Monday, 26 June 2017

WW1 Soldier's Story - Fergus O'Connor Law Buried at Rawmarsh

Two weeks ago the OH and I called in at the cemetery on Haugh Road, Rawmarsh.  It is a bit out of our local area, but we were on the way back from the Parkgate Shopping precinct in Rotherham, and I can't resist some WW1 gravestone potential! Little were we to know that just a short while afterwards I would be taken very ill and spend the next few days in and out of hospital.

It is only now that I've finally been able to concentrate enough to start processing the pictures we took that afternoon, and I can still only use my tablet in short bursts. I haven't turned my laptop on to do research yet. Happily the temptation of these photos is helping me overcome some of my tiredness, and hopefully I'm now on the mend.

Fergus Law's grave at Rawmarsh Cemetery
This is the CWGC gravestone of Fergus Law, born 1883 in Barnsley, died of wounds in May 1917 in a military  hospital in Epsom, Surrey. Follow the link to his page on the IWM site Lives of the First World War where you will find a photo of Fergus from the Barnsley Chronicle (with thanks to Barnsley Archives). He was a Private in the 2nd/5th Battalion of the York and Lancaster Regiment, one of the Territorial battalions.

The family citation at the foot of the stone reads, "Some Time We'll Understand."  I must confess it made me tear up a little at the time to read that sentiment. Yes, I expect the loss of a loved one in his prime is very difficult to come to terms with. Fergus would have been around 34 years old, although the CWGC have his age as 39 for some reason.

But who requested that message?
Citation instructions and contact details - CWGC website
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) recently added sone additional documents to their site which give more information on the graves and gravestones listed. On Fergus Law's page the document above tells us that his citation was billed to a Mrs F Smith of Upper Haugh, Rawmarsh. As I understand it despite a request for payment at three and a half pence per letter and space, six shillings and five pence in this case, families and/or next of kin were not obliged to pay if they could not afford it.
1911 census for 60 Upper Haugh, Rawmarsh (from Ancestry.co.uk)
In 1911 Fergus Law was a lodger in the Smith household at 60 Upper Haugh, Rawmarsh. He is a 27 year old Iron Moulder. None of the detail of the Smith family suggests a kin connection, so I can only assume he was a genuine, unrelated lodger. He must have had a very good impression of the family for Mrs Smith to be his named sole legatee. This is confirmed on the Army Register of Soldiers' Effects which can be seen on Ancestry. In the report of his death in the Barnsley Chronicle on 30 June 1917 it notes that he had worked at the Low Stubbin Colliery in Rawmarsh before enlisting.  His entry in Soldiers Died in the Great War tell us that he enlisted in Rotherham.

Fergus was born in Barnsley, probably on Waltham Street off Sheffield Road in the autumn of 1883. His parents were Fergus Law (b.1841) and his wife Sarah Ann (nee Tingle, b.1850). They had married on 4 September 1871 at St John's church in the Barebones area of Barnsley. There were seven children born to the couple, two of whom died before the 1911 census (I have identified one as Fred Law who died aged 18 months in 1877) and all three of their surviving sons served in the Great War. Fergus, as we know, died of wounds in May 1917, Walter, who served in the KOYLI, was killed in action in December 1917 and Arthur, who served with the Royal Engineers, survived the war. Both Walter and Arthur had Fergus as a middle name which does make for some confusion in their records! In addition both Fergus and Walter have O'Connor as a middle name.
Baptism in the St Peter's District of St Mary's Church, Barnsley 3rd February1884 (from Ancestry.co.uk)
Feargus O'Connor (1794-1855) was an Irish Chartist, who led a movement to try to provide smallholdings for the working classes. His name was obviously well known to the Law family for them to give it or part of it to their sons.

Fergus and Walter Law are both remembered on the additional name panel below the main war memorial in St Peter's Church on Doncaster Road in Barnsley.  These names were added in November 1921 after the main memorial was dedicated in June of that year.

Fergus Law senior had predeceased his sons in October 1914 and is buried in plot R 222 in Barnsley Cemetery. His widow Sarah, still living on Waltham Street, died in 1922 and is buried in the same plot. This makes me wonder why Fergus jnr was buried in Rawmarsh, not in the family plot in Barnsley? Brother Arthur died in 1946 and was also buried in R 222.

Walter Law had married Bertha Dewsnap in 1910 and when he left her a widow in 1917 she had four children. One of the Law daughters, Eva, also married and had at least eight children with her husband William Walton. So there are probably Law descendants in Barnsley today. I wonder if they know about their WW1 ancestors?

