Agitation Dinner – Daniel O’Connell in Liverpool, January 1836

The Corn Exchange, Brunswick Street, Liverpool. “Drawn by G. and C. Pyne about 1827, engraved by T. Dixon.” Courtesy of the Internet Archive and the University of Toronto. http://www.victorianweb.org

 

AGITATION DINNER.-The Radicals of Liverpool dine Daniel O’Connell, M.P., Mr. Sheil, M. P., and Mr. Wise, M.P., at the Corn Exchange, Liverpool, on Wednesday next. The tickets are one guinea each.[Present day value – £ 1,172] The trio are to arrive by the mail-packet from Dublin on Wednesday morning, and an attempt is about to be made by the Irish Catholics to get up a procession from the pier where they land into the town; and for this purpose all the Hibernian clubs are to turn out with their flags and instruments of music. The place of dining will hold about 1,000 persons. This occasion will be Dan’s first public appearance in Liverpool, and the novelty of such a species of agitation may in consequence draw together a large mob. (The Times 25th January 1836)

This rather short cutting from the Times has a very pleasing circularity. A whole strand of the story runs through Liverpool at various times, and this one almost certainly brings together two different bits of the family. Mr. Sheil, M. P., and Mr. Wise, M.P. are  Richard Lalor Shiel and Thomas Wyse, who were two of the leading founders of the Catholic Association along with Daniel O’Connell. Both were at school with Patrick Grehan II at Stonyhurst, in Lancashire. Tom Wyse was married to Princess Letizia Bonaparte [Napoléon’s niece] The marriage was fairly rocky, and in May 1828 they agreed to a separation.

Letizia threw herself into the Serpentine in Hyde Park in a suicide attempt [probably from the newly built bridge] and was rescued by Captain Studholme John Hodgson who became her lover. They had three children together, who all used the surname Bonaparte-Wyse rather than their father’s surname.

Dan the man is the father-in-law of a cousin of a great aunt, and the other person who is highly likely to be at the dinner is Joshua Walmsley.  There are a number of reasons to suppose this. He was a newly elected councillor, certainly wealthy enough to afford the cost of the dinner, politically ambitious, and as a grain merchant unlikely not to have wanted to be seen at a political event at the Corn Exchange

Joshua was a Reformer,[or Whig, or Radical, the terms were fairly interchangeable] councillor won 260 votes in Castle Street ward or just over 73% of the turnout. The ward returned three Whig, or Reformer, councillors. The polling place was at the two windows of the King’s Arms Hotel fronting Castle-street. He was re-elected unopposed in 1838, and became mayor in November 1839 – 1840 while the Reformers still had a majority on the council with 28 councillors , and 16 aldermen against 20 Tory councillors.

This was the first election to Liverpool Town Council, held on Boxing Day 1835.  It was conducted under the provisions of the Municipal Corporations Act 1835. The Act reformed local government replacing corporations which were largely run by un-elected freemen, by councils elected by ratepayers.

After the election of Councillors on 26 December 1835 and the Aldermanic election in January 1836, the composition of the council was  44 Reformer councillors, and 15 aldermen, and 4 Tory councillors and 1 alderman. At the meeting of the Council in January 1836, sixteen Aldermen were elected by the Council, eight for a term of six years and eight for a term of three years. 15 whigs and 1 Tory.

Joshua Walmsley was elected Mayor of Liverpool in 1839, and was knighted on the occasion of the Queen’s marriage in 1840.

The family go to see Daniel O’Connell at Convent Garden in 1844

Alright quite distant family.

This is mostly an extract from the biography of Sister Mary of St. Philip published in 1920. Sister Mary of St. Philip [Fanny Lescher (1825 – 1904)] spent almost fifty years running the Teacher Training College at Mount Pleasant in Liverpool. She seems to have been a formidable woman as this quote from her obituary indicates: “She is a woman,” said Sir Francis Sandford, then Secretary of the Education Department, “who might fearlessly place her hand even on the helm of the State.”. But what is fascinating in the biography, compiled from letters, diaries, and her papers, is a picture of wealthy English Catholic life between 1830 and the mid-1850’s.  Fanny Lescher is the niece of 3x great grandmother Harriet Grehan, and Fanny Grehan is a 3x great-aunt [the wife of Paddy Grehan III]. The Fannys are second cousins to each other. This is a companion piece to the ” King Dan’s speech- Convent Garden 13 March 1844″ post.

Daniel O’Connell

Both Fanny and young Mrs. Grehan had deep reverence and esteem for Daniel O’Connell. The proudest page in Fanny Grehan’s album was that on which the Liberator had inscribed his appreciation of Miss Agnew’s novel, Geraldine. Mrs. Grehan’s first son was born just at the time of the great blow struck at the Repeal agitation when the monster meeting at Clontarf was proclaimed.[1843]  A little later Fanny Lescher writes to her that O’Connell himself is in gaol. 

When in the following year O’Connell came to London to protest against the political trials, Mr. Lescher took his eldest daughter to hear him speak at the Anti-Corn Law League. A few days later a dinner was given to the great man in Covent Garden theatre. Caroleen Pitchford notes the event in her diary:

“ Mamma , Catherine, Cousin Caroline, Fanny (Lescher), Annie (Lescher), and myself were in the dress circle. We had capital places and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. There were glee- singers, and a fine band playing Irish airs. When that dear holy man’s health was proposed by the Chairman there was tremendous enthusiasm. I shall never forget the cheering — the gentlemen hurrahing, and the ladies waving handkerchiefs till it was like a snowstorm. O’Connell’s speech was beautiful, in some parts quite affecting. He is looking, I think, rather careworn. Cousin William (Lescher) had the honour of being introduced, and shaking hands with him. It was a delightful evening. Long life to blessed Daniel O’Connell, ‘ the convicted conspirator,’ as he calls himself.”

The Interior of the second Theatre Royal, Convent Garden. It was built in 1810, and burnt down in 1856.

Fanny Lescher is the niece of 3x great grandmother Harriet Grehan (neé Lescher), and Fanny Grehan is a 3x great-aunt [the wife of Paddy Grehan III]. The Fannys are second cousins to each other.

Caroleen Pitchford, the author of the diary is a second cousin of Fanny Lescher, and Catherine (Kate Pitchford) is her sister.

