“The Square”, was their secret - their little gem. An oasis that became central to the lives, loves and losses of the deeply complex, strong northern families who, for most of the time, felt lucky to grace it’s cobbled stones. It was where generations of McNeills would put down their roots and proudly call it home.
To the outside world,“The Square” was pretty unremarkable really; it had three, brown bricked sides made up of the backs of the old Victorian terraced houses of Park Street, Guildhall Street and Meriner Street. The fourth side, the place where it all began, was made up of large stables with their imposing floor to ceiling wooden doors. This safe and sheltered piece of land hidden from public view was run by this large matriarchal family and run it they did. Their square, their stables, their rules.
Even the McNeill kids were able to pick and choose who could enter their inner sanctum and if you didn’t live on one of the streets backing onto the square, you were viewed as an outsider. Access by permission only.
There was a safe feeling to the square itself that you would be hard pressed to replicate these days – from babies left outside the back door in prams, to toddlers being left with young teens for their protection. The point was, parents of that time, around that square, knew they could, so they did.
The McNeill's started their journey to the square when they moved to Park Street, next to the Old Abbey Inn. A pub, like many others in the area, that was at the heart of it’s local community, for the good and bad times.
Mama McNeill's Park Street home became a central hub to not just her own family, but those local to the area or even passing through. Full of warmth, laughter, tears and the smell of home cooked food to welcome you in after a hard day’s work and play, there was always something going on and plenty to talk about sat around the large home-made kitchen table with benches either side.
It was around this table and in this Square that the stories of these amazingly strong women and their surrounding families unfold. Love, loss, struggles, tears and laughter and the harsh realities of living through and beyond a brutal war, that gave some of these women the indepenence they'd been craving all their lives.
Read about how a girl from the slums of Salford, became the matriarch to a large and powerful Manchester family. Join with us to hear about some of the heart breaking decisions that led to change this family's dynamic for generations to come and are of such depth that they are still being felt to this present day.