mole logo Canadian flag

William Gustavus Dunville (1900-1956)

William Gustavus Dunville (1900-1956)
William Gustavus Dunville
William Gustavus Dunville (1900-1956) and Ivy Evelyn Dunville née Combes (1906-1967), 19 March 1955
Ivy Evelyn Dunville née Combes (1906-1967)
and William Gustavus Dunville (1900-1956)
on the day of their daughter
Shirley's wedding, 19 March 1955
Garth and Shirley June Thorkilson on the day of their wedding, 19 March 1955, with Shirley's parents William and Ivy Dunville
Garth and Shirley June Thorkilson
on the day of their wedding, 19 March 1955,
with Shirley's parents William and Ivy Dunville
William Gustavus Dunville (1900-1956) and his daughters Shirley June Dunville (1933-1994) and Avis Zoe Pamela Dunville (1935-1977)
William Gustavus Dunville (1900-1956)
and his daughters Shirley June Dunville (1933-1994)
and Avis Zoe Pamela Dunville (1935-1977)
This photograph was taken in about 1943.
Barry Station, Nundle, New South Wales, where William Gustavus Dunville reared sheep in the 1920s
Barry Station, Nundle, New South Wales,
where William Gustavus Dunville
reared sheep in the 1920s.
This photograph was taken in about 2009.

The watercolour portrait at the top left was very kindly provided by Christopher Dunville. The photographs at the top right and in the centre were very kindly provided by Kirsten Young née Thorkilson, who is a granddaughter of William Gustavus Dunville and Ivy Evelyn Dunville née Combes, and a daughter of Shirley June Thorkilson née Dunville. The photograph of Barry Station was published in "The Land", New South Wales, on 7 May 2009.

William Gustavus Dunville was a charming and popular young man.1 As the third son of the family he would not have expected to inherit the chairmanship of Dunville and Company. By the age of thirty-one, however, his father and his two brothers had died, but he still did not succeed to the chairmanship. He was banished first to Australia, with his first wife, and then to Canada, where he settled with his second wife and their two daughters.

William Gustavus Dunville (1900-1956) was the third son of Colonel John Dunville Dunville CBE DL (1866-1929) and Violet Anne Blanche Dunville née Lambart (1861-1940). Colonel John Dunville was the fourth chairman of Dunville and Company, which was one of the largest whisky distillers in the UK at the beginning of the twentieth century.

William Gustavus Dunville was born on 12 June 1900 at the family's home in London, 46 Portland Place in Marylebone.2 In the 1911 Census, he was ten years old and boarding at Stubbington House School, a preparatory school in Stubbington, Hampshire.3 His two older brothers were educated at Eton and he might also have been educated there. He served in the Grenadier Guards4 but he was probably too young to see active service. He was eighteen years old when the First World War ended.

There is an oil painting, not shown on this page, of William dressed as the Master of the Hounds.5 He never was the Master of the Hounds, but the painting was intended to be of his oldest brother, Robert Lambart Dunville, who was for some years Master of the County Down Staghounds.6 William had to sit for the artist because Robert was not available.

William is included in a list of passengers arriving at a port in the USA in 1921. It shows that on 2 April 1921, at the age of twenty years and ten months, he sailed from Southampton on the S.S. "Aquitania", bound for New York. It says that his nearest relative in the country from which he came was his mother, Mrs Dunville, of 46 Portland Place, London, WC. His occupation was mechanic, which was typewritten, and to which had been added by hand "Marine Engineering". His last permanent residence, defined on the form as being of one year or more, was given as Niagara Falls, Canada, and his final destination and intended permanent residence was New York.7 Nothing else is known about these visits to Niagara Falls and New York.

Just under a year later, on 23 March 1922, William married Ruth Glover in Trinity Church, Marylebone, London.8 Ruth was born in Belfast in about January 1901, when her father Samuel Glover was working as an iron turner.9 William and Ruth were both twenty-one years old when they married and both gave their address as 46 Portland Place, which was the Dunville family's home in London. Ruth's father's occupation was recorded on the marriage certificate as engineer, but he had died before the marriage. William's father John Dunville was one of the witnesses to the marriage.

Patrick Moffett provides some information about William Gustavus Dunville in his helpful but not completely reliable document "The Dunville Family of Redburn House Holywood 1759-1940". He says that William was remembered as a young man with the most charming manners; that he displeased his mother by marrying a girl from Newtownwards Road, Belfast; that they were packed off to Australia and set up a sheep station of their own: Barry Station, Nundle, New South Wales; that after raising three daughters they returned to Ireland, divorced, and William emigrated to Winnipeg, Canada with one daughter, where, it was said, they were reduced to living in a shack.10 But some of Patrick Moffett's information is known to be incorrect: William and his first wife divorced before they returned to Ireland, and William was not reduced to living in a shack in Canada. There is no other record of any daughters born to William and Ruth.

However William and Ruth were sent to Australia to run the sheep station, Barry Station in Nundle, New South Wales. Were William's parents disappointed that he had not married into the aristocracy, as his father John Dunville Dunville and his oldest brother Robert Lambart Dunville had done?

Barry Station was described in 2009 as 8,489 hectares (20,967 acres) of grazing country in the upper catchment areas of the Barnard and Hunter rivers.11 William's wife was listed in the 1925 Electoral Roll for the Division of Robertson, Subdivision of Gloucester, New South Wales: Ruth Dunville, Barry Station, Nundle, Home Duties.12 There is no record of any children born to William and Ruth, other than Patrick Moffett's document. In 1926 Ruth Dunville petitioned for a divorce in Australia on the ground of desertion,13 and a decree absolute was pronounced in 1927,14 meaning that the divorce was granted.

William Gustavus Dunville was known to be in Australia in January 1931, when his brother Robert had died in Johannesburg on his way to visit him.15 After his father and two brothers had died, William was the only male descendant of the Dunville family. Was one of the reasons he returned from Australia for him to become the head of the Dunville family and the sixth Chairman of Dunville and Company? After he returned to Northern Ireland, he was sent, presumably by his mother, to live in Canada. This was despite the deaths of her husband and her other two sons, and sending her daughter many years earlier to Normansfield Hospital in Teddington, Middlesex. William was known to drink heavily later in his life. Had this already become a problem?

William's second wife, Ivy Evelyn Combes (1906-1967), said that she met William in Portsmouth, England.5 They travelled to Canada and married on 8 December 1931 in Sault Sainte Marie, Ontario. Their first daughter, Shirley June Dunville, was born in June 1933 in Canada. William is listed with his second wife Ivy in the 1935, 1936 and 1940 City Directories for Sault Sainte Marie. Their address was 14 Wemyss in 1935, 152 Pim in 1936 and 99 Grace in 1940. In the 1936 City Directory William's occupation is salesman.16 William and Ivy's second daughter, Avis Zoe Pamela Dunville, was born in April 1935.

William was known as a remittance man,4 who was a person living overseas on regular payments from his family in the UK, on the understanding that he would not return and be a source of embarrassment. According to Gordon Thompson, the son of Tommy Thompson, the gamekeeper at Redburn, William wrote to Tommy Thompson every Christmas, and this was the only contact William had with Redburn..17 18

One cold winter, William fell asleep in the street, having succumbed to his heavy drinking. His right arm suffered frostbite. When the doctor told him that it was badly damaged, William said "Take it off, take it off!" It was probably very painful, and the doctor was going to have to amputate it anyway..17 This is why, in the photograph of him and Ivy, he is standing with his left arm towards the camera, so that you cannot see that his right arm is missing.

William's niece, Eileen Robertson née Dunville (1919-2016), and her husband Monty Robertson (1918-1961) once travelled several hundred miles across Ontario to visit him. He was not at home when they arrived, but after a while a taxi drove up. William climbed out, having apparently had a few drinks, said "Hello", and asked them to pay for the taxi, as he did not have much cash on him. The Robertsons did not stay long and never saw him again.3 .17

William died on 22 August 1956 in Sault Sainte Marie, Ontario. His widow Ivy lived for a further eleven years, in financial comfort. She dressed well and travelled to and from the nearest town by taxi, when most of the other people travelled by bus.5

Miles Holroyd


1. Reverend McConnell Auld MA: Holywood Then and Now, 2002
2. 1900 Birth Certificate for William Gustavus Dunville
3. 1911 Census entry for Stubbington House, Stubbington, near Fareham, Hampshire
4. Christopher Dunville, great-grand-nephew of William Gustavus Dunville
5. Kirsten Young, granddaughter of William Gustavus Dunville
6. The Times, London, 12 January 1931
7. 1921 List or Manifest of Alien Passengers for the United States of America
8. 1922 Marriage Certificate for William Gustavus Dunville and Ruth Glover
9. 1901 Census entry for 9 Stormount Street (sic), Pottinger, County Down
10. Patrick Moffett: The Dunville Family of Redburn House Holywood 1759-1940
11. The Land, New South Wales, 7 May 2009
12. Tamworth Family History Group, Tamworth, New South Wales, Australia
13. The Sydney Morning Herald, 21 October 1926
14. The Sydney Morning Herald, 11 May 1927
15. The Belfast Telegraph, 10 January 1931
16. 1935, 1936 and 1940 City Directories for Sault Sainte Marie, Ontario, retrieved by Clifford Dumville of Ottawa, Ontario
17. Gordon Thompson, son of Tommy Thompson, 8 June 2005
18. Sam Christie's interview of Gordon Thompson, son of Tommy Thompson, summer 2008

Any more information on William Gustavus Dunville would be gratefully appreciated.

Captain Arthur Soames, Princess Anne, Warrant Officer Paul Holliday, Christopher Dunville, Kirsten Young, Hyde Park Barracks, 29 June 2017

Kirsten Young (right), who is a granddaughter of William Gustavus Dunville (1900-1956), meets Princess Anne, the daughter of Queen Elizabeth, at the Dunville VC Ride Pass-Off at Hyde Park Barracks on 29 June 2017. Also, from left to right: Captain Arthur Soames, Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment, who is a great-grandson of Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965), Warrant Officer Paul Holliday, Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment, and Christopher Dunville, who is a great-grandson of Robert Lambart Dunville (1893-1931). Kirsten gave the jar of maple syrup to Princess Anne. The photograph was taken by Tom Young, Kirsten's husband.

See also:

The Dunvilles of Northern Ireland and Dunville's Whisky

The Distillery Line of the Dunvilles

Family Tree