The Wynne Story

My name is Richard Clive Stuart Wynne. On the bookshelves of my late father Deane Stuart Wynne, from the year of its publication (and my birth) 1952, and nowadays on my own bookshelves, has sat The Adventures of a Sporting Angler by V. Carron Wellington (Oliver & Boyd, Edinburgh, price 21 shillings — one guinea). It recounts the angling exploits, principally in the north-west of Scotland, of my paternal grandfather, and pasted into the front is a photo of him in shooting attire, with gun and dog, inscribed with a handwritten dedication to my parents.

Sporting Angler    VCW from Book Dedication

To Deane & Olive with
the Author’s fond love +
best wishes
1952

My childhood enquiries of my father and grandmother regarding the author yielded very little: My father knew little enough himself, and my grandmother Constance, née Shorrock, known to all as Bunny, and whom I adored, would only say “we don’t talk about him.”

The little I did learn from my father was this: His father was born to a Welsh family, was brought up in the Valleys, and was destined for the coal mines. He apparently rejected that life after a brief experience of it, and left home. Years later he met and married Constance, promptly fathered Deane, who was borne nine months later, and some time later still disappeared from their lives having been exposed as a bigamist, tried, and imprisoned. Until 2013 I had failed to locate any court records, however I had the the marriage certificate bearing the inscription by hand: “Rex v Wynne, Exhibit 1″. The husband’s name on the certificate is Deane Stuart-Wynne, a fiction which, being passed on to my father, served as a lifelong daily reminder to Bunny of the injustice done to her. Her husband’s occupation is given as ‘Enquiry Agent’.

The marriage certainly lasted until after young Deane’s birth, as he knew that his parents, with him as a baby, toured Wales in an open-topped car, presumably in the spring or summer of 1925. I have an album of Judge’s miniature scenic photos which may date from that trip, however no photos of the couple and baby survive.

Bunny was a daughter of a highly respectable Blackburn family, her father John William Shorrock being the borough engineer, surveyor or similar, and the name Shorrock is locally widespread. At her marriage in January 1924 she was 29 years old and perhaps in fear of being ‘left on the shelf’. This disaster in her life caused her family to ostracise her; decades were to pass before she and her siblings spoke again. She never remarried or had any further romantic encounters, as far as we know. She struggled to bring up Deane alone, far from her own family, in the south of England, and did ‘reception work’ for a West End hairdresser during the War, and for some classy hotels thereafter in Brighton, until her retirement in the 1950s.

But Deane Jr’s father did, indirectly, play some part in his childhood: Deane recalled spending his school holidays with his father’s relatives at their modest but happy and loving home in the South Wales valleys. He recalled playing with his various cousins, eating bread & jam (no butter!), but nothing which would help to locate or identify the family.

My father met his own father briefly during the war, when the latter appeared to be dealing in watches and the like. Beyond that, their next and last meeting was in 1952 when VCW showed up at my parents’ basement flat in Hove, where I was then a few weeks old, and presented them with his book. Unfortunately for him Bunny was present and his reception was frosty, however my father did confess to me, years later, a sort of liking, and even admiration, for him.

After Bunny’s death in 1978 I learned more. She gave birth to a second son by VCW, and he was put up for immediate adoption. It seems that DSW Sr left her before the second son’s birth.

Around the year 2000 I made a search of the Family Records Centre at Clerkenwell for any trace of the death of a Wynne which might fit my grandfather (I never expected to find any, the name being a fiction). I did turn up the birth certificate of my father’s adopted younger brother, the date being November 1925, and the father still Deane Stuart-Wynne, but now a ‘General Merchant’. But the trail went cold and I put it out of my mind.

In 2002 I took part in a sail-and-oar rally, called “The Great Glen Raid”, from Fort William to Inverness via the Caledonian Canal. My 15ft open boat was called Bunny after my grandmother, and the last stage of the route involved rowing through Inverness beside the road known as Ness Bank. This event was later to assume a certain wry significance.

In early 2010 I was telephoned ‘out of the blue’ by a lady stating that I didn’t know her, but she thought we were related. I knew immediately who she must be: a child of my long-lost adopted uncle. Christine Gregory and her brothers Dave and Pete Baldwin are the children of Basil Cuthbert Baldwin — as Deane’s younger brother was to become after adoption. We were breathless to learn more of each other, and we quickly arranged a meeting where all three Baldwins visited my home and we got on famously, and photos and stories were exchanged. Uncannily, Basil and Deane shared not only similar looks, but similar taste in clothes, and personality. And they both died in 2007 of the same thing, lung cancer. Working back from Basil’s (anonymous) birth certificate, with the father’s name of Deane Stuart-Wynne, enabled Christine to locate me fairly quickly. But this got neither of us any closer to the true identity of our grandfather.

Fired up by my new-found family I opened an ‘Ancestry’ account on-line, and the chance find of a forgotten scrap of paper at home opened a fresh line of enquiry. On the paper were brief notes I had made in a talk with my father a few years before he died, in which he had added two key facts to his vague memory of his school holidays in South Wales: The address 15 Jubilee Terrace, New Tredegar, and the name Griffiths. The address proved no longer to exist and I could find no record of its occupancy, and the name Griffiths was not likely to narrow a search of South Wales very usefully! But after much trawling of public records I arrived at, as I thought, our man; and as luck would have it I could see that another member of his family was also using ‘Ancestry’, and I was able to contact her. Tirion Morgan was able to confirm I was on the right track, but she told me I had the wrong man. The one I was after was:

David Hugh Williams, born 1889

and known to his extended family of birth as ‘Uncle Dai’ or ‘Uncle Tony’. Tirion’s mother Joyce Jones recalled not only ‘Uncle Dai’, but also young Deane, my father, on his stays with the family in the early 1930s. Uncle Dai was, it seemed, the ‘lovable rogue’ of the family, who would return to the Valleys now and then with tales of his life farther afield.

Tirion, Joyce and I have corresponded via email occasionally, and we hope to arrange a long-overdue meeting between our branches of ‘Uncle Dai’s’ family. Unfortunately both of them have been in poor health lately, and there remains the good intention on my part to travel to South Wales to meet them.

Meanwhile I made earnest efforts to fill in the details of the adult life of David Hugh Williams — only to find that there were none [I have since discovered more of DHW's early life]. This was perplexing. Finally, in the early hours of one morning, and in desperation, I typed into the Ancestry website the pseudonym under which he had written Sporting Angler. And the proverbial hairs rose on the back of my neck as his entire life unfolded before me. ‘VCW’ was no nom-de-plume: he assumed this name before the Great War (in which he served under it), and the records show his many liaisons, addresses and some business activities right up to his death in 1962 as proprietor (in fact his then wife was the owner) of the Glenmoriston Private Hotel on Ness Bank, Inverness — today a swanky ’boutique hotel’, and past which I rowed unwittingly in 2002, in a boat named after Bunny, one of his (as we now know) many conquests.