Mamma is Susan Pitchford (neé Nyren) whose grandfather Richard “Dick” Nyren (c. 1734–1797) was one of the earliest professional cricketers playing first-class cricket during the 1760s and 1770s at the Hambledon Club.

Annie (Lescher) is Fanny’s younger sister who also became a nun. Annie and Kate Pitchford were at school together

Cousin William (Lescher) is Fanny and Annie’s father, and when he was widowed in 1836, at the age of 37, his unmarried sister, Caroline (Cousin Caroline) took charge of the household. She stayed with the family until 1848 when she left to join the Benedictine convent in Winchester.

County of Cork.—Mr. O’Connell a Candidate. 12th July 1841

This has been buried in a mass of information about the election in 1841 for a couple of years whilst I worked out how to best deal with it. This specific post caught my eye whilst I was trying to deal with which Bartholomew Verling was which. What it really did spark was the whole series of posts on the 1841 election.

The important thing to know is the election was stretched over almost a fortnight. So when Daniel O’Connell wasn’t elected in Dublin City, he was still able to stand in Cork County. He was also on the ballot, and elected in Meath.

What is quite so surprising is how many of the family are in this one, all detailed at the end of the post.

COUNTY OF CORK.—MR. O’CONNELL A CANDIDATE;—THE NOMINATION.—CORK,

Monday Night, July 12th .—Mr. O’Connell, the victim of foul play and Orange chicanery in Dublin, is now the leading candidate for the representation in Parliament of the Yorkshire of Ireland,—of the county of Cork,—with its million of inhabitants. Authorized by the two gentlemen—Messrs. Roche and Barry, the former members—the committee in the direction of the Liberal electoral interests despatched on Saturday night a gentleman, Bartholomew Verling, Esq., of Cove, with full power to announce to Mr. O’Connell the retirement of one, or, if necessary, of both the gentlemen by whom the county had been represented, in order that the interests of the country might be promoted, and the successful machinations of the Tories in other places met and counterbalanced. Mr. Verling arrived at Carlow yesterday, where he met Mr. O’Connell, and at full work for the independence of that proverbially Tory-Orange county. The liberator of his country received the communication with delight. Mr. Verling posted to Cork, and arrived at seven this morning. The committee sat at eight. Mr. O’Connell’s letter was then read, and before nine o’clock the city was all commotion. Placards were posted in every direction. In the mean time, the Tory arrivals were incessant and numerous; and when, at twelve o’clock, the county court was thrown open, and-the usual frightful crush and crash of the populace took place, the appearance of things rightfully indicated how, as it is said here, “the cat hopped.’ Mr. G. Standish Barry presented himself. Greatly did he regret that circumstances had arisen that placed him in the position of retiring from the high and distinguished honour of being a.candidate for the fourth time, for the representation of the county. But the temporary defeat of Ireland’s liberator required that some one, should make the sacrifice ; and in his person that sacrifice was now made. He had pleasure in retiring for Mr. O’Connell (tremendous cheering), not simply of retiring, but he had the great gratification of proposing as the representative of the county of Cork in Parliament, Daniel O’Connell, Esq. (Awful cheering.) In an excellent speech, well delivered and well received, the nomination was seconded by Francis Bernard Beamish, Esq., our late representative for the city .of Cork. Nothing could exceed the wild enthusiasm of the people at having before them as a candidate Mr. O’Connell. The scene was at times terrific. Proposed by Daniel Clanchy, Esq. J.P. of Charleville, and seconded by Eugene M’Carthy, Esq., Of Ruthroe, Mr. Burke Roche was introduced to the constituency. The reception was enthusiastic. The Conservative candidates Messrs. Leader and Longfield, met with a sorry reception. The high sheriff (Mr. Barry) appealed in their behalf in vain. The Tories will persevere to the last. But such a defeat as awaits them

The above text was found on p.6, 17th July 1841 in “The Tablet: The International Catholic News Weekly.” Reproduced with kind permission of the Publisher. The Tablet can be found at http://www.thetablet.co.uk .

The text below is taken from the Spectator also on 17th July 1841. Both papers took a strongly anti-Tory stance

The Spectator 17 July 1841: CORK COUNTY has been a candidate for the honour of returning Mr. O’Connell. As soon as it was known that he was thrown out at Dublin, Mr. Standish Barry retired to make room for him. Mr. Burke Roche stood with him. The Tory candidates were Mr. Phillpotts Leader and Mr. Longfield.

In the letter accepting the invitation of the electors to stand, Mr. O’Connell says-

” We cannot disguise to ourselves the fact, that my defeat in Dublin will give an insolent confidence to our enemies—to the bigoted enemies of Ireland. They will gladly hail it as a proof of the declining strength of the popular power, a proof which would be annihilated by a victory in my name in such a county as Cork. It strikes me that we should thus counteract time Dublin loss. It is quite true that such loss was occasioned by means which betoken the depravity of our adversaries, and not any alteration in popular opinion or in popular determination. Still, it requires to be counteracted ; and such counteraction would be only the more powerful by my being unnecessarily returned for your county. But I do not think I could be personally present in Cork before Wednesday morning. Under these circumstances, I leave myself in sour hands. You command my services—you command my political action. If it is thought fit to elect me for Cork county, I will sit for that county, and none other, in this Parliament. The coming into operation of the Municipal Bill, however insufficient in other respects that bill may be, will enable me to regain Dublin.”

CORK CITY. The Liberals, Daniel Callaghan and Francis Murphy, triumphed here, over Colonel Chatterton and Mr. Morris. The Tories complain of intimidation and obstruction. On the 8th, an elector was killed. The Cork Constitution says-

” The organization was complete. Every ‘enemy ‘ was known and marked; and, as he quitted the booth, a chalk on his back commended him to ‘ justice.’ If the military were outside, execution was deferred ; but they ‘ dogged ‘ him till the danger was past, and then a shout or a wink pointed him for vengeance. The women were usually the first ; the courageous men came after, and the unfortunate fellow was beat, and cut, and trampled. Then is the triumph of diabolical enmity. A demoniac shout is raised, and even a woman dances in the blood! We write a literal fact : when Mr. Norwood’s skull was broken in the manner described on Thursday, one of the female followers of Murphy and Callaghan actually danced in the blood that lay red upon the ground.”

The family bits.

