Monday, March 24

My Chicks


When Catherine and I first visited in 2007 the grave of her great-uncle George Hennessy (master-at arms on the Mauretania in 1914), I had just some months prior begun my research into her family's genealogy. The header My Chicks was certainly an odd thing to see on a gravestone! In a blog entry written 13 months later, I rationalized it by suggesting that it was biblical metaphor for My Children.

Of course chicks was plural and George wasn't about to be included in the reference — if that's what it was — for another 37 years, during which time he fell in love with, married, and survived another woman, Annie Harriett (Edwards) Hall. It was Annie's second marriage and when she died in 1963, she was buried in a different cemetery with her "devoted husband", William Edward Hall, presumably because that grave was purchased as a double plot, just as George had allowed a spot for himself beside his beloved, Mary (Bennett) Talbot.


Poor George. He had spent easily twice as long with Annie than he had with Mary and there is little doubt that in the years preceding his own demise he dwelled more on her than on his previous partner. But he did now also think about something else. Prior to November 1919, when he and Mary Talbot left Liverpool for Toronto on the S.S. Grampian, he was married to a Hannah Sanwith Gaddes and fathered with her some half-dozen children. His affair with Mary Talbot was unknown to them and they had no idea — after he disappeared — what became of him.

After Annie died, George went back to England to see if he could find the remnants of his family. Unsuccessful, he paid for a memorial headstone to his parents and a brother, before returning back to Canada. Perhaps George was better off not knowing what had happened. His grandson, Derek Hennessy, informed me: "Grandmother Hannah had to put two sons, George and Ralph, into the Fazakerly homes, an orphanage in Liverpool. She took my dad, Billy, Sam, and Richard, the youngest, to live in Sheffield with her sister, as an alternative to the workhouse in Liverpool. George went to Australia as a boy and Ralph, after working in the south of England all his life, finally joined his daughter in New Zealand on retirement."


Last week I discovered at Catherine's father's house a silver cigarette case. On it was inscribed: "From Chicks to George With love XMAS 25/12/18." It appears that Chicks was Mary Talbot's nickname!

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