A-ha! MM’s top five… Mancunians

By Chris Bailey

MM is under no illusion – ranking the top five Mancunians is guaranteed to cause a stir.

Greater Manchester is steeped in the legacy of its sons and daughters and a quintet of names will not do our great county justice.

But with a specially designed algorithm – taking into account cultural impact and personal bias – we have conjured up a list sure-fire to make everyone happy … perhaps.

5. Steve Coogan – comedian, actor

Creator of a character that spawned a thousand catchphrases, Coogan remains one of the best comic minds of his generation.

His portrayal of an uptight, neurotic Middle Englander in Alan Partridge is still as fresh as when he first burst onto TV screens with chat show Knowing Me, Knowing You – forever tainting the Abba hit.

But that’s not the only string to his bow. Paul Calf is a lost gem among his comedy creations, while undervalued TV series – such as Saxondale and The Trip – are worth repeated watches.

His movie career has not flourished quite as much, but he has tread water in Hollywood where most other British comedians have sunk. A-Ha!

4. LS Lowry – artist

Lowry’s distinctive paintings have left an indelible mark on the legacy of industry in the north-west.

Textile mills, billowing chimneys, hordes of factory workers striving to make ends meet – this was the scene of many towns and cities after the Industrial Revolution.

Arguably, it was not until Lowry’s portrayals in the early 20th century that Britain could introspectively assess the reality of working-class life.

His name now lends itself to perhaps the finest arts centre in the land – The Lowry in Salford Quays – ironically helping to rejuvenate impoverished areas scarred by post-industry Britain.

3. Morrissey – musician

Almost everyone has an opinion on Morrissey the man, not just Morrissey the musician. It is doubtless, however, that the broody crooner has etched his name into music folklore.

His undulating melodies fluttered over the guitar work of Johnny Marr to form a soundscape both rich and unique back in the 1980s.

Most impressively, The Smiths did not resort to tinny boom box beats and gloopy synths so often associated with the era – they shot to stardom on their own terms.

And not many can lay claim to trumping Moz’s lyrics – especially in a musical epoch where a song chuntering on about ‘sexy ladies’ tops the charts.

He does prattle on about meat a bit too much though.

2. JJ Thomson – physicist

It is no shame to not know of JJ Thomson, but his influence is to the chagrin of many who study Physics from GCSE onwards – a Shakespeare of the sciences, if you will.

It was he who first deduced that atoms are not the smallest bits of matter after discovering electrons in 1897.

Why are electrons so important? MM would need a physics doctorate to tell you, but Thomson’s influence can be traced in modern technology such as televisions and computers.

He was also a great purveyor of knowledge – along with himself, seven of his research assistants and even his own son picked up Nobel Prizes for their continued work in the field.

1. Emmeline Pankhurst – suffragette

So far we’ve covered comedy, art, music and science in a broad celebration of our Mancunian heritage.

But none stands out as more pivotal than the influence of Emmeline Pankhurst.

Feminists are often satirised in modernity for taking the moral high-ground on ridiculously frivolous issues, but Pankhurst fought tooth and nail for the basic right to vote.

For too long mealy-mouthed women had been too timid at the forefront of the suffragette movement – that all changed when our fair lady took the reins.

She rallied women at the start of the 20th century to make themselves heard by “deeds, not words,” and vigorous protests garnered an outpour of national sympathy.

Continually harassed by police who were often violent with female protesters, Pankhurst also showed incredible strength of will when force-fed during a hunger strike in prison.

After Britain entered World War One she placed all her strength behind the war effort, but her critics chastised her for not renewing enough fight for women’s suffrage after it had ended.

However, on the year of her death, a women’s vote on equal terms with men was established and it may have come much later without Emmeline Pankhurst’s revolution.

Honourable mentions:

Anthony Burgess – Playwright, author, poetry, literary critic – a wizard of words. Notably wrote A Clockwork Orange.

Danny Boyle – Director of Trainspotting, Slumdog Millionaire and the London 2012 opening ceremony.

Noel Gallagher – Still going strong post-Oasis and has composed timeless anthems such as Wonderwall and Champagne Supernova.

Paul Scholes – The Salford-born midfielder has had a glorious two decades at Manchester United and is renowned for being one of the best passers in the world of football.

Do you agree with MM’s list? Or does it twist your melon that Shaun Ryder isn’t No.1? Have your say below.

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Picture courtesy of orayzio, with thanks

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