James Parker

Totley War Memorial WW1 1914-1918

James Parker was the third child of John Henry and Rosa Parker and was born on 8 June 1888, being baptized at Christ Church, Dore on 8 July that year.

Christ Church, Dore
EnlargeChrist Church, Dore
His grandfather, George, was born in Totley, but the family moved to Attercliffe soon after the birth of John Henry in 1857, where George was employed as a miner at Brightside Colliery, owned by Messrs Unwin and Shaw. The family in the 1861 census was George and his wife Sarah, with four children George junior (aged 8), Elizabeth (aged 7), John Henry (aged 5) and Frances Emma (aged 8 months), living at Bentley Houses, Whitworth's Lane, Attercliffe-cum-Darnall.

They were soon to suffer tragedy. Frances Emma died in 1864 and in 1865, when Sarah was heavily pregnant, there was a pit accident in which both George senior and their son George (aged 13) were killed. They had been working in the Parkgate seam of the colliery, not long opened.

"At no time since it has been worked has there been the slightest indication of gas, and such has been the confidence of the workmen in their safety that naked lights have been freely used." This, despite the safety lamp having been invented in 1815.

It appears this was the cause of the firedamp explosion which instantly killed one man. At some distance along the seam George and his son were severely burned and had tried to escape but were overcome by the 'after damp' and nearly suffocated. Quickly rescued, they were conveyed home on a cart and attended by a surgeon, Mr Shaw. Initially it was hoped that George senior might survive, although the same hopes were not expressed for the boy's recovery. They both died two days later on 25 October.

Within weeks Sarah gave birth to a son, whom she again named George, and returned to live with her parents in Totley. She opened a grocery store on Baslow Road which she ran until her death in 1903, living with George who at this time still a bachelor.

John Henry became a stonemason and married Rosa Taylor, from Dore, in 1883. They had 10 children over a period of 25 years, the last being born just a year before the death of John Henry at the age of 52 in 1909. Younger brother George was also a stonemason so may have carved the ornate border on his headstone. Rosa lived on in their cottage in Summer Lane with 8 of her children including James. In September 1916 she was admitted to Mickleover Asylum having had a nine month history of 'melancholia'. She never returned home and died from chronic nephritis in March 1918, aged 54.

Parker Family Gravestone
EnlargeParker Family Gravestone
Rosa used many forms of her name in documents over the years. There are at least five, and possibly six! In the 1891 census she was Rosanah but became Rose, Rosey and Rosa in future censuses and was finally recorded as Rosia at the time of her death in Mickleover Asylum near Derby in 1918. This is also the name on her memorial stone in Christ Church, Dore.

Jim was a pupil at Totley All Saints School, enrolling just before his third birthday in 1891 and leaving ten years later to begin work. He was recorded as a labourer in the 1911 census.

Initially Jim enlisted with the Lincolnshire regiment but was transferred to 507th Agricultural Company, Labour Corps. Was this because he had been injured? Unfortunately his service records have been lost.

The men of the Labour Corps were usually those not fit enough for front line duties and were occupied in preparing, supplying and clearing theatres of war. Early in WW1 these jobs were being performed by the fighting forces or local civilians, but as demands increased the Labour Corp was formed in 1917 to fulfill the demand. Amongst their duties were road and rail building and repair, moving of stores and ammunition, loading and unloading of ships and trains, and burying the dead. They were present in huge numbers in France and Flanders, often being drawn into the battle front and not always in armed units.

The Agricultural Companies were normally in England, the soldiers being of the lowest fitness level but providing labour on farms to help in the production of food. The 507th Company to which Jim was attached had its HQ in Beverley and he died aged 30 in Patrington Hospital near Spurn Point, where the Agricultural Company had a training camp. The cause of death, recorded by Capt. Morgan FRCS, was influenza, pneumonia and heart failure. Jim Parker was a victim of the Spanish flu epidemic that would eventually claim more lives than those lost in the hostilities of WW1.

His body was brought home and buried in the family grave in Dore Christ Church. His date of death was 10 November 1918, the eve of Armistice Day.

Totley War Memorial Project Group