Tuesday, 30 April 2013

A-Z Challenge - Z is for Zetland & Zell am See

Join me on his A-Z journey  into  A SENSE OF PLACE with reminiscences on places that are connected with my family history or are part of my own personal memories.


ZETLAND  - the old name for the Shetland Isles, the northern most isles of Scotland, situated 110 miles from the mainland and closer  to Bergen in Norway than to Edinburgh. Shetland stretches around a hundred miles from north to south. with over 100 islands in the group, 15 of which are inhabited.

Early Shetland was occupied by Pictish peoples. They left no written history but ancient  towers called brochs, carved stones and beautiful silver objects. From about 800 AD, however, the Pictish peoples were either displaced by - or absorbed into - waves of immigration from Scandinavia as the Vikings expanded westwards.
Shetland remained under Norwegian control for around 600 years. Their rule ended as the result of a marriage treaty in 1468  when King Christian I of Norway mortgaged Shetland to the Scottish crown to raise part of the dowry for the marriage of his daughter Margaret to King James III of Scotland.  James went on to annex Shetland to the Scottish crown in 1472, though the Nordic influence remained strong on the islands.

A photograph from my third cousin Stuart, whose Smith ancestors came from Shetland.
Another place on our Austrian journeys lying between Innsbruck and Salzburg.  The local mountain the Schnittenhohe is over 6000 feet high. 

We have come to the end of my A-Z Journey into a Sense of Place. 
Thank you for joining me in my reminiscences. 
   Your comments have been much appreciated.

Monday, 29 April 2013

A-Z Challenge - Y is for York

Join me on his A-Z journey  into  A SENSE OF PLACE with reminiscences on places that are connected with my family history or are part of my own personal memories.

Y is for YORK

As a lass from Lancashire, I crossed the Pennines with my family to live in Yorkshire for four years as a teenager.  Home was the village of Upper Poppleton and school was four miles away in York. 

York then was quite a sleepy town then  ahead of its status as a university city and its honeypot draw for tourists, but I  was surrounded by history

Micklegate Bar
In Roman times it was  called "Eboracum"  then the Vikings came and renamed it "Jorvik", before it became Eoforwic under the Saxons.  York flourished in medieval times, illustrated in the famous narrow street of the Shambles. 

The mediaeval city  walls  with their entrance gates, known as bars, encompassed virtually the entire city.  I walked every day for the bus home through Micklegate  Bar which during the Wars of the Roses had been decorated with the heads of leaders killed by one side or the other.

The magnificent Minster was  built in Gothic style over the years 1220-1482, and contains England’s greatest concentration of medieval stained glass.  The Archbishop of York was second only in religious power and influence to the Archbishop of Canterbury. A full forty other churches were built in the city during the medieval period, contributing to York's  rich heritage of architecture, spanning timbered buildings to Georgian elegance in the Mansion House and Assembly Rooms.

Street names are fascinating - Gillygate, Coppergate, Baggergate, Monkgate, Swinegte, Stonegate and Petergate, with the longest Whipmawhopmygate.  Gate here does not mean an entrance  but is derived from the Scandinavian  "gata"  meaning "street"  

One of the most photographed views of York from the city walls looking towards the Minister.

The Shambles

St. William's College

By 1660 York was England's third largest city after London and Norwich.  In the 19th century York became a major centre for the railway, thanks to the "Railway King" George Hudson, with the first railway station built in 1839. 
My school,  Mill Mount Grammar School for Girls had the city crest as its badge and was a very formal, academic establishment with strict rules on wearing of school uniform etc.  I recall  visits to the famous Castle Museum, then regarded as well ahead of its time in creating period rooms and  a Victorian street; being part (as a programme seller) of  the famous York Mystery Plays, performed in the grounds  of St. Mary's Abbey every ten years, and a lunch by the Lord Provost at the Mansion House to welcome German  pen friends to the city - this was regarded as very significant being only 15 years after the end of the war.
On a more prosaic note we visited York's famous chocolate factories of Rowntrees (Kit Kats, Smarties & Aeros)  and Terry's (Chocolate Oranges).  My memory  apart from the free samples,  was of the boring job that some staff had,  drawing the squiggle on top of a chocolate box selection  as the sweets  passed along a conveyor belt.   
it was at York that my love of history crystallised, thanks to an inspirational teacher - Miss Edwards.  I have much to thank the city for and just writing this post makes me want to go back there.  A visit is definitely called for!

