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Sunday, 26 March 2023

Journeys by Horse & Cart - Sepia Saturday

 A horse and cart, with a man trading strawberries,  features in this week’s Sepia Saturday prompt photograph.  Anyone tracing their family history may well have  a "carter or carrier " in their ancestry - an essential occupation in transporting goods around.

My great grandfather Robert Rawcliffe (1821-1904) of Hambleton, near Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire was described in censuses as a carter, but otherwise the only other "horse" connection (as I initially discovered)  in my direct line was a recollection of my father  (1908-2001),  who left school at the aged of 14. In his own words:
  "I went to work at the grocer's.  I had been an errand boy there and also worked on Saturdays with time off for soccer.  I went out in a horse and trap  delivering orders (we sold bags of corn 80 plus pounds).  The pony, a Welsh cob named Tommy, was inclined to be lazy.   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 in or affinity with horses!

A quote from the chapter on Earlston, Berwickshire in the Scottish Borders,   "The First Statistical Account of Scotland" written 1791-1799, reads:  
"Horses are absolutely necessary in this part of the country, for it is by them the farmers labour their farms and drive their corn to market."
Sixty years on,  the 1851 census for Earlston (population 1,819)  lists 9 men working as  blacksmiths, 7 carters/carriers, 3 saddlers, 2  stable boys, an ostler, a farrier, a groom and a coachman - plus of course all those who would be working  with horses on the many farms in this rural parish.  

This meant the horse made a vital contribution to the local rural economy - as illustratd in these vintage photograph,  dating from around 1910  from my local heritage group,  Auld Earlston  - plus a coourful account from a 19th century post runner.  


A horse and cart beside the old Pump Well in Earlston's Market Square.  The Well was demolished  in 1920 to make way for the  building of the War Memorial. 

A 19th century Post Runner
In Rutherford's "Directory of the Southern Counties", published in 1866, there is an entry for David Swanston, post runner.  Somehow that term conjures up a picture of a man running around the village with his post bag, delivering the mail.  But in fact David drove a horse and cart, taking the post to the nearest town of Melrose for uplift onto the railway.

We get an account of his days  in an item published in "The Berwickshire News & General Advertiser", 21st June 1902.   It looked back at "Melrose Postmen of Olden Days", reprinting an earlier article in  "The Kelso Chronicle". 

Berwickshire News & General Advertiser: 17th June 1902
"David Swanston was the runner for Earlston, driving  a pony (called Ben) and a cart.  David's turnout was a regular institution for foot passengers on the route, and on certain days they  were packed  in the vehicle like herring in a barrel. 
On overtaking a passenger on the road, David would announce "If there's no' room the now, we will soon mak' room" and accordingly the passengers had to obey orders and creep closer together.   If on certain occasions, if he was a little jimp [?] for that time in the morning, he would  meet the scowl of the postmistress by saying that "Ben had a bad nail in his foot this mornin'".
He had to be in Melrose in time to dispatch the letters from Earlston for the first train  in the morning. 
David stabled his horse at The Ship Inn [in Melrose] and some days would say to his colleagues, "If anyone asks for me, just say I maun board ship for a minute or two, for mercy it was cauld coming over this morning".  In the summer, the excuse for boarding the ship was   "the heat is fair meltin' the day" ."
Clearly Davy was quite a characte!   He  was still working in 1871,  but died three years later aged 58. 
But driving a horse and cart could be fraught with dangers, and vintage newspapers abound with graphic accounts of accidents and deaths - such as the one that involved my great great grandfather Henry Danson (1804-1881) who I had first researched many years previously.
I am a regular checker of newspapers online  and in a very casual browsing  of the Danson name,  I came across, only two years ago,   a wonderful find in newspapers that had only recently been indexed -  an obituary and a coroner’s report  on Henry's death - and discovered information on Henry that was completely new to me.

What a lovely description of my great great grandfather  - and a wonderful find, as in Britain,  unlike  the USA,  it is not customary to write such tributes to a person, unless they have made their mark in some distinctive way in their community - as clearly Henry Danson had.  I  had no idea he was well known locally as "an expert in horse flesh" and had never heard of the breed of Robin Hood horses, as Robin Hood country was much further south around Nottingham.

