The Life of Reilly

To be entirely accurate, Fanny Susan Craig was only a Reilly upon her marriage but, as she was barely 18 when she married, it was the greater part of her life. So we can stretch a point.

Born in India, that sub-continent and the military life in general informed a large part of her life. She was born on 8 September 1865 and baptised almost a month later (4 Oct 1865) in Bangalore Holy Trinity. This was built in 1851 for the British army regiments stationed there and is large enough to seat 700 people. (The School Chapel, as a comparison, seats 500.) Fanny’s baptismal record gives her father as Alexander Craig, Serjeant H M’s 2/10th (Infantry regiment) and her mother as Ellen Craig. The 2/10th is now the Lincolnshire Regiment.

Bangalore church
Holy Trinity, Bangalore (creative commons)

external image from

Holy Trinity

Holy Trinity Church, Bangalore (1922), by Rev. Frank Penny’s Book ‘The Church in Madras’

Her father was a career soldier as was his father Hamilton. Alexander had been baptised in 1834 at St John the Evangelist, Lambeth while his father was stationed at St George’s Barracks nearby. By 1841, young Alexander was being educated by the Royal Military Asylum which he left in 1848, discharged to his parents. In 1851 he was a drummer boy in 2nd Battalion Grenadier Guards and then joined the 10th regiment of Foot, 2nd Battalion where his subsequent postings included South Africa (where he first became a Freemason) and India – and probably Ireland too as, in December 1859 he married an Irish girl, Ellen Reddan, in Ballysax, Kildare, Ireland.

Google Earth map showing Ballysax

Coincidentally, the father of another pupil of the School was also in the 1st Battalion and his daughter, Rose, was born in Japan. However, Fanny left the School just as Rose joined it so they are unlikely to have known each other.

By 1863, the Craig family were in South Africa and one of their children was born there. Alexander was a member of a lodge in King William Town so this is probably where his regiment was based. It is where the 1st Bn had been before leaving for Japan. From there, the Craigs went to India where Fanny and her brother were both born. It is also where their father died of dysentery, aged just 36, on 13 Aug 1871, buried the same day at St Mary’s, Madras.

St Mary
St Mary’s Church, Madras (now Chenai)

Fanny was elected to the School in April 1875 with 927 votes and joined on 19 August 1875 (Register reference & accession number  GBR 1991 RMIG 3/2/1/1 A12013). Of her school career nothing is now recorded other than that she left in September 1881. It is not noted in School records what she intended to do upon leaving school but by 1882 she was back in India and it may be that she returned immediately upon leaving. On December 6 1882, she married Thomas Burke Reilly in Sitapur, Bengal.

Bengal region showing Sitapur

Thomas was 29 years old to Fanny’s 18 but, as her mother was a witness to the wedding, it must be assumed that she approved. Thomas was a Barrack Sergeant in the PWD.

“The Public Works Department was a government department that was responsible for buildings, roads, irrigation and railways. Public Works in India, such as the construction of roads, water tank, etc. was originally conducted by the military.” (Wikipedia)

The Reilly’s three children were all born in India between 1883 and 1893: Trevor Burke, Mabel Evelyn and Violet Ethel. [In yet another of those extraordinary cris-crossings of coincidence, Violet later served as a VAD in Malta at the same time as another former pupil, Dorothy Mortimer Watson, was also nursing there. Dorothy subsequently lost her life in Malta and is the only former pupil to die on active service in WWI.]

The Reilly family continued to live in India until the C20th. In fact, Fanny only ever appears on two census returns in Britain: one when she was at school and the other after her husband retired and they returned Home. She was probably still in India in 1906 as her daughter, Mabel, was married in Quetta, Bengal but by 1911, Thomas & Fanny had returned to UK and were at 100 Chichester Road Portsmouth.

Chichester Rd
100 Chichester Rd today

Image above taken from Google earth

Perhaps their place of residence inspired their son as Trevor continued the family tradition of military service, albeit on water rather than on land. He served with the Royal Naval Reserve on HMS Topaze.

HMS Topaze
HMS Topaze

Ship image taken from

Like his grandfather before him, he also died whilst in service. On 28 Nov 1918 he died of pneumonia when his ship was off Aden. He is buried in Al-Maala, Aden (now Yemen).

The ship’s log for 28 Nov records his death and burial. (

Lat 12.83, Long 45.0

am: Hands care & maintenance.

am & pm: Hands disinfecting ship.

am: Lieut. Reilly RNR died in Hospital.

pm: Funeral of Lieut. Reilly RNR

His grave is marked by a cross and the words ‘Until the day dawn’ placed there by his wife (Fanny’s daughter in law). The cemetery records also tell us that Thomas and Fanny were living at the time in High Park, Ryde although their son and his wife had an address in Preston Rd, Brighton.

Fanny’s address had become Woodham Lodge, Hill Road, Ryde by 1939 although the street map shows that High Park Rd is a continuation of Hill Rd so it may, in fact, be the same address. By this time, however, Fanny had been widowed as Thomas died in 1933.

1939 OS map
1939 map from FindMyPast 1937-1961 1:25000 OS map

Her final address was Stella Maris, 40 Melville St, Ryde. This is closer to the shoreline than Hill Rd, running more or less parallel to the Esplanade. Perhaps the name of the property hints that it had a sea view: Stella Maris or Star of the Sea. Fanny died on 30 November 1948, aged 85, with probate granted to her unmarried daughter, Violet: the life of Reilly brought to a gentle halt.

Melville St, Ryde

Image above from Google Earth