Home » People (Page 2)

Category Archives: People

An Ormskirk Christmas

An Ormskirk Christmas

The Nativity Scene outside Ormskirk Parish Chrurch

The Nativity Scene outside Ormskirk Parish Chrurch

Ormskirk Bygone Times has been collecting the memories of our page followers over the last couple of years and it seems that amongst our 5000+ followers, many people share the same memories of the Ormskirk Christmas experience.

For many children the season was about visiting Father Christmas in his grotto at Burgesses on Church Street.  Or to those a bit younger, Parker Franks on the same site.

The traditional junior school Nativity plays bring back memories of red shiny paper used for a fire and silver tinsel wrapped around coat hangers for Angel halos.  Boys dressing gowns for Shepherds coats and singing Away In A Manger to our beaming parents sitting quietly watching, not a digital appliance in site, just the brain to record the memories and a photo for the local paper.

Our very own Dot as an angel in her school Nativity play

Our very own Dot as an angel in her school Nativity play

School Christmas dinners were exciting and at the end of the meal Father Christmas dropped in, oddly enough he never looked like the one in Burgesses.

Mahoods on Beaconsfield corner had a Christmas Toy department upstairs with train sets laid out and running.  Taylors on Moor Street was full of seasonal gifts and toys.

The Nativity Scene at the Parish Church has changed little over the years, a plastic screen on the front to protect the contents from theft or damage being the main change.

Shops in the town offered seasonal fayre of the highest quality.  Butchers provided local fresh Pork,Turkey  and Goose with home delivery.

Moor Street in the late 1960s

Moor Street in the late 1960s

Car Parks were unheard of until the late 1960s, before then parking was wherever you needed to be and for however long you chose, although most people walked into town and carried their shopping home themselves.

The town had everything people needed for a comfortable family Christmas and it was all done without excess or t’internet with most workers having just a couple of days off.

Many people will remember the winter of 1962/63 when snow drifts 6ft to 8 ft high almost caused a problem.  It was nothing a few men with  spades couldn’t put right.

A selection of adverts relating to Christmas in Ormskirk

An advert for Stokers Toys

Swarbrick's Pork Butchers Advert

Skaife Advert

More Doctors In More Houses

More Doctors In More Houses

During the 19th and early 20th Centuries, the number of Medical men in the town grew with the building of fine residences to accommodate the Doctors, their apprentices, their families and servants and their social calendar.

Ormskirk Hall located on Burscough Street Ormskirk

Ormskirk Hall located between Alfred Wragg’s photography studio and The Wheatsheaf on Burscough Street. It was later demolished to build Wheatsheaf Walks

Ormskirk Hall, a large town house with a prominent portico entrance and large rear landscaped gardens and tennis courts, was the residence for several generations of the town’s medical men. With each generation a Surgery was named for the Surgeon of the time.

Dr Suffern had a house at the corner of Burscough Street and Derby Street West and it is still referred to as Dr Suffern’s House long after it was demolished in the 1960s to create a piece of wasteland where we could park for free.

The Mansion House on St Helens Road which is now a dental surgery

The Mansion House on St Helens Road which is now a dental surgery

The Mansion House on St Helens Road a former boys academy, was the doctor’s house of W.P. O’Regan in the 1930s after he first had a surgery at 3 Derby Street, The Mansion House had been the residence of Doctor William Anderton, the oldest of the Ormskirk Practitioners, dying in 1916 in his 69th Year. Dr Anderton was the Medical Officer of Health for Ormskirk UDC for over 40 years and Public Vaccinator for the same number of years.  He had retired in 1913 and was succeeded by Doctor Young, but at the outbreak of War Dr Young enlisted and Dr Anderton returned to his duties, giving a few more years of service to his patients.

