John Lawrence Whitaker
(July 12th 1864 - March 1st 1911)
"Below we have the reports gathered from old newspapers, mainly the Haslingden Gazette which give a full account of the funeral of Mr. Whitaker which was a very grand affair and possibly the largest funeral procession ever seen within Haslingden. They also give account to his many services throughout his life he gave to our town. The read is very detailed and written in a way compatable to the period with lots of warmth offered through its author/s. We are sure you will enjoy the reporting
There is so much going on here and it offers up far more than a "obituary" and it is a brilliant social history lesson to learn, it is mentioned about the poor Irish families of Pleasant Street who had all come out to respect Mr. Whitaker. It mentions how the shops in the town had shut for the day and that the shutters had been pulled down. There are so many interesting social history topics to be found within these reports.
May I recommend that the "sermons" are read fully, it is special to be able to read this fine sermon and gives an idea of how sermons were prepared back in the early 1900's
The death took place suddenly on Wednesday night at Haslingden in his 46th year, of Mr. John Lawrence Whitaker, head of Whitaker, Hibbert and Evans, solicitors of Haslingden and Bacup. Mr. Whitaker who leaves a widow and two children was admitted in 1886 and was probably the best known advocate in Rossendale. He underwent an operation for appendicitis. (extract taken from the Rochdale Times on 4th March 1911)
Death of J.L. Whitaker
"An irreparable loss to Haslingden"
(Extract taken from the Haslingden Gazette - 4th March 1911)
Haslingden and district is feeling deep pain and mourns over the irreparable loss it has sustained by the death, which occurred about seven o'clock on Wednesday evening, of Mr. John Lawrence Whitaker, of West Cliff, and of the firm of Messrs. Whitaker, Hibber, and Evans, solicitors.
Only 46 years of age - the study and work of a restless energy made him look older, and this view was assisted by his ripened judgment - Mr. Whitaker has been stricken down in what should have been the prime of his life, the prime of a life capable o' rendering service of the highest possible quality to his fellow men, and he loved well his fellow men of all sorts and conditions. To Haslingden and to the district his death is no ordinary loss. Even the word calamity barely describes it. One can form but a vague idea of what it involves to those who stood nearest and dearest to him. To these sympathy and condolence seem poor things to offer, but a whole community is unitedly sympathising and condoling with them over the loss of one whom the community itself had long held in highest affection.
AS A LAWYER
Mr. Whitaker was the only son of the late Mr. Lawrence Whitaker of Devonshire-place, who was a member of Haslingden Town Council, and he was thus a member of an old and prominent Haslingden family. He was educated at Ashbourne Grammar School, Derbyshire and afterwards, we believe at Leyburn, Yorkshire. He served his articles as a solicitor with Messrs. J. R. Radcliffe, of Blackburn and after leaving them remained on the closest terms of friendship with the members of that firm.
At the age of 23 Mr. Whitaker commenced pratice in Haslingden and Bacup in partnership with Mr. Hibbert under the syle of Whitaker and Hibbert. Circumstances so turned out that Mr. Whitaker became the active member of the firm, and so it was largely due to him that the firm quickly became established, and developed a practice of ever increasing importance. In chamber work his rare judgement was of great value. As an advocate he held a very high reputation both among the legal profession and among the general public. The very fact that a man of such integrity as Mr. Whitaker was associated with a case came to imply that there was something about his side of it that demanded consideration. He never troubled to make use of trivial technical objections, but relied on his case as a whole, and invested it with all the strength he could impart to it. He did not much care what weight of evidence or argument was arrayed against him. He pursued his course calmly and with determination that never flinched or wavered. His knowledge of the law and its byeways was singularly compete. He seemed never to be taken by surprise by a learned friend's quotation of a decision affecting a point at issue. He seemed to know all about the decision quoted, and in what circumstances it was given. Any man who had him as an advocate knew that whatever the result, when Mr. Whitaker had left his case with the decision of the Court the best had been done for him that could be done. A little over three years ago Mr. Oswald C. Evans a relative of Mr. Whitaker, who had served his articles with him, was taken into the firm, which then took the name of Whitaker, Hibbert, and Evans.
Just after he commenced to practice (about the age of 23) Mr. Whitaker married a daughter of the late Mr. Lawrence Whitaker, J.P., of Highfield, Haslingden, who was uncle to his (deceased's father.) He is survived by his widow, one daughter of 20 years and one son of 11 years.
