Monday, 9 June 2014

52 Ancestors - Tragedy and Scandal

Ella Muir/Hadfield/Israel/Fleming  1854-1939

 Poor Ella - you can understand her looking unhappy in her photo, she certainly had a hard life, filled with tragedy and scandal.  She was certainly no stranger to bereavement - she lost 11 of her 16 children before she was 45.  But perhaps the worst thing to happen to her was to be accused of killing at least one of those children for a few pounds of insurance money.

In January 1891 Ella's seventh child John Harold Hadfield died aged one year and eight months after a short illness.  But despite Ella doing exactly what most mother's would do - take care of their child and get them checked by a doctor - rumours started spreading that she had deliberately neglected him so she could claim the insurance money.  

A report in the Huddersfield Chronicle says that the coroner "received a report from the police saying that a great many children had died, and that they were all insured - six had died under the age of three years - and it was therefore thought desirable to have an inquest.  (The police) knew that a great deal had been said on the subject of infant insurance and a good many cases had arisen where there had been reason to suspect that children had been insured and had died either from neglect, or worse, in order to get the insurance money."

The coroner made it clear, however, that this was not the case in this instance.  A post mortem carried out on the child showed without doubt that he died from bronchitis, accelerated by convulsions.  The coroner also pointed out that the police were wrong in saying six of Ella's children had previously died, she had in fact buried three before John Harold.

The insurance money, by the way, was just £6 - about £360 in today's money.  

This hearing wasn't the first time Ella had had to go to court.  At one point, just after her first marriage, she was pleaded guilty to assault - she attacked another girl, grabbing her haid, tearing her bonnet and slapping her in the face.  Ella said the girl had lied during a bastardy case against Ella's father.  She also had to give evidence when one of her lodgers committed suicide by drowning herself in a local canal.

And now for the more basic details of Ella's life for those who are interested.  She was born in 1854 in Kirkburton, but spent much of her life in Huddersfield.  Aged 19, she married James Hadfield at Huddersfield Parish Church, and they went on to have a number of children.  

In the 1911 census, Ella is listed as having had 16 children, with 11 of them having died.  Maybe this is why she is no longer with her husband James.  He is still alive, and living with his daughter Florence.  But Ella is living elsewhere with two of her daughters and three boarders - including her husband-to-be Michael Thomas Israel, a 44 year old widower and brickworks labourer. 

James Hadfield died in June 1916, and just three months later Ella married Michael T Israel.  He died in 1924, and a year later Ella married Robert Fleming.

Ella, who is my first cousin four times removed on my mother's side of the family, died in September 1939, aged 74, in Huddersfield.

No comments:

Post a Comment