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Sixties Day Out: Across The Mersey To New Brighton

Updated on May 1, 2015

A Day In New Brighton: Ferry Across The Mersey

I was a child of Sixties Liverpool, in a family with little money. We didn't have holidays but we did get days out - and our favourite was to go across the Mersey to New Brighton, funfair, beach and gorgeous-smelling street food (or hamburgers, as we called it then).

Up early, butties made -- sandwiches that is -- cheese, jam or fish paste. Orange squash in odd bottles, bottles of Dandelion and Burdock lemonade if Dad had had overtime recently. An apple or two and a promise of something more exciting "when we get there".

On the bus, sometimes pick up Grandma along the way -- BOOOOO -- and into town, (Skelhorne Street Bus Station in the centre of Liverpool, that is), Walk to the Pier Head and there it is -- The Mersey Ferry Terminal.

Image: New Brighton Lighthouse at low tide By Lukasz Lukomski (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons

Have you been to Liverpool?

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Ferry Across The Mersey

Yes, the one Gerry Marsden sang about

Liverpool was a working port in those days -- and it was long before containers were heard of. Huge liners docked here, the Royal Iris and the Royal Daffodil went back and forth to the Isle Of Man (wherever that was to this little urchin). The boat we'd come for though was the one that mattered to me. The Mersey Ferry! It probably looks ancient to you now but for me it was every ocean-going ship I'd ever read about, it was smells of tar and brine, it was seagulls mewing, it was winds like I'd felt nowhere else, it was a playground for the imagination that couldn't be bettered.

Stow Grandma, Mum and sisters in the covered area -- brother and me up on top deck. "Don't fall overboard, you two." "No, Mum". Not for want of trying anyway: those railings were begging to be climbed. Even the wobbly gangplank at either end of the voyage was scary and exciting.

Gerry Marsden's Classic Song - Ferry 'cross the Mersey

Ferry 'cross the Mersey - Classic Sixties pop

British Invasion: Gerry & The Pacemakers - It's Gonna Be All Right, 1963-1965
British Invasion: Gerry & The Pacemakers - It's Gonna Be All Right, 1963-1965

Lovely DVD with 17 songs: Gerry and the Pacemakers were the Liverpool band for a while, setting chart records that lasted years. Very much like the Beatles, they were working class Liverpool lads, with musical roots in the Skiffle era, and they produced some classic songs, from I LIke It to Ferry and the lovely Don't Let The Sun Catch You Crying. Lack of ambition kept them from developing - mind you, Gerry today is short and fat and never stops smiling - he still sings his songs and audiences still love him.


New Brighton Fairground

And amusement arcades - hooraaayyy!

And on to Part Two of the day: the funfair. Now, all you younger viewers, you'll be thinking Alton Towers or Disney here -- you'd be surprised and perhaps horrified if you saw a Sixties funfair. To me though it was fantastic. Again the smells: diesel and candyfloss and more hamburgers (we weren't spoiled for choice in those days) and the ultimate -- deep-fried doughnuts, hot and greasy and sticky with enough sugar to give an elephant diabetes.

The rides -- garish and loud and bright and strange. The monster ride -- the Rollercoaster (yes, that's its proper name). No space-age theme, just a very rickety wooden structure that looked like a good wind would move it a few miles down the coast to Birkenhead. Health And Safety people would condemn it on the spot these days -- to a small boy it was the ultimate experience -- it was supposed to sway like that, the cars were supposed to clank and shudder and feel as though they were falling apart.

Okay then, Grandma's flagging - find a bench or sit on the beach and have a couple of butties and a swig of warm orange. Eat quickly cos the amusement arcade awaits -- beg a couple of shillings from Mum, race over to the arcade and change them (at a booth, no machines in those days) into pennies -- old pennies. On to the waterfall -- knowing you'd never win but you still had to try. The crane to win a tatty little toy -- never, ever seen anyone win on this!

