Ryan Taylor In Canada, she lived her dream
Lady Taylour


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By Ryan Taylor

Ruth Blair likes to point out that Oakville has its own Lady Diana.

Blair, a recent graduate of the National Institute of Genealogical Studies in Toronto, was asked to look into the background of Lady Diana Taylour. Lady Diana was matron of a nursing home in Oakville and a prominent public figure.

Her story was full of glamor. She was a nurse in World War I in her native England, after her fiancÚ was killed in the first months of fighting. She had outfitted an ambulance at her own expense to rescue wounded soldiers in France. She was wounded three times and lost four brothers. Marshall Joffre, the French commander, had decorated her on the battlefield when she was only 18.

Lady Diana came to Canada in 1926 with her friend Jean Riddell. After losing a fortune in the stock market crash of 1929, they moved to Oakville. She opened a gas station in 1939, and later ran an apartment building which became an old people's residence.

During World War II she worked at home with the Red Cross, and was a respected figure in the Women's Auxiliary of the Canadian Legion. Her death in 1957 was marked by long obituaries in newspapers in Hamilton and Toronto.

It all seemed a little too good to be true. Lady Diana claimed to be connected to the Marquess of Headfort, an Irish peer whose family name is Taylour. She said she'd been born in a manor house called Weyburn in Hertfordshire and sent to finishing school in France.

Blair was asked if she could investigate Lady Diana to see if her story were true. She found no one in the Headfort family who matched Diana's description. It seemed odd that a woman of 18 could have commanded her own ambulance on the battlefields of World War I.

Blair's research skills were tried to the fullest as she found every document she could about Taylour's life - obituaries, deeds and mortgages, directory entries, burial records.

While it was difficult to find Diana Taylour, Diana Taylor was somewhat easier - he lived with a brother in north Toronto in the 1930s and ran an antiques store. Could it be the same woman?

She gave her full name as Katherine Diana May Taylour, occasionally adding in Headfort as another middle name. A letter from young Diana in 1919 originated at the address of the Stone family in London, England. In the 1901 census, the Stone family included a servant, Kate Taylor aged 44. Could there be a connection?

Blair found no Weyburn in Hertfordshire, but she did locate Weybourne in Norfolk, England. The Toronto directories of the 1930s showed Diana Taylor living with Benjamin; the 1901 English census had a Benjamin Taylor living in Weybourne.

In 1891 this Benjamin had a wife Kate Taylor and a daughter, also Kate, born in Weybourne.

And that is where Blair stands now, poised to find little Kate Taylor's birth certificate in Weybourne in 1890. She expects it to say Katherine Diana and to have established the true identity of Lady Diana Taylour of Oakville.

Adding the U to Taylor made it sound more aristocratic. Much of the rest of Diana's story as she told it is romantic and exciting - lords, dashing war service, fancy education. It was the dream world of girls growing up in England at the end of the last century.

When she came to Canada, Diana decided to live her dream. For Blair, it was an exciting research experience, which adds a little to the history of Oakville. For a genealogist, finding the truth behind a legend is a great opportunity to spread your wings and really fly. Blair is soaring.

Posted June 28, 2005
Column copyright © 2005 Ryan Taylor

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