Generations 1-3: Biographies,Obituaries, etc

I have started an index on here of Biographies, Eulogies and Obituaries on here. What I hope to do in this latest project is work out where I have got to and what’s missing generation by generation

The scope will mostly be confined to commoners and minor nobility, because once you connect to a Royal the Wiki then connects them to all the others. First one I have found is James V, King of Scots 16 generations back (see more here), but there are likely to be more connections through other branches.

Not sure how many generations I will go back because of genealogical exponential growth the further you go, i.e. 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128, 256, etc. Plus the further back I go the less connected to those ancestors I feel. And not all biographies will be in the public domain. And if I do have Hunter gene connected to ADD/ADHD then this will just be another project I start and don’t complete (see more here).

I may also include links to information about Clans and Families where they exist, as well as genealogical sources. And possibly photos and photographs, if I’ve found any (or at least link to those I have found). Plus anything I find about siblings at each generation, or at least in earlier generations.

I will also have to do for a few generations at a time, but before doing so it’s worth noting that my nephew Sam Alexander has a wiki entry. He was killed on patrol while serving in Afghanistan in 2011 and had been awarded the Military Cross (MC) on a previous tour.

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Marine Sam Alexander receiving MC from The Queen

Generation 1: Parents: Kirby + Birtwistle

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The Wedding of Giles Simon Kirby and Angela Mary Julie Birtwistle 1952

There’s nothing biographical about my father as yet, and he was an only child so there’s no one else from his generation to add. But my mother (Angela Kirby) does have a wiki entry that I put together. It needs some help from a non-family member, not least being to catalogue the extensive list of compilations that her poems have been published in.

Her sister Iris also has a wiki entry (as well as obituaries in The Guardian, The Independent and The Times). And The Ampleforth Journal has published obituaries for her brothers David and Michael. There’s also an entry for Michael in Birtwistle: A Family of East Lancashire Cotton Manufacturers by W.A. Birtwistle (2001) in chapter 10 on Birtwistle and Fielding as follows:

Michael Birtwistle, born 1920, the eldest son of Astley followed hsi father into the mills. Michael served through the Second World War with distinction. He was commissioned with the 4th Battalian East Lancashire Regiment in 1939, and served in France in 194, being mentioned in dispatches at the age of 19 during the evacuation of Dunckirk. He joined the 7th Gurka Regiment, serving  in Assam and the North West Frontier in India, and after the war contineued his military interest, joining the Duke of Lancashire’s own Yeomanry. He served as Hon. Colonel of the Regiment from 1970 to 1980 and also had the honour of being the High Sherif of Lancashire in 1975.

After 1945, Michael Birtwistle spent most of his business career with the firm Birtwistle and Leigh, firstly at their Preson Mills and then as chief executive of the Group from 1954 to 1964 when Birtwistle and Leigh became part of the Vyella, International Group. He continued as a director of Vyella until 1967. He then joined Courhaults as Chief Executive of Northern Weaving Division, until his retirement from active involvement with the cotton trade in 1982.

One of my cousins discovered a photograph of who we think is our uncle Michael in a book about Dunkirk that I wrote about here:

MAB1
Possibly our Uncle Michael Birtwistle with cigarette on left on beaches during Dunkirk

When it comes to wartime exploits there’s also a fascinating account of the exploits of her brother Edmund and his SAS comrades during operations Wallace and Hardy in WW2. It has the makings of a film script, but sadly it is not currently available in the public domain.

There are likely to be eulogies or tributes for the above and also my mother’s sister Mary that I will try and get hold of. Her sister Annette was a driver, code and cipher officer in WW2 and my cousin Hamish has published the beginning of her (his mother) unedited autobiography that you can read here. There’s also one other sibling still living, married and with children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Generation 2: Grandparents: Kirby + Wright |Birtwistle + Marwood

Paternal Grandparents: Kirby + Wright

claude_rosemarywedding
Far Left: my great grandfather Ernest Fitzherbert Wright (standing) and great grandmother Elise Maitland (sitting). Middle: my grandparents Rosemary Wright and Claude Kirby. Far Right: my great grandfather George Henry Kirby (standing) and great grandmother Lucy Fox (sitting)

I have no idea if there were eulogies or tributes for my father’s parents: Alfred Reginald ‘Claude’ Kirby (1901-1963) and Rosemary Louise Wright (1905-1975). There’s certainly no published biographies or wiki entries, but George Graham has some information from the public domain about them here and I have heard many anecdotes and do have photographs so will try and publish something about them at some point along with more photographs as apparently they hated the one above.

