Friday, 24 October 2014

Sepia Saturday - A Policeman's Lot

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

I came close to giving  up on this prompt  - after all I had nothing on policemen and had  looked already this year at beards, caps and doorway.    

Then inspiration  dawned, thanks to the  Gilbert &  Sullivan Opera and the song "A Policeman's Lot is Not a Happy One" from  "The  Pirates of Penzance", where the policemen have a key hilarious  role in trying to apprehend the pirates.

And that took me back to rather a long time ago when I sang in the chorus of the Edinburgh University Savoy Opera Group.  Our  performances were the highlight of my year, a wonderful experience  and "Pirates" remains my favourite - lovely costume, ringlet hair pieces, great  choruses to sing,  and even some dancing.  How could I ask for more?

The policeman's lot might not have been happy - but mine was! 

  I am third from the right (girl) with the orange lining to my hat.  

There is a police connection  with my family but it puzzled  me and  provoked the question to my father  "What exactly do  you do, Daddy? " 

In the 1950's I have  memories at primary school of being asked every year to fill in a form with personal details, one of which was the occupation of my father.  

I knew the answer to this was   "commercial traveler" - not something I could come to terms with, as to me a traveler meant someone such as Marco Polo or Sir Walter Raleigh who undertook daring journeys across the world in centuries past.  Dad used to go away for days at a time, but usually from  Lancashire to Westmorland and Cumberland - not exactly exotic destinations for an explorer.   

I also remember relating at school that on Sundays he was a policeman - something again  I could not quite understand.   I  saw him go out in the evening  in his uniform, though he did not wear the traditional flowerpot helmet of the regular constables, but a peaked cap.   

The reality was this was a voluntary role as a Special  Constable.  I remember feeling very proud seeing him on duty,   as I stood with the Brownies waving our flags, when the Queen came to Blackpool.   

Click HERE to discover more bloggers' policemen tales

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Travel Tuesday: John Kinsey Smedley's Yosemite Journey 1874

John Kinsey Smedley (1839-1905)
In the Smedley Family at War, I featured  the story of John Kinsey Smedley's  service in the Union Navy in the American Civil War.   A second post looked at the lives of his Four Brothers - Isaac, Abiah, Jeffrey and Charles, sons of Jeffrey Smedley of Pennsylvania - a fifth generation family of Quaker English  descent.    

Here I look at John's life after he resigned as a naval engineer in 1866.

Unlike his brothers, John's life was to move far beyond Pennsylvania to Utah and California.
Golden Spike Ceremony 

According to a story  passed down through the family,   he was present  in 10 May 1869 at the driving of the Golden Spike at Promontory Summit, Utah to mark the joining   of two sets of rail tracks on the  completion of the Transcontinental Railroad.     This meant that travel time between America's east and west coasts was immediately reduced from months by wagon  to less than a week.

In the US Census for 1870 John  was working as an steam engineer at Corinne, Box Elder County, Utah.

 In 1872 the California Voters Register showed John to be in Sacramento where he was staying at the Pacific Hotel. 

In 1874 John wrote an account of his trip by coach and four to Yosemite Valley - in a journal which has been transcribed by his great granddaughter.   

Here is an entry  from late May, 1874: 
“Crossed the Tuolumne (River) at 9pm.   Arrived at the foot of Rattlesnake Hill at 10pm. Then it was our turn to walk. 

Just think of a hill two miles long and rising 1700 feet.  We all got out to walk but Sutton who was the smallest of the party.  Up, up, up we went and I thought we had walked five miles when Chase  said "This is halfway."  Oh goodness.  Only a mile, and up, up another.  Then we began to change riding as some had done the first quarter mile.  Around and around, thinking every turn would be the last. Coats and hats off, and 11pm.  By this time, we had all climbed in the carriage.

Finally, we heard the bark of a dog, knowing a house was near.  In a few minutes we reached Priest's, the best place and table in the whole land, and a pretty girl to attend to the table.  They were all snug in bed, but when we called they got up, and in 20 minutes, had a steaming hot dinner of fricasseed chicken, fried ham, beefsteak, good coffee and tea and milk, pie and cake and strawberries.  Such a luscious supper!  May Priest's shadow never grow less!

