Founder of the Protestant Truth Society, which devoted itself to exposing Popish practices within the body of the Established Church, John Kensit decided to carry his high crusade to Liverpool, where the working population was predominantly Irish-Roman Catholic. It was a mission fraught with danger.

After a meeting in Claughton Music Hall, Birkenhead, Kensit and his entourage, accompanied by police officers, had to be smuggled out of a side door to escape a violently hostile crowd. With their route blocked by demonstrators they decided to walk the 300 yards to the Woodside ferry, but the baying crowd again barred their way.

When Kensit tried to force a passage through the mob they closed in on him. An iron file thrown with force and accuracy hit the evangelist in the eye. The injury wasn’t thought to be serious but he was taken to Liverpool infirmary. A few days later his condition took a turn for the worse and on Wednesday, October 8th, 1902, he died from septic pneumonia and meningitis. He was promptly hailed as “the first Protestant martyr of the twentieth century.”

An 18-year-old Irish labourer, John McKeever, who was a skilful player of the mouth-organ, was charged at Liverpool Assizes. There were two arms to his defence – first, that there was no direct link between the injury caused by the iron file and the actual cause of death, and secondly McKeever didn’t throw it anyway. Added to this were John Kensit’s words the moment he was struck by the file: “Oh, she has blinded me!”

After the jury had found McKeever not guilty he was jubilantly carried shoulder-high through Liverpool, playing his mouth-organ.