Sunday, 30 October 2011

"Lest We Forget" - English Memorials: Military Monday

Approaching  the month of  November is the time when we remember our ancestors who died in war. I thought I would post a series of images of war memorials, both in Britain and abroad - this week in England.
Remembered above on the war memorial at Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire are my two great uncles John Danson and George Danson who died in the First World War.

See also the postings:
War Memorial and St. Chad's Church
Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire
Britain's National Memorial - The Cenotaph, Whtiehall, London

Copyright © 2011 · Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserved

Friday, 28 October 2011

A Tragic Island Tale: Sympathy Saturday

Westing on Unst, Shetland
A  tragic island tale from Scotland.

On Unst, Shetland,  Peter Smith and his wife Mary had five children - three boys and two girls.  The elder two boys, William aged 14  and Francis 10 years old, both died on the same day - 14th March 1919.  

 On checking further,  it was found that they  had both drowned whilst they were trying to rescue their pet dog from a lochan, near their house.  

The third and youngest son is still alive at the grand age of 97, as is his wife.   Sadly their only child died at the age of 8 months.  

A story from my third cousin Stuart who recently visited Shetland
to research his Smith ancestors.

Sympathy Saturday is a blogging prompt from
to encourage writers to record their family history

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

A Post War Wedding, 1919.

Here is a charming photograph of the marriage of Beatrice Oldham and Jack Clark
 on 26th December 1919.

I feel the significance of the date after the First World War is not lost in this photograph where there is a certain air of informality (shorter skirt, trilby hat etc.)  

It contrasts with the very formal opulent dress of Beatrice's sister Sarah's wedding nine years earlier in 1910,which featured in the posting  A Magnificent Hat.

Beatrice and Sarah were the aunts of my mother's second cousin Elsie Oldham  

I was very grateful that Elsie's son Stuart has let me use  his large collection of family photographs of the Oldham family.   

For more photographs and stories of the Oldham family, see:
Finding a Third Cousin
And Dolly Came To
Bobbing, Shingling and Marcel Waves
Three Generations of Carters & Coal Merchants  

Monday, 24 October 2011

Many a Hazardous Sailing: Travel Tuesday

My husband's ancestor Robert Donaldson (1801-1876) was a master mariner in South Shields on the north east coast of England and I was delighted to discover (**) details of the ships he sailed on.

The entries make fascinating reading, with all six ships on which Robert Donaldson sailed, having an eventful history and sadly coming to a sad end (though not under his charge).  

  • The Thetis became a wreck after sinking off the Yorkshire coast in 1869.
  • The John was stranded in 1861 and became a wreck during a severe easterly gale.  Twenty-eight other Tyne ships went ashore in the same area during the same gale.
  • The Emerald, in  December 1855, when on passage from the Tyne to London, foundered in five fathoms on the Dough Sand (Long Sand) Thames estuary.   Three survivors were brought ashore by two smacks.  Eleven others were unaccounted for, including some of the crew of the rescuing smack who were in a small boat, which disappeared. 
  • The Hebe was wrecked in Robin Hood’s Bay, along with other vessels on 27 January 1861. 
  • The  Ann & Elizabeth  disappeared after leaving the Tyne in November 1863, with her captain leaving a wife and six children.
  • The  William Mecalfe was Robert Donaldson's largest ship.     On her maiden voyage, it transported 240 male convicts from Portsmouth to Hobart, Australia on a passage that took 102 days.  In January 1855 eight of her crew were sent to goal for three months each by the North Shields magistrates for refusing duty.  In October 1858 her master and one man were washed overboard.  Nine days later, the ship was abandoned, with the crew taken off.
These incidents were by no means unusual  and bring home the hazards our mariner ancestors faced in their daily lives.

A Genealogical Sideline:   To me "snow" was the white stuff falling in winter and a "smack" was a slap to a recaltrant child.  But that all changed,   as I  began researching my husband's maritime ancestors and learnt about the different names for ships in the 19th century - barque or bark or barc, brig, sloop. smack and snow - an illustration of the diverse routes that family history can take you.

(**) Tyne and Wear Archives hold "“A Dictionary of Tyne Sailing Ships:  a record of merchant sailing ships owned, registered and built at the Port of Tyne 1830-1930”, compiled by Richard Keys.  This is a complete A-Z of Ships, master mariners and owners, detailing ships, voyages, disasters and share-ownerships, and much more - a must for anyone with maritime ancestors in this region.

This post is an edited version of a Dec 2010 posting on Donaldson Maritime Ancestors.

