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Saturday, 20 November 2021

The 1960's - A Decade of "Firsts".

I heard someone say recently that the 1980's is now regarded as "vintage".  Well, I am going even further back in my life. This week I decided to follow a prompt passed onto me by an American friend and write about my life in the 1960s.
I was a typical product of a 1960's girl of conventional, sheltered upbringing. My parents had both left school at 14 to go to work, and put great store on the benefits of education, and I was keen to do well. I left sixth form school in 1962, went through university, (still living at home), had one year working abroad (an eye-opener) and returned to life in Edinburgh, marrying in 1971.
The 1960s began with me being a schoolgirl in York preparing for my Advanced Level exams, and experiencing the fun of singing in my first G&S Opera -  "Patience".   We lived in the quirky named Upper Poppleton (try saying that quickly)  - a typical English village with its  green, with a maypole  (and yes, I danced around it),   pub, church and school. 

 Home was going up in the world - a detached new build property, with a through lounge (very fashionable instead of two small public rooms, fitted carpets, and bulky storage heaters to give us some background heating downsstirs - still nothing upstairs  in the bedrooms or bathroom.
1960 was the first time I flew and my first journey abroad, to visit my German pen friend. On the way back home, landing by plane in London, I had time to kill before I taking  my train north, so I did a whistle stop tour of the main ceremonial sights, feeling quite the seasoned traveller on my first time in the capital - until I suddenly realised I had got on the wrong tube line to get me back to Kings Cross Rail Station. Slight panic set in!  I stopped being so cocky and retraced my steps   I term  that trip - my first taste of independence.
A year later Dad's work took us to  Edinburgh  and a lovely bungalow with our  first central heating - bliss! The colour scheme was rather strong - red units in the kitchen and a bathroom with a yellow suite and black tiles, which my mother could not wait to get rid of. 
I quickly had to get used to a new school - my first co-ed and male teachers, plus getting used to different accents and broadening my knowledge with Scottish history, literature, songs and country dances.    
1962 saw me at Edinburgh University for the next three years, studying history and taking part in more wonderful Gilbert & Sullivan productions.  I had a variety of summer jobs, ranging from helping in a fishmongers (totally out of my comfort zone) to more amenable working  in a cake shop, a bookshop and on what we termed "the tartan trash counter"of a well known national store - think of tasteless souvenirs in bright red Royal Stewart tartan. 

Taking part in Gilbert & Sullivan's "Trial by Jury" (a case of breach of promise of marriage).
  - I am in the chorus in the public gallery.


A family photo with my parents and brother, before I set off for the USA.

In September 1965 after graduation, I flew to Boston,USA , to begin a year of working as a trainee librarian as part of an exchange scheme with Radcliffe College, Cambridge, Mass. A wonderful experience that concluded with me and another British girl  touring the States by a Greyhound bus on their offer of “99 days travel for 99$”. I loved New England in particular  and it was 30 years before I managed a return visit. 


At the Grand Canyon, 1966


Homeward bound by one of the last scheduled transatlantic liners -The Sylvania, sailing between Boston, Ireland and Liverpool, where my father met me.

Another stage in my life - a year at Strathclyde University in Glasgow to gain a Diploma in Librarianship & Information Work, before in 1967 I  entered the world of professional employment in Edinburgh. first  with the Scottish Youth and Community Centre, and later at Moray House College of Education to set up a Modern Studies Information Unit - this was years before the internet, so paper files were king.


My contribution to the “Swinging Sixties” was slight.  Fashion wise the decade began with my favourite mauve gingham summer dress with broderie anglais trim, popularized by Bridget Bardot, and ended with shift dresses, pinafore dresses  and mini skirts. Fur hats were popular for winter after the release of the film "Dr. Zhivago.  I bought a black duffle coat  (the iconic symbol of being  a student) with my first university grant.  My father did not like me in it, but really I was not much of a rebel. I did my best to create a bouffant hair style, but I was hopeless at backcombing and my fine hair did not respond; 

My first professional job was in  a new organization.  We held an official opening with a wine and cheese party, and as the girls on the staff we obviously chose to forego our work garb for these typically late 1960's outfits of frills & miniskirts.   I am in the middle  with my new look, having succumbed to vanity and started wearing contact lenses instead of glasses.


Pop culture generally passed me by - I did not even join in the hysteria for the Beatles.  I quite liked rock and roll, and wanted to learn to jive.  I sang along to Frank Ifield, Pat Boone, Perry Como, Jim Reeves, Val Doonican, the Carpenters and the New Seekers   My tastes were more easy listening, musicals and popular classics than pop. So in this respect I was not a typical 60s girl.   I was into my 20's before I got my first transistor radio. 

