Francis William Augustine Fay

June 23, 2015

FAY, Francis William Augustine- – – SPC 1896

DoB:– – 1886, Echuca, VIC

Father:– – William Augustus Fay, a travelling journalist

Mother:– – Frances Marie, nee McDonnell

This boy, known as William while at St Patrick’s, was one of four brothers, but the only one who attended the College. Two of his brothers enlisted for service -“ Morgan Augustine John Fay, killed in action in France in June 1918, and Patrick Alphonsus Gerald who returned from active service and settled in NSW.

Service No:– 6016A

Rank:- – Private

Unit:- – 14th Battalion

Francis William Fay enlisted on 18 August 1915, a 29-year-old ironmonger, who was five feet six and a quarter inches tall, with a dark complexion, grey eyes and dark brown hair. He embarked from Melbourne on 28 July 1916 aboard the Themistockles, and disembarked at Plymouth on 11 September 1916. The following month he proceeded overseas to France.

Private Fay spent 40 days in hospital in France when his left eye became red and painful following a shell explosion in the field. He was sent to hospital in Etaples for treatment, the diagnosis being acute double iridiocyclitis (severe inflammation of the iris). He also had a septic tooth extracted while he was in hospital.

He was again hospitalised and transferred to England for treatment in December 1917, suffering from gonorrhoea. He remained for the next few months in England, attending the 4th Divisional Signal School. In June 1918 he was charged with being AWL (Absent Without Leave) from 8am on 19 May until apprehended in London on 29 May 1918. He had to forfeit 21 days’ pay.

On 2 June 1918 he proceeded overseas to France for duty. He was admitted to the 4th Australian Field Ambulance on 22 November with influenza. He was later transferred to the 5th General Hospital in Rouen, and was pronounced dangerously ill with pneumonia.

On 28 November 1918, Private Francis William Fay succumbed to this illness and died. He was interred at St Sever Cemetery Extension, Rouen, France.

Private Fay’s mother filled out the Australian Roll of Honour memorial with her son’s details, and mentioned that -‘he was very musical, being connected with the Ballarat City Band, and also [in] a band while on service in France’.

There is a rather sad postscript relating to this family. It appears that Francis William’s father, William Augustus Fay was estranged from his wife and boys. His occupation was travelling journalist which probably accounts for his absence, and is reflected in the boys’ enlistment papers which do not mention any paternal details.

In 1941, William Augustus wrote to Army Records to obtain the service record of his eldest son, Francis William who was killed in action. In this letter he states that at the time of the outbreak of war, he was -‘following journalism in Queensland’ and therefore not in Ballarat from where his son -‘and a number of comrades, all in full uniform’ left for active service overseas.

It was also clear from his letter that he had no idea if his wife Frances Marie was still alive (in fact she died in June 1938), but he says of her that -‘she was a good wife’ to him. William Augustus died in June 1941 at the age of 86 while resident at the Ballarat Benevolent Home (Asylum) on the corner of Ascot and Eyre Streets. He was buried in the Ballarat New Cemetery in the Benevolent Block. The fact that he was living in an asylum for destitute people also suggests that he was estranged from his family.

Frances Mary McDonnell and William Augustus were married in 1881 in Echuca, where Frances lived. Frances was born in Liverpool, England in 1858 and migrated to Australia with her family when she was around six years old. She was the daughter of the Honorable Morgan Augustus McDonnell, a politician in colonial Victoria, and Attorney General of Victoria between 1868 and 1970. Frances’ younger brother, Percy Stanislaus McDonnell (born on 13 November 1860) was an Australian cricketer who captained the Australian Test team in six matches. Percy died of cardiac failure in 1895 at the young age of 35 years, and was buried in Brisbane’s Toowong Cemetery.

Frances Marie died on 23 June 1938 in Ashfield, NSW at 80 years of age. She was suffering from senility and chronic myocarditis (inflammation of the heart wall).The informant named on her death certificate was her third son Patrick Alphonsus Gerald.