top of page

The Dowling Family of Tairgwaith

To say that the Dowlings are a large family, would be a bit like saying that The Titanic was quite large !  My Mother in Law Jessie Dowling was one of twelve children, she was the youngest of the girls.

So what is the connection to this bunch ?  Well Jessie Dowling was my Mother in law, and as the tree extends two further generations after me she and her background are included.

This huge family came from a tiny village in South Wales called Tairgwaith. There is n0t a whole lot of Tairgwaith, it used to consist of The Pit, The Pub and The Dowlings.  A bit of an exaggeration but there are really only a couple of streets of miner's cottages, sadly no longer inhabited by miners, but that is another story.

Of the twelve, the boys mostly followed their father, down the pit. The girls married local lads and mostly stayed local.  One or two of them did manage to escape and look for a life outside of the confines of a  "South Wales Valley", Jessie being one of them.  She moved to London and trained as a Mental Health Nurse.  In the late 1930's as war approached she was living in the Barnet area of North London, working at the Friern Barnet Hospital.  At the time this was one of the vast Victorian Lunatic Asylums that ringed the outer reaches of the city. 

Quite what made Jessie decide that this was her vocation, I have no idea, however she spoke fondly of those days and clearly found it an interesting job. It was certainly much needed and would be even more so as the latest generation of traumatised young men limped home from the latest war.

Whilst working at The Friern Barnet Jessie met a lad called Arthur Clark, he was a London native having been born in in Camberwell but spending most of his childhood in Plumstead.  Arthur was  a "Stoker class one" in the Royal Navy but for some unfathomable reason was working in the laundry at the Friern Barnet Hospital.  In the Navy at the time being a stoker no longer had anything to do with shovelling coal into furnaces and boilers, Oil had long since replaced coal as the fuel for ships. basically if you worked in the engine room as any sort of engineer you were termed a "Stoker"

Arthur George Clark 1910-1943


UK records from the second WW are pretty good and easily available, so finding Arthur's was not a problem, the war graves people at the Chatham Navy Memorial have an excellent website.  Whilst there are an awful lot of Clarks, there are not so many George Arthur Clarks who were married to a Jessie Gertrude who lived in Southgate. In fact there is one.

So that was the easy bit. His Navy record gave some details of where and when he was born and his father's name, so it was down to the usual trawl through endless records......there are just so many Clarks !

After one massively false start I thought I had it straight but could not be sure.  I was fairly sure that Arthur had had two sisters, Mabel & Violet but I could find very little about them without any further information to work from, I could not identify if either of them were still alive or had living relatives.

It seemed this was as far as I was going to get, then unexpectedly a "hint" on Ancestry linked to a family tree including Mabel & Violet Clark that seemed a perfect match for the pair I gad found. A message to the owner of this tree confirmed the fact and Mabel's daughter was happy to be contacted.  She confirmed that she indeed had an Uncle Arthur who married Jessie and was killed soon after.  Mission accomplished.

Sadly Jessie destroyed almost all mementoes of Arthur, after her death we found the two photos shown here, so far as we know they are the only surviving pictures of him.  This is something that seems to be common in that generation, after the death of a loved one destroying all photos etc, perhaps the memories are just too painful.


Arthur and Jessie paired up and in October 1941 they were married.  By this time Arthur was back at sea and along with millions of other "wives & Sweethearts" Jessie had to get on with her life with her husband away at the war. 

One problem of being a stoker was its being a long way back up to the deck if the ship is sinking. Needless to say the inevitable happened and in July 1943 Jessie was notified that his ship had been sunk, Arthur was missing at sea presumed dead.  So that was the end of Arthur.

In later life Jessie would tell us that of those two married years, they spent about two months actually together, made up of occasional days snatched when in port or brief home leave. Needless to say they had no children, they barely had the time !!

For whatever reason, Jessie did not keep in contact with Arthur's family and was always very reluctant to say anything about this part of her life, a painful memory that she kept to herself. If we ever asked about Arthur she would just say that he was "such a nice man, a very very nice man" and that is about all I know about him.

After war was over Jessie met and married John (Jack) Weston, they had two daughters Sandra & Linda, Linda  being my wife.

Many years after all of this happened I developed an interest in family history, hence the website you are currently reading. This is not a subject that particularly interests the rest of my family so it was only very recently that I included Jessie and the other Dowlings into my family tree held on-line at Ancestry.  Once included though Ancestry did its stuff cross-linking my and millions of other peoples family trees.

A few months ago, quite out of the blue I got a message via "Ancestry" asking if I was in any way connected to Arthur George Clark who was lost at sea in 1943. The chap who contacted me had done some research and thought that we were connected.  As it turned out he had in fact got the wrong Arthur Clark and we were not connected in any way.  However he had got my interest and I wondered if Arthur had any living relatives. My wife made the point that to us Arthur was just a name, he was no relative of any sort though we had what little had been sent to Jessie nearly 80 years ago, his service medals and suchlike. We wondered if he did have living family and if so, perhaps they would like to have these things. They would have more meaning to them than they ever would to us.

So I got to work to see what I could find.

Arthur (rear right ) and shipmates ? where ? Click to enlarge.
bottom of page