His life and works
|George William Wall Du Val|
|Born: 1806 Dublin, Ireland|
|Edward Octavius Caesar Wall Du Val born 1779|
|John Edward Burghall Wall Du Val born 1806|
|Charles Allen Du Val born 1810|
|Henrietta Munsell Eskildson Wall du Val|
|Clara Maria Lodge 1818-1908|
|Oliver John Du Val 1839-1884|
|Clara Maria Du Val 1849?-1868|
|Francis William Augustus Du Val 1850?-1929|
George Du Val was born in Dublin on 14 January 1806 (1), the son of Edward Octavius Caesar Wall Du Val and his wife née Sarah Eskildson.
George Du Val became a dancing teacher like his grandfather. In the summer of 1830 he was running an academy in Douglas, Isle of Man, and at the following Christmas he and his dancing pupils held a Grand Ball, with a band brought over specially from Liverpool. One of his pupils became his wife. She was Clara Maria Lodge, born on 24 May 1819 in Dublin, daughter of John Lodge and his wife. Her parents were opposed to the match, so George and Clara eloped.
George Du Val returned to the Isle of Man from his home in Dublin in the summer of 1831 to reopen his school. He inserted an announcement in the local papers that “Mr D. purposes visiting London previous to his return, when he will bring with him all the newest and most fashionable Dances, which he will teach his Pupils with unremitted attention.”
His classes were a great success, and the winter balls became ever grander. But by 1835 trouble was brewing, and he and his wife fled to Liverpool. In November of that year the Manx Sun facetiously announced “MORE FASHIONABLE DEPARTURES. On Friday last, that most celebrated ‘artiste’ Mons. Du Val, who visited this island in August last for the purpose of ‘instructing children in an accomplishment which combines the improvement of health with recreation’, made ‘Le Grande Gallope’ to Liverpool; at the same time the ‘fair vocaliste from the Theatre Royal, Dublin’, who ‘unites beauty with talent’, Madame Du Val, performed ‘les Mazourkas’ in his company ... --- Du Val has swindled the natives out of considerable sums.” (2)
Three years later George William Du Val, “Professor of Dancing” was back in Dublin, living at Dawson Grove. He was in financial trouble, and had been declared bankrupt. In that year he petitioned to be discharged, and his case was advertised on 12 September 1838 to be heard in the Insolvent Debtors’ Court on 4 October (3).
By 1841 George and Clara Du Val were in Liverpool, living in a rooming house for Irish immigrants kept by Elizabeth Lodge (possibly Clara's widowed mother or a relative) in Gill Street. George Du Val was recorded in the Census taken that year as being a “police officer” (4), but if that was not a joke at the enumerator’s expence then it was little cause for any pride. The Liverpool police force, founded only three years earlier, were despised. Recruits seldom lasted for more than a few months, some only hours. Several years had to pass before the police became properly regulated, trained and generally popular.
And the Du Vals were mixing with some distinctly shady citizens.
Early in 1841 a middle-aged Liverpool spinster named Ann Crellin was pestered by a man calling himself Martin who wanted to marry her for money. Finding that she did not have the supposed £50,000 he dropped her, but frightened her into giving him £250 instead of suing her for breach of promise of marriage (5). His real name later proved to be Samuel Martin Copeland. She also learned that he was already married. Her informant was George William Du Val (6). Rumours soon began spreading that another man, with the help of his associates, had succeeded in abducting and physically forcing her into marriage. Some of the gang were boasting about it, and an announcement of the marriage was even placed in the press (7). The city authorities decided to investigate.
The gang was quickly rounded up and brought for questioning before chief magistrate Edward Rushton. The rumours proved true. Several attempts had been made to force Miss Crellin into marriage, until finally the gang succeeded forcibly getting her married to their ringleader John Orr McGill at Gretna Green (8). He was a handsome roué aged thirty, a cigar dealer. The others arrested were his wife’s brother Thomas Wormand Rogerson aged thirty six (another cigar dealer) and John Osborn Quick aged thirty (a "surgeon" and druggist in Scotland Road), together with accomplices Mrs Jane Clayton aged twenty nine (a “woman of bad character”) living in Roscoe Lane, and Richard Jones aged thirty one (a stonemason or bricklayer) of Victoria Terrace and his wife Margaret Jones (a charwoman) aged twenty eight. Soon it transpired that others were involved. A doctor named Dunlevy was charged, and on 31 March 1842 George William Duval was arrested and placed in custody with the other prisoners (9). All the accused were remanded for trial at Lancashire Assizes before Lord Chief Justice Denman (10).
