'Lourdes' wheelchairs on Lime Street station



ID: A black and white photograph of a group of canvas wheelchairs on a train platform. The wheelchairs have 'Liverpool, Lourdes' written on them. These wheelchairs were designated to be used by pilgrims travelling to Lourdes, France in 1985. Pilgrimages between Liverpool and Lourdes have been running for 100 years, and in many instances, involve disabled people travelling to ‘be cured’ at a holy shrine. Lisa Frith visited Lourdes for a week in 2000 as part of a pilgrimage with her school, Sandfield Park. Lisa has cerebral palsy and learning disabilities. She is sharing this story as part of Museum of Liverpool’s Disability History Coproduction Group. She remembers that the visit focused strongly on religion and prayer. “You had to pray every day and go to church. The church was up a hill, and it was at a 95-degree angle. I couldn’t walk it, so I used a wheelchair.” On the last day of Lisa’s trip, she remembers visiting the square, where a priest was giving a sermon: “But I never listened because I had headphones on! I was listening to Unchained Melody.” Lisa says her nan was her main motivation for making the pilgrimage, as she believed she would be ‘cured’ of her disabilities when she returned. She remembers that her nan, who lived in Dovecot, asked her to bring back a bottle of holy water, but that it didn’t go quite as expected… “Because the holy water was dearer, I got an empty bottle from the shop, and I filled it up in my nan’s kitchen and blessed it!” Lisa remembers how her mum told her that she “was a better person when I came back from Lourdes than when I went.” She thinks that this is because of what she got out of the experience she shared with others, rather than the attempt at ‘being cured’. She recalls: “I never got benefit out of the church, but I got value out of the people I was on the pilgrimage with, talking to people about their life stories and how they lived their lives rather than going to church. I did go to Lourdes just for my nan, because she wanted me to go and be cured, but I didn’t really take on the religious bit.”