|Durty O'Dwyers at the top of the Arcade on Market Hill (from Google Maps)|
|Major Thomas Guest |
from the Illustrated London News
I found his picture in the Illustrated London News on a special website they have set up to commemorate the First World War - you can search the ILN and eight other magazines from the same company for the years 1914-1919 completely free of charge. There are lots of pictures and contemporary articles about the war and some very amusing old adverts!
Tom Guest, as he is listed on the St John's tablet, features in Jon Cooksey's book, Barnsley Pals, as a genial old soldier, who served in the Boer War, a good leader and who gets on well with his men. The book also cryptically mentions that he was prosperous local grocer - but not being originally from Barnsley (sorry!) the clue in the name didn't leap out at me. He was 41 years old when he was reported missing after the first day of the Battle of the Somme, 1 July 1916, a short paragraph stating that he was seen to have been shot in the leg as he led his company into an enemy trench and that there was "still hope". Barnsley Chronicle 15 July 1916
He is a bit of a mystery man, his Commonwealth War Graves entry and reports in the Barnsley Chronicle give very few clues about where he was from or how he came to be an officer in the Barnsley Pals. His medal card on Ancestry tells me that his full name was Thomas Heald Guest and some searching in the old newspapers on Find My Past gave me a good lead.
|Tom's memorial at Lower Peover |
(from Military Images)
Some Googling brought back an entry on the Military Images website with a photo of that very brass plaque and accompanying a transcription of the text was the information that Tom was also remembered on the Bloxham School Roll of Honour. The researcher there didn't appear to be having much more luck than me finding out about Tom, but he did mention that Tom was married to a Mabel Ellen Fountain and that they'd lived in Brighton, which suggested that a 1911 census record I'd thought might be Tom was probably correct. There had been a mention of a Mrs Guest in one of the Barnsley Chronicle reports, but I hadn't known if it was his wife or his mother.
From that census return I now knew that he was born in Rusholme, on the outskirts of Manchester and that his wife was from Haigh, in Yorkshire.
A search for the marriage on FreeBMD gave me the year 1905 for Thomas and Mabel's marriage, and differing from the Bloxham information told me that they'd married in the Barnsley area! Interesting ...
|1905 Marriage entry for Thomas Guest and Mabel Fountain (from Ancestry)|
|1881 census snip - The Cedars, Lapwing Lane, Didsbury, Lancashire|
I could only find one more census entry that fitted the information I had on Tom now. That took me back to 1881 when he was only 6 years old and living in Didsbury, which is about three miles south of Rusholme. Fortunately his name, age, place of birth and father's name and occupation all match what had been already discovered AND - the greatest discovery of all - his father Thomas was born around 1843 in Barnsley! Look at that - he was a Confectionery Manufacturer employing 79 hands. Wow! Tom's mother's name is Mary J and she was born in Patricroft, Lancashire, and he has a sister, Kate, just one year older than him. There is a sister mentioned on the brass plaque at Lower Peover ...
|Lancashire OPC site - Marriages in Rusholme|
In Lancashire they are lucky enough to have a very good Online Parish Clerk website - these exist across the country, some are good, some are still in the process of collecting and transcribing their records. However searching for "Thomas Guest" on the site soon produced the next step on my journey back in Tom's family history.
Thomas Guest senior had married Mary Jane Heald (so that's where Tom gets his middle name from!) in St James, Rusholme on 23 October 1872 and now I knew Tom's grandfathers' names - yet another Thomas Guest and George James Heald, a Solicitor.
Next step, back to Barnsley looking for a Thomas Guest born in 1843 (ish) whose father is also a Thomas. This journey has strayed a long way from the Somme in 1916, but is getting closer and closer to discovering why Major Tom Guest is remembered with fondness on a memorial in a now lost church in Barnsley.
|1861 census snip - 5 Market Hill, Barnsley (from Ancestry)|
|Guest's Grocers to the right of the newly opened up Arcade (from YOCOCO)|
|A snip from the 1889 town plan of Barnsley showing Guest's Yard|
Guest's original shop was the large building just below the the covered passageway which is shown in this map from 1889 marked with a X to the right of the R of 'Market Hill' and then leading eastwards from that is a long narrow yard - shown as Guest's Yard - the family even had a street named after them! This is now the Arcade, a neat little covered shopping street leading down to Eldon Street.
Major Tom Guest's story is far from finished, but writing it down like this today has focussed my thoughts and recorded the steps it took me to link this soldier with Barnsley. I have a lot more to write about the Guests and their intermarrying with other well known families in Barnsley like the Fountains and the Hewitts, but that will have to keep for another day.
Thanks for reading!