Doctor Marsden lived and worked at Ormskirk Hall, 28, Burscough Street, he served the towns people for 38 years until he retired in 1928 and moved to Surrey where he died aged 74 in 1932. Dr Marsden was a founder member of the Ormskirk Golf Club and a member of the cricket club. He akso worked as a surgeon at the Cottage Hospital. His son, H. E. Marsden took over the practise after old Dr Marsden retired and also held the post as Medical Officer to West Lancs. R.D.C. Young Doctor Marsden was tragically killed in a flying accident in Dublin before WW2 and it is credit to his service that many years later a floral tribute was dedicated to him in the Parish Church at the 1972 Flower Festival.

Doctor John Philip Pendlebury will likely still be remembered by some in the town. He was the house surgeon at the Ormskirk Dispensary and the Cottage Hospital and held the position as constabulary surgeon up until about 1929 the senior Doctor in the town. Dr Pendlebury was tragically killed after an accident on the London Underground following an earlier stroke, a tablet dedicated to his memory is situated in the Parish Church.  One of Dr Pendlebury’s last patients may well have been the Music Hall star Charles Coburn, who fell ill with pneumonia in Ormskirk in June 1929.

Knowles House which was demolished to build the library

Knowles House which was demolished to build the library

Knowles House, which was built in the glorious Georgian style, was for many years home to Doctors working in the town. In 1892, Irish born Dr John Joseph Hanly left the town with an amazing send off by his patients, colleagues and local dignitaries, who congratulated him on his work in the town and presented him with a gold chronometer watch.  Dr Hanly was the son of an Irish GP and his son became a GP. He emigrated to Victoria, Australia soon after leaving Ormskirk and died there in 1932 aged 74.  A later resident of Knowles House was Doctor John D. Craig, a man also remembered in modern times as an excellent physician.

Dr Suffern's House, demolished to build a car park and then the police station

Dr Suffern’s House, demolished to build a car park and then the police station

Doctor Symonds of Ormskirk was a strong character and a professional amongst professionals who when needed led the way to ensuring the medical practitioners of the town were shown great respect by all who needed their services. Initially in the early 1850s Dr Charles Price Symonds had his practise in the Troqueer Buildings in Aughton Street, after establishing his practise there he moved into The Ormskirk Hall, Burscough Street and lived there until his death in 1905 aged 87. In 1862, Dr Symonds took the lead, with the support of all the medical practitioners in the town, in bringing about the prosecution of one Josiah Archer Bowen of Bretherton, who was suspected and charged by Symonds and his fellow medics of ‘…unlawfully and wilfully and falsely pretend to be and take the name and use the title of Surgeon’ the case was heard at the Ormskirk Petty Sessions, Bowen was fined £20.00, it is interesting to look back now on records not available to the justices in 1862. On the 1851 census for Bretherton, 27 year old Bowen lists his occupation as, ‘student in surgery’.  At the 1862 hearing, no record of his medical qualification as a surgeon in either London or Edinburgh could be found in records presented, he had passed 2 minor medical exams. He had signed a number of death certificates signing himself as a ‘Sub’ M.R.C.S. which no one at the time understood what that meant.  In 1871, the census tells us that Bowen had moved to Fishergate, Preston and his occupation is given as, ‘M.D. University of St Andrews, Licensed Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons, Glasgow, Licensed Doc. Of Apothecary London,General Practitioner’.  Which means, that in the space of 8 years, he had taken 3 different University courses.  In 1881, still in Preston, he is an M.O. of St Andrews University.  In 1891 a Doctor of Medicine, Duly Registered Surgeon; In 1901 he has moved to Southport as a ‘semi retired medical practitioner, surgeon and J.P.  . It is a curious story indeed.

Detailed accounts of the lives of the Doctors of the town link to many other professions and families from Ormskirk and Ormskirk Bygone Times has compiled a wealth of information on these people.

