John Henry Ball/Bull - a story of deceit and desertion
John Henry Bull's first wife, Kate Farmer, whom he abandoned in Jersey with six children
John Henry Bull was born in Marylebone, London,on 20 March 1873, the son of John James Bull (1834-1901) who was from a Derbyshire family, and Elizabeth Flack (1850-1887), from a London family.
He lived for a time in Chingford, Essex. His mother died of tuberculosis when he was only 13 and, five years later, in January 1892, he married Kate Farmer, a Londoner whose family originated in Wiltshire. She was two years older than her husband.
They moved to Jersey almost immediately and their first daughter Edith Alice was born in St Brelade on 22 June and baptised on 31 July 1892.
The 1901 census records the family living at La Moye. John Henry was a farm labourer and the couple then had four children living with them, Edith having been joined by Lilian in 1896, John James in 1897 and Daisy in 1900. Dorothy May, born in 1894, was not included in Bull household in the census, but she is found elsewhere as a visitor at the home of soldier H B Hills and his wife at Broughton Lodge, St Mary.
John Henry and Kate had one more child, Edward George, who was born in 1902.
John appears to have taken on extra responsibilities on the farm where he worked, among his duties being to deliver flowers to the boat for shipment to England and collect payments. He apparently absconded from Jersey with some money in about 1905 and ended up in Canada, where he changed his name to John Henry Ball, and married again, presumably bigamously.
Kate was left on her own with six young children and believing that her husband had gone to Australia or Canada, tried in vain to trace him over the years.
She returned to England where her daughter Edith died of tuberculosis in 1906, and she was forced to put the others in different homes. The 1911 census shows that Dorothy was a servant in the home of the Hon Roderick Douglas in Leicestershire; Lilian was living in the home of John and Mary Love in Southall; John James was living with the Houchin family in Stockbury; Daisy was living with her aunt, Elizabeth Mary Farmer in Slough; and Ted was living in the home of the Maxwell family in Enfield.
Kate worked as a cook at Ealing College to support her children and eventually lived with Dorothy and Lilian in their homes until she died. She was reported to have been loved by her children and grandchildren. John James took the name Houchin from his adoptive family.
Meanwhile in Canada, John Henry, now known as Ball, and apparently using a doctored birth certificate to prove it, married Louie Walker in 1911 and had three sons with her, before she was committed to an asylum in 1928. She remained there for the rest of her life and her husband is said only to have visited her there once.
This story unravelled in the most extraordinary way when granddaughters of John Henry by his first and second wives came into contact while researching their respective ancestries and eventually realised that John Henry Bull and John Henry Ball were the same person.