Friday, February 01, 2008

Ragged Trousered Philanthropists - Blue Plaque to be unveiled in honour of Robert Tressell

I have been sent this Press Release which I am pleased to share with you

If you have not read it then you should, if you are a mate of mine then you can borrow my copy if you promise to give it back

No embargo time
Released Date 28-01-2008. 16.00 hours.
Blue Plaque to be unveiled to the author of "The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists"
Liverpool Trades Union Council will be unveiling a blue plaque dedicated to Robert Tressell at The Old Royal Liverpool Infirmary (Brownlow Practice, opposite Dental Hospital), Pembroke Place, Liverpool at 10.30 am on Sunday 3rd February 2008.
The author died of phthisis pulmonalis (tuberculosis) in the hospital in 1911.

The unveiling ceremony will be conducted by Mr Reg Johnson, the last surviving member of the famous author’s family, together with Mr. Stephen Nederlof an Apprentice Painter & Decorator employed by Mersey Tunnels and Ms. Eileen Gorry of Blackburne House, Construction Section Training Department. A reception will be held at 12.00.noon in the Casa Club, Hope Street after the event. Transport to the reception will be by courtesy coach.

Reg Johnson will be available at an informal reception at the Casa Club on Saturday
2nd February from 7.30pm to sign copies of the book brought to him by well wishers. A small number of books will also be available for sale.

All are welcome to the events. Surplus funds will go towards providing a signed hard back copy of "The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists" to any Merseyside school that wishes to have a copy.


Contact John Flanagan, Liverpool Trades Council for further information.

The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists has so far been published at least 137 times - UK (105), Russia (6), Germany (6), Canada (3), Australia (3), USA (3), Czechoslovakia (3), Poland (2), Holland (1), Belgium (1), Bulgaria (1), Japan (1), Turkey (1), Unidentified (1) - and possibly others elsewhere.

The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists has sold at least 1,100,000 copies worldwide and may well have sold twice or even three times that number.

The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists is clear, straightforward and eminently readable; it has humour, parody, pathos, irony, rage, little victories, defeats, arguments and ideas, and it is brim full of hatred and contempt for the capitalist ‘System’, the ruling class and their hangers-on.

The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists is about hope. It is about Socialist values and their continued relevance when we are being told that capitalism is here forever. That greed is good, that war, famine, poverty, racism and every form of oppression are natural, normal and permanent features of life on Planet Earth.

Not many novels are about house painters, and very few novels of any kind have been so often adapted for the stage, taken on tour and featured in TV and radio documentaries. Above all, almost none get passed from hand to hand by millions of workers and get taken to their hearts.

The event is supported by North West TUC.

See Dave Harker, Tressell. The real story of The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists (London: Zed, 1983), which is largely based on Reg Johnson's collection, The Robert Tresssell family Papers. Their A Working Bibliography can be found on the TUC website:

'In January 1997 twenty-five thousand voters in a Waterstones ‘books of the century’ survey put RTP in sixty-second place.' (Harker, Tressell, 2003, page 245.)

The book was no. 72 in the BBC’s “Big Read” list in April 2003. See link

The Chairman of Mersey Travel, Councillor Mark Dowd will be attending the event.


Mr. Reg Johnson, Archivist RTP Papers.

Mr. Dave Harker, Author.

Mr. Dennis Dunphy, President Liverpool Trades Union Council.

Councillor Sharon Sullivan, Chair: Waterfront Neighbourhood Community, Liverpool City and local Ward Councillor will be attending and speaking.

The Construction Safety Campaign (CSC) marks his memory every year with a Robert Tressell Award to people who have served workers all their lives. The CSC also supports this application.

Mr. Reg Johnson is the husband of the late Joan Johnson; granddaughter of Noonan. He keeps the memory and all what his book stands for, alive and in the public domain for the world to study and learn from.

Letter from Mr. Reg Johnson on the event.

I write as compiler and custodian of 'The Robert Tressell Family Papers'.

Robert Tressell was the pen-name of Robert Noonan, author of 'The
Ragged Trousered Philanthropists'. The book was first published in 1914 and has never been out of print. It has become an international classic and has been
published in a number of languages. Robert produced the 1,770 handwritten pages of manuscript whilst living and working in Hastings, following his trade
as a skilled craftsman, signwriter and designer.

On completion of his book it was his intention to emigrate with his daughter, Kathleen, to Canada. He left Kathleen in Hastings when he travelled to Liverpool to make arrangements for their passage overseas. Whilst in Liverpool he became ill and was admitted to the Liverpool Royal Infirmary where he died 3 Feb. 1911, aged
just 40 years. He was buried as a pauper in Walton Park Cemetery. Since then his memory has been honoured in a number of ways. A memorial stone was placed on his grave, containing the bodies of twelve other paupers, in 1977. The Robert Tressell Building, a workers co-operative was also opened in 1977.

Joan, my late wife, died in October 2000, was Robert's granddaughter. Joan, together with Jack Jones, retired General Secretary of TGWU, (UNITE) and others unveiled the memorial stone at Walton Cemetery in 1977. She opened the Robert Tressell Building on 18 June 1997, a workers co-operative based in the former Derby Road (Bootle) Bridewell, now a transport depot. The family is honoured to support and encourage all projects promoted to honour Robert's memory.

Reg W.Johnson

(Email addresses and phone numbers have been deleted to protect their privacy. But I can put you in touch with Reg or with the Trades Council if you email me at louise dot baldock at liverpool dot gov dot uk)

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