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24 September 2014
Inside Out: Surprising Stories, Familiar Places

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Buffalo Bill's Wild West Manchester

Charging Thunder
Amazing story of the Wild West

Legends don't come much bigger than Buffalo Bill and the wild Wild West.

But did you know he once rode into town in Salford, and he left an amazing legacy?

Inside Out investigates the story of Charging Thunder, a performer in Buffalo Bill's Wild West show who became George Edward Williams and integrated into Manchester society.

Wild North West

It's a story that begins in the 1870s in Pine Ridge, South Dakota, home to many of the prairie tribes of the Sioux Nation.


William F. Cody was born in Iowa in 1846 and later moved with his family to Kansas.

Cody left Kansas aged 11 to herd cattle and work as a driver on a wagon train. He went on to fur trapping and gold mining, and joined the Pony Express in 1860.

After the Civil War, Cody scouted for the Army and was nicknamed "Buffalo Bill".

Cody's 1st foray into the entertainment business was a 1872 show called 'The Scouts of the Prairie'.

Cody then organized his own troupe, the Buffalo Bill Combination. The show included Buffalo Bill, Texas Jack, and 'Wild Bill' Hickok.

Cody staged several plays until 1882 when the Wild West outdoor spectacle was born.

Buffalo Bill’s Wild West used real cowboys and cowgirls. The shows demonstrated bronco riding, roping, and other skills.

The Wild West was invited to England in 1887 for Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee celebration. It returned two years later to tour Europe.

It was the dawn of a new age in the West crying out for heroes and they soon found one in the exploits of William Frederick Cody.

He started out as a Pony Express rider at the age of fifteen and then became an Army Scout and later an expert buffalo hunter.

But as the buffalo herds were wiped out and the West was won, he found new fame as a showman.

He created what became known as Buffalo Bill's Wild West - one of the greatest outdoor shows of all time.

Buffalo Bill toured the world and brought real cowboys and Indians, trick shooters, rough riders, stagecoaches, wagon trains, and even a herd of buffaloes to Salford to sell out crowds in 1888.

His troupes returned again in style in 1903.

Local historian John Aldred has been piecing together the story of Buffalo Bill's visits:

"They built a tremendous auditorium with room enough for 8,000 seated people - and a total of 10,000 people - it was vast, huge - and people came from miles around and filled it night after night."

But something remarkable happened when Buffalo Bill's Wild West left Salford in 1903 - a 26-year-old Sioux chief called Charging Thunder stayed behind.

He would never see his prairie homelands again, instead he remained and raised a family in Gorton, in Manchester.

Legacy of Charging Thunder

Rita Parr, who lives in Gorton, is one of Charging Thunder's two surviving grandchildren.

They never met their grandfather - they were born after he died.

And until now they've never talked about their amazing heritage.

Rita Parr
Rita Parr - amazed to find she had Sioux blood

For Rita, whose fostered children all her life, growing up as a child and having a Sioux Chief in the family, was an incredible experience and for her friends too.

Rita has spent the last 41 years fostering children - she's never grown tired of telling them about her grandad:

"They used to ask did he go hunting?, did he kill bears and buffalo? I was very proud of him… we always used to play cowboys and Indians and I was always Charging Thunder."

Inside Out also meets Gary Williams, Rita's cousin, and Charging Thunder's grandson.

He believes his love of nature comes from the family's Native American genes - his garden at his home in Holmes Chapel's a paradise for birds.

Gary recalls how amazed he was as a child to discover who his grandfather was:

"I couldn't believe it… thought it was a joke at first.. then I felt cheated because I wanted to look like him - I wanted a wider nose and I tried to grow my hair long and wore beads…

"But I could never look like him… I was proud of him really… and it as great knowing who he was... many people never know much about their past….but I do… and I've got him to thank for that."

Western mystery

The story of how and why Charging Thunder came to stay in Manchester remains a mystery to Rita and Gary.

