I've been receiving great emails from Duncan Ashcroft, who has being doing an inordinate amount of research on the Pender family. His findings are remarkable, and by publishing the details, photos, addresses, names etc. we hope other members of the family will come forward with more information to fill in the gaps, or even just to support Dunc's finding and maybe add a photo or two.
Please forgive me if I make any mistakes, and I would like family members to come forward and correct me when necessary. I can go back and edit the blog, so no worries there.
If we start on the Murphy, side, we have my granfather, Michael Murphy (Big Da) born in Carrickldrene, Mullaghbawn, County Armagh (I need the date). Now brother and sister of the Murphy's married brother and sister of the Pender's. So Big Da married Mary Pender, and Robert Pender married Catherine Murphy.
Duncan is the Great Grandson of Mary's brother Tom. Tom died aged 85 in 1961. I remember going to the funeral in Manchester/Salford area when I was 10. So dad was 50, and we were accompanied by another Pender relative, possibly a cousin, who lived in Liverpool. I always thought his name was Tom, but maybe I was mixing up the names with old Tom who had just died. We need information on this cousin.
So let's look at the life of Tom Pender through the eyes of his Great-Grandson, and on behalf of all the family, we sincerely thank Duncan for all his time and effort in providing us with this precious insight into our family history. God Bless.
Tom Pender was one of the brothers of the lady whose name graces the top of the Murphy’s of Mullaghbawn website, namely Mary Pender. Tom was my great grandfather and although I never met him, he died in 1961 a couple of years before I was born, my father Wally was about 25 when his grandad passed aged 85 and has strong memories of this ‘character’ a tough but kind and funny seaman fireman stoker who would enter prize fights on shore, have exotic tales and could recite poetry especially when a bit of drink had passed his lips!
All Tom’s other brothers became merchant seafarers operating from the Liverpool docks from the Evelyn and Aspinall Street household, and as this blog has shown, Robert Pender married Catherine Murphy, sister of ‘Big Dah’ Michael Murphy who married Mary – double family weddings!
This Pender family of Liverpool Irish lived with their mother and father who had come over from county Wexford presumably because of the Great Famine. Their mother Johanna O’Leary from Ballycullane married Thomas Pender (senior) from Newbawn in 1865 in Our Lady of Reconciliation which still exists in Eldon Street off Vauxhall Road.
They lived early days in a court house in the next street, Bond St and Johanna gave birth first to a Patrick (named after her husband’s dad) and then to a Thomas and a Mary who subsequently died in infancy. My great grandad Tom as the first boy that followed and Mary as the first girl were named after these children.
Patrick the eldest entered the merchant navy first, however he contracted scarlet fever while on board and died in the north Liverpool hospital. Tom then became the eldest, followed by John, Mary, Robert and Joseph. I have a passenger list record of a Joseph J Pender emigrating to New York in 1910. I also have records of a Robert Pender dying in an industrial accident in 1919 on board the Otaki which is recorded as bringing meat from New Zealand. As if there’s not enough tragedy in 1921 John died on the ship ‘Maryland’ docked in Philadelphia due to ‘cyanide gas poisoning during fumigation’. Such a tragedy, and Mary´s brother-in-law, James dying too on the Carpathia from a German U-Boat torpedo.
Thomas and Johanna from Ireland lived to the ripe old ages of 86 (Thomas) and 81 (Johanna). They died within 7 weeks of each in December 1926 and February ‘27, ending up in Ford Catholic Cemetery on the outskirts of Liverpool. I don’t know as yet if it’s a public grave or a family one, although their grave numbers are the same. We’ll visit soon.
Tom Pender was a fireman stoker from 1898 until 1940, mostly operating from Liverpool but in his last decade of work from Salford docks. He was regularly working the furnaces to power vessels to Canada, the USA, South America, The Med and even Australia. My dad has given me his seaman’s books and they were mostly stamped from the Liverpool dockside Seaman’s Home that stood off Luton Street in Burton Street near Great Howard Street/Boundary Street.
