Author: Mark Jones

Price Street

The plaque memorialises the existence of a significant Irish presence in the town of Birkenhead, as a place where Irish immigrants settled. Indeed, until the end of the century the area was a warren of courts and slums.

The plaque reads: “This area of Birkenhead provided shelter and employment to thousands of Irish migrants in the Famine Years 1845-51. In 1851 a quarter of the town’s population was Irish born; the highest proportion of any British town at the time”.

In 1841 Birkenhead’s population stood at 8,223; by 1851 it was 24,285 (Birkenhead History Society 2021), showing a considerable influx.

It is no surprise that with Liverpool brimming with new arrivals, Birkenhead became a destination for people forced from Ireland by starvation. In Price Street there was cheap accommodation available and -because of its proximity to a new dock system between Wallasey and Birkenhead -with the West and East Float (shared in 1844, hitting financial difficulty in 1847 and under Liverpool Corporation control by 1855)- there might be access to work.

Victims of The Irish Famine began to arrive in Birkenhead from about 1845 onwards. Select vestry minutes noted “the great influx of casual poor, particularly from Ireland” (Davey 2009). The vestry was required to call a parishioners’ meeting to raise additional funds and ask for further subscriptions from the parishioners. Money was duly raised and “many thousands of poor people were relieved” (Davey 2009).

Many of those who had arrived in Birkenhead had travelled via Liverpool and records show they were in a state of absolute poverty. A first-hand account by W Williams Mortimer (1847) records that:

Proceeding direct from the ferries to the parish office, their numbers -principally women and children- were so great, their applications for food so urgent and their destitution so apparent, that the ordinary law[s] of vagrancy were suspended. In the first quarter of the year, no less than upwards of two thousand… applied for assistance.

The familiar problems of overcrowding in lodging houses led to an outbreak of typhus, again hitting the Irish migrants hard. Unlike Liverpool, Birkenhead did not have a Medical Officer of Health. Management of the epidemic was undertaken by Dr Vaughan (more research required) who was the local Union Medical Officer. Dr Vaughan managed to persuade the guardians of the Wirral Poor Law Union (established 1836), to build a hospital to contain the outbreak of typhus in Livingstone Street (crosses Price Street, between Corporation and Park Roads). Reports of ‘pauperism’ in the area rose.

From 1852 to 1865 Birkenhead operated as a Government Emigration depot, organised with the laudable aim of providing clean accommodation for those in transit from Ireland to north America, Australia and other destinations.

It had some success, but the numbers using the service never reached the anticipated levels.

This is partly due to an outbreak of cholera in Birkenhead in 1849. Thought to have arrived from India in this instance, cholera is caused and exacerbated by poor sanitation, which allows the cholera bacteria to contaminate food and water.

The first death in this outbreak was “a poor Irish woman, aged 25, a lodger at one of the crowded lodging houses, no.64 Field Street- a decided case of Asiatic cholera” (Davey 2009).

Field Street is no longer a registered street, but it ran between buildings 96 and 98 Livingstone Street, to what is now Parkview Close, very close to Price Street.

The graphic description of the Irish people arriving in to Birkenhead -as described by Mortimer- allows us to visualise their destitution, such that normal rules and bylaws about vagrancy had to be set aside to provide care and support. Although we do not know the identity of the Irish woman who was the first victim of cholera in Birkenhead, we know her circumstances well. She was poor, very probably in a weakened state of physical and mental health and living in crowded, unhygienic conditions. Thus, she was very susceptible to a pandemic outbreak of a contagious disease.

Crowley, Smith and Murphy, editors of the Atlas of the Great Irish Famine (2019) suggest there is an absolute requirement for “a diversity of approaches and perspectives in seeking to illuminate and represent the monstrous reality of the Famine tragedy and its consequences”.

The two examples cited, considering microlevel events in Birkenhead in the 1840s, illuminate and represent the monstrous reality of The Irish Famine and its consequences on individuals within the landscape of need. It reminds us of the importance in recognising that though Liverpool may have borne the brunt of the initial influx, Birkenhead -as a satellite town- also became a home or last-stop for many Irish people.

It is interesting that -in the close quarters surrounding Hamilton Square- lived the destitute and the aristocrat, pushed together by the sudden outpouring of people via Liverpool.

Mick Corry – General Michael Collins’s driver the night of his shooting at Béal na Bláth (Bealnamblath) in 1921- was born in John Street, just behind Hamilton Square to the north. Frederick Winston Furneaux Smith (1907-1975; better known to us as the Second Earl of (Lord) Birkenhead) -who developed an unlikely personal respect for Collins- was born in Pilgrim Street to the Square’s east; showing that upper- and working-class people lived cheek by jowl in the years following the mass-migrations.

Clarence Dock

Clarence Dock is situated in the Northern Docks system, linked to the River Mersey. There are two main sets of gates. Clarence Dock’s gates are not themselves a postal address, therefore the next best address has been sought, using the building opposite. Of the two sets of gates to Clarence Dock, visitors should approach the ones closest to the town centre.

The dock was designed by Jesse Hartley and named after the Duke of Clarence, who later became William IV. Opened 16 Sept 1830, Clarence Dock was a self-contained steamship facility, originally built for transporting goods along the Leeds-Liverpool canal. It later became the main berthing dock for Irish steamers until 1929, when it was infilled and redeveloped as a power station, which was demolished in 1994.

In the 1840s Clarence Dock transformed from being a goods dock to a gateway for Irish steamers. With so much shipping between Ireland and the British mainland, the cost and conditions of travel varied greatly between ships. Sometimes passengers’ accommodation became subordinate to the interests of livestock. The practice of selling cheap sailing tickets to Irish migrants -and the issue of overcrowding on the ships- attracted considerable criticism. A report by a Government-appointed committee of enquiry, headed by Vice Admiral Sir Henry Mangles Denham (1800–1887), recommended restrictions on the number of passengers ships could carry. Responding to the report Liverpool MP, Edward Cardwell told the House: “…there were accounts of people crowding between the cattle for the sake of animal warmth, amidst a floating mass of salt water and animal excrement”. The testimony of police constables reported they had seen people frozen to death on ships’ decks.

