Winifred Burns (1898-1950??)


caution !! ... this is an initial draft of a story for the family ... there are many errors of fact, omissions and inaccuracies for which I apologise ...

I only keep these notes on my server so I don't lose them !!


Maypole Pit DisasterJames Byrne (1872-1908) was Winifred Burn's father, and it was Winifred who set Fred Hindley's loins a quiver sometime between 1923 and 1929 when he was working in Trafford Park.

James was a coal miner who perished in the Maypole pit disaster in 1908. Originally from a farming family from Cloonmore, County Mayo.

In 1901 James Byrne married Maggie Gill (1878-1931) from Garryroe they had children - James Patrick born January 1902 in Cloonmore, Mayo (He Michael Gill & Bridget Byrne); Owen born February 1903 in Cloonmore, Mayo, Ireland; Pat Joseph born Feb 1904 in Cloonmore, Mayo; Mary Delia born March 1906 in Cloonmore, Mayo; Kathleen born January 1908 in Cloonmore, Mayo, Ireland.

In 1901 census James Byrne (age 28 b1873) and Maggie (age 20 b1880) were living at house 22 in Cloonmore Upper (Murneen, Mayo).

In 1911 census Mrs Maggie Byrne (age 33 b1878), widow, born in Mayo was farming and living at house 8 in Cloonmore, Upper (Murneen, Mayo) with her three children James Patrick (1901-); Owen (1902-); Mary Delia (1906-); Kathleen (1908-).

On September 23rd 2008 Michael Commins reported for The Mayo News - Maypole Disaster Victims Remembered -

 'Attracta Prendergast from Foxford (formerly Regan from Cuiltybo near Kiltimagh) whose grandfather James Byrne from Cloonmore also died in the mine'.

The Maypole Disaster involved an extended inquest from August 1908 to July 1909. There was the inevitable blame game, but the jury reached their verdict - the disater was 'caused by the ignition of gas and coal dust combined through shot firing with permitted explosives'.

Although some disaster reports suggested James lived on Liverpool Road, Platt Bridge, records at the Wigan Museum confirmed James Byrne lived at 578 Bryn Gates, Bamfurlong, Wigan at the time of the Maypole Colliery Explosion (1908).

After the tragedy all hands rallied round and a disaster fund was set up; Maggie and young Winifred benefitted.

The Relief Fund records noted that on 21st October 1925, Molly Bryne was still receiving educational fees of £6.00.

The records also include a letter of the 16th January 1931 confirming Molly's death -

Dear Mr Wright
Will you kindly note that this week we have received word of the death of the following Maypole widow - Mrs Margaret Byrne, on the  5th Jan 1931, at Cloomoore Ballyfarna, near Claremorris, Co. Mayo, Ireland.
Widows Funeral Expenses - Application submitted from Mr J P Byrne of Claremorris, son of the late widow Margaret Byrne for a grant towards the expenses incurred by them in connection with the funeral of their mother.

Maggie's daughter, and Winifred's half sister, Mary Delia 'Molly' (1906-99) from Cuiltybo married John T Regan (1904-59) and their large family included Attracta and brothers and sisters in Manchester.

But who and where was Winifred during all this malarkey?

A discovery in the dusty records of a Chester Hospital proved to be the best starting point on the track of Winifred Burns.

The 1939 Register identified Winifred Hindley (Burns) resident at County Mental Hospital, Chester ... and identified a specific birth date August 21st 1902.

Fred Hindley was interviewed at the Chester Hospital on 19/4/1936, when he was living in Kingsley, he revealed some of the story ... 

Winifred was 34 years old at the time suggesting she was born in 1902 and 6 when her father died in 1908 in a mining explosion ... 

Fred confirmed Winifred's father was in the Navy (for 21 years?) and the 1891 census recorded James Byrne in a 'hulk' on the Medway in Kent at the RN Dockyard, Chatham - 'James Byrne, Member of Crew, 'Pembroke', First Guard Ship of Reserve, Stoker, aged 20, born in Ireland in 1871?

