23 July 2022

How a Comerford family of
vets moved from Wexford
to London and East Anglia

Home Farmhouse, Potton, Bedfordshire … home in the early 20th century of Colonel Augustine Ambrose Comerford (1886-1944), a vet and army officer

Patrick Comerford

In recent research I have come across the details of a branch of Comerford family who originated in Co Wexford in the early 19th century, moved to London and later to East London, Essex and East Anglia, and lived in subsequent generations in Cambridge, Huntingdon and Bedfordshire.

This Comerford family includes two veterinary surgeons and a colonel who fought in both World Wars and was decorated with the DSO and was mentioned in dispatches ‘for distinguished services in the field.’

The story of this Comerford family begins with:

Michael Comerford (1800-1870) was born in Wexford in 1800. He emigrated to England. He married in the Royal Belgian Chapel, Southwark, later the site of Saint George’s Roman Catholic Cathedral, 13 January 1844 Ann Cox (1814-1893), who was born in Nottingham on 21 September 1814, the daughter of Henry Cox (1781-1873).

Michael and Ann Comerford lived at 26 Regent Place, Islington. After her husband’s death, Ann later lived at 268 Vicarage Road, Leyton (1871), 3 Woodgrange Road, West Ham (1881), and Saint Pancras, London (1891) . She died in West Ham on 10 January 1893.

Michael and Ann Comerford were the parents of six children, four sons and two daughters:

1, Anne (1844-1913), born 7 March 1844, Clinger Street, Hoxton Old Town. She lived in Clevedon, Somerset (1911) and died 14 October 1913 in Woodford, Essex.
2, James Comerford (1845-1908), born 1845 Islington. He lived in 42 Bank Street, Lower Booths, Coventry (1861), Leyton, Essex (1871), West Ham (1901), and Southport, Lancashire (1908). He died at 13 Walmor Road, Birkdale, 29 November 1908, aged 63.
3, Thomas Comerford (1847-1906), born 1847, Shoreditch. He lived in Islington (1861), Leyton (1871), West Ham (1881, 1901), and died at Forest Gate, Essex, 8 June 1906, aged 59.
4, William Comerford (1849-1927), born Islington 1849, lived in Islington (1851, 1861), Leyton (1871), West Ham (1881, 1901), and The Cliff, Marine Parade, Clevedon, Somerset (1911). He died at Woodford, Essex, 22 May 1927.
5, Michael Henry Comerford (1852-1928), of whom next.
6, Ruth Maria Comerford (1855-1927). Born Islington 1855, lived Islington (1861), Leyton (1871), West Ham (1901), Clevedon, Somerset (1911). She died at Woodford, Essex, 1 December 1927.

Their fourth son and fifth child:

Michael Henry Comerford (1852-1928) was born in Islington 6 March 1852. He was a veterinary inspector and a veterinary surgeon. He married Annie Turner (1852-1941) in Islington on 23 February 1876, from Lechlade, Boddington, Gloucestershire, daughter of William Turner (1817-1886) and Lucy (Tovey) Turner (1825-1900). They lived in West Ham (1876-1886), Stratford, Essex (1886-1890), Walthamstow (1901) and again in West Ham.

Michael Comerford died in Weymouth, Dorset, 19 October 1928, aged 76; Annie died in Woodford, Essex, 17 April 1941.

They were the parents of 11 children, four sons and seven daughters:

