Liverpool's 'Catholic Pictorial' at 50

922801772_Cathedral02.jpg To mark the 50th anniversary of the Liverpool 'Catholic Pictorial' which was first published on Sunday 7 January 1962, Ann Todd takes a look back to the very first issue.

'We intend that the majority of people will recognise a new friend in the Catholic Pictorial.  It is a new newspaper and so like the fresh friend, it will be thrilling to explore.'  With these confident words from editor Norman Cresswell, the first edition of the Catholic Pictorial made its appearance on 7 January 1962.  The front page featured Archbishop Heenan, who blessed the newspaper’s offices at 39 Stafford Street, together with a cherubic boy who had stopped His Grace for a blessing. 'Hello,' said the lad. 'Hello,' replied the Archbishop.  The story continued: 'And now it is our turn to say "Hello" as well to thousands of new friends.'

Readers were promised 27 packed pages of local news.  In his editorial, Cresswell spelt out the aims.  This was a weekly newspaper wishing to inform and entertain with news and views from all over the Archdiocese but it would also seek to project the Catholic point of view among non-Catholic friends.

The first issue featured a welcome message from Pope John XXIII, which ran: 'Invoking upon your Grace, upon the Editors and staff of the new publication and all who support it a rich abundance of choices, graces and favours, the Holy Father lovingly imparts thereof of his special paternal benedictions.'  The Anglican Bishop Clifford also wrote a greeting, calling for all 'Christian people' to respond to 'the strong forces of materialism' by seeking 'to discover more common ground in a spirit of charity and goodwill'.

The Pic, into which the 31-year-old Cathedral Record was now incorporated, went on sale five days after building operations began on the Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King.  Monsignor Cyril Taylor described the paper as 'a most exciting venture in keeping with the spirit of the times'.

This was a time when the Pope was calling for an end to fighting in the Congo, St Ambrose Church was opened in Speke and, on a more frivolous note, Tommy Steele – who was interviewed in the paper – was playing Humpty Dumpty at the Liverpool Empire.  'Twist Around The Clock' with Chubby Checker was on at the Rialto, South Pacific at the Odeon, and The Young Ones at the Liverpool Forum.  There was dancing at the Locarno Ballroom in West Derby and ice skating at the Silver Blades Ice Rink on Prescot Road, Anfield.   Adverts showed you could get a lady’s dress at the Liverpool Co-op for 19/11, shoes for the same price, and a boy’s school cap for 2/11.  The new Hillman Super Minx cost £727 at the Airport Garage on Speke Hall Road. Ah, those were the days!

There was certainly a plenty of variety in the Pic. Readers were told that the number of Catholics in the Archdiocese now numbered over half a million.  During the last year the Catholic population had risen by 10,000 to 504,000, making Catholics one in four of the total population. 

There was a fascinating story about the Spanish government’s attempt to impose European working hours, so threatening the ancient tradition of the siesta.  This decree failed, not to the surprise of the author, who noted that Spaniards could not easily be 'dragooned' to do whatever their government ordered.

There were pictures of smiling newlyweds, and The Junior Pic, with stories and cartoons, included the much-loved Mickey Mouse and Uncle Remus.  I particularly loved the photographs of the Little Sisters of the Assumption with the new scooters they had acquired for their errands of mercy in south Liverpool.  Sister Michael, the first to 'have a go', had passed her test at the first attempt and now most of the community were competent riders – the mercy squad of Liverpool!

There was a touching story too of a family of 11 orphans who had found a new mum and dad for Christmas.  The Huyton home of their foster parents, which was visited and blessed by Archbishop Heenan, had been specifically built for them by the council.  The children, aged 17 to 15 months, had been orphaned since their mother died six months earlier, their father having died the previous year.

Another moving article focused on loneliness and ideas of how to solve that problem in a big city like Liverpool.  There were also hints to women on how to stock up their linen cupboards and wardrobes with January bargains, and a cookery corner with a recipe for fruit pie.  The men were not forgotten, with three pages of sport, including reports on St Edward’s Old Boys Rugby Club and Sacred Heart Youth Club, Chorley’s newly formed soccer team, along with news of the Liverpool and District Amateur Billiards Championship.

The inaugural issue certainly fulfilled Monsignor Taylor’s stated remit that the paper should meld entertainment with news of diocesan activities. 'It will present a happy blending of the serious and the light. In each copy there will be sound instruction, interesting gossip – much of it in pictures – and plenty of fun.'  He added: 'The Pic belongs to the Archdiocese and will be produced by local talent. It will serve the Archdiocese as a whole and will not in any way be identified merely with Liverpool. All Catholic organisations will find in it a medium for contacting their members and keeping them informed of activities.  There will be a weekly diary of events so that readers can see at a glance what is happening.  There will be features for women and children, a novel crossword puzzle and competitions from time to time.  In short, it will be a family paper with interest and value for all. Let us then adopt the slogan: A CATHOLIC PICTORIAL IN EVERY CATHOLIC HOME, and work to make it a reality.'

Norman Cresswell in his editorial made an even bolder pledge.  He promised 'to be an ACTION paper, above all else. Make no mistake about it, the Pictorial believes in CATHOLIC ACTION, not flimsy criticism, not subtle digs – you will hate us a little from time to time – but CREATIVE ACTION.'

The people behind the Pic:

The first editor, Norman Cresswell, had established the 'Catholic Pictorial' in Birmingham but was no stranger to Liverpool, Wirral-born and the son of a Brownlow Hilll GP. He split his time between editing the newspaper and working for the BBC in the Midlands and was later founding editor of the 'Catholic Times'.

The associate editor was Father Bernard Dickinson, last editor of the Cathedral Record, who was entrusted with this office by Archbishop Heenan.  The first news editor was John Short, a one-time student priest at the English College, Valladolid.  He was formerly a reporter on the Birkenhead Advertiser and St Helens Reporter Group, and a Lancashire Evening Post and Liverpool Daily Post sub-editor.  Bob Azurdia, the future BBC Radio Merseyside presenter, was chief reporter and the cast list also included Barry Farrell (cameraman), John Marrow (circulation manager), J McGlynn (advertisements) and Moira Cranny (office manager).