Two workers shot dead by soldiers in 1911 are honoured
Over 100 people packed into the Eldonian Village Hall on 15th August
for a remarkable 100th anniversary commemoration.
The meeting was to honour Michael Prendergast and John William Sutcliffe,
who lost their lives on 15th August 1911 when they were shot by soldiers
on the nearby Vauxhall Road. Local historians Ron Noon and Sam Davies
spoke and introduced a number of other speakers.
The deaths came at the height of the Liverpool transport strikes in the
summer of 1911. Five prison vans were being escorted by police and military
from the court to Walton prison. Crowds gathered as they made their way
on an unusual route up Vauxhall Road. Soldiers opened fire without the
Riot Act being read (as was normally required). The two men were fatally
injured, while others were also wounded. (see ).
Family members of the deceased were at the meeting and one produced the
original birth certificate of Michael Prendergast dating from 1882. Other
speakers included former dockers leader Eddie Roberts, a local historian
from Llanelli (where men were also shot by troops during 1911) and a representative
from Liverpool City Council. The meeting concluded with singers Ian Prowse
and Alun Parry and the collective singing of the American union song Solidarity
After the meeting two wreaths were laid at the site where John Sutcliffe
was shot (corner Vauxhall Road and Gem Street). Other wreaths were then
taken to Ford cemetery to lay in honour of both men who were buried there.
Link to the coverage of the event.
Comment left by Mick Tait on 2nd September, 2011 at 22:30
Police vans from the Magistrates Court have always gone along Vauxhall Road to Walton Prison. And there is a history of them getting attacked even back in the 80's and 90s.
Eddie Roberts represented car workers for years on Merseyside-Fords Halewood in particular.
Comment left by Sam Davies and Ron Noon on 5th September, 2011 at 13:50
We organised the event to commemorate the 1911 shootings because they are an important part of the working-class history of Liverpool which have received very little attention before, and they were also a great injustice which has never been righted. The intention was to deliver a respectful, serious and comradely tribute to the men who died, to do honour to them and the working-class community of which they were a part, and to remind the trade union and labour movement of today of the significance and importance of these events of 100 years ago. Whether we succeeded or not in doing this can only be judged by those who attended the event – but for our own part we felt truly moved and inspired by the response of the audience, summed up by the magnificent singing of ‘Solidarity Forever’ at the end.
In that context, we totally condemn the uncomradely and personalised tone of the comments made here about the review of the event, which leave a very bad taste in the mouth. We are surprised that Nerve in fact allows such unpleasant, unnecessary and irrelevant remarks to be aired, which have little or nothing to do with the 1911 shootings themselves, or with the event held on the centenary. The comments about the so-called FACTS and whether our comrade Eddie Roberts was a car workers’ or dockers’ leader, (it's not just regulars in the Casa who know what the locked-out dockers thought about Eddie's tremendous support for their cause in the mid 90s), are not only misinformed, trite and mean-spirited but they besmirch the memory of the two innocent victims of state homicide on August 15th 1911. Why don't the carpers avoid personal attacks on Jeremy Hawthorn, who is a very dedicated and hard-working local activist, and grasp the one outstanding comprehensive FACT about 1911, which is that masses of Liverpool workers stood up proud, heroically defied the bosses and the state, placed class solidarities above sectional and sectarian loyalties and "breathed free for the betterment of all".
Sam Davies and Ron Noon.
PS. On one of the specific points made: in 1911, the usual route for prison vans to Walton Gaol was definitely along Scotland Road. The Chief Constable made a specific point of switching the route to Vauxhall Road on 15th August 1911. At the time, many people thought this was a suspicious change, and may have been a deliberate provocation designed to prompt an angry response from the local community which would justify strong action by the military. This was so significant that G.J. Lynskey, the Irish Nationalist councillor and solicitor who represented the interest of the shot men at their official inquest, raised the issue pointedly. As a result, the Head Constable himself was called to give evidence at the inquest (a very unusual occurrence), to explain why he had made the switch – to which he made only very vague and unsatisfactory answers.
Comment left by Luke on 6th September, 2011 at 10:56
It's quite upsetting to see vitriolic and divisive comments under a report of what was an inspiring and moving event, and automatically branding anyone who is an historian or 'academic' as being 'ivory-tower' and against rank and file militancy is mistaken.
What was positive about the 'Bloody Tuesday' commemoration at the Eldonians was it brought together different strands of the labour movement and working-class activists, both those who have fought and done us proud for many years, and those new to the struggle. It gave a sense of continuity, a sense of how we got to where we are and how we can rebuild and unite in the face of the massive attacks and austerity our class faces.
Nobody 'owns' 1911, to boycott what looks to be an exciting conference at the end of a string of great centenary events seems a bit over the top to me. Now isn't the time to start claiming shibboleths or carving out a pure and principled area in a 'diminishing Liverpool working class' (organised working class?), not if we're serious about trying our damnedest to keep hold of what our class has, and to go for much more.
I'd say come along, maybe it will get people back together and in a dialogue, introduce new faces, make us realise that certain 'academics' aren't a million miles from the struggle- not that its an academic conference, the whole point is to bring 1911 into our struggle today.
The Eldonians event was a snapshot of many of the groups, activists and faces who have been plugging away in their own way- be it in the massive battles on the docks or in community organisations- for many years, its high-time we start building up those networks again instead of putting everyone down.
Comment left by Nerve Magazine on 6th September, 2011 at 12:02
The comments made by Mick Tait on 2nd & 6th September, 2011 and those left by Paul McGowan on 4th & 5th September, 2011 have been edited or removed because they are personalised and offensive. Nerve reviewers give their time freely to us and we value their efforts. We also value comments which add to the debate about the item being reviewed.
Nerve provides this open column as a forum for discussion. We are all for constructive criticism and comments which point out factual errors. We WILL NOT allow this space to be hijacked by purveyors of personal abuse.
If you would like to discuss the issues surrounding the events of 1911 and their relevance for today go to the conference on 8 October 2011: http://www.ljmu.ac.uk/HSS/HSS_Docs/Liverpool_1911_A6_3mm_bleed.pdf
Comment left by Tony Wailey on 6th September, 2011 at 12:44
I couldn't agree with Luke more. I have not visited the web sites for a number of weeks until recently and didn't like the hurtful tones of some of the comments. I really enjoyed the Eldonian event and said so to both Ronnie and Sam. I shall certainly be attending the conference of October 8th and would encourage all others to do the same.