The statement, "It's a small world" seems to have cropped up so often in my life that I could probably open another blog devoted entirely to examples from my own experience. However, my madrileño friend, Luis, tells me that lately I have not been giving this one the attention it deserves; that is even more true of my Spanish language blog, so perhaps two blogs is a sensible limit.
The trouble is that I have another interest which grabs my attention quite obsessively from time to time, so that other things tend to get neglected. That other interest is genealogy, or to be precise, my and my wife's family tree. Over the last year or two (it's probably more if I look properly) I have made good progress with three of my grandparents and with three of my wife's. Ironically, I am having most trouble with the least common surnames - Fullegar and Lanigan. I have recently been revisiting the Lanigan thread, my mother's paternal ancestors.
My mother took great pride, with justification, at the progress which her father had made in life. John Lanigan was born in 1869 to an Irish tailor and his dressmaker wife, Matthew and Mary Lanigan, in what Friedrich Engels referred to as "the classic slum'; this was the Greengate area of the city of Salford, a low-lying, ill-drained, massively overcrowded area in a loop of the River Irwell. The houses had been hurriedly thrown up with scant regard to anything but the need to put roofs over the heads of the people swarming into the area from the countryside and from Ireland to find work in the dozens of mills and factories which the arrival of the Industrial Revolution had given birth to. The houses were shoddily built, ill-provided with sanitation, small and hugely overcrowded. Into this festering quagmire was born my grandfather, the second youngest of six children; the whole family would have lived in a single room at No 6 Barrow's Court, thankfully long gone. He grew from this to become (ironically) Chief Sanitary Officer for the City of Salford, the equivalent in today's terminology of Director of Environmental Health. As I said, a justifiable cause for family pride.
However, during the time since my last posting to this blog, I have found out a little more about his father, Matthew Lanigan, my great-grandfather. He, it transpires, had already bettered himself by the time that his fifth child was born. On arriving from Ireland at some stage during the 1850s ( His marriage is recorded as being in the 3rd quarter of 1858 in Manchester), he lived not in Greengate, but in what I have discovered was an even more desperately deprived area, were that conceivable. His address in the 1861 census is given as 22 Beswick Row on the Manchester side of the Irwell in an area know as Angel Meadow. Essentially, it seems to have been an Irish ghetto in the shadow of Manchester's cathedral, covering an area of approximately 1 mile square. Into this hellhole was crammed in the mid-1850s a population larger than that of the whole of the rest of the city of Manchester. My great-grandfather had at least managed to escape to the somewhat less appalling Greengate by 1869.
And the small world? Well, I looked in the Manchester A to Z Street Map. Beswick Row still exists as a street. In the early 1970s, my office was no more than 200 yards from my great-grandfather's front door!