HMS Pembroke was a 101-gun screw propelled 'first rate', launched in 1859 as HMS Duncan. She was renamed HMS Pembroke on her transferal to harbour service in 1890 (a number of ships were renamed 'Pembroke' while serving as base and depot ships. This 'Pembroke' was renamed HMS Tenedos II in 1905 and was sold in 1910).

Was it possible Winifred was born in London, close to Chatham during the period James Byrne was at the Dockyard? No birth certificate or record has been located.

In 1901 James was back in Cloonmore and married Maggie. But Winifred was born in 1902? But Maggie had children in Cloonmore - James Patrick born January 1902; Owen born February 1903; Pat Joseph born Feb 1904 - it was difficult to fit Winifred into this family? Was she with her mother in London? ... ? ?

Intriguingly the 1901 census revealed a 3 year old Winifred Byrne in foster foster care with Florence Mason, Foster Mother under Camberwell Guardians. This system of care in 'scattered homes' in the Camberwell Union was deemed successful and the following year an expansion project was blocked and led to a question in the House -

'Homes for Pauper Children in the Camberwell Union - HC Deb 04 March 1902 vol 104 cc355-6 - Mr Fowler (Bradford West) - I beg to ask the President of the Local Government Board if he can state the reasons why the Department have refused sanction to the Camberwell Board of Guardians to erect five additional cottages for the accommodation of children under their control; and can he explain why the Department advised the Guardians to send these children to the condemned Sutton Schools, seeing that the cost per week per child at Sutton is 12s. 10½d, and on the scattered home system 8s 9½d'.

The 1911 census identified Winifred Byrne as an 'Inmate of Orphanage', born in Middlesex in 1898? It appeared that by 1911 Winifred had moved into an orphanage for girls, the well respected Catholic institution, St Mary's Convent, Roehampton High Street, Wandsworth, run by the Poor Servants of the Mother of God & the Poor. Camberwell and Wandsworth were adjacent boroughs.

The Camberwell Union employed probationer nurses and the convent would welcome novitiates? Did Winifred move to Manchester as a trainee when she left the convent at 18?

(The 1911 census also identifies another Winifred Burns as an 'Inmate' of Greenwich & Deptford Childrens Homes, born in Deptford in 1900? Deptford was somewhat closer to Chatham but this was not our Winifred? 'Deptford Winifred' was the daughter of John & Rose Burns who in the 1901 census were living in Deptford with Winifred?)

Apparently Winifred was 'known' to the disaster fund as Fred indicated that the convent received payments from the disaster fund? Was this via Maggie who was living in Mayo? But who was Winifred's mum and were there other siblings?

In 1923 'our' Winifred was expecting in Manchester and on November 15th 1923 Monica Scholes was born at 48 Spring Street, Bury. Winifred was then working as a 'Probationer Nurse'. But who was 'Mr Scholes'? Not much to go on ... male, born around 1900, living in North Manchester? Who was living at 48 Spring Street in the 1921 census?

Information from Fred himself suggested that he started to live with Winfred in 1923 when Monica was born; the family always assumed Monica was a Hindley. Winifred's dad 'served in the Navy for 21 years and after leaving the Navy, he was employed at a mine and was killed in an explosion in 1908 when Winifred was six. The compensation money in respect of her father's death was used for her education at a Roman Catholic Convent where she remained until she was 18, in 1920. Winifred had an appendix operation in 1926 and a painful mastoid operation in 1933 at Chester Royal Infirmary'.

A second baby followed in 1929 with Fred as the father. Winfred would have been some 23 years younger than Fred and 27 years old when Peter was born in Manchester in 1929.

Shortly after Peter was born disaster stuck the family. After Winifred's apparently successful mastoid operation chronic health problems emerged. Tragically the mastoid operation may have led to a nervous breakdown. Bacterial infections within the honeycomb-like mastoid of the middle ear often tended to spread to the walls of the bone itself. If the infection persisted it could destroy the delicate structures of the mastoid and result in the destruction of bone in the skull. Mastoiditis was a serious illness and before the advent of antibiotics, it was a common cause of childhood mortality. In 2008 The British Journal of Psychiatry suggested that there was an association between middle ear disease and schizophrenia.