Just to recap, Bartholomew Verling of Cove has two grandsons also called Bartholomew Verling who are first cousins. The elder Bartholomew Verling (1786 – 1855) of Cove is John Roche of Aghada’s nephew twice over. His mother is John Roche’s sister, Ellen, and his father is Mary Roche’s (nee Verling) brother, John Verling. His brother is Dr James Roche Verling (1787 – 1858) was one of Napoléon’s doctors on St. Helena [making both of them 1st cousins 5x removed].

Roche and Barry” are Edmond Burke Roche, and Garrett Standish Barry. Barry was the first Catholic MP elected to represent Cork County after the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829, and was elected in 1832. Roche was elected in 1837.  

Garrett Standish Barry (1788-1864) is the 1st cousin 1x removed of 5x great aunt Mary Grehan, and his great-nephew Henry Standish Barry was at Downside with 2x great uncle Frank Purssell, and a guest at his wedding.

Edmond Burke Roche is slightly more complicated. He is the 1st cousin 1x removed of General Edmund Roche whose wife Anna Austin was Charles Cooper Penrose-Fitzgerald’s aunt. Charles C P-F’s wife was Henrietta Hewson which made her a 2nd cousin of 3x great aunt Mary O’Bryen. 

Edmond Burke Roche also has the distinction of being Prince Harry’s great, great, great grandfather. 

Dan Callaghan was the M.P for Cork City for nineteen years from 1830 until his death in 1849 aged 63. His sister Catherine was married to James Joseph Roche another 1st cousin 5x removed, and a 1st cousin of the Verling boys.

And finally, Dan the man himself is the father-in-law of a 1st cousin 1x removed of 5x great aunt Mary Grehan.

Daniel O’Connell to the Electors of the County of Cork 6th July 1841

This is part of a series of posts about the1841 election rather specifically from an Irish perspective. At the time the letter was written Daniel O’Connell was standing for election as an M.P. in Dublin City. Things changed six days later. Roche and Barry” are Edmond Burke Roche, and Garrett Standish Barry. Barry was the first Catholic MP elected to represent Cork County after the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829, and was elected in 1832. Roche was elected in 1837.  Edmond Burke Roche also has the distinction of being Prince Harry’s great, great, great grandfather.

TO THE ELECTORS OF THE COUNTY OF CORK.

Dublin, 6th July, 1841.

” Who would be free, themselves must strike the blow ?”

Fellow-Countrymen,

We have arrived at the most important crisis in the affairs of Ireland. The liberty and the religion of the Irish people are at stake. The question is, whether the Orange miscreants, who have so long plundered our country, and persecuted our people, are to trample upon us again—to outrage our venerated clergy, and to inflict the virulent hostility of their blasphemous scurrility upon the most sacred rites of the Catholic religion.

I am convinced that not one liberal Protestant in the county of Cork will refuse to vote for Roche and Barry. I am convinced that not one Catholic will vote against Roche and Barry. In fact, the Catholic who does not vote for Roche and Barry is a traitor to his country, and a renegade to his religion. 

Remember, my friends, that the exterminators have openly avowed themselves. And, although, as in this city, they have felt it prudent to qualify the bitterness of their hostility to the Catholics, yet their designs of destruction are sufficiently manifest, even from the equivocal language which they now choose to employ, instead of an open declaration of vengeance.

There is no scheme too vile — no misrepresentation too atrocious — no cunning trick too dirty or too false — for the Orange Tories of your county to make use of, in order to delude or deceive the people to their own destruction.

Amongst other dirty tricks, the Orange faction in your county have asserted that the ministerial plan on the subject of the cornlaws would be injurious to the farmers. I wish you to understand this subject as well as I do. The ministerial plan which Mr. Roche supports, and which I support, is a fixed duty of eight shillings per quarter upon wheat ; and so in proportion upon other grain.

Now, attend to me, I beg of you, my fellow-countrymen. You know me I never deceived you nor any of you : and I tell you distinctly and emphatically, that of all the plans respecting the cornlaws, the ministerial plan of a fixed duty, which both Roche and Barry will support, is the very best for the farmer ! It is so for this reason ; that at present, rents are charged upon the farmers according to the highest prices that corn can bring ; and a speculation takes place respecting rents, in which, as you well know, the landlords have always the best of it.

The fixed duty gives, on the contrary, a fixed and steady rule of price for corn, and therefore a fixed criterion for rent ; thus giving to the farmer the surplus profits when the corn produces a price higher than in ordinary years..

I am bound to add, that after having investigated this subject with all the care and attention due to it from me, whose great object is the good of all the people—the good of the farmers when it varies from that of the aristocracy or landlords, I am thoroughly and conscientiously convinced that the best plan for all the farmers would be the total abolition of the corn-laws.

But that is not the question at present. The present question lies altogether between the plan of a sliding scale of corn duties and the plan of a fixed duty. This latter is the plan which Lord John Russell and his friends—including Messrs. Barry and Roche—will support.

Remember, my dear friends, that I, who, by counselling the people right, extorted emancipation, and put down Protestant ascendancy, in despite of the Orange aristocrats and landlords, who would now deceive and delude you on the subject of the corn-laws—remember, I say, that I, whom you have honoured with the name of the Liberator,—remember, that I tell you that the plan of a fixed duty, which both Roche and Barry support, is infinitely preferable for the farmers, than the sliding and slippery scale with which Leader and the Orange landlords endeavour to gull and deceive you.

As to Leader [Nicholas Leader, one of the Tory candidates.] himself, he is by birth and fortune a gentleman. If he remained quiet, nobody would refuse to admit him to be such. But in politics he is a shabby and despicable fellow. I knew him when he commenced his political career, and he came out not only a Liberal but really as a Radical ; and he is now endeavouring to represent the county of Cork at the head of all the Orange enemies of the people. Say to him, honest men of the county of Cork, “Shame upon thee, Leader! Shame, where is thy blush?”

Whoever votes for Leader, or for any man of his principles, votes for the extermination of Catholicity ; for the Orange Tories—for the haters of Ireland and the Irish—for the revilers of our clergy—for the blasphemers of our religion Those who refuse to vote for Barry and Roche are equally despicable traitors. They are to be loathed and shunned by every honest man.

Those who vote for Barry and Roche vote for the Queen and her ministers ;—for old Ireland and freedom;—for religion and liberty.

Recollect that the faction to which Leader has now attached himself is that which, by the most atrocious treachery, enacted the penal laws against the Catholics ; which set the same price—that is, £5.—upon the head of a wolf and the head of a priest ; which proscribed Catholic education ; which would still employ education for the purposes of trickery and exclusive proselytism.

