The Wildgoose Chase

I met Chelsea Pensioner Walter Wildgoose in 1977 when he was 87 and I was 26. Through a series of letters written over the last year of his life, he passed along his life story - the workhouse children's home, a life in the British Army witnessing the opening battles of World War I and life in India, a remarkable family surviving the bombs of World War II London. This blog will document my research and progress on the novel I'm writing about this amazing man.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Christmas 1974: A death in the family

Ron, Walter, and Doug Wildgoose 1946

By December 1974 - his second Christmas at the Royal Hospital Chelsea - Walter was well settled into his new life and home. But Christmas was not to be a joyful one for the Wildgoose family:

1974 Christmas Eve my colleague and I visited our Chapel cleaner to give her a Christmas present. On our return, I rested in my room at about 10pm, as we were not due to go to the service until 11.30pm. A knock came on my door, and it was the Chaplain. I remarked “It was not yet time to go to the service !” “No! Mr. Wildgoose, I understand, but I have some sad news for you. Your granddaughter phoned the Hospital to say that Douglas (my elder son) has passed away during the early evening.” I was shocked, and the Chaplain asked me to come down to the vestry so as to phone Ronald in Kenilworth. Having done so, Ron informed me that “Young Shirley,” Doug’s daughter had phoned him with the news. Ron told me to not to get overwrought, and the Chaplain told me to rest. (Christmas Day was a sad day for me that year of 1974.)

Doug's death left only Walter and son Ron, as May had died on her 81st birthday in February 1971. I'm happy to say that Ron is still healthy and well in Kenilworth. I spent a day with him when I was in England in May. I brought him a bound copy of Walter's letters, and he showed me family photos, many of which are on this blog (thanks to my handy digital camera!).
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posted by MaryB @ 12:44 PM  


  • At 3:26 PM , Blogger Walker said...

    I'm a Wildgoose and though I haven't read all your blog on the Wildgoose Chase I have read this particular entry and found it very touching.

    Walter, I gather comes from the Sheffield area, whereas I'm 15 or 20 miles away in Darley Dale, Derbyshire. The feeling is that most of the Wildgooses locally can trace their origin back to a wedding at Darley Dale parish church some centuries ago. I've obviously not gone very far.

    I will certainly be back !

  • At 9:06 PM , Blogger MaryB said...

    Thanks, Walker. I've had a lot of help with my Wildgoose research from Kay Feltham and crew over at the Wildgoose genealogical site called A Gaggle of Geese. (Check it out, if you haven't already.)

    Walter's father was from Sheffield - I understand there's a nest of Wildgooses in that area - though Walter was born in Canterbury. He and his next two older brothers were at the Sheffield Union Children's Homes because their father was sent to the workhouse infirmary after being invalided out of the army. (Read through the blog for the whole story.)

    What an interesting tid-bit about the Darley Dale wedding! Make sure you share all of this with Kay if you hook up with the genealogical site.

  • At 3:50 AM , Blogger Walker said...

    Yes, I've been to the Gaggle of Geese site - and I was at the Wildgoose Reunion earlier this year. I really must get some pictures of my flock to Kay though.

    As regards the Darley Dale wedding it was Kay who told me ..... and I think it was her who said we were descended from the Vandals who were a warring North European tribe I believe. We've quietened down a bit since then.

  • At 10:47 AM , Blogger MaryB said...

    Well, of course Kay would be on top of this! I got to spend a day with Kay and Malcolm when I was in England in May. They met me in Sheffield, and we drove around to the site of the old workhouse and took a chilly stroll through Burgreave Cemetery (but didn't spot John Wildgoose's grave).

    From all accounts, the reunion was a huge success -


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