The Mersey is a famous river in Liverpool, England, a city in which the Beatles began their musical career. But this song was begun by another group of Merseyside musicians called Gerry and the Pacemakers. "Ferry Cross the Mersey" was produced by George [now Sir George] Martin, who was responsible for almost all of the records recorded by The Beatles.
There was a film called Ferry Cross the Mersey and the song and the film took off together. The song reached the top ten in the UK in 1964 and in the USA in 1965. Many years later, the life of frontman Gerry Marsden was re-created in a stage musical, also called Ferry Cross the Mersey. The musical opened in Liverpool and was staged elsewhere, including Australia and the USA.
You can still catch the Mersey ferry and cross the river Mersey today. It sails from Birkenhead into Liverpool. And as sometimes happens with song lyrics, there is a dispute as to whether the word is "cross" or "across." Some people write "Ferry, 'Cross the Mersey," meaning "across" the river, but the correct version is "cross." It's a command or request to the ferry captain meaning, "Please cross the Mersey."
There are two rivers at Liverpool – the Mersey and the Dee. The land between the two rivers on the coast is known as Wirral or the Wirral – that's another linguistic dispute. If you were to cross the river Dee you'd end up in Wales, so Liverpool is in England, but only just. In centuries past, many people emigrated from the UK at Liverpool. In fact, there is a famous song with just that title, "The Leaving of Liverpool."
There is a documentary film with that title, too, as hundreds of thousands of children were whisked away from Liverpool to Australia in what is regarded as a cruel act of kindness. In 2009 the Australian government made an official and public apology to those known as the Forgotten Generation.
In 1989 "Ferry Cross the Mersey" was revived and released as a charity record to raise funds for the people who suffered a great loss at a football match tragedy which occurred in that year. Almost a hundred Liverpool football fans were killed and many were injured in a disaster at a football stadium in Yorkshire. The artists on the revived recording were all Liverpudlians and included Paul McCartney.
If you visit Liverpool, there is much to see. Every day there is an opportunity to take a trip across [yes across] and certainly up and down the river Mersey. There are standard journeys and special ones involving dining and the celebration of special occasions.
The river is about 70 miles long and begins in another famous city of England's north, Manchester, before flowing into Liverpool Bay. The river has given its name to the area known as Merseyside. Alas, not everything is as it once was and the Mersey, during its journey to the sea today, becomes, in part, the Manchester River Canal. By the time the Mersey reaches the sea, the Irish Sea, it has changed course and width a number of times. What it doesn't lack, however, is history. ~ Cen Fox