Leader’s faction is the faction that has proclaimed in the city of Dublin the uprooting of Catholicity ; which seeks the restoration of Protestant ascendancy and Orange domination.

Leader’s faction call your priests ” surpliced ruffians “ and ” anointed vagabonds.”

Leader’s faction call the holy sacrifice of the mass ” mummery.” They call the Catholic religion an “abject superstition” and a “vile idolatry.”

Liberal Protestants of the county of Cork—and you especially, Catholic electors—shall there be found amongst you any man so thoroughly a traitor and a renegade as to give a single vote to Leader, or to the faction to which he belongs ?

Will any of you refuse to vote against the Orange faction, and in favour of my excellent and beloved friend, Edmund Roche, and of his esteemed colleague, Standish Barry ?

Let every man, then, who confides in me, who is ready to take my honest advice—let every liberal Protestant, and let every conscientious Catholic, vote for the religious liberty of Old Ireland.

That is let him record his vote for Roche and Barry.

I am, beloved countrymen, your faithful and devoted servant,

DANIEL O’CONNELL

The British and Irish election of 1841

This post is largely to put some context into a series of posts that will follow about the election in Ireland in 1841. The total Irish electorate of almost 50,000 [from a population of 6.5m] and 50% larger than the combined Scottish and Welsh electorate [26,500 and 7,700 respectively]. All were dwarfed by an English electorate of just over 500,000. All in all, the total electorate was 584,200 men.

Sir Robert Peel

The election of 1841 brought Sir Robert Peel to power for the second time, though his first term as Prime Minister had lasted only four months as the head of a minority government. It is regarded as having been one of the most corrupt elections in British parliamentary history, the Westminster Review stating that the “annals of parliamentary warfare contained no page more stained with the foulness of corruption and falsehood than that which relates the history of the general election in the year 1841”. 2016 -2018 are running it close.

Only 3.17% of the total population voted.

At the election, there was a swing of 2.6% to the Conservatives giving them a majority of 76 seats over the combined opposition [367 to 291 – Whig 271,  Irish Repeal Party 20]. The Tories campaigned mainly on the issue of Peel’s leadership, whilst the Whigs were largely tinkering with the Corn Laws, proposing replacing the existing sliding scale of import duties on corn with a uniform rate. The Corn Laws made it expensive to import grain from other countries, even when food supplies were short. The laws were supported mainly by landowners, both Tory and Whig, and opposed by urban industrialists and workers.

There was also the issue of electoral reform again, with a substantial view that the Reform Act of 1832 hadn’t gone far enough. The Whigs were largely a landowning aristocratic party, though in favour of reducing the power of the Crown and increasing the power of Parliament. [i.e. Their own power through the House of Lords] They were slowly evolving into the Liberal Party, which was essentially a coalition of Whigs, free trade Tory Peelites, and free trade Radicals. A move not fully complete until 1868.

1841 was curious in so far as even radical [English] support favoured the Tories,  it being felt that Peel would be more open to electoral reform. Radical opinion also appeared to favour the business background of Peel and his supporters to the aristocratic and landed background of the Whigs.

Daniel O’Connell

The Whigs also lost votes to the Irish Repeal group who they had an electoral pact with between 1835 and the 1841 election. The Repeal Association was an Irish mass membership political movement set up by Daniel O’Connell in 1830 to campaign for a repeal of the Acts of Union of 1800 between Great Britain and Ireland. The Association’s aim was to revert Ireland to the constitutional position briefly achieved  in the 1780s, legislative independence under the British Crown – but this time with full Catholic involvement, but there was still a substantial property qualification. The total Irish electorate was 50,000 men from a population of 6.5m.

The Irish election was partisan, sectarian, and violent. It also had a distinct geographical split with the Tories receiving most support in Ulster, and some eastern counties, as well as pushing through a fraudulent poll in Dublin. There was also substantial anti-Catholic opinion within the Tory party. It is all very multi-layered, and there are some subtle gradations to be navigated. In Ireland it is safe to say being on Daniel O’Connell’s side is probably walking with the [moderate middle class] angels.

 

Tory and Catholic relations in Liverpool in the early C19th.

This is taken from Tom Burke’s ” Catholic History of Liverpool “, 1910. He is not a disinterested party. He was Liverpool born and bred, with Irish parents. He was for many years, a magistrate, councillor, and Alderman on Liverpool City Council where he represented Vauxhall ward as a member of the Irish Nationalist Party. Liverpool Scotland constituency, which Vauxhall was part of, returned T.P. O’Connor as an Irish Party M.P. for 44 years between 1885 and 1929, the only constituency outside Ireland ever to return an Irish Nationalist Party MP. None of this really detracts from the power of Tom Burke’s writing, or his analysis of politics in the city. The rest of the post of his with the original footnotes from the book bracketed, and in italics, along with a couple of additional explanations of mine also in bracketed italics.

Princes Dock, Liverpool

It is extremely probable that a great number of Irish labourers found work in the year 1819, in excavating the Prince’s Dock. Most of the docks were constructed by Irish labourers, and other works of a similar character requiring muscle were so carried out by them. The Orangemen of the town appear to have had their political passions inflamed by the presence of a large Catholic and Irish population in their midst, and the development of church buildings as well as the marked tolerance of the Liberal party aggravated the situation. They began a series of attacks both wordy and physical on the Catholic Church and Ireland, which to them as to more enlightened persons were regarded quite erroneously as synonymous terms. Retaliation was inevitable. On the 12th July, 1819, when the Orange body celebrated the famous scrimmage “twixt a Dutchman and a Scot ” [See humorous squib, Dublin Leader, July, 1908.]  they were waylaid at the corner of Dale Street [The exact spot where the Holy Cross procession was attacked on May 9th, 1909.] and Byrom Street by a host of Irish labourers who made a desperate onslaught on them. Stones, sticks and other weapons were freely used, and both sides sustained severe injuries. It was the beginning of that wretched race quarrel on false issues which was assiduously kept alive by one political party in the city for the most unworthy ends, [the Tories] and continued to disturb the harmony of the citizens for half a century.

Caroline of Brunswick, c.1804.

