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‘Civil government, so far as it is instituted for the security of property, is in reality instituted for the defence of the rich against the poor, or of those who have some property against those who have none at all.’ Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations.


I am contemplating, in the Walker Art Gallery,

Liverpool, the statue of William Huskisson, once

the city’s Tory MP and sometime President of the Board of Trade

but much better known as the world’s first railway fatality

at the opening of the line to fetch cotton quickly and cheaply

from the Mersey’s docks to the mills of South East Lancashire.

(He died at Eccles, where the cakes come from).

His widow paid for the sculpture. He holds a scroll

and is dressed as a Roman senator. He is a tad

more lithe than in later life – or death – and his thinning hair

has been carved to indicate maturity rather than age.

(The vandalised statue was removed from his mausoleum

in St James’ Cemetery). He was hit by Stevenson’s Rocket,

while ingratiating himself with Wellington, the Iron Duke

and old Etonian, famous for the observation

that  Waterloo ‘was won on the playing fields of Eton’.


The gallery is part of a vast piazza-type space

of splendidly grandiose late Victorian constructs –

civic society made manifest in stone – Museum,

Library, Assizes, St John’s Gardens, St Georges’ Hall,

St George’s Plateau, Lime Street Station, inspired by local,

civic pride, funded by the Atlantic slave trade’s proceeds.


More or less round the corner is Scotland Road – the centre

once of working class migrant diversity: Irish, Welsh,

Scottish, Italian, German, Polish, English – its MP

until 1929, an Irish Nationalist –

its male workforce pre-dominantly dockers.  Post war

the river began to empty. Citizens of Liverpool’s slums

were scattered through Cheshire to places where

manual labour was needed – for a time. There their off-spring languish.


On St George’s Plateau, in 1911, was announced

a national seamen’s strike, which became a national transport strike.

Churchill telegrammed the King that the end of Empire was nigh.

The Hussars entered stage right, opened fire.

Two strikers died, both Catholics: John Sutcliffe, a carter,

shot twice in the head, Michael Prendergast, a docker, twice in the chest.

Working class men killing working class men so public school boys

could play in safety and nouveau riche tycoons

make dynastic fortunes for their children.




© Copyright David Selzer
1 Response
  • Alex Cox
    June 18, 2014


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