William Ray Emmis, 1873 - 1952

by Brian Stevenson
last updated March, 2020

W.R. Emmins was a longstanding member of the “Mounting Section” (slide-making group) of the Manchester Microscopical Society. As a result, Emmins’ amateur slides generally have a professional quality to them (Figures 1 and 2). Brian Bracegirdle’s Microscopical Mounts and Mounters includes a picture of an excellent thin-mount of a tree fossil in coal (Plate 51-H). That fossil came from Stalybridge, which is near Emmins’ home.

Figure 1. A microscope slide that was prepared by William Emmins, dated 1909. The specimens are cross-sections of blades of marram grass, described on the label as Ammophila arundiacea (now Ammophila arenaria sub-species arundinacea).


Figure 2. Transverse section of a blade of marram grass, with staining (see Figure 1). Both images were captured with a 10x objective lens and C-mounted digital SLR camera. The left image was produced with normal transmitted light, the left image with crossed polarizing filters.


William Ray Emmins was born in early 1873 in Patricroft, Lancashire, on the outskirts of Manchester. He was the fourth child, and third son, of Charles and Elizabeth Emmins. Charles worked as a “joiner and builder”, i.e. a carpenter who produced both fine woodwork and houses.

William went into sales, and appears to have been a sales representative in the fabric industry for all of his life.

He married Ada Elizabeth Cordwell on June 23, 1898. A daughter, Winifred, was born on December 3, 1899. Ada died in 1907. The 1939 register of England described Winifred as being “invalid, incapacitated”, and lived with her father for all of his life. The 1939 register also records a live-in “nurse companion”. Winifred passed away in 1955.

After Ada’s death, William and Winifred were taken in by an elder brother, Charles, and his family.

William became a member of the Manchester Microscopical Society in 1908. He soon joined the Mounting Section. The Society’s Annual Reports indicate that Emmins was a frequent exhibitor at Society meetings, presenting a wide variety of botanical and animal specimens. At a meeting of the Mounting Section in 1913, “Mr. W.R. Emmins demonstrated on mounting in balsam, distributing a number of slides he made to illustrate his method of mounting”, an indication of one way that his slides were spread around. Emmins served on the MMS Council in 1916. He was a member through at least 1921, the most recent issue to which I have access.

William Emmins died on November 15, 1952.



Annual Report and Transactions of the Manchester Microscopical Society (1908-1921)

England census and other records, accessed through ancestry.com

Lancashire and Cheshire Naturalist (1913) Mounting in glycerine, page 331

Probate of the will of W.R. Emmins (1952) “Emmins William Ray of Redcliffe Chester-road Norbury Hazel Grove Cheshire died 15 November 1952 at The Infirmary Stockport Cheshire Probate Manchester 16 March to Winifred Cordwell Emmins spinster and Charles Thomas Emmins manufacturers agent. Effects £12180 5s 8d”, accessed through ancestry.com