I had a major crush on film star Dirk Bogarde and shed tears at his fate in “Tale  of Two Cities”. Living in Edinburgh meant there was plenty of opportunity to enjoy the arts throughout the year -  theatre, ballet, opera, concerts, art exhibitions etc.  I saw Ian McKellan in memorable  Shakespearan performances in the Assembly Hall  at Festival time  and   took the train to Glasgow after work especially to see Margot Fonteyn dance in “Swan Lake”.

On the world stage, I saw on TV the  moving funeral  of Sir Winston Churchill, the shock of President Kennedy's assassination  and its aftermath,   and  the first landing on the moon, where at some unearthly hour in the night we dashed outside into the garden to  "view" the event happening on the moon, 

This was the era of the Cold War and at school I took part in a debate "Rather be dead than red".    Other key events included the Cuban Crisis with its threat of nuclear war, and the Vietnam War.

Onto 1969 saw me sharing a flat with three friends.   As we moved into a new decade, a new life for me was in prospect, with meeting my husband and getting engaged in 1970.

Goodbye to the eventful 1960s.  



Saturday, 13 November 2021

Comrades in Arms - Sepia Saturday

This week's Sepia Saturday prompt photograph shows a group of soldiers relaxing.   Cue for me to look at the life of soldiers in my extended family. 

 My husband's uncle Matty (Matthew Iley White) of South Shields, County Durham is among this group of soldiers perched on a rock in India.  

Matty )1914-1978)  served in the  Durham Light Infantry in India 1933-1937, as listed in his service book below.


 Matty, seated on the left) tucking into his food at army camp.


 In the Sudan, where Matty served March to October 1937 

 Matty's next posting was to China, where in Tiensin the troops celebrated Inkerman Day.  The Battle of Inkerman was fought n 5 November 1854 during the Crimean War, between the allied armies of Britain, France and the Ottoman Empire, against the Imperial Russian Army.  Accounts recalled that the Durham Light Infantry in their red coats attracted heavy fire from the Russian artillery and were reduced to half their strength.  However the remaining Durhams pressed on with a bayonet charge and the opposing regiment  fled the field of battle. Since that date,  the Regiment has always marked Inkerman Day with a dinner.  

 Images taken from Matty''s own album


My great Uncle Frank Danson  (1892-1977)  was the seventh of eight sons born    to James Danson, a joiner journeyman and Maria Rawcliffe of Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire.  Five sons served in the First World War - I have been unable  to trace a service record for Frank.  with many destroyed in enemy bombing in World War Two.  At some point he  was injured and was in hospital in Malta when these photographs were taken - found in the collection of my great aunt Jennie Danson - the only girl in the family.

 On the reverse in Jenny's handwriting, she identified Frank as on the back row right.


 This  photograph seems to be some kind of celebration.  Frank is front row left,  dressed formally in his uniform and cap, but what about those two fellows on the  back row in what appears to be their pyjamas and beanie hats? 

This photograph was unfortunately unidentified, but I think Frank could be on the right of 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.   Frank survivwed the war and died  in 1971 at the age of 79.
 My Mystery Photograph 

 I must admit I know nothing at all about this 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 might include one of Jennie's five brothers who served - William Danson  (my grandfather), John who died in army training,  Tom, Frank and George, killed on the Somme a week after his 22n 
birthday. I could possibly say Tom or Frank are among the soldiers here.  
Was it a group of new recruits in training?  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?  

Some  humour even in war time - as illustrated by the photograph of my grandfather William Danson, that shows the camaraderie that could exist amongst soldiers.   

The photo  intrigued me when I first saw it as a child. There was no Scottish connections at all on my mother's side of the family, 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 uniforms 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".

Grandad, William Danson with two colleagues.  He served in the King's Own Royal Lancaster Regiment, fought at the mudbath that was the Battle of  Passchendaele and won the Military Medal at Givenchy, with the postcards below kept in the shoebox of family memorabilia in a cupboard by the fire.

 I wrote to the regimental museum at Lancaster Castle for more information and  was sent a copy of an extract from the Regimental War Diary,  and the award citation which read: 
"For conspicuous gallantry in action at GIVENCHY on 9th April 1918,This N.C.O commanded a Lewis Gun section...He did good work with his gun during  the attack inflicting heavy casualties on the enemy. When the other N.C.O. in command of the other Lewis Gun was wounded,he took over the gun and controlled the fire of both teams".
9th April was five  days after Granddad's 33rd birthday,  Grandad was a taciturn country man who before conscription had been a  livestock foreman at the local auction mart.  He,   like many of those who had experienced the horrors of the First World War, would never talk about this time. 
But Granddad left a moving legacy of his war   in the many embroidered postcards he sent and brought back home.   These remain my  family treasures. 



Sepia Saturday gives an opportunity for genealogy bloggers   to share 

their family history and memories through photographs.

