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Jung's Pool of Life and a plaque unveiled

Dreamers and schemers gather to celebrate O'Halligan's school

Written by . Published on December 3rd 2012.

Jung's Pool of Life and a plaque unveiled

L-R: Jung's grandson, Marc Baumann; Sean Halligan; Peter O'Halligan; Jeannie O'Halligan; Allan Williams and Bill Leece, 1976. BW pix: Conaill Corner

“I FOUND myself in a dirty, sooty city. It was night, and winter, and dark, and raining. I was in Liverpool.”

We've all been there, have we not? But Carl Gustav Jung, the man responsible for this line - and who famously concluded that "Liverpool is the pool of life” - never was. 


 Like a child's essay, it was all a dream; his 1927 dream, and one which the Swiss psychologist documented in in a book called Memories, Dreams, Reflections. It appears on page 223.

“With a number of Swiss, I walked through the dark streets,” Jung wrote. “I had the feeling that we were coming up from the harbour, and that the real city was actually up above, on the cliffs.

“We climbed up there. When we reached the plateau, we found a broad square, dimly illuminated by street lights, into which many streets converged.”

Liverpool School Of Language Music Dream And PunLiverpool School Of Language Music Dream And Pun

 Years later, in 1974, poet and artist Peter O’Halligan, an ex-merchant navy type from Bootle, became sufficiently taken with Jung, his theories on synchronicity and the Liverpool dream to actually act on them.

O’Halligan became convinced that Jung’s square “into which many streets converged” was the one that intersects Mathew Street and Rainford Square and, in possession of that certainty, proceeded to rent an abandoned fruit warehouse on precisely that site.

Liverpool School Of Language Music Dream And Pun
Nothing of note had happened in Mathew Street since the Cavern was filled in; a back alley dominated by a car park and forgotten by the municipality. Arguably, if John Lennon hadn’t been gunned down, it would have remained thus.

As one big door closed, another opened and O’Halligan made the warehouse his home. With collaborators, including cousin Sean Halligan, Charlie Alexander, and others, he set up the Liverpool School of Language, Music, Dream and Pun. It had no template and nobody could guess that it would become the template for so much; this alma mater for dreamers and schemers who homed in on it like moths to a flame.

Storyteller Cathy Roberts and Roger PhillipsStoryteller Cathy Roberts
and Roger Phillips
The school gave rise to Aunt Twacky’s, the first indie market of its kind outside London, where those behind Eric's - Ken Testi, Roger Eagle and Pete Fulwell - first went looking to harvest an audience of new radicals for their new club: stallholders Jayne Casey, Paul Rutherford and Pete Burns among them.

 Up on the first floor "Parlour", it was common to find art student bands, such as Deaf School and The Yachts, rehearsing in the corner.

Not forgetting, not ever forgetting, Ken Campbell’s Science Fiction Theatre of Liverpool which gave stage life to Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson’s Illuminatus! starring Bill Nighy, Jim Broadbent and more.

Ken CampbellKen Campbell arrives to do Illuminatus!

 If this school had had been in possession of a morning register, it would have read like a who’s who of British popular culture.

Yesterday, I got to unveil a plaque to commemorate its mythical existence and, fittingly, I feel like I dreamed it. The fruit warehouse at 18 Mathew Street has been Flanagan’s Apple for far longer than it was ever O’Halligan’s and yet its significance still resonates.

When I posted an image of it on my Facebook page last week, one twentysomething commented: “I missed it. Was a legend by my generation. This is like a picture of Camelot.”

I caught the tail end of this blazing comet back in 1978, on Sunday, June 4, to be precise.

I was just 13 and the only Liverpool I knew until that moment was the dirty, sooty one from Jung’s dream. A tough, hard bitten Liverpool at that. Except on that Sunday morning I’d never heard of Jung, the 23 enigma, the laws of attraction, archetypes or the collective unconscious. As for synchronicity, it wasn’t even an album by the Police yet.

