Jessie Irene WALL (1890-1953)
Jessie Irene Wall (1890-1953), known as Irene, was the cousin of Mela Brown Constable (the fiancée of Cyril Sladden).
Irene Wall was born on 6th January 1890 at Bengal, India, the elder of two children of Benson Parsick Wall, an engineer, and his wife, Jessie Margaret (née Wilson). Irene was baptized on 2nd February 1890 at Christ Church, Kasauli, Bengal.
Irene spent her early childhood in India, but the family later moved back to England. In 1901, Irene was living with her mother and sister and two servants at 6 Richmond Road, Bedford. In 1911, Irene, described as a student, was visiting the school run by the Sisters of Mercy (an Anglican religious community for women) at Clewer, Windsor. Her visit may have been because of their connection with India – from 1881, over a period of 64 years, around a hundred Sisters went to work in India (the older Sladden girls - May, Kathleen and Ethel - had, incidentally, been pupils at the school in the 1890s).
During the First World War, Irene worked as a Travelling Officer for the Ministry of Munitions, inspecting factories all over Lancashire and Chester, advising the Ministry whom to appoint. In May 1917, Irene was made second in command to Miss Proud, who had just taken over the welfare management of Government TNT factories. On 13th June 1917, the Hooley Hill Rubber and Chemical Works at Ashton-under-Lyne caught fire and exploded and was completely destroyed; in total, 43 people from the immediate area, including schoolchildren, were killed and many more were left injured. As Mela explained in a letter of 15th June 1917, Irene had been due to visit this factory as Investigator of Welfare, on the very day of the explosion, but was luckily unexpectedly prevented, or else she would have been in the works at the time the accident took place.
Irene was often in communication with the War Office, so in 1917 made enquiries on Mela’s behalf in connection with Cyril Sladden’s wounds in Mesopotamia. Also, when Mela was staying with the Walls in Oxton, Lancashire, in the spring of 1917, she offered to help her cousin to get a job as a welfare supervisor.
A letter begun on 25th March 1917 reveals that Irene had lost the man she loved in the early days of the war; their engagement had been about to be made public when she received news of his death.
Irene never married. After the war, she studied law and, on 24th January 1922, she was admitted to Gray’s Inn and subsequently called on 6th May 1925. In theory this meant she could practise as a barrister but she does not appear to have done so. At the time of the 1939 register, she lived at St Thomas’ Mansions, Lambeth, SE London, and served as a Juror; she was a Civil Servant in the Home Office.
Irene died at Iffley on 3rd January 1953, three days short of her 63rd birthday. She was buried beside her parents at Rose Hill Cemetery, Oxford.