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Transcript of 'Port City' public forum podcast

David Fleming: Welcome, everybody. I’m David Fleming – director of National Museums Liverpool. I’m going to be very brief now because you don’t want to really hear from me. I simply want to say ‘hello’ and ‘welcome’ and ‘thank you for coming’.

Thank you to our three speakers – Adrian Jarvis, Robert Lee and Ken Pye. You’ve all had a little biographical sheet so I’m not just going to stand here and read that out, but I would like to say to Adrian, Robert and Ken thank you very much for giving up your time when you could be doing lots of other things this evening, to come here and kick off the first of our public forums on the museum I’m told, that no one wants. It’s a strange idea because I would have thought that the 350, 60 thousand people every year who visited the Museum of Liverpool Life probably are quite keen on the idea of having a very much bigger, better and more ambitious museum, but there you go. You don’t always believe what you read in the press.

Anyway, whatever it is that people want we are here tonight to talk a little bit about that – part of a long process of asking the people in the city of Liverpool what would they like to see in a large scale and ambitious museum about their city. I say that because the Museum of Liverpool Life was much loved but very small, and in my view as an urban historian, it was far too small for a city of this size, and I don’t mean ‘size’ as in just population but in the magnitude of the place and the personality of the city that is Liverpool. Liverpool Life was like trying to cram a 24-course meal onto one small plate. And the challenge for the new museum is to cram that 24-course meal – just to keep my tortured metaphor going here – on half a dozen small plates. In other words it is never going to be big enough.

Anyway, I’m going to be interested tonight to listen to what Adrian, Robert and Ken have to say. I’m going to ask them to try to keep it to 10-mins each because I think it is better that way – that’s what it says on the agenda – and I know I have to meet someone on a train at ten to eight and if I’m late I’m in big trouble, so I don’t want to have to sneak out before you all finish. I don’t know if I’m chairing the questions and answers – we’ll decide that as we go along. So with that I’ll stop now, and Adrian – I believe you are going first? – so please welcome Adrian Jarvis.  

Adrian Jarvis: I got this message with a list of questions I should address, and as it happened I was the first one to respond so I got first choice, and left the other questions for someone else – the questions I didn’t fancy. The question I’m addressing is ‘how have the docks shaped the city?’ and let me say right from the outset that I’m talking about the physical shape of the city. I’m not going to get myself into the murky waters of folk culture and so on because you can’t do that in ten minutes.

The first thing I think we want to get clear is that ports are not necessarily located by geographical factors. Quite a lot are – you may find them on the lowest bridging point of a major river for example – but there is no necessary reason why they should be. In fact the only real geographical advantage Liverpool had in becoming a port and growing into a great port, was its proximity to Ireland. Simple as that. King John needed a base from which to go and bash the Irish and Liverpool was it. It wasn’t an economic decision at all. It wasn’t a social decision either – some would say ‘anti-social’.

And the next point I want to make is that a port is not a place. A port is a community of merchants. I can’t claim credit for that one I’m afraid – it was Gordon Jackson who came up with that one – but what it means is this: if you’ve got the most beautiful natural harbour or fabricated infrastructure it makes no difference at all to your prospects of trading successfully unless you have an accepted, established corpus of merchants in the place. And we have of course a wonderful example on our doorstep of the proof of this through the contrary. Professor Lee comes from Birkenhead, so I won’t wax too strong on this one, but Birkenhead is a wonderful example of a port where people invested huge amounts of money in infrastructure and it failed completely. It was well into the 1930s before it paid enough revenue to pay the debt charges to pay for building itself a hundred years before. The reason Birkenhead was no use, despite the money invested in it, was because there wasn’t a community of merchants, and the port of Grimsby was in very much the same sort of state. Where as in Liverpool, where you have a corpus of merchants, you get large scale development which continues to succeed and usually on a progressive basis.

Liverpool merchants invested in their port infrastructure in a very big way over a long period of time. Back in the 16th century we find that the Corpy was stumping up money for the removal of great stones in Beaumaris bay. What the hell were they interested in Beaumaris Bay for? It was because it was where ships bound for Liverpool took shelter if the weather was vile, and already by that stage they were viewing their boundaries of operation very widely indeed. As I am sure you all know Liverpool built the first commercial wet dock in the world – emphasis on the word ‘commercial’ because there were plenty of wet docks for other purposes – and it carried on with this investment at an ever growing apace. There was however a problem with this project – programme I should say – which is that ideally docks want to be built on a land and strand site; that is partly on land and partly extended out into the river. This saves on all sorts of costs which I won’t expand on now because there isn’t the time but raise it in the discussion if you want.

The end result of this though was that the dock estate ended up being very long and thin, compressed between the dock property at the water front and the sandstone ridge that lies to the east of Liverpool. This had unfortunate effects for a number of reasons. The industrial corridor and the corridor that housed people so poor that they needed to live near to their work, was very narrow. At the north end of the docks it is the corridor between the dock road and the Leeds-Liverpool canal – possibly a bit further than that. This meant that high density, low quality housing had to be even higher density and lower quality than in most cities at that time. There was a great concentration of industrial pollution -  Liverpool was into the business of quasi-clean air policies in the 1820s and even before that, but there was nothing they could do with this industrial corridor. Land prices kept rising and this of course tended to deter people from investment in manufacturing industry.

Down to about 1820-1840 there was a fair amount of manufacturing going on in Liverpool. After that it homes in progressively on things that are directly to do with the shipping industry, and directly to do with local trade. Other industries tend to drift away or/and fail. However, on the waterside of the dock road all was sweetness and light. In 1848 when the railway-mania collapsed, Liverpool dock bonds were actually stronger and more trusted than the Bank of England – again I will not enlarge on that now. The place was absolutely up to its armpits in money, and this of course is where we find another of the shaping factors in the port’s influence on the city.

The greater part of the port’s wealth came back to the city, and conversely part of the city’s wealth came fairly directly from the port. In the later 19th century this resulted in the formation of a lot of the characteristic landscapes we see in the city centre today. The development of the palatial, prestige office block – arguably the  first grand corporate office was in fact the one next door to here, the Liverpool Trustees Dock Traffic Office – but the building of these things took off rather rapidly and particularly in the late Victorian and Edwardian periods. And almost everything you see in Liverpool today that doesn’t make you go, ‘God’s teeth, that’s ugly!’ was probably built between 1850 and about 1930. And this had further effects in driving up the price of land in the city centre, but it was also a reflection of the immense wealth which Liverpool merchants particularly, and ship owners perhaps to an almost equal degree, were accumulating.

And the result of this was the formation of Liverpool suburbs – we can still see the remains of them today. From around Parliament Street southwards for about 5 miles you get housing that varies between the very comfortable down to the totally opulent and plutocratic where you have pocket stately homes owned by ship owners taking up anything up to 20-30 acres. They have lodges at the drive-ends, coach houses. They are in every way the aristocracy of the merchant classes. When land for such purposes became scarce in Liverpool they moved over to Wirral and started building huge houses in Oxton, Noctorum and such places. 

But the merchants didn’t spend all their money on themselves. They gave quite a lot to local charitable organisations, which have sadly not affected the overall shape of the city, but what of course they did spend money on was extremely lavish civic buildings. You must admit that the laying out of William Brown Street around St George’s Hall, library, art gallery and so on, even though it took place over quite a period of time, decisively shapes that part of the city, and you might even say that its affects stretch further afield.

The merchant society of Liverpool began to collapse before World War One as trades became corporatised and began to move to London at an increasing rate, I regret to say. Liverpool in the 1980s was a pretty sad sight but the docks were still shaping the city. In 1984 the site of the Dingle Oil Terminal – long since derelict – became the site of the International Garden Festival. The north dock road has become the preferred approach into Liverpool from the north side. In other words the changes that came about because of the shipping revolution - where a very much smaller number of very much larger ships can transfer the trade very much faster - extended the period of docks shaping city well into the 1980s, and in some ways you could argue that they are still doing it now.

I think that is probably my 10mins up, Hope I’ve raised a few ideas worthy of consideration and discussion. Thank you.

David Fleming: Thanks Adrian. Professor Robert Lee, ‘What makes port cities different?

Robert Lee: I was given this title – I didn’t choose it. So I was wondering, what do you think? I presume that most of you come from Liverpool or Merseyside – what makes your locality different? I mean David Fleming has spent a lot of time having studied in Leicester without any sort of context of the sea, went to Newcastle and then came to Liverpool. Are you driven to an environment which is somehow different by definition? What do you think makes port cities different in character?  We’re looking for general factors.

Audience member: Multiculturalism

Robert Lee: Multiculturalism – we have two votes for multiculturalism. Trades? Yes.

Audience member: What do you mean by multiculturalism?

Robert Lee: We’ll come on to that later on. Any more suggestions before I try to convince you that we need a sort of more far ranging list of criteria to really cope with this particular issue?

Audience member: At the beginning of that previous discussion you said that Liverpool’s fame was started by Ireland. Well I kind of disagree with that.

Robert Lee: Well, we can raise that later on in the discussion.

Audience member: The interest in Ireland was imperialism wasn’t it. We invaded Ireland.

Robert Lee: It was indeed.

David Fleming: I was going to say that the fast-moving mind imports that you don’t get in inland cities, because you get more people coming and moving, thinking, talking and so on, and that doesn’t happen in places like Leeds and Sheffield.

Robert Lee: So that’s why those cities have historically done better than Liverpool? Because minds move out as well as they move in? Let me try to convince you then what sort of criteria we need. First of all look at the rate of growth of port cities. And I’m not just talking about Liverpool – we need a broader, wider historical context. If I was to say in 1801, if we look at Europe in general, if we look at the 54 largest towns – quite small dimensions of over 10,000 people – how many of those were port cities, Sharon? (clicks fingers)


Sharon Granville: A dozen?

Robert Lee: No, the answer is that 21 – almost 50% - of all towns in 1801 were port cities.  Internationally the picture becomes even more intense as you progress along the 19th century. In 1850 40% of the great cities in the world, including Liverpool, were port cities. So these were the nodal points of dynamic growth. And it’s only really since the start of the 20th century that the overall importance of port cities has been eclipsed by other sites like industrial complexes. So that puts into context what was special, but also what was very different about port cities generically. So that’s the first point.

The second point relates to what underpinned this growth – the economies of port cities. You’ve already said trade – quite right. But didn’t that have any sort of repercussions in terms of the typology of the port cities? They were often dominated by shipping and maritime related activities. Although not all of them – Barcelona (sure you’ve been there to look at all their museums) – what else is Barcelona known for apart from important buildings? No? Copper. Barcelona was the sort of focal point for the growth of the Spanish copper industry.

Audience member: Barcelona is also the capital of Catalonia. Any capital city generates huge amounts of…

Robert Lee: Well look at Glasgow. Glasgow has a far more differentiated industrial base doesn’t it. Far more so than Liverpool. But there is also in most port cities an emphasis on processing and refining. Particularly of colonial products or bulk cargoes. An emphasis on shipbuilding. Everywhere you look from Barcelona to Brostock[?] you’ll find that ship building was really integral to the growth of port cities. And it’s only in the 20th century that you see the growth of so called industrial port cities. You could put Ellesmere Port in that category.

But from that sort of description of how port cities have developed there follows on a whole series of key characteristics. Now can you think of some of them? You’ve got the sort of economical structure of cities dominated by trade – what did that mean in terms of ordinary people and employment and how things were managed?

Audience member: Casual labour and poor pay.

Robert Lee: Casual labour! Now why was casual labour important?

Audience member: Because it was the only way they could actually work.

Robert Lee: Was it the only way? The most efficient way…

Audience member:Merchants want their money.

Robert Lee: Absolutely. A low proportion of the population in fixed or stable employment. Highly seasonal employment, unskilled labour. In Hull the dockers were known as ‘lumpers’. Does that sound like a nice description of people doing very important work? Lumpers! They were treated more like brute animals rather than rational human beings. And things weren’t too dissimilar in Liverpool I suspect – would you agree, Adrian?


Audience member:Weren’t they paid in tallies as opposed to …

Robert Lee: They were indeed, and as you pointed out casualism was predominant in all port cities. Casualism, not only in Liverpool, was always associated with what we would term downward social mobility.

So here we have a sort of picture of the economy of port cities, not just of Liverpool but elsewhere. And what the consequences were in terms of labour market and employment. But the consequences of course were much more visible in terms of social conditions weren’t they? What were the implications which made port cities different? Janet?

Janet Dugdale: Poor housing. Transient nature of people looking for somewhere to stay. People coming in at particular times. Disease.

Robert Lee: Yes. But also residential segregation. If I use the term ‘dissimilarity index’ David will of course pick up immediately on what that represents. [laughter] No? That’s simply a way devised by urban geographers to divide up the city and see how distinct different areas were, using different socio-economic criteria. How the people lived in the 19th century around Princes Park were not the same as people living in tenements inhabited by the migrant Irish. So port cities were characterised by a certain radically expanded dissimilarity index. Unlike places like Sheffield and Birmingham, which were dominated by manufacturing industries. We know that this was the case. High residential mobility, also the result of high in and out migration, because it wasn’t simply the working classes who moved in and out it was also the merchants as we found in our little project. They made fortunes here and then disappeared. All sorts of very pleasant rural residences in the Lake District and further afield, and many cut their links with Liverpool because they were only here to make money.

Audience member: And they lived along side the worst slums…

Robert Lee: They did indeed. You are quite right. Ethnic diversity is also typical of port cities.

Audience member: The creation of ‘us’ and ‘them’

Robert Lee: Yes. There has been some interesting work on Odessa that highlights how widespread different ethnic groupings were, so it’s not solely in Liverpool. High levels of income and wealth inequality. Little incentive for real welfare reform in general. And you can follow all these points through if you study the demography of port cities (I’m really a demographer by training). I’ll spare you all the technical details, but if you look at mortality rates, you know, ports trade – what did that also mean in terms of longevity and risk?  

Audience member: Short life?

Robert Lee: That’s right my dear. And why was that?

Audience member: Because you had to work hard and had a short life…

Robert Lee: No. Trade bought in disease. A vector as we would term it. Which would make port cities more risky places to live. Think of cholera which was spread primarily through trade routes and impacted most severely on ports, including Liverpool.

Now think about nuptiality. What is nuptiality?

Audience member: Did they marry or not.

Robert Lee: Absolutely spot on. Now why would port cities be different in that relationship?

Audience member: Sailors. A wife in every port.

Robert Lee: That would increase nuptiality but that wasn’t the case. Any other suggestions as to why in port cities the marriage rate was different?

Audience member: Brings people closer together.

Audience member: You asking why the marriage rate was low? Well it was a bachelor population.

Robert Lee: Absolutely, dominated by men. In particular at naval ports like Plymouth or Portsmouth or Toulon in France. It’s the same sort of picture. Young men predominant in the urban population and marriage rates are very low. Even trading and commercial ports like Liverpool had the same sort of profile. So, that’s again an area where port cities historically, and even in a relatively contemporary context, are different.

We’ve also talked about migration, because in a way that’s fundamental isn’t it? Port cities grew, unlike more secure and stable urban communities, to a far greater degree as a result of extensive in-migration. And also out-migration of course. And that dependency increased over time during the 19th century. It doesn’t matter where you look – Bordeaux, Toulon, Naples, Liverpool – trading links brought in a far wider spread of ethnic communities. Trieste? Has anyone been?  It’s a nice part of the world. Trieste had in the 19th century Armenia, Greek, Jewish and Serbian nations. We think about the Irish in Liverpool, but let’s also think about the Italians, in Bordeaux, in Marseille, and in Nantes. So here again, in terms of looking at migration, port cities were, and you could argue still are, somewhat different than other types of urban conurbations.

And finally, one other point that Adrian touched upon, and that’s the nature of power – you could call it the ideology of merchant capital – because I think this still really impinges very much on the nature of the place we inhabit in Liverpool. You could find systemically, throughout Europe certainly, commitment to liberal economic principles, a persistence of power – even when the franchise was lifted and more people were able to vote in places like Bremen, Hamburg, Lubeck and [indistinct]. The merchant retained power in a way that was atypical of most other urban communities. They inevitably prioritised investment in the dock infrastructure because that was where their interests lay, and they weren’t keen on making public provision for public welfare. So they were desperately emphasising, even well into the 20th century, the importance of charity, even when states were recognising that we have to do more to help those in need. So even in that respect, I would argue that if you look at the power structure of port cities that they were different from other urban communities.

And the final point I want to make is - were all port cities the same? If you can think beyond Liverpool. Are all ports the same?

Audience member: To the sailor, yes. Wherever I lay my hat…

Audience member: You have commercial and military ports.

Robert Lee: Commercial and naval ports – correct.

Audience member: It depends if you look at it from the commercial point of view or from the view of a sailor sailing on a ship.

Robert Lee: But you also have ports that are multifunctional. Port cities that are capital cities – London for example.  Buenos Aires. Montevideo. Any more?

Audience member: Venice. What about Venice.

Robert Lee: Yes! The political framework is different in those sorts of separate, independent Italian states. But also in Germany, in the free states – Bremen, Hamburg. That also made a difference and they’re not necessarily all the same, but bearing that point in mind if you look at the range of issues I wanted to touch on very briefly – in terms of their economy, in terms of their social conditions, in terms of their demography, in terms of their class structure, the articulation of power in port cities –  I think we are safe to say that on balance they are different entities from other types of urban community. And you may disagree and I hope I’ve raised some interesting points.


David Fleming: Many thanks for that master class in audience participation which personally I find quite scary. [laughter]

If you can try to wrap up by quarter past that gives us time for questions.

Ken Pye: As David knows I’m a straightforward guy. So when I was given this question it was actually quite easy for me to answer. It was ‘what has been our greatest export or import?’ Well I think the commodity that applies to both of those definitions is exactly the same, and I could actually tell you what it is in one word, but as I’ve got ten minutes I’ll use slightly more. Let’s see if you agree with my by time I’ve finished. Because I have only got ten minutes it is a simplistic definition of why I have chosen this commodity.

I believe, you see, that no matter how far one travels in the world, not matter how great the environment or the architecture is, what makes a place special is its people. I believe it is particularly so in Liverpool. Why? Because of our unusual history, and because for so many years Liverpool was, quite literally, the crossroads of the world. And the legacy of this is all around us. And not just in the fabric of the city, but in the communities that live here and the diversity, faiths and heritage that we all represent. And that’s the thing about Liverpudlians – we are all immigrants to this remarkable spot on the banks of the River Mersey. Because no one lived here at first, but as we all know very well, people did begin to come here, right throughout time and for a whole variety of reasons. First, local communities who moved from the outlying districts to live around the pool of Liverpool. And later people from much further afield. So why did this begin?

The Liverpool we know now was an uninhabited part of the world in man’s earliest years, although there were prehistoric settlements in outlying districts now known as Wavertree, Croxteth and West Derby.  In fact, in Croxteth Park around 550 flint tools were found dating from about 6,000BC. Around 5000BC some communities of Stone Age peoples began to settle in areas now known as Childwall, Toxteth, Woolton and West Derby where stone axes and arrow heads have been discovered. And of course, we all know about the Calderstones which date from around 4,800BC. And what I like is the fact that Stonehenge is older than the great pyramids of Egypt – even older than the pyramid of Djoser which is the first – but the Calderstones are older than Stonehenge – I think that’s great.

Then after about 2000BC the Bronze Age came to the area, and in the once independent village of Wavertree bronze burial urns were found in a burial chamber. During the Iron Age, about 700BC, lasting up to the time of the Roman Invasion in AD43 the dominant local tribe were the Brigantes. See, there were lots of different people milling around here. Now the Brigantes were of Celtic origin, and one of their fortified encampments was the summit of Camp Hill in Woolton – thus giving the hilltop its name. The Brigantes were a settled community who mixed farming with warfare. And not unlike modern Scousers, they were a proud people who leaped to the defence of their homesteads and families and properties in the face of any enemy attack. Just imagine you are an invading Roman soldier and you are confronted by these warrior wackers, charging down towards you from Camp Hill, armed to the teeth with swords and spears, often completely naked with their body smeared with blue woad paint and all screaming maniacally at you as they run down the hill – it’s like Everton letting out after the match. Apart from being naked. No, no it’s like Everton letting out… [laughter]

Perhaps the lack of evidence of a Roman settlement on the top of Camp Hill means that the Romans never came here, or perhaps they were just frightened off by these flapping, flailing, hairy, nude Scousers. It terrifies the thought out of me.

