The Last Illness of Reverend Holroyd

(This is an edited repost from Looking at Filey, 2 July 2012.)

At three o’clock on the afternoon of Wednesday, 4th May 1881, the Reverends Frederick Etherington HEAPE and John HOLROYD spoke to a large group of people gathered outside the home of Robert SIMPSON in Mosey’s Yard. Robert, a sixty-seven-year-old former brickmaker had died two days earlier. The Scarborough Mercury reported that the Rev HEAPE explained to the mourners that this would be the first funeral in Filey “at which a Nonconformist minister would officiate in the Churchyard, at the grave of one of their own members”. He hoped the ceremony would be conducted to the satisfaction of all concerned “and that all present would behave themselves in a manner befitting the solemn occasion”. He read from St Paul’s epistle to the Corinthians, a hymn was sung and the Rev HOLROYD gave “an impressive address”. The coffin was then carried to the churchyard, “where the burial service of the Primitive Methodist society was read and prayer offered by the Rev. J.  Holroyd and another hymn sung”. The funeral was attended by an estimated two to three hundred people.

Just two months later the Scarborough Mercury of 2nd July carried this brief report under the heading Illness of Rev. J. Holroyd: –

Our Primitive Methodist friends will regret the serious illness of the Rev. J. Holroyd, superintendent of the Filey circuit. Fears are expressed that a somewhat prolonged illness has set in.

The illness was mercifully fairly short. John Holroyd died at the end of August and was buried on 2nd September, though there is no Monumental Inscription noted in the Crimlisks’ 1978 survey.

John HOLROYD was born in Halifax in 1819; his wife Mary in Margate, Kent about four years earlier. The 1881 census suggests the couple’s first two daughters were born in Newport, Isle of Wight, in 1858 and 1860 but I can’t find a birth registration for the older girl, Sarah Jennison (or Jemima) HOLROYD. Harriet Martha’s birth was, however, registered on the island in the September Quarter of 1859 (2b 429). A third daughter, Elvina Louisa, was born in Devon in 1862, her birth registered at Plymouth (Dec Q 5b 247). If her age at the 1881 census, 66, was correctly given then Mary B. Holroyd bore her three daughters whilst in her forties. There is, however, a death registration in Sculcoates (Hull) for Mary Brockman Holroyd, aged 66, in 1885 (Dec Q 9d 83). If this was the Reverend’s wife then she would have been about 38 when she gave birth to Sarah Jennison/Jemima and about 43 when Elvina Louisa entered the world. This seems more credible. John and Mary may have had other children before Sarah, who had either died or left home before 1881, as there is a marriage registration in Kensington, in1847 (Jun Q 3 337), for John HOLROYD and Mary Brockman MILLER.

The minister’s daughters were unmarried at the time of their father’s death.  A quick search finds the marriage of Harriet Martha HOLROYD to either Thomas John LAMB or John Charles SASS in Lambeth in 1886 and of Elvina Louisa to Albert Herbert KING in Scarborough about three years earlier. I don’t know of any children born to these couples. There is a death registration in Downham, Norfolk for Elvina Louisa King, aged 86, in March Quarter 1949. 

The dates in Robert’s screenshot sidebar show that he didn’t stay for long. I would have let him go without further investigation but his birthplace aroused my curiosity. Holy Island is not the easiest place to get to, or from.

Why would the parents of a possibly sick baby, just a few weeks old, take him over a hundred and fifty miles for baptism, only to see him buried nineteen days later?  

James PROUT was a coastguard and sailing to Filey may have been easier than travelling by road – but the five-minute walk from his home to the Lifeboat House took him past the Parish Church of St Mary the Virgin.

In April 1861 the census enumerator found James, 38, and Selina, 25, on the island, childless and a long way from their birthplaces in Devon and Cornwall. Ten years later they were living in Hull, where James was working as a labourer on the railway and they had three children. The youngest, Elizabeth, had been born about 18 months earlier at Torpoint on the Tamar estuary, suggesting James had only recently left the coastguard service. Records point to them leaving Northumberland in 1863. Son James was born in Eyemouth towards the end of 1862 and his older brother Thomas died at Torpoint aged 3 in the first quarter of 1864. The distance between those two places is almost five hundred miles. Add another 300 miles to get to Hull. Where would they be in 1881?

The father of Ethel Mary Louisa WOOD was a gentleman and Captain in a Regiment of Dragoons but his pedigree is not particularly distinguished on the Shared Tree.  Ethel married Commander Arthur Cole LOWRY RN at the beginning of 1903 and attended his funeral before the year was out. Queen Victoria awarded him the Albert Medal in 1900 and he also received three medals from the Royal Humane Society for lives he had saved at sea. He had retired from the navy in 1902 with pensions for the wounds he had suffered in the rescues. The Shared Tree shows him dying without issue but with a pedigree awash with famous names.

Sea 48 · Filey Bay

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