Killed by a Train

After experiencing the untimely death of his mother who was drowned in the Pelorus River, (https://unearthingtheskeletons.wordpress.com/2014/01/12/drowned-in-the-river/) Herbert Wilmor Eyes almost certainly hoped that the rest of his life would be uneventful. This, however, was not to be the case…

Born in Picton, New Zealand, in 1888, the eldest son of Septimus Eyes and Emily Cecelia Jones, Herbert Wilmor Eyes started to put the tragedy of his mother’s death behind him when, the following year, in 1912, he married Dorothy Thorpe of Rai Valley at St. Mark’s Church. The ceremony was reported in the Marlborough Express on 11th May 1912.

The church had been tastefully decorated by friends of the young couple. The bride, who was given away by her mother, wore a dainty white silk dress, trimmed with a silk fringe and lace, and wore a wreath and veil, and carried a shower bouquet… After the ceremony a small reception was held at the residence of the bride’s mother, to a few relatives of the bride and bridegroom. The happy couple left during the afternoon to spend their honeymoon in Blenheim and Picton.

Spending a number of years as a farmer, at some point during the 1920s, Herbert began working as a baker, establishing a bread making and delivery business in the centre of the town of Levin. Due to deliveries being made both in the town and the country, the business proved to be quite profitable.

Level Crossing at Palmerston North where the accident took place.

Level Crossing at Palmerston North where the accident took place.

On February 17th 1928, Herbert set off to make a bread delivery, his wife Dorothy accompanying him in the passenger seat of his van. On attempting to  pass over the railway line at Palmerston North, it would seem that he did not notice the oncoming north-bound New Plymouth express nor heard the sound of the whistle. It was noted, at the time, that the level crossing was a particularly dangerous one, the road running parallel with the train line for over 500 feet before turning sharply across it.

A few seconds before the collision, Dorothy, who was nearest the train, did notice it and grasped her husband. It was too late, however, and the train hit the van in the middle, wrecking it instantly and carrying the engine over 250 feet past the crossing. Dorothy received severe head injuries and died instantaneously; Herbert, however, was carried along with the van wreckage before being thrown clear.

The grave of Herbert Wilmor Eyes and his wife, Dorothy, at Levin Old Cemetery.

The grave of Herbert Wilmor Eyes and his wife, Dorothy, at Levin Old Cemetery.

The first people to reach the scene of the accident were passengers on the train – Hon J. A. Young (Minister of Health), Dr. T. H. A. Valintine (Director-General of Health) and Constable Tocker. They provided medical assistance until the arrival of L. J. Hunter, a doctor from Levin. Herbert was suffering from serious head and shoulder injuries so Hunter, under Valintine’s supervision, placed him in the guard’s van and took him to Palmerston North Hospital.

Sadly, Herbert Wilmor Eyes would never recover from his injuries and, the following day, passed away at the hospital he was taken to after the accident. Herbert and Dorothy left behind three small children and were buried together at Levin Old Cemetery.

Gomoszynski and the Polish Connection

Sometimes, when researching your family history and something unexpected is discovered, it is possible to go off on a tangent and look at something that has nothing whatsoever to do with your family. This happened to me recently.

For some time, I had been trying to prove a family connection to Thomas Green, a watchmaker from Liverpool, a task which proved successful. In the course of finding out more information about his family, I discovered that one of his daughters, Catherine Green (the sister of my great-great-great-great grandmother, Mary Green) married a Liverpool attorney, Thomas Hughes. They are both buried at St. James Cemetery, Liverpool and their monumental inscription reads as follows:

To my mother, erected 1869. Sacred to the memory of Thomas HUGHES, Attorney of this town, who died on the 26th February 1848 in the 70th year of his age.

Also James, son of the above, who departed this life on the 6th May 1852 aged 35 years.

Also Catherine, wife of the above Thomas HUGHES,
who departed this life on the 9th May 1869 aged 79 years.

Also in memory of Jane GOMOSZYNSKI, wife of the late Joseph GOMOSZYNSKI, who died 17th May 1877 aged 70 years.