Gambling habit well instilled, back to the matriarchs. If Grandma can last a bit longer, buckets and spades out and sandcastles to build. Then a spit and hankie wipedown (yuk) and back to the ferry. Knackered, grubby, happy.

merseyside maritime museum by albert dock
merseyside maritime museum by albert dock

Visiting Liverpool

Some websites that will help Everything from accommodation to food to theatres -- excellent site, well maintained

What's On LIverpool: Similar to VisitLiverpool, also well maintained

TrainLine: Train journey info throughout UK: best site for good prices and booking

Mersey Travel: Local bus and train info, including details of travel passes

LIverpool Museums: Museums plus major art galleries - the Walker Art Gallery is one of the most underpublicised gems of the nation

Liverpool Confidential:LIverpool Confidential - rough and ready local site, great restaurant reviews

If You Want A Cathedral - We've got one to spare

Liverpool has two cathedrals (see below). In the famous line "we've got one to spare" you'll often hear a few scallies (naughty people) singing "two".

Liverpool Anglican Cathedral exterior
Liverpool Anglican Cathedral exterior

The Anglican Cathedral

Liverpool Cathedral

The Anglican Cathedral is a beautiful edifice fashioned in the local red sandstone. Gothic in style, designed by Sir Giles Scott, it was built in the 20th Century yet commands the heights as though it was centuries older. Inside is even more majestic - have a look at the cathedral website for some wonderful pictures and details for visitors. (The cathedral does casual and guided tours.)

Image copyright Diocese of Liverpool, used with permission.

Liverpool Catholic Cathedral
Liverpool Catholic Cathedral

The Catholic Cathedral

Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ The KIng

Walk along Hope Street from the Anglican Cathedral and you'll come to a hugely different building - the Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ The KIng (the Catholic Cathedral for short). Another 20th Century building, this is radical in design and implementation material - concrete. It continues to arouse very mixed feelings, it's locally known as the Mersey Funnel, yet it has won the affection of many. The vast open space inside and its unique layout form a perfect area for worshippers, bathed in the light shining through the huge stained glass lantern window.within the tower.

Image copyright Archdiocese of Liverpool, used with permission.

The Grimy Sixties - Liverpool has definitely changed!

Dr. Zhivago
Dr. Zhivago

What Else Happened In 1966?

My tenth birthday was a major event.

In other parts of the world:

  • Ronald Reagan became governor of California and Indira Gandhi was elected Prime Minister of India
  • England won the World Cup
  • Luna 9 and Surveyor 1 landed on the moon
  • USA put health warnings on cigarette packets
  • First episode of Star Trek
  • Dr. Zhivago released
  • Pampers introduce the disposable diaper

ribble bus
ribble bus

What Bus Did We Get?

Actually been asked this! The L85, Ribble. Red double decker -- they all were for Ribble. Corpie buses didn't come out Crosby/Thornton way.

(Corpie = Corporation, from calling the then local government authority the Corporation). Their buses were green and cream and looked manky compared witt Ribble's red.

New Brighton Beach
New Brighton Beach

Photo Credits

Childhood Excursions: Your Memories - Your comments and memories please

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    • patinkc profile image

      patinkc 2 years ago from Midwest

      Enjoyed reading your page!

    • annmackiemiller profile image

      annmackiemiller 2 years ago from Bingley Yorkshire England

      I've got that tune in my head now. great trip down memory lane with this trip across the Mersey

    • Margaret Schindel profile image

      Margaret Schindel 2 years ago from Massachusetts

      I remember Ferry 'Cross the Mersey from my youth very well. I can imagine what fun you and your family had during those trips. Thanks for the vicarious memories.

    • Diane Cass profile image

      Diane Cass 2 years ago from New York

      Like you, my family didn't have a lot of money for vacations. We would often just hop in the car and go for a drive, no destination in mind. It was always such an adventure. Your trips on the ferry sound like so much fun.

    • annieangel1 profile image

      Ann 2 years ago from Yorkshire, England

      now I have that tune stuck in my head - ah those were the days.

    • profile image

      julieannbrady 3 years ago

      OMG! That was a good year for me as I was coming into my awakening as a young gal. Loved the song.

