The international tenor meets people in his home city, explores its thirty miles of waterways, sings Abide With Me and introduces hymns from St Peter's Parish Church in Swinton.
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Hello, there, I'm Russell Watson, and I'm in the city that I will always call home -
Things have changed since I was a lad.
I remember growing up in Salford in the '70s,
when the Manchester Ship Canal was an absolute quagmire.
Not any more. Today, its 30 miles of rivers, quaysides and canals
are bursting with new life and colour.
So, come with me on a watery journey around the sights and sounds of Salford 2012.
Coming up, I'll be trying my hand at fly fishing,
finding out what it's like to live on the water,
and meeting those for whom water has a special spiritual significance.
All against the backdrop of some much-loved hymns.
Originally just a village on the banks of the River Irwell,
Salford grew amidst the blood, sweat and tears of the industrial revolution.
St Peter's Church here in Swinton was built in the 1860s
on the site of a smaller chapel, so as to accommodate
a growing population working in the booming cotton mills in coal mines.
Now, I want to show you a lovely little piece of Victorian history.
Up there is St Peter holding the keys to the gates of heaven.
But, on closer inspection, you can actually see
that it's a Victorian chap with mutton chop whiskers.
Now, that's Noah Robinson, whose father built a mill right next to the church.
Now, Noah I did a lot of really good work locally,
but perhaps his finest achievement was bringing clean water to the people of Swinton.
Water is, after all, the source of life.
The Bible is full of water imagery and meaning.
So, too, are some of our favourite hymns,
including our first hymn tonight, The King Of Love.
This is the river Irwell that separates us in Salford
from our neighbours in Manchester.
It's nearly 40 miles long, and for local artist Mildred Cooper,
a source of inspiration.
I suppose I've known the Irwell all my life because I live not far from it,
and I can't really remember how I came to have the idea,
but it started out thinking of it as a sort of sketchbook,
it would be interesting to go up and find the source of it,
and sort of following through.
And I took an old A-Z that I had, and traced it through in red Biro.
I went out one afternoon and found the source that was above Bacup,
and it was really fascinating to stand in the reeds,
and you could hear the water trickling underneath.
And it was a little bit like being in another world.
It was quite remote and very, very different.
It flows down and becomes a proper stream,
and it runs parallel with the road into Bacup,
and then comes out as a fully fledged river
that bends and twists its way through Rawtenstall and Ramsbottom
and Bury and Radcliffe, and comes down here to Salford.
It became a sort of documentary of it, I think,
to trace it through to where it finishes in the Ship Canal.
My relationship with God is something that's central to pretty well everything.
Maybe drawing a plant or painting a plant I'm not thinking,
"Now, God created this, so I must paint it."
But the texture of petals and leaves,
they're totally different to anything that man makes, aren't they?
I mean, you know, you can buy beautifully made imitation flowers,
but they just lack that something the real ones have, you know.
Some people write poetry and some write music, don't they,
to express their faith, but I do it visually.
It comes out in the way I paint.
It's just something inside you want to express, you know, get out.
Now, I've always quite fancied myself as a bit of a fisherman
and this is my chance today to prove that I can do it.
This very much takes me back to my days as a little boy
fishing by the side of the old river.
But I think it's time for the big boys now
and my first fishing lesson for a long time.
Lots of people do it to music, I don't know, maybe a waltz rhythm.
You know, one, two, three. One, two, three.
One, two, three, one, two, three.
There's a rhythm somewhere in that.
What do you love about fishing?
It's a real wind down
from my normal daily pressures,
and it's great. And if you catch a fish while you're doing it,
I mean, that's just an absolute added bonus.
You're not by any chance passionate about it?
What makes you think that, Russell? Not at all, no(!)
'David Vickery began fishing 30 years ago with his young son,
'shortly after a life-threatening illness.'
I had my heart attack when my son was four,
which was the age that I was when my dad died.
When you're lying there, as you know, wired up like the bionic man -
and I was 30 when that happened to me -
it makes you realise what's important in your life.
I know that when I had my health problems,
it affected my faith, I would say in a positive manner.
Has it affected your faith?