Fred apparently left Manchester for Frodsham and by 1931 Winifred was also in Frodsham, at The Shieling, Townfield Lane, where a third baby was born. Problems had been compounded when Fred was made redundant; the oil company he was working for in Trafford Park eventually closed down in 1935.

Fred first job in Frodsham in 1931 was as a Confectioner? In the early 1930s Fred lived at Greenbank Farm, Kingsley, as a tenant in the house, the land was let for farming. He worked next door at Kingsley Mill, and probably got the job and accommodation as a result of his father’s friendship with Billy Gibson who was the owner of the mill and farm. Billy Gibson was a brick and did his best to help with Winifred problems. But Fred blamed himself and suggested her problems were due to a strict RC training (the children were brought up in the Catholic religion) coupled with her illicit association with him, was largely responsible for her breakdown.

The stress of redundancy, insomnia, illegitimacy, hallucination & attempted suicide became unbearable and Winifred suffered a second breakdown in 1935 and on April 11th 1936 Winifred was Certified and admitted into the Co Mental Hospital, Upton Asylum, Chester with 'melancholia'.

The hospital records confirm that in 1936 Winifred was 34 years old, born in 1902, small 5'2" and a Roman Catholic. Life had been tough, her dad was killed in a mining accident and her mum turned to drink. Her first job was as a probationary nurse in a mental hospital which came to nothing when pregnancy forced het to leave in 1923. Winifred went to live with Fred in 1928, they never married.

Life in the hospital was typically suicidal & noisy with occasional sudden impulses to eat buttons and strike nurse Beryl Blakeley on the head with a small basin ... perhaps, 'paraphrenia' ... there were always reported signs of improvement ... on the 15th of May 1943 Winfred was discharged by escape ... and she joined Fred at Burnside, Tarvin Road, Frodsham ...

Burnside Tarvin RoadWhilst Fred was living with Winifred there were three children around - Monica (1923-), Peter (1929-99) and Eileen (1931-). From 1941 the family home was a bungalow Burnside, Tarvin Road just outside of Frodsham.

Monica (1923-) was born in Bury on November 15th 1923 and registered as Monica Scholes.
Monica served as a Corporal in the WAAF during World War 2, No. 432108, driving trucks for victory. Monica had a son she named Terry Hindley (1944-), born in Louth, Lincolnshire in 1944. Louth was close to the 'Dambuster' airfields at Scampton and Kirton Lindsey. A flavour of life in the WAAF at Kirton has been described on the excellent BBC WW2 archive 'written by the public gathered by the BBC' ... was Monica part of a famous operation? ...   

Terry Hindley was born on February 4th 1944. His father was James Gerald Breen of the Royal Canadian Air Force R/108675. Tragically Gerald Breen was killed in action on June 12th 1943. Wellington Bomber HE 392 was shot down over enemy territory returning from a bombing raid on Dusseldorf, the crew of six were lost. Monica was left distraught, her boy friend gone and young Terry on the way. What a cruel blow. No doubt it would have been only a small comfort for Monica to know that Gerald died protecting her country in the most heroic of circumstances.
Earl Rheaume was Gerald’s mate and his son has produced a wonderful tribute to the aircrew of Wellington HE 392.
June 12 1943 at 2:45 AM – Wellington HE 392 Crashed:
While returning to home base at Burn Yorkshire, England, from a bombing raid on Dusseldorf, Earl Rheaume and his four crew members aboard their Wellington HE 392 bomber, were attacked by a German Night Fighter. The Wellington was last seen in flames and diving toward the earth. It crashed on the land of Mr Komen at Schagen Netherlands.
The remains of only one of the five-member crew was recovered and buried the same day: Earl Rheaume. The bodies of the other four-crew members were not recovered at the time.
Royal Netherlands Air Force Aircraft Recovery Team (ARG):
On September 10th 1991 the Royal Netherlands Air Force Aircraft Recovery Team began carrying out excavations at the crash site, and discovered the remains of the four missing crew.
Together again after fifty years:
On June 16th 1993 a full military funeral honours, including British, Netherlands and Canadian military and officials, reunited the four crew members with Earl Rheaume, after fifty years of separation.
Members of the crew of Wellington HE 392:
Squadron Leader W E Mulford RAF (Pilot) 
Flying Officer C A MacDougal RCAF (Navigator)
Warrant Officer 11 J G Breen RCAF (Bomb Aimer)
Flight Sergeant E S Rheaume RCAF (Air Gunner)
Sergeant J R Bell RAF(VR) (Wireless Operator/Air Gunner)Gerald Breen