Click HERE to see how other Sepia Saturday bloggers
this week have related their soldiers' stories 


As we remember in this week soldiers lost in war, you may be interested in a post on my new blog Photo Ramblings where I feature war memorials across Britain from the Scottish Highlands to national monuments in London. 
Take a look HERE 

Earlston, Scottish Borders 

Saturday, 6 November 2021

Fun on Horseback: Sepia Saturday

This week's Sepia Saturday prompt features a tiny tot atop of a donkey and I have  ideal matches from my family  and local history collection.

Here is my third cousin, Gloria atop 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, Lancashire in a house with a large yard, hay loft, tack room. and stabling for around 7 horses.  The coal merchant business was eventfully sold around 1948 to another local firm, thus ending over 60 years of the family concern.

Anyone tracing their family history, may well have a "carter" or "carrier" in their ancestryMy great grandfather Robert Rawcliffe of Hambleton, near Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire was described as a carter, in census returns. It was an essential occupation in transporting goods - as shown in these photographs from  the collection of my local heritage group Auld Earlston.  



I live  now in the Scottish Borders, a region often called "Scotland's Horse Country", where riding is in the blood.   In the summer the towns celebrate their history and heritage with the annual Common Ridings - with  cavalcades of riders re-enacting  the age old ritual of  "riding the marches", made in the past to safeguard burgh rights. 

 It is a time for   local pride and passion, when exiles return to their home town to renew friendships and join in the celebrations - in ceremonies and processions, picnics and horse-racing, and  in songs, ballads  and music. 

Hawick Common Riding with the Cornet carrying "The Banner Blue" 
Photograph by Lesley Fraser, www.ilfimaging.co.uk

Not surprisingly, riding is a popular leisure activity locally  and one my daughter was keen to join at any early age on her donkey.

Moving onto the real thing - a donkey ride on the beach at  Blackpool - daughter in the middle. 

 And granddaughter is now  following suit


Sepia Saturday gives an opportunity for genealogy bloggers   

 to share their family history and memories through photographs


Click HERE   to see how other Sepia Saturday bloggers
have related their family stories this week.

Saturday, 30 October 2021

I Remember Those Skirts! Sepia Saturday

This week's Sepia Saturday prompt photograph features a young girl c.1920s wearing a short pleated skirt with straps. 

This  immediately  brought back memories of my childhood clothes in the 1950s.  My mother, Kathleen Weston, nee Danson  was a dressmaker, apprenticed to a tailor at the age of 14, so my Sunday coats  always had velvet collars, embroidered with flowers and a matching bonnet, and my "best" dresses usually had smocking.  

The uniform at my High school  for the first two years was such a skirt with straps, made by a local firm called  "Windsor Woolies"  I could not see any respecting modern  twelve year  old putting up with that style today.   I was about 13 before I "graduated" to a grown up skirt.

My brother and I  in 1948.  See the Peter Pan collars, smocking on his baby top and the cross stitching on my blouse   - all my mother's handiwork.   

I grew up in north west England where winters were relatively mild, but this was the days before tights and girls then did not wear trousers. Boys were stuck in short trousers until the milestone of their voices breaking. I have no winter photographs of my childhood - the camera must have been reserved for summer only.

But the ritual dress for going out in winter in my early 1950's was  - A Liberty bodice  (a fleeced form of underwear) over my vest, a pleated skirt with straps, worn with short socks, home knitted jumpers and a pixie hood, Wellington boots, gloves kept safe on a string through my coat sleeves, plus a long scarf criss-crossed over my chest and tied at the back.  I hated Liberty bodices - the rubber buttons were difficult to fasten and undo, and if the day got warmer, you ended up all sticky inside them.

Both my mother and aunt kept me in hand knitted jumpers and cardigans, though I remember being less than pleased around the age of 8 to open a Christmas present and realise it was a jumper - not a toy. A winter occupation was to help my mother unravel old knitwear and wind up  the balls of wool for re-knitting.  This was still the postwar era of "make do and mend". 

Party dresses were often taffeta with puff sleeves and a sash.  I longed to have a touch of luxury with  an angora fluffy wool bolero to wear over it in chilly weather - no central heating in those days.  But I never had one!  
Summer c.1950

Mum always made me a new sundress for holidays, with a matching little bolero jacket.  The one in the picture (right) was green and white - she was very fond of putting me in green and it still features a lot in my wardrobe today. Dresses were often gingham, with white Peter Pan collars and the standard footwear was a pair of brown Clark's sandals with the cut-out flower.  

In my teens in the late 1950's, the big fashion statement was to have a "puffy out skirt" - the more petticoats and the more puffed out the better, to wear with a waspie black belt. It was a disaster when the petticoats went all floppy after too many washes.  I also recollect  a lilac and white gingham dress trimmed with broderie anglais - made popular by a young Bridget Bardot. 

