What’s in a name?

During my family history research I was keen to learn more about my Irish connection and I had many conversations with my uncle Arthur O’Connor (my mother’s brother) about his childhood and his parents. Although he didn’t know a great deal about his father and brothers, who came over from Ireland in the 1930s and settled in Widnes, he did tell me how he came to be called Arthur.

He said that his mother had a friend called Emily Daniel who was engaged to be married but sadly, her fiancee, who was called Arthur, was killed towards the end of the First World War. Arthur’s mother promised Emily that she would name her first son Arthur in remembrance of him. My uncle also told me that he was given Arthur’s war medal ribbons and service dress buttons and that he thought that Emily’s fiancee served in the Royal Flying Corps. With no other information to go on I couldn’t see how I could pursue this any further and thought no more about it.

Sadly, my uncle passed away in 2016 and as his next of kin it was my responsibility to clear out his apartment. He didn’t have many possessions and I was already familiar with his family photo album which he had thoughtfully annotated. I duly packed up his documents, photos and other items of interest with the intention of sorting through them when I returned home. In the way of things, the boxes were consigned to the attic where they remained for several years until I recently rediscovered them.

At first, I was puzzled when I opened an envelope and found two First World War medal ribbons but when I later found a small box with army dress buttons I recalled Arthur’s story. Upon close inspection, I could make out the insignia which an Internet search informed me was that of the Royal Army Medical Corps and not the Royal Flying Corps.

RAMC Dress Button

With this new information I decided to see if I could discover the identity of Emily’s fiancee. I reasoned that a good place to start would be the list of servicemen (and women?) on the war memorial in Victoria Park, Widnes. I found a list of these on the Lost Ancestors website:(https://www.lostancestors.eu/memwar/W/Widnes01.htm). There are 764 people named and of these, just 8 served in the Royal Army Medical Corps. As luck would have it, only one had a first initial ‘A’ and that was Private A. Hartland, service number 62767, attached to the 94th Field Ambulance.

There were a few references to Private Arthur Hartland being killed in action in the death notices of the Runcorn Weekly News and District Reporter. The following account was printed in the Friday 3 May 1918 edition: “Second Son Killed. Mrs H. Hartland 116, Oakland St, has received official notification that her son, Private Arthur Hartland, RAMC, was killed in action on April 12th. The first news came from a friend saying that Arthur was killed by a piece of shell which burst on the dressing station where he was attending the wounded and he died instantaneously. Another letter of sympathy came from his major. He was 24 years of age. Commencing his education at West Bank, he won a scholarship to the Secondary School, where he gained many distinctions, and from there gained the Tate Scholarship to Liverpool University, where in 1915 he graduated B.A.(Hons. Hist.). In August the same year, after being rejected at an earlier date, he was accepted for the RAMC and was sent to Egypt in November, 1915 and to France the following year. He had always been connected with St Mary’s Parish Church, where he was an earnest worker and Mission Sunday School teacher and secretary. He was the youngest son of Mrs. and the late Job Hartland. Another brother, George Hartland, who also had a brilliant scholastic career and also held the degree of B.A., was killed in action on the Somme on October 7th 1916. Another brother Private William Hartland, is with the South Lancashire in India.” (Note: I discovered that William died in India two months after this article was published and was buried in the Quetta Government cemetery in India).

The article included a photograph of Arthur, which is somewhat dark but reproduced below.

Photograph of Arthur Hartland in uniform

Regarding Emily Daniel, I found her in the 1921 census living with her parents at 101 Oakland Street, Widnes; the same street as Arthur’s family. She was born in the same year as Arthur and like him, she was a teacher.

I believe that I have found another connection between Emily Daniel and the Hartland family from a wedding announcement in the Runcorn Weekly News. In 1931, a Miss Ellen Hartland of Oakland Street, Widnes married a Mr William Parker Turner; her bridesmaid was a Miss Emily Daniels. The reception was held in the Oakland Street Wesleyan Sunday school. Looking into Ellen’s family tree, I think that she was Arthur’s second cousin, as from what I can deduce, Ellen’s grandfather was William Hartland (married to Elizabeth Yarnold), who was the brother of Arthur’s grandfather George Hartland (married to Elizabeth Ford).

I feel confident that the Arthur who my uncle was named after was Arthur Hartland (1894-1918). It’s just a shame that it is too late to share this discovery with my uncle.

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