Before I write about today’s photograph, it is with great sadness that I heard about the death of Richard Whittington-Egan. Richard was the author of dozens of book: a world renowned expert on Jack the Ripper, fascinating writer of Liverpool’s often murky and mysterious history and one of the foremost commentators on the history of crime. His groundbreaking work about Liverpool’s history, started with Liverpool Colonnade in 1955, followed by Liverpool Roundabout (1957) and Liverpool Soundings (1969). I was fortunate to publish six books with Richard, including his fascinating account of Teresa Higginson (The Devil in Bootle), the religiously obsessed woman who claimed to have confronted the Devil and who is still being actively promoted for sainthood by a band of followers.
Richard was an unforgettable character I felt privileged to have met and spent time with. Always incisive and knowledgeable, he was incredibly generous with his time and help. He was still writing until two months ago (at the grand age of 91). Indeed, Liverpool Landfall, his last book about Liverpool, was published earlier this year. Thank you, Richard, for your friendship and inspiration.
I carefully chose today’s photograph with Richard in mind. His family background was fascinating, including Irish judges, pathologists and musicians. (A direct ancestor was James Zeugheer-Herrmann, the first conductor of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra).
The photograph is of a demonstration or rally in Scotland Place. The setting is important, for the Morning Star was the public house of Dandy Pat (Patrick Byrne), Irish Nationalist councillor for one of the two Scotland Road wards. Byrne died in 1890 but Scotland Place continued as a focal point for the Nationalist community with the 98 Shop (also called The Irish Depot) a key centre for literature and meetings.
The photograph shows a crowd including a number wearing uniforms with the prominent banner proclaiming: ‘They sneer at it and jeer it’ above a Union flag. Unfortunately, I can only make out ‘fear it’ underneath. I can’t date the photograph but my thinking is that it could be in response to the sectarian disturbances of 1909, when Liverpool was compared to Belfast and resulted in the segregation of Catholics and Protestants as a long-standing feature of the city. In 1910, The Times wrote that ‘The Roman Catholics have driven the Protestants from the Scotland Road area; the Protestants have swept Netherfield Road clean of Roman Catholics. It is almost incredible in regard to a great English City, but these clearances are affected by actual violence.’
The worst day of violence was 20 June 1909 when there were violent clashes in the streets following an incidence when a proposed march from a local Catholic church ended in riots when Protestants tried to block the route. Days of trouble followed and Liverpool was dubbed the Belfast of England.’
Of course, I could be completely wrong but probably only about the date. Sectarianism is part of Liverpool’s dark history but, in these times of changing public attitudes towards immigrants, is a timely reminder of where intolerance can lead.
Thanks again to the Keasbury-Gordon Archive. Copies of their book Liverpool in 1886 are available from