The Surprise Professor

The first Filey child to be born on New Years’s Day, for whom I have a record, is Hannah COCKERILL in 1881. Her father George, born 1836, is on the FamilySearch Tree but is waiting to get hitched to Ann CHADWICK, born Flamborough in 1851.  George had ten siblings and while sorting through them today I happened upon his nephew William, the son of older brother Joseph, born 1830.

William was nineteen when the 1871 census was taken and at the family home on Scalley Moor, near Scalby, he was the eldest of five and the enumerator, in a distinctive hand, immortalized him as “Professor of Music”. His father was barely 20 when he married Hannah WRIGHT and worked as an agricultural labourer. So how remarkable was his firstborn?


In 1881, William was with his parents still, on a different moor (Burniston), occupied as a basket maker. Roll the clock forward 30 years and he heads a household in Harwood Dale that contains younger brother Joseph, sister in law Hannah, and great nephew John EMERSON. William continues to make baskets, his wife has died and on the census return he states he has been blind since the age of ten. The same hand seems to have filled out the form, neatly, and William is the signatory.


William married Rosamond Annie WESTERDALE in 1888 and they brought three children into the world. In 1881 she was working as an assistant teacher at the Manor House Yorkshire School for the Blind in York and was, to some degree, unsighted.


I remember a blind man coming to Stoneferry Junior and Infants School, in the 1950s, to tune the piano in the Assembly Hall. Perhaps William had done such work as a young man. We’ll never know who was responsible for the elevation of his status in the community.

Three William Cockerills were born in the Scarborough area within a couple of years of each other and all three died between 1912 and 1920. I think “our William” departed in 1916, aged 64, but this needs affirmation. I don’t know yet what happened to his children. Find him here on FST but bear in mind his birth family is incomplete.

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