About John Herson’s family

Until my retirement in 2008 I was head of history at Liverpool John Moores University.

My interest in Stafford’s Irish families began in the 1980s when I lived in the town and began researching my family tree.  My mother Olive Greenwood was born in Stafford in 1913. She worked as a tracer at the BRC and that’s where she met my father who had moved from Manchester with the firm in the 1920s. Her ancestors were all native Staffordians born and bred.

Frank Greenwood (b. 1889), Mabel Moore (b. 1894) with my mother and uncle

Frank Greenwood (b. 1889), Mabel Moore (b. 1894) with my mother and uncle

Here you can see her as a little girl with her father Frank Greenwood, her mother Mabel Moore and her brother Norman. The picture was taken in 1916 when Frank was serving on the Western Front with the Sherwood Foresters regiment. He later worked for the Staffordshire Education Department.

For a time I thought I had an Irish ancestor. Frank’s mother was Clara Clewlow (b. 1863) and initially it looked like she was the daughter of James Charles Clewlow (b. 1832), a Stafford shoemaker, and Mary Corcoran (b. 1838), an Irish woman from Co. Roscommon. It subsequently turned out that Clara was the last child of James’s first wife, Mary Hodge from Bednall, so I have no Irish blood at all! By then, however, my interest in Stafford’s Irish families had been kindled.

Both Frank Greenwood’s father and grandfather worked in the shoe trade. His grandfather, Henry Greenwood is the balding and bearded man in the middle of the back row on the next photo.

Henry Greenwood (b. 1834), middle of the back row



It was taken in 1874 when Henry was a Stafford delegate at the first conference of the National Union of Boot and Shoe Rivetters and Finishers.  Family legend says he was ‘a bit of a rotter’.





Mabel Moore’s family were also shoemakers. Her father was John Tranter Moore who you can see in the photo with his wife Sarah Hannah Hine.

John Tranter Moore (b. 1853) & Sarah Hannah Hine (b. 1858)

John Tranter Moore (b. 1853) & Sarah Hannah Hine (b. 1858)

Sarah was born in Milford and had been a housemaid. John Tranter Moore’s father was Fred Moore (b. 1824), another shoemaker whose main claim to fame was singing in St Mary’s church choir for 77 years!

All my male ancestors in Stafford were Stafford Burgesses ‘by birth’. My grandfather Frank Greenwood was sworn as a Burgess in 1912 and a hundred years later I discovered I had inherited from him the right to be a Freeman through my mother. In December 2013 it was with some pride that I was sworn as a Stafford Burgess 101 years after my grandfather.

4 thoughts on “About John Herson’s family”

  1. anthony Finn said:

    Mr Herson,

    I read your website with great interest, it was recommended to me by a Patrick O’Sullivan who has been lecturing and writing about aspects of the Irish diaspora with particular reference to The West Riding Of Yorkshire (my synopsis is probably doing him a disservice for which I apologise).

    I am in the process of researching the lives of Irish women in Batley at the turn of the nineteenth century – the spur to this was a request from my son to write him a story for his 21st birthday!

    I come from an Irish family and was born in Batley. Whilst there seems to be a some literature about personal recollections, there seems to be little historiography, hence the research.

    I will soldier on and thank you for the inspiration your work has given me (I have just ordered a copy of “Divergent Paths”.

    Unfortunately, the above recreation is interfering with my reading towards a PhD (which will avoid the possibility of my falling into post-retirement atrophy).

    Kind regards

    Anthony Finn


    • Dear Anthony: it’s good to hear from you – and particularly that you’re buying my book! I hope it provides some more concrete suggestions about how to go about the ‘recreational’ task you and your son have set yourself. I’m sure it will be a rewarding task for you. As you doubtless know, Paddy O’Sullivan’s work has been a major contribution to the historiography of the Irish in Britain for many years and I’m sure he can also be a great inspiration to you. I will be very interested to hear how your research goes, particularly if you can broaden the focus on the Irish in the Batley area. We need many more studies to build up a more comparative picture of the family dimension. John


  2. John, have ordered your book and look forward to reading it. I am doing my family tree and i am a descendant of the Corcoran Family from Cloonfad Tibohine.
    Thank you,


    • Dear Ann, Thanks for your contact. I’m really pleased to hear from another descendant of the Corcorans and, after you’ve looked at what I say about them in the book, I’d be grateful if you could let me know about any things I’ve got wrong and any further information you can give me. They were a very interesting family.


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