Private James Darcy

This is one of a series of posts about local men named on the Keighley Union Workhouse roll of honour.
As a child, James Darcy had been under the care of the Keighley Union Guardians before he served in the Great War. James and his brother Edward 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, possibly with the 9th Service Battalion, Duke of Wellington's West Riding Regiment.

Early life and Workhouse.

James was born in Keighley in 1897/8, to parents William and Mary Ann Darcy.
In 1901 he was listed at Keighley Union Workhouse aged 4 years old with his two sisters, Catherine age 9 and Annie at 10 months, plus his older brother Edward age 6. 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.

Their father 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. James was 13 and working as a setter (woollen yarns). He was living at 35, Back Burlington Street with his mother, brother Edward 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.

War service
Shortly after war was declared in August 1914, we think James attested at Keighley, probably for the West Riding Regiment and at the same time as his brother Edward. This is because they are both named in Keighley's Gallant Sons. However, no army records exist of his service and the situation is further confused by the presence of another James Darcy living in Keighley at this time, although he was born in 1888. His Army records are clear enough to rule him out as a different man.

Later life
In 1922 James appears on the electoral roll for 49, Burlington Street, Keighley with his mother Mary Ann and sister Annie then he seeems to have disappeared from the area. We think he married Doris Morris in 1932. For the next few years he was a registered elector at 20, Royal Arcade with Doris and her parents Frank and Sarah Hardisty, then to 10, Smitherds Street and also at 4, Burlington Street. There's even reference to him and Doris living at 18, James Street in Oakworth but this was after the 1939 register was taken and we can only find Doris in that record, living at 30, Cherry Street in Keighley, so there was a lot of flitting about between addresses. In some years he seems to have been registered as an elector at more than one address.
The last reference to James was in 1940 and we can find no death record for him.
There is a notable Keighley News story about James Darcy, from his appearance in court around the time he'd attended a funeral in Keighley in April 1927:

Keighley News 9th April 1927:

When the name of James Darcy, labourer, of no fixed abode, who was charged with drunkenness and disorderly conduct, was called, there was no response, and the case could not be tried in his absence.
Constable Turrell told the Court that at 11.20 p.m. on Saturday, 2 April, he saw Darcy in Turkey Street. He was creating a disturbance and wanting to fight another man. "He used the most filthy language I have ever heard," said the officer, and I had to lock him up."
A warrant was issued for Darcy's arrest.
WEDNESDAY. - Before the Mayor (Alderman Albert Smith), presiding, and Mr. Thomas Wardle.
Loudly protesting that he had not had a fair trial, James Darcy, of no fixed abode. was committed to prison for one month, for drunkenness and disorderly conduct. he should have appeared on Tuesday but failed to do so, a warrant being issued for his arrest.
Constable Turrell stated that at 11.20 p.m. on Saturday he heard a disturbance in Turkey Street, and found the accused drunk and wanting to fight another man. He used "dreadful" language, and as he refused to go away witness had to lock him up. He had been refused admission to a lodging house on account of his conduct. Constable Wilkinson corroborated.
Constable Bell said he saw Darcy in East Parade on Tuesday afternoon and when asked why he had not attended court that morning the prisoner said he had stopped at Sandbeds for a drink. In a long statement Darcy said that on Saturday week he came to Keighley, on hearing that his [1] brother was dead, to attend the funeral. he had to find lodgings and on Saturday the deputy of the [2] lodging house would not admit him. "I said 'you are not the boss.'" said Darcy " I fancy I shoved him, and he shoved me. I came here to a funeral not a police station. He intended to be present at Court on Tuesday but having found that he could travel to Crossflatts for 2d. - six miles, he thought it was a "bit off" that the bus conductor should want 4d. for the rest of the journey of two or three miles. So he called at Sandbeds for a drink.
Prisoner had to be pulled up repeatedly by the bench for his talkativeness, and he remarked "I am not coming here to any more funerals; I don't care who dies. There's only me left. I know this that I shall get a fair trial with Beaumond Morice (the Bradford Stipendary). I shall have to walk back to Bradford unless some of you chaps give me a shilling." (Laughter.)
Inspector Jacques said Darcy had thirty-four convictions against him for "drunks," assaults on police, and begging. "This man is a perfect nuisance" said the inspector, and when he gets any money he does nothing but drink it and the police have no option but to lock him up."
Prisoner: " How long is it since I was here for being drunk? It is five or six years. [3] You are only a major and there is a lieutenant colonel above you." Darcy added that he earned his living by playing the flute and the violin. "I use my brains," he said.
The Mayor said the bench had no option but to send Darcy to prison for a month.
Darcy: "I refuse. I will be tried at the next sessions in Bradford."
The Mayor: "You claim to be a man of intelligence, yet you have a record of this description."
Darcy: "I refuse to do a month, will you give me time to pay?"
The Mayor: "There is no fine."
Darcy: "This is not 'fairation.' I have not had a fair trial."
Prisoner's protests were heard until he reached the cells.

[1] James must have been rather confused about recent events. His brother Edward was not being buried, he died in 1973. It was their father William Darcy who had just died on 23rd March 1927 and it was his funeral which James was supposed to be attending.
[2] Possibly the Model Lodging House at 12, Leeds Street.
[3] Probably a reference to James' previous Army service and demonstrates further his confusion during his court appearance. A major in the Army at the end of the Great War period wore one crown on his epaulette, very similar to a police inspector's crown, which was worn on the collar around that time.

The only information we really have that James Darcy may have served during the Great War is his name appearing in 'Keighley's Gallant Sons,' plus his name on the Keighley Union Workhouse Roll of Honour. In themselves they are enough to tempt us to search for further information about his service. However, the lack of any definite evidence suggests to us that he may have enlisted but was either discharged as unsuitable for service because of poor health or bad conduct, or he may have served under an alias.

The fact that there was another James Darcy in Keighley, who did indeed serve in the war, has made it rather difficult to tease out the storyline on this man.

Source information:
1901 England Census
1911 England Census
Keighley's Gallant Sons, held at Keighley Library
Keighley News archives at Keighley Library
Keighley Union Workhouse roll of honour held at Cliffe Castle Museum, Keighley
West Yorkshire, England, Electoral Registers, 1840-1962
1939 Register.

No Comments Yet.

Leave a comment

Please verfiy you are not a computer program by answering the following question to submit your comment *