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Philanthropist, Temperance Advocate and Social Reformer
He was born in Liverpool on 3 March 1822, one of nine children – 3 boys and 6 girls. He was educated at a private school. On leaving it was proposed that he be given a business career in a Merchant’s office in the City.
In 1838 James left home and studied for the priesthood in England and in Rome. He was ordained as a priest in Liverpool in 1846. He was first a curate in Blackburn before coming back to Liverpool in 1847. He opened a Ragged School in Spitalfields to take children off the streets.
In 1854 he founded the Catholic Institute, now known as St. Edward’s College Fr. Nugent made history in Liverpool when, in November 1866, with the support of the Stipendiary, Mr. Raffles, he called a meeting at St. George’s Hall of prominent men of all denominations and politics, to support him in his crusade for children. His motto was ‘Save the Boy’.
School attendance did not become compulsory until 1870 and clergy like Fr. Nugent and Major Lester were at their wits’ end to provide buildings and teachers to take thousands of children off the streets.
Fr. Nugent brought to the town the teaching order of the Sisters of Notre Dame to help staff the Catholic Schools.
Both men, Rev. Major Lester and Rev. Nugent, worked until they died. Major Lester died aged 74 years in 1903 and Fr. Nugent aged 84, in 1905.