THE CHILDREN KATE EVELYN NASON + FERDINAND RICHARD HOLMES MEYRICK
Throughout her adult life, Kate maintained that she did everything for her children, and that they were the reason for everything that she did. It would seem that in spite of everything they remained loyal and loving children. She died in the home of her oldest daughter, and another was present at her longest trial - the Goddard case. So I do not think we should doubt her word. They were not all that keen to mention their mother’s notorious past though when in their later years. She gave them all a good start education wise - they went to the ‘best’ schools - Roedean and Harrow, though how they coped with their mother’s notoriety in such refined establishments it is interesting to contemplate. The daughters helped out at the clubs, acting as dancing hostesses, whose attentions were reserved for the richest and the most elite of the young men who went there. So what happened to them all then? Well, in spite of moneyed or titled husbands, a good career, all did not necessarily end well.
Mary - or May as she seemed to be known, is the only daughter mentioned by name in Kate’s memoirs, which is interesting and implies a particular fondness perhaps. She was the first born after all. After school she briefly went to Bedford College to study medicine, but contracted influenza and left, never to return, choosing instead to work with her mother at running the clubs. Her photograph shows her to have been a beautiful young woman - and she caught the eye of George Harley Hay, the 14th Earl of Kinnoull, who married her in 1928, having divorced his first wife the previous year. He took his seat in the House of Lords, first as a Conservative, then as a Labour peer and tried to ship emergency food and medical supplies to the beleaguered Republicans in Spain. He died in March 1938 after a brief illness, and May died the same December of pneumonia. They were survived by one son and a daughter.
When trawling through the birth indexes one day I noticed the birth of Walter Edward Merrick in Portsmouth in the September quarter of 1901. Merrick is not that unusual a name, however I am putting him in because of a reference in her book to her little boy Willy. The only other son who was born by the appropriate time was Henry Lyster - it’s a bit of a leap (though not impossible) for his pet name to be Willy. Not much of a leap from Walter though, so I am putting him in here with a note to find out more. It is entirely possible that he died as a small child - this was a very common occurrence at that time. I will investigate further. If he did indeed exist it is of a piece with the rest of her book that she does not mention a tragedy like the death of a young child.
Dorothy, was known as Dolly in her early years. I met her briefly at her niece’s wedding, by which time she was definitely known as Dorothy. She had a commanding presence is all I remember. Dorothy worked as a dance hostess in the clubs, and also helped her mother run the clubs, particularly the Paris club it seems. In 1926, she married Edward Southwell Russell, 26th Baron de Clifford. He was only 19 and lied about his age. She was an elderly 24. The marriage shocked, or rather peeved the society matrons - The Evening Independent says “she was helping her mother to manage one of the toughest night clubs in London and had managed another of her mother’s many ventures in Paris. But despite her job, Dolly - Dorothy Evelyn, as her name appeared properly on the license - was brought up to be able to take her place with any girl.” Not only, it appears did Dorothy go to Roedean school but she then went on to Girton College at Cambridge University. Obviously the family believed in education, and Kate’s privileged background seems to have had its effect on the way the children comported themselves in polite society. She must have been pretty bright too, to go to Girton. But all did not end well. Her husband, had a chequered life - mostly in the Army, with one incident of dangerous driving, and, I suspect, various infidelities. They separated after the war, but were not divorced until 1973, when he remarried. Dorothy may well have remained in the family home until the divorce, if Edward was away in the army. I believe she also took in the orphaned children of her older sister May when she died.She died in 1987.
Thanks to the Canadian Merricks for this photograph. I do not know a great deal about Lyster. He was a solicitor I believe, and when I met him he was married to Sheila, whom I got to know quite well. I do not know her surname, and it appears she may have been his second wife, as there is a reference to a divorce suit by Henry Lyster Meyrick against his wife Edna Irene Andrews in 1928. I think they married in 1925, and there don’t appear to be any children. There were none with Sheila either. Lyster died, it would seem accidentally, whilst cleaning a gun, sometime in the 1960s.
