Battle of Worcester

On this day in 1651, the Battle of Worcester was fought between the Royalist forces of Charles II, most of them Scots, and the Parliamentarian forces of Oliver Cromwell and his New Model Army. Cromwell’s forces outnumbered the Royalists by at least two to one. It was the final battle in Charles’s attempt to retake his father’s kingdom, and Charles’s defeat marked the end of the civil wars that had been going on in England, Scotland, and Ireland for nearly a decade.

Until 1649, Scotland’s political establishment had considered the English Parliamentarians to be their allies. Both parties sought to limit royal control: the Parliamentarians believed that the king should be subject to Parliament (or at least willing to work with it), and the Scottish Covenanters believed that he should be subject to God (by which they meant the Assembly of the Presbyterian kirk). However, when the Parliamentarians tried and executed Charles I, Scots of all political stripes were outraged. Charles was, after all, not only King of England – he was King of Scotland, too, and his Scottish subjects felt that England had no right to execute Scotland’s king without a Scottish trial.

In response, the Scots proclaimed Charles’s son, currently in exile on the Continent, King Charles II.  Cromwell then gathered an army and marched into Scotland, where on 3 September 1650 – a year to the day before the Battle of Worcester – he defeated the Scots at Dunbar and took control of Edinburgh. The younger Charles was brought back to Scotland and crowned at Scone on New Year’s Day, 1651. Like the later Stuart exiles, however, the new king intended to rule all of Britain, not just Scotland. Although his general, David Leslie, urged him to remain in Scotland, where he had the greatest support, Charles decided to take his army into England. Cromwell left part of his forces in Scotland and turned south in pursuit. The Royalists’ march toward London was halted at Worcester.

Initially, the Royalists appeared to be getting the better of their enemies at the Battle of Worcester, but in the end Charles’s army was utterly defeated. Malcolm Atkin, in his study of this battle, says that “2,000-4,000 Scots [were] killed in the battle. Many more were wounded and a considerable number of these must have died in the following days or weeks. Most of the survivors were captured.”[1] With the help of English sympathisers, Charles himself escaped[2], but few of the Scots who had fought for him ever made it home. Thousands of them were shipped to the colonies – Barbados, New England, and Virginia – and sold as indentured servants, among them at least three Macalisters who landed in Boston early in 1652. (Another three of this name were sent to Virginia a few months earlier, but it’s possible they had been captured at Dunbar, which also produced many transportees, the previous year. These are the earliest Macalisters on record in the New World.)

Macalisters at home, too, were affected by this defeat. After Worcester, Cromwell quickly conquered all of Scotland outside the Western Highlands. Scotland was declared a protectorate of England, and the government in London hoped to unite the two countries formally. Discontent among the Western clans (who as Episcopalians and Catholics were excluded from the newly decreed religious toleration) and resistance to military occupation led to Glencairn’s Rising (1654), but after that had been put down, Cromwell’s General Monck “established a measure of law and order in the Highlands which had not been seen for centuries, enforcing it with the active co-operation of the clan chiefs. By offering them treaties of surrender to sign, Monck . . . implicitly recognised their own authority over their clansmen, so bolstering their positions of power.[3] In fact, in some ways the Highlanders were better off under Cromwell than they ever had been. Certainly the restoration in 1660 of Charles II “saw a return to widespread disorder”.[4]

Still, for nine years after the defeat at the Battle of Worcester, Scotland was a conquered nation, subdued by a military presence and ruled directly from London. 

Copyright (c) Lynn McAlister, 2014

[1] Cromwell’s Crowning Mercy: The Battle of Worcester, 1651 (Gloucestershire: Sutton Publishing, 1998), p. 113. 

[2] An entertaining and informative account of Charles’s escape back to France can be found in Richard Ollard’s book, The Escape of Charles II after the Battle of Worcester (London: Robinson, 1966, 1986). It is well worth reading if this era is of interest.

