Joining the Militia

Following his birth in Roscommon in 1883, Patrick Stanley seems to have left no trace on official records until August 1902. On 19th August 1902, Patrick joined the 3rd Battalion of the Yorks & Lancs Regiment. His regimental number was 9988. This was a militia unit. He signed up for a period of six years. The first page of his attestation paperwork is shown. There are a number of interesting facts that stand out:

  1. His place of birth is shown as Roscommon in the county of Westmeath. This is incorrect. Westmeath is an adjoining county. This explains why I could find no record of Patrick when I used County Roscommon as a search term. It is possible that the recruiting officer knew very little about the geography of Ireland and became confused during Patrick’s explanation.
  2. His age is shown as 18 years and 5 months. This is also incorrect. He was 19 years and 5 months old.
  3. He was living in Dewsbury at the time.
  4. He claimed to have been living in Dewsbury for the previous 12 months. This places his arrival somewhere before August 1901. Patrick does not appear on the UK census for 1901. This was taken on 31st March.
  5. There is a reference to his ‘present (or former) Master’ being J Downes of Bradford. The normal context for use of the term Master concerns apprenticeships. An apprentice had signed a legally binding contract and was not free to leave without the permission of the Master. That does not seem to apply in this case. The 1901 census has a record of a James J Downes living at St Patrick’s House in Bradford. He was aged 57. His occupation (or calling) was that of Assistant Priest at St Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church. My theory is that Patrick Stanley, being still legally a minor, had been sent to the nominal care of a local priest. I would be interested to hear of an alternate explanation.
  6. His handwriting was poor.