Kathleen “Catherine” Boland

Kathleen Boland was born about 1855, possibly in Ireland. No birth or baptism certs have been found, suggesting that she was born in Ireland like some of her siblings. A likely entry for her in the 1881 census gives Dublin as her place of birth, but in 1891 gives London and, in 1901, gives Manchester as her place of birth.

When Kevin Boland wrote his history of the family, he wrote that Kathleen’s older sister Mary Ellen was sent to the nuns in Ireland for schooling, where she met the American Levins family, married John Levins and went to America. That story is definitely not true, the Levins family were from Dublin and John was living in Salford before marrying Mary Ellen in 1873. The couple remained in Salford for another 12 years before moving to America. Also, more importantly, birth and death certs of her children are marked with an X in lieu of Mary Ellen’s signature, strongly suggesting that she was illiterate at the time. At the very least, the nuns in Ireland would have taught her to write her name.

If anyone was sent to school in Ireland, it was much more likely to have been Kathleen who ended up in London. However, no documentary evidence is available, records have not been kept of people educated outside formal national schools.

In 1881, Kathleen was not listed in the census record for the Boland family. The only record in the England census for a Kathleen Boland is for 10 Lodge Road, Marylebone, London. Kathleen Boland is listed as the Head of the household, her “occupation” is listed as annuitant – meaning she was in receipt of money from some unnamed source. The only other occupant is Katherine Taylor, a housekeeper from Limerick.

This would seem very unlikely to be a match except for who Kathleen married three years later – Thomas Wynne Eyton, a Welsh gentleman descended from the Eytons of Hope Hall and the Wynnes of Tower (both in Flintshire, Wales). He was the eldest son of the elder Thomas Whynne Eyton, who died in 1870, and inheritor of the ancestral Tower residence in Mold that had been owned by the same family for nearly 500 years at the time.

In 1881, Thomas was in the Tower Hall in Mold with his widowed mother and his siblings. However, 10 years earlier in the 1871 census, he was listed as a visitor in the Great Western Hotel in Kensington.

Therefore, it seems likely that Kathleen and Thomas met, somehow and somewhere, in the 1870s and, by 1881, Thomas was putting her up in a house in Marylebone while sorting out some family business in Wales. By 1884, he was back in London where he and Kathleen were married in the Kensington Registry Office on 24 November 1884.

Thomas designed and raced yachts, so likely travelled quite a bit to races in different parts of the country. It’s likely that, once married, Kathleen went with him as they changed addresses quite a bit. At the time they were married, they were living in 3 Alpha Place, West Kensington. In the 1891 census, they were lodging in 2 Duke Street, Marylebone. In the electoral register for 1899, Thomas is listed as living at 82 Church Street, Kensington.

Thomas died that same year, in March 1899, aged 51. Having lived the high life for 15 years, Kathleen may have expected to live the rest of her life in comfort as the widow of a gentleman. She had a rude awakening when Thomas’ debts were revealed.

Thomas never worked and lived off his inheritance. Designing and paying for yachts to be made was an expensive business. He also, apparently, was very happy to give loans to his friends that were rarely paid back. In short, he was hopeless with money.

When he died, the rest of his family were shocked to find that, not only had Thomas spent all of his inheritance, he had taken loans out against parts of the family’s property that he didn’t own. The family were on the verge of bankrupcy and almost lost their ancestral home.

Legal action repudiating the illegitimate loans was eventually successful and the family owns the Tower to this day (it’s now a hotel). However, Kathleen was not in the family good books. She was given a modest allowance that allowed her to continue to live in Kensington, but not much else (she plead poverty when her sister Lily asked her for help in 1909).

Kathleen probably didn’t endear herself to the rest of the family in 1901 when she started calling herself Catherine. Thomas’ mother was called Catherine and died in 1901. It seems Kathleen decided to become the new widow Catherine Wynne-Eyton, eschewing her more Irish sounding name.

The rest of her life was fairly uneventful. Her communication with her husband’s family appears to have been exclusively through lawyers. She fell ill in 1933 and was taken into hospital (Kensington Workhouse Infirmary just before it changed its name to St Mary Abbot’s Hospital). It’s not clear how long she stayed there, but she died five years later (24 August 1838) in Tooting Bec Hospital, Wandsworth, which suggests that she moved out of Kensington in her last years.