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The McCullough Family History – Part 1

I enlisted into the Royal Air Force as an Administrative Apprentice at No 3 School of Technical Training on 9th September 1965.  I went into training as a u/t Clerk Secretarial.  It was not until after the death of my father that I made the application to join the RAF as an apprentice.  I served for 31 years and 4 months and had tours in the UK as well as Germany, The Netherlands and Belgium; I spent 50% of my service in Europe.

My life journey started when I was born on 9th November 1948.  I was the youngest of 5 children (3 boys and 2 girls) of Samuel James McCullough and May McCullough (nee Young).

It was not until late in 2020 that I started to research my family tree using Ancestry.  Following the death of my elder brother Brian James McCullough, who also served in the Royal Air Force for over 30 years.  I was handed many documents by his widow which contained some interesting information relating to my late mother, May McCullough.

My father, Samuel James McCullough, was born on 21st December 1897 in Belfast to James and Elizabeth McCullough (nee Dodds).  He had 2 sisters – Effie and Ellen.  I know that they lived in Birkenhead for the 1901 census at an address that is no longer in existence.  I do not know anything about the years from 1901 to 1915 for my father.  However, his mother and father returned to Ireland.

My father enlisted in the Royal Marines Light Infantry on 4th November 1915 at the recruiting office in Belfast.  He was sent to the Royal Marines Depot in Chatham/Gravesend.  As his father James McCullough was serving in the Royal Engineers Inland Water Transport regiment, he was permitted to transfer in August 1916 to serve alongside his father.  They were based at the Inland Water Transport, Royal Engineers in Sandwich, Kent.

My father married his first wife Winifred Maud Spicer on 20th May 1918 who was living at 8 Market Place, Sandwich, Kent.  On 21st May 1918, my father embarked on HT Willochra (troop ship) out of Southampton to Dar es Salaam in East Africa via the Suez Canal.  The ship disembarked on 29th June 1918.  He served at the Indian Depot of the Inland Water Transport, Royal Engineers.  On 16th February 1919 he embarked on the HT Desonej (troop ship) out of Dar es Salaam to England.   On 29th March 1919, my father was posted to the RE Depot and sent to Crystal Palace Dispersal Station for Demobilisation on 26th April 1919 in the rank of Temporary Corporal.

He returned to his wife, Winifred Maud, and lived in 8 Market Place, Sandwich, Kent.  I am aware that my father and Winifred had 3 children Dorothy May (25 May 21), George Samuel James (1 May 27) and Margaret Lillian (25 Nov 30).  Dorothy married a Raymond Eric Trigwell in April 1940 at Hove, Sussex, George married a Kathleen Patching in April 1948 in Hove and Margaret married a Gwilym Evans in April 1952 in Hastings.  My father and Winifred were living in Boundary Road, Portslade, Sussex in 1939, only Dorothy and George were living with them at the time.  I do not know where Margaret was living.

I now know that my father met my mother sometime in 1940/41 whilst my mother was working as a house maid in Worth Court for Sir Gerald Woods Wollaston and his family.  From conversations with my mother before she died in 2010 she went to Portslade one day with a friend – this I believe to be Dorothy May – she met my father and that was the beginning of the relationship.

My mother together with my father travelled to Blackpool where my elder brother, Brian, was born in January 1942.  During World War II they travelled to Watford by train and knocked on doors to get a place to live.  Bother my elder sisters, Sheila and Monica were born in Watford in 1943 and 1944 respectively.  My brother, Colin, was born in 1947 followed by myself in 1948.  We lived in a rented house in Croxley Green and moved to Berry Lane Estate, Rickmansworth in 1953.

I remember we had a day outing to Brighton every year and I now know the reason having spoken to my brother, Brian, before his death in October 2010.  My father’s first family lived in Portslade, so he went to visit them leaving my mother and her children on the beach.  My mother or father never at any time talked to us about his other family.  It was in the months before she died in January 2010 that she said about me having some stepsisters and brother but did not say much else.

Since I started researching my family history, I was contacted firstly by Helen Whitehouse saying that her family may have a WWI medal belonging to a James McCullough.  He was my grandfather whom I never met and he was never spoken about.  I provided details to Helen, and she has confirmed that the WWI Victory Medal does belong to my grandfather, and we will be meeting in either July or August 2021 to talk about how her family may have been in possession of the medal.  Unfortunately, they do not have the WWI British War Medal.  I have both medals that my father was presented with for serving during WWI and have had new ribbons and clasps as well as being cleaned.

Secondly, I was contacted by Andrew Trigwell, he is the grandson of Dorothy May Trigwell (nee McCullough).  He lives in Australia and his father, Robert, is still alive.  Robert is the son of Dorothy who passed away a few years ago.  Andrew said that his father has no memory of his granddad Samuel (my father) and, he, my father, was not spoken about; I can now understand why as my father took up with my mother who was only 19 years old at the time, the same age as his elder daughter Dorothy.  Andrew tells me that he vaguely remembers his ‘Nan Mac’ but she died when he was very young.

There are many questions still to be answered about my father’s family from his siblings and his first family.  I remember going to Sandwich, Kent, where my mother and her family came from and what is a coincidence is that my father and his wife Winifred were living in the same place in Sandwich, Market Place, where my mother was living as a baby/child.  My mother may have gone to school with Dorothy as they were of the same age.

I have found the whole experience of researching my family history, on my father’s side, remarkably interesting.  I have a copy of my mother’s family tree on her mother’s side going back to the 1700s.   To get further I would have to get hold of birth, marriage, and death certificates and that can be a costly exercise.  I would also have to travel to research local archives to find where my father was living from 1919 to 1939, there is a thought that he may have been out of the UK, but I cannot find confirmation of this.  I also wish to visit the Royal Engineers Museum to gather further information about my father’s time with the Inland Water Transport Regiment both in Kent and Dar es Salam during World War I.  I am aware that my grandfather, James, and his wife Elizabeth had about 6 children and I would like to find out about them and their families as I remember I met some of them during my early life.  I would like to know what happened to my cousin, Joe, who served in the Royal Navy in the submarine fleet.  He came to visit the family in the 1960s when living in Mill End, Rickmansworth.  My mother also had a Jimmy McCullough visit her in the late ‘90s but I only know that he may have served in the Merchant Navy. 

This is my story so far, if I succeed in finding more information, I will start Chapter 2 of my story.   I hope you have found this an interesting read.