We enjoyed our supper and did not tarry long before retiring where we had good beds and slept sounder than ever.  In the morning, Saturday the 23rd, the sun was shining beautifully and when I got up and went down, I saw we were really above the clouds and to look down that awful long hill I could only laugh and think we would have the best of Old Hill when we returned.  Sure did!”

This is a section of Old Priest Grade – or Rattlesnake Hill as John Kinsey Smedley knew it, so named for Rattlesnake Creek flowing down the centre of Grizzly Gulch in Tuolumne County, CA.  It’s a shorter, narrower, steeper (15-17% grade) route up one side of the gulch.  It rises 1700 ft. in elevation in 2 miles.  The main highway on the opposite side of the gulch known as New Priest Grade (built in 1915) takes over 6 miles to climb the same rise in elevation with countless switchbacks. 

In California John worked as en engineer for rail, mill and mine companies from Monterey to Silver  Mountain in Alpine County.  In the same journal as he recorded his Yosemite journey he jotted down notes abut turntables being in good shape or needing repairs, and work needing to be done to mill and mine machinery. 

At the age of 38 in 1878, John Kinsey Smedley  married in San Francisco Ella Chase Taylor ten years his junior, with their only child Harriet (Hattie) Bell born a year later.   Ella’s mother died when she was a young girl and she was raised with her father’s sister’s family back east,  while he went out west to Sacramento, California to open an apothecary shop and tend, as a doctor, to injured gold minors.  

While in California he remarried and he and his second wife had a daughter  Eliza. On the death of her father and step mother, Ella traveled to California by ship around the “horn” of South America – with a piano, no less - to  look after her younger half sister.
Ella (right) with her sister Eliza

The voters' registers and census returns  continued to track John's moves across the state from San Francisco  to Alameda. 

In the 1889 census,  he was still in San Francisco, described as an Engineer with Ella occupation given as "Keeping Home".  

John later found steady employment with the US Post Office but his love of engineering did not fade and in 1898 he invented a "New Streetcar Fender" (right)   to be attached to the front of trolley cars - though there is no evidence that it was actually adopted in practice. 
Ten years on, in 1900, the family was in Oakland, Almeda with John described as:   aged 61,  a Stationary Engineer.  Besides Ella and Hattie was a "roomer" - 45 year old Elizabeth Soundry, a German widow. 

John died 22nd July 1905 at Alameda buried at San Francisco Cemetery with his gravestone paying tribute to his Civil War Service.

With special thanks to John's great granddaughter Gail
for her contributions to this post. 

Travel Tuesday is one of many daily blog prompts from Genabloggers encouraging writers to record aspects of family history. 


Thursday, 9 October 2014

Sepia Saturday: Coaches, Cart Horses and Carters

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

I chose the obvious for this week's prompt  with photographs of horses,  carts, carters, wagonettes,  lots of caps and even some stage-coaches. 

We were on holiday in Warsaw when this stage-coach drove into a square  - we never found out what it was all about. 

One of the many beautiful wall paintings you see on the outside of buildings in Austria

How many of us have "carter" ancestors?  This was the occupation of my great great grandfather Robert Rawcliffe (1821-1904) who lived in   Hambleton, near Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashir.   

In these photographs from the Scottish Borders  Auld Earlston Collection we not only have carts but also luggage, wheels and caps. 

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

Cattle Sales took place here until a sales ring was set up next to the railway station in the mid19th century. Three times a year, farm servants gathered hoping to secure employment at the  Hiring Fairs which did not die out until the 1940's.

The distinctive large building on the left was the Corn Exchange, built in 1868.  The   clock and the belfry tower were built with money donated by John Redpath  who had emigrated to Canada made his fortune. and remembered his home town in this way.  

From the collection of the Heritage Hub in Hawick  - home of the Scottish Borders Archives,Local & Family History Service.  

