from the Old Sod Itself'
FOR ALL ITS COSMOPOLITAN and imperial pretensions, the great Victorian seaport of Liverpool was often depicted and perceived as 'Irish'. The selfproclaimed second city of empire, Liverpool was also known as the capital of Ireland in England, in A.M. Sullivan's words, 'a piece cut of from the old sod itself'.1 By the early years of the twentieth century, Liverpool's climacteric, the numbers of Irish and Catholics, regarded as synonymous terms at the time, was calculated at up to 200,000: roughly one-third of the population.2 This sizeable presence not with standing, there is as yet no full-scale history of the LiverpoolIrish and their distinctive hyphenated identity. Studies abound of the sufferings and tensions of the Famine influx from Ireland in the late 1840s, offering a short-term 'crisis' perspective on such issues as health, housing, welfare, crime and sectarian violence in this main port of entry.3 There is an urgent need for a longer-term assessment of crisis, continuity and change as the LiverpoolIrish, the most significant 'minority' community in pre-multi-cultural Britain, adjusted to what TP. O'Connor described as their 'curious middle place'.4
1Nationalist 6 Dec. 1884.
2 In the Liverpool section of his study of The Irish in Britain, London, 1892, p.252,
John Denvir produced a range of figures to confirm that 'we are almost, if not quite,
3 See in particular the exemplary works by Frank Neal with their enviable mastery of
statistical detail and technique: for example, 'Liverpool, the Irish steamship companies and
the Famine Irish', Immigrants and Minorities, 5, 1986, pp.28–61; 'Lancashire, the Famine
Irish and the Poor Laws: a study in crisis management', Irish Economic and Social History,
XXII, 1995, pp.26–48; 'A criminal profile of the Liverpool Irish', THSLC, 140, 1991,
pp. 161–99; and a longer-term but episodic study, Sectarian Violence: The Liverpool Experience
1819–1914, Manchester, 1988.
4 T.P. O'Connor, 'The Irish in Great Britain', in F. Lavery, ed., Irish Heroes in the War,