Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Sepia Saturday - Memories of Bridges

Each week Sepia Saturday encourages bloggers to record their family history through photographs.  

There is no shortage of bridges in my photo albums, so here is a selection with the link of  family memories.    

My father and mother, John Weston and Kathleen Danson - taken in 1937  at Kirby
Lonsdale, where they got engaged.  This remained one of their favourite spots to visit.
 Kirby Lonsdale in Cumbria on the edge of the Lake District is a fascinating small town  with   a mix of  18th-century buildings and stone cottages huddled around quaint cobbled courtyards and narrow alleyways with names such as Salt Pie Lane and Jingling Lane.  The town is noted for the its three span Devil's Bridge, first built across the River Lune c.1370.  
My father  grew up in the village of Broseley, near Ironbridge, Shropshire, known as the birthplace of the industrial revolution with  the world's first ever cast iron bridge, built in 1779  over the River Severn. Dad's father worked at the power house at Coalbrookdale, which meant a 35 minute walk each way each day over the bridge.   The local historical society has been particularly helpful in my family history. The Ironbridge Gorge is now a UNESCO World Heritage site.   Photograph taken by my brother. Chris Weston. 

Two postcards of Le Pont Adolphe, Luxembourg
These photographs comes from my father's album.    During the war, Dad  served in the RAF Codes & Ciphers Branch and was seconded to General Bradley’s US 12th Army Group HQ.  He was stationed in Luxembourg in winter 1944 prior to  the Battle of the Bulge.    Dad  had fond memories of the city and the people he met there.

The Bridge, built between 1900 and 1903,  became an unofficial national symbol, representing Luxembourg's independence  and  was named after Grand Duke Adolphe who reigned Luxembourg from 1890 until 1905.   

On some 20 years  and here are my parents on the walkway of the newly opened Forth Road Bridge, spanning the Firth of Forth, near Ediinbugh with the historic Rail Bridge to the right,  We lived about 6 miles away  and it was my father's favourite Sunday outing to drive to South Queensferry to see how the bridge was progressing.   It was opened  by the Queen in September 1964 and replaced a centuries-old ferry service to carry vehicular traffic, cyclists, and pedestrians across the River Forth - a real bottleneck for everyone.   When the bridge opened,  it was the fourth biggest suspension bridge in the world and the longest outside the United States.

The adjacent Forth Rail Bridge,  opened in 1890,  is considered an iconic structure now given UNESCO World Heritage Site status. It continues to be the world's second-longest single cantilever span.

I am struck in this photograph  by the formal wear of my 56 year old mother - but oh so typical of the time - court shoes, handbag,  hat and gloves for what could have been a blustery walk.  

From family memories to bridges with historical interest.

I now live in the Scottish Borders - a region noted for its rolling hills and sparkling rivers - so naturally there are many bridges.   Here are just a few.

Chain Bridge at Melrose

The Chain Bridge at Melrose beneath  the Eildon Hills crosses the famous salmon river of the Tweed.   It was opened  in 1826 and conditions were imposed on  its use including the restraint that no more than eight people should be on it at any one time and  it  was a statutory office to make the bridge swing.  Since payment had to be made to cross the bridge, a ford downstream for horse drawn vehicles continued to be used by pedestrians for some time, with a box of stilts at each end of the ford for people to use for a safer journey,

Rennie's Bridge at Kelso 

 Another crossing of the River Tweed with the Rennie Bridge at Kelso. It was built in 1800-3 to replace one washed away in floods of 1797. Designed by John Rennie, it is an earlier and smaller scale version of the Waterloo Bridge, which he designed for London. The Toll House, where the payment had to be made, was the scene of a riot in 1854, when the locals  objected to continuing to pay the tolls when the building costs had been long cleared. It still took three years for tolls to be withdrawn. This narrow bridge  remained the only bridge across the Tweed at Kelso until the building of a new one in 1998 to the east of the town.  

Leaderfoot Viaduct 

The 19 span Leaderfoot Railway Viaduct  is 3 miles from my home and crosses over the River Tweed, near Melrose.   It  was built in 1863, with trains running until the line closed in  1965.  The structure is now in the care of Historic Scotland.     A Roman bridge once crossed the Tweed here, conveying Dere Street north from the nearby fort of Trimontium. 

