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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Waverley Beach

Thursday, October 21, 2010

West Won by Milk-thirsty Warriors


Having resorted to male-line ydna research to pin down my paternal great grandparents (and eventually confirm an unsuspected surname change from Shorrocks to Johnson), I was well placed to muse about the prehistoric origins of my family.

And so I bought copies of two rather bad books by Oxford academics: ‘Blood of the Isles’ by Bryan Sykes and ‘Origins of the British’ by Stephen Oppenheimer, and went on to commission the ‘Oppenheimer Test’ from EthnoAncestry.

I rather liked the result in one respect – it appeared that my ancient ancestor had originated in Catalonia and this gave me an affinity with Barcelona. On the other hand, as my ydna is very basically Northern English, I found it hard to credit that anyone in their right mind would trek from the Mediterranean coast to settle in the Pennines.

My doubts it appears were sound.

But first, let Sykes and Oppenheimer have their say:

‘Blood of the Isles’:

“The strongest (ydna) signal is a Celtic one, in the form of the clan of Oisin (R1b), which dominates the scene all over the Isles. The predominance in every part of the Isles of the Atlantis chromosome (the most frequent in the Oisin clan), with its strong affinities to Iberia, along with other matches and the evidence from the maternal side convinces me that it is from this direction that we must look for the origin of Oisin and the great majority of our Y-chromosomes…

I can find no evidence at all of a large-scale arrival from the heartland of the Celts of central Europe amongst the paternic genetic ancestry of the Isles.”

“The Celts of Ireland and the Western Isles are not, as far as I can see from the genetic evidence, related to the Celts who spread south and east to Italy, Greece and Turkey from the heartlands of Hallstadt and La Tene...during the first millennium BC…

The genetic evidence shows that a large proportion of Irish Celts, on both the male and female side, did arrive from Iberia at or about the same time as farming reached the Isles. (…)

The connection to Spain is also there in the myth of Brutus…. This too may be the faint echo of the same origin myth as the Milesian Irish and the connection to Iberia is almost as strong in the British regions as it is in Ireland. (…)”

‘Origins of the British’:

"By far the majority of male gene types in the British Isles derive from Iberia (Spain and Portugal), ranging from a low of 59% in Fakenham, Norfolk to highs of 96% in Llangefni, north Wales and 93% Castlerea, Ireland. On average only 30% of gene types in England derive from north-west Europe. Even without dating the earlier waves of north-west European immigration, this invalidates the Anglo-Saxon wipeout theory..."

"...75-95% of British Isles (genetic) matches derive from Iberia... Ireland, coastal Wales, and central and west-coast Scotland are almost entirely made up from Iberian founders, while the rest of the non-English parts of the British Isles have similarly high rates. England has rather lower rates of Iberian types with marked heterogeneity, but no English sample has less than 58% of Iberian samples..."

This it has turned out is probably a load of old cobblers.

The latest thinking is summarized below in an extensive recent article from Der Spiegel.

So I descend it seems, like many fellow Western Europeans from milk-thirsty and blood thirsty easterners who invaded the Occident in successive waves, and who were, as the Vikings believed, licked into life by a cow at the dawn of history.

The only problem with all this is that it leaves the Basques as an even more enigmatic group – plenty of cultivator and milk-drinking genes but speaking a totally non-IndoEuropean language [see lower map for the current prevalence of R1b male-line ydna].

[See also my post of Monday, February 1, 2010 'Farmers on the Frontier at cross purposes with Atlantic Fringe Hunters']


[by Matthias Schulz, Der Spiegel]

New research has revealed that agriculture came to Europe amid a wave of immigration from the Middle East during the Neolithic period. The newcomers won out over the locals because of their sophisticated culture, mastery of agriculture -- and their miracle food, milk.

Wedged in between dump trucks and excavators, archeologist Birgit Srock is drawing the outline of a 7,200-year-old posthole. A concrete mixing plant is visible on the horizon. She is here because, during the construction of a high-speed rail line between the German cities of Nuremberg and Berlin, workers happened upon a large Neolithic settlement in the Upper Franconia region of northern Bavaria.

