I was pleased to find the flowers and photograph on my walk through the churchyard today for several reasons. It is lovely that this couple is remembered on their 75th wedding anniversary, affectionately enough to make this public declaration. Selfishly, I immediately saw an opportunity for a delve with a difference into the archives. “Who are these people?”

And then there’s the name of the bride.


I was a bookish kid and I can remember my eye being caught in a library by “Ouida”. I can’t recall reading any of her work and I doubt she is much read today. When she was all the rage, it was the lower orders, the great unwashed, who were captivated by her racy yarns. The Victorian One Percent was sniffy. But one set of parents in the 1920s liked the unusual name well enough give it to their daughter. Half a century earlier, Susan RAMÉ suggested, perhaps insisted, on Ouida as a nom de plume when her daughter’s writing career took off, fondly remembering little Maria’s struggles to pronounce her middle name, Louise, when she was a tot.

Back at the ranch, it took only a minute or two to find Harry WELLBURN and Ouida Eileen KEMP in Filey Genealogy & Connections. The marriage register seems to have provided the brief details – that Harry was a navigator in the RAF, born 1919 in Hull and the son of Ernest, a bricklayer. Ouida, five years younger than Harry, was the daughter of Rowland (deceased).

There’s a handful of sources in FamilySearch that add a little more information but I couldn’t find either family on the Shared Tree.

I couldn’t find the once famous/notorious author on FamilySearch either, except for Maria Louise’s birth registration and the 1841 Census. Two years after her birth in 1839, Maria’s father appears to have done a runner. Thanks to an excellent brief biography on The Victorian Web, I found that he was, for the most part, an absentee dad, until disappearing altogether when she was about forty years old. Ouida earned a small fortune from her books but died in poverty, in Italy. A long way from where she entered the vale of tears.


Suffolk Archives (FL545/4/8)

Ouida, who spent much of an often lonely childhood making friends of pet rocks and other found objects…

The Victorian Web


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