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Sunday, 16 January 2022

Wheel Women: Sepia Saturday

This week's Sepia Saturday  photograph features a woman, c.1900  standing proudly beside her bicycle. The prompt made  made me take a look at the topic of women on wheels - or as, one journalist in the 1890's called them, "wheelwomen".

"Velocipedes" were an early form of bicycle, followed by the penny farthing and the boneshaker.


The introduction of the "safety bicycle" brought in the first hey days for leisure cycling in the 1890's, with women not going to be left behind. For women, cycling came to represent a freedom they had not experienced before and the activity quickly became associated with the wider movement of women's emancipation.

But there were public outcries at the prospect of these changes in the social norm with much of the criticism focusing on women's dress - notably the new style of bloomers and knickerbockers. these offered more freedom for movemen than women's usual restrictive dresses. These fashions became the subject of ridicule in cartoon of the time.

Newspapers of the day ** abound with letters, articles and reports on the vision of women riding around the countryside.  In 1894, the Society of Cyclists called for  "Rational Dress for Wheelwomen"An angry letter condemned "A young woman who spends most of her time in riding on a man's bicycle, has a good deal to learn in respect of simplicity and neatness of attire".  A clergyman refused to give communion to women who turned up for church in bloomers or knickerbockers.

However some doctors said firmly that, "As those best qualified to judge, they were almost unanimous in declaring that the average standard of health among women, who cycle had shown an appreciable elevation."

So this was the image portrayed in advertisements and posters that conveyed a sense of fun and freedom. with illustrations of happy cyclist enjoying the fresh air and exercise.

As one protagonist said  "A most exciting and delightful mode of travel."


Images above courtesy of Pixabay.  Sources of quotes:  Find My Past British Newspapers Online

Below cycling photographs from my local and family history group Auld Earlston :   


       Three photogrpahs of women cyslists in Earlston in the Scottish Borders
But what of my ancestors - next to no photographs exist of them on bikes. My grandfather cycled or walked everywhere until he died. For years, my aunt cycled in all weathers more than five miles to her work as a teacher on a bike with a basket on the front handle bars. When I came to get my first bike, the basket like hers was a "must have" item, along with a bell.

Here is my husband's great Aunt Pat who doing the Second World War rode on her bicycle to work with the Fire Service in Kent on the south coast.

Fast forward more than 110 years from the first image, and here is my granddaughter in the casual dress of the day, plus the obligatory helmet as "health and safety" considerations reign supreme. What a contrast!

Adapted from a post I first published in 2017. 
Sepia Saturday gives bloggers an opportunity to share
their family history and memories through photographs.

Click HERE  to see other writings this week from Sepia Saturday bloggers,

Monday, 3 January 2022

Accentuate The Positive 2021 - A Family HIstory Review

Jill Ball of GeniAus has again asked us to "Accentuate the Positive" in our review of our family history activities this past year. 

Few people I am sure would say the period of positivity in 2021 was all too short as we experienced a long spell of Lockdown, some relaxation in the summe,  followed by a slow spiral downwards - what with Covid again dominating the news.   Yet there were positives - not least with my family history, simply because I had so much more time spent at home. The fact I had such an absorbing hobby was a major godsend.  

So what have I done this past year in response to the  Geniaus prompts?

I got the most joy from……Where to start?

  • A great sense of satisfaction in completing the narrative on my mother’s life.

  • On completing the A-Z Blogging challenge. I had had a family history orientated theme in my head for a long time.  Then I had a sudden change of heart - go topical with “Scottish Borders  in Lockdowns”, building on the fact I was already writing a journal (offline) on the Covid pandemic. I enjoyed the  challenge to my brain of coming up with topics  for each letter, ranging from the highhearted to the serious – for once the letter Q was no problem with Queues Quarantine and Queries obvious headings! The supportive comments   from fellow bloggers were a key aspect of my enjoyment.


  • #AtoZChallenge 2021 badge
  • ·The delight in finding completely new information on my gg grandfather (more of that later); 
  • On exploring more of my father’s ancestry - for long enough the poor relation of my research to date.
    My paternal great grandfather John Matthews (1843-1917)

The Covid situation gave me an opportunity to……  Spend more time on my family history, as I was so restricted to home rather than out on other activities.  

I managed to attend a face to face event at.No - not a chance!

My main focus this year was on….. Completing tasks that had been on my “to do” list for a very long time.

A new piece of technology or skill I mastered was…….Not exactly new, but I managed to adapt to a new printer/scanner. As I do not regard myself as particularly IT savvy, this was an achievement.

A geneasurprise I received was …… Discovering  on The British Newspaper Archive new informationon about my great great grandfather Henry Danson of Poulton le Fylde, Lancashire (1806-1881). I thought I knew all about his occupations, homes and family.  Yet I found through an inquest report and an obituary that he was regarded locally as “an expert in horse flesh” and had died, ironically, in a horse & cart accident.   Lesson here – it is always worth   going back to newspaper websites to check on new titles coming on line.

A Facebook Group that helped me was……Genealogy Addicts Research Group  was,  as ever,  so helpful, whether it was with brick walls, source suggestions or deciphering handwriting on documents.

My 2021 social media post that I was particularly proud of was,,,,,, Posting photographs from my family collection oto place name Facebook pages connected with my family history - and the pleasure in the responses I received. 

My first class photograph at Devonshire Road Junior School, Blackpool   1950

A new genealogy/history book I enjoyed was…. "Great Britain's Great War" by Jeremy Paxman, BBC journalist and presenter.   Six of my great uncles fought in the First World War, three of whom died, So this book had immediate interest to me.  It proved to be a readable account of the  war abroad and the impact at home.  The opening chapter immediately caught my attention as Paxman relates how after the death of his mother,  he came across a battered  cigar box containing documents on his great uncle Charlie, a member of the Royal Army Medical Corps, killed at   Gallipoli.  Using first hand source material, Paxman  brings to  life the day to day experiences of the British people. I liked the fact the emphasis was not on the detail of the military operations but focussed on the human stories. I learnt so much from this book, impressive and highly recommended.

I got the most value from this subscription…     I could already access newspaper articles through my Find My Past subscription, but I was aware people speaking highly of the British Newspaper Archive website, so joined on a discounted offer.  It took me time to suss out the different searching techniques, but I valued in particular that the website gives a transcription of the item found – which saves so much time and angst in trying to decipher  the text where the image is of poor quality.  

I progressed my DNA research with….. contacting my Common Ancestors on the results for both my husband and myself. Some frustrations but also some good results where contacts were happy to share information and photographs, particularly on my father’s ancestry,

I taught a genimate how to find out more….By sharing my knowledge of Scottish Border records available at the local archive centre.  We are nowadays so hung up on resources online, we are apt to forget that Archive Centres are worth contacting, as   they hold valuable material not online  e.g. poor law, school, police,  militia, and in this specific case Town Burgh Minute Books,  where  plenty of entries  were found naming an ancestor who was a local councillor,  giving his views on local issues.

Another positive I would like to share is.......three  instances here. 

  • Continuing to write regularly on the blog Sepia Saturday  that encourages bloggers to share their family history though photographs.
  • Continuing to manage the blog of my local history group Auld Earlston.  I was particularly proud  of the post   “An Earlston Suffragette Makes the Headlines”  - a great fun post to research (mainly through press reports) and write  for revealing  press attitudes in 1908,  with descriptions of "the dreaded suffragettes,   “pernicious feminine politicians”,  “militant political women”   “displaying their usual offensive manners”, and "mischievously disposed females."  So suffragette activity went far beyond the  cities to reach a village in the Scottish Borders.   Worth following up for your own community. 

  • Setting up a new blog Photo Ramblings, showcasing photographs taken by my husband, daughter and myself.  Not strictly family history, but I was a bit bored and looking for a new interest.   My first post featured Autumn in the Scottish Borders.


So 2021 held lots of positives in terms of my family history activities.

Onto 2022 for a happy, healthy and positive year!


Wednesday, 22 December 2021






From Susan (Scotsue)

Monday, 13 December 2021

Photographic Pleasures - Sepia Saturday

This week's Sepia Saurday's prompt photograph features a man, wearing a hat and spectacles, and wielding  an old fashioned camera - well i have nothing in my collection to  match this image.

 But I am following the photographic theme, by sharing some of my family's favourite photographs which I am posting on  my new blog   Photo Ramblings at https|://scotsue-photoramblings.blogspot.com 

The idea came from my daughter when I said I was looking to do something different and she came up with -  why no showcase our  family photographs  with myself, hsuband and daughter all like going out with our cameras.   

So Photo  Ramblings was born   - "Sharing photographs from our family collections, with added Ramblings and Fascinating Facts."

