “Fifty Years” and I was completely gobsmacked to hear maybe 30 people join in right from the start.  For a kid from Salford, a United season ticket holder, to hear so many people singing a song that I had written was beyond my wildest dreams. 

Listen here to the gathered crowd singing both songs - recording courtesy of Mike & Elaine at Munich58.co.uk   

Inside the ground City fans were superb in maintaining the minute’s silence.  At the end of the minute’s silence thousands of reds fans turned towards the City fans (so did Fergie) and applauded them – THANK YOU SO MUCH TO THE CITY FANS.  During the match City fans started to chant “There’s only one Frank Swift” and United fans responded with applause.  At the end of the match United (including the Stretford Enders) fans applauded the City players off the field.  Despite being Salford through and through I was oh so proud to belong to the community of Manchester tonight – A JUSTLY PROUD CITY UNITED ON THIS NIGHT.

There are photographs at  http://www.munich58.co.uk/


Feb 2007

Thanks very much to all those who joined us under the Munich Plaque outside Old Trafford on Tuesday at 3.04 pm and  on Saturday, one hour before the Charlton game. 

This year we were joined by Liam Whelan's brother and two sisters - for more information and photos please go to http://www.munich58.co.uk/


I have written and recorded a new song called "Fifty Years" which is now available on the CD shown below along with Hanky Park's version of Flowers of Manchester which has  been played at Old Trafford for the past four years.  The CD is £3.00 all profits will go to Salford Lads Club because a) I am a Salford lad and  b) Eddie Colman lived closer to Old Trafford than any other United player - ever and was a member of Salford Lads Club.


Track one: Flowers of Manchester by Hanky Park
Track two: Fifty Years by Pete Martin

You can buy the CD from the following email address pete followed by @hankypark.co.uk  with no spaces (if I put my email address on this page I will get anything up to 400 emails per day)   or, you can buy it using credit cards/paypal from:  http://www.kidmenthal.co.uk/.     


Click here to listen to this sample of the song Fifty Years

You can also hear this song here http://www.myspace.com/manunited50years .


A big thank you to Angelo at Red Legends at the World's original supporters shop  for selling our CDs - (all profits to Salford Lads Club)


I have passed on all the profits from the sale of the above CD to Salford Lads Club and they gave me a copy of the following photo which shows Eddie Colman as captain of the Salford Lads Club Football Team.  Eddie, being captain, is the one with the ball between his feet.


  Mick Groves has also re-recorded Flowers of Manchester and his version can be found here.

I was under the impression that The Flowers of Manchester began life as a poem published, anonymously, in the Manchester Evening News letters page, some time after February 21 1958.  However, I have just managed to replace an LP (one of the first LPs or long playing records that I ever bought) that I first bought in about 1962.  This is an album by The Spinners and track 6 on side 2 is The Flowers of Manchester.  The liner notes on the album say, "This wonderful tragic ballad was published anonymously in 'Sing' magazine and Mick has set it to Ewan MacColl's tune for 'The Ballad of John Axon'.  It tells the story of the Munich Air Disaster in 1958 in which several of the Manchester United football team and their party were killed."  The Spinners were a folk group based in Liverpool though one of their members, Mick Groves, the Mick who set the poem to a Ewan MacColl tune, is a Salford lad.    The album was called, "Quayside Songs Old and New" and was recorded in 1962 as an educational project.  Mick is still alive, well and singing and is now based in the Exeter area.  He can be reached by clicking on his name above.

Tony recorded this song when he was with "The Two Beggarmen" and it is a song that is requested quite frequently. It tells of the Munich Air Disaster on February 6 1958 when the Manchester United Team, the Busby Babes, were travelling home after playing Belgrade in a European Cup match. The aircraft stopped at Munich and crashed on take off; that was the day a team died. Visit http://www.munich58.co.uk for more information.

For many years the songwriter was always written as "Anonymous". However, John Howarth (Oldham Tinkers) informs me that the words were written by Eric Winter who died a couple of years ago. Eric was a journalist and used to produce an English magazine similar to Pete Seeger's "Singin Out". He also used to collect Folk songs and has, apparently, left an enormous collection behind. Invariably Tony introduces this song by saying that he knows nothing at all about football and that he always thought that Sheffield Wednesday was a bank holiday. On the other hand, I was born and grew up in Salford and used to go to The Cliff on Saturday mornings to watch the "A" team (I remember seeing Nobby Stiles there) then, when I had enough money, go to see the first team at Old Trafford in the afternoon.

I met one of the Busby Babes several times at Fred Fielder's house, it was Jackie Blanchflower who is mentioned in the song by name, and he sang me a song about the Munich Air Crash that he had written himself. Sadly, Jackie died a few years ago.

We recorded a new version of this song and Tariq Francis has put a video together that can be seen by pressing on the link below.  The video is made up of still photographs and our version of the song can be heard whilst the video is played.  I think the video is superb and I would like to thank Tariq for allowing me to show it.  The video requires 15mb but if you just want to hear the song click on Audio.

Flowers of Manchester  Audio

The video includes part of the poem "Forever & ever".  This poem was written by John Fisher and was published in the Manchester United Programme in January 1976.

I used to have a link to the following information but the web site is having problems at the moment so I have had permission from Folk Buzz to print Eric Winter's obituary notice here. With grateful thanks to Folk Buzz.



ERIC WINTER, 19th December 1920 – 23rd October 2000

Born in Mossley, Eric Winter won a scholarship to Ashton-under-Lyne Grammar School, leaving at the age of fifteen. Aged 19, he became manager of Lewis’s internal advertising department in Manchester.

It was after being called up for war service in the RAF that Eric became involved with the Unity Theatre, Liverpool, whilst stationed at Hooton Park on the Wirral.

After several changes of direction career-wise, following the end of the war, Eric eventually became sub-editor on Model Railway magazine, subsequently joining Odhams (later IPC), rising to the rank of chief sub-editor, then technical editor, on Home Maker. He was a keen and dedicated trade unionist and IPC’s ‘grandfather’ of the book and magazine chapels.

Throughout this time, Eric pursued his love of folk music and together with friend and musician John Hasted formed the London Youth Choir for a festival in Berlin in the early ‘50s. With Leon Rosselson and others he formed what was widely known as Britain’s first modern folk group, the London Youth Choir Group.

At the suggestion of John Hasted, and together with John Ambrose, Eric founded Britain’s first folk magazine, Sing, which was to run for twenty years (1954 – 1974). He wrote many songs himself; one of the best remembered is The Flowers Of Manchester, written following the Munich air disaster in 1958. During his many years on the folk scene he compiled, edited and designed more than twenty books.

From 1961 to 1974 Eric was successively folk critic for Melody Maker, Music Maker and the New Musical Express. Between 1973 and 1986 he taught journalism at the London College of Printing, retiring to Mossley in 1987, where he continued to write on music for Folk Roots and Reference Reviews. In 1992, at the age of 72, he compiled a booklet of his own songs entitled They Never Clapped Me Like That. In 1995, I felt pleased and privileged to discover that, although not in the best of health, he had not only taken the time to visit my small, hastily arranged art exhibition, set up as part of the International Women’s Week at Portland Basin Heritage Centre in Ashton-under-Lyne, but had also done a review of my work, titled Gwenda Presents A Paintaround, published in Buzz 47.

Five decades of journalism and commitment to the folk music scene nationwide and beyond, Eric Winter passed away peacefully in his hospital bed with his headphone on – whilst doing some reviewing!

To quote his wife Audrey: "He died with his boots on."

Gwenda Warrington



February 2004 Manchester United v Middlesbro at Old Trafford.

Mike Thomas, who owns the Munich 58 website, managed, through his many contacts, to get our version of Flowers Of Manchester played at the above match.  That same evening he e-mailed me and asked if I enjoyed the match.  I thought I would send him a two or three line e-mail but it turned into the following:

Did I enjoy it tonight (last night - I didn't get home until about 11.45 pm)? How do I begin to answer that one? I haven't come down yet!

