A Woman Scorned

I gave my undernourished Churchyard Index some attention yesterday and, while looking for information about the death of Thomas SWIFT, happened upon a murder mystery.

Thomas is curiously connected to Filey. His first wife, Dinah SAMPSON, was born in Lincolnshire but the family later crossed the river and her mother is buried in St Oswald’s churchyard. Mary Alice, the Swift’s firstborn  opened her eyes in Prescot, Lancashire, and closed them forever 15 months later in Filey. She is remembered on the headstone of her great uncle, John OAKDEN, who had died the previous year. The birth of her brother, John Oakden Swift, was registered in Prescot the following year.

Findmypast offered three hints for Thomas Swift’s death in Lancashire and rather than guess, I turned to newspapers. Several reports of his sudden death in Liverpool in 1899, at the age of 66, agreed that he was a man of exceptional ability, well-known in Liverpool and St Helens and held in the highest esteem. As a solicitor he was particularly expert in licensing law but after being called to the bar in 1882 he acted as counsel in some high profile cases. In 1889 he was involved in the prosecution of Florence Elizabeth MAYBRICK for the murder of her husband, James.

The case against Florence was weak but the judge successfully persuaded the jury to find her guilty. She became the first American citizen to be sentenced in Britain to hang. A public that gleefully trashed her character at the beginning of the trial, had doubts about the fairness of the verdict at the end. Following an appeal, Queen Victoria reluctantly commuted the sentence to life imprisonment.

In 1891 Florence was in Knaphill, Woking, the first purpose-built female convict prison. When it closed in 1895, the inmates were transferred to the new female prison in Aylesbury. Florence was enumerated there in 1901, given age 37.

She served fifteen years for a crime for which she hadn’t been tried. At some time between 1889 and 1904 she had been cleared of murder but not re-tried on a lesser charge.

On release from prison she made plans to return to the United States. Her son James was then 22 years-old but had changed his surname to FULLER. He would die in Canada seven years later after drinking cyanide, thinking it was water. Daughter Gladys Evelyn would marry Frederick CORBYN in 1912 and die, childless it seems, in Haverfordwest in 1971. One source says that Florence “never saw her children again” after the trial.

You can see Florence’s application for a United States passport here. She did, as promised, undertake literary work. You can download her Memoir – My Fifteen Wasted Years ­from the Gutenburg Project at no charge. How she came to find work on Henrietta Banwell’s chicken farm in Gaylordsville, Connecticut remains a mystery. But she lived in poverty there in a small bungalow – described by some as “a shack” – with a lot of cats. Reverting to her maiden name, it seems that nobody in South Kent knew of her notoriety until after her death from acute myocarditis on 23 October 1941, aged 79 years, one month and 22 days, according to her death certificate.

There is a lot of information online about Florence. If you are curious…

There is a photograph of her grave and a short biography here. On the FamilySearch Shared Tree she awaits the sad gift of her children. Her husband’s five children by just one of his mistresses are also not yet recorded.

Tree 59 · Country Park

A Child, Poisoned

Listmaking duties yesterday brought this family unit to my attention. Thanks to the kindness of a LORRIMANdescendants, I was already familiar with some of the people and sensed immediately that there was something amiss with the picture presented by FamilySearch Tree.

FST_LorrimanBuckleThe FST system wasn’t concerned that “Sarah Duckells” was 48 years old when she gave birth to Harry and one research suggestion was to look for a missing child between Frederick and Sarah A. Hardly any of the many sources available online have been co-opted to build this family.  Just two or three of them, well-chosen, would transform the family. Father William, for instance, married Sarah BUCKLE in the summer of 1859 and died twenty years later, not long after the birth of Frederick.. Sarah’s maiden surname is given as Buckle for each of her eight children in the GRO Index. (Missing from the family, left, is Charles, born in the third quarter of 1874.) The 1891 census places the family in Albion Place, Filey and clearly indicates that Sarah A, Annie and Harry are grandchildren of widow Sarah. She told the enumerator they had been born in Filey but a careful search of the GRO Births Index indicates that the girls are sisters, born in York, to Sarah Buckle’s son William LORRIMAN and Sarah Ann ROBSON. I haven’t been able to find a birth registration for Harry (or Henry) so, until evidence to the contrary is discovered, will consider him to be the brother of the two girls.