The remains of more than 40 houses were unearthed, as well as skeletons, a spinning wheel, bulbous clay vessels, cows' teeth and broken sieves for cheese production -- a typical settlement of the so-called Linear Pottery culture (named after the patterns on their pottery).

This ancient culture provided us with the blessing of bread baking. At around 5300 BC, everyone in Central Europe was suddenly farming and raising livestock. The members of the Linear Pottery culture kept cows in wooden pens, used rubbing stones and harvested grain. Within less than 300 years, the sedentary lifestyle had spread to the Paris basin.

The reasons behind the rapid shift have long been a mystery. Was it an idea that spread through Central Europe at the time, or an entire people?

Peaceful Cooperation or Invasion?

Many academics felt that the latter was inconceivable. Agriculture was invented in the Middle East, but many researchers found it hard to believe that people from that part of the world would have embarked on an endless march across the Bosporus and into the north.

Jens Lüning, a German archaeologist who specializes in the prehistoric period, was influential in establishing the conventional wisdom on the developments, namely that a small group of immigrants inducted the established inhabitants of Central Europe into sowing and milking with "missionary zeal." The new knowledge was then quickly passed on to others. This process continued at a swift pace, in a spirit of "peaceful cooperation," according to Lüning.

But now doubts are being raised on that explanation. New excavations in Turkey, as well as genetic analyses of domestic animals and Stone Age skeletons, paint a completely different picture:

 At around 7000 BC, a mass migration of farmers began from the Middle East to Europe.
 These ancient farmers brought along domesticated cattle and pigs.
 There was no interbreeding between the intruders and the original population.

Mutated for Milk

The new settlers also had something of a miracle food at their disposal. They produced fresh milk, which, as a result of a genetic mutation, they were soon able to drink in large quantities. The result was that the population of farmers grew and grew.

These striking insights come from biologists and chemists. In a barrage of articles in professional journals like Nature and BMC Evolutionary Biology, they have turned many of the prevailing views upside down over the course of the last three years.

The most important group is working on the "Leche" project (the name is inspired by the Spanish word for milk), an association of 13 research institutes in seven European Union countries. The goal of the project is to genetically probe the beginnings of butter, milk and cheese.

An unusual circumstance has made this research possible in the first place. Homo sapiens was originally unable to digest raw milk. Generally, the human body only produces an enzyme that can break down lactose in the small intestine during the first few years of life. Indeed, most adults in Asia and Africa react to cow's milk with nausea, flatulence and diarrhea.

But the situation is different in Europe, where many people carry a minute modification of chromosome 2 that enables them to digest lactose throughout their life without experiencing intestinal problems. The percentage of people with this modification is the highest among Britons and Scandinavians (see graphic).

It has long been known that these differences are based on Europeans' primeval origins. But where did the first milk drinker live? Which early man was the first to feast on cow's milk without suffering the consequences?

Groups Did not Intermingle

In a bid to solve the mystery, molecular biologists have sawed into and analyzed countless Neolithic bones. The breakthrough came last year, when scientists discovered that the first milk drinkers lived in the territory of present-day Austria, Hungary and Slovakia.

But that was also where the nucleus of the Linear Pottery culture was located. "The trait of lactose tolerance quickly became established in the population," explains Joachim Burger, an anthropologist from the University of Mainz in southwestern Germany who is a member of the Leche team.

Deep-frozen thighs are stacked in Burger's laboratory, where assistants wearing masks saw open skulls. Others examine bits of genetic material from the Stone Age under a blue light.

The group will hold a working meeting in Uppsala, Sweden in November. But even at this stage it is already clear that large numbers of people from the Middle East once descended upon Central Europe.

There are also signs of conflict. The intruders differed from the continent's Ice Age inhabitants "through completely different genetic lines," Burger explains. In other words, the two groups did not intermingle.

Part 2: Tension Between Locals and Incomers

This isn't exactly surprising. The old hunter-gatherers on the continent had long been accustomed to hunting and fishing. Their ancestors had entered Europe 46,000 years ago -- early enough to have encountered the Neanderthals.

The early farmers moving into Central Europe were sophisticated compared with these children of nature. The farmers wore different clothing, prayed to other idols and spoke a different language.

