In the summer of 2019 a headstone on the grave of Edward McHugh was mounted in Flaybrick Memorial Gardens, Birkenhead. 75 people attended the event.
Amongst those involved in the ceremony was Luke Agnew, Unite steward at the Gardens, Sheila Coleman of the Hillsborough Justice Campaign, Kevin Robinson, former docker and leading activist in the 1995 Liverpool Docker’s Strike, Mick Whitley, former Unite NW regional secretary and now (2020) Birkenhead Labour MP, Dan Carden MP, Andrew Newby, author of a biography on McHugh, Birkenhead council leader Pat Hackett and Mark Metcalf.
Monies for the headstone were raised by a campaign led by Luke Agnew. A booklet on McHugh’s life was published and can be downloaded for free at:-
Who was McHugh?
Rural poverty forced McHugh’s family to emigrate from Co Tyrone to Glasgow where he witnessed urban destitution, particularly amongst the Irish who had fled the Great Famine of the 1840s and Scottish Highlanders who had moved south because of the Clearances.
McHugh became a firm supporter of Henry George who contended that the unequal distribution of land lay behind all social ills. As secretary of the Glasgow branch of the Irish Land League, McHugh’s talents as a speaker and organiser saw him chosen to lead a Land League mission to the Scottish Highlands were he helped direct the nascent crofters’ agitation along radical lines.
He later toured Scotland with Henry George himself, helping found the Scottish Land Restoration League, a body seeking to tax land values to their full extent, thereby abolishing landlordism.
McHugh’s talents were then harnessed by the Trades Union movement. He and Richard McGhee established the National Union of Dock Labourers, leading bitter strikes in 1889 in Glasgow and in Liverpool in 1890 and following which he settled in Birkenhead.
He spent the mid 1890s in New York City where he organised the American Longshoreman’s Union and preached George’s ‘Single Tax Gospel.’
In his death, McHugh was buried at Flaybrick Memorial Gardens. His headstone was destroyed by the German bombing of Merseyside in WWII. It has now been successfully restored and in addition a short documentary film on McHugh will be released in the summer of 2020.