Craigsford Bridge, Earlston

The old  bridge at Earlston,was built in  1737  over the Leader Water which joins the famous River Tweed at Leaderfoot (the previous photo above). It remained the main road north and south until the building of the turnpike road which became the now busy A68.   A view from my daughter's nearby cottage. 

Carolside Bridge, near Earlston

Taken on a hill walk, here we  look down on 18th century Carolside Bridge that spans the Leader Water and links two private estates Carolside and Leadervale, near Earlston.

And to finish one of my favourite photographs of a bridge - it is neither  old nor in the Scottish Borders, but it brings back memories of a happy holiday in the West Highlands.  

The Skye Road Bridge.  It  cannot be called historic, as it only opened in 1995, but the island is an iconic  symbol of Scotland's history.  The bridge across Loch Alsh links Kyle of Lochalsh on the mainland with Kyleakin on Skye  with one pillar  on the small island of Eilean Ban. 

And if you  hanker after the romantic route of "Over the Sea to Skye"  you can still cross by ferry from Mallaig to the south of the island at Armadale.  

Copyright © 2015 · Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserved

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other Sepia Saturday  blogger's have discovered. 

Friday, 28 August 2015

Sepia Saturday - A Crowded Journey

Sepia Saturday gives bloggers the opportunity to share their family history through photographs. 

A classic match for the prompt photograph begins this tale of crowded journeys, thanks to my local heritage group in the Scottish Borders  Auld Earlston.  

 In 1907 Earlston Parish Church Choir  set out from the Red Lion Hotel for a day's outing  to Yarrow Manse  - a 16 mile journey through the Borders countryside of rolling hills and river. 

I did wonder why they had chosen this form of transport all the way, as they could have got a train from Earlston for part of the journey  and then taken up the horse drawn vehicle to reach  the small village of Yarrow.   The choir seemed to be dressed in light summer attire, so hopefully it would be a dry day as there was no protection from the elements.    The group  look rather solemn in the photograph below - not surprising if they faced the long bumpy journey back home. 

Another crowded wagonette is in the background of this photograph, ready to set off from the Bull Hotel in Poulton-le-Fylde, for the three mile journey to Blackpool, Lancashire.   My great uncle Bob is the slight figure in the peaked cap standing on the left in front of the horsedrawn bus. He was a postman, the third son (of seven brothers and one sister)  of James Danson and Maria Rawcliffe of Poulton-le-Fylde,  born on 3rd June 1881, and most probably named after his maternal grandfather Robert Rawcliffe.  

I was pleased to see  that the British Postal Service Appointment Books had been made available on www.ancestry.co.uk, and upgraded my subscription to view the records.   It is always fascinating to see an original record relating to an ancestor, but to be honest they gave little information besides recording his name and appointment in  1907 in Preston as a Rural Postman with a further entry showing  his appointment  as postman in Blackpool in May 1925.  

His daughter Irene  presents a much more colourful picture of his work and recollects that:

"He went a long way on his bicycle from Poulton over Shard Bridge [where his grandfather Henry Danson had been a toll keeper] to deliver the post over Wyre.  He had a little hut at Presall where he had to wait until it was time to do the collections and then ride all the way back to Poulton.

In later years he worked from Blackpool General Post Office where his round was North Promenade and the Cliffs - very windy, but it seems the hotel people looked after him with cups of tea now and again. 

He was told at the oubreak of the First World War when his five brothers were joining the army, that he had a bad heart.   But work must have kept him fit, as he lived to be 89 years old and died in 1970."

Great Uncle Bob in 1929 at the wedding of his only sister Jennie.
A move to four wheels for this family picture, which first appeared on my blog some years back. 

The postcard was in the  collection of my Great Aunt Jennie of Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire, and judging by the style of dress |(especially the cloche hats, and  the little girl standing up), it  must have been taken in the 1920's.  There was no inscription on the reverse, but the photographer/publisher was identified as Arthur Hadley,  Photographer, Ramsey, Isle of Man and there is the famous three legged Manx sign on the side of the vehicle.   This could be a clue, as one of Jennie's many brothers. Albert, worked on the Isle of Man ferry between Fleetwood,  Lancashire and the Isle of Man.   

