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William Fulham


William Fulham/Fullam entered my research with the marriage certificate of my great grandparents, Christopher Alston and Emily Fulham, dated 1891.

Emily was in service at Bamber Bridge in Lancashire, working in a chemist's shop near the station, which has since become a branch of Boot's. She gives her father's occupation as "Engineer", which may have been stretching things a little, since William was at sea, and for most of his life there he was stoking the boilers of steamships.

The Fulham family was easily found in the 1871 census. They were living in a part of Liverpool, just off Scotland Road, which was flattened in the slum clearances of the 20th century,

14 Doncaster St was obviously crowded. The census lists it as containing two households.

Thomas Jones, his wife, four children, and his mother are joined by an 11-year old boarder, and, surprisingly, a servant. Thomas was only a fireman on a steam ship, so I doubt that the family were paying proper wages.

William Fulham, 37, from Castleknock, Co. Dublin, is head of the other household. Finding a place name rather than the official "Ireland" is a real bonus. William too is a steamship fireman. His wife Eliza, who was born in Dublin, Emily, then 13 months old and Eliza's mother Anne Darrets, from Co. Meath, are joined by boarders Susan Reynolds (who was Emily's godmother), husband and wife Robert and Jane Gentry and the two Gentry children.

That's 18 people in the house. Quite crowded.

The Fulham family in 1871

I could not find William in the 1881 or 1891 censuses, but as a mariner, he was more than likely to be at sea. However, I did find his wife Eliza, in the Workhouse on Brownlow Hill on both occasions. Left without income, she had to resort to any means she could to keep body and soul together.

Emily, though, was not with her. She was at Kirkdale Industrial School. The industrial schools were set up by the authorities to avoid having children in the main Workhouses. These residential institutions provided an education, and attempted to prepare the children for the world of work. It would have been there that Emily learned the skills she would need to be employed "in service". She could certainly write - it was she who filled in the census form in 1911.

So William Fulham had come from Ireland, but when? The Great Famine drove millions from Ireland in the 1840s and 1850s, but there was no sign of William in the 1861 census.

So I took to looking for other clues. Were there other family members or anyone else from Castleknock who had made the trip earlier and William came to join them? Again, 1861 gave no obvious results. However, the 1851 census threw up a surprise. There was a William Fullam, 18, born in Castleknock, at Chatham in Kent, as a private in the army. Right name, right age (near enough) and the right birthplace. Things became clearer. At the height of the potato famine, William had taken the opportunity of escape offered by the British Army.

Most around him had Irish birthplaces, so this was probably an Irish regiment, but there was no clue in the census images. Things languished for a while.

Then a breakthrough. Someone published online a list of the recipients of the Indian Mutiny Medal. There was William Fullam, of the 87th Regiment of Foot. A quick search gave the more modern name for the regiment - the Royal Irish Fusiliers. It had to be the same man.

Little is available online about the life of ordinary soldiers in Victoria's army, so research had to wait until I got a chance to visit the National Archives in Kew. Staff there suggested a couple of likely source of information.

The pension records drew a blank, as William did not receive the sort of injury which would entitle him to one.

The other main source was the Pay Books. Meticulous records were kept of every penny paid to soldiers. Each month, the amounts paid were written down in the Pay Books for the Regiment. Any pay deducted for bad behaviour, or added for good behaviour, is recorded. If a soldier was not on parade for some reason, that is written down too. This is the Army, of course, so the details are arranged by rank, and in alphabetical order within each rank. A fresh Pay Book was started each quarter.

Over the course of 4 days at Kew, I noted every pay detail relating to William Fullam. He was never promoted, possibly as a result of behaviour which led to him spending time in the cells. He also spent time in hospital, but the reasons are not given. Online histories of other regiments mention cholera in the area.

William Fullam signed up on 30th October 1850 in Dublin. There was usually a recruiting bounty paid. The 87th regiment did not record what was paid, but two other relatives recuited a few years later received five pounds for joining up. Such an amount would have sustained the rest of his family for many months.

By the following March, William was at Chatham, probably undergoing what is now called Basic Training. He was not there long, though, because on 20th June 1851, the regiment embarked on a trip to India.

The trip around the south of Africa took quite a while. He arived at Ferozepur, Punjab, on 11th October.

William spent some time at Ferozepur, and at the start of 1854 moved to Rawalpindi in the Punjab. The end of December 1855 saw him in Peshawar, North West Frontier, where he was to serve until March 1858. Most of the action in the Mutiny, which started in May 1857, was in the Bengal area, so William had a lucky break.

The fort at Peshawar

March 1858 saw William Fullam moved to Jullundur, Punjab, where he was to remain until the end of his tour of duty in India, except for six months in Kasauli, Himachal Pradesh.

In April 1860 though, William was onboard ship again, this time heading for China. 35 days later the regiment arrived at Canton, just after the end of the Second Opium War.

The regiment was then shipped "home" to Dublin. William was paid for 152 days at sea on 22 May 1861. The next year saw William spending a serious amount of time - 180 days - in hospital. In one quarter, he spent 88 days there.

William's remaining time in the Army was spent in less dangerous places. Aldershot, Portland, Gosport and Portsmouth all had visits from the 87th Regiment. Eventually, having served 15 years, William Fullam was discharged free, with a 5/- allowance and a 10/- ticket to Dublin in his pocket.

I don't know whether William used that ticket. The next record of him that I have is his marriage to Eliza Darress in Liverpool in 1867. He is already a mariner, though he may have learned other skills during his army career.

William was not at home when the census came round in 1881 and 1891. In 1881 his wife was in the workhouse and his three children were in Kirkdale Industrial School. By 1891 Emily was in service. Her younger sister Josephine had married, aged 17, in 1889, to James Boyle. Josephine had four children, two of whom died in infancy. Three were born in the Workhouse. The Boyle family seem to be invisible in the censuses after 1891; I think they may have been in Ireland. William junior is even more elusive. I have not yet located him in any census other than 1881. There is not even a birth registration for him.

Which leaves my William. A William Fulham of the right age turns up at the Oswestry workhouse in 1901. He is described as a General Labourer, and born in Ireland. I'm pretty sure it is him. About six weeks after the census, William Fulham died in Oswestry Workhouse of tuberculosis. The death certificate gives his occupation, surprisingly, as Skin Dresser. There is no other William Fulham with that trade in previous censuses, so I wonder if he told stories of skinning tigers for the rulers of the Raj?

Another thing I wonder about. Did William return from his travels with a taste for spicy food, or was it that which put him in hospital?