But as I then found there were some omissions in the obituary on the nature of Henry's death.  For another newspaper report  revealed the details.

 Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser: Wednesday 02 November 1881

“FATAL FALL FROM A CART. On Monday evening Mr. Gilbertson held an inquest at Poulton-le-Fylde, on the body of Henry Danson, collector of the Shard Bridge tolls. The deceased, who was 75 years old, was riding in a cart with Mr. John  ? farmer, on the way to Poulton, when the horse took fright and jumped forward. Danson was standing in the cart leaning on his stick at the moment he  was jerked out upon the road. He was attended Mr. Winn, surgeon, but could never walk afterwards, his left thigh being injured, and he had an attack of pleurisy fortnight before his death, which occurred on Thursday night last. The jury returned verdict of Death  from the effects of injuries received, and resulting illness, through fall from a cart."

It is both sad and ironic that Henry,  noted for his skill with horses,  should have died,  whilst driving his horse and cart.   

This was a lesson  that it is always worthwhile going back to check newspapers online on a regular basis.


And finally a little horse and cart  which brings back memories of my mother - a talented stitcher who made this soft toy.   It always came out at Christmas with the cart filled with sweets or nuts. 



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


Click HERE

 to read more tales  from other  Sepia Saturday bloggers

Saturday, 18 March 2023

Smiling in Happiness: Sepia Saturday

What do we do when  people smile at us?  We smile back!  

So enjoy these photographs of families enjoying themselves - my response to this week's Sepia Satturday's  prompt photograph of a laughing couple perched on a wall. 

1971 - I am newly engaged and very happy.  Here I am perched on the bonnet of my husband's car.  He never allowed it again,  but very thoughtfully protected both me and the car with a tartan blanket.  You can tell this was the  era of mini-skirts .

My husband was a fan of  "The Simpsons" on TV and here is  showing his pleasure at a Chritmas present - a Simpsons  Tshirt .  I don't think he ever wore it - not his style at all.  
At a happy family occasion in 1992 - celebrating my father's 90th birthday.

Mother and daughter 1971


 Two happy photographs of my mother Kathleen and her sister Edith (Danson).   The sisters remained close all their lives.  They both    enjoyed fashion, and made their own clothes on a treadle machine (their house did not have electricity until 1958) and regularly went dancing at the Winter Gardens, and the Tower Ballrooms in Blackpool - where my mother met my father.

Still smiling - Kathleen and Edith in 1981. 

Smiling still, even in wartime - my father and my aunt Peggy. the youngest of the three Danson sisters 



My happy daughter  c.1976  in a red knitted tank top (all the rage then), knitted by my Aunt Edith.

                         Grandaughter smiling in the kitchen   - ready to help! 


Happy schooldays - Me

And if you cannot be smiling on your wedding day, when can you?


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


Click HERE
 to read more tales  from other  Sepia Saturday bloggers

Sunday, 12 March 2023

A-Z Blogging Challenge 2023 - My Theme Revealed

My Seventh A-Z Challenge 
My theme for 2023 - 
I am a family history enthusiast, based in Scotland, sharing my interest on my blog Family History Fun. Family history is so much more than names and dates, but all about discovering stories. It is the richness of the detail in our family stories that make them so fascinating to ourselves and (hopefully) interesting to others. 
So my theme for this year’s A - Z challenge has been in my mind for some time  - What were the personalities of my ancestors?  How did their actions reflect the kind of people they were?  
Here is a taster………
From Adventurous, Bigamous and Criminal, through Devout,  Enterprising, and Feisty, onto Genial, Heroic, Long-Living, and Mysterious, ending with Poetic, Resilient, Stoic, Tragic,  Valiant and Zealous. 
So do join me on this A-Z Journey -
 I look forward to reading your comments

#AtoZChallenge 2023 badge

Friday, 10 March 2023

Men at Work - Sepia Saturday

This week's Sepia Saturday prompt photograph features a group of workmen emerging from a tunnel, with bloggers  being asked to follow a theme of "Down".

Down tools for these  Greek workmen,   taking a break  - my husband encountered this group  whilst on holiday in 1971 and when he took a photograph, they wanted some money!

