LIVERPOOL in Victorian times was at once a thriving port city where industrialists could amass enormous wealth and a place where poverty and criminality knew no bounds. In the middle years of the 19th century, more than 70,000 people were living in crowded and unsanitary conditions.
It was in this contrasting climate that Father James Nugent, born in Hunter Street in the central area, began his ministry.
Horrified by what he had seen, James gave himself to the church and, in turn, the welfare of his fellow men and women and their families.
He became a household name to Liverpudlians and although little has been written about him in the years since the society that is named after him continues his good works. For, perhaps astonishingly, illegal immigration, juvenile crime and poverty remain critical issues.
Now, Pat Runaghan has compiled a wholly accessible account of Father Nugent’s life and inspiring ministry.
James was ordained after receiving an education at Ushaw College and in Rome and the Liverpool to which he returned was reeling under the effects of the Irish famine and subsequent epidemic of typhus. With others, James risked his life tending the sick and dying.
Determined to improve a lot of the destitute, James felt the answer lay in establishing schools and orphanages and setting up homes for mothers and babies and single working men and women. In doing so he had to battle against the scourge of drink, ultimately establishing also a league of total abstinence, and fought also against a climate in which more than 400 brothels could thrive.
The Rt Rev. Monsignor James Nugent died in 1905 and a statue was erected in his memory in St John’s Gardens the following year.