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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Wednesday, November 15, 2006
    Liverpool's hidden histories
     
    I always hoped that my parish walks might help reveal some generally overlooked realities about some neglected corners of our city. So it's good to have something included in the Hidden History issue of Nerve. Even if it is a rather hastily revised and shrunken version of The Shopping Trolley Trail.

    There are a number of articles in this issue which made me think, 'I never knew that'. Like: I never knew anything about the life of Mary Bamber, radical organiser and campaigner and mother of Bessie Braddock. Or: I'd never really thought about it before but the birthplace of football in this city is not Anfield (where primary city club Everton FC played from 1883) nor Goodison Park (where EFC later moved after a dispute with the landlord) but Stanley Park, which in 1870 the Mayor of Liverpool called 'The People's Park' and where the later-to-be-named People's Club played their first game on 21 Dec 1879, beating St Peter's 6-0. (As we know, Stanley Park is about to be destroyed by a Euro-funded Spanish club speaking the language of regeneration but paying no regard to local needs and certainly not local history).

    The article which most caught my eye picks up on the debate about renaming streets to erase the memory of slave traders - like Penny Lane, named after James Penny, slaveship owner and anti-abolitionist who in 1792 was presented with a silver epergne for speaking in favour of the slave trade to a parliamentary committee. Some councillors argue for giving streets the names of leading abolitionists like William Wilberforce but in Nerve Tayo Aluko makes the sharp observation that Wilberforce's name belongs in 'a list of many benevolent white men helping poor blacks' ... 'Wait a minute,' he rightly asks, 'what about black names?' Plenty of blacks through (Liverpool's) history have fought slavery, but they're barely recognised.

    Aluko tells the story of Pastor Daniels Ekarte, a Nigerian who moved to Liverpool's depressed Dingle in 1915 and founded the African Churches Mission in 1931, which housed, fed and clothed the poor of the community, foreign seamen and others denied accommodation elsewhere. Ekarte received no meaningful state or voluntary support for his work of care and concern, which lasted into the 'sixties. Though he became locally known as the African Saint he's been largely forgotten in the city's official histories. I'm with Tayo Aluko - name the new development on the site of his mission after Pastor Daniels Ekarte, so perhaps one day his name will be preserved in a popular song.