On to something bigger -  Cart-Horses 

Here is My third cousin, Gloria a top of this carthorse.   Her Oldham family were carters and coal merchants for three generations - Joseph Prince Oldham (1855-1921), his son John William Oldham (1880-1939) and his granddaughter Elsie Smith, nee Oldham (1906-1989) - Gloria's mother.

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

In the 1901 census Joseph  was described as a self-employed carter and coal merchant with his son John a coal wagon driver. An accident at the coal sidings in the railway station resulted in Joseph being blinded and he died in 1921, with his will, signed with his "mark.  

Wagonettes in tow 
Not a very good photograph, but the man on the left in the peak cap  standing at the back of  the open topped bus  is my great uncle Bob Danson,  a postman in Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire,  I don't know if I would feel all that safe on the top of this vehicle, ready to take passengers into Blackpool.

Another crowded wagonette outside the Red Lion Hotel, Earlston. The sign above the hotel door names Robert Smart as Proprietor.  He was there in the 1901 census with hs wife isabella, son John (a groom) and other members of the household  a cook, housemaid and waitress. 

 A winter photograph  of the Red Lion Hotel  in the Square at Earlston.  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.

Where there are horses, there are blacksmiths.  
In Earlston, the Brotherstone family fulfilled this role down several  generations.  


From the Auld Earlston collection

And finally a little horse and cart  which brings back memories of my mother - a talented stitcher who made this soft toy.

Ride on to HERE  
for other bloggers' tales fof coaches, horses, roof-racks, wheels luggage, and caps. 

Saturday, 4 October 2014

One Lovely Blog Award


I am delighted to say that Shelley of A Sense of Family" has nominated for this award.

Although we enjoy writing,  recognition from others is a great motivator, and I am very grateful  that other bloggers have regarded my blog in this respect.  

The terms of the award are:
1. Thank the person(s) who nominated you.
2. Share seven things about yourself.
3. Name bloggers you admire (or as many as you can think of).
4. Contact those bloggers to let them know you’ve tagged them for the One Lovely Blog Award.

Here are seven facts about me:
  1. I have one daughter and a 5 year old granddaughter who has enhanced our lives to much.
  2. I have just finished a patchwork throw for my granddaughter - hand sewn hexagons in the appropriately named "granny's flower garden" pattern.  
  3. I also knit/crochet squares for a brilliant  charity KAS (Knit a Square) which helps Aids orphans in Africa. - take a look at their website.
  4. I am a member of a local "Walk It" group who meet every Thursday all year round for a 3-4 mile walk, always ending in a cafe for coffee, scones and more chat - great for health & happiness.  It helps that I live in a beautiful part of the country,  the Scottish Borders.
  5. Classical music is my love and I am an  avid listener to Classic FM - on as I type.  My favourites - opera, operetta, ballet, musicals and 19th century romantic  composers.
  6. My favourite TV programmes are anything historical plus quizzes -  I am a member of a local quiz team.  Who says retirement is boring!
  7. I still have the handwritten family tree that I compiled at the age of 12 - it went back to my great grandmother who has been at the heart of my family history activity. 
    I have been asked to nominate further blogs for the award.   This is such an invidious task to select a few from my reading list, as the genaabloggers community has  meant so much to me since I started blogging in August 2010.  I must admit to difficulty in keeping up with fellow blogger's activities.

    Many  I follow have already been nominated so I’ll try to avoid some repetition Here are my nominations, in alphabetical order:
    Do take a look, too at my Page My blog Favourites. where I am list the sites I aim to read and to comment on on a regular basis.   This isn't set in stone and I am sure I will add to it as time goes by.   

    You may discover some new blogs that will provide interest, knowledge, stimulus, inspiration, humour and pathos to your reading and writing.  

    All part of being in such a supportive blogging community.  Thank You.

    Susan (ScotSue) 

    Thursday, 2 October 2014

    Sepia Saturday - Comrades in Arms

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

    I have featured  berets before, have nothing on food parcels or magazine covers, so my choice here is to illustrate  something of the camaraderie  of war.