Dscf2522 %281280X960%29Peter, Angie, Carl and LarryWhen I turned the corner into Temple Court that day, something happened. The urban monochrome fell away and Liverpool became kaleidoscopically vivid. I had wandered into the third and final Jung Festival, the original, unincorporated Mathew Street jamboree. It had been "organised" by the Halligans and their cohorts.

 People were diving from high buildings into skips filled with Bird's custard. Girls, dressed as Carmen Miranda, were gracing open-top cars; another, astride a swing carved in the shape of a banana, was singing “I’ve Written a Letter to Daddy” from Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?, and over there, as the sun set, Big in Japan were dishing out some GBH to the eardrums. It was all blazers, boaters, beetles and black lipstick and it was, to my eyes, wildly exciting.

Dscf2523 %281280X960%29Pauls Simpson and du Noyer After that I was never away from the place.  You could be an Oxford graduate, you could be The Man Who Gave The Beatles Away, you could be a magician, weaving a plot with only a Giro cheque, or you could be there via your school bus pass, munching Martin Cooper’s bread, drinking tea and learning. No matter. You would be given the same egalitarian respect and gravity by all. For what was the school motto? “Gravity begins at home.

 I may have come to the party late, but the act of turning into Temple Court that day left a vague, background white noise that has informed everything in my life since.

Lennon said that thing about being a dreamer, and not the only one, and there were dozens more like me. For all those who gathered at the weekend, this unintentioned place had consequences.

Ken Testi and Nicky JonesKen Testi and Nicky JonesI said a bit of this yesterday. I was flanked by a white-haired Peter O’Halligan on one side and Larry Sidorczuk, another of the original crew and who dreamed up the plaque. Larry read the Liverpool dream. Mathew Street was the most important street in the world, he said. Peter, now 68, explained the iconography on the plaque and casually threw in that Mathew Street was important "because it was on a meridian". 

Watching were journalists Paul du Noyer and William Leece, Ken Testi, Nicky Jones, Paul Gallagher, curator at the Museum of Liverpool, actor Tall Paul, broadcaster Roger Phillips, Wild Swans leader Paul Simpson, playwright Jeff Young, my own kids - and at least a dozen people dressed as Santa.

Peter O'HalliganPeter O'HalliganI’ve never been asked to unveil anything and probably never will again, so to call this typically bizarre involvement a deep honour is an understatement. That we were gathered here at all is more evidence of the pool's ripple effect after all these years.

Somebody else remarked recently that not enough has been written about this profoundly important place.

 Well here’s a few hundred words that cut a very long story short. Undoubtedly, the memories, dreams and reflections of others would run into tens of thousands more.

The writing's on the wall

The plaque symbolises the philosophy and unique characteristics
of the Liverpool School, Peter Halligan and Carl Gustav Jung, writes Larry Sidorczuk.

Lslmdp Plaque#2
It is circular because Jung was involved in painting mandalas at the time.

The Swiss Cross, in white against a red background, contains a
flowering magnolia - the "unearthly beauty" in Jung's Liverpool dream.

Inside the cross, the top yellow represents it being in sunlight [as well
as being the source of the light], whilst the blue represents the water
of the pool. The greys on either side are the "abominable weather" he mentions as they walk through the dimly-illuminated square.

 In terms of the icons, the top-left is the Halligan coat-of-arms which
contains a golden tower supported by two lions. The top-right is
Jung's coat-of-arms with an angel holding bunches of grapes over
a cross and white star.

The bottom-left is the Chinese character for "Eternity". Jung's Liverpool dream co-incided with his discovery of Richard Wilhelm's "Golden Flower" which he, then, painted as a mandala called "Window on Eternity". Finally, in the bottom-right,the golden scarab beetle which is mentioned in Jung's work on synchronicity and, also, relates to the origins of my own surname within the symbolism of Egyptian mythology.

Each icon and symbol relates synchronistically to each other and  represent the wider dimensions of the School and Liverpool being the "Pool of Life".

Ken Campbell waxes lyrical about the Liverpool School of Language, Music, Dream and Pun in this entertaining two-part clip.

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23 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Angie Sammons shared this on Facebook on December 4th 2012.
Mark McNultyDecember 4th 2012.


