Jack Lanigan (1890-1975): An Introduction

The facts of the story, if ever printed, are not the story of a dream, but of cold, stark staring truths

Jack Lanigan, ‘Thy Kingdom Did Come’.

Jack Lanigan's memoir 'Thy Kingdom Did Come'.
Jack Lanigan’s memoir ‘Thy Kingdom Did Come’.


Born in 1890 in the slums of Salford (No.1 Thomas Street, off Brewery Street), Jack Lanigan gives an eye opening account of the ‘stark staring truths’ of growing up in these slums that ‘even Dickens’ characters did not come into contact with the realisms of everyday life’ (1). Everyday life included begging outside the factory Mather and Platt Ltd singing the theme song ‘Ave yer any bread left master?’ (1) and ‘can you spare any scrapings, Sir?’ (1). Written when in his eighties, Lanigan recollects these harsh realities throughout his memoir, ‘Thy Kingdom Did Come‘, though his ‘pen cannot describe the heartbreaks, the poverty and suffering’ (2).

An historical map of Salford.
An historical map of Salford.


This suffering was exacerbated by the death of his father who was once a skilled engraver and later on by the death of his mother and, thus, Lanigan was orphaned whilst still a child. Poverty and suffering are prominent themes in Lanigan’s memoir, however, he also experienced happier times. As a child he found joy from athletics and sport and as a music hall entertainer, and as an adult from his marriage and his two daughters. However, the happiest times came when employment was secured. In his chapter ‘Change of luck’ he describes a ‘delighted household’ (50) when hearing the news that he had been appointed District Sanitary Inspector for Doncaster.

Employment is another prominent theme throughout his memoir. Jack Lanigan had a tremendous work ethic. From the age of ten he began work as an errand boy due to his father’s death. His work ethic continued throughout his life securing various jobs from a counter hand and butcher’s assistant to a drain examiner for the town council and eventually qualifying as a sanitary inspector in 1914.

Jack Lanigan shows the ups and downs of working-class life which are ultimately determined by employment and unemployment. He conveys the devastating effects of unemployment on his own family and society whilst showing how hardship is alleviated by employment. Although we as the reader will never truly know how Jack Lanigan suffered we have an idea through the emotive way in which he describes it;

One cannot go to bed hungry and get up in the morning with that same feeling without leaving a scar on the memory

Jack Lanigan, ‘Thy Kingdom Did Come’, (p.1)

This is something that drew me to his memoir. His memoir shows him to be more empathetic rather than bitter towards his own working class story and that of many others. Although he recognises that ‘there was little attempt to force a change in the economic situation of the masses’ (1), he was determined to change his own economic situation by working and gaining skills from a young age. This endearing story shows how despite suffering, hard work, dedication and determination ensured 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.

Image 1

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

Image 2

GB Historical GIS / University of Portsmouth, History of Salford in Lancashire | Map and description, A Vision of Britain through Time.

URL: http://www.visionofbritain.org.uk/place/326

Date accessed: 15th October 2015





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