Peter­loo re­mem­bered

Glossop Advertiser - - News - Paul Brit­ton

THE an­niver­sary of the Peter­loo Mas­sacre was ob­served with solemn dig­nity nearly 200 years on.

In one of the dark­est days in Manch­ester’s history, it is es­ti­mated that up to 18 peo­ple were killed and more than 700 in­jured when sol­diers on horse­back charged a crowd of 60,000 peo­ple who had gath­ered in Au­gust 1819 to peace­fully call for so­cial and po­lit­i­cal change.

Hun­dreds gath­ered in Manch­ester’s Al­bert Square to hon­our their mem­ory and recre­ate in part the events of the day.

Ac­tor Christo­pher Eccleston played the part of Longsight mag­is­trate, the Rev Charles W Ethel-stone, who is said to have read out the ‘Riot Act’ to the pro­test­ers be­fore the de­ci­sion to charge and arrest speak­ers at the rally was taken. From a win­dow high up in the town hall, Eccleston de­liv­ered the mag­is­trates’s ex­act words.

The crowds – who had marched into Manch­ester dressed in their Sunday fin­ery – were told to de­part un­der a law passed by King Ge­orge III to pre- vent ‘tu­mults and ri­otous as­sem­blies’.

The full text read: “Our sov­er­eign lord the King char­geth and com­man­deth all per­sons, be­ing as­sem­bled, im­me­di­ately to dis­perse them­selves, and peace­ably to de­part to their habi­ta­tions, or to their law­ful busi­ness, upon the pains con­tained in the act made in the first year of King Ge­orge, for pre­vent­ing tu­mults and ri­otous as­sem­blies. God save the King.”

The names of the dead were read aloud by guests in­clud­ing Eccleston, ac­tress Max­ine Peake, ac­tor John Hen­shaw, Stella Grundy, Clare Mooney and CP Lee ahead of a minute’s si­lence.

Ad­dress­ing the crowds Peake, who is star­ring in a film about the mas­sacre be­ing made by direc­tor Mike Leigh, said she hoped the com­mem­o­ra­tion would ‘awaken the wider world’ to the mas­sacre and its many sto­ries.

One vic­tim was a boy aged just two. Wil­liam Fildes was knocked from his mother’s arms and tram­pled to death by a gal­lop­ing cav­al­ry­man. His death in­spired the poet Shel­ley to write his work, The Masque Of An­ar­chy.

This year’s com­mem­o­ra­tion – fol­low­ing an event last Wed­nes­day to mark the an­niver­sary date – saw peo­ple march to Manch­ester from towns and vil­lages across the re­gion as they did on the day it­self.

They car­ried ban­ners and plac­ards bear­ing the sur­names of vic­tims.

Christo­pher Eccleston reads the ‘Riot Act’ from the town hall. Right, Max­ine Peake

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