The eternal battle in journalism is to decipher what exactly is the difference between news in the public interest, and news that’s interesting to the public.
This story from the pages of the Eccles and Patricroft Journal from August 1916 shows that while newspapers deal in both of the above, articles revealing salacious details of the affairs of your neighbours are still the most popular.
Here, on a Saturday morning in August the residents of Birch Avenue and Fir Street in Cadishead were treated to a rather unusual spectacle.
The circumstances around the story are almost farcical but worth retelling as a warning to would-be errant husbands.
An unnamed woman living on Birch Avenue received a letter supposedly written by her husband’s mother, who lived in faraway Scotland.
The mother-in-law wrote that she was so ill she “feared for her life”, and begged to be able to come and meet her daughter-in-law in Cadishead.
Unusually, she did not write to her dutiful son.
However the woman lost no time in rushing to Scotland to tend to her mother-in-law, whom she assumed was at death’s door.
It was a shock to find, then, that the elderly woman was not only in rude health, but had no knowledge of the letter.
Not unexpectedly the woman, accompanied by her no doubt irate mother-in-law, caught an express train back to Manchester and then made their way to Cadishead.
Lo and behold when she opened the door to her house she was met by another woman – said to be “a soldier’s wife” who lived in Rochdale.
Now, if this happened to you, what do you think your reaction would be?
Certainly what happened next was unprecedented.
The shocked and distressed woman called the police who arrived and made enquiries, advising the soldier’s wife to leave the house without delay.
As word spread – like wildfire no doubt – her neighbours, excited by the scandal and the presence of the police on their street, decided to make a show of solidarity for the spurned wife.
In what would have made a stunning photograph (which sadly does not appear to exist), local residents lined the street to shout boos and cat-calls at the ‘scarlet women’, a crowd even following her to the railway station to ensure that she left the neighbourhood!
The neighbours no doubt, excited by the presence of the police and a, no doubt, ‘scarlet woman’ in their presence made a show of solidarity for the spurned wife.
The reporter from the Eccles and Patricroft Journal had a way with irony, calling it “a very warm send off” and I should imagine it was.
The newspaper then states that the husband was given the same treatment when he dared to walk along the street, as these puritannical defenders of morality lay in wait, eager to vent their wrath on him.
No police charges were brought but the whole event scandalised the neighbourhood.
I have no idea whether the couple maintained a happy life after this incident but I doubt it very much.
I should imagine he was made to live a dog’s life for a very long time, with his wife and mother under the same roof reminding him of his infidelity.
If I had been him I think I would have been tempted to leave Cadishead and join the army or go and live with the ‘scarlet woman’ – either would surely lead to a happier or quieter life.
Main image: Liverpool Road, Cadishead © Salford Local History Library