The Short, Sad Life of Leonard Dracup (1902-1932)

Leonard’s story is a particularly sad one.

It reflects several prominent themes in wider Dracup family history, including musicality, migration and mental health.

Leonard was the third of four children. After an apparently uneventful childhood, he joined the Australian Navy at the tender age of 17.

But, within a few years, he found himself marooned in Australia, unable to make a living. He turned to crime, but was arrested and imprisoned.

Shortly after his release, he was confined to a lunatic asylum, the first of three he occupied during the next five years.

His parents tried several times to rescue him, or at least have him repatriated, but they failed. He died, aged only 30, without ever getting home.

He had three siblings, but only fragments of their lives are revealed:

  • The eldest began life as a bandsman before turning to carpentry – another abiding Dracup family motif. He married comparatively late in life and had two sons;
  • The second, a girl, became a primary teacher, and was more interested in the visual arts but, following marriage and the birth of her three sons, she too began to struggle with her mental health. Her husband seems to have entered a new relationship, but he died not long afterwards. His second partner eventually migrated to Australia with her daughter, who was most probably his daughter too.
  • The youngest, also a girl, remained unmarried and lived independently, earning her living as a musician. During the War she played with the BBC Theatre Orchestra. Throughout the 1950s she lived in London often alongside her three fatherless nephews. Following her retirement, she spent a year in Australia, staying with the eldest of the three, who had himself migrated there.
The quarterdeck of HMAS Brisbane covered in snow, Portsmouth Harbour, January 1919

Leonard’s family and antecedents

Leonard Jonathan Dracup was born on 26 February 1902, in Lambeth, London, to Albert Eli Dracup (1872-1948) and Lucy Jane Dracup (nee Beach) (1871-1963).

Albert Eli had been the youngest of six children born to Jonathan Dracup (1832-78) and Mary, nee Mitchell (1833-75).

Following the untimely deaths of both parents, he was cared for by his elder sister, and he has a walk-on part in her story, which I related in The Explosive Misfortunes of Emily Dracup (January 2022).

Emily earned her living as a pianist, and Albert seems also to have been an accomplished musician, though perhaps not quite as accomplished as he believed!

In February 1890, while still only 17, he placed the following advertisement in the Portsmouth Evening News:

Despite these extensive skills, he was unable to make a living from music: the 1891 Census records his more prosaic day job as a brush dealer.

Albert married Lucy in July 1898. Both were aged 26.

She had been born on 21 October 1871 in South Stoneham, soon to be incorporated into Southampton.

Her parents were most probably George and Sarah Jane Beach (nee Waygood). They had married in December 1870 and lived in South Stoneham in 1871, but were both dead by 1874.

Lucy was christened at St Mary’s, Southampton, on 29 October 1875. The 1881 Census shows her still living in South Stoneham, alongside a younger brother, George, but each is described as a ‘nurse child’. The head of the household is 49 year-old widow, Miriam Small.

Lucy’s time in this household was coming to an end: she is almost certainly the Lucy Beach who, according to notices in the local press, took part in two contests for places at the Hampshire Female Orphan Asylum, Bellevue, Southampton.

It was common at this time for scarce orphanage places to be allocated on the basis of an election, in which financial donors voted for their preferred candidates. Sometimes the connections of candidates even had cards printed to advertise their credentials.

On the first occasion, on 24 November 1882, seven places were available at the orphanage, but Lucy finished only tenth in the poll.

Then six months later, on 31 May 1883, when six places were available, Lucy finished fourth, and was presumably accepted into the orphanage forthwith.

Girls had to be between 7 and 12 years old when nominated, and they remained in the Asylum until the age of 16, when they were found places in service, usually with local families.

The Asylum’s Annual Report for 1883 reveals that there were 47 children at the orphanage in that year. During the year, five had been placed in situations, while 10 had been received into the Asylum in their stead.

By 1891, Lucy, now 17, was employed as a servant by a South Stoneham family, and was most probably still in service when she married Albert eight years later.

The two of them stayed in Portsmouth for only a short time.

