William Harris (1851-1891?) is a man that I admittedly know little about. The only facts about him I know for certain are the basic details of his life of interest to government clerks, and were pieced together for me by friends with genealogy resources at their disposal and a historian from Yeovil. William was born in 1851 in West Chinnock, Somerset. I know his wife was named Jane, a former domestic from Dorset. I know he had so far as I can tell four or five children: Matilda (b. 1871), Florence (b.1873) , John (b. 1877), and Albert (b. 1880) I know for sure, though there also may have been a William Jr though the trail on him goes cold around the time of his birth in 1885.
He may have remarried in 1886 and died in 1891 according to the historian I spoke to. However, according to someone who pulled some genealogical resources there was a William harris living in St. Owen, Herefordshire in 1911 (I cannot find a town or village called St. Owen but there is a St. Owen Street in the town of Hereford) and I was told that this record also mentions John, but that he doesn’t appear there in 1901 (John lived in a rented room next door to a pub in Ledbury at the time). At any rate, I have not seen those records with John and William living together in 1911 and the historian didn’t find them so this remains unsolved. I have no memories of the houses John lived in after childhood or the other people who lived in them.
By trade, William was a glover (as listed in the 1871 census), though the 1881 census says he was a leather dresser. At any rate, it’s a reasonable guess that he was employed at the glove factory in Yeovil. It’s also a reasonable guess that he taught his eldest son John the leather worker’s trade as John is listed in 1901 as working in a skin yard.
That’s all I can substantiate. The rest of him- what precious little I remember of him- is beyond my capacity to confirm.
I remember a man who looked much like Lord Kitchener to me… or at least, he had a similar mustache. At any rate, part of my memory of joining Kitchener’s Army was of seeing these posters of a man who reminded me of my father, a man I admired and loved, and feeling that Dad would have wanted it. This seems to support the historian’s assessment that my father had already died by this point.
I remember that he was generally not a bad man. He made bad decisions and got himself into bad situations sometimes, but that seems to come with the pitfalls of working class life in the Victorian era; I don’t blame him for it. After all, it’s hard to be “respectable” with the police already convinced you’re a bad element in the town, even if you don’t actually break any laws.
I remember him being a stern, serious man to his children, though I don’t recall being treated much worse than any other child in those days (granted, it was normal for even a loving father to be harsh in the 1880s).
I remember a man who adored his wife but fought to keep his composure when he lost her. He may have remarried, but if my memory is correct he was always broken-hearted and never admitted it. I feel that I mistook his forced composure for strength, and took that attitude with me all the way to the Western Front. I egged myself on, trying to be the man my father wanted me to be, forcing every emotion, every disturbing memory, every battle into a dark corner of my being that stayed lodged there until I’d already been reincarnated at least twice (possibly three times if my more sensational recollections of a life as a fox are true).
I remember him as a good man, and one that we all thought we ought to admire, but a man whose unhappiness I wish I’d been able to see behind the veneer of Victorian stoicism that he fought desperately to hide his true feelings behind.
As to where William Harris may have reincarnated if anywhere, I can’t say, and given I’ve told all I know about him I’d be very skeptical if a stranger said they were him, unless they could prove something about William that I didn’t know. I’ve often wondered about my father in this life, since he’s as much of an Anglophile as I am, but he has no memories yet (we’ll see how he reacts when he gets to Yeovil).
Whatever happened to him, I hope he learned to be honest about what he was really feeling with less pain than I did. If my memories are correct, I took over a century to learn that putting up a stoic front is only good for encouraging others to put up a stoic front and not learning from their emotions.