Doctor In The House Pt. 1

Doctor In The House Pt. 1

Ormskirk had no less than 8 ‘surgeons’ listed in the Baines Directory of 1824/25.  Father and son William Snr and William Bibby Jnr. practised from different surgeries, the former in Burscough Street and the latter in Church Street.  Burscough  street seemed to have a busy practise as there were  doctors Anderton,  Ellis, Hancock, Houghton and Yates listed there in that same directory.  William Bibby  Snr and Thomas Hancock did move to a new surgery on Lydiate Lane before 1830. (Lydiate Lane became Derby Street).

The doctors had served their apprenticeships with senior partners and after taking an exam at the end of their apprenticeship they joined the practise or opened their own surgery.

Beaconsfield House

Beaconsfield House

By the 1830s, a new Doctor had settled in the town, Yorkshire born Doctor Lax, who initially joined the practise of William Bibby Snr.  William Lax graduated from the Royal College of Surgeons London in 1827.  In 1850, Doctor Lax bought a ‘close’ of land in Lydiate Lane, (Derby Street) to build a surgery , at the same time land was acquired by the town from  the Earl of Derby and Lord Stanley for the building of a Police Station and A Trustee Savings Bank in the same street.  By 1861, Dr Lax had had a grand residence built at the junction of Moor Street and St Helens Road .William’s first wife, Ormskirk born Anne Jane nee Wareing, died within months of their daughter Anne Jane (1833 – 1924) being born.  His second wife, Mary Maria Sourbuts, (1821 – 1898) was 15 years William’s junior and they had four children, only 2 surviving to childhood.

Derby Street, the site of Dr Lax's surgery

Derby Street, the site of Dr Lax’s surgery

Doctor Lax’s eldest daughter Anne Jane born 1833 never married and she was the Superintendant of the Parish Church Sunday School for over 50 years .  After the death of her father, Anne moved from St Helens Road to a large 12 room property at 52 Derby Street which she re-named Beaconsfield, to reflect the home she had grown up in at Beaconsfield Corner.  Her neighbour, in the house called Abbotsford, was another local Doctor, Hugh Heald, and next door to the Heald household was another large dwelling,   Walmsley House, home of Anne’s half sister Lucy Sophia Parker nee Lax, who had married Thomas Percy Parker, son of the Aughton Brewer Thomas Sumner Parker, in 1890.  Thomas Sumner Parker had bought the Aughton Street (Sudbury Star) Brewery from the Sudbury Brothers sometime between 1875 and 1881. Interestingly, Thomas Sumner Parker lived out his last days at Town End living next door to George Lea, the renowned local journalist and Author.

A newspaper cutting relating to the bequests of Miss Ann Lax

A newspaper cutting relating to the bequests of Miss Ann Lax. Click for a larger view

The story will continue soon with Dr Brandreth,  Dr Knowles, The Mansion House, Dr Suffern’s House and Ormskirk Hall, all Doctors Residences.

Captain Edward Sudbury (1820-1870)

Captain Edward Sudbury (1820-1870)

Captain Edward Sudbury

Captain Edward Sudbury

Sudbury ‘s Star Brewery , situated at the start of Prescot Road, and therefore within the Aughton Parish, was a successful business which Edward Sudbury joined as a partner along with his brother-in-law, Joseph Hewitt Pye (1817-1862). Nottinghamshire born Edward was a surveyor by occupation and worked not only for the ordnance survey but also the Ormskirk & Southport Building Society. He had trained as a land surveyor and had considerable experience in drainage and enclosure which he brought to the county.  His first few years in Ormskirk saw him marry a young lady from Rainford, Hannah Pye, whose family not only owned the Star Brewery but also the brickworks at Martin Lane Burscough.

The Brewery at Town End, owned by Edward Sudbury and later his four sons

The Brewery at Town End, owned by Edward Sudbury and later his four sons

Edward Sudbury was a Captain in the 54th Lancashire Rifle Volunteers (54th LRV) from the 1860s succeeding Lieutenant John Dickinson.

Edward Sudbury died at home, at the Brewery, Aughton in 1870. His funeral was a large affair and the town’s business closed their shops and offices at 12 noon as a mark of respect. People of the town lined the streets to bow their heads as the funeral procession passed on it’s way to Ormskirk Parish Church led by the band and troop of the 54th.