    I must admit I know nothing at all about this first photograph which was in my Great Aunt Jennie's collection.  She was usually good at labeling the photos on the reverse, but there was nothing here to indicate who it was or where it was taken.   I am presuming they are First World War soldiers and Jennie had five brothers who served - William Danson  (my grandfather), John, Tom, Frank and George. from Poulton-le-Fylde, near Blackpool, Lancashire. I could possibly say Tom or Frank are among the soldiers here.  

    Was it a group of new recruits?  How many, I wonder survived the conflict.  The background looks very like the many terraced rows of houses and bed & breakfasts you find in Blackpool.  Does anyone have any ideas? 

    The photographs below show Frank Danson who was injured and sent to a hospital in Malta. 

    This seems  to be some kind of celebration.  Frank (front left)  is dressed formally in his cap, but what about those two colleagues on the back row dressed in what looks like pyjamas and beanie hats

    This photograph was again unfortunately unidentified, but I think Frank could be on the right on the front row.  In hospital, wounded soldiers, fit enough to go out, wore a distinctive uniform of blue flannel suits with white revers and a red tie - as shown here.

    A photograph I have shown before, but it is such a  good illustration of the camaraderie that could exist amongst soldiers.    The photo  intrigued me when I first saw it as a child. There was no Scottish connection that I knew of on my mother's side, so why was Granddad wearing a kilt and a tammie?   The story was that he became friendly with some Scottish soldiers, and as a laugh he had dressed up in one of their uniform and had his picture taken to send home.  It must have been taken in France as the reverse of the photograph  indicates it is a "Carte Postale" with space for "Correspondance" and "Addresse".  

    Onto stories of the Second World War:

    This signed menu of December 25th 1939, written in French and typed on flimsy paper, was found amongst  the papers of my Uncle Harry (Danson) who died in 2001.He was in France with the British Expeditionary Force, 9/17th Field Battery.  

    In the Sergeant's Mess,  breakfast was cold ham with piccalilli, eggs, coffee and roll and butter;  for dinner  - turkey with chestnuts, pork with apple sauce, potatoes, and cauliflower followed by Christmas pudding, apples, oranges, and nuts, with cognac, rum and beer.  

    Five months later, Harry was one of the many men evacuated from Dunkirk, saved by the flotilla of small ships.  Sadly many of the men who were at this meal may not have survived or been taken prisoner.   

    Harry later served in north Africa and here he is on the left)  enjoying a donkey ride with a fellow solider.  

    My Aunt Peggy (1922-1989),   christened Margaret Olwyn, was the youngest daughter of William and Alice Danson, of Ppulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire.  She was born after the First World War, so very much the baby of the family to her much older brothers and sisters.

    In World War Two she served in the WAAF (Women's Auxiliary Air Force), with a note In the family photograph album that she was  in a Barrage Balloon Squadron in Hull, on the east coast of Yorkshire.  

    Aunt Peggy (left) with a WAAF friend
     The barrage balloon was simply a bag of lighter-than-air gas attached to a steel cable anchored to the ground. The balloon could be raised or lowered to the desired altitude by a winch.  It was a passive form of defence designed to force enemy raiders to fly higher, and thus bomb much less accurately.
    You Are My Sunshine 
    I recently read a novel ("You are My Sunshine" by Katie Flynn)  set against the  background of girls serving in a barrage balloon team.  It gave a graphic picture of the spartan living conditions,  and hard physical, and at times dangerous work, but also the friendship  that could develop during times of war.  

    And my aunt Peggy was part of this.  For it was at Hull that she met her husband - Harry Constable, known as Con.

    Click HERE to march across to other blogger contributions on this week's theme.

    Monday, 29 September 2014

    The Book of Me: I am a "Joiner".

    Julie at Anglers Rest   has introduced bloggers to "The Book of Me, Written by You"  as an opportunity to remember, explore and rediscovermemories of our own.   Ultimately, this is the creation of a legacy for the future. 

    The latest theme - Clubs and Societies  - is a natural  choice for me, as I have my mother to  thank for encouraging me to be a "Joiner".  

    Because of my father's work, we moved around a lot, and Mum (left)  joined whatever women's group was there as a way of getting involved in the local community and making friends whether it was a choir, Mother's Union, Townswoman's Guild, Church Work Group, Parent-Teachers Association, Women's Rural Institute (WRI) etc.  

    Whenever there was a coffee morning, bring & buy sale, spring fete, summer fete, Christmas fete, Mum was part of the activity, with her contributions for the sales tables - aprons, cushion covers, doll's clothes, soft toys and of course cake and candy. 

    As a dressmaker she was often called upon to help with costumes for Gala Days and concerts.  

    Costumes my mother made for for Staining Gala Day - in apple green satin
    I am the little girl on the front row left.

    My life as a "joiner" began, I suppose with Sunday School - though I did not have much choice in that.  The next step I was far more enthusiastic about - joining the  Brownies in the Leprechaun Six.   Here I made my first stage performance  at a Brownie concert when, clutching our teddies,  we sang "The Teddy Bear's Picnic".

    I graduated to the Girl Guides and joined the Scarlet Pipmpernel patrol, sporting the red tabs on my uniform and collecting badges to sew on my sleeves.  but I never took to camping!   

     , We were not a musical family in terms of playing instruments, but music played an important part in our lives. My mother  joined local community choirs and  my father, with his brother, had sung in a  church choir from the age of seven.  

    So it was not surprising that singing in a choir (school, church, community)  has been a key activity throughout my life from primary school days onwards, whether it was folk songs from round the world, spirituals, carols, sacred music, opera and operetta choruses,   or songs from the shows - musical tastes that still mean a lot to me today.

     I was very happy to be a chorus girl, with no pretensions to be a soloist - I knew my limitations!  It is a marvelous form of music making, whatever your age, a great creator of the "feel good factor",  and there is nothing to beat singing with the full blooded accompaniment of an an orchestra or  organ.   

     High school introduced me to Gilbert & Sullivan  and I was hooked, singing in most of the operas over the years.  At University, I joined the  Savoy Opera Group and the annual G & S performances were the highlight of my years there - I loved taking part in them - the dressing up (the girls made their own costumes), the singing and some dancing. 

    In "Yeoman of the Guard"
    My other main interest of history, meant I naturally  gravitated to local history groups and family history societies,  where I not only met like-minded enthusiasts but was given the opportunity to develop my research and writing skills through the production of booklets and articles for magazines. 

    And yes, I have sat on more committees and written more minutes  than I care to remember. But  I always steered clear of becoming President or Treasurer - not a role I relished.

    My last house move was two years ago to small village - and who says there is nothing to do in retirement?  My life seems busier than ever as I have joined the local  history group, a Gilbert & Sullivan concert group ( I know I am well past past the age to dress up as  a young maiden in a stage production!), and the WRI (Women's Rural Institute).  

    I have never joined a sports club, but  in the cause of a healthier lifestyle, I am now a member of a  Walking Group (one of a network in my region of the Scottish Borders)  where we do a 3-4 mile walk every week - always finishing  at a local cafe  for scones and further chat.    Highly recommended!  
    So Mum's example has stayed with me, and left me an important message on how to make friends and become involved in a new community.    She was an inspiration!  

    Saturday, 27 September 2014

    On Your Bike! Sepia Saturday

    Each week, Sepia Saturday, provides an opportunity for genealogy bloggers to share their family history through photographs.

     There was just one photograph in my collection that fitted this week's  theme.  Here  is my husband as a little boy on the back of his  father's motor bike, which I am told was a  pre-war 500cc Rudge Spurts Special.

    Nowadays there is a Rudge Enthusiasts Club, dedicated to the Rudge-Whitworth Motorcycles. 

    No concerns in those days about health and safety and wearing crash helmets and leathers, with Neil in his school cap and coat and his Dad in a beret.  

    They rode all over the North of England  together, including journeys  from South Shields to Catterick Camp  where brother Ian (below)  was doing his National Service - a 120 mile round trip - so there is the  army link with the prompt photo. 

     Click HERE to find other bloggers' tales of tents and bikes.