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Thursday, 13 July 2017

Flying the Flags: Sepia Saturday

This week's prompt photograph  is an early one (1909) of a spectators watching an event with flags flying in the background.   I have  a great match for  the crowds,  the bunting, the hats - and even the date  in images from  Auld Earlston - my local heritage group in the Scottish Borders. 

Flags are flying on Earlston High Street in 1908 for a visit by Prime Minister Asquith.  

 Crowds gathering to hear P.M. Asquith.  with an elaborate decoration with flags in the foreground and you can just make out the marquee in the background.

Local newspapers give colourful accounts of the event. "The Jedburgh Advertiser"  described the plans  for the visit.  These included  the erection of a tent, measuring 220 feet by 60 feet  with seating accommodation for about 4000 people - this when the population  of Earlston in the 1911 census was only 1677!   How many political meetings attract that kind of number today?  

It proved to be a notable  occasion,  disrupted by the late arrival of reporters and M.Ps on a delayed Edinburgh train which took three hours totraqvel the 30 miles to Earlston; crowds spilling out of from the crowded hot  marquee, the intervention of a woman suffragette,  and noise from the "shunt, snort and whistles" of a railway engine threatening  to drown out the speakers.  

When Mr Asquith stood to speak, the newspaper reported "He got a warm greeting. Mary of the people rose to their feet and waved hats and handkerchiefs and cheered with great cordiality". 

However he had only said a few words when,  at the remark  "My primary purpose in coming here this afternoon is to...., a woman startled her neighbours by exclaiming 
"Give votes to women!".  The interrupter was a young woman of graceful figure and pleasant features.  Stewards made their way to the fair  suffragette  and quickly bore the woman out,  calm and unresisting but with her sailor hat somewhat awry".  

I love that  piece of  journalism!  The newspaper reporter was clearly very taken with the young woman, and found the incident far more  interesting than Mr Asquith's speech which he described as "Unimpassioned with no striking phrases."  

But what had prompted this political meeting to be held in a Berwickshire village in the rural Scottish Borders?   Mr Asquith had Border connections.  His second wife was socialite Margot  Tennant, daughter of the prominent Tennant family  of the Glen, Innerleithen, whilst his brother-in-law  Mr H. J. Tennant was the local Berwickshire Member of Parliament. .

No general election was looming.  For Mr Asquith had assumed office  only a few months before.    But a turbulent political situation faced him, with issues of House of Lords reform,  home rule for Ireland, industrial strife, an increasingly militant women suffragette movement and worsening international relations with Germany, culminating in the First World War.  

But on a brief Saturday afternoon in October 1908 , Earlston was on the national stage politically.


One of the many World War One embroidered cards sent back by my grandfather  to his family at home.  They ranged from the floral to the sentimental and, as here, to the patriotic.

The Sottish Borders is known for its annual Common Riding events that take place in each town in June/July and are  the focal point of the local calendar.   They involve  both a symbolic riding of the town's boundaries, made in the past to safeguard burgh rights and also a commemoration of local history.  In Hawick where I used to live, the riding celebrates the "callants", young lads of Hawick, who in 1514, raided a body of English troops  and captured their flag - the "Banner Blue".  This skirmish followed the  the ill-fated Battle of Flodden in 1513,  when  King James IV and much of the "Flower of Scotland" were killed. 
Here is the Cornet - the principal figure of Hawick Common Riding, carrying the Banner Blue. With thanks to Lesley Fraser for allowing me to feature her photograph.

Flags attract me!  So when I am on holiday,  I always make a point of trying to capture an image of the country's flag,  

 Looking down from the Lincoln Memorial to the Washington Statue in Washington  D.C. 

Hotel de Ville in Paris

The Austrian Flag on a boat on  Wolfgangasee, near Salzburg

A wall mural depicting the distinctive blue and white lozenges of the Bavarian flag - a reminder of when Bavaria, ruled by the Wittelsbach family,  was a separate country in  southern Germany.   

 The White Ensigns of the British Navy flying above Admiralty Arch in London

The blue and white bunting out for Earlston Civic Week, with the pipe band leading the fancy dress procession, July 2017  

And how up to date can you get with an image?   This  morning my daughter, on holiday in London,  e-mailed   me a photograph of the city preparing to welcome a state visit by the Spanish King and Queen  - with the  national  flags flying on the Mall leading to Buckingham Palace. 


