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Thompsonís Childhood Violence. Murphy Riots.

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  • Thompsonís Childhood Violence. Murphy Riots.

    People sometimes wonder if Thompson was witness to violence or suffered a traumatic childhood. In 1868 when Francis was almost nine years of age, an anti-Catholic agitator, named William Murphy, brought his propaganda to Ashton-under-Lyne. His rabble rousing heralded a chain of events that would lead to violent ends. Murphy made a series of fiery speeches expounding his hatred for Catholicism. The Catholic religion to Protestants was one shrouded in mystery and secrecy. Fear of the unknown had caused wild rumours to spread. There were claims of a conspiracy headed by the Pope in Rome against the people of England, even worse; some said that the rites and rituals practised by Catholics involved horrible acts including infanticide. Murphy appealed to the largely Protestant crowd to riot against the Catholics. On May 10th, a mass of people rushed through streets attacking almost every Catholic house. Wielding hammers, hatchets and knives the rioters wreaked havoc; furniture was overturned and household items and bedding were strewn onto the roads and gutters. Scores of people were shot and stabbed. They included Thomas Summer a clothier who suffered scalp wounds from a bullet while walking in Stamford Street, the street that Thompson lived. It is highly likely that Dr Thompson was called upon to treat the wounded in his home, his impressionable son looking on or even helping. A large mob descended upon the two small churches of St. Mary and St. Anne. The interior of St. Anne, in nearby Cavendish Street was destroyed. The "Manchester Guardian" newspaper gave a detailed account of the damage,

    'The appearance of the chapel could not easily be forgotten by anyone who had the opportunity of seeing it shortly after the event. The floors in every part were strewn with broken glass, stones and brick-bats; benches were broken, pictures torn down and destroyed, a brass bell used in divine service had been taken from the alter steps and broken into fragments; an oil painting of the Sacred Heart was cut through and torn; a holy water font broken; the alter in the chapel dedicated to St. Joseph destroyed and a figure of the saint removed and broken to pieces; and the whole of the canvas matting in the aisles had been taken up. The figure was seen to be carried off by one of the rioters and dashed to fragments against the street pavement.'


    The crowd, who numbered almost 3,000, then attempted to storm St. Mary while the parishioners, who included the Thompson family, mounted a guard inside. The rioters attacked with bottles and stones. Shots were fired and the Riot Act was read. After three days of continual fighting, the army was called in.

    One can only imagine the scene. The Thompson family barricaded in the church with fearful others while taunts and cruel laughter emanating outside, now and then bullets being heard to strike the greying stones of the church. All the frightened people feebly illuminated by the glow of church candles while the glimmer of burning torches and incinerated buildings streamed through the broken stained glass windows. Francisís father, his brow glistening with sweat, performing crude surgery on pews converted into makeshift operating tables; having to perform amputations or suture open wounds. There would have been no anesthetic and Francis was either looking on or helping his father to hold down the screaming patients.

    It took trained militia three days to quell the bloodshed. By the end of the chaos, the church of St. Anne's school and presbytery were broken into. They contained altars, paintings and statues, which were incinerated. A further 111 houses of the Catholic congregation were gutted. For a month the entire clergy, fearing for their lives, was obliged to leave town. Such events might have sent any boy mad, but Francis turned to the bible for comfort. What passages did he read? It is only fitting that it was in this year that Thompson would first read the 'Apocalypse'.
    Author of

    "Jack the Ripper, The Works of Francis Thompson"

    http://www.francisjthompson.com/

  • #2
    I doubt that many kids in the mid 1800s wouldn't be exposed to some violence.
    G U T

    There are two ways to be fooled, one is to believe what isn't true, the other is to refuse to believe that which is true.

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    • #3
      Hi Richard, yes, the riot in 1868 although I don't know about eight year old boys being enlisted to stave off the mob, etc.

      Click image for larger version

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      St Mary's, from page 340 of the History of Ashton-Under-Lyne and the Surrounding District by William Glover 1884.

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      St Ignatius, Preston where Francis Thompson was baptized. Closed but recently reopened as the first Syro Malabar (Indian) Catholic Church in Britain.
      Sink the Bismark

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      • #4
        Originally posted by GUT View Post
        I doubt that many kids in the mid 1800s wouldn't be exposed to some violence.
        How many kids in the 1800's found themselves in the largest riot in England for decades? How violent was the childhood of any other Casebook suspect in comparison?
        Author of

        "Jack the Ripper, The Works of Francis Thompson"

        http://www.francisjthompson.com/

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Richard Patterson View Post
          How many kids in the 1800's found themselves in the largest riot in England for decades? How violent was the childhood of any other Casebook suspect in comparison?
          Hello Richard,

          Two occurred to me. There was a large Irish Catholic presence in Manchester, and only a year earlier (1867) there was a small scale riot that led to the shooting death of a police van guard, and the escape of a pair of Fenians. Three Irishmen were arrested, tried for murder, and convicted. Charles Stewart Parnell would label them "the Manchester Martyrs". Late another Fenian incident, the "Clerkenwell" Prison explosion, killed a large number of people, and led to the trial and execution of Michael Barrett in April 1868 (the last public execution in England). I mention these incidents as possibly feeding fuel to ever-present anti-Catholic feelings in that mob.

          Secondly, I am curious about what happened to the rabble rouser, William Murphy, in this incident. Was he sent to prison for excitement to riot? Or did he barely get punished at all?

          Jeff

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Mayerling View Post
            Secondly, I am curious about what happened to the rabble rouser, William Murphy, in this incident. Was he sent to prison for excitement to riot? Or did he barely get punished at all?

            Jeff
            Murphy never attended the Ashton riots, although his anti-catholic crusade provoked it and his followers descended on Ashton with the intent of frightening the Catholic community. I don't believe laws then existed against hate speech. Several men were arrested and charged: Here is what the court record shows,

            'Having on the 10th May 1868 together with diverse other evil disposed persons to the number of twenty + more, unlawfully and riotously assembled + gathered together to disturb the public peace by making a great riot, noise and disturbance to the terror of Her Majesty's subjects + did assault, beat and wound and ill treat William Bolton, James Dunn, William Turner and Wm. Woodley against the peace at Ashton under Lyne.'
            Author of

            "Jack the Ripper, The Works of Francis Thompson"

            http://www.francisjthompson.com/

            Comment

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