Born in Gorton, Manchester in 1885, Exsuperious Harrison was the son of beerhouse keeper, Abraham and his wife Elizabeth. He lived in Manchester his whole life, marrying Martha Gidley in 1906 and having at least 7 children. During the First World War, he served on the Western Front with the RAMC Field Artillery and spent some time as a prisoner of war. In peacetime, he worked as a billporter in Ardwick and when he died in 1944, his name lived on in his eldest son.
All in all, Exsuperious Harrison lived an interesting but fairly ordinary life. His name, on the other hand is highly unusual. A quick search of the birth registration indexes show that only 36 people across the world were given Exsuperious (or its variant spellings Exuperius, Exsuperius, Exuperious) as their first or middle name between 1837 and 2005. Of these, 31 were born in England, mostly in the North West and North Wales but some in the London area, Midlands and Cornwall. There are also 2 instances in Australia in the 1870s and 2 from Pennsylvania from the 1860s.
The Victorian period saw a small but steady stream of parents choosing to give their children this unusual name. In some families it had clearly been handed down from generation to generation. This is evident in the Turnor family where 9 members took the name, and, of course, in the case of our own Exsuperious Harrison. After 1908, however, the name suffered a sudden, dramatic drop in popularity. The last chid to have the name in England was born in 1941 and in the present day, there is just one living American who bears this now unique name.
The earliest records of the name in England come from the mid 17th century. An Exuperious Milnes was married in 1627 and buried in 1634, both in St Michael's Church, Derby. In nearby Sheffield Cathedral, Exuperius Inch was married in 1631. Outside the British Isles, however, the name has a much longer history. In the late 4th and early 5th centuries AD, it belonged to two French bishops of Toulouse and Bayeaux. Before that, it was the name of one of the early Christian martyrs, the standard bearer of the Theban Legion who was put to death along with his wife and sons for refusing to take part in Roman pagan rituals. All three of these early figures are now saints in the Roman Catholic church and their feast days are celebrated on 28th September, 1st August and 2nd May respectively. This Roman origin is not surprising as the name itself comes from the Latin, meaning one who excels or surpasses.
Exactly what led Abraham Harrison to choose this truly unusual moniker for his son may never be known. Nevertheless, from Roman martyr to Ardwick billporter, Exsuperious is a name not easily forgotten.