Jack Lanigan (1890-1975): Education & Schooling

If ever fear was in us kids it was when we saw that cane. Once bitten, twice shy

Jack Lanigan, ‘They Kingdom Did Come’, 5-6.

A Victorian cane used for punishing naughty school children.
Figure 1. A Victorian cane used for punishing naughty school children.
Figure 2. Victorian slate and slate pencils used by school children for arithmetic and writing.

Throughout Jack Lanigan’s life he was educated in various places through various ways. His education began at St. Philips Church School, also known as ‘National School’ and at Gravel Lane Ragged School on Sunday evenings. A Ragged School was a type of Sunday School for the working class as Lanigan states;

you were considered posh if you went to Sunday School, but we went to Gravel Lane Ragged School…You never saw such a bunch of scruffy kids in all your life (5).

Lanigan attended ‘National School’ and ‘Ragged School’ until the age of ten. As previously mentioned in my other blog posts on Jack Lanigan’s life, events in Jack Lanigan’s family life such as the death of his father meant he could no longer attend school and instead he would need to replace the loss of income through work. As Lanigan informs us;

under the [1900] Education Act, a child ten years and over could sit for a School Leaving Examination, if that child had no father (8).

Lanigan passed this examination which implies that the schooling he did have was of a good standard. This is also suggested when he states, ‘I must admit I did not know of any children of my age who could not read or write, do arithmetic and know something about history and geography’ (6). Despite the harsh punishment of the cane, writing with slates and slate pencils and standing for an entire lesson, Lanigan seemed to gain a good quality of education from his time at ‘National School’ and even enjoyed the ‘fun and games’ of school life (6).

St Philips Church in 1800s.
Figure 3. St. Philips Church in 1800s, Manchester.
Modern day image of St Philips Church, Manchester.
Figure 4. Modern day image of St. Philips Church, Manchester.








In his book, A Ragged Schooling, Robert Roberts experienced a similar education in Salford. He states, ‘I found it delightful. So did all my siblings, and we blubbered and complained if anything occurred to stop attendance’ (141). Although it is great to see a positive experience of Victorian education, Robert Roberts statement also evokes sadness and empathy given Jack Lanigan’s unavoidable situation of giving up the greatest days of his life to become an adult at the age of ten.

In terms of the quality of education in Salford, Robert Roberts describes the numerous inspections to his school in which they reported ‘a place of educational ill repute, even by the low standards of the times’ (141). Nonetheless, Robert Roberts was able to read and write and later became a scholar and author. Thus, we should take into account that education during this time was not exceptional, and given that both Jack Lanigan and Robert Roberts could read and write, they experienced a good standard of education.

Jack Lanigan continued to be educated through life experiences and mainly through work, learning on the job as a drain examiner and later studying to become a Sanitary Inspector at the Manchester College of Technology. It was here that the effects of leaving school early became apparent. Lanigan was required to read many books including those on ‘Elementary Physiology and Hygiene’ (22) which he admits he ‘struggled with’ (22). This in turn had an effect on his final examination which he repeatedly failed. When checking over his work to find a reason for his failings, his wife found that ‘it is [his] English [he] fall[s] down on’ (27). Embarrassed and annoyed at this not being spotted earlier, Lanigan commenced an English course at Moston Lane School and eventually passed his Sanitary Inspector examinations.

Despite leaving formal schooling at the age of ten, Lanigan never gave up on education and instead returned to it throughout his life. His continuous return to education was due to his determination to have a better life for himself and his family as he states;

the very thought of failure seemed to hit me below the belt, and that was the blow I needed to spur me on, no matter the cost (24).

Throughout Lanigan’s memoir there is an emphasis on education from his own to that of his daughters, Lillian and Muriel who took on Lanigan’s determination and completed all of their exams. Ultimately, education was the key to ensuring that ‘[Lanigan’s] Kingdom Did Come.

Works Cited:

1:421 Lanigan, Jack, ‘Thy Kingdom Did Come’, TS, pp.92 (c.42,000 words). Burnett Collection of Working Class Autobiography, Brunel University Library.

Lanigan, Jack, ‘Thy Kingdom Did Come’, TS, pp.92 (c.42,000 words). Extract in J. Burnett (ed.), Destiny Obscure. Autobiographies of childhood, education and family from the 1820s to the 1920s (Allen Lane, London, 1982), pp.95-9. Brunel University Library.

Roberts, Robert. A Ragged Schooling. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1976.


Fig. 1:

‘School Cane’. www.VictorianSchool.co.uk. N.D. Web. Accessed. 26 November 2015.


Fig. 2:

‘School Slate & Pencil, Victorian, Original’. www.objectlessons.org. N.D. Web. Accessed 20 November 2015.


Fig. 3:

‘St. Philips Church’. www. manchesterhistory.net. N.D. Web. Accessed 20 November 2015.


Fig. 4:

‘St. Philips Church’. www. manchesterhistory.net. N.D. Web. Accessed 20 November 2015.



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