Erik Merriman, from Sale, looked into how historic pubs got their distinctive names for his scholarly work, with reasons including historic massacres to the sign painter running out of space.
The essay, titled Time Gentlemen Please! A Toponymic Investigation Into The Public Houses of Manchester And Their Contribution To The Linguistic Landscape, won the English and Film Studies graduate the annual prize by the Society of Name Studies in Britain and Ireland.
Merriman looked into the folk stories behind the pubs’ names, which he says are an example of “bottom up” naming – in which their titles came from close links with the communities they served.
Some names are important to Manchester history, with the Britons Protection being associated in folklore as playing a role in the 1819 Peterloo Massacre and the Peveril Of The Peak believed to be named after the Manchester to London stagecoach.
He wrote that other stories are more straightforward, with Lass O’Gowrie named by the pub’s original landlord after his favourite Scottish poem, while Tommy Ducks, illegally knocked down in 1993, was so named because the sign painter – trying to write the name of landlord Thomas Duckworth – ran out of space.
Merriman said: “These are fascinating old pubs that are so important to Manchester’s history, and places like the Britons Protection and the Peveril Of The Peak are fascinating because they seem to stand untouched, surrounded by so much modern development.
“I became interested in the stories and the folklore behind these pub names. It’s often impossible to find the official version of why a pub got its name, but the stories people told each other about them are just as important and tell you as much about an area’s history.”
Incredibly talented student
Merriman, who received a first-class degree last September and is now training to become a teacher, originally wrote the essay for his third year module – The Language Of Names – before being encouraged by his lecturer to submit a revised version to the competition, which calls for entrants to make an original contribution to their subject.
Dr Maggie Scott, lecturer in English Language and Literature at the University of Salford, said: “Erik was an incredibly talented student and there was clearly a lot of potential in the way he approached this socially fascinating subject.
“This is a very prestigious prize and it’s a very impressive achievement for someone just finishing their undergraduate degree to receive the award.”