It was these differences that probably led to tensions. Researchers have discovered that arsonists set the villages of the Linear Pottery culture on fire. Soon the farmers built tall palisades to protect their villages. Their advance was blocked for a long time by the Rhine River, however.

There are signs that bartering and trade existed, but the two groups did not intermingle sexually. Burger suspects that there was probably a "strict ban on intermarriage."

The farmers even protected their livestock from outside influences, determined to prevent the wild oxen known as aurochs from breeding with their Middle Eastern cows.

They feared that such hybrids would only introduce a new wild element into the domesticated breeds.

Their breeding precautions were completely understandable. The revolutionary idea that man could subjugate plants and animals went hand in hand with enormous efforts, patience and ingenuity. The process took thousands of years.

Getting Animals Under Control

The beginnings can now be delineated relatively well. About 12,000 years ago, the zone between the Zagros Mountains in present-day Iran, Palestine and Turkey was transformed into a giant field experiment.

The first farmers learned to cultivate wild emmer and einkorn wheat. Then they went on to domesticate animals. Goats had been successfully domesticated in Iran by about 9,000 BC. Sheep and pigs were domesticated in southern Anatolia.

Enormous settlements soon sprang up in the region known as the Fertile Crescent. Çatalhöyük, known as "man's first metropolis," had about 5,000 inhabitants, who lived in mud huts packed tightly together. They worshipped an obese mother goddess, depicted in statues as a figure sitting on a throne decorated with the heads of carnivores.

One of the most difficult challenges was the breeding and domestication of Middle Eastern wild cattle. The male specimens of the species weighed up to 1,000 kilograms (2,200 pounds) and had curved horns. People eventually drummed up the courage to approach the beasts somewhere in the central Euphrates Valley.

They found different ways of getting the cattle under control. One Neolithic sculpture depicts a steer with a hole punched through its nasal septum. Removing the testicles was also quickly recognized as a way of improving the animals' temperament. Once the wild cattle had been castrated, they could finally be yoked.

The clever farmers realized that if they gave calves from other mothers to the cows, their udders would always be full of milk.

No Taste for Milk

Oddly enough, the Mesopotamian farmers didn't touch fresh milk. A few weeks ago, Joachim Burger returned from Turkey with a sack full of Neolithic bones from newly discovered cemeteries where the ancient farmers were buried.

When the bones were analyzed, there were no signs of lactose tolerance. "If these people had drunk milk, they would have felt sick," says Burger. This means that at first the farmers only consumed fermented milk products like kefir, yogurt and cheese, which contain very little lactose.

Even more astonishing, as recent excavations in Anatolia show, is the fact that the ancient farmers did not leave their core region for almost 2,000 years. They had put together the complete "Neolithic cultural package," from the rubbing stone to seeds, "without advancing into other areas," says archeologist Mehmet Özdogan.

The coastal zones were long avoided. The people who lived there were probably fishermen who defended themselves against the new way of life with harpoons.

Renegade Settlers

The crossing of the Bosporus did not occur until sometime between 7000 and 6500 BC. The farmers met with little resistance from the hunter-gatherer cultures, whose coastal settlements were being inundated by devastating floods at the time. Melting glaciers had triggered a rise in the sea level of over 100 meters (160 feet).

Nevertheless, the advance across the Balkans was not a triumph. The colonists' dwellings there seem small and shabby. At the 47th parallel north, near Lake Balaton in modern-day Hungary, the advance came to a standstill for 500 years.

The Linear Pottery culture, which was the first to shift to the northern shore of Lake Balaton, gave the movement new life. Lüning talks about "renegade" settlers who had created a "new way of life" and a "reform project" on the other side of the lake.

With military determination, the advancing pioneers constantly established new settlements. The villages often consisted of three to six windowless longhouses, strictly aligned to the northwest, next to livestock pens and masterfully constructed wells. Their tools, picks and bowls (which were basically hemispheric vessels) were almost identical throughout Central Europe, from Ukraine to the Rhine.

Part 3: Migration and Mass Murder

The settlers, wielding their sickles, kept moving farther and farther north, right into the territory of backward peoples. The newcomers were industrious and used to working hard in the fields. Clay statues show that the men were already wearing trousers and shaving. The women dyed their hair red and decorated it with snail shells. Both sexes wore caps, and the men also wore triangular hats.

