Peter Wright and Margaretta Lyons
Peter MacFie Wright
Peter MacFie Wright was born at 32 Tanners Lane, Warrington, Cheshire, England on 23 March 1856. His father was a foreman dyer in the carpet manufacturing trade.
Peter’s parents were Peter Warden Wright and Margaret Byrne. Their story is told on a separate page.
Margaretta Mary Teresa Lyons, known as Gretta, was born in Dublin, Ireland on 10 July 1861.
Her parents were Martin Lyons and Julia Clare Flynn. Their story is told on a separate page.
Peter – Early Years
By 1861, the family had moved to Kidderminster, Worcestershire and was living in 5 Leswell Street in the south of the town.
In the nineteenth century, Kidderminster, located on the banks of the River Stour, was one of the foremost towns in the country for the manufacture of woven carpets.
Peter’s parents were both from Scotland which probably explains their choice of MacFie as his middle name, even if the registrar managed to transcribe it incorrectly on the birth certificate.
The 1871 census shows the family still living in Kidderminster, but they have moved to 46 Farfield. Peter’s mother Margaret is now supporting her family by working as a poultry dealer.
Peter, 15, and his younger brother Hugh, 13, are both described as “learning the woollen dyeing”. Through the 1870s Peter seems to have worked in the woollen dyeing trade for one of the carpet manufacturers.
He earned his living as a drysalter. A drysalter was a dealer in crude dry chemicals and dyes. It seems that Peter Wright travelled frequently to Ireland to source the dyes needed by the carpet trade.
It was in Dublin that he met and subsequently married Margaretta Lyons the daughter of a commercial traveller called Martin Lyons and his wife Julia.
On 5 March 1881, the Worcester Journal reports the trial of a J W Chadwick on charges of bribery, corruption and intimidation by his agents to subvert the course of the local municipal election.
Chadwick, a liberal, won a seat in the Kidderminster North ward, which had always been regarded as staunchly conservative territory. The Tories cried foul, and after an investigation Chadwick was duly tried and found guilty.
The result of the election was declared void. The trial, indicted Peter Wright, a drysalter, who was employed by Chadwick. It was alleged that Wright had given £10 12s to a man named Hopkins to distribute to voters.
By the time of the trial, both Wright and Hopkins had fled Kidderminster and were never brought to account.
A month later, on 3 April 1881, the date of the next census, Wright is to be found living at Steel’s Hotel, 5 Queen Street, Glasgow.
Peter is now aged 25 and describes his occupation as a commission agent drysaltery.
Margaretta Lyons was born and grew up in Dublin
51 North St Georges Street, Dublin
The Lyons family lived in 51 North St Georges Street, in what looks like a fairly affluent part of Dublin.
Peter Wright soon put the trials and tribulations of English justice behind him, and continued his trips to Dublin, where on the 15 January 1883, he was married to Margaretta Lyons in the Roman Catholic Chapel of Dublin Cathedral.
He describes his occupation as a drysalter. His brother Hugh was a witness at the wedding, so Peter presumably did not lose contact with his family because of his flight from justice.
Peter and Gretta Wright established themselves in the affluent suburb of Kelvinside, in the fashionable west end of Glasgow, and they started to raise a family. Their first child, Margaretta Mary Theresa Wright, was born on 11 October 1884 at 4 Derby Crescent, Kelvinside, Glasgow.
This street is now known as Botanic Crescent. Interestingly both the mother and daughter are named “Margaretta Mary Theresa Wright” on the certificate. They were also both known as Gretta which is very confusing, so to reduce confusion, I will refer to them as Gretta senior and Gretta junior.
Gretta junior, the new baby, went on to marry Cyril Yeates and was the mother of Margery Turner, and the grandmother of Anne and Anthony Turner. On the birth certificate Peter describes his occupation as “Drysalter and Chemical Broker”.
He seems to have diversified and expanded his business interests. He also has started the affectation of signing himself as Peter MacFie Wright. This is helpful in that it corroborates beyond reasonable doubt that he is the same person as the birth certificate listed above.
The birth certificate refers to Peter McVee Wright, but this is almost certainly a transcription error. It confirms that the wealthy businessman in Glasgow is the same person as the child born in 32 Tanner’s Lane, Warrington back in 1856.
The birth of Gretta junior was followed, six years later, by the birth of Kathleen Mary on the 27 February 1890. By this date the family had moved to 24 St James Street, in Hillhead. St James Street is now known as Hamilton Park Avenue. Peter Wright now describes himself as a dye stuff and chemical merchant.
