Sunday, 15 December 2013

Tom Daley - Bringing Those Ancestors Out Of The Closet

So begins the first installment of my new series of articles dealing with the weird and wonderful world of genealogy. 
Come; take my hand as we climb the ancestral tree of “celebrities” great and small. Some you’ll have heard of, others perhaps not. Hopefully the secrets and connections I’ve uncovered about those well known figures’ predecessors not yet snapped up by the BBC on ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ will provide you with the odd brief moment of whimsy and intrigue when you’ve got some time spare during a coffee break or dullish train journey.
I thought long and hard about which lucky individual to choose for this first jolly escapade into the past, and as it’s always fun to be topical I thought who better than our very own Tom Daley? That will-o'-the-wisp of the dive board! As he’s recently been on a certain sort of journey of self discovery it seemed appropriate to take the opportunity to discover what I could of his ancestry and give those dusty closets of family history a good airing out!

From Deeley to Daley – What’s in a name?
It may come as a surprise to some, but surnames have a great knack of evolving through the generations. In most cases throughout the British Isles (excluding Wales and some isolated parts of Ireland and Scotland) surnames had been established in a relatively standardised form for a fair few generations by the dawn of the 16th century when the Tudors’ (a family so dysfunctional they make Jeremy Kyle’s guests look like The Waltons) ruled over an England emerging from the Middle Ages. Taxation, that great certainty in life along with death, was a major contributing factor for a need for surnames that could be inspired by geography, occupation, resemblance or paternal/maternal first names (among others). Once ascribed to a person it soon became customary for their male issue to inherit the name which often changed and developed due to accents and the low levels of literacy that abounded until the 19th century, and it’s in that century that Tom’s earliest known Daley ancestors crop up.

The diver Thomas Robert Daley was born in Plymouth in 1994 but his great grandfather James Daley was born a bit further north, in Birmingham in 1902. James’s parents were both Brummies and it appears that James’s father Henry “Harry” Deeley (a steel polisher) was a bit liberal in his spelling of the family name causing at some point in the 1890’s it changing from Deeley to Daley, officially or unofficially.

Now Deeley is a name found not uncommonly in Birmingham and its wider region and is usually of an
English origin when found there (everyone’s favourite TV presenter Cat Deeley is descended from another Deeley family of Birmingham origins, not connected to Tom’s), this however is not the case with Tom’s family. Tom’s great great granddad Henry Deeley (born 1876 in Small Heath) was the grandson of Irish immigrants John Deeley and Catherine Maria McDermot who arrived in Birmingham from Roscommon town in the late 1830’s, most likely economic migrants arriving slightly earlier than the great influxes during the Great Famine 1845-52.

John and Catherine Deeley were poor immigrants on arrival and for most of his life (c1815-1877) John worked as a bricklayer’s labourer. The Deeley children, all born in Birmingham fared slightly better however and rose the Victorian social ladder a step or two, all marrying into local families. Henry Deeley married Emma Heath at Birmingham Cathedral in 1897, she hailed from a well-known family of gun makers established for over a century in Whitechapel, London.

Sadly it has not proved possible (as yet) to ascertain the identities of John Deeley’s (born circa 1815) parents in Roscommon so the trail turns cold on this branch of the family. The name Deeley however, which of course had transformed into Daley by the time Tom came along, when of Irish origin is derived from O Duibhghiolla; the prefix “O” meaning descendent of, “Dubh” meaning black plus “Giolla” meaning lad so we get an approximate translation of the meaning of Deeley into English as Black Lad. Apparently Tom Daley’s distant paternal ancestor was one of a swarthy complexion, perhaps one of those early semi-mythical Spanish immigrants that washed up in Ireland sometime around two thousand years ago.

Battle of The Alma

Dark lowered the thunder-cloud of death
O'er Alma's height, while far beneath,
 In deep and dread array,
Fair France, thy eagle-bannered host,
Her lion bands, Britannia's boast,
 Strode on their fateful way. (Janet Hamilton)

Tom Daley’s first military ancestor comes in the form of the splendidly named Edwin Eastlake, a Victorian soldier tuned barber that could have walked straight out of a Dickensian street scene. He was born in the rural Devonshire village of Milton Abbot in 1829 but aged nineteen he enlisted in the Coldstream Guards (famous for their ridiculous hats and inclination to loiter outside Buckingham Palace) at Tavistock. He soon was moved to London where he stood guard statue-like outside great public buildings. According to his records of service he spent two years in “the east” which most likely alludes to India, then of course the Jewel in the Crown of the British Empire.

