George Charles Murphy – Shoe Black

The only surviving child of Josephine Murphy, George has not had the easiest start in life.  Abandoned by his father and left in the care of his mother they have begged, borrowed and stole their way from Liverpool to London in the hope of a better future. 


A stroke of good fortune saw George offered a place in a Ragged School to receive a free education.  He was soon recruited as one of the 24 boys in the first Ragged School Society 'Shoe Black Brigade', founded to clean people’s shoes before they entered the Crystal Palace to see the Great Exhibition. 

George is happy he has money in his  pocket, as he doesn't miss the hunger and lack of sleep from moving from place to place every night. He feels safe in their lodgings even though they are crowded, noisey and smelly at times. 


As a shoe black, George gets up early and works long days from 7:30am til at least 6pm, he then does lessons in the evenings. It hurts his knees spending long hours kneeling at his box while blacking shoes and boots for passers-by.  His favourite pitches are on Regent Street and Picadilly which tend to earn him more money, he hopes if he makes enough he will win the monthly prize of 3s and be able to help his mother. 

He is grateful that the police men have their favourites when allocating the pitches and hopes when he grows up to leave one brigade and join another by becoming a peeler.  However, George sometimes misses his street life and the freedom he had to play with his friends, time will tell if he will be dragged into one of their less honest professions.