The Savage Club in Manchester

On England’s soil today
Two hostile armies stand in fierce array;
One, ours – may victory on its banners wait!
Counts all our country holds of good or great:
Each heart that quick with generous homage glows.
That melts with generous woe for others’ woes.
Each kindly voice that bids the sod be bold,
Each liberal hand that pours the sacred gold.
All such are ours, and on our flag displayed
Our blazon beams – “Not charity, but Aid!”
We come to light new fires in moistening eyes[?].
Though fierce the foes that on our legion scowl,
And feller war-hounds round the camp fires prowl;
There stalks the tyrant Want, a spectre grins;
There Hunger, hoarse of voice and gaunt of limbs;
There Poverty steals on, a treacherous foe,
To deal with fabled hand his icy blow;
While darker forms behind them crouch and lurk.
Until their leash is slipped for dire work;
We fear them not, for we have vowed their doom;
We’ll name them, when we trample on their tomb.

Title:The Savage Club in Manchester

Author:Shirley Brooks

Publication:Manchester Courier

Published in:Manchester

Date:September 6th 1862

Keywords:charity, hunger


This poem is fascinating in its content and its context. It was recited at a dramatic performance in Manchester’s Free Trade Hall, just three months before the famous meeting there which declared Manchester’s support for the Union in the American Civil War. Interestingly, Shirley Brooks, who wrote this poem, includes the common call for ‘Aid’ rather than ‘charity’, which for working-class sufferers during the Cotton Famine was an important distinction. The poem in its original publication context was bracketed by the following prose pieces. – SR

‘The Free-trade Hall was well filled on Tuesday evening at the performances of the members of the Savage Club, from London, in aid of the distress fund. Assistance was also rendered by some members of the De Trafford Society of this city. The performers of the Savage Club were – Mr. Andrew Halliday, Dr. G. L. M. Strauss, Mr. E. Draper, Mr. William Brough, Mr. H.J. Byron, Mr. Lionel Brough, Mr. R. Hunter, Mr. W. J. Prowse, Mr. C. F. Buott, Mr. J. C. Brough, Mr. J. Hollingshead, Mr. Leicester Buckingham, Mr. Walter Thornbury, Mr. Moy Thomas, and with these Miss Louise Laidlaw. The first piece was The Serious Family, which, through its performance was highly creditable to the De Trafford Society, was felt to be tediously long by an audience drawn together mainly with a desire to witness the performance of the members of the Savage Club. Mrs. Stirling followed with the poetic address written by Mr. Shirley Brooks, from which we quote the most appropriate passage: -’

‘The address as admirably delivered, and the graceful elocutionist received a unanimous recall. Valentine and Orson, a joint production of the burlesque style, was the chief attraction, and it was very cleverly acted. Mr. Oxenford’s farce, Retained for the Defence, concluded the performances at a late hour. Everything was done gratuitously and well, and a large sum – upwards of £500 – will be handed over to the Relief Committee. The Savage Club Amateurs gave a performance at the Liverpool Theatre Royal, on Wednesday night, in aid of the fund now being raised for the relief of the unemployed operatives in the manufacturing districts. There was a large and highly respectable audience.’