Memorial to John W Sutcliffe and Michael Prendergast

Shot dead during Liverpool’s general transport strike, 1911

In 1911, Britain was in economic decline. Workers’ wages had dropped, the cost of living rose steeply and living conditions were poor. Sailors and firemen in Southampton began the strike, and action quickly spread across the country in solidarity. But Liverpool saw the most organised and persistent action, led by syndicalist Tom Mann who headed up a dedicated strike committee.

Liverpool’s general transport strike of 1911 saw over 70,000 men join the action and by the summer, the city had come to a virtual standstill.

Home Secretary Winston Churchill ordered troops out onto the streets and the authorities shipped in an extra 2,400 police and 5,000 troops from other areas to contain the action. Events came to a head on 13th August at a rally at St George’s Plateau. After Tom Mann’s speech, police attacked crowds apparently without reason. In total, 186 people were hospitalised and 96 arrested.

Two days later, prison vans containing 90 men convicted for involvement in the riots were being escorted by the 18th Royal Hussars towards Walton Jail via Vauxhall Road, a controversial route as many striking dockworkers lived in the area. Unrest broke out and soldiers opened fire on the crowd. Thirteen were injured and two men killed.

  • John Sutcliffe, a 19-year-old carter, was shot twice in the head on the corner of Hopwood Street and Vauxhall Road, virtually on his own doorstep.
  • Michael Prendergast, 30, a docker, was shot twice in the chest at close range on the corner of Lamb Street.
1911 Transport Strike Memorial Plaque

1911 Transport Strike Memorial Plaque

Later inquests gave verdicts of justifiable homicide. But by 24 August, the government had realised it simply couldn’t contain the troubles across the country, and concessions were made to the workers.

This was one of the last occasions in history when British soldiers have killed civilians on the streets of mainland Britain.  It’s widely believed to be the nearest this country has ever come to revolution. But it also transformed trade unionism on Merseyside.

Louise McTigue is a freelance writer and researcher, writing on behalf of Sarsfield Memorials.

War Memorials and Symbolism

If you take a look around your local cemetery, you’ll notice that some images seem to crop up time and time again. Over the coming months, we’ll be explaining some of the symbolism on memorials and monuments to the dead. Tying in with this and the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I, we start with a bit of history behind the Hoylake and West Kirby War Memorial.

Before the outbreak of WWI, war memorials were usually erected to mark great victories in battle. It wasn’t nearly as common to commemorate those who were injured or lost their lives. But the sheer number who died in the ‘war to end all wars’ and the impact on communities up and down the country was so great that people felt moved to remember those who had laid down their lives for their country and for freedom.

Hoylake and West Kirby War Memorial

This memorial stands on top of Grange Hill in West Kirby with views to the surrounding areas, Liverpool Bay, Liverpool and Wales. It’s a Grade 2* listed monument and was unveiled by the Earl of Birkenhead on 16 December 1922.

Hoylake and West Kirby War Memorial - Defence

Hoylake and West Kirby War Memorial – Defence

The figures on the memorial were created by Charles Sergeant Jagger (1885-1934) who himself fought in Gallipoli and on the Western Front. He began work on the project while recovering from war wounds in 1917, which was the first of many war memorials he was to design. Having personally seen combat at close hand, he rejected the fashionable idealistic and modernist styles of sculpture at the time and instead portrayed his soldiers as realistic and rugged. The male figure on this memorial is called ‘Soldier on Defence’ and shows a British infantry soldier dressed for winter. He’s standing guard with his standard issue .303 rifle horizontal, with bayonet fixed. A German soldier’s helmet lies at his feet.

Hoylake and West Kirby War Memorial - Humanity

Hoylake and West Kirby War Memorial – Humanity

On the opposite side is a woman dressed in robes called ‘Humanity’. She holds a wreath of twigs and poppies – the wreath has been a symbol used at funerals since Ancient Greek times to represent the circle of eternal life. Poppies became the symbol of remembrance because they were one of the few plants to grow on the barren battlefields of Europe in the 19th and 20th centuries. ‘Humanity’ rests her head on a pillow of lilies, which often symbolise purity and immortality.

Together, the statues represent redemption, sacrifice and heroism.