Arthur Stuart Ingram Smith (1908-1979) was my cousin's father,  here  emerging from down under a manhole cover,  during his work as a linesman for the General Post Office in Blackpool, Lancashire. 

 Sitting down is my grandfather William Danson (1885-1962) of Poulton-e-Fylde, Lancashire.  He worked as a general labourer at the ICI (Imperial Chemical Industries) Works  at nearby Thornton,.  Was there  a reason why he was given pride of place here?  
Quite a contrast, but more sitting down  - by this costumed city guide in Vienna. Austria.

Bending down -  men working with the heavy machinery  in the textile mill in Earlston in the Scottish Borders.   From the mid -19th century through to 1969, the mill was the chief employer and main stay  of the local economy.

Coming down -   Steeplejacks climbing the mill chimney at Simpson and Fairbairn Textile Mill in Earlston, Scottish Borders - early 1900s. 


More bending  down by these sheep shearers, hard at work in Earlston in th Scottish Borders  where I live. 

Staff and visitors at Earlston Railway Station, c.1920, posed in front of, not a tunnel, but  the station footbridge.  The Berwickshire Railway reached Earlston in the Scottish Borders  in 1863, but following severe flooding in 1948,  the line only continued with freight traffic not passengers and was finally closed  in 1965. 

Earlston photographs courtesy of the Auld Earlsotn Heritage Group 

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

Click HERE
 to read more tales  from other  Sepia Saturday bloggers

Friday, 3 March 2023

Settle Down with a Good Book - Sepia Saturday

This week's Sepia Saturday prompt photograph features a woman seated at the front  of an aeroplane engrossed in a good book. My theme this week - the pleasure of reading - and being a librarian.
After an early  school visit to the local library, I played at being a Librarian. I remember one Christmas being delighted at getting in my stocking a date stamp. I made up issue labels for my books, and dragooned my family into being customers, so I could enthusiastically stamp away.

Girl, Books, Stack, Read, Stack Of Books, Learn, Study  o Books are food and drink to me - a habit which began early on. It was a treat to get a book at Christmas and birthdays and choosing a new book to take on holiday was part of the anticipation of the trip. I can remember the first book I borrowed from the library  - an illustrated history of England with a colourful cover picture of the young Queen Elizabeth 1 In all her 16th century finery.

As a child my favourite author was one much despised then by pundits,  but loved by her readers - in other words Enid Blyton, especially The Famous Five, Secret Seven and Mallory Towers, also remembering as a younger child Noddy and Big Ears. Enid Blyton's books could be fought over in the library, but we were less willing to raise our hands in class and admit we read her.

I loved school stories and got very involved in the long running Chalet School series, by Elinor Brent Dyer, with its foreign setting, odd phrases in French and German, the exotic names of the characters (Elisveta, Evadne, Gisela) and the exploits of the lead character Joey Maynard and later on her large extended family. Another favouritism author was Noel Streatfield with her tales of ballet school and skating success.

For lighter relief, I had my favourite weekly magazines - "Girl", with Angela Air Hostess, Belle of the Ballet, Kay from "The Courier", Claudia of the Circus, etc., the Picture Gallery which I cut up and put in a scrapbook, plus a series "Mother Tells You How" on domestic tips!! If you wonder how I remember all of this - my daughter gave me a  nostalgic book on "The Best of Girl" one Christmas.

Classics featured in my reading, boosted by the BBC classic Sunday teatime serials on TV - Little Women and its sequels, What Katy Did, Heidi, Sarah Crewe and The Secret Garden, Jane Eyre, and Children of the New Forest; later onto  Charles Dickens novels - Oliver Twist, Great Expectations, Nicholas Nickleby, Tale of Two Cities and David Copperfield.   
Some of these titles have now fallen foul of  the "snowflake/woke" generation, but  I never felt I needed a  "trigger warning" about them when they touched on the darker side of life.

In teenage years, I was slow to move onto adult popular fiction - Agatha Christie I think was my route, though I have never been into crime novels where there is a sudden great denouement in the final pages; also Georgette Heyer's Regency romances, the novels of Daphne Du Maurier and Catherine Cookson, and the family sagas by Mazo de la Roche, set in North America.

