Harry Rutherford's
Festival of Britain Mural

Saturday, 14 August 2010

John Critchley Prince (1808-1886)

'Prince writes like an angel and lives like a devil.'


JOHN CRITCHLEY PRINCE was not born a hydonian, but was adopted by the town. He was born in Wigan, Lancashire, to Joseph and Nancy Prince. What education he received came from a Baptist Sunday School. At nine years old he started work with his father who was a 'reed-maker'. A 'reed' was a tool used by hand-loom weavers to separate the threads. His father was a drunkard and a bully and often beat his son if he caught him reading. At eighteen, he married Ann Orme, a resident here in Hyde. Once he married Ann, a family followed and by 1830 they had a son and two daughters. Employment was bleak, Prince sought work in France, but it didn’t work out. After suffering much hardship on his return journey he arrived home to find his family in the poorhouse at Wigan. In later years he moved between Blackburn, Ashton and Hyde, searching for casual work. He supplemented his income by contributing poems to local papers and begging and borrowing off friends and acquaintances. Effort were made by friends and well-wishers to help Prince lift him from poverty. Several cash grants from the Royal Bounty Fund were given, but each failed because of his addiction to alcohol, which he tried to kick many times but couldn’t.

DEAR wife, we struggle in a time
Saddened by many a shade,
For warfare in another clime
Has paralysed my trade;
And 'mong the thousands of our class,
So meanly clothed and fed,
We've had our share of grief, alas!
Pining for needful bread.....


His wife Ann died in 1858, and four years later he married Ann Taylor. His final years were marred by declining health and hardship from the near collapse of the cotton industry during the American Civil War, what was known around Hyde as the Cotton Famine. John Critchley Prince died here in Hyde, in 1866, he was by then almost blind and partially paralysed by a stroke suffered shortly after he remarried. He was buried in St George's churchyard.
Photobucket Photobucket
His works of poetry are well worth seeking out and should be available in the library.. Two books to look out for are ‘The Life Of John Critchley Prince & The Poems of John Critchley Prince both by R.A. Douglass Lithgow
Hyde's 'home-grown' poet James Leigh and many other poets were so moved by his life and death that they penned poems about him... below is one of the 3 poems I've read from James Leigh concerning Prince.. Leigh was presented with Prince's prised snuffbox.

Line on being presented
Critchley Princes Snuffbox
This box is a relic
Thou you may not know it,
Of John Critchley Prince,
The Lancashire Poet.
It has been handed down
As an heirloom to me;
I, Jammie o’ Tim’s,
Better known as Jim Leigh


Tom said...

Hyde as had it's fair share of Poets... what a shame the likes of Prince and Leigh have not got "Blue Plaque" status... I'm sure they would have if Hyde had it's own council again.

Hydonian said...

That's very interesting Tom -I wasn't aware that John Ctitchley Prince was buried in St Georges Churchyard . Is his grave still there or was it reinterred elsewhere when the graveyard was made smaller for St Georges School enlargement?

Tom said...

I'm not sure Nancy... the last time I went in St. Georges I came away with a tear in my eye at the state of the grave yard... it sickens me to see piles of broken headstones.. and a total lack of respect for such a place... it was in such an awful state of neglect as well... I hate how churches seem to leave the grounds and buildings to decay that much the begging bowl comes out for repairs... I'm sure that with all the land the chuches own and the incomes from such places any monies should filter down to parish churches for their up keep... ha! Rant Over... now who's for Hyde having a poets corner of our own... ;o)