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


Click HERE to see what  other bloggers have picked out 
from this week's prompt photograph above  

Saturday, 8 July 2017

Family Treasures at BBC's Antiques Roadshow

We joined the lengthy queue at BBC Antiques Roadshow that was filming last week  at Floors Castle, Kelso in the Scottish Borders.  If you are taking treasures, you need to be prepared for a long wait as we edged slowly towards the central point to reveal our items  and receive our tickets (free) to meet the appropriate  expert. 

Just a small part of the long, long queue.  
If you were just going to view and have a browsearound, you got straight through.

Showing my World War One family memorabilia, with granddaughter looking on

The treasures I took
  • The presentation trowel and silver baton presented to my great great grandfather, John Matthews in 1904 on the occasion of laying the foundation stones for a new church, in honour of his role as choirmaster. 


  • The First World War Memorabilia  from my mother's Danson family.   My grandfather  and four of his brothers fought, with two not surviving the conflict.    Below a few of the items that are part of a much a larger collection, that I have written about on my family history blog
       William Danson  (my grandfather) who was awarded 
    the Military Medal for gallantry.





Despite the time spent queuing, it was a great day in a beautiful setting,  - and even the sun shone!  Everyone was so good-natured, friendly and patient.  We enjoyed seeing the experts and presenter Fiona Bruce and  the cameras in action.   The organisation and logistics of the event were impressive. What stood out for me was the time and information  that the two experts I saw gave to me and the interest they showed.  

And no - I wasn't picked to be filmed and interviewed, but we were standing in the queue right by where Fiona Bruce was doing a piece to camera - so you never know we might be ia brief shot of us when the programme is shown. 

                                           The "Glass" Expert  - Andy McConnell

The crowds in front of the castle.

            Granddaughter taking a moment out, 
 with a view from the  castle across to the River Tweed. 


Copyright © 2017 · Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

In the Swim: Sepia Saturday

Poised to dive in, is a swimmer in this week's prompt photograph.  The 1920's-30's  style of costume made my choice of images very obvious. 

South Shore  Open Air  Swimming Pool at Blackpool, Lancashire,  was the setting in  the  early 1930's for  my mother Kathleen Danson, her younger sister Peggy and her great friend, (who I knew as Auntie Phyllis),  to enjoy themselves.  

 Blackpool Tower from the North Pier

       Peggy and Kathleen Danson 

Two decades later in the 1950's, I remember Mum taking my brother and I there for a swim - unfortunately there is no photographs of the day.   As it involved a bus and a tram journey to get there, I can't ever remember going again.

Swimming took off as a popular leisure activity in the 1920's  as part of the interest in  improving health and fitness.  The seaside resort of Blackpool, like with so many initiatives, was one of the first to jump on this bandwagon for building lidos, with the Open Air Baths at South Shore  opening to  visitors in 1923.  

At the time, it was  the largest in the world. and its statistics are staggering.  It cost £75,000 - equivalent to £2,248,000 in today's money.  Built in a the classical style with pillars and colonnades, (you can just make these out in the photograph below),   it could accommodate 8000 spectators/sunbathers,  and 1500 swimmers.     The dimensions met Olympic standards for competitions with a  100-metre length down one side of the pool,  and a 16 feet diving pit with boards graded to 10 metres (from where you could see the mountains and hills of the Lake District).  There were areas for little ones, fountains and slides,  bars and cafes - so  something for everyone. 

In that 1950's and 60's, it became  a popular venue for international and national beauty contests and the location for celebrity photographs. 

Aunt Phyliss -  Look at those shoes - still in fashion!

But, you needed to be hardy in all but the best of weather, as the water was notoriously cold.  From the 1950's   holidaymakers were heading abroad and becoming used to the waters of warmer climes.  Use dropped and the Baths  became a big white elephant.  They were demolished in 1983  to make way for the Sandcastle indoor water complex.  

But for fifty years they remained an iconic image of its era.  


 Little granddaughter enjoying learning to swim, c.2012


Adapted from a post first published in 2012 


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

 Click HERE  to see how other bloggers have dipped their toes in the water.


Wednesday, 28 June 2017

"Man's Best Friend" : Sepia Saturday

A fun photograph of two toy dogs  features in this week's prompt photograph from Sepia Saturday  and I have the perfect picture!  

As a child, my husband had a number of china animals,  but this this little dog  is the only one that has survived the years and sits on our window sill enjoying the sun.  

