Saturday, 23 November 2013


For those who might find reading about my ancestry and its connection with the social history of the period not of interest, you can either look away now or just skim read in case you find some fascinating nuggets of information!

Following my trip to London, I took out my Milburn file and worked out that my great-great grandfather, James Percival and his wife Elizabeth, nee Walker, must have come to Liverpool from Manchester, quite soon after they were married. In 1851, they were living in Albert Terrace, near Smithdown Road where Toxteth cemetery is situated. So some distance from the docks but being a smith, no doubt James would have been able to find work in the bustling port. Within ten years they had moved across town and were living in Athol Street, off Scotland Road, and had six children, including my great-grandmother Jane. They were to have another three children, including Ken Fraser’s grandfather, Edward Percival, nine years younger than my great-grandmother.

Why had they moved from Manchester to Liverpool? Especially at a time when the Irish had flooded into Liverpool due to the Great Famine caused by a fungus destroying the potato crop. Surely there should have been work for James as a smith? Besides they had family there. His father, John was a bricklayer, so one imagines that was a reasonably safe job in the prosperous city of Manchester. too. As for Elizabeth’s father, William Walker, he had been born in Ireland in 1791, but had moved to England well before the famine and married a Manchester girl. He was a weaver by trade and in 1841 was living in Manchester, although by the time of his daughter’s wedding in 1849, he was working as a watchman and had moved house.

I googled Manchester and after reading various sites came to the conclusion that William was most likely dead within a couple of years of the wedding because I can’t find any trace of him in the 1851 census. I reckon he could have suffered from “Mill Fever” which consisted of aching head, limbs, nausea, caused by the dust and cotton lint in the air, which could lead to asthma, bronchitis or TB. The average life expectancy for a male worker in Manchester at one time was as short as seventeen years of age. William was fortunate to live into his fifties.

I’ve come to the conclusion that despite Liverpool having terrible poverty, housing and sanitary conditions, it was actually a healthier and pleasanter place to live, due to its situation besides the Mersey and its closeness to the sea, as well as its lack of mills belching out smoke and polluting the air. (I have found a site which I think is brilliant as it describes several walks through Liverpool taken from a guide published 1843)
The population of the two towns had quadrupled during the first half of the 19th century, mainly due to both having a high influx of Irish but due to its importance as a port, but Liverpool was to lead the way and be the first in several fields to improves the lot of its citizens.

Having visited Ireland several times I’ve always insisted that I have no Irish blood when asked but the Irish shook their heads and said, ‘If you’re a Liverpudlian, you’ll have Irish blood in you somewhere.’

I find it strange that I should have traced my Irish ancestry to Manchester first. Unfortunately I had difficulty discovering exactly where in Ireland my 3xtimes great grandfather came from as there are absolutely numerous William Walkers who were weavers in the Irish records. Anyway, I decided yesterday to google William Walker, weaver. This led me to a several sites and one informed me that Walker was an anglicised form of the Gaelic Nucator, found in Ulster and going back to Morayshire in Scotland. Most likely it originally derived from the name Mac-An- Fhuca-dair meaning Son of the Cloth Fuller. It makes sense to me because fullers had an important role in the cloth trade! And there’s me thinking I had no Scottish blood as well as no Irish!

I am reminded of the research I did for my Harlequin M& B book, PIRATE’S DAUGHTER, REBEL WIFE, set during the 16th century. It was a time when certain Irish clans called on the support of their Scottish kinsmen when they went to warring with each other. It's already available on Amazon but is to be published in French translation on 1st December 2013 under the title of: LES AMANTS DE MADERE.

This to-ing and fro-ing of population going from here to there and back again has always taken place in the British Isles and elsewhere. But the link between Scotland and Northern Ireland and Liverpool has always been strong. My husband’s mother, always believed that the father she never knew came from Greenock, Scotland. My search for David Frizzell certainly led me to Scotland but it turned out that he had been born in Antrim, Northern Ireland. He lived in Greenock for several years, working as a labourer in a sugar factory and after being widowed, I presume he came south by ship, because for a short period he was a mariner. Then he got a job working in Tate’s sugar refinery in Liverpool as a labourer and continued in that job, marrying Liverpool girls twice and being widowed twice in a very sort time. His second wife died shortly after my mother-in-law’s birth and she was fostered by a Scotsman and his Liverpudlian wife.

My mother-in-law voiced an opinion that Frizzell sounded Italian but it turned out to be Gaelic for Fraser. There is more interesting stuff about the origin of the name Frizzell that can be spelt in several ways that date back to Henry II and the Earl of Pembroke’s followers who went over to Ireland in the 12th century and that the name is of French origin.

But I think that is enough for now.


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