Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Falling through the cracks Part Two the story of Montague Hall

Montague Hall, 1914
Our great grandfather managed to fall through the cracks and after leaving one family, started a second.

He lived with my great grandmother for perhaps eight years and they had five children before they separated. She returned home to the Derby Workhouse where my great aunt was born and he to Gravesend.

What little his children knew of him could be written on a postcard. His daughter remembered she had seen his medals and a uniform, and my grandfather once gave his birthplace as the Transvaal in South Africa where he once served. Little enough.

I doubt that they were even married. No record of such a marriage has turned up and while Eliza described herself as married in 1911 and called herself Hall, she had reverted to her maiden name on the electoral register in 1921. Her death certificate records her as “Eliza Boot otherwise Eliza Hall.”

Nora and his second family
So perhaps my great grandfather felt there was nothing wrong in declaring himself as “Bachelor” when he married Nora Gertrude Kathleen Corke on November 20th 1906. And perhaps it was a genuine mistake that he said he was 37 and not 39.

He went on to have five children with Nora. It would be another 100 years before the descendants of the two families came to know of each other’s existence.

Working independently of each other we began to stumble over the story.

My cousin in Canada was the first to discover Montague’s new life. She was the granddaughter of Laura Hall born in the Derby Workhouse.

Down in Kent another granddaughter was also beginning to uncover the unsettling evidence that Montague had had a previous life. By one of those genetic twists, Montague passed on the same family characteristics.

Montague in the uniform of the West Kents
Hall children have a tendency to be on the short side, can be red headed and some at least have a similar mark on their eye. They showed up in my grandfather, are present in some of my Canadian cousins and are there amongst the Halls in Kent.

In this much Montague was not entirely able to slip away from his first family. And there is just one scrap of official documentation which also tied the two parts of his life together.

In the War Ministry there is a record of his service in the East Yorks which sits beside his military papers from 1914 when he reenlisted with the West Kents.

There is even a photograph of him in uniform sometime between 1914 and his death in 1916.
It was supplied by my cousin Juanita, who until recently had no knowledge of her other family in Derby and along with a picture of Nora they are the only personal link any of us have with Montague.

So by and large for better or for worse Montague did slip through the net, reinventing himself and in the process losing one family and making another.

Picture; Montague Hall in the uniform of the West Kents circa 1914, from the collection of Nita Luce

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