Join me on the last  stage of this A-Z Journey as tomorrow we reach Z.

Sunday, 28 April 2013

A-Z Challenge - X is for EXperiences

Join me on his A-Z journey  into  A SENSE OF PLACE with reminiscence on places that are connected with my family history or are part of my own personal memories.

Place names beginning with X abound in China and there are some in Wales and Greece  - but I have been to none of these.   So I must admit here to deviating from my Sense of Place theme  and focussing on  some of my family history EXperiences, beyond travel.

is for:

EXcitement at finding ancestors who were unknown to me. After many years of appearing on message boards etc. with minimal success, my blog was discovered by three different third cousins and resulted in new photographs and new stories. 
A wedding photograph of the family of my third cousin, Stuart
EXchanging Information: In pre-Internet days this activity came from joining Family History Societies and studying their listings of Members Interests. Now the world is open to us. My first venture into Internet research on my Bryning connections resulted in more information in four weeks than I had unearthed in four years. A wonderful tool - as long as you check sources!
EXamining Records: The fascination and pleasure in touching documents written over a century ago that relate to my ancestor's life.

Roxburghshire Militia List of 1797
Courtesy of Heritage Hub, Hawick -

EXceeding EXpectations: When I first started on my family history trail, I thought I would be lucky to trace my very ordinary Danson family back to the 1841 census. I have far exceeded that, discovering my great great great, great grandfather John Danson, born 1736, son of Peter.   Here is his signature from his will found in Lancashire Record Office.

EXpressing the family stories: Research is an all absorbing task, but turning the facts, names and dates into a family story that people are interested in reading, whether through blog or book, is my favourite FH occupation. 

EXcursions into Local and Social History - The possibilities are endless. for adding colour to a family story.............,,,,,
  • Was your ancestor alive when a Napoleonic invasion threatened  towns and villages ready to light beacons to warn of the French attack? 
  • Might your ancestors have seen the Jacobite army marching through Scotland and the north of England in 1745 as Prince Charles Edward Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie) attempted to take the Hanoverian throne?
  • What entertainment did your ancestors enjoy locally?
Concert poster in the collection  of the Heritage Hub, Hawick
  • The coming of the railway to a community must have been a thrilling event to witness, with local newspapers giving extensive coverage of the excitement generated.
  • Peebles Station in the Scottish Borders, c 1910.
    With kind permission of the Heritage Hub, Hawick
  • What about the impact of the invention of the sewing machine on the task of making a family's clothes?
  • Might your female ancestors have seen suffragettes campaigning locally? 

A suffragette meeting, at Towerknowe, Hawick in the Scottish Borders, 1909.
Note - the number of men there.  
Photograph by permission of Scottish Borders Council Museum & Gallery Service
 from the Hawick Museum Collection.

  • When was your local cottage hospital built, or the local football club formed?
  • How did your ancestral town or village mark Queen Victoria's Jubilees in 1887 and 1897 and her death in 1901? 
The possibilities for stories are endless. 
And finally after all of this - EXhaustion!

My father enjoying a snooze in our garden in Edinburgh c.1960's


Saturday, 27 April 2013

Sepia Saturday - A Newspaper Addict

Sepia Saturday encourages bloggers to
o record their family history through photographs. 
When I saw this prompt of men reading newspapers and the breaking news of the day, I knew immediately which photograph I would feature - one of my father.
Dad  was an avid reader of newspapers and also had a strong interest in journalism and politics.  He  left school  at 14 years old and was a  self-taught man.  He was unashamedly Conservative, reader of "The Daily Telegraph", admired the Queen, Winston Churchhill and Margaret Thatcher and was a member of the local constituency party helping at fund raising events, delivering election leaflets etc.  He often wrote letters to the local newspaper on political issues - much to the concern of my mother who did not like the verbal brickbats that he could receive.  

We were a family who always listened to the news (radio in the  morning and  TV in the evening), and watched major events ranging from the Queen's Coronation, Royal Weddings, and Sir Winston Churchill's funeral,  to the building of the Berlin Wall, Cuban crisis, space missions returning to earth and  the shooting of President Kennedy

Along with Dad, I was   politically informed  - but no activist.  I  followed the course of General Election campaigns and results and remember one year marking up with coloured pencils an election map in  red and blue (Labour & Conservative) with occasional  yellow for Liberals.
Frustratingly I had to wait quite a time to exercise my own vote - I was 21 just after one election and had to go another 4-5 years before having the next opportunity.   I did attend some hustings in the days when candidates actually tried to meet the  public and once went late at night to hear the results announced from the Town Hall balcony - and that sums up my political activities.    Wearing a duffel coat was the  closest I came to student rebellion! 

