Friday, October 21, 2011

Durants, Tunnellers, and what connections?

I've had a phone call and a couple of emails from Sue Baker Wilson, who is doing some research on a group called the New Zealand Engineers Tunnelling Company  These men were often engineers who were used in the First World War to undermine the enemy lines and other subversive jobs.   

She rang because there seems to be a connection with one of the Tunnellers to people connected to our family, the Durants.  Emily Durant married Arthur Joyce, and was thus my grandmother's sister-in-law.  Her sister was Alice Durant.   You can see a very small amount about them here.

Sue wrote: 

I have been searching for information. A Paperspast article, refs below, refers to Mrs Durant, Leeston, who was a widow of W Harding and who married Thomas W. Durant. A 1917 In Memoriam inserted by ‘her loving daughters, Ada and Nellie’ refers to her as Alice Durant. It would appear that Alice was stepmother to the tunneller I am researching, W M Durant and possibly the person shown on your website.

Tunneller officer William Durant’s family are linked to Leeston & Christchurch. A Star, 12 Feb 1907 article notes that The mining scholarship for the West Coast has been won this year by Mr W M Durant, eldest son of Mr T W Durant, formerly of Leeston and Christchurch.

Ellesmere Guardian, Volume XXII, Issue 3838, 4 October 1916, Page 2
This article tells us that The death occurred at the residence of her son in-law, Mr G, H. Jones, Selwyn Street, Leeston, on Sunday night, of Mrs Durant, relict of tbe late Mr Thomas Durant, formerly of Sumner and St. Albans, and for many years a prominent Leeston business man.
There is no mention in the obituary of Durant senior's first family, if this is the same Thomas Durant, father to Lieut Durant. I cannot find any obituary to a Thomas Durant. Mrs Alice Durant, was remembered by her daughters Ada Jones (Mrs George Henry Jones) of Leeston and Nellie (Rackely). G H Jones  died in England 1931. He had had a carrying business operating between Leeston and ChCh before going back to settle in England. A report says he was twice married and at the time of his death a couple of sons were still in Leeston. One of these son’s, Albert Edward died in 1945. At that time, some of his son’s still resided in Leeston.

W M Durant’s name does not appear on the Leeston war memorial.

Lieut Durant’s wife and children are buried together in Arundel cemetery, Strathalian County, Canterbury. Robert died 22 Dec 1968. According to the Timaru District Council cemetery database Jessie died after her son 15 Dec 1977, which differs from the 1975 info you have found. Margaret Ralston (Audrey) Durant died 10 August 2006. Attached grave pic.

It doesn’t look like there were any offspring for any of William Durant’s children.

If you find any family links to either Durant or Jones, I would be interested in knowing more.
I haven't had time so far to dig into this further, but if any other member of the family knows something about them, I'd be interested to hear.