Francis Charles Needham Vanity Fair

“A certain man once lost a diamond cuff-link in the wide blue sea, and twenty years later, on the exact day, a Friday apparently, he was eating a large fish - but there was no diamond inside. That’s what I like about coincidence.”

VLADIMIR NABOKOV, “Laughter in the Dark”

Most times coincidences feel like an unexpected serendipity that has been wafted along by a gentle breeze. Sometimes they feel like a cudgel beating you over the head. Once is interesting, twice is uncanny, three times are unsettling. When it comes to four times – watch out for that cudgel!

Those of you who read the Kilmorey Coincidence article a couple of weeks ago and enjoy the quirks of nature may be interested to hear that another coincidence has added itself to the previous three!


On the afternoon of Sunday 18th September the Kilmorey Mausoleum on the St Margarets Road and opposite the Ailsa pub was opened to the public as part of London Open House Day. During a busy afternoon an Australian visitor introduced himself as Richard Francis Needham Bell, the great, great grandson of ‘Black Jack’ Needham - the man in the coffin inside the mausoleum. Then a woman said that she was visiting the mausoleum on behalf of her close friend who happened to be a relative of ‘Black Jack’’s young mistress Priscilla Hoste, the woman in the other coffin in the mausoleum . There was some considerable surprise amongst the other visitors.

This coincidence developed when I invited Richard, our Australian ‘Black Jack’ to visit the pub over the road and try a pint of English beer. …

"What is the name of this pub?" he asked.

"The Ailsa" I replied.

'Black Jack' paused for a moment...

**"Ailsa is the name of my daughter back home in Australia!"**

There are times when you feel as if you are battling against the fates and this was one of them.

Richard returned home to Melbourne. A few days later I sent him the Kilmorey Coincidence article.

This was his response…

I should have also mentioned to you another coincidence of past and present inadvertently rubbing together…

We used to come from a cattle and sheep property in outback Queensland and because of the property’s isolation… Ailsa and our other daughter Penelope were sent to an Anglican girls boarding school in Brisbane… and this is where the drum starts rolling - yes…

It was St Margarets Girls School!!


Family portrait

Our Australian ‘Black Jack’, Richard Francis Needham Bell has a family portrait of the 3rd Earl of Kilmorey, Black Jack’s grandson Francis Charles Needham. (1842-1915). However Richard is now beginning to wonder if the picture is of ‘Black Jack’s’ eldest son Francis H Needham who died at an early age and was unable to succeed his father. Unable to access photographs or any further information Richard wonders if anyone living in ‘Black Jack’s old demesne might be able to help. Do you know this man?

Frances Jack Needham


Black Jack did have a son but his name was Francis Jack Needham rather than Francis H Needham. He died in 1851 and predeceased his father.

I was able to find some information on one Francis H Needham. He was born around 1850 and died in 1918. He had a daughter Sybil Frances Needham who was born in 1870 in Warwick in Queensland. This may be the link to our Australian friend - Richard Francis Needham Bell.

Kilmorey Mausoleum

The Kilmorey Mausoleum will be open to the public again on Sunday 11th December between 12.00 and 3.00pm. Admission is free.

– from Martyn Day