Why on earth would they do that ?

National newspapers are, by and large, full of rubbish, half truths and well, good old fantasy these days.

But, for family historians, local newspapers are one of the most valuable sources of information around.  Most family historians today can easily go back in time to the 1870s and find all manner of information they simply couldn’t find elsewhere.

The article below was found, quite by chance, one evening, as I was browsing the British Newspaper Archives. The find was so unexpected that I almost discounted it.  There is absolutely no other way that I would ever have discovered the most unusual events surrounding the death of my great 4x grandfather if it had not been reported by the Morning Post on Saturday 25 January 1890 in Woolwich.

Just so that you know who exactly the article is referring to :

young man named Dillon‘ is my 3x great grandfather, James Wallace Dillon, and;

Dillon’s father‘ is my great 4x grandfather, Peter Dillon formerly of Kendal and Dublin



‘At Woolwich Police-court, yesterday, Mr. Farman, solicitor, accompanied by a young man named Dillon, applied to Mr. Marsham for his assistance in obtaining the dead body of Dillon’s father, who died on Monday last. He stated that the deceased had lodged for some years with a Mr. and Mrs. Bailey, at 68, Raglan road, Plumstead, and when he died they did not trouble themselves to acquaint his son, who lived at No. 51 in the same road ; but when the son went to the office of Mr. Vincent, the registrar, in order to register the death, he found the Bailey’s there about the same business.

The registrar preferred to take the information from the son, and, notwithstanding Mr. Bailey’s objections, gave the son the order for the burial. The son, thereupon, went to Mr. Messent, undertaker, and made arrangements for the funeral. A coffin was sent to the house, and the undertaker’s men were about to remove the body to the son’s house when Mr. and Mrs. Bailey refused to part with it, claiming a right to bury it themselves, although they knew that the son had the burial order.

The young man then applied to the police, and a sergeant and constable called upon Mr. Bailey, who stated that he and his wife had befriended the dead man, who had left them a small insurance, and that they meant to see him buried. He offered, however to give upon the corpse and coffin if young Dillon would sign an I O U for some claim which he set upon, but ultimately used violent and defiant language and slammed the door in the face of the police and the undertakers.

It seemed that before the son heard of the death Bailey had reported it to the parish relieving officer, who communicated with the young man, but there was just a possibility, unless the Court interposed, that he would be buried as a pauper after all.

Mr. Marsham said the law imposed the duty of burial upon the nearest relative, and the registrar had acted rightly in giving the order to the son, whatever claims others might have. He would send one of the officers of the Court to Mr. Bailey warning him that if he persisted in his illegal course he would be served with a summons.

Subsequently the officer informed the magistrate that Bailey had consented to give upon the corpse and coffin, and Mr. Marsham directed him to be present and see the removal peacefully conducted.’


27 July, 2013. Tags: , , , , , . Family History. 1 comment.

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