Skip to main content


The Farringtons and Gallaghers emigrated from Leigh to the United States in the 1910's and 20's. What sort of life were they leaving? To help answer that question we can turn to the 1921 Census of England and Wales.

The Census

The United Kingdom has been conducting a census every ten years since 1801, always in the first year of the decade. England and Wales have a joint census, and Scotland and Ireland generally organize separate censuses in the same years.

The 1921 Census was supposed to be taken on April 24, but a threatened strike of miners and railway workers delayed it until June 19, 1921.

The United Kingdom keeps census results confidential for 100 years; the equivalent period in the United States is 72 years. So the 1921 Census was only recently released. This will be the last UK census to be released any time soon, since the 1931 census was destroyed in a fire, and there was no census in 1941 due to the war. There was, however, a census-like survey taken on the eve of war in 1939, and data from that survey is released person-by-person as the subjects die.

The Farrington Family

The Farringtons in the 1921 Census

In 1921, John and Bridget Farrington were living at 41 Milton Street (map). John was a 65-year-old dataller, which was essentially a day laborer at a coal mine. He was working in the Sovereign Pits (map), operated by the Wigan Coal & Iron Company, a couple of miles away from the house. I wonder how he got to work?

The Farrington's house at 41 Milton St.
Taken by Terence and Marie during a 1985 visit.

John's wife Bridget was not working outside the house. Their son Edward was a 28-year-old iron moulder at the McGregor Brothers foundry on Bridgewater St (historical map). Edward's younger brother James was also still living at home, and working for the city in the Parks Commission, possibly in the nearby Lilford Park (map).

John and Bridget had eight living children in 1921. The eldest three -- William, Mary and John -- were already living in the United States. Three others -- Margaret, Michael and Daniel -- were married and living elsewhere in Leigh with their families. Only Edward and James remained at home. Edward would leave for the United States two years later, but James would later marry and settle in Leigh.

John and Bridget also provided much more detailed birthplaces in this census. Previously they had both listed Tuam, a small town in Ireland, as their birthplace. But that's probably the local parish, or in other words where their births would have been recorded. In this census, John lists his birthplace as Ballyglunin, which is basically a disused railway station that was once a setting for The Quiet Man.

Bridget listed her birthplace as Ballinclava. There have been places in Ireland with that name, but I can't find any references in County Galway.

The Baxter Family

Agnes Baxter was also still living in Leigh in 1921. In fact she was still living in the old family home, although her parents no longer lived there. Agnes' mother Sarah Alice had died of cervical cancer in 1917. Agnes' father Jesse had remarried, and was living with his new wife and her son in Atherton, a few miles north. He worked in the Trencherbone Coal Mine as a hewer, which is the person who actually digs out the coal.

John and Florrie Baxter Loughlin, with sister Margaret Baxter

The family home was at 46 Trafalgar Street (historical map), very near St. Joseph's Church (the Baxters were Catholic). Trafalgar Street no longer exists; it appears to have been redeveloped into the Leigh Police Station (map) at some point.

The Baxter family had lived at 46 Trafalgar Street since at least 1911, on the same little street as Agnes' grandparents and several aunts and uncles. By 1921 the home had been taken over by Agnes' sister Florrie and her husband John Loughlin. John was the "boy next door"; his parents lived a few doors down on Trafalgar Street.

Since they were living at the same address it would be completely normal for Agnes to appear on Florrie and John's census entry, and indeed their sister Margaret does exactly that. Agnes instead appears on an entirely separate sheet. I don't know what that signifies, if anything.

Agnes Baxter in the 1921 Census
Also at 46 Trafalgar, but recorded separately

Agnes was 19 years old and working at Butts Mills Ltd. as a comber tenter, or someone who tends the machine that combs out short fibers in the production of yarn. The factory still stands.

Agnes Baxter with her fellow mill workers.
Helpfully circled by her future daughter, Marie.

There were five living Baxter children in 1921. Aside from the three girls mentioned above, there was a son named James who would have been about 18. I haven't found him in the census, but he attended Marie's wedding, so he was definitely still alive. There was also another daughter, a 12-year-old named Lucy, who was in the Children's Receiving Home not far from where her father Jesse was now living with his new family. I don't know why she was in that institution, but she died at age 19 in 1926.

The Gallagher Family

In 1921, Edward and Elizabeth Gallagher were living at 3 Miller Street (historical map), just across the canal from Agnes' mill. Edward was working at the Albion Iron Works for Harrison, McGregor & Company, who manufactured farm equipment.

Edward and Elizabeth Thomason Gallagher
and their boys in the 1921 Census

Perhaps more accurately, Edward wasn't working at Harrison, McGregor & Co., since at the time of the census he was out of work. But had he been at work he would have been in the smiths' department, working on drop hammer forgings.