Gary Williams
Gary Williams - proud of his family history

They know he married Josephine one of the American horse trainers in Buffalo Bill's show.

Their daughter Bessie became ill while in Manchester with diphtheria, and Rita thinks this is why they stayed.

Charging Thunder's name was changed to George Edward Williams, after registering with the British immigration authorities to enable him to find work:

"The name Charging Thunder's anglicised anyway but the Sioux dialect for Charging Thunder sounds a bit like 'Wah-hey-ney' so I think the authorities thought it started with a W so they gave him the name Williams. And you had to have a Christian name so they chose George Edward after the Kings." Gary Williams.

Amazing discovery

In those days Belle Vue was where Manchester went to play.

Charging Thunder later went on to work as an usher in the old Central cinema on Clewes Street, near Belle Vue.

He also worked at Belle Vue Circus for many years, and especially liked the elephants.

Charging Thunder in west show
Charging Thunder (centre) in his prime

Charging Thunder died in 1929 from pneumonia - he was only 52.

He was buried in West Gorton cemetery, but that's not the end of his story.

Inside Out has found a film of Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show.

It's thought that it was filmed in America in 1902 before they left for Salford.

For Rita seeing the film is a moment she'll never forget - she's sure this is actually Charging Thunder.

There was one more surprise for Rita and Gary - they recently heard that Charging Thunder's remaining family has been found in America.

They're now looking forward to meeting their long lost relatives.
For Charging Thunder the story seems to have no end...

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Cosmetic surgery

Safe surgery? Cosmetic surgery can be risky if not done properly

Cosmetic surgery is on the increase but what happens when it goes wrong?

Manchester lawyers have set up a pioneering team to tackle cases relating to cosmetic surgery.

Inside Out's Jacey Normand investigates the stories of two women who had a bad time.

Body beautiful

The search for the body beautiful is now easier than ever.

The North West has more cosmetic surgery clinics than anywhere else in the country - you can buy an operation on your credit card, or get it as a voucher for your birthday.

In the last year, plastic surgery operations in Britain went up by 70 per cent - with breast enlargement, facelifts and eye treatments the most popular.

Once we were happy with false eyelashes and a bit of lippy - but not now.

Image make-overs, live surgery on TV, drama series and wall to wall celebrity magazines have changed the face of cosmetic surgery.

It's now socially acceptable to trim a bit here, lift a bit there and design yourself a new you.

But alongside the boom in cosmetic surgery have come the cowboys - clinics which have more expertise in marketing than medicine.

Search for perfection

Louise Waddington runs a tanning salon in Middleton.

When her boyfriend gave her a birthday present of £3,5000 to spend on getting bigger breasts, she was delighted.

"I think it was just wanting perfection."
Louise Waddington, cosmetic surgery patient

Louise would be increasing her bust by two sizes.

After a 20 minute consultation she was booked into a Manchester clinic later that week.

There she met her surgeon for another 10 minutes, and then she went to theatre.

After surgery, Louise was discharged the next morning, but felt one breast was too hard. She called the clinic.

But the pain didn't subside and over the next three years, Louise had to have three more operations to have the implants replaced.

Compensation cases

The growing number of claims by victims has led to a Manchester law firm, TJ Legal, setting up what it says is the country's first specialist team to deal in cosmetic surgery negligence.


Be precise about what exactly you want to have done.

Choose a specialist surgeon who has had advanced training in the type of surgery needed.

Consult the surgeon - and not just the salesperson in the clinic.

Use a registered clinic - one that is listed with the Healthcare Commission.

Ask about aftercare to make sure medical staff are there if they're needed.

Staff here are already dealing with nearly 100 cases seeking compensation, and the team's only been operating for a couple of months.

The lawyers have made up a check list for anyone looking for a cosmetic surgery clinic.

Doing your homework like this could prevent pain and prolonged suffering - and it's something one woman from Whitefield in Manchester really wishes she'd done.