Kathleen was also said to beautiful, though it’s hard to tell from the portrait at right, and the pose is not very flattering I think. Her middle name is Holmes - one of her father’s middle names and also her brother’s so obviously important, though I do not know from whence it comes, as Ferdinand’s mother’s surname (the most obvious source) is Lyster. No doubt we shall find out one day what the link is. We had thought that Kathleen’s only experience of marriage, was with Cecil Kerr - an executive with a brushmaking company to whom she had been married for a long time, when I met her. They had no children but they had dogs, and were very supportive of their Dearman niece and nephews. They lived in a very large flat in St John’s Wood. And, indeed I do think she only married once, but it seems she almost got married another time. I found an article in, of all places, the Brisbane Courier Mail, which recounted the story of a wedding that was to take place between Kathleen and a Mr. Carr Hatch, a Canadian, at Holy Trinity Church Marylebone on Tuesday 20th February 1934. However, “Neither bride, nor bridegroom appeared ... In reply to an inquiry at Miss Meyrick’s house last evening, a friend stated that ‘Miss Meyrick is not getting married; she is not even engaged’. Mr Hatch’s sister said: ‘I really cannot tell you whether my brother intended to get married or not at the church, because he was in bed.” Should we be saying poor Kathleen or poor Mr. Hatch I wonder? Maybe it was a lucky escape for both of them. Cecil may not have been aristocracy, but he must have been rich - and he was a really good cook too. They had a live-in housekeeper though, who had been with them for years. Kathleen died of emphysema some time in the 1960s or maybe even the 1970s.
The only photographs I have arey not very good. This one is blown up from Kate’s book and wasn’t very good in the first place. Gordon is the younger son, and no doubt, a favourite - being a son that is. He became a writer of not terribly good detective and occult mystery novels - two of his book covers are shown at right, and also of plays I think. He died, tragically by falling out of a window - it seems to be unknown whether he threw himself, or fell purely by accident or because he was drunk. Whatever the reason it is tragic.
Eileen, or Nancy, as she was known - the Meyricks don’t seem to have stuck with the names they were given - must have been born at about the time that Kate’s marriage was foundering. It is likely, therefore, that her first years were not very happy ones, although the children were probably shielded from domestic disputes by servants. I do not know a lot about Eileen, other than that she married Edward FitzRoy St Aubyn, who I think must be minor aristocracy as he is listed in the Peerage.com site, in 1933. Alas for Eileen he died in 1943 in the Second World War, whilst serving as a squadron leader in the RAAF, shot down off the coast of Holland. I do not think there were any children. She died in 1959, so another one who was really not all that old when she died. I do not know why she died.
Bobby, as she was known - apparently because of her hairstyle, though what was unique about a bob haircut in the 1920s it is difficult to know - is the direct ancestor of the group, and so will eventually have a whole story of her own. So just an outline - another child born when the marriage was breaking up. She was my mother-in-law, and we all assumed, married Arthur John Dearman, a wealthy building contractor several years older than herself around 1938. However, it now seems that they never, in fact married, because of the first wife’s refusal to divorce. The ‘marriage’ was not a happy one, but resulted in three children. Money was lost soon after they set up house together and Bobby spent most of her adult life working at the Great Ormond St. Hospital for Children. She died of emphysema in the 80s. A difficult life, I think, for all sorts of reasons.
The last child of the marriage was born a short time after the final reunion of Kate and Ferdinand. By the time she was four the marriage was over, so my guess is that she hardly knew her father who seems to have vanished from the scene. She was known as Irene - pronounced Irenee - and was an extremely vivacious woman. She is also the subject of one of the family legends. The legend has it that she married the 6th Earl of Craven on an impulse. He, having been in a drunken stupour at the time, woke up the next day realising what he had done and promptly left, although he left her pregnant. There is a modicum of truth to the story as this item in Time Magazine’s events page shows: “Marriage Revealed. William Robert Bradley, 21, orange-haired Sixth Earl of Craven; and Irene Meyrick, daughter of the late in-and-out-of-jail Mrs. Kate ("Queen of the London Night Clubs") Meyrick. The Earl's gallant, one-legged father caused a newspaper uproar in 1926 by eloping with another earl's wife, Countess ("Moral Turpitude") Cathcart.” However, I do not think the marriage ended quite as quickly, as they did not divorce until 1954, although they were apparently squabbling after the war. He was a catholic which may have delayed the divorce. The picture of Irene at right was taken at the christening of Sarah, their only child. Irene struggled as a single mother, taking jobs that included film extra I gather. But all came good when later in life she married Sir Andrew McTaggart, head of one of England’s largest construction companies. She threw herself into her life as Executive wife with all of her customary enthusiasm, and after Sir Andrew’s death went to live, first in Rhodesia and then in South Africa to be near her daughter and her family. She died in South Africa in 2002, the last to be born and the last to die and very possibly the daughter most like her mother in personality and tenacity
MARY ETHEL ISOBEL (1900-1938)
WALTER EDWARD (1901-?) ?
DOROTHY EVELYN (1902-1987)
A blog with a lengthy article about the De Cliffords and Kate.
HENRY LYSTER (1903-1968)
KATHLEEN HOLMES (1907-1978)
GORDON HOLMES (1909-1943)
EILEEN MARGARET NASON (1910-1959)
LILIAN AGNES (1912-1987)
GWENDOLINE IRENE (1914-2002)