Did you find a dead man in Welwyn Garden City's woods 56 years ago?

PUBLISHED: 06:58 04 October 2019

'Boys find dead man in the woods' - the front page of the Welwyn Times and Hatfield Herald on August 6, 1963. Picture: Archant

'Boys find dead man in the woods' - the front page of the Welwyn Times and Hatfield Herald on August 6, 1963. Picture: Archant

Archant

More than 55 years ago the Welwyn Hatfield Times reported that a Welwyn Garden City man had been found dead in the woods.

John Grigg Tait and his wife Bridget, who named their daughter after her, on their wedding day. Picture: Courtesy of Bridget Tait-MurphyJohn Grigg Tait and his wife Bridget, who named their daughter after her, on their wedding day. Picture: Courtesy of Bridget Tait-Murphy

Two local boys, Owen Watson and Philip Jenkins, found the body of 24-year-old medical student John Grigg Tait in Sherrardswoods while gathering firewood on August 6, 1963.

And now, more than five decades on, Mr Grigg Tait's daughter Bridget Tait-Murphy said she wants to find the two boys from Pitsfield - pictured in the then Welwyn Times and Hatfield Herald on August 9, 1963, when aged six and seven - and thank them for at least giving her some degree of closure.

Mr Grigg Tait, who married Bridget's mother when he was 18 and she was 34, took his own life with barbiturates, which he had become addicted following his spell as a medical student in Scotland.

"When I was younger I heard rumours it was a suicide, but my mother would never say anything about him," said Bridget, who contacted the Welwyn Hatfield Times to ask for our help to find out more about her father.

John Grigg Tait and his wife Bridget, who named their daughter after her, on their wedding day. Picture: Courtesy of Bridget Tait-MurphyJohn Grigg Tait and his wife Bridget, who named their daughter after her, on their wedding day. Picture: Courtesy of Bridget Tait-Murphy

"I've been very affected by what went on."

She said her mother never remarried before her death in Ireland's County Wexford in 2015, but had always refused to give her any more information about him.

"When I asked 'what was he like' she always answered 'same as other men'," she said.

"But that was her way, of course."

Bridget Tait-Murphy contacted the Welwyn Hatfield Times in a bid to track down the two boys - as they were at the time - that found her dad dead in Sherrardspark Woods in Welwyn Garden City in 1963. Picture: Courtesy of Bridget Tait-MurphyBridget Tait-Murphy contacted the Welwyn Hatfield Times in a bid to track down the two boys - as they were at the time - that found her dad dead in Sherrardspark Woods in Welwyn Garden City in 1963. Picture: Courtesy of Bridget Tait-Murphy

Bridget indicated to the WHT that the Catholic Church's refusal to bury those that took their own lives and views on this form of tragic death may have prevented her mother from being able to open up about it.

It was also reported in the Welwyn Times and Hatfield Herald, on August 16, 1963, that the inquest heard how Mr Grigg Tait's marriage had broken up due to another woman. "I heard rumours of that too," Bridget said.

Mr Grigg Tait had lived in Salvation Army hostels, prior to his death, and regularly visited a mental health worker who told the coroner that "he was very lonely".

Prior to this period, Bridget and her brother and sister were put into a children's home.

"She disappeared for months on end and they had no idea where she was," Ms Tait-Murphy said.

"I think she tried to spite him by putting us in there."

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It is unclear from previous reports in the Welwyn Times and Hatfield Herald from 1963 how much, if anything, Mr Grigg Tait knew about his daughter - who was four at the time.

When Bridget was seven, her mother took her from the home for a trial period - according to an Freedom of Information request she made - but decided instead to abscond to County Wexford.

"She moved around all the time through the county, she could never settle," said Bridget.

Bridget - who now lives in Bunclody in the centre of the Irish county - hopes learning more about her father's death can also help answer why or how she developed cerebral palsy.

"It can be caused due to an injury at birth," she said, adding that there were other rumours her mother had mental health problems at this time.

Bridget later learned that she had been twin, but her sibling had not survived the birth.

"I got two angels tattooed on my arm, 10 years ago, after I found out about my twin," she said.

There are some bit and pieces she has managed to garner about her dad, apart from that he was a medical student in Scotland.

She believes he was the son of Charles Grigg Tait, a seaside painter in Maldon near Chelmsford, who died in 1996.

"I was actually invited to an exhibition of my grandfather's work, but I was unable to attend," said Bridget.

Aside from the mystery of her birth and growing up without her father, Bridget said she has coped well considering her disability.

She said: "I'm married. I have three children in their 30s. And, although I always wished to be a doctor and was told I never could, I have had a good life."

Bridget has worked at the Irish Council of People with Disabilities, Sheil Kinnear and Co, Chartered Accountants and studied community development at University College Cork.

She lives with her husband and dog in Bunclody, County Wexford.

If you do have any information about Owen Watson, whose father worked at the British Rubber Producers' Research Association, and Philip Jenkins, both from Pitsfield, Welwyn Garden City, or John Grigg Tait please get in touch with news@whtimes.co.uk or ring the newsdesk on 01707 372370.

- If you need someone to talk to you can call Samaritans for free at any time, 24 hours a day and from any phone, on 116 123.

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