By comparison, the more primitive existing inhabitants of the continent wore animal hides and lived in spartan huts. They looked on in bewilderment as the newcomers deforested their hunting grounds, tilled the soil and planted seeds. This apparently upset them and motivated them to resist the intruders.

In the Bible, Cain, the crop farmer, slays Abel the shepherd. In the Europe of the Neolithic Age, conditions may have been just as violent. One of the most gruesome discoveries is a mass grave that has been dubbed the "Talheim Death Pit" in the German town of that name. The pit is filled with the remains of 34 bodies.

The members of an entire clan were apparently surprised in their sleep and beaten to death with clubs and hatchets. So far, archeologists haven't been able to figure out whether the incomers killed the existing inhabitants, or vice versa.

Drinking Milk by the Bucketful

It is clear, however, that the dairy farmers won out in the end. During their migration, they encountered increasingly lush pastures, a paradise for their cows. An added benefit of migrating farther to the north was that raw milk lasted longer in the cooler climate.

This probably explains why people soon began drinking the abundant new beverage by the bucketful. Some had genetic mutations that enabled them to drink milk without getting sick. They were the true progenitors of the movement.

As a result of "accelerated evolution," says Burger, lactose tolerance was selected for on a large scale within the population in the space of about 100 generations.

Europe became the land of the eternal infant as people began drinking milk their whole lives.

The new food was especially beneficial for children. In the Neolithic Age, many small children died after being weaned in their fourth year of life. "As a result of consuming healthy milk, this could be greatly reduced," Hamburg biologist Fritz Höffeler speculates. All of this led to population growth and, as a result, further geographical expansion.

'White Revolution'

Does this explain why the inventors of the sickle and the plow conquered Europe so quickly, leading to the demise of the old hunter-gatherers?

Imagine, if you will, a village of the Linear Pottery culture in the middle of winter. As smoke emerges from the top of a wooden hut, the table inside is surrounded by rosy-cheeked children drinking hot milk with honey, which their mother has just prepared for them. It's an image that could help explain why people adopted a sedentary way of life.

Burger, at any rate, is convinced that milk played a major part in shaping history, just as gunpowder did much later. "There was once a white revolution," he says.

[Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan]

Monday, October 18, 2010

Honorary Cumbrian - In Memoriam 14th October 1943


[by Margaret Crosby, Whitehaven News, Friday, 05 January 2007]

THERE was a civic welcome to Whitehaven, this week, for the daughter of a young wartime airman whose plane had crashed into Kells Brows more than 60 years ago.

It was an emotional trip back in time to an October day in 1943, when Whitehaven townspeople going about their daily business were shocked to see a bomber crash-land in their midst.

Susan Hollinshead, was just six years old, when news came through of a tragedy that was to deprive her, and her unborn brother, of their father, Cyril Johnson.

He was one of five young airmen killed on the training flight from RAF Millom, that ended in wreckage strewn over the Brows, at Kells.

On Monday, Susan, who will be 70 next month, and her husband, John, travelled to Whitehaven from their home in Kelsall, Cheshire, to study local records and documentation of the wartime event and pay an emotional visit to the crash site itself.

They were given a civic welcome by the Mayor of Copeland Willis Metherell and the chairman of Cumbria County Council, Alan Caine.

It was on October 14 that the Avro Anson R9780 aircraft was on a routine flight from the unit at RAF Millom, when tragedy struck.

The five crewmen who died were a mixed bunch. There was Susan’s father Sgt Cyril Johnson, who had been a teacher in Nantwich, before joining the RAF, Sgt T Inman, wireless operator, Flying officer H J O’Hare of Glasgow, Canadian navigator, Sgt R H Murphy and American pilot Sgt V J Dunnigan, a baseball player of note, from Buffalo, New York.

Susan’s visit to Whitehaven had been prompted by the interest of her brother, Dr Keith Johnson, who now lives in Wellington, New Zealand. He had never known his father. His mother, Mabel Johnson, was pregnant with him when Cyril died. Sadly Cyril, 33, did not even know his wife was expecting.

Said Susan: “My father had previously been in South Africa with the RAF and he and my mother had stolen a couple of weeks together before he had to go off to the Millom base. My brother was the result but my father never knew.’’