Here are some of our photographs which have been featured so far in my themed posts

Autumn Gold in the Scottish Borders:

 Lest We Forget

The War Memorial in the small village of Minto in the Scottish Borders


 The War Memorial in the town of Clitheroe in Lancashire, England

 Stagecoaches  - Romance v. Reality

 One of the many beautiful wall paintings

you see on the outside of buildings in Austria. 


 A pub sign taken in Greenwich.  London. 

Christmas Greetings from Scotland



In Earlston in the Scottish Borders, Santa Claus leads the procession for the switching on of the lights and then tours the village raising money for local charities.   


 One of the many similar style decorations in Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh



Sepia Saturday gives an opportunity for genealogy bloggers  
                      to share their family history and memories through photographs


Click HERE to see what other Sepia Saturday bloggers are writing about  this week.

Saturday, 4 December 2021

Tropical Headgear? Sepia Saturday

No information was given on this week's Sepia Saturday prompt photograph.  A man in a tall straw hat, with a basket on his back  -  I had no idea what he was doing with that pole or where he was  - a tropical setting perhaps?  I have focused on the hat, as in a small way, it reminded me of the only wartime photograph of my father in his tropical uniform. 

Dad (John P. Weston)  often talked about his war time  experiences. when he served in the RAF, in a Special Liaison Unit, Codes and Ciphers. I am afraid it did often 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 had been  and I asked him to write down his memories, all be it,  I am sure a sanitized version of the  scenes he must have witnessed.   Dad always had an interest in journalism and it was a familiar sight to see him seated at the typewriter on his bureau, which had been a  wedding present from my mother.
In  May 1945 Dad thought his war had ended in Germany, and was looking forward to heading home,  but to his shock he was posted to the Far East.  This is his story, written in his own words.
 "Off on a circuitous route,  because we were not allowed to overfly certain counties.  My travel documents said I was priority three – there were ten degrees, with Generals number one.   We flew to Marseilles, then to Sardinia (refuel), over Malta to El Adam, near Tobruk., along the North African coast past Cairo and onto Palestine for a 36 hour break and went to Bethlehem.  Our base was Lydda right on the coast. The flies were a major menace!" We flew onto Bahrain in the Gulf and then to Habayra (RAF airfield in Iraq) – temperature 104F when we landed there at 4a.m.  I could hardly breath.  Then onto Pakistan, Bombay, Calcutta, Madras and across to Ceylon.  I went by train to Mountbatten’s HQ some 8000 feet in a tropical town of  Kandy.

My stay there was brief, but I remembered the good food.  I was told plans had changed and I was rerouted to Bombay.   It was take off in Colombo and we had almost reached the point of no return when the plane burst a tyre, which delayed us 24 hours. We took off at 4am on the second occasion." 

          I only came across these travel papers, after Dad had died. 

"In Burma things were moving to a close.  I was there at the ceremony in Rangoon when the Japanese capitulated.  I was based at the university.  We were always short of tea, which seemed odd in that part of the world, but there was plenty of cocoa.  I also had a ration of one bottle of gin and one of lime juice a month.  I used to drink that under my mosquito net at night watching the mosquitoes  run up and down the wall. 
In November 1945, I was called back for demob.  A driver took me by jeep to the airfield some 20 miles away.  I sat with a rifle (loaded) on my knee since we had to travel through some forests frequented by Dacoits (a terrorist organization in Burma).  The time was 5am. and we made it all right. I flew to Calcutta again and was there for some days.  Calcutta was an awful experience.    Flies crawled over people sitting in the gutters day and night.

We were due to take a train across the desert to Bombay, some 3000 miles.  But there was rioting against the English  in Calcutta and we had to return to camp.  Later we were taken by armoured cars to the station.  On the long journey across India, we stopped at stations to get some food.  We had this on trays, and as we walked along the platform back to the train, hawks dived down and snatched the food.  

I had a short break in Bombay before sailing on the "City of Asia" for Liverpool and home to Blackpool.  One of the first things I did was to cradle you in my arms – you were shy – no wonder!" 
Dad died at the age of 91 in 2003 - and I was so proud to have his memories written down for posterity.  which I presented in the narratives below. 

Based on a blog post I first wrote in May 2014 

Sepia Saturday gives an opportunity for genealogy bloggers  
to share their family history and memories through photographs

Click HERE to see what other Sepia Saturday bloggers are writing about  this week.