Joseph Cauldwell was the eldest son of William and Eliza Cauldwell (nee Rogers and a stepdaughter of Samuel Whiteley). By 1861, William had moved from Prescott Lancashire and was lodging with his future parents-in-law, whilst Eliza was a live-in servant in a nearby pub. The young couple married towards the end of census year and their first child, a daughter, was born a few months later.
Joseph was born in 1866 and grew up at No 22, the home of his widowed grandmother, Martha. His parents moved to No 26 during the 1870s, where they lodged with Harriet Armstrong, a sister of Eliza’a. Several houses in this terrace, which became known as Step Row, were occupied by members of the extended Whiteley family at this point.
Given the skills that he displayed in his adult life, Joseph must have been a bright child, although his formal education did not reflect this. Elementary education for children under thirteen in Worsborough was not compulsory until 1876 when a new Board school was built to supplement those which had been set up by local churches. Even then, parents had to pay a few pennies a week for their child to attend any school. The high cost of secondary education would have been prohibitive for a miner with a large family, and the concept of educating a child to this level would have been alien to most poor parents.
A boy of Joseph’s social class would have been expected to join the workforce and earn a living as soon as possible, irrespective of any other talents. Interviewed in the 1930s, he recalled that his attendance at St Thomas's Church School had been sporadic. As the second eldest child he was sometimes kept at home to assist with what he termed "family management". The practical cost of education was also an issue. His parents could not always spare the money. "If you hadn't got the money, they would not have you at school. Tuppence seems only a small sum now, but it took some finding in those days when there were ten children to feed." Aged nine, and a big lad for his age, Joseph was ready and willing to work and even a small wage would have been a welcome addition to the family income, helping to feed the younger mouths. Coal hewers worked underground and earned the best wages in mining, but William Cauldwell, his father, worked at the pit top. In 1881, both father and son were described as a general labourer on the census.
Joseph's first job in the lamp cabin at Edmund's Main colliery was brief. His age was discovered and he was ordered back to school. At this point his parents applied for an exemption from education because of the family's straitened circumstances. This was granted, and Joseph returned to the lamp room. In 1882, he was transferred to nearby Swaithe Main pit which was owned by the same company. He moved to the saw room, where wooden props were made to support the underground workings. This was a job that required some technical skills and it may be that he received some formal training from the colliery. In 1884, he moved to Barrow Colliery, where he worked as a sawyer for the next 49 years, with only one period of sickness.
Alongside his employment, the 1880s saw Joseph becoming an active member at Worsborough Dale Wesleyan Reform Church. He became a preacher on the Wesleyan circuit in 1885, continuing in this role for more than 50 years. In the 1890s he became superintendent of the Sunday School, another role he held for many decades.
William Cauldwell died in 1889, aged forty eight, leaving two very young daughters and a couple of other children who were still took young to work. This meant that Joseph and his brothers would have had to take on responsibility for keeping their mother and younger siblings. However, three of Joseph's brothers were now capable of earning a wage at the pit, so there would have been enough income coming into the household for Joseph to contemplate having a wife and family of his own.
In 1890, Joseph married Sarah Swift, the eldest daughter of George and Rebecca Swift who had lived at No 30 Jarratts for several years. In 1891, the couple were living adjacent to Jarratts in Clarkson Street with Sarah’s widower father and several of her younger siblings. They moved around this area, living in James Street in 1901 and George Street in 1911.
Joseph and Sarah had two sons. William Swift Cauldwell was born in 1891, followed by Herbert in 1894. Sadly, Herbert’s life was cut short when he was twelve. On a trip to Wharncliffe Craggs, a beauty spot about ten miles from his home, Herbert strayed onto the railway line and was knocked down by an express train. He died in a Sheffield hospital the following day. In 1908, Joseph’s widowed mother Eliza died. She was probably still living at Jarratts where she had supported herself for some years by taking in lodgers after several of her adult children moved to County Durham.
In February 1908 Joseph and Sarah hosted a wedding reception for over fifty people in their home, when Sarah's young sister Beatrice Swift married insurance clerk Christopher Green. Beatrice may have been living with them at that time. The hosts gave the newly-weds a basket chair for a wedding present, suggesting that with a regular and skilled trade and a small family, the Cauldwell's were now enjoying a comfortable, though working-class lifestyle.