Louise McTigue is a freelance writer and researcher, writing on behalf of Sarsfield Memorials.

Sir James Allanson Picton

Sir James Allanson Picton Portrait

Sir James Allanson Picton

Sir James Allanson Picton’s legacy lives on in the recently-restored Picton Reading Room, part of Liverpool Central Library in William Brown Street, Liverpool. Opened in 1879, this was the first public building in Liverpool to feature electric lighting; and is now a Grade II* listed building. It was named after him in recognition of his services as the first chairman of the Liverpool Libraries Committee, a position he held from 1851 until his death.

Born at Highfield Street on 2 December 1805, Sir James began his working life in his father’s joinery and timber merchant business at the age of 13, but later pursued his ambition to become an architect. He trained with Daniel Stewart, architect and surveyor, eventually taking over his business until he retired in 1866.

Throughout his life, he played an important role in Liverpool’s heritage, including campaigning for a penny levy to provide a free library and museum for the city’s inhabitants. It was in no small part due to his efforts that an Act of Parliament was passed in 1852 and the library became a reality. He also designed several important buildings in Liverpool City Centre, some of which still survive today, such as the impressive Fowler’s Buildings located at 3-9 Victoria Street and 1-3 Temple Lane. Many locals may also be familiar with the Picton Clock Tower in Wavertree, which he erected as a memorial to his wife in 1884. Its inscription reads “Time wasted is existence; used is life.”

Sir James Allanson Picton Memorial, Toxteth Park Cemetery

Sir James Allanson Picton Memorial, Toxteth Park Cemetery

He was knighted by Queen Victoria in 1881 in recognition of his public service. He died on 15 July 1889 at Sandy Knowe, the house he designed for himself and his family in Wavertree, which was by that time a desirable place for the wealthy to build their villas away from the polluted atmosphere of the city centre. The building has now been converted to sheltered flats.

Louise McTigue is a freelance writer and researcher, writing on behalf of Sarsfield Memorials.

Capt Frederic John ‘Johnnie’ Walker

Frederic John Walker was born 3 June 1896 in Plymouth, Devon. He joined the Royal Navy at the young age of 13; and it’s fair to say that the sea was his life till the day he died. His early career saw mixed fortunes: he chose anti-submarine warfare as his specialist field, which was no longer regarded as cutting-edge in the interwar period. It was not until the Second World War that he really came into his own.

Hero of the Battle of the Atlantic

The Battle of the Atlantic lasted for the entire duration of WWII, beginning in the early hours of the war on 3rd September 1939 when the SS Athenia became the first British ship to be sunk by Nazi Germany. It only ended with the defeat of Germany on 8th May 1945. During that time, the struggle to keep the supply lines from North America and the West Indies open was constant, in order to ensure that Britain received the vital imported goods essential to keep the war effort going.

Captain Johnnie Walker received his first command in October 1941, controlling the 36th Escort Group based in Liverpool. It was during this time that he began using the innovative methods which would prove so successful in subsequent encounters, detecting and attacking the U-boats by air and sea while continuing to protect the convoys they escorted.

DSO*** and Companion of the Order of Bath – “Outstanding leadership, skill and determination…”

Captain Johnnie Walker looking out to sea over the River Mersey

Captain Johnnie Walker looking out to sea over the River Mersey

In all, he sunk more U-boats than any other Allied commander and it was in no small part down to his tactics and actions that the Battle of the Atlantic was finally won. But the strains and exertions of this role had its toll. Captain Johnnie Walker died on 9th July 1944 in the Naval Hospital, Seaforth in Liverpool two days after a cerebral thrombosis, thought to be brought on by overwork and exhaustion. His funeral was held at Liverpool Anglican Cathedral and he was buried at sea from the destroyer Hesperus.

Captain Johnnie Walker was commemorated with a statue in 1998 by Liverpool sculptor Tom Murphy. The figure, unveiled by HRH the Duke of Edinburgh, stands proud at the Pierhead in Liverpool. Sarsfield Memorials Liverpool was honoured to be commissioned to supply the plinth which records his magnificent achievements.

Louise McTigue is a freelance writer and researcher, writing on behalf of Sarsfield Memorials.