Jonathan WilkinsonDecember 4th 2012.

I wish I'd been around at the time. You can sense the magic in this. Kind of explains a lot

AnonymousDecember 4th 2012.

yep, good read....took me back. Thanks

StaggersDecember 4th 2012.


Chris AlexanderDecember 4th 2012.

The world so needs more dreamers and schemers

Lyn GriffithsDecember 4th 2012.

Guess we'll just have to extra dreaming and scheming

AnonymousDecember 4th 2012.

An enchanting piece of writing about an enchanting event.
And a pleasure to chat to Mr O'Halligan.

A place I gravitated towards in my youth but at the time too shy to fully enter that world. Chatting to and listening to people at the event, hearing again similar accounts of how, at the time, they too felt nervous or intimidated when first coming into contact with this revelation, but they persisted and were greatly rewarded. I wish I had.

From so many people I have heard that at first they didn't felt "cool enough" to be with what they perceived to be the "cool" set. But the reality was that, it wasn't a cool set at all. It was just people the same as them/me, who were lucky enough to be there amidst Mr O'Halligan's entourage of divine inspiration for which many owe him a great debt.

If I had been less shy at the time, peering through the door, or risking a bit of cake and a coffee once in a while instead of being scared of the woman with the purple head, I would have realised, we were no different. So I drifted for a while and later (at the age of 23) entered into another world, which brought me out of my shell, but less creatively. And since we didn't overthrow Capitalism, I cannot look back on that with the kind of warmth I sensed from all of those who came to witness the unveiling of the plaque.

It drives me mad sometimes, when I hear eejit politicians quoting the "Liverpool Pool Of Life" as a slogan, when they clearly don't have a clue what it means or what it came to mean and probably think that Jung had a bed sit in Bedford Street South and used to go to The Grapes on a Friday night with Spinoza and Freud, when he wasn't advertising Chunky Meat or doing Just A Minute. So I hope some of them will see this and get some understanding or watch the two parts of the attached Ken Campbell clip, which in itself is magical.

1 Response: Reply To This...
Toby JonesDecember 4th 2012.

Nail on the head.

Sue AingerDecember 5th 2012.

I worked at the Armadillo 79-83.

I'd be in the kitchen baking bread, the 'phone would ring in the back of the warehouse.... I'd kick the sleeping cat off the sack of lentils, sit atop the sack and answer the phone to ..'Hello, is that the Liverpool School of Language, Music, Dream and Pun...?

Dreamers? No shortage of dreamers in the Armadillo... colleagues Paul Simpson, Nathan McGough et al were past masters! Magical times.

SaladDazeDecember 5th 2012.

Am I hallucinating? Was Peter O'H once 'Pete The Papers'? And did he sell them from a hole at the bottom of Hackins Hey? Or what?

1 Response: Reply To This...
Valerie WilliamsMarch 12th 2014.

Yes he was known as Pete the papers

SaladDazeDecember 5th 2012.

PS I had a curry with Armadillo Martin Cooper the other night. When does he get a plaque? He's been around longer than Jung was.

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousOctober 10th 2013.

So have his curries

LarryDecember 6th 2012.

Yes, the very same. Don't know about Hackins Hey, though.
Peter's quite extraordinary life deserves telling in much more detail I think. Whatever happened to Martin, by the way?

2 Responses: Reply To This...
KnowledgeableDecember 6th 2012.

He works in Delifonseca Dockside

John MorganDecember 10th 2012.

Yes agree Larry, Peter is deserving of much more recognition !

LarryDecember 6th 2012.

Thanks for that, Knowledgeable. I must go down there and try out the menu as I believe he's won a couple of prizes.

AnonymousDecember 7th 2012.


John MorganDecember 10th 2012.

I am So pleased to see this recognition of the pioneering work that Peter OHalligan and his associates did then and grateful for a very small part I had in it at the time. Love & respect Peter and to Sean , Charles et al

John MorganDecember 10th 2012.

Not forgetting Bill Drummond !

AnonymousDecember 26th 2012.

Good stuff, and about time we heard about it

AnonymousNovember 13th 2014.


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