    • SusannaDuffy profile image

      Susanna Duffy 3 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      Diesel, fairyfloss and deep-fried doughnuts are smells from my childhood too. But that '56, not '66 and a long way away from LIverpool

    • profile image

      MaggiePowell 4 years ago

      My parents didn't have much money, but every Sunday we'd take a drive somewhere and picnic... Huntington Beach if it was warm, Mt.Baldy for a good hike or to visit snow, and the Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens (since my father was friends with the head groundskeeper we got to get in free).

    • Wednesday-Elf profile image

      Wednesday-Elf 4 years ago from Savannah, Georgia

      I had no idea that 'Ferry 'cross the Mersey" was about an actual ferry and place. I remember the song well. What fun reading about your memories of the Mersey and your 'days out' at New Brighton beach and funfair. My 'similar' memories are of "Roseland", an amusement park on Canandaigua Lake - one of the Fingerlakes in New York State. As a 10 and 12 year old we could ride our bikes down the hill (3 miles - but nothing to a kid on a bike!) to the lake and for 10 cents we could buy an ice cream cone AND ride the Merry-Go-Round! The neatest part of Roseland is it lasted until MY children were old enough to experience it (though the prices of rides {and food} had greatly increased), but it was a joy to share my happy childhood memories with my own kids! :)

    • gottaloveit2 profile image

      gottaloveit2 4 years ago

      I really enjoyed reading this article - I knew the Mersey existed of course but nothing more. Well done.

    • profile image

      poutine 4 years ago

      Listening to "Ferry 'cross the Mersey ". Good song.

    • Missmerfaery444 profile image

      Missmerfaery444 4 years ago

      Been to New Brighton a few times, although must go again soon as it's all done up new now! I was a southern girl in my childhood so it involved Clacton beaches or lots of trips out to lovely places in Suffolk or Norfolk. One favourite was going to Bressingham steam museum once a year to ride the steam trains and steam carousel!

    • KathyMcGraw2 profile image

      Kathy McGraw 5 years ago from California

      Memories of childhood take me to Baja Mexico where my grandparents had a trailer on the beach. We would play all day, scrunch into that small place, and fight with each other (3 of us) to see who got to sleep in the bathtub!

      BTW...absolutely loved your story of your trips, but felt sorry for granma :)

    • LiteraryMind profile image

      Ellen Gregory 5 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      Interesting. Reminds me of our sometime Sunday afternoon daytrip on the Staten Island ferry in New York. Per person it was 5 cents and I believe it was $5.00 to take the car. There was nothing special in Staten Island, we would just drive around. It was the trip that mattered and the hot chestnuts we'd get from vendors on the dock.

    • Frischy profile image

      Frischy 5 years ago from Kentucky, USA

      Although I have never been to the place, this lens took me back to the time. I cannot remember any vacations in the mid-sixties either, but around this time my parents decided to buy a large canvas tent. I remember a series of nightmarish camping trips. I had no regrets when they decided to give up that hobby!

    • SusannaDuffy profile image

      Susanna Duffy 5 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      What a long time ago it was when I first heard that song and I always wanted to take that ferry! Here I am, almost 50 years later, and I still haven't made it to Liverpool - much less tell the ferry to take me across the Mersey

    • profile image

      Ruthi 5 years ago

      I had to read it through twice so as not to miss a moment of your memories. I really enjoyed the ferry ride, as well as the tune from the past, and had such fun at the New Brighton Fairground. And now I, too, am knackered! But it's a jolly good tired, thank you! Blessings and a bit o' sunshine!

    • Joyce Mann profile image

      Joyce T. Mann 5 years ago from Bucks County, Pennsylvania USA

      I've always loved reading about Liverpool ever since the Beatles first came to the states. Regarding 1966, I well remember the cigarette warnings and the release of Dr. Zhivago which remains my all-time favorite movie.

    • Lemming13 profile image

      Lemming13 5 years ago

      I am a Stokie, so our days out were to Prestatyn or Rhyl, but I've also spent enough time in Liverpool to get a good dose of nostalgia here. Super lens, thanks for sharing.

    • profile image

      marsha32 5 years ago

      Neat lens Paul--thanks so much for sharing it with me.

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