Saturday, 31 January 2015

Alexander Park 1891-1917 (Killed in Action) and Agnes Yuill Kerr 1887-1961

Alexander Park met his future wife Agnes Yuill Kerr at 54 Sword St Glasgow. Alexander's father, Mitchell operated his rag business at the same address as James Kerr's horse and carriage hire business. In 1913 Agnes and Alex married. Their daughter Agnes was born in soon after 1914. Few War records remain for Alex but we know he enlisted aged 23 as a private in the 1st Battalion Scots Guards- Service No 11165.

While Alexander was away Agnes was also awaiting news of her five brothers who had also gone to war. Another brother David, had stayed behind to work in the family business. Brother John was discharged early due to lameness and four other brothers Andrew, Francis, James and Tommy continued fighting until the war's end.

In May 1917 Agnes's father died and a mere six weeks later her beloved of Alexander was killed in action in France.

Alex's medal card
Here’s what we can piece together of his service... In August 1914 the 1st Battalion of the Scots Guards departed for France as part of the British Expeditionary Force (B,E.F). In Mons the British forces successfully defended against the Germans incurring heavy casualties.

 Due to the strength of the Germans the British withdrew from Mons together with the French troops. This action effectively saved the BEF and the French resources to keep the British fighting in France in future against the Germans.  A second major engagement, the first battle of the Marne, halted the Germans despite the bitter fight. Later the battalion saw heavy fighting in September 1915.

They took part in the Battle of Loos and in July 1916 lost 57,000 soldiers in the first day of battle in the Battle of the Somme. Heavy shell fire and machine gun fire continued through July. Later in the month the regiment began its involvement in the Third Battle of Ypres.  The battle lasted into November 1917 by which time the British had suffered very heavy casualties against the Germans in terrible fighting conditions. Alexander was killed in action on 30 July 1917 and is one of the guardsmen buried at the Ypres Gates Panel 11.

Alexander and Agnes' only son Mitchell Park named after his grandfather, was born posthumously in 1918 but died in 1920 after a long illness with meningitis.

It seems Agnes may have carried on in her husband's business as her husband's father had died in 1914 and her husband was absent, then kill in the war.
Agnes' business card

"Tailors' clips - a speciality"
What exactly was the nature of the business may be explained by the various descriptions given to Alexander in his marriage certificate, son's birth and death certificate and Agnes' own death certificate.

He is variously described as “rag merchant”, " sewing machine operative" and "Wool broker". I wonder if the  term -wool broking is a euphemism for rag dealing and a much more palatable term in 1960s Sydney!

With so much sadness Agnes who had been a ship stewardess before marriage looked to adventure. She took her daughter and nephew to Australia where she remained for the rest of her life probably living on a British War Widow's pension. She'd had a pretty trying few years with so many deaths in the family and the War. While her mother and brother Tommy  tried the life in Sydney for a short time they returned home to Scotland. Many other members of the family were preparing to try their luck in the Antipodes  and arrived a few years later. They became her family in the tight knit community of the North Shore of Sydney.
Agnes and her daughter Agnes in her passport photo 1924
The funny thing is that many of the Park family settled in South Australia remaining unaware of each other until only recently. The families who shared a business premises in Glasgow in the 1900s have now been connected through an ancestry tree. (Contact me for details)

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