In the year 367 Picts, Scots, Angles and Saxons invaded Britain in a joint attack. But they eventually settled here, intermixing with local tribes people. The Romans had left by this time and the country had settled into what we now refer to as the Dark Ages.  Small communities of Anglo Saxons then began to settle in areas that were to become the modern suburbs of Liverpool. And the tiny fishing community established itself on the banks of the pool. However, although this hamlet later grew into the Liverpool of today, it was too insignificant then to even warrant a name. Saxons soon became the dominant culture in the land, soon spreading across Britain including the area that became known as Mercia. This territorial kingdom included what is now Liverpool and Merseyside and included Lancashire, Cheshire, Shropshire, and parts of North Wales.  Life then became more settled and people came from all over Mercia to settle in the forest and by the rivers that made up the Liverpool of the future. Indeed the Saxon legacy is to be found in the names of places such as Fazakerley, Garston, Toxteth, Hale and Knowsley. Even the name ‘Mersey’ or ‘Mercey’ is said to derive from the Anglo Saxon name ‘Meresea’ which means ‘sea island’. Well, that’s one definition.

But the relatively tranquil Saxon Britain was soon to be shattered by another series of invasions, because along came the Vikings – by God, it’s a busy place! Now these sea-borne aggressors from all over Scandinavia ravaged Britain from the  9th century, but it was the Danes specifically who set their sights on North East and North West England. They were the race who exploited and subjugated the Wirral, Liverpool and the wider Merseyside areas of that time. Now these Norsemen sailed their long boats up the River Mersey, the Dee and the Alt and they found rich pickings in the villages, farms, churches and monasteries of the area. After these periods of rape, pillage and plunder, and like other invaders before them, they too set up encampments and fortifications here. Aigburth, Aintree and Kirkdale, Croxteth, Kirkby and Walton are all Viking names. In West Derby they erected a significant walled fortification to defend what was then the hub of their territories, and that went on to become West Derby castle, predating Liverpool Castle of course.

The Vikings, like all the invaders before them, eventually married local woman and settled down in the local district – they may have married them, it may just have been this ‘nuptiality’. I don’t know.  But they wanted to adopt the quieter life of farming and animal husbandry. Nevertheless, Liverpool was still only a small unnamed collection of fishermen’s huts nestling on the river bank. But, over the preceding thousand years these invading, immigrants peoples had begun to build the complex communities which were to eventually develop into modern day Scousers.

Then came the most complete invasion of Britain, the Norman Conquest of 1066 – do you like this romp through history? It puts it all in context – and it’s a heck of a context. Life in Britain was never to be the same, as the Normans sought to erase all traces of the Anglo Saxon culture and their political and economic infrastructure. For Liverpool, of course, the changes were going to be particularly profound, especially as only 100 years later, as we all know, in 1207 King John granted the first charter creating the town of Liverpool and creating the burgesses.

Then a new type of people came here – Liverpool’s very first economic migrants, and in large numbers by medieval standards, which meant that by the end of the 13th century there were around 500 living in a round this new town. Now that’s a huge population by those standards. Then, over the next couple of centuries the population stayed fairly static, although by the time of the outbreak of the English Civil War in 1642 the town had become the political and commercial centre of the Hundred of West Derby. And this was when Liverpool really began to grow, and by 1700 there were around 5,000 people living here come from all over Britain. In fact, one of the biggest influxes was after the plague and the Great Fire of London – loads of people left London to come up to Liverpool.

