In 1922 Joseph Wilson married a publican, Margaret Dwyer (née Byrne), and the family lived above a pub, the Golden Eagle, on Lodge Street in the Miles Platting area of Manchester. A few years later they moved to Moss Side, where Burgess was to write his earliest published poems and short stories.
On 29 June there was the first solar eclipse in England for 203 years. Burgess recalled this event in his novels The Pianoplayers and End Of The World News, as well as in Little Wilson and Big God and the article 'Endtime' in Homage to Qwert Yuiop.
'One summer's day the End of the World came. A sunny morning grew, in an instant, black. It was industrial fog, encouraged by the rare lack of a western wind to settle. The classroom lights were switched on: it was the middle of the night before dinnertime. It may also, said Mother Andrea gently, be the consummation of all things. Let us pray. The prayer was efficacious. God relented. A summer's day returned to sinful Manchester. But it had been a terrible moment. ' Little Wilson and Big God (1987)
Living at 21 Princess Road, the Burgess family opened an off-licence nearby at 261 Moss Lane East, Moss Side. Burgess's hated stepmother ran the shop, and Burgess recounts his memories of it in his autobiography:
'Our new shop ... was very well patronised by Moss Siders who preferred to do their drinking at home. ... Prim old ladies would come for a quarter bottle of gin, known in those cheap days as mother's ruin, and complain about the growing presence of black men in the town. These were probably Indians who had come to learn about cotton and ways of undercutting our major industry. ... An off-licence madam had to tolerate the prejudices of her customers, just like a pub landlady, and my stepmother had no difficulty there, for she subscribed to all the current bigotries. She would even, for the benefit of trade, agree with anticatholics who blamed the Pope for the coming war with America or alleged that the Eucharist was rank cannibalism.'
Burgess joined the Xaverian College in Rusholme on 15 September, and stayed to complete his School Certificate examinations. His first published poems appeared in the school magazine, The Manchester Xaverian, under the name John Burgess Wilson.