I like it as a happy holiday photograph,  though I wonder how safe I would find the vehicle with so many people on it.    I could imagine someone might need to get out and push,  if going up hills!  

Finally back to Earlston and  a crowded journey of a different kind - with a  heavily  overloaded hay cart approaching the Market Square. 

Click HERE to discover more journeys from Sepia Saturday bloggers. 


Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Sepia Saturday - Eating Out Memories

Sepia Saturday gives bloggers the opportunity to share their family history through photographs. 

Eating out in France.

Cafes & Canteens is the theme of this week's Sepia Saturday prompt, and I cannot  remember ever as a child going for a meal to a cafe or restaurant.  I grew up in the 1950's and we simply never ate out.  I don't think we were unusual - people just did not do it, when you could eat at home. 

We lived then in the north west seaside resort of Blackpool, so there was an abundance of cafes and fish and chip shops - but they were there for visitors, not for us.  My only memory is of a regular Saturday afternoon trip with my mother  into town to meet my Aunt Edith at a cafe that specialised in icecream from the local Palatine Dairy.   

In my  early teens we moved to York,  and again I have no recollections of eating out. This must  have been the time of the coffee bar culture, but that passed me by, and at weekends I met friends at my home or theirs. There was no "just hanging out". 

By my late teens we were living in Edinburgh and I remember going for a birthday treat with my mother to the Chocolate House (long since gone) on Princes Street.  (I remain a chocoholic!)   There was also the tea room at PT's (Patrick Thomson's) department store on the North Bridge, where it was all very genteel with soft music playing and waitresses serving.  

I suppose my first experience of eating out must have been school dinners.

Like most people I hated them, especially the fatty meat, liver, red cabbage, sprouts and anything with hot milk such as custard and the milk puddings - rice, tapioca (nicknamed frog spawn or fish eye pud!) and semolina where I tried to eke out the miserable spoonful of jam to disguise the awful taste.  Also among my dislikes,  soggy bread & butter pudding  and Queen's pudding (apart from the meringue topping),  Menus did not seem to change much over my 13 years of school life. Fly pie (current slices), chip butties and kilted sausages were my few favourite. 

As an impoverished student, I lived off beans and chips for lunch (1s.6d) as the cheapest item on the refectory menu.  Meeting friends,  we would go to a  a Wimpy Bar and make one coca-cola last all evening.

Now eating out is one of our great regular pleasures, not just for special occasions such as birthdays, wedding anniversaries or family visits,  but to enjoy a relaxing lunch in a pub, bistro or country house hotel.  

Eating out on holidays abroad is extra special, especially if it is out of doors (we don't get much chance of that in Scotland)   and we are extremely partial in Bavaria and Austria. to visiting "Konditorei" (the equivalent to  French patisserie) .

A sign at our hotel in Berchtesgarten. Bavaria.  

I was an avid reader in my early teens of the Chalet Scghool stories, set in the Austrian Tyrol where having "Kaffee und Kuchen" seemed to be a favourite phrase.  It was not until I learned German at school that I realised the correct pronunciation - "und" was "unt" and the ch in Kuchen was as  in "loch" not as in "chips" 

By the time we went to Austria I could order from the amazing selection of delicious cakes and pastries at the Cafe/Konditorei Zauner, founded in 1832 in the spa town of Bad Ischl,  It more than met my expectations of an elegant, old fashioned  Viennese style cafe. 


We indulged!  

Click HERE to see  other bloggers enjoyed  the cafe culture.  

Copyright © 2015 · Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserv

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Military Monday - A POW's Lonely Homecoming.

We have been watching on television the moving ceremonies in London to mark VJ. Day and the release of the Japanese prisoners of war.  I was immediately drawn back to my father's account of  his brother Charles.

The telegram sent in September 1945 to my father from his brother, Charles Weston
  released from Japanese prisoner of war camp. 

Charles'  story is  told in the poignant  words of my father who wrote down his  memories for me.  