SERVICE TO RELIGION
It is a most remarkable thing that Mr. Whitaker touched life at many points and wielded influences in many directions, but that connected with him there are so comparively few things that usually go to the making of a biography. The simple explanation is that although public positions and offices might have been heaped on him he accepted very few. This by no means implies that he avoided responsibilities. Few men could have a higher regard for the responsibilities of a citizen than he had; none could have discharged those duties with greater conscientioness or distinction than he did.
Bury Road Baptist Chapel and Sunday School probably stood with him next nearest to his home and his office, and for some years he had been the teacher of the men's class at that school, and in that capacity rendering service o'characteristic value. He did much for local Nonconfirmity - for Nonconformity as religion rather than as Non-confirmity. He was legal adviser to the Free Church Council. He gave evidence of his broad mindedness and of his strong desire to see religious organisations doing more effective work when at the annual Sunday School Conference of the Haslingden Free Church Council in 1908, he urged that Sunday Schools should, during the week days, be utilised for such recreations as draughts, dominoes, billiards, and cards, and maintained his opinion in face of a strong opposition led by Mr. Alfred Smethurst, J.P., The Rev. T.C. Showell had to admit that Mr. Whitaker argued with "relentless logic," and that phrase well summed up Mr. Whitaker's position in any argument or debate into which he threw himself.
AS A LIBERAL
Mr. Whitaker's devotion to Liberalism can have been little if any less than his devotion to religious work. We can recall only one instance of his having any official connection with the party, that being when some years ago he was chairman of the Haslingden Liberal Association, but in politics no local man has counted so much as he did. He was deeply imbued with the principles of Liberalism. No one could for one moment doubt his sincerity in politics. No doubt this was assisted because he never hesitated to admit a weak point with the utmost willingness; when he had done that he would rely on the strength of general principles. He was an asset of particular value to the party when either in Imperial or in municipal politics they had some unusually knotty question to face, for on such occasions he was ready to respond to invitations to put the Liberal case before the public from the platform. At a meeting addressed by Mr. L. Harcourt at Haslingden Public Hall in November, and attended by Mrs. Pankhurst and other leading spirits of the Womens Social and Political Union, he showed a courteous resource in dealing with the suffragettes that had not been equalled in other parts of the country. He, before the meeting, firmly opposed any of the suffragettes being ejected from the meeting. When the interruptions began he appealed to the audience to allow them to pass without response, and in that way he thought they would get through the meeting without difficulty.
That method was the stroke of a master mind, and it came very near to vanquishing any tendency to disturbance. Mr. Whitaker was a weighty speaker and keen in debate, but through all political differences he preserved a friendly feeling. He furnished a good instance of how courteousness can be maintained amid political fighting in the municipal election of a few years ago when he opposed the proposal of the Conservative party to elect the late Ald. W.H. Baxter, Mayor of the borough, for he paid a very high tribute to Alderman Baxter as a man and as a member of the Town Council.
Mr. Whitaker was held in very high regard by the Irish party of Haslingden, and it was largely due to him that the Liberal party have generally received material assistance from the Irish people of the town and of the Rossendale Division.
Of other organisations with which Mr. Whitaker was connected may be mentioned his vice-presidency of the Haslingden Social Club, of the Haslingden Blue Ribbon Club, and of the Haslingden Cricket Club.
A TRAGIC PARALLEL
There is a tragic parallel in the death of Mr. Whitaker and of his father. A municipal contest in which he was the Liberal candidate undoubtedly contributed to the death of the father. The serious collapse of the health of their son dates from the General Election of January of last year. In that campaign Mr. Whitaker did a good deal of speaking on behalf of Mr. Harcourt, M.P., of whom he was a great admirer, in parts of the division outside Haslingden. This work amid severe weather led to his contracting cold, and appendicitis supervened and laid him aside for six weeks. This prevented him from registering his vote for Mr. Harcourt. Mr. Whitaker never really recovered from that illness, but during last year he entered into a long newspaper controversy - published in the "Gazette" with Mr. J.R. Kebty-Fletcher, former Conservative candidate for Rossendale, now M.P. for Altrincham and he did this in defence of Nonconfirmity.