It is not obvious why Joseph developed an interest in public service, but in 1899 local newspapers reveal his membership of the Worsborough Education Board. By 1908 he was a member of Worsborough Urban District Council and 1916 he was its Chairman, a role he held for four years. Electoral success, in part, was a result of the gradual extension of voting rights to some working class men, who were happier with men of their own social background representing them, rather than middle-class people, who understood little of the reality of working class life. This was at a time when membership of local government boards was not remunerated but carried out as a voluntary public service.
Joseph’s personal contribution in council meetings was often on issues such as street-lighting, and the condition of roads and sewerage, perhaps reflecting a technical turn of mind. He was also vocal on the question of workmen’s wages, arguing that contractors who were employed by the council must pay their workers at least the agreed local rate for the job.
In his early years in politics, Joseph was a supporter of the Liberal Party, which was often seen as the party for workers in industrial districts. I have not yet discovered whether, over time, he drifted towards the Labour party when it displaced the Liberals as one of England’s two major parties, as many of his social class did. The fact that he lost his council seat after 26 years service when Worsborough was divided into wards perhaps suggests that his politics remained liberal.
Sarah shared her husband's interest in church and charitable work and there are newspaper reports of her being involved with organising various functions, but generally she preferred to work "behind the scenes". She seems to have been less interested in politics or civic public service. I have not yet located any reports of her attending high profile public occasions with Joseph.
Joseph’s major role in Barnsley was his work as director, vice president and finally president of the Barnsley British Co-operative Society. Co-operative societies developed in many localities the second half of the nineteenth century. They were set up by groups of workers and were run by a board which was elected by the members. The intention was to benefit poorer people by buying good quality goods in bulk and then selling them on to workers at a fair price. Any profits were to be distributed to the members in the form of a dividend. The Barnsley British Co-operative Society developed into one of the largest societies in the co-operative movement.
Worsborough Dale had a co-operative shop from the early 1860s. It is unclear when Joseph became involved in the work of the local co-operative, though in the early twentieth century he began to stand, at first unsuccessfully, for election as a director of the Barnsley society, of which the Worsborough Dale branch would have been a member. He was first elected in 1912.
In 1920 the Barnsley British Co-operative Society changed its rules to make the President and two vice-Presidents full time officers. The posts received some remuneration. Joseph was elected a vice-president in June 1933 at which point he left his job at Barrow Colliery to take up his new, salaried role. In October 1935, he was elected President, a position he retained until March 1943 when he resigned because of ill-health.
Around the same time he received the accolade of being appointed a Justice of the Peace for Barnsley. It was official acknowledgement that working-class people could be assimilated into the establishment. On the Royal visit to Barnsley in 1937 he was presented to the King and Queen.
Joseph’s public service required him to chair meetings, make speeches, understand finance and business, and make decisions on a wide range of issues. He did so successfully, which implies that he was intelligent, articulate, organised, confident in his own judgement, capable of forming a view and carrying an argument and not over-awed by people of a different social class, who, at times, would have formed the majority on the board he was serving on. He must also have had personal resilience because there would have been plenty of occasions when the opposite view prevailed.
Although Joseph’s public service had given him access to a more privileged world, he seems to have remained loyal to his origins. In 1939 he was living in Worsborough Dale, within walking distance of Jarratts, and still close enough to his roots to know how poor people had to live. An unemployed brother was living locally as were some nieces and nephews, though his son appears to have moved several miles away, earning a loiving as a carpenter and undertaker.
Joseph died in Worsborough in February 1947, aged 80, after a period of ill-health. Sarah survived him by four years. dying aged 86 in 1951.
For a man of his origins, Joseph Cauldwell’s life was unusual, but not unique. There were other working-class men of similar talent and mindset in Barnsley, and across the country, whose work in the early twentieth century started to undermine barriers of class and privilege. They were quiet but determined pioneers who, by getting involved, began to make the apparatus of government and social policy more responsive to the needs of workers in the first part of the twentieth century. The cumulative effect of their persistence, intelligence and respectability helped to establish that poor people and their representatives should not be passive recipients, or victims, of decisions taken by the more privileged but should have a voice of their own.
Siblings of Joseph Cauldwell
Martha 1862-62. Died aged 11 months.
Martha b 1864. Moved to Salford to live with relatives and work as a weaver. She married Benjamin Ormston in 1883. After he died in 1892, she returned to Jarratts and became tenant of No 34. She had three sons, William, Jesse and Joseph. By 1911, William was married to Annie Booth, also from Jarratts, but by then both he and his brothers and mother had moved into other homes in Worsborough.