"Uncle Charles (right) was a POW on the Bridge of the River Kwai — at least it was a bridge when the hundreds of POWs had finished it. Conditions were dreadful, 100s died through lack of food, mostly slops, no solids. Charles had beri-beri, dysentery, ulcers and malaria. 

After the atomic bomb fell on Japan,  the POWs on the bridge were taken to Singapore and stayed in Changhai Jail until shipped home. My Mum and Dad never expected to see him again.

 In 1942 they got a card through the Red Cross — from the War Minister which read “Regret to inform you that your son has been posted missing”. Dad packed up work and the news broke him — he was never the same again.

 It was at Christmas 1943 that Mum got a card from the Red Cross with a few words “I am safe and well” — “Safe” yes…..”Well” -  Certainly Not. 

In August 45, lists of Japanese P.O.W.s  were coming out and I was looking for Charles'  name. 

I was so sorry for Charles, as he arrived in Liverpool with no-one able to meet him. I was in Burma and my mother could not leave my Dad.   You were just a baby and Mum was miles away and could not go.  It was lonely homecoming for a POW".


Charles (left)  and my father John Weston were close as brothers and had these nicknames for one another  -  "Ace"  and "Mel".  Unfortunately I failed to ask my father about the origin of the names and neither my cousin Janice nor I  have been able to find out anything.   Were Mel and Ace popular radio characters, for instance?   I would love to know, if anyone out there has any idea? 

Below   is a long letter Charles wrote to my father in November 1945.    It starts "Dear Mel" and is signed "Keep batting - Ace".

Brothers - John and Charles Weston. c.1936

A year after the war, it was  a happier time when Charles married Vera Botell in December 1946. 

I am the shivering little bridesmaid,
standing in front of my parents.

This story has appeared before on my blog, but I am pleased to publish it again as a tribute to all those who suffered in the war in the Far East.

Military Monday is just one of many daily prompts from Geneabloggers
 to encourage bloggers to record their family history.  

Copyright © 2015 · Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Workaday Wednesday - Working with Horses

Horses are absolutely necessary in this part of the country, for it is by them the farmers labour their farms and drive their corn to market.  They never work with oxen now as they did formerly" - a quote from the chapter on Earlston, Berwickshire in  "The First Statistical Account of Scotland" written 1791-1799.  
Sixty years on,  the 1851 census for Earlston (population 1,819)  lists 9 men working as  blacksmiths, 7 carters/carriers, 3 saddlers, 2  stable boys, an ostler, a farrier, a groom and a coachman - plus of course all those who would be working  with horses on the many farms in the parish.  

Anyone tracing their family history may well have  a "carter or carrier " in their ancestry - an essential occupation in transporting goods around - as shown in these vintage photographs from  the collection of my local heritage group Auld Earlston.  

A horse and cart beside the trough and old Pump Well in Earlston's Market Square.   The Well was demolished  in 1920 to make way for the War Memorial. 

The Smiddy in the Square
Below three photographs of Brotherstone,  Blacksmith's, run by the family for several generations.  

 Gypsies at the Horse Fair on East Green. c.1900

 1907 and the church choir outing on a crowded wagonette  

A winter photograph  of the Red Lion Hotel  in the Square.    The driver of this unusual sledge seems to be dressed very formally in a top hat and is not particularly well  wrapped up against the elements.  And who was he waiting for?  There does not seem to be any path cleared through the snow from  the hotel.  Or was it a promotional photograph?    From the collection of the Heritage Hub, Hawick.

Onto photographs from my family collection  and the Oldham family of Blackpool  who were carters and coalmen down three generations - Joseph Prince Oldham (1855-1921), his son John William Oldham (1880-1939) and his granddaughter Elsie Smith, nee Oldham (1906-1989).

The business was founded around 1890, steadily became prosperous and in 1905 moved to near North Station, Blackpool, Lancashire in a house with a large yard, hay loft, tack room. and stabling for around 7 horses.

 John William Oldham on one of the carriages in the family business.
 Elsie's daughter Gloria atop one of the last horses.

The coal merchant business was eventfully sold around 1948 to another local firm,
 thus ending over 60 years of the family concern. 

Workaday Wednesday is one of many daily prompt from Geneabloggers, to encourage bloggers to record their family history. 