Sarah Ann ROBSON married William LORRIMAN in York, in early June 1883. The birth of their first child, Sarah Ann, was registered the following quarter. Young Sarah joined a half-brother, George Arthur ROBSON, who had been accepted by William as his own.

Towards the end of April 1884, when he was three years old, George took advantage of his mother’s fleeting absence (to talk to a neighbour) and drank the contents of a medicine bottle she had left in the middle of the kitchen table. It isn’t clear from a local newspaper report of the coroner’s inquest what ailed the mother. The bottle, however, contained strychnine in the smallest of concentrations – but enough to kill a toddler. Little George staggered into the backyard, fell over and damaged a leg. It was thought initially that this was his only injury but he began to spasm. Someone ran for a doctor who arrived quickly, sensed the damage was internal and gave the lad emetics. These did not help, so the doctor dashed back to the surgery to get something that would control the spasms. When he returned, the child was dead.

Dr Hill, who supplied the medicine, had not given the mother special instructions about the danger the liquid would pose to a child. It contained eight doses, of which Sarah Ann had taken three. One dose would have been enough to kill George.

The jury returned a verdict of “Accidental death by poisoning”, and the Coroner, at their request, impressed upon Mr Hill the desirability of cautioning patients, particularly when young children are about, to whom he prescribed medicine that contained poisonous ingredients.

Yorkshire Gazette, 3 May 1884

Learn how strychnine was once thought to be good for you (in very small doses) here.

I don’t know what became of George’s half-brother, Harry. Sarah Ann, pictured below, married James MILNER in Tadcaster in 1905 and bore him four children. James died young and Sarah raised the children mostly on her own.

Photo courtesy of Rose Toye

Annie married Alfred Henry Pritchard, an Essex man, in 1912. They raised their small family in Canada.


Annie and Alfred with children Gladys, William and baby Frederick (known by the family as James and the father of Brenda Pritchard, who donated the photo to Looking at Filey).

Annie and Alfred are buried in the small town of Kars, Ontario.

Pritchard Gravestone

I will add to the World Tree as soon as I can. Meanwhile, find “Sarah DUCKELLS” here.

Repairing the Damage

The two Beasts from the East last month gave the tides enough muscle to wreck Filey Bay beaches and damage man-made structures. Here is Herring Hill, photographed a week ago.


Transcore men were on the case today.


Today’s Image

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe concrete jumble in the middle distance is to the left of my shadow in the photograph below. You can see how much sand has been scoured away by the variation in colour at the base of the two relict pillboxes. The ridges and furrows of pebbles and gravel are a sight to behold. It may, however, only take a couple of tides to bring all the lost sand back. The sea works in mysterious ways.


The damage done to the credibility of the United Kingdom by the present government may take a lot longer to repair. May, Johnson et al continue to double down on the Skripal farrago and the BBC’s well-spring of useful idiots trotted out to make unsubstantiated claims of Russian guilt is showing no sign of running dry. Jeremy Corbyn must be wondering why “calling for the utilization of proper channels of international law before attributing blame” (source)  makes him an instant traitor.

Maybe The Phantom Poisoner will be proven, eventually, to have Russian connections. But the British Government doesn’t have the proof yet, otherwise it would have presented it to the world already.

Thank goodness for the antidote to poisonous Tory hate speech offered by Maria Zakharova.

Life is Sweet


Well, it would be if it were not for those awful Russians, with their aggressive actions, disregard for international law and disrespect for our western values. Such as the recognition of innocence until guilt is proven.

Oh, my bad. I think I have just described two countries that have a special relationship.

The head of the United Kingdom regime has had nothing sensible to say for months but I listened to a rant this morning by a citizen of the more dangerous partner in the aforementioned relationship. I recommend it to you. Take it away, Lionel.

CNN’s program Sixty Minutes served up porn actress Stormy Daniels recently. I’m not sure what the tv company was hoping to achieve, other than higher than normal ratings. Russian television also offers Sixty Minutes to its people, and they have just been treated to an explanation of the Skripal poisoning incident.  Maria Vladimirovna Zakharova, from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, demonstrates that there is little disagreement between Russia and the Lionel Nation.

One can only hope that the “leaders”  of the USA and the UK find a cure for their Russophobia soon. We don’t want them, in their fevered state, to do something stupid – like invade Syria or Iran. Do we?