Many years on I was secretary of my local community council for three years.  I was asked to stand as a councillor, but I knew it was not for me - I am no good at thinking on my feet and in no way could I cope with the hurly burly cut and thrust of modern day politics, and media coverage, even at a small town level.  
But the  influence of my father,   in being concerned about his community,   remains with me,  and,  like him, I am an avid reader of newspapers.  But I do not quite follow the same political line!

And is my little granddaughter about to follow the family tradition? 

Click  HERE find how other Sepia Saturday bloggers have viewed the news.

A-Z Challenge - W is for Warsaw - Where the Impact of History is So Strong

Join me on his A-Z journey  into  A SENSE OF PLACE where I reminiscence on places that are connected with my family history or are part of my own personal memories.
W is for WARSAW
A visit to Warsaw is like no other city break.   It is a powerful experience where the impact of history is all around you - the destruction of war, with massive monuments, tiny memorials with candle lights on street corners, memorials to the extermination of the Jews,  the legacy of Communism - perhaps all magnified by the fact we arrived on September  1st  on the anniversary of the German invasion in 1939 and saw commemorations of the event.   
Yet there is also beauty in the buildings in the Old Town restored after the war. in  the architecture, the statues and gardens.
One of the many churches
 The Place of Culture and Science -
built in 1952 as a gift from the Soviet Union to the people of Poland.

Monument to the Heroes of Warsaw

Jewish Memorial, Warsaw

Above & below - Memorial to the Warsaw Uprising of 1944

A beautiful haven of peace in Lazienka Park, landscaped in the late 18th century
Copyright © 2013 · Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserved


Thursday, 25 April 2013

A-Z Challenge - V is for Vienna

Join me on his A-Z journey  into  A SENSE OF PLACE where I reminiscence on places that are connected with my family history or are part of my own personal memories.

V is for VIENNA- City of Dreams

With my love of history and music, how could I fail to be captivated by this city - its palaces, architecture, statues, imperial legacies and culture - not forgetting its cafĂ©  and delicious "Kaffee and Kuchen""? 

You cannot help think that Austria may have got rid of its monarchy  but its imperial past has been a great boon for today's tourism industry with frequent reminders of the long reigning  Franz Josef (1830-1916), Emperor of the Austro-Hungarian Empire  and his beautiful but sad and estranged wife  Elizabeth (Sissi).

Statue of Franz Josef

In 1889 their son  Crown Prince Rudolf committed suicide in the hunting  lodge at Mayerling  in a tragedy shrouded in mystery and speculation.   Nephew Archduke Franz Ferdinand became heir to the throne,  to be assassinated in Sarajevo in 1914. sparking in the web of European alliances the outbreak of the First World War which changed the political map of Europe for ever.

One of the many sights of Imperial Vienna

Statue of Mozart

One of the many costumed city guides - catching on his information? 

And the highlight of my visit - standing  on the stage of the Vienna Opera House - not as a performer I hasten to add,  but as  part of a fascinating tour of this impressive building. 


Wednesday, 24 April 2013

A-Z Challenge - U is for Upper Poppleton - A Typical Enghlish Village

Join me on his A-Z journey  into  A SENSE OF PLACE where I reminiscence on places that are connected with my family history or are part of my own personal memories.


What is your image of a typical English village - village green and maypole, surrounded by cottages, church (All Saints) , school and pub (The Red  Lion)?   Well, that describes where I lived in my teens in a village  with the lovely sounding name of Upper Poppleton.  It lies 4 miles west of York towards Knaresborough and Harrogate on the west bank of the River Ouse, with its neighbouring village of Nether Poppleton.

Upper Poppleton Green with the maypole.

The name is derived from popel (pebble) and tun (hamlet, farm) and means "Pebble Farm" because of the gravel bed upon which the village was built. The village was mentioned in both the Domesday Book and the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles and the Battle of Marston Moor in the English Civil War was fought nearby.

Our house.  We had to come up with a name for it quickly and my father settled on "Arlon" after a place in Luxembourg where he stayed in 1944.  He remained in contact he was billeted with there for a long time after the war.  