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Sepia Saturday - Happy Beach Memories

Sepia Saturday gives bloggers the opportunity to share their family history through photographs.  This week's prompt - Bondi Beach in Australia.  

I am a Blackpudlian,   born in the  seaside resort of Blackpool on the north west coast of England.  Blackpool  Tower, built in 1894, was modelled on the Eiffel Tower and rises to 520 feet - facts drummed into us at school. My parents met at the famous Tower Ballroom.  

Until the 19th century, Blackpool was just a small hamlet.  It rose to prominence with the building of the railway linking  it to the mill towns of industrial Lancashire and Yorkshire and soon became England's  most popular  holiday resort, with its miles of golden sands. The unique Blackpool Illuminations were first switched on in 1879 to extend  the season well into the autumn.

 Central Pier with the Tower in the background.

 A view from  Blackpool Tower of two of the three piers.

The earliest picture of me enjoying the beach.  I reckon it was taken June 1945, as Dad is in uniform and I know he had leave between marking VE Day in Germany and then being posted out to the Far East.
Toddling along with Dad

Our own family holidays were taken in Bournemouth on the south coast of England, where a great friend of my mother ran a small hotel. All the ingredients of  traditional seaside fun were there - setting up deckchairs, playing  on the beach, eating icecreams  taking donkey rides, exploring rock pools. 

With my mother.  Every summer she made me a new sun dress and I remember this one in green and white  polka dots, with shoulder straps on my dress and a bolero to go over it.  
Digging holes with my brother.    Goodness knows why I  was I wearing a swimming cap, as I could barely swim at this stage?    Dad with his ever present cigarette, years before he kicked the habit.  it must be a photographic quirk that Dad appears so sunburnt in the photograph below, because he did not lead a particularly outdoor life to get that brown.


We move across country to South Shields on the north east coast of England, where my husband was born.  Here is the beach at Marsden Rock where he enjoyed playing as a boy. 

For many years, holidays were not on our agenda, but now living in the heart of the Scottish Borders,  we do like to get away to the coast "to see the sea".  

A day trip away is  North Northumberland and Bamburgh beach,  dominated by the impressive castle, which can be seen for miles around. 

As a child I remember having a book on heroines in history with an illustration of Grace Darling  (1815-1842), the lighthouse keeper's daughter at Bamburgh  who in 1838 risked storms and icy seas to rescue sailors from the shipwrecked "Forfarshire.   She died of consumption just four years later and is buried in Bamburgh, with a museum dedicated to her life.
 The view on a fine day from the castle ramparts over to the Farne Islands. 

Onto Scotland and another coastal castle in the university town of St. Andrew's. Before the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century,  it served as the ecclesiastical centre for Scotland.      

Rockcliffe Bay on the Solway coast of south west Scotland was our destination for a short break on the trail of my husband's ancestors who I had traced back quite easily  to Samuel Donaldson.of South Leith, near Edinburgh.  it was only much later when writing the narrative that it struck me I had  no evidence whatsoever that the Samuel Donaldson born in 1728 in nearby Kirkbean was the same Samuel Donaldson who married  in South Leith, in 1759.  So I abandoned this line of research - but we enjoyed discovering a new part of Scotland. 

Another bay on the other side of the country - Canty Bay in East Lothian, south of Edinburgh overlooking the Firth of Forth,  where we enjoyed some  self-catering holidays.  On the right is the prominent Bass Rock with its lighthouse and seabird colonies.  We had a clear view of it from our kitchen window and the bay was a favourite walk every day, with our dog enjoying clambering over the rocks.  

And lastly - one of my  most favourite  places  - the Isle of Iona off the west coast of Scotland - a tiny island only 1-5 miles wide by 3 miles long,  with a population of 120 pentameter residents, famous as the home of St. Columba and the cradle of Scottish Christianity.  It is a wonderful, magical  place that is high on my "bucket list" to return.    

if you think it always rains in Scotland, think again when you see the skies and seas in these photographs, though I admit we were very lucky with the weather.  We enjoyed exploring the island, walking south to north and across to the west coast, looking onto the Atlantic.  


                                           And our dog enjoyed the beaches too!  

Click HERE to discover beach favourites of other Sepia Saturday bloggers.