Ann Bradwell wanted a tummy tuck to restore her figure after having her children.

But Ann's surgery went wrong and the results have left her bewildered.

Botched stomach after surgery
Botched op - Ann Bradwell's stomach surgery

Ann is allergic to penicillin, and she believes that during her surgery, she was mistakenly given an antibiotic which sent her into a seizure.

The emergency, she says, led to botched surgery.

We also also speak to consultant, Douglas McGeorge who works in a Chester hospital and leads the professional body representing highly trained plastic surgeons.

He thinks that the growth in cosmetic surgery clinics is a big problem, and believes that the system is being abused.

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Rivington today
Wonder of the North West - Rivington's gardens

One of the hidden gems of the North West are the Chinese gardens of Rivington.

High up in the West Pennine Moors, they are also one of the most inaccessible places in the region.

Created by the industrialist Lord Leverhulme, these gardens are now derelict.

But, throughout this winter, teams of foresters have been waging a battle with nature.

Simon O'Brien investigates the history of the estate and looks at plans for the future.

History of the gardens

William Lever was one of the world's most extraordinary men - a tycoon, a multimillionaire, a social reformer and philanthropist, a relentless art collector and a man who believed in the benefits of fresh air.

He built a global business empire based on sales of soap - and laid the foundations for history's first multinational corporation - Unilever.

In the process he amassed a fortune, gained a peerage and acquired one of the greatest art collections the world has ever known.

He bought 200 acres of moorland between Chorley and Bolton and created his country estate.

Terraces were blasted into the hillside, and ornamental ponds and waterfalls replaced the moss.

One hundred and fifty thousand plants were set around his Italian and Japanese gardens, complete with Pagodas and tea houses.

As an army of 40 gardeners kept the vegetation under control, Lever described Rivington "as my idea of heaven".

He built a small palace out of wood modestly calling it 'The Bungalow'.

In the grounds, the great and the good came to be entertained.

Rivington under attack

In just 15 years of explosive expansion, Lever drove his company from a tiny operation in Warrington to be the world's largest soap manufacturer.

He now had four houses - his main home in Wirral, one in London, one in Scotland and the summer retreat in Rivington.

But his idyllic estate at Rivington was about to be rudely interrupted by a suffragette called Edith Rigby.

New Rivington gardens
Lost wonderland - today the gardens are overgrown

Edith was the wife of a Preston doctor but beneath her elegant social life, there lay a crusading reformer who despised her wealthy trappings.

Above all, she was a Suffragette who wanted women to have the right to vote.

Mrs Rigby was a militant, who mounted guerilla raids against the establishment.

She threw a bomb into Liverpool Cotton Exchange, and in June 1913 she burned down Lord Leverhulme's wooden bungalow.

Leverhulme - who was dining elsewhere that night with the King and Queen - was devastated.

He never understood why he'd been singled out - he said that he was in favour of votes for women.

But, undeterred, he had a new bungalow built - this time made of stone.

That too was demolished in 1947, and all that remains are some neatly laid floor tiles.

In the 80 years since Lever's death, the gardens have been left to nature.

Rivington was left as a huge, desolate site, but now there are plans to restore it.

Later this year, a bid will be made for heritage lottery funding to pay for improvements, which could take years to complete.

Blight in the bushes

But there's a more pressing problem facing the estate - the 70 acres of rhododendron are virtually all infected with Ramorum Blight - a fungus also known as Sudden Oak Death.

Tunnel and trees
Restoration work will be complex

The Government agency DEFRA has told United Utilities, which presently owns the land, to kill the lot because it could destroy native oak forests.

The only way to kill off the blight is to burn it - and in every fire, a little bit of history is going up in smoke.

The restoration work is so complex, that consultations are taking place with a number of groups - from horticulturists, designers and historians.

One thing is for sure - this is a battle against time and nature that is not going to be an easy one.

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