Vere St. Leger Goold

Is your surname Goold?

Research the Goold family

Vere St. Leger Goold's Geni Profile

Share your family tree and photos with the people you know and love

  • Build your family tree online
  • Share photos and videos
  • Smart Matching™ technology
  • Free!


Vere St. Leger Goold

Birthplace: Waterford, Ireland
Death: Died in French Guiana Penal Column
Immediate Family:

Son of George Ignatius Goold and Clara Goold
Husband of Violet Goold
Brother of Frances Mary Anne Goold; 4 un-named sons Goold and Sir James Stephen Goold, 4th baronet

Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Vere St. Leger Goold

Vere St. Leger Goold (2 October 1853 in Waterford, Ireland - 8 September 1909 Devil's Island, French Guiana penal colony) was an Irish tennis player. He quickly faded from the game and ended his life in prison convicted of murder and premature death, by suicide.

He apparently had boxing skills as well as tennis skills. In June of 1879 he became the Irish tennis champion, beating his opponent, C.D. Barry, 8–6, 8–6 in the final. Later that summer Vere tried his luck at the third edition of the Wimbledon Championships and made it all the way to the All-Comers final in which he was defeated by Reverend John Hartley, 2-6, 4-6, 2-6.

A few months later he competed in the first open tournament held at Cheltenham. He again reached the final and lost, this time to the famous William Renshaw, in a a closely fought match, 4-6, 3-6, 6-5, 6-5, 4-6. He wasted a 4-1 lead in the final set.

After an illness he failed to defend his Irish title in 1880, losing out in the Challenge Round, again to William Renshaw 1-6, 4-6, 3-6. St. Leger's career went downhill and he disappeared from the tennis scene by 1883.

Vere Thomas St Leger Goold was an Irish aristocrat, a Wimbledon finalist, an alcoholic, an opium addict, a slow payer of his gambling debts, and all-round “degenerate”, and in the summer of 1907 he was arrested at Marseille railway station after he was found to have a woman’s naked, headless, dismembered and disembowelled body in his leather trunk. More at this site)

Marriages Sep 1891

  • Goold Vera St Leger Paddington 1a 158
  • Wilkinson Violet Paddington 1a 158 (Violet Girodin)

Sir James Stephen Goold, 4th baronet and his brother, Vere Thomas St.Leger Goold.

According to an article which appeared in the 'Adelaide [South Australia] Advertiser' on 9 September 1907, Sir James's younger brother, Vere Thomas St.Leger Goold, claimed the baronetcy, notwithstanding the fact that his older brother was still alive at the time. In any event, Sir James Goold also had three sons and two grandsons, each of whom took precedence in the line of succession. It should also be pointed out that Sir James Goold and his family lived in South Australia at the time the article was published, and the paper would therefore be expected to have a better knowledge of the family than most.

The article states that 'How [Vere] Goold claimed his title to his brother's baronetcy, though Sir James Stephen Goold is still alive, forms a curious narrative. Even if Sir James were dead, Vere Goold would not be justified in using the title of 'Sir Vere,' as there are three sons and one [actually two] grandsons of his brother who would take precedence of him. The family of the baronet are all residing in Australia, but are not in a position to "keep up" the title.

'In 1900 a paragraph appeared in Canadian and Australian papers, stating that in consequence of the death of the holder of the title, Mr. Vere St.Leger Goold, of Montreal, had succeeded to it. The only foundation for the story was the fact that a brother named Frederick Edward Michael Goold, who came between James Stephen and Vere St.Leger, died in a hospital in Australia, leaving no heirs. [While this person does not appear in Burke's Peerage, he is shown as the heir to the baronetcy in the 1899 edition of Dod's Peerage, even though each of Sir James's three sons had been born by that time - but this was not known to the editors of these peerage reference works].

'Vere St.Leger appears to have fastened on this fact, and circulated a statement that it was the elder brother, holder of the title, who had died without family. In May, 1901, he wrote to the editors of the leading books of reference, telling them of his brother's death. While professing anxiety not to use the title "until proofs come to hand," he said he would like to establish his position as baronet, "for my wife's sake." He also informed the editors that he had no children, and that he travelled about a good deal. His friends, he explained, wished to call him 'Sir Vere,' but he told everyone that it would be "somewhat premature" to do so. He wound up by ingenuously stating that he had not seen or heard anything of his brother, James Stephen Goold, since the year 1863 [the year James Stephen Goold migrated to Australia].

'This last statement was denounced the following year by the real baronet, Vere St.Leger's elder brother, as a falsehood. He had also seen the newspaper paragraphs and he wrote to the editors to inform them that, while he was not in a position to keep up the title, he still wished to preserve the rights of his three sons and any children they might have. As for his brother's statement that he had not seen or heard of him since 1863, he settled the question by showing that he had been in frequent communication with him since 1897 on the question of the use of the title.

'In subsequent letters Sir James Stephen Goold alleged that Vere St.Leger actually wrote to him offering him £100 if he would sign a document "waiving his claim," and the claims of his children, to the title. The money was never sent, and the document, if it had been signed for this consideration would have been worth nothing. It is not in the power of anyone to abandon a title in that fashion.

' When Sir James Goold died in August 1926, the [Melbourne] 'Argus' reported, in its edition of 10 August 1926, that "Sir James Stephen Goold, an Irish baronet [sic - it is a baronetcy of the United Kingdom], died yesterday at a mental hospital. [I understand, however, that Sir James had suffered a stroke, so the reference to a mental hospital may be somewhat misleading - it is more likely that he died in some form of sanatorium or nursing home.]

Sir James Goold, who was born on October 13, 1848, succeeded his uncle, the third baronet, in 1893. He was for many years and until 13 years ago a railway ganger at Gladstone, South Australia. He never used his title………. Sir James Goold had maintained for 44 years the secret of his association with a titled family, but in August 1907, a cable message announced that a Vere Goold and Mrs. Goold had murdered Madame Emma Levin at Monte Carlo. [Vere] Goold said that he had a brother, a baronet, in South Australia……

" The murder referred to above was one of most sensational newspaper stories of 1907. On 6 August of that year, a middle-aged couple arrived at Marseilles by train from Monte Carlo. The man gave a railway porter a luggage ticket and asked him to forward a trunk via goods train to Charing Cross Station in London, to be left there until called for. The trunk was placed on a truck and driven towards the goods station, but on the way, it was noticed that blood was leaking from a corner of the trunk. The porter reported the matter to the police, and when the trunk was opened, they found the body of a woman, whose head and legs had been severed. It was an easy matter to trace the middle-aged couple, since the porter had overheard them hiring a cab to take them to a hotel, whose name he had remembered.

The police immediately proceeded to the hotel and arrested the couple, and seized their other luggage. In one of their trunks, the police found the missing head and legs. At their subsequent trial the prisoners, Vere St.Leger Goold and his wife Violet Goold, formerly Girondin, denied murdering Emma Levin, but admitted to dismembering her body. Evidence was brought before the court which showed that Emma Levin was a wealthy woman who possessed a valuable collection of jewellery. In addition, it was shown that she had lent money to the Goolds, and had been pressing them for repayment.

Finally, on 4 December 1907, the Court found both of the Goolds to be guilty of premeditated murder and sentenced Vere Goold to life imprisonment, while Mrs. Goold was sentenced to death. Vere Goold died in prison on Devil's Island, the French penal settlement off the coast of South America in September 1909 (one report suggests that he committed suicide).

His wife's death sentence was later commuted to life in prison, where she died in January 1914. The reason for the commutation of Mrs. Goold's death sentence may perhaps be found in the following report which appeared in 'The Washington Post' on 24 December 1907:- 'Mme. Vere Goold has produced consternation in the principality of Monaco by exercising an ancient right of a condemned person and demanding that she be beheaded in the plaza, which is the flower and tree decorated space in front of the Casino at Monte Carlo. 'Ever since the trial of the Goolds for the murder of Emma Levin, the Prince of Monaco has dreaded some such possibility as this. The persistent policy of this ruler has been to keep away, to cover up, anything that might frighten the nervous sensibilities of the patrons of the gambling establishments. 'The idea of an execution in Monte Carlo was horrifying enough, but now this terrible woman demands to be killed in public and that the guillotine be set up in front of the Palace of Chance. 'She and her husband have appealed against their sentences - his that of hard labor for life and hers that of the headsman - and in view of the woman's plea for a final public appearance it is possible the appeal will be granted. 'Meanwhile the Goolds are locked up in the Monaco prison. Goold has sent a farewell message to his friends in Ireland and England, and will be shipped to Cayenne, French Guinea [sic for Guiana], if the sentence be carried out. He has also sent loving messages to the cell of his wife, but she refuses to read them and declares she wants nothing more to do with "that lazy drunkard." While researching this note, I made a courtesy phone call to the current baronet, Sir George William [Bill] Goold, who lives in Sydney. Not only was Bill familiar with most aspects of the stories of Sir James Stephen Goold and Vere St.Leger Goold, but he was also aware of some information that was unknown to me. He very kindly sent me a copy of a pamphlet entitled "St.Leger Goold; A Tale of Two Courts" written by Alan Little and published by the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum in 1984. The two courts referred to in the title of the pamphlet are the court which convicted Vere Goold of murder, and also the tennis courts at Wimbledon, where Goold was a champion player, being the runner-up in the men's singles at Wimbledon in 1879, the same year that he won the Irish championship.
view all

Vere St. Leger Goold's Timeline

October 2, 1853
September 8, 1909
Age 55
French Guiana Penal Column