Regular readers will know I love writing about Portsmouth families of old and Diana Shaw, of North End, came up trumps with her large family from the past.
Diana’s great grandmother, Anne Byng, was a ladies’ maid in Southsea. The name Byng is well-known in Portsmouth and there seem to have been branches all over the city.
On February 9, 1876, Anne married Thomas Neil, a soldier who had joined the Oxon Bucks Light Infantry in County Wexford, Ireland, and was stationed in Portsmouth.
She followed her husband wherever he was stationed, including India, finally settling back in Alfred Street, Landport.
Diana tells me Anne conceived 22 times – nine of those children survived and she has traced what happened to most of them who were born around the world. In an age where very few people travelled abroad that’s quite startling.
The first born was a girl, Mary Bessie. In later life she married an Inspector in the Shanghai Municipal Police.
During the Second World War and at the age of 68, Mary was interned in the Yu Yuen Camp and Yangtsepoo Camp, both civilian attendance centres in Shanghai. Imagine that after being a ladies’ maid in Southsea.
She survived and returned to this area, dying in 1951.
Their second born was a boy, Thomas Neil, who joined the Royal Navy in 1899 rising to chief petty officer. At the outbreak of the First World War he was serving in HMS Lynx with the Grand Fleet.
Lynx was engaged in minesweeping duties, struck a mine and sank in the Moray Firth on August 9, 1915. Seventy men went down with her including Thomas.
The third child. Patrick, died at nine months.
Anne and Thomas had another child, Annie, who married Edward Hayward. They had a son named Billy who, in 1925, was sent to Canada by the Salvation Army, but a few months after he arrived he died aged 17.
Billy’s remains were returned to England, again at the Salvation Army’s expense. His embalmed remains was brought home and placed in a glass coffin.
When he arrived at his former home in Alfred Street, Landport, his coffin was partially displayed in the front window.
As the undertakers could not get the coffin into the house it was placed half in half out of the front window. Diana was told hundreds of people came to view Billy.
Either him, the glass coffin or simply their macabre inquisitiveness.
On another note, 14 years after he was buried in Kingston Cemetery Billy’s grave was re-opened for his mother to be laid to rest on top.
The gravediggers could see the remains of Billy perfectly preserved as if he had died the day before. They told the family that if they wanted to see Billy they would be welcome.
The fifth born was John who joined the navy in 1902 becoming a leading seaman. He served in HMS Landrail. In this ship he took part in the battles of Heligoland Bight, Dogger Bank and Jutland, afterwards doing important patrol and escort duties until the end of hostilities.
But the war changed him forever and he died in 1934 in Portsmouth Asylum.
The sixth child was Frederick Charles who became a sergeant in the Hampshire Regiment. He volunteered in August, 1914, and after training he served in Ireland. In May 1915, he sailed for France and fought at Loos, Vimy Ridge and Ypres. He was gassed but survived.
Another son, William Mark became a Bandsman in the 2nd Oxon Bucks Light Infantry.
We do not know very much about him except that he holds the British War Medal, Victory Medal and 1914 Star with clasp and roses (Pip, Squeak and Wilfred). He died in 1960.
The last two children were girls.
Ellen married a Richard Ernest Peters, a cook in the Mercantile Marine. He joined in January 1914 and during the First World War served in SS Lake Manitoba on convoy duties.
He was with this ship in the Dardanelles and later served in the Atlantic. He survived but died in 1921 from TB and Ellen died in 1926 also of TB leaving three orphans.
The last born was Emma Rose who married a Harry Walter Jarlett, a boilermaker.
Together with her then widowed mother they helped raise the three orphans together with four children of their own.