LYONS Street in Bootle was once the scene of so many murders, it was renamed Beresford Street, and known locally in the early 20th century as the “street that died of shame”.
Sep 29 2007 by Dawn Collinson, Liverpool Echo
The notoriety linked with the street can be traced back to a singularly heinous crime – the brutal killing of several prostitutes by two sailors – known as the Teapot Murders, because Lyons was associated with the famous tea-brand during that period.
If such infamy was not enough to blacken a street-name, there came two other terrible widely-reported murders on Lyons Street: the vicious and cruel killing of Maggie Donoghue, who had her brains bashed out by fireman Jim McGuirk in 1903, and the mysterious, callous killing of six-year-old Tommy Foy in 1908.
But let me digress from the criminological history of that Bootle street, and allow me, via your imagination, to transport you back to Lyons Street in 1896, to a crumbling draughty old terraced house. The house was number 48, and its ground floor was a shop that sold everything, run by a Mrs Annie Burns.
In October 1896, a woman named Maureen Mack left Mackenzies Boarding House in Howe Street, Bootle after a lively argument with a lodger. She and her seven-year-old daughter Eileen found new lodgings over the shop of Annie Burns on Lyons Street, and settled in to their new home fairly quick.
Mrs Mack slept in one room, and little Eileen was given her very own room – in the loft. One night, close to Hallowe’en, a loud racket was heard in Eileen’s room, and when her mother went to see what the matter was, the girl made enigmatic remarks about “Skeetchy and Bumph” – two odd-looking shadows that had been visiting her over the past three nights. ‘Oh go to sleep!’ said a grumpy impatient Mrs Mack, and she closed the bedroom door and went back to bed.
When Maureen Mack settled back into bed, she thought about the strange things her daughter had told her. Eileen wasn’t a particularly bright or imaginative child, and her mother wondered if the girl had seen something supernatural.
On the following night, Eileen went to bed around 8pm, and minutes later, Maureen heard strange-sounding voices in her daughter’s room. She crept upstairs to the loft door, screwed up an eye, and peeped with the other one through the draughty keyhole. What Maureen saw caused her to tremble.
Two sinister shadows of two peculiar-looking beings were moving on the wall next to Eileen’s bed. One was horned like the devil, but was as bulky as an elephant, and the other was thin, with a tapering cone-shaped head, and they were fighting. Eileen, meanwhile was sitting up in bed, chuckling and clapping her hands at the antics of this Punch-and-Judy-style shadow play.
Mrs Mack made the sign of the cross and burst into the room to grab a startled Eileen. ‘Leave her alone you wretch!’ said the skinny shadow, waving a fist at Maureen.
Mrs Mack screamed and ran down five flights of stairs in her nightdress, dragging Eileen after her.
Mother and daughter never returned to that house, and Eileen missed her mysterious friends sorely, even though she didn’t know what they were or why they existed only as shadows
. We’ll probably never know who Skeetchy and Bumph were either!
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