The Doctor’s Daughter

Elizabeth Mary PRITCHARD was born this day 1860 in East Kirk Parish, Edinburgh. She had five older siblings who had entered the world in Hunmanby or Filey. One sister, Zillah Catherine, hadn’t survived infancy but at the 1861 census, four of the children were with their parents in Berkeley Terrace, Glasgow while the eldest girl Jane Frances, age 9, was at the home of her maternal grandparents in Newington, Midlothian. Michael Taylor was a silk merchant and judging from Google Street View owning a property in Minto Street today shows that you are “comfortable”.

Edward William PRITCHARD informed the enumerator in 1861 that he was an “MD University of Erlangen (General Practitioner)”. As a young man he had acquitted himself well as a navy doctor but after winning the hand of Mary Jane TAYLOR while serving on HMS Hecate he decided to resign his commission and enter general practice. His qualification from Erlangen was purchased rather than earned but it must have impressed the folk at the Bridlington Union because he was employed as the medical officer to the No. 3 District based at Hunmanby. The family lived there for some years but later moved to Rutland Street, Filey. A Glasgow Morning Journal report in July 1865 had this to say about the bad doctor:-

Those who knew Dr Pritchard in Filey say that he left that place with an indifferent reputation – that he was fluent, plausible, licentious, politely impudent and singularly untruthful. With regard to the last named characteristic, one who knew him intimately states that he was “the prettiest liar” he had ever known. In Filey as well as Hunmanby his lascivious disposition, manifested in some disgraceful amours, as well as his untruthfulness, became so notorious that all confidence in him as a professional man was destroyed. It may, therefore, be supposed that when he left Filey in 1859 it was because Yorkshire was too hot to hold him.

Glasgow society soon realized that “a perfect Baron Munchausen” had appeared in their midst. When the Pritchard’s servant girl died in a bedroom fire at their house he came under suspicion. Sometime later, on the 21st March 1865, gossip flew that “a medical gentleman belonging to Glasgow” had been apprehended following the death of his wife by poisoning and Dr Pritchard’s name was common currency before he was formally charged. Investigations proved that he had killed his mother-in-law too. He was tried and the day after his youngest daughter Elizabeth Mary turned five he was hanged in Glasgow, watched by 100,000 people according to one estimate.

What became of the murderer’s children? Horatio Michael married Amelia Rebecca MILLMAN in 1887 and they had at least one child, Violet Eola Robertson who married Edward Atherstone WALMISLEY in 1912. William Kenneth married Gertrude Hannah CREESER in 1904. But Jane Frances, Charles Edward and birthday girl Elizabeth Mary seem to have kept the lowest of profiles.

Filey Genealogy & Connections can give you a substantial cast of PRITCHARD characters – and Kath supplies several notes relating to the Doctor’s crimes but, as I write this the Search engine is playing silly beggars so I can’t give a link.  On FamilySearch Tree the Pritchard clan is all over the place. Here is Elizabeth Mary on FST:-


The last four lines of  A Lament for Dr Pritchard’s Children:-

Oh think of his orphans you kind hearted people,

And I hope there is none that so heartless will be,

As point with the finger of scorn towards them,

And say that their father he died on a tree.


And here is Elizabeth Mary sitting on her mother’s knee in the Cramb Brothers studio portrait of the doctor and his family, Glasgow 1861.


PC Powell

I wrote on LaF about a slight accident, the report of which prompted a reader of the Scarborough Mercury to write an acerbic letter to the Editor.  Here it is (again) in full:-



SIR.-The accident at Filey on Sunday [23 July 1882] is another of the exploits of the “bona-fide traveler.” It is to be hoped that our P. C’s will look after them, as the bona-fide traveler is an insufferable nuisance to all peaceable people who live at Filey. It is very seldom that we have a Sunday at Filey, but we have to witness several parties driving about the place in anything but a respectable manner, and often in such a state as to be a danger to anyone who may be out on a walk. It is high time that Parliamentary attention was turned to Sunday closing of public houses instead of wasting their time and the country’s money over Egypt.-

Yours etc.,


Enter PC Powell… I don’t know if he was on duty in and around Filey in 1882 but a studio portrait has been passed to me by Kath Wilkie and I consider him a suspect! Lower ranks of the force don’t seem to have stayed long in the town and many evaded the local Census net. A search for “Police” in Yorkshire in 1881 yields 3134 hits – and one of them is John J. POWELL, age 31, living in Albion Street, Wakefield (PRO ref RG114576 f16). He was born in Scotland, as were his wife and apparent firstborn Ada. Jack arrived next in Halifax and then Elizabeth in Wakefield four years later. A simple search of the GRO births determines the births were in the December Quarter 1874 and June Quarter 1878 and the mother’s maiden name was Tait.

I searched for John J and Augusta on FamilySearch.

John didn’t appear on the first page of returns and there were many more pages to scroll through so I looked for his wife. The third Augusta in the list was married to John Powell and they were in the IGI because a son, George William had been born 18 August 1871 in Hawick, Roxburgh.

The fourth hit gave their marriage on 21 June 1869 in Edinburgh.

The fifth offered the birth of George William Stephen Powell, 21 December 1872 in Govan, Lanark. This record gave the parents middle names – James and Anderson.

The sixth record identifies Ada Catherine (9MTH-19C), born 31 May 1870 in Coldingham, Berwick.

Wee George II must have died before the family came south of the border – I couldn’t find a death registration that fitted him in England and Wales. But I reckon FamilySearch has offered enough evidence to prove that this is our man –


Kath could give me no information about the photograph beyond the “PC J Powell” added in a caption to a digital copy of the image. I think there is a good chance that he was posted to Filey for duty between 1881 and 1891 and might well have been one of the PCs about whom “Progress” was waxing sarcastic.

Wondering what became of John and his family I did a little more research.

He was baptised in “Kirkpatrick Juxta” 10 August 1849 and at the 1851 Scottish Census was living with his parents George W and Catherine, older sister Catherine and two older brothers George W and William Stephen. (Poignant, huh?)

At the 1871 Scottish Census John James and Augusta were living at 7 Wellington Street, Wilton, Roxburghshire with new born Ada Catherine. JJ was employed as a Railway Clerk. (His father was a Stationmaster.) Ten years later, as we already know, he was a police constable in Wakefield, Yorkshire. In 1891 the family was back in Scotland at a confusing address in the Find My Past Transcription – “Montague Street, St Cuthbert Edinburgh, Newington, Midlothian” – John working as a Book Keeper, Ada Kate as a Stationer’s Assistant and Jack as a Packer aged 16.

And that is where I’ll leave them.