[3] John Roberts, p. 127

[4] Ibid., p. 134

Hillsborough Disaster, 1989

On this day in 1989, Francis Joseph McAllister was one of 96 Liverpool Football Club supporters crushed to death at Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield during a semi-final match against Nottingham Forest.[1] 

Francis McAllister grew up in Liverpool, but at the time of the disaster he was working as a fireman in London. On the day of the match, he drove up to Sheffield and met with a crowd of friends who had travelled together from Liverpool.[2] His brother-in-law, John Thomas, was among them. Although they met in a pub, none of them appeared inebriated to the independent witnesses who later testified at various inquests; Francis himself did not drink at all. The men had tickets for different sections, so they split up when they arrived at the grounds. McAllister’s ticket was for a seated part of the venue, but he preferred to stand and so he had swapped tickets with one of his friends. In the confusion of the crowd outside the gates on Leppings Lane, however, nobody collected his ticket. There was no one to direct the crowd, either, and when the gates were opened and the waiting fans surged in, Francis was one of far too many who went straight down the tunnel into pen number 3.  

A few minutes into the game, when people began to climb over the perimeter fence or be pulled by others into the stands above, the match was stopped. Liverpool fans had become notorious for hooliganism, and initially even some of the other fans believed a pitch invasion was underway. But those who made it over the fence did not rush the field; instead, they collapsed onto the ground.[3] Unfortunately, the police had been so thoroughly prepared for unruly fans that some of them found it difficult to grasp what was actually happening. Instead, it was mostly other fans, some injured themselves, who pulled people out, tearing down advertising boards to use as stretchers for the dead and dying, and tried to save lives.

After the game had been abandoned and the fans asked to leave, Francis’s friends met as planned in the car park. But he and Nicholas Joynes,
another of the group, never turned up. The others waited until about 7 pm and then went looking for their missing mates. They searched local hospitals and consulted the growing list of injured, but it wasn’t until nearly midnight that two of them were admitted to the makeshift mortuary set up at the football ground. There they identified the bodies of Francis McAllister and Nicholas Joynes.

The Hillsborough disaster was the worst stadium disaster in UK history (which has seen a few) and one of the worst sports-related disasters in the world. It was a tragedy because it could have been avoided to begin with, because lives might have been saved had it been handled differently, and because of the infamous cover-up by South Yorkshire Police, which saw the fans themselves blamed for a disaster that in fact resulted from a combination of poor stadium design and police mismanagement. Details of the families’ 23-year quest for justice are available elsewhere, but none of those most responsible have been prosecuted, and it was not until last year – when an independent panel of inquiry issued a damning indictment of just about everyone except the victims – that the government formally apologised for its own role in obstructing the search for truth.[4]

Francis Joseph McAllister was laid to rest at Yew Tree Cemetery on the 21st of April, after a memorial service at St Margaret’s Church in Huyton.[5]

Copyright (c) Lynn McAlister, 2013


[1] Ninety-four, including McAllister, died at the grounds. Two more died later in hospital having never regained consciousness. The youngest victim was ten years old. 
[2] The events of McAllister’s last day are reconstructed based on the inquest into the death of Francis Joseph McAllister and witness statements by the following people: McAllister’s father; John Thomas; Leslie Guy; Roy Williams; witness N9152, an unidentified Liverpool supporter; and witness N6467, a local woman who assisted McAllister’s friends in the disaster’s aftermath.
[3] They were the lucky ones. Many survivors recall that the crush in pens 3 and 4 became so great they literally could not move, let alone climb over the fence; indeed, most of those who died did so because they were simply unable to expand their lungs to breathe. An excellent collection of first-hand accounts can be found in The Day of the Hillsborough Disaster: A Narrative Account (Taylor, Ward and Newburn, eds.).
[4] British PM sorry for Hillsborough disaster ‘injustice’; coincidentally, one of the two people pictured in the photograph that accompanies this article is Francis McAllister. See also FA apologises for Hillsborough disaster.

This Week in Macalister History . . .

Major events in the history of the Macalisters take a bit of a break in October, so I thought it might be fun to take a look at what’s happening in the Macalister world at the start of October of this year. Macalisters in the arts and entertainment have certainly been busy. David McAllister, artistic director of the Australian Ballet, is hard at work preparing for the 10 October opening of Romeo and Juliet. The company celebrates its 50th anniversary on 2 November of this year, which has led to quite a bit of media attention. Back in the UK, Irish actress Amy McAllister (whose television work includes roles in Call the Midwife and Emmerdale) is currently appearing as Nellie, the female lead in The Man on Her Mind at Charing Cross Theatre in London’s West End. Performances are given six nights a week, with an additional matinee performance Saturdays. The play runs through 27 October. To the north, award-winning Scottish comedian Keir McAllister (whom the Edinburgh Evening News called “…a gifted comedian destined for much bigger things”) has been touring the west coast with his Walking in My Shoes tour. This week he appeared in Tyree, Fort William and the Isle of Mull.

Macalisters were also busy studying insects, of all things. Dr Erica McAlister, curator of entomology at the Natural History Museum in London, undertook the last Specimen Collecting Field Trip of the season. This is part of a research project she and others in her department have been doing for the Ministry of Defence at a ‘top secret military testing station called Porton Down’. Details of the excursion can be found in her blog. Meanwhile, in the US, mosquito control expert Janet McAllister of the Center for Disease Control has been kept quite busy working to contain this year’s deadly outbreak of the West Nile Virus.

Charitable undertakings by members of this clan were also celebrated this week. On Sunday, the Wellesley (Mass.) Mothers Forum celebrated its 21st birthday; this non-profit community organisation, now 600-members strong, was established in 1991 by Lisa Macalaster and Maureen Bousa. Also on Sunday, but across the ocean, Leona McAlister, her daughter Maria McAlister, and her sister Pauline Murty, all of the Isle of Bute, were featured in the Buteman for their participation in September’s Great Scottish Run (a half-marathon), by which they raised £2,676 for the Beatson Oncology Centre.[1] Taking a slightly different approach to helping others was Don McAlister in Cape Town (S. Africa), whose latest editorial beseeched his readers to pay building contractors fairly.

Other Macalisters have been occupied with violence prevention this week. On Monday Detective Sergeant Randy McAlister of the Cottage Grove (Minn.) Police Department was interviewed by the local television news after a recent workplace shooting in that state. McAlister is a pioneer in the emerging field of threat assessment, which attempts to predict and prevent such events. He and his colleague spoke about the ‘red flags’ that often precede these tragedies and how to recognise them in time. The next day, Fort Morgan (Colo.) mayor Terry McAlister signed a proclamation making October National Domestic Violence Awareness month in his town. Various activities and programmes have been planned “to work toward improving victim safety and holding perpetrators of domestic abuse accountable”. The town council will be working in conjunction with S.H.A.R.E., Inc., a nonprofit group that serves battered women and their children in northeast Colorado.

And finally, Macalisters were also busy in politics this week. Wayne McAllister, Controller of Naugatuck Borough in Connecticut, reported on Wednesday that the borough had finished its fiscal year with a surplus of about US$1 million. Perhaps he should be running the country. The following day the Scotsman named Colin McAllister as one of those chosen by Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond to serve as political advisers to the Scottish government. This follows the loss of two senior advisers who left to serve in the Scottish National Party and the Yes Scotland independence campaign. And on Friday, Sinn Féin councillor Noreen McAllister was also in the news, doing what she was elected to do: speaking for the people. Councillor McAllister is trying to get the Moyle District Council (N. Ireland) to make structural changes that will eliminate the flooding problem experienced by some of her constituents.

Copyright (c) Lynn McAlister, 2012


[1] This is probably cheating, as neither his accomplishment nor his media recognition took place in the past week, but 10-year-old James McAllister of Darlington (England) also ran for charity in September. He completed the 4km Junior Great North Run in 22 minutes, running to raise money for leukaemia and lymphoma research. Well done, James!