John Thomas Magnall was born on 29 March 1866 to William Ma(n)gnall and Frances (nee Anderton). He was christened at Holy Trinity Church in Habergham Eaves on 17 June 1866. William is recorded as a collier and the family were living at Wood Top in Habergham Eaves.

At the time of the 1871 Census, John was 5 years old and the family were living at Stoops Lane.

The 1881 Census records that the family were living at 32 Lord Street in Habergham Eaves, John was now 15 years old and working as a cotton weaver.

In 1891 the Census shows that John is now 25 years old, he was working as a labourer and the family were living at 29 Gresham Place. Later that year John joined a group of people who had been attracted to emigrate to Brazil and they sailed from Liverpool on 5 August 1891.

A report in the Lancashire Evening Post on 26 October 1891 read:

The young men from Burnley, numbering over 200, who took the free emigration bait and went to Brazil, bave now had a taste of the emigrant’s life in that part of South America, and sad news has been received by their friends from several of them. Here are a few sample extracts from a letter received from John Thomas Magnall by his parents, at 29, Gresham-place, Burnley:—” I sailed from Liverpool on August 5th, 1891. We were 24 days out. We stopped three days at Rio Janeiro, and then came on to Santos. There were 21 of us on board from Burnley and 51 other Englishmen, making a total of 72. Owing to some bother with the police, we were confined for six days without anything to eat. When I was liberated I learned that my friend, A. Ashworth, had gone up country to San Paulo, and I have not heard from him since. I fnd that their country is very bad. They call it here the “White Man’s Grave.” We have had one man died since we landed. It’s winter time here, and the sun is scorching. There are men here who have lost wives and four or five children, and there are others who have stowed themselves away and left their wives and children. People here are dying like rotten sheep, the climate is so unhealthy: others would gladly serve five years in an English prison to be away. People who come out here, if they are not awake, are run up the country and treated as slaves. They promise so much a month, but don’t pay; and the people don’t get half enough to eat – that is on the coffee plantations. Some of them run away and try to walk to Rio, but die on the road with hunger, and as soon as they are dead their bodies are burned. The country is not half civilised. There are none that can speak English. To buy food you have to ask by signs. The people carry knives and firearms, and don’t forget to use them. We are doing a bit of a job which is just keeping us alive. But warn everybody against coming out here. There are no beds. You lie on the floor, and the country swarms with rats, and you cannot sleep for them.” This young man had previously crossed the Atlantic six times, and had worked at Baltimore, Fall River, and Montreal, and his parents are certain – as he had been accustomed to “roughing it “— he would not have complained if the place had not been very bad. Efforts are being made by a few of the parents of these unfortunate Burnley emigrants to raise subscriptions to get them back.

Meanwhile, John’s father, William, was trying to get help for John and his friends. The Lancashire Evening Post reported the following on 29 October 1891:

At the Burnley Board of Guardians this morning, the Clerk reported that William Magnall, 29, Gresham-place, Burnley, had waited on him with reference to his son and other Burnley young men who were in Brazil.
The climate did not agree with them, and the work was too much for white men. Magnall wanted the Guardians to heip him to get his son back. The Guardians had no funds for that purpose. With the permission of the Local Government Board they could occasionally find money to send them away, but none to bring them back. (Laughter.) – Mr. Race said the case was a hard one. These men had been induced to go to Brazil by misrepresentations. They were simply made into slaves, and had only two meals a day of rice and fish. Men stood over them at their work with swords and pistols, and they had no opportunity of getting away from the place, and they would have to be in this slavery for three years unless something was done for them. He suggested and moved that they should recommend the Mayor to open a subscription for bringing the Burnley men back. – There was no seconder, and the motion dropped.

The Burnley Express wrote a fuller article on 16 April 1892 giving more details of the story:

At the Southampton police court Wednesday morning, the Mayor referred to the cases of the Burnley weavers who had returned destitute from the Brazils. Sir John Thursby had written from Christchurch to him (the Mayor) saying how pleased he would be to help such men, and enclosed £5 to pay expenses. The Mayor of Burnley had also guaranteed the expenses. A letter was read from him (the Mayor of Burnley) stating that a fund had been raised at Burniey to meet such cases, and had been sent to the English consul in Brazil. The Mayer of Southampton went on to say he was pleased to know all difficulties had been removed. and the men sent home that morning, each provided with a railway ticket and money to go on with. The Local Government Board is about to be appealed to to do something in the matter of these returned emigrants, for during the past 12 months the number landing at Southampton entirely destitute has oonsiderable.

We have once or twice had occasion to refer to the way in which English emigrants are treated in Brazil, and as the aforesaid emigrants include a number from Burnley more than casual interest has been taken in the matter. It will be remembered that a fund was started to bring home those who could be found and who were not already dead either from fever or ague and several have already returned, but there are, Mr. Race informs us, still about six in Brazil. Four weavers managed to get to Southampton on Saturday, but as they were penniless some delay oceurred in reaching Burnley. Hearing of their destitute condition Mrs. W. F.Sagar, of the Ridge, kindly undertook to be responsible for their railway fares home. The four men, Peter Malone, John Magnall, Jas.McClasky and John Quinn arrived in Burnley late on Wednesday night, but two or three of them are still suffering from the effects of their hardships.

