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, July 04, 2006

On a Wildgoose Chase: Solving the Mysteries

As I work my way back in to Walter's world after my hiatus, the list of little mysteries in the story keeps begging for attention. I don't know how many of them are solvable. Some things need bloodhounds and some just need perseverance.

Where's Harry? Will we ever find out what happened to Walter's older brother Harry who ran away from the Sheffield Children's Home?

Where was little Annie during the Sheffield years? Walter believed her to be in Whitley Bay the whole time, but there is some evidence that she, too, was in Sheffield for at least a while.

What's the story behind the family picture and the date (above)? It's dated 1887 but shows three sons. Bert wasn't born until 1889, Walter 1990, and yet Bert (we assume) is shown in the picture. It could be just a matter of mis-dating. Still, where's young Walter? From the looks of Bert, Walter would've been 1 or 2 years old when this was taken. Probably a simple explanation, but it makes one wonder.

What was the relationship between father John and his family in Sheffield? Did the boys ever see their grandparents and cousins while they were in the children's home? We know John's parents and some of his siblings lived in Sheffield when he was in the Workhouse Hospital. Walter never mentions any of his Wildgoose relatives.

Why did the family decide to split when John went to the workhouse? Was it simply a matter of money and/or healthcare for John? Why did Fred stay with his mother while the little ones were sent away? If little Annie was at Whitley Bay, why so far away from the rest of the family?

Why was Walter's injury at Le Cateau mentioned in his discharge record but no mention of the foot injury at 2nd Ypres that got him back to England in 1915?

Well, those are some of the loose ends I'd love to tie up. I have my work cut out for me.
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posted by MaryB @ 5:40 PM  


  • At 5:32 PM , Blogger Dawn said...

    I have some documents from the Sheffield Union Minutes Book (1910) that have mention of my relatives, and unbelievably it also includes one Annie Wildgoose. Amazing how many similarities my story and yours (Walter) mesh together!

    Here is the transcript regarding Annie:

    The Estimate and Punishment Book was presented at the meeting, August 1901.

    The Committee discussed the steps to be taken to deal with a girl named Annie Wildgoose, at East View, Upperthorpe, who had been giving a great deal of trouble and appeared to be incorrigible, and....

    Resolved: "That the Medical Officer for the Upperthorpe Homes be requested to examine this girl as to her mental condition and report to the next Meeting of this Committee."

    Report: A report from the Medical Officer of the Upperthorpe Homes, on an examination he had made at the Committee's request, as to the mental condition of a girl named Annie Wildgoose was read, in which he stated that he could find no trace of mental alienation. No further action was therefore taken in this matter.

  • At 10:04 AM , Blogger MaryB said...

    You really know where to find information, Dawn!

    I don't think this Annie Wildgoose is Walter's sister. She was sent to a girls' home in Whitley Bay, not to Sheffield with her father. There are, however, lots of Wildgooses in the Sheffield area (father John was from Sheffield), so she may be some relation. From Walter's accounts, he didn't see his sister from the time they were shipped off in different direction until they met up again in London (Annie introduced Walter to his future wife May). Still, stranger things have happened!

    Thanks for this. If anything, it gives insight into the process and environment.

  • At 12:47 AM , Blogger lightninguk28 said...

    I have just discovered this post looking at the history of where i live in firvale and firth park sheffield- i would love to help with any research and have already begun looking into these mysteries. please give me a way to contact you to see if there is anything in particular i can research for you with this amazing history literally on my doorstep.
    Kind Regards


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