The Irish Catholics of the early years of the nineteenth century were accused by interested politicians of disloyalty, an accusation which has not yet been discontinued. Strangely enough it was their loyalty to the unfortunate Queen Caroline which accounted for their first appearance in the political arena of Liverpool, the prelude to effective interference in much more important matters both of religion and politics. The sympathies of the great bulk of the Liberal party lay with the persecuted consort of a worthless Hanoverian, and when the news reached Liverpool that she had triumphantly vindicated her honour, they organised a huge public demonstration to express their delight, in November 1820. [Support for Queen Caroline meant opposing Lord Liverpool’s Tory administration who were siding with George IV ]In the public procession which wound up the festivities the Catholic and Irish Societies took no unimportant place. They had at length lifted their heads, and begun to realise the duty they owed to the city of their adoption.

An unfortunate incident occurred in the month of February 1840, which illustrated the delicate relations between the English and Irish Catholics of the town, and the ease with which the susceptibilities of the latter could be touched in a tender spot. The developments of the political situation in Ireland had gradually removed O’Connell from his great and influential position as a purely Catholic leader. Catholic Emancipation was one thing, Repeal of the Union another. The glamour of O’Connell’s personality had captured in any case the support of the Irish in Lancashire, whilst many Englishmen who were still under a deep debt of gratitude to him for his great services to the Catholic cause, had their doubts as to the wisdom of the new movement. Irishmen, on the other hand, failed to recognise the right of an English Catholic to his own views on important imperial political questions, such as the restoration of the Irish Parliament.

St Patrick’s, Park Place, Toxteth.

Friction was inevitable, and unfortunately the parish priest of St. Patrick’s was the central figure if not the actual cause. His strong personality refused to adapt itself to surrounding conditions and as the result he became at once unpopular, if not obnoxious, to his Irish congregation. A petition to Parliament demanding the repeal of the Union was placed outside the doors of St. Patrick’s Church for signature on a certain Sunday morning. Father Parker forbade the promoters to place the petition there on the ground that to act otherwise would be an infringement of the trust deed, and, secondly would cause dissension in his congregation. The more ardent Irish spirits declined to accept his explanation and attributed his action to pro-English prejudices. As a matter of fact this was far from being the truth, and had Father Parker not set up the groundless contention of violation of the trust deed the difficulty might have been smoothed over.

Daniel O’Connell

He then committed the mistake of appealing to O’Connell himself, which only seemed to irritate the Repealers, and the more so as O’Connell’s letter severely censured the opponents of the rector. It was a curious revelation of O’Connell’s views on the legitimacy of Anglo-Irish interference in the Repeal movement, to find Father Parker reminding him that during a previous visit to Liverpool they had both discussed the advisability or otherwise of pushing forward the agitation in Liverpool, and that O’Connell had advised the inexpediency of such a proposal, being of opinion that it would be illegal.

“Since that time,” wrote Father Parker, ” an association of Repealers has been started in a way calculated to do serious injury to the cause of civil and religious liberty.” O’Connell’s reply is not without interest : ” I am deeply shocked at hearing of the conduct of the Repealers in the vicinity of your chapel, and more disgusted than I can express at men using disrespectful language towards any of their respected clergy. The Repealers have no right to bring their petition into the vicinity of your chapel without your permission.”  O’Connell then goes on to say that the rule in Ireland, ” never broken,” was to ask permission from the parish priest, and concludes a vigorously written letter by emphatically declaring that he ” will not accept any support from Liverpool Repealers if they shew any further disrespect to the clergy of the town.”

Instead of following O’Connell’s advice, a Liverpool Repealer, also named O’Connell, entered into a lengthy correspondence with Father Parker, the net result being a widening of the breach, and though the strain was relieved to some extent later on, this painful display of want of confidence in each other s integrity had the effect of severing the Irish and English Catholics of the town from working harmoniously except on rare occasions, and in later generations helped to undo the fine work accomplished heretofore by united effort.

Liverpool and the Irish Famine 1847

This is largely taken from Chapter IV. of Tom Burke’s ” Catholic History of Liverpool “, 1910. He is not a disinterested party. He was Liverpool born and bred, with Irish parents. He was for many years, a magistrate, councillor, and Alderman on Liverpool City Council where he represented Vauxhall ward as a member of the Irish Nationalist Party. Liverpool Scotland constituency, which Vauxhall was part of, returned T.P. O’Connor as an Irish Party M.P. for 44 years between 1885 and 1929, the only constituency outside Ireland ever to return an Irish Nationalist Party MP. None of this really detracts from the power of Tom Burke’s writing. The rest of the post of his with the original footnotes from the book bracketed, and in italics, along with a couple of additional explanations of mine also in bracketed italics.

Over to Alderman Burke:

A dark cloud fell upon Liverpool in the last months of the year [1846], and when it passed away, a new Catholic Liverpool arose, with new problems and fresh difficulties, many of which are not yet solved. No man can understand aright the Liverpool of the second half of the nineteenth century, who does not seriously study the dread incidents which the November and December portended.

From the point of view of public health, Liverpool had degenerated into one of the worst towns in the Kingdom. Narrow streets, narrower courts, overcrowded alleys, and bad drainage, were exacting a heavy toll of disease and death. Streets were left unswept for as long a period as three weeks, in working class quarters, the Town Council being much too busy with the interests of party to occupy itself with such mundane affairs. The Tories were blind to all warnings; in capturing the Council Schools they had exhausted their mandate. To promote sanitary reform, a Health of Towns Association had been formed in the Metropolis, and the first Liverpool branch was founded in St. Patrick’s schoolroom.

Just as, half-a-century later, it was reserved for Liverpool Catholic public men to fight the battle of housing reform, so in the early forties it was left for the Catholic leaders to speak out against the criminal neglect, by the Corporation, of the important question of public health. Sir Arnold Knight, M.D., father of a future Bishop of Shrewsbury, and of a distinguished Jesuit, delivered the address at this gathering, presided over by Mr. R. Sheil. His speech is painful reading, descriptive of the conditions under which the labouring classes were compelled to live, conditions which made moral or physical health well-nigh impossible. Sir Arnold stated, that in London one out of every thirty-seven of the population died annually; Liverpool’s proportion being one in twenty- eight. In the Metropolis, 32 out of every 100 children died before reaching the age of nine ; Liverpool had the unenviable record of 49. Nor was this all. In the densely populated streets and courts of Vauxhall Ward, this number went up to 64, an appalling rate of mortality. Physical deterioration had set in, or, as the Catholic Knight put it, Liverpool men “were unfit to be shot at “, an allusion to the rejection of 75 per cent of the recruits for the army.