Susan’s decision to revisit the wartime events of 63 years ago had been prompted by her brother’s interest. Keith had contacted Cumbria County Council to help him research the circumstances of his father’s death.

The siblings had understood their father, Cyril, was a navigator but Glynn Griffith of Millom RAF Museum provided old inquiry records that showed he was being trained as a bomb-aimer.

He told Susan: “Because of wartime demands the training role was often undertaken by aircraft that was ‘war-weary’ and it seems this plane suffered a serious structural defect in the wing span.

As a result of this incident all Avro Ansons in use were subsequently checked out and several were found to have cracks.’’

He said the wing had cracked, the plane had begun to disintegrate in mid-air and the pilot lost effective control of the aircraft once the wing was lost. Parachutes had flared but there was insufficient height to enable the men to get out of the aircraft.

Fabric covering from the aircraft was found on Bransty and local children of the time could remember sparks coming from it as it came down and that Border Regiment soldiers had guarded the crash scene.

The Hollinsheads were given copies of Sgt Johnson’s service record from the RAF, the crash inquiry records and research details gathered by the late Gilbert Rothery, who was interested in aviation and had been a boy of 13, waiting for a bus home to St Bees when the crash occurred.

There was also a folio of documents from The Beacon, represented by Averil Dawson, who is appealing to the public for personal memories of the crash on the Brows, which could form part of an oral history collection.

Councillor Metherell said she too had been only 14 at the time but remembered the event being the talk of the area. “It is history we must not forget.’’

Councillor Caine said Sgt Johnson would be made an honorary Cumbrian and the two councils would explore ways in which to create a permanent memorial to him.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Mary and Lizzie Burns


While researching Frederick Engels' life in England, I was touched by the references to his relationships first with Mary Burns, and later with her sister Lizzie Burns (photo opposite).

These warm and formidable Irish women obviously contributed vastly to both his personal life and to his understanding of the deprivations of working class people.

I tried then to pick them up in the 1851 to 1891 Census records - with no luck.

Perhaps this is not altogether surprising given the pressure to hide scandalous, out-of-wedlock relationships, the interests of the authorities in the possible Fenian connections of the sisters, and a possible desire on the part of Engels to safeguard them from the attentions of British and Continental secret police surveillance.

But as shown at the end of this article, there is a tantalising possibility that Mary was picked up in the 1861 Census - and that she gave birth to two sons, William (b 1843) and Thomas (b 1854).

Do any families own legends about their descent from Frederick Engels?


Friedrich (Frederick) Engels is assumed to have met Mary Burns when he first visited Manchester in the early 1840s, and she certainly accompanied him to continental Europe in 1845.

In the private part of his life Engels lived with Mary Burns who, together with her sister Lizzie, ran boarding houses, moving from time to time to different parts of Manchester. Engels was often registered as a lodger at these houses but used different names, presumably for the purpose of concealing his identity from the prurient.

This did not always work. In April 1854 he wrote to Marx “the philistines have got to know that I am living with Mary”, forcing him to take private lodgings once more.

In April 1862 he wrote to Marx, “I am living with Mary nearly all the time now so as to spend as little money as possible. I can’t dispense with my lodgings, otherwise I should move in with her altogether.”

She and Engels never married but he lived much of the time at the house he provided for her and her sister Lizzie in Ardwick (although he maintained separate lodgings). Engels was distraught at her death at the age of 41 in 1863. As he wrote to Marx, 'I felt as though with her I was burying the last vestige of my youth'.

Mary Burns's death was the occasion of almost the only sharp interchange between the two friends. Marx received a letter from Engels telling him of the death and Engels, not unnaturally, expected his old friend to extend great sympathy. Instead, Marx's reply mostly dwelt on the problems of finance and health which were yet again besetting his family.

Engels did not reply for a week and then wrote a fairly reproachful letter, to which Marx then wrote a deeply apologetic reply. Engels finally came round, although obviously still hurt:

“I tell you, your letter stuck in my head for a whole week, I couldn't forget it. Never mind, your last letter made it quits: and I am glad that when I lost Mary I did not also lose my oldest and best friend”.