Their eldest child, Albert George, was born on Portsea Island on 4 June 1899. However, their second, Dorothy Lucy, was born on 2 September 1900 in Ramsgate, Kent, and baptised on 28 October 1900 at St Luke’s Church there.

They were only briefly in Kent too. By the time of the 1901 Census, the family was living at 50 Leahurst Road in Lewisham, London. Albert Eli, now 29, was employed as an assurance and insurance agent. He remained in this field for the rest of his working life.

The couple had further children while living in London: first Leonard Jonathan, then Winifred Rose, born on 17 March 1907. We know, from electoral registers, that they were by this time living in 47 Elliott Road, described as North Brixton, but not far south of The Oval.

There are press reports from June 1907 concerning a lodger of theirs, Frank Dacre, 28, who described himself as an actor. He was charged with committing wilful damage and assaulting a police officer:

‘Mrs Lucy Dracup…said the prisoner and his wife had lodged at her house for the past month. On the previous evening he returned home and smashed a washand [sic] basin by throwing it out of the window.’

He also broke a front door panel when she locked him out for being drunk. He was fined 10 shillings, plus 40 shillings’ compensation for the damage.

It turns out that Dacre was an habitual criminal with a number of aliases, well known to the police. In 1909 he was convicted of stealing a bag of golf clubs in Birmingham and sentenced to six months’ hard labour.

Within a couple of years, the young family had returned to Portsmouth. The 1911 Census records that Albert and Lucy had lost a fifth child. I believe this was Stanley Frank Dracup, an infant born in Portsmouth in September 1909 who didn’t see out that year.

They had definitely taken up residence in Portsmouth by that point, since Albert inserted another advertisement in the Portsmouth Evening News of 22 December that year:

‘PIANIST – Engagements wanted for private parties or smoking concerts: moderate terms – Albert Dracup, 6 Eastfield Road, East Southsea.’

The 1911 Census confirms the family at this address. Albert is named in local papers as piano accompanist at one or two events, but the Census states he was employed as an Agent and Collector with the ‘Provident Clothing and Supply Company Ltd.’

The Provident had been founded in Bradford, in 1880, by Joshua Waddilove. A prominent Methodist, he owned a clothing and drapery business, and established a system enabling families to exchange vouchers in local shops for food, clothing and furniture. They repaid the value of these vouchers in weekly instalments, so spreading the cost.

Waddilove was knighted in 1919, but died the following year, by which time his company had 115 branches throughout the country, employing 5,000 staff.

Leonard joins the Australian Navy

I can discover nothing about Leonard’s childhood, beyond his fleeting appearance in the 1911 Census.

I have found no evidence to suggest that he learned to play a musical instrument.

The first recorded detail is his decision to join the Royal Australian Navy on 24 March 1919, shortly after his 17th birthday and some months after the end of the Great War.

He was taken on as a Boy Servant aboard a light cruiser called HMAS Brisbane which had a complement of 485 men. His service record contains a brief description: he was 5 feet 5 ½ inches tall, with dark brown hair, brown eyes and a brown complexion.

Towards the end of 1918, the Brisbane had been deployed in the Black Sea, part of a British force giving tacit support to the White Russian army in their fight against the Bolsheviks.

HMAS Brisbane in Portsmouth Harbour, January 1919

But in late January 1919, she began a three-month refit in Portsmouth, which is no doubt when Leonard encountered her.

The Hampshire Telegraph reports an Australians’ Dance held in Portsmouth Town Hall in February 1919, arranged by the Australian Squadron:

‘A banner suspended from the platform, containing the names “Australia,” “Brisbane” and Melbourne,” over a design of the map of Australia, set out the names of the boats the crews of which were thus holding a merry evening prior to their departure from English shores, which will be in about a month’s time. The hall was tastefully decorated with flags and bunting arranged by the sailors…Artistic programmes…contained a long selection of all the newest dances, and the band of the RMA provided the music. About 300 couples took part in the dancing, the guests invited being from among the friends whom our Australian cousins have made while in Portsmouth. A number of the dancers wore fancy dress, and the scene was fascinating when the lights were lowered and the orange and green of the limelights threw fantastic shadows.’

The Captain’s Cabin aboard HMAS Brisbane, January 1919

Now commanded by Captain Walter Thring, Brisbane departed Portsmouth, alongside Australia, on 17 April 1919. She travelled home via Malta, Port Said, Aden, Colombo, Singapore and Darwin, arriving in Sydney on 27 June.

Apart from one trip to Singapore, she subsequently served exclusively in Australian waters before being laid in reserve at Sydney on 4 August 1922.

Leonard’s service record shows that his ability was rated ‘satisfactory’; his character ‘VG’. On 26 February 1920, his eighteenth birthday, he was promoted to ‘Officers’ Steward, Third Class’. His character was now deemed ‘Good’; his ability still ‘Satisfactory’.

Some months later, he was the victim of crime in Sydney. A report in the New South Wales Police Gazette of 27 October 1920 says:

‘Peter Graham alias George Horspool (52) charged with stealing a quantity of clothing, &c., total value £18 (part recovered), the property of Charles Albert Daniel Saunders, has been arrested by Sergeant 2nd Class Carman and Constables Nuss and Mallon, Sydney Police. Sentenced to six months’ hard labour. Further charged with stealing a greatcoat, &c., the property of Leonard Dracup, value £2 10s. 1½d. (recovered). Sentenced to six months’ hard labour (concurrent). Further charged with knowingly having in a room at the Royal Naval House, Grosvenor Street, Sydney, two watches, two pairs of field glasses, and other articles, reasonably suspected of being stolen. Sentenced to three months’ hard labour (accumulative)…’

Payday on HMAS Brisbane, 15 October 1921

Leonard left the Brisbane on 13 March 1922. He seems to have transferred to HMAS Cerberus, a naval training establishment, located south of Melbourne, which had recently opened in September 1920.

His service record suggests that Leonard first began to suffer mental health problems at this time. At the end of 1922, his character is assessed as ‘VG’, but his ability is judged ‘Inf.’ which I take to mean ‘infirm’.

He was retained at Cerberus until 16 March 1923. The comments on his service record are very difficult to read but it seems that his:

‘…discharge was approved without forfeiture of deferred pay’.

There was also:

‘Approval to defer return passage to UK for 18 months from date of discharge’.

The cost of this passage has been estimated as between £37 and £45.

Quite why this deferral was arranged is unclear. Might Leonard have requested it himself, knowing that he was unwell and thinking that he needed this period in which to recover? Or might the Australian Navy have been hoping to avoid meeting the cost of his repatriation?

HMAS Cerberus in the 1930s

After his discharge, Leonard must have received no further support, for he was very soon in trouble.

A story appeared in Sydney Sun of Thursday June 28, 1923:


Couldn’t Pick Winners


“I left the navy with a good discharge and a large sum of deferred pay, after four years’ service. I lost large amounts of money at the races, and took a job with an insurance company, but couldn’t make a living. So quickly did my money go that before I realised it I was left with only a few shillings in my pocket.”

Leonard Dracup, aged 21, ex-naval steward, made this statement at the Central Police Court this morning when charged with having stolen a pair of field glasses, the property of George Charles Ashby.

He took the glasses, he admitted, to raise enough to send a cable to England for money. He pawned them, and hoped to redeem and return them when the money came.

“It’s very sad to see you here, but I can’t let you go”, said Mr Gale SM. He fined Dracup £5, in default two months’ hard labour.

On each of two charges of stealing pawnbroker’s duplicates Dracup was committed for trial.’

According to the Sydney Morning Herald of 12 July 1923:

‘Leonard Dracup pleaded guilty to stealing a pawnbroker’s duplicate ticket on May 16, and another duplicate ticket on June 6, both the property of Mark Grace, licensed pawnbroker, George Street, Sydney.

According to the evidence, the accused pledged a suitcase and contents for £2 10s with Grace, and while the pawnbroker was attending to other clients, the accused was alleged to have purloined a duplicate ticket. He was also alleged to have stolen another on June 6. Raphael Brukars, a second-hand salesman, in Pitt Street, stated that the accused offered him a pawn ticket, which purported to be for a diamond and opal scarfpin, for 30s.’

