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Sunday, 26 May 2013

Holidaying in the 1950's - Travel Tuesday

In the 1950's we lived outside Blackpool, the famous north west England resort, but for our summer holiday we travelled to Bournemouuth on the south coast, where a close friend of my mother (known as Auntie Phyllis) had moved to open a hotel.

It was a long journey, before the days of motorways, though industrial Lancashire. My brother and I hated crossing the swing bridges over the Manchester Ship Canal at Wigan and Warrington with visions of them swinging around whilst we were on them. We would crouch down behind my parent's' seats and hide our eyes.   This was also before the days  of car seats and seatbelts for children.   

Another journey was crossing the Pennines on the Snake Pass  through the Peak District to visit relatives in Sheffield,  or  going over the Kirkston Pass in the Lake District  - we must have seemed such wimps, but we hated the twisty roads and sudden drops below us, so it seemed safer not to look out. until we reached safer ground.
This was also long before the days of electronic games, Walkman, I Pods and I Pads - I don't think we even had a car radio. To pass the time, we did the usual car games of I Spy, I went to the seaside or the market, and bought A ...B..C ...etc.. and making up silly sentences from the registration numbers of cars and also making up silly songs. My father was a commercial traveller (sales rep) for the Beecham Pharmaceutical Group and one ditty we came up with was:
There was a hermit in the hills
Living off his Beecham Pills
He ate two in the morning
And two at night
To make him feel so merry and bright.

A family group from the 1950's
We usually stopped somewehre for a picnic, prepared by my mother. One notable time, she excelled herslf by making a fruit tart and chicken pieces instead of the usual sandwiches and a banana - and left them all behind in the pantry! We had to stop somewhere and find a cafe for lunch. My father got the blame here, as he was always chivvering us get a move on and get away, wheras my mother had to see to all the packing for us, plus  the food.   We returned home a week later to discover the chicken and fruit pie  covered in fur!
Like all children, the excitement of going away quickly turned to boredom and the perennial question was voiced "Are we nearly there?"

Adapted from a posting of 2011. 

Travel Tuesday  is one of many daily prompts form www.geneabloggers.com to encourage us to write abut our family history and personal memories.

Friday, 24 May 2013

Sepia Saturday - Four Faces of Feisty Females

Sepia Saturday encourages bloggers to record and share their family history through photographs.

When I saw this prompt, I knew immediately which photograph I would use - the lovely portrait below of my great grandmother Maria Danson nee Rawcliffe of Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire. 
Maria has been at the heart of my family history activities and  even as a child her name attracted me as a mixture of down to earth Lancashire grit (Rawcliffe) and a more exotic Spanish side with her dark looks and the name Maria.  There was an apocryphal family story that "granny's dark looks" came from Spanish sailers shipwrecked after the Armada on the Lancashire coast. 

Maria was born in 1859 on the 15th January which 114 years later was the day my own daughter was born - a coincidence which delighted me.  She was the 7th out of 8 daughters of Robert Rawcliffe and Jane Carr.  She was  only 18 years old when she married James Danson in 1877.  They had ten sons (8 survived infancy)  before their only daughter Jennie, born  in 1897.    Maria was widowed in 1906 and two sons died in the First World War and Mari died in 1919 at the age of 60. 
How old do you think Maria is here?  I find the photograph difficult to date. Is she around  40 years old? i.e.  the year is  1899. 
Maria's life has given me endless stories for my family history and posed lots of questions.  Her name for a start seemed quite exotic compared with her sisters - Anne, Jane, Jennet, Margaret, Alice, Peggy and Martha.  Father Robert Rawcliffe was an Ag. Lab. and he and his wife just "made their mark" on their wedding certificate.
Another puzzle remains over her name - Maria on her birth certificate.  but in many official documents including the 1881 census,  her marriage certificate and my grandfather's birth certificate it is Martha - the name of her youngest sister who died at 4 months old.  Maria was only just four years old at the time, so could hardly have remembered her, so why did she choose to adopt her name?  To her three granddaughters who are still alive. Granny's name was Maria. This is what makes family history so fascinating! 
Maria's only daughter, my great aunt Jennie (1897-1986 ) was   by all accounts, quite a feisty character. She was the only daughter and last child of James Danson and Maria Rawcliffe  born on 24th December 1897, after eight surviving brothers - George then aged 3, Frank 5, Albert 7, Tom 9, William 12 (my grandfather), Robert 16, John 18 and Harry 20 - a large family in a small terraced house. Her father died when was eight years old,
I  love this photo below of Jennie with the "modern" hairstyle of the 1920's.  She went to work in they local post office and was determined to lead her own life, much to the dismay of her five unmarried brothers who were used to her running the home after the death of their mother (Maria) in 1919.
My mother Kathleen Danson was Maria's granddaughter - and her life  could be summed up as "Happiness is Stitching".  She was apprenticed as a tailoress at the age of 14 and was still making her own clothes and home furnishings when she was in her  80's.   
Completing the four generations - myself, Maria's great granddaughter,  aged 3 years old here.

 Click HERE to find other Sepia Saturday faces.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Sepia Saturday - Hanging Out

Sepia Saturday encourages bloggers to record and share their family history through photographs.

I had almost abandoned posting something this week, then suddenly remembered (and managed to find) this  photograph of my daughter hanging between two giant wheels outside the National  Railway Museum at York. 

She as born in January so under the star sign Capricorn which we always felt was very apt as the was like a little goat - had to be climbing, clambering, jumping  over everything.  So it was not surprising that at  primary school she became a member of the gymnastics team. 

Her own daughter looks like following in Mummy's footsteps.   

What is it about boxes and children?

Click HERE to see how other bloggers are hanging out.

Friday, 10 May 2013

Sepia Saturday - School Day Memories

Sepia Saturday encourages bloggers to record their family history through photographs.

I  come from a family of teachers (two uncles and an aunt), married a teacher and both my brother, daughter and myself have been trainers in our particularly fields.  So teaching is in the blood there somewhere.  My husband taught   physics, and quickly found that to admit to this fact  brought to an end any social conversation.  

I did toy with the idea of becoming a teacher myself, but my Aunt Edith (right)  put me off.  She won  a scholarship to Fleetwood Grammar School, riding the four miles on her bike in all weathers.  She became a teacher at Burn Naze School in Thornton Clevelys (a poor area of town in the 1920's and 30's)  and had a keen memory for past pupils (particularly black sheep)  and humorous incidents such as excuse notes, written  for absences.  Unfortunately her memorabilia from her teaching days must have been thrown out at some stage as I never came across it following her death - such a pity.   

Here is my first school photograph from the 1950's.

I attended Devonshire Road School, Blackpool, Lancashire.  I am on the second front row, second from the right, next to the boy in the  striped pullover. The fashion and hair styles here  were so typical of the day - the girls with plaits, pudding basin haircuts, side slides or fancy top ribbons.

I counted a class of 46 - double today's standard for class size!   We sat in serried rows of  battered  individual desks with inkwells,  and I remember chanting our times tables, copying handwriting,  the hated mental arithmetic sessions which I dreaded,  and of course reading which I loved.

Playing the triangle in my infant school percussion group  is one of my earliest school memo.ries.  I was not too pleased at being given  this instrument.  Like everyone else, I wanted the favourite choice  - the sleigh bells. 

Eve Wednesday afternoon we gathered in the hall for community singing and I learnt such patriotic songs as The British Grenadiers, Hearts of Oak, The Bonnie Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond, Bluebells of Scotland and my favourite Men of Harlech, sung with much gusto.  Sea shanties were also popular as we swung from side to side to sing What Shall We Do with the Drunken Sailor?   Are these now all forgotten,  as I doubt that children are familiar with them today? 

There was not a strict uniform at my primary school, but I was desperate to wear a gymslip and tie.   My mother did not like them, but eventually I got one handed down from my cousin and wore  the school red and navy striped tie and the red girdle round my waist, feeling I had stepped out of one of the school stories I loved to read.

