William Louis de Courcy (Billy) was born on 3rd August 1890 in the fishing village of Dunmore East, County Waterford on the south coast of Ireland. He was the sixth of eight children with four sisters and three brothers. His parents, Thomas de Courcy and Elizabeth Cunningham, were Irish Protestants and raised Billy in the family home in Queen's Terrace. His father's profession was a Boot Maker.
At the age of 21 during the 1911 census, he was living with two older sisters, Sarah and Caroline, in County Wexford, Ireland and all three of them worked for the Post Office. Billy's occupation is described as "Sorting Clerk & Telegraphist, Waterford Branch". His Post Office appointment was announced in the London Gazette on 4th February 1908.
Billy de Courcy with May Wookey (behind the bride) at the marriage of her sister Lilian Wookey to
Stanley Watkins at St Luke’s Church, Brislington, Bristol on 17 November 1930
Billy and May de Courcy (centre) at a wedding circa 1960
Little is known of Billy's early life except that he emigrated to England after leaving the Army in 1920, perhaps about the time of the Irish Independance in 1921-1922, when some of his siblings also left Ireland. He ended up in Bristol, working for the Post Office again, and eventually met and married Beatrice May Wookey (1899-1984) in Keynsham, Bristol in June 1931. His wife May, grew up in Brislington, Bristol and attended St Luke’s, the local Church School.
Although known as "Billy" to his wife and her family, he was always known as "Lou" to his de Courcy relatives.
by Heather Evans and David Gallagher, March 2012
Copies of the Freemason documents relating to Billy were kindly provided by Provincial Secretary, Stephen Rawlings, Bristol.
Photo of Billy's medals kindly provided by Darrell McKinley (Jan 2019)
Billy & May with his motorcycle & sidecar,
"Sidmouth 10/7/27" is written on the back of the photo
Billy and May never had any children of their own.
Billy continued working for the Post Office and was a senior manager at the General Post Office in Bristol at the time of his retirement. His 1951 certificate from the Postmaster General in London commerates his 43 years of service to the State, having joined the Post Office in 1908 at the age of 18.
Billy and May relax on a beach
Billy between his niece Hazel Gallagher & sister-in-law Florrie de Courcy. His nephew Rixie de Courcy & wife Dorothy are seated with twins Lance & Nigel (1957)
Billy served in the British Army Royal Engineers from 1914 to 1920. In October 1915 (during WWI) a message was sent to his father telling him that Lance Corporal William L. de Courcy of the Royal Engineers was in the 5th Northern General Hospital, Leicester suffering from Enteric fever (Typhoid).
click to enlarge
Mabel de Courcy, the eldest daughter of Billy's brother, Thomas, remembers her Uncle Lou (Billy) visiting her family in Cheddar, Somerset when she was a child. Uncle Lou would arrive on his motorbike and sidecar with Auntie May sitting in the sidecar. Occasionally, the young Mabel and some of her family would go to stay for a weekend with Uncle Lou, Auntie May and their pet Spaniel at their house in Knowle, Bristol.
Billy and May's nephew, Terry Watkins, recounts: “Uncle Billy and Auntie May de Courcy lived within walking distance of our residence and had equipped their Beryl Grove property with an underground concrete air raid shelter which was fitted with electric light and heat, a true luxury in those days.
Following an air raid on December 15, 1940, I recall Uncle Billy showing me a huge rock which had crashed through the roof of the house and landed on his bed while they were using the shelter, but providence was on their side. Uncle Billy explained that a German aircraft being chased across South Bristol dropped three bombs to make the plane lighter; one bomb landed in the grounds of Christ Church, Hengrove, one on Wells Road opposite Uncle Billy’s house and the third landed on Robertson’s jam factory near West Town Lane.”
The Freemason Beaufort Lodge at the bottom of Park Street, Bristol
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