There’s an interesting mystery about whether Claude’s brother Roddy (my great uncle) was murdered at Station X during WW2 I found out about having been contacted via this blog (see more here). I have no idea how to go about proving its veracity.

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Zara Valda Mari Kirby (c.1903-1944)

Their sister Valda died in a Japanese concentration camp in Palembang in Sumatra in 1944. Her husband Lt.-Col. Alexander Shepstone Godley remarried after the war and his son from that marriage has connected me via this blog (see more here).

Rosemary had two sisters, one brother and adopted brother. I know little about the adopted brother other than he died in WW2. Her brother Francis (Ernest Francis Fitzherbert Wright) died in 2007 and my brother read the tribute at his funeral, which I have published here. He married Elizabeth Collier-Green, but they didn’t have children.

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Marriage of Uncle Francis and Aunt Betty

Rosemary’s sister Iris Lucy didn’t marry or have children, but she lived with her long term partner. Their sister Veronica Mary did marry and I am in touch with some of her grandchildren who have sent photographs that I must publish on here when I get a moment. They may also have a eulogy for Veronica and possibly obituary for her husband Philip Squarey who was joint headmaster of Sunningdale or deputy headmaster. I found more about the Squarey family in the ‘Family records and pedigrees ‘book by Lavinia M. Squarey on Archive.org (see more here). Not sure how accurate it is given some feedback I received via comments on this blog, but it is a starting place.

Maternal Grandparents: Birtwistle + Marwood

birtwistlewedding

I haven’t seen any publicly available biographical accounts for my mothers parents, James Astley Birtwistle (1889-1974) and Mary Muriel Marwood (1893-1988). My mother has written about both as part of her Toffee Pig for Christmas memories of her childhood in Lancashire that I have published on this blog.

I am sure these and other anecdotes could be compiled along with other notes into biographical accounts about them and their families. James or JAB or Nebby was one of 12 siblings, and a number married and had offspring although I have never met or spoken to any cousins from these branches.

3 of his brothers served during WW1 (William, Henry and Norman). William was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) and Norman the Military Cross (MC) and was later Killed In Action in one of the last cavalry charges of the war (more here).

Norman-Birtwistle-MC
Norman Birtwistle, MC

There’s a short entry for my grandfather in Birtwistle: A Family of East Lancashire Cotton Manufacturers by W.A. Birtwistle (2001) in chapter 10 on Birtwistle and Fielding as follows:

James Astley Birtwistle, born 1889, the second son of Albert and Annie married Mary Murial Birtwistle and lived first at Pleasington and then at Houghton Bank, near Blackburn with their family of 8 children. Astley took an active part in the management of the family’s mills after the First World War, especially the ones in Blackburn and Great Harwood. After the death of Henry Astley Bell in 1937, he also took over the responsibility of buying the cotton for all the mills including Brookhouse Mills, Preston. He retired from active participation in the trade after the company floatation in 1950.

My grandmother Mary Muriel Marwood or Mue, was one of 9. She was the only one to have married. The others lived and died in the house where they were born, Pleasington Lodge in Pleasington, Nr. Blackburn. The only exception was her brother Father Stephen Marwood, and there’s an obituary published for him in the Ampleforth Journal as part of their collection of obituaries of monks of Ampleforth (see more here). Her brothers Basil, Cyril and Gilbert all served in WW1. Cyril was awarded the Military Cross (MC).

Generation 3: Great Grandparents: Kirby + Maitland | Wright + Fox | Birtwistle + Hartley | Marwood + Walker

Paternal > Paternal Branch: Kirby + Maitland

george henry kirby and elsie maitland

I have amassed a fair amount of notes about great grandfather George Henry Kirby (1876-1960), as well as anecdotes.  Some of this is the public domain, including his education at Eton and Trinity College Cambridge, his work ethos in Ceylon or lack of it, his service in 1st Light Horse and court martial in WW1, his later life and subsequent marriage in New Zealand, and even alleged affair with great aunt of my cousin Hamish.

I can’t help wondering whether he had the Hunter gene I mentioned in my previous post, but is definitely a character I should write up a biography about.

One of the treasures I was kindly sent via this blog is a photograph of his wedding to my great grandmother Alice Marie “Elsie” Maitland (1880-1950), which you can see here. I have also received photographs of Elsie’s family that I have posted on this blog.

Elsie Maitland
Alice Marie (Elsie) Maitland

She was 1 of 5 born in Ceylon. Both her two older brother’s served in WW1. Keith Andrew Ramsay was Killed in Action, and had been awarded the Military Cross. Her younger surviving siblings,  Christina “Nina” Clair and Angus Charles Majoribanks both married. I am not sure if Nina had Children, but I have met at least one of Angus’ daughters, and a number of his grandchildren as well as some of their children. His son (Keith) was a monk (Father Dominic Maitland) at Downside, so I am guessing they will have an obituary for him.

George Henry was the eldest of 4. His brother Edward Lloyd died when he was about 8 years old. His sister Marion Ellen never married and possibly lived with her long term partner Irene Thomson. She had been awarded an MBE, although its not clear what for.

His younger sister Dorothy Gian Born married Capt. John Charles Francis Lister. They had at least one son, Charles Anthony Lister. His grandson (Stephen) if still living would be our closest living relative on the Kirby side.

Paternal > Maternal Branch: Ernest Beresford FitzHerbert Wright and Lucy Adeline Fox

Photographs to follow. In meantime, see wedding photograph of Claude Kirby and Rosemary Wright above

Ernie (1875-1942) and Lucy (1877-1963) were cousins whose shared grandparents were the industrialist Francis Wright and Selina FitzHerbert.  I haven’t seen any public biographies for them, but George Graham has publicly available information you can see here.

Apparently, the National Portrait has a photographic portrait of Ernie by ‘Layette’, which says he was a Justice of the Peace and Major. My father lived with his grandparents for a time, while his parents sought their fortune in Argentina. So I had heard that Ernie was also director of the family owned Butterly Company, had been badly shell shocked in the WW1 and moved from one grand home to another subsequently including Yeldersly Hall, Rockley Manor, Hale Park (where my grandparents were married, see above) and others in Lycett, Staunton Grange and possibly more. Apparently, he was also a ‘good shot’ who shot with the King. He was also the sixth of seven siblings.

Hale_Park
Hale Park, Hale ,Hampshire
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Rockley Manor, Wiltshire

His brother Henry FitzHerbert Wright, is the only one I can find with a public profile. He has a wiki entry, and was a cricketer who served in the Royal Artillary as a Captain in WW1, as well as being a Justice of the Peace, Conservative Member of Parliament for Leominster and High Sheriff of Derbyshire. He is also the maternal great-grandfather of Sarah, Duchess of York.

Lucy was the youngest of six. Her sister Mary Douglas Fox married the Rev. Edward Harrison Askwith and I found this entry for him in the Alumni Cantabrigienses: A Biographical List of All Known Students …, Volume 2:

Edward Harrison Askwith

It seems like he also had entries in 1938 editions of Who’s Who and Crockford.

There also a short entry from this Wikisource scan of Oxford men and their colleges for the Rev. James Sedgwick Wimbush who married Lucy’s sister Judith Isabel Fox:

Wimbush, rev. James Sedgwick, born at Terrington, Yorks, 20 Feb., 1866; 3s. Samuel, cler. Oriel, matric. 23 Oct., 85, aged 19 (from Haileybury), B.A. 89, M.A. 92 (Honours:— 3 classical mods. 87, 3 history 89) ; curate of St. Columba, Southwick, Sunderland, 91.

I am also guessing that there will be a Crockford entry for him somewhere.

I can’t find anything for Lucy’s brother Francis Douglas who married Mildred Susan Harris. I think he was a civil engineer who worked for his father’s partnership. I am assuming that at least one of Lucy’s siblings that married (Francis, Mary  and Judith) had offspring… so I probably have Fox, Sedgwick and Aswith cousins somewhere.

Lucy’s only other surviving sibling was Agnes Selina Fox. She didn’t marry but I do have her scrapbook, and I have been posting its content as part of the Diary of an Edwardian Lady series I have been publishing on here. That’s another project I should probably finish, as it seems to have been interesting and useful for some who have visited this site.

Maternal > Paternal Branch: Birtwistle + Hartley

Birtwistles1901small

There is an entry for my gread grandfather Albert Birtwistle in Birtwistle: A Family of East Lancashire Cotton Manufacturers by W.A. Birtwistle (2001) in chapter 10 on Birtwistle and Fielding as follows:

Albert Birtwistle, 1849-1921, the eldest son of William Birtwistle was born at Lower Fold, Great Harwood. His early education was at Whalley Grammar School and then at Frankfurt in Germany. He married Annie Mary Bell, the duaghter of William Bell, architect and estate agent of Accrington in 1881. Records show the family first lived at Elmfield in Great Harwood, and then in 1890, the family then moved to Springfield House, Billinge, Blackburn.

Albert Birtwistle was taking the full responsibility of the family business and the move to Blackburn took him to the centre of things, and the scene of the development of the business in the next few years. Arthur Birtwistle, his younger brother, remained in Great Harwood and took care of the mills in that town. Albert and Annie were to have a large family of 12 children, who spent their early years in Springfiled House, and were known for many years as the Sringfield Birtwistles. In later years after the death of Albert, the family moved to Langho. The old home was made into a maternity hospital and Mrs Birtwistle, on one of her visits to the home, was asked by the Matron. “How did she like Springfield now that it was a maternity home? She replied that is always was a maternity home.

In his younger yours Albert took a keen interest in sport and was captain of the Great Harwoord Cricket team – and a keen supporter of their football team. Later in life he took a keen interest in farming – he possessed a number of farms around Great Harwood – and was president of the Great Harwood Agricultural Show in its early years.

After 1900 he was employer on a very large scale and man of considerable influence in the trade. He was a member of the British Overseas Cotton Grower’s Association, and represented the waevers’ section of the Employers’ Association on many of the governments enquiries into cotton trade matters. Albert died on February 10th 1921 at Springfield House and was buried at the Langho Old Church. He left a family of 5 surviving sons and six daughters. William, James Astley, Henry Oscar, Albert Ernest, and George survived him. Norman, born 1896, was tragically killed in the last fortnight of the First World War.

I have written previously about how Annie Mary is probably the natural daughter of Priscilla Hartley and possibly William Henry Bell. We know she was the daughter of Priscilla Hartley and was born on 05/01/1858 at 52 Montague Street, Blackburn. But no father is named on the birth certificate, and Annie`s marriage certificate (to Albert Birtwistle) has no father named either. As Priscilla didn’t marry William Bell until 1863, I suspect that he was not Annie’s father. But who knows, and maybe Geneaologial DNA may yield some answers one day. We do have some great photos of ‘Granny B’ as my mother calls Annie including the one below in fancy dress and later in life, as well as more of Albert and their large family. And I am also guessing my mother has some interesting stories and anecdotes. Some of these I have published as part of her A Toffee Pig For Christmas memoirs series on here.

Maternal > Maternal Branch: Marwood + Walker

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Frederick Thomas Marwood (1857-1935)
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Mary Agnes “Polly” Walker (1857-1898)

There aren’t any official biographies for Fred and Polly that I have seen, although we do have photographs. However, we know he ran a Cork Factory and my mother did write up the following for me about him back in 2011 (see more here):

Fred T. Marwood and Pleasington Lodge Remembered by Angela Kirby (née Birtwistle):
When I last saw Pleasington Lodge, in about 1951 or 1952, it was largely unchanged from Edwardian days. Gas lamps, including the round glass street-lamps which lined the drive, red chenille table-cloths, bronze statues of women in Grecian drapes, holding up torcherres, art-deco bits and pieces, big Omari vases, a large brass gong in the hall, a mahogany barometer (tapped every morning), a glass -fronted long-clock with a big brass pendulum, a black grand piano (a Steinway, I think), covered with silver-framed photographs, and on which all three talented sisters played, both classical music and Music Hall songs, accompanying their brothers who did ‘comic turns’. Uncle Cyril’s Military Cross and citation were framed and hung in the drawing-room. The family governess, Miss Ethel Corbishley (some relation to Monsignor Corbishley), always called ‘Madame’, stayed on with the family and, when they grew up, helped to run the family Cork business, the office being in the handsome old Queen-Anne family house in King Street, Blackburn.. She eventually left (not sure why) in the fifties , when she was over eighty and, a short time after, was run-over and killed by a London bus.