An advert for the Sudbury Star Brewery

An advert for the Sudbury Star Brewery. Click for a larger view

Amongst the mourners there was a carriage containing the town’s prominent citizens as Edward had been a Brother of a local lodge and had held office.

The 54th Rifles fired three volleys over the grave and the Masons performed their traditional funeral ceremony at the grave side with J. B. Lambert giving a moving testimony.

After his death, the Star Brewery continued for a number of years under the management of his four sons.

Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show – Sept 1904

“Buffalo Bill’s Wild West and Congress of Rough Riders of the World” Travelling Show – September 1904

'Buffalo Bill Wild West and Congress of Rough Riders of the World' paraded along Moor Street with the Deadwood Stage. Note the original clucas Shop in the background.

During the 1904 tour of the “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West and Congress of Rough Riders of the World” travelling show, the touring company passed through Ormskirk on the way to Southport from the previous venue in Wigan.

Cody with the Cowboys and 'US Cavalry' taken in Scotland in 1904

Cody with the Cowboys and ‘US Cavalry’

September 30th 1904 the main body of the show travelled by several dedicated trains from Wigan through to Southport but the stagecoach and several dozen of the show riders paraded through the town, no doubt to create some publicity.

The show travelled from New York to Liverpool in Spring 1904 and then used 4 special trains to travel to the first venue, Stoke on Trent.

Buffalo Bill with the Oglala Lakota

Buffalo Bill with the Oglala Lakota

The 1904 UK tour began in Stoke on 25th April and after performances in England, Scotland and Wales and 132 towns the tour ended in Hanley, Staffordshire on October 21st. A total of 4114 miles of train travel took the performers around the country and the shows were hugely well attended.

There had been an earlier tour during 1902/03 but the nearest it came to Ormskirk was Liverpool and local people had waited for the return of the show and lined the streets to watch the different riders parade past.

A tour poster from the 1904 tour

A tour poster from the 1904 tour. Click for a larger view

There weren’t just ‘Cowboys and  Indians’ in the show, as it had been previously, this time there were Cossack horsemen from Georgia, Mexican Vaqueros, Turks, Argentine Gauchos, Arab Spahis (Horse Soldiers) , and Mongolian riders. The parade must have been colourful and spectacular.

Oglala Lakota Sioux were a huge part of the show and performed throughout the history of the Buffalo Bill shows giving some thrilling performances that must have had crowds mesmerised and enthralled, especially the young children watching the show.  Although Sitting Bull had left the show a decade or more earlier, his son, Young Sitting Bull did apparently appear in this tour.

After leaving Southport the tour went on to Leigh and newspaper accounts of the event still survive.

Ormskirk Bygone Times has created a small display and booklet on the tour and the show which will be available to view at our exhibition in Skelmersdale Library on Saturday 28th November 2015. Please call in for a chat and to see our growing mobile exhibition.

Thomas Herbert Stretch – 28th Jan 1851 -25 Dec 1929

Thomas Herbert Stretch – 28th Jan 1851 -25 Dec 1929

T.H. Stretch

T.H. Stretch

Thomas Herbert Stretch was born in January 1851 in Booth Kirkdale.  His father, Thomas Stretch Snr, was a cotton broker who had served an apprenticeship as a clerk before marrying and starting a family.

By 1865, Thomas Snr. had moved his family to Burscough Street in Ormskirk and lived at Vine Cottage, the very last property before the Burscough Boundary.

From the first years of the Family living in the town they were very much involved with the local community and from as early as 1865 Thomas Snr was a director of the annual show for the Ormskirk & Southport Agricultural Society. He was also a winner of several prizes for his poultry entries, including ducks, bantams and his very successful Cochin China Buff chickens.

Champion Collie "Ormskirk Emerald"

Champion Collie “Ormskirk Emerald”

Whilst Thomas Stretch carved a successful business career in the town and proved an expert poultry breeder and exhibitor, his sons became local sporting heroes and excelled at athletics and cricket.

