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Meet the former Harris Park governor who installed the Fulwood war memorial

Posted on - 11th November, 2020 - 7:00am | Author - | Posted in - Cadley, Fulwood, History, Preston News, Sharoe Green
Fulwood's war memorial on Remembrance Sunday Pic: Blog Preston
Fulwood’s war memorial on Remembrance Sunday Pic: Blog Preston

The war memorial within the Harris Park site was paid for and arranged by the ‘old boys and girls of the orphanage’.

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Before becoming private housing the site was originally an orphanage.

Here historian Janet Davis recalls the story and career of the man who served as its governor at the time of the Fulwood war memorial being installed.

Col.Jolly was governor of the Harris from 1888 to 1929

Thomas Riley Jolly was born in Wrea Green on the 23rd February 1849, the son of John Jolly and Jane Riley. Thomas spent his early years in Wrea Green and was educated at the nearby Westby Endowed School and then later Kirkham Grammar School.

By 1871 he was boarding at 54 Fishergate in Preston after taking up the position of Clerk to the County Treasurer. The following year he married Catherine Jane Parkinson, a farmers daughter from Alston near Longridge. The couple went on to have two daughters; Jane Mary was born in Preston in 1873 and then Ethel was born in 1878. 

By 1881 Thomas, Catherine and their two daughters were living at 4 Grafton Street in Preston. He was now an Accountant to the County Treasurer, a position he stepped down from in 1888 when he and his wife became Governor and Matron of the newly opened Harris Orphanage.

Much has been written about Thomas Riley Jolly in the local newspapers, one account recording his early life in Preston. From his very early days he apparently took a great interest and actively assisted as Honorary Secretary in numerous entertainments, exhibitions and bazaars which from time to time had been held in Preston for the benefit of charitable and educational institutions. In 1868, when just 19 years old, he was appointed as Honorary Secretary to entertainments held weekly for several winters in the theatre attached to the Mechanics Institution. As a result of this large sums were raised for the Infirmary and other local charities. 

Thomas was also Honorary Secretary at the 1865 Exhibition held at the Corn Exchange (later Public Hall) and then in the same capacity in 1875 when a three month Exhibition was held for the Mechanics Institution (Harris Institute) and the school and workshops for the blind in Glovers Court. He was also involved in two bazaars helping to raise money for the benefit of the blind and another one when a large amount was raised towards the building of the Victoria Technical School.

The military career of Thomas Riley Jolly first began when he joined the local Artillery Volunteers in 1867 as a gunner, retiring in 1907 after 40 years service and as a Lieutenant Colonel of the Preston Batteries, holding the Long Service and V.O. awards. As a Major in the Volunteers he was also in command of the Kirkham, Lancaster and Blackpool Batteries. On his retirement, King Edward VII granted him permission to retain his rank and wear the uniform for the remainder of his life. 

After Thomas retired from the Artillery he was appointed Officer in Command of the National Reserve and was still in that position at the outbreak of WW1 in 1914 and enlisted over 3,000 men who were later attached to the Royal Defence Corps. When the Derby group system of enrolment was instituted Thomas was appointed as Military Representative for the whole of the Preston district and then subsquently to an enlarged district, which included the military tribunals held at Blackpool, Lytham, St. Anne`s, Kirkham, Longridge, Chorley, Leyland and all surrounding areas. He was, in this capacity, representing the War Office, a position he retained until the end of the war. In the midst of all this Thomas was also appointed as a Justice of the Peace for the Borough of Preston in 1916 and then in November 1918, King George V presented Thomas with the British Empire Medal at Buckingham Palace.

Read more: Telling the stories of those remembered on Fulwood’s war memorial

The list of institutions and charitable organisations that Thomas Riley Jolly was involved with is almost endless, and, it must be remembered, he was also throughout this time the Governor of the Harris Orphanage. These are just a few of the organisations he was involved with, many of them up until the time of his death; President of the United Services Club; Head for the Amounderness Hundred of the Discharged Soldiers and Sailors Aid Society; Chairman of the North of England Union and Agencies for the Blind; Chairman of the Lancashire and Cheshire Union of Educational Institutes; Hon. Treasurer of the National Union of Domestic Science; member of the Governing Body of the Association of the Technical Institutes; member of the Advisory Committee of the St. Dunstan`s  Homes for Blind Soldiers and Sailors.

