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Photo of Norah Josephine O’Sullivan

Norah Josephine O’Sullivan

Member of the Women’s Police Service
Birthplace Wirral Seacombe England Date of Birth: August 11, 1900 Date of Death: August 26, 1975

Biography

Norah O’Sullivan 1900-1975

Norah Josephine O’Sullivan was born on 11th August 1900 at Seacombe, ( Birkenhead) to Irish Catholic father Dennis/Denis O’Sullivan from Kerry, Ireland and Amy Balmer nee Williams a Liverpudlian Catholic. 

The 1881 census finds both of Norah’s parents residing  in the same property at 70, Upper Pitt Street, Liverpool. A stone’s throw from the King’s and Albert docks , situated  in what is now Chinatown. 

Norah’s Grandmother , Hannah Williams, was 45, a lodging house keeper. Her husband in 1871 had been a book keeper although at aged 15 he had been a pupil teacher. Mary 19 , a dressmaker, Amy Balmer ( Norah’s mother) , 17 a pupil teacher – following in her father’s younger footsteps. Five other children made up the William’s family. There were also three boarders, all born in Ireland and all  ODO ( Operational Duties Officers) Customs. The lodgers were 24 year old Thomas Daly, 24 year old John O’Shaughnessy and 22 year old Dennis O’Sullivan. ( Norah’s father).

We know that Dennis had arrived in England to work for H.M.Customs in 1880 because in the absence of a record of his birth or baptism his mother had to make a declaration saying when he was born. She made her mark on the paper as she could not write. The declaration , on file, explains when he was born but that no record of a baptism could be found even though  the records had been searched. 

Having arrived in Liverpool in 1880, and found lodgings with the William’s family he appears to have wooed Amy Balmer Williams because on the 6th September 1883 the Catholic register for St Vincent de Paul, Liverpool shows the details of their marriage. Dennis is documented as Dionisium O’Sullivan 32 and Amy is 27. Whether that was his “real” name or a Roman Catholic version in Latin is unclear. They were both of 70, Upper Pitt Street.

Amy’s ambitions to become a teacher put aside  at her marriage, she gave birth in 1884 to William Eugene who would be the first of 10 children born between 1884 and 1905. All children born to the marriage survived. Mary arrived in 1886, John Francis on 1st May 1887 , his baptismal record is for St Vincent de Paul so perhaps the family were still at Upper Pitt Street. In 1889 Dennis Augustin arrived, also born in Liverpool.

The 1891 census places the couple and their 4 young children at 53, Glade Terrace , Poulton having moved across the Mersey to the opposite bank on the Wirral. Dennis is now an Examining Officer-customs, William 7, Mary 5 are both scholars and Dennis is 2. It is unclear where John is at this time

In 1893 Kathleen Amy is born, Florence M in 1896, April 1898 Edward Gerald,  Norah Josephine on 11th August 1900 , Richard 4th April 1903 and finally Eileen M 7th March 1905. Norah being the eighth of the 10 children , 5 boys and 5 girls. These six children were born at Seacombe. 

The 1901 census gives 17 Annesley Rd, Poulton-cum-Seacombe as the new address. Dennis now 42 is still an Officer of customs, Amy 37, William Eugene, 17 , post office clerk, Mary 15, John Francis 13, Dennis A 12, Kathleen A 8, Florence M 5, Edward Gerald 2 and finally Nora 8 months. 

Ten years later in 1911 Norah’s family are still at Annesley Rd, but have moved to number 19. Dennis is described as a superannuating ( retired)examining officer, unemployed at 52 , Amy is 47, William now 27 is a telegraph clerk at the Post Office, John at 23 is a funeral conductor’s assistant. Dennis at 22 is a house painter, Kathleen now 18 is a shorthand student, Florence at 15 is a teacher student, Edward Gerald 12, Norah 10 , Richard 7 and Eileen 6 are all at school. The couple have been married for 28 years, had 10 children who all lived, and reside in a 7 room dwelling.

Mary is to be found on a separate entry – she is a 25 year old lodger in a 3 room tenement in Camberwell, London with a couple and their two offspring. She is a telegraphist at the Post Office as is the 24 year old son.

A passenger list for July 1912 tells us that young Dennis arrived in Canada from Liverpool and a Canadian marriage record informs us that on 28th October he , a 26 year old decorator, of 26 Seaton Rd Wallasey married Elizabeth Kershaw of Liverpool in Toronto. This was a Catholic wedding. By 1933 they had 9 children. 

In November the same year 53 year old Dennis senior died. Perhaps ill health had led to his premature retirement. 

John had already left home at the start of WW1, having joined the The King’s Liverpool Regiment) 14th Battalion. Tragically, John died as a result of his wounds in 1917. Corporal John O’Sullivan, Service No. 31524 aged 30 is buried at Sarigol Military Cemetery, Central Macedonia, Greece. 

Norah responded to a call to the WPS , newly formed to police the munition factories. She would have been 18 in 1918 so possibly only joined at that point although Mary Allen in her memoirs ( courtesy of Essex Journal, Spring 2021, P 8) places Norah with Sarah Evelyn Spencer as having been at Gretna in October 1916. Norah came from a  teaching background as did so many of the volunteers to the Women’s Police Service.This is questionable without seeing the actual source. It also states that she later joined Colchester Borough Police along with Sarah and Dorothy Watson. I have found nothing to corroborate this fact for any but Dorothy. Both Sarah and Norah continued in or onto a teaching career. Norah does not appear on the 1918-19 valuation roll so it is not clear which Police Barrack she stayed in during her war service at H.M.Factory Gretna. 

We lose track of Norah after the war until 1939. Her mother died in 1931 but on the 1939 Register Norah is sharing a house with two of her unmarried siblings at 36 Ravenswood Rd, Birkenhead. 

She is 39 and an elementary school teacher, Richard 36 is a newspaper reporter, Walby Post and Mercury also ‘Officer Auxiliary’. Eileen is the third resident, 34 ,and also an elementary school teacher. 

Norah stayed at Ravenswood Rd, although she had moved to 39 from 36, until her death on 26th August 1975 at the age of just 76.

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