Who’d be a Scouser?

Are you proud to be a Scouser? Are you relieved not to be a Scouser? Which is right?

I’ve recently started reading Candles, Carts & Carbolic: a Liverpool childhood between the Wars by J. Callaghan, which is rapidly becoming my favourite out of the many first hand memoirs of living in Liverpool in the last two centuries.

The most striking thing so far has been the throw-away statement that the term ‘Scouser’ was a derogatory one. Scouse was a thin stew made from the cheapest cuts, and was therefore inferior to ‘real’ stew, and eaten out of necessity rather than choice.

Although I think we’ve all been called ‘scouser’ in derogatory way in our lives, it’s usually by outsiders, and we’re all proud to be called Scousers these days. So it set me wondering: when did things change? and are there similarities with other terms for locals?

Having done my research for my book I can tell you that the preferred term for Merseysiders in the city’s Victorian heyday was ‘Liverpolitan’, with hints of the great metropolis of London in the word. A Liverpudlian was a lower-born member of the great unwashed, if the word was acknowledged at all.

Our old friend Wikipedia tells us about the following origins:

  • cockney: a pejorative for effeminate town-dwellers;
  • geordie: [disputed, but] may have derived from the popular anti-Hanoverian song “Cam Ye O’er Frae France?”
  • mackem: from the Newcastle saying: “Tak’em jobs off us (people from Tyneside) and Mak’ems (make them – i.e. ships).

It’s fair to say that all these labels have been proudly adopted by those people they originally ‘targeted’, scouser being no exception.

J. Callaghan would have been 100 years old in 2011, and so I want to know whether any of you reading this can also remember a time when ‘scouser’ was a put-down within Liverpool, between her inhabitants. Perhaps this was more common when social status was more important, and more discussed, than it is these days. Is it restricted to the inter-war period, covered in this book, or is it later too?

I wouldn’t be surprised if it reared its ugly head in the 1980s too, when Liverpool was at its low ebb.

Anyway, that’s just this short post for now. Please do comment below if you have memories of when being a scouser was bad!

4 Comments on “Who’d be a Scouser?”

  • Kenneth Edward Berry


    Hi, I am circa July 1932 and still Love being a scouser. I was in Renfrew Scotland 1951 – 1953 finishing Studies and Practical work. With Babcock & Wilcox Boiler Engineers. My first 2 1/2 had been at Bromborough Power Station. I played in the works Soccer Team in the Cheshire League ( a lower grade ) We got into the final and won 1- 0. Joe Mercer was guest of honour. About 7,000 at the game. In his little speech he mentioned that he had noticed the possibility that a new Frank Swift might soon be playing. I was goalkeeper for B & W. We only got into their half about twice, Scored once and our center forward hit the bend it like Beckham Ball and it very nearly took the goalposts and crossbar out of the ground. Joe Mercer was in touch with Liverpool and Everton and had mentioned, that i was worth having a look at. First letter was from Everton , the folowing day one arrived from Liverppol. Dad was a lot happier man. I was politely told go to that Everton Trial and you can ship out. I new i was going to Scotland in June 1951 so I really couldn’t tell Liverpool w hen I signed as an amateur. Which my mum insisted on. I played till the first Saturday in June 1951. Ronnie Moran and Tommy Liddell were our fullbacks. We beat I Think it Was Burscough. So i missed the Final.
    I met Bill Shankly in May 1953 he was manger of Grimsby at that stage. Wanted to know what i was doing when I finished my Studenr Graduate Course in July. I was playing for Kilsyth Rangers in the Junior League. As good as the Central League. When I told him I was going to sea, he looked at me with horror ” yee cannae do that laddie fitba is more important than going to sea. This was on the bus going from Kilsyth to Glasgow.
    I’m rambling on a bit, did meet Bill Shankley at Anfield May 1974. I was on the pitch at Anfield with Ronnie Moran and John Toshack I knew John when he had visited NZ to play the NZ team. Shankley came on the pitch with my wife and daughter. Ronnie went to introduce me to Mr Shankley. He just said, ” Ronnie this laddie widna play for me at Grimsby because he was goin to sea. That covers the story just about. I love this site and am way past my bedtime. So you will hear from me again Martin. Very Best Regards Ken B


    • Martin


      Hi Ken,

      Thanks so much for your stories! Loved hearing about you meeting some proper legends! Sounds like you could have gone far in your football career, but the sea called. That might be a life story seen across Merseyside in the 1950s!

      Glad you like the site. It might be moving home in a little while, but wherever it ends up, you’ll be welcome to share your tales.

      Best wishes,


  • Jenny Callaghan


    I just found your website. I am the daughter of Jim Callaghan, author of “Candles, Carts and Carbolic.” I’m thrilled you so appreciated his book. He didn’t make a single spelling mistake — that was the publishers’ doing and it grieved me. He died of a stroke shortly after finishing the book. He never knew that I got it published and would have felt so good that people thought so well of it. I’ve had messages from Scousers in the States, in Australia and back in the UK. I live in Canada, where I’ve been for years. The neighbourhoods he lived in, wrote about, are gone. I’d like to keep that memory of how life in Scottie Rd. was, as he wanted to. Thank you for being interested, and for your review.


    • Hi Jenny,

      Great to hear from you. I really enjoyed the book. How annoying to have typos introduced by the publishers, and after all that hard work! I admire anyone who writes a memoir, and even more someone who keeps it entertaining. It was a great way to keep those now-gone areas alive.

      Best wishes,


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

To top