The story of Les Worrell is one of those cases of human nature that defy understanding.
Leslie Clive Worrell was from Baradine Creek, Coonamble, NSW. He was the eldest son of Lewis and Charlotte Worrell, highly respected graziers on a property called Melrose. His 21st birthday party was a memorable event;
One of the most successful and enjoyable functions ever witnessed on the ‘Creek’ took place on the 17th instant, at Melrose, the residence of Mr. Lewis Worrell, the occasion being the celebration of the 21st birthday of their eldest son, Leslie….Visitors arrived early in the evening, and were welcomed by the host and hostess. The spacious sitting room had been converted into a dance room. There was the word WELCOME, in large, bold relief letters of apricot leaves, worked on a yellow background; also fern, wattle, and other floral decorations. ….Dancing was indulged in with a vim until midnight, when the company sat down to a daintily prepared supper. The usual toats were proposed. That of Mr. Leslie Worrell was entrusted to Mr. A. Parsons, who, in a neat speech, referred in laudatory terms to the sterling qualities which characterised the whole of the Melrose people. Dancing was again resumed until daylight, when the happy gathering dispersed, after spending one of the most enjoyable evenings ever held in the locality.(Mudgee Guardian September 30 1915.)
The Worrell’s pride in their son only increased when he enlisted in WWI on September 19 1916 ; a fit, six foot tall young man. He escaped injury on the Western Front only to terrify his loved ones by falling seriously ill just as hostilities ceased.
‘We are sorry to hear that Corporal Les Worrell, son of Mrs L. Worrell, is ill with influenza and pneumonia, somewhere in France. We wish the brave lad a speedy return to good health.’ (Mudgee Guardian, November 28 1918)
While recuperating in England Worrell met clerical assistant Alice Notton. The couple married in May 1919 and returned to Sydney in August, aboard the Konigin Luise.
The wedding took place at St Michael’s Church, Basingstoke, on May 19, of Sergeant L.C. Worrell, of Melrose, Baradine, eldest son of Mr. and Mrs L. Worrell, and Miss Alice Louisa Notten, third daughter of Mrs and the late Mr Norton, of Caston’s Road Basingstoke, England. The happy pair will shortly leave for their new home in Australia. (Mudgee Guardian,1919)
There was a major complication in that Worrell had been writing to a girl from home throughout his years overseas. She was Martha Lennon, a slim, attractive young woman from the NSW town of Manilla, where Worrell had once worked. He wrote asking her to meet him in Sydney. It was a long, tiring journey of 300 miles, but Martha was dreaming all the way of this long anticipated reunion.
When Worrell told her he was married she returned to Manilla, shocked and heartbroken. The only person she confided in was her mother.
Also in Sydney to meet Les and to welcome his bride were his adoring parents.
Another party was held at Melrose for Les, Alice, and Les’s soldier brother Oscar, but several weeks later the Mudgee Guardian reported on a truly heartbreaking event;
‘Mrs Leslie Worrell, who had accompanied her husband, Sergeant Leslie Worrell, on his return to Australia, had only been in her new Australian home at Baradine Creek just a month when she became ill with appendicitis, and despite every medical assistance – both Dr. Failes and Dr. Docker being in attendance – she collapsed while being removed to the Coonabarabran Hospital, and passed away….Deep sympathy is felt throughout the district with Sergeant Worrell in his very sad bereavement.’ (Mudgee Guardian October 2 1919)
Alice died on September 16 1919, and was buried in Baradine cemetery. The headstone was organized and paid for by her grieving mother in England. There it stands, with a spelling mistake and no mention of her loved ones. It’s possible that Les Worrell was meant to check the details and add ‘Beloved husband of…..’ or similar, before it was erected. Sadly, by the time Mrs Notton’s template reached Australia the widower’s thoughts were elsewhere.
Almost immediately he reconnected with Martha and they married in her home town on Boxing Day. No members of the Worrell family attended. I can’t help wondering whether they even knew about it.
After three long years of separation during WWI, Martha’s dreams had come true. Only the ‘betrayal’ of Worrell’s marriage in England remained a secret. Family members were uneasy about the hastily arranged wedding, but were told it was because the groom had suddenly managed some leave. He had joined the NSW police force on November 11, attached to a station in Sydney’s inner city Redfern.
A quiet but pretty wedding was celebrated at Holy Trinity Church of England, Manilla, on December 26, the ceremony being performed by the Rev. A.V. Smith, when Leslie Clive Worrell, of Redfern, Sydney, late of the A.I. Forces was married to Miss Martha Maud, third daughter of Mr. and Mrs. C. Lennon, of Albro Farm, Manilla. As the bride entered the church on the arm of her father the Wedding March was played by Miss Eva Jeffries. The bride was attired in an ivory crepe-de-chene and georgette frock, beautifully hand embroidered, and trimmed with seed pearls The veil of embroidered tulle was arranged mob cap fashion with a wreath of orange blossom. The bride carried a shower bouquet of carnations and maiden hair fern and streamers of white ribbon, and also wore a gold locket and chain, gift of the bridegroom…….Mr and Mrs Worrell afterwards left by car for Sydney, where the honeymoon was spent, the bride travelling in a fawn gabardine coat and skirt with hat to match.
The wedding dress, with its time consuming hand embroidery, could well have been part of the trousseau Martha assembled before Les returned from the war.
Unfortunately, but predictably, the ghost of Alice tormented Martha. To make matters worse, her husband continued to lead something of a bachelor lifestyle. He frequented a dancing school in George Street, enjoying himself partnering the young women. Not surprisingly, Martha was jealous. When she complained, Worrell compared her unfavorably to the dead Alice.
It would all end very badly. For part two of this story CLICK HERE. 🚩
Les Worrell’s WWI service record.