Mrs Dillon

no-picture-square3Theresa Joseph Dillon née McHale, 66, (1867-1949), a schoolteacher and mother of Theresa J. Dillon (Tess), just one of her three daughters who carved out strong careers in science teaching, bookselling and film.  Her fourth daughter became a Carmelite nun, her eldest son died in the Great War and her second son left for India, and fortunately survived being a Japanese PoW in WW2. A fortnight before the dinner she will have celebrated her 66th birthday.

puzzle-piece2-50 do we know more about her life, apart from her “supermum” performance in bringing up her family!


Not of great importance on a table of four, but possibly not next to her daughter, also Tess, unless they would have enjoyed taking in the whole event together.


We have few clues. Possibly would enjoy reflecting on the achievements of women, including that of her children.


Theresa Josephine McHale was born in St James, London, on 6th March 1867, the daughter of Theresa Dunne/Denne born c1835 in Ireland or Chelsea (censuses differ) and George McHale, 56, a tailor, born c1835 in Drogheda, Ireland. They were married in Dublin on 28th June 1857.

In 1891 Theresa was a schoolmistress, living with her family at 34 Brewer St, St James, whilst her three siblings – Mary, born in Ireland 1859, a waistcoat maker, George, born in London, c1870 a tailor, and Agnes, born in London c 1873, also a waistcoat maker – all followed in their father’s trade. This is in the Soho area.

In 1893 Theresa married Joseph Thomas Dillon, (born St James, London 8th September 1866, died in 1950), who in 1901 was the secretary of a Public Land Company, in 1911 secretary of a Foreign Railway Company and in 1939 a “director and secretary of public companies”. In 1891 he was a banker’s clerk living at 21 Maitland Park Road, St. Pancras, with his Irish born mother Maria.[1] Theresa and Joseph perhaps were married in Spain where their eldest daughter was born?

Theresa was the mother of six well educated children: the eldest son Edward Joseph, died in the First War, the second son Francis Joseph left for India, the eldest daughter Mary became a Carmelite nun, and the final trio of daughters all became high achievers in the “outside” world. In 1901 the family was living at 20 Avenue Villas, Hendon, with Joseph’s mother and four of their children. Eldest son Edward , formerly of the RAMC, was killed in an accident in Norfolk while flying in an Avro 504 C581 on 12 April 1918.  Francis married in New Zealand, and was captured in a sailing boat by the Japanese in WW2, when serving with the RAF.

In January 1921 Theresa and her husband, and daughter Tess (then a physics demonstrator), sailed first class on the Cunard liner Kaiserine Auguste Victoria from New York to Liverpool. On that trip Joseph had also gone on to Venezuela. They were then living at 149 Walm Lane, Kilburn, London NW. The Liner had been turned over to the allies in 1919 after the Treaty of Versailles and this would have been one of its last voyages under its original grand Imperial German name before being sold to Canadian Pacific, who renamed her the Empress of Scotland. The Liner was scrapped in 1930. But you can still take your own virtual tour:


We have no further sightings but we can assume she continued to support her offspring as their careers blossomed. When her second son was a Japanese prisoner of war in the second war, that would have been an anxious time for her and her family.  Theresa died on 19th January 1949, pre-deceasing her husband by a year or so, at the time living at 16 Wynnstay Gardens, Kensington.


[1] Sources: 1901, 1911, 1939 census returns

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