This is one of a series of posts about local men named on the Keighley Union Workhouse roll of honour.
As a child, Edward Darcy had been under the care of the Keighley Union Guardians before he served in the Great War. Edward and his brother James Darcy were the sons of William Darcy, a notorious drinker who was well known at Keighley Magistrates Court, and one of the imprisoned ringleaders of the Keighley riots in September 1914.
Private, 9th Service Battalion, and 2/6 Battalion, Duke of Wellington's West Riding Regiment.
Early life and Workhouse.
Edward was born in Keighley on 8th July 1895, to parents William and Mary Ann Darcy.
In 1901 he was listed at Keighley Union Workhouse aged 6 years old with his two sisters, Catherine age 9 and Annie at 10 months, plus their younger brother James age 4. Their father William was nowhere to be found locally, even though he was registered as an elector at 95, Wellington Street. He may have absconded to avoid paying the Keighley Guardians for the care of his family.
Their mother Mary Ann Darcy was sent to gaol for a fortnight on 3rd September 1903 for absconding from the workhouse with the clothes she was wearing (which belonged to the workhouse) She had been allowed out to church but did not return. She was also given seven days in jail for prostitution on 24th April 1905 so the situation must have been desperate at the time although the record shows she was working as a factory hand when imprisoned.
William was jailed on the 21st December 1906 for desertion. He served for 3 months with hard labour at Leeds Prison. This offence is marked as 'Union' which suggests it was the Keighley Guardians who made the charge against him. The previous month's Keighley News Court Report stated that William had been in the town earlier but had absconded. Two children were in homes at Leeds and the other two in Children's homes in Keighley. At a cost to the Guardians of £1 per week, William Darcy's debt had risen to £111, a huge sum for the time and likely to be one he would have no hope of paying back, hence the severe sentence.
In the next few years William committed many further crimes, usually with drink involved and disorderly conduct and violence, but there are simply too many to list here. To give you an idea of the scale, the court heard that he'd had 51 offences heard against him by 1915.
By the time of the 1911 census. Edward was 15 and working as a setter (woollen yarns). He was living at 35, Back Burlington Street with his mother, brother James and sister Annie. Their father William was absent from the family home for the census as he was again serving two months in Leeds Prison, this time for assault.
Shortly after war was declared in August 1914, Edward attested at Keighley on August 27th for the West Riding Regiment with the service number 13240. He was sent to Halifax for training. His Army conduct sheet gives some insight into his true character in that he served a total of 208 days. Of these, he spent 24 days confined to barracks and had several days pay deducted for being absent from parade, and general unruliness and refusing to obey orders. For breaking out of quarters when a defaulter and being found drunk, he was awarded 96 hours F.P. no 2 (field punishment no. 2) and fined for breaking a window in the prisoner's cell.
Less than a fortnight later he received 168 hours F.P. no 2 for a second offence of drunkenness and was forfeited three days pay and fined 2/6d. The next month he was absent from operations and confined, but broke out and was again absent from the Commanding officer's parade, which got him another 96 hours F.P. no. 2. When he had completed this the Army decided they'd had enough of him and discharged him for misconduct under King's Regulations. His character was unsurprisingly rated with one word: BAD.
Within a fortnight he was in Keighley court in early April 1915, being fined nine shillings for disorderly conduct and refusing to quit the Burlington Arms on the night of Saturday March 28.
Less than a week later at the age of 19 years and 8 months he enlisted again, this time at Skipton with the 2/6th Battalion West Riding Regiment including signing for overseas service. The family address was 114, Oakworth Road, Keighley. He'd not served more than two months before receiving two weeks confinement for desertion along with Private Andrew Payton. These two men deserted again on June 3 and ending up in Keighley Borough Court the next week charged with assaulting Police Constable Mitchell and deserting the 3/6th West Riding Regiment. Payton received two months, and Darcy received two weeks in prison. Edward's father William was also fined 5/6d for obstructing the police during the assault.
On completion of his sentence Edward Darcy was discharged from the West Riding Regiment under King's regulations as a 'recruit within three months of enlistment considered unfit for service.' In his records he was also described as 'Not likely to become an efficient soldier.'
There is evidence that he was later conscripted and he served at the front with the 9th Battalion West Riding Regiment, as he wrote a poem about it, which was published in the regimental history and a copy is at Keighley Library. We haven't transcribed it but we do have an image of the page so you can read it here:
In 1923 Edward appears on the electoral roll for 15, Adelaide Street, Keighley and he married Nora Narey at the end of 1924. For the next few years it's a bit vague but they were registered electors at 2, Moorhouse Street and at 4, Burlington Street in Keighley from 1926 until 1934. After that year they are registered at different houses, so they may have separated. As far as electoral registration is concerned, Edward was away from Keighley until 1948 and Norah was living with Ann and Mary Narey (Norah's unmarried name) at Burlington Street in Keighley until 1939, then alone until 1957 at 2, Russell, Street in Keighley.
We're not 100% sure where Edward was in the 1939 register but there is an Edward Darcy (born 8th July 1895) married and living at 23, Walpole Street in Huddersfield and working as a scaffolding erector (heavy work) along with Annie Darcy, also married and a 'Housewife unpaid'. There are also two redacted records for this address so we don't know who they were.
Edward Darcy died in 1973 at the age of 78. Nora died aged 77 in 1978. Both of these deaths were recorded for the Worth Valley area.
England and Wales, Civil Registration Birth Index, 1837-1915
West Yorkshire, England, Church of England Births and Baptisms, 1813-1910
1901 England Census
1911 England Census
British Army World War I Service Records, 1914-1920
UK, World War I Service Medal and Award Rolls, 1914-1920
Keighley News archives at Keighley Library
Keighley Union Workhouse roll of honour held at Cliffe Castle Museum, Keighley.