Leonard was sentenced to six months in the State Penitentiary. No account was apparently taken of his mental state, the cause of his discharge from the Navy.

Leonard’s decline

A Memorandum, written in May 1928 by an official in the Home and Territories Department, is preserved in the National Archives of Australia.

It confirms that Leonard was ‘discharged to the shore’ on 16 March 1923:

‘because he was found to be unsuitable for further service’.

It continues:

‘He was admitted to the Callan Park Insane Hospital on 24.6.1924’

That must have been just a few months after he emerged from prison.

The Memorandum adds:

‘As he was recruited in the United Kingdom, he was entitled to a passage back to England at Government expense. Under the regulations, this could be deferred for a period of eighteen months from the date of his discharge, viz 16.3.1923.

In September 1923, a cablegram was received from the High Commissioner’s Office stating that Dracup’s father desired to have his son sent back to England at the first opportunity. Several letters were sent by Navy Office to Dracup at his last known address but it was not until July 1924 that his whereabouts were traced.’

It becomes clear, therefore, that Albert Eli and Lucy were striving to have Leonard repatriated to the UK, but the Australian Navy had completely lost touch with him, even though he had been admitted to prison and then to a mental hospital.

Efforts were now made to comply with his parents’ wishes, however.

The Memorandum continues:

‘In September 1924, arrangements were made for [Leonard] to proceed to England by the “Largs Bay”, the Medical Superintendent, Callan Park, having advised that he was fit to travel. He suffered a relapse immediately prior to embarking and was readmitted to Callan Park for further treatment.

Further representations regarding his return to England were made by his parents and in 1927, arrangements were made for him to travel with other Naval ratings by the “Hobson’s Bay”.

On arrival of the vessel at Melbourne, he was re-examined by Naval Medical Officers and found to be unfit to continue the voyage, and was readmitted to the Kew Asylum.’

A ward at Kew Asylum

But the subject of the Memorandum is not how successfully to achieve Leonard’s repatriation – it was the vexed question of who should support him financially while he was incarcerated:

‘The Master-in-Equity has approached the Collector of Customs, Melbourne, in regard to Dracup’s maintenance, and was advised that the question should be taken up with the Naval Department. That Department, however, states that the only liability against it was the cost of Dracup’s return passage to England and that it is considered that his parents are responsible for his maintenance.

The Collector of Customs desires to have this Department’s comment on the case before replying definitely to the Master-in-Equity. It is suggested he be informed that the matter is not one in which action can be taken under the Immigration Act and that consequently the Department is unable to render any assistance.’

Leonard’s service record indicates that he was certified insane when admitted to the Kew Asylum in December 1927.

The are two further statements, the first:

‘Parents responsible for maintenance in Hospital for the Insane, Kew.’

suggesting that Albert Eli and Lucy were paying the Australian authorities for his keep, at least from this point onwards.

The second is:

‘Died 28.6.32. Buried Beechworth Cemetery, 29.6.32.’

He was just 30 years old.

The Inquest

An inquest was held and the proceedings are preserved amongst the online records kept by the Victoria Public Record Office.

They reveal that Leonard had been admitted into the Hospital for the Insane, Beechworth, on 13 February 1929.

A doctor called George Cornwall Jago, employed at Beechworth, submitted the following memorandum:

‘I hereby give evidence concerning the death of Leonard Dracup a patient in the Hospital for Insane Beechworth, admitted 13/2/29, aged 30 years.

I knew deceased for a period of one month and during that time he appeared to be in his usual state of health.

On the 25th instant he was transferred to the Hospital Ward and put to bed as he appeared to be in a collapsed condition. He was ordered treatment and seen twice daily by me.

Examination of his chest revealed little beyond an atonic condition of his heart muscle.

At 6.30am on the 28th instant I was informed that he had just died in the presence of Attendant G Dennett.

At 12.30pm on the 28th instant I prepared a post mortem examination and it was noticed that he suffered from myocarditis.

I consider the cause of death to be:

Chronic Myocarditis and Heart Failure.’

There is also a memorandum from Laurence Charles Hayden, an Attendant:

‘The deceased Leonard Dracup was admitted to the Hospital Ward on 27.6.32.

