Joe was a big man, an ex-merchant seaman, and I always thought he looked a bit of a tough guy - I certainly remember the clip around the ear he gave me once for being cheeky! But I'm getting ahead of myself...
This post will be different from ones that have gone before in that it is really a report on the unanswered questions about Joe's mother and the circumstances surrounding his birth and childhood that both I and his daughter-in-law, Adrienne Slater, have encountered.
Joseph Frederick Slater was born on 10 June 1911 in London and baptised at St.Mary's Church in Eltham.
The place of Joe's birth was 89 Central Hill, Upper Norwood in South London which is The Rescue Society's Maternity Home Reformatory which may or may not have had connections with the Virgo Fidelis Convent which is situated nearby. Josephine is listed on the April 2 Census for 1911 as Josephine Slater, a domestic servant, single, born in Wexford, Ireland about 1891.
Joseph was baptised at St.Mary's Church Eltham. On 20 May 1919 Joseph was placed in the Nazareth House Convent Orphanage in London Road, Southend on Sea. According to the Convent Records his parents were Frederick and Josephine Slater with Josephine's maiden name being Byrne. Frederick, who was deceased by 1919, had been a soldier. The problem is that there is no record of a marriage between Frederick and Josephine. There were, of course, lots of soldiers named Frederick Slater who perished during the Great War but without further clues it is impossible to even guess which one may have been Joseph's father. The reason for Josephine placing her son in Nazareth House seems to have been that as a single mother she needed to work and she had a position in service in London, possibly with one of the directors of the P&O shipping line.
|Nazareth House, Southend-on-Sea|
|Joseph Slater with his mother Josephine|
Each step in the story simply throws up new questions. If Josephine got pregnant in Ireland, who was the soldier Frederick Slater? His name, as we have seen does not appear on Joe's birth certificate and there is no record of a marriage between him and Josephine. Did Frederick ever exist?
Joe's son Robin once suspected there may be some connection between Josephine and Guernsey in the Channel Islands. While nothing concrete has ever come of this I did discover on the 1881 census a six year old Josephine Byrne living in Joseph Street with her mother Margaret and a younger brother named Joseph!
Again, not our Josephine, but a strange coincidence.
Young Joe stayed at Nazareth House in Southend until 1925 when he was transferred to the Nazareth House in East Finchley. Very soon after this Joe left the orphanage to go to sea as a steward on the P&O line. His son Robin believes this was achieved by a letter of introduction from Josephine's employer. Why Joe chose to make his land base in Southend is unknown but we know that he lodged with a family named Beal or Beale who lived in Whitegate Street off Southend High Street. Young Joe made his first of many voyages to Australia at the age of seventeen. He met and married Esther Bayliss (as told in a previous post about Esther) and they made their home in Southend. During the 1939-45 war Joe was at sea serving on convoys to Russia and later to Australia taking Australian troops to Cape Town in South Africa for training.
|Joe as a steward on the P&O line|
|Joe (right) on board ship with a friend (no not Bing crosby!)|
|Joe as I remember him from my childhood striding down Pier Hill, Southend.|
I don't remember seeing Joe after he and Esther moved from Pleasant Row to Ditton Court Road in Westcliff although, ironically I now live only a very short distance from their flat. I believe Joe's health was poor at this time and he passed away in 1974. He was only 63. Esther continued to liive is Westcliff until her death in 1990, Esther and Joe's sons continue to live in the area today and one of his grandchildren is named Joe after him.
That there are so many unanswered questions here is one of the frustrating but unavoidable problems of any genealogical research but just as with my grandmother's second husband the truth will hopefully be revealed
I have done very little original research on this post and most of it is a combination or Adrienne's research and information from Joe's sons Robin and Ian. The photographs of Joe and Josephine come from their collection.