Let's get one thing out of the way - we played very poorly and, I think, deserved the result. Was that going to spoil my night - no chance.

The night began badly with the horrendous traffic problems that were caused by a broken down vehicle just before the M602. We were warned away from the area by local radio and I have never known it to take so long to get there before - ever. I spoke to someone at the end and he had not managed to get there until just before half time. I was particularly disappointed about that because of the 500 copies of Flowers that I had printed. I arrived just as Gez started to sing and the two of us, Rob and me, (Ray had dropped us off and went to park the car) immediately walked quickly through the crowd handing out song sheets whilst singing - there was no shortage of takers.

I managed to meet Gez, briefly nice warm, friendly greeting, strong handshake, and was then introduced to "Shifty", who had provided my son Rob's ticket. Another friendly exchange with Shifty was followed by the passing over of the precious ticket for Rob. Then came the interviews. I have been informed by several people that I was shown on BBC Northwest last night (for 2 seconds but hey, who's complaining!) and I managed to video-record a part interview with Gez this morning (about 6 o'clock, before I began work). Immediately before Gez is interviewed, there is a close up shot of you, Mike, singing! Did you see it? The BBC interviewer asked, "Can you tell me what you think of John Magnier?" Response, "Not if you are going to broadcast me." I gave him my answer plus a little bit more. When he had left another guy approached me. "Would you mind being interviewed?" I told him I had already been done but he informed me that he was from MUTV. "No problem!" He was more interested in the Flowers of Manchester so I gave him the history of the song according to what I believe to be the case. Time was now moving on and I joined Mike and Elaine for the walk round to our entrance. Thanks to my third son, Geoff, and his mate, I had a ticket in the same block as you and Elaine. We walked round and entered through the turntstile.

Then came the introduction to Alan Keegan, announcer - what a smashing guy! Nice warm handshake, happy smiling face, no edge at all (small world! - ask him), introduction to security man, everything in hand for my big entrance at half time. I went to find my seat and tried to record our version of Flowers as it was played over the P.A. (AT OLD TRAFFORD FOR GOODNESS' SAKE). Alan did us proud, mentioned the name Hanky Park several times, pushed the Salford connection (thankfully) and then went on to mention us both by name and he mentioned me about eight times in all - AT OLD TRAFFORD!

With four minutes to go, the security man eyeballed me and indicated "2 minutes". Two minutes later I had to excuse myself past a row of disgruntled people who clearly did not understand the desire of anybody wanting to leave at that stage of the game - 2-0 down but getting to look a bit threatening. They probably laughed their socks off when Ruud scored just after I left, thinking it would serve me right to miss the goal. The security man was true to his word and met me at the appointed place. As I started the steep walk down the tunnel, a million thoughts went through my mind. I have walked down the tunnel several times before, having done the tour of the ground several times and, each time I walk down, I, as I am sure most people do, think of the massively talented players who ran this way on to the pitch. This time though, instead of an empty stadium, I was walking out to a full house (I think). As I walked down, I was thinking about our version of the song that had just been played and I remembered the famous newsreel shots of the pre-Munich team running on to the pitch. I shivered a bit and felt ... close to them, no, not quite, but definitely a powerful and positive feeling.

As I reached the gate I was passed on to another security man. He indicated where I should stand then struck up a conversation with me about the game. I was jumping up and down trying to see what was going on. We scored. I missed it. I heard somebody tell Alan that it was Ruud. Alan announced the scorer. It was about this time that I came down again having jumped up and punched the air. Then the half time whistle went.

Action stations, everybody seemed to have a clear idea of what would happen, except me. I was completely without nerves and just enjoying, no, revelling in my extreme good fortune. I heard Alan announce that a "Local and international singer/songwriter will select the first prize ticket and another international but not local singer/songwriter will draw the second prize". Another guy then told me that I may know the other singer/songwriter. Shortly after that I saw a guy who I vaguely recognised. He came over and shook my hand, another very warm greeting, big smile and "Hiya mate, how are you doin'", said in a lilting Irish brogue. I recognised this guy but couldn't put a name to him and anyway, he was still a minor distraction in what was a phenomenal occasion for me. I listened to conversations round and about me and gathered that this guy was Ronan Keating. I remembered him then but was still busy enjoying my night.

