Dunckley, Henry (DNB01)

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DUNCKLEY, HENRY (1823–1896), journalist, son of James Dunckley, was born at Warwick on 24 Dec. 1823. With the intention of entering the ministry he went to the baptist college at Accrington, Lancashire, and thence in 1846 to the university of Glasgow, where he graduated B.A. in 1847 and M.A. in 1848. During the latter year he became minister of the baptist church, Great George Street, Salford, and before long joined in the propagandist work of the Lancashire Public School Association. His investigations into the educational needs of the labouring population led him to consider closely their general condition, their habits, tastes, and pursuits, and when the Religious Tract Society invited essays on this subject he submitted one which was awarded a first prize of 100l., and was published in 1851 under the title of ' The Glory and the Shame of Britain: an Essay on the Condition and Claims of the Working Classes, together with the means of securing elevation.' In 1852 the Anti-Cornlaw League offered prizes for essaj's showing the results of the repeal of the corn-law and the free-trade policy, and Dunckley gained the first prize of 250l. by his 'Charter of the Nations, or Free Trade and its Results.' On its publication in 1854 it attracted wide attention. A Dutch translation by P. P. van Bosse appeared at Hoogesand in 1856.

In 1854 Dunckley began to write for the Manchester Examiner and Times,' a leading liberal newspaper, and in 1855 relinquished his ministerial position to become editor of that paper, in succession to Abraham Walter Paulton [q. v.] He conducted the 'Examiner and Times' until 25 Jan. 1889, when it was transferred to new proprietors and its policy changed. His brilliant leading articles greatly increased the influence of the paper and the reputation of the writer, and he received several flattering invitations to join the London press, which, however, he declined. In 1877 he began a series of letters on current topics in the ‘Manchester Weekly Times,’ an offshoot of the ‘Examiner,’ under the pseudonym of ‘Verax.’ Among these able letters were five entitled ‘The Crown and the Cabinet,’ suggested by certain doctrines set forth in Sir Theodore Martin's ‘Life of the Prince Consort’ which seemed to him incompatible with the English constitution. A caustic criticism of the letters appeared in the ‘Quarterly Review’ for April 1878, and Dunckley replied in seven letters entitled ‘The Crown and the Constitution.’ His exposition of the rights and functions of the responsible ministers of the crown gave great satisfaction to his personal and political friends, who, on 15 Jan. 1879, gave him a complimentary banquet at the Manchester Reform Club. At the same time he was presented with 300 volumes of books and 81 pieces of silver. The ‘Verax’ letters were continued in the ‘Weekly Times’ until 1888, and afterwards in the ‘Manchester Guardian.’ A selection of the earliest letters was reprinted in a volume in 1878. The two series mentioned above were also reprinted in the same year. Others, on ‘Our Hereditary Legislators,’ were separately issued in 1882, and on ‘Capital Punishment’ in 1884. In 1890 he wrote a biography of Lord Melbourne for the series called ‘The Queen's Prime Ministers,’ and in 1893 edited Barnford's ‘Passages in the Life of a Radical and Early Days.’ He contributed several political articles to the ‘Contemporary Review’ (1889 and 1891) and ‘Cosmopolis’ (1896), and six articles on the ‘English Constitution,’ ‘The South Sea Bubble,’ ‘Stock Exchanges,’ ‘Privileged Classes,’ and ‘Nationalisation of Railways’ in the Co-operative Wholesale Society's Annual, 1891–5.

In 1878 he was elected a member of the Reform Club, in recognition of services rendered to the liberal party. In 1883 the university of Glasgow conferred on him the degree of LL.D., and in 1886 he was placed on the commission of the peace for Manchester. A further mark of esteem was the presentation to his wife of his portrait, painted by Emslie, in February 1889. This is now in the possession of Miss Dunckley.

He died suddenly in a tramcar on 29 June 1896 while on his way to his home in Egerton Road, Fallowfield, near Manchester, and his body was cremated at the Manchester Crematorium, Withington, on 2 July.

Dunckley married on 7 Oct. 1848 Elizabeth Arthur, daughter of Thomas Wood of Coventry, and left two sons and three daughters.

[Men of the Time, 14th ed.; Manchester Guardian, 30 June 1896; Manchester City News, 4 July 1898; Addison's Roll of the Graduates of Glasgow, 1898, p. 171; Memoir of W. Dunckley (grandfather), edited by H. Dunckley, 1888; Verax Testimonial, 1879; information kindly supplied by Miss Dunckley, Fallowfield.]

C. W. S.