He was ordered to bed by the Medical Officer Dr Jago.

Treatment was ordered but the patient died at 6.15am on 28.6.32 in the presence of Attendant George Dennett.

No friends visited him.’

The Coroner, William J Polmear JP, appears not to have questioned the inconsistencies between these two accounts. It is not clear exactly when Leonard was admitted to the Hospital Ward, or how much treatment he received, and of what nature.

Courtesy Burke Museum Collection

Leonard’s parents

By 1921, Albert Eli and Lucy were both 49 years old. The family lived at 68 St Augustine’s Road, Southsea. Albert now worked as an insurance agent and collector for the Royal Liver Company, in its Portsmouth office.

They had a visitor living with them, Rosina Emily Price, a probationary nurse at a home for sick babies in Deptford.

By 1924, Albert and family seem to have been keeping apartments at 109 Clarendon Road Southsea. We know that Albert George was resident there in 1936, when he had an encounter with a dangerous driver while riding his bicycle across Fratton Bridge.

They were still at the same address in 1939, Albert still employed as an Assurance Agent. They seem to have let two single apartments, though no longer to family members.

There is no record that either Albert or Lucy ever journeyed to Australia to see their son’s grave.

Albert died in Portsmouth in May 1948, at the age of 76, still living at 109 Clarendon Road. He left an estate of just £267 to his widow Lucy.

She died at the age of 91 in June 1963, while living at 4 Craneswater Park, Southsea, leaving some £6,000. Her executor was her daughter Winifred Rose.

We now turn to Albert and Lucy’s three surviving children:

Albert George

Albert junior had enlisted on 29 July 1913, at the age of 14 years, 1 month and 25 days, joining the Royal Marines Band as a Band Boy.

His record states that he was just under five feet tall, with a fresh complexion, brown eyes and brown hair.

He attended the Royal Navy School of Music until 9 August 1915, when he qualified as a Musician and was attached to HMS Canada.

Though British-built, she had been intended for the Chilean Navy, but was bought instead by the Royal Navy and commissioned in September 1915. She was a large battleship with a complement of 834 men.

She took part in the Battle of Jutland in May/June 1916, escaping with no damage.

Albert served aboard Canada until 31 March 1919, when the ship entered the reserve fleet. He transferred back to the Royal Navy School of Music, to the training ship Temeraire, then finally back to the School of Music, from where he was discharged in July 1920.

He was apparently invalided out of service, though there are no further details. Perhaps he, too, was prey to mental health issues.

The 1921 Census records Albert, now aged 22, still living in the family home. The description of his employment suggests that he had joined a Government-sponsored retraining scheme. He was a trainee carpenter and joiner with a company based at Swanwick near Southampton.

He next appears in the 1939 Register, living at 23 Freegrove Road in Islington, London, alongside his younger sister Winifred. His employment is given as ‘Joiner’s Fitter, Travelling’.

Albert was single until 1948 when, at the age of 48, he wed Winifred Aylward, a 39 year-old native of Portsmouth. They had two sons.

He died on 26 December 1959 in the Royal Hospital Portsmouth, aged 60. Winifred died six years later on 8 April 1965, aged 56.

Dorothy Lucy

Dorothy was also still living in the parental home at the time of the 1921 Census, though already working as a certificated teacher at the Church Infant School in Fareham, Hampshire.

There is a notice in the Hampshire Telegraph of 12 September 1924 describing her wedding:

‘A very pretty wedding took place at St Jude’s Church, Southsea, on September 6 (The Right Rev Bishop Ingham officiating), between Mr John Paton Doig and Miss Dorothy Lucy Dracup, an assistant school istress at Milton Council School, infant department, and who is also a member of the Hampshire Art Society. The bride wore a gown of ivory georgette, ornamented with silver lace, silver and white beads, and a veil and wreath of orange blossom. She carried a shower bouquet of white carnations, roses and heather, and was given away by her father. The bridesmaids, Miss Winnie Dracup and Miss Nan Doig, were charmingly attired in Odinelle shot taffeta, trimmed with shaded mauve velvet ribbon and silver lace, and Dutch bonnets with silver lace and mauve ribbon to match. They carried shower bouquets of mauve sweet peas. The reception was held at the bride’s home, 4 St Helen’s Park Crescent, Southsea, where the numerous handsome presents were on view. After the reception the happy couple left for the Midlands to spend their honeymoon.’

