An “Angel of Merseyside” saves thousands of girls from falling into the clutches of underworld pimps and crooks.
The teenage girl with the brown paper parcel and the first-time-away-from-home look stepped from the steamers gangway. She said to a waiting woman: “Is this London?”
The women, homely Mrs. Beatrice Blyth replied: “No dear, it’s LIVERPOOL”.
Then she took the teenager’s arm – and another naive Irish country girl was in the safe hands of an “Angel of Merseyside”.
Daily Mirror – Thursday 08 May 1958
The Liverpool Vigilance Committee was started by a group of housewives to stop women, girls and children, who had just arrived in the city, from falling prey to sexual and criminal exploitation. Set up initially in 1908 they helped mostly British and Irish girls but also those arriving from America, Canada, India and Russia.
The Angels would patrol the “jungle” docklands, often as early 3am, ready to swoop on the arrivals before anyone with more sinister motives could get them. They would talk to them, advise them, help them find somewhere to stay or escort them to where they needed to go. If the girls were just passing through the women would take them to the train station. If they were staying in Liverpool they would find them “respectable lodgings” and work.
The moment an unaccompanied girl steps from a steamer Mrs. Blyth greets her.
The committee kept extensive records and statistics of their work.
According to the article a cheerful Mrs. Beatrice Blyth and her vigilantes helped 1,436 girls in the previous year, meeting 432 boats and visiting train stations 799 times.
Some of the Irish girls looking for work in Britain are greener than the Emerald Isle itself. They’ll talk to anyone.
Within a week they can change from sweet, simple country colleens into dolled-up street girls.
Mrs. Blyth kept a diary in which she described the people she met and tried to save. One case she mentions is that of a 16-year-old girl from rural Ireland who arrived at the docks “unspoilt with no make-up or jewellery”. When she saw her a few days later the girl wore “earrings reaching to her shoulders, a necklace, rings, jewelled combs and heavy make-up”.
“A lot of them move on to London from here and are lost forever in the underworld.”
The diary also spoke of women who refused help. One girl was 18 and Mrs Blyth arranged for her to go to a hostel and gave her money for food but said “each time I have seen her since she is drifting around the railway stations. I try to make her see the outcome of her present way of life but she will not listen”.
London was a big lure for the new arrivals, but it came with equal if not greater dangers. As Liverpool’s Chief Constable said at the time “a lot of them move on to London from here and are lost forever in the underworld.”
The Liverpool vigilance Committee had connections in London and would often call them to give them descriptions of girls they wanted to help but who had initially refused it; after a long train journey they may have changed their minds. At this point The International Travellers’ Aid Association would then try and help, and they did with other mainly women travellers going to London.
Mrs. Bee from the association in London said it was a “never ending task – but well worth the hard work”.
The Liverpool Vigilance Association became a charity in 1964.
Its aim –
TO PREVENT TRAFFIC IN WOMEN AND CHILDREN. TO PROTECT AND ADVISE WOMEN, GIRLS AND CHILDREN TRAVELLING THROUGH LIVERPOOL, TO HELP THEM WHEN STRANDED AND TO ACT AS INTERPRETERS. TO MAKE “AU-PAIR” AND OTHER ENQUIRIES ABOUT SITUATIONS SOUGHT BY GIRLS. TO PREVENT THE SPREAD OF UNDESIRABLE PUBLICATIONS.
The charity ceased in 1976 following the decline of Liverpool as a port.
The story in the Daily Mirror ends; “And tomorrow morning as usual Mrs. Blyth will be out with the dawn of her Mersey mission…waiting for a ship to come in.”
Did you know Mrs Blyth, or anyone who was part of the association. Do you/did you know anyone who was helped by the Angels of Merseyside?
If so I’d love to hear from you. Contact