I think it gave me a chance to examine what I believe in, certainly.
And I had no doubt to argue with it.
David, what's the biggest fish you've ever caught?
11 and a quarter-pound, Russell.
-Can I ask you another question about that fish?
In the two years since you've caught it,
has it slightly increased in weight?
It gets bigger every time. It gets bigger every time!
-I was brought up a Christian...
..and it's never really left me.
So as a fisherman,
you're picking up first-hand experience of God with what you see?
I think it makes me realise the wonder of creation
and all the things that are in it.
When you actually get in the water
and you feel that water on your body,
it's quite awe-inspiring at times. It really is.
And the amount of life
and the variety of life these days is quite staggering.
I've seen this river, many, many years ago,
run every conceivable colour of the rainbow
with stuff that was deposited.
My mum always used to say to us,
"You mustn't go anywhere near that river.
"If you do, straight to hospital, straight for a tetanus injection."
Oh, look at the size of that, it's a beauty!
-You're a good actor, aren't you?
-That beats your 11-pounder.
Did you say it was a BAFTA you're up for?
MUSIC: "Peer Gynt Suite No 1 Morning Mood" by Edvard Grieg
I mean, this river was dead for 200 years nigh on.
It's only in the last 30 years or so that it's started to recover.
It looks lovely now.
'The canals of Salford were once the preserve of industry
'but nowadays people are choosing to make them their home.'
What attracted you to living on the water?
Ultimately, it's about the freedom, I think, and it's about the closeness,
the closest to the elements, hearing the rain bounce on the roof.
You get really weird sort of things going on with it.
It's like, the wind comes rushing up, and I know the river's going that way
and everybody knows the river's going that way
but the waves are going that way, and it's just...
That's Mother Nature going, "Ha-ha, look what I can do."
It's just fascinating.
Is this, for you, a form of escapism or do you...?
-This is definitely a form of escapism.
It's definitely a form of slowing down as well.
I have no choice but to live a simpler life. It's good for the soul.
Well, it's good for my soul, anyway.
Do you think that's maybe contributed to
by the fact that you're kind of getting a little bit older?
Because I know, as I've entered my 40s,
the closer I get to the inevitable,
I think the closer I've actually become to God
and the more my faith, as a result of that, has expanded.
-Would you say...?
-I think you're probably right, yeah. It's...
I think we've got youth out of the way
and we're starting to question where we've come from and what it's all about a lot more.
That's certainly my case, anyway. I'm looking for some answers now.
It's not so much all about having a load of fun now,
I want to know, "Where did it all come from, and why,
"and what are we doing here?"
'But Robert doesn't just live on the water,
'he also works as head chef at a riverside pub in Salford.'
It was called the Mark Addy after a famous boatman
who used to dive in the river and rescue people. Completely selfless bloke.
He must have been completely bonkers, cos back in those days, in the 1850s,
the river was just a sewer.
He was awarded the Albert Medal,
which is like the equivalent of the Victoria Cross.
He rescued over 60 people.
It finally killed him.
There was a Whit Monday parade going through Salford
and a young lad had fallen the river.
Addy was 50 at the time.
He'd gone in, ruined his suit, ruined his watch,
lost his money, but managed to pull the little kid out.
A year later he was dead from consumption
and they reckon that was the day he got the disease that killed him.
But he always said out of all the rescues he'd done,
that was the most important one.
It's the sheer sort of willingness
to put somebody else first without question from being a very young man.
He did his first rescue when he was 11 years old.
It was just, "Somebody's in trouble,
"nobody else wants to go into that mess, well, I'll do it."
You know? And that's just selfless, isn't it?
That's just a wonderful thing.
There aren't many of those around these days.
If we were all like that, the world would be a better place, wouldn't it?
'Journalist Carmel Thomason moved to the regenerated Salford Quays seven years ago.'
I love it here, I feel really at home and relaxed
and it's quite nice to think about
my family connections being here,
cos my grandad worked here are my great-granddad worked here,
which I didn't know at the time when I moved.
What exactly did your great-grandfather do?
My great-grandfather, he used to carry the timbers
and work on the docks so my mum would be...
She told me she'd have to take the big splinters out of his shoulders.
