Esther Hamilton IRVINE (1847-1916)
Esther Hamilton Irvine (1847-1916), known as Essie, was the sister of Amy Mourilyan who was Eugénie Sladden’s sister-in-law having married Eugénie’s brother, Thomas Burton Mourilyan. Essie is mentioned in a letter written by Mary Anna Robinson on 2nd October 1914.
Essie was born on 23rd November 1847 at Berhampore, Bengal, the youngest of five children of Robert Hamilton Irvine, a surgeon, and his wife, Anne. Robert was a senior surgeon in the Bengal Army; several of his medical books have been reprinted and are for sale on Amazon.
The family were living back in England by 1861; at the time of the 1861 census, Essie and her older sister, Amy, were visiting the Marriott family in Milverton, Somerset. Their father died at Lancaster in 1863.
Essie and her widowed mother, Anne, are believed to have moved to Paris, possibly in the 1870s. Following the death of her sister, Amy Mourilyan, in 1872, aged only 27, it is thought that Essie and Anne, were involved with the bringing up of Amy’s daughter, Annie, who was not yet two at the time of her mother’s death. Annie and her father, Thomas Burton Mourilyan, had moved from Germany to Paris (where Tom’s family were based) after Amy’s death.
Anne Irvine died in February 1895 at 18 Avenue Kléber, Paris. How long Essie remained in Paris is not known but at some stage Essie went to live in Belgium with her niece, Annie, who married Ernest Rust Hodson in 1898 (Essie was one of the witnesses at the wedding). Certainly by the time of the outbreak of World War I, Essie was living with the Hodson family at 27 Rue Africaine, Brussels. Essie’s great-niece, Amy, kept a diary throughout the war and there are numerous mentions of “Auntie”. The diaries have been edited by Monica Kendal and published by SilverWood in a book, “Miss Cavell was Shot, The Diaries of Amy Hodson 1914-1920” (2015).
Essie’s death on 191th July 1916 is described movingly in Amy Hodson’s diary:
At about 2.30 Auntie’s death rattle was much worse, her bed shook with it. Suddenly she stopped, opened her eyes, gave three huge sighs and she was dead. Poor darling! Her sufferings are all at an end. (I saw her spirit over my bed.) She never said a word. Daddy took me to the Uccle cemetery to choose a piece of ground for the darling. The undertaker came to take her measures.