Published: 00:02, 05 March 2017
A poverty-stricken childhood spent in a Victorian slum, catching pigeons to eat and having a brush with two of the country’s most notorious murderers.
It may sound like a work of fiction but local author Tommy Rhattigan was writing from his own experience in 1963: A Slice of Bread and Jam.
Seven-year-old Tommy and his brothers and sisters were living in an overcrowded home in Manchester, ducking and diving daily in a working class existence.
And sadly like other boys and girls of the era he found himself in the home of Moors Murderers Myra Hindley and Ian Brady.
It’s an account he did not tell for many years and since telling it, others have come forward to say they also had a brush with the pair.
He’s quite prepared to admit some of the issues he confronted in the book were hard to take.
But he said: “I consider myself a wordsmith. I write poetry too. When I started to write the book it took me about a year and a half – it just came out of me.
“If you heard about children chasing pigeons to eat now you’d be shocked. But it wasn’t just me – it was life back then. A lot of people up North can relate to the Manchester slums. Ours was pulled down the year after.
“Some of it will bring tears to your eyes. It is quite powerful. People who have read it have told me they felt like they were part of the journey – they feel they came on that journey with me.
“It is seen through a child’s eyes and it is a child narrating the story. I have managed to find the right voice.”
Tommy went on to become an engineer and is now a grandad, but never forgot his poor roots. And the story keeps coming: he is now writing a sequel as what happened to the family after 1963 was also eventful.
The book has been listed in the Sunday Times bestsellers, and is on its third print run. But, in keeping with his humble upbringing, Tommy is modest.
He said: “I’m not one of those people who jumps up and down about things. But it is good that people want to read it.”
Originally self-published, the book is now published by Mirror Books. It costs £7.99 in paperback.
Tommy will be signing copies at WHSmith in Canterbury on Saturday, March 18.
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