Week 8 (22-28 Feb) prompt is Courting
As I could not think of any stories about courting in the romantic sense, I decided to look at legal ‘courting’. I have already written about finding out that the new husband of my 2 x great grand aunt was a bigamist. Then I remembered finding a court report showing that my great uncle had a child and that his grandchild is a friend of my aunts. I also decided against that because the subject of my story today did court in the romantic sense of the word which led to the legal court which led to fleeing the country. A much more interesting story!
Not long after starting my journey down the rabbit hole that is family history research, I was contacted by a gentleman, Harold Bentley, asking whether he thought my 2nd great-granduncle, Harold Flockhart Shingles, was the biological father of his grandfather, Harold Bentley!. He himself had just started researching the family and was trying to find the birth registration for his grandfather Harold Bentley who was born in 1906. He was most surprised when he found his birth registered under Harold Shingles Davis with no father listed.
The repetition of the name Harold swayed me towards the notion that it was highly likely. When he mentioned that his grandfather’s mother was Sophia May Davis, the surname definitely rang a bell. I realised that Harold Shingle’s brother Alfred had married Grace Annie Davis. A coincidence – I didn’t think so being that Maffra is a small country town!
Until this point, I had only known that Harold Flockhart Shingles was born on 2 Mar 1882 in Maffra, Victoria and died on 15 Nov 1957 in Hokitika, New Zealand. He had married there in 1915 and had a daughter. I had not found a marriage in Victoria so didn’t suspect he had a child.
The birth registration alone seemed like irrefutable evidence that Harold Bentley was the child of Harold Flockhart Shingles. What I found during a search of the online newspapers website ‘Trove’ provided further clues that we had been correct in our assumption.
On Friday 6 April 1906, Sophia Davis took Harold Shingles to Maffra Court of Petty Sessions to claim for pre-maternity expenses. Harold’s lawyer asked for an adjournment as Harold was unable to attend court. This was granted for 20 April but in Sale this time and at a cost of £5 5s to Harold.
The next article found on 23 April 1906 was more in depth and stated that Sophia and Harold had been keeping company for nine and a half years with a view to marriage (the other courting!). But despite many people telling Harold he should marry Sophia, a wedding never took place. It did however state ‘Defendant never denied his responsibility’ The case was closed and the Bench made an order against Harold for £10 to be paid over to the clerk of the court and held in trust for Sophia. An order was also granted for £7 7s to cover costs from the previous court appearance.
Only a few years later, an article in the Evening Post newspaper showed that Harold was now living in New Zealand. He married Nora Cecilia Boyle in 1915, had a daughter Colleen Cecilia Shingles in 1926 and was divorced in 1945. He died 12 years later and was buried in Hokitika Cemetery.
Sophia went on to marry Alfred Edgar Bentley in 1912 when Harold was six. She had three more children, Eliza (1913), Evelyn (1915) and Alfred (1916). She died in Parramatta Mental Hospital in 1955, seven years after Alfred passed away in Sale.
Whether Harold was officially adopted on the marriage of his mother to Alfred or not – he was then known as Harold Bentley. The name Harold was then passed down from father to son to grandson. However ‘grandson’ Harold did not name his son Harold!
I was lucky enough to meet ‘grandson’ Harold, his wife Rhonda and his mother Pamela in 2019 when I held a Shingles reunion in Maffra. Funnily enough as my mothers family had done, Harold Bentley moved to Geelong and raised his family there too!