This speech gives the answer to much of the superficial criticism of the result of Irish ” habits “ on the general health of towns. The death roll gives the needed and only reply to the puzzle which has worried Catholic statisticians as to the causes which have operated to prevent the prolific Irish from being one-half, at least, of the population of Liverpool. Sixty- four out of every hundred Irish children dead before nine years of age, from preventible causes ! !

The Irish poor did not build the narrow streets nor the dirty courts, they did not leave the streets unswept, and had no responsibility for stinking middens, left unemptied at their very doors, nor did they create the economic conditions which drove them across the channel, and in turn made life in Liverpool the burden it really was. Drink ! Yes, they drank ! No wonder ! where drink alone could bring forgetfulness of present misery. But for the small band of priests who laboured amongst them, and the faith they brought from Ireland, Irish Liverpool had become heathendom. The demoralisation of child life caused by exclusion from the schools, in 1841, had sown its seeds, and a deadly harvest was to be reaped a generation later, which, even to the twentieth century, has made Liverpool a bye-word to every stranger entering its gates.

It was too late for any body of men to cure the evil, when the famine years sent hundreds of thousands of Irishmen and women into the very streets and alleys, where over-crowding and disease had become every-day features, and excited no surprise. The closing months of 1846 ended in ” an inpouring of wretchedness from Ireland; streets swarming with hungry and almost naked wretches.”   Written by a friendly hand, these words fail to convey an adequate picture of the scenes witnessed every day during November and December, 1846.

At the meeting of the Select Vestry,[the official title of the Liverpool Board of Poor Law Guardians] December 15th, 1846, the captains of the coasting vessels were censured for carrying over such large numbers of immigrants, and it was seriously suggested that Liverpool should follow the example of the Isle of Man authorities, by refusing permission to land. It is pleasant to record that the first meeting held to raise funds for the relief of the famine stricken, was organised by the Irish navvies, then constructing the railway to Bury. The meeting was held in the schoolroom underneath St. Joseph’s chapel, Grosvenor Street, on November 30th, every navvy putting down one day’s wages on the table as his tribute to the unfortunate people of his own country. In the church, the first sermon for the same object was preached by Father McEvoy, parish priest of Kells, in the fertile plains of Meath, who received fifty-two pounds from the poor labourers of St. Joseph’s parish. The new year, 1847, opened inauspiciously. During the six days, January 4th to 9th, the Select Vestry relieved 7,146 Irish families, consisting of 29,417 persons, of whom 18,376 were children.

From the 13th to the 25th of the same month, 10,724 deck passengers arrived from Irish ports, and during the month of February they came pouring in at the average rate of nine hundred per day. So dreadful was their poverty that we have the authority of the Rector of Liverpool, speaking on the 26th of February, that nine thousand Irish families were being relieved, a number which increased to eleven thousand by the end of March. The Stipendiary Magistrate had given an instruction to the police to keep a record of the number of immigrants, and, at a meeting of the justices summoned by him to consider suitable measures to cope with this serious menace to health and peace, he stated that, from the first day of November, 1846, to the twelfth day of May, 1847, the total number of Irish immigrants into Liverpool amounted to 196,338. Deducting the numbers actually recorded as sailing to America, no less than 137,519 persons had been added to the population of Liverpool. When the year ended, the total number of immigrants, excluding those who were bound for America, reached the immense total of 296,231, all ” apparently paupers.” [Head Constable Dowling’s Report to the Watch Committee.]

The already overcrowded Irish quarters gave some kind of shelter to the new comers ;  its character makes the heart sick, even when read in cold print. No less than 35,000 were housed in cellars, [ Liverpool Mercury, 1847.] below the level of the street, without light or ventilation; 5841 cellars [Gore’s Annals of Liverpool.]  were ” wells of stagnant water “ or, as an official report to the Corporation puts it, 5,869 were found, on examination, to be ” damp, wet, or filthy.” In the district now known as Holy Cross parish, not then formed, and in St. Vincent’s, an appalling state of affairs prevailed. In Lace Street, Marybone, in a cellar 14 feet long, ten wide, and six in height, twelve persons were found endeavouring to breathe, and, ” in more than one instance, upwards of forty people were found sleeping “ in a similar underground dungeon. [Medical Officer s Report for 1847. W. H. Duncan, M.D. ] The Stipendiary shocked the town by his narrative of a woman being confined of twins, in a Lace Street cellar, crowded with human beings. In Crosby Street, Park Lane, now occupied by the Wapping Goods Station, of the L. & N. W. Railway Company, 37 people were found in one cellar, and in another eight lay dead from typhus.

The unfortunates ” occupied every nook and corner of the already over-crowded lodging houses, and forced their way into the cellars (about 3,000 in number), which had been closed under the Health Act of 1842. In different parts of Liverpool, fifty or sixty of these destitute people were found in a house containing three or four small rooms, about twelve feet by ten.” [Head Constable Dowling’s Report to the Watch Committee.] By February, the mortality from fever was eighteen per cent, above the average, and four months later was 2,000 per cent. above the average of previous years.[ W. H. Duncan, M.D. Report to the Health Committee, 1847.]

Smallpox broke out and carried off 381 children, and an epidemic of measles added 378 to the total. In Lace Street, already mentioned, one-third of the inhabitants, that is to say 472 persons, died from fever during the year. In the Parish of Liverpool, the weekly mortality by the month of August reached 537, as against the usual average of 160 ; while in the extra parochial districts of Toxteth and Everton, it was 111 against 50. The curse of mis-rule in Ireland, and mis-government in Liverpool, had come home to roost, and he who would pass judgment on Irish poverty or “crime “ of later years, let him read the story which every stone of the charnel houses in Vauxhall, Exchange, Scotland, Great George and Pitt Street Wards, told and still tell. Here were sown the dragon’s teeth, and they have sprung up, not in armed men, but workhouses, reformatories, and gaols.

