Debbie Cameron, one of the volunteers for GM1914, has uncovered a shocking tale of fraud from Manchester during the Great War.
Serialised in parts, you can read all about it here...
Timothy Gerald O’Sullivan
According to the victims of the scam, and duly endorsed by the jury, he was seen as the driving force behind the fraud. Described variously as “well-dressed” “a naturalized Irish American” and“not a British” subject, he seems to have been a rather devious fellow. Born in approximately 1873 he was a somewhat arrogant individual, who felt he was quite capable of carrying out his own defence (much good it did him!) and who said he was variously, a Captain in the British Army (I could not find any records for this), a business promoter, a manager and a teacher. I have found what appears to be his registration as a teacher – in 1915 – which seems to infer he never did serve in the army.
Once a rogue, always a rogue!
I have found our man in the 1911 census, living in London and apparently a Company Promoter. His wife, Rita, is from Oldham. He has a son, aged a few months. Perhaps unsurprisingly , I also found records for his son in 1928 – in a “wanted for theft” police gazette in New South Wales – like father like son!
Did TGOS’s spell in prison lead to a reformed man? It would seem not. I have traced him through the decades following his spell in prison in Manchester and I am afraid he pops up with depressing regularity.
In 1920, it was reported that a John Tagg, from Wigan, was charged with demanding money with menaces from our man in London (presumably to where he fled after coming out of prison). It seems that, for once, someone decided to take the law into their own hands- Mr O’Sullivan owed him some money and presumably Mr Tagg wanted it back! In 1939 he is involved in a reported forged cheque; at this time he is running a “postal scholastic academy” (no doubt flaunting his teacher’s registration from 1915) One wonders at what sort of education he was giving! From 1948 – 1951 he is living in Bournemouth, where his company “Public Utility Services” has hit the skids; he is reported in several issues of the London Gazette as being involved in various bankruptcy proceedings. He has changed his name to the upstanding sounding “O’Sullivan-Beare”. I think I have found his death, in Plymouth, in 1956. I wonder what other legal documents are lurking in the archives of other records offices, reporting yet again on the highly dubious activities of this serial offender, who gave not a thought to relieving people of their life savings during the dark days of the war………..
Edward John Johnson
EJJ sounds like a bit of a dreamer and easily led by Mr O’Sullivan. He actually did have some engineering and aeronautical experience and I have found a record that shows he did fight in the war. He was in the Royal Flying Corp, from which he was discharged (presumably for medical reasons) in September 1917. It is said he met O’Sullivan in August of that year. Although he was indeed an engineer, he was a 2nd Class Air Mechanic- only the equivalent of a private in the army, so claims made about him being a Government Inspector of Aeronautics were fanciful and entirely fraudulent!
He did however come from an engineering background. Born in Derby, the 1901 census shows his father was a mechanical engineer and manager of a railway company – in Brazil. Several siblings were born there. I have traced several passenger lists to Brazil with the family on it. I have also found his marriage in 1913 in Brazil to Adelaide Bertha Carver (1881 – 1963). The couple travelled back to England in 1914 and settled in Moston, Manchester.
It would seem that this “well dressed man” had not achieved the same high position in engineering as his father did. Could this be the reason he aligned himself with the self-serving swindler O’Sullivan? We may never know, but he clearly did add some credence to the whole venture.
It would appear that on release from prison, he went to live in Scotland – presumably in an attempt to escape the shame of his imprisonment and to go where no-one knew his background. We know this because his son, Edward Peter Johnson, was born there in 1920. His family say he died in 1939 and his wife, Adelaide in 1963. I have found her probate records. She left £5,226 (a reasonable sum) in 1963 and died in Southampton, perhaps near her son and as far away from Manchester as she could get. I have yet to discover what EJJ did after prison but happily, I have not found him involved in any criminal activity – unlike the serial offender – Mr O’Sullivan!