Coldstream Guards at the Battle of The Alma
In 1854 the Coldstream Guards were sent to the Crimean War, and Edwin Eastlake was with them. He was awarded for bravery at The Battle of The Alma with a silver clasp and was also bestowed a gold ring of good conduct on returning from the Crimea. One wonders if he bumped into Florence Nightingale who if I’m not mistaken was knocking around that part of the world at the time.
Sadly, no photograph survives of old Edwin Eastlake, but his army service records describe him as he was when he enlisted aged nineteen and six months: 5 feet and 8 inches, fair complexion, hazel eyes, and dark brown hair. Strikingly similar to a description of Tom!

After retiring from the army, Edwin settled in Plymouth and Devonport where he married the equally fabulously named Priscilla Isabella Fairbridge Kessell and worked as a naval barber, keeping all the sailors’ hairdos in ship shape.

Happily one photograph of Edwin’s wife Priscilla has survived the decades. You can see her seated in this rather dark and grainy picture (left) with her children and grandchildren in the 1890’s over ten years after Edwin had died.

Tom Daley and Michael Foot MP – there’s an odd connection!
Michael Foot and Tony Blair
The biggest surprise I had when poking around in Tom Daley’s ancestry was his relationship with the Right Honourable Michael Mackintosh Foot (1913-2010), a major political figure of the left throughout the latter half of the 20th century and Leader of the Labour Party from 1980-3 when he battled against old Mrs Thatcher. However, in his battles with the formidable Iron Lady he could arguably not have lost more miserably. As Labour Leader at the 1983 general election the party obtained its lowest share of the vote since 1918.

Isaac Foot (senior)

Tom Daley and Michael Foot have a common ancestor in a man named Isaac Foot (1843-1927) a self made man that founded the legal and political Foot dynasty that lasts to this day. When Isaac Foot died in 1927, his estate was worth £90,295, which would in real terms equate to millions today. You can see Isaac Foot here in this picture (right) where he looks rather pleased with himself.

One of Tom’s great granddads was named Wesley Lucas and born in Plymouth in 1915, you can see him in the three photos below which show him as a toddler, a young man and then a slightly camp looking serviceman during World War II where he looks not unlike a wisecracking sidekick out of a Carry On film.

 Wesley’s mother was named Elfrida Louise Foot and she was also born in Plymouth in 1896. Elfrida and Michael Foot were first cousins, and knew each other well. As Elfrida was some years older than her cousin Michael, she was around for the wedding of his parents’ Isaac Foot junior MP and Eva Mackintosh. You can see Elfrida in her Edwardian splendour below as the bridesmaid to the left of the couple (Michael Foot’s parents).

A leaf through the Tom Daley’s Victorian Photo-Album

Below you can have good old nosey at some of Tom Daley’s other ancestors that I’ve not had enough time to devote word space to here. He’s fortunate to have photos surviving from this far back in the family tree as so many get lost as the years trundle on and forgotten shoeboxes of family memorabilia get cast out with the cat litter. I do hope you enjoyed this dive into Tom’s family history and if you didn’t, feel free to read this article again next time you’re struggling to fall asleep.

Next time you join me we’ll be getting to know that great iconic torch singer of the 1960’s… Dusty Springfield! 

Hello Sailor! Alfred James Foot 1873 - 1952
Strike a pose... Hands on hips! Frederick Edgecombe 1858 - 1941

What a charming collar! Julian Blanche Hehir 1877 - 1930

The Victorian Matriarch - Mary Edgecombe 1824 - 1917

Thomas Joseph Hehir from Limerick and his wife Julia Cummins

1 comment:

  1. Hi - really interesting piece. I am also descended from Edwin Eastlake via Albert Edwin Barzallai Eastlake and Barbara Langmead. Can you please tell me where you found the coldstream guards info as I can only find the Naval records? Many thanks. Paul Norman