It was through Clarence Dock gates that most of the 1.3 million Irish Famine migrants fled. Some of these migrants settled in Liverpool, with others setting passage to other British towns and cities or crossing the ocean to start new lives in America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

During the mid-nineteenth century the Mersey estuary was full of ships, from all over the world, with hundreds departing from and arriving into the docks every day. Some vessels anchored in the river, with small boats ferrying people to and from the shore. The tidal current could be as fast as five knots and collisions between ships were not uncommon. Newspaper reports from the period provide vivid and horrifying accounts of such collisions.

One such incident, occurring due to the heavy traffic on the river, was reported in the Cardiff Newspaper, 30 May 1846. It describes a collision between two Irish steamers, The Sea Nymph and The Rambler, on the River Mersey.

The Sea Nymph left Clarence Dock at around 10pm with about 50 passengers. The Rambler, which had sailed from Sligo with about 250 passengers and livestock on board, entered the river. The vessels collided, killing and wounding many of the passengers both above and below deck on The Rambler. Several passengers who jumped overboard to swim ashore drowned, while others lost their lives falling into the river as they attempted to reach the lifeboat. The deck was overrun with pigs and cattle, causing great confusion that led to some children being trampled to death. None of the passengers on The Sea Nymph sustained any injuries.

An inquest into the collision noted just six bodies from the 13 recovered were identifiable. They were: Bridget Fury, Owen Fury, Margaret Ford, Bridget Ford, Patrick Charles O’Mealey and James Lally. The jury at the inquest into the disaster found the deaths to be ‘accidental’ and fined the owners of The Sea Nymph £500 (£62,000 today). The Sligo Champion, commenting on the verdict (20 Jun 1846) stated “the amount of the loss of life was never properly ascertained”.

‘Dandy Pat’ memorial

Originally a fountain of red Aberdeen granite, this memorial statue was erected to the legendary ‘Dandy Pat’ in 1892, and located outside of the Morning Star Hotel (Scotland Place). Due to development involving road widening the monument was re-located to Pownall Square, where it was badly vandalised and subsequently moved to a Corporation Yard only to then disappear. The base of the fountain turned up in the late nineties after an appeal by The Scottie Press Community Newspaper. The original inscription remains on the monument and reads:

“Erected in Memory of Patrick Byrne City Councillor who was distinguished for his services to the Ratepayers, benefactions to the Poor, and ardent love of his Native Land died 5th May 1890 ~interred at Ferns, Co Wexford.”

The rediscovered memorial was unveiled by the Lord Mayor of Liverpool, Councillor Joe Devaney at St Anthony’s Church, Scotland Road with kind permission from Canon Tom Williams on 14 April 2000.

Liverpool is full of characters, eccentrics and dynamic personalities. A standout in the pages of history was man of the people, Councillor Patrick Byrne, ‘Dandy Pat’. Originally born in Tinneshrule, County Wexford in 1845, Pat was a driven man with a strong work ethic, holding down various forms of employment, including thatching, farming and stonemasonry. Pat came to Liverpool aged 17, working for three years as a dock labourer. Frugally saving his income, Pat eventually opened a small lodging house, The Tichfield, in Tichfield Street, Vauxhall. Being immersed in a poor area attuned Pat to the needs of the people and his shrewd business mind helped him to shape a stable and secure business model. His kindness gained Pat great popularity and he became a well-respected and beloved member of the community.

Pat always stood out from the crowd. His signature outfit was a sealskin coat and white hat. It was this eccentric dress sense that earned him the nickname ‘Dandy Pat.’

In 1876 he became the proprietor of what would become his flagship the Morning Star Hotel, Scotland Place, Byrom Street. The courts, where people lived, lacked basic amenities. Pat created establishments that provided a warm, cosy welcome to customers. He recognised that people were not there solely for alcohol, noting they needed something more. Thus, Pat installed billiard tables and organised competitions to create a congenial atmosphere and sense of community. His public house was a type of relieving house for the poor of the district.

As with Agnes Jones, ‘Dandy Pat’ is less recognised for a connection with The Irish Famine and more for his Irish connections and development of working-class provisions for Irish people in Liverpool. This said, there is no doubt, that as someone working within working-class communities in Vauxhall, Pat’s world would have been full of Irish migrants and the effects of The Great Hunger would have coursed through the community he served. His political savvy, generosity of thought and ability to translate relieving services in to business chimes with other welfare and social activists of his time, much of which surfaces as a result of Poor Law reform resulting from the needs of the Irish people, following the An Gorta Mór.

‘Dandy Pat’ became a trusted voice and served the interests of the people. When he turned to politics, he was outspoken, forthright and did not worry about causing offence. As Councillor for the Vauxhall Ward, he was an advocate of the working-class poor. The Liverpool Review wrote:

“Patrick lived in the midst of the people and took care more than once to remind colleagues in the Council who treated his speeches with some amount of derision, that he knew what was desired better than men of great wealth and high position living in the comparative retirement of our parks or perhaps further afield, where the cry of suffering humanity was never heard. There was the true ring of sincerity about all he said, and how could more point be given to this assertion than by remembering the practical way he set about relieving poor people, at one period of the year at any rate, by the provision of Christmas cheer. Many a time had he undertaken the thankless task of harassing the powers that be, in the conduct of municipal affairs in order that some obscure widow of a street cleaner should receive the full allowance from the Corporation on the death of her husband.”

Father Nugent’s statue

On 8 December 1906 a bronze of Father James Nugent (1822-1905), on a sandstone pedestal, was erected in St John’s Gardens, Liverpool. The inscription reads:

“Save the boy. An eye to the blind. A foot to the lame. The father to the poor. The apostle of Temperance. The protector of the orphan child. The consoler of the prisoner. The reformer of the criminal. The saviour of fallen womanhood. The friend of all in poverty and affliction. (His words) Speak a kind word, take them gently by the hand. Work is the best reforming and elevating power. Loyalty to Country and to God”

The location is relevant as he -James Nugent- was born (3 March 1822) in Hunter Street, Liverpool which was situated below William Brown Street, then known as Shaw`s Brow. It ran between Byrom Street and Christian Street. He was baptised on St Patrick`s Day in St Nicholas’s Church on Copperas Hill, which has since disappeared. Father Nugent attended a private school in nearby Queens Square, as education for Catholics was restricted.

“Illegal immigration, juvenile crime, inner City poverty. He confronted them all” (Runaghan 2003).

