Silver presentation casket containing illuminated scroll conferring the Freedom of the City of Manchester on Alderman James W. Southern, 1907. Inscription engraved on book: "Freedom of the City of Manchester Presented to Alderman Southern Knockbrex, Scotland October 11th 1907".
From the son of a carpenter to a ‘Sir’, James W. Southern built up a reputation as an influential business and political figure in Manchester.
James Wilson Southern (1940 - 1909) was born in Manchester. He achieved a good education at the Working Men's College and Owen’s College the forerunner of Manchester University. He started a business as a packing case maker and timber merchant in 1860, aged just 20. His education, business experience and philanthropic nature lead him to being elected to Manchester City Council for St Clement's Ward, part of Chorlton-on-Medlock. Later he achieved the position of Alderman. Politically, he was a Liberal, being leader of the Liberal Part in Manchester for many years, and a member of the Reform Club in Mancheste
He became Deputy Chairman for the Manchester Ship Canal Company. As Chairman of the council’s Free Libraries Committee he oversaw the creation on the network of branch libraries around the city.
In 1906 he was awarded the ‘Freedom of the City’. It is a ceremonial honour for valued members of the community. Since Southern was bed ridden with an illness at his son-in-law’s residence in Scotland in 1907, the ceremony for handing over the casket and scroll happened at his bedside. He was knighted in the same year.