Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Who Killed William Desmond Taylor?

A Disapproving Dad

He was born in Carlow, Ireland. Much about his life and death is in dispute including the year of his birth, which has variously been given as 1866, 1872 and 1877. Sources are more in agreement about the month and day: April 26. He was the second of four children. His father, Kearns Deane-Tanner, was a major in the British Army. The family was affluent. Major Deane-Tanner was a strict disciplinarian with a hot temper and frequently clashed with young William.

William left home in his teens after quarreling with his father. Precisely what sparked the row that led to their estrangement is unclear. Some accounts say that Major Deane-Tanner was upset because of the adolescent's relationships with women.

Other versions of the story say that the major was so disappointed that his son failed the eye examinations for the Army that he threw the lad out of his home. This is a perplexing story since William did have poor eyesight. However, it is not impossible that the elder Deane-Tanner incorrectly believed that William had faked an eye condition to get out of the service and was outraged at what he perceived as cowardice.

After leaving the family home, William found work on the stage. It was 1890 when he managed to get a bit part in a production of Sir Charles Hawtrey's "The Private Secretary."

Word got back to Kearns Deane-Tanner that his son was appearing in plays and he was furious because, like many of the day, he viewed the theater as a low occupation. He decided that his son would no longer besmirch the family name and Major Deane-Tanner enrolled the budding actor in a place called Runnymede, across the ocean in Kansas. Runnymede was dedicated to turning young miscreants into gentlemen farmers.

William remained at Runnymede for a year and a half. There he picked up a strong interest in horses that would continue long after his stay at Runnymede became a distant memory.

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