Henry Selman Leach (1891-1975)

A life Sketch – Henry Selman Leach (1891-1975)


What a surprise it was to receive this e-mail a few weeks ago from Carolyn Hawkins who lives in England.

“Dear Cliff,

I just googled my grandfather’s name (Henry Selman Leach) and solved a huge mystery.  I am at present in my mother’s house and we spent an hour in total amazement and astonishment.  My mother, Barbara Ellen Clinkett Mair (nee Leach) was born in 1921 in Saskatoon to Henry Selman Leach and his wife Molly (nee Dowler) who died 28 March 1948 in England.

After exchanging e-mail’s with Carolyn I learned that Henry Selman Leach and his first wife Molly had a daughter, Barbara Ellen Clinkett Leach.  Henry and Molly separated in the late 1920’s.  Molly and her daughter Barbara move to Italy and Barbara never saw her father again and had no knowledge of her father’s whereabouts.

To make the story more interesting, Henry Selman Leach married a second time and had three more children.   Henry’s second family knew of Henry’s marriage to Molly and that Henry and Molly had a daughter, but they had no further information about the daughter.

Well, what a delight it was to bring these two families of Henry Selman Leach together, as a result of my web site.

I have prepared a Life Sketch of Henry Selman Leach and will be publishing it in two parts, the first of which follows.

Part I  Covering the Years 1891 to 1930

Henry Selman Leach (“Harry”) was born February 27, 1891 in Bridgetown Barbados, the son of  Joseph Seale Leach ( 1858-1905) and Ellan “Amey” Letitia Clinkett (1863-1951).   Harry had a sister Edith Gretton Leach who married Julian “Ben” Hyde Gittens in 1911.  Edith and Ben had three daughters.  Harry also had a brother John “Jack” Clinkett Leach who died in 1905 at age 16.  Family stories say that he died in a dentist chair.

Harry’s father died in about 1905 when Harry was 14 years old.  After his father’s death Harry was raised by his maternal grandfather, Abel Clinckett (1828-1912).  Harry was very fond of his grandfather and often spoke very highly of him.  Harry was educated at Harrison College and was an avid cricket player.  There is not very much else know about Harry’s early life in Barbados.

Harry’s first job at age 17, was with the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company.  He worked there for about a year and a half, from July 1908 until January 1910.  The Royal Mail Steam Packet Company was a British shipping company founded in London in 1839 by Scot James Macqueen. After good and bad times it became the largest shipping group in the world in 1927 when it took over the White Star Line.  The company ran into financial trouble, and the British government investigated its affairs in 1930, resulting in the Royal Mail Case.  Chairman Lord Kylsant was imprisoned in 1931 for misrepresenting the state of the company to shareholders. So much of Britain’s shipping industry was involved in RMSPC that arrangements were made to guarantee the continuation of ship operations after it was liquidated.

Harry was next employed in the Civic Service of Barbados for three year, after which time he immigrated to Canada.  Harry arrived in New York City aboard the ship Suriname on 25 February 1913, just 2 days before his 22nd birthday.  The ship’s passenger list stated his final destination as Toronto, Canada.

Harry’s first job in Canada was with the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce where he was employed from April 1913 until June 1916.  It is not entirely clear whether Harry then lived in Montreal or Toronto.    Apparently Harry brought several bottles of Rum with him when he immigrated to Canada, and it seems this made him very popular with his fellow employees.  Harry also played on the Bank’s cricket team.

The Molson Bank Building on Saint Jacques Street in Old Montreal.

Harry’s next employment was with Molson Bank in Montreal.  The Molson Bank (sometimes labeled Molsons Bank) was a Canadian bank founded in Montreal, Quebec, by brothers William (1793–1875) and John Molson, Jr. (1787–1860), the sons of brewery magnate John Molson.  Harry worked for Molson Bank from February 1916 until he enlisted in the Canadian Army.