Since January of last year Mr. Whitaker has had several short spells of ill health, which led him to realise the risks of and to take precautions against a recureence of appendicitis. His medical adviser, Dr. Harrison, prohibited him from taking active part in the General Election of last December, but Mr. Whitaker spoke briefly at Stonefold, and he followed the course of the fight throughout the country with unabated interest. His last and most serious illness commenced a week ago last Saturday, and appendicitis returned. On Monday of this week a specilst, Dr. Telford of Manchester, was called in. He ordered an immediate operation to make use of the last chance, but it was known that it was a remote chance. The critical thing was that Mr. Whitaker had been so much reduced in strength that there was unlikelihood of his rallying after an operation, and this was the known position last January. The day after the operation any hope of recovery that might have existed became fainter, and on Wednesday afternoon it was known that he was passing away. Death occurred about seven o'clock, and as the news passed through the town it caused unutterable sadness.
A WINSOME PERSONALITY
It was his persoanlity that made Mr. Whitaker so highly popular with the large number of people who came in contact with him, and even with those who had not had this contact. He possessed a rare integrity, was cast in an unusual mould. He made full allowance for human frailty in others, but he himself seemed singularly free from these frailties. He combined candour with kindness. He had an unmeasurable generosity, and his help for any good cause was always sure. He had a warm and genial nature, and had always a cheery word of greeting. In moments of leisure he was most companionable. Fishing was his principal recreation, and on what he reckoned real holidays he had his rod and line. Those holidays were generally spent at Hawes. He was an omnivorsis reader and a close thinker, and kept himself abreast of current thought. Instead of talking trivialities with a friend or acquaintance he would recall some out of the way incident or opinion, or some expression on current topics, that he had come across in his reading, and by this he would straightaway strike up an interesting conversation. Solely by his personality, without any initiative effort on his own part, he led people to place before him their inmost thoughts because they were sure of kindly consideration and helpful words.
Among the flags at half-mast as a token of regard are those at the Haslingden Liberal Club, Haslingden Conservative Club, Haslingden Irish Nationalist Club, Haslingden Blue Ribbon Club, the Albert Buildings (Pleasant Street), and the Haslingden Cricket Ground.
The funeral will take place this afternoon (Saturday) at half-past two, and the internment will be at the family vault at Bury Road Baptist graveyard.
A PUBLIC FUNERAL
Although the family are issuing no invitations the funeral this afternoon is to be a public one, and will be attended by various bodies.
REFERENCE AT THE SOCIAL CLUB
At a social held at the Haslingden Social Club on Wednesday night, Councillor J.S. Turner, the president, said that in some respects they met under happy circumstances. Their gathering was however inexpressibly darkened by the news that Mr. J.L. Whitaker was in a most critical condition. Their hearts went out in sympathy to the troubled family and relatives, and they hoped devoutly that Mr. Whitaker might be restored to those and to the town. Mr. Whitaker was an old member of the Institute, the predecessor of the Social Club. He showed a deep interest in the formation of the newer club, and in that work gave much helpful and valuable advice. They were proud to count him one of their vice presidents.
AT THE LIBERAL CLUB
A meeting of the Haslingden branch of the League of Young Liberals should have been held on Thursday evening, but was disbanded after the carrying of a resolution offering condolence with the family of the late of the late Mr. J.L. Whitaker. The Haslingden Liberal Association also passed a resolution of sympathy.
JUDGE HAMILTON'S TRIBUTE
At the Accrington County Court, on Thursday, when Judge Hans Hamilton took his seat in the public court his Honour made a reference to the lamented death of Mr. J.L. Whitaker, He said he desired, on behalf of himself, the learned Registrar, and all the officers of the Court, to express their very deep sympathy with the widow and children of the late Mr. John Lawrence Whitaker. Mr. Whitaker by his manner and ability, endeared himself to all with whom he came in contact. Everyone about the Court trusted anything he said, and there was no doubt that Court and the Court, attached to it at Haslingden had suffered a serious loss. He desired to express his deep sympathy and the sympathy of all connected with the Court, and he was sure the advocates who had practised with him for so many years would join with him in his expression of sorrow.
Mr. G.N. Slinger said that, on behalf of the members of the Bar practising at that Court, he wished to associate himself with the expressions his Honour had given utterance to. The late Mr. Whitaker had practised at that Court for about 22 or 23 years, and as the Judge had said he had endeared himself to all his professional brethren. He was honourable and straightforward representative in his profession, and was always just and honourable in all his dealings. His friends felt most deeply the loss they had sustained.