The Moon Landing – Warrington Reacts!
Collections Officer Craig Sherwood looks into how Warrington reacted to people walking on the moon in July 1969…
This past weekend marked the 50th anniversary of the historic lunar landing by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin (ably supported in orbit by pilot Michael Collins). The event was commemorated around the world as part of the #Apollo50th campaign, so we thought it might be interesting to add a Warrington perspective by taking a quick look back at how Warrington newspapers reported on this momentous mission.
Unfortunately after a quick bit of research it appears that Warrington newspapers barely mentioned the moon landings at all.
In fairness the late 1960s was an era when the local press was a very local press and so the momentous achievement of landing men on the moon would only have been of interest to the local papers if a Warringtonian had actually been involved somewhere in the proceedings. Unfortunately the actions of three Americans over 384,400 kilometres away were deemed of little interest to the town’s residents and the Warrington Guardian instead decided to lead with a headline about the headmistress of a school in Bewsey who was bemoaning a decline in modern standards of decency …
… and yet if you look carefully there are the odd mentions of the Apollo 11 mission in the Warrington newspapers of July 1969.
For instance the Warrington Guardian of 23rd July 1969 records that the pupils of Grappenhall Bradshaw Primary School had been making scale models of the Saturn V rocket, the Apollo Lunar Module and even the launch pad as they followed the progress of the Apollo Mission.
Sadly few of the Grappenhall pupils who had spent so long making models of the Apollo 11 mission and could now “talk quite knowledgeably about the subject” would see the moment that Neil Armstrong first stepped on the moon live as preparations took much longer than expected and so the first moon walk occurred in the small hours of the morning.
While the moon landings are quite rightly seen today as a moment of hope and achievement it is important to remember that the late 1960s was a time of economic stagnation in the United Kingdom as a post-war industrial boom had begun to turn into a decline that would eventually lead to the three day week and the winter of discontent. On the 23rd July 1969 a local poet named A. Chessem contributed the the poem ‘Man in Two Worlds’ to the Warrington Guardian.
A. Chessem’s bittersweet poem balances wonder in NASA’s achievement with the knowledge that there were simultaneously many problems back here on Earth including war, famine and unemployment. Sad to say but similar problems – and new ones – continue to plague the planet Earth 50 years later in 2019.
Where some Warringtonians saw hope or felt conflicted in the moon landings, others saw a marketing opportunity. The award for most tenuous moon landing marketing opportunity in the Warrington Newspapers of July 1969 goes to Murray’s clothing stall at Warrington Market.
Murray’s obviously saw the momentous human achievement of landing human beings on the moon as an ideal opportunity to point out that, unlike NASA’s spacesuits which cost upwards of $100,000 each, the people of Warrington could depend on Murray’s to supply reasonably priced “teenage” raincoats and “fresh crisp” cotton dresses. As the Apollo Mission spacesuits were designed and made by a bra manufacturer we can only speculate as to the savings Murray’s might have been able to pass on to NASA had they got the contract instead.
I’m going to end this news article with a clipping from the Warrington Guardian which deals with the theory that the moon landings were faked. Despite the huge amount of evidence – including 382 kilograms of moon rock that were collected across 6 lunar missions; corroboration from the USSR, Japan and China; and images from the NASA Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter showing the tracks made by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin in the moondust – belief that the moon landings were an elaborate hoax has blossomed since 1969.
In the above article from August 1969 the Warrington Guardian journalist records that BBC radio had received incontrovertible evidence that the moon landings were faked. Moon landing conspiracy theories are many and varied but this was one I genuinely had not heard before – the listener pointed out that the moon landings were obviously a hoax as they had studied the moon through a pair binoculars on the night in question and they hadn’t spotted a single astronaut!
Luke Jerram’s artwork ‘Museum of the Moon’ featuring detailed NASA imagery of the lunar surface will be at Parr Hall from Friday 4th October to Monday 14th October 2019. See https://warringtonartsfestival.co.uk/event/moon for details.