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Marriage breakdown                                       Gerald Osmond Hubert Mollett    

Axbridge 1917


The painting above is by Edvard Munch and is, I think, of his sister’s death from TB.  The room is filled with grieving people - mostly women, and therefore is not a comparable representation of Gerald’s death.  For the final tragedy of his short life is that he seems to have died alone a long way from home. I would like to think that it represents the effect that his death would have had on his Mollett siblings though, and maybe even his wife.


I have no idea where Gerald contracted the disease - at work, in a pub somewhere, drinking infected milk, or maybe even from a family member, as I do not know whether any of his siblings were infected at that time.  I am also still somewhat unclear as to how long one takes to die of the disease.  One respected source has it that it can be latent for a very long time, but that once the patient is sympotomatic it is only a matter of a few months.


Prompted by a slight typo I made, (WW1 ended in 1918 - not started as I said!), it suddenly occurred to me that perhaps Gerald did enlist and that the writing of the will was prompted by his enlistment.  He could then have very conceivably contracted the disease as a soldier - it was a very common cause of death amongst the troops.  I don’t think this is likely though, as he does not appear on the WW1 medal rolls - anyone who served in the war will appear on this.  I suppose it is possible he enlisted but never got sent anywhere, becoming ill before he went - but I fantasise.  It is much more likely that he could not enlist because of poor health and the will was prompted either by the realisation that he had TB (though he did not die until two years later), or that his marriage with Maude was over.


The sanatorium in which he died is halfway between Axbridge and Cheddar in Somerset.  It was called the St. Michael’s Free Home for Consumptives, and therefore is likely to be one of the free sanatoria the government had been setting up in response to the new realisation that tuberculosis was an infectious disease.  Government policy was to put people into sanatoria in ‘healthy’ places where they could be isolated from others.  The photograph at the head of the page, is of an unnamed sanatorium but I am sure that it is typical of many.  There were also private sanatoria, but presumably the family did not have enough money to pay for one - at least one hopes that this is the reason, as some of the government ones were apparently little better than prisons.  His home address on the death certificate is given as Belvoir Road, so presumably he was still living with his mother and spinster sisters.  


The home in which Gerald died is in the very pleasant Somerset countryside (it is now a home for the disabled), near the Cheddar Reservoir.  He died on New Year’s Eve 1917 - WW1 ended the following year.  The death is registered by the Sister in Charge of the sanatorium, so I have no idea whether there were any family members present.  My guess is no. I do not know, either, how long he had been there.  We should see if we can find records.  I also do not know where he was buried.  Was he buried there or did the family bring him back home?  And what did happen to the children - did they go back to their mother or stay with grandma and the aunts?  The inevitable questions just keep on coming.


Gerald Osmond Hubert Mollett - all names which turned out to be inappropriate to the life that was lived.  The divine protection from the name of Osmond, was certainly not in operation, and the meanings of his other two names - spear and rule, and heart, mind and bright - are not particularly apposite either.


A sad blighted life, at least that’s how it seems, but then I guess this impression is largely due to an early death, and an apparently unhappy marriage.  But maybe all the years leading up to that were happy - and at least he seems to have had a stab at the grand passion, we probably all secretly hanker after.  May he rest in peace.