From ‘buried alive’ stunt to England’s oldest man: Glimpse into Manchester’s past in archive videos

Toupée fittings, Police sports days and horsemeat scandals are among the weird and wonderful Manchester videos hitting the web, thanks to British Pathé.

The archivists have unearthed some Manchester gems from the past by releasing their extensive archive of over 85,000 historical films available to watch on YouTube. 

The collection of newsreels and documentaries, ranging from 1896 to 1976, capture some of the most iconic moments of the 20th century – and Pathe has delved into its extensive archives to treat viewers to glimpses of the past.

MM have used the features to provide an alternative look into the some of the lesser-known lights of Manchester’s history.

Manchester Police Sports Day (1928)

This slightly surreal silent film shows police competing in curious sporting events.

We presume these are ‘knocking heads while mounted’ ‘crawling through horse legs while bearded’ and, most bizarrely, ‘racing as a one-man wheel’.

Manchester pensioner is England’s oldest man (1937)

“Say Michael, to what do you attribute your great age?”

This short clip follows England’s oldest man, who claimed to be 123 at the time, hobbling down a street and enigmatically smoking a pipe.

The Horsemeat Scandal (1948)

Long before Tesco had ‘horse burgers’, the original horsemeat scandal hit a post-war Manchester still in the grip of rationing.

This newsreel deliriously claims that the demand for black market horsemeat is so high that large breeds are ‘threatened with extinction’.

Buried Alive Stunt Goes Wrong (1949)

A 24-year-old escape artist from Manchester decided to emulate his idol Harry Houdini by burying himself alive naked in a grave and then attempting to escape. What happens? The clue is in the title.

Father Xmas Arrives In Manchester (1951)

This short film is included because of its sheer absurdity: a silent two minutes of Father Christmas flying in – apparently from Switzerland – to distribute racist toys to pilots.

Manchester United Players Die in Munich Air Crash (1958)

“Back in Manchester news of the accident stunned not only the team’s supporters but everyone in the city. It was as if their own families had been involved.”

Part of the Pathé archive includes the series A Day That Shook The World covering major world events. 

Here it shows news coverage of the Munich air crash that claimed the lives of 23 people, including seven of Manchester United’s all-conquering ‘Busby’s babes’.

FA Cup Final Highlights – Bolton v Manchester United (1958)

Following the Munich tragedy, a Manchester United side decimated by deaths and injuries managed to scrape together side to compete in the FA Cup Final.

Noted as one of the top 10 finals of all-time, here are the highlights as the Red Devils bravely succumbed to a 2-0 defeat.

Phone In Your Car! (1959)

“Motorists in the North know that Earth hath her triumphs, no less renowned than the Moon’s!”

The future as imagined by the great minds of the 50s.  This clip predicts in-car phones will ‘very likely’ catch on – but nagging wives will remain.

The voiceover also seems to condone drink-driving, but since it was not yet an offence to drive while ‘unfit through drink or drugs’ until 1960, this can be put down to more innocent, yet deadlier, times on the city’s roads.

Men, Have A Perm! (1960)

“You too can be the idol of the coffee bars. Have a perm and what girl will look the other way?”

The 1960 Gold Cup competition for the ‘Haute Coiffeur Internationale’ shows the serious business of male vanity during National Hair and Beauty Week.

New Look Toupées (1963)

“The moral for bald men? If you want to get a girl, get a-head – of hair!”

This charmingly tongue-in-cheek short demonstrates toupee-making services.

It’s more like a Monty Python sketch, complete with ‘international stylist’ Cyril Packer, than an advert we’d recognise today.

The Beatles Come to Town (1963)

Beatlemania hit Manchester and this reel shows scenes of the hysterical crowds who queued for two days to see the Fab Four play at the ABC Ardwick Cinema.

Watch out for the two men at 4:26 playing it cool amongst the hordes of screaming teenage girls.

Charity Football Match (1969)

“The ladies set off goalwards, it was they who made the passes on this occasion.”

All-female side Blinkers United, a ‘glamour girl’s XI’, play a charity match against an all-star men’s team led by footballing heart throb George Best.

The game descends into anarchy as players muck about and outright cheat.

Related Articles