I was immediately taken aback by the name Gomoszynski. Jane, turned out to be Jane Hughes, a daughter of Thomas Hughes from his previous marriage but I was intrigued about Joseph. Who was he? A bit of research answered that question.

Joseph Gomoszynski arrived in London from Danzig, Poland on 12th July 1836 on a Russian passport. He had been a Lieutenant in the 1st Regiment of Polish Lancers who had fought in the November Uprising on 1830/1 against the Russians. Due to Poland being allies of Napoleon, after his downfall, the Congress of Vienna, in 1815, assigned half of Poland to Russia. The other half was to govern itself but the Russians did not allow this to happen and, as a result, serious opression led to the uprising. He was subsequently imprisoned by Prussians, eventually leaving his country in 1832 and escaping into exile.

Marriage of Joseph Gomoszynski to Jane Hughes, Carlisle Journal, Saturday 11 January 1840

Marriage of Joseph Gomoszynski to Jane Hughes, Carlisle Journal, Saturday 11 January 1840

On 30th December 1839, Joseph married Jane Hughes at John’s Episcopal Church, Greenock. Their marriage was recorded in several newspapers including the Carlisle Journal.

In 1840, the couple had their first child, Catherine Stanislove Gomoszynski, born in Leeds. A year later, on the 1841 Census, the family were living in Headingley, where Joseph gave his occupation as ‘Professor of Languages.’ Adverts later appeared in the Leeds Intelligencer offering his services as a French and German instructor.

Liverpool Mercury,  Friday 3 December 1841

Liverpool Mercury, Friday 3 December 1841

Later in 1841, Gomoszynski gave a series of three lectures on the history of Poland in Bradford and also in Liverpool, the birthplace of his wife. At this time, he was still residing in Leeds and it was here where, in 1842, a second child, Emily Jane was born. By 1845, however, the family were back in Scotland where two more children were born – Joseph Francis Dudley and Casimir Thomas.

Grave of Joseph Gomoszynski at Glasgow Necropolis

Grave of Joseph Gomoszynski at Glasgow Necropolis

Sadly, on 27th October 1845, Joseph Gomoszynski died in Greenock, aged only 32. He was buried at Glasgow Necropolis where a headstone, sculpted by William Mossman, was erected in his honour

For more information about Joseph Gomoszynski, Morag T. Fyfe has written a very detailed profile on http://www.glasgownecropolis.org/profiles/joseph-f-gomoszynski/

His lectures from 1841 have also been reproduced and can be purchased from Amazon: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Course-Three-Lectures-History-Poland/dp/1165258978/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1424111414&sr=8-2&keywords=gomoszynski

 

 

 

A Disorderly House

St. Peter's Church, Church Street, Liverpool

St. Peter’s Church, Church Street, Liverpool

Charles Archibald Irwin, the son of Archibald Irwin and Margaret Doyle, was born on 10th June 1849 in Liverpool and baptised twelve days later at St. Peter’s Church. In 1851, he is recorded as living with his family at 2 Smith Street but, for some unknown reason, cannot be found on the 1861 and 1871 censuses.

The only confirmed information about Charles during that time is taken from his marriage certificate. On 29th August 1870, he married Rosena Lilly, the daughter of Frederick Henry Lilly, at St. John’s Church, Liverpool, his occupation being given as a blockmaker.

Charles and Rosena went on to have six children, one, Harriet Lilly Irwin, being born in Birkenhead, before the family relocated to Nottingham. Whilst in Nottingham, three more children were born: Ellen Sophia in 1881, Archibald in 1883 and Margaret in 1885. It was while they were in Nottingham that Charles made the local press…

On Christmas Eve, 1886, Charles Archibald Irwin appeared at the Summons Court at the Town Hall in Nottingham accused of keeping or assisting to keep a disorderly house at 32 Rigley’s Yard. Mr. S. G. Johnson, the Town Clerk, stated that Charles was a tenant of the house, as he resided there and practically kept and managed the place. On the nights of the 11th and 18th of December, the house was watched by Sergeant Stannard and P.C. Oaks who reported that the people entering the premises were, “well-known bad characters.”

During examination, one of the police officers stated that he had worked for the Nottingham Police Force for nine years, but during that time, he had not been aware that the house was being kept as a coffee-house, but he believed that Charles had a coffee-house licence. When questioned Charles denied the charge, saying that his step-father had kept the house for many years before he had anything to do with it.

Testimonial in response to George Baker's, 'Belt of Life.'

Testimonial in response to George Baker’s, ‘Belt of Life.’

Research has shown that this ‘step-father’ was, in fact, Arthur Cresswell, the step-father of his wife, who is recorded on the 1881 Census in Rigley’s Yard as being a boarding house keeper. A testimonial appearing in numerous editions of the Nottingham Evening Post from 1880 to 1882 for George Baker’s, ‘Belt of Life,’ also backs this up – Sophia Cresswell was the mother of Rosena Lilly, the wife of Charles Archibald Irwin.

Unfortunately for Charles, the magistrates did not believe him and he was fined £10. Soon after, the Irwin family left Nottingham and moved to Cardiff where, by now, he was a Venetian blind maker. Charles and Rosena had a further child whilst in Cardiff, George, born in 1892. Charles Archibald Irwin died in Bridgend in 1903.

The Importance of Newspapers

One of the most informative and interesting Victorian sources for family historians is the newspaper. Many believe, wrongly,  that as they are descended from ‘ordinary’ families, they are a pointless resource as nothing newsworthy could have occurred. In reality, it is quite the opposite as they contain a great weath of information regarding birth announcements and obituaries, legal notices and, on occasion, stories giving an insight into the working life and personality of ancestors. With sites such as http://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk and http://www.findmypast.co.uk offering searchable databases to numerous British newspapers, there has never been a better time to try to find stories from the past.

Llanyblodwel, Shropshire

Llanyblodwel, Shropshire

My great-great grandmother’s sister, Mary Thomas, the daughter of William Thomas (a farmer from Morton, Shropshire) and Elizabeth Jones, married Samuel Lawrence on April 25th, 1862 in Llanyblodwel, Shropshire. After their marriage, Samuel appeared to be doing well for himself as, by 1871, he was a farmer of 136 acres, employing two men and one boy. Like so many at that time, however, alcohol seemed to have played a negative part in his life.

On October 7th, 1879, at about 9pm, David Jones, a farm labourer, was having supper in the Lawrence family kitchen. Witnessed by a gamekeeper, Samuel Lawrence entered the room and assaulted Jones.

The following morning, Jones arrived back at the farm, his sole intention being to settle the dispute with Lawrence but, finding that his master was not at home, he stayed for two and a half hours, churning. He also drank two mugs of beer. Later, Lawrence did return and, the worse for beer, said, “I want you. How much do I owe you?” Jones replied that he did not know the exact amount but soon found that Lawrence had gripped his beard with one hand and was striking him beneath his ear with his other. Lawrence then kicked him on the ground.

Jones managed to push Lawrence away, saying, “I can’t stand this,” but the farmer was determined to hold on to his victim, kicking him in the ribs. The assault only ceased when Lawrence’s wife, Mary, and one of his sons (presumably William as their other son, Edward would have been aged about 5 years) restrained him. Jones left the farm, staying at a neighbour’s until his wife came to meet him. With great difficulty, he managed to travel the two miles home. He stayed in bed for ten weeks, being tended to by a doctor.

Samuel Lawrence’s version of events differs slightly. He claims that, when he arrived home, he asked Jones what he was doing in his house. Jones replied that he wanted his money. After a row, Lawrence hit Jones and a scuffle ensued. On hitting him again, Jones fell to the ground, coming into contact with a stone and there was no truth in Jones’ statement that he kicked him in the ribs. Lawrence claimed that Jones was quite tipsy by this point, stating that he’d consumed three mugs of beer.

When the case was brought up at the County Court in January 1880, the judge, Arundel Rogers, concluded that there was no doubt that Jones’ injuries had been caused due to an assault from Lawrence although there was no evidence to prove that he had been kicked. Lawrence was fined £20 which also included the cost of  medical attendance.

War and the Dangers of Football!

