The PILKINGTON family – Captain Pilkington, Sam 1878-1917

Sam Pilkington
Sam Pilkington in uniform

James Pilkington (c1838-1907) married Margaret Isherwood (c1848-1878) on 2nd September 1875 at Christ Church, Walmsley, near Bolton.  Together they had two children, Ada (1876-) and Sam (1878-1917).  Sam Pilkington was born at Bank House, Chorley New Road, Little Bolton on 5th June 1878 and baptised on 24th June 1878 at Little Bolton.  Margaret died very shortly afterwards, in 1878, possibly from complications of childbirth, so Ada and Sam were brought up by their father in the house where they were born.

In 1892 the will was proven of Sam’s maternal grandfather, Samuel Isherwood who died in 1890, leaving an estate of over £100,000.  £8,000 was left in Trust to Sam.  Nothing was left to Ada.  Between 1892 and 1896 Sam was educated at the Free Grammar School of King Edward VI at Sedburgh, Cumbria where he was “a fine rugby player and athlete” and a prefect.  He played football for the school first XV.

Sedburgh School
Sedburgh School

After leaving school Sam was apprenticed as a pupil with Messrs Edison, Swan and Co Ltd of Broadheath in Manchester where he worked for three years.  He also gained a commission in the 4th Volunteer Battalion, Manchester Regiment, and was promoted Lieutenant in February 1898.  In order to gain as much professional experience as possible he served for a time as Clerk of Works under Messrs Lacey, Clirehugh and Sillar of Westminster who were consulting engineers.  Amongst other things he supervised contract work in connection with the maintenance of the track and overhead system of The Southern Electric Tramway Company Ltd of Douglas, Isle of Man.  He was promoted to Assistant and then as Resident Engineer at Leicester, where he was in charge of the generating plant installed for Undertakings Ltd.  Sam resigned his Commission in 1901 due to pressure of work.  In 1904 he began working for the Great Central Railway and was employed as Engineer in Charge of the electrical plant in the Goods Department.  In 1908 he transferred to London and was responsible for premises at Marylebone until his resignation in 1912.  In January 1913 he established his own business as a Factor at Oxford Street in Leicester.

From at least 1906 Sam and his father James had lived together at a respectable boarding house run by Eliza Catherine Leary at 1 Upper Tichborne Street (later renumbered as 27 Upper Tichborne Street).  The other boarders included an articled clerk and two bank clerks.  James died whilst living there, in March 1907.  Sam remained, probably until around 1915 when he moved to 9a Tichborne Street.  Not long after his father’s death Sam became a Freemason, being initiated at St Albans Lodge no 2786 in London on 19th May 1907.  In his spare time Sam was “a fine Rugby player, having taken a prominent part in the game at Leicester.

Sam joined 1st Volunteer Battalion of The Leicestershire Regiment in about 1910 and by the outbreak of war had risen to the rank of Lieutenant. Just before the war, in January 1914, he became member of the Golden Fleece Lodge No 2081, Province of Leicestershire.  Sam Joined the 4th Battalion Leicestershire Regiment as Lieutenant in September 1914, was stationed in Leicester and began training.  He transferred to the newly raised 2/4th Leicestershires and was promoted Captain, before being ordered to rejoin the 1/4th Leicestershires.  He sailed for the Front at the end of October 1915 and joined his battalion at Béthune.

On 27th February 1917 he led D Company of the 1/4th Leicestershires at the Battle of Gommecourt.  Fellow St Martin’s man Francis John Nugee led C Company.  The war diary describes how they “advanced from our front line by platoons and occupied a line of trenches in Gommecourt…without a casualty…at 8am  C & D Co[mpanie]s again advanced 500 yards and occupied bombing posts…All ranks behaved very well during these operations and the Commanding Officer received the congratulations of the Divisional Commander for the work of the battalion.”

The battalion relieved the 5th Lincolnshire Regiment in a newly won position west of Lens at 10pm on 1st July 1917 – the most difficult relief that the battalion had yet taken part in.  A quiet day followed but communications between the line and headquarters were completely cut off.  Just before his battalion was drawn out of the line, at 8pm on the 2nd July 1917 Sam was killed instantaneously by a German sniper.  He was 39.  He was buried at Cabaret-Rouge British Cemetery, Souchez, Pas de Calais.  Sam’s estate of over ten thousand pounds went to his sister Ada Pilkington, in the absence of a will.

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