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We saw in my last post that Martin Concar had fought in terrible tropical conditions in the Third Burma War of 1885-6. He had undergone experiences and conditions a world away from his early life in Stafford. Now, early in 1887, he was back home. What became of him?

The brief answer is that within just three years he was dead. The obvious question is whether his service in Burma contributed to that sad event. Before I consider the issue it is worth sketching out his life after his return to Stafford.

On 2 October 1887, within a few months of his return, Martin arrived at St Austin’s Catholic Church in Stafford to get married. His bride was twenty year-old Julia Simpson, the daughter of a Stafford shoemaker who was (at least nominally) Protestant. It was yet another case of a ‘mixed marriage’ and potential ‘leakage’ from the Church that so worried the Catholic hierarchy in the late nineteenth century.[1] It had clearly been a rapid courtship and Julia may already have been pregnant when they were married. Almost exactly nine months later, on 6 July 1888, their son Thomas Patrick Concar was born.[2] Martin now had family responsibilities to cope with.

Concar Martin PN-5951 JH crop

Martin Concar, September 1879, shortly before he joined the army.

Martin and Julia seem to have begun their married life living near the Concar family’s old haunt in New Street. Marriage did not reform Martin, however. He was working as a labourer, the sort of unskilled job many ex-soldiers were forced to take. And he was still drinking. In November 1888 he was arrested for being drunk and disorderly in Eastgate Street in the town centre. The newspaper headlined the case ‘an ex-soldier in trouble’, something clearly worth reporting. There was a further twist to the incident because Martin was also charged with assaulting Mark William Bromley. It was alleged that he had ‘asked’ Bromley to leave the work he was doing and go to another job. Bromley refused and Martin hit him. It was said that he had already been in court for stealing a watch but also that he had been in the Army for some years.  It seems the magistrates showed leniency but he was still fined five shillings plus costs.[3]

That didn’t have any effect. A few weeks later he was back in court accused of being drunk and disorderly in Cross Street. That was close to his home because the paper noted his address as 43 New Street. This time the magistrates fined him ten shillings plus costs.[4]

Martin’s death

Clearly Martin Concar’s time in the Army had done nothing to curb his drinking and proneness to violence – indeed it seems to have worsened them. He was an ex-soldier, like many since, whose time in the Army ill-fitted him for life in Civvy Street and it may, indeed, have left him with traumas impossible to resolve. We just don’t know. What we do know is that thirteen months after his drinking spree in Cross Street Martin Concar was dead. He died on 20 February 1890 and the death took place, not in New Street, but in the house occupied by Julia’s parents in Sash Street.[5] We can speculate that Martin and Julia were forced to go there once he was unable to work and they were evicted from 43 New Street. A Dr. Greaves was summoned and he gave the cause of death as ‘Haemoptysis’. There was no inquest.[6]

Concar Martin death cert phshp

Martin Concar’s death certificate showing the ’cause of death’ as ‘Haemoptysis’.

Haemoptysis means the coughing up of blood or blood-stained mucus and Dr. Greaves’s statement was merely a description of symptoms, not a diagnosis of the underlying cause of death. As there was no suspicion of foul play or unnatural cause of death to worry the coroner, in those days Greaves could get away with such a limited description.[7] It does, however, leave us to speculate on what actually killed Martin Concar. There are many possible causes of haemoptysis. It could have been a sign of tuberculosis, a very likely illness for anybody living in nineteenth century Britain. As we know from its role in Victorian novels, however, death from T.B. usually took place after a significant period of ill-health. Martin Concar was clearly active and fit enough to work for a time after his return to Stafford and to get involved in drunken incidents, and although we cannot discount T.B. it seems less likely in his case. Furthermore, even a doctor as cursory as Greaves would probably have been able to diagnose T.B. because he would have seen so much of it. Other causes of haemoptysis can be bronchitis, pneumonia and lung cancer. It is possible that Martin was been laid low by some severe respiratory infection of the first two types about which no evidence survives, though, again, Greaves should have been able to identify the basic ailment in that case. Lung cancer would have taken longer to kill and was less likely for a relatively young man like Martin.

We are left to speculate as to whether Martin Concar’s death was ultimately due to something he picked up during his time in the Burma War. In my last post I noted the appalling rate of sickness among British troops during the campaign, with malaria, cholera, dysentery and ‘heat apoplexy’ being noted in the later report on the war.[8] Those were not maladies applicable in Martin’s case back in Stafford, however. One possible candidate might have been tropical eosinophilia, an infection caused by the parasitic worm wuchereria bancrofti. The disease is most prevalent in tropical parts of the world and particularly in India and South East Asia including Burma. Martin Concar would certainly have been exposed to it and a doctor like Greaves would have had no experience of seeing its symptoms which can, in any case, be confused with those of T.B. and bronchial asthma. I have to conclude, however, that the available evidence is not sufficient to firmly conclude the Burma War caused Martin’s early demise, though the suspicion remains that it may have done.

