The Following biography was written by Carol Hunter.
Josiah Athelstan Ulric Williamson
Although a good number of the men listed on the West Kirby War Memorial are distantly related to me I have no personal connection to Josiah; I chose to research and write about him as I was drawn by his unusual name. The Williamson surname is local to West Kirby and the family baptized their children at St Bridget’s at least as far back as the mid 1700s. But what about this young man’s Christian names? Josiah’s paternal line goes Josiah, William, Josiah, Josiah, so that explains his first name – simply a family tradition. As for his middle names, after extensive research of his ancestors I found none with any links and can only assume that they were chosen at random, perhaps because his parents liked the sound of them. In fact Josiah’s siblings all had rather exotic names, as we shall see later.
Josiah’s parents were Josiah Williamson and Annie Dodd, who married in 1889 at St Nicholas in Liverpool. Annie came from Moreton and her parents were Peter and Margaret. Josiah senior appears to have been the only child of William Williamson and Margaret Radley, who married at St Nicholas on 19th May 1845; Margaret was from Tranmere and William was a shoemaker from West Kirby. Josiah senior was baptized at St Nicholas on 30th August 1846 but according to all census entries was born in West Kirby. He must have had an interesting early life as his father had various professions and the family moved around a lot:
1851 – living in Hoose where William was a publican
1861 – living in Llanbedr, Denbighshire where William was employed as a coachman at Llanbedr Hall
1871 – living in Market St Hoose with his mother, Josiah was described as working as a clerk in the coal office; his father William was residing in Tarporley where he was described as a groom
1881 – the family was now living at the Anchor Inn in Market Street, Hoylake, where William was described as a beer seller and Josiah as manager of the inn; his mother Margaret is described as an invalid and died in 1888
When Josiah was 46 he married Annie who was only 24; they were married for 18 years until Josiah’s death at the age of 61 in 1907. Being an only child Josiah may well have wanted a large family as he fathered 11 children with Annie, the last when he was 59. Sadly only 3 survived beyond infancy and this must have had a devastating effect on Josiah and Annie. As mentioned earlier Josiah junior and his siblings all had exotic names:
|Vivienne Eliza Marguerite Buckley Markland||17-09-1890||1975 d|
|William Ainsworth Radley||15-05-1892||18-07-1892|
|Athelstan Buckley Markland||04-09-1894||27-02-1895|
|Ulric Jocelyn De Lap||07-04-1897||19-07-1897|
|Josiah Athelstan Ulric||16-03-1899||29-10-1918 d|
|Gerrard Saint Hilary Ralph||08-09-1900||29-03-1901|
|Rowena Eleanor Gwendoline||24-01-1902||1997 d|
|Edric George Markland||13-04-1903||19-04-1904|
|Edgar Dawson Radley||28-12-1905||04-01-1906|
The name Radley came from the children’s paternal grandmother. If anyone is able to shed light on the other names I would be most grateful.
In 1891 we find Josiah and Annie living with daughter Vivienne at Elm Terrace, Market Street; Josiah is now a lawyer’s clerk and his father William, who is described as a horse dealer and trainer, is the head of house. William died in 1893 and it appears that Josiah, still working as a lawyer’s clerk, and Annie remained in his house as in 1901 they are living at 5 Elm Terrace with children Vivienne and Josiah. In 1911 we find young Josiah living in a 4-room house at 97 Market Street with his sisters Vivienne and Rowena; their widowed mother is described as a fish and chip shop keeper.
Annie died on 16th November 1922 and at the time was living at 102 Market Street. She left £343 5s 7d (approx. £7,000 today) and probate was granted to her daughter Vivienne. I have not been able to establish how long she had the fish and chip shop, nor whether the money she left came from this business or from Josiah’s estate. Neither Vivienne nor Rowena married; their deaths were registered in Birkenhead so I assume they stayed local, possibly living together as spinsters in Hoylake. In 1936 Rowena is listed as a pianist in a photograph of Hoylake Church of England Boys School.
After losing so many babies it is hard to imagine how Annie felt when her young son Josiah went to war and was killed. I have not been able to find Josiah’s service record. However from information on the CWGC website we know that he joined the Royal Engineers. It is possible that Josiah saw action during the Battle of Vimy Ridge in 1917 as troops from the 41st Brigade, Royal Field Artillery were attached to the 4th Canadian Division during the Battle of Arras.
As we can see from Josiah’s medal record card he was awarded the Victory Medal and the British War Medal. As he was not awarded the Star we must assume, that given his age, he signed up after 1915.
Le Treport is a small seaport 25 kilometres northeast of Dieppe. During WW1 it was an important hospital centre and at its height had nearly 10,000 beds. According to the “UK, Soldiers Died in the Great War, 1914-1919” online database Josiah was not killed in action but died of his wounds – I take this to mean that he survived his initial injuries and was perhaps taken to one of Le Treport’s hospitals or perished on the way there. The record also states that Josiah was part of the 2nd Signal Company.
Death: 29th October 1918, died of wounds, aged 19
Addresses: 5 Elm Terrace Hoylake (01), 97 Market Street Hoylake (11)
Unit: Royal Engineers Signal Sect. attd. 41st Bde. Royal Field Artillery
Number and Rank: 260062, Sapper
Buried and Commemorated: GH, H, France: Mont Huon Military Cemetery, Le Treport, VIII. M. 12B.
Sources: BR, CWGC, SDGW, Census: 51, 61, 71, 81, 91, 01, 11, Online BMD records on Ancestry and Familysearch, Online Parish registers