Catherine of Liverpool: An Explanation

15 Nov

I was 18 years old when I left Liverpool to go te college in Hull. For a while it remained my home town and I would return for summer holidays, but life dictated that I would never return to settle there. However, family ties remain strong and I am a fequent visitor, making a point of spending time there whenever I am able.

The Liverpool I left in the early ’70s was a grim place. I have vivid memories of the anguish of striking dock workers piling into the Crown Pub next to Lime Street Station, where I had a holiday job as a barmaid. They were sad times when the unthinkable was happening. The lifeline of Liverpool, its dockland, was being extinguished.

Each time I returned during my student years, the City had changed to some degree and town planners were criticised for demolishing the architectural heritage of the city centre, whilst building eyesores such as Saint John’s Market; a drab structure which contributed nothing to the soul of the City.

During one of my visits, in ’79, with a couple of weeks to spend at my mum’s house in Old Swan, I did some family history research and unearthed the fact that my Granddad  and his brother and sister were left in the Liverpool Workhouse in 1888.  I remember my shock at seeing their names written in the original record book, especially as they were then aged 8, Alfie my granddad, 10, Billy and 12.Catherine.

I had recollections of my Granddad and Great Uncle Bill, who had been a sailor, but Catherines story haunted me. All I knew about her was that she had endured the grim regime of the Liverpool Workhouse, and that she had ‘died of a broken heart.’ words my Granddad had used and passed to me from my mum.

I pledged to create a memorial to Catherine, which would also serve as a memorial to all of the children, made to suffer that fate in 19th Century Liverpool, an era of great wealth for the City.

Catherine’s burial place is unknown, making it impossible to erect a memorial stone, so I decided to write a story to share with my family, which would ensure her name was remembered. During the busy years of raising my own three children, I returned as often as possible to my plot which mingles a few known facts, with a large helping of fiction.

I am not a proffesional writer, but my intentions were good. I felt a need to create some warmth in Catherine’s life and brought her story to a point at which I felt happy to leave her. I know she spent two years inside the Workhouse walls, and that she came out, but I do not know the circumstances surrounding either event. I also know that her life was cut short by the rampant killer, tuberculosis and she did not survive beyond her teens.

I am posting this project in the Liverpool Collection where it belongs, together with a few related pieces. Perhaps I will return to it one day, but for now at least, Catherine has her memorial.

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