Harold Stafford Collins was born in 1883 in Leicester where he grew up in a fairly well-to-do family. His parents, Alfred and Hannah Moriah (nee Collins) were married in Aston, Warwickshire in 1876.
Alfred Collins was a hosiery manufacturer and was the son of Thomas Collins who had been a pioneer of the development of hosiery machinery, using steam power instead of the old hand frames. In 1845 Thomas had 120 frames, 55 in his own shop, and the rest in various small shops.(From British History online – http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=66567.)
In 1891 Harold was living with his parents and siblings at 8 Hobart Street in Leicester. Alfred Collins was 42, hosiery manufacturer, Hannah M. was 39, Alfred J. was 12, Richard S. was 10, Harold S. was 8, Agnes H. was 6, Edith M. was 4, Elsie M. was 2 and Annie M. Ross, aged 19 was a domestic servant. They were all born in Leicester except for Hannah and the son Alfred.
By 1901 Harold was 18 and living in Nottinghamshire with a family called Berrey. He was described as an Outfitter’s Assistant – Clothier. His sister Ethel Mary aged 23 was living with this family too. It’s not clear whether they were lodgers, or if they were related to the family.
At some time after 1901 Harold and a different sister Edith Maud went to live with their Uncle Richard Collins (their father Alfred’s brother and another son of Thomas Collins) at Estyn Grange, Hope. Richard was a retired hosiery manufacturer, he was single and lived with his sister Harriet (who was living on private means). Edith Maud, known as Maud had letters after her name – LRAM. Licentiate of the Royal Academy of Music. She taught locally and there are newspaper reports detailing the achievements of her pupils. Richard Collins is mentioned as a private resident in the Slater’s Directory of North & Mid Wales, 1895.
In 1908 Harold went to live and work in Cairo, joining the firm of Messrs Davies Bryan.
This was the business of John Davies Bryan, who had previously run a shop with his brothers in Caernarfon.
The Egyptian Mail, 27th May 1995 tells us that health problems and encouragement from a relation in Egypt meant John Davies Bryan relocated to Egypt where he did what he knew best – he opened a shop in Cairo’s Continental Hotel, under the trademark name of Davies Bryan, selling an array of imported goods including men’s and ladies’ hats, travel gear, draperies, hosiery and shoes. His fixed price policy in a market that centred on haggling and bargaining eventually earned him his sterling reputation.
Harold’s military records are missing, but we know he joined up while he was living and working in Egypt. He died of dysentery on 17th November, 1917. An interesting report appeared in the County Herald on 23rd November 1917:
A PROMISING CAREER CUT SHORT
On Monday morning a telegram was received from the War Office that Captain Harold Stafford Collins was dangerously ill at a hospital in the East. Another “wire” was soon received from Mr Davies Bryan that he had peacefully passed away in spite of all the skill of the physicians and the most careful nursing. It appears that the deceased had been taken to the hospital suffering from dysentery, and it was found that an operation was necessary for appendicitis, under which he succumbed at the early age of 35 years. Captain Collins was the nephew of Mr Richard and Miss Collins, Estyn Grange, with whom he made his home, and a brother of Miss Maude Collins, LRAM. He was educated at Leicester, and entered the establishment of Mr Ed. Lloyd, clothier, Hope Street, Wrexham. About nine years ago he left to join the firm of Messrs Davies Bryan at Cairo, where he was held in high esteem by the principal, and from where he paid occasional visits to his adopted home and parish and was a great favourite. He was most prepossessing in appearance, dignified in carriage, most gentle and refined in manner, and was greatly beloved by all. He was a regular worshipper and member at the Presbyterian Church. The church deeply deplores his loss, and passed a vote of sympathy with his sorely bereaved relatives. Soon after the outbreak of hostilities he joined H.M. Forces and obtained a commission.
He is also listed on the Caergwrle War Memorial