1, Agnes Mary Cecilia Comerford (1876-1973), born West Ham 21 October 1876, She died on 2 March 1973 in Woodford Green, Essex, at the age of 96.
2, Gertrude Frances (1877-1967), born 1877 in West Ham. She married Francis Wilberforce Garman on 20 June 1906 in Woodford Green, and they were the parents of seven children. She died 26 May 1967 in Woodford, Essex, aged 90.
3, Winifred Mary Comerford (1878-1968), born 9 December 1878 in West Ham, she died 20 June 1968, aged 89, in Erith, Bexley, Kent.
4, William Bernard Comerford (1880-1949) born 11 September 1880, West Ham. He married twice: (1) Mary Robertson, 14 July 1910 in Inverness; (2) Mary Sybil Macleod Mackenzie, 3 September 1937, in Glasgow. He died 6 July 1949 in Glasgow, Lanarkshire, aged 68.
5, Francis Michael Comerford (1882-1964), of 18 Snakes Green, Woodford Green. Born 5 January 1882, West Ham. He married May Augusta Carroll (1892-1975), 4 January 1919 in Holborn; she was the daughter of James Carroll (1859-1933) and Elizabeth Sarah (Wade) Carroll (1864-1914). He died on 8 July 1964 in Woodford, Essex, at the age of 82; she died 28 March 1875 in Woodford. Francis and May were the parents of three children:
•1a, Winifred Mary (1920-2003), married William H Long (1947), and they were the parents of one son, Michael W Long (born 1948).
•2a, Francis James Comerford (1922-1997) born 2 February 1922, West Ham. He married twice: (1) Eileen Emma Clare Tye, and they were the parents of two children; (2) Louise DCT Winans, and they were the parents of three children. He died 15 November 1997 in Sevenoaks Common, Kent, aged 75.
•3a, Michael Brian Comerford (1926- ) born 11 December 1926, West Ham. He married Pamela Audrey McNaught on 27 December 1950.
6, Magdalen Comerford (1883-1890), born 12 July 1883, West Ham; she died in childhood 2 January 1890, Stratford, Essex.
7, Louis John Comerford (1884-1886), born December 1884, West Ham; died an infant, 15 May 1886 in Stratford, Essex.
8, (Colonel) Augustine Ambrose Comerford (1886-1944), of whom next.
9, Annie Hilda (1889-1968), born 1889 in West Ham. She was educated at La Sainte Union Catholic School, Highgate. She married Joseph Richard Van Zeller (1881-1918) on 24 April 1912 in Woodford Green. His family was originally from Portugal, and his sister Magdalen Mary Van Zeller (1888-1974) married Annie’s brother, Augustine Ambrose Comerford (see below). They were the parents of two daughters:
•1a, Emeline (born 1913);
•2a, Josephine (1915-1997), who married Anthony McMaster Maghull Yates (1915-1999) in January 1942 in Hendon. They were the parents of three children. She died 10 March 1968 in Weymouth, Dorset, aged 79.
10, Teresa Mary (Minnie) (1890-1983), born 1890 in West Ham. She was educated at La Sainte Union Catholic School, Highgate. She married Harry Roy Mitchell 22 July 1914, they lived in King’s Norton, Worcestershire. They were the parents of one daughter, Meryl Cynthia (born 1921), who married Albert J Hayman in April 1945 in Worcester. Teresa Mary (Comerford) Mitchell died on 23 April 1983 in Weymouth, Dorset, aged 92.
11, Marie Josephine Ruth (1891-1952), born 1891 in West Ham. She was educated at La Sainte Union Catholic School, Highgate. She married three times: (1) Merrick Orville Prismall (1917); (2) Maximillian Ponsonby Dalrymple (1924); (3) Claude Ernest Thompson (1936). She died in 1952 in Willesden, Middlesex, aged 61.

The eighth child and fourth son of Michael Henry Comerford and Annie (Turner) Comerford:

(Lieutenant-Colonel) Augustine Ambrose Comerford, DSO, MRCVS (1886-1944) was born in Stratford, Essex, 29 April 1886. He was educated Mount Saint Mary’s College, a Jesuit-run public school in Spinkhill, Derbyshire, and the Royal Veterinary College, London (1903-1909).

