An emotional return to the region for an Antipodean granddaughter

The return to England to see a First World War soldier’s grave in a churchyard in Harworth has been worth the trip thousands of miles for his granddaughter who lives in Australia.

By Nigel Booth
Tuesday, 30 April, 2019, 16:39
The five children of John McCreary

Here she tells the story of her return to her grandfather John’s graveside.

Elaine Henry says: My grandad John McCreary was a beautiful man, he was a husband, father and granddad and lived from 1897 to 1973.

John McCreary who served for his country in the army from 1914- 1918

He was just an ordinary, everyday hard working man. He was a war veteran who served for his country in the army from 1914-1918 in France and in "The Royal Artillery" in the African campaign in the Second World War.

He was a coal miner from the age of 12 years until he retired at the age of 65. He and his wife Sarah moved from the north of England in search of work and settled in the mining village of Harworth, near Bircoates, Nottinghamshire.

His five children are pictured in the black and white image on this page. My mum, Elizabeth Evelyn McCreary, is the baby in this photograph.

The eldest boy, Leslie was killed in a mining accident in Harworth coalmine. His name was Leslie Burnip Coxan McCreary and he was the youngest person to die at the mine, aged only 14. He was buried in a family plot at Harworths All saints Church. 

Finding the grave of John McCreary

After Leslie's death the family then moved to New Ollerton, Nottinghamshire for a fresh start. My grandfather later died in his 70's in New Ollerton and he was buried with his son Leslie in Harworth.

My mum Elizabeth is now aged 87 years-old and lives in Australia. She returned to England a few years ago, for her final visit to see her family.

Mum wanted to say goodbye to her father at his graveside. However on arrival at the churchyard she became emotionally distraught to find that her dad and her eldest brother Leslie's grave was lost to the undergrowth – totally inaccessible and out of sight.

The council couldn't help, the church couldn’t help,  that is until a wonderful local person connected with the church, by the name of Ann Wilson came along.

Elaine and Stephen Henry visited All Saints Church t in Harworth to view the Miners' Window

Ann got the ball rolling along with the hard working Steve Ellis and the new Vicar. The clearing work commenced not long after my husband and I visited the church last year while on holiday from our home in Australia.

This is taken from Harworth church FB page 2018  and it reads: On 19th July Elaine and Stephen visited All Saints Church to view the Miners' Window.

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Elaine's grandad was John MCreary and his son was Leslie Burnip Coxon McCreary who was only 14 years of age when he was tragically killed down Harworth Colliery aged 14.

John was 75 years of age when he died in 1973 and is buried with his son in our church grounds. Unfortunately the grave is in an area which is overgrown with brambles and shrubbery.

We have however made a start on clearing the church grounds, but it is a massive and costly project.

It was an emotional visit for Elaine. We visited the pavilion to look at the mining memorabilia, we toured around Bircotes and found the house where her granddad lived and where her mother was born – 32 Church Road.

If anyone can remember the McCreary's please let me know and I will pass the information on to Elaine. Elaine will be visiting again in two years time. Really hope the church grounds will be sorted by then.

It was in April 2019 that Ann Wilson contacted me by phone and gave me the news (and a photograph) and said that my granddad’s grave had been recovered. 

We were ecstatic and I cannot thank Ann, Steve and team and the vicar for uncovering and finding, not only my granddad and uncle’s grave, but for everyone else in the community that was also affected.

I am especially happy for my mum, who has wept tears of joy and is so grateful to everyone. I myself will look forward to returning next January or February for another visit.

n We are always on the lookout for stories of any events or people to include in our double page heritage spread in the Doncaster Free press.

It could be a story of a family member or event in history and needs to be about 800 to 900 words in length.

Whenever we include anything we also require four accompanying Jpeg pictures to illustrate the piece.  Anyone who feels they have a story to tell should send copy and Jpeg attachment pictures to nigel.booth@jpress.co.uk email address.