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Manchester's Portuguese Connections

Manchester's Portuguese Connections

Edgar Prestage, (1869-1951)

Edgar Prestage was Britain's first Professor of Portuguese. He was born in Upper Brook Street, Manchester and became the first Lecturer in Portuguese at any higher education institution outside the Portuguese- speaking world when he was appointed as Special Lecturer in Portuguese Literature at Owens College, Manchester, the forerunner of the University of Manchester. Prestage lived for many years in Bowdon, Cheshire and practised as a solicitor in his father's firm in Princess Street, Manchester.

His interest in Portuguese was awakened at school, at Radley College, in Oxfordshire. Never reluctant to approach the famous men of his day, he corresponded with Sir Richard Burton and a number of celebrated Portuguese writers, including Teófilo Braga and Batalha Reis. In 1909 and 1914, before emigrating to Portugal he sold much of his library to the John Rylands Library, Manchester, where it remains today. In 1908 he married Cristina, the neurotic daughter of the mulatto Brazilian poet, Gonçalves Crespo and his wife, the famous literary critic, Maria Amália Vaz de Carvalho. Cristina committed suicide in 1918 and, ultimately, Prestage returned to England, where he became the country's first Professor of Portuguese, at King's College, London.

The Baron de Sousa Deiró/ O Barão de Sousa Deiró (1866-1916)

Sebastião Clemente de Sousa Deiró was born in Ponta Delgada in the Azores archipelago on 17 April, 1866. A distant relative of the Portuguese poet, Antero de Quental, Deiró arrived in England in 1888 and became a Manchester businessman. He became director, then managing-director of Goodwin, Ferreira and Company, shipping merchants based in Chatham Street, Manchester. In 1904 he became an honorary member of the Portuguese Royal Household, before becoming Groom in Waiting to King Manuel II in 1909. With Edgar Prestage, (see above), he formed the Anglo-Portuguese Chamber of Commerce, a body of some fifty commercial firms from London, Liverpool and Manchester.

Deiró lived at various addresses in south Manchester but the grandest was Fair Oak, a mansion on Palatine Road, West Disbury. Today the building is a hall of residence of the Manchester Metropolitan University, having formerly been the Needham Hall of Residence of the Victoria University of Manchester. Deiro went spectacularly bankrupt in 1911, owing a sum variously quoted as 120,000 and 170,000 in the reports which appeared in The Times and elsewhere. At this peak, Deiró had been a member of fashionable London clubs and even when he died, his address, Mayfair Chambers, did not suggest total penury. Much of his fine Portuguese furniture was bought up by his brother-in-law, Edward Hulton the Younger, the celebrated newspaper publisher. Deiró had married Theresa Hulton in 1894 but the couple separated after producing a son and daughter. Edward Hulton, the Elder, who lived in Sale, was the founder of The Sporting Chronicle and The News Chronicle.

Ernest J. Soares, (1864-1926)

Although even the House of Commons Library can provide little biographical information on Ernest J. Soares, M.P., he appears to have been of Portuguese East Indian origin. His father José Luís Xavier Soares was a Liverpool merchant. Ernest studied at St John's Cambridge, where he obtained a third class degree in Law. He became a partner in the Manchester solicitors' firm of Allen, Prestage and Soares in Princess Street, which he joined in 1888. He was elected as Liberal M.P. for Barnstaple in Devon in 1900 and was re-elected in 1905 and twice in 1910. In failing health he was knighted in 1911 and became Assistant Comptroller of the Reduction of the National Debt. He also served as unpaid Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Home Secretary, (H. Gladstone). Born in 1864, Soares died in 1926. Whilst in the legal profession he resided at 'Woodheys', a large house on Washway Road, Sale, which survives today as the Woodheys Club. He married Kate Lord, daughter of the wealthy Samuel Lord, of Oakleigh, a massive residence on Sale's most prestigious road, The Avenue.

Further Reading
For fuller information see:
John Laidlar, 'Edgar Prestage: Manchester's Portuguese pioneer', in Bulletin of the John Rylands University Library of Manchester, volume 74, number 1, (1992), pp.75-94.

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