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John Beech’s Branch

Family of John Beech Sandford

William and Susan's first child, John Beech was born on the 14th of September 1843, a year after their marriage. The name Beech clearly came from his paternal grandfather, Beech Sandford. The choice of John would have honoured both his maternal grandfather, John Lyster, and his paternal great-grandfather, John Sandford. John it seems was educated by his father at home with his younger brother William at least in respect of Hebrew for which he won an entrance scholarship at Trinity College Dublin in 1863.

His departure for Trinity with his younger brother can be accurately pinpointed for among several inscriptions on the back of the study shutters of the rectory at Kilvemnon the following was found, "John and Willie left Kilvemnon Glebe this morning at 0930 for College. Dated the 7 September 1863." 1 The first part of their journey was doubtless by horse and carriage perhaps to the railway station 13 miles away at Clonmel, whence they could reach the main Dublin to Cork line, at Limerick junction.

On arrival at Trinity the view of the Campanile bell tower as they entered the college and crossed its Parliament Square would have been much as I saw it in 2002.

TCD Campanile

In October 1863 the young students took the entrance exam and both were outstandingly successful in the Hebrew Premiums. William was at the top of the first class list, and John Beech was second. They both received fine leather-bound copies of Bagsters compendium consisting of the Common Prayer Book and the English version of the Polyglot Bible.  John pasted in a newspaper cutting recording his achievement, and mentioning that their father who taught them Hebrew was himself self-taught in the subject. 2 Poignantly the bible contains, pressed between its pages, a 4 leaved clover, obviously preserved for good luck. Alas, in the historical record find little evidence of John and his family being particularly well blessed with good fortune.

John Beech Sandford's prize bible

After graduating we know that John went on to become a lawyer, practicing in Cork. In 1888 and 1889 two libel cases are reported in The Times. In each he was he was the junior lawyer supporting two QCs on the defence team. A note book has been found contains lists legal cases handled by John. 3

In November 1895 John had an argument in the newspapers with W.E.H. Lecky, a noted historian and Unionist politician, who was standing in a parliamentary bi-election for the TCD seat. 4 John was obviously one of the supporters of his legal colleague George Wright QC who opposed Lecky. The Wright campaign was attacking Lecky for atheistic views he had expressed in the past. John's letter had challenged Lecky about why he had not become a clergyman after studying theology at TCD. This had been prompted by discovery of a pamphlet written in early 1865 entitled "The History of Spirit of rationalism in Europe and a follow up article apparently by Lecky in an obscure American publication "Forum" which appeared in 1890. The reply of Lecky and his campaigners was to challenge the attribution of these works to himself. Lecky went on to win the election convincingly. The lawyer, Wright, took comfort in the fact that he had the highest number of votes ever for a candidate coming in second place.

We have discovered the possible marriage of a John Beech Sandford to Honora Ann Stokes in the third quarter of 1871 in the Upton registration district of Worcester. We know nothing of Honora beyond one or two references to Nora. 5

John and Honora’s first child was Hester Guinivere born about a year after their marriage. Their second child, or at least the second to survive to adulthood was William Sarsfield Beech who was born in 1881.

John became ill and was not able to attend his mother’s funeral in Clonmel in 1901, Willie attended representing his father. In Roc Sandford’s archive there are just three letters in June 1902 from John, then living at 14 Herbert Place Dubin, to his younger brother Arthur. Arthur in Cork was providing medicines and prescriptions for his brother, who was then still able to get to out for a walk and enjoy the sun and the breeze. Willie was doing some entrance exams, probably for his profession. Kate Sandford passed through Herbert Place on her way to her brother’s, William Wingfield at his rectory at Grindon, Staffordshire. Philip was also in the house.

Two months later, in August 1902 John died. 6 The only record of the events which we have is a letter from Hester to Arthur, written after a difficult week dealing with everything and she appreciated the support from Arthur and his brother Philip. We have not yet seen an obituary for John, but perhaps more details of his life remain to be found somewhere in the Irish newspaper columns for August 1902.

Hester Guinivere Sandford (1873 –1944)

At some point Hester married an army officer Russell Darley. A James Russell Darley, gentleman, had been appointed 2nd Lieut in the Indian staff corps in 1892, he rose to the rank of Lt. Col. by the end of the World War I receiving a DSO, and mentioned in dispatches from Mesopotamia on 13 March 1918. We know by 1935 Hester with her husband Col Russell Darley had retired to a farm at Trory, located on the shores of Loch Erne where Enniskillen Airport is today. As the combination the names of Russell and Darley with an army rank of colonel seems likely to be unique, it seems very probable that it was James Russell Darley that Hester had married. I found one other reference to James Russell Darley. It gave him born 19 Jan 1868 and died 5 Jan 1951. The birth date is consistent with his appointment in India in 1892, and we know that Russell lived beyond Hester’s death in 1944. Unfortunately there is no trace of the title of his book or article which led to his name appearing in a huge list of authors. 7

Hester bred chickens on the farm. In the second world War farming proved too hard for the elderly Russell who could no longer secure labourers because they had all been diverted to government projects. Reluctantly they gave up the much loved farm and moved to a modern house in Lisbellaw, the other side of Enniskellin on the Belfast road. There, Hester died in 1944, and Russell must then have sent off various Sandford family mementos to Hester’s cousins.

