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Crasher Kirwan update…

February 5, 2011

Richard Frederick Kirwan from his war service pay book

Regular readers (are there any out there?) will recall that I introduced my great-uncle (my grandfather’s brother) Richard Frederick ‘Dick’ ‘Crasher’ Kirwan in a previous post, in which in the course of writing I discovered a disturbing news item (or series of news items, actually).  This led to the first update, in which I recorded that I’d discovered a Courtmartial record that tied in with the date of the disturbing events described in the newspaper articles.  I’m currently waiting for the Army to clear the record for public consumption, so that I can order it.

So in the meantime I decided to do a bit of investigation into the second marriage of Crasher Kirwan.  I’d found details of the first marriage, and a news item that confirmed the third, but all I had of the second was a next of kin record in his army pay book and a newspaper court notice of their divorce.

I went into the WA Births Deaths and Marriages registry and applied for the certificate.  The staff in there couldn’t have been more helpful.  And then I waited three working days to collect the certificate.  I had to do it that way, because the marriage was just on the wrong side of the historical index cut off year.

How I knew about the marriage to Grace. The 'friend' becomes wife number 3

It turns out that Richard Frederick Kirwan married Grace Mercedes Williams at the South Perth Methodist Manse on 17 April 1940, by Special License before John F. Whittle.  Grace Mercedes Williams was 28, a spinster, a dressmaker and was born in Wellington New Zealand (one of my favourite places).  Her father was recorded as Frank Williams, gardener, and her mother was recorded as Minyonette Maude Tullett.

Richard was 30, a divorcee (his divorce was recorded as ‘Decree Absolute July 20th 1938 Perth WA’ but then at the bottom of the certificate is a note that says “In column 5 for ‘July 20’ read ‘8 March’ John F Whittle Sept 25th 1940” – what the?)

Richard recorded his parents as Nicholas Wade Kirwan, Drover and Daisy Hanna.  This is interesting because Daisy wasn’t her name.  On every certificate where she records her own name, her name is Marion.  Members of her family told me in the early 1990s that they had only ever heard her referred to in the family as Marion. They had never heard her referred to as Daisy, not even as a nickname.

The headstone records her as Marion Daisy Kirwan. Death certificate just says 'Daisy Kirwan'

And yet the death notice in the newspaper when she died, her funeral notice, her death certificate and her gravestone and the burial register all record her as Daisy.  Apparently Richard believed this was her name too – it appears he could only have come to that understanding from his father.

Richard’s occupation is ‘Private AIF’, and his Residence is recorded as ‘Claremont Showground’.  This is interesting.  I wasn’t aware that anyone ever lived at the Claremont Showground, but perhaps it was used as a military barracks during wartime.

There is another notice at the top of the certificate which records:  “NB No 16/44 This Marriage No Perth 863/40 was Dissolved by Decree Absolute of the Supreme Court of Western Australia on the 6th of December, 1944 Registered No. 240/44 Petitioner Husband”. According to the court notice in the newspaper the divorce was on the grounds of ‘adultery with Allen King’.  That article is dated 13 June 1944 and refers to Divorce Petitions granted in the Supreme Court ‘yesterday’.  If they were applications, the  March date in the correction is certainly incorrect.  If they were Decree Absolute, then the original date cited in the certificate is also wrong.  Obviously newspapers are never wrong 🙂

Witnesses at the wedding of Richard and Grace were GE Peck and N Whittle.

The presence of the surname Peck was particularly interesting to me, because my great-great grandmother was Emily Bertha Eliza Peck.  It would be  an interesting coincidence indeed if my grandmother’s relative was present at my grandfather’s brother’s wedding.  But it’s possible.  My grandmother and grandfather were married by then.

Was N. Whittle related to the Minister/District Registrar who signed the certificate and the note at the bottom recording the correct divorce date?  If so, were one of the couple friends with the South Perth Methodist Minister, or was this his wife, standing in as a witness as a matter of convenience?

I have never researched family history in New Zealand, so that was a new adventure.

Grace Mercedes Williams was born c. 1912/13 – this date derived from her age at marriage (28 in 1940) and the age at death, from the Metropolitan Cemetery Board entry I found previously, which I suspected was the right one – for Grace Mercedes King – died 9 January 1990 aged 78 years.  King was the surname of the man she was accused of committing adultery with – the grounds for Richard Kirwan divorcing her in 1944.  I will now apply for her death certificate to be sure.