Father Nugent, a very influential Liverpudlian known for his good works, became a curate at St Nicholas’s Church, where he himself had first been baptized. Perturbed by the poverty of the large Irish immigrant population, he opened a Ragged School and later a night shelter; a boy’s refuge; a refuge for discharged women prisoners; a home for mothers and babies and more. He also popularised penny savings banks to help the Irish poor put money aside for hard times. He strongly promoted temperance and assisted emigration.

His League of the Cross for Total Abstinence, launched in 1872, spreading to countries as far away as India and Australia. He is described on the right side of the pedestal as “the friend of all in poverty and affliction”. Something of his impact can be gauged from the fact that an estimated 10,000 people came to pay their last respects to him. The Nugent Care Society carries on his good work in Merseyside to this day.

After studying at Urshaw and in Rome and being ordained in St Nicholas’s Church, he began his long association with the Irish communities and casualties of The Irish Famine. In his first sermon, at his first parish of St Albans in Blackburn, he preached in aid of the Liverpool Famine Fund. He came back to Liverpool to replace Father Gillow at St Nicholas, who had died of typhus. When he returned, Father Nugent was one of the 35 Catholic priests who risked their lives tending to the sick and Irish poor.

There was a huge housing shortage. In 1841 the population leapt from 300,000 to 376,000. 22 per cent were Irish born. The many impoverished homeless -and often parentless children- haunted the city. 64 of every 100 would die before the age of 9 from preventable causes.

Father Nugent saw education as a way out of the poverty trap. This inspired him to set up the first Catholic school, a Catholic middle school in Rodney Street followed by the Catholic Institute in Hope Street. Over time he was instrumental in setting up orphanages, training schools, mother and baby homes and hostels for single men and women across Liverpool.

Lace Street

Lace Street was chosen by the Liverpool Great Hunger Commemoration Committee as the ‘site of heaviest mortality of destitute Irish emigrants in 1847’. When originally erected, the plaque was located on Lace Street, the exact current where abouts of the plaque are unknown, but believed to be in the custody of a local school, Holy Cross Catholic School (Fontenoy Street, L3 2DU). At the time of writing, the location couldn’t be exactly mapped, but the Liverpool Irish Festival will continue work on this within the following project run.

In 1801 the population of Liverpool was nearing 80,000. By 1821 the population was about 120,000, a growth of 40,000 in 20-years and an average increase of 2,000 people per year. The Port of Liverpool was booming, but wealth often sits alongside poverty. The population continued to grow. Whilst mansions were developed for the rich, tenement housing was erected for the poor. The sudden rush of Irish people escaping extreme poverty and starvation in Ireland meant that by 1851 the population of Liverpool had reached close to 376,000, with many living in slum conditions. The population tripled in 30-years.

The case of Lace Street is a sad one. It is a key site in demonstrating the impact of The Irish Famine, based in Vauxhall. By the late 1840s its population was almost entirely Irish. It contained many cheap lodging houses; prime breeding grounds of disease. Between 1 January-31 March 1847, 90 days inclusive, 181 people died in the street, excluding residents who died in hospital. Lace Street is no more than 170m long and two people from that street died every day for 90 days. This was from of a population of 1,400 (living in 109 houses), meaning 12% died. The number of deaths experienced on Lace Street exceeded the combined totals for the Abercromby and Rodney wards, which combined had a population of 20,000.

The mortality in Lace Street is perhaps less surprising when we consider that the water company only turned the water supply on only three times a week, in an environment where many people had no utensils for storing water.

In 1850, most of the population in the street spoke Gaeilge (Irish). During the nineteenth century, the Irish born population in Liverpool was greater than most Irish towns. At the time of The Irish Famine, diseases such as cholera and typhus fever killed large numbers of poorly nourished people, taking the lives the malnutrition hadn’t yet manged to take.

Policemen found Martin Finnegan collapsed in the street and unable to speak. He was taken back to a cellar in Lace Street where he ‘lived’. His bed was straw on a mud floor, with no covering of any description; he died during the night. The post-mortem verdict was ‘death from diseases of the lungs combined with want of sufficient food’. Finnegan, his wife and three children had been surviving in Liverpool by begging.

In March 1851, Maggy Tighe worked as a dress maker and lived in court housing in Lace Street with two families: the Manions and the Lambs. There was no sign of any of her Tighe family nearby, but at least another 300,000 Irish refugees were crammed into the city’s cellars and alley-way housing. Liverpool had become the ‘capital of Ireland in England’ and was known for having the worst of all European slums; notorious for poverty, violence, and unsanitary living conditions.

Everyone in Maggy’s shared house was from Ireland. The head of the household, Andrew Manion, was a “dealer in fruit”; as was one of the other lodgers, Thomas Lamb. Thomas was a 25-year-old living with his mother Mary and sister Bridget, each “hawkers of fruit.” Though
it is unknown as to why, Thomas used two surnames, Lamb and Delaney (or Dunlaney) throughout his life. It doesn’t appear he was trying to hide from anyone by changing his name, but he used both names interchangeably over 20- years, while living at the same address on Lace Street. When he was admitted into the dreaded workhouse, in 1908, his name was listed as “Thomas Lamb or Dunlaney.”

On 19 May 1851, Maggy and Thomas Delaney married at St Nicholas’s Catholic Chapel.

Living on Lace Street, with Thomas pushing heavy loads of fruit between the docks and dealers around Liverpool, suggests a hard life. This suspicion is amplified when we learn that Tom ended up in the workhouse.

The Relief Station

The Fenwick Street Relief Station is marked with a plaque on the corner of Fenwick and Brunswick Streets. Research suggests the closest post code to the plaque is L2 0UU.

The exact location of the original relief station is unknown. Fenwick Street and Brunswick Street were widened in 1922 and the old lanes demolished for the reconstruction of the India Buildings. The Liverpool Irish Famine Trail plaque, representing the Poor Law relief station, stands on the Fenwick Street gable end of The Alchemist restaurant on Brunswick Street.

Until 1834, Poor Law in England was administered by the vestry committee of the local parish church, which in Liverpool was based at Our Lady and St Nicholas on the corner of Chapel Street and The Strand. A parish church has stood on the same site since the 13th century, when Liverpool was just a small fishing village. Chapel Street, one of Liverpool’s original streets, runs alongside the church. Water Street, at the end of Fenwick Street, was originally called Bank Street.

