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FLYNN, James David

b.1873 – d.1917


The burial register has James’ burial as 7th April 1917 age 44. This gives an approximate year of birth as 1873.


I found and confirmed a birth of James David Flynn in Poplar Union in March quarter of 1872 and his mother’s maiden name was Sullivan GRO: 1872, Q1, Poplar, v01c, p744 . (The only birth between 1870 and 1874).

The 1871 census lists his parents and his elder brother William living at 14 Upper North Street, Poplar. Alexander was a labourer ‘out of employ’. This may explain why both William and James were born in the Poplar Union Workhouse.


The head of the family is Alexander, a general labourer, his wife Margaret and son William, (age 11 and born in March quarter 1870 in Poplar Union, mother nee Sullivan), are all living at 9a Sidney Street with James, age 9, both boys are ‘scholar’.


The family moved, and in the 1891 Census they are living at 4 Amoy Place, Limehouse. Father Alexander along with brothers William and James are general labourers.

1891 census Alexander, Margaret, William and James

It must have been hard for the two young men, especially after Alexander died in the Spring of 1897. His death possibly had a huge impact on the family.


On 21 March 1900, James signed up for the Royal Navy for a period of 12 years. His record indicated he had brown hair, brown eyes and a dark complexion and was 5ft 61/2 inches in height. His birth is 12th February 1873, Poplar, London, and he is a labourer.

HMS Pembroke – described by website ‘Wikiwand’ as a shore barracks built between 1897 and 1902 and used as a training base. At ‘Pembroke 2’ in Gillingham, Kent, James David Flynn age 27 is rated a ‘stoker’ born in Poplar which fits our James David Flynn’s birth details. Sadly he does not have a good record – stealing and breaking out of barracks are only two of the recorded misdemeanours listed and his character is only ‘fair’ or ‘indifferent’. He was dismissed.

Pembroke II – Stoker – various service from 21 March 1900 – 8th Feb 1902

This does suggest a degree of unhappiness with his situation or maybe the onset of his mental illness – impossible to know.

The 1901 census for the Pembroke “Divisions” has James listed where he had joined the Navy.

On Wednesday 17th June 1908, James was admitted to Poplar workhouse and the record describes him as ‘feeble’ and having been admitted ‘via the police’. He is recorded as of the Roman Catholic faith.

Flynn, James D. Single, Laborer, R.C., 1873, By order of Police

James seems to have been ill from then on, as The Guardians of the Poor in Poplar Union requested financial reparation from Stepney Union in East London for the costs involved in supporting him and then transferring him to Long Grove in Epsom, Surrey on 23rd June 1908.

Flynn, James, 1873, Discharged from workhouse on 23rd June 1908 to Long Grove
Admitted 23rd June 1908, Discharge (Died) 30 March 1917

JDF – the only one with those initials – appears on the 1911 Census at Long Grove Hospital and was a bricklayers labourer.

1911 Long Grove Census – J.D.F. (Patient)

He stayed there until his death. James was buried 7th April 1917 in Horton Cemetery plot #1053a.

My thoughts on a puzzle

Happening to check the 1911 Census I found Margaret and William – who fit with perfectly with the Flynn family dates – but was puzzled as James is listed with them – BUT I knew James was in Long Grove on census night! I just wonder if there was a misunderstanding – not picked up by the enumerator, who appears to have annotated the form – as James is listed and, when looking closely at the form, the word ‘lunatic’ has a faint arrow pointing to his name.

Clearly a badly completed 1911 census record

Although Mrs Flynn was supposed to complete the form, William has signed it with ‘his mark’ so did not actually fill in the form himself. Could they have been asked about any other family member and not been told only those actually in the home at the time should be listed? Did Margaret fill it in and William mark it? We will never know.
I think it rather touching that even though James was not a well person and asylums were not well thought of, his family mentioned him.

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