Dorothy was 24. Her husband, 29, was originally from St Andrew’s Scotland.

We know a fair bit about him from his wartime service and pension records.

He was deemed to have enlisted on 24 June 1917, but wasn’t actually called up until 16 October 1917, when aged 22 years and 10 months. He was already employed as a chemist and druggist and was resident in Glasgow, Scotland.

He joined the 2nd Battalion of the 4th Scottish Rifles. He had blue eyes, fair hair and a mole on his right lower jaw. He was five feet six inches tall, weighing 112 pounds, with fairly good physical development and an expanded chest measurement of 32 inches. He suffered from asthma but hadn’t had an attack recently. He gave his faith as Presbyterian. He was still single, listing his mother as his next-of-kin.

The word ‘Syphilis’ is underlined. On the following day, 17 October 1917, he was immediately admitted to hospital, where he spent the next six weeks. He was discharged on 26 November, but was to return for four further weekly injections.

He transferred to the 1st Battalion of the Scots Guards on 7 April, as a private. He served in France from 2 August 1918 to 1 March 1919, but was otherwise based in the UK.

He was appointed unpaid lance corporal in July 1919, while serving with the regimental military police in London, but was deprived of that rank two months later for drunkenness and using obscene language. He was discharged on demobilisation on 31 March 1920.

Dorothy and John had three sons, Ian, Andrew and Bruce, all born between 1925 and 1931.

A letter from a Mrs Dorothy Doig of Devonshire Square, Southsea was published in the Portsmouth Evening News of 6 November 1933. It demonstrates a strong interest in religion and spiritualism:

Then, on 21 December 1937, the Portsmouth Evening News reported:



An unusual case came before Mr W M Durman and Councillor J E Lane at the Portsmouth Police Court this morning when Mr H F E Mathews appeared for John Paton Doig and pleaded guilty to failing to submit an annual return under the Companies Act 1929. Defendant was not present.

Mr W E Bourne for the prosecution said that the Act required every company to file with the Registrar of Companies once a year a return and the penalty was up to £5 for every day that the default continued. Defendant was a director of Kiffs Chemists, Ltd, of Jessie Road, manufacturers of and dealers in chemicals. The return was due on January 28. After several applications and much correspondence from the Registrar and the Solicitor of the Board of Trade it was not until this month that the return was submitted by defendant’s solicitor.

Mr Mathews said the defendant had three children and his wife had been in an institution for four years. He had a considerable amount of housework to do and had to get the children off to school. He could not afford to employ an assistant and found it very difficult to get down to clerical work.

Councillor Lane asked what work the filling in of the form would entail.

Mr Bourne: it would take exactly five minutes to fill in.

Defendant was fined £10 with five guineas costs.’

This dates Dorothy’s entry into an institution as in 1933.

The 1939 Register places her as an inmate of the City of London Mental Hospital at Stone near Dartford, Kent, suggesting that she had probably been hospitalised throughout.

The Register describes Dorothy as married, but it also reveals that John was living at 67 Oldstead Avenue, Kingston-upon-Hull. He was sharing this house with a widow, Eleanor R Willis, born on 5 September 1907. His employment is listed as ‘Qualified chemist’s manager’.

His decision to relocate to Hull may perhaps be explained by the fact that his youngest sister, Agnes Henderson Doig (aka the ‘Nan’ who had been Dorothy’s bridesmaid) was also resident there.

From 1933 to 1936 she had been employed as science mistress at the Craven Street Elementary School. But in 1936 she married Edgar Noble, a Hull surveyor. By 1939 they were living in a house called Sandygate in the Flaxton Road area of Hull.

Eleanor Willis was born Eleanor Ruby Megan, in Alverstoke, Hampshire. In January 1925 she married Alfred William John Willis, a Royal Navy stoker. But he had died in 1937.

