Those who died in Moss Side: Part One

Those who died in Moss Side: Part One

The upcoming blog posts focus on those who died in Moss side and were buried locally, as researched by John Fay and Keith Larkin. You can find out more about the stories uncovered in this research project with Manchester Metropolitan University is in the exhibition Moss Side and the Great War Remembered.

SS/3431 Private William Cornelius McCarthy

In late 1887 William John Henry McCarthy, 21, a Bengal-born soldier in the Princess Charlotte of Wales (Royal Berkshire) Regiment married Emily Ralph in Portsea, Portsmouth.  She was already pregnant, and on Boxing Day she gave birth to a son: William Cornelius McCarthy.

The new family were living at 15 White’s Row, which by 1910 would come to be regarded as one of the worst slum areas in Portsmouth.

But by the time of the 1891 census William was four years old and living with his maternal grandparents Silvester and Eileen Moousir [?] and their 23-year old Irish-born daughter Louisa.  Silvester was a retired Royal Navy Chief Officer. If William’s dad was still with the Royal Berkshire Regiment in 1896 he may have been involved in quelling the Newlyn Riots which occurred in Cornwall.

By the census of 1901 there is still no sign of dad at home, but young William is now living with his mum who is working as a laundress.  Emily is the head of the house which she shares with William, his 12 year old cousin Henry Page, and two adult lodgers.  Two years later, in early 1903, William’s dad died in Portsmouth.

In April 1910, at the age of 22, William married a near neighbour, almost literally the girl next door.  She was Edith Emily Blagrove, born in Bromley, and the daughter of George and Emily Blagrove.

At the time of the wedding both the McCarthy and the Blagrove families were living in St George’s Passage, near Portsmouth harbour.  A year later, at the 1911 census, he was living at the same address with his pregnant wife, his three year old daughter Mary Ann, his father-in-law, and a lodger.

The census form tells us that the young married couple had previously lost a child and that Mary Ann was born a couple of years before the wedding.  William is working as a boatman for a firm called Brice and Son; Edith is working as a canteen contractor to HM ships, and her father is now hawking artificial plants, after working as a farm labourer when his daughter was married the previous year.

By the end of 1911 Edith had given birth to another daughter, called Hilda.  Money must have been tight for William and his family because a year later, in 1912, he was admitted to Portsmouth workhouse.

Perhaps the outbreak of the war solved his money problems?

He left his wife and two young daughters behind and joined the 2nd Labour Company of the Army Service Corps, which was officially formed at Aldershot on 24-25th August 1914.

He was wounded in France in January 1915.

He then spent “some short time” in Moss Side hospital, and eventually died there at the age of 27 on Monday 15th March 1915.

It must have been a terrible time for his wife Edith.  Her father died within weeks of her husband.  She was a single parent with two daughters aged 3 and 7.  She was living in a slum, and no stranger to the workhouse.  There was no chance she (or the country) could afford to bring William back to be buried at home in Portsmouth, and there is no record of her or anyone else ever coming to visit him in the hospital before he died.

William Cornelius McCarthy was buried in a Common Grave at Maghull Parish Church (St. Andrews plot 503) with the Badge of the Regiment inscribed on the headstone.  He shares his grave with Frank Rouse.

Grave 1

Caption: Photograph of McCarthy & Rouse grave at St. Andrews

Copyright: Image courtesy of John Fay

SE/2564 Private Frank Rouse

The army vet?

According to his army records Frank was born on Waterloo Road, Middlesex, close to Waterloo train station.  He was living in Hounslow when he joined the army.

His father was called Henry.  We know this because Frank’s effects totalling £39 15s 6d were sent to him as next of kin after he died, suggesting that Frank was single. According to his Medal Index Card his next of kin were living in Pearcroft Rd., Fulham after the War.

There was a Henry Rouse who enrolled three sons – Edward, Frank and Octavius – into Langford school in Fulham, and according to these school records Frank was born on 3rd May 1884 and lived at 11a Broughton Road.

In the 1891 census a woman called Emily Rouse is living with Frank (6) and Octavius (5), but young Frank is recorded at having been born in Chelsea, and he’s not living with either his father or his older brother Edward.

Six years later, in April 1897, Edward, Frank and Octavius are together again and recorded in the Poor Law School District Register for Ashford School, which seems to have been a Fulham workhouse school.  Frank’s birth date this time is given as 1886.  The document says that his younger brother Octavius is “to be handed over to his sister “Eliza” of 4 Thomas Terrace, Fulham; but Frank and Edward are to be handed over to their father Henry, whose address is Wandsworth Prison.

In 8th September of the same year another school record says Frank and his two brothers have left their previous school St Paul’s and their father Henry is now enrolling them all into a new school. So he’s obviously out of gaol and getting back on his feet.

The school now records their home address as 48 Porter Road, and gives Frank his third different DOB, 14th February 1885.  But this must be the same boy as the names of his father and two brothers both tally.

After he left school we know nothing about him until he enlists for military service.

The SE prefix on his service number means Special Enlistment (General Service) and he joined the Royal Army Veterinary Corps.  His Battalion is given as: Depot (Woolwich) but his medal card says that he entered France on 6th January 1915.

Was Frank a qualified vet?  The fact he died with almost forty pounds in his personal effects suggests he may have had a well-paying job.

In August 1914 The British Expeditionary Force had 53, 000 horses on the Western Front, by the end of the war that number had increased to half a million.  The corps also looked after mules and pigeons.

He died in Maghull on 5th September 1915 and shares a Common Grave at Maghull Parish Church (St. Andrews plot 503) with William Cornelius McCarthy. His Regimental Badge is also inscribed on the headstone.


Written by John Fay

Further researched by Keith Larkin

Edited by Amy Walling, Manchester Metropolitan University

Many thanks are due to Bruce Hubbard, Sidesman at St. Andrews for his help at the Churchyard. Bruce is also a Battlefield tour guide for France and Flanders.

Posted on 10 November 2018 under Moss Side Military Hospital

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