Monday, 17 October 2011

A 1920's Charabanc Trip: Travel Tuesday

I know next to nothing about this photograph.  It was in the  collection of my Great Aunt Jennie of Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire, and judging by the style of dress |(especially the little girl standing up), it  must have been taken in the 1920's.  There was no inscription on the reverse, but the photographer/publisher was identified as Arthur Hadley, Photographer, Ramsey, Isle of Man.   This could be a clue, as one of Jennie's many brothers. Albert,  worked on the  Isle of Man ferry between Fleetwood,  Lancashire and the Isle of Man.   

I like it as a happy holiday photograph,  though I wonder how safe I would find the vehicle with so many people on it.    I could imagine someone might need to get out and push,  if going up hills! 

Travel Tuesday is one of many blog prompts from to encourage writers to record their family and local history.  This photograph first appeared under the tag of Wordless Wednesday

Friday, 14 October 2011

Loss of Three Sons in Five Days - Sympathy Saturday

I came across this poignant entry in my local paper "The Hawick Express", 11 March 1881.  It records the sad death within five days of three young sons from scarlet fever.  

"At 49 Castlegte, Jedburgh on the 4th inst. Walter Hilson aged 6 years;  on the 6th inst. James aged 3 years; and on the 8th inst. John William aged 9 years - all of scarlet fever - children of James R.  Hilson and Helen K. Guthrie".  
Sympathy Saturday is a blogging prompt from to encourage bloggers to write aspects of their family and local history.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Inspiring Teachers: 52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History

52 Weeks Personal Genealogy and History
Teachers  is the topic for Week 41 in Amy Coffin’s and Geneablogger’s 52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy and History series.

My school life spanned three secondary school as we moved around a bit with my father job - the first two were traditional girls-only grammar schools with all female staff.   The last in Edinburgh was my first experience of a co-ed and very different! 

I encountered inspiring teachers who fostered in particular my love of English, history and languages. My recollection is they all seemed quite elderly (though this probably was not the case) and most would fit the now old fashioned description of "spinsters". 

Miss Robinson (English) was a great mimic at adopting dialects and accents.  She brought to life the characters in such plays as "Midsumemrs Night's Dream", "The Rivals" and "She Stoops to Conquer". 

I liked Miss Jones (Latin).  Unusually for me, one day I was brave enough to write on the blackboard the jimgle "Latin is a language as dead as dead can be.  It killed off all the Romans and now it's killing me!  Fortunately when she walked into the classroom she saw the humourous side of it.  

Another Welsh teacher was Miss Edwards who more than anyone made me want to study history - my first love.  It is amazing what facts I learnt many many years ago come back to me when answering quiz questions on TV.

Miss Mutch (German) scared me.  She was from the Shetland Isles, bit of a bean pole, with cropped grey hair and given to wearing viyella checked blouses and v-necked pullovers.  She was burdened with the schoolgirl ditty of "If you miss Miss Mutch, you don't miss much".  I felt doomed from my first German lesson  when my attempt (in front of the class)  to pronounce a lovely German "Ich" came out as "Ick".   Still I persevered.  She was a good teacher, her lessons stuck with me, and I can still get-by in tourist German when abroad. 

From my first term, science bored me stiff.    Our science teacher went by the unfortunate name of Miss Smedley, which was far to easy to change to Miss Smelly.  I could not work up any enthusiasm for learning about microscopic creatures such as the amoeba and hydra, nor get  fired up over a Bunsen burner. My  science knowledge is very poor, which is an awful admission to make in the modern world. The irony is I went on to marry a physics teacher! 

My final secondary school in Edinburgh was the first time in my school life when I was  taught by men   Mr Scott-Allan continued  to develop  my interests in  the past with a new dimension to it now of Scottish history, and Mr Ironsides (known as Tin Ribs) kept  Latin alive for me.

I feel I went through education at the best of times, inspired by some dedicated teachers. 
School days were happy days.   

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

What a Magnificent Hat!

Isn't this hat magnificent?  This is the wedding photograph of George Butler and Sarah Alice Oldham who married in Blackpool, Lancashire in 1910. 

Sarah was the aunt of my mother's second cousin Elsie Oldham.   Sarah's husband George worked for the Oldham family coal merchant business.  

I was very grateful that Elsie's son Stuart has let me see his large collection of family photographs of the Oldham family.   I hope to use them in future blog postings - so watch this space.

For more photographs and stories of the Oldham family, see:
Finding a Third Cousin
And Dolly Came To
Bobbing, Shingling and Marcel Waves
Three Generations of Carters & Coal Merchants  

Monday, 10 October 2011

A Slow Stagecoach Journey - Nov, 1846: Travel Tuesday

Images of stage coaches on Christmas cards look colourful, dashing and rather romantic, but what was the reality like for our ancestors travelling 165 years ago?

A news item in the local newspaper "The Border Watch" of 19th November 1846 paints a rather different picture of the reality of stagecoach travel.

“A SLOW COACH. – The Edinburgh and Hawick coach, which left Princes Street, Edinburgh on Saturday afternoon at 4pm  did not reach the Bridge Inn, Galashiels, until about 10pm; thus accomplishing the distance of thirty-two miles in the astonishing period of six hours!   

The pace was such that an ordinary pedestrian would have found little difficulty in keeping up with the coach. The road was by no means heavy, although in some places newly laid with metal. The coachman did his duty well with whip and voice, constantly urging forward his jaded steeds, and employing the box seat passenger to assist him with a spare thong.

But it was all of no avail. The animals would not move one foot faster than another. Up hill or down hill there was little perceptible difference, and several times the vehicle came to a dead halt, almost on a level.

The coach was full from Edinburgh, but a passenger having been let down on the road, another person was taken up. In spite of the loud remonstrances of the passengers, a second was buckled on behind, and a third was allowed standing room beside him. It appears there is now no restriction as to the number a stage coach may carry, and consequently three poor miserable horses were forced to drag, throughout a weary stage of fifteen miles, a heavy coach loaded with eighteen or twenty persons.

If there is any law against cruelty to animals, surely it must apply to a case like this. Whatever grievances attend railway travelling, it will be something, at least, to get rid of this wholesome horse murder.”

Friday, 7 October 2011

Carters & Coal Merchants - 3 Generations: Workaday Wednesday

The Oldham family of Blackpool, Lancashire  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),

The business was founded  around 1890, steadily became prosperous and in 1905 moved to near North Station, in a house with a large yard, hay loft, tack room. and stabling for around 7 horses.

in the 1901 census Joseph (right)  was descibed as a self-employed carter and coal merchant with his son John a coal wagon driver. An accident at the coal sidings resulted in Joseph  being blinded and he died in 1921, with his will, signed with his "mark". 

Shortly before his death Joseph had purchased the first vehicle (below)  which was used alongside the horses and carts. until the 1930's when two new vehicles were bought.  May Day and the dressing of the horses  with brasses was a colourful event remembered by the family.

The first Oldham road vehicle
bought in 1921.

In 1921 son John William took over the business where workers included  his brother-in-law George Butler (married to Sarah Oldham)  and Arthur Edward Stuart Smith who went on to marry John 's daughter Elsie.   

On the death in 1939 of John William Oldham (right)  his daughter Elsie (below)  took the helm and saw the business through the difficult wartime years, combining it with her own hairdressing concern run from the family home.  The coal merchant business was eventually sold around  1948 to another local firm, thus ending over 50 years of the family concern.   

Elsie Oldham
With thanks to Elsie's son, Stuart (my third cousin)  for these photographs and family history.  

For more photographs and stories of the Oldham family, see:
Finding a Third Cousin
And Dolly Came To
Bobbing, Shingling and Marcel Waves

Workaday Wednesday is a blogging prompt from to encourage writers to record aspects of their family history  

Monday, 3 October 2011

A Hair-Raising First Drive, c.1936: Travel Tuesday

I cannot resist sharing my father's memory of his first car.  I was lucky that he wrote down for me stories of his life in  "Family Recollections".   Dad was a commercial traveller  and in the 1930's got a new job with instructions to pick up a car at Derby and drive 90 miles north  to a position in Blackpool.  He had never driven before and here is his tale of his first  hair- raising journey.

""I had never driven a car before.  On Boxing Day, I went to the British School of Motoring and said I wanted some urgent lessons.  When I told the instructor I was driving to Blackpool the next day, he nearly had a fit.  I collected my car - a four door Morris saloon which I was expected to buy on hire  purchase at 18 shillings per week.  It was a traumatic journey with me being  a complete novice, having had no proper tuition.  There was no heating, no radio of course to help pass the time, and the windscreen wipers kept seizing up.  I had also been told that the tyres were awful for punctures.  Still I made it, as darkness fell - just as well, as I wasn't too sure about the lights!"

The photograph shows 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 in 1938  to my mother Kathleen Danson.   John and Charles were close as  brothers and often went on motoring trips together.

Copyright © 2011 · Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserved

An adaptation of an earlier posting for Wordless Wednesday