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Abdullah Quilliam

Report of death of Quilliam in The Liverpool Echo
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This page has been added on 10 March 2023.

‘Liverpool Sheik And His Second Life’

From The Liverpool Echo, Tuseday, April 26, 1932, p. 9

Under the above heading, The Liverpool Echo published a news item on the death of Abdullah Quilliam. Below we display the image of the subheadline under the main headline:

At this link you can view the image of the whole original page from The Liverpool Echo. Red marking has been added to indicate the news item.

Given below is the text of the news item.

Liverpool has a special interest in the death of Dr. Henri Marcel Leon, Dean of the London School of Physiology, who had been so many times challenged during his life with being Sheik William Henry Abdullah Quilliam, a former Liverpool solicitor, who was head of the English Moslems, and whose many distinctions and decorations tallied exactly. Death links the two as one. Miss Harriet Quilliam, his daughter, and Mr. Robert Quilliam, his eldest son, both of whom reside in Liverpool, to-day confirmed to the Echo the dual personality.

“Of course Professor Leon is my father, Mr. W. H. Quilliam,” said Mr. Robert Quilliam, “and there is no mystery at all about about his dual personality. He formerly practised in Liverpool as a solicitor, and he changed his name to Leon some twenty years ago, because that was the condition of his becoming an heir to an estate. Everything was perfectly in order, and all his friends knew about it.


“My father was well known in Liverpool, being a prominent advocate of the cause of temperance, and also being a leading Mason in the city. He founded and was a past master of the Birkenhead Temperance Lodge, and was also a past master of the Liverpool Masonic Lodge.

“For many years he was president of the old Mersey Quay and Carters’ Union. A Wesleyan at first, he embraced the Moslem faith following a holiday he spent in Morocco many years ago. Before practising as a solicitor he was a reporter on the old Liverpool Albion.”

Mr. Quilliam was a brilliant scholar in science, and art, and once had one of the biggest advocacy practices in the North.

He was born on April 10, 1856, in Elliott-street, Liverpool, and educated at the Liverpool Institute, where he won many prizes and certificates and distinguished himself in the Oxford and Cambridge Locals and other Government examinations.

One tragedy behind the ex-solicitor’s second “life” as Dr. Leon was that in 1909 the then William Henry Abdullah Quilliam, a soliciter, of Liverpool, came into collision with the Law Society regarding a divorce case in which he had acted on behalf of a client.


The “Who’s Who” record of distinctions which led to Dr. Leon being questioned when lecturing both in Liverpool (where former friends went up to him) and in London were:-

Who’s Who, 1909 Who’s Who, 1926

Quilliam, William Henry Abdullah, LL.D., born April 10, 1856, Medaille des Beaux Arts (Constantinople), Kolah-u-Izzat medal in gold (Afghanistan), Imperial Order of the Medjidieh (second and third class), Imperial Order of the Osmanieh (second class and grand star), Imperial Order of the Sun and Lion (Persia), double decoration of the Imperial Order of Imtiaz (Turkey).

Léon Henri Marcel, M.A., LL.D, born 1855, Medaille des Beaux Arts (Constantinople), Izzat medal in gold (Afghanistan). Imperial Order of the Medjidieh (2nd class, grand cross), Imperial Order of the Osmanieh (grand star), Imperial Order of the Lion and Sun (Persia), Commandant (Or et Argent) of the Imperial Order of the Imtiaz (Turkey).

After he became a Moslem he went to Persia, and was received by the Shah in 1889. The next year he was the guest of the Sultan at the Palace of Yildiz. Later, he went to Afghanistan, and was decorated by the Prince and invested with the order of Kolah-u- Izzat.

He spoke several languages fluently.

He returned to Liverpool in 1898, and there filled the post of Vice-Consul of Persia. He was twice the guest of the new Sultan of Turkey, in 1898 and 1900.

He was the author of many books dealing with the religions of the Eastern and Western worlds. For many years he lectured on religion, psychology, and bird life.


My recollections of Mr. Quilliam go back twenty-eight years, writes an Echo correspondent. He was then, and had been for many years prior to that date, a successful solicitor with a large police court practice. The late Mr. Harry Neale had scooped the board, so to speak, at the Dale-street courts, but as his practice gradually faded away, that of Mr. Quilliam increased, and morning after morning his office in Manchester-street was besieged by men and women who needed his services before the justices. It was a ready-money practice, and Mr. Quilliam, who had the assistance of his two sons, had the conduct of a very lucrative practice.

Mr. Quilliam was an adept at summary jurisdiction law. In his conduct of a police court case he never wearied a magistrate with non-essentials. He got right to the issue, and this was an all-round advantage. It clarified the points, saved the time of the bench — and at the same time enabled him the better to cope with his rush of clients.

Mr. Quilliam was a man of great personal charm, ever ready to do a kindly turn, and more than one journalist in those days remembers with gratitude excellent “stories” that he put in their way.

To mention only one instance out of many. A story came from London to Liverpool that a young and attractive woman, with Merseyside connections, had been carrying on a series of frauds of an impudent character in the metropolis. It was obviously a case for what journalists know as the “follow-up.” Deciding on this course, and knowing Mr. Quilliam’s wonderful range of information, I went to him. It was nearly five o’clock, and for him a busy day was almost over. But he was not too tired to oblige.

“fDo I know the girl?” he remarked with a smile. “Well, I ought to do. I made her father’s will, and remember her being born.” With all that fluency and clarity of language which marked his police court work, he dictated to me a newspaper column. It needed no alteration whatever, and made a first-class “story.” Many other instances could be quoted of his kindness to journalists.


He himself owed not a little to the Press. His name day by day in the newspapers was an advertisement the value of which he never ceased to acknowledge, and one always felt that, apart from his natural kindliness of disposition, his readiness to help a journalist in the building up of a “story”was also an acknowledgment.

Apart from being a good police court lawyer, Mr. Quilliam was a very well read man, with marked literary leanings, and if he had not flourished in the law he could have done so in literature.

When he had embraced the Moslem faith he had to run the gauntlet of a considerable criticism, and, among his legal friends, who fancied themselves strong enough to tackle him, not a little chaff. He was never perturbed by this. He founded his mosque in West Derby-road, and administered to the faithful over a long period.


It came as a great shock when he became involved in a case which preceded his leaving the country. He went to Turkey a country whose language he was familiar with, and the nine days’ wonder here passed away.

He was practically forgotten by all but a few, but even ameng those who had criticised his professional breach, there were not a few who found it hard to withhold from him a measure of sympathy, or perhaps the feeling was one more of pity that a man who had wrought so well, and had won so good a place for himself, had thrown all his hard-won advantages away.

During the war I heard that Mr. Quilliam, who was in close touch with the authorities at Constantinople, was able to render this country no inconsiderable service. Of course, all this was very secret, and not till long afterwards did it beccme generally known.


Mr. Ralph Hall Caine, the brother of the famous novelist, had two books given to him at different times by Quilliam. In one of them is Quilliam’s name with an inscription in his own handwriting, and in the other, presented by him under the name of Leon, the writing is identical with that in the former book.

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