But dogs remained a favourite, many years later  - this time the real thing. 

Our cocker spaniel Cass
against the background of Loch Etive  in the Western Highlands. 

Sleeping Beauties - this time with our second cocker - Colleen

Below two images where the dogs look remarkably like the ones in the prompt 

With my cousin's pet.

Making do with a toy dog  for a studio photograph  -
 my brother-in-law with  a furry friend.

This is a precious photograph - the only one I have of my pet dog Tess.  

I  was about 11 years old, and had been playing at a friend's who lived on a farm.  When Dad came to collect me, someone else came home with us - a sheep dog puppy who I christened Tess - I have no idea why I chose that name.    A few years later, we were moving cross country with my father's work,   into a new build house, and the dictat was that Tess would not be coming with us.  I was devastated to say goodbye, but these were the days when children did what they were told without too much protesting.   We left Tess with a family friend who was taking her  to her new home - on another farm. 

Daughter with the first of our three cocker spaniels - very aptly named Beauty

Granddaughter taking her toy dog for a walk.  


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

Click HERE to discover other furry friends lurking in  bloggers' posts.

Monday, 19 June 2017

Bringing Betty Out of the Shadows: Matrilineal Monday ,

The further we go back in family history, the more shadowy  our ancestors can appear - especially on the female side, where we don't usually have the benefit of a photograph or portrait,  or knowledge of an occupation to define the person. 

I was prompted to look afresh  at my research  on  my great, great, great grandmother  Elizabeth Danson, nee Brown, (1766-1840) who was little more than a name to me  as the wife of Henry Danson, yeoman farmer.

St. Chad's Church, Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire where Elizabeth, along with my other Danson ancestors,  was baptized,  married and buried.  
I had never written a profile on Elizabeth, so I set out to see how I could bring her more to the fore of my family history  by  revisiting  the records. 

My first information on Elizabeth came in her Marriage Bond [below]  which gave her age - 20, so born c.1766 and her father's name as William. 
The English Christening Records on Ancestry include an Elizabeth Brown at Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire born 27th June 1766 - father Wiliam, but no mother's name cited.  A search for a William Brown marriage in Poulton c.1760 traced  only one possible entry - a union with Ellen Clegg 17th November  1751 - this could be Elizabeth's mother, given that the witness to her marriage was a Nelly Clegg - Nelly being the diminutive of Ellen. 


Elizabeth and Henry  married 29th October 1786 at St.Chad's Church, Poulton-le-Fykde Lancashire, as recorded in the Poulton Parish Register, with one of the  witnesses Nelly Brown - Elizabeth's sister perhaps?

I was  lucky enough to trace a marriage bond at Lancashire Record Office
This was a promise between two people, normally the groom and a friend or relative (in this case Henry's brother-in-law John Bryning) that,  if the marriage proved invalid in the eye of the law,  they would pay a penalty to the church of a substantial sum of money - in this case £200.

The marriage bond reads: 

Know all men by these present that we, Henry Danson and John Brining of the parish of Poulton, County of Lancashire, are held and firmly bound by….two hundred pounds of good and lawful money of Great Britain, sealed with our seals, dated twenty eighth day of October in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty six….there shall not hereafter appear any lawful let of impediment by reason of precontract, consanguinity, affinity or any just cause but that Henry Danson, husbandman aged 19 years and Elizabeth Brown….aged 20 years, with the consent of John Danson and William Brown, their fathers…….” 

So the marriage bond was dated a day before the actual wedding.  Marriage licences could be obtained as an alternative to having the banns read.  They enabled marriages to take place at any time and were useful  if the marriage had to take place quickly or be kept quiet for some reason.   

Henry and Elizabet's first born child, daughter Margaret was born 7 months after the wedding - was that the reason for a hasty ceremony? 

Obtaining the marriage licence was always a more expensive way of ensuring the legality of a marriage and never as popular as Banns.  That Henry could afford this form   seems to suggest that the family was relatively well off.
The young Elizabeth went on to have  seven children between 1787 and 1811 - Margaret, John, William, George, Peter, Nelly, Henry, and James - with her two youngest sons born  when  she was in her 40's.  Their Christian names had family significance, with Margaret, John and William named after grandparents, Peter after Henry' (senior)'s   grandfather and Nelly (Ellen)  a name in both the Danson and Brown families. 

