David Hartness

The following biography was written by Victoria Doran


David Hartness

David Hartness

David Hartness was born December 1878 in Liverpool, the eldest of 8 children of David Hartness and Annie Campbell. His father was a carter, also born in Liverpool but of Irish parents, and his mother was Irish. It is probable that it was a mixed marriage in religious terms. Although no baptism record for David appears to exist, most of his siblings were baptised, some as Roman Catholics and some as Church of England. One was even baptised in both denominations in the same week.

The family were very poor, living in ‘courts’ and depending on parish relief at times. Evidence for this is that David is to be found at the 1891 census on HMS Clio in the Menai Straits off Anglesey. This was an Industrial Training Institution for pauper boys. More information about the Clio can be found here.


1891 Census for Beaumaris, Anglesey showing David Hartness as resident on board the "Clio", a training ship for boys anchored in the Menai Straits

1891 Census for Beaumaris, Anglesey showing David Hartness as resident on board the “Clio”, a training ship for boys anchored in the Menai Straits


Further evidence of the poverty of the family is that out of 8 children only 4 boys (David, George, John and Joseph) survived infancy. In 1901 John and Joseph were in an institution for pauper boys in Toxteth. Their mother had died in 1897, but by 1901 David was living with his father at 120 Hornby Street, Liverpool and working as a bricklayer’s labourer.

At some time in the early 1900s David enlisted in the Royal Sussex Regiment and served in India. No records of his service have been found.

Sussex Regiment Helmet

On 16 August 1910, whilst still a serving soldier, he married Annie Rainford at St Bridget, West Kirby. Annie was the daughter of Robert Rainford and Ellen Morley and was born in 1897 in West Kirby. Her father, a labourer in the building trades, was from West Kirby, but her mother had arrived from Yorkshire to work as a housemaid. Annie’s brother William was also a regular soldier who served in India with the Cheshire Regiment. However it is most likely that David came to West Kirby to see his brothers George and John. In 1911 Joseph Hartness was working in a colliery near Dewsbury in Yorkshire and died in 1913.

In 1901 George Hartness was living in Grange Road, West Kirby, working as an errand boy for Edmund Hill (see ERNEST HILL). George then fell on hard times, for in 1911 he was an inmate of Walton Workhouse (described as a fishmonger).

The following letter published in the West Kirby News on 8 May 1916, will have been written to his brother John. 

"West Kirby News"

“West Kirby News” 8th May 1916

It is not known why George joined the Canadian Army, as he does not seem to have ever been to Canada. He managed to enlist at Larkhill.

In 1918 George married his sister in law Nellie Rainford in West Kirby. Nellie was a younger sister of Annie Rainford.

John Hartness by 1911 had married Annie Lunt (sister of THOMAS LUNT), and was living at 9 Hilton Road, West Kirby with his wife and children, whilst working as a fishmonger on his own account. It seems probable that he too had worked for Edmund Hill.

Wider investigation of the Hartness family reveals that the Hartness boys had an uncle George Hartness who married Mary Jane O’Neill, who almost certainly was some sort of cousin of Edmund Hill’s first wife Jane O’Neill, as she also worked in 1891 as a fish dealer. Although she died in 1893, her husband must still have kept contact with the O’Neill family, and when the Hartness boys needed help family connections were used to get them to West Kirby.

Help was certainly needed as in 1905 and again in 1906 their father David Hartness served time in Wakefield prison for stealing.

In 1911 David and Annie were living at 31 Birkett Road, West Kirby. Many of the surrounding houses were occupied by other members of the Rainford and Lunt families. David & Annie had a son George D Hartness born in 1911 who, sadly, died in his first few months.

From a report in the West Kirby News in 1919 we know that David was a member of West Kirby Working Mens Club and would therefore have also known George Edward Sherratt, ‘Bob’ Quilliam, Teddy Railton and T Cotgreave who also died during the war. In fact he served in with Teddy Railton in the 8th Battalion, Cheshire Regiment from his enlistment in 1914 to his death.

Cheshire Regiment Badge

Cheshire Regiment Badge

David’s time in the regular army expired about March 1914, so when war was declared he was immediately called up from the reserves and served in the 8th Battalion of the Cheshire Regiment. His military record has not survived, but we know from his Medal Card that he was posted to the Balkans on 26 Jun 1915. Probably up to that time he had been using his experience to train volunteers. He died of wounds at Gallipoli on 25 September 1915.

Birth: Q4 1878 at Liverpool
Death: 25 Sep 1915 in Gallipoli; died of wounds
Address: 4/14 Court, Paul Street, Liverpool (81); HMS Clio, Menai Straits (91); 120 Hornby Street, Liverpool (01); 31 Birkett Road, West Kirby (11)4;
Occupation: bricklayer’s labourer; soldier
Unit(s): 8th Bn. The Cheshire Regiment; formerly Royal Sussex Regiment in India Number and Rank: 10647 Lance Corporal
Medals: 15 Star, Victory and British War
Commemorated and Buried: Turkey: Helles Memorial
Sources: GH, WK, CWGC, MC, DA, Census: 81, 91, 01, 11, PR, BR


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