Leader of the Band


John OAKDEN joined the British Army in 1826 at the age of 19, according to his service records. An infant bearing his name, born to Anthony and Ann, was baptized in Alsop en le Dale in 1805. The village is near enough to Ashbourne as to make little difference. If the parents waited for a twelvemonth before baptism, the date fits the inscription on his headstone in St Oswald’s churchyard.

In affectionate remembrance of JOHN OAKDEN, who departed this life Sept. 14th 1857, aged 53 years.

‘Be ye also ready for in such an hour as ye think not,

The Son of Man cometh.’

Matt XXIV v44.


John drew his pension for five years. I don’t know how much of this time was spent in Filey and diligent searching online didn’t turn up a faithful companion with whom he shared his days by the sea. The gravestone only records a great-niece who died a few months after he did.

Also of MARY ALICE, daughter of THOMAS and DINAH SWIFT of Prescot and great-niece of the above, who died at Filey, June 20th, 1858, aged 1 year and 3 months.

Dinah was born SAMPSON in Lincolnshire in 1832 and her mother, also Dinah, birthplace not yet known, was a BROOKS. Young Dinah died in Prescot while giving birth to her seventh child, or shortly afterward. The new life and the old were registered in the same quarter year. Thomas married again and, with Emily Mary DAFT, produced another seven children. He was successful enough as a barrister to employ three servants at the family home in Linnet Lane, Toxteth Park in 1891.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA clue to where bandsman Oakden may have lived in Filey is found in the 1861 census returns. Widow Mary Oakden, 52, was recorded at 1, The Crescent, living on her own means and sharing the substantial property (inset) with her niece, Emma SAMPSON, 24. As Emma was a younger sister of Dinah, mother of the infant Mary Alice SWIFT,  it is possible that widow Mary was John Oakden’s wife, but I have been unable to find a  record of the marriage. Both of these women leave the Crescent, and Filey, during the next ten years and I don’t know what became of them.

Little Mary Alice Swift wasn’t on the FamilySearch Tree, but most of her siblings were, though their mother was given as Emily Mary DAFT. I tried to make things right this afternoon and hope I’ve succeeded.

My first search on FST failed to find a likely John Oakden. Then I happened upon Anthony and Ann with four children, including ‘Ashbourne John’. The parents have several duplicate IDs and I haven’t had time to deal with those today. Find John here; three siblings are Ann, Frances, and Georgiana but there may be more.

Men of War?

Thomas and Dinah’s second child was born a few months after Mary Alice died and they named him John Oakden Swift. It would seem that there had been a strong bond between the two families, three if you include the Sampsons. While researching I happened upon a number of Thomas Swifts who were in the British Army. At first glance, I couldn’t find the regimental connection, and a young solicitor taking the Queen’s shilling seems unlikely, but I nonetheless like to think of Thomas and John being brothers in arms. (One of the Thomases was awarded an Indian Mutiny medal in 1857 and this may explain why Mary Alice was living with her great-uncle in Filey at that time.)

Talking of War

As I was writing this post, I received a notification that the US had just attacked a Syrian town, dropping white phosphorous bombs. These weapons are banned under the Geneva Convention for use against civilians or enemy combatants in areas with a large civilian population.  No word on casualties yet, but truth has been “walking wounded” in Syria for years now. Choose your purveyors of news wisely in the coming days and weeks.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s