Of course there are many more than 10 but this is just a selection. I hope you’ll find them interesting.
I suppose for many, some or all of the following would be in their list: The Beatles, Gerry and the Pacemakers (most of you will probably know his 3rd no.1 hit from 1965 – You’ll never walk alone – which has become the LFC fans’ anthem ), Liverpool Football Club, Everton Football Club (& Everton Mints), the start of the first passenger railway in the world (following the victory of Stephenson’s Rocket at the Rainhill Trials of 1829), the Liver Birds (and the Liver Building) & the Mersey Ferries (Ferry Cross the Mersey – the 8th hit by Gerry & the Pacemakers) to name but a few.
In this post I’m going to look at some of the less well known connections people, some more famous than others, have with Liverpool.
BRUNEL – You’ve probably all heard of Isambard Kingdom Brunel (1806-59) and his great feats of engineering (e.g. the Great Eastern ship); you maybe not so familiar with his father Marc Brunel (1760-1849). In 1823 they submitted plans to the council in Liverpool for the first swing bridge (in the docks) and also a floating pier so people could get on and off boats. Neither was used. Interestingly they also suggested a tunnel under the River Mersey & a ship canal to Manchester; people at the time just scoffed at such suggestions. Liverpool of course now has three tunnels under the river: the first, a railway tunnel opened in 1886, the second, a road tunnel, opened in 1934 and the third, also a road tunnel, opened in 1971. The ship canal was opened in 1894.
AUGUSTUS JOHN (1878-1961)
He was a famous painter who was born in South Wales; by the early 20th century he was living, lecturing & painting in Liverpool. He painted many famous people of his time: T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia), Thomas Hardy, Jacob Epstein, W.B. Yates, Tallulah Bankhead, George Bernard Shaw & Dylan Thomas amongst others.
LLM has mentioned, on occasion, some of the more unusual Christian names that appear in CHAT so I thought I’d include Augustus John’s children some of whom also qualify. Also check out their dates of birth and maternal origins:
By his first wife Ida Nettleship: David Anthony (1902), Casper (1903), Robin (1904), Edwin (1905), Henry (1907). Ida died later in 1907.
By his mistress Dorelia (Dorothy) McNeill: Pyramus (1905), Romilly (1906), Poppet (1912) & Vivien (1915). Poppet & Vivien were apparently never sent to school.
By Evelyn Ste Croix Fleming (widowed mother of James Bond creator, Ian Fleming): Amaryllis (1925).
Btw it is suggested that Augustus was responsible for bringing the name Romilly into the English Christian name scene. Remember the founders of Rome – the twin brothers Romulus & Remus? By anglicising the name Romulus it makes Romilly. (Bet you never knew that eh!). As a surname Romilly has been around for a while. I’ve just finished reading a book about the cotton industry in Lancashire in Victorian times. After writing this bit of the blog I came to the very page where I read that the main family in the book had a portrait of a Samuel Romilly (1757-1818) an English legal reformer hung on their wall. (Definitely cue the spooky X-Files music!)
Caspar John eventually became First Sea Lord of the Admiralty (1960-63); Poppet married a Dutch painter whose daughter Talitha married John Paul Getty.
And finally, I know what you’re thinking: if you call one child Pyramus why isn’t there a ‘Thisbe’? Yeh me too!
MATTHEW ARNOLD (1822-88)
Poet, essayist, critic & son of Thomas Arnold first headmaster of Rugby School. In 1851 he became an inspector of schools. In the 35-verse Stanzas from the Grand Chartreuse he wrote these lines in verse 15:
Wandering between two worlds, one dead,
The other powerless to be born,
With nowhere yet to rest my head,
Like these, on earth I wait forlorn.
Their faith, my tears, the world deride–
I come to shed them at their side.
In 1886, he retired from school inspection and made another trip to America.
He died suddenly in Liverpool (in 1888) of heart failure: he was running to catch a tram to go to the Landing Stage to see his daughter who was arriving (by ship) from America. (Make a mental note folks: don’t go running for buses or trains!)
THOMAS CARLYLE (1795-1881)
Carlyle was a Scottish philosopher, writer, satirist, historian & teacher. He used to visit his wife’s uncle who lived in Maryland Street (in the Edge Hill area of Liverpool). His wife Jane Welsh Carlyle, when on a visit to a social evening at someone’s house in Liverpool, mentions meeting a man called Yates. She writes, somewhat condescendingly, to Thomas that “he owns Prince’s Park and throws it open to the poors”. Clearly she felt “poor” people shouldn’t have (or deserve?) access to a park.
Here are just a few quotes from his writings:
A man without a goal is like a ship without a rudder.
It is a vain hope to make people happy by politics.
I don’t pretend to understand the Universe – it’s a great deal bigger than I am.
No pressure, no diamonds.
I’ve got a great ambition to die of exhaustion rather than boredom.
JOHN NEWTON (1725-1807)
Probably most famous for writing the words of the hymn Amazing Grace how sweet the sound . One night (March 21st 1748) during a very severe storm, off the coast of Donegal, all on board the vessel Greyhound thought it would sink and they would die. John had become so tired that he could no longer work the pumps which were clearing the water from the ship. He was taken to helm and tied to the steering wheel while others continued pumping. He was there for 11 hours. Eventually the ship made it through and once ashore he committed his life to God and became a Christian. Although he continued as a slave trader he gave it up later and became the tide surveyor in Liverpool in 1755. However he felt called to the ministry and left Liverpool to be ordained and began preaching the Gospel.