Next thing I was asked to go up on to the pitch towards the raffle drum. I started to jog but, half way towards the centre spot, another guy asked me to hang around for a minute. Then came the announcement from Alan that Ronan Keating would be drawing the second prize. My son Rob was massively proud of the fact that Alan kept referring to "Pete Martin and Ronan Keating IN THAT ORDER" - thank you Alan, thank you so much Alan.

Ronan Keating arrived at my side full of smiles and waves for the fans. I just said, "This is the place to be!" He agreed and carried on smiling. As we both walked up to the centre spot with two or three guys, one of the guys asked who was drawing the first prize. "Who do you think?" said Pete, and took three steps forward. I can't remember whether it was before or after the draw that we had our first photo shoot. Ronan immediately put his arm around my shoulder and smiled again for the cameras. I followed suit. As we made our way from the centre spot back towards the tunnel I gave a big wave to my two sons who were in the ground, Rob, who was in the Stretford End and Ray, who was in the Scoreboard. When we reached the environs of the tunnel there was much chat going on and people were flashing pictures of Ronan, then I saw two friends with a big camera pointing my way. I shouted to Ronan, "Ronan, over here!" Like the good pro he is and without questioning me at all, he immediately came over to me and I pointed out Elaine's camera and said, "Towards that one!" Another big smile and wave then he walked over and gave an autograph. After a few minutes waiting it became clear to the organisers that the two winners were so far away that they would not arrive in time to do the handover of cheques before the second half kicked off. Cue - another photo shoot, this time with giant cheques in hand. Once again it was arms round each other's shoulders and, when the bulbs had stopped flashing, another warm smile and handshake, "Good Luck", and my very special evening was nearly over.

I walked back to my seat to a jocular complaint from the lady sitting next to me, "You didn't draw my number!". "You didn't tell me which one to draw!" The game ended with the wrong result. I made my way back to the Munich plaque where I was due to meet my two lads and Shifty - he would need his ticket book for the next match. I was there first and started to leaf through the comments/condolences book that you left there - what a good read. Ray arrived first, then Rob - Rob was bouncing up and down with glee and felt so very proud of his dad. Thank you so much Mike, Elaine, Alan, Gez, Shifty - the list goes on.

I don't know how to begin to thank you both. This whole incident began, as far as I can remember, with a simple request for a mutual link between yours and my web sites. It actually began earlier than that when John Cellario e-mailed me. He was a member of the 606 substitute group and had, at one time, owned a recording of Flowers that Tony did when he was half of the Two Beggarmen. He asked me if I could transfer Tony's recording on to MP3 because he preferred Tony's version to the one that was on the site (can't remember which site).

When I approached Tony about this he was not happy about it because he had never enjoyed that take on the album. It was the last song recorded on a "live" gig and his throat was wrecked. Also, for some reason that remains a mystery, he sang it in far too high a key. We decided to record a fresh version at my house. When I got back to John he asked if I wanted it put on their site or on mine with a link. I think it was John's suggestion that I put it on my site and ask them to put a link to my site from theirs. John had been speaking to Tom Clare who, I believe, is known to you. Isn't this a small world!

Anyway, without all of this I would not have had my big night at the Theatre of Dreams. Thanks to John, Tom, Mike, Elaine, Gez, Shifty, Alan and anybody else who I have missed out. I had such a wonderful time and my son was so proud of his dad. He told me that the fans in the North Stand stood up when Flowers came on and sat back down again when it was over. The whole evening was almost as good for him as it was for his dad. Even Ray was telling the guy sitting next to him, "That's my dad out there!" Rob was a little more subtle. He phoned his mum on his mobile and WHISPERED (I don't think so) "My dad is on the pitch now with Ronan Keating".

So. I hope I have been able to answer your question whether I enjoyed it or not.

Once again, many thanks.



Two photos of my night "on the pitch" at Old Trafford