I have written extensively about the lost buildings of Liverpool but today’s blog is about another lost institution – that of good journalism. If we are to judge a period in history by its newspapers then today’s sad offerings would be an interesting pointer. Both Liverpool Echo and Daily Post seem to have finally abandoned the kind of reporting that was once the hallmark of the best provincial papers. The old adage about today’s paper being tomorrow’s fish and chips wrapper could not be more apt (even if they no longer use newpapers for that purpose). Looking back at a golden age of jounalism, I was taken by an 1889 article in the Liverpool Review captioned Eight Hours on the Landing Stage.

During the summer months, the Landing Stage is seen at its best from midday until 7 or 8 o’clock at night. Through the intervening hours, the bridges and approaches are thronged with continuous streams of people on pleasure bent. The greater number of this day-by-day procession are trippers from inland towns, to whom a look at the Mersey and the ships is next to a peep at heaven, and our own Liverpudlian mammas who, when father, dear old struggle, is toiling over his desk, or dodging six months’ bills, take upon themselves the pleasurable duty of giving the children an airing.
Arrived on the Landing Stage, the half-dozen streams of health-hunting holiday seekers converge towards the ferry boats, those plying to Egremont and New Brighton getting the bulk of the passengers. Going down the gangway on to the boats there is, as a matter of course, a good deal of clinging to mamma’s jacket or dress, and a chorus of maternal voices, while a score of maternal eyes anxiously look round, call out, “Now, Charlie, mind where you are going!” “Are you behind me, Cissie?” and a dozen other directions besides.
… Of the boatsmen and hangers-on who dawdle about the Landing Stage from early morn to dewy eve, I can tell you nothing that is not well known; the boatsmen dawdle about for jobs, the hangers-on dawdle, dawdle, dawdle for anything gratis from a copper to a quid of tobacco. The hangers-on who really contrive to enjoy themselves are the hatless, bare-footed, ragged urchins, whose sole ambition in life appears to be to live with dirty, crust hands and face and dodge around policemen. They are remarkably expert at the latter amusement, and on the Landing Stage live in an Elysium of laughter, horse-play and dodgery. PC No. _ and a few others know this to their cost. I must admit that I like these young ragamuffins ‘baiting’ and so do the bystanders.

If only today’s Echo or Daily Post could rustle up such meaningful accounts – but that would be running against the grain of contemporary editorial requirements.

Landing Stage 1900

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