The Hispanic Liverpool Community Collection

Uncle Phil: Felipe de la Cruz (Manila, 1859 - Liverpool, 1930)

Contributed by:

John de la Cruz, on behalf of and with permission of Stephen Pimentel

Contributed by:

John de la Cruz, on behalf of and with permission of Stephen Pimentil

Date added:

Aug 6, 2015

Photographed by:

Stephen Pimentil

Document type:

Biography of Felipe de la Cruz (Manila, 1859 - Liverpool, 1930)

Date of event:



Manila, Liverpool, Pontefract, Castile, Cebu, Thiepval, France, Philippines, Spain

Location of the photo:

St James's Cemetery, Liverpool

People involved:

Felipe de la Cruz, Sarah Ann Clarkson, Philip de la Cruz, Nicholas de la Cruz, Harry de la Cruz, Kate Clarkson, Alejandro Eamanes, Isabel Clarkson, Fidel Echevarria, Gertie Clarkson, Alfonso Pimentil, John Delacruz, Amy Pimentil, Felipe Pimentil, Jack Pimentil, Philippa Burney, Philip Henderson, Philip Baddeley

Description of the Photo:

Felipe de la Cruz 'Uncle Phil' was the great great uncle of Stephen Pimentil. The headstone in the image at the top of the page is in St James’ Cemetery behind Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral. It commemorates virtually all of Uncle Phil’s family except Felipe himself:

Sarah Ann de la Cruz (Felipe's wife, d. 26 July 1911, age 44)
Joan de la Cruz (Felipe's grand daughter, d. 14 Dec 1914, age 8 weeks)
Nicholas de la Cruz (Felipe and Sarah Ann's son, killed in action at the Battle of Cuillenon, 30 July 1916, age 28)
Nicholas de la Cruz (Felipe and Sarah Ann's grandson, d. 11 May 1918, in his 3rd year)
Harry Clarkson de la Cruz (Felipe and Sarah Ann's son, d. 31 Jan 1921, age 29)
Clemente Echevarria (son of Sarah Ann's sister Isabel and her husband Fidel, d. 7 March 1924, age 10)
John Newton Clarkson (father of Sarah Ann de la Cruz, d. 28 November 1926, age 87)
Sarah Clarkson (wife of John Newton Clarkson and mother of Sarah Ann de la Cruz, d. 8 May 1927, age 83)

Additional information:

FELIPE DELACRUZ written by Stephen Pimentil

Uncle Phil was born in Manila in 1859. He didn’t know he was destined to be an uncle. He started life as a son; grew up to become a husband; then a father with sons of his own. Perhaps his name would live on.

Felipe de la Cruz, he was called. As did many of his countrymen, he made his living on the sea. His travels took him all around the world. By 1881 he had found a comfortable berth in Liverpool, where he married Sarah Ann Clarkson, the eldest daughter of a Yorkshire miner.

They settled in “Little Manila,” an area near the North Liverpool docks which was popular with Filipino sailors. Their first son, Philip, died in infancy, but then Nicholas was born in 1888 and his brother Harry in 1891. This unlikely union of a girl from Pontefract with a sailor from the Philippines seems to have flourished. Two of Sarah Ann’s sisters were inspired to follow her example. Kate married Alejandro Eamanes, another Filipino, and Isabel married Fidel Echevarria, a Spaniard from Castile. Their eldest niece, Gertie, married a third Filipino, Alfonso Pimentil, from Cebu.

All these families settled in Liverpool, in close proximity. A generation of swarthy Liverpudlians sprang up in the early years of the twentieth century. Nicholas de la Cruz, the first of these immigrant children, was the only one old enough be caught up in the Great War. He never saw his father’s homeland in the Pacific, but he did cross the Channel to France. He died at the Somme, and is buried at Thiepval.  Long gone, but not quite forgotten. Ninety years on, John Delacruz laid a wreath at Thiepval for him. John, another Liverpudlian of Filipino descent, turns out not to be directly related to Nicholas. It was just the coincidence of surnames which drew him to Nicholas’s memorial.

Nicholas did grab the chance to marry before he went to France. But he and Janet had no time to produce children. His brother Harry was swept away by the influenza epidemic. So by 1920, Felipe de la Cruz, already a widower, had lost all his sons. For the last decade of his life, he was no longer a husband, nor a father. He became Uncle Felipe.

As such, he is still fondly remembered by my aunt Amy, the last survivor of my father’s generation. She clearly recalls Uncle Felipe taking her to the cinema in 1920’s Liverpool. He was a kindly man. She was very upset when he died in 1930.

Uncle Phil lived on, not only in Amy’s memory, but also honoured in the naming of her youngest brother, Felipe Pimentil, who was born in Liverpool in 1924. He did not know he was destined to be an uncle.

My father, Jack, was very close to his brother. Born only 18 months apart, they were both still at school when the Second World War broke out, and were initially evacuated to North Wales. Uncle Phil was the talented one. My dad was never musical. Their elder brother Tom played a mean guitar, but Phil had a real gift for the oboe. All the boys had won places at grammar school. But Phil was the only one to gain acceptance by LiverpoolUniversity, a fine achievement for the son of a Filipino sailor.

But there was a war on. Jack was called up by the navy. Phil was drawn into the army. He suffered some bullying at first, presumably for the colour of his skin. His brothers told him he had to stand up for himself. He soldiered on. He was sent to France, where, like Nicholas de la Cruz, he is buried. He was twenty years old.

I was born after the war, so I never knew my uncle Phil, but his memory lives on. Only this Summer I came across his name on the People’s War web-site, where an old school friend had recorded some memories of Felipe, sixty years after his death.

The name survives too. Uncle Phil’s early death prompted a rash of Philip’s to break out in our family. My cousins Philippa Burney and Philip Henderson were the first markers. Philip Baddeley was not quite family, but the son of my dad’s best friend. And when my parents decided to start a family, it was easy to guess what the first boy would be called.

My brother has no children of his own, but our kids look forward to his visits. He is very musical, and sometimes brings his recorders with him, or takes the children out to the cinema. He is more fun than a bouncy castle. They call him Uncle Phil.