On this day … 21 January 1871

The Infirmary, Preston.
Tinted postcard by J. Valentine No. JV 72355. Derek Carwin collection courtesy of Heather Crook.

The Preston Chronicle carried an editorial on the first year of the new Preston Royal Infirmary, which it said ‘has cost much money, and will require a considerable sum in future to keep it in proper condition’.

The hospital was financed totally from donations from individuals and local charities, which, the paper argued, meant charity should begin at home. Instead of supporting foreign missions, local appeals should be directed to the needs of the infirmary.

There is nothing unusual in this sort of plea for funds. What is surprising is the language used, and what it says about Preston at that period. The Chronicle must have felt that many of its readers would agree with the following sentiments in its editorial:, probably written by its editor, Anthony Hewitson (left), who had bought the paper a few years earlier:

‘If a few of the missionary collections were turned into another channel, and made for suffering humanity around us, not for Red Indians, idle Brahmins, Hottentots, and pig-tailed Chinamen, made for sick and dying people in our midst, rather than for Mahomedans, Buddhists, and calabash spinners, thousands of miles away, our philanthropy would look more tangible, and our Christianity more practical.

‘It may be a good thing to roar, and wail, and gather money for the heathen abroad, but it is a better thing to look after the sick and neglected, and those whose bodies are in agony at home. We believe in home work until England gets tolerably perfect …’

Not the sort of thing to be found in a local paper today.

Hewitson had form for these sort of sentiments. Witness his description of the Irish Catholics attending the former St Mary’s Church in Friargate:

At the rear, where many of the poor choose to sit, some of the truest specimens of the “finest pisantry,” some of the choicest and most aromatic Hibernians we have seen, are located … Like the Islams, they go down on all fours at certain periods, and seem to relish the business, which, after all, must be tiring, remarkably well.

The photograph of Hewitson is taken from Andrew Hobbs’ The Diaries of Anthony Hewitson, Provincial Journalist, Volume 1 1865–1887: https://www.openbookpublishers.com/books/10.11647/obp.0262

Anyone with a Lancashire Library card can access the Preston Chronicle on line: https://www.lancashire.gov.uk/…/newspapers-old-and-new/

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