A Burmese Day

William…who was drowned at Rangoon in Burmah

An exotic placename carved on a headstone in an English churchyard always raises questions and inspires conjecture. If there is a newspaper report “out there” explaining how 27-year old William WARE came to meet his maker I’d like to read it. In the meanwhile, I have to wonder if he fell out of a small boat on the turbid Irrawaddy of my childhood memory. Or was that the Limpopo? Thoughts then go further back in time to consider his journey out to the distant land. What forces pushed or pulled him there? Was he an agent of Empire or an adventurer? Was he traveling alone?

Filey Genealogy & Connections has one of William’s sisters but not the drowned man.

The full inscription on the headstone in St Oswald’s churchyard runs: –

In Affectionate Remembrance of RACHEL widow of the late THOMAS WARE

who died November 3rd 1885 aged 85 years

Also WILLIAM son of the above who was drowned at Rangoon in Burmah

October 15th 1858 aged 27 years


and granddaughter of the above who died Feb 20th 1892 aged 27 years

Annie Elizabeth was one of 13 children born to Rachel and Thomas WARE’s younger daughter Ann and Thomas PETCH. She married Richard Ferguson SCOTTER in the December quarter of 1891 and died less than five months later.

Rachel DAVEY’s husband Thomas died at the age of about 39 in 1837. In 1861 widow Rachel, as old as the century and working as an “upholsteress”, had a house full in North Street, Scarborough. With her were daughter Ann, her husband Thomas Petch and four children, plus 18-year-old lodger Mary PETCH who may have been Thomas’s sister.

In 1871 Rachel’s company in North Street comprised her elder daughter Ellen, 41, and her husband John JONES. The Joneses appear to have been childless but in 1881 John was head of a household in Queen Street Filey, with Ellen, his mother in law Rachel – and Annie Elizabeth PETCH.  Annie was with the Jones couple, still in Queen Street, ten years later (masquerading as “Amelia” in the Find My Past transcription). In 1901 the Joneses were back in Scarborough, now in their early seventies and with another PETCH for company – Mary Ellen, single, aged 43.

From Find My Past I moved to FamilySearch and found something surprising that brought my attention back to William Ware. In the same quarter of 1858 in which he would have learned of his older brother’s death, John WARE married Rachel NEWTON in Scarborough. They named their first child William, born around September 1860 – in Adelaide. Their second child, Annie, was also born in the Australian Colonies, in 1864, but the next two, Thomas John and George Henry, entered the world back in “the home country”.

This information raises another bunch of questions – and speculation regarding the brothers as young boys. Did they ever talk about wandering the globe together? Did John go to Australia to complete a journey that William had dreamed of making?

The WARE Pedigree on FamilySearch.

The Three Marine Engineers


Oil seems to have run through the veins of Frank, Edgar and Charles. A fourth brother, William, followed their father into mechanical engineering. All told, five HUCKS boys and one girl were born in St Pancras, Middlesex. Charles was the odd one out. Better known as Bennie Hucks, or just BC, he became one of Britain’s best known early aviators and  appropriately (but only with hindsight)  was born near Stansted Mountfichet, two miles from  what would become one of the UK’s busiest airports. I don’t know what motivated his parents, William and Kate Elizabeth nee PETCH, to name him after the village of his birth but one of the mottos of the Primary School that bears the name is “Optimism and positive thinking lead to success.” I suspect the human Bentfield had both in spades, being so magnificently daring and all.

This day in 1911 though he came unstuck in pursuit of a £50 prize for being the first person to fly a Yorkshire built aircraft into Leeds. He took off from Filey Sands in his Blackburn Mercury monoplane and turned the nose westward. Twelve miles from the coast and with another 50 to go his engine sputtered and died.

…the pilot was left with no option but to try and land the aircraft which he did on land belonging to Mr J.Coverdale, at Grange Farm, East Heslerton. The field he selected had cows in it which the pilot attempted to avoid. Following the landing the aircraft sustained damage but the pilot escaped uninjured and after a short time in the area he managed to borrow a bicycle from a Mr Edwin Owston and rode back to Filey!


GrangeFarmEastHeslertonI think I have found the obliging Mr OWSTON, born 15th May 1882, and working nearby as a Postman at the 1911 census! And (left) is a satellite view of Grange Farm. Alas, the pale specks in the pasture field are not cows.

Robert Blackburn built flying machines at Flat Cliffs, just south of Filey, and established a Flying School there. The lives of one pilot and his pupil ended on the beach.

Bennie survived several Yorkshire coast prangs, became the first pilot to cross the Bristol Channel in September 1911 and shortly afterwards assisted Harry Grindell MATTHEWS with the testing of his Aerophone. He joined the Royal Flying Corps in the First World War and approaching the end of the conflict was a Captain in the Aircraft Manufacturing Company. He died of pneumonia on 7th November 1918 at the age of 33 and is buried in Highgate Cemetery. I don’t think he married.

There are 19 people called HUCKS in Filey Genealogy & Connections. I did some family history research this morning and found Bennie’s great grandparents John HUCKS and Sarah HALFHIDE. They are both on FST (John MXYD-GGV) and so are a few others in his immediate family but mostly disconnected. I couldn’t find our aviator so if I have time tomorrow I’ll create a record and unite him with parents and the other two marine engineers at least.


This photo of Bennie is on the information board on Royal Parade, Filey so I have taken the liberty of snapping and sharing it. I think copyright is with BAE Systems. You will find quite a few photos of him online and a short film of him looping the loop. There are many brief feature articles about him too – and this obituary.