The act of 1834 brought an end to parish vestries administering the Poor Law in Britain, but little changed in Liverpool during the period. Even after the Liverpool Select Vestry Act was set up in 1842, and direct control was removed from the parish, the Rector still chaired the Poor Law Board and the church wardens were ex officio members. By 1842, outdoor relief had all but ended and indoor relief in the workhouse was the norm for those who could not find a living independently.

Fenwick Street continued to operate an emergency relief system. This became overstretched in 1846 when Irish immigrants began flocking into Liverpool in their thousands. Some came to stay. Some moved on to other British towns and cities and others shipped-out to America or beyond.

Immigrants disembarking at the Clarence Dock, often in need of immediate relief, would make their way down to the parish offices in Fenwick Street. In January 1847, the number of incidents of relief totalled 370,359. Though not primed to, Liverpool was -in effect- running an Irish Famine relief operation. Adding further complexity to a strained set of circumstances was a language barrier; many of the immigrants were Gaeilge speakers who would not have understood the language of officialdom. Wary of fraudulent claims being made, Mr Austin, the Assistant Poor Law Commissioner, initiated an investigation. He concluded that settled Irish people were borrowing children to present at Fenwick Street to get more food. He issued his findings on 26 January 1847, suggesting that providing relief at Fenwick Street cease.

Instead, Mr Austin proposed claimants should be visited in their homes and -once approved- given a ticket to support their claim at a soup house. Three soup houses -in Flint Street (South End), Pickop Street (Vauxhall) and Gill Street (near Brownlow Hill)- fed the poor. It is thought the select vestry, managed to stave off wide scale starvation.

The challenge the select vestry faced was articulated by their Chairman, Rector Augustus Campbell, in a letter to the Liverpool Mercury, printed on 29 Jan 1847:

“The working classes are becoming exasperated at the […]preferences of
Irish to English poor. The ratepayers are becoming clamorous under a sense of the injustice by which they think they are made to pay such an undue proportion of what they consider at least to be a national burden; …the parish of Liverpool … contained by the last census not quite 224,000 souls … they alone are burdened while the rest of the borough and the adjoining townships and parishes are free … the property of Ireland ought generally to be made to support the paupers of Ireland … but if […] this is […] impossible –if one of the most fertile islands in the world, with a landed rental, as is said, of 12 or 13 millions a year, and which in the last year exported, as is said, 1,300,000 quarters of grain, besides other provisions, valued at several millions sterling, really […] cannot support its own poor[-] then they think that it is a national calamity, which ought to be borne by the whole nation, rateably, and not in an undue proportion by one particular parish…”

The Pilotage Building

The Pilotage Building is positioned between the Waterfront Pier Head Promenade at the Canning Dock end of Pier Head; adjacent to The RMS Lusitania Propeller.

The official Liverpool Pilot Service was established in 1766 to pilot ships entering and leaving the river Mersey. The building opened in 1883 as the headquarters of the Liverpool Pilot’s Office and was operational until 1978.

The original pilotage building is now part of National Museums Liverpool. In 1980 it was converted and contains offices on three floors, for staff from the Museum of Liverpool, Merseyside Maritime Museum and the International Slavery Museum. This building was formerly part of the Museum of Liverpool Life between 1993 and 2006.

The Pilotage Building plaque faces the River Mersey. The location was originally chosen to symbolically mark emigration from Liverpool to Canada, America and Australia. The plaque reads ‘During the Famine years 1845-52 over one million Irish people left from this shore to escape hunger and poverty and to seek a new life across the seas’.

Pilots in the Port of Liverpool would have met all vessels and navigated them through the river estuary to berth, as they had the expertise to dodge sand banks and operate the dock system. Outbound vessels also had a pilot.

In the 1840s nearly half of immigrants into America were thought to be Irish Catholic families. Before The Irish Famine it was predominantly men who migrated. By 1851 (the same year as The Great Exhibition), Liverpool was the leading emigration port in Europe with 159,840 passengers sailing to north America. It has also been estimated that 1,250,000 Irish people emigrated between 1845 and 1851 as a result of An Gorta Mór.

Emigrants from Liverpool could only board their ship on the day before or the day of sailing. Many would spend a short time in Liverpool, often using lodging houses. In the late 1840s and 1850s, emigrants would be targets for conmen and thieves, with accommodation often dirty and overcrowded. In 1851 Liverpool Port Authority considered a purpose-built depot for emigrants, close to the Irish steamer terminal at Clarence Dock. However, the plan was never realised.

Irish immigration to America had two main routes; transatlantic sailings to east coast ports such as Boston and New York, or via Canada by land or sea. Fares to Canada from Great Britain and Ireland were cheaper than those to America, particularly after 1847. Some emigrants chose
to settle in Canada, while others continued their journey to America.

Voyages to America and Canada, on a sailing ship, would take around 35 days. Most emigrants could only afford the cheapest ticket, in steerage. This accommodation was akin to a dormitory, having beds at the sides and tables down the middle. This space was often overcrowded and poorly ventilated, allowing diseases such as cholera and typhus to spread rapidly throughout the decks. Treatment was scarce and many died during the transfer.

No official lists of passengers from the time of The Great Hunger have survived. At that time, emigrants did not require any form of passport or application to travel from Great Britain or Ireland.

The Tighes were one of the tenant families from the Strokestown estate, County Roscommon to make the long, arduous journey from Ireland to Canada. Some 1,490 people walked from the Strokestown estate to Dublin, 165 km (over 100 miles). On arriving in Liverpool, they were given passage on The Naomi. On arrival at the Quebec quarantine station, the only Tighe family to have survived were Daniel, age 12 and his younger sister Catherine. They lost their mother, uncle (William Kelly) and three siblings on the crossing, meaning of seven, just two made it to America with no adult to care for them in a new world.

James Larkin’s birthplace

In the 1990s this site was marked as a plaque site, because a plaque marks the site of James Larkin’s birth. However, as this is not one of the suited Irish Famine plaques, so we are no longer labelling it as a ‘plaque site’. To locate the birth marker, you will need to walk in to the pub car park on Combermere Street and look up at the building’s side, which faces up Park Road and away from the city centre. As you will see in the images, the plaque is quite high up and on the side of The Globe, a pub, which is slightly problematic as Larkin was teetotal.