The trial was held in August 1842. It caused a huge sensation throughout the country. The Liverpool Abduction Case was reported in the London newspapers and reports appeared in local papers in Preston, Sheffield, Derby, Norwich, Oxford, Salisbury, York, Worcester, Exeter, Newcastle, Dublin, Edinburgh and North Wales (11). Some coyly informed their readers that they were omitting the more lurid evidence, so drawing attention to it, but the local Liverpool newspaper produced a very full report (12). Great crowds besieged the court house. “Respectable ladies” queued from eight in the morning to gain seats.
Five of the gang were found guilty. Orr was sentenced to eighteen months in prison and Quick to fifteen months. Copeland, Richard Jones and Mrs Clayton each got twelve months. McGill and Copeland were sentenced to imprisonment with hard labour. All five were to be incarcerated in Lancaster Castle. Duval, Mrs Jones, Rogerson, and Dunlevy were found not guilty and acquitted (13).
Doubtless George William Du Val would have lost any job he had as a police officer. Reading through the voluminous evidence reported in the press, it seems he played little part in the conspiracy and none in the abduction. He had indeed warned the victim that her intended groom was already married (14), although only after she had already been jilted by Copeland. He had been extremely unwise in choosing friends, and it was he who introduced McGill to Miss Crellin. He had also taken the lead in plotting to persuade the victim to give up Copeland in favour of McGill (14). George William Du Val had been nationally disgraced.
Nonetheless he and Clara somehow bounced back yet again. They resumed their dancing business, setting up a “Dancing and Calisthenics Academy” at No. 8 Rodney Street, Liverpool. They went to Paris, where they learned the fashionable new polka. An advertisement appeared in Dublin on 6 December 1844 and again on 3 January 1845 that “Mons. and Madame Du Val, late of Paris, Professors, have the honour of announcing that they teach LA POLKA DES SALONS IN TWO LESSONS, in the same style as danced in the Saloons of MM. Cellarius and Coralli, Paris, from whom they received this popular and fashionable Dance.” Their clients would however have to cross the Irish Sea to receive the lessons. Madame herself was then still in Paris, but due to return on 10 January 1845 when she would “have the honour of introducing the celebrated MAZOURKA and VALSE of Mons. Cellarius to the Gentry of Liverpool.” A Soiree d’Arriver was promised for 16 January at the Academy, where tickets could be purchased. Polka Soirees were to be held there from eight to half past ten on Monday and Thursday evenings (15).
The couple survived and produced a family of three children. But in 1853 Madame Du Val emigrated to Australia on the ship "Marco Polo" with her children. Only Oliver John and Clara are named on the ship’s record, so she may have been pregnant with her younger son Francis Augustus. The ship arrived at Melbourne on 29 May 1853 with 642 passengers, a huge number for one voyage. Her husband seems not to have accompanied her (16). George adopted the name Claud Du Val, after the notorious seventeenth century highwayman (17). Maybe it was a thin disguise for a new theatrical career. Perhaps it was just a joke. Either way, nothing more is known of him.
In Australia Clara Du Val met Henry Seekamp 1829-1864, editor of the Ballarat Times at the time of the Eureka Stockade fight (18). They lived together, but whether they actually married is uncertain. The Seekamp surname was adopted by the two younger children, but Oliver Du Val retained his father's name. Clara Seekamp died at Pascoevale in Melbourne, Victoria on 22 January 1908 (19).
The elder son Oliver John Du Val married Marion Mitchell Farquaharson in 1873 in Victoria (20), and died in 1884 at Richmond, Victoria (21). Clara Maria (Clarissa) Seekamp (Du Val) died on 26 October 1868 aged only eighteen years old (22). Francis William August Seekamp (Du Val) married Jane Benger, daughter of Charles Benger and Euphemia Ferguson. He died at Flemington, Victoria in 1929. They had a daughter Clara Maria Allison Seekamp who died in 1875 (23) and a son Arthur Martin Du Val Seekamp 1885-1955 (24).