In true Victorian style, Fred was an inventor – patent corkscrews, one of which is still occasionally seen in pubs (or was until recently, a canon-like brass thing, fixed to the bar to remove crown corks) and, I have been told, the first golf bag on wheels and the first gas-oven with a door which opened downwards. I believe he sold his patents for about a fiver each.

He was also very interested in medical matters, holding long correspondences with doctor and professors in England and Europe, many of whom addressed him as Doctor and he didn’t contradict them. He wrote a treatise on the dangers of salt consumption, a copy of which I have somewhere – it was probably self-published.

Another theory of his was that that bathing in hot oil would cure rheumatism and arthritis. On one famous night, he got the servants to fill up a hip-bath in the kitchen with oil they had heated up, pan by pan, on the cooking range. He then sent them out of the room, took off his clothes and climbed in – so far, so good – but then he tried to get out. For a long time, he slipped and slithered without success. Eventually he had to call or ring for the servants to come back, which a last they did, modestly averting their eyes and holding out towels to shield his nudity. I don’t think he tried it again.

Every year, except during WW1, he went off to the casino at Monte Carlo. I think he had ‘a system’ but it was not noticeably successful, alas !! He also fancied himself as looking like the king, George Vth, and had a photograph taken of himself in a hired Admirals dress-uniform, complete with cocked hat with feathers. Don’t know where that has got too.

The caption for the photo below is from the Ampleforth Journal reads: “Reginald Marwood, aged 11, arrives on 12 September 1901 in a Renault car to start his school life at Ampleforth. Later, as Fr Stephen Marwood, he was the first Housemaster of St Oswald’s House at Ampleforth from 1926 to 1949 and I written more about him here.

fr-stephen-marwood-photo

My mother tells a story that when the Renault dealer first demonstrated the car to her grandfather it had trouble with the hills in Lancashire. It wasn’t long before her grandfather pointed out that the brochure had promoted the car’s hill climbing capabilities and apparently the dealer’s response with thick french accent was something along the lines of, ‘these are not hills, they are mountains’.

pleasingtonlodge
Pleasington Lodge, Pleasington, Blackburn

My mother has also written about how Fred’s family had both money and culture (see more here):

They were multilingual and musical, living in delightful houses. King Street, Blackburn, where I think, Frederick was born, I remember well. It was a large beautiful Queen Anne town house, and the cork business was next door. Frederick was educated at a private school in Belgium and then at Cologne University. Catholic education was still illegal in England at that time, but his younger half-brother, Tom, was one of the first pupils at Ampleforth. It seems odd that they suddenly achieved this sort of social position and life-style from nowhere (especially as life was still difficult for catholics at the time) – surely it is more likely that they were indeed descended from a family of some substance?

More on that in later generations, but she also thinks that Ethel may have been more than just the children’s governess after their mother’s death. And accompanied Fred on his trips to Monte Carlo.

Polly died when my grandmother and her siblings were still young. It was believed that she was a relative of Sir Robert Peel, her first memory being of sitting on his knee in an open carriage, being driven through cheering crowds in Preston, Lancs. That’s not something I or anyone else has been able to establish. We do know quite a bit more about the Walkers and related families thanks to cousins census records and cousins who hage got in touch. More on them and other branches in subsequent posts.

2 thoughts on “Generations 1-3: Biographies,Obituaries, etc

  1. Doing research on Albert ‘Fred’ Birtwistle who was a founding member of Abbey Lodge 2529 of Whalley in 1894. Your paragraphs on Albert fill in a lot of gaps for us. He is also famous for being a member of the Blackburn Rovers team that took to the field in their first ever match in 1875. We have an image of him in 1897 if you are interested.

    1. Thanks for additional information about my great grandfather. Fascinating to hear he had played for Blackburn Rovers. Thanks for offer of photo and I’ll be in touch about this.

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