Jack Lanigan (1890-1975): Purpose & Audience

I once saw a wayside Pulpit Poster, which read: –

If you wish to be of power,

be of service to others.

Jack Lanigan, ‘Thy Kingdom Did Come’.

Jack Lanigan appropriately finishes his memoir with this quote, one that signifies power as in his memoir title. Yet the message within this quote is not intended for those in power, but for the workers, those ‘of service to others’. Although Jack Lanigan does not explicitly explain the purpose for writing his memoir or the audience that he intends it to be read by, this is certainly suggested throughout.

Lanigan often writes in a philosophical manner, most notably towards the end of his memoir when his points of view and purpose are expressed. He writes;

What could a man do if he owned all the earth, all the oceans, all the outer space and the stars, he would still have to depend upon the farmer to grow his corn and his wheat, the baker to bake his bread, the engineer to supply him with the means to keep himself warm (91)

Throughout Lanigan’s memoir there is an emphasis placed on power and authority, from his title ‘Thy Kingdom Did Come’ to his analysis of the class system as seen here. What is evident in this quote and throughout is his support for the working class. Despite his own social mobility, Lanigan has retained his working-class identity. Jack Lanigan remained a trade unionist for over sixty years fighting for the working class and still does with this memoir. He expresses that without the workers there would be nobody in power, nobody to own ‘all the earth, all the oceans’ (91), the working class are ultimately the backbone of society.

March organised by Trade Unionists in 1926.
March organised by Trade Unionists in 1926.

This political style of writing comes towards the end of Lanigan’s memoir, which asks the question of whether the purpose of writing his memoir is a political one? He certainly holds strong views on politics, war and society and had even rebelled as a youngster by ‘arousing apathy of a certain class of low paid workers to become members of a certain trades union’ (84) which had consequences as he states;

It took many years for my name to be eradicated of mud, so I write from practical experience (84).

Thus, writing his memoir during his eighties meant that he had a life time of experience. Regenia Gagnier suggests that the ‘reasons for writing are functional rather than aesthetic: to record lost experiences for future generations; to raise money; to warn others; to teach others; to relieve or amuse themselves; to understand themselves’ (342). In the case of Jack Lanigan it seems that his purpose is to warn, to teach and to spread his wisdom and experience onto future generations.

Jack Lanigan may have also written his memoir to challenge any negative stereotypes of the working class. Lanigan initially provides a history of his life from childhood to adulthood, this in turn supports his own theories on society at the end of his memoir by subverting any negative ideas on the working class through his own depiction of a true working class life that is one to be proud of. He has ultimately ‘eradicated [his own and other working class names] of mud’ (84) whilst teaching others based on ‘practical experience’ (84).

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.

Gagnier, Regenia. ‘Working-Class Autobiography, Subjectivity, and Gender.’ Victorian Studies 30.3 (1987): 335-363.


‘Forget 1926, this is more like a Scargill moment’. Daily Mail Comment. 19 June 2011. Web. Accessed 6 November 2015.


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