Whitty, Michael James (DNB00)

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WHITTY, MICHAEL JAMES (1795–1873), journalist, born in Wexford in 1795, was the son of a maltster. In 1821 he commenced his literary career in London, and among his earliest friends were Sir James Bacon and George Cruikshank. He was appointed in 1823 to be editor of the ‘London and Dublin Magazine,’ and in its first volume appeared the substance of the work on ‘Robert Emmet,’ which he published with a prefatory note signed ‘M. J. W.,’ about 1870. He remained editor of the magazine until 1827. From 1823 to 1829 he contributed largely to Irish periodical literature, and was an ardent advocate for catholic emancipation. He published anonymously in 1824 two volumes of ‘Tales of Irish Life,’ with illustrations by Cruikshank. These stories depicted the customs and condition of his fellow-countrymen.

Whitty began his connection with Liverpool in 1829, when he accepted the post of editor of the ‘Liverpool Journal,’ started in January 1830. He vacated this position in February 1836 on his appointment as chief constable of the borough. He had previously been ‘superintendent of the nightly watch’ (Picton, Memorials of Liverpool, i. 550). During his twelve years' tenure of the office he perfected the organisation of the police force and formed an efficient fire brigade. On his retirement he was presented by the town council with the sum of 1,000l. in recognition of his services.

His connection with the ‘Liverpool Journal’ had not been wholly severed during this period of his life, and in 1848 he purchased the paper and resumed his literary work. For many years he acted as the Liverpool correspondent and agent of the ‘Daily News.’ In 1851 he was a witness before the parliamentary commission appointed to inquire into the Newspaper Stamp Act, and he vigorously advocated the abolition of the stamp act, the advertisement duty, and the duty on paper. On the removal of these imposts he issued in 1855 the ‘Liverpool Daily Post,’ the first penny daily paper published in the United Kingdom, in the columns of which during 1861–4 he zealously advocated the cause of the northern states. The paper passed out of his hands some years before his death, but it has never ceased to hold a prominent place among the leading daily papers. ‘Whitty's Guide to Liverpool’ was published from the office in 1868.

The last few years of Whitty's life were spent in retirement at Prince's Park, Liverpool. He died there on 10 June 1873, and was buried at Anfield beside his wife, sister of E. B. Neill, London correspondent of the ‘Liverpool Albion.’ Edward Michael Whitty [q. v.] was their son.

[Athenæum, 14 June 1873, p. 763; private information.]

W. P. C.