Friday, 3 February 2017

From Gravesend to Ontario and back ........ the travels of great grandfather Montague

Now I am never surprised at how a story can travel.

Montague Hall, 1914
In this case it went from Gravesend in Kent to Ontario and back again.

Not that our great grandfather Montague did the trip.  It was rather his name, reputation and above all his place on a war memorial.

He was born in 1872, served in the old Queen’s army and like many soldiers of the period found himself in far flung bits of the Empire.

Later he took up with our grandmother, and by degree travelled from Derby via Birmingham to Kent.

And there in 1902 the relationship ended, and Eliza our great grandmother left for the Derby Workhouse where she had her last child a daughter called Laura.

During the next thirteen years Laura, my grandfather and their two siblings spent most of their time in care.

Eventually Laura went into service, one brother was apprenticed to a blacksmith, another ended up in Canada as a British Home Child and granddad after a spell in a naval boot camp went to sea.

Montague stayed in stayed in Gravesend, went on to get married and brought up five children who are our “other family.”

His military career was to say the least colourful, and over half his hospitalisations were for infectious diseases Queen Victoria would not have approved of.

And 1914 he was called back to the “Colours” served as a reservist and died of natural causes two years later, but as he was in uniform his name appears on a war memorial.

Montague Hall's grave, 1999
This bit of the story along with his other family were unknown to us until I did the family history bit, which I shared with my cousins in Canada, and one of whom shared the story with a historian in Kent writing about the Gravesend war memorials*.

And it was that book and the accompanying book launch that our Marisa told me about this afternoon.
She had an invite to the launch but Ontario is a long way from Kent.

I like the idea that a bit of research has gone from Gravesend via Manchester and Ontario back to Gravesend.

The book was written by students at St John’s Catholic Comprehensive  under the guidance of Colm Murphy project leader.  Karen Syrett  her daughter are researchers and gathered the material for the project.

Nor is that quite all because I grew up in Eltham south east London which is just sixteen miles from Gravesend.

Of course I never knew about Montague at the time and I doubt that granddad, great aunt Laura or the other siblings knew their father was happy on the south east coast with another family.

Location; Gravesend, Ontario, Derby and London

Pictures; Montague Hall, circa 1914 and the war memorial with his name 1999 from the collection of Andrew Simpson

*“Remember Me To All” – Gravesend Parish Memorials.
  Karen Syrett, 2017 will be launched at the school on March 7th; 1,30pm for 2pm., t John's History Society St John's Catholic Comprehensive School Rochester Road Gravesend Kent DA12 2JW

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