The Southern Cross : May 2011
Page 14 May 2011 www.thesoutherncross.org.au The Southern Cross | feature Early in the 19th century the Liverpool Catholic population was 10,000 but this grew to more than 57,000 by 1830 with an influx of Irish who could cross the sea to Liverpool for one shilling. The more adventurous then sailed for the New World or moved north to Scotland or south towards London. The remainder stayed and were housed in unsanitary cellars which were often saturated with sewage. Some of the Irish men found work as tailors, masons, shoemakers or in the army or navy. Others worked on the docks or in railway construction. Women worked in textile factories or did laundry, domestic service, kept lodgers or did needlework which they sold through street trading. The Irish poor made huge demands on the local dispensaries for charity. The Liverpool District Provident Society tried to discourage street beggars from making claims on their limited funds by distributing soup tickets. The Catholic Benefit Society granted relief only to those recommended by its clergy. Fr Murphy and the other Catholic priests were able to obtain the loyalty of the Irish working class and so developed some kind of cultural cohesion within this community. The priests took on additional roles of doctors, nurses, policemen, relief suppliers and inspectors of schools. They left the political campaigning for Catholic emancipation to the leading laymen with this goal finally achieved in 1829. Great ceremony accompanied the opening of St Patrick's Church at Toxteth Park in Liverpool on August 22, 1827, soon after Fr Murphy's arrival in the town. Over 40 priests from Lancashire and Cheshire were seated in the chancel. As parish priest, Fr Murphy had to contend with two opposing groups. The Orangemen were anti-Catholic Irish Protestants. The Ribbonists were an anti- Orange secret society outlawed by the Church. St Patrick's Day parades brought tensions between the opposing parties but the Catholic community was encouraged to take part in the parades which gave expression to their Irishness. The 1824 parade of between 10,000 and 12,000 was attacked and the 1835 procession ended in a riot with injuries and damage to property. Preaching at St Patrick's after the event, Fr Murphy denounced the violence and left the pulpit in tears. Fr Murphy used the subscription principle to establish a 'purgatorial society'. Making modest weekly contributions to the St Patrick's Assurance and Friendly Burial Society would ensure that members would obtain a decent burial and have Masses for the dead offered for them. The onset of the "Irish Fever" soon drained the funds but the society was revived some years after Fr Murphy's departure. One of Fr Murphy's concerns, wherever he worked, was to respond to the need for Catholic education. He was instrumental in bringing the Irish Christian Brothers to Liverpool. In 1828 Samuel Webbe the younger, organist at London Embassy chapels, settled in Liverpool. While there he became organist at Fr Murphy's church, St Patrick's. Later, Bishop Murphy was to bring one of the Webbe family to Adelaide to be his first organist here. Late in 1837 a missionary priest, Dr Ullathorne, one of the first Catholic priests in Australia, visited Liverpool and secured: "the services of Mr Murphy of St Patrick's -- a man in ten thousand. He sailed yesterday for Ireland to select three young men from Maynooth to accompany him. The matter is a profound secret here; there will be a tremendous hubbub as soon as the affair is known...Such a man is worth more to our Mission than six men of ordinary calibre. And he is acting from such pure motives -- seeking in all things his higher perfection". Many tears were shed when Fr Murphy's departure was finally announced in an address by his colleague, Fr Gibson. He described Fr Murphy as most zealous in discharging his pastoral duties, respected by all who knew him including Protestants. During the seven years they had worked together, Fr Gibson had never noticed in Fr Murphy a single selfish feeling and said that he was ready to attend to people at all hours of the day or night. The Liverpool Mercury thought a terrible fate lay ahead of Fr Murphy: "We have to announce that the Rev. Francis Murphy, late incumbent of St Patrick's Chapel in this town, moved by the picture of moral, spiritual, and temporal desolation which Dr Ullathorne has drawn, has forsaken home, friends, and country, for the purpose of succouring these wretched outcasts and off-scourings of the world...We cannot but admire the apostolical zeal and self-devotion which have led Mr Murphy to sacrifice comfort, health, perhaps life itself, in a far distant land, in order to contribute his share towards the relief of the most wretched portion of the human race." Next month: Bishop Murphy in Sydney. Serving the poor In our continuing series on Bishop Francis Murphy, HELEN HARRISON writes of Bishop Murphy's time as a parish priest in Liverpool where poverty and riots reigned supreme.