James ‘Jim’ Larkin -the son of Irish parents James Larkin and Mary Ann McNulty, both
from County Armagh- was born in Liverpool, 21January 1876. His sister, Delia, was born just two years later. Aged five, he was sent to live with his grandparents in Newry, Ireland. James returned to England in 1885, finding employment as a dock labourer. He was a quick convert to socialism and joined the Independent Labour Party in 1893, spending his spare time selling The Clarion.

In 1893 James became a foreman dock-porter for T & J Harrison Ltd. The following year he was sacked for striking with his men. Work for James moved between Liverpool and Ireland during this time, with other trips taking him further afield. Despite this, James remained active in the unions and in 1906 he was elected General Organiser of the National Union of Dock Labourers (NUDL).

Having learned the ropes, James established his own union, the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union (ITGWU). As well as Dublin, this union had branches in Belfast, Derry and Drogheda. By 1908 the ITGWU was running a political programme advocating a “legal eight hours’ day, provision of work for all unemployed, and pensions for all workers at 60-years of age. Compulsory Arbitration Courts, adult suffrage, nationalisation of canals, railways, and all the means of transport. The land of Ireland for the people of Ireland”.

Leaders went on to include notable figures such as James Connolly (1868-1916); whilst supportive activists Countess Markievicz (née Gore-Booth;1868-1927) and Patrick Pearse (Pádraig Anraí Mac Piarais; 1879-1916) called for worker’s rights alongside the ITGWU.

Based on success with some smaller industrial disputes, involving sympathetic strikes
and boycotting goods, ITGWU and Larkin’s attentions moved to the unskilled workers of Guinness and the Dublin United Tramway Company. The craft workers already had unions, but unskilled labour did not. Neither company wanted external unions influencing matters, but the two companies held different approaches towards their recruits. William Murphy, Chair of Dublin United Tramway Company, in fear of unionisation dismissed forty workers he suspected were colluding with the ITGWU. He followed this, with a further 300. This action forced the tram workers to strike from 26 Aug 1913. In response, 400 Dublin employers demanded workers pledge not to join the ITGWU or sympathetically strike, all spearheaded by Murphy’s actions. Retaliating against the strikers, employers locked-out workers that refused the pledge; backfilling labour with workers from outside Dublin. By September, 20,000 workers were locked-out. Though Guinness refused to lock-out its workers, it dismissed 15 sympathy strikers. Collectively, the lock-outs left the unskilled labour at the mercy of donations for the British Trade Union Congress and the ITGWU, which were woefully under- resourced and inadequate for the scale of need.

What followed were sedition and incitement to violence charges and arrests; the disguised harbouring of union leaders; public speeches; police raids and baton charges and the formation of the Industrial Peace Committee, which the employers refused counsel with.

After the violence of the police-raids, James, teamed with Jack White (1879-1946) and James Connolly formed the Irish Citizen Army, training the unskilled and unemployed to defend themselves in the event of police brutality.

Throughout the seven-month lock-out, James’s name -and those of his peers- was pilloried through the press, much of which was owned by Murphy. Name-and-shame lists were printed of those breaking strike action or resorting to sending family away from the city in bids to keep themselves nourished. Calls from the ITGWU for strike action in Britain fell on deaf ears and eventually the unskilled workers, who had withheld their labour until the brink of starvation, were forced back to work on 18 January 1914 with many signing pledges against ITGWU membership.

On the surface, the 1913 Dublin lock-out was a failure, eroding the ITGWU, but it set the course for union reform, worker rights, public spending and much else. It fuelled political concerns about the relationship with Britain and Home Rule; creating questions around establishment actions, the use of violence and the need for civil, armed protection.

Through James wasn’t born at the time of the Irish Famine, the living conditions for Irish migrants -and the communities they built- shaped James’s childhood and the world in which he lived. The cultural loss, broken families and long-term effects of such devastation must have been ever present in the working communities, social life and faith of those James was surrounded by, in Liverpool and in Ireland. His early working life will have been shaped by the workers and families that came to Liverpool from Ireland in the 30-years before. In Ireland he will have seen the gaps left by those who fled or perished and the meagre conditions for those that remained. James’s commitment to improving the life of workers and the working-classes, in Liverpool and in Ireland, had considerable influence on the trade union movement on both sides of the Irish Sea. The repercussions of this time are still felt in the Trade Union world, globally. Though questions about citizen armies may cloud arguments, James’s original position of pacifism continues to be regarded as a mark of the man.

James Larkin Way (L4 1YQ) in Kirkdale, Liverpool, is just off Scotland Road, linking Lambeth Road and Leison Street, close to The Rotunda. Additionally, a coastal road -James Larkin Road- in north Dublin, Raheny, leads between Mount Prospect Avenue (near Dollymount), through to Howth Road, Kilbarrack. A famous quote from James, stated at the 1913 Dublin Lockout, runs “A fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay”.

To celebrate Liverpool’s year as European Capital of Culture, the Liverpool Irish Festival held a James Larkin Evening at The Casa, the dockers’ pub on Hope Street, Liverpool. This was attended by Francis Devine who wrote the general history of the trade union movement in Dublin and the formation of Services Industrial Professional and Technical (SIPTU). It was introduced by Liverpool Irishman Marcus Maher, who travelled from Dublin to present a specially commissioned painting by Finbar Coyle, to James Larkin’s last remaining Liverpool nephew, Tom Larkin. The painting reflects on one side Dublin and on the other side the Liver Bird and his home city of Liverpool.

The Transport and General Workers’ Union General Secretary and activist Jack Jones (1913- 2009), whose full name was James Larkin Jones, was named in honour of his fellow Liverpudlian.

Members of the James Larkin Society have been fundraising to erect a statue of Larkin in Liverpool in his memory. James is immortalised in a Oisín Kelly statue, installed in O’Connell Street in Dublin in 1979, commemorating an iconic photograph taken of him addressing a Dublin crowd in 1923. There, ‘Big Jim’ stands on a plinth. The inscription on the front of the monument is an extract in French, Gaeilge and English from one of his famous speeches:
-Les grands ne sont grands que parce que nous sommes à genoux: Levons-nous.
-Ní uasal aon uasal ach sinne bheith íseal: Éirímis.
-The great appear great because we are on our knees: Let us rise.