John Thomas 1869-1919. A coal hewer who lived in Worsborough all his life. In 18892 he married Pamela (Emily) Beevers, who had grown up at Jarratts. They lived at No 32. Their twelve children include Martha 1894, Agnes 1895, Eveline 1898, Fred 1900, Rogers 1903, Alice 1905, Eliza 1908 and Eleanor, 1909. By 1911 they had moved out of Jarratts. Pamela died in 1940.
James 1871-1956. He married Clara Carr in 1894. In 1901 he was living in Barnsley with his wife and three daughters, Ellen b 1895, Eliza b 1898 and Alice b 1900. He worked as a hurrier, moving coal that the hewers cut. Around 1907 the family moved to the Durham area. By 1911, he had become a coal hewer, earning better wages than he had as a hurrier. The family now included Marion b 1902, Nancy b 1906, Martha b 1909 and William b 1910. Alice had died, as had two other children. James subsequently moved to Bradford where he died.
Fred 1873-1958. A coal hewer who moved to the Durham area to work as a miner some time between 1901-4 and was lodging with his aunt, Harriet Armstrong in 1911. He remained in the Durham area and was still a bachelor in 1939, when he was working as a grave digger.
Nancy Broughton 1875-1930. Nancy was named after her Grandmother, Nancy Broughton Cauldwell. She married George Baker in 1898. They had two children. Herbert died in 1911 aged four. William died from wounds in October 1918 and is buried in France in the St Sever Cemetery.
Peter 1878-1948. He had moved from Jarratts by 1901. He married Emma Haigh in 1900. She died in 1906. They had at least two children, both girls. Laura was born in 1901. Harriet was born and died in 1906. In 1911 he had moved to County Durham where he was working as a miner, though his daughter Laura remained in Worsborough, living with relatives. Peter remained a widower for many years, but may have remarried Annie Hobson in 1943. At some point before 1939 he moved back to Worsborough.
Ann b 1881. She moved to the Durham area between 1901-1904, married Richard Taylor and had a family. They were still in the area in 1939.
Harriet 1883-84. Died aged 15 months.
Alice b1885. Alice moved to County Durham. In 1911 she was lodging with her aunt, Harriet Armstrong. In 1939 she was still a spinster and working as a servant in the Durham area.
When Harriet Armstrong moved to Durham in the 1880s, she lived with a son of her other sister Mary. It is interesting that Mary Rogers family were drawn back to Worsborough, whilst Eliza Rogers children managed to settle in the North East.
Compiled from BMD and parish records, censuses and newspapers in Barnsley Archive or accessed via The British Newspaper Archive.
Frederick Harley - A Potato Fraudster
A number of Jarratts families lived in the community for many decades. Interspersed with them were others who stayed for just a few years. Evidence of some of the short-stayers can be found in newspaper reports, usually of tragedies in one of the local coal mines, or because of a day or more in court. One such resident was Frederick Harley. It is unclear when Harley and his family arrived in Worsborough Dale though it seems to have been after 1930. They were living at No 17 Jarratts between 1934-6.
Newspaper reports reveal that Harley appeared in court on numerous occasions for theft and dishonesty. His earliest known court appearance was at the end of 1929. In September he bought a load of potatoes at the price of £6 per ton on credit from Arthur Massingham, a farmer from Wombwell. He then drove the potatoes by truck to Rotherham where he sold them for £3 per ton, pocketing the money and not paying Massingham anything. His defence lawyer argued that it was not a crime to sell goods for less than had been paid and pointed out that Massingham could sue for his money in the civil courts. The Barnsley magistrates dismissed the charge of larceny and Harley walked free.
Harley seems to have turned his hand to different occupations. There are references to him being a miner, a farm worker, a storekeeper, a rat catcher and to periods of self-employment. In the mid-1930s he was a potato dealer working on on his own account. In Autumn 1933 he agreed to become a salesman for George Fell, a potato farmer from Boston, Lincolnshire. He would receive £3 a week so long as he sold of 12 tons of potatoes. The indications are that Harley regularly met this weekly target, selling to fish and chip shops.