When Engels eventually started a relationship with Mary's sister Lydia, known as Lizzie, Marx and Jenny appear to have been careful not to make the same mistake again. They became friendly with Lizzie (she and Jenny Marx would holiday together in later years) and Eleanor visited Manchester to stay at the Engels-Burns household. She also accompanied them on a trip to Ireland.

When Engels met the young Mary Burns in 1840s Manchester, she was almost certainly involved in the Chartist politics of the time, as were so many Irish textile workers. There is no sign that the Engel’s relationships with the Burns sisters were ever regarded by any of the participants as one sided or oppressive. There is, however, some evidence that Engels gained a great deal from living with these women, and that their personalities were at one with his own.

Eleanor Marx was a frequent visitor to the household and was friends with Lizzie.

She later write to Karl Kautsky that Lizzie “was illiterate and could not read or write but she was true, honest and in some ways as fine-souled a woman as you could meet”.

According to Marx’s son-in-law, Lizzie was “in continual touch with the many Irishmen in Manchester and always well informed of their conspiracies.”

He even suggested that “more than one Fenian found hospitality in Engels’ house” and that they were involved in the dramatic rescue of the Fenian leaders Kelly and Deasy in September 1867. There is no evidence for this, although their house at 252 Hyde Road was close to the rescue site.

Engels wrote to the German socialist August Bebel's wife in 1878 after Lizzie's death, 'She was of genuine Irish proletarian stock and her passionate, innate feeling for her class was of far greater value to me and stood me in better stead at moments of crisis than all the refinement and culture of your educated and aesthetic young ladies.

The 14 year old Eleanor Marx wrote home in 1869 with a description of the Burns household:

“On Saturday it was so warm that we, that is Auntie [Lizzie] and myself and Sarah, lay down on the floor the whole day drinking beer, claret, etc... In the evening when Uncle [Engels] came home he found Auntie, me and Ellen [Lizzie's niece], who was telling us Irish tales, all lying our full length on the floor, with no stays, no hoots, and one petticoat and a cotton dress on, and that was all”.


Mary Burns

Age 38
Estimated Year of Birth 1823
Relationship to Head of Household Head
Address 107, Birch Street

District Chorlton, Ardwick
Parish Ardwick
Administrative County Lancashire
Birth Place Ireland

[With sons William 18 and Thomas 7].

Monday, October 11, 2010

Friedrich Engels, the Cheshire Hunt, the Red Dragon & me


In my post of June 10, 2010 ‘Fox Hunting and the Point to Points’, I sketched the emergence of two of the modern mainstays of life in rural Cheshire and illustrated how new and synthetic this culture really is.

I mentioned that when the original Hunt Club was founded in 1762 in Tarporley, Cheshire it started off with hare coursing (i.e. using beagle hounds) and that it was only prosperity, farm consolidation and the widespread introduction and proper maintenance of hawthorn hedges that made fox hunting viable.

I also quoted from a poem or ballad called ‘Farmer Dobbin’ written by Rowland Eyles Egerton-Warburton and published in 1853. This was almost certainly first recited to the assembled members of the Cheshire Hunt at a banquet in the Hunt Room of the Swan Inn in Tarporley.

The poem celebrates the acceptance of a new stratum of prosperous local dairy farmers into the Hunt and it mocks the brash young men of Manchester and Liverpool for moving off too early before the fox started from its cover.

Well, you may be more than a little surprised to learn that one of the world’s most important revolutionary thinkers, Friedrich Engels, may well have been one of the offenders in taking up the chase prematurely.

In 1850, Engels returned to England to assist in the management of the sewing thread mill that was part-owned by his father. The Ermen and Engel’s mill was located at Weaste in Salford and Friedrich started by keeping the accounts, while later becoming a full partner.

Fox hunting with the Cheshire Hounds was one of his weekend hobbies in the autumn.

And in my post of August 11, 2010, ‘Who Do You Think You Are – and what were they worth?’ I mentioned that my great, great grandfather Walter Shorrocks, who was a Brush Manufacturer in Salford, lived near to the Crescent Pub in Salford (formerly the Red Dragon) where Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels once drank and discussed revolution and the theory of Communism.

So, I couldn’t let these connections pass without further comment.

