Friday, 21 August 2020

Using film to rediscover lost working class heroes - Edward McHugh

 Using film to rediscover lost working class heroes 

Edward McHugh at :-

With Subtitles:

The successful work of Unite rep Luke Agnew from Wallasey for a new headstone to Edward McHugh, an inspirational dockworkers organiser, has been captured in a 10 minute film from Rough Jersey Productions. 

The film is at :- and subtitles at and please watch it and forward to others you think may be interested 

Irishman Edward McHugh, co-founder of the National Union of Dock Labourers led long, bitter, successful strikes in Glasgow and Liverpool in 1889 and 1890 respectively. 

Earlier he led a Land League mission to the Scottish Highlands  where he helped direct the nascent crofters’ agitation. McHugh later settled down in Birkenhead but in the 1890s he spent time in New York City where he organised the American Longshoreman’s Union and preached Henry George’s gospel that the unequal distribution of land lay behind all social ills.

On his death in 1915, McHugh was buried at Flaybrick Memorial Gardens, Birkenhead but his headstone was destroyed by the German bombing of Merseyside in WWII. 

It was Luke Agnew, a gravedigger at the Gardens, who rediscovered McHugh’s burial spot. When Luke then heard a speaker on his Unite stewards course talk about how trade unionists have erected plaques nationally to honour legendary labour movement figures he became determined to mark Edward’s final resting place. 

As a Unite workplace rep he got support from Mick Whitley, a former UNITE NW regional secretary and now Birkenhead MP, who features in the documentary. 

Funds were raised for the headstone and the Unite Education Department also released a concise booklet on McHugh and which can be downloaded for free at:-

In June 2019 a crowd of over 75 people assembled to see the new headstone unveiled. Speakers included local MPs and councillors, Unite officials, Helsinki’s Martin Newby, author of a biography of Edward McHugh, plus Kevin Robinson, one of the leaders of the Liverpool Dock Strikers in the mid 1990s.

By following Luke’s successful campaign, Edward McHugh’s life is recreated through a combination of contemporary photographs, moving images and an explanation of the roles McHugh played in the organisations he was so active within. 

The ten-minute film was created by Rough Jersey (RJ) (*) Productions, who earlier this year released a 7 minute documentary on the successful efforts of Bolton Socialist Club members, including Unite’s Martin McMulkin, to honour with a plaque a local man, James Alwyn, who lost his life fighting fascism in Spain in the 1930s. Both documentaries were directed by Adam Marseille and co-produced with Mark Metcalf. 

To watch the Edward McHugh: Rediscovering a lost working class hero documentary go to:- and

You can also watch the documentary on James Alwyn at:-

If you have an idea for a plaque or headstone to honour a local labour movement figure then please make contact @markmetcalf07 or

Rough Jersey Productions can be found at:-

RJ is now seeking to raise funds to continue this series of works and any help and/or donations would be appreciated. RJ is also exploring other labour movement works as well as moving forward with its football documentary based around the life of Fred Spiksley. 

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