Rev. Thomas Blackburne

Patrick McMorland, 1792


Painted in 1792, this is a portrait of two year old Thomas Blackburne with blonde curls wearing a white dress with a deep blue sash. Beside him is his adorable pet dog.

Thomas was born in December 1790 and was the fifth child of John Ireland Blackburne of Orford Hall, Lancashire and his wife Anne (née Rodbard). As a young man, Thomas joined the Church and was appointed vicar of Eccles in Manchester. At the age of 29 he married Emma Hesketh of nearby Chester. Emma was a capable and determined young lady who had already established a Female Friendly Society to provide insurance in the event of illness or disability, including pregnancy. The couple went on to have a large family. They also set up a Sunday School for the local children and worked diligently to help local millworkers and their families.

Emma is also remembered for her role in caring for the fatally injured William Huskisson MP when he was brought to her home after being hit by Robert Stephenson’s locomotive Rocket at the opening of the Liverpool to Manchester railway in 1830.

The Blackburnes left Eccles in 1837 when Thomas was appointed Rector of Prestwich. His sudden death ten years later left Emma with eight children to support. She outlived her husband by 39 years being in her 91st year when she died.

The portrait is signed and dated bottom right – P. Mc 92 – and is set in the original gold fausse-montre frame, the reverse glazed to reveal a lock of blonde hair tied with gold wire laid on foiled blue glass. An old hand-written label on the back of the frame reads ‘Rev. Ths Blackburne / afterwards / Rector of Prestwich’.

Records show that Scottish-born Patrick John McMorland (or McMoreland) was based in Liverpool when this portrait was painted in 1792 so he probably visited the Blackburne family home at nearby Orford Hall to carry out the commission. Later he added teaching duties to his curriculum vitae and exhibited widely.

Item Ref. 6925

Size: framed, 70 x 55mm

Provenance: Christie's 1987 ; Bonhams 2010