  James Gerald Breen had a distinguished bother Frank Vincent Breen (-1943) also in the RCAF. Next-of-kin was their father, Mr S V Breen, 167 St Clair Avenue, East, Toronto, Ontario.

Latterly Monica was stationed at H Q Maintenance Command, RAF Amport, Andover, Hants. After a stint in the Military Hospital in Tidworth with chronic bronchitis in 1948-49 she left the WAAF around 1949/50. Monica stayed nearby in Southampton and at one time lived at Greville Road on the Atherley Estate.

Monica lost contact with the family when they left Tarvin Road after Fred's death and eventually ventured forth to a new life in the sunny Antipodes! On Christmas Eve 1956, the P&O turbo-electric liner The Strathnaver sailed from Tilbury and on board, alone, was a 33 year old Telephone Operator from 14 Marlborough Road, Shirley, Southampton, bound for Sydney ... Monica Scholes-Burns ...

The National Archives of Australia have a record of Monica's arrival in Sydney on January 31st 1957.

In 1951 when he was 6 Terry went off to Australia. In 2000 Terry was living in Brisbane with his wife Lyn Hindley and two adult daughters.

Did Monica return to Lincolnshire before she died in 2001? No this Monica Burns was the widow of Francis Sydney Burns, a blast furnace foreman from Scunthorpe.

Peter HindleyPeter Hindley (1929-99), a blond lad, was born in 1929 in Manchester South at 152 Kirk Street, Gorton. No doubt Peter was named after his grandfather, Peter of Barnton, a shoemaker of repute! On Peter's birth certificate Fred was described as an Engineer (superheaters), which probably described his work with the oil company in Trafford; Kirk Street, being within easy reach. Winifred was described as Hindley formerly Burns. But no evidence of a marriage has been uncovered.

Peter was in the army when Fred died. In 1951 he married Maureen Woodward (1933-63), an 18 year old typist from Frodsham, at St John's Church, Kingsley. Their marriage certificate confirmed Peter as a 21 year old labourer living at Marsh Lane, Frodsham and his dad as Fred Hindley (deceased), an engineer. Maureen was living at The Bungalow, Newton.

They had three children, Kevin P (1951-) born in Ormskirk, Nicholas (1955-) born in Wallasey and Abigail (1957-) born in Frodsham, registered in Runcorn.

Maureen died in 1964 at the tender age of 30. Just after a divorce from Peter and marriage to Colin Barlow a local Frodsham man. Colin's sister 'Auntie Jean' remembers happy times playing with Eileen at Tarvin Road ...

Peter married again in Northamptonshire in 1965 to Deidre Stickland (-) and they had a son Gary F (1966-) born in Liverpool South.

Peter married a third time in Flintshire in 1979 to Ivy Harwin (-) who had an existing family of four. Spencer 'Hindley' spent a lot of time with his new father.

In 1999 Peter was a Slater and Tyler and living in Flintshire, North Wales.

Peter certainly moved about a bit; 1948 army, 1951 labourer Frodsham, 1951 Ormstirk, 1955 Wallasey, 1957 Frodsham, 1959 back in the army at Taunton, 1965 Northamptonshire, 1966 Liverpool South and finally 1979 Flintshire ...

Peter Daniel Hindley died in 1999 in Flintshire. The death was registered by Spencer.