During World War I, he was commissioned lieutenant (1916) in the Army Veterinary Service (later the Royal Army Veterinary Corps), and was promoted captain (1920, with seniority backdated to 1917). He transferred to the Royal Army Veterinary Corps Territorial Army (1922), and was promoted major (1926). During World War II, he was Officer Commanding, 418th (Bedfordshire) Battery, 105th (Bedfordshire Yeomanry) Army Field Regiment RA (Biggleswade), and a lieutenant-colonel and commanding office in 52 Heavy Regiment, Royal Artillery (January 1939 to June 1940), fought in Western Europe, and was decorated DSO (1940) and was Mentioned in Dispatches (1941) ‘for distinguished services in the field’.

He married Magdalen Mary Van Zeller (1888-1974) on 15 October 1910 in Woodford Green. They were living at Dean House, Caxton, Cambridge (1911). Later, they lived at Home Farmhouse, Potton, Bedfordshire, a house listed as Grade II in 1976. The house dated from the 17th century though re-worked in the two succeeding centuries. The main block is timber-framed with colour-washed plaster over the exterior. The farm was previously owned by Henry Smith of Potton Manor, and was then bought by Percy Malcolm Stewart, chair of the London Brick Company.

Augustine Ambrose Comerford was living at Home Farmhouse in 1928. There were three reception rooms, a kitchen and a larder on the ground floor, six bedrooms on the first floor, and three small, disused attic rooms on the second floor has. Outside was a garage, two loose boxes partitioned off into vet’s kennels, a dispensary and a large garden.

He died 25 February 1944 in Huntingdonshire at the age of 58; she died 5 June 1974 in Cambridge at the age of 86.

They were the parents of five children, three sons and two daughters:

1, Cyril James Comerford (1912–1912), born Caxton, Cambridgeshire, 22 June 1912, died in infancy 14 October 1913, Caxton.
2, (Captain) Basil Michael Comerford (1913-1970), of whom next.
3, Eric Francis Comerford (1915-2009), born Caxton 1915, lived at 15 Chapel End, Great Gidding, Huntingdonshire. He married Jessie Charlotte Chapman (1913-1982) on 12 October 1939 in Market Harborough, Leicestershire. He died in 2009 in Great Gidding, Huntingdonshire, aged 94; she died in Kettering, Northamptonshire, September 1982.
4, Beryl Martin (1917-2004), born Bedford 28 April 1917, married January 1939 in Yarmouth, Norfolk, Ronald P Webber, died Swansea May 2004.
5, Doris M (1919- ), born 28 August 1919, in Biddenham, Bedfordshire. She married William Bertie Keeble (1919-2008) of Maldon, Essex, on 11 July 1945 in Chelmsford, Essex. He married again in 1976. They were the parents of two children.

The elder surviving son:

(Captain) Basil Michael Comerford (1913-1970), born Caxton 14 October 1913. He was educated at Beaumont College. He was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Royal Artillery Territorial Army (1933), lieutenant (1936), T/Captain (1942-1944) and honorary Captain (1946). He was attached to 105th (Bedfordshire Yeomanry) Army Field Regiment RA (Bedford), and in 1937-1939 418th (Bedfordshire) Battery, 105th (Bedfordshire Yeomanry) Army Field Regiment RA (Biggleswade). He was mobilised at the outbreak of World War II in 1939, ‘A’ Battery, 52nd Heavy Regiment RA. He was transferred to Royal Army Service Corps - Territorial Army Reserve of Officers (Class I), 1944-1946.

He married twice: (1) in Cambridge, 11 September 1939, Betty Gladys Gardner (1914- ), of Royston, Hertfordshire; (2) in Bedford, 8 September 1951, Anne Speir-Gray (1922-1976) of Swineshead, Huntingdonshire. Basil Comerford died 20 December 1970; Anne died 26 July 1976; they are buried in Easton, Cambridgeshire. They were the parents of two children, including a daughter:

1, Sarah Elizabeth Mary Comerford, born Huntingdon September 1961.

Saint George’s Roman Catholic Cathedral, Southwark … Michael Comerford (1800-1870) from Wexford and Ann Cox (1814-1893) from Nottingham were married in 1844 in the Royal Belgian Chapel, Southwark, on this site (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

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