Although Hester and Russell had no children, or at least surviving children of their own, Hester brought up her nephew, Patrick Beech from babyhood. Hester letters are are a key source for information about Patrick, who is covered below.

William Sarsfield Beech Sandford (1881 – 1960)

The first information we have of Willie is as a twenty year old when, representing his ill father, he joined the senior male members of the family to escort his grandmother’s coffin for her funeral in 1901.  In June 1902 he had entrance exams, presumably for his civil engineering professional training. He did well in some: 90% in Euclid, and was expected to save a year in his qualification. One of the clues that we have that his profession was civil engineering was that is given in his son’s 1937 Sandhurst entry record.

We know very little at all of Willie’s family and working life. His marriage is not recorded, but his son Patrick Beech Sandford was born in 1919, and as noted above he was given as a baby to Hester to be brought up. Perhaps Willie’s wife had died. Willie’s address is then given as Assam (North East India) when the family needed to contact him with regard to legacies, but he finally comes back to Britain in 1950 with a wife and goes to live in Clifden, Galway in apparently modest circumstances, if not poverty. As he says, he had so little money that it was not worth having a bank account. We think Willie died around 1960.

Patrick Beech Sandford (1919 – after 1961)

As we noted above Willie’s son Patrick was brought up from babyhood by his aunt Hester. He seems to have been a bit backward at School, Hester noting in 1935 that he was with boys two years his junior, but hoping he would soon start working hard. He was accepted for officer training at Sandhurst which he entered on 27 August 1937. He was placed a lowly 158 out of 181, but passed out successfully and was commissioned in the Indian Army on 26 January 1939. 8

Patrick had served at several different stations in India and saw fighting on the frontier for which he was awarded a medal. He joined Russell’s old regiment and did much training work. They were sent to Malaya in 1941 and he was promoted to captain on the staff at the army’s Far East Command in Singapore. He was there when Singapore fell to the Japanese in February 1942. Patrick with 9 other British officers and 3 Indian officers escaped the Japanese, secured a native boat and set off to Sumatra some 50 miles away. They had very little food – just some rice - and they were short of water. On their journey they were machine gunned by a seaplane, Patrick being wounded in the knee and two of his colleagues also hit. From Sumatra Patrick eventually got a small coal steamer back to India where they arrived on 14 March, a month after the fall of Singapore. Then they had a train journey to the training camp at Bareilly. His cable to say he had escaped and was safe was a great relief. He had lost a lot of weight due to starvation and spent sometime with his wounded comrades recovering. But all was well. By Sept 1942 he was fully recovered and in Warizistan on the north west Frontier of India. These brief details are all that Hester wrote to Christopher Sandford in 1942. The full story if we can ever discover it would make an interesting addition to the family history.

After the war in about 1948 Patrick settled at Timau some 20 miles NNW of Mount Kenya, and there he married Diane Clare Stobart on 9 December 1950. Although they had trouble during the Mau Mau disturbances, it seems Patrick did well in Kenya. By 1961 Patrick and Diane had had four children: Claire born 19 Sept 1951, Peter Beech born 1953, Lorna Mary born 1957 and Carol Elizabeth born April 1961. Perhaps one day we will be able to get in touch with these third cousins, and be able to share more details of the family history.



1. From a letter the rector of Mullinahone in response to a query in 1935 about any Sandford records in the parish of Kilvemnon.

2. John Beech’s bible was inherited by his daughter Hester, and on her death in 1945 her husband Russell Darley sent it to her cousin Philip Purefoy Sandford, who then sent it on to Lady Mary Carberry. Mary in turn sent it to My grandfather, John Hamilton Sandford, who she thought might be interested in having the account of his own father William Wingfield. Sandford prize. Her letter of 1946 records all this. Presumably Mary did not know that Jack already had the book's twin which had been awarded to his father.

3. Roger Grant found a notebook containing John Beech’s legal cases in a trunk of family memorabilia belonging to his cousin Angela Granell.

4. The Times, 5 December 1895.

5. Flowers sent by relatives to the funeral of John’s mother Susan Mary Sandford on 19 November 1901 include one  “from John and Nora, 14 Herbert Place”, and a second from “Hester and Willie”. Roger Grant has seen another reference to Nora.

6. Either on 11th or 25 August 1902. Both dates appear in family letters.

7. contains about  100,000 out of an estimated 500,000 authors who died after 1920 who had books published before 1964. This list was prepared to help address questions of copyright.

8. Date of Admission to RMC: 27 August 1937 Cadet Company: 4 Company Position in Order of Merit: 158/181 Date of Leaving RMC: 17 December 1938. Date of Commission into Indian Army: 26 January 1939. Date of Publication of Commission in London Gazette: 27 January 1939. Thanks to Roger Grant for these details.

Michael Sandford - 26 May 2007

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