Leopold Frederick Murch was one of my great grandmother ( Florence) s’ brothers. He was just over one year older than her, born in Devonport, Plymouth, in 1857.
At one time, all I knew about him was that he was one of the witnesses at Florence’s marriage to my great grandfather William Whelen, who was in the Navy. They married at a Roman Catholic Naval Chapel in Devonport.
Not being aware of any Roman Catholic connections in the family, I had been surprised to see that great grandmother Florence had married in the Royal Navy’s RC chapel. I have since found baptism and confirmation records for some of her children, and indeed have traced some of them to orphanages run by the Roman Catholic Church for destitute children of Catholic sailors. ( Florence died at 39, leaving 6 children aged between 9 and 18. )
So...the Catholic connection was made.
Information I have discovered more recently has shown that the Murch family were indeed religiously “ interesting”.
Census information told me that Leopold and his family became part of the Salvation Army.
I spent some time in Devonport and Plymouth a couple of years ago, researching this part of the family. It is clear that mid to late 19th century Plymouth was a pretty unpleasant place to live. Pubs and beer halls were on every street corner. Drunkeness, gambling and violence, prostitution and extreme poverty were rife. It is little wonder that the Temperance Movement, and the Salvation Army, dedicated to getting rid of the evils caused by the misuse of alcohol thrived in this part of the country. The town centre has been redeveloped, mainly due to having been flattened during WW2 bombing, but in parts of the city, some of the old Victorian pubs remain.
Even now, it is not hard to imagine what some of those Victorian
streets would have been like when Leopold was a boy.
|There were literally hundreds of pubs and beer houses like this in Plymouth .....alcohol was available on every street corner !|
Leopold’s 1922 obituary, in War Cry, the Salvation Army’s publication, explained that his wife, Rosina had attended a meeting in Devonport, in 1882 and had spent the next few days persuading her dock labourer husband to join the Army, with her.
|Rosina Lavis, who married Uncle Leopold in 1878 and persuaded him to join the Salvation Army in 1882|
The obituary said:
“This meant disconnection from many old and dear associations – a hand bell band in which he had played since childhood, an orchestral band, and the Volunteers’ band. “
“ In those days, of course, The Army was widely misunderstood even by good people, and his friends and relatives declared that he had gone mad to become associated with it. “
I have since discovered that Leopold was involved in anti Salvation Army riots in Barnstaple and Eastbourne. He campaigned with “the Founder” ( William Booth ) in Cornwall. and that he played the solo euphonium in the Salvation Army International Staff band.
|I have no photos of Leopold...but just maybe, he is in this band ! He moved from Devonport to London, and then Essex, living in Hackney, Leyton and Walthamstow at various times....so it is just possible.|
There are so many questions I would love to ask Leopold. My bigamist grandfather was his nephew. At least 4 of my grandfather’s siblings found themselves in orphanages after their mother’s death......I wonder why Leopold and his family were not able to help in some way....but maybe, if Leopold’s parents and siblings had cut him off when he joined the Salvation Army...if they had thought he was mad.....maybe the wider family had lost contact by the time that Florence’s family needed support.
Maybe, if my grandfather had been able to seek support from his Uncle Leopold, when he came back from the trenches, he would not have abandoned his first family, and gone on to abandon a second family, before he finally settled with my grandmother. Of course, if that had happened...I wouldn’t be here researching it all.
|Catherine Bramwell Booth|
Leopold’s daughter Miriam became a Brigadier in the SalvationArmy, and for many years was secretary to Catherine Bramwell Booth, one of William Booth’s granddaughters. A search on e-bay...for Salvation Army related material ( when I was researching Leopold) led me to find some Salvation Army medals which had been sold....inscribed for Leopold and his daughter Miriam ( mistakenly referred to as Leopold’s wife, in the ebay listing ! )
|The medals inscribed to Leopold and Miriam Murch....sold on ebay for £200 !|
It is amazing how the internet has enabled so much information to be discovered by family history researchers. Just yesterday I received a reply to a message I left on face book 3 years ago, from the ex husband of someone I think is my cousin.....a woman who I suspect is, like me ,one of Florence’s great grandchildren. I do hope so......