We didn't seem to get  individual or class photographs at my secondary school (girls only)  but I remember two occasions when the whole school (about 500  of us I think) gathered on the playing fields for a massive group photograph.  The first year pupils sat cross legged on the grass, with the staff in their academic gowns seated  on chairs, and the rest of the school grouped behind, either standing or  balanced on gym forms.  The result was a large rolled photograph in a scroll box.  Unfortunately I did not see fit to keep these and threw them out when I was having a major sort-out, prior to getting married.   I regret it now. 

My recollection of my teachers 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 "Midsummer's 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 jingle "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 humorous 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 at grammar school, 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! 

We moved to Edinburgh where I finished secondary education and for  the first time in my school life  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.   
Click HERE to discover other bloggers school day memories.  

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

William Dower - Scottish Joiner & African Missionary

 A pioneering South African Missionary, a politician, a  test cricketer   - and one of the leading scientists of the  20th century - 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 who was researching the family of his great grandmother Isabel Edward from Banchory, Aberdeenshire.

Isabel's sister Jesse married William Dower in 1865 and  the photograph here shows  Wiiliam Dower himself (1837-1919) and his wife Jesse Edward (1838-1924),  with their respective parents - William's parents John Dower (1808-1872) and his wife Jane Forbes (1811-1866) and Jesse's parents   Alexander Edward (1811-1879) and  Margaret Stewart (1811-1905)

The original of this wedding photograph is in the museum in Kokstad, South Africa.

William Dower, after following his father into the local building business,  went to Edinburgh University on a bursary and was ordained as a Congregational Minister.    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. 

In March 1870, William and Jesse set out on an ox wagon journey to East Griqualand and the town of  Kokstad, where he was asked to take on the role of pastor.  

William drew the plans for the first family home in Kokstad and did much of the building himself, completing it in 1871.   The  windows and doors were made by his father and imported from Scotland. The building still stands and is now a craft outlet.
The church building was also built by the Reverend  Dower .    In the Gothic revival style of the time, it has beautiful examples of woodwork bearing testimony to his skill as a carpenter.

The opening in 1877  was marred by sadness, in that the ceremony was due to be performed by William's eldest child  Mina Margaret Jane. but she died just a week before the opening date, aged only 11.    .

The  Griqua Church Kokstad built by Rev. William Dower 
and opened in May 1877 
Jesse is in the centre front and William is just behind her. The other lady in the photo who looks very much like Jesse is Jesse’s sister Margaret Edward. Margaret Edward was a qualified teacher and at one time had taught at the Free Church School at Inch in Wigtownshire. She followed William and Jesse out to South Africa and became the teacher at the local school.
William went on to write a definitive history of the area in "The early annals of Kokstad and Griqualand East".

 William Dower and his wife Jesse taken in Blackpool in 1913
when they made a visit to England.

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

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

  • The two eldest  sons William John Dower  and James Martin Dower  became minsters, with James marrying four times between 1901 and 1927 - his wives possible dying in childbirth. 

  • Third son Edward Ebenezer Dower was a champion of 'native' citizens' rights and higher education in the Cape. who  in 1908  became Secretary For Native Affairs, Cape Town.
  • Youngest son Robert Reid Dower was a cricketer who played for South Africa against England in 1899.  He later became a lawyer, but when he died in 1964, he was the oldest South African Test cricketer.   

  •  Daughter Jesse  Edward Dower married a German mining engineer Semmy Joseph Blumlein of Jewish descent. They settled in Britain and Semmy took out citizenship in 1903.  Their son Alan  Dower Blumlein (1902-1942)  has been described as "the greatest electronic engineer of the 20th century", notable for his many inventions in telecommunications, sound recording, stereo, television and radar 
    But that is another story!

William Dower died on died 21 December 1919 at  "Banchory", Innes Street, Uitenhage, South Africa - his house named after his birthplace in Scotland.  He left behind a legacy in the country he came to love and a family who made their mark in many different fields.