This text is particularly under constant revision
This text is written from the viewpoint of John Kirby's second marriage. Now I have contacted the oldest surviving relatives of the first marriage little can be related concerning him. The only information I have gleaned from Betty McTurk is that 'he ran off with a Kilmurray woman'.
Somewhere today lies the facts from which can be constructed the true story of John Kirby, my Great Grandfather. It may be fair to say that of all my Great Grand Parents, several I knew personally, I know the least about John Kirby. In fact I know more about his Father and Mother, Joseph Kirby and Lucy Payne. My Grand Father Ralph Kirby never knew him either and here lies the problem. Sometime around 1910 he disappeared. I would prefer to say missing, as there must be an answer. I have now assembled lots of facts about him, his Mother and Father and his brothers and sisters. Along with the few family stories, I have built up a visual picture in my mind about him. I also knew My Great Grand Mother Jane Miller, John's wife who died in 1967 when I was 11. My mother lived with her when she was young and was fairly close.
This is my attempt to put the story so far in written form. The more that you learn about a person you do not know, the more you find you either like or dislike their character. For example both of John's parents Joseph and Lucy had such full and interesting lives that they come to life and you cannot fail to like them. As far as John Kirby is concerned the jury is still out. Whilst the family inferences may not be so great, from what is emerging of John's early life doubts are gathering about his character.
JOHN KIRBY (son of JOSEPH8, JOSEPH7, JOSEPH6, JOSEPH5, JOSEPH4, JOSEPH3, JOSEPHUS2 KIRBY, SIMONIS1) was born 8 January 1861 in Burrows Terrace, Pembrey, Wales. and died whereabouts unknown. I have a copy of his birth certificate and have seen a copy of his Marriage Certificate in New Register House in Edinburgh. He married Jane Miller on the 31st July 1903 in 26 Duke Street, Ayr, who was a daughter of Peter Miller and Jane Armstrong. I knew Jane Miller fairly well as I stayed with her every year when we were on holiday in Prestwick.
He was christened on the 10th of February 1861 at Pembrey, Carmarthern, Wales according to the IGI (International Genealogical Index) but the Parish Records have not yet been examined. He had an older Brother of 2 years Joseph T, whose Birth certificate I do not have. His parents were Joseph Kirby and Lucy Payne aged 35 and 24 respectively at the time of his birth.. Both were originally from Moreton in Marsh in Gloucestershire. A small quiet market town at a crossroads of the Fosseway, a Roman Road, an important link between Bath in the South West and the East Midlands and Evesham-Chipping Norton-Oxford road. Up to the arrival of the railway it would have been an important town for Coaching and therefore had a number of Inns and stables for horses.
The Railway arrived in, the London - Worcester. Nearby Batsford House a large Country House belonging to . Moreton had a Cottage hospital where Lucy Payne worked on her return to Moreton
When John was born his father Joseph was employed as a Coastguard having previously served in the Royal Navy. This may be regarded as unusual as it is difficult to get much further from the sea than Moreton in Victorian times although Bristol was an important Port. After the Crimean war, selected former Navy personnel were retained in a newly formed Coastguard who role was to act as Naval Reservists in times of crisis. Although this was a shore-based activity in the main, Coastguards were allocated to a Guardship in which they had to train to maintain their naval readiness. In order to progress in a career it was important to move location. At the time he became a Coastguard 12 February 1857 he was still unmarried. Whether Navy life was not conducive to marriage being away from home for long periods of time, particularly in the Victorian Navy, or whether to progress in the Coastguard it was viewed that to be married was important it is hard to tell. On 15 October 1857 at the age of 34 he married Lucy Payne aged 21,13 year his younger. How did they meet? This large age difference may be harder to understand today but this may have a bearing on John Kirby's later life. She was from Moreton in Marsh too. Obviously he had kept links with Moreton, despite having been widely travelled in the Navy. Eventually he retired in 1879 and went back to Moreton and lived next door to the Payne's. Joseph Kirby died on 9 April 1897 aged 73 and Lucy Payne died aged 63 on 16 January 1900. At that time John would have been 36 and 39 respectively
JOHNS EARLY LIFE
So John was born in Pembrey in 1861 and in 1863 another brother William arrived. In 1864 they moved to Penarth where Albert was born in 1864.
A further move happened in 1866 to Falmouth where Alexander was born in 1866 Frederick was born in Falmouth in 1871 even though his father was stationed at St Mawes the other side of the Estuary. John would have been 10. Rhoda being born in 1872 and Francis in 1874
Yet a further move to Par, Polkerris in east Cornwall occurred in 1875 where was Ada was born in 1876, John being 15 years old.
So before his father retired in 1879 both John, John being 18, and his older brother Joseph would have started work. In the 1881 census, Joseph, John and William were not listed. So either they remained in Cornwall, or went somewhere else. Did they stay together? Or split up? From John's perspective and his two older Brothers there must have been a strong influence from the sea. Well shortly after writing the above I discovered in the 1881 census the following:-
Vessel: "Firefly" Census Place: Royal Navy, At sea or in a foreign port. Source: FHL Film 1342356 PRO Ref RG11 Piece 5641 Folio 65 Page 3 Marr Age Sex Birthplace Thomas ELLIOT U 19 M Brighton, Sussex, England Occ: Ordy Seaman George H. SIMS U 37 M Cheltenham, Gloucester, England Occ: Pte R M L I Robt. FITZGERALD U 21 M Scotland Occ: Pte R M L I George COX U 20 M Dudley, Worcester, England Occ: Pte R M L I Henry FARON M 45 M Ireland Occ: Pte R M L I George H. READ U 26 M Donhead St Mary, Wiltshire, England Occ: Pte R M L I Wright WILDE U 23 M Liverpool, Lancashire, England Occ: Pte R M L I Clifford WILLS U 25 M North Moreland, Somerset, England Occ: Stoker Andrew W. VENNING U 25 M Tamerton, Devon, England Occ: Stoker Thomas WEBBER M 28 M St Germans, Cornwall, England Occ: Stoker James COLE U 23 M Bath, Somerset, England Occ: Sailmrs Crew James STEVENS U 25 M Plymouth, Devon, England Occ: Armts Crew Robert COONEY U 23 M Mauritius Occ: Wd Rm Steward Ishmael PETERS U 18 M Sierra Leone Occ: Wd Room Servant Charles F. PAUL U 22 M Teignmouth, Devon, England Occ: Able Seaman John KIRBY U 21 M Pembry, Glamorgan, Wales Occ: Sh Stewards Assistt Henry FURBY U 23 M Coxwold, York, England Occ: Pte R M L I Edward HOLT U 26 M Crofton, Leicester, England Occ: Corpl R M L I Fredk. COOMBS U 25 M Tamerton, Devon, England Occ: Stoker Benjamin JENMAN U 25 M Portsmouth, Hampshire, England Occ: Asst S B Attendant
So he married after 1881
****** HMS FIREFLY - Composite construction (Iron and surplus wood, Steam Gunboat. 455 tons 125*23.5ft. 6-64 Pdr, 2-30 Pdr. Thomson 28/6/1877 Boom defence 1904, renamed EGMONT base ship 3/4/14. Firefly 1/3/23 sold 5/31.
In 1881 John Kirby 'ran query', that is, deserted the Royal Navy in Montevideo. By some means yet unknown he reappears in Troon
JOHN'S FIRST MARRIAGE
Until I started researching it was thought that John Kirby was previously married but this notion was very vague, but realistic due to his age.
It is also thought that Jane Miller told Rea Kirby that John had lived in the Weston Super Mare area. This caused great confusion and led me to search for many years in England for him. He was supposed to be from Cornwall, which turned out to be fairly true, although not born there. Remember that South Wales is only the other side of the Bristol Channel from Weston. His first wife apparently died but what happened to her and his daughters? No one could tell me.. Somewhere the 1881, 1891 and shortly 1901 census hold would hold the information. Perhaps we could find marriage records or Birth certificates for their daughters? Whatever he did, what happened to his children? Surely someone had to look after his children. Were they put in care?
Late in 1999 I discovered whilst looking in New Register House in that John Kirby had married an Elizabeth Taylor in Troon on the 23rd of April 1885. They had nine children. In 1901 Elizabeth Taylor died. Five Children were alive at this time.
JOHN - A WANDERER IN AYRSHIRE
Sometime between 1881 and 1885 John Kirby appeared in Troon. As courtships usually take some time before marriage, to marry in April 1885, he must have arrived in 1884 or before.
Marrying Elizabeth Taylor in Portland Street, Troon on the 23rd of April 1885. They had nine children.
On 23 April 1885, Elizabeth married a John Kirby from 'England' in Troon Free Church of Scotland. Two of the witnesses were Thomas Taylor and Euphemia Ligate a neighbour in Portland Street about the same age and probably a close friend. In fact John Kirby arrived in Troon in somewhat mysterious circumstances having deserted the Royal Navy in Montevideo in 1881.
They set about raising a family of nine and although quite successful, survival was not particularly good and none of the boys survived.
Henry Taylor Kirby, born on the 27th of December 1885, in Crosbie Street Troon
Lucy Elizabeth Kirby, born on the 4th of May 1887, in Portland Street, Troon
Christina Walker Kirby, born on the 5th of May 1889, in Portland Street, Troon
Elizabeth Taylor Kirby, born Abt. 1891
On the 1st of August 1892 Henry died at 2 Barassie Street of Acute Infective Periostitis.
Further tragedy struck when Christina Walker died on the 9th of March 1893, in a Hospital in Glasgow. The Cause of Death was Epileptic Convulsions following a fracture at the base of the skull.
Christina Kirby, born on the 9th of May 1893, in 2 Barassie Street, Troon
John Kirby, born on the 13th of August 1895, in Troon
Unfortunately John did not survive long and died on the 4th of March 1896 in Troon of Whooping Cough.
Mary Kirby, born on the 22nd of April 1897, in Barassie Street, Troon
Jessie Wilson Kirby, born on the 1st June 1899, in 1 Barassie Street, Troon
James Parker Kirby, born 22nd July 1901, in 2 Barassie Street, Troon
James did not survive long and died on the 28th of September 1901, at 2 Barassie Street, Troon. The cause of death being Acute Lobal Pneumonia
Not wasting much time and with an eye for a younger lass, between 1901 and 1903 John Kirby met Jane Miller. It is well recorded that he was a sailor and alleged he was a 'Master Mariner' although searches to date cannot prove this. It is also alleged that one of his regular runs was from Ayr to Campbeltown. Again what for can be speculated. Could it be Coal or Textiles, Fish or Whisky? What type of ship, Steam or Sail? Again John was a member of the Brethren in Ayr. It was here that he met Peter Miller and his future wife Jane (Jeanie) Miller. What transpired is difficult to determine. Obviously a relationship grew. In 1902 Jane's mother died. It is said that Peter Miller, her father, was not happy at his daughter Jane 's relationship as he thought John was to old for her. He is supposed to have said that if her mother were still alive she would not have allowed the wedding. Whatever, the marriage happened in 1903. He died on the13th of November 1906 aged 77 at Wallsend, whilst on holiday, I have a copy of the death certificate.
Both Johns Parents were dead at time of Marriage and he was shown as occupation Fisherman. When Alfred Kirby was born occupation shown as 'Seaman (Merchant Seaman)'. Jane was a Laundress.
When they got married they lived in Barassie Street, Troon and the witness was Peter Hynd who was a family friend. They then started a family
JOHN KIRBY, was born on the 5th of August 1904, 2 Barassie Street, Troon at 04.00. (Ref 1904 590/2 72) He married LILLIAN LAWSON.
Notes for LILLIAN LAWSON: Came from Liverpool, Emigrated to Canada, Toronto
RALPH MILLAR KIRBY, was born on the19th September 1906, West Sanquar Road, Ayr. He died on the 4th of July 1992, in PRESTWICK, Ayrshire, Scotland. (My Grand father).
ALFRED KIRBY, was born on the 29th of July 1910, at 61 Green Street, Ayr. at 13.30 Hours (ref 1910 578/1 546). He died in 1913 aged 2 to 2.5 pneumonia at 'Montclare', Monkton Rd, Prestwick. He is buried with his mother at Ayr Cemetery, Holnston Road.
John Kirby went missing after Alfred was born and before Alfred died sometime between 1910-1915. Rea Kirby has suggested that it was after Alfred was born and Jane was still in bed. This suggests 1910. Ralph Kirby never remembered his father. Jane was in bed and Agnes had a go at John for not working as he probably was waiting for a ship. Agnes probably did not understand this, as most men went to work every day. She was very forthright and spoke her mind.
LIFE AFTER JOHN AND OTHER STORIES
Jane Miller/Kirby never received a Death Certificate. A search was made when she had difficulty getting a Pension by a Harry Kilmurray, a relative, who was a solicitor sometime before 1948. To what extent the search was made and to what level is not known but it was without success. Perhaps he was only looking in Scotland. It would be my feeling if he went somewhere else that it would be in England.
Agnes Miller, her younger Sister made claims whether jokingly or seriously that she had something to do with his disappearance, " I chased him away". Agnes did not like the marriage from the start either. Although Agnes liked men, she had a long history of looking after men both in service and with lodgers she never married herself.
Jane never remarried but this would be quite normal for Brethren members particularly women. Traditionally there would be very strong views on this.
Agnes was a dominant character and seemed to take over from Jane, particularly in late life when they lived together. Jane was by all accounts a clever woman but was not allowed to do anything or think for herself. This has been suggested the cause of her senility in latter life.
This disappearance caused Jane Miller much hard work but here is no evidence of any bitterness unless someone knows better.
After confronting my mother Rea Kirby about the discovery that John was in the Navy and was the ships stewards assistant, she remembered that Nahma had told her that John had showed her how to make Dough balls for the Stew something which he must have learned in the Navy. Being a Seaman he was probably well able to fend for himself.
It would be a tremendous help of someone still alive knew him from another angle. This is still possible but I feel that time is fast running out for this.
WHERE TO GO AND WHAT TO DO NEXT?
So this is the known story of John Kirby. What happened too him still remains to be discovered but what is needed is:-
1. Examine English Index of Deaths from 1910-1961 for record of Death. Get Certificate.
2. Find out where John was in the 1901 census (not in Scotland).
3. Try and find out more about his Merchant Seaman activities.
4. Are there any Brethren records?
5. Is there an angle from descendants of Johns Brothers /Sisters?
6. Examine Pictures of Ayr/Troon 1900.Both important Ports.
7. Look at Ayr newspapers at the time