For the first few weeks the arrangement worked. Fell came over to Barnsley to collect his accounts and money. He then decided that Harley could be trusted to submit weekly takings sheets by post and to pay the money owed into a designated bank account. At this point Harley began to omit items from the accounts and did not pay all of the takings into the bank. When Fell noticed that the banking was irregular he travelled to Worsborough Dale to see Harley. When he arrived unannounced at 17 Jarratts, Harley was not at home. Later that day Harley telephoned Fell and explained that he had £69 outstanding in cash in his house. The men agreed to meet the next day so that Harley could hand over the cash instead of paying it into the bank. Fell arrived at Jarratts but Harley could not be found. As a consequence of some unrecorded comment made by Harley's wife, Fell went immediately to the police and a warrant was issued for Harley's arrest.
Their investigation indicated that Harley had sold many more sacks of potatoes than he had accounted for and he was charged with fraudulently converting money belonging to George Fell to his own use. Harley's defence was that as a potato dealer, he had his own stocks of potatoes in addition to those he sold for Fell. Harley's lawyer contended that there was no proof that Harley had not sold his own potatoes and, in the absence of delivery notes, there was no proof that Fell had supplied Harley with the quantity of potatoes that he claimed. Reviving the argument used successfully five years earlier, the defence said that the matter was not criminal but civil. Harley acknowledged that some money was owing to Fell and he was willing to pay whatever sum an independent auditor adjudged was due. If Fell disagreed with this he was at liberty to sue for the amount he thought he was owed in the civil court.
The arguments raised in the hearing before the magistrates were complex, partly because the paperwork of both parties was not of the best quality and various estimates of the amount owing were bandied about. It would not have been surprising if the magistrates had opted to agree with the defence and dismissed the charges. However, they decided that there was a case to answer and committed Harley for trial at the West Riding Quarter Sessions the following month.
The decision to send the case for trial was vindicated. In April 1934, Harley initially faced 22 counts of fraud but the prosecution only submitted evidence about thirteen of them. He was convicted of seven and sent to prison for a year with hard labour. Harley was alleged to have defrauded Fell of £144 in total, (approx £9,000 at 2016 value) over three months, The reason why only seven charges were upheld may have been that Fell's records were of poor quality and he could not prove the amount of potatoes he had delivered to Harley's warehouse.
Harley was a free man again in 1935. Jail with hard labour had been no deterrent because, after his release, the potato scam resumed using a more sophisticated method and covering a wider geographical area. He went into partnership with Ellis Rowarth another Barnsley vegetable wholesaler. The headed notepaper of the partnership stated that they had an account with the Midland Bank, giving them the appearance of respectable businessmen. In reality there was no bank account, but several farmers from Yorkshire, Lancashire and Lincolnshire were taken in and sold potatoes on credit, believing that they had received a good price. Incredibly, one of them was apparently a member of the Fell family who should have known about Harley's previous business dealings. The pair also managed to obtain individual credit from other sources on the strength of the fictitious business. Harley added eggs to his portfolio whilst Rowarth dealt behind his partner's back in potatoes.
Despite the geographical breadth of the scam it was short-lived. When the farmers found that their account had not been paid they began to ask why and pursue their money. It soon became apparent that the items they had supplied had been sold for a lower sum than the price agreed and that Harley and Rowarth had pocketed the takings. This time the amount involved was almost £300 (approx £20,000 at 2016 value).
Harley again contended in his defence that it was not illegal to sell goods for less than the price they had been purchased for or obtaining credit for another person but to no avail. Working in concert with Rowarth, culpability went further than merely defrauding suppliers. Conspiracy was also involved. Both men were convicted and sentenced to 18 months hard labour for conspiracy and nine months, for fraud, the sentences to run concurrently.
It is unclear whether Harley returned to Jarratts when released from jail. During the 1940's, a man whose name and other details tally appeared in other courtrooms on charges of dishonesty and fraud, though not in Barnsley. Some resulted in convictions but on at least one occasion the charge was dismissed. As many newspapers from the period covered by Harley's exploits as a potato dealer have not yet been digitised, this offending may just part of a wider story.
Collated from articles in The British Newspaper Archive and in newspapers held by Barnsley Archives.
William and Alice Ibberson (nee Cheetham) – Diamond Couple
Researching this family was not straightforward. Ibberson has multiple spellings in the records, with Ibbertson and Ibbotson being the two most common. There were several families with a similar surname in the Worsborough area. To complicate matters further, there were several men named William Ibberson.
According to the 1851 census, the William Ibberson who married Alice was born in 1850 in Hoyland, near Barnsley. It has not been possible to identify his parents. In the 1851 census, he was the youngest child in the house of George and Eliza Ibberson, but enumerated as their nephew. The 1861 census and his marriage record show William as his father. As George and Eliza had a son William who was born in 1835, it seems more likely that the relationship was either that of uncle, aunt and nephew, or that he was an illegitimate child of one of their elder daughters.
Whatever the relationship, William had to contribute to the family income at an early age. By 1861, George Ibberson, previously an agricultural labourer and gardener, had taken employment at the pit. The 1861 census records eleven year-old William as a labourer at the coal mine. In later life he confirmed this, stating that he started his working life at the Blacker Main colliery before he was ten.
On 26th December 1870 he wed nineteen year-old Alice Cheetham at St Mary’s Church, Worsborough. Alice, born in Wigan, Lancashire had lived in Worsborough for most of her life, her family being one of many who moved from the Lancashire to the Barnsley coal field in the mid-nineteenth century. Typically for the time, neither of the youngsters had mastered the skill of writing, their marriage register entry being marked by their respective crosses.
Their marriage ceremony was one of the few contacts that the couple had with either of the local churches. The fact that only their eldest son has a baptism record, has made it difficult to tease out the story of their long married life.
It seems reasonable to infer that William was a skilled miner from an early age. The 1871 census shows that the newly-weds were living in their own home (No 33 Jarratts), without any lodgers, indicating that William’s earnings covered the rent. Shortly after the census, their first child was born, a son, John.
The family steadily increased with George (1873), Tom (1874), Ellen (1877) and Annie (1880) arriving before the 1881 census. By this time they were living at No 14, where elderly Eliza kept house. Also with them were Henry, an unmarried son of Eliza’s, and a lodger from Lincoln, 50 year-old John Stark.
Eliza died in 1887 and by the 1891 census, William and Alice had severed their links with Jarratts, though they continued to reside in the locality. The census shows them at 14, Holly Gate living in a four-roomed property. Since 1881, there had been further additions to the family; William (1882), Fred (1884), Martha (1886), Ernest (1888) and Criss (1890). Sadly, aged thirteen, Tom had died from a fractured skull in June 1888, in his employment at the Hope Glass Works. Against the rules, he was riding on a truck when his head became trapped between the truck side and an iron bar. The inquest concluded that the death was accidental, but recommended that the glass works should start to enforce its rules about riding on trucks instead of ignoring breaches.
Moving out of Jarratts at this time indicates that there were skilled workers in the family, who were capable of earning a good wage and therefore able to afford the rent of some of the bigger houses in the area; ones which had better facilities than Jarratts which, at over thirty years old, was beginning to show its age. The census reveals that there were four men in the family working as miners, William, his sons John and George and his cousin Henry, an unmarried man of forty who boarded with the family.
By 1901 the family was at 3, James Street, which was also close to Jarratts. Like their previous home, the house had four rooms rather than three, again indicating that the family could afford the higher rent. Since the previous census, the family’s income may have dropped a little. William himself was still working as a hewer but his cousin Henry had died in 1899. William’s two eldest sons were married and in their own homes. Exactly twenty two years after his parents wed, John Ibberson married Martha Ann Winder on Boxing Day 1892. Another Christmas wedding took place in 1897 when George married Ellen Winder. Martha and Ellen were sisters who had lived part of their lives at No 3 Jarratts.
Teenage sons William and Fred were now labourers at the colliery and Ernest was a lamp boy. Their earnings would not have replaced the loss of three miners’ wages but the likely drop in income would not have been a significant issue for a family whose outgoings had also reduced. There were fewer unproductive young mouths to feed. Ellen aged twenty-four, Martha aged fourteen and ten year-old Criss were the only children apparently not contributing to the family budget.
Ellen married Frank Green in 1902, Martha married John Winder in 1906 and Fred wed Ann Collumbine Winder in 1907. Frank Cookson became Annie’s husband in 1908. William looked outside the extended Winder family for a wife, marrying Selina Glover from No 4 Jarratts in 1909 and moving in with her family. He was the only member of the family known to have returned to live at Jarratts after his parents left in the 1880s.
With so many children finding a partner and moving out of the parental home, by 1911 William and Alice would have been in comfortable circumstance again. Only Ernest and Criss remained with their parents at 21 Station Road, a five bedroomed house in Worsborough Dale. William and Ernest were hewers whilst Criss was a labourer. For a man who could not sign his marriage certificate, William’s writing on the household census schedule is particularly neat, suggesting that one of his sons filled out the form and signed his father’s name.
The ageing couple made at least one further move, accompanied by their unmarried son Ernest. When they celebrated their Diamond Wedding in 1930, they were living at 3, New Street. Still in Worsborough Dale, this was probably the furthest they ever lived from Jarratts.
Before they reached their diamond milestone, there were other points of note in their lives. With so many children married, they gradually became the grandparents of nineteen grandchildren, and unusually for the early twentieth century, the great grandparents of three.
William worked until he was seventy-one by which time he would have been eligible to claim an old age pension for the couple. He was a keen gardener and may have spent some of his free time on a local allotment, growing food. He had also been a stalwart member of the Wombwell Main branch of the Mineworkers Association. It is not clear whether he was ever involved with running it.
William and Alice do not feature in newspapers until their diamond wedding catapulted them into the spotlight. This indicates that they were not greatly involved in community matters and did not have any brushes with the law. At the time of their diamond wedding, it was reported that they were both in excellent health and that Alice could still read without glasses. This would have been useful when they received a letter from King George and Queen Mary, noting the occasion.
Alice died in February 1932 and as the decade wore on, William began to feature in newspaper coverage. He had become a minor local celebrity because his advanced age was exceptional for the 1930’s. He was a guest at various gatherings for the old folks of Worsborough. At one held at the Methodist Schoolroom in Summer 1934 he was reported to have eaten iced cake, and had received a cannister of tea. After the meal, there was an evening bus drive to Wentworth and the surrounding district, and a visit to Councillor Joyce at Platts Common.
One problem for William was the cost of living. He applied for public assistance. In November 1934 his son, Fred, was ordered to pay 1s 6d (7½p) a week towards William’s keep, by the Poor Law authority. Newspapers in 1935 and 1936 report that Fred was summoned to court twice for arrears of maintenance and threatened with prison if he did not keep up with the payment and the accrued arrears. It was stated that Fred’s average earnings were more than £2 a week at Wombwell Main Colliery, but as he was deaf and hired and paid by the day, when needed, his income cannot be regarded as particularly secure. The maintenance order and the manner in which it was enforced by the Public Assistance committee, gives some insight into just how tough life could be for the working class in the 1930’s. As William was apparently sharing his home with an unmarried son, Ernest, it is unclear whether other sons were also contributing to William’s upkeep or whether Fred had been singled out because he was a widower without dependents.
William died at his home at the end of February 1939. By this time he had outlived his eldest son, John who died in 1937. William had been active to the end, taking part in a veterans’ bowling match the previous year. In January 1939 he had been a guest at the coming of age party of Fred Senior. If he experienced any illness towards the end of his life, it could not have been for long.
He was buried at Worsborough Dale Cemetery with his wife. There were many mourners at his funeral. By now he was reported to have twenty five descendents, and many people from the local community also turned out to pay their respects.
Note: In 1930 it was reported that the couple had had nine sons of whom six were still alive, and five daughters, of whom three survived. Only seven sons and three girls, have been identified definitively. Richard, born 1878 and buried in July 1879 aged 17 months would fit into a gap between Ellen (1877) and Annie (1880).
Compiled from BMD and parish records, censuses and newspapers in Barnsley Archive or accessed via The British Newspaper Archive.
The picture of the Diamond Wedding of William and Alice Ibberson is from the Penistone, Stocksbridge and Hoyland Express Saturday 27th December 1930 Ⓒ JOHNSTON PRESS PLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED and is reproduced with kind permission of the British Newspaper Archive (www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk).
John and Peter McQuillan - From Worsborough Dale to New York
Many family trees have a child who disappears in adulthood. Coal miner John McQuillan (No 49) went missing between 1891 and 1901. Similarly, his Uncle Peter (No 49) could not be traced anywhere after the 1861 census.
Born in 1872, John was one of the twelve children of James and Catherine McQuillan, (nee Wildsmith). In one branch of this extensive family, an elderly lady had a hazy and uncorroborated recollection that Uncle John had fled to America. The story went that John and a friend played a prank with a fruit cart, but the joke backfired when the cart tipped over, spilling the wares down the hill. Afraid of ‘the vile-tempered Irishman’, who owned the cart, John was too scared to go home and had hidden with his mother’s family until she got together enough money to send him to relatives in America. John never contacted any of the family again, but the unnamed friend who emigrated with him, returned in the 1920’s for a visit, bringing news that John was a married man with children. His many surviving siblings sent letters and presents with the friend, but no acknowledgement ever came from John or his family.
Before he left Jarratts in Spring 1895, twenty-two year old John had had several brushes with the law for being drunk and violent and assaulting the police. The first incident was days before his twentieth birthday. On a later occasion his mother admitted that he was ‘a bad un when he got drunk’, and a magistrate warned him that his first taste of prison would not be his last, unless he stopped drinking.
Whether the incident with the fruit cart took place is unclear, as it seems a trivial reason for abruptly leaving the country. Possibly, given John’s history of violence and drunkenness, he had committed a very serious offence and needed to make himself scarce. From late 1895, he can be located in records in the USA, which show that he worked as miner in Pennsylvania, married and raised a family. He died in 1932. There are no indications that he ever fell foul of the law in his adopted country.
With part of the uncorroborated tale proving correct, had John been sent to relatives and if so, who? Details for a Peter McQuillan, who worked in a factory in Patterson, New Jersey, in the 1880’s all pointed to this migrant being John’s uncle. Whether by 1895, there was any contact between Patterson and Worsborough Dale is unknown. By then, widower Peter had been dead for almost a decade and his eldest daughter and son may have been struggling to support themselves and their three younger siblings. On-going correspondence with relatives they had never met, across an ocean, seems unlikely.
If John, who appears to have been a young thug at this stage in his life, did arrive on the doorstep of his cousins in 1895, it would have been a shock for all of them. The American siblings were respectable and industrious. Hugh, aged twenty-one and head of the family, was working as a postal clerk. Lizzie was a milliner, May a stenographer, Annie training as a nurse, and Thomas a glazier.
In the twentieth century, Hugh McQuillan became a significant figure in US government service. Whilst working for the postal service he studied law in his spare time. This gained him promotion and in 1908 he was admitted to the New Jersey legal profession. By 1912, he was a Revenue Protection Officer with a reputation for being zealous, honest and effective. In 1919, he gained a significant promotion when he was chosen to join a small team of specialist investigators at the newly formed Internal Revenue Bureau, to prevent tax evasion. This meant a move across the Hudson River to New York and an apartment in Manhattan’s Upper West Side where he lived with his wife, Kitty.
The Internal Revenue Bureau came into being around the same time as the notorious 18th Amendment to the United States constitution prohibited the manufacture, sale or transportation of intoxicating liquor. Enforcing compliance fell to the Internal Revenue Bureau; no easy task when strong public demand for alcohol fuelled illegal distilling and selling, from which gangsters and corrupt officials made fortunes.
As Head of the Bureau’s Special Intelligence Unit in New York, Hugh’s work in the 1920s and 1930s focussed on preventing the loss of tax revenue and destroying the networks of organised crime. In detailed, painstaking but effective investigations, conducted away from the limelight, his team provided unassailable evidence to convict gangsters for fraud, tax evasion and corruption.
The profile of Hugh and his department was low compared with others who sometimes received fulsome credit for their work, but his contribution was probably more significant. Unravelling complicated financial transactions and identifying corrupt officials was more effective in tearing down webs of organised crime than high profile raids which removed just one outlet.
As a very senior and experienced member of the Internal Revenue Bureau, Hugh would have been involved with the investigation which led to the conviction of gangster Al Capone for tax evasion in 1931. In 1932, he helped to investigate the kidnap and murder of the baby son of aviator Charles Lindbergh. Later that decade, he worked with state prosecutor Thomas Dewey (subsequently an unsuccessful challenger for the United States presidency) in a sustained assault on the New York criminal underworld.
The closing years of his career focussed on securing compliance with war-time regulations. After the war ended in 1945, Hugh retired from full time public service. He then took on a part time role as a specialist consultant in tax matters and also travelled. He died in 1955. Although his marriage was childless and there are no records of any of his siblings having children, he was mourned in New York and New Jersey by a wide and influential circle of friends.
Hugh McQuillan’s story proves the value of investigating people who disappear from the usual records. Finding the son of a Jarratt’s resident living the American dream was unexpected. Had Hugh been born in Jarratts his destiny, despite his many talents, would probably have been a miner’s pick and lamp, possibly supplemented by a role in the miner’s union, and perhaps an unpaid place on a local government board. What his father’s adopted country gave him was the opportunity to use those talents to benefit his country and himself, irrespective of his lowly origins.
Compiled from UK and US census and BMD records and newspapers accessed on-line via the British Newspaper Archive and oral history.