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My maternal grandmother was born Ellen O'Shea on the 20th January 1892 in Southwark, South London. Her father was Henry Patrick O'Shea, born on the 13th August 1864 at number 229 Bermondsey Street, Southwark. Henry Patrick's mother and father were Mary (nee Murphy) and Philip. Philip was born in Murroe, County Limerick, Ireland around 1829 and Mary Murphy was born in Askeaton, County Limerick around 1833.

The Irish Potato Famine, also known as the Great Hunger (An Gorta Mor) began in 1845 and ruined half the potato crop that year and three-quarters of the crop over the next seven years. Estimates vary but it is believed that one million Irish men, women and children died during the Famine with another million escaping poverty and starvation by emigrating to America and Great Britain. The population of Ireland recorded in the 1841 census was 8,175,124 while the 1851 census recorded the population as 6,552,385 - a drop of  1,622,739.

Philip O'Shea and Mary Murphy were amongst those emigrating to Great Britain - they married on the 20th October 1851 in the parish church of Saint Giles, Camberwell.
London Electoral Registers 1847 to 1913
Henry Patrick O'Shea
1902 to 1905 - resident at 10 Oldfield Road, Rotherhithe
1906 to 1907 - resident at 63 Hawktree Road, Rotherhithe
1908 to 1912 - resident at 6 Cope Street, Rotherhithe

Date of photograph unknown
From left to right
Robert (b1904), Frank (b1897), Ann (b1908), Patrick (b1901)

O'Shea Family Tree

Ellen O'Shea
Henry Patrick O'Shea
Ellen McCarthy
Philip O'Shea
Mary Murphy
Robert McCarthy
Eliza Alford
Philip Patrick O'Shea
Judy Egan
Thomas Murphy
Mary Hogan
Robert McCarthy
Eleanor Halfpenny
William Alford
1807 ?
Sarah Ann Skelton
Ellen O'Shea married my grandfather, William Thomas Sculpher in 1929. However Ellen had been married before and the story in the O'Shea family as told to me by Patricia O'Shea was that Ellen's first husband, a Mr. Leach died on the Titanic, still at his post stoking the boilers as the ship went down on the 14th April 1912.

Here are the facts as we know them. 

The crew and passenger lists for the Titanic are listed on many web sites on the Internet and  there is no entry for a 'Leach' in either the crew or passenger lists.  Searches on the Birth, Marriages and Deaths index were initially centred on the years preceding 1912 in the belief that the actual year of his death was correct even though the nature of it was wrong.  A marriage certificate for 1909 proved to be incorrect, but some further research by Patricia O'Shea was successful, finding the right marriage entry. 

William John Walter Leach, Private 4722 in the Royal Fusiliers married Ellen O'Shea on the 24th January 1918.  William was living at 51 Rotherhithe Old Road and Ellen at number 6 Cope Street also in Rotherhithe.  After their marriage they lived at 51 Rotherhithe Old Road. William was, in peacetime a packing case maker and returned to his trade after the First World War. 

William died on the 24th March 1924 and the story told me by my mother was that he died after being kicked in the head by a horse. However, William's death certificate shows that he died of hemorrhagic colitis - a type of gastroenteritis caused by the bacterium Escherichia coli (E coli is often found in healthy cattle - perhaps William ate some under-cooked beef that lead to the infection.).  In about 5% of cases, severe complications occur, including anemia, sudden kidney failure as well as nerve and brain damage - seizures or strokes. Maybe it was a stroke that lead to the story of being kicked in the head.

Taken sometime in 1927
From left to right
Robert (b1904), Frank (b1897), Patrick (b1901)
These are my granduncles and grandaunt on the O'Shea side of the family

William Leach
Ellen O'Shea 1918
William Leach 1924
Death Certificate
Ellen Leach
William Thomas Sculpher 1929
Both my maternal grandparents died in the summer of 1941 and my mother, then aged 10 was raised by a family known to William and Ellen, the Ruddell's. My research into the family history of the O'Shea family goes back to 1826, that of the Sculpher family has been researched (by others) back to 1530 - the start of parish records. The earliest known member of the Sculpher family (and its name variations) is Roberth Sculforth, (my great great great great great great great great great great grandfather) born 1530 in Suffolk, England.