An impossible search?

One of my ongoing research projects is an attempt to identify Mary Jane Kelly, victim of Jack the Ripper. She told her last boyfriend of a birth in Limerick, childhood in Wales, possibly Carmarthenshire or Caernarvonshire, where her father was a foreman in an ironworks. At the age of 16 she married a collier, possibly named Davies or Davis, who died in an explosion. Subsequently she went to Cardiff then to London, where part of her tale has been verified by independent sources.

Some years ago, I identified every Mary Kelly who married legally in Wales in the relevant period and traced them all, except one, beyond the death of the Jack the Ripper victim. I now have a trace on that exception and am rechecking a different one. My main focus is on the alleged husband. I have complied a list of 400 men called Davis or Davies who died in a Welsh mine, within the right period. The next stage is to investigate the circumstances of the death and then their martial status. This is unlikely to result in a positive identification but is the only way to test the truth of Mary’s account.

In this search I am uncovering other tragic stories of the men, and women, who died whilst working in coal mines.

Paul Williams is a writer of fiction and non-fiction best known for his Jack the Ripper Suspects: The Definitive Guide and Encyclopedia.

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