Quite possibly, Friedrich (born 1820) may have crossed urban alleyways then with my great great grandfather Walter (born 1824) in Salford, and country lanes with my Cheshire farming step family (Abraham Darlington the elder born 1805 and his son, another Abraham, who was my great grandfather, born 1841).

And the covert revolutionary may have shared drinks with the Shorrocks’ in the Red Dragon and the Darlingtons in the Swan Inn.

So I’ll take the opportunity to say more about Friedrich Engels and his life in North West England.


According to a colourful article in Salford Star (No 6: Winter 2007) on Friedrich Engels:

“Fred Engels is the most famous person who ever lived in Salford.

And when he settled in Salford, at the age of 22, he was on the ale every night, copping off with local girls and stirring up all sorts of trouble. He was the original angry young man, slagging off developers, the council, the capitalists and the conditions that working class people were living in.

Born in Barmen, Germany, in 1820, young Fred was a major trouble maker after he discovered politics, so his dad – a rich mill owner – packed him off to Salford when he was 22 to work for the family's joint owned Ermen and Engels' Victoria Mill in Weaste, which made sewing threads.

By this time Fred already spoke 25 languages, was a top horseman, swordsman, swimmer, skater, artist, journalist, composer and philosopher – well, there was no telly in those days. And he'd published loads of political articles, stirring it up in his home town and prompting his dad to write:

"I have a son at home who is like a scabby sheep in a flock…"

Fred copped off with a young Irish girl called Mary Burns, who probably worked at his dad's mill, and she took him out at night in disguise so that he wouldn't get his German bourgeois head kicked in.

After twenty months Fred went home and wrote The Condition of the Working Class in England 1844 (published 1845). It was"dedicated to the working classes of Great Britain" but wasn't available in English until 1892. The explosive book described in intimate detail, street after street, the total squalor that working people were living in, based on what he'd seen in Salford and Manchester.

But he didn't just write about the conditions, and his hatred for the ruling class that allowed working people to live like that. Once back in Germany he got his sword out and took part in the revolutionary uprising against the Prussian army.

It was after this, in 1848, that Fred and Karl Marx wrote The Communist Manifesto urging a worldwide socialist revolution.

With the authorities after him, Fred took refuge in Switzerland before arriving back at his dad's factory in 1850, exiled in Salford. He stayed for 19 years. This time, Fred was under surveillance from the secret police, and had `official' homes and `unofficial homes' all over inner city Manchester where he lived with Mary under false names to confuse the cops.

While Fred was in Salford and Manchester, Karl Marx used to come and visit him at least once every year. They would sit for hours researching in Chetham's Library – and then go drinking for hours in pubs all over town – possibly the Crescent and The Grapes in Salford, and the Gold Cup and Coach and Horses in Manchester”.


During the 19 years that Friedrich spent in Manchester and Salford on the management team of Ermen and Engels, he enjoyed all the perks associated with his growing wealth (he became a partner in 1864) - and as I mentioned above, he rode with the Cheshire Hounds.

And at the same time, he maintained two homes in Manchester so he could continue to enjoy the beds and domesticity offered by two Irish working class sisters Mary and Lizzie Burns.

But he also supported Karl Marx. Drawing on his salary and profits, it is estimated that Engels provided at least £35,000 a year at today’s prices until Marx’s death, to enable Marx to keep up a middle class lifestyle, especially for his three daughters.

In 1870, Engels moved to London where he and Marx lived until Marx's death in 1883. He died in England in 1895.

Fellow politicians regarded Engels as a "ruthless party tactician", "brutal ideologue", and a "master tactician" when it came to purging rivals in political organizations.

However, he was also seen as a "gregarious", "bighearted", and "jovial man of outsize appetites", who was referred to by his son-in-law as "the great beheader of champagne bottles”. At his regular Sunday parties for London’s left-wing intelligentsia it seems that "no one left before 2 or 3 in the morning."

His stated personal motto was "take it easy", while "jollity" was listed as his favorite virtue.

When Engels died in 1895 he left more than £2m in stocks and shares in today’s money. In the cellar of his grand Primrose Hill four-story house he had £20,000 pounds worth of fine wines and more stored with his merchant.

Unconcerned that this wealth compromised his communist convictions, he apparently argued that:

“the stock exchange simply adjusts the distribution of surplus value already stolen from the workers” and that it was possible to both dabble on the stock market and be a socialist”.

