Audio guide transcript

Unsung - Liverpool's Most Radical Son

Painting of Rushton holding blinded people and a figure who has broken free from chains in one arm

Detail from a dome mural by Mick Jones, showing Edward Rushton

Edward Rushton at The Museum of Liverpool

Welcome to this audio guide to accompany the display cabinet about Edward Rushton at the Museum of Liverpool, as part of the Unsung Exhibition, DaDaFest 2014.

To one side of the cabinet is a handset where you can select sections of audio information about Rushton, Liverpool’s Most Radical Son, and readings of his writings.

Exhibited within the cabinet are eight items.  

Opened out on a shelf is a large ledger – the Student Admission Register, for the Royal School for the Blind, from 1791. The entries in very neat italic handwriting list the names of the students and where they have come from. These include Halifax, Derby, Manchester, and the furthest on this page, Bombay, India.

The label reads:

The first Admission Register of the Royal School for the Blind is a treasured object: it shows that people travelled from all over the country to attend what was the first school for blind people in Britain and indicates how they will be trained to become self-supporting. Lent by the Royal School for the Blind

Accompanying the Admission Register is the Royal School for the Blind prospectus, 2014, full of photographs and information about the school and its facilities.

The label reads:

The RSB Liverpool is a living legacy of Rushton’s activism. Over two centuries it has established itself as one of the leading schools of its kind in the world. Then, as now, it is ‘unshakable in its resolve to educate its pupils to their full potential whilst consolidating its own role as a centre of excellence’.

Hanging up on the side of the case is a small violin and the case for its bow, dating from around (kit) 1750-1800.

The label tells us:  

Music was one of the prime subjects taught at the School for the Blind. The success of Rushton’s blind friend, John Christie, as a violin teacher, inspired him begin the campaign to set up a blind school. Christie is also remembered as one the founders of the school.

To the left is a small hardback book with a golden border. This is a book of poetry by Edward Rushton, dated1806

The label reads: 

Rushton’s poetry was printed in newspapers and periodicals as well as in broadsides and some were sung. He was persuaded by friends to publish this collection of Poems. A second collection was published posthumously in 1824 and includes a sketch of the author by his friend William Shepherd. Lent by The Athenaeum

There are two jugs on display.  Against the creamy white background are designs in black.

The one furthest to the outside of the case shows a rigged ship on the sea, with a design of the American flag and the American Eagle.

The label reads:

Peace/Plenty and Independence with rigged ship, American flag and Eagle, 1800-1810. This creamware jug was made in Liverpool for the American market to celebrate American Independence. In "American Independency" Rushton celebrated the American victory but not the outcome for enslaved Africans who were denied liberty.

The design on the second jug shows a young woman waving goodbye as a ship sails away. She wears an apron and has a basket on her back as she flutters her handkerchief in farewell. Also on the jug is printed the name Bridget Nuttall.

The label reads:  

Susan’s Farewell - lent by the Victoria Gallery and Museum. This creamware jug depicting Susan’s Farewell was common in the 18th century. The hardships of sea life and separation are a leitmotif in Rushton’s poetry, as in ‘The Farewell’ and ‘The Return’: And many a female tear is shedding, And thoughts prevail for love and home.

On the bottom of the case is an octant – a measuring instrument used in navigation. It is made from metal and has a triangular shape, with the bottom being curved. An index arm lies on top of the frame and can move to point to measure markings along the bottom curved section.

The label reads: 

Made by Hayes and Co., Liverpool, for Thomas Spencer, 1785. As second mate, Rushton would have used an octant. Rushton was young to be appointed second mate - it was in recognition of his courage and skill when he seized the helm of a ship which was overwhelmed in a storm and brought it safely into port.

To the right of the case is a print, showing the production of sugar in Antigua, showing lines of Black slaves at work on the dry earth. In the distance to the left is the sea and the ground rises in a steep and rocky cliff to the right. The slaves wear bright colours - some in red or blue and a line of them works their way across to the right. Narrow canes have been driven into the ground which looks hard and dry. In a small enclosure to the left are some cattle.

Holeing a cane piece Print by Edward Clark, 1823. This piece is one of a series of illustrations by William Clark, showing the production of sugar in Antigua. Holeing was one of the most demanding tasks carried out on hard ground under a fierce sun. Rushton exposed these conditions in 'West Indian Eclogues' which you can listen to in the International Slavery Museum.

Cosh with hand written label. Made of whalebone, leather and textile. Mid 19th century. This cosh was donated to the museum by the great grandchild of a man who carried it to defend against the notorious press gang. 'The Hawks', as they were known locally, were calculated to strike fear into a stout man’s heart.

At the back of the case is part of a new mural artwork featuring Edward Rushton. He is depicted, in the centre, flying through the air sweeping several young people under his strong arm. He has a broad face with wavy dark hair and a black band around his head, covering eyes. He wears an orangey-red coat and frilled shirt. Under his left arm he carries a white boy with a bandage around his eyes, his hands reaching out pleadingly, a Black child with her hand over her eyes, a white boy with glassy eyes and what looks like the barely alive skeletal body of a Black slave, with manacles around the wrists. Rushton is reaching towards a worker, a docker maybe, on the left, in flat cap and working jacket. Curving overhead is the hook and arm of a crane.  

To the left of the entrance doors to the museum as you leave is the bust of Edward Rushton standing on a plinth. This has been lent by The Royal School for the Blind. The sculpture shows the head and shoulders of Rushton, with his wavy hair close to his head, his broad face and double chin. His eyes are closed. He is shown wearing a toga draped around his shoulders giving him an Imperial and confident stance. The bust is a bronzed colour, except for the end of the nose, which has been damaged.

Partner displays

Unsung - Liverpool's Most Radical Son displays about Edward Rushton were also at the International Slavery Museum and the Victoria Gallery and Museum until 10 May 2015.

The International Slavery Museum display focused on Edward Rushton’s writings against slavery and the Victoria Gallery and Museum display showed Edward Rushton’s campaigning through the written word including his poetry and bookshop that was on Liverpool’s Paradise Street.

Part of Unsung, a city-wide project celebrating the bicentenary, social actions and legacy of Edward Rushton. Funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and led by DaDaFest as part of DaDaFest International 2014. 

DaDaFest 2014 logo     Heritage Lottery Fund logo     University of Liverpool logo    University of Bari logo