I have previously written about Matthew Brawley and how he and his wife adopted three children. The first of these children was his niece, Mary Brawley. She was the daughter of his younger brother, Patrick Brawley who left Scotland and his daughter behind for a new life in America. Matthew later adopted siblings, Matthew and Edith Cran. I’ve been trying to find out more about their mother and how they came to be in Newmains.
Initially I didn’t know they were siblings as I only had a surname for Edith. The first clue I found to baby Edith’s background was the record of her baptism which took place on 12 September 1917 just weeks after her birth on 20 August. She was baptised in St Brigid’s Church in Newmains.
You can see from the notes added to the baptismal register that she was born in London and she had been adopted by the Brawleys. So how did she come to be in Newmains and what was her connection to my 2nd great uncle Matthew?
In 1917 there would have been no formal adoption process but there no must have been some connection to the mother of the children otherwise how would they even have been aware of their existence.
Having now seen the birth records for both Matthew and Edith I see that Matthew was the elder of the siblings and would have come to Scotland first. He was born on 29 June 1915 in Paddington, Middlesex. Edith was both on 20 August 1917 in Shoreham-by-Sea, Sussex. What is really interesting about their birth records is that they have the middle name Brawley. Giving an illegitimate child the surname of their biological father was quite common. If the father was not present to register the birth then his surname could not officially be used.
So there is definitely a Brawley connection. I haven’t found any Brawleys living in the south of England at that time but this was war time so it is possible that army service took them south.
The children’s mother is also called Edith Cran but there is very little information to help identify her. Looking at records for an Edith Cran there are a couple of possibilities. I am assuming that she was English although I could be wrong. I am also assuming that both children had the same father. What I don’t understand is why, if their relationship lasted at least 3 years, why they never married and why she had to give up her children. It sounds like a complicated situation whatever it was.
I do have one theory about the father. Matthew Brawley, the adoptive father, had a cousin James whose life might fit the circumstances. James was born in 1879 and it seems that he might have been the black sheep of the family. While he grew up in Newmains by the 1901 census he was living in Glasgow. His uncles, siblings and cousins all found work in the iron works but James was in the city working as a barman. In November 1901 he joined the army. There were many Brawleys who served but I think James was the only career soldier.
I don’t have a photograph of James but at the time he enlisted he was just under 5’8″ tall weighing 150lbs with a fresh complexion, hazel eyes and black hair. His civilian occupation is recorded as lithographer. This is only 7 months since his barman days.
His army record makes fascinating reading. I will outline his career in a separate post another time but his life in the army was certainly eventful and he was not a model recruit. His disciplinary record runs to numerous pages and even his medical record tells a story. He did spend time in England but I can’t exactly pinpoint where he was at the material times in relation to fathering Edith’s children. To be fair his regiment often didn’t even know where he was! He may have been a lovable rogue but he was certainly unreliable and it is definitely possible he was the type to shirk the responsibilities of fatherhood.
I will probably never know the full story. I do feel sorry for Edith and I would love to know what became of her. A family mystery that may have to remain a mystery.