In later years Thomas Herbert Stretch took over the poultry breeding and exhibiting and also entered the world of pedigree dog breeding, specialising in the Rough Collie breed, with which he found local, national and international success.

Ormskirk Christopher, the first collie ever to sell for over £1000

Ormskirk Christopher, the first collie ever to sell for over £1000

The Rough Collies bred from the Burscough Street kennels were of the highest standard for the breed and competed at Cruffs and at shows all around the UK. Thomas became the foremost collie dog expert in the World and his animals were supreme Champions.  The dogs were almost always given names with the prefix Ormskirk.

The first Collie dog in the World to sell for £1000.00 was Stretch’s Ormskirk Christopher, which was sold to an American kennel and for several decades his champion dogs were exported to breeders all over the World.

An advert for Spiller's Victoria Dog Food, featuring Ormskirk Foxall, one of Stretch's collies

An advert for Spiller’s Victoria Dog Food, featuring Ormskirk Foxall, one of Stretch’s collies

As a show judge he had an unrivalled expertise and commanded respect for his knowledge and understanding of the Collie breed. He travelled to Scotland and Ireland to judge at shows such as the Perthshire Canine Society, the Forfar Poultry Show, Belfast Dog, Poultry & Pig Society show and the County Antrim Agricultural Association Show. That is besides the dozens of English County Shows he attended, both as a judge in Poultry and Collie dogs and as an exhibitor.

Champion Collie "Ormskirk Amazement"

Champion Collie “Ormskirk Amazement”

One of his early successes as a breeder of Rough Collies was in April 1887 at the Warwickshire Dog Show, where his dog Sir Latham was awarded 3rd prize. In July of 1887 at the Chester Show, Sir Latham won first prize and a special silver cup award. In Belfast in 1891, his pair of Rough Collies, Ormskirk Paradox and Ormskirk Stella both won first place in the Dog and Bitch classes respectively, then in 1892, his Ormskirk Ormonde and Ormskirk Hilda took first prize in both their classes. In Dublin in 1893, Ormskirk Hermit and Ormskirk Memoir again won their class.

The Stretch family of Vine Cottage were a family with very close connections to many of the town’s noted families, for more information on the family please visit our group at https://www.facebook.com/Ormskirkbygonetimes

The Troqueer Building: Grand Town Residence To Labour Party HQ

The Troqueer Building

The Troqueer Building

Troqueer was a small settlement on the East side of Aughton Street that in the mid-1800s housed a huge Irish Immigrant population, all crammed into an area of small courts containing rows of tightly packed, hastily constructed cottages. St Patrick’s Court, situated between the Black Horse Inn and the Victoria Inn (later the Queens) was almost exclusively for the Irish Agricultural labourers who came into the town to find work they were familiar with.

Looking at the 1851 and 1861 census  returns for St Patrick’s Court, there are dozens and dozens of children, all under 10 years old, all born Ormskirk and without exception, both parents are recorded as born Ireland.   The Irish Agricultural Labourers were welcomed to the town, the Railway had brought them in after having enticed many local agricultural labourers into jobs on the railway and the trade the railway subsequently brought into the town meant that for local workers, other job opportunities other than working in agriculture presented themselves.

A Map Of 1892 Showing The Locations Of The Troqueer Building

A Map Of 1892 Showing The Location Of The Troqueer Building. Click For Larger View

Moving northwards beyond St Patrick’s Court, and its accompanying beerhouse , the buildings change to the grand first residence, before he moved to Ormskirk Hall, Burscough Street, of Dr Charles Price Symonds, the Yorkshire born surgeon, who, on moving to Ormskirk to set up his practise in the late 1840s and married a local girl, Martha Stockley, in 1850, before opening  his first surgery in a large house with landscaped gardens to the rear and adjoining on its north side the the large double fronted town residence of retired Pwhelli born landed proprietor, Hugh Owen, which as early as 1851 was named on town maps as the Troqueer Buildings. Hugh Owen lived there as far back as 1841, being listed under, ‘Nobility, Gentry and Clergy’ in an 1848 Slater’s Directory.  Although 20 years earlier he had a tinplate works in Market Place. Hugh Owen died aged 83 in 1856 and was buried at the Parish Church on 7th July that year.