Of stand out note are his entries for working the infamous Empress of Ireland five times, the last one the year before she sank with more deaths than the Titanic. We’ll be visiting the exhibition in the Maritime Museum soon. An amazing entry is the ‘Nicosian’ in the summer of 1915 and this I unearthed relates to the horrendous incident that Tom would, if pushed, tell the family about involving his crew with Germans and a u-boat, but never went into detail. If you read about it on wikipedia, the ‘Baralong Incident’ caused an international outcry from the German’s but was in the context of 3 months after the sinking by them of the Lusitania, and of the Arabic another vessel full of innocent passengers on the day of the Baralong Incident itself.
I have now definitely just solved the mystery of Esther that Tom got involved with and was the mother of my gran Maggie. Turns out I was right about my hunch about her being from a barge family bringing coal to Liverpool and born there. The great ‘boatpeople’ website showed me the correct Esther Pedder (born 1876) to investigate and the surname of the fella she married (Robert Spencer – from a family of boatpeople too)
But I also made a shocking find that Esther in the 1911 census was an ‘inmate’ in the Brownlow Hill workhouse together with a child, Winifred 3months old who actually died in the grim place in 1914 aged 3.
I also strongly suspect that the R Spencer in another 1911 census as a ‘lunatic’ (with many others) in an Eccleston nr Prescot hospital (probably either Whiston site now or Rainhill then) was her husband. A Robert Spencer dies in 1915 and because I’d now found the first married surname of Esther I discovered that contrary to what we mostly believed, records show that Tom Pender did in actual fact marry Esther in 1917.
Apart from being father to Maggie, the question remains was he also father to the poor Winifred, and was it Tom that got Esther out of the terrible Brownlow Hill workhouse that squatted as a warning on the site of the now Catholic Cathedral? And I still don’t know the orphanage in Liverpool where Maggie was raised/taught by Catholic nuns before being brought to live in St Helens with her Mum and stepbrothers/sister, presumably after 1915 when Robert Spencer died and when Tom married Esther.
My gran was born in 1907 in Athol Street between the docks and the top of Scottie Road. She married Ernest Ashcroft, from a St Helens mining family living in Devon Street in 1930 because she fell pregnant after a ‘consensual’ incident in a back entry. Maggie claimed she didn’t know what was happening, but has laughingly told her daughter (my Auntie Sue) how she fell in love with his eyes but was shocked when he pulled his trousers down and he had black legs! Because Ernie worked down the pit, and they hadn’t then become nationalised with mod con showers, he'd only bothered to scrub the coal dust from his face and hands!
Duncan's Granny Maggie Ashcroft (neé Pender), daughter of Tom, with her 3 sons, Dougie, Alan and Wally.
She proudly got this photo of her three sons in the local paper in the mid 40s, they got the scholarship to Cowley School, St Helens she was denied. Maggie has Douggie on the left, my Dad Wally on the right of her and Uncle Alan on the far right. Auntie Sue was soon about to be born.
Tom scrubbed up for his photo receiving the Mercantile Marine Medal given to seamen operating through danger zones during the First World War.
Tom pender-sailors home nr Luton Street -
The former Burton Street dockland Sailors’ Home frequented by Tom for decades in Vauxhall/Kirkdale border district off Luton Street near Boundary Street - the end building by the railway arch, now demolished and made into an industrial but the adjoining warehousing still remains.
Tom pender-sailor with tash – A merchant seaman record photo of Tom sporting the large moustash and neckpiece look as he was remembered, minus his treasured cap.
Tom’s record on the Nicosian with the same dates as the controversial world war 1 ‘Baralong Incident’ involving a German u-boat - note too a later three and a half month 1915/16 trip on the Caledonian just described as ‘Government service’
at new inscribed grave -
When we found his grave again earlier this year, were dismayed that there was no inscription only a number and space on the poor ‘public’ gravestone, so we got Tom’s name inscribed. My father Wally seeing the fresh inscription for his Grandad.
Tom pender empress of ireland -
Some of the entries in Tom’s seaman’s book showing his work as a fireman o the Empress of Ireland