Mary MAKINSON formerly BELL (1879-1945?)


The older of two children of John BELL of Manchester and Emma BELL formerly WITHERS of Salford. Upon Emma abandoning her husband and two daughters to live with another man, this saw the decline of John’s health to the extent that his daughters Mary and Agnes were sent to live with relatives. Agnes the youngest was sent to live with her maiden aunt, Miss Agnes BELL in Newton Stewart, Wigtownshire, Scotland, while Mary was sent to live with an uncle and aunt in Horwich Lancashire England, although her father John still lived at 42 Neden Street, Openshaw, Manchester, Lancashire, England.

It was in Horwich that Mary met and married William MAKINSON the fifth of nine children of local farmer Thomas MAKINSON and Ann MAKINSON formerly BROMILOW of Mason Fold Farm Horwich. Mary and William married on 16th December 1899 at Bolton Register Office in the presence of Joseph BARLOW and Alice MAKINSON (William’s youngest sister).

Mary and William lived in Horwich until they moved with their 3 children to the District of Bradford, Manchester, where wages were higher. They had another 10 children of which included 3 sets of twins. Of the 13 children, 6 of these including 5 of the twins died in infancy. Again the family moved, this time to 10 Dixon Street, Irlam, Lancashire, and from this address William, with two friends at the Ship Hotel, Irlam, whilst talking over a pint, in autumn 1914, agreed that they would all volunteer the next morning to Kitcheners Call to Arms (for the K3 army).

William’s two friends did not arrive, but William insisted that he had given his word and that because his two friends had backed out he was not going to allow their actions have him break his word honour to them. Therefore, off he went to join the Lancashire Fusiliers at the Manchester recruitment office.

Mary was left to cope with their living children, and the final twin, Mary, who survived to the age of 13/14 (1913-1927), John (1900) the oldest, starting work and Helen (1901), my maternal grandmother, being drawn out of her schooling to help her mother raise the family. At which time Helen’s school reports indicated that if she remained in school she would easily qualify as an accountant before she was 20, something very unusual, for a woman, especially such a young woman, in those days.

During July of 1916 the 11th Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers were placed in the front line trenches at Usna Hill, Ovillers, Somme, France. It then took part in attacks at Ovillers, 14 - 16 July 1916. The battalion was relieved during the night of 16th July 1916; just hours after William had made the supreme sacrifice, just 8 days after his 40th birthday.

Mary was notified that William was “Missing in Action”. Stories began to filter through that on that fatal day of 16th July 1916 that William, a Lance Corporal, saw two German Stick Bombs drop into the trench. He picked one up and threw it back to the German trenches. Now the stories differ, either he ran for the other one and {A} it exploded just has he raised his arm to throw it back to the German trenches, or {B} he threw himself onto it knowing he didn’t have time to throw it back to the German trenches. Either way the Military reported him “Missing” with no trace of even a boot. Mary believed him to be alive but with ‘memory loss’. Mary never faltered in her thoughts that William would regain his memory and return to her and their children, and for this reason alone Mary refused to move from 10 Dixon Street, Irlam. Even on her deathbed, she still believed William would return home, because she never actually believed any official notification that he was listed as presumed deceased.

Mary never had the opportunity to visit the Thiepval Memorial in France where William is Commemorated. The family to this day (2001) maintain a presence in Dixon Street Irlam (William & Mary’s great granddaughter) albeit in a house opposite number 10, and also in Alexandra Grove (William & Mary’s great great granddaughter) which is opposite Dixon Street off Liverpool Road (B5320, the old A57).

My belief is that my great grandfather William may be buried as “Unknown” in the British Cemetery on the right side of the D929 Albert to Bapaume road opposite Usna Hill about a mile before the village of la Boisselle.

Alan Taylor, great grandson (1944- = )