George Barclay's grave at Karori Cemetery.
We at Genealogy Investigations love a good mystery, so of course we couldn’t resist doing a little investigating when Wellington City Council Archives last week posted a spooky picture of the grave of one George Barclay and a plea for any information about him.
Well, why wouldn’t we help with a bit of genealogy research? It is, after all, what we do! And it turns out Mr Barclay was a pretty interesting chap.
George McIntyre Barclay was born in 1887 in Reefton to Elizabeth Louisa and Joshua Barclay. He was actually the second of their children to be named George McIntyre, the earlier one was born in 1885 and died three weeks later.
In 1915 George was living in Wellington and was working for the Wellington City Council (or its equivalent back then). In October that year he signed up for service in WWI. His enlistment papers revealed that his occupation was a miner, which makes one wonder what kind of mining the council was involved in.
At the time of his enlistment, George was living at 9 Princess Street Wellington and gave his next of kin as his brother Thomas Barclay of Fern Flat, Buller (their mother Elizabeth had died in 1894 and his father had died in 1906). He was described as being 5 feet five inches tall weighing 144 pounds with brown hair, blue eyes and of dark complexion. He also had a scar on his left cheek.
George commenced duty on 9 October 1915 as a sapper in the New Zealand Engineer Tunnelling Company (the company is commemorated in Wellington by the Arras Tunnel under what was once Buckle Street). George completed his initial training in Avondale, Auckland and on 18 December 1915 embarked to England on the SS Ruapehu. On February 3, 1916 he marched into the Company Training Camp in Falmouth, England and just over a month later, on March 9, he embarked for France. On March 16 the company joined the underground warfare in the North of France.
Two months later, on May 16, 1916 he was admitted to hospital due to the effects of gas. By 25 May he had sufficiently recovered to return to his unit. In 1918 he was promoted to the rank of Lance Corporal and by the time he was discharged, on 12 April 1919, he had served three years and 87 days in Europe.
On discharge he first went to Taihape and then around 1922 he returned to Wellington, living in Hanson Street. George married in 1922 to Florence Emma Wood (1897-1989).
The couple had at least two children: Agnes, born about 1924 and Raymond, born about 1935.
George died on 26 December 1946 and was buried in Karori Cemetery. At the time of his death George was living in Agra Crescent in Khandallah and according to the electoral roll was working as a “chainman” for the Wellington City Council. Council's own employment records show he was promoted to assistant surveyor in 1937. He had worked for the council following his return from the war since at least 1928. Florence died in 1989 and is buried with George.
The mystery of George Barclay was solved, but one further mystery remains … what is it that a “chainman” does?
Here’s a link to some of the other spooky things in WCC’s archives.
Photo: Wellington City Council, photographer Harold Falkner. Wellington City Council Archives, 00206-104