A mural of a North Birkenhead legend was officially revealed at a special ceremony last Thursday and birkenhead.news was there to have a chat with the man portrayed, Charlie Landsborough.
Charlie attended the ceremony which took place at the site of the mural at Birkenhead North railway station and then progressed to the St James Centre where he met more of his adoring fans.
The music legend topped a vote by local residents who were asked to choose a local hero that they wanted to see immortalised on the side of North Birkenhead Train Station. The leading country and folk musician received 46% of the vote, and beat the likes of Dixie Dean and the town’s first female mayor, Lady Mary Ann Mercer.
The competition, which was launched by Cradle to Career – a long-term initiative that aims to transform the lives of children and young people in North Birkenhead, is a celebration of the passion, talent, resilience and creativity that has come out of the North End.
Cradle to Career’s primary goal is to improve the quality of life for all, creating new opportunities for local children and young people, while also improving communication between the community and the organisations that assist them. The project is supported by Wirral Council and by charitable donations from the Steve Morgan Foundation and SHINE, and managed by Right to Succeed.
Janice Bluett-Duncan, programme manager at Cradle to Career, said, “Cradle to Career puts local people at the heart of decision making within their community and aims to ensure all children and young people living in the North End can achieve their potential.
“We launched the mural competition in 2021 as a celebration of the passion, talent and creativity that has come from the North End over the years, and hope it inspires the next generation of talent from this amazing place.”
Jane Harris, director of regional grants at the Steve Morgan Foundation, said, “The murals were just one tangible example of how Cradle to Career was changing the landscape in North Birkenhead.
“C2C is a multi-million-pound initiative that will boost the lives of children and young people in North Birkenhead, improving literacy standards, supporting families and creating opportunities for residents for up to 20 years.
“Philanthropist Steve Morgan has pledged £2m to C2C, with other sizable contributions coming from SHINE Trust and UBS Optimus.
“The murals have been inspired by the community and celebrate the lives of several local heroes from North Birkenhead.
“The murals themselves are stunning and have been a real talking point in the community and added to the wider feel-good factor around Cradle to Career.”
Jane English, deputy managing director at Merseyrail, said, “We aim to provide a rail service that our communities can be proud of and a key part of this is celebrating local success. I’m delighted to see this mural of local hero Charlie Landsborough take pride of place at Birkenhead North Train Station.
“Charlie’s likeness is now prominently displayed at the heart of the place he grew up. I know that our passengers using this station will love the fantastic job Paul Curtis has done in creating this stunning mural.”
Let’s get one thing straight from the off; Charlie is a nice chap, a really nice chap.
After a photo-call at the station, we each made our own way back to the St James Centre and arrived separately. There was such a crowd of people waiting to see him in the main room, that people were standing in the hallways and stairways, eagerly awaiting just a glimpse of their local hero.
I envisaged that it was going to be a nightmare to try and grab a few quiet moments alone to chat with him. But I was wrong. Charlie found me and suggested we sit in the library where the atmosphere was a lot more conducive for an interview.
We sat opposite each other in some comfy chairs with a low table between us. I looked him in the eyes and despite his age (sorry about that, Charlie!) there is a real sparkle there. He simply exudes a childlike energy and enthusiasm.
Charlie was christened and confirmed at St James Church. He grew up on Beaufort Road and went to school on Gautby Road and then to Tollemache Road School and then on to Park High School. Before his music career took off, he taught at Portland Primary School for 14 years; indeed, some of his former pupils were in attendance at the St James Centre.
I asked Charlie about growing up in North Birkenhead. “I grew up in a fantastic house, full of animals. We had chickens in the back, we had a duck which attacked everybody, we had cats and dogs, Love Birds from Africa, and even a monkey.” Yes, a monkey!
He went on to explain how his early life influenced his love for music. “The music was eternally there!”, he says. “Me dad sang and was billed as ‘The Silver Voiced Tenor.’ Me brothers came back with the first guitars I’d ever seen and introduced me to the guitar when I was about 13.”
The influence of family on his interest in music didn’t go unnoticed by his Headmaster, Mr King, who said, “That lad had a wonderful academic career ahead of him until he discovered that damn banjo!”
That ‘damn banjo’ was, Charlie says, “his salvation.”
But it wasn’t just his family that had an influence, it was also the environment he lived in. Of Birkenhead and the streets he grew up on, he tells me, “It’s like like an old dishevelled friend you love because of his lack of pretension, and his honesty, and his generosity of spirit. I love Birkenhead because of all of those things.
“And those influences leave fingerprints on your soul,” he says. “Sounds a bit sort of ethereal, but it does have some sort of an impact upon you.”
Charlie is very open and animated when talking about his life and his beloved Birkenhead, but when it comes to his music, he’s almost too humble to talk about his achievements – it’s as if his unpretentious musical humility overpowers his undeniable musical talent.
Talking of the kind of music he composes; “It’s a bit of a broad spectrum. It’s almost like a musical swear word now, but I’m ‘Middle of the Road’ – I write me own songs, which are very sort of melodic and ballad-ey and romantic,” he says, confirming his modesty. “So it’s mainly sort of gentle, but there is a little bit of up-tempo stuff in there, and a bit of country music influence in some of it.”
As staff from the St James Centre were politely hovering nearby, inferred by me to mean ‘Can you hurry up! There’s hundreds of people here waiting to see Charlie!’, I decided to ask about him the mural.
You will recall that Charlie was chosen for the mural as the result of a public vote. “Well, I was surprised!”, he exclaims. “I was absolutely delighted, obviously! Not just for meself, but for me family and me grandkids, friends that I’ve got, and a lot of old-timers that I know.”
Ever the humble character, he shares the limelight with those he loves most, his friends, his family and, of course, his devoted fans.