My tastes haven't changed much - family dramas and historical novels by authors, Anya Seton (e.g. "The Winthrop Woman" set in early New England), Cynthia Harrod Eagles' family saga series "The Morland Dynasty" which relates the story of a Yorkshire family from the times of Richard III down the centuries, Catherine Gavin (my favourite "The Snow Mountain" about the last days of the Russian Czar and his family), and Philippa Gregory's  royal series. 
Other contemporary authors include Joanne Trollope, Rosamund Pilcher, and Maeve Binchy. 

For my non-fiction choice - history, biography, music, ballet, costumes, and crafts pre-dominate and my collection of reference books is important to me to turn to, to answer all those odd questions that crop up - even though the Internet has really taken them over. 

I love curling up in bed or on the sofa, or or soaking in bath bubbles with a good book and can't see that an electronic book has nearly the same appeal. However Kindle did come  into its own when my local library was closed in the extended Covid Lockdowns. 
My  pleasure from books has also come  from seeing the delight my little granddaughter got from her collection - Touch and Feel books were a new phenomena to me, and then she was  onto the "Aliens Love Underpants" series and "Hairy McClary of Donaldson's Dairy"  - very wacky and great fun!  We laughed together.  It is never to early to start loving books!


So what did I become? A Librarian
- and yes, I did conform a bit to the stereotyped image - the glasses did it!   I also did my best to counteract  the image  that the only thing Librarians did was stamp books. 

Being a librarian  served me very well  It included  a wonderful year on an exchange scheme in the USA, working at Radcliffe College Library in Cambridge, Mass;  a long spell in  the tourist information centre network  in the Scottish Borders,  and finally  as Researcher at the Heritage Hub, Hawick, home of the Scottish Borders Archive Service.   
Radcliffe  College Library in the 1960's when I was there.

 Working in a tourist information centre in 1978 - it now looks so  old fashioned - old style phone, no computer, no till, no uniform, just a name badge.
The Heritage Hub, Hawick, Home of the Scottish Borders  Archive Service
 where I dealt primarily with family history enquiries.
How many people can work in a place connected to their hobby!  

It was at the Heritage Hub that I was first introduced to the idea of blogging  - and here I am in my twelfth year of  my own blog.  
 Note - the cartoon character is courtesy of Pixabay  

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

  Click HERE
 to read more tales  from other  Sepia Saturday bloggers 

Saturday, 11 February 2023

Out for a Drive : Sepia Saturday

A vintage car   feature in this week's  Sepia Saturday's prompt photograph.  Cue  - to sort through my family collection, but also thank my   local history group Auld Earlston in the Scottish Borders for some of the photographs featured here.

 From My Local History Collection

Out for a drive in Earlston c.1920's
Proud owner of a Riley car 
1930s vehicle
Another proud owner - this time with a Morgan car 
A 1953 Morgan 

Baker's Van in Earlston 

 Andrew Taylor & Sons, Ironmonger & Grocer in Earlston,
  - listed in a Directory of 1931. 


 A 1904 publication with some wonderful advertisements for early cars 


Onto Family Photos
My cousin's first ever car - a 1932 Morris Minors and the only car he ever had where he made a profit when he sold it.  He bought it in 1958 for £20 and sold it a year later for £30! The photograph is taken near Inverary in the west of Scotland on the Rest and Be Thankful road, - notorious for landslips, snow and road closed warnings!  


My  Dad, John Weston (on the left) with his brother Charles. I was delighted to get this photograph from my cousin,  as it  is one of the few photographs I have of my father prior to his marriage to my mother in 1938, and so means a lot to me.   John and Charles were close as  brothers and often went on motoring trips together. Here looking very suave in a smart casual style of the day.  c.1936

A photograph of my elegant mother taken,  before my parents married in 1938.  

Fast forward to 1968 (this photograph was dated)  - I am surprised that my father allowed someone to sit on the car. 
I could not resist ending with  this photograph of the Earlston church choir on their annual outing in this rather  crowded  and uncomfortable-looking charabanc.  Judging by the fashion for cloche hats, dated around the 1920s.  


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

Click HERE to read more tales  from other  Sepia Saturday bloggers