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Monday, 30 July 2012

A Poet Prince -Talented Tuesday

How many people can claim to have a published poet amongst their ancestors?

That is the case of my third cousin Stuart whose great great uncle was John Critchley Prince (1808-1866), well known in his time as a writer of poetry in the Lancashire dialect.

John was born in Wigan, Lancashire, son of Joseph Prince and his wife Nancy. He received some little formal education at a Baptist Sunday School and at nine years of age began work with his father as a 'reed-maker' - a 'reed' being a tool used by hand-loom weavers to separate threads.

Employment prospects being bleak, John sought work in France.  After suffering much hardship during his return journey, he arrived home to find his family in the Wigan Poorhouse. In later years, John moved around Lancashire, mainly in Blackburn, Ashton and Hyde, searching for casual work. He supplemented his income by contributing poems to local periodicals and accepting help from acquaintances. 
At eighteen, John married Ann Orme, a resident of Hyde near Manchester. A family soon followed and by 1830 the couple had a son and two daughters.

John published his first poetry collection, "Hours with the Muses" in 1841. It sold well, running to five editions and attracting attention in London. Other collections followed, some published and sold privately by the author.

Considering John's dismal situation — he borrowed from Shakespeare "my mean estate" to describe his lot — his verse is, for the most part, surprisingly optimistic. A notable exception is "Death of a Factory Child", in which he addressed the social conditions of the time, with these stark lines to end the poem. :

Hard had he labour'd since the morning hour,—
But now his little hands relax'd their pow'r—
Yet, urg'd by curses or severer blows,
Without one moment's brief, but sweet, repose,
From frame to frame the exhausted sufferer crept,
Piec'd the frail threads, and, uncomplaining, wept.

John's first wife died in 1858, and he married Ann Taylor in 1862. This apart, his final years were marred by declining health and the financial hardship tresulting from the near collapse of the Lancashire cotton industry during the American Civil War, a time known locally as the "Cotton Famine".

John Critchley Prince died at Hyde, in 1866, almost blind and partially paralysed by a stroke suffered shortly after his second marriage. He is buried there in St George's churchyard,with a memorial to him in the local church.

Fellow poets penned tributes to him including the following:

FAREWELL, thou gifted singer! Thy sweet songs
Have charmed the ears of thousands in our land:
(Samuel Laycock)

Amongst the workmen-poets our land
He stands—a Prince by nature, as by name;
(George Hull)

John's great great nephew Stuart has built up a collection of his ancestor's poetry, including a first edition of he "Hours of the Muses" and also has some manuscripts written by him and some letters.

John's sister Sarah Prince was Stuart's great, great grandmother. She married William Oldham, with their son christened Joseph Prince (photograph below) after his maternal grandfather.

More information on poet John Critchely Prince can be found at

Spanning the generations
John Critchley Prince's nephew - Joseph Prince Oldham
with his granddaughter Elsie, Stuart's mother

Talented Tuesday is one of many daily blog prompts from www.geneabloggers.com to encourage writers to record their family history.

1 comment:

  1. I came here after seeing the poet on your "O is for..." post. What a sad and difficult life he seems to have had, despite his success as a poet.


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