Private Abbott

AbbottGAThe first name on the Filey War Memorial seems to be a mistake. A search on the CWGC website brings a George Alfred, Manchester Regiment, and a gunner with the initials G A who served in the South African Field Artillery. I think the initials should be ‘E A’.

Private Ernest Alfred ABBOTT enlisted in the Huntingdonshire Cyclists when the battalion was formed. Posted to Filey early in 1915, he courted local girl Mary Ann STORK and the couple married on 11th December 1915 at St Oswald’s.

When the Hunts Cyclists were disbanded in 1916 he was transferred to the 683rd Agricultural Company, Army Labour Corps (Service No. 434613). He died in Cambridge Easton General Hospital on 18th November 1918, a week after the Armistice. The exact cause of his death is not known. He is buried in St Oswald’s churchyard.

Dan Eaton, In Flanders Fields…The men of Filey who fought and died during the Great War for Civilization (1914 – 1919)

His birth registration, though, gives his name as Arthur Ernest, and for some records of his short life he omitted the middle name and just answered to Ernest.

When I looked him up on Lives of the First World War, two people were remembering him. A photograph of his headstone has been added but there isn’t much detail about his life.

Filey Genealogy & Connections has very little about Ernest’s origins, and Mary Ann was illegitimate so her pedigree is difficult to research. FamilySearch Tree was more helpful, providing a start with his birth family – a father and eight siblings. The mother was given as “Ann M. ABBOTT” but the GRO quickly supplied her birth name – GAVINS – and four more children. Ernest was the youngest, then, of thirteen. Ernest’s father and eldest brother had the middle name “FAVELL” and it was no surprise that this proved to be the maiden surname of his paternal grandmother.

Most of these Abbotts and their spouses were landed peasantry from a small area of Huntingdonshire. Initially, I had the notion that it had taken a war to push Ernest out of his family heartland but research unearthed an earlier migration of some Abbotts to Yorkshire. Ernest’s Aunt Rebecca married agricultural labourer Joseph ROBINSON in Alconbury cum Weston in the mid-1850s,  and the childless couple moved to the Howden area of East Yorkshire sometime between 1871 and 1881. They both died in 1910 before Ernest was sent to Filey with the Hunts Cyclists. Rebecca departed first, in July, and was buried in Howden. Joseph, in his mid-seventies, had no family to care for him and was dispatched to the workhouse where he died before the year was out.

After Ernest’s death, Mary Ann didn’t fare well. Their only child was two years old and another boy was born in late 1919. Life must have been a great struggle for her and she died in the North Riding Asylum in York in 1924. The Borthwick Institute in York probably has details of her last weeks or months there, and maybe a photograph. I hope she wasn’t certified as a lunatic – and that the Abbott boys did well after their difficult start in life.

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