After Owen’s death, his son Richard Owen inherited Troqueer and moved in there with his family. Richard Owen was an ironmonger with an ironmongers and small foundry on Moor Street next to the King’s Arms, which later, when Richard Owen retired to Scarborough after 1871, became Wainwright’s Ironmongers and then the Corn Exchange.

A Cammack Mineral Water Bottle

A Cammack Mineral Water Bottle

Troqueer saw changes during the 1870s and was split into a smaller residence for Henry Hydes, the wine and spirit merchant, with some of the rear of the property being made into a court for separate small dwellings, when Hydes moved across the road to 32 Aughton Street to open a wine merchants shop, Troqueer was bought by George James Cammack, the Mineral Water Manufacturer who ran the business with great success for several decades from those premises. The Water Manufacturing business was huge at that time as bottled mineral water was a safe and healthy option to pump water.  Remains of the factory we believe still exist to the rear of Aughton Street across to Bridge Avenue.

George James Cammack only moved from Troqueer between 1916 and 1919. The next information we have is that the building became the Labour Party Headquarters in the town and was used as the campaign HQ for the Ormskirk candidate 28 year old Harold Wilson in 1945. Wilson served as the Town’s MP from 1945 until 1950.

An Advert For Cammack Mineral Water

An Advert For Cammack Mineral Water. Click For Large View

The descriptions of the grand interior court of Troqueer mention large black marble columns and huge black painted doors. The building was demolished in the 1970s and remains as the telephone exchange car park. If anyone can add anything, or indeed correct any of this research, please do get in touch.

Royal Visits To Ormskirk

Royal Visits To Ormskirk

We don’t have to go too far back in time to find firm evidence of visits to Ormskirk by the Royal Family. In the Summer of 1885, Edward, Prince of Wales, later to become Edward VII, came to the town for a short visit to Lathom House.

Prince of Wales Medal

The medal that was struck to commemorate the visit of the Prince of Wales in 1885

To mark the occasion, as was the trend at the time, a commemorative medal was struck and made available as a souvenir of the visit.  The town folk and dignitaries met the Prince’s train at Ormskirk Station, which had been newly painted, making the Royal party welcome with declarations of the support of the town for the Queen and the Royal Family. Around £350 was raised through subscription for the staging of an elaborate reception.  At the Railway Station a 40ft x 30ft awning ‘upon polished pillars’ was erected and the Station approach right up to Derby Street was festooned with garlands and flowers, at the expense of the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway Company. 

Almost  3000 local school children were to be gathered in a suitable part of the town to collectively sing ‘God Bless The Prince Of Wales’ and in the evening the whole town was to be ‘illuminated’ at the expense of the local gas company.  On his return to the station after his short stay at Lathom House, the main thoroughfare through the town, Moor Street, was thronged with well wishers.

It is probably during this visit, according to reports, that the Prince and Princess acquired a taste for Ormskirk Gingerbread.

Moving forward a few decades, the new King, George V, our own Queen’s grandfather, passes through the town on a tour of the Northern industrial towns of Lancashire. He is accompanied by Queen Mary, who can be clearly seen in the rear of the Royal car as it passes along Moor Street and drives into Church Street.  The Steps of the King’s Arms give locals a vantage point from which to spot the Royal Couple.

King George V and Queen Mary in Ormskirk

Ormskirk residents watch on from the steps of the Kings Arms as King George V and Queen Mary drive past along Moor Street

In 1921, another Prince of Wales visits the town, the visit is recorded by the Ormskirk Advertiser and the Prince mixes with the veterans of the World War accompanied by the Earl of Lathom.