My grandad used to work on the railways.
Well, my great-great-grandfather,
many, many years ago, helped to dig out the Manchester Ship Canal.
I remember my great-grandmother talking very, very fondly
about the memories of that and him coming home caked in mud
and having a nice warm cup of tea when he got in.
Do you think things like that give us nice connection with history?
I do. I think it's lovely.
I think my granddad would be really pleased I'm living here now,
as it is, but I think at the time he would be completely shocked
that a woman would even come to the docks.
Do you think that's one of the things that gave you that connection with water
and wanting to be surrounded by water?
Actually, water's got a special significance for me
and that's why I wanted to live here.
And that significance was dramatically revealed to Carmel
on a pilgrimage to the healing waters of Lourdes in France
at a time when she was questioning her relationship with God.
I'd never been on a pilgrimage before.
I queued for about three hours and then when we got in there
you take your clothes off, so you're completely naked, but it's modest
because you're covered with a shroud, and then you go in
and it's like a huge big bath or a hot tub,
except it's not hot, it's freezing cold,
and you walk in there and then you're dunked underneath.
And I just stood there
and felt the most overwhelming sense of love that I couldn't explain
and I'd never experienced it before
and it's...I could only say that it was of God.
It made a huge difference to my faith after I came back from Lourdes,
insofar as I want to live my life for God
rather than trying to tell God how I want my life to be.
I think there's lots of different kinds of miracles and there's lots of different kinds of healing
and I think that there's a lot of healing
that does go on in Lourdes and I feel that I experienced a part of that.
In March this year, I got baptised with...
..with all of my family there coming to watch me,
and just made a massive, massive commitment,
knowing that everything that I regretted could be left behind
and that this was a new beginning.
Susie Walker's full immersion baptism
ended an estrangement from the church
that had its roots in the early death of both her parents by the time she was 16.
That really hurt, that two people who were really loving and caring
and were prepared to give so much back to the world
had been taken away.
It was at that point that I started to turn away from the church.
Susie got on with her life.
She became a swimming instructor and married.
But when the marriage broke down after 11 years,
she once again turned to the church.
I'd had for a while this feeling that I wasn't doing
what I was supposed to be doing.
I'd been really busy at work, obviously, busy as a single mum.
I was like, "Please, help me, God,
"to find what is that I'm supposed to do in the world."
As soon as I walked through the doors,
I was just completely overwhelmed by this feeling that I was home.
I remember just kind of in my head talking and saying,
"I'm so sorry I've been away for so long,"
and the answer just came back, "It's OK, you're here now."
The actual baptism made a real difference to me.
Part of the joy of being baptised within the water
is the buoyancy within it,
that you feel, as heavy as you are,
you're as light as a feather in that water
and there is something else that is holding you up.
You just get that sense of peace just come over you
as you go into the water.
All the weight that you were carrying beforehand,
you can just leave it behind
and just become a new person.
And, yes, there are still challenges to be faced,
but I know I'm not doing it by myself
and I don't have to make those decisions by myself any more.
# Abide with me
# Fast falls the eventide
# The darkness deepens
# Lord, with me abide
# When other helpers
# Fail and comforts flee
# Help of the helpless
# O abide with me
# I fear no foe
# With Thee at hand to bless
# Ills have no weight
# And tears no bitterness
# Where is death's sting?
# Where, grave, thy victory?
# I triumph still
# If Thou abide with
# Hold Thou Thy cross
# Before my closing eyes
# Shine through the gloom
# And point me to the skies
# Heaven's morning breaks
# And earth's vain shadows flee
# In life
# In death, O Lord
# Me. #
God, our Father, in the sacrament of baptism,
your gift of water washes away our sins
and brings us eternal life.
Renew the living spring of your life within us
and protect us in spirit and in body
through Christ our Lord.
And the blessing of God Almighty,
the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit be with you
and remain with you this day and always.
Next week, Diane-Louise Jordan joins celebrations in
the ancient city of St Albans,
and learns about towns and villages named after saints of old.
The Reverend Richard Coles will be on hand to help,
and there are great hymns with a saintly theme from around the UK.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd