The photo below is of modern day Grenville St. Bloomsbury in London. Somewhere on this street Darrell Figgis spent his last night.
His last days were filled with misery after loosing his wife and the added trauma of the death and the circumstances surrounding it of his mistress. His friend of many years, Frank Julian Maurice described the Figgis he encountered just before his death below:
On his last night he spent a few hours at the Automobile Club but not be persuaded to join friends for a drink instead he returned to his lodgings on Grenville Street alone.
His funeral was made more poignant by it’s austerity. Few mourners showed up, his family and one or two friends. His father seemed to be absent, this however could have been due to bad health, according to his brother Bryan. His mother an elderly woman made her way from Ireland accompanied by his siblings, to his burial at West Hampstead Cemetery. His grave would be all but forgotten for decades until it was rediscovered a few years ago.
Whatever was thought of him in life one thing that cannot be denied he was never dull, and he is perhaps remembered more that what written history would suggest. There is a rumor that fans leave cards and other offerings each year on his birthday.
Weekly Irish Times07 November 1925
Taunton Courier, and Western Advertiser 04 November 1925
Darrell Figgis did not have a long life, it tragically ended when he was only 43, his last days marred with tragedy. A sad series of events that began a year before his death left those who knew him well not completely surprised, when his lifeless body was found by a housemaid in a Bloomsbury bedsit, London in October 1925.
After the breakup of his marriage a few years beforehand it seemed that his life began to slowly unravel. The tensions of the Revolutionary years along with physical and personal attacks not to mention long periods of incarceration all took a toll on the lives of the Figgis’. All that and the possible discovery that her husband proved too much for Millie.
Sometime afterward the break up of their marriage Figgis met dancer Rita North, who more than twenty years his junior, she became his constant companion and then his lover. It is impossible to say if that his affair with the young woman was the last straw for Millie. One November night in 1924 she hired a taxi to take her to the ominous spot of the Hell Fire Club in the Dublin Mountains. She did not get there, just before the cab left the outskirts of the city, Millie took out a gun, put it to her head and pulled the trigger. She did not die straight away but was taken to the Meath Hospital, where Emily once worked. She lasted the night but died the next day.
Figgis somehow put the pieces of his life back together. His relationship with his mistress continued. They were free now to marry if they wanted to but that was not to be. Within the year both she and he would be dead.
In October 1925 the couple arrived in London. Her with a secret Figgis claimed that he did not know. When she eventually told him she had already booked into a hospital to have a termination. Illegal in those days, when besides such an operation carried serious risk. unfortunately the risky operation proved fatal. She quickly developed toxemia and peritonitis and died as a result. Figgis was called as a witness in the inquest but he too died before the verdict:
“…Peritonitis following an artificial abortion, but there was not sufficient evidence how the abortion was procured.”
Darrell and Millie Figgis spent almost a decade on Achill. They were friends of Emily and possibly knew her from before their arrival on the island in 1913. Emily was possibly related to Millie and may have shared a grandfather Richard McArthur, who was originally Northern Ireland as was Millie. Emily may have known Darrell Figgis too as her family were in the book trade as were some branches of his.
The Figgis’ and Emily lives were closely linked during the Revolutionary years and for a brief period after. The trio attended the historical funeral of Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa at Glasnevin Cemetery in 1915, a well documented event. They even appear in photographs of the event, but not together.
When Figgis spent time in jail in 1918 Emily, who was a nurse by trade, took time out from her busy schedule to nurse Millie, when she was struck by the deadly virus, that claimed more that the previous war had. Millie who had a weak heart was not expected to live. Emily forthright as ever took it upon herself to write to the Chief Secretary of Ireland’s office to grant Millie’s husband compassionate leave from his internment. Unfortunately Emily’s word alone did not carry much weight as was noted by the authorities:
“Mrs Weddalll is a Nurse in the Meath Hospital; she belongs to Achill, and is a personal friend of Mrs Figgis. It is said that this Nurse holds Extreme Views.”
Darrell Figgis was granted leave and Millie survived. But the worst was yet to come.
Edward Weddall took rooms at 64 Perthron Road in Islington, before his marriage to Emily. It is impossible to say how long he resided there or if the newlyweds lived there for a time. At the time Islington was a hub of activity for artists, writers and journalists, who Emily would have been right at home with, Edward less so.
Emily would certainly have enjoyed the vivacious artistic element of the area.