Monday, 5 June 2017

The Moorhouse Family and the Pindar Oaks Hotel

First published in November 2016 in Barnsley CAMRA's BAR magazine

As part of a project to Remember all of Barnsley’s WW1 servicemen and women last year the Barnsley War Memorials Project transcribed the 1918 Absent Voters’ List which gives the names and military details of over 6,000 men from Barnsley who served in the war, most of whom came home safely. Two thirds of service records from WW1 were destroyed in the blitz in WW2 so this listing is often the only clue we have to these men’s time in the armed forces. A copy of the transcription can be found in Barnsley Archives where you can also view the original document on request. Pubs are not named in the Voters’ List but if on checking the address in the 1911 census the occupation of the residents suggests the pub trade the Tasker Trust website is the next place to call to find a photo of a lost pub.

The Moorhouse brothers, Ben and Henry appear in the Absent Voters’ list at 274 Doncaster Road. Ben is listed as a Second Lieutenant in the Royal Engineers and Henry as a Lance Corporal in the 4th Reserve Battalion of the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry. Trying to find Ben on the Lives of the First World War website the only match available was a Captain Ben Moorhouse – but checking his Medal Index Card confirmed his home address as above, so he had been promoted quite rapidly. Only men who served abroad have medal cards and nothing could be found for Henry, suggesting he served his time entirely in the UK. 



Pinder Oaks Hotel copyright the Tasker Trust
In the 1911 census no. 274 Doncaster Road is named as the Pindar Oaks Hotel, and is the home of the Moorhouse family headed by George Henry Moorhouse, occupation beerhouse keeper, aged 38, married to Sarah, with five surviving children (a baby, Walter, died in 1897 aged just 3 months) living at home along with a niece, a servant girl and a visitor. His son Ben is 16 years old and ‘assisting in the business’, whilst Henry is 14 years old and is an apprentice joiner.

On the Tasker Trust website a search for the pub brings back this picture and a list of occupants covering one hundred years.

The first licensee listed was John Harper in 1872, then Henry Moorhouse took over in 1883. A quick search of local newspapers on the Find My Past website returns a few mentions of Henry at the pub. In September 1883 the York Herald reports that H Moorhouse of the Pinder Oaks Hotel, Measbro’ Dyke, offered £15 in prizes for a Pigeon Flying Leger which was advertised as the largest competition to take place in South Yorkshire for some time. The birds flew from Doncaster Railway Station to their own cotes at Ardsley and Barnsley. Henry advertises a Grocer’s Shop and House to let at Barugh Green in the Barnsley Chronicle in 1885, which could have been the family’s previous home. Henry died in June 1898 aged 66 and is buried in Barnsley Cemetery. The pub passed to his widow Betty and then on her retirement in 1908 to their son George Henry Moorhouse, who had previously been a Pork Butcher at 260 Doncaster Road. Betty dies in 1922 aged 84 and is buried with her husband. In 1929 George Henry and his wife Sarah retire to a nice new semi-detached house in Doncaster and their son Henry Moorhouse jnr, who had been the KOYLI soldier in WW1, takes over the pub very briefly until his death in October 1929 aged just 33. The next name listed on the Tasker site is Elsie Moorhouse, who is Henry jnr’s widow. The pub passes out of the family in 1932 with five more licensees until its closure in 1972.

Top of Portland Street (from Google Maps)
A picture from a similar viewpoint on Google Maps today shows new housing on Portland Street has replaced the pub.

The 49 year tenure of the Moorhouse family at the Pindar Oaks Hotel was not their only connection to the pub trade. Tracing the family backwards through the census returns before their arrival on Doncaster Road I found that they were at the Spencers Arms at Barugh in 1881. Henry Moorhouse snr, born 1833 in Hepworth, nr Holmfirth, is listed as a Beer Seller. Henry and his family were in Barugh at an unnamed establishment in 1871, where he was listed as a Miner and Publican. A newspaper cutting from 1869 mentions Henry Moorhouse applying for a spirit licence for a beerhouse in Ardsley, which was refused, but with a watching brief for the next year. In 1861 they were living at Low Hill, Higham and Henry’s occupation was solely as a Miner. The family appear to have progressed from a modest background and worked their way up by taking on various pub businesses and expanding over the years.

I did wonder why Ben Moorhouse, being the elder son, had not taken over the Pindar Oaks Hotel in 1929 when his father retired. It seems that obtaining a commission in the Royal Engineers during the war changed his life. He had enlisted early in the war, first arriving in France in October 1915. He was commissioned in September 1917 and would have had some special training as a ‘temporary gentleman’ as part of this. After the war he took a B.Eng Degree whilst still living at the Pindar Oaks Hotel. 


He married Phyllis Crossland, daughter of the Registrar at Barnsley Cemetery in 1924 giving his occupation as Engineer; his brother Henry had married her sister Elsie in 1920. He had finished his Electrical Engineering degree by 1927 because by then he and Phyllis had moved to a new semi-detached house in Osbaldwick near York. In 1939 he is a Works Manager for a firm of Chocolate and Confectionary Manufacturers in York (maybe Terry’s?). The Moorhouse family’s journey from coal miners to professionals had continued, helped along the way by Ben’s experiences in the First World War. No wonder he hadn’t wanted to take on the family pub!