My great grandmother Maria Rawliffe, with her granddaughter Annie Maria Danson, c. 1915
The character of my great-grandmother, Maria Rawcliffe had always appealed to me. Her name was an evocative mixture of down-to-earth Lancashire grit with echoes of a more flamboyant Latin nature. She looked a formidable lady from the one photograph I had initially of her. To give additional colour there was a, no doubt, apocryphal story that “granny’s dark looks” came from Spanish descent, after an Armada ship had been wrecked off the Fylde coast of Lancashire. All this captured my imagination and, as a child, I began weaving stories about her.
Maria is at the core of my family history story and her name lived on in her granddaughter Annie Maria Danson, her grandson Harry Rawcliffe Danson and now my own granddaughter Niamh Maria.
As for the Spanish Armada story, a local history of Hambleton told of an incident in 1643 at the time of the English Civil War. A Spanish frigate, the Santa Anna ran aground in the River Wyre estuary. The crew were taken off the ship, which was set alight to prevent it falling into the hands of the Roundheads. No efforts were made to get the crew home several married local farmer’s daughters. The dark Spanish features showed up in their children. So maybe I do have some Spanish blood in me after all!
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