When Keith was taken from us, we were living in Eston Street in Longsight with our mam Winnie and stepfather of one year, Jimmy Johnson. I was 8 then; Keith was 12, and we had two sisters, Sylvia (11) and Maggie (4), and another brother, Ian (7). We also had a step-sister, Susan, who was 11 and fitted in with us perfectly. Our grandmother and mam's sister, our Aunt Jean, lived not too far away and we loved them very much and visited them as often as we could.
The house in Eston Street is still there; it stands on the end of the row, nearest the high wall around the grounds of an old people's home. A modern lamppost has replaced the old-fashioned one that stood just in front of the top right-hand window of the room I shared with Keith. One day, the top of the lamp began to swing round, so Keith and I decided to push it back into place by hanging out of the window with a sweeping brush and giving it a shove. We found it was even more fun pulling it towards the window, giving us the biggest bedside light in Longsight. The room was flooded with an orange glow every night and we loved it. Keith thought it was hilarous when we were told to 'be quiet and turn the light out!'
Keith had little time for anything but laughter and nature. He was an ordinary, uncomplicated child, with his head in the clouds most of the time. He lived for the natural word and animals, and never returned home from a trip to the local park without a few finds - usually a handful of leaves or twigs. Autumn was his favourite season but he also loved the summer flowers too, and saw beauty in things I never could. To me, trees were just conveniently placed goalposts and grass meant I did not scrape my knees. But Keith was undoubtedly one of life's more sensitive souls. We kids were all upset when the tortoise we kept as a pet at our old house in Clayton died, but Keith was most affected. The two of us used to love lying in the grass in the garden, watching it lumber towards us, and we panicked whenever we couldnn't find it, but it was always about somewhere. When it died, at first we thought it was just hibernating. But then we found it had died. We buried it in the garden, marking its resting place with a lollypop stick cross. Keith worried about it even then, and wanted to dig it up in case it was only sleeping. But Gran eventually persuaded him that it had passed away.
Keith's habitual daydreaming meant that he struggled in school with reading, which held him back. I still have his 1962 report card from Ravensbury Street Primary, the school we both attended while living in Clayton. His form teacher wrote: 'Keith has settled down in class and works hard. He is willing and cheerful. His poor reading level hampers him in all other subjects. He must read as much as possible at home. Keep trying hard, Keith!' I loved writing and never found it strange to help my older brother with his reading.
Keith excelled in one area where I failed dismally: swimming. When we moved from Clayton to Eston Street in 1963, mam worked during the school holidays as a cleaner at the Electricity Board on Bax Rd, five minutes' walk from home. Her workplace was at the back of the Victoria Baths on High Street (now Hathersage Rd), virtually opposite Eston Street. To pass the time, we kids would spend hours at the Baths until she came to collect us. Despite Keith's valiant attempts to coach me, I spent most of the time gingerly sat on the edge of the pool with my feet in the water, squinting up at the sun coming through the glass roof. After Keith disappeared I rarely went there again.
On 12 June 1964, Keith was 12 years old. The following Monday he broke a lens in his glasses during a swimming lesson at the Victoria Baths. The very next day, Tuesday 16 June 1964, he vanished from our lives.