Other memories into the 60's were of shirt waister dresses, pinafore dresses,  plastic macs, awful plastic hoods called rainmates,  baby doll pyjamas -  and summer duster coats.  Why  were they so called, as  I could not see women dusting the furniture in them.  Apparently they originated from loose garments worn  to protect clothes when driving  in early open-topped motor cars.     

When I started university, the first thing I bought from my grant was a hooded duffle  coat to dress the part of a 1960's student.  
Then mini skirts came in and I joined in the fun!
I liked wearing pinafore dresses and had a variety of colours in my wardrobe - here photographed against Inverary Castle, ancestral home of the Campbell clan in west Scotland, 1971. 
Another favrouite  green dress, photographed in St. James' Park, London, 1971. 
I was still wearing a pleated skirt in the 1980s but in this case  as a kilt,  when I worked in the local tourist information centre network.   It  helped that kilts happened to  be fashion items at the time,  with black watch tartan all the rage. This tartan was Douglas. 
Uniform  fashions have changed so much  and the trend now is very casual - purple polo shirts and grey fleeces - with no sign of tartan.  Whoever chose grey must have been colour blind  - to think  that it provides a good welcoming first impression to visitors,  when so much of Scotland is often sitting  under grey skies!   I am glad I worked  in earlier times in a uniform that made me feel smart and professional.  

But little pleated skirts with straps remained popular  for my daughter - straps unfortunately  hidden here, but she remained on 1970's trend   with her colourful tank top, knitted by my aunt.

Sepia Saturday gives an opportunity for genealogy bloggers  
  to share their family history and memories through photographs
Click HERE  to see how other Sepia Saturday blogger 
have related their family stories this week.

Saturday, 23 October 2021

Dressing Up for Gala Day - Sepia Saturday

This week's Sepia Saturday prompt photograph shows a little girl in a studio setting,  dressing up with a bridal veil on her head.  (It did also occur  to me could this be a more serious occasion representing her first communion in the Catholic Church?   - 
But I stayed with my original light hearted theme).  For  I enjoyed dressing up  especially for my village's gala day. 
The Village Gala was the focal event of the calendar where we lived near Blackpool in Lancashire.  All the surrounding  villages had the their annual gala day, when the local band led the Rose Queen in procession with her maids of honour and retinue to a field where she was crowned Queen by some local worthy, followed by dancing displays  games, stalls, craft competitions, refreshment tents - and sports.  
Below is a picture of the junior dancers at  the Gala Day at  Staining, near Blackpool, Lancashire around 1950, and I am the little girl kneeling on the left of the front row. . 

These dresses were in apple green satin with silver cardboard headdresses and for some reason we carried shepherd crooks, decorated with crepe paper flowers. I remember other years wearing peach satin and yellow taffeta. For me, the dress was always destined to be my party dress for the year. I always wanted to be one of the bigger girls who danced with garlands.

The worst aspect was the torture the night before of having my hair put into rags, in the hope I would end up with ringlets the next day. 

After the dancing, a quick change into shorts for the races.   The egg & spoon   and bean bag and potato  races were for the "little ones".  More energetic versions were leapfrog races, sack races, wheelbarrow races and three legged races.  Do these still take place,  or, as I suspect, have they fallen foul of the current  "health and safety" regime?  I certainly remember plenty of thrills and spills.   The climax of the day was a tug of war competition for the boys and men - and afterwards a weary walk home.

Looking back, this was not long after the war, with people still having to put up with rationing, but the gala days were a great tribute to community efforts, and my mother, as the local dressmaker, was heavily involved in making the dresses, headdresses and  paper flowers.

The older group of dancers with their garlands, 
in  a guard of honour for the arrival of the Rose Queen.
The two photographs below  I have featured before on my blog, but they  match the theme so well - there is even a even a wicker chair,  I just had to show you them again!
My mother Kathleen and her sister Edith were born one year and one week apart, in 1907 and 1908, daughters of William Danson and Alice English of Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire. They remained close sisters all their lives. 

Edith on the left and my mother on the right  at the front of this parade in Poulton, c.1911.    This is one of  my favourite photographs in my collection.  I love their big hats, frilly dresses and little bootees.  Neither look particularly happy!   The girls behind them have even bigger hats. 

I remember my aunt telling me the name of the little lad (Tommy Roskell) behind   the sisters and that the  banner came from his uncle in America.  But I never got a clear idea of the occasion - was it the  fancy dress parade on Gala Day, with Tommy dressed up as a chimney sweep, or was it Empire Day?  Just one of the many questions we regret not asking. 

Playing in the garden - Edith (seated on a wicker chair) & Kathleen behind. 


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

  Click HERE  to see how other Sepia Saturday blogger 
                                have related their family stories for this week.