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Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Paintbrush at the Ready: Sepia Saturday

This week's Sepia Saturday prompt photograph shows a group of artists in a painting class outdoors.  It immediately brought back memories of artists we had seen in that most artistic  of cities  - Paris.  

An artist on the Left Bank of Paris looking across the Seine.

Artist at work in the Tuileries Gardens -
the place where Parisians celebrated, met, promenaded, and relaxed.[1]

Thanking of painting though, also made me think of My Aunt  - Edith Danson.   She played a key role in my life and was a teacher, traveller, a great talker and my godmother.  She was also a talented lady in embroidery and art. 


 Edith was born 2nd September 1907, followed just a year and a week  later by my mother, Kathleen, born on 8th September 1908, daughters of William and Alice Danson of Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire.   They remained very close as sisters  and most of  the photographs I have of Aunt Edith show her almost always with my mother. 

Edith was a keen amateur artist, joining a group of like minded enthusiasts on painting holidays (as in the prompt photograph). Here is a small but favourite work on display in my home. 


And finally - little granddaughter engrossed in her painting!


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

Click HERE for more artistic memories  from fellow bloggers 

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Recognition for an Ancestor - Alan Dower Blumlein

In October 2013, I published a post about  my cousin's distant connection with the 20th century scientist and engineer Alan Dower Blumlein.   

This week, articles in the press announced that Alan was to receive a posthumous Grammy Award for inventing stereo sound and transforming the way we listen to music.  Discussions are also in hand to feature his life on film.    

** A Grammy Award (originally called Gramophone Award), or Grammy, is an honour awarded by The Recording Academy to recognize outstanding achievement in the mainly English-language music industry. They are presented annually n a glittering Los Angeles ceremony. 

Read Alan Blumlein's story below in my original post. 

You can stumble across some amazing stories when you start to delve into sidelines of your family history.  

Such was the experience of my cousin, Stuart Smith  who discovered that he was related to a man described as "possibly the greatest electronic engineer of the 20th century" - Alan Dower Blumlein.

Stuart's  great grandmother was Isabel Edward from Banchory, Aberdeenshire.  and Isabel's sister Jesse married  the Rev. William Dower in 1865.  William was appointed by the London Missionary Society as a Wesleyan Missionary in South Africa and he and his new wife Jesse set sail there  in 1865. 

  Isabella Edward  and her husband John Ingram Smith (on the right)
with William  Dower and  Isabella's sister Jesse Edward  (left)

William and Jesse had  family of eight - four daughters and four sons.   

Daughter Jesse  Edward Dower married a German mining engineer Semmy Joseph Blumlein of Jewish descent. They settled in Britain, with Semmy taking  out citizenship in 1903, a year after the birth of their son Alan Dower Blumlein.  

Alan Dower Blumlein  (1902-1942)   was to make an impact on our life as we know it today.   He  invented stereo sound and the modern TV system while working for EMI during the 1930s and made major contributions in the field  of telecommunications, electrical measurements,  radar, and electronics generally. He was a remarkably versatile and prolific engineer who produced 128 patents in a working lifetime of just eighteen years.   

Alan Blumlein's  death in 1942 at the young age of 38,  was shrouded in secrecy.  He was killed  during the secret trial of an airborne radar system, then under development. when the Halifax bomber he was on crashed in Hertfordshire, with no survivors.  Wartime security meant his death  was not made public for another three years - no obituary appeared in the press and no tributes were made.

It was not until 1999 that Robert Charles Alexander wrote a definitive biography of Alan Dower Blumlein, to redress the balance and recognise the achievements of a  man  "overlooked by history

In 2008 BBC Radio 4 acknowledged this unassuming scientist in "The Man Who Invented Stereo".

With grateful thanks to Stuart for providing these photographs.

Friday, 17 February 2017

Sepia Saturday: Everyday Hats

This week's prompt photograph shows a busy  urban scene in Europe,  with children feeding pigeons in a square.   But my eye was drawn   to the two women on the far right.     It appears to be a sunny day, but for them  wearing a hat is essential  wear for the older  woman.  So here is a selection of everyday hats  from my family collection - I have deliberately avoided those worn for weddings.

1930's-40;s  - 
Hats, gloves and fox furs the fashionHats were generally small, but often embellished with decorative bows or feathers. Fox furs were the aspirational accessory for many women from an ordinary background and are proudly worn here by members of my extended family.  I remember my mother keeping hers wrapped in tissue paper  in a box in her wardrobe  I didn''t like touching it - those beady eyes in the head were unnerving. 

My mother and aunt - Kathleen and Edith Danson,  Both sisters had an interest in fashion, and made their own clothes on an old treadle sewing machine - their house  did not have electricity until the 1950's.  

Kathleen Danson  - again with a fur wrap.

My grandmother Alice Danson, nee English

  My husband's mother - Ivy Donaldson, nee White

My  husband's grandmother Alice White, nee Armitage 

Below - Patti and Ivy White - daughters of Alice above.  

Most of these photographs date from the 1960's,  when my mother and husband's mother  would have been 60 years old.   At a time when fashion was changing rapidly   and I was wearing mini skirts, the older generation still  wore  for everyday occasions hats that  we now reserve for formal wear.  Turbans seemed to be the main fashion style here. 
For a visit to the Zoo 

For a summer outing

For a visit to the Botanical Gardens in Edinburgh

For my graduation - so more of a formal occasion

 For a Sunday afternoon run in the car 

Meanwhile  for me, hats were purely practical - for keeping warm in winter and providing shade in (hot) sunmmers.  


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

 Click HERE to see what other bloggers have spotted in this week's prompt.

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Shopping Pleasures: Sepia Saturday

The crowded shelves in a gift shop and a smiling assistant in a summer dress feature in this week's Sepia Saturday prompt.  

The only vintage photograph I have:

This stationer and newsagent fits the bill in terms of crowded windows and signs - surprisingly it also acts as agent for Lipton's Teas and Lyons Teas. In the 1901 census, John P. Weatherly was described as a 40 years old Postmaster of 73 High Street, Earlston, [Scottish Borders], living with his wife, mother-in-law and children. Edward, Ellen and Margaret. The Trade Directory two years later adds to his role that of bookseller and printer.

Why do shop fronts and shop displays seem so much more attractive abroad than in Britain? Or is it something to do with being on holiday and looking for different photo opportunities?    

Gift shops in Austria displaying their wares.


In Austria we cannot resist going into a"Konditerei " - the equivalent of the French patisseries - not just to view the wonderful displays of cakes, pastries, fruit slices etc., but definitively to taste a sample - or two! This is an important part of our holiday - any thoughts of diets go out of the window!  

A view of Cafe Zauner in Bad Ischl. near Salzburg. It was founded in 1832 and is in the traditional style of an Austrian Coffee shop. Unmissable for the food and the surroundings.

I love seeing in Austria and Bavaria, the wearing of the traditional costume - not just in hotels and restaurants for the benefit of the tourist trade, but worn on Sundays, on high days and holidays and for weddings. The many shops that sell the dresses indicate this is not just a fancy dress, but an important part of the local culture.

To end - a crowded display of pumpkins in New England - I just had to stop and take this photograph - they are such a cheerful sight. 

Postscript: a memo to myself - look for colourful shops fronts and displays in Britain - coming to mind are tartan shops in Edinburgh, London souvenir shops in the capital, seaside souvenir shops on the coast. farmers' markets, antique shop etc. I must start exploring with my camera.   


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

 Click HERE to read other bloggers' take on this week's prompt below.

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Underneath the Arches. Sepia Saturday

Arches and steps are the focus of this week's Sepia Saturday photographic prompt. 

Arched bridges, doorways, gateways. signs and decorative details abound in my collection.  So take a journey through the Scottish Borders, and beyond, with tales of history, mystery, monarchs,  murder and marriages. 