SILAS K. HOCKING (1850-1935)
He was a novelist and Methodist preacher who was born in Cornwall, the son of a mine owner. He spent 3 years ministering in Liverpool’s Docklands area. The K of his middle name stands for Kitto: through his mother he was related John Kitto the biblical scholar & another Kitto who was a professor of Greek. In 1879 he wrote the book he is most famous for: Her Benny – a story about Liverpool’s poor children and a best seller of its day. If you’ve never read it do give it a go. He also wrote another one called Cricket, subtitled A Tale Of Humble Life, about the life of a young girl & her family who move to Liverpool so her father could earn better wages, which I also enjoyed; chapter 20 of Cricket begins with these lines by an anonymous writer:
“Holy strivings nerve and strengthen,
Long endurance wins the crown,
When evening shadows lengthen,
Thou shalt lay thy burden down.”
JOHN MASEFIELD (1878-1967)
He was Poet Laureate from 1930-1967 and in his inaugural year wrote the poem Masque of Liverpool. In it are these lines:
“I am the English sea-queen; I am she
Who made the English wealthy by the sea.
The street of this my city is the tide
Where the world’s ships, that bring my glory, ride”
His ‘Poet Laureate-ship’ continued for the next 37 years until his death. He came to Liverpool at 13 years of age to be educated on the HMS Conway, a ship which was moored in the River Mersey to train young men for a life at sea. It was here he gained his love of literature and believed he was meant to be a writer and story teller himself. He began his life at sea in 1894 but by 1895 he had absconded when a ship he was on docked in New York. His interest in poetry seems to have been started by reading a 40-verse poem by Duncan Scott Campbell called The Piper of Arll. (My own interest in poetry was stirred many moons ago by reading, as a teenager, George Herbert’s poem The Collar which begins: I struck the board and cried, “No more I will abroad….”) By the 1920s Masefield was an established and respected writer. He settled with his family near Oxford and (LLM take note) took up bee-keeping, goat herding & keeping poultry. (Btw other famous beekeepers include Aristotle, Edmund Hillary – first to climb Everest & actor Henry Fonda – father of Jane.)
His poem Sea Fever was quoted in the film Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971) although it’s a shame the words are not exactly the same as the original; if you’re going to use a quote get it right I say! Captain James T. Kirk gets it right in a Star Trek episode: he quotes line 2 of verse 1: “All I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by”. Here’s the very brief clip:
Patrick Clifford has set the words to music. You can have a watch/listen at:
Interestingly, in a 2005 online poll, Sea Fever finished ahead of a number of other well-known poems about the sea including even Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.
NICHOLAS MONSARRAT (1910-79)
His father Keith, originally from Kendal in the Lake District, was a surgeon in Rodney Street in Liverpool where Nicholas was born. (The 1911 Census shows Nicholas had 2 older sisters and that the house had 5 servants.) He is most well known for his book The Cruel Sea published in 1951. The book related his experiences as a wartime naval officer serving on the escort ships for the convoys across the Atlantic. In 1964 he came to an exhibition in Liverpool organised in his honour.
As a child he had summer holidays at Treaddur Bay (NW Angelsey) – I once cycled there and had a week-end break; when he started writing full time he lived first on Guernsey where I once cycled round the whole island; and then he move to Gozo (Malta) which I have visited so you can see I’m connected to Nicholas Monsarrat in many ways!
CHARLES DICKENS (1812-70)
Visited Liverpool a few times: once to begin a tour of North Wales, then about 4 years later to depart for America and then in succeeding years for more ‘readings’. At one of his readings in a city centre building over 3,000 people were turned away. He returned a number of times often bringing a troop of actors who performed for charity. His book, The Uncommercial Traveller, uses Liverpool’s Docklands and its residents as a backdrop. Because the docks were such a dangerous area he enrolled as a special constable so he could study the area. In 1844 he attended the opening of Blackburne House School (my Mum’s alma mater) proving he had more than just a passing interest in the city. Also, of course, proving that I’m connected to Charles Dickens in more than one way! He was something of a celebrity and would be recognised as he walked along Liverpool’s city streets.
EDWARD LEAR (1812-88)
He was an initially an artist, then illustrator, author & poet. There can’t be many who have not heard of his most famous poem – The Owl and the Pussycat: remember how they went to sea in a beautiful pea green boat and how they took with them some money and plenty of honey wrapped up in a five pound note. (Btw folks I wouldn’t recommend wrapping your honey in a five pound note – it’s going to drip out!)
And who can forget The Jumblies which begins like this. (Obviously suspension of reality required):
They went to sea in a Sieve, they did,
In a Sieve they went to sea:
In spite of all their friends could say,
On a winter’s morn, on a stormy day,
In a Sieve they went to sea!
And when the Sieve turned round and round,
And every one cried, “You’ll all be drowned!”
They called aloud, “Our Sieve ain’t big,
But we don’t care a button! we don’t care a fig!
In a Sieve we’ll go to sea!”
Far and few, far and few, Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,
And they went to sea in a Sieve. –
His illustrating work included some for Tennyson’s poems. He worked at Knowsley Hall near Liverpool for the Earl of Derby from 1832-36.
I couldn’t finish without quoting the physician to the Liverpool Infirmary, Dr Dobson (1772). His work on diabetes was influential in bringing it under control.
(His statement was made just over 100 years after Sir Edward Moore had described the men of Liverpool as: “….the most perfidious in all England, worse than my pen can describe”).
Dobson said this:
“The degrees of the soil, the purity of the waters, the mildness of the air, the antiseptic effluvia of pitch and tar, the acid exhalations from the sea, the pregnant brisk gales of wind and the daily visitations of the tides render Liverpool one of the healthiest places in the Kingdom.”
Of course it is!