Regulations of all kinds were brought into force to put a much-needed check on this enormous influx, but without avail for at least a year. The Poor Law authorities returned 24,529 to their native parishes during the years 1847 and 1848 ; [See Dr. Mackay’s article on Liverpool in Morning Chronicle.]  it was only a drop in the ocean, for vessels were arriving daily with fresh contingents. Deck passages from Dublin cost as small a sum as sixpence, which probably tempted thousands to try their fortune in our midst. It stands to the infinite credit of the citizens that distinctions of race, religion, and party were obliterated in presence of this awful visitation, and that they united to succour the sick and hungry, both in the town and the country from whence they came. There were two exceptions, which only served to bring out this noble generosity in strong relief.

Vestryman Mellor gleefully exclaimed, at a meeting of the Select Vestry, ” when they are all gone, we will people Ireland with a better set,” and Dr. Hugh McNeill [ vicar of St Jude’s, and later St Paul’s, Princes Park, Liverpool (1834-1848), and a virulently anti-Catholic preacher,] characteristically accused the Irish clergy of refusing to dispense the English Relief Funds, unless the recipients paid them a consideration. These men were the sole exceptions to the truly Christian spirit which prevailed in all classes. Bishop Sharples acted with commendable promptitude. Summoning a meeting of Catholics in the Concert Hall, Lord Nelson Street, he had the pleasure of receiving two thousand pounds from his flock in the course of a few minutes. This sum was subscribed by less than fifty persons, and was dispatched next day by the treasurer, Mr. C. J. Corbally, in equal shares to the Archbishops of Cashel and Tuam. Church collections were immediately taken, and one thousand pounds came from this source; St. Patrick s heading the list with £ 118 16s. 7d., a few shillings more than the amount subscribed by St. Nicholas .

A name never to be forgotten in the annals of Liverpool Catholicism appeared for the first time in print, in connection with the famine fund, that of a young priest, Father James Nugent, who preached at St. Alban’s, Blackburn, and handed £ 72 12s. 8d. to the Liverpool treasurer. It was related by the journals of the day, that the Post Office was besieged by Irish labourers, sending small sums of money home to their afflicted kinsfolk. The condition of Ireland was bad, but it may well be doubted whether that of Liverpool was not worse. Where were the mass of new-comers to be housed? Where was employment to be found? Whence could be drawn clergy to come to attend to their spiritual needs? If church and school accommodation was deficient before 1847, it was surely deficient now.

In January, 1847, the Rector of Liverpool informed the Government that dysentery had assumed alarming proportions, due to the cabbages and turnips which formed the only food of the first immigrants. February saw eight hundred cases of typhoid ; the reading of the death-roll each Sunday morning in the churches sending a cold shiver through the immense congregations. Hurriedly the parish authorities set up fever sheds, in Great Homer Street on the North, and Mount Pleasant on the South, and fitted up a hospital ship in the Mersey, to cope with the new terror. Then came the awful visitation of typhus. Liverpool Protestantism bowed its head in reverence at the heroism of the handful of Catholic Priests.

Undaunted, they went from room to room in crowded houses ; from cellar to garret, ministering to the sick. They were never absent from hourly attendance in the hospital wards. Here at least there was some privacy, but in the crowded rooms and cellars it was next to impossible to hear the last confession, unless the priest lay down beside the sick man to receive the seeds of disease from poisoned breaths in return for spiritual consolations. In very truth they were braver men than ever faced the lions in a Roman amphitheatre.

If life must be sacrificed, it were fitting that St. Patrick’s should provide the first victim. Father Parker, rector for seventeen years, succumbed to typhus on April 28th, aged 43, [Buried in the vaults of the church. Dr. Youens sang the Requiem; the sub-deacon was Father Nugent] and was followed on May 26th by the scholarly Benedictine, Dr. Appleton, of St. Peter’s, who exchanged the Presidency of Douai College for a martyr s crown, won in the pestilential cellars of Crosby Street. The fine sanctuary of the church recalls his last work for the oldest ecclesiastical building in Liverpool, and the tablet on the walls of the church reminds succeeding generations of his great charity. St. Patrick’s again rendered two more victims, Father Grayston succumbing on the 16th June, aged 33, and his colleague, Father Haggar, [ Died at the house of Mr. Denis Madden, 116, Islington.] aged 29, following him seven days later. A third priest who had left the plains of Westmeath to work among his people in England, the Rev. Bernard O Reilly, was also stricken down. The rector of Old Swan, Father, afterwards Canon, Haddocks, took him from the presbytery at Saint Patrick’s to his own house, in the country, where he recovered in a most miraculous manner, and lived to become the third Bishop of Liverpool. St. Mary’s then took up the beadroll of death ; Father Gilbert, O.S.B., aged 27, and Father William Dale, O.S.B., aged 43, succumbing to typhus on the 31st May and 28th June respectively.

On the 22nd August, Father Richard Gillow, [He founded the St, Vincent de Paul Conference at St. Nicholas.] a member of a most devoted Catholic family, yielded up his young life he was but 36 years of age at St. Nicholas , and on the 28th September, the death of Father Whitaker, at St. Joseph’s, completed the death-roll for the year. Father Whitaker’s career was unique. He entered Douai with the intention of becoming a Benedictine, and after some years abandoned his undoubted vocation for the study of medicine. On the eve of qualifying he changed his mind and resumed his ecclesiastical studies at St. Sulpice, Paris. From thence he proceeded to Ushaw, where he was ordained, and after serving on the mission at Bolton, York, and Manchester, found an early grave in the slums of Liverpool. The deaths of these priests; [ To these should be added Father Nightingale, who died March 2nd, and Father Thomas Kelly, D.D,, who died May 1st.]  made a profound impression on a town which had witnessed 15,000 deaths from famine and fever, and exalted in the estimation of the Protestant citizens the character and dignity of the priesthood. The strain on the surviving clergy, most of whom suffered severely, was intense. They lay at night on chairs and sofas in their clothes, awaiting the sick calls which never failed to come, fearful lest the time spent in dressing might mean the loss of the Sacraments to some poor wretch lying in his dismal hovel. [ See Ushaw Magazine, June, 1895.] To the townspeople such heroism conveyed the reason why Catholics reverenced the office of the priest ; for Catholics it knit fresh bonds between them and the clergy.