“A mutual arrangement, I repeat, is the only satisfactory medium whereby the present system can be carried on with any degree of satisfaction, and in such an arrangement the employers have more to gain than the workers” – James Larkin

St Patrick’s Chapel

In 1816, there were no Catholic dioceses in Liverpool. The Roman Catholic Church was divided into four districts: London, Western, Midland and North with Liverpool being in the North. There were few Catholic priests and it was left to laymen to provide churches and living accommodation for priests. A group of laymen formed the Society of St Patrick (also mentioned above in Site 2) to establish a Catholic church in the south end of the city.

Financial assistance was provided by Anglican and non- conformist churches, as well as local Roman Catholics. St Patrick’s Chapel was built with a large ground floor that would be perpetually freely accessible to the poor at no charge. This pledge is still displayed on a plaque on the outside of the church. The upstairs gallery held 600 people. Those seated here were expected to pay a donation for the privilege, which contributed to the upkeep of the church and the support of its priests. In return, they held decision- making powers.

While the outside of the church is relatively plain, inside a beautiful painting, by Flemish artist Nicaise de Keyser, hangs over what was once a magnificent altar, which stood at the top of seven stairs, surrounded by a brass railing. We say ‘once magnificent’, as the original alter was extremely high church and has been considerably altered since its original installation. St Patrick’s Church are working to reinstate something close to the original in the coming years.

The church was built with a large crypt for a vault. Pit graves lay to the side of the church. Records show at least 7,466 people were interred between 1827-1841. Later burials (bar four noted, shortly) do not appear to have been officially recorded. Dr Duncan (1805-1863) -writing in 1848 about the need to close overcrowded graveyards- records that while the average number of bodies interred in a single pit in St James’s was 30, at St Patrick’s the number was 120.

The foundation stone for St Patrick’s was laid in 1821. It took six years to build and the opening took place on 22 Aug 1827.

The land for the church was provided on a 5,000-year lease, such was the confidence in those securing the site. A large statue of St Patrick, donated by a Dublin insurance company, was placed on a plinth high up in front of the church, the first Catholic statue openly displayed in England since the Reformation.

The long history of interconnectedness and migration between Liverpool and Ireland over the centuries was amplified during The Great Hunger, with many immigrants of the era being ‘paupers’, in a poor state of health. The population of court dwellings swelled in this period; in Crosbie Street (off Park Lane), the population grew from 975 people living in 145 houses in 1789 to 1,544 people in 1851. The boarded-up cellars were illegally re-opened as immigration increased the need for dwelling places. The high death rate among the population -from typhus fever in the overcrowded city- included doctors, nurses, relief officers and priests. Though other official records for burials at St Patrick’s after 1841 are scant, three priests from the parish and one Christian brother were certainly buried in the crypt in 1847. Priests, attending to their sick and dying parishioners, would have been exposed to the disease and many died as a result.

Ten city priests, who died of typhus in 1847, are commemorated on the Celtic Cross in front of the church. They are Rev Peter Nightingale of St. Anthony’s, March
2; Rev William Parker of St Patricks, April 27; Rev Thomas Kelly DD^ of St. Joseph’s, May 1; Rev James Appleton DD OSB^^ of St. Peter’s, May 26; Rev John Austin Gilbert OSB of St Mary’s, May 31; Rev Richard Grayston of St Patrick’s, June 16; Rev James Hagger of St Patricks, June 23; Rev William Vincent Dale OSB of St. Mary’s, June 26; Rev Robert Gillow of St Nicholas’s, Aug. 22 and Rev John Feilding Whitaker of St. Joseph’s, Sept. 18.

^ DD: Doctor of Divinity
^^ OSB: Ordo Sancti Benedicti/ Order of St Benedict. This is a Roman Catholic monastic order, begun in the sixth century. Those belonging to this order are known for liturgical worship and scholarly pursuits. St Benedict (480- 547 AD) is known as the Patron Saint of Europe.

One witness, writing at the time, recalls “I can remember a messenger coming to the Pro[testant] Cathedral and saying hurriedly ‘For God’s sake, will some of you come to St Patrick’s and bury the dead. The church is full of corpses and all the Priests are now down. The dead and the dying are lying together and the little children, soon to whither in the Black Death, played with the shavings on which they lay. St Patrick’s church was closed, the Presbytery door stood open, but there was no priest within and when Sunday came, silence reigned around the altar”.

Kitty Wilkinson’s Grave

The post code above represents the Cathedral’s post code. Kitty’s grave is closer to the Upper Parliament Street end of St James Mount and Gardens, described as L1 7BY. Entering St James’s Garden’s from the Oratory/Duke Street side, follow the path to the garden’s centre. The stone is on the left as you enter the Chalybeate Spring.

Many notable Liverpool figures are buried in St James’s Cemetery including Catherine ‘Kitty’ Wilkinson (née Seaward; 1786–1860), whose efforts to promote public hygiene stemmed the outbreak of cholera in Liverpool. Kitty’s actions led to the opening of the first combined washhouse and public baths facility in Britain.

St James’s Cemetery is situated in the quarry created by the stone cutting required for the Anglican Cathedral. The original site opened in 1829 and contains 57,839 recorded graves. The cemetery architect was John Foster with landscaping by John Shepherd, curator of Liverpool’s Botanic Garden (Wavertree). The last interment at the cemetery was in 1936. The site was converted into a public park in the late 1960s, with the central area cleared of monuments and relandscaped with paving and low stone walling. Vertical gravestones were re-sited in a continuous row at the base of the western wooded slope. To the east, the base wall of ramped carriageways is lined with arches with recessed stonework marking catacombs. One of the archways to the west contains a natural mineral spring -sometimes attributed to St Brigid- that flows into a rectangular pool reputed to have healing powers.

The Oratory (Grade I listed), the former mortuary chapel, is on high ground at the north-west corner of the cemetery, at the Upper Duke Street end of the site. Designed by Foster, it dates from 1829 and is in the form of a miniature Greek Doric temple. Despite the 1960s landscaping of the central area of the site, St James’s Cemetery retains many of its early features and much of its 1829 layout.

