In my last post, I briefly summarised my research into the author of Arab. The named author of the book published in 1971 is Andie Clerk but that is not his real name. There were a few clues – he joined the army in 1913 and was discharged in 1928. He was then ordained as a priest and left Liverpool. The only other possible lead was that he had lived in the Trowbridge Street area, off Brownlow Hill. His recollections of streetlife, earning pennies by begging, selling papers, sleeping with sailors, offered no facts worth following up.
Having searched the diocese records for around 1928, I came up with a blank. Most of the priests had degrees or were the wrong age. Then I re-read the preface to Arab and there was a letter reproduced from a Mrs Dearden of Rochdale dated 12th October 1966:
I am an old age pensioner, age 73, living alone and my son brings he evening paper every morning after he has finished reading it the night before. Well what a thrill I got reading of your Ragged School …
She finishes off: Anyway it was your name what thrilled me. You see my maiden name was the same ..
A quick check revealed that the only evening paper in the area was the Manchester Evening News, so I made the trip to the Manchester Local History Library in Deansgate and started my trawl through October 1966. Within minutes, I had my answer. There was a letter and drawing by Reverend Francis Peers. I had my man! Now to fill in the gaps.
Using www.ancestry.co.uk, I quickly established the basic details and first surprise. In the book, he had stated, I was born somewhere in Liverpool. In fact he was born in 1896 at Rowley Regis in Staffordshire and was still there listed in the 1901 Census with his mother, Fanny, and two brothers. His father, Herbert James Peers (1865-1943) was listed as living at the Vicarage in Bertswich, Shropshire, as a visitor. The second surprise was that Herbert James was a reverend, educated at Worcester College, Oxford and vicar of Blackheath (Worcester) 1889-90, Stone (Staffs) 1891-93 and Birchfield (1893-96). Now the photograph of Francis Peers in the last blog made sense. He was smartly dressed because his family was far from impoverished.
The next piece of research answered the question. Reverend Herbert James’s father was Henry Robert Peers (1817-1893) who was living at 6 Bold Place Liverpool in 1871 as a retired secretary living off his dividends. These must have been substantial for, in the 1881 Census, he had moved to a villa in exclusive Elmsley Road in Mossley Hill.
Additional work on Reverend Herbert James revealed he left his post in the church in 1896, three years after inheriting his father’s fortune as the sole heir. From this point onwards, the last clue of family life is the birth of his third son, Theodore, in Dudley in 1900. After this, the Census of 1901 suggests he had left the family for his wife, Fanny, is named head of house. I can only surmise that the inheritance of a significant sum of money had turned his head and he decided a humdrum life in the church was no longer for him. The only two additional points of reference are from a 1929 Crockfords (the listing of clergymen), which gives an address courtesy of a bank in the Isle of Man and an intriguing mention in a passenger list of a ship arriving from Buenos Aires in 1935 which listed his country of residence as Monte Carlo.
So Francis Park (aka Andie Clerk) while not exactly born with a silver spoon in his mouth came into the world in a respectable middle class family in a small Staffordshire town. My next post will reveal what I have unearthed about the barefoot kid’s journey through life.
Today’s photograph is a bit of a mystery to me. It is of a drinking fountain in a Liverpool street but I cannot place it. My immediate thought was the Dandy Pat fountain in Scotland Place – but it is completely the wrong shape. Any clues?