A Scandal In 1936- When Eliza Purcell Murdock Met Charles Frederick Jamison

When I was quite young, I was a typical little pitcher with big ears, and I often overheard strange family stories and salacious scraps of lore. One such story was from my mother, talking about my dad’s two mysterious half-sisters. She recalled vague rumours that they were the products of an illicit relationship or a first marriage of his dad, my grandfather Charles Frederick Jamison. This was only partly true; my dad’s two half-sisters were actually the children of his mother’s first marriage, which I’ve written about here.

Eliza McCurdy Purcell married Samuel Murdock when she was one month away from her 17th birthday, in 1924, at Bushmills, County Antrim. The young couple set up home in the Aird townland of Bushmills and had two daughters.

Enter Charles Frederick Jamison, known as Freddie to his family. Freddie was from the Ardihannon townland, very close to Aird, which is probably how he met the Murdocks. Freddie was lodging at Eliza and Samuel’s home, but at some point Freddie and Samuel’s young wife became very close. Samuel is reported to have “flung” Freddie Jamison from his home in 1936, upon which Eliza left Samuel and set up home with Freddie. The new couple moved to the Ballynahinch/Annahilt areas of County Down, staying there until they moved to Belfast in the 1950s.

Samuel Murdock petitioned for a divorce from Eliza, and in 1940 the Lord Chief Justice of the Northern Ireland King’s Bench division awarded a Decree Nisi to Samuel. Eliza and Freddie went on to have eight children together, including my dad.

Samuel, so the family history asserts, emigrated to the United States with his daughters, settling in California. This was again partly confirmed when I had contact with a grandson of Eliza and Samuel’s named Colin, who provided the wonderful picture of Eliza below. Colin advised me that Eliza and Samuel’s daughters were called Roberta and Evaline, and both had lived in the United States. Interestingly, Eliza’s elder brother was called Robert, and he was named as a witness to her marriage to Samuel in 1924. One of Samuel’s sisters was also named Eveline.

Eliza McCurdy Murdock Jamison (nee Purcell)

I have yet to locate a marriage certificate for Eliza and Freddie, although they may not have married in Northern Ireland, so I’m extending my search.

Alternatively, there may not have been a second marriage at all. Either way, I’m sure this was a major scandal at the time for the Murdock, Purcell and Jamison families, and one that was still referred to, although in a muddled fashion, decades later.

I am also searching for birth certificates or any later details of Roberta and Evaline; Ancestry UK is sketchy on records for Northern Ireland for the period I’m interested in, although it’s possible that I’m looking in the wrong places!

If you have any more information about Samuel or his daughters with Eliza, or if you’re a family member with additional or better information, please do get in touch!

Data Sources

1940 newspaper reports of Decree Nisi:
(Belfast Newsletter, The Northern Whig)
Information from family members (Colin and Irene)
Nevin at the North Antrim Local Interest List (NALIL)

Correction – the original post stated that Eliza and Samuel Murdock moved to County Down; this was because of my misreading of Aird/Ards; Aird is located in the Bushmills area, and Eliza and Freddie moved to County Down after Eliza left Samuel. Thank you to Nevin at NALIL for picking up on my location faux pas! 28/3/2021

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