A sideline on family life was revealed in the Family Bible  where a page headed "Be Good to the Poor" had been scribbled on by various member of the fmaily, criss-crossed on the page in what  can only be described as scribbles.   Elizabeth's contribution can just be made out  in the middle of the section here, with Henry's above it left. 

The entries cite the family living at Trap Farm, Carleton and signatures include that of "Ellie Simpson, Carleton, Trap, Servant, 1830".  The fact that servant Ellie   was included in the activity  somehow casts  a lovely light on the household informality - though the fact they used the Bible for these scribbles  does raise other issues!   

But family life was not without tragedy.  In the space of 12 years (1827-1839), Elizabeth saw the loss of her husband and three children.

  • Eldest child Margaret married before her 17th birthday on 28 April 1804  (and before the birth of her two youngest brothers);   her husband  Roger Ryding, a bricksetter,    Margaret was dead by the time of her father's will (1833)  and death in 1839, with her five children receiving legacies. 
  •  First born son John died aged 46 in 1836, with no marriage traced.  However at the age of 21 he was served with an affiliation order ordering him to contribute  to the upkeep of his "said bastard child" (a forerunner of the current Child Support Ageny!)   The order, traced at  Lancashire Record Office, notes: 
    “Ann Butler, single woman, was upon the 27th day of August last, delivered of a female bastard child in the said township of Marton…and that John Danson, husbandman of Carleton did begot the said bastard on her body and is the father of the same....... Thereupon, we order… for the better relief of the said township…and the sustenance and relief of the said bastard child…John Danson pay unto the churchwardens and Overseers of the Poor…the sum of One Pound Eighteen Shillings for and towards the charges and expenses incident to the birth…further sum of four shillings towards the cost of apprehending and securing the said John Danson….the sum of Two Shillings weekly…towards the keeping, sustenance and maintenance of the said bastard child”.

  • James, the youngest son, died at the age of 15, with an inquest held into his death on 11th January 1827.  Unfortunately the only record traced on this tragedy was in the  Quarter Session Records at Lancashire Record Office, which noted that the coroner claimed £1 expenses and 16s.6d travelling costs for the post mortem.
  • Henry - second youngest son (and my great great grandfather), was born 20 years after his parent's marriage and was to continue the Danson name down the generations.
  • Peter never married,  making his home with his brother Henry's household until his death in 1866. 
  • Second son William died at the age of 41 in 1833. as recorded in Poulton Parish Register.
  • No further information has been traced on George and Nelly. 

Trap Farm, Carleton - Elizabeth's married home c.1827 at the time of the scribbles in the family bible [see above]. Her sons Henry and Peter were living there with Henry's large family in the 1841 and 1851 censuses.  I took this photograph c.1998 when it was in a dilapidated state.  The property has undergone major refurbishment since them.


Elizabeth was left a widow on  21 October 1839 and a copy of Henry's  will dated 26 August 1833 was obtained from Lancashire Record Office.It noted:

" I give and bequeath unto my dear wife Betty all my household goods, plate, china, linen and household furniture for and during her natural life….I also bequeath during her natural life one clear annuity of thirty pounds".

I came across this short but  beautiful testimony to Elizabeth  almost by chance during a  quite casual browslng of  British Newspapers Online 1710-1953 on the website Find My Past. -

"Blackburn Standard Wednesday 20 May 1840 
Betty, widow of the late Mr. Henry Danson, yeoman, Trap Estate, Carleton, near Poulton-le-Fylde. She was much esteemed, and will be greatly regretted by a large circle of acquaintances".
The Blackburn Standard is not a newspaper I would have every thought of looking at for events in Poulton, so it was also a lesson to widen  a search beyond the obvious.  

But that little piece somehow brought Elizabeth (or the more familiar Betty)  alive for me, as no other record had done. 

Postscript:  Elizabeth (Betty) Danson, nee Brown died  seven months after her husband Henry, buried  on 13th May 1840 at the age of 73, predeceased by at least four of her seven children - Margaret, John, William and James. She was buried in St. Chad's churchyard. Unfortunately  most of the old gravestones were removed some time ago, so no memorial remains to her life. 


I first published  this post in 2014  on the website Worldwide Genealogy Collaboration, but have reprinted it here so it is together with my other research into my Danson family.  

Matrilineal Monday is prompt focussing on our female ancestors - one of many prompts from www.geneabloggerstribe.com to encourage bloggers to write about their family history.  

Copyright © 2017 · Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserved