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HomeNewsHeart-breaking orphan's note unearthed from 1897 begging somebody to love him

Heart-breaking orphan's note unearthed from 1897 begging somebody to love him

The note has just been discovered by conservationists restoring what was once the young man’s choir building. 13-year-old William Elliot wrote the emotional letter on August 11 1897 – and researchers uncovered evidence that he would later fight and die in World War 1. It was found on the back of a chorister’s order of service in Sunderland Parish Church – and people are now being encouraged to write back.

The Grade 1 Georgian listed building was restored over lockdown, transforming it into an event space called Seventeen Nineteen.

However, conservationists unexpectedly discovered record of a voice from the past.

Decades of dust, grime and polish had to be removed before the words could be deciphered.

Writing in pencil, William said: “Dear friend, whoever finds this paper think of William Elliott who had two months and two weeks and four days on the 11 of August 1897.

“Whoever you are that finds this paper don’t tear it up or throw it away … keep it in remembrance of me, W Elliott … I was the leading boy of this choir …
“I love you if you love me.”

After research by volunteers, William’s story was unveiled.

His father was chief officer Thomas Duncan Elliott, who was washed overboard in 1887 while sailing on the vessel Skyros.

The boy’s mother, Sarah Ann Elliott, was left a widow with four children.

While the family had been comfortable until the tragic loss of Mr Elliott, by 1891 Ms Elliott was working as a dressmaker to try and make ends meet.

Following his father’s death, William became eligible for admittance to the orphanage, and was accepted a year later.

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While it is spelt differently to records surrounding the letter, it remains a strong possibility that it was the very same young man.

His plea to be remembered has inspired Seventeen Nineteen to launch The Dear Friend project, inviting anyone who wishes to, to write a letter back to William.

Centre manager Tracey Mienie said: “His letter has touched us all.

“He was clearly very aware that his time at the orphanage, and in the choir, was ending and I think apprehension at what his future may hold comes across in his words.”



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