My own memories  of Poppleton are of the village railway station, the  fetes on the Green - and yes, dancing round the maypole;  fancy dress parades, taking part in Girl Guide activities  (Scarlet Pimpernel patrol) and the foxhunt meeting there at New Year. Unfortunately I have hardly any photographs of that time.   Right is my brother winning a prize in a fancy dress competition as a Yeoman of the Guard (Beefeater).  It  was a testimony to my mother's creative  skills - adapted from a red suit of hers, my 1950's waspy belt and my father's war medals.  I  cannot imagine how my brother ever agreed to wear tights dyed red and rosette garters.   

Church was an important feature  in our family life.   I was a member of the choir, along with my father,  and had my first experience of the  pleasure of singing anthems, including excerpts from Handels' "Messiah .  Goodness knows what it sounded like performed by a small village choir, but choral singing has remained one of my great loves.   

I was confirmed at All Saints. by the Archbishop of York, Michael Ramsey - his visit was a major event for our small village and he was an imposing figure remembered from his key part in the Queen''s Coronation and he  later became Archbishop of Canterbury.  

All Saints, Church, Upper Poppleton
St Everilda's Church at Nether Poppleton was a beautiful  much older little church, situated at the end of the  cul de sac of Church Lane. The church is one of only two dedicated to the seventh century Saxon saint, which suggests that it was founded about that time or soon afterwards.  I recall  some lovely carved Elizabethan kneeling figures in  the tiny chancel  and just wish now that  I had photographs of them. 
St Everilda's Church at Nether Poppleton
We only lived four years in Upper Poppleton before moving on again with my father's work - this time to Edinburgh.  But I remember the feeling of being part of a village community and it was here that my love of history crystallised, remaining  with  me ever since.
Colour photographs taken by my brother on a recent visit. to Poppleton

Monday, 22 April 2013

A-Z Challenge - T is for Tyneside

Join me on his A-Z journey  into  A SENSE OF PLACE where I reminiscence on places that are connected with my family history or are part of my own personal memories.


South Shields on Tyneside is my husband's  birthplace.  If this brings to mind an industrial conurbation with legacies of shipbuilding and mining, here is his favourite image of a childhood haunt  - Marsden Rock,

Marsden Rock, is a 100 foot sea stack  of periclase and magnesium limestone, 100 yards off the cliff face.  In 1803 a flight of steps was constructed up the side of the rock.  This photograph was taken before 1996 for in that year, the arch collapsed, splitting the rock  into two separate stack, with one later being declared unsafe and demolished.  The roc remains home to many seabird colonies of kittiwakes, fulmers, gulls and cormorants.

A more traditional view of the River Tyne (below), taken from South Shields and looking across to the Norwegian ferry at North Shields.

My husband's ancestors (Donaldson, White, Moffet) were mariners, sailing out of South Shields, whilst extended family members were in related occupations   as a caulker, seaman, river policeman, shipwright, roper, ship’s carpenter, and marine engine fitter.


Tyne & Wear Archives were invaluable to providing further information on the families' working lives.  I discovered the ships that GGG grandfather Robert Donaldson and GG grandfather Matthew White  sailed on around Europe - many of which came to a sad end - though not under their captaincy.  I also became acquainted with the names of different sailing vessels - barque or barc, brig, sloop, smack and snow   - an illustration of the diverse routes that family history can take you.

Great great grandfather John Moffet in a Napoleonic pose. 
One of the few photographs held of the family.

A long held family story recollected a photograph (sadly lost) of a White ancestor in a top hat in the uniform of the River Tyne police.   A silver uniform button  (left) is  still held by the family.

The Nominal Roll of the Tyne River Police (held at Tyne & Wear Archives)  provided some answers, finding that two  sons of Matthew (senior),   had been  members of the river police force – but both with rather a chequered history.

Henry White  joined 9th January 1882 and brother Matthew June 1896.  The Police Defaulters Book recorded on 11th June 1889.their  misconduct in the same incident -  "for assaulting a seaman A. W. Hanson and other irregularities, whilst off duty".   Henry was fined 2/6 and transferred to Walker Division at his own expense.  The Nominal Roll of 1904 noted his age as 42 and that he had 22 years of service, with a wage of 29/6. Matthew was fined 2/6 and transferred to the Newcastle Division at his own expense.  However he resigned a few months later.

Did You Know?
  • "Geordie" - the term for Tynesiders is thought to stem from the miners' safety lamp named after mining and railway engineer. George Stephenson. Another theory relates that Tyneside  folk are called Geordies because Newcastle declared allegiance to the Hanoverian King George against the Scottish Jacobite rebels.
  • The first purpose built lifeboat in the world  was built in South Shields in 1789.
  • Catherine Cookson, writer of many popular historical romances,  was born in South Shields.
  •  Hinnie" is a local term of endearment.
  •  "Singing Hinnies" are  a type of griddle cake.  The "singing" refers to the sound of the sizzling of the lard or butter in the rich dough as it cooks.  

Coming into land at Newcastle Airport,
with a clear view of the mouth of the Tyne and South Shields to the left.
In the 19th century this was where my husband's ancestors set sail.

Copyright © 2013 · Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserved


Sunday, 21 April 2013

A-Z Challenge: S for the Scottish Borders

Join me on his A-Z journey  into  A SENSE OF PLACE where I reminiscence on places that are connected with my family history or are part of my own personal memories.
I  regard myself as "an adopted Border Bairn".   I have no ancestral connection with the Scottish Borders, but have lived here over  40 years since I married and my  daughter and family were born here. My working life has also involved promoting this often forgotten corner of Scotland

The Scottish Borders consists of the counties of Berwickshire, Roxburghshire,  Peeblesshire & Selkirkshire and lies   between Edinburgh to the north and the English border, with Newcastle and Carlisle to the south.  It  is the bit visitors whizz through intent on getting to the capital and to the "real " Scotland of the Highland mountains and lochs.  They don't know what they are missing! 
Scott's ' View - the iconic image of the Scottish Borders - , looking across the Tweed Valley to the Eldon Hills - called by the Romans Trimontium (three hills)

In the 12th century Kind David I founded four Border Abbeys at Melrose,  Dryburgh, Kelso and Jedburgh.

Melrose Abbey, founded in 1136 by David I, was the first monastery of the Cistercian order established in Scotland. The heart of King Robert the Bruce is  said to be buried there.  The exterior of this  ruin is decorated by unusual sculptures, including hobgoblins, cooks with ladles and a bagpipe playing pig.


Dryburth Abbey on the wooded banks of the River Tweed was founded in 1150 and is now the final resting place of writer Sir Walter Scott and  First World War Commander, Field Marshall Earl Haig,

In the 13th to 16th centuries, the Borders  was the "Debatable Land fought over by English and Scots   - the land of  the Border Reivers, with raids and counter raids by  prominent families of Scott, Armstrong, Turnbull, Elliot, Kerr, Pringle and many other distinctive names associated with the area.

The statue at Dryburgh of William Wallace the Scottish Patriot during the Wars of Scottish Independence.[ He  defeated an English army at the Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297, and was Guardian of Scotland, serving until his defeat at the Battle of Falkirk in 1298. Wallace was captured  In 1305, handed over to King Edward I of England, who had him summarily hanged, drawn, and quartered for high treason  His statue,  commissioned by the Earl of Buchan, was the first monument to be raised to Wallace in Scotland.  In red sandstone and 21.5 feet high, it was placed on its pedestal  in 1814.



Hermitage Castle, near Newcastleton,  is set in an isolated part of Liddesdale,  The  castle was begun by an English lord, Sir Hugh de Dacre, and captured by  Sir William Douglas in 1338, one of Scotland’s most powerful noblemen.

In  1566, the 4th Earl of Bothwell, secret lover of Mary Queen of Scots, was badly injured in a skirmish with reivers. On hearing the news, Mary  rode out to visit from Jedburgh, a 25-mile  moorland ride - a long round journey from which she nearly died.
(Source of Text : .

The 65 foot high Smailholm Tower is a prominent landmark, west of Kelso. The Pringles, built the tower in the first half of the 15th century,  and it suffered repeatedly at the hands of English raiders.   It later passed to the Scott family and the grandfather of writer Sir Walter Scott, who found inspiration there for his "Minstrelsy of the Scottish Borders" 

Castles moved on from being fortifications to stately homes as in the case of Floors Castle at   Kelso, home of the Dukes of Roxburgh. It dates from 1721 with architects Vanburgh, Adam and Playfair all contributing to its design.  

The 19 span Leaderfoot Railway Viaduct  is 3 miles from my home and crosses over the River Tweed, near Melrose.   It  was built in 1863, with trains running until the line closed in  1965.  The structure is now in the care of Historic Scotland.    

The Eldon Hills at dusk

Copyright © 2013 · Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserved