The Fall and Rise of William Henry Eyes, Part 1

Sometimes, when researching your family history, some discoveries can shock you to the core. The story of my first cousin, five times removed was certainly an example of this.

William Henry Eyes

William Henry Eyes

William Henry Eyes, the son of Charles Eyes and Lucinda Ann Robinson, was born in Liverpool on 23rd October 1821. Due to his father’s position as a South American merchant and ship owner, William Henry had quite a privileged upbringing and was educated in Knutsford, Cheshire. He later found employment at Gladstone and Sergeantson, cotton brokers (Gladstone being the first cousin of Prime Minister, William Ewart Gladstone) where he would remain until 1838.

On 28th February 1839, William Henry Eyes embarked on a journey that would change the course of his entire life. Leaving Liverpool on the Heber, he set sail for Australia, stopping off at the Cape of Good Hope on May 28th before finally arriving at Port Jackson, Sydney on July 27th. Unlike the five children who died en route, William Henry arrived safely and ready to start his new life.

In 1841, he travelled overland to Melbourne, a journey that took four months, with cattle and horses. On his return to Sydney, he entered into partnership with a Mr. Lord, a stock and station agent, in a cattle station near Bateman’s Bay, in New South Wales. This, however, was not a successful investment.

Three years later, on April 22nd 1844, William Henry Eyes made the newspapers, but for all the wrong reasons…

Rosina Thomas, aged 9, had, along with her younger brother, left the family home at Wollongong, New South Wales, in order to look after their cows. During the journey of about half a mile, they were joined by Eyes who proceeded to accompany them into the bush. After sending her brother away to play on the beach, he assaulted the young girl.

The following day, Rosina reported what had happened to her mother who, along with Dr. Edward Boot, examined the young girl. Boot, a member of the College of Surgeons of London, concluded that no rape had been committed although there was some evidence of inflammation. He did admit, however, that this could have arisen from other causes.

On Wednesday 3rd July, William Henry Eyes was indicted of assault and a jury, without retiring, found him guilty; there was not enough evidence that the capital charge had been committed. On being asked if he had anything to say why sentence should not be passed on him, in a written statement, he noted his, “want of moral and religious observation.”

Parramatta Gaol

Parramatta Gaol

The judge expressed his abhorrence of the crime the prisoner had committed and his regret at the inadequacy of the law as it now stood, there being no medium between transportation for life for the capital offence, and that of imprisonment for the assault. Eyes was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment in Parramatta Gaol, the first week in every month to be in solitary confinement.

The story did not end there, however, as on 24th June 1845, William Henry Eyes received an absolute pardon, less than a year after his conviction. The pardon was signed by George Gipps, Governor of New South Wales. The circumstances behind the pardon are not known.

This was not the last time that William Henry Eyes would appear in the press. It was, however, for an entirely different reason…

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

His lectures from 1841 have also been reproduced and can be purchased from Amazon:




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…



War and Extortion

While researching the army career of an ancestor of mine as part of the Imperial War Museums’ Lives of the First World War project, I soon became aware of a bigger, more unsavoury story that had taken place. Everyone has a few black sheep in their family’s past but I have discovered something that even I was taken aback by!

St. James Church, Toxteth Park.

St. James Church, Toxteth Park.

Stanley Major Beggs, the youngest child of George Charles and Mary Ann Beggs, was born in Liverpool on 16th July 1896. He was baptised on 30th September at St. James Church, Toxteth Park, near to the family home of 36 North Hill Street. Stanley would remain at this address throughout his early life until he became a ship’s steward for the Pacific Steam Navigation Company.

Stanley Major Beggs

Stanley Major Beggs

His life was to change, however, on March 8th, 1917, when Stanley enlisted with the 10th (Scottish) King’s Liverpool Regiment. Described as having ‘flat feetand an ‘overlapping left little toe’, he soon found himself fighting in France. In November 1917, after suffering heavy losses at Ypres a few months earlier, the regiment moved south to Epehy where they took part in the Battle of Cambrai. Here, they suffered heavily during the German counter attacks and, on November 30th, Stanley was captured by the enemy and taken as a  prisoner of war. It is not known where he was taken immediately after his capture or where he spent the next year but,  on 29th November 1918,  he arrived at one of the camps at Münster, remaining there for three days before being sent to Calais in order to be repatriated.

The Orduna - the ship on which Stanley Major Beggs travelled to the USA.

The Orduna – the ship on which Stanley Major Beggs travelled to the USA.

On his return to Liverpool, Stanley returned to work at the Pacific Steam Navigation Company before making a life-changing decision. On May 14th, 1923, he arrived at Ellis Island, New York onboard the Orduna having made the decision to emigrate to the United States. He made his home in New Jersey and, on the 1930 US Census, he can be found working as an oiler for the Public Service Electric & Gas Company and boarding with a family in Jersey City, New Jersey.

Lillian, wife of Stanley Major Beggs

Lillian, wife of Stanley Major Beggs

Some time during the next eight years, Stanley got married to a Canadian woman named Lillian Wittis, born about 1894,  who had arrived in the USA in 1910. The 1938 New Jersey City Directory records them as living at 126 Rutherford Place and his wife is recorded as being a nurse. By the time of the 1940 Census, they were living at Jay Avenue in Lyndhurst, Bergen, New Jersey. Despite them both having jobs, all was not well financially with the couple as testified by a story that was about to break in the American press.

Helen Clay Frick, the third child of Pittsburgh steel magnate, Henry Clay Frick, became the richest woman in the US when, on the death of her father in 1919, she inherited $38m. In 1940, Lillian Beggs, who had ‘become tired of poverty’, sent Miss Frick three letters, the first on August 14th, demanding that unless she paid her $50,000, ‘everything she had would be bombed’.

The final letter, sent on September 19th, ended with a reference to the explosion at the Hercules Powder Company, Kenvill, New Jersey and stated that ‘the same thing’  would happen to Miss Frick if she did not pay the money. On September 24th, Lillian was arrested by FBI agents at the Fulton Street entrance to the Hudson Terminal as she collected a package she believed contained the $50,000, the arrest being announced by J. Edgar Hoover.

Helen Frick and her father, portrait by Edmund Charles Tarbell, c. 1910

Helen Clay Frick and her father, portrait by Edmund Charles Tarbell, c. 1910

On November 22nd, Lillian appeared in front of Federal Judge Vincent L. Leibell and pleaded guilty of attempting to extort money from Miss Frick, saying that she wanted to buy a home and a 40-foot boat for herself and her husband! Sentencing took place four days later, the maximum penalty under the so-called Lindbergh act being 20 years’ imprisonment. Fortunately for Mrs Beggs, she received a suspended sentence and was placed on two years’ probation.

The couple spent a lot of their remaining years travelling to and from Liverpool until 1960 when, shortly after one of their voyages back to England, Stanley Major Beggs died. Lillian died thirteen years later, on December 1st, 1973. Both were buried at St. Catharine’s Cemetery, Sea Girt, Monmouth County, New Jersey.

Grave of Stanley and Lillian Beggs. (Image courtesy of

Grave of Stanley and Lillian Beggs. (Image courtesy of

A Series of Unfortunate Events

My grandfather, the grandson of Mary Ann Seager.

My grandfather, the grandson of Mary Ann Seager.

My grandad always had a sarcastic sense of humour. When joining the Royal Navy as a young man, he was asked a series of questions regarding the medical history of his family. “What did your grandmother die of?” he was asked. His response? “She died on the Wall of Death in New Brighton!”

When I started researching my family history, I recalled this tale and began to wonder who this woman was and why my grandad had been so sarcastic with his answer. I soon discovered that the grandmother in question was Mary Ann Irwin (nee Seager) and that she had died in Wallasey in 1916 at the age of 74. Presumably, as she had survived into her 70s (an achievement for a working class woman in the Victorian era), my grandad saw this as a stupid question so responded with an equally stupid answer.

I had never been able to find out much about her upbringing until recently when I chanced upon a newspaper article referring to her parents. Since reading this, I have been able to piece together details of a traumatic life which, thankfully, for her, ended in more pleasant surroundings.

Marriage of William Seager and Elizabeth Davis.

Marriage of William Seager and Elizabeth Davis.

Mary Ann Seager was born on August 16th 1841, at Thomas Place, Bayhorse Lane, Liverpool, the eldest child of William Seager and Elizabeth Davis. William and Elizabeth were unmarried when their first child was born, not marrying until October 10th 1842 at St. Nicholas Church, Liverpool. William’s profession was that of a patten maker, under-shoes made from wood and metal which were strapped underneath shoes to protect them from mud and other dirt on the streets. As the nineteenth century progressed, however, the advent of paved streets and improved sewerage meant that pattens were becoming obsolete; William had to look for a new job.

Seager family, 1851 Census.

Seager family, 1851 Census.

By 1851, William had become a cotton porter, a less skilled job which probably paid less. The family now consisted of three children as, in addition to Mary, they now had Elizabeth, born in 1846, and Emma, born in 1849. They were soon followed by the family’s first son, William, on March 21st 1852.

Money was in short supply and the birth of another child, Alfred, on June 29th 1858, only exacerbated the problem. By this time, Elizabeth had started drinking heavily and, to raise enough funds to feed her habit, had begun to pawn her belongings. This was to lead to a tragedy that would tear the family apart.

On Thursday November 26th, at about 6.45am, Elizabeth Seager left the family home at 81 Gordon Street, Everton after an argument with her husband. He had accused her of pawning a sheet in order to fund her drinking habit and had ordered her out of the house, telling her that she would not steal from him any more. Taking her young son, Alfred, with her, she wandered the streets for a while, drinking,  before going to the house of a friend, Ellen Brown, at 3 Back Mansfield Street. An hour later, Elizabeth was asleep, still clutching her baby.

Alfred Seager's death certificate.

Alfred Seager’s death certificate.

At about 5am the next morning, Elizabeth awoke and looked at her child. To her alarm, Alfred was not breathing. Later that morning, she returned home with the dead child still in her arms to inform her husband about what had happened. The jury at the following inquest found that Alfred had been accidentally suffocated in bed by his mother whilst in a state of intoxication. They expressed their disapprobation of the conduct of Elizabeth and attributed the death to her negligence. Alfred was buried at St. Mary’s Church, Walton.

St. Mary's Church, Walton, the burial place of Alfred and William Seager.

St. Mary’s Church, Walton, the burial place of Alfred and William Seager.

The Seager family seemingly never got over the tragedy and it sparked a series of unfortunate events. A year later, on 16th November 1859, William Seager (senior) died at the family home in Gordon Street with his daughter, Mary Ann, in attendance. Cause of death was given as ‘apoplexy, 11 hours.’ Like his son, he was also buried at St. Mary’s, Walton.

The death of their father meant that the daughters needed to find a source of income to prevent them from being sent to the workhouse. The only option available to them was to enter domestic service so this is what they did. Mary Ann, the eldest, found work  with the Wood family at 37 Clare Street; Elizabeth became a house servant for the Okill family at 29 Brunel Street and Emma, still only a child herself, went into service with the Briscoes at  6 Crown Place.

But what of Elizabeth, the mother? Things went from bad to worse for her as her drinking began to take its toll. On 11th February 1861, she was admitted to Liverpool Workhouse for the first time, spending two and a half months in the surgical ward. Her son, William, then aged 8, entered the workhouse with her but was discharged a month later and sent to Kirkdale Industrial School. He remained there until his mother left the workhouse when he was sent back to live with her.

Kirkdale Industrial School

Kirkdale Industrial School

This happened several times as Elizabeth’s illness obviously took hold. Eventually, on 10th March 1865, according to the records of Liverpool Workhouse, William was deserted by his mother and, at the age of twelve, he too entered into service, working for Richard Reid, a surgeon from Merton Road, Bootle.

Elizabeth continued to be admitted to and discharged from Liverpool Workhouse and, between 1861 and 1867, she was resident there on twenty separate occasions, often for months at a time. By 1874, it seemed as though she had managed to turn her life around as on 1st June, she married for a second time, to Henry Stott, a widower, at the same church she had married her first husband. This was not the happy ending she envisaged, however, as three years later, on 22nd February 1877, she died of pneumonia at 18 Sheridan Street, Liverpool.

For two of William and Elizabeth’s daughters, life became greatly improved after they married. Mary Ann Seager, my great-great grandmother, married George Washington Irwin, a pilot on the River Mersey, in 1867 and Elizabeth Seager married Samuel Nuttall, a plasterer, in 1871. For Emma, though, things did not improve.

Emma Seager never married and continued to work as a domestic servant in the Everton area of Liverpool. Times were apparently hard, however, and she fell foul of the law on several occasions. In 1892, she was found guilty by Liscard Petty Sessions of drunkenness and was sentenced to seven days imprisonment. The following year, she was found guilty of being riotous and was sentenced to seven days hard labour by the Liverpool Petty Sessions.

Ann Sweetman's prison record, showing a career in theft.

Ann Sweetman’s prison record, showing a career in theft.

Things got worse, however, in 1894 when Emma and another woman, Ann Sweetman, were charged jointly with breaking and entering at the home of Margaret Jane Purcell, her employer. On 19th April of that year, Emma was accused of taking  two toilet covers, two towels, one sheet and two aprons. Four days later she was accused of stealing one chemise and one toilet cover and the following day of taking one sheet and one pillow. They were tried on 8th June but the outcomes were to be very different for the two women. Ann Sweetman, Emma’s co-defendent,  pleaded not guilty and was acquitted. Emma, on the other hand, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to two months hard labour at H.M. Prison, Liverpool. Emma could be forgiven for feeling hard-done-to as she had no previous record for theft whereas Ann Sweetman had seemingly made a career out of larceny.

Things obviously never improved for Emma Seager as, when she died in 1917, she was living at the Salvation Army House in Everton. She is buried at West Derby Cemetery in a public grave.

Thankfully for Mary Ann Seager, my great great grandmother, she ended her life in much more pleasant surroundings, at the home of her son, Harry Irwin, in Seacombe. She was buried alongside her husband at Anfield Cemetery.

There are still so many aspects of this family’s history that remains unknown, especially with regards to what became of William Seager the younger after he left the employment of the Bootle surgeon. Hopefully, as more records become available, I will be able to lay the Seager family to rest.

The William Roscoe connection

Poet, historian, botanist, politician, philanthropist, abolitionist… All words  to describe one of Liverpool’s most famous, sons, William Roscoe. I was always aware of Roscoe and his role in the cultural society of Liverpool but was amazed when I found a connection to my family.

Roscoe's Birthplace in Mount Pleasant, Liverpool.

Roscoe’s Birthplace in Mount Pleasant, Liverpool.

Born on March 8th, 1753, in Mount Pleasant, he left school at the age of twelve after developing an interest in literature and poetry. At the age of fifteen, after working for a short time in a book shop, he became articled to John Eyes, a solicitor, my 7x great-uncle. He remained with John Eyes for six years and described this time as, “the most painful part of my life.”

As part of the conditions of his apprenticeship, Roscoe was sent to board with John Eyes’ sister, Emblin. Emblin’s husband, James Sherman, was a captain in the slave trade who had retired on his savings. In a letter to his sister-in-law, Mrs Moss, in 1831, Roscoe recalled a particularly troubling time:

I had not been domesticated there long before I was disturbed at midnight by cries and shrieks proceeding from the bedchamber of the captain and his wife. When rushing into the room, I found the captain struggling to get through the window, restrained only by his wife, who was nearly exhausted by the effort. Our joint efforts prevailed, however, to retain them in the room, when he proceeded to put on his clothes and taking a candle in his hand, set out on an excursion to visit his neighbours… after having knocked to no purpose at the doors till a late hour in the morning he returned home.

William Roscoe

William Roscoe

Roscoe goes on to say that, at the time, there were rumours of a war on account of the Falkland Islands and that Sherman feared being press-ganged. He continues, though, by saying that Sherman had also aquired a habit of drinking ‘ardent spirits’ and that this sort of behaviour was a regular occurrence. At the age of sixteen, Roscoe also prevented Sherman from committing suicide by stopping him from cutting his throat – he had already partly succeeded.

The arrangement ended abruptly as, in 1770,  James Sherman died. This was followed the following year by the death of John Eyes who, according to Roscoe, was also ‘an unfortunate victim of intemperance.’

Despite Roscoe’s unhappy times whilst apprenticed to John Eyes, it is Eyes who has been credited with discovering Roscoe’s talents after finding some verses he had written on Shenstone the poet. He introduced Roscoe to the Academy of Arts – Eyes had been one of the founding members of the institution which became the Liverpool Academy of Arts.

Roscoe would go on to be member of parliament for Liverpool in 1806, creator of the Liverpool Botanic Gardens and would write pamphlets against the slave trade. He died in 1831.

Suicide in a Fit of Despondency

William McLean Irwin, the second son of Archibald Irwin and Margaret Doyle was born on 9th January 1839 in Kensington, West Derby (Now part of Liverpool). Spending the early part of his life in Everton, he enlisted in the 4th Kings Own Royal Lancashire Regiment whilst still a teenager.

The King's Own Royal Regiment (Lancaster) cap badge.

The King’s Own Royal Regiment (Lancaster) cap badge.

Whilst serving with the army, he was stationed for a time at Prince Edward Island, Canada and it is, presumably, here where he met his wife, Patience Smith, a woman six years his junior. William continued to serve with the army and, by the time of the 1871 Census (where he was recorded in Farnborough, Hampshire), he had risen to the rank of Colour Sergeant.

William and Patience had nine children, the final three being born in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, where the family had decided to settle after William retired from the army in 1879. He had several changes of occupation whilst in Canada, becoming a farmer, dry goods clerk and, finally, a book keeper.

The building that was formerly the Apothecaries Hall in Charlottetown.

The building that was formerly the Apothecaries Hall in Charlottetown.

On April 30th, 1903, at 5.45 pm, after a period of illness, William entered the Apothecaries Hall in Charlottetown where he purchased an ounce bottle of carbolic acid. On reaching the street, outside W. A. Hutcherson’s store, he took the cork from the bottle and drank the contents. After discarding the empty bottle, he walked a few steps, caught himself on a post outside the aforementioned store and promptly fell.

A crowd quickly gathered to see what had happened. It soon became apparent what had caused the fall and an antidote was quickly administered before the partially conscious man was taken to his home in King Street. Unfortunately, only a few minutes after reaching his home, despite a doctor being summoned, William passed away.

After hearing the facts, Coroner Dr. R. McNeill decided that an inquest would be unnecessary and determined that William had committed suicide in a fit of despondency after suffering from illness.

William McLean Irwin’s funeral took place a few days later at St. Peter’s Cemetery, Charlottetown.