Another Buccleuch?

This is a postscript to an earlier post, Buccleuch who?, regarding Henry Buccleuch Shipstone, my 1st cousin x 1 removed. In that post I mentioned that another baby was born aboard the Duke of Buccleuch on an 1883 voyage to Australia. This baby was also given a middle name which paid tribute to her birth at sea. Her name was Alice Buccleuch Lake, and she was born on 15 October 1883 during the voyage to Queensland. This was just four days before my great uncle, Samuel Buccleuch Shipstone, was born on 19 October 1883. As to her forename, Alice, I wonder if she was named after Alice Bray who was another passenger on board the Duke of Buccleuch who proved to be helpful following the birth of Samuel Buccleuch. Alice Bray would later become my great grandmother. I feel sure the respective families knew each other on board, given their shared experiences.

Having come across this in my research, I was intrigued to find out what became of Alice Buccleuch Lake and decided to investigate. To date, I have found that her parents, Edward Lake and Mary Ann (nee Willis) had another two daughters after arriving in Australia. Jane was born in 1891 but died within the year. Lilly was born in 1892.

It appears that, prior to 1910, Alice sailed back to England. While there she married Joseph Edward Willetts about June 1910 at Aston, England. This took some researching as I could find no evidence for their marriage in Australia. I knew they had married because there was a reference to the Marriage Certificate in Alice’s correspondence with the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) office, dated 4 march 1920.  On further investigation, I found Alice and Joseph sailed to Australia in 1911 aboard the SS Essex with their infant daughter, Lilian Buccleuch. Yes, another person with the ‘Buccleuch’ middle name!  Lilian was born in Aston, England in early 1911, just before leaving for Australia. Alas, Lilian passed away not long after arriving in Queensland in 1911. Another daughter, Alice Beatrice, was born in 1913. Sadly, she died in 1915, at just two years old. Then in 1915, Joseph and Alice welcomed Edward John. Unfortunately, Edward passed away in 1916. So much grief! Their fourth child, Hazel Elsie was born in 1916. I can happily report that Hazel grew to adulthood, married and had a family of her own.

The Great War had been going since 1914 when Joseph Willetts enlisted in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia on the 20 May 1916 in the 22 Reinforcements (Rns) 9th Battalion. He was 33 years and 5 months old and his occupation was recorded as a Labourer. Before immigrating, Joseph had served for twelve years in the Worcestershire Regiment. As a Private in the AIF, Joseph embarked in Brisbane for England on the vessel HMAT Marathon on 27 October 1916. So, after five months training, he and his comrades were on their way to the ‘War’. Joseph had named Alice, his wife, as next of kin. He was leaving her with an infant daughter and the grief of recently losing their only son and the loss of two daughters in the previous few years. Alice was 33 years old and lived at Woodend Road, Ipswich, Queensland. (Incidentally, I, too, live in Ipswich which is about 30 kilometres west of Brisbane, Queensland.)

Courtesy of

Joseph Willetts trained as a First Class Signaller in England before arriving in Havre, France on 24 July 1917. His service record notes he was moved to Halfleur and on 5 August 1917 he committed two crimes: breaking out of camp and being out of bounds. Then, on the 8 August 1917 his battalion was marched out to Belgium. On the 4 November 1917, Private Joseph Edward Willetts was wounded in action. He died of his wounds later that day. He was buried at Ypres Reservoir Cemetery. Private Willetts was one of the 38,098 Australians who lost their lives during eight weeks of fighting defending the town of Ypres. He left behind a wife and young daughter.

Ypres Reservoir Cemetery in the 1920s before the wooden markers were replaced by headstones (Courtesy of
Ypres Reservoir Cemetery 2014 (Courtesy

Following the death of Joseph, Alice received a pension of £2 per fortnight and £1 per fortnight for her daughter Hazel. For the living, life goes on. By September 1918, Alice had married Benjamin Ramsbottom. Much of the correspondence on Private Willetts’ war service file is addressed to Mrs Ramsbottom and annotated that Alice had remarried. The last date of correspondence to Alice regarding Joseph’s war service was 18 July 1924, almost seven years after Joseph’s death. Did Joseph’s death hang like a spectre over her second marriage to Benjamin? We will never know, but you can’t help but wonder.

It appears that Alice lived in Ipswich most of her life. A newspaper article dated 27 January 1939 cites her as a witness in a court case which has her address as Wyndham Street, North Ipswich.

Alice Buccleuch Ramsbottom (nee Lake, formerly Willetts) died on 12 August 1953, aged 69 years. According to the Funeral Notice, Alice was a wife (twice), a mother, a mother-in-law and grandmother. At the time of her death, Alice was living in Jackson Estate on Cribb Island. This was a suburb of Brisbane which was resumed in the late 1970s to extend the Brisbane Airport. It was never a prosperous area and began life as a a collection of fishing shacks which grew into a small suburb. Its most famous residents were the Gibb brothers who later became the BeeGees.

It is a puzzle why Alice was living on Cribb Island which was quite some distance from Ipswich. Perhaps she was living with family? We might find out one day.

Real Estate Development Advertisement 1916 (Courtesy
Fishing shacks on the foreshore at Cribb Island 1926. (File:StateLibQld 1 118720)

I wonder whether the passengers who made that momentous voyage from England to Australia on board the Duke of Buccleuch in 1883 kept in contact over the years. Likewise, did the passengers keep in touch following the 1911 voyage on the Essex when Alice and Joseph migrated with their baby daughter Lilian Buccleuch Willetts. Maybe, they did and maybe they didn’t. It is interesting to consider how life’s events shape our lives. Alice Buccleuch had a unique start to her life and she faced more difficulties and pain than most during her life. There was so much grief, you wonder how she endured it all. She must have been a strong, resilient woman.

If you have any further information about Alice Buccleuch, I would be interested in hearing from you.

Thanks for reading!


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