It is perhaps significant that Martin’s death certificate said his occupation was that of ‘general labourer’ but also added that he was ‘”An Army Reserve Man”’ (with the quotation marks). It suggests someone, presumably Julia, insisted that was added to the certificate, perhaps to emphasise his army service and its possible connection with his death. Having served just a single seven-year term, Martin would indeed still have been on the army’s books in the reserve, to be called up again if necessary. It does, of course, suggest that at the time of his discharge he had no obvious infirmity caused by his service in Burma. As we have seen many times since then right up to the present day, the Army had little interest in what happened to Martin Concar after he left the active lists. He was left to sink or swim, and in his case the outcome was not a happy one.

The aftermath

Martin’s death left Julia Concar née Simpson a widow with a young child to support. As mentioned previously the family had sought refuge with her parents in Sash Street before Martin died but she needed to work. Her occupation in the 1891 Census was that of ‘furrier’, a rather strange job but probably related to the Stafford leather and shoemaking trades. She didn’t need to stick at it for long, however. On 22 October 1892 she married Charles Bates.[9] In the 1891 Census he was a 29 year-old groom living with his brother, a cattle dealer, in North Street on the northern edge of town. Charles himself may have had a problematic life because it seems his parents both died young and he and other siblings grew up living in various relatives’ households. The Bates family generally were in the shoe trade and Charles had become a shoemaker by the time of the 1901 Census when he and Julia were living in Friar Street, the heart of the shoemaking district. By then they had had three children. Martin and Julia’s son Thomas Concar was still with them. Although he attended St Patrick’s school, his mother and stepfather were not Catholics and he lost, or repudiated, his Catholic background.[10] In 1910 he married Gertrude Dale at St Mary’s Anglican Church in Stafford.[11] The couple went on to have eight children and there are descendants in the Stafford area and elsewhere today, so in the end Martin Concar had a significant progeny despite his early death.

In the end things did not work out so well for Julia. She and Charles Bates had five children between 1895 and 1905 but sometime after 1905 Julia must have had some sort of mental breakdown because in 1911 we find her incarcerated in the County Asylum. Charles Bates was left at home in Friar Street with the five children, the oldest of whom, Florrie, had taken over maternal duties – ‘assisting at home’. Julia seems to have died in 1915.[12]

As the child of poor and bereaved Irish immigrant parents, Martin Concar grew up in difficult circumstances and had a short but problematic life. Others of his siblings weathered their background more successfully and some of Martin’s problems must have been a product of his particular personality and the ways he reacted to the environments in which he found himself. His time in the army was clearly pivotal. He was one of the many Irish and Irish-descended men in Britain who ended up in the forces expanding, more or less willingly, the British Empire overseas.[13] He was clearly a man of some spirit and courage who may well have retained a degree of Irish identity, provoked no doubt in part by stigmatisation of his family’s origins by some native Staffordians. His life was a microcosm of the stresses that can affect migrant families.

 

[1] Discussed in John Herson, Divergent Paths: Family Histories of Irish Emigrants in Britain, 1820-1920, (Manchester, Manchester UP, 2015), pp. 288-289.

[2] England and Wales Registration Birth indexes, Stafford RD, Thomas Patrick Concar July-September 1888, 6b/10; Staffordshire Birth, Marriage and Death Indexes, 1837-2017, Thomas Patrick Concar, birth 6 July 1888.

[3] Staffordshire Advertiser (SA), 24 November 1888.

[4] SA, 12 January 1889. The incident was on 30 December 1888.

[5] She and baby Thomas were living with them at 6 Sash Street at the time of the 1891 Census.

[6] Death Certificate, Stafford RD, 20 February 1890, Martin Concar, 6b/8.

[7] For this and this and the following comments I am indebted to discussion of Martin’s medical case with Dr. Richard Nelson of Chester.

[8] Intelligence Branch of the Division of the Chief of Staff, Army HQ, India, Frontier and Overseas Expeditions from India, (Simla, Govt. Monotype Press, 1907), p. 228.

[9] England and Wales Civil Registration Index, Stafford RD, Julia Concar and Charles Bates, 6b/29; England: Select Marriages 1538-1973, marriage 22 October 1892.

[10] St Patrick’s School Registers, 1884-1944. I am indebted to the late Roy Mitchell for his data on the school registers.

[11] England and Wales Civil Registration Index, Stafford RD, Thomas Concar and Gertrude Dale, October-December 1910, 6b/32; Staffs BMD Indexes, marriage at St, Mary’s Church.

[12] England and Wales Civil Registration Index, Stafford RD, Deaths, January-March 1915, Julia Bates, b. c1869, 6b/28.

[13] Herson, Divergent Paths, pp. 215-220.