Harrison has an amazing family tree that goes way back to the 13th century
when the Harrison's ancestors, who were Norman Knights from France,
settled in Southern Ireland at the time of William the Conqueror. These
invaders dubbed Ffrench by their peasant subjects, owned all the land
they could see from the tower of the Norman castle in County Wexford,
60 miles south of Dublin.
During the reign of Oliver Cromwell when they refused to renounce their
Catholic beliefs so they were stripped of its castle and land. Thrown
into poverty life of toiling on the land, which continued for 300 years.
50 years before George began a career; his Irish forebears still lived
a humble peasant life on a tiny farm at Corah, County Wexford.
George’s great-grandparents, James Darby
Ffrench (b.1825) and Ellen Whelan (b.1831) struggled to produce enough
to feed and clothe their five children and met a rent bill of £1
4s 6d for their two acre farm. They died within two months of each other
at the end of 1906. James was 81 and his wife was 75.
Their children, who by now had dropped the extra
‘f’ from their name, struggled on with the farm for four
more years. Elizabeth the eldest daughter died in 1911 and they sold
the smallholding and divided the proceeds between them.
One of the remaining children, George’s
grandfather John French, born in 1870 immigrated over to Liverpool where
he signed on with the city’s police force. He was sacked along
with the entire police force during a bitter union dispute which became
known as The Liverpool Lock-out in which policemen were banned from
entering their own stations.
Following a brief spell as a carriage driver George’s
grandfather was hired as a street-lamplighter and met his wife-to-be,
local Liverpool girl, Louise Woollam.
They rent a small terraced house, 9 Albert Grove,
in Wavertree. Here George’s grandma had seven kids including George’s
Louise French met her husband-to-be when she was
a teenager working as a grocer’s assistant. Harold Hargreaves
Harrison was a steward in the Merchant Navy. He was laid off and went
on the dole before he found regular work as a bus driver.
George’s parents married in 1930 and moved
to a tiny two up two down, 12 Arnold Grove, and George was born there
in 1943. His sister, Louise, was born in the same place in 1931 as had
his brother Harold in 1934, and Peter in 1940.
When George was six his family moved from Wavertree
to a spacious, modem council house, 25 Upton Green, Speke. George passed
a scholarship exam to attend The Liverpool Institute, the city’s
top grammar school. George didn’t make a great hit as a pupil.
He met Paul McCartney and through him joined a
group, called The Quarrymen. John Lennon was already a member and the
rest, as they say, is history.
Harold Hargreaves, son of master bricklayer Henry Harrison, of 26 Wellington
Road, Wavertree, was born the 28th May 1909. Henry Harrison married
Jane Thompson, daughter of James, an engine driver, who lived at 3 Wellington
Grove. They were married in Holy Trinity church, Wavertree, on the 17th
Henry was born at 12 Queen Street, West Derby, on the 21st January 1882,
the son of Edward Harrison, a stonemason, and Elizabeth daughter of
carter and carrier John Hargreaves of Pembroke Place, Liverpool.
Edward and Elizabeth were married at Liverpool
parish church on the 24th May 1868 when both were under age and Edward
had not learned to write his own name.
He was born on the 13th January 1848 at a quarter
to one in the morning in Etna Street, West Derby, where his father Robert
Harrison, a joiner, lived with Edward’s mother Jane, born Shepherd.
Harrison is one of the most common forms of ‘the
son of Henry’ and is found in records from all over Britain since
Henry first became a popular name in the twelfth century. Thompson
is of course another name of the same type.
Henry was brought into popular use by our Norman
and Plantagenet kings, whilst the Thomases remind us of Saint Thomas
of Canterbury, most famous and most venerated victim of the second Henry’s
wrath. Like William, John, Robert and Richard - all of them ancestors
of a whole group of surnames - Henry and Thomas have retained their
popularity through the centuries.
A hundred years ago the surnames Harris, Harrison,
Thomas, Thompson and their variants accounted for an estimated quarter
of a million people in a population of eighteen million.
Woollam is a strange name, meaning ‘a dweller by the curved or
crooked land.’ It is found in Yorkshire and East Anglia in the
seventeenth century. The origins of the surnames French and Shepherd
are obvious, though French is a name found largely in Ireland.
Hargreaves is the name of places in Cheshire, Northamptonshire and Suffolk
meaning ‘hares’, ‘grove’ or ‘grey grove.’
James Hargreaves, inventor of the ‘spinning jenny,’ was
one of those eighteenth-century inventors who paved the way for the
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