Mrs Lowry and Son


This film, set just three and half miles down the road from me, has the wonderful message that there is always beauty in everything.  Even bare bottoms (there seem to be a lot of these on our screens lately) in Agecroft 🙂 .  And mill chimneys, railway viaducts, canal bridges, and, of course, people. On the face of it, it’s a rather bleak film about a woman who can’t accept her loss of financial and social status, and deals with it by controlling and constantly putting down her lonely middle-aged son.  But there is that message there; and it’ll particularly mean a lot to those of us who know Pendlebury, Agecroft, Farnworth, Chorlton-cum-Hardy and the other places mentioned, even if we don’t remember the days when Victoria Park was a posh area!  Superb performances from Timothy Spall and Vanessa Redgrave.  They even do pretty well with the Lancashire accents!

They aren’t today’s Manchester/Salford accents, but accents, like places, change over the years, and they work for the 1930s.  It’s 1934, and L.S. Lowry is living in Pendlebury with his mother Elizabeth – working as a rent collector, and painting in the attic in his spare time.  I’m not good with art, but I can always tell a Lowry. Matchstalk men and matchstalk cats and dogs 🙂 . We’re proud of him.  The Lowry Centre is – obviously! – named after him.  There are songs about him. There’s even a statue of him in Sam’s Chop House. Unfortunately, his mother wasn’t very proud of him.  She resented the fact that the debts left by his late father meant that they had to leave Victoria Park, quite a posh area in the 1930s, and move to a two-up two-down in a working-class part of Salford (I’m not quite clear on how a two-up two-down comes to have an attic, but never mind), she saw her son as a disappointment, and she controlled and dominated him.

I don’t think she was as bad as she’s shown here, and I don’t think he was anything like as downtrodden as he’s shown here; but it works for the sake of the film, and there was certainly a fair amount of truth to it.  The film is almost entirely about the two of them.  No-one else has more than a handful of lines, and much of the action takes place in her bedroom, which she rarely leaves.  They even eat their tea in there.  She stays there all day, whilst he goes around the area working as a rent collector.  She complains about his job, even telling him to wash his hands when he gets in, and demanding to see if they’re clean as if he were a little boy.  And she keeps on telling him that his paintings are no good.  It’s partly to put him down, to knock whatever confidence he’s got, but it’s also because most of them are of the industrial landscape and its people, our people, and she doesn’t want that – she doesn’t want the life, and she doesn’t want the depictions of it.

But he sees the beauty in it all.  The Hovis advert streets.  I’m not sure where that was filmed: nowhere in Salford actually looks like that!  Looking down on the mill chimneys of Bolton from the moors.  The canals.  The railway arches.  The miner who works at Agecroft Colliery – which was about two and a half miles from me, and, like all the other Lancashire collieries, is now closed – having a bath in the back yard and then getting out of it.  The woman with a beard.  He says that he paints, and he paints what he sees.  And it’s beautiful.

I mean, obviously industrial Lancashire is beautiful 😉 . We all know that!  But he’s got the gift of seeing beauty in everything.  At the moment, it seems as if too many people want only to see ugliness in everything.  I’m so upset about Bury FC being kicked out of the league.  L S Lowry would be too, if he were still alive.  He knew that there was beauty in going to a football match, even if he did support City!  But the beauty in it was all the support from fans of other clubs, and all the people talking about community and history and heritage without some sneering avocado-eater from Islington or Notting Hill calling them racists.  It so often seems now that people want to see hatred and ugliness in everything that anyone else says or does, and in every little thing that they see around them.  Why do people have to be like that?  Walk around the streets, look around you, look at the people around you, and see the beauty there.

She couldn’t – she didn’t even leave the house, and all she could see was disappointment.   He wanted so badly to please her, but he couldn’t.  But he’s pleased so many other people.  And he’s reminded us that there is always beauty all around us – and that’s lovely.

6 thoughts on “Mrs Lowry and Son

  1. Ruth Allen

    One of the Hovis ads was filmed in Shaftesbury (Dorset) – the steep cobbled hill (Gold Hill) – also used in the 1970s film of Far From the Madding Crowd for Fanny to crawl up, heavily pregnant. It’s a well-known local ‘sight’ for me. But I am not in touch with all the Hovis ads, as I was without a television for a number of years, and even now do all my watching via computer, so not much live, which means not many ads.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think this must have been filmed somewhere further into the Pennines. Film makers seem to have this thing that Northern pre-war films have to have steep cobbled streets! Nowhere in Salford’s actually that steep. It was the same with the recent Swallows and Amazons film, which had steep cobbled street scenes filmed in Haworth or Hebden Bridge or somewhere round there – nowhere in the Coniston Water area looks like that! Thanks for reading 🙂 .

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Chris Deeley

    Bury FC being kicked out of the League has been a sad news item here in Australia. Amazing! I’m a Liverpool man myself and reckon I could still spot differences between Liverpool and Manchester accents. I grew up in Essex, so most accents north of the Watford Gap sound a bit weird.. And guess what? After emigrating to Australia I became an avocado grower in northern New South Wales – just inland from Byron Bay – paradise!

    PS: We are still watching ‘The Crown’ – best thing we’ve ever seen on the tellie. We may never see anything else even half as good for many years to come.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m impressed that the sad news about Bury is being reported on the other side of the world! I’ve got nothing against avocados per se 🙂 – they’ve just become a symbol of supercilious people, mainly in the London area, who think that anyone who doesn’t agree with them should be disenfranchised and whose answer to everything is “You’re a racist”! Glad you’re enjoying The Crown: a lot of people are really into it.


      • Chris Deeley

        The demise of Bury FC (the ‘Shakers’!) hasn’t been widely reported here, but some people are aware of the Club’s financial woes. Bury is not alone in that respect. There has been a number of references in the press here and in the UK (see, especially, The Guardian) about how the face of Soccer is changing due to financial problems. In the old days more than a million people a week were spectators. How times have changed!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Bury spent too much money trying to get promoted, which they did … but what’s the point if you *don’t* try to get promoted? Too much TV money goes to the top divisions and not enough to the lower divisions. Very sad 😦 .


Hello! Please let me know what you think.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.