(1) The exact date is given by his brother Charles Allen Du Val in his handwriting in a manuscript owned by a descendant.
(2) Vivien Allen Du Val Tonight! The Story of a Showman (1990) page 3.
(3) Freeman's Journal and Daily Commercial Advertiser 12 September 1838.
(4) Census Return for England and Wales 1841.
(5) The Morning Post 31 March 1842.
(6) The Morning Post 31 March 1842; The Standard (London) 31 March 1842, relaying the report from the Liverpool Courier.
(7) Freeman's Journal and Daily Commercial Advertiser 26 March 1842. The report reads "MARRIAGES. On the 19th instant, at Gretna Green, John Macgill Esq., of Elmount, county Dublin, to Anne, only child of the late Richard Crellin Esq., of Liverpool."
(8) Liverpool Mercury 1 April 1842.
(9) Caledonian Mercury (Edinburgh) 31 March 1842.
(10) A full report appeared in the Liverpool Mercury on 1 April 1842.
(11) The Standard (London) 11 August 1842; Liverpool Mercury 12 August 1842; Manchester Times and Gazette 13 August 1842; Morning Post 12 August 1842; Northern Star and Leeds General Advertiser 13 August 1842; Preston Chronicle 13 August 1842; Sheffield & Rotherham Independent 13 August 1842; The Examiner (London) 13 August 1842; Jackson's Oxford Journal 13 August 1842; York Herald and General Advertiser 13 August 1842 [a particularly good summary of the case]; Hampshire Advertiser and Salisbury Guardian 13 August 1842; Bury and Norwich Post, and East Anglian 17 August 1842; Derby Mercury 17 August 1842; Berrow's Worcester Journal 13 August 1842; Trewman's Exeter Flying Post or Plymouth and Cornish Advertiser 13 August 1842; North Wales Chronicle 14 June 1842; Newcastle Courant 19 August 1842; etc.
(12) Liverpool Mercury 12 August 1842.
(13) England and Wales Criminal Registers, 1791-1892 (1842) page 198; Liverpool Mercury 12 August 1842.
(14) Miss Crellin testified that "A Mr. Duval called and told her that Martin was a married man, and that his name was not Martin - that he was a Dr. Copeland" and that she "Had never seen Mr. Duval till he called and said Dr. Copeland was a married man. Duval said he would be at Mrs. Jones's that night, and wished to see her there. She was there and Mr. Duval brought Mr. McGill." The Morning Post 31 March 1842; The Standard (London) 31 March 1842, relaying the report from the Liverpool Courier.
(15) Freeman's Journal and Daily Commercial Advertiser 6 December 1844 and 3 January 1845.
(16) The passenger lists generally include families in groups but not always. In this ship's list "Clara Duval age 20" is not listed next to "Oliver Daval [sic] age 13". Before Clara is "Eliza Roberts age 22" and listed after her is "John Evell [sic] age 27". Listed before Oliver is "Jacob Jenkins age 22" and listed after him is "John Clark age 27". From this it seems probable that George Du Val was not on board under a false name. (Information from Trevor Byrnes.)
(17) There exists a newspaper report naming him as "Claud Du Val", stating that he performed with Clara in Australia. "With Mr. Du Val she took part in theatrical performances in the early days of Ballarat, and often appeared before Melbourne audiences" It also states "Mrs. Seekamp was the widow of Mr. Claud Du Val when she married Mr. Seekamp." The Argus (Melbourne, Australia) 25 January 1908. The report was repeated in The Advertiser (South Australia) 27 January 1908. However the accuracy of that report is doubtful. No other evidence that George Du Val was ever in Australia has been found. What really happened to him in later life is unknown.
(18) Australian Dictionary of Biography, Supplementary Volume (2005) pages 355 and 356.
(19) The Advertiser (South Australia) 27 January 1908.
(20) Registration No. 1065.
(21) Registration No. 2636.
(22) The Argus (Melbourne, Australia) 28 October 1868.
(23) Registration No. 1335.
(24) Information from his direct descendant Lyn Inglish.