Fiona Heakin found her Mum’s old diaries from living in Salford during the Second World War, and has turned them into a book.
During the first lockdown, Fiona Heakin took on the task of re-living her mother’s teenage diaries after they had been sat in her loft for over 15-years.
Fiona Heakin decided to do something with Eileen Dwyer’s diaries and sent the finished product out to family members.
However, the book is now being shared, reported, and read by people all over England and has even been picked up by Oxford University to show the government the impact of research.
On reading and writing out the diaries, Fiona said: “I wanted to shout down the decades … ‘Mum you’re going to burn yourself out!’
“She was working six days a week, studying pattern work during night classes at Salford Tech and spending her Sundays at church.
“But she still went out dancing and went to the cinema 58 times in 1940.”
Through the years, the pages show her secret romances and coded names in entries like ‘Danced with O’ and ‘Valentines with L’, her heartbreaks from her own mother’s early death and coming to terms with the on-going war.
She details her conscription and call to work as a lorry driver, carrying rations to soldiers all over the North West to hiding inside a crypt during the Manchester blitz.
The Manchester and Salford Blitz, as Fiona calls it, injured over 900 people and destroyed an estimated 8,000 homes in Salford.
However, Eileen mainly focuses on the positive of her 20th birthday.
Eileen writes: “Today be merry, for tomorrow we die”.
Understandably, this accounts for the dancing, the romancing and the joy she would push for, taking each day as it came.
At 21-years-old, Eileen then married a Manchester firefighter, Les Heakin, at a 10am service in Salford Cathedral.
Fiona said: “She was amazed as she was walking down the aisle at how many soldiers and sailors were in the church as it was a holy day of obligation, so anyone in the port that day wanted to get mass in before they were shipped out.
“She felt very aware that they were thinking about their own wives, sweethearts and daughters, and the last thing they probably saw was my Mum and Dad walking down the aisle and she always knew that a lot of those men probably wouldn’t make it back.”
The pages of the diary end here, and despite spending Christmas in hospital after suffering a miscarriage, Eileen writes it as “the happiest year of my life”.
Eileen went on to have nine children of her own and sadly passed away in 2000 at the age of 79. However, her unique story of finding joy in the wartime will continue to live on as a part of Salford’s history.