And he promised a “fine reception” for anyone who came to him seeking an apology for being a boss of a manufacturing firm.


"To get the most out of life you must be active, you must live and you must have the courage to taste the thrill of being young”.

"I once went into Manchester with a bourgeois and spoke to him of the bad, unwholesome method of building, the frightful conditions of the working people's quarters…The man listened quietly and said when we parted `And yet there is a great deal of money to be made here; Good Morning Sir’.

"All the conditions of life are measured by money - and what brings no money is (judged) nonsense, unpractical idealistic bosh!"

"If we cross the Irwell to Salford, we find…one large working men's quarter, penetrated by a single wide avenue…All Salford is built in courts or narrow lanes, so narrow, that they remind me of the narrowest I have ever seen, the little lanes of Genoa….The working men's dwellings between Oldfield Road and Cross Lane…vie with the dwellings of the Old Town in filth and overcrowding.

In this district I found a man, apparently about 60 years old, living in a cow stable...which had neither windows and floor, nor ceiling… and lived there, though the rain dripped through his rotten roof. This man was too old and weak for regular work, and supported himself by removing manure with a hand-cart; the dung heaps lay next door to his palace.

The working people live, almost all of them, in wretched, damp, filthy cottages…the streets which surround them are usually in the most miserable and filthy condition, laid out without the slightest reference to ventilation, with reference solely to the profit secured by the contractor…"

"I forsook the company and the dinner-parties, the port-wine and champagne of the middle classes, and devoted my leisure-hours almost exclusively to the intercourse with plain working men; I am both glad and proud of having done so’

Glad, because thus I was induced to spend many a happy hour, which else would have been wasted in fashionable talk and tiresome etiquette ...."

"(I am) proud because I thus got an opportunity of doing justice to an oppressed and calumniated class of men who with all their faults and under all the disadvantages of their situation, yet command the respect of everyone but an English money-monger ..."

"A class which bears all the disadvantages of the social order without enjoying its advantages…Who can demand that such a class respect this social order?"

"Exploitation is the basic evil which the social revolution strives to abolish, by abolishing the capitalist mode of production."

"Urban authorities…almost everywhere in England are recognised centres of corruption of all kinds, nepotism and jobbery – the exploitation of public office to the private advantage of the official or his family."

"The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles…”

"Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communistic revolution. The proletariat have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win - Working Men of All Countries, Unite!"


Frederick Engels

Age 40
Estimated Year of Birth 1821
Relationship to Head of Household Lodger
Occupation Merchant
Address 6, Thorncliffe Grove
District Chorlton, Chorlton-Upon-Medlock
Parish Chorlton Upon Medlock
Administrative County Lancashire
Birth Place Prussia

[Lodger with Charles Lee, wife Ann (children Sarah 16, Charles 14, William 7, Emily 5 and Bertha 4)]

Walter Shorrocks (my great, great grandfather)

Age 37
Estimated Year of Birth 1824
Relationship to Head of Household Head
Occupation Brushmaker employing 3 men and 1 boy
Address 21 Islington Street
District Greengate
Parish Salford
Administrative County Lancashire
Birth Place
Birth County Lancashire

Abraham Darlington (my step great, great grandfather)

Age 56
Estimated Year of Birth 1805
Relationship to Head of Household Head
Occupation Farmer of...acres
Address Aston Green
District Nantwich, Nantwich
Parish Aston Juxta Mondrum
Administrative County Cheshire
Birth Place
Birth County Cheshire

[Son Abraham 20 years old born 1841 – good candidate for riding with the Cheshire Hounds c1860]


I have also (once only) hunted with the Cheshire Hounds.

When I was about 10 years old, I badgered my mother and step father to be able to join the Meet of the Hounds at Calveley Hall Gates. I rode my overweight and normally ponderous pony Jonty (see photo below) - who however became a stampeding steed in the rush of horses.

Narrowly avoiding being maimed and crushed (parents were more stoic about risks and injuries in those days), I survived being dragged through a disintegrating post and rail fence in the fields between Calveley and Wettenhall.

This prematurely and permanently ended my enthusiasm for the sport!