Ormskirk Advertiser Supplement to Commemorate The Visit of The Prince of Wales 1921

Ormskirk Advertiser Supplement to Commemorate The Visit of The Prince of Wales 1921. Click for a larger view.

The next visit to the town comes in 1945, when George VI and Queen Elizabeth, our present Queen’s parents, drive through the town along Moor Street with throngs of people lining the streets once again.

Moving into the 1960s, Royal visits to Edge Hill College, St Helens Road saw Princess Margaret opening a new wing at the College in 1962 and afterwards being driven through the town with hundreds of school children lining Moor Street to wave her past and Prince Philip has also visited the College.

Ticket To The Ceremony Conducted by Princess Margaret at Edge Hill College 1963

A ticket to the ceremony conducted by HRH Princess Margaret at Edge Hill College, 22nd May 1963. Click for a larger view

Ormskirk Bygone Times have accumulated a collection of photographs and new reports related to these Royal Visits and we would be interested in hearing from anyone with any pictures of Princess Margaret being driven through the town and also any pictures of the visit of The Prince and Princess of Wales, Charles and Diana, to Skelmersdale and Up Holland in the mid 1980s. If you can help us out at all you can contact us here.

Prince Philip and Mabel Jennings

Prince Philip talks to Mable Jennings (in hat) during his visit to Edge Hill College

A Lusitania Survivor Visits Ormskirk

A Contemporary painting of RMS Lusitania by Odin Rosenvinge

A Contemporary painting of RMS Lusitania by Odin Rosenvinge

A Lusitania Survivor Visits Ormskirk

On May 7th 1915 RMS Lusitania was sunk by a German U boat U20 off the southern coast of Ireland. Of the 1,960 souls on board bound for Liverpool from New York, 767 survived.

On that voyage was Sarah Lund nee Mounsey of Chicago Illinois and her husband and father. Sarah’s mother, Fanny Mounsey nee Sewell had been lost on the Empress of Ireland in the St Lawrence Seaway on May 29th 1914. Fanny Mounsey was travelling to visit family in Keswick, Cumberland at the time of the sinking of the Empress of Ireland and her body was never recovered.

A year later, Sarah Mounsey received a letter out of the blue at her home in Chicago from the Superintendant of the Ormskirk Union Workhouse, possibly Albert Horsfall Whittaker. An unidentified lady, in considerable distress, had been admitted to the workhouse in Wigan Road, Ormskirk and the poor wretched woman was only able to utter repeatedly the name ‘Mounsey’ and the letter went on to explain that this lady, known as ‘Kate Fitzgerald’ had a fear of water. For whatever reason, a link was made to the Empress of Ireland sinking a year earlier and the Superintendant sent a letter to Sarah, (who knows how he sought out her address) asking if this might be her mother.

Ormskirk Workhouse as it was around the time of Sarah Lund's visit

Ormskirk Workhouse as it was around the time of Sarah Lund’s visit

Sarah immediately left her home, with her husband and father to travel to Ormskirk, via New York and Liverpool, aboard the ill-fated Lusitania with the aim of meeting this mysterious lady. Fate intervened and Sarah, though suffering the terror of being flung into the sea as the ship exploded and being showered with debris was, after several hours in the water, pulled into a lifeboat.

Sarah lost her husband of just 1 year , and her father that day, she spent time in Queenstown, Ireland recovering but insisted on pressing on to Liverpool and then Ormskirk to meet the woman she was praying, now more than ever, was indeed her missing Mother, Fanny Mounsey.

Sadly, that was not to be, the lady in the workhouse was nothing like Sarah’a dear mother and Sarah was forced to return home to Chicago a widow, and without either parent.

Sarah did re-marry and lived until 1978, dying aged 92.

A tragic story amongst a tragic event.

Subscribe To Our Site

Enter your email address to subscribe to our site and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 217 other subscribers.

Follow Us On Twitter