Catherine ‘Kitty’ Wilkinson (née Seaward and previously Demonta), originally from Derry, migrated to Liverpool with her family in 1796, aged nine. Tragedy struck during the sea crossing when their ship crashed in to the River Mersey; both her father and youngest sister drowned. The surviving members of the family settled in the North West, but two years later Kitty was sent to work at a cotton mill in Lancashire as an indentured servant. Mill work was harsh, exhausting and challenging. Children were charged with some of the more dangerous jobs, such as cleaning the floors below moving machinery. Kitty worked in this environment until she was 21, when she returned to Liverpool to care for her ailing mother. During the early years of the 1800s she married a French sailor, Emanual Demonta, but was widowed with two young children when he was drowned at sea. In 1823 she married Tom Wilkinson, and over the next few years worked as a domestic servant, setting up a school for orphans in her own home.

As we have read, Liverpool experienced rapid population growth during the 1800s, putting great demand on housing stock and leading to the development of court housing. The courts, or alleys, were accessed by a passage from a main road opening on to a yard with houses facing one another.
A toilet was typically situated at one end with a cold-water standpipe centre. Courts varied in size, but usually there were four-to-ten houses per court. Court sanitation was poor to non-existent, while washing facilities for personal purposes or laundry were also limited. An example of a court can be visited in the Museum of Liverpool.

Kitty was the only person in her street to own a boiler and understand the innate need for washing linen and having a supply of hot water for the community. She set herself up as a laundress. The service she provided became invaluable and -ultimately- lifesaving, during Liverpool’s outbreak of cholera in 1832. Kitty invited her neighbours -and those in nearby courts and slums- to use her hot water and facilities for a small fee, where they could afford.

Drawing on her experience in domestic service, she taught the women how to clean their laundry; advising on what products should be used to get the best results. Not only entrepreneurial, but
also socially aware, Kitty provided space nearby for other women to leave their children while they washed clothes. Kitty called for public baths, where the poor could wash themselves. Her charitable efforts drew the attention of business owner and philanthropist William Rathbone (1819-1902) and the District Provident Society who raised funds to help towards the costs of the venture. Eventually, this led to the opening of the first public bath and wash house on Upper Fredrick Street (not far from the docks) in 1842, for which Kitty was appointed superintendent.

Kitty was greatly respected for her endeavours, becoming known affectionately as the ‘Saint
of the Slums’. In 1846 she was presented with an inscribed silver teapot from Queen Victoria,
in recognition of her contribution to society. Kitty died 11 Nov 1860, reaching a fine age of
73, outliving her husband and children. She witnessed the migration brough about by The
Great Hunger and huge shift in Liverpool’s population. Without Kitty’s knowledge and activism around stemming the rates of cholera, by improving sanitation for working class people, there
is an argument to suggest that many more people would have died. Whilst Kitty’s legacy is not specifically connected with An Gorta Mór, her influence in Liverpool, her spirit of endeavour after a hard life begun in Ireland and the hardship that transit brought her family, enmeshes her in to the fabric of The Irish Famine story and her time in Liverpool.

Kitty worked tirelessly amongst the poor in her community and often said “Nobody was ever the poorer for what they gave a neighbour in distress”. A marble statue to Kitty Wilkinson was unveiled in Liverpool’s St George’s Hall in 2021, the only woman represented there. She has a portrait window at the Anglican Cathedral. Kitty’s gravestone reads:

“Indefatigable and selfdenying. She was the Widows Friend: the support of the Orphan, the Fearless and Unwearied Nurse of the Sick: the Originator of the Baths and Wash houses for the Poor.

“For all they did cast in of their abundance: but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living” attributed to St Mark, Chapter XII, Verse 44.

Agnes Jones House

On 14 Oct 1926, the Lady Mayoress of Liverpool laid the foundation stone of a new women’s hospital in Catharine Street. This new building housed the amalgamation of the Women’s Hospital on Shaw Street with the Samaritan Hospital for Women on Upper Parliament Street. The latter hospital had been opened in 1895 in Upper Warwick Street and had operated at various addresses until 1900, when it settled at premises in Crown Street/Upper Parliament Street (see Bickerton). The Catharine Street Women’s Hospital was finally closed in 1995 and redeveloped in to student accommodation, which involved demolishing all but the hospital’s administration block. It was named Agnes Jones House, when it reopened.

The Women’s Hospital -or Agnes Jones House- has little direct Irish or Irish Famine connection. Previously health and maternity care for women would have been provided by The Ladies’ Charity and by The Lying-In Hospital and later the Women’s Hospital on Shaw Street. The building’s namesake, Agnes Jones (1832-1868), had family connections to Fahan. She lived through The Great Hunger, having direct contact with large numbers of people in need, post-Famine, having become the first nurse Superintendent of the Brownlow Hill Workhouse in 1965. Her influence on reforming the workhouses, which previously exacerbated the suffering of those in need, makes her worthy of note in the Trail.

Agnes Jones was born on 10 November 1832, in Cambridge to a wealthy, Christian family. Her father’s military career meant that the family frequently moved from the family seat in Fahan, Donegal to postings around the world. Agnes was educated in Stratford-upon-Avon. In 1850 her father died and Agnes returned to Fahan to look after her ailing mother and younger siblings. This was her first experience of nursing, leading her to care for the poor and sick in the local area, too. Three years later, in Germany, Agnes decided she wanted to become a nurse following a visit to Kaiserswerth (City of Düsseldorf) where she saw schools, orphanages and hospitals. In 1860 Agnes returned for training to work in orphanages, hospitals and as a governess. Upon her return to England, Agnes worked in a missionary and in a girl’s dormitory school. Her ambition
to become a nurse never faded. In 1862 Agnes enrolled in the Nightingale Training School at St Thomas’s Hospital in London, established by Florence Nightingale in 1860. Florence Nightingale would later refer to Agnes as “our best and dearest pupil”.

After completing her training, Agnes started at the Great Northern Hospital, London. At this time, professionally trained nurses were not widespread and not employed in institutions such as workhouse infirmaries.

In Liverpool, William Rathbone (1819-1902), and his first wife Lucretia (1823-1859) were involved in social campaigns and philanthropic work. When Lucretia became ill, Rathbone sought a private nurse to care for her at home. After Lucretia’s death in 1859, Rathbone campaigned for improvements in nursing care. Such work led Rathbone to witness
the appalling conditions inside workhouse infirmaries. Rathbone approached Liverpool’s select vestry for permission to introduce trained nurses to the workhouse infirmary, in place
of unsupervised pauper girls and women.

He proposed to fund this pioneering scheme himself for three years. Permission was granted and Rathbone wrote to Florence Nightingale seeking a recommendation for a potential superintendent; that someone was Agnes Jones. Rathbone wrote to Agnes, asking her to leave the Great Northern Hospital and take up a position in the Brownlow Hill Workhouse infirmary.

At the start of 1865 Agnes moved to Liverpool, to begin the new role. Agnes established and oversaw a training school (akin to Nightingale’s) with 12 of the first newly qualified nurses from the Nightingale School. In addition, Agnes trained and supervised seven Nightingale School probationers and 54 female inmate assistants, who received a small salary to work as nurses in the infirmary. This scheme paved the way for similar training in workhouses countrywide. After the initial three years, the Liverpool select vestry were able to see the results and agreed to continue funding the programme.

A typhus fever outbreak in Liverpool, in 1868, saw a surge in cases and the need for hundreds of extra beds. This led to a huge increase in staff workload, leading to staff illness and fevers. Perhaps inevitably, Agnes succumbed to the fever, developing inflammation in both lungs. She died of typhus on 19 Feb 1868, aged 35. On her death, Florence Nightingale wrote to the infirmary nurses asking them to continue the work of Agnes Jones. Shortly afterwards a Workhouse Nurses Association was formed, pre-empting reforms and improvements that slowly led to better conditions and relief for the sick and the poor in the latter part of the century.

A stained-glass window is dedicated to Agnes Jones in the Lady Chapel of the Anglican Cathedral and a statue in held in the Oratory. There is also a memorial in Walton Hospital’s chapel, which was originally in the Brownlow Hill Workhouse, but was moved in 1928.

The Paupers’ Graveyard

The plaque on Mulberry Street is on the Mulberry Street- facing side of the Liverpool International College and maths school building, both part of University of Liverpool (L69 7SH). However, the cemetery the plaque marks is on the other side of Mulberry Street from where the plaque is currently located, at L7 7EF. The cemetery is referred to as St Mary’s and was opened in 1806; it is thought to have closed in 1848.

The plaque for Mulberry Street records that “Near this place, in 1847, some 2,600 destitute Irish Famine migrants were buried in unmarked pauper graves. They had died in extreme poverty in the parish of Liverpool, so ending their flight from The Great Hunger 1845-52”.

Localised famine frequently results in migration. People desperate for a better life leave their country in great waves of emigration, seeking economic and nutritional opportunity. 1847 represented the most gruelling year of The Irish Famine, when it is estimated that circa 296,000 Irish arrived in Liverpool. Of these, roughly 130,000 sailed to the USA and 50,000 returned to Ireland; leaving something in the region of120,000 ‘paupers’ in Liverpool, who had escaped The Great Hunger, but were close to destitution (Darwen 2021).

The use of the word ‘pauper’ evolved from the Poor Law Amendment Act 1834 and the 1838 Poor Relief Act in Ireland. Paupers were usually defined as destitute persons who were in need of indoor (workhouse) relief. The pauperised Irish migrants -low in energy or resilience and living in cramped quarters- were susceptible to illnesses such as typhus, a lice borne disease spread by close contact. As many gravitated towards overcrowded and poor housing, severe outbreaks of typhus erupted in Liverpool and the wider northwest of England (Darwen 2021).

In his 1847 medical report the Chief Medical Officer of health, Dr W H Duncan (1805-1863), estimated that 5,845 people had died of typhus; of this number, 80% (4,676) were Irish Famine migrants. He reported that those who died were buried in paupers’ graves in St Mary’s in Vauxhall, St Martin in the Fields (Sylvester Street) and Oxford Street. Duncan noted that 4,000 children were orphaned in 1847 (Allen 2017).

In the Liverpool Journal, 22 September 1849, Dr Duncan’s report on ‘Graveyards of Liverpool’ to the Board of Health on the condition of graveyards noted that St Mary’s cemetery had recently closed. The number of burials in Liverpool was reported as being 10,000-11,000 a year with two thirds occurring in pits.

Pits were described as being 18 to 30 feet in depth; 7 to 12 feet long and 3 to 9 feet wide. The number of bodies buried in such pits varied from 30 in St Mary’s to 120 in St Patrick’s cemeteries (Liverpool History Society 2013).

The philosophy of the Poor Law dictated that the burial and interment process of paupers be devoid of any mourning rituals. Thus the 2,600 people, who were interred near Mulberry Street were likely subjected to an undignified and inhuman burial process. Despite living, dying, and being buried in a brutal system, this group of individuals is an important reminder of what Terry Eagleton -Distinguished Professor of English Literature at Lancaster University- calls “the most important episode of modern Irish history and the greatest social disaster of nineteenth century Europe” (Eagleton 1996).

That 2,600 migrant individuals are buried collectively in nameless graves, who migrated to Liverpool in 1847 in need, is why it is important to remember them. They have become a symbol for how plights can turn savage and how help, humanity and compassion is required. We have a duty to respect and retain the memory of the lives and deaths of these individuals.

During our process, for each of the sites, we have attempted to establish a tangible connection with an individual or family connected to it. This is challenging for the St Mary’s Cemetery, as the site is no longer a functioning graveyard and has been built upon twice in seventy years. However, as noted, it is extremely important to retain the memory of events at this site to capture the importance of what happened there.

In the Summer of 2021, the Institute of Irish Studies at University of Liverpool remembered the lives of the 2,600 who were interred at St Mary’s by arranging for 26 people to gather in Mulberry Street, at a point adjacent to the site of the former cemetery. Participants each chose a small pennant. They were asked to chalk one hundred marks on the ground and tie their pennant to a wooden railing near to the burial site. Although we know a significant number of migrant Irish people who fled The Great Hunger were buried here, the mass grave is inaccessible due to site redevelopment.

This quiet acknowledgement was a way of reaching out to the 2,600 who were interred here and remain an integral part of our history. The event -named Near this Place: Famine Lives and Afterlives in 2600- was musically scored and documented. It can be accessed on YouTube.