“Use your eyes, look up and all around you – there are traces of the city’s history all around you.” These were the words of our guide on the Liverpool Slavery History Tour, a fascinating snapshot of a bygone era that some might rather forget …
There are so very many things to see and do in Liverpool. Beatles fans couldn’t wish for more opportunities to discover their idols, there’s great art at Liverpool Tate and the Walker Art Gallery, brilliant food, pubs and bars to suit every taste and pocket – and so much more.
But – there is a part of Liverpool that some would prefer to keep hidden. Its majestic buildings, historic docklands and very essence exists because of its position on the River Mersey – and that river has a dark past.
I joined Eric Lynch, oral historian and creator of The Slavery History Tour on one of his fascinating walks back in time. Liverpool born and bred and with an encyclopedic knowledge, he took us around some of the monuments and painful reminders of the slave trade that few Liverpudlians know about – and some would rather we didn’t.
We set off from the Maritime Museum where he had helped put together their excellent International Slavery Exhibition. From there we walked around the docks and over to the iconic Liver Building. All the time Eric told us gripping and heart-wrenching tales of how Liverpool gradually built its wealth on the shackled peoples from Africa and the Caribbean, traded for bags of rice, gin, cotton, sugar, tobacco …
I was brought up only 20 miles from Liverpool but my eyes were opened to so many new sights and also feelings about this great maritime city. The wrought iron motifs on the Liver Building, the strange and varied heads adorning the Cunard Building, the church which seems to want to deny any connection to this very dubious past … But the most memorable image for me was the marble bas reliefs on either side of the entrance to Martin’s Bank, Exchange Square – a giant figure of Neptune resting his webbed hands on the heads of two black children, their wrists and ankles clearly encircled by what could well be the manacles of slavery.
I was privileged to interview Eric after the tour- he is a truly inspiring person and if you are ever in Liverpool do see if he’s around. Don’t leave it too long; he’s told me he wants to go off on his own quirky travels someday soon …
I have not done the tour, but have seen the fascinating exhibition at the Maritime Museum. Highly recommended. After reading this, I think it is time I revisited my former student home.
The Museum is excellent isn’t it. If you do get the chance Barry, see if you can go on one of Eric’s tours. I first saw him on TV and it was an eye-opener to another aspect of city history.
Hello could you email details of the next tour. The link is no longer working.
Hi Lynne – apologies for this. I am guessing that maybe it doesn’t run anymore as the article was written 12 years ago. I will update the site. If you contact Liverpool Tourism they be able to help.
I also was lucky enough to do the tour with Eric about 13 years ago. He is an incredible story teller and historian .
Oh that is wonderful Rachel. I am not sure he is still doing those tours now. We were very lucky to experience his knowledge and passion for this challenging topic.