Behind the Photo: An Explosive Wedding Day, 1996

A quick glance at this seemingly innocent looking photo of a couple on their wedding day and you might think - "what's all the fuss about?"

By Ben Brown | 20 July 2021

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Did Uncle Knob Head’s car break down so they needed to get out and leg it to the church? Did they both decide to just shun the family and get married in secret just before the ceremony?

Well it’s none of those things. It’s dawn on you as soon as I tell you the date when the picture was taken. Saturday 15th June 1996.

You probably still don’t know so I’ll just bloody tell you. Saturday 15th June 1996 is the day that the IRA decided to detonate a huge bomb in a car right in the city centre of Manchester. At a time, 11:17am, when the streets would have been packed with people heading to Stolen From Ivor for some Naff Naff gear, or coming back from spending £100 on tat at the Warner Bros Store in the Arndale.

The IRA though, more looking to make a political statement on this particular day, telephoned Granada Studios at 9:40am that morning, 20 minutes after three blokes had exited the car on Corporation Street outside Marks & Spencer’s, to warn people of the bomb.

By 10am there were an estimated 80,000 people shopping and working in the vicinity of the bomb, so a massive evacuation effort began, with local coppers being helped by security guards from the shops – ensuring as many people as possible were far away from the bomb before the bloody thing went off.

The bomb squad arrived from Liverpool at 10:46am and attempted to use a robot to defuse the bomb, but they messed it up and the 1,500kg bomb exploded, causing an estimated £1.3 billion worth of damage to the city, injuring around 200 people and miraculously killing nobody.

The bomb heralded a new era for Manchester and it’s regeneration, one which saw vast areas of the city completely transformed and a much-needed re-think of planning in the often long-forgotten parts of the centre.

But what of these two getting married? What’s the story there?

In what has become one of the day’s most defining images, Franklyn Swanston and Amanda Hudson (and the little bridesmaid) are seen coming back from the Register Office on the morning of the 15th.

Travelling in separate cars, Franklyn arrived at the Register Office first, probably sweaty and nervous waiting for his bride to arrive. The only problem though was that she was stuck on the wrong side of the police cordon – unable to reach him.

You see, even though there was a bomb threat in the city centre, Amanda still travelled in to get married, and pretty much as soon as she arrived in a car with her dad, sat on Deansgate – the bomb went off and all hell broke loose.

But she was determined to get to her husband-to-be and so they got out of the car and raced to the Register Office, only to be held back at a police cordon almost immediately. In the confusion and chaos though, Amanda slipped though and got to the office (and Franklyn) only an hour late.

The registrar still married them though, and they had just enough time to say their vows, when another bomb scare was announced, and they were literally running for their lives though the streets of Manchester. They didn’t even say “you may kiss the bride“. Gutted.

The infamous picture was taken after the wedding, as the couple were trying to get back to where the wedding car had dropped them, so they could get to their wedding reception and hopefully – loads of ABBA, booze and those little open sandwiches that appeared on every buffet in the 90s.

And guess what? The marriage was over by Christmas. What a complete waste of time.