Wilson Armstrong was my 1st cousin 3 times removed. His father, Alexander and my great great grandfather, Robert were brothers. My great great grandfather being my paternal grandfather’s paternal grandfather. This is a branch of the family I discovered through DNA testing.
Wilson was born on 4 February 1886 near Halifax in Yorkshire. His father was from Rigg in Dumfriesshire but had moved to England for work. Wilson was Alexander’s 9th child and his 8th by second wife, Helen Taylor. He was named after his grandmother Isabella Wilson.
Tragically Helen died in 1888. The 1891 census shows Wilson living with his father and siblings in East Morton, Keighley. Alexander was a police constable and Wilson’s older siblings were working while he attended Parkinson Lane Board School. So it would seem that despite the loss of Helen, the family were coping fairly well.
Ten years later and things were not so good for Wilson. He had left school and had been working in a mill. He had fallen into bad company and had no fixed abode.
This information comes from the admissions register of the West Yorkshire Reformatory School. Wilson was sentenced to 3 years detention after stealing a jacket, two pairs of trousers and a cloth cap. When asked about the theft he stated “I stole the clothes so as to wear them as I was hard up”.
At 15 Wilson was a tiny 4’11”, with a fresh complexion, brown hair and greyish blue eyes. He claimed that he had been “harshly treated” by his father who had by this time retired from the police and was working as a labourer.
It’s a sad story but it would appear the school was not a terrible experience for the boy who, after being discharged in July 2003, continued to visit the school. After school he found employment as a farm servant but by 1906 he was a soldier with the Lancashire Fusiliers.
Wilson remained in the army and when the war started he was sent to fight on the Western Front.
He married Sarah Wilson in October 1915 but with a war on there was no time to enjoy married life.