Her parents, Minnie Maude Tulett  (born 1882) (1882/12509 NZ) and Francis Hurman Williams (born 1887) (1887/9804NZ) were married in New Zealand in 1910 (1910/8356 NZ).  Minnie Maude Tulett was a daughter of James Tulett and Fanny unknown, who appear not to have married in New Zealand.  Francis Hurman Williams was a son of Charles Henry Williams and Susan unknown, who also appear not to have married in New Zealand.

Fanny and James had other children – James William Tulett (1880/11478NZ), Nelly May Tulett (1891/7454NZ) and Albert John Tulett (born 1892/16227NZ) all also appear in the historical index.

Susan and Charles Henry Williams also had other children recorded in the historical index: Charles Edward Juston Williams(born 1876/14562NZ), Charlotte Grace Williams (born 1878/4160NZ) and Walter George Norton Williams (born 1880/5169NZ).

There are a few Minnie Williams’ in the death register who could be Graces mother – however I suspect she is Minnie Williams who died in 1931 (1931/2567NZ) aged 42 years – just because I think she is more likely to have been 21 years old when she married than 30 (as two of the others would have been).  There are no Minyonettes and no Minnie Maudes, who died between 1 January 1910 and 2010 (who were born more than 80 years ago)  (one of the conditions for the death register historic index cut off).  There are many Francis’ and many Franks.  And there is a John Hurman Williams who died in 1970, aged 70.  But there are no Francis Hurman Williams or Frank Hurman Williams’.

Searching Williams’ in the death index is a bit like looking for a needle in a haystack.

Tuletts are a different matter altogether.  A search for James Tulett turned up two:  James William Tulett died 1996 (1996/33570NZ) born 25 December 1907 (thank you New Zealand Death Index!) and James William Tulett died 1932 (1932/6062NZ) aged 51 (and therefore born c. 1881).  Neither of these are Grace’s grandfather/Minnie’s father James Tullet – but one of them could be her brother, born 1880, and perhaps the other is HIS son?

There is only one death entry for a Fanny Tullet – died 1933 (1933/1696NZ) aged 76 years.  But perhaps she wasn’t Fanny Tulett when she died – On 16 November 1894, a newspaper article reported that James Tulett was charged with drunkenness and indecency, and was remanded for seven days for medical treatment, on application by the police, and an application by his wife on the same day granted a prohibition order of twelve months against him. Another article in the Star, Issue 6150, 11 April 1898 p. 3, under the heading ‘Magisterial Mon April 9’ reported the following:

Summary Separation Act. An application under the Married Persons Act, by Fanny Tulett, for a separation order against James Tulett, was adjourned to the Magistrates Court at Waimate for hearing.

A later article (3 May 1898) detailed the terms of the separation and maintenance – Fanny Tulett was to ‘have charge of the children’ and James Tulett was to pay a lump sum in to trust and a regular amount of maintenance for the children.

Other articles and advertisements from 1893, 1896 and 1898 indicate that James Tulett was engaged in strawberry growing, with his properties described as ‘strawberry gardens’.  It appears he either established successive strawberry gardens of many acres, and then sold them, or he made several attempts to sell one very large strawberry garden, during this period.  Grace described her father as a ‘gardener’.  I wonder if he was involved in her grandfather’s (his father in law’s) business, or perhaps took it over from him?

I would like to find out when Grace arrived in Australia, and whether she came alone or with her parents or sibling/s.  I’d like to find out if GE Peck who witnessed Grace and Richard’s wedding was related to my grandmother.  I’d like to know what brought Grace’s forebears to New Zealand – and where from – and what brought her here to Australia.

I’m glad to discover (I think) that she married Mr King, and that she was still Mrs King when she died.

It is my understanding that Richard had no children.  My next real quest is to find out if that is true, or if either of his first wives bore children with him.  Certainly the wife I spoke to at the end of his life told me he had no children.  Grace’s death certificate may help me with that question.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. February 6, 2011 8:10 am

    fascinating. it must be a lot of effort to trawl up the family history like that, but it seems worth it. It gives one a sense of being a part of something larger. Probably sounds a bit obvious but I don’t think many look past their immediate sphere.

  2. Michelle permalink*
    February 11, 2011 3:50 pm

    I know what you mean. Being born here in Australia, I became interested because I wanted to know how ‘we’ got here – and why. The Kirwans the Richard Kirwan (and I) were descended from came from Ireland – other branches came from the highlands of Scotland, and others came from England. I’m fascinated with the ‘why’ question – what makes people pack up and move to a new colony on the other side of the world where conditions are so different to home, and so difficult? Some came on their own or with a brother or sister, leaving their family of origin behind. Others brought their whole families out with them (or at least wives and children).

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