Where John Keyton lived
When I was younger, on those days I didn’t have money for the pub, me and my friend Keith Davies would haunt Spiritualist meetings. Why? I have no idea: the curiosity of youth, fun, just a searching for weirdness perhaps, and spiritualist meetings were downright strange - at least to the arrogant and curious and young. I attended a big one in the centre of Liverpool hosting a spiritualist show straight from America. They came on a like James Brown with the Supremes as Backup. The black guy would holler and stomp, raising his hands to the ceiling pulling down spirits at random, and the ‘Supreme’s would chant in counterpoint.
“There is someone here - he wants to speak to you - oh he badly wants to speak to you. He needs to speak to you!” And the guy would point at some luckless, or lucky, depending… member of an audience, an audience already swaying to the pumping of exultant organ music. “He needs to speak to you!” the ‘Supremes’ shrilled, all three of them along with the sequinned medium pointing at one confused and excited face. The message was usually rubbish and vague but elicited bemused acceptance and ecstatic ‘Amens’ Me and Keith tried to edge our way to the front, desperate to be chosen, but on this occasion we were unlucky.
On another occasion I struck gold. It was a wet October evening and we went to a small spiritualist church in Anfield, or thereabouts. The room was small and quite narrow with wooden floorboards and wooden, foldaway chairs. There was a kettle steaming away at the back of the room, and at the front two middle-aged ladies were talking earnestly, their voices hoarse, and loud enough to be heard halfway down the street. The Medium was lost - couldn’t find her way - but she’d be here soon - in the mean time we could all have a cup of tea.
When the Medium eventually arrived she got down to business right away. In a thick scouse accent, she said: “There is somebody here…. a military man…. You brother, can you stand up?”
I had struck gold. She was talking to me. I hesitated.
“Yes, you brother. He’s standing behind you.”
I stood up in a flash. “I’m getting the name, John…does John mean anything to you.?”
I shook my head mutely.
“No matter…he’s a strong man, a soldier. He will protect you. He is looking over you.”
In retrospect and fancy, that was my first introduction to Sergeant John Keyton.
Sergeant John Keyton was born about 1866 in Bridgend, Glamorgan, Wales. We don’t know why, Bridgend, I mean. His father was similarly called John, his mother, Mary. They were born in Ireland. He had a sister, Mary A Keyton born in 1873, and a brother, William Keyton born about 1878. They all lived together with a 76 year old lodger called Mary Michinson at 10 Ho 6 Court, Whitley St. Liverpool. That’s the dry stuff out the way.
A lot can happen in five years.
In 1896 he married Bridget Agnes Tobin. As the name suggests, she was also Irish and born in Cork. In 1899 they had a daughter, Doris Keyton and in 1900 my father, Cyril was born. Sergeant John Keyton was killed in the Boer war the same year - and he never saw my dad.
He left behind Bridget Agnes who was thirty years old and a son he had never seen. In the 1901 Census they are listed as living in 15 Othells Street in the Parish of Kirkdale, Liverpool. She lived quite close to her parents in law John and Mary Keyton, who by this time were about 58 years old and lived as boarders in 27 Rockingham St. Kirkdale, Liverpool.
A photo, the word of a geographically challenged medium, and a few letters are all that are left of John Keyton. I shall publish the letters tomorrow.