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Saturday, 19 April 2008

Prince Rupert

My history lessons in school were strangely skewed. I was told by a gentle nun called Sister Kevin that God had cursed Henry V111. Somewhere along the way I learnt that King John was a good old thing because he granted Liverpool a Charter in 1207, turning a fishing village into a town. And further down along the line my innate Royalist sympathies were confused by the stories of Print Rupert’s Tower.

Prince Rupert's Tower, or The Roundhouse, is an old Bridewell or lock-up that is still located on Everton Brow, in Netherfield Road, Everton, Liverpool. It is used on the crest of Everton F.C.. Also going by the nicknames "Stewbum's Palace" or the "Stone Jug
It was built in 1787, and was used to incarcerate wrong-doers until they could be hauled before the magistrate the following morning. The story I was told was that it was from this hill that Rupert looked down upon Liverpool. The cottage he stayed in was situated nearby.

In 1643 Parliamentarians had taken control of Liverpool which in turn controlled the vital supply route to Ireland. This was a case for Prince Rupert!
In 1664 he stormed and captured Stockport in a single day (May 25th ) then stormed Bolton on May 28th That town fell in under two hours and Rupert slaughtered all its inhabitants. Puritan resistance wavered. In Preston the Mayor invited him to a banquet and Rupert placed him under arrest by way of thanks or perhaps because he didn’t like the food. By the sixth of June he was marching on Liverpool defended by Colonel John Moore. Rupert was confident having already declared that a parcel of boys could take Liverpool. Five days later and at the loss of 1500 men, he gained the city.

In my small, childish mind I had visions of the dark prince brooding on Everton brow looking down on the city…the charges…and streets washed with blood. Who was I to support? I never did find out.

But one thing for sure, I didn’t like Henry VIII, which was ironic because many years later I was sitting in the cold of Liverpool’s Central Station – still warmer than outside – staring into his small piggy eyes and turning the pages of A.F Pollard’s book on Henry VIII.

It was the first day of my course at the Liverpool Institute of Further Education and I was an hour early. Don’t ask me why. No idea. Probably buses. So I ploughed through pages I barely understood, and then walked up the hill for enrollment. A year later I had my GCE O levels, but still didn’t like Henry VIII. I’d also lost my excuse for being at the Institute and delaying my re entry into catering. To my great relief teachers at the Institute, for all their vaunted cynicism, (I learnt much later that cynicism often hides idealism) wrote a letters to my parents saying that I should stay on at all costs, that I would fly through my A levels and that in a year’s time I could be at University. Gratified and because they believed in their son, they agreed and so my life was changed. On that same day an application form for trainee management at a Lyon’s Corner House arrived. I still remember tearing it up with glee.

These years were the happiest of my life up until then because I learnt that anything can be achieved through ambition and struggle, that success was possible. Something I’d never believed until then. All my years since have been happy because it’s a lesson I’ve never forgotten and so yes, maybe it’s time to make a decision, time to take sides. Gulp. I’m with the dark prince charging down into Liverpool my feathery hat and flowing locks making up for the bloodshed that follows.

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