Thursday, 25 June 2015

Sepia Saturday - Hotels on Every Corner

Sepia Saturday give bloggers an opportunity to share their family history and memories  through photographs.
The focus this week is on buildings, specifically hotels, and corners. One photograph immediately came to mind - it was in my father's album and shows the Alfa Hotel in Luxembourg in 1944, which Dad identifies in his writing as "Gen. Bradley's HQ". 

My father John Weston served in the RAF Codes & Cphers Branch, with training at Bletchley Park and Whitehall, London.  He then became part of the Special Liaison unit - a team of analysts formed to scan, digest and forward key messages to the appropriate field commands   

 Dad  was seconded to General Bradley’s US 12th Army Group HQ. He landed at Omaha beach just after D-Day and advanced via St. Mere Eglise, Avranches, Versailles, Paris, Verdun and Luxembourg through to Wiesbaden in Germany. 
In Dad's  own words "We arrived in Luxembourg.  General Bradley's Hotel Alpha was opposite the badly damaged railway station.  We had a good hotel at the back and were able to buy some very good cakes in the town. I became friendly  with a former member of the government [Mr Battin]  and was invited to his house. He produced champagne from his cellar and served them with lovely cakes with kirsch in them" .


Visiting the continent in more happy times,  these photographs bring back memories of my own holidays in Austria and Bavaria. 

Hotel sign in St. Wolfgang, near Salzburg

Our hotel in Berchtesgarten. Bavaria, Germany 

Hotel Alpenschlossel, Neusfift, near Innsbruck, Austria. (and I even managed to include a corner) . 

One of the typically decorated hotels in Otztal - the gateway  to the climb (by road I hasten to add)  to the glacier village of Obergurgl,at 1,930 metres above sea level, one of the highest  villages in Austria, attracting serious walkers and skiers. 

We first heard mention of Obergurgl in an episode of the comedy "Steptoe & Son" where Harold was planning to go there on a skiing holiday. We thought it was a made up comic  name, until we actually ended up there on a coach trip one mid June - when it snowed! 

Just to show we can do flower boxes in Scotland too - below is Burts Hotel in the historic abbey town of Melrose, five  miles from my home.

To see what other Sepia Saturday found round the corner, click HERE 

Copyright © 2015 · Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Sepia Saturday - Dad's Typing Life

Sepia Saturday give bloggers an opportunity to share their family history and memories  through photographs.

Immediately I saw this prompt, I knew  which photograph I would feature as a tribute to my father John Weston. 

Dad left school at 14  years old to work in a local grocer's shop.   Like many of his generation, he continued his education in a "self taught" manner.  He always had an interest in journalism and it was a familiar sight to see him seated at the small typewriter on his bureau, which had been a  wedding present from my mother.  He was either ploughing through the paperwork of his job as a sales rep. or keeping in touch with his sister and brothers  by letter.  

I can date this photograph to around 1961, as it was in our new home in Edinburgh.  Shortly after we moved there from the north of England,  my aunt (Dad's sister in law)  died of lung cancer.  Dad immediate stopped smoking and never touched a cigarette again.   

We moved around with my father's work from Blackpool to York and then Edinburgh,  with he and Mum retiring back to St. Anne's, Lancashire. Wherever  he went,  Dad threw himself into the local community - he was a people person, a "joiner" and  an organizer of fetes and festivities in the church and village - so out came the typewriter again for "to do " lists and press releases.   

In later life Dad was a regular contributor of  letters to local newspapers - my mother was not too happy about this as he could get in return political brickbats from people of divergent views.   He also prepared talks on a variety of topics  to present  to local societies and I have the originals of his typed scripts. 

Dad often talked about his boyhood and also of  his war time  experiences and I am afraid it did provoke the reaction “Not the war again, Dad”. We also used to joke about him being in the Intelligence Branch.  It was only later that we came to realise what a life-defining period it was and  I persuaded him to write (type) his memoirs.   

 A page from Dad's typing of his early life

Dad's  own words form the basis of two narratives I have written and they have provided much rich material for many a Sepia Saturday post.   I was so pleased to have these as I have very few photographs prior to him meeting my mother.  Sadly, photographs and memorabilia (including Dad's church choir and football team photographs)  were thrown out by the widow of his eldest brother, without any thought for other family members.

My father John Percy Weston was born in Bilston, Wolverhampton, Staffordshire  on 15th April 1912 -  a momentous date in many ways  as that was the night the "Titanic" sank on its  maiden voyage.    

Dad grew up in the small village  of Broseley, near Ironbridge, Shropshire, known as the birthplace of the industrial revolution with the building in 1779  of the first ever iron bridge.  

My father wrote  wrote: "We lived in a a house that was unique since it had an indoor flush toilet.....   

Dad worked at Coalbrookdale, in the power house. It was 35 minutes walk each way across the brdige -  no buses.  On a Sunday if Dad was working on what he called “grinding the vales in”, I came home from church at noon and had to set off to the works with his dinner, come back for mine and then go to Sunday school and church at night."

Ironbridge over the River Severn in Shropshire
Football was Dad's key interest and I have told his story in A Pigeon Sent the News  and  also in My Dad's Football Photo Discovered,  how a member of Broseley Local History Society provided me with my earliest picture of Dad  in 1926 (right).   

Dad gave a full account of his working life later in Leicester, Liverpool and then Blackpool as a commercial traveller and the "digs" he stayed in.   For a laugh,  take a look at A Hair Raising Drive  where he describes  his first 90 mile journey behind the wheel.   

 Dad on the left with his brother Charles 

My first narrative on Dad's life ended with his Dance Floor Meeting with my mother in Blackpool and their marriage in 1938.

Dad's own words again form the basis of the second narrative,  supplemented by letters written to my mother  in 1944 and photographs from the family collection. 

He served in the RAF Codes & Ciphers Branch  and was  seconded to General Bradley’s US 12th Army Group HQ. He wrote of his experiences in  landing at Omaha Beach in 1944, his advance through France and Luxembourg the Battle of  the Bulge in winter 1944  and then crossing into Germany.  As war ended in Europe, he was   posted to  Asia for his final months of service.  

"On the Monday morning we zig-zagged our way across the Channel  (to avoid enemy submarines)  and arrived off the beach at around 11pm, some distance off our landing point.  Sporadic  bombing went on during the night from high level German bombers. We slept where we could on the craft.  Just as dawn was breaking,  at 04.00am the captain started up the engines (there was quite a roar) and we moved in  fast to the beach.  The ramp was dropped, we drove off and we were in France!"  

 A letter to my mother written from Paris in 1944 

Dated on the reverse
Paris - Sept. 12th 1944

In  a typed letter home from Paris, Dad asked "I hope you have managed to have Baby's photograph taken".  

This was the photograph: 

Dad died in 2003 a the age of 91.   He would love to have  experienced the world of blogging and I like to think I have inherited his interest in writing and recording our memories.   Thank you, Dad.





 Click HERE to see how other Sepia Saturday bloggers 
have been busy with their typing fingers this week  

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Sepia Saturday: Working on the Railway

Sepia Saturday give bloggers an opportunity to share their family history and memories  through photographs.

No tunnels feature  in my albums but I am delighted to write about men at work on one of the many lost lines in railway history  - the Berwickshire Railway that for 102 years (1863-1965) went through my home village of Earlston in the Scottish Borders.   

Station staff at Earlston
The Berwickshire Railway through Earlston in the Scottish Borders  linked two major lines - on the east coast the North British Railway between  Edinburgh and London  and in the central Borders the historic Waverley Route between Edinburgh and Carlisle.  The cross country line was built in three stages - to Duns in 1849, westwards to Earlston in 1863 and the final stage two years later in 1865  with the completion of the Leaderfoot Viaduct across the River Tweed. 

Station Road, Earlston, leading down to the railway. 
Copyright © A R Edwards and Son,  Selkirk.    (Cathy Chick Collection).   All Rights Reserved

 Earlston Station

"The Kelso Chronicle" of 20th November 1863 reported on the opening at Earlston with an  article which seemed rather prosaic and low key. 

In  contrast 14 years earlier in 1849, the nearby town of Dunse had  welcomed the railway with much celebration.  On the opening day the public were carried free of charge, the first train at 2.00 p.m. having no fewer than twenty carriages and it was reported "floral and evergreen arches bestrode the long serpentine row of carriage, a flag waving over the top of the little wooden hut which at present does the duty of a Station House and the Dunse Brass band played". [The Berwickshire Railway - Dunse History Society]

The major engineering feat on the line was the crossing of the River Tweed and the building of the Leaderfoot Viaduct, which involved  a nineteen arch structure  907 feet long and 126 feet above the level of the river bed.  

                                           Leaderfoot Viaduct opened in 1865
Copyright © N.F.Donaldson.  All  Rights Reserved, 2015. 

On December 4th 1863, "The Kelso Chronicle" noted   "The new railway [at Earlston] is in regular working order and appears to be giving great satisfaction.  The trains run smoothly and keep tolerably good time.  We are already feeling the benefit of railway communication".

However the Berwickshire Railway line was never a busy one, with roughly equal traffic of goods and passengers. In Earlston, coal was brought in and stone from the local quarry taken out, with agricultural produce and livestock the mainstay of  business.  Devastating floods across the county in August 1948 meant that passenger services were suspended,  due to parts of the trackbed begin washed away.  Repairs were never fully carried out and only freight services continued on part of the line, which  was eventually closed without ceremony  on 16th July 1965 - a major blow to the Earlston economy. 

Two trains in Earlston station
Copyright © A R Edwards and Son,  Selkirk.    (Cathy Chick Collection).   All Rights Reserved

            The last train through Earlston Station - July 1965. 
On the left is the train driver,  with the couple who  worked the level crossing and 
the station master with his young son. 

Copyright ©  Bruce McCartney at  
 All  Rights Reserved, 

This marked the end of the 102 year old line of the Berwickshire Railway through Earlston.

The site of the old railway line at Earlston in 2015
Copyright © N.F.Donaldson.  All  Rights Reserved.  

Signs on the gates of the Level Crossing Cottage. 

Postscript:  In 1969 amidst the notorious Beeching Cuts,  the Scottish Borders lost all its rail services, making it the only region in mainland Scotland without a  train station.  But this all  changes in September this year, when part of the Waverly Line re-opens for 35 miles south of Edinburgh into the central Borders. 


With thanks to Auld Earlston, Cathy Chick, N.F. Donaldson and Bruce McCartney 
for the use of their photographs.

 Click HERE to see how other Sepia Saturday bloggers 
are reflecting this week's prompt.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Sepia Saturday - A Dance Floor Meeting

Sepia Saturday give bloggers an opportunity to share their family history and memories  through photographs


I know exactly how my parents first met - at the Winter Gardens Ballroom in Blackpool.  My father often recalled the occasion and wrote it down in his "Early Memories".

Blackpool Tower from the North Pier

Mum in the 1930's
My mother (Kathleen Danon) was born in Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire, a few miles from the north west seaside resort of Blackpool.

At the age of 14, she was apprenticed to be a tailoress and was still making her own clothes in her 80's. For her going  into a fabric shop was like going into a jeweller's.   If she sat down at home, she was rarely without a needle in her hand  She set up her own dress-making business from home, working in the spare bedroom which was icy cold in winter and hot and stuffy in summer. 

Mum  and her sister, Edith,  often went dancing in the Winter Gardens Ballroom and in Blackpool Tower Ballroom.
Mum - modelling one her dresses

Dad (John Weston)   moved to Blackpool in 1936 with his work as a commercial traveller  and here is his story as told in his "Early Memories".

Dad served in the RAf during the Second World War
"One Saturday night I was in the Winter Gardens when I saw a young lady sitting on a settee. She got up and we said "Hello". I tried to find her again in the evening without success, even going to the exit door to watch people leave."  
The Winter Gardens was a major entertainment complex, with theatre, ballroom,  bars etc.  The Empress Ballroom was built in 1896 and with  a floor area of 12,500 square feet (1,160 sq. metres),was one of the largest in the world.  


Dad's account continued:  
"Two weeks later I was at the Tower Ballroom and who should come along but two ladies - and you have guessed that was your Mum and Aunt. Mum stopped to say "Hello" and we started talking and had a good chat. I asked if she would come to the cinema the next night and offered to come for her and take her home. She agreed. I thought it was rather brave of her to come with me when we had only just met to talk together.   The date was 13th October 1936 and we married 18th April 1938." 

The Blackpool Tower Ballroom
The Tower Ballroom, famed for its sprung floor and Wurlitzer organ.

My parents John Weston and Kathleen (Kay) Danson, 
on their wedding day 18th April 1938

Mum  and Dad on their Diamond Wedding Anniversary -18th April  1998
with the telegram from the Queen.  


Click HERE to find out other blogger tales of dances, dressing up and romantic meetings.