An advertisement for Albion implements

Edward Gallagher's employer Harrison McGregor & Co., was apparently unrelated to Edward Farrington's employer McGregor Brothers.

Elizabeth Gallagher was also out of work, in her case from the Alder Mills, just across the road -- you can see it in the historical map above. Most of the mill is gone now, but the office still stands (street view). As we've seen here it was common for women to have jobs in this period, but as a married mother Elizabeth was unusual in having outside employment. Perhaps her children being relatively older gave her more time, or quite possibly the family just needed the extra income.

Edward "Ted" Gallagher was still living at home, and like his mother had most recently worked in the Alder Mill as a piecer. A piecer collected discarded fabric from the machine workings; historically it was dangerous finger-mangling work done by children, but perhaps by this time it was a more normal job suitable for 20-year-old Ted. He would leave for the United States two years later.

George Gallagher was a 17-year-old apprentice fitter at William Boydell & Sons, electrical engineers. I don't know what a fitter does, but 18 years later George was still at it -- his occupation in the 1939 Register was "maintenance fitter, electrical and general".

The youngest son Justin, 12 years old in 1921, was still in school full time, so George was the only person in the household with an actual job.

The Page Family

Alice Page, George's future wife, was just turning 16 years old in June of 1921. She was living with her parents in Derwent Street (map). She was an out-of-work cotton weaver, theoretically at the nearby Lilford Weaving Company. During World War I the newly-built Lilford Mill had been converted to a prisoner of war camp, housing up to 2,000 German and Austrian soldiers between 1915 and 1919. The mill was presumably operating again by 1921, but Alice was out of work.

William and Jane Alice Page in the 1921 Census

Alice's father William was a street mason with the City of Leigh, and in fact at one point he was president of the Leigh branch of the Street Masons, Paviors and Roadmakers' Union.

Alice Page around 1921

Alice's siblings, the oldest 20 and the youngest 14, were all out of work.

The Post-War Recession

The recession that struck the United Kingdom in 1921 is apparent in these four families, with most of the working-age people out of work. The same was true in North America, but nonetheless three of these people would emigrate in 1923, seeking greener pastures in the coal fields of the United States.


Popular posts from this blog

Family Names

I think it's often interesting to learn the history of people's names. And for the people in the stories on this site, it's especially true. Many of them still carry the names of places practically within walking distance of Leigh. Surnames had been in widespread use for many hundreds of years by the time these folks were living, so when you see a name like that it seems reasonable to imagine the person's ancestors had lived in the area for 10 or 20 generations or more. Gallagher Gallagher is a very old Irish clan name from County Donegal, the northernmost county in the Republic of Ireland. It goes back 1000 years to the clan founder Gallchobhair mac Rorcan ( wikipedia ). The modern Irish version is  Ó Gallachóir . The Anglicized form Gallagher is apparently pronounced goll-a-her in County Donegal, and gal-a-her  elsewhere in Ireland. In Britain and the US it's usually pronounced  gal-a-ger , with a hard G sound. In Old Irish the name has the elements  gall  (fore


If you were to visit the town of Universal, Indiana in the 1920s, you would have found a surprisingly large number of residents from Leigh, a small town in Lancashire, England. I would bet that even today many residents can trace their families back to Leigh, through surnames like Counsell, Winstanley, Farrington and Gallagher. So why is that? Bunsen Coal Mines No. 4 and No. 5, Universal, Indiana This image from wikitree , originally from The Coal Town & Railroad Museum, Clinton, Indiana Universal was a coal mining town. It owes its name and its very existence to the nearby Universal Mines No. 4 and No. 5, originally sunk by the Bunsen Coal Company in about 1910. The town grew up to support the miners, and then shrank again when the mines closed in the 1930s. Leigh was also a coal mining town, in the heart of England's industrial revolution. Leigh was a textile center in the 18th and 19th centuries, according to local legend even laying claim to the invention of the Spinning Je

The Gallagher Family Bible

George and Margaret Gallagher had a family Bible that has passed down through time, barely. The Bible is in rough shape. The cover is entirely loose, as are the first few pages. The binding is intact, but its leather backing is gone. The tin clasps are in good condition, still attached to the back cover, and in general the pages and the numerous illustrations are fine. The cover leather is sorely in need of revitalization. The Book The text and annotations of this Bible are the work of George Leo Haydock , who compiled this version in about 1811. It includes extensive footnotes on the translation as well as the interpretation. The text is extensively annotated. Haydock prepared this Bible in England in part as a defense of Catholicism, at a time when the repeal of the anti-catholic Penal Laws was being considered. Some of the annotations are therefore intended to combat claims of the Protestant clergy that Haydock considered unfair or mistaken. The Haydock Bible was very popular. It wa