My family connection to the Walkers of Ashton
in an indirect one through my great-great-grandmother, Elizabeth
. She had married James
who died some time before 1860 and given birth
to my great-grandmother, Mary
, the father undetermined, and in 1866
she married Jonathan
. Although he himself died ten years before my
grandmother was born, she used to tell me stories about
“Blind Jonathan” who appears to have had a colourful
past which this page commemorates.
The origins of the Walker family are somewhat shrouded in
named his father as Aaron Walker
at both his weddings and he was living with his parents
in 1851 and 1861, but both remain elusive in terms of church
records. I can find no baptism or marriage for Aaron
neither is there sign of a baptism for Jonathan
even though his siblings were christened at St Michael and
It is possible that both are descended from James
and Alice Shore
at St Michael and All Angels, Ashton, in 1768. They had
ten children, all but three of them girls. The eldest son,
, was born in 1775 and
married Sarah Greenwood
They in turn had eight children, but no sign of Aaron
born about 1802, so this remains speculation.
the younger married another
some time around 1820
and it was they who were the parents of Jonathan
, along with seven other children.
Walker was one of the family's colourful characters.
His first wife was Elizabeth
or Betty Greenhalgh who he married
in 1847 at Manchester Cathedral and the couple had three
children, Olive, Mary
and Samuel, between then
A Shot in the Dark
It is possible that Jonathan
was active in the Chartist uprising in 1848. This was
a forerunner of the trade union movement and promoted
universal male sufferage. They were very much disregarded
by various governments and their frustration turned to
violence in August 1848, during which a policeman was
shot by a person or persons unknown.
Joseph Radcliffe was sentenced
to death for the murder, although it was fairly clear
that he wasn't to blame. This was eventually commuted
to banishment for life and he ended up in Australia, although
he rturned to England twice on journeys to and from America.
Six other men were tried for
their part in the murder and one of them was Jonathan
Walker, aged 20, which fits our 'Blind
Jonathan' He was transported for seven years for "having
feloniously devised war against HM Queen in order to change
More research is needed to see if this was the case and
whether Jonathan was indeed transported,
although this seems unlikely. Having said that, there
is a suspicious gap between the birth of his second and
third child by Betty. (More
information on the incident)
By 1861, Jonathan was a widower,
Betty having died in 1860 aged
32 and in 1866 he married Elizabeth
Stanley, née Hiland, at St John the Evangelist,
Hurst. At the 1871 census, Jonathan
was a collier, although registered as being blind. With
him and Elizabeth
were four children, Thomas
from her previous marriage, Samuel
from Jonathan's marriage to Betty,
Elizabeth's daughter, father undetermined, and three month
the couple's shared child. The phrase they used to describe
their mixed brood was 'mine, thine and ours'!
William Murphy's Death Mask
The main story involving Jonathan
told by my grandmother is his part in the Murphy
Riots of 1868 when religious tensions between Protestants
and Catholics were running high. He was living on Orange
Street at that time, a Protestant area. During the disturbances,
Jonathan is said to have saved the life of a Catholic
man who was being pursued by the mob.
T he story goes that the man banged on their door begging
to be saved and that Jonathan
hid him inside. When the mob arrived, they took the word
of a blind man that there was no-one to be found inside.
There is more background to
this incident on this site.
By 1881, Jonathan
was reduced to being a mangle turner and washing servant,
was a mangle woman. Jonathan
died in 1890 aged 62.