Kathleen’s arrival was swiftly followed by the birth of their third child. Peter Wright junior was born on 6 May 1891. Not being satisfied with having two Gretta Wrights in the family, they now have two Peter Wrights. The fourth child was Frederick Hugh Wright, who was born 4 September 1893. Their fifth child Gladys Mary Wright was born on 13 November 1894. The family were now living in 2 Hillside Gardens, Partick, Glasgow. What is perhaps unusual, is that Peter Wright gives his address as 3 Ashton Gardens, Partick, rather than the family home of 2 Hillside Gardens.
Their sixth and final child, Leo, was born on 4 September 1896. For some reason his birth is not recorded in the Statutory Registers. He was baptized in the Catholic Church in Partick. Although no statutory record exists of Leo’s birth, Leo’s grandson, David Wright, has shared a copy of the original baptismal certificate which confirms, the name, date. location and parents of Leo’s birth.
According to the Glasgow West street directory, 2 Hillside Gardens still exists, but is now known as 9 Turnberry Road. It records that it was occupied by the Wright family between 1893 until 1895. It was a substantial house and as well as the Wright family it housed three live in servants, a nursery nurse, a domestic servant and a cook. In addition, Gretta senior’s mother Julia Lyons who was now widowed and aged sixty was also living there.
1894 was to be a pivotal year for Peter Wright senior. It is not clear whether the family were living beyond their means, or whether Peter’s business was burdened with debt, or perhaps ill health. By 1896, the family had moved to 3 Ashton Gardens, and on 8 April Peter lost an action in the Sheriff’s Court. It was held that
“Peter Wright, drysalter in Glasgow, granted an assignation in favour of the pursuer, which bears that, in consideration of the sum of £400 instantly paid to him by the pursuer, and of which he thereby acknowledged the receipt, the said Peter Wright assigned and conveyed to the pursuer the household furniture and plenishing in the house No. 3 Ashton Gardens, Dowanhill, occupied by him”.
The family fortunes now seem to have been in freefall. In October 1897, an application was made to the Sheriff’s Court for Cessio Bonorum. This was a procedure under Scottish law whereby a debtor could voluntarily offer goods to a creditor. Cessio Bonorum protected the debtor from personal arrest for the debt but did not extinguish any residual debt. This does not seem to have been sufficient, and on 13 November 1897 it was reported in the Glasgow Herald that Peter Wright, Drysalter, of Glasgow had been declared bankrupt.
At the time of the bankruptcy Peter senior was aged 41, Gretta senior 34 and the six children aged 14, 8, 7, 4, 3 and 2.
At this point the fortunes of the Wright Family seem to have taken a rather shocking turn. The Glasgow West Street Directory records that they left 3 Ashton Gardens in 1898.
Three of the children, Kathleen, Peter and Gladys appear to have been delivered into the care of the Daughters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul, who separated them and sent them to three different orphanages across the south of England.
In April 2017 it was announced that the second phase of the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry would focus on orphanages run by the Daughters of Charity: Smyllum Park in Lanark, Bellevue House in Rutherglen, St Joseph’s Hospital in Rosewell, St Vincent’s School for the Deaf/Blind in Glasgow and Roseangle Orphanage (St Vincent’s) in Dundee.
In September 2017, an investigation by the BBC “File on 4” programme and the Sunday Post revealed evidence that the bodies of up to 400 children from Smyllum Park had been buried in a mass grave. The 2017 investigation uncovered allegations of abuse including beatings, punches, public humiliations and psychological abuse. Two representatives of the Daughters of Charity had given evidence to the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry earlier in 2017, claiming that they could find no records of any abuse taking place.
Peter Wright Senior, moved to New York and was joined by his sons, Peter and Frederick, and eventually by Kathleen, who married Kai Simonsen.
Peter Junior and Frederick lodged together at 665 10th Street, Brooklyn.
Leo emigrated to Canada and served with the Canadian Forces during World War One. After the war he settled on Long Island where he raised a family.
Gretta Wright Senior
Gretta died on 16 September 1909. She was living at 11 Portman Street, Marylebone. Her death was reported by her son Frederick. Frederick then emigrated to New York to join his brother Peter.
The attached excerpt from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle is a report of the death of Peter Wright Junior on 5 July 1936. He was buried in the same grave as his father Peter Wright in Holy Cross Cemetery, Brooklyn.
Our family grew up believing that there were only three female siblings in this family, but this announcement provides proof of the six siblings and their names, and the fact that they had kept in touch. Also a recent ancestral DNA test has shown that the amount of DNA segments shared between Leo’s grandson and Gretta’s granddaughter is comparable to that shared between second cousins. So there really is no doubt that this family consisted of six siblings.
We also know that Gretta’s daughter, Margery Yeates knew about her uncles, as she wrote to her parents in 1931, from Switzerland, requesting Uncle Leo and Auntie Kathleen’s addresses, so that she could write to them.