Thomas` wife Catherine (Kate) worked alongside her husband at the Harris Orphanage holding the position of Matron, sadly she passed away in 1918 and was succeeded in that position by her married daughter Mrs. Jane Mary Bazett Jones (nee Riley). Jane Mary had married in 1901 to Mr. Henry Bazett Jones, a stock broker from Penwortham and the couple also lived at the Harris Orphanage from the time of their marriage.

Anyone reading any of the many newspaper clippings in relation to Thomas Riley Jolly when he refers to the young men from the Harris Orphanage who served in WW1, can be left in no doubt how proud he was of their contribution and of course of those who made the ultimate sacrifice. A memorial to the fallen was unveiled on Saturday, 18th October 1924, and as Thomas pointed out, this was arranged and paid for by the `old boys and girls of the Orphanage`.

Read more: Watch the Remembrance services for Preston and South Ribble

The unveiling ceremony was reported on by the Lancashire Daily Post;

“Memorial to the old Boys Unveiled – Gift by former scholars”

“On Saturday afternoon a memorial to the boys of the Harris Orphanage, who gave their lives in the great war, was unveiled in the Orphanage grounds by Lieut-Colonel T.R. Jolly, J.P. Governor of the Orphanage, in the presence of the past and present inmates of the Orphanage, members of the Council, the Orphanage staff, and relatives and friends of those who gave their lives and of those who served.

The Memorial is an impressive monument erected in front of the Orphanage Church, and takes the form of a white marble effigy of a youthful soldier standing, with his firearm reversed, on a pedestal of polished granite, on which the dedication is inscribed in letters of gold. It was erected and presented to the Orphanage by former inmates in loving memory of their former companions.

The Mayor (Alderman Matthew), who presided, read letters of regret for the inability to attend the ceremony from Sir Charles Brown, Chairman of the Orphanage Council and Dr. B. Nightingale.

They were met, said the Mayor, to pay homage to the boys who had been educated at this Orphanage who had volunteered at the call of duty, and had laid down their lives for King and Country. The training they had received in these homes, so perfectly situated among beautiful surroundings, must have given them a great ideal of life, and brought them in touch with great thoughts, and so prepared them when the time and call came, to willingly give the best they had in the cause of truth and light. The Memorial would be a lasting reminder to boys and girls of these homes, both now and in the years to come, of the deeds of their comrades, and an inspiration to the relatives of the fallen.

Colonel Jolly, speaking with visible emotion, said the honour and privilege in being asked to unveil this Memorial was very dear to him. Many of the boys in whose memory it was erected, had entered the Orphanage in it`s earliest days, had been trained there up to their adolescent years, and had then gone out with excellent records to become good citizens. In ordinary circumstances, they would, like many others present, have taken good places in the business world, but it had been willed otherwise. When the call came, 127 old boys enlisted. Eighteen of them made the supreme sacrifice, and a large number of others were wounded and disabled. Two gained the D.C.M. (Distinguished Conduct Medal) and five the Military Medal. They were proud indeed of all the boys who went to gain a victory for the cause which they believed, and which we still believed to be right and true, and those whose names are inscribed on the plinth of the monument who had died `For their God, for their King, and for their Country`, still lived in the affection of those left behind. He was deeply grateful to the old boys and girls of the homes, who had erected this monument, and who in less than 12 months, had raised the money and carried the work through.

Mr. R. Brown, Chairman of the Memorial Committee, who was one of the first boys to enter the Orphanage in 1889, asked the Council to accept the Memorial as a token of loving remembrance of their old companions, and to hand it down in posterity as a memento of the debt they owed to those who had sacrificed themselves.

Mr. J. Booth (Vice-Chairman of the Council) accepted the custody of the Memorial on behalf of the trustees and the Council, and said that every member of the Council, had been deeply touched by the way in which, on their own initiative, the old boys and girls of the homes had erected this beautiful memorial.

Canon Morris recited prayers and dedicated the Memorial. The opening and closing hymns “O God our Help” and “Abide with Me” were accompanied by the band of the 88th West Lancs R.F.A. The ceremony closed impressively with the “Last Post”, two minute silence, the Reveille, and the benediction, followed by the placing of the wreaths at the base of the Memorial by Col. Jolly, and on behalf of the Council by Mr. W. Jackson (Secretary of the Memorial Committee), on behalf of the old boys and girls by the children, now in the homes, and by relatives and friends”.

Thomas Riley Jolly sadly passed away on the 22nd September 1929 after a short illness. His son in law Mr. Henry Bazett Jones succeeded him in the position of Governor of the Harris Orphanage with his wife Jane Mary continuing in her role as Matron. Thomas was laid to rest in St. John the Baptist Churchyard in Broughton, Nr. Fulwood.

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