The return and disappearance of the missionary Mays


It has been the best part of a year since I wrote about the Kiwi Cousins – the May branch of the Scott family, mum’s maternal line. As of this article, I have now probably gone as far as I can from the online records, and can only hope to discover a living relative to fill in the gaps.

Returning from India

What had eluded me until today was pinning down all of the family’s return from India after the Second World War. The Reverend Spencer, with entourage, had traveled out to Ceylon/India in 1931 as a missionary {2}, his second trip out that way. They were presumably due to return sometime soon after 1939 but got stuck abroad due to the war. I had found two sets of incoming passenger lists:

  • Dilys (aka Gwenfron, aged 18) arrived Liverpool 12 April 1946, giving UK residence as 15 Fern Terrace, Tonypandy.
  • Reverend and Daisy May, Spencer junior and Bernard arrived 6 Jun 1946. Residence again 15 Fern Terrace.

These didn’t match mum’s memory that her mother had to travel to Southampton to meet the family, or at least part of it, off the ship. So in a further hunt today it was pleasing to locate Megan* arriving in Southampton before any of the others, on 6 Feb 1946. She gives an address of 42 Waller Road, New Cross – Mum’s then home address. Megan was the eldest child, age 20.

It is interesting that the girls were sent on ahead, unaccompanied as far as I can tell ** (although as the passenger lists are in alphabetical order, perhaps they were traveling with some non-relation).

* A bad typescript had seen Megan rendered as Mogan, presumably why I hadn’t found this record before.

Life in Auckland, NZ

In the last few weeks I have discovered the New Zealand Government’s Birth, Death and Marriage Historical Records website. This confirms that (Reverend) Spencer  May died in 1956, about 2 years after arriving in New Zealand, leaving behind wife Daisy (mum’s aunt) and daughter Megan. Daisy then stays in Auckland up to her death in 1982. Daughter Megan, born 1925 in India, could well still be living in the area – last known address 23 Hargest Terrace, Mount Albert.

There is no obvious sign of any of the other 3 children in NZ.

Speculation

So the lack of these other May offspring down under raises the question of whether they remained in Britain after 1946. If so, here are a few possibilities:

  • Gwenfron D May marries Edward R J Walker in Bristol district, 1948. Just possible second marriage to Graham Lissiman in 1970.**
  • Spencer Hedley May marries Beryl Carter in Southend on Sea 1953. If so, did he become a chartered accountant (there are plausible phone directory entries)? ** And why did he return to the area of his birth, when he would only previously have lived there for his first few months {2}?
  • Possible death record for Bernard John May in Bristol for 1984.

 Notes

** See Glenn’s comment for an update on these points.

1. For more on the family background, see Kiwi Cousins article.

2. In the outward voyage of 1931, the family’s previous residence is shown as 17 Russell Rise, Luton. They couldn’t have been in Essex for very long after Spencer Hedley’s birth (registered quarter ending Dec 1930), then.

4 thoughts on “The return and disappearance of the missionary Mays

  1. My mother was Gwenfron Dilys May. Mum was known Dilys or Dil. She was born in Borella, Colombo, Sri Lanka on 4 August 1927; the second child of my grandparents. Mum, like her other siblings went to boarding school, mostly at the Breeks Memorial School in Ootacamund (Ooty), Nilgiris Hills in southern India, where she ended up as the Head Girl.

    When Mum went to England in 1946, she sailed as the nanny to a family known to her parents. Mum worked as a book-keeper. Mum passed away 3 September 2001.

    Mum did marry Edward Walker but this ended in divorce. She never knew Graham Lissiman.

    She had 4 children. We emigrated to NZ in the 1960s.

    Her parents were Reverend Spencer (Edward) May and (Daisy) Maud May. My grandparents did two stints as missionaries to India and Sri Lanka from 1924(I think) to 1946. My grandfather worked with a Bible College in Bristol before him and Maud moved to NZ where my grandfather was the head of a national Bible College. My grandfather died in Auckland on his 55th birthday, 21 March 1956. My grandmother died on 10 February 1982.

    According to my mum, grandmother and aunty, my grandfather was a very proud Welshman who spoke fluent Welsh. He was born in Ystrad, Wales (21 March 1901); the second to youngest of 11 children. As the youngest son, he was given the privilege of a good education as was the tradition so that he would not have to go down the mines like his father (Thomas) and his older brothers (Benjamin, Timothy, Thomas and Myrddin).

    My grandmother was proudly English and actually led us ‘Kiwi’ grandchildren to believe that she had been born in Somerset. It was not until she died that we found out that she had actually been born in Blaenclydach, Wales (1 March 1899). My grandmother made the most wonderful Welsh rarebit.

    The eldest child is Megan Blanche May who was born 15 July 1925 Bangalore, India. We just call her Aunty. Megan came to NZ and worked in Wellington before coming north to Auckland to be with my grandmother, after my grandfather passed away.

    The third child was Spencer Hedley May who was born 3 October 1930 Leigh-On-Sea, England while my grandparents were between their two sojourns. Spencer became a Chartered Accountant in England. He had 5 children. Spencer died January 1996.

    The youngest child was Bernard John May known to us as Uncle John. He was born 20 February 1932 in Coimbatore, India. He followed the same career path in England as Spencer. John had 5 children. John died 21 December 1984.

    Yes there are Kiwi Cousins and yes we would love to have you come and see us in NZ.

    1. Thanks Glenn for adding some clothes to the bare data I had put together. It is great to have a better picture of mum’s cousins.

      1. Hi
        I have stumbled across this tonight ( as one of the daughters of Spencer and Beryl May). Mum died in April this year and I am hoping to visit Ooty on a trip in 2014, partly to take a moment to imagine what it must have been like for those infants who like Dad went away to boarding school for ten months of the year from such a young age.
        Best
        Yvonne May

        1. Great to hear from you, Yvonne, another second cousin to add to the list. I’ll drop you a quick email note so you have my contact info. Good luck with your trip.

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