On Sunday Afternoon, that is the 30 th, I was sitting in my front lounge and noticed there seemed to be an inordinately large amount of traffic driving up and to a lesser extent down our road. The road itself stands off the main route into town so traffic generally passes by. It makes our road quiet and peaceful most of the time and the only noises we hear are those of exceptionally noisy vehicles or emergency vehicles driving along the main road some 120 metres away. Being a curious person by nature I took a stroll down to the road because I could see some traffic cones across the junction. There was a police officer sitting in his car and I asked him why the main road was cordoned off. He told me that a sink hole had appeared in the road some 150 metres ahead and that a vehicle had driven into it! He was waiting for the local authority’s workforce to arrive and take over the situation. In Southport we do have a problem with sink holes but generally they have usually appeared south from where I live, again on the main route into town. Perhaps it is the amount of traffic which triggers sink holes developing but I do know there are a couple of underground rivulets in the area. One of the main ones has been long since named ‘The River Nile’ and it can be seen on the beach if you know where to look. Much of the coast along here in West Lancashire is sand though most of it is fortunately stable. As I write this on the Monday I have no idea how long the repair work will take and how long therefore we shall have to endure the unusual heavy traffic. Many years ago when I lived in Liverpool we lived on a main trunk road into the city, actually not far, about a half-mile from the famous ‘Lime Street’. There is a folk song about a woman called Maggie Mae, a prostitute who reportedly ‘walked along’ (solicited) there.
As with most folk songs, the lyrics exist in many variant forms. The song specifies several real streets in Liverpool, notably Lime Street in the centre of the city. The Beatles’ version by John Lennon / Paul McCartney / George Harrison / Richard Starkey is as follows:
Oh dirty Maggie Mae they have taken her away
And she never walk down Lime Street any more
Oh the judge he guilty found her
For robbing a homeward bounder
That dirty no good robbin’ Maggie Mae
To the port of Liverpool
They returned me to
Two pounds ten a week, that was my pay.
In the most established version, it is sung in the first person by a sailor who has come home to Liverpool from Sierra Leone. He is paid off for the trip. With his wages in his pocket, he sees Maggie “cruising up and down old Canning Place”. She had “a figure so divine” (either “like a frigate of the line” or with “a voice so refined”). He picks her up and she takes him home to her lodgings. When he awakes the following morning, she has taken all his money and even his clothes, insisting that they are in “Kelly’s locker”, a pawn shop. When he fails to find his clothes in the pawn shop, he contacts the police. She is found guilty of theft and sentenced to transportation to Botany Bay.
While the most famous version of the chorus contains the line “she’ll never walk down Lime Street any more”, Stan Hugill in his Shanties from the Seven Seas writes that in different versions several streets are named, referring to different historical red light areas of Liverpool, including Paradise Street, Peter Street and Park Lane
The Liverpool Sailors’ Home in Canning Place, c. 1860. The sailor is “paid off at the Home” and meets Maggie “cruising up and down” the square. In one version of the lyrics she is wearing a “crin-o-line”, the bell-shaped dress worn by the woman in the foreground.
In those days they didn’t have the traffic we have today, not even the relatively small amount going up and down our road just now!