Collins, William James

William James’ name was added to the bottom ( left hand) of the base of the War Memorial with another 5 Soldiers.  I think their names were handed in too late for them to be included in the original list, and they may have died after the war.    (Some of them I now believe to be WW2).

William James Collins first appeared on a census in 1881 when he was living at Owlet’s Hall, Township of Ewloe Town, Hawarden with his family. The father, Nicholas  29 was a Blacksmith & Farmer of 13 acres who was born in Heswall, Cheshire. Mother, Eliza  22  had been born in Hawarden.  Their children wereWilliam J.3 and baby Eliza 7 months.   There was a 14 year old servant, Elizabeth Dodd.

The 1911 census sees the family still at Owlet’s Hall, Buckley, Hawarden.  Eliza 32, was a widow and her occupation was recorded as a ‘Carrier’. Her listed children were  William J  13  who worked as a ‘Brickrunner’,   Eliza A. 10,  Priscilla 6, Nicholas  4,  Samuel  3 and baby  Sarah was 1. (Nicholas had died in 1889, the same year that Sarah was born).

The 1901 census records the family at  Wood Lane, in the Hamlet of Ewloe Green.  Eliza was still a widow aged 42, a Monthly Nurse (sick).  William was recorded as William S. Collins (almost certainly an error).  He was 22 and a coal miner. Nicholas was  14, Samuel  13 and Sarah Ellen  11.

William James married Margaret Marshall in St. Mathews Church in Buckley in 1904. Margaret had worked as a classroom assistant to the governess at Hawarden Castle prior to her marriage. (“She used to talk a lot about a Dorothy Drew who was some relative of the Gladstones” according to her grandson Eddie Collins).

Eddie Collins also explained that when they married William James and Margaret  moved into ‘The Owlets Hole’ in Wood Lane which had just been vacated by his mother Eliza on her marriage to Lol Beavan.Eddie says that his grandmother hated the place and thought it was a ‘hovel’.

The 1911 census sees his family in Wood Lane, Hawarden, Nr. Chester.  William. James 33, was the head of the household and was a Coal Miner (Hewer). His wife of 6 years was Margaret  32. Three children had been born and were still living. They were  Ennis? ( Sarah Ellen?)  5,  Nicholas  4 and Thomas  2.  Margaret’s Mother was there. She was 62  a widow and a Dress Maker.

U.K, Soldiers Died in the Great War, 1914-1919 accessible on  confirms William James’s regimental information and tells us that he was born and lived in Hawarden and enlisted in Buckley. His British Army WWI Medal Rolls Index Cards also on ‘ancestry’ lists his medal entitlement.

Eddie Collins, relative, has told me that the story in the family is that William James was shot by a sniper in Italy and that he was apparently stationed in Ireland prior to going out to Italy. Family folklore says he and several other Buckley Boys took unauthorized leave whilst en route from Holyhead by train and got off at Shotton. They then got the train the next day.

“It really must have been tough for those left behind, my Gran had 5 children to bring up on her own ranging from 12 years to a new born. I don’t know what pension she got if any.” (Eddie Collins)

William James Collins is also named on the Buckley Memorial


Some Additional Colourful Family History supplied by Eddie Collins,  grandson of William James Collins 

The Collins side of the family.

In 1904 as well as William James’s wedding to Margaret  there had been  another wedding in the family. His  widowed mother, Eliza married Lawrence Beavan  in St. Deniol’s Church in Hawarden. The 1911 census lists them  living in the Glynne Arms in Buckley. They were Inn Keepers working on their own account.  Lawrence Beavan was 32 and  Eliza  42.  Stedaughter Sarah Ellin was  21, and she assisted in the business.  Grandson Robert William Williams who was 8 was listed in the household. He had been born in Llay, Flintshire. Lawrence Beavan went on to be Manager of the Buckley Foundry which was opposite the Tivoli in Brunswick Road.

Sarah Ellen known as Sally, Eliza’s daughter,  later married a Garston.

William Williams was the son of Eliza Ann Collins – Eliza’s eldest daughter. He drowned himself together with his girlfriend in  ‘The Trap’ in Buckley at a young age.

The Marshall side of the family (William James’s in-laws) 

William James’s Wife, (Margaret Marshall) also had connections with the innkeeping trade. Her maternal grandfather, Joshua Hayes was running the Buckley Horse & Jockey Inn on the 1881 census. His daughter Martha was Margaret’s mother.

Martha Hayes married Thomas Dalziel Marshall. This colourful character was, according to family folklore, born in Connecticut in the USA in about 1846. He was taken  along with two siblings by their father Robert to live in Scotland. Thomas D Marshall trained as a cabinet maker and somehow ended up in Buckley where he made pews for one of the churches there in the 1870s. But then he disappeared! The story says that he died of yellow fever in America in about 1880. The US Courts actually declared him officially dead in 1892.  The 1891 census, however, has Martha listed as a widow.

Many thanks to Eddie Collins for providing this insight into his fascinating and colourful family history.

I have since heard from Hylton Collins, who sent a tranbscribed copy of a letter William’s mother sent to his Captain, which is below, it is so very sad, hearing, in the letter, her desperation to find anything out about how he suffered and his death and even to make sure that she could see his grave.

Hylton explained more about the letter in an email to me on the 17th February 2023:-

Subject: Re: Michael James COLLINS – Mother’s Letter

Hi Mavis.
Re!  William James Collins
By all means you may add the letter.  It is a typed transcript of a hand written letter which was in a box of papers donated to the RWF by the family of Captain Anthony.  It was a sad time as the letter informing the family of his death arrived after the war had ended, he died on 23rd October so clearly took several weeks to reach them.  My cousin did get to visit his grave in Italy in the late 1950s which was before my Grandmother passed away which was nice for her to know and to see a photo of the headstone.  Like many other woman, my Gran was left a widow with 5 children on a small war pension.  I have not heard of any reply from the Captain, I suppose it there was one it would have gone to my G Grandmother at the Glynne Arms? his original letter did exist when I was younger but I don’t know what happened to it after my Gran died.
Kind regards

Learn more about the other soldiers on the Hawarden Memorial

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