In the midst of these scenes of desolation the sad news arrived from Genoa that the great defender of the poor Irish, the brilliant advocate of Catholic claims, had given up his soul to God. The death of O”Connell added to the grief and suffering of the poor immigrants, whose confidence in his powers knew no bounds. It was announced in the ” Tablet “ that his body would pass through Liverpool on its way to mother earth, but the authorities, fearing an outbreak, induced his unintelligent son to alter the arrangements. Instead of coming to Liverpool from Southampton, the coffin passed through Chester, where it rested one night before the altar in the city of St. Werburgh, and on the 26th July, 1847, arrived in Birkenhead. The steamer ” Duchess of Kent ” lay in the Mersey, en route for Dublin. Its quarter-deck was covered with an immense black canopy, under which the coffin was placed, surrounded by lighted tapers, and covered with a pall still in the possession of the Benedictines at St. Mary’s. To relieve the poignant feelings of the Irish multitudes they were allowed in relays to board the steamer and kneel for a few moments before the remains of the ” Liberator.” The evening before, the body of the O’Conor Don, M.P., lay in similar state ere it passed down the swiftly flowing waters of the Mersey to the land from whence he sprang. By November the tide of immigration began to slacken, and the black cloud of death and disease became less heavy and sombre. As the months rolled on, every quarter of the town had suffered, and, excluding those who had succumbed, sixty thousand of the inhabitants had suffered from fever and forty thousand from diarrhoea or dysentery. [Dr. Duncan s Report, page 18.]

The year 1848 opened with a great improvement in the death-rate from ” Irish fever,” but scarlatina and influenza now began to play havoc with the juvenile population. The deaths from fever during 1848 had fallen to 989; scarlatina claimed 1,516, and other zymotic diseases accounted for 4,350. [Dr. Duncan s Report, page 18.] From January, 1848, to April, 1849, 1,786 fatal cases of scarlatina occurred with children under 15 years of age, and when, in 1849, the horrors of Asiatic cholera were superadded, out of 5,245 deaths 1,510 cases were those of the  same tender years, not including the 1,059 carried off by dysentery. [Dr. Duncan s Report, page 18.] The importance of these figures from the point of view of Catholic Liverpool is that seven-eighths of the dead were Irish; [Dr. Duncan s Report, page 18.] famine at home being exchanged for death abroad.

There were then in Vauxhall Ward, to take only one part of the typical Irish quarters, 27 streets, 226 courts, and 153 cellars. In the street houses 6,888 persons found a shelter, and in the courts, exclusive of the cellars, 6,148; or, as the Rev. Dr. Cahill put it, they crowded the desolate garret, the putrid cellar, and the filthy lane. In normal days in this district and Scotland Ward the deaths were in the ratio of one to fourteen of the residents as compared with one to thirty-eight in Rodney and Abercromby wards. According to a census taken by a well-known Anglican clergyman, Canon Hume, who made a house-to-house visit, there were 3,128 children between the ages of three and a half and twelve without the slightest school accommodation, and if we include those up to fourteen years of age, at least one thousand more must be added to the number. ” Crime,” as the word was then used, had begun to increase. In 1845 there were 3,889 cases; in 1846, 4,740; in 1847, 6,510, in 1848, 7,714; and in 1849, 6,702. The cause we have already indicated. Mr. W. Rathbone, at a meeting to raise funds, declared that it was the Irish landlords and not the people who ought to have been forcibly immigrated. Mr. Rushton, in his report to the Home Secretary, dated April 21, 1849, gives his view of the increase in ” crime.”

” I saw from day to day the poor Irish population forced upon us in a state of wretchedness which cannot be described. Within twelve hours after they landed they would be found among one of three classes, paupers, vagrants, or thieves. Few became claimants for parochial relief, for in that case they would be discovered and might be sent back to Ireland. The truth is that gaols, such as the gaol of the borough of Liverpool, afford the wretched and unfortunate Irish better food, shelter, and raiment, and more cleanliness than, it is to be feared, many of them ever experienced elsewhere ; hence, it constantly happens that Irish vagrants who have offered them the choice of being sent back to Ireland or to gaol in a great many cases desire to go to prison.”  This awful picture was confirmed by the Prison Commissioners in the same year, who speak of ” the intensity of the distress, and the vast immigration of Irish paupers who commit petty offences in order to be sent to prison. At the time of our visit to the gaol more than one-third of the males were of this description, and more than half of the females.” Here are two official statements as to the origin of ” Irish crime,” to be aggravated as the succeeding years rolled on by the same causes, poverty, overcrowding, casual employment, and the natural consequence of all three, excess in drink. Compare these figures with the annual report furnished to the justices by the Anglican Chaplain of the gaol.

In the year 1841 there were 201 prisoners committed to the Assizes for serious crime, 35 being Catholics; committed to the Sessions for less serious crimes 317, 66 being Catholics. The Courts of Summary Jurisdiction or Police Courts committed 1,541, the Catholics numbering 486. From a population numbering a third of the whole these figures show no sign of ” Catholic crime “ being in undue proportion; [See Mr. Edward Bretherton’s reply to Lord Sandon, who, in a speech in the House of Commons said Catholics were one-fourth. 1843.] decidedly the reverse, especially in the Assize and Sessions cases.

For the year 1842, 41 Catholics were sent from the Assizes out of a total of 185 ; from the Sessions 100 out of 472, and from the Police Courts 513 out of 1,536. During the year 1843, 1,410 prisoners were sent to Kirkdale Gaol; 78 Dissenters, 280 Catholics, and 1,036  Protestants. Crime began with the poverty of the victims of the great famine, and was due to causes over which they had little control.

Their children were the greatest sufferers, the inheritors of a sad past. The want of schools was the main cause, for, as Father Nugent wrote sixteen years later in his first report to the justices, “education is not an absolute preservative against crime, yet it must always be an incalculable advantage towards gaining an honest livelihood, and making a position in a town like Liverpool.” [Annual Police Report, October 26th, 1864.] The children’s story has yet to be told.

The Corporation now plunged headlong into the work of sanitary reform, and blundered badly. The solution of the whole question lay, according to their notion of things, in closing insanitary cellars. From 1847 to 1849 they ejected 25,015 persons who dwelt in cellars, a desirable course to pursue provided they offered better surroundings or knew that private enterprise would supply them. One result did accrue, which was to overcrowd still more the houses already too fully occupied. [See Dr. Duncan’s report. He appealed to his committee to proceed cautiously in the evictions.]  Tenement houses have been Liverpool’s second greatest curse, the fruitful cause of intemperance amongst women and even worse evils. Local authorities had not then the powers obtained thirty years later, and on that score the Liverpool Town Council was not entirely blameworthy. It was, however, unsympathetic, short-sighted, indifferent.