We begin in the historic town in Jedburgh with a more unusual shot of the ruined abbey and its many arched windows. 

Jedburgh Abbey was one of four Border Abbeys established in the 12th century by King  David 1 of Scotland.   King Alexander III of Scotland married Yolande of Dreux, France here  in 1285.  Sadly Alexander died only a few months later, leading to disputes over the succession to the crown. 

Lying only 10 miles north of the Border, the abbey was repeatedly sacked by English forces, most notably in 1544 when the Earl of Hertford's army raided the region in what was known as the "Rough Wooing" - an attempt by Henry VIII to enforce the marriage of the young Mary Queen of Scots to his son, the future Edward VI.  
After  the Protestant Reformation   in 1560, the monks were allowed to stay,  but the abbey was used for a long time  as the parish kirk for the reformed religion until a new parish church was built in 1871. 

Arched gateways were a feature of abbey architecture as here at Kelso Abbey.  It too witnessed turbulent times in the wars between Scotland and England. In 1460, King James II was killed  at nearby Roxburgh Castle, within sight of the abbey which was the scene of   the hasty coronation of the infant king James III.

The entrance to the old Newgate Jail at Jedburgh. with two tiny prison cells on either side of the arch.

An atmospheric view of Hundy Mundy - an 18th century Gothic folly at Mellerstain, near Kelso, built by William Adam, the famous architect who also designed Mellerstain House. 

Two views of arches at Hermitage Castle,  near Hawick, with our little daughter playing hide and seek Built in the 13th century on the Scotish-English Border,  it witnessed murder and mayhem. Once a stronghold of the Douglas family,  William Douglas imprisoned and starved to death  Sir Alexander Ramsey.  In 1566 Mary Queen of Scots rode across the moors from Jedburgh to visit James Bothwell,wounded in a raid.  Soon after he became her third husband - and set in train the events that led to her execution

A move south to Yorkshire  - our young daughter against the arched windows at  Whitby Abbey perched high on the cliffs, overlooking  the North Sea.  The first monastery here, founded in about 657, became one of the most important religious centres in the Anglo-Saxon world.  The abbey was the inspiration for Bram Stoker's gothic novel. "Dracula", written in 1887. 

Arched Bridges  

One of my favourite views which I cannot resist showing again - 3 miles from my home is Leaderfoot Viaduct which spans the 90 mile long River Tweed  near its junction with one of its many tributaries - the Leader Water.  The viaduct stands 116 feet  above the river bed and each of its 19 arches has a 43 foot span.  The railway bridge opened in 1865 with the last  train running over it  a hundred years later.  

The Scottish Borders is noted for its rivers - and of course its bridges - here the bridge over the River Tweed at Kelso, built i1800-1803  by John Rennie.  It remained the only bridge gateway  the town centre from the south until 1998

 Craigsford Bridge over the Leader Water at Earlston in the Scottish Borders, built in 1737.

A bridge with family connections - my brother standing in front of the cast iron arched Ironbridge in Shropshire,  where our father spent his childhood.  It was the first ironbridge built In 1799 and often described as "the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution.  It is now a World Heritage  Site.  Dad's father walked 35 minutes  every day to get to his work at the Coalbrookdale Power House.

An Assortment of Arches

I love photographing decorative details on buildings and here is an arch pattern on the entrance gate to Floors Castle, Kelso.  

London and the gateway arch  into St.James Park, London, closeb to Buckingham Palace.

Another royal connection with an arch in the grounds of Glamis Castle Scotland, the childhood home of the Queen Mother. 

 An arched Pub Sign at Greenwich.  London.

Below an archway across Carnaby Street in central London.   Just off the thoroughfares of Oxford Street and Regent Street,   it became in the 1960's the centre of "Swinging London" with its pedestrian area of small boutiques and cafe cuture.   

And finally, a photograph of steps 
 and memories of a happy holiday with my daughter enjoying the New England Fall. 


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

 Click HERE to read how other bloggers have interpreted this week's prompt below