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Saturday 13 April 2024

It All Began on the Dance Floor - Sepia Saturday

This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt photograph show a couple dancing.  There could only be one post from me, that I first published in my early days of blogging - my father’s story of how he met my mother on the dance floor of Blackpool, Lancashire, the seaside Mecca of ballroom dancing in the UK, plus some additional photographs.    

 My mother (Kathleen Danon) was born in Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire, a few miles from the north west seaside resort of Blackpool. Mum  and her sister, Edith,  often went dancing in the Winter Gardens Ballroom and in Blackpool Tower Ballroom.
Mum in the 1930s
 Dad , John Weston, moved to Blackpool in 1936 through his work as a Commercial Traveller.    Here is his account, written in his "Early Memories"  of how he met my mother.

"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.  
Winter Gardens entrance

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 Ballroom is one of the truly iconic venues of the 19th century with its beautifully decorated ceilings, sparkling chandeliers, ornate balconies  and a stunning sprung dance floor, where you can dance to music played on the famous Wurlitzer organ. 

Blackpool Tower was opened in 1894, built   to a height of 518 feet - facts that were drummed into us at school. 

From that dance floor meeting - Engagement in 1937

This is  the earliest photograph I have of my parents together, taken by the river at Kirby Lonsdale in Cumbria where they got engaged in 1937.  My mother looks very elegant, but how on earth did she negotiate those stepping stones?   
Kirby Lonsdale  on the edge of the Lake District is a fascinating small town  with   a mix of  18th-century buildings and stone cottages huddled around quaint cobbled courtyards and narrow alleyways with names such as Salt Pie Lane and Jingling Lane.  The town is noted for the its three span Devil's Bridge, first built across the River Lune c.1370. You catch a glimpse of it here. 
Marriage  on 18th April 1938.

My parents John Weston and Kathleen (Kay) Danson, 
on their wedding day 18th April 1938
This is the only photograph I have of my four grandparents - William Danson & Alice English on the left  and Albert Weston & Mary Barbara Matthews on the right - Taken in the front garden of my grandparents house, fter my parent's wedding in 1938 - with my mother in her going-away outfit. 
My father setting off for war with my mother right, and my aunt left. 

Family Life -  Two plus Two

My parents with my brother and myself, c. 1952
 A lovely  photograph of  my parents  in the back garden of our Edinburgh home -ready to go to  my graduation from university in 1965. 

Dad and I, taken 1965, shortly before I left to work in the USA for a year. 

Mum and I, 1971 

A Proud Father and a Proud Daughter , July 1971.
 In Retirement 
In the 1980s

In the 1990s
Dad with his granddaughter, late 1990s

Mum  and Dad on their Diamond (60th)  Wedding Anniversary -18th April  1998 with the telegram from  Queen Elizabeth.  Mum sadly died a year later and Dad in 2003, leaving me with many happy memories. 
I just wish I had a picture of them on the dance  floor! 
Sepia Saturday gives an opportunity for genealogy bloggers   to share their family history and memories through photographs

 Click HERE to see  ancestors of other bloggers enjoying themselves.

Saturday 6 April 2024

Weddings Down the Decades - Sepia Saturday

"Two Together" is Sepia Saturday's April theme  - beginning with Weddings.  Where do I start on this topic, as I have no shortage of images! So focus on fashion and  take a look at styles down seven  decades from 1910 to 1971 - and read the stories surrounding the events. 

With images I have featured before but with many new ones from more recent family contacts. 


An elegant portrait of Sarah Alice Oldham on her wedding to George Butler in Blackpool, Lancashire  and what a showy outfit, magnificently decorated large hat, and a large posy set off by  long broad ribbons.     Sarah came from a family of carters and coal-men. From the collection of my third cousin.  
The wedding of Florence Adelaide Mason to Charles Urstadt in New Jersey, USA.  The bride  is wearing  such a distinctive  headdress that I wondered if it had any links to Charles' German background.  And again what a large beribboned  bouquet.

Florence (1898-1963)  was the eleventh  child of John  Mason and Alice Rawcliffe - my great grandmother's sister.  They emigrated, with six children  from Fleetwood,   Lancashire to New York City  in 1888, where they had a further five children, before settling in Jamesburg, Middlesex, New Jersey. I am still in touch with Florence's descendants.  
It was my blog that  resulted me in contact with her family  


Beatrice Oldham (sister of Sarah in the first  photograph)  married Jack Clarke in 1919 in Blackpool, Lancashire.   I feel the significance of the date after the First World War is not lost in this photograph where there is a air of informality (shorter skirt, trilby hat etc.), compared with the opulence of Sarah's dress above - and much more natural looking flowers. 
The bane of a family researcher's life!   The following two photographs were in the  collection of a Black relative - but nothing at all to identify who the couples were or when the photographs were taken.  

Early 1920s? 
 There were two weddings in the  Black family in 1921 and I feel this image is so similar to the one above with the groom wearing a tribly hat  and his bride in a simple stye of dress with a slightly shorter skirt than was fashionable before the First World wAr.

      Late 1920s 
An unmistakable image from the late 1920s for this unidientfied photogaph with the bride wearing a short skirt, a cloche hat  and carrying a huge bouquet.   But I have no idea who they are!  
No question who they are below - members of my mother's Danson family of Lancashire, whose weddings were featured in the local newspaper. The family still have the press cuttings. 

On 4 October 1928  my mother's cousin,  Annie Danson   "gowned in delphinium blue"   married Harry Ditchfield in Poulton le Fylde, Lancashire.   The local press report provided a colourful description of the wedding fashions of the day -  do take time to read it as it gives such an evocative description of the dresses

“A member of an old Poulton family,  Miss Annie M.  Danson, daughter of the late Mr and Mrs J. Danson was married in the Parish Church, Poulton. 

The bride, who was given away by her uncle Mr R.. Danson, was gowned in delphinium blue georgette, the sleeveless bodice being plain, while the circular skirt was side slashed and bordered all round with deep silver lace.  Her hat was ruched georgette to tone and she wore silver shoes and hose to tone.  Her bouquet was of pale pink chrysanthemums.  

The reception was held at the home of the bride’s uncle, after which Mr and Mrs Ditchfield went to New Brighton for the honeymoon, the bride travelling in a dress of rose-rust silk, with ecru lace en relief, over which she wore a cost of dove grey, with fox fur trimming and hat of grey felt”.  


According to her daughter, Jennie Danson (my great aunt)  by her late twenties decided she had had enough of fulfilling a domestic role for her four brothers,  following the death of their parents.  The  brothers   showed no inclination to marry and set up their own homes.  So  1929 saw Jennie marrying Beadnell (Bill)  Stemp at St. Chad's Church,  Poulton.  This move prompted her brothers all to get married in the following few years! 
Another newspaper report gave the over-the-top account of the dress,writing in an effusive  journalistic  style that makes entertaining reading:
"A wedding of much local interest took place in the Poulton Parish Church on Saturday afternoon the bride being Miss Jennie Danson daughter of the late Mr and Mrs James Danson, Bull Street and the bridegroom Mr Beadnell Stemp, son of Mr and Mrs B. Stemp, Jubilee Lane, Marton.
The bride,  who was given away by her brother Mr R. Danson,  was stylishly gowned in French grey georgette, veiling silk to tone.  The bodice which was shaped to the figure was quite plain, with a spray of orange blossoms at the shoulder, while the skirt, which was ankle length, was composed entirely of five picot edged scalloped circular frills, and the long tight sleeves had circular picot edged frilled cuffs in harmony.  Her hat was of georgette to tone with uneven pointed dropping brim, having an eye veil of silver lace and floral mount.  She carried a bouquet of pink carnations with silver ribbon and horsehoe attached.


Another Oldham family wedding, but this time in New Zealand as James William Oldham married Edith Keymer.  I do like the simple classic lines of Edith's dress, but bouquets were growing even longer  - here almost floor-length. 

James'  parents Alfred and Sarah Oldham emigrated to  New Zealand in 1906, where they they  ran a wholesale tobacconists and stationery business on Karangahape Road,  Auckland.  Following James death the family moved to Sydney Australia where his descendants still live today.  
A low key April wedding for my parents John Weston and Kathleen Danson  at St. Chad's Church, Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire. My mother was neasrly 30 in age, so was  that anythiing to do with her choice  of dress rather than the traditional long white gown - I never thought to ask her?  Flower wise, corsages were the order of the day


Wartime simplicity was the look for the wedding of my uncle Bill Danson and his wife Louisa Cerone who I always knew as Auntie Lou, and  who had an Italian  background.

Horrors to Happiness.  A wintry austerity Britain in December 1946 when my uncle Charles Weston married his bride Vera.  This was a happy day for the family as Charles had suffered harsh experiences as  a prisoner of war in the Far East.     I made my debut as a little flower girl here - the the only time when I was a bridesmaid. 

Postwar simplicity for my aunt Peggy Danson and her husband Harold Constable, always known as Con. It was a wartime courtshuip  whilst  Peggy was working on the barrage balloons on the east coast. They emigrated after their wedding to Australia.  I  have two cousins there,  but unfortunately  contact was lost following Peggy and Con's death.  A pity!
 A beautiful portrait of the happy couple  - my third cousin Stuart and his wife Jennifer  who married in formal style in 1963.  Stuart represents another blog success story  as that is how we made initial contact  and exchanged stories and photographs, including ones of his Oldham family featured here. 

And Finally

The omens were not good on our wedding day on 24th July 1971. It poured down and we have no photographs taken outside; my husband Neil looks a bit shell shocked in this  picture; and with the Tudor monarchs all the rage on film and TV at the time, I chose to wear an Ann Boleyn style headdress - she suffered the fate of being beheaded by Henry VIII.   

A few nights before,  I had this awful dream where I turned up at the church in all my finery to discover it all shut up  and there had been some mix up over the date.  Was this a portent? 

