One of the many interesting gravestones at Holyhead’s Maeshyfryd Cemetery is that of John Collins who died in the town in 1904, aged 76. The gravestone mentions his army service at the Crimean War and also the Indian Mutiny.
John Collins was born at Tralee, Kerry, Ireland in 1827. In 1845 he joined the 82nd Regiment of Foot at Tralee, aged 17. He married Ellen Frawley, widow of Private John Frawley, at Devonport in 1850 and took on her two children, Mary Ann and George Frawley. The regiment moved from Portsmouth to Salford in 1852 and George died there in the same year, aged 5. The 82nd Foot then moved north to Stirling in 1854 and a son, David John Collins, was born there in the same year.
The regiment left for the Crimea in early 1855 and arrived at Balaclava via Corfu in early September to participate in the Fall of Sebastopol. This brought the Crimean War to a close and the regiment returned to the UK the following year. During this time it is assumed that his wife and family remained in the UK.
The 82nd Regiment of Foot remained in the UK at Aldershot and then Portsmouth until May 1857 when it left initially for China but was rerouted to Calcutta via Singapore to help deal with the Indian Mutiny. No family members are allowed to travel with the regiment at this time. The 82nd took part in the Relief of Lucknow in November 1857. The rebellion drew to a close in 1858 and the regiment then moved to Delhi. Ellen Collins must have joined her husband in India shortly after this and a daughter, Marian Margaret Collins, was born at Delhi in January 1862.
The North-West Frontier was the next posting for the regiment and where Ellen gave birth to a son, James, at Sabathoo in early 1864. Unfortunately she succumbed to dysentery in April the same year. A few months later the regiment left India taking up duties at Aden, Ireland and the UK. It is not known what happened to his step-daughter, Mary Ann Frawley, or his last born child, James.
In May 1866 John Collins married Sarah Harrington (spinster) at St. Cybi’s Church, Holyhead. The following year John Collins was discharged from the Army at his own request after completing over 21 years service and moved to Holyhead living at 22 Boston Street. He left with an Army Pension and the Crimean Medal (with clasp for the Siege at Sebastopol), the Turkish Medal and the Indian Mutiny Medal. On his discharge he was recorded as having three good conduct badges, although during his service his name appeared 30 times on the regimental defaulters list and he was court marshalled six times, mainly for ‘habitual drunkenness’. He was at one point promoted to Corporal but was reduced to Private after a year due to drunkenness.
At Holyhead he initially ran a refreshment room and was anxious to promote his business such that in 1868 he was involved in a confrontation at Holyhead Railway Station with another refreshment room owner resulting in that person being convicted of assault after he had insulted John Collins’ old regiment. In 1879 a similar confrontation took place with another refreshment room owner and both were fined £2 and bound over to keep the peace. At this time he lived with his wife and daughter, Marian Margaret Collins, at 1 Church Terrace, Holyhead.
In 1877 his son, David John Collins, married Emily Temberton at Moulmein, Bengal, India. He was employed as a Surveyor.
John Collins’ daughter, Marian Margaret Collins, married William Fox Lloyd at St. Cybi’s Church, Holyhead in 1887. John Collins was then the landlord of the Sydney Inn, Rhos-y-Gaer Terrace, Holyhead.
In 1895 John Collins’ wife Sarah died of stomach cancer at 7 Moulton Street, Holyhead, aged 72. He then married widow, Grace Parry, at St. Cybi’s Church in 1898. At this time he was living at 21 Baptist Street, Holyhead. In 1901 Grace died, aged 59.
In 1904 John Collins died, aged 76, at 26 Cambrian Street, Holyhead, the home of his daughter, Marian Margaret Lloyd. He was buried at Maeshyfryd Cemetery, Holyhead with Local Volunteers firing a three volley salute at his graveside. The local newspaper reported many prominent townsfolk attending his funeral and listed five grandchildren, the children of Marian and William Fox Lloyd – John, Willie, Thomas, Noel, Nellie among the mourners. No other family members attended his funeral other than the Lloyd family. His headstone was subsequently erected by his son David John Collins, who later died at Bangkok in 1912.
The funeral report also mentions that John Collins was an eye witness to the ‘Charge of the Light Brigade’ in October 1854. This would seem to be unlikely as his regiment did not arrive at the Crimea until well after the event. However, the regiment history does record that a large contingent of the 82nd did transfer to the 34th Regiment of Foot at the outbreak of war and would have reached the Crimea in time. Unfortunately his service record does not support this.
An interesting character in Holyhead’s past. He surely must have had some fascinating tales to tell!
Contributed by Barry Hillier