But then with the building of the first commercial wet dock in 1715, followed by the construction of the rest of the docks as we heard, Liverpool began to receive what had always been an essential import but which now took on an even greater significance. If you hadn’t guessed by now it is the people. The people of the world are our greatest import.  And over the next century and a half they came from all over the world in their hundreds of thousands. From all over England they came and so did the Scots and the Welsh seeking their fortunes and a new life.  And they came from all over Africa and the Middle East. From continental and eastern Europe, from the Indian subcontinent and from Asia. And while millions used Liverpool as their stopping off point on journeys to the new world, many stayed here – some by choice and others by force of circumstance, such as the Irish following the great potato famine of the mid-19th century.  And they came with their language, and their history and their heritage, their music, their food, their folklore, their faiths and their fortitude. And they certainly needed all of those as they were thrown together in the stew that was Victorian Liverpool. Together they created new, diverse, interdependent communities, as they suffered, lived and died together in their thousands, in poverty and hunger in the disease-ridden cellars and courts of the town.

It was in this adversity that the true nature of Scouseness – I believe – took shape. As these people pooled – and I chose that word deliberately – their fears, their hopes, their passions, their dreams, their energy, their creativity and their sense of a new belonging. It was from this melting pot too that what became the strong armour and the powerful weaponry of Liverpudlians were forged. The passion for music, art and language, and the use of words, and our dry wit and love of laughter. And so was born the true sense of what it means to be a Scouser.  Our capacity to come together to care, to share, to survive. To draw on the strength of others yet to freely distribute your own. To overcome the trials of life, to survive and to thrive.

And we were to need this armour and these weapons as World War One came along, followed by social unrest, sectarian violence and the strikes of the 1920s, and then the great depression of the 1930s and then came World War Two.

It is worthwhile I think to pay special tribute to Liverpudlians in World War Two so bear with me. In the battle against Hitler and his Nazis, and against the imperial ambitions of  Japan, Scousers lived, fought suffered and died to preserve freedom and democracy. And it was from September 1939 til May 1945  that Liverpool played a particularly vital role in the defence of Britain and her Empire. Indeed, no fewer than 1,747,505 (I’ve checked) service men and service women passed through Liverpool’s docks on their way to and from the battlefields of the world. We also had a very specific role to play because throughout the conflict Liverpool was the location of the secret underground headquarters of the Western Approaches Naval Command from which the Battle of the Atlantic was directed, fought and eventually won. Liverpool was the most severely bombed city outside London, especially during the May and June blitzes of 1941. Scousers braved the destruction of their homes and risked injury and loss of life on a massive scale. Altogether there were (I was staggered to see) 79 separate air raids during May and June – 79?! It was estimated that out of almost 300,000 homes in Liverpool at that time almost 200,000 were damaged. 11,000 homes were completely destroyed. The centre of the city lay in waste, and the full length of the docks lay in ruins also. Throughout the city suburbs there were 15,000 blitzed sites, and between July 1940 and January 1941 Luftwaffe bombing raids continued over Liverpool and killed about 4,000 people and injuring more than 10,000.

We all know what happened after the war and how international shipping declined, and how the economy and social fabric of Liverpool collapsed. But we survived and we began to thrive once more because of, what I firmly believe, makes Liverpool so unique – Liverpudlians so special. Because we are the product of century upon century of the importation of people, and those people’s very best characteristics. Since the Toxteth riots of 1981, and especially over the last decade, Liverpudlians have fought hard against severe opposition, prejudice and stereotyping to create a new Liverpool.   One that would draw on its heritage and multicultural roots. That would celebrate its vibrant and creative present and boldly face the 21st century with commitment and optimism, but above all with passion and pride. I think that’s one of the things that make Liverpool particularly special as a port city. Throughout our history the millions of people who have passed through Liverpool, and the hundreds of thousands who have made this outstanding city their home have combined to become our distinctive heritage. And we are their and our own legacy.

For more than a century we have exported Scouseness around the world, where Liverpool is synonymous with humour, music, passion and excitement – all the things that enrich life. And the world should be grateful for this gift we have so generously bestowed upon them. So in our 2007 birthday year, and our 2008 Capital of Culture year and as a World Heritage site, our greatest import and greatest export remain the same. It’s us –the people.