Then the evening  before,  we had a wedding rehearsal at the church.  On the way, with my mother and aunt in Neil's car, we had a blow out on the main A1 road into Edinburgh.  We managed to get a taxi and left Neil to change the tyre.   He arrived late at the church with oil over his cream Arran sweater.  He had to spend the morning of his wedding getting the tyre repaired, so we had a spare one, ahead of us driving  north to the Highlands for our honeymoon.

Wedding day dawned and I was with my mother and bridesmaid fitting my headdress on,  when the phone rang  It was the car hire firm to say in the heavy rain one of their cars had broken down on its way.   It seemed to be left to me to suggest that the one car would have to do a double journey for the wedding party and of course I was late at the church.  We never did get any money back on that missing car.

Still we survived - and will celebrate our 53rd wedding anniversary this year!  The omens were wrong!  
Sepia Saturday gives an opportunity for genealogy bloggers   to share their family history and memories through photograph

Click HERE  to see  more wedding tales from other bloggers.



Saturday 30 March 2024

Facing the Paperwork - Sepia Saturday

 This week's Sepia Saturday prompt photograph on the theme of work features a man working at his desk with a piles of paperwork at his side.     Immediately I saw this prompt, I knew  which photograph I would feature as a tribute to my father John Weston.   He began his working life as a 14 year old delivery boy and retired as sales director of a small drinks company in Scotland - very much a self made man.  

 Cue for images of my father and myself at our respective desks - or work stations  - to use more up to date parlance! 

 Dad's Bureau - A Wedding Present for Life


This week's  prompt immediately brought back memories of my father, sitting at his bureau - a wedding present from my mother in 1938.  It remained with them through all their many house moves  and  became an important part of the furniture. This is not a great quality photograph (taken off a slide) but it is the only one I have of Dad at his bureau, c.196
 Dad - John P. Weston (1912-2003) was born in Bilston, Staffordshire,  in the heart of the industrial Midlands,  the third child of Albert Ernert Weston and Mary Barbara Matthews.  The family later moved to Broseley, Shropshire, across the river from the famous Ironbridge, known as the seat of Britain's Industrial Revolution.
Dad left school at the age of 14He wrote in his memoir:

"I went to work at the grocers, where still at school I had been an errand boy and also worked on Saturdays with time off for soccer.  The main assistant was 19 and one morning as I passed the shop,  he asked me if I would help him move some bags of corn, I did and he gave me a bag of biscuits,  so that was my introduction.  I then went out with him delivering orders (we sold bags of corn 80 plus pounds).  The pony, a Welsh cob named Tommy, was inclined to be lazy.  After time,  I did the deliveries with Tommy and the trap.  At night time I rode him bareback to a field!     
 This was  a surprising memory as Dad never gave any indication later in life of having the slightest interest or affinity with horses!    Kelly' Directory of Broseley for 1926 listed the shop at 84 High Street  where Dad worked until the family left the town in 1929.  
 A page from Dad's typing of his early life.
Like many of his generation, Dad continued his education in a "self taught" manner.  He also  had an interest in journalism and it was a familiar sight to see him seated at the small typewriter on his bureau.  He was either ploughing through the paperwork of his job (now a commercial traveller)  or keeping in touch with his widowed mother, sister and brothers  by letter.   
Wherever  we lived, 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 not only 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 memory of entering France shortly after D Day  in 1944.  

"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 dated 10th September  [1944]

 Dad - dated on the reverse of the photo - Paris - Sept. 12th 1944
I am so pleased I have these now, as they, with the correspondence between my parents (discovered after their deaths),   formed the basis of two narratives I have written  based on Dad's memories.

My parents - a photograph taken 1965 on the day of my graduation from university.  I was the first member of the family to go to university, followed later by my brother - and they were so proud of us. 
Like father - like daughter
Growing up I was always told I was like my mother,  but much later I came to realise how much my working life reflected my father's  interests. I worked for 22 years in the  Scottish Borders network of tourist information centres - first in front line positions helping visitors get the most of holidaying  in the region, and later as visitor services manager  for the Scottish Borders Tourist Board.  

 Surrounded by paper work at  Jedburgh Tourist Information Centre,  a large purpose built building acting as a Gateway Centre for Scotland,  as we were only 14 miles north of the English border.  I loved the job!

My professional look in the staff uniform of Douglas tartan kilt. c.1990

A move to Head Office, where I did miss the contact with visitors and dealing with enquiries - I do not like to be beaten!  But I benefited from an excellent staff training programme.   And what was I doing?  Writing mini guides for visitors on the local towns, writing press releasers delivering presentations and training courses - and handling loads of paperwork!  
My final work position was with the Scottish Borders Archive, Family History and Local History Service  where I was doing much the same -- presenting workshops on family history, writing information sheets on resources.  It was there I was introduced to the world of blogging - and have never looked back since.   My father would have loved blogging!  
 Like my father I enjoy playing a part in my local community and I am still using all my work experience in my activities in retirement.
So for Dad and I, the world of work suited us very well!   


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

 Click HERE to see  other bloggers at work