Robert Noonan (17 April 1870 – 3 February 1911), born Robert Croker and best known by the pen name Robert Tressell, was an Irish writer best known for his novel The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists.
Tressell spent much of his working life in South Africa. It was in Johannesburg that he was drawn into the issues of workers rights and socialism.
Having arrived back in England he worked as a painter and decorator in Hastings and wrote his novel The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, probably between 1906 and 1910, ‘about exploitative employment when the only safety nets are charity, workhouse and grave.’ George Orwell called it a wonderful book.
Unhappy with his life in Britain, he decided that he and Kathleen (his wife) should emigrate to Canada; however, he only reached Liverpool when he was admitted to the Liverpool Royal Infirmary, where he died of ‘phthisis pulmonalis’ (pulmonary tuberculosis) on 3 February 1911, aged 40.
Noonan was buried in a pauper’s grave on 10 February 1911 at Liverpool Parochial Cemetery, later known as Walton Park Cemetery. The location of the grave was not rediscovered until 1970. Twelve other people were buried in the same plot. The plot is now marked although the land is no longer used as a cemetery.
In 2019, Tressell was commemorated with a march to his graveside led by a brass band.
Kathleen mentioned her father’s novel in the presence of a visitor to the house where she worked, writer Jessie Pope, who recommended it to her publisher, Grant Richards. In April 1914, the publisher bought the rights to the book for £25, and it appeared in Britain, Canada and the United States later that year, in the Soviet Union in 1920, and in Germany in 1925. The version as originally published was heavily abridged by Pope, with much of the socialist ideology removed. In retrospect Richards wrote of the book being ‘extraordinarily real’ and ‘damnably subversive’. Pope’s version ended with the novel’s hero, Frank Owen, contemplating suicide.
The original manuscript was subsequently located by F. C. Ball and, after he had raised funds to acquire and reassemble the original version, an unabridged edition was published in 1955.
The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists has been cited as a factor in the landslide Labour victory in 1945, and even for the election of two non-Labour-endorsed Communist members of Parliament that same year. It has been taught in schools and universities, and adapted for stage, television and radio, and readings have been performed at trade union meetings.
The book was uploaded in 3 parts
We are not responsible for the video channel that uploaded the audio recordings – nor for the original recording. We are not endorsing this video but merely that people might listen to it and like to buy the actual Audiobook featuring such a great list of actors.
The Book That Made Me…Ricky Tomlinson on The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists
“This book was given to me when I was in solitary confinement, by the prison governor. It’s something that changed my whole way of thinking. It’s the most important book I’ve ever read in my life. Not only did it change my life politically, it also stirred up again in me the beauty of reading.”
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