During the course of researching my family history, I have discovered numerous men who fought, and often died, during the First World War. Reading their war service records can, on occasion, be quite harrowing but, every now and then, something slightly out of the ordinary crops up. This was the case with my grandfather’s cousin, John Greenwood.

St. Michael's Church, Liverpool

St. Michael’s Church, Liverpool

John, the eldest son of Samuel and Martha Greenwood (nee Ainsworth) was born in Liverpool, probably at 23 Cornwallis Street, on 21st July 1893. Baptised less than two months later, at St. Michael’s, the same church where his parents married, he would spend his early life at Cornwallis Street and later at nearby Bailey Street. Like so many of his family before him, he made a career in the shipping industry, becoming a shipping office clerk.

This would all change, however, with the outbreak of war. In September 1914, John reveived a notice to enlist in the armed forces. He initially signed up for three years although, if the war was to last longer, he would continue to serve until its cessation. On September 9th 1914, John was declared fit to join the Royal Army Medical Corps, joining the 45th Field Ambulance. The Field Ambulance, a mobile medical unit, was responsible for the care of the casualties of the division they were attached to and were often overstretched due to the sheer number of wounded soldiers.

Despite the atrocities that were witnessed, life for the 45th Field Ambulance seemed acceptable. War diaries for the unit in the early years of the war rarely discuss casualties but instead discuss everyday life. On December 20th 1915, whilst stationed at Allouagne, northern France, the following is recorded:

Infantry do not take as much advantage of bathing facilities as might be expected. Wrote to brigade major on this subject.

There was also some concern over the Christmas /new year period as it was discovered that some of the Allouagne householders were selling rum and other drinks to the troops. On January 1st 1916, however, the diary records:

Not a single case of drunkenness in the unit from new year’s eve celebrations.

John Greenwood was successful at his job and had a perfect disciplinary record, being described as very steady, capable and reliable. This led to him quickly rising up the ranks, becoming a corporal on November 20th 1914 and a sergeant on February 20th 1915, It was during his time as sergeant that an event happened that would change his participation in the war.

On 16th November 1916, whilst on rest from the trenches in Baizieux, John Greenwood was playing football with some of his fellow soldiers. During the game, he was struck, accidentally, in the stomach by another player’s elbow causing immediate pain and vomiting which continued for four days. As there had been no improvement, he was taken to hospital in Rouen where he was diagnosed with “contusion abdomen”.

HMHS Goorkha. (Photo courtesy of http://www.roll-of-honour.com)

HMHS Goorkha. (Photo courtesy of http://www.roll-of-honour.com)

He remained in Rouen until being transported back to England on 1st December 1916 onboard HMHS Goorkha, a hospital ship containing 408 beds. The following day. John was admitted to No. 2 Southern General Hospital in Bristol  where he  was diagnosed with a perinephretic abscess, something which could have resulted in death if it hadn’t been discovered. The abscess was opened and drained and, after showing much improvement, he was declared fit for duty in one month.

John must have made some significant improvement as, on 28th June 1917, he was, once again, promoted – this time to the position of staff sergeant. This was a senior position in charge of man and resource management of around 120 soldiers. The war diaries show that events had now taken a dramatic turn and the 45th Field Ambulance were now extremely busy dealing with casualties. Stationed in Poperinge, about seven miles west of Ypres, the diary reports on June 30th 1917 that they were tending to 530 wounded men and were also taking in the sick of another nearby division.

By March 1918, however, John Greenwood had found himself back in hospital, this time at the Western General Hospital, Fazakerley, Liverpool, suffering from pyonephrosis, an infection of the renal collecting system. He remained here until March 14th when he was transferred to the Liverpool Royal Infirmary and diagnosed with a lobulated kidney. It was discovered that his kidney was tubercular and, as a result, on 5th April 1918, whilst in the Infirmary, his kidney and a portion of his 12th rib was removed.

Recovery was not swift and on 2nd May 1918, he was transferred to Woolton Auxiliary Hospital to convalesce, undergoing some minor operations whilst there. He finally left hospital on 15th January 1919, after the end of the First World War, and was discharged from the army as an invalid. His hospital days were not over, however, as he was expected to attend the Royal Infirmary as an outpatient.

During his time in the army, John was awarded with the Victory Medal and the 1915 Star.

Two years after being declared unfit for the army, John married Marjorie Ryder, a woman seven years his junior. They remained married until he died in the Northern Hospital, Liverpool on 3rd November 1950. He was cremated at Landican Crematorium.

 

 

Lowlands and The Beatles Connection

Thomas Haigh and family, at residence at Lowlands at the time of the 1851 Census.

Thomas Haigh and family, at residence at Lowlands at the time of the 1851 Census.

Lowlands, a Grade II listed Victorian mansion in Haymans Green, West Derby, was built in 1846 by Thomas Haigh, an architect and builder from Liverpool. Some of his work can still be seen at Edge Hill Station and at Marks & Spencer in Church Street. By 1861, he had relocated to Gambier Terrace, Toxteth Park and another family had moved to the newly-built house.

Richard Withers, father of Thomas Randles Withers

Richard Withers, father of Thomas Randles Withers

By 1891, the Withers family had taken up residence at Lowlands and they would remain here for many years after building a substantial extension. The head of the household was Thomas Randles Withers, the son of Richard Withers, a broker, who lived at nearby ‘The Uplands.’ Thomas, also a stockbroker, entered his father’s firm (R. Withers and Son) in about 1877 and soon became a prominent figure in broking circles. He was elected a member of the Stock Exchange in 1881 and was deputy chairman from 1887 to 1890, and chairman from November 1890 to April 1894.

Withers was involved in several charitable organisations and was a supporter of the Children’s Infirmary and the Blue Coat School. He was also president of the West Derby Cricket Club and became a county magistrate in 1891. On his death, in 1899, the flag at the Islington Courthouse hung at half-mast.

Staircase at Lowlands

Staircase at Lowlands

Lowlands remained in the family until after the death of his wife, Margaret, in 1930. Many of the nearby houses were in the process of being demolished but a neighbour, Alderman Ernest Cookson, recognised the importance of Lowlands and purchased the house, saving it from demolition.

After bomb damage to India Buildings during World War Two, Lowlands was used by the Inland Revenue, before being sold to the West Derby Community Association in 1957.

Lowlands, West Derby

Lowlands, West Derby

It then became home to the Pillar Club where young people would go to drink coffee and listen to music. Many bands of the time played there including The Hollies, Gerry and the Pacemakers, The Searchers and Billy J. Kramer. The most illustrious of acts to perform at the Pillar Club, however, was undoubtedly The Quarrymen – the group that would eventually become The Beatles. George Harrison, as a teenager, frequented the club, practising his guitar skills with the Les Stewart Quartet. Indeed, Harrison was sitting in the coffee bar of the club  when he made the decision to get back with The Quarrymen.

The club closed down in 1966 due to ‘rowdiness’ but has recently found a new lease of life thanks to a £1.2 million renovation project supported by the Heritage Lottery Fun, other charities and individuals.

For further information:

http://www.lowlands.org.uk/

http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/historic-mansion-lowlands-reopens-after-3448129

An Eighteen Year Search!

A lot of people think that researching your family history is a case of searching a few websites and downloading relevant information. If only it was that easy! Sometimes it can take years to find an elusive document and, frequently, a ‘brick wall’ refuses to be broken down. Recently, a lot of hard work finally paid off as I discovered another interesting branch of my family – here are the steps I had to take to prove my connection!

Holy Trinity burial register

Holy Trinity burial register

My four times great grandmother, Mary Green, married Edward Eyes on April 20th 1811 at St. Peter’s Church, Church Street, Liverpool. They had three children: Mary Ann, who died aged only eight months; Edward, my three times great grandfather, and Sarah, who would go on to marry the head of the Liverpool Stock Exchange. For many years, the only other information I could find out about Mary was gleaned from her gravestone – she died in May 1818 and was buried at Holy Trinity Church, Wavertree. Records show that she was aged 35, making her born in about 1783.

Fast forward about eighteen years when I managed to locate a copy of the ‘license bond and allegation’ for their 1811 marriage. Although, at this time, unlike modern marriage certificates, there was no requirement to name the father of the married couple, a name other than those getting married was given – Thomas Green, watch maker. Was this Mary’s father?

Baprism of Mary Green, 12th June 1781, St. Anne, Liverpool

Baprism of Mary Green, 12th June 1781, St. Anne, Liverpool

A look through parish records turned up the baptism of a Mary Green, daughter of Thomas Green, watchmaker. This had to be her. The only problem was the date of birth – two years out from the information gained from the burial register. Although this was not a huge difference, I was still not prepared to accept this Mary as ‘mine’ just yet!

A further look through parish records revealed several more children of Thomas Green, all born in Liverpool: Thomas, born 1780; William, born 1782; Catherine, born 1787 and Charles born 1793. Thomas Green’s marriage was also located: he married Ann Hardy at St. Anne’s Church on 27th April 1778. Records revealed that Thomas was born in about 1748 and that Ann, his wife, was born in Snaith, Yorkshire in about 1753. All useful information but it still didn’t get me any nearer to determining whether this was my family.

Credited to 'Wyke and Green, Liverpool'

Credited to ‘Wyke and Green, Liverpool’

It was at this point that I decided to look a little bit into the life of Thomas Green – if he was a watchmaker, he would surely appear in local trade directories so a trip to the Liverpool Record Office was needed. The first time he appeared was in 1781 when a ‘Thomas Green, watchmaker, 7 Temple Street’ was listed. This tied in with the details on Mary’s baptism record – I was on the right track. In the next directory, 1787, his career had changed slightly as, this time, he was recorded as a ‘Watch and Clock Tool Manufacturer’ of Wyke’s Court, Dale Street. He would continue to be listed in trade directories until 1811, giving me an estimate of when he died.

Thomas Green, it would seem, was quite well known in the world of horology due to his partnership with John Wyke, a well-known Liverpool clock maker. A google search of John Wyke provides numerous hits showing the extent of his work. This research method also revealed some of Thomas Green’s work and also brought to light a book – Catalogue of Tools for Watch and Clock Makers. This catalogue, issued by John Wyke and Thomas Green of Dale Street, Liverpool, is the earliest known English printed source illustrating the extensive range of tools then available for watch and clock makers. It is, therefore, of great importance to anyone researching 18th century horology.

It stood to reason that Thomas Green would have left a will but I searched to no avail. No burial record could be found either – a dead end. I did, however, manage to find an obituary for him in The Gentleman’s Magazine in 1811:

At the Talbot Inn, Bristol, after three days’ illness, Thomas Green, esq. of Wyke’s Court, Liverpool; an honourable tradesman and an accomplished gentleman.

This, at least, proved that he had died in 1811, sometime after the marriage of my four times great grandparents. I then returned to the trade directories to see if his wife was listed at the same address after his death. At the same address, 1 Wyke’s Court, Dale Street, in 1813,was an ‘Elizabeth Green, watch and clock tool maker.’ This was not the wife of Thomas so who was it? I continued to trace her through directories and found that the last time she appeared was in 1825 when she was listed as living at 17 Cases Street.  I located a burial for this Elizabeth, on 14th September 1824, at St. Anne’s, where her age given on the register as 46. This put her birth at about 1778, so could be a possible daughter of Thomas. The newspaper marriage announcement for Mary Green and Edward Eyes said that Mary was the ‘second daughter of Mr Green’ so this would also support my theory.

Catherine Green and Thomas Hughes marriage

Catherine Green and Thomas Hughes marriage

A will search, this time, proved fruitful and I applied to the Lancashire Record Office for a copy. This gave me the breakthrough that I needed. One of the beneficiaries of the will was Elizabeth’s sister, ‘Catherine Hughes, wife of Thomas Hughes.’ If I could find a marriage of a Catherine Green to a Thomas Hughes, it may give me a clue. On 2nd April 1815, at St Nicholas Church, there it was: Catherine Green married Thomas Hughes, three of the witnesses being William Green, Elizabeth Green and …Mary Eyes! I had found my connection!

This goes to prove how researching your family history isn’t the quick hobby some people think it is. Now there’s just the small task of a lottery win so I can purchase one of Thomas Green’s watches or clocks…