Eleanor had a daughter, Heather J D Willis, born in Hull on 1 December 1941. Presumably Doig was the father.

After his death in 1947, Eleanor initially returned to the Portsmouth area.

But, on 4 January 1956, giving as their home address 4 Heyward Road, Southsea, she and Heather emigrated to Australia, departing on the SS Orcades. They arrived at Fremantle just over three weeks later, giving as their destination, 212 Excelsior Street, Guildford, Sydney.

They were preceded to Australia by Ian Dracup Doig, Dorothy and John’s eldest son, who had departed on the SS Orontes on 23 February 1955, arriving in Melbourne on 27 March. He gave his address as 66 Hornton Street, London W8, his employment ‘mechanical engineer’.

He later became a Professor of Chemical Engineering at the University of New South Wales, dying, aged 90, in 2016.

As for Dorothy, I can discover little about her later life. By 1965 she had taken up residence in Lubbock House, at 30 Tubbenden Lane in Orpington, a care home for elderly people, where she died on 28 April 1983.

Winifred Rose (aka Patricia)

Albert Eli’s youngest child, Winifred Rose, was also musical, but there is little public information about her performances.

A press report mentions her participation in the piano section of the 1928 Portsmouth Musical Competition Festival.

Shortly afterwards she moved to London.

The 1939 Register confirms her at 12 Freegrove Road, Islington. Her employment is described as ‘Violiniste travelling’. Her brother Albert George was also resident with her at this time.

We know that, some time after 1941, Winifred joined the BBC Theatre Orchestra as one of the second violins, under her stage name of Patricia Dracup.

The wartime Orchestra was originally based in Bristol, but moved to Bedford in August 1941 to escape the heavy bombing. It remained in Bedford until 1945, performing principally at St Paul’s Mission Hall and Bedford School, under its Chief Conductor, Stanford Robinson.

A Wartime Performance by the BBC Theatre Orchestra in Bedford’s Corn Exchange

It seems likely that Winifred would have boarded in Bedford during this period.

She returned to 12 Freegrove Road in 1945 but, by 1946, had moved to 66 Hornton Street in Kensington, midway between Holland Park and Kensington Gardens.

During the late 1940 and 1950s, all three of her Doig nephews lived with her at various London addresses.

In November 1956, two married GPs sharing a room in the same house – Bruce Ross Robinson and Jean Robinson – apparently committed suicide through cyanide poisoning.

The case was intriguing. The couple had previously worked at Porton Down and had only rented the room for six weeks. Bruce was reportedly an alcoholic who had just been found guilty of dangerous driving (in his Rolls Royce) while under the influence.

Winifred was interviewed at the inquest, which was widely reported. Some of the reports say that she owned the ground floor flat, renting it to the Robinsons; others that she ran a boarding house:

In April 1968, it was Winifred’s turn to journey to Australia. She arrived in Perth in April for a year-long holiday, giving her nephew’s address as her intended destination.

I’m sure that she took the opportunity to visit Leonard’s grave.

Winifred died on 12 May 1977.



2 thoughts on “The Short, Sad Life of Leonard Dracup (1902-1932)

  1. Hello,
    I am the youngest son of Albert George Dracup and Winifred Dracup, I was fascinated to read about the history of our family on Dad’s side, I am living in Sutton, Surrey with my wife Bernadette (Klammsteiner , from Flaas, near Bozen Sud Tirol. Our 3 of our 4 sons live nearby, the fourth, Felix lives in Sweden.)
    My elder brother James lives in Rustington. Cousin Bruce Doig, lives nearby in Wimbledon, he’s quite frail as he’s in his 90’s now.


    1. Hi Paul,
      Thanks for getting in touch. I think we’re third cousins, once removed, you descended through Jonathan Dracup (1832-78) and me through his brother Eli (1837-1928).
      We’re not too far away geographically, either!
      I’m so pleased you enjoyed the posts about our mutual ancestors – it’s always great to get positive feedback.
      If you have any photographs of them that you’re willing to share (and ideally have published), I’d be delighted to pass on my email address.
      Best wishes,


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