Harry enlisted in the Canadian Army on January 7, 1918, in Montreal, Quebec.   He was a clerk in the 1St Depot Battalion, 1stQuebec Regiment and was promoted to Corporal on March 19, 1918, while in Montreal.  He shipped overseas aboard the S/S City of Marseilles and left Montreal May 15, 1918 and arrived in London, England on June 5, 1918.  He was subsequently stationed in Bramshott England, and then served in France and Belgium.  Henry was discharged after the war on March 29, 1919 having served  15 months.


Harry ‘s son Jack recalls his father telling him that ”He was wounded when a bullet went through his wrist and he also told me he took shrapnel in his chest.  When I was a boy he used to let me feel where the bullet entered and left his wrist.”

Harry was award two service medals

  1. The British War Medal – Instituted in 1919 to commemorate the successful conclusion of the Great War, and the arduous services rendered by His Majesty’s Forces.  The Army awarded it to those who entered a theatre of war on duty between 5th August 1914 and 11th November 1918, both dates inclusive.
  2. Victory Medal – The medal was issued to all those who received the 1914 Star or the 1914-15 Star, and to most of those who were awarded the British War Medal – it was never awarded singly.

After returning to civilian life Harry was employed with the Merchants Bank of Canada (which in 1921 merged with the Bank of Montreal).  Harry started with the bank on a temporary basis December 3, 1919.  In December 1919, he became a full staff member and was posted to Saskatoon.


Harry also married after returning to civilian life.  In about 1920, Harry married Minnie “Molly” Etta Dowler in Montreal.  Family lore has it that when Molly arrived in Canada from England she became engaged to someone in the Canadian Army who was killed in action in Europe.  Further, this someone was a friend of Harry’s.  Unfortunately, we don’t know anything more about Harry’s friendship with this someone, but we can conclude that this friendship in some manner brought Harry and Molly together into their marriage.  In Saskatoon, on September 11, 1921 Harry and Molly’s only child, a daughter Barbara Ellen Clinkett Leach was born.

Harry’s son Jack recalls his father telling him about life in Saskatoon just after the war.  “They must have moved to Saskatoon shortly after the war as my Dad told me he would dive for the closest doorway when he heard a car backfire. It was in the winter as he told me it got so cold one day, the window blew out of The Hudson Bay store.”

Harry resigned from the bank of Montreal in March 1922 leaving Saskatoon and returning to Montreal.  In the same year Harry, Molly and their daughter Barbara, departed Halifax bound for Barbados.  For some unknown reason Barbara remained in Barbados and stayed with the Clarke family of Bridgetown.  Barbara was baptized at St. Cyprians Church,  Bridgetown in 1922.  Henry and Molly returned to Canada aboard the ship Chignecto arriving in St. John, New Brunswick on 10 September 1923.  The ship’s passsenger list noted that Henry was a Clerk and he intended to be an accountant.

Barbara returned to (Montreal) Canada for her schooling at age 6 aboard the vessel Canadian Pathfinder from Barbados to St. John, New Brunswick arriving 20 September 1927.  Barbara was traveling with Agnes Lavinia Clarke, who it is assumed was the person who cared for Barbara in Barbados.

Henry and Molly separated in the late 1920’s.  After the separation Molly met a retired professor from McGill University in Montreal.  Molly and Barbara left Canada in about 1930 with the Professor and went to live in San Remo, Italy.  They stayed there until just after the Munich Crisis in 1937, when it looked as though Europe was on the brink of war and came to England to settle.  Molly died in England on 28 March 1948.  Molly was cremated and no burial site exists.

Barbara, Molly’s daughter, married Michael Mair in 1945, in England and they had three children.  Michael passed away in 1991 and is survived by Barbara who currently lives in England.

Regrettably Barbara never saw or heard from her father again, and her mother (Molly) gave her no information of his whereabouts.

Part II of this Life Sketch will follow shortly.

Many thanks to Jack Leach and Carolyn Hawkins for their assistance in writing this life sketch.  As always any errors or corrections that may be required to the above sketch are appreciated.  The beauty of electronic publishing is the ability to make corrections as required.

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