EileenEileen (1931-) was born in Frodsham on the 11th of October 1931. Fred & Winifred were living at The Shieling, Townfield Road, Frodsham. Fred was working as a 'Confectioner'. Most likely Fred left Trafford to join his young brother Edward Junior in his company making gelatine products at Sutton Weaver. The company 'Dainty Products' closed in 1939 when the war started and material became impossible to source. Fred did his best with the family and there was one memorable holiday with Eileen in the Isle of Man. However following her mum's health problems she was cared for in a children's home; Newton Hall, Frodsham, where Peter also spent some time.
During the war there was considerable pressure from Newton Hall and Fred desperately tried to evacuate the children to the USA where they were to live with aunt & uncle, Mr & Mrs A Smithe, of Conneticut? Nothing came of this initiative ... but who were the Smithes (or Smiths)? Were they from the Hindley side of the family or the Burns? Was this Auntie Kit who Eileen used speak of? (Some research has uncovered a candidate for 'Aunt Kitty'. According to the Census in 1940 Alfred Smith and Mary P Smith (Hindley) could be our 'Mr and Mrs Smithe' also recorded are 5 Children - Alfred W, Winifred M, Edith J, Shirley R, Lucy V Smith. Both Alfred and Mary P immigrated from England in 1930, and in the 1930 US census were living in Allegheny, Pennsylvania. Mary P Hindley was the daughter of Joseph and Mary Alice Hindley and was Christened 28/06/1894 in Tyldesly Lancashire. Was this a Hindley connection?)

Newton Hall was established by the National Children's Home in 1869 and run by the Methodists from 1871; it had an enviable reputation with a motto of 'Need not Creed' and sheltered up to 350 children. The home was closed in 1985 but many of the records have survived ...  
After the death of Fred in 1948 Eileen was looked after by Gilbert Hindley and his wife for a couple of years. Eileen then went off to make her own way in the world. This was the time at 17 or 18 that she left for the Isle of Man and worked as a usher in a cinema there, and lost contact with everyone. Some time between 1948-51 she moved to the smoke and lights of London and while working in a cafe in Brixton met a young ex Royal Marine who had severed in Palestine. Dennis Fitzgerald (-1991) joined The Royal Marines in Jan 1947 and left as a junior draftsman in 49. He met Eileen when he was studying at the Brixton Building College. Dennis became a draughtsman with McAlpines and travelled about a lot; Essex, Doncaster and Keadby, Scunthorpe. In 1952 Eileen & Dennis were married in Wallasey? In 1965 they emigrated to Australia to work on a hydro electric dam project in Island Bend, in the Snowy Mountains. They had two sons Timothy (-1993), born in Scunthorpe and Christopher. Eileen was still persisting strongly in 2012 in Brisbane!


Fred died on 29th April 1948, aged 68 years, he was buried, reunited with his dad Edward, in the Barnton cemetary. Fred's death certificate was interesting ... confirming he died of a 'common' heart attack - angina pectoris (a restriction of the blood supply to the heart) - atheroma (fat build up on the artery walls) ... and senility at 68 ... Fred had a hard life. The certificate also indicated that Winifred was present at the death at Tarvin Road ... there was also confirmation that Fred & Winifred never married ... W Hindley was described at registration on April 29th as the 'widow of the deceased' which was corrected and omitted on September 3rd following the production of a Statuary Declaration made by Winfred Hindley otherwise Burns and Beatrice Mary Hindley?

After Fred died in 1948 the family dispersed and left the rented accommodation in Tarvin Road - 

Monica was in the WAAF and stayed in Southampton until Australia beckoned in 1956.

Peter was in the Army doing National Service and went back to his army camp. He was living in Frodsham at Marsh Lane when he married a couple of years later in 1951.

Eileen went to live with Gilbert Hindley for a couple of years. Then went off to the Isle on Man for a time and London before marrying in Wallasey in 1952.

Did Winfred go back 'home' to her family in Manchester or Ireland ... or back to hospital?

Winifred may have died in Whiston Hospital in 1950?? More research to be done ...


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Any corrections and additional information gratefully received contact john p birchall