meaning and origin of Scouse ‘Paddy’s Wigwam’

The term Paddy’s Wigwam is a nickname given by Liverpudlians to the Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King, the seat of the Archbishop of Liverpool and the mother church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Liverpool. (Historically in Lancashire, Liverpool is a city and metropolitan borough in north-western England.)

The nickname Paddy’s Wigwam alludes:
– to the large number of Roman Catholics of Irish descent who live in Liverpool
– to the fact that the Cathedral—of a conical shape, and surmounted by a tower in the shape of a truncated cone—resembles a large tepee.

The Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King—photograph Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral:

the Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King, in Liverpool, England

Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral was designed by the English architect, town planner and landscape designer Frederick Gibberd (1908-84). Building began in October 1962, and the completed Cathedral was consecrated less than five years later, on the Feast of Pentecost, Sunday 14th May 1967.


The earliest occurrence of the term Paddy’s Wigwam that I have found is from Liverpool: Home of The Beatles: Scouse me, what does ‘gisalite, wack’ mean?, an article about Liverpool and Scouse1, by Robert Hill, published in The Province (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada) of Saturday 3rd February 1968—the author describes “two Liverpool landmarks”:

One is the new teepee-shaped Roman Catholic Cathedral, known locally as Paddy’s Wigwam or, after the tunnel under the river, the Mersey2 Funnel. The other is the Gothic Anglican Cathedral, begun in 1904 and, hindered by money problems, still not finished.
The buildings stand at either end of Hope Street, an encouraging location in a city not noted for religious tolerance. The ecumenical movement can also take heart from the fact a Protestant designed the Catholic Cathedral and a Catholic3 the Anglican structure.

1 The noun Scouse denotes the dialect or accent of people from Liverpool.
2 Liverpool is situated at the east side of the mouth of the River Mersey.
3 Liverpool Anglican Cathedral was designed by the English architect Giles Gilbert Scott (1880-1960).

In his article, Robert Hill speaks of Liverpool as “a city not noted for religious tolerance”. Michael O’Toole also mentioned this fact in A goodness that will never die, published in the Evening Herald (Dublin, County Dublin, Ireland) of Saturday 10th February 1996:

I don’t know if Archbishop Derek Worlock4, who died on Thursday, ever set foot on Northern Ireland — yet this good man had a profound effect on the situation there.
Since 1976 he ministered in Liverpool, a city where the Irish influence is so strong that the new and rather grandiose cathedral is known as “Paddy’s Wigwam”.
In the Twenties and Thirties, Liverpool was very much like Belfast, a city deeply divided along sectarian lines and with an overflow of bigots on both sides.
The bigotry was still flourishing when Pope Paul V [misprint for Paul VI5] surprisingly appointed Worlock as Archbishop of Liverpool and Metropolitan of the North.
Worlock was a Londoner. The house where he was born overlooked Lords Cricket ground and when he arrived in Liverpool his first visitor was the Anglican Archbishop, David Sheppard6, former England opening bat and an old friend.
They made a pact: “Do everything together, except the things conscience forces us to do apart.”
In a city which in many ways was as bigoted as Belfast, it was a brave move and it bore wonderful fruit.
Worlock and Sheppard soon became known among their respective clergy as “Tweedledum and Tweedledee”.
Both men fostered ecumenism and spoke out against the injustices of Thatcherism, particularly the notion that the weakest of the unemployed should go to the wall.
Whenever there is talk of bad priests and wicked priests it would be well to remember Derek Worlock and David Sheppard. Their good will certainly not be interred with their bones.

4 Derek Worlock (1920-96) was an English prelate of the Roman Catholic Church; he was appointed Archbishop of Liverpool in 1976.
5 Paul VI (born Giovanni Battista Enrico Antonio Maria Montini – 1897-1978) was an Italian pope (1963-78).
6 David Sheppard (1929-2005) was a Church of England priest; he was appointed Bishop of Liverpool in 1975, and retired in 1997.

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