On Sunday James Freeman returned to Burnley, and the plain unvarnished tale as told by him to our representative is given below. An Express man was on the look out for one or two of the returned emigrants when he came across Freeman, a well-built man, wearing a broad brimmed soft felt hat, and a spotted handkerchiof round his neck. He said he had been a labourer at one time down in the Midlands, and was quite willing to work anywhere in Brazil if decent wages could have been earned. He is very bronzed but does not look much worse, although he said his feet were full of holes caused by working barefooted and being bitten by “jiggers,” an insect in the sand. He has also lost weight considerably since going out. Freeman did not make out all the Burnley men to be angels, but told a straightforward tale, adding that if the emigrants were a little to blame at times, even criminals ought not to be treated as the Englishmen were in Brazil. Freeman gave the following account of the hardships endured, sometimes going back to recall a forgotten incident (for which some allowance must be made), and burning to think of the way in which they had been used. He said over and over again that he had told the authorities he would let the people at home know all. When I got to Brazil, he said “I expected to get work as a farm labourer. and some, and some, although they might have lived a rough and wild life here, intended to have a fresh start and live a different life. When we landed we were put on to an “emigration island,” and kept there for a few days, and then sent on to Santos. They told us we could go to any part of the country. but that St. Paulo was the best for us. When we arrived there, however, some of the men refused to go further. Some of us were badly treated at Santos. In the emigration home there was nothing to sleep upon except a few mats and men, women, and children were
In the place I stayed in at St. Paulo there were about 700 altogether, and that was even better than Santos or Rio de Janeiro. The food comprised one loaf of bread, beans, rice and salt beef, which none of us could eat. Two men who had got some native drink commenced throwing mats at each other for fun – one of the men, named Thornton, died there. The men who had to keep order at once put revolvers to our heads and sent for the police, who struck at all the emigrants, and then locked some of them up for six days. Upon arrival at St. Paulo planters came to the ‘homes’ and offered work, but we could not quite understand them as to the nature of the work or the amount to be earned. However, some went to the plantations, and after they left the railway they would have to walk perhaps 20 miles to their destination. The work was from early morning to evening, and the only food a small loaf and cup of coffee. A party of us went to work on one plantation where both English and Italians were employed. I had to cook, but a number of men only stopped at the farm a few days. The planter insisted upon having so much work done each day, but would only pay one milreis (abont 10d.) per day. All the hands had to sleep in a big shed, and the temperature during the day was roasting, while at night it was fearfully cold. We rose at daybreak, worked till sun-set, when we had supper and went to bed right off. At the end of the first week some of the men asked for their money, but the planter did not apparently understand them, and so they left. We were 17 miles from a village, and I worked on longer than the rest, but I got no money and walked back to the town. It took me three days and three nights. When I went to St. Paulo I went to Mr. Spiers, the English superintendent of the railway, and he asked me what kind of work I could do. He subsequently gave me a pass to Santos, where I could get work as labourer. Mr. Spiers said he was surprised at us going up the country at all, as it was
At Santos I found Magnall, Quinn and MeClusky working at the gas-works and Malone employed at a coffee grinding house. When our work was finished we walked up and down Santos in & starving condition, without money and nowhere to sleep. If we slept out they would beat us and lock us up where we would be kept for days without food. Santos was about the worst place for fever and police we were at. One of the officials was a German, and when men who were starving went to him he said he would send for the police if they did not go away. We went to the American Consul and told him that the English Consul would do nothing, and said that we were nothing but frauds and impostors, and he (the American Consul) said: ‘We know how you are situated, and if you will get two or three milreis together, I will send you to America.’ He was very kind. After this a shipload of emigrants arrived at Santos from up the country, and, seeing that we could get no work, we stowed ourselves away on vessels and got to Rio de Janeiro. I should say, however, that most of the emigrants who had come down the country were clamouring for arrears of money due to them, in some cases as much as £6. £7 and £8. After that we got sent on to the emigration island again and there would be about about 200 men, women, and children altogether. Again the consul was appealed to and he told us to make out a statement. Mr. Harpen, the editor of the Brazillian Republic was very kind and said ‘if your consul has not time to come and see you I have.’ He asked what trades they worked at and found some of them work. When a deputation was sent to the English consul with the statement he crumpled it up and threw in the face of the men.” Freeman next proceeded to tell how they were compelled to leave the emigration island and wander about sleeping in a public square at night. Again the consul was appealed to, but
and after they had been in Rio de Janeiro for sometime the mounted police made “a raid” upon them and they were again locked up. Subsequently they were sent to an island where a number of lunatics were kept. They got one meal a day of beans, coffee and farina, and shortly after were put on shore and allowed to walk back to Rio. Patrick Walsh, a stevedore and a healthy man previously, fell down and died in the street in three hours. His blood ran out in the street and he turned quite black in the face. There were a number of people about but no help could be obtained. Again the police took the matter in hand and the emigrants were put on board a boat for Pernambuco. The police frequently offered money to the married women and would have insulted any of the females in the company but for the male emigrants. After one of the men had struck a policeman his hand mortified and he died. After getting to Pernambuco there was the same tale of woe; the offers to work for next to nothing and no prospect of payment at that; the same appealing to the consul; and sleeping out on the paving stones. Mr. Wells Hood, an English superintendent of the railway, was very kind. Some of the men had grown desperate with hunger, but when they spoke to the English missionary he said that he did not want them to bother him, as he was only connected with the mission to seamen. They were all in rags and bare-footed, and after much delay the consul gave them some clothes and managed to get them on board a vessel for home.

Burnley Express 16 April 1892

By 1901, John was 35 years old and living with his parents at 144 Sandygate in Burnley and was working as a coal miner.

In 1911 John was living just along the road at 126 Sandygate in the household of Joseph and Dinah Mather along with his younger brother, Edward. John was still working as a coal miner.

We think John died in 1933 at the age of 67.