The Murderer’s Brother

This post was intended to celebrate the birthday of John Appleby PRITCHARD, on this day 1827. Further research today revealed that this was actually the day he began his distinguished service with the Royal Navy, at the age of twelve.

If Filey Genealogy & Connections was misleading where the births of John and his father, John White Pritchard, are concerned, Kath provided an intriguing note about an explosive action in which the younger man took part. John junior was a senior officer on HMS Edinburgh at the Bombardment of Sveaborg, the most significant naval encounter of the Crimean War. It played out in this small patch of the Baltic Sea, just south of Helsinki.


There is a detailed account of the clash between the Anglo-French Alliance and Russia here. It includes a useful plan of the disposition of the vessels involved that you can compare with the Google Earth image. I don’t know if the painter John Wilson CARMICHAEL witnessed the bombardment but his painting of it captures its incendiary nature with immediacy and power.

About seven years later, John Appleby died at sea while sailing home from Ceylon. He didn’t live to witness the shame his younger brother brought upon the family. You will find plenty of accounts of Edward William Pritchard’s crimes if you search for his name online – but maybe not the LaFredux post of 27 July 2017 – The Doctor’s Daughter.

The FamilySearch ‘system’ has put a lot of Pritchards on the World Tree but they are a mess of duplicates, waiting for a descendant or two to bring the generations together. A few erroneous dates notwithstanding, the family is more connected on FG&C.

John Appleby PRITCHARD  – on FG&Cand on FST.

A Naval Biographical Dictionary has entries for five of the seagoing family Pritchard. Start with John Appleby and then follow the forward arrows for the others.

North Cotes Plantation

This day, 1942, was almost over when Wellington bomber BK257,  on a training exercise, crashed into trees near Fordon, about six miles from Filey. All five of the crew, from 16 OTU, were killed.

Three of the men are buried in St Oswald’s churchyard:-

Sergeant (Observer) Robert George MACDONALD    RAFVR No. 1380294, aged 33.

Flight Sergeant (Wireless Operator/Air Gunner) Donald Roy ROBERTSON     RCAF No. R/98882, aged 21.

Sergeant (Air Gunner) Bruce Harry SPARROW    RCAF No. R/86211, aged 20.

It is understandable that the bodies of the two young Canadians were not repatriated but the RAF Upper Heyford website, They Gave Their Today, curiously records that Leading Aircraftman Jack Arthur FOX of the Royal Airforce Voluntary Reserve, and from Worcester Park, Surrey, is buried in Medicine Hat, Alberta. The Gas City’s Hillside Cemetery is indeed the last resting place of a man bearing this name but he died 8 months earlier, on the 13th February, and was buried three days later.

The information that Pilot John FERGUSON, of Oxted, Surrey, is buried in the churchyard of St Peter’s, Limpsfield, would appear to be reliable. The church is only a mile from Oxted Railway Station.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe graves of the three flyers in Filey Churchyard are side by side, keeping company with three Polish and two British soldiers. (There are 18 other War Graves in St Oswald’s churchyard.)

I discovered that Flight Sergeant Donald Roy ROBERTSON of Saskatoon had been honoured by having a lake in Saskatchewan named after him. I found this assuaged my sadness somewhat but when I looked on Google Earth I discovered there were two Robertson Lakes in the province.  I found a number of travel and leisure references to both, with scenic photographs, but none referenced our airman.

Given this blog’s obsession, I thought about putting all five of the airmen on FamilySearch Tree but decided I should leave that to the families – of all but one of the flyers.

I did a bit of tentative searching on Find My Past and discovered that the mother of Robert George Macdonald was living in a street in The Potteries that I know well, when she was ten years old. And she was born in a Shropshire town just a couple of miles from where I lived for 25 years. Needless to say, I wanted to adopt this family immediately and was pleased to see Noah GITTINS on the World Tree. Given that his name is also GITTINGS, the family’s representation on FamilySearch isn’t straightforward but I will try to put them straight over the next few days. Any Macdonalds following after will have something a bit more substantial upon which to build Robert George’s pedigree.

The Ordnance Survey website is a good place to look for North Cotes Plantation. There doesn’t appear to be any kind of marker there to indicate the lives lost 75 years ago. I wonder how many walkers who pass that way know the story.

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.