William Keeley signature

On this day in 1916 William Keeley, a teamster, signed up in Deseronto. He appears to have been born in Lingwood, Norfolk, England in 1897, the son of John Joseph Keeley and Alice (née Patterson). His father died in 1905 and William came to Canada. There is a record at Library and Archives Canada of a Barnado Homes child called William Keeley who arrived in Quebec on the SS Dominion in September 1907, which could be him.  At the time of the 1911 census he was 14 years old and was working on the farm of William and Annie Joyce in Richmond Township, Lennox and Addington County.

When he enlisted, he gave William Joyce as his next of kin and Joyce signed his attestation paper. Keeley was five feet five and a half inches tall, with blue eyes, brown hair and a fair complexion. He was working as a teamster in Deseronto and he joined the 155th Overseas Battalion with the regimental number 636182.

Keeley’s service record shows that he arrived in England on October 23rd, 1916 on the SS Northland (and that his mother was still alive and living at 10 Saloon Street, Great Yarmouth). He joined the Machine Gun Corps in France in May 1917 and was wounded by a gas shell on September 15th, 1918. He spent three weeks in hospital. In February 1919 he was back in hospital for a month with influenza. He returned to Canada in July 1919 and married Myrtle Jaynes of Napanee on March 22, 1921.

The Lennox and Addington Historical Society has the following to say about his life after the war:

Little is known of his service, but William Keeley was one of those for whom the war was a deeply disturbing experience. After discharge, he married and commenced farming on the Hamburg road, but found it difficult to settle down. Nothing seemed to go right for him. In July, 1939, he was part of a noisy disturbance at the Paisley Hotel in Napanee. He was taken across to the Town Hall, and placed in one of the cells for the night. In the morning, it was found that he had committed suicide.1


1 Taken from this Lennox and Addington Historical society page

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