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Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Sepia Saturday - Men Minus Ties

Sepia Saturday give bloggers an opportunity to share their family history and memories through photographs.
This week's prompt invites us to look at men in ties and braces. 

Well,  most of the men in my photographs are dressed very formally for weddings or military service. So  instead I have focussed on more casual wear  both for work and leisure - with men  minus their ties!


This photograph was in the collection of my Uncle Fred Weston who grew up in Broseley, Shropshire, across the river from its more famous neighbour - Ironbridge, birthplace of England's Industrial Revolution.
Here is Tommy Rodgers, a well known local character, who was a   a coracle maker.   When the famous  Iron Bridge was opened in 1779,  locals objected to paying the tolls, so they used their coracles to cross the river instead;  also  to fish and to poach. Tommy Roger was well known as a poacher and the local newspaper regularly reported his appearance in court on poaching charges. He also helped to build the new police cells and court room in Ironbridge in 1862 - only to be one of the first people to appear there.  

More working men's garb, with my grandfather William Danson of Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire sitting in the front of this group of workers.  Granddad was described as a labourer on his wedding certificate of 1907.  At one stage he worked in the local auction mart, and then at the ICI chemical works at Thornton, near Fleetwood.  

This could be work or leisure, but here is my husband's father John Robert Donaldson taking a break from his work as a sign writer and decorator.

A lace cravat, rather than a tie, worn by one of the many costumed city guides in Vienna  -
 - catching up on his information?

My father John Weston (left) with his younger brother Charles, adopting a casual pose of men around town.  I have told the story of Dad's first drive before on my blog, , but it is so entertaining, I could not resits featuring it again.  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, told in his own words.

""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!"
Thirty years on and now  driving with a caravan in tow, Dad take on a  more casual look, besides his older brother Fred who has kept to his tie, despite the obvious warm weather.  
My husband is the little boy in his school coat and cap, on the pillion of his father's motor bike.  No concerns then about health and safety and the  wearing of crash helmets!   But notice that his father's jacket is pin striped and he has a handkerchief tucked  in his top pocket. 
 I must admit I took this photograph rather surreptitiously in a cafe bar in Munch Square, in Bavaria, Germany.  The two men looked so genial sitting there with their huge beer tankards, casually dressed and enjoying a convivial drink.   Combined with the sign,  this seemed such a good photograph to take to typify the Bavarian scene. 
Click HERE to read how other bloggers featured ties and braces

Copyright © 2013 · Susan Donaldson. All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Sepia Saturday -Three's Company

Sepia Saturday give bloggers an opportunity to share their family history and memories through photographs.
My theme this week is very straightforward - Threesomes.

 My great grandmother Maria Danson, nee Rawcliffe (1859-1919)
with her daughter Jennie (my great aunt)  and little granddaughter Annie. c. 1909. 

Jennie was the only daughter and last child of James and Maria Danson, born on Christmas Eve, December 24th 1897, with her eight (surviving)  brothers George then aged 3, Frank 5, Albert 7, Tom 9, William 12, Robert 16, John 18 and Harry 20 – quite a household in what looked like  a cramped terraced house.  Their father James died in 1906. 

Jennie's photograph collection forms the basis of much of my family history and even better she had identified the names on the back of the photos.   

Little Annie,  the daughter of second son John Danson and Sarah Haydon Lounds, was born 1905, but sadly Sarah died a year later and the infant Annie made her home with her grandmother, her many uncles and  her aunt Jennie, who was only eight years her senior. Further tragedy struck when Annie's  father John died in army camp in 1917. leaving Annie an orphan.


Tom, Janie and Jack Riley, the grandchildren of Maria's sister Jane Riley, nee Rawcliffe, c.1913  


Jack Riley is identified in the centre  of this group,  wearing sailor’s uniform  and a cap HMS Chester.
Jack was 5 months old in the 1901 census, but so far I have been unable to find him ten years on.  

I did a search for HMS Chester and was surprised to find it was the ship on which a young sailor John
 Travers Cornwell fought at the Battle of Jutland in 1916 and  was warded the Victoria  Cross for a conspicuous act of bravery.  The citation reads  "Mortally wounded early in the action, Boy, First Class, John Travers Cornwell remained standing alone at a most exposed post, continuing to service his gun, until the end of the action, with the gun's crew dead and wounded all round him. His age was under sixteen".

Was jack Riley another young sailor  on board HMS Chester at this time?  I have  a postcard sent by his mother to my great grandmother to say " Jack went out to sea today.  He went in good spirits".  The postmark is difficult to make out but could be 7.?? 16.  Here is something else to add to my "Research To Do" list.

John Cornwell was a keen scout in his home town and in his honour the Boy Scout Association instituted  the Cornwell Scout Badge, awarded for outstanding acts of  courage and endurance in the face of adversity.

There is an additional  personal dimension to this story, for my husband received the Cornwell badge in 1948 following three years serious illness  in hospital.

It is amazing the direction family history can take you!



Another photograph from Jennie's collection, identified as Amy,  Edna and Lavinia Dodd, Todmorden.
Jennie's youngest brother George had enlisted  January 1916 at Todmorden, West Yorkshire.  His service record gave his   address at the time as  17 Harker Street, Harley Bank,  Todmorden, with occupation station bookstall manager. 
I turned to the 1911 census online  and found the Dodd family at  17 Harker Street, Harley Bank,  Todmorden, with head of household Elizabeth Dodd (occupation choring) and three daughters Amy aged 15 (a cotton weaver) , Edna 12 (a fustian sewer)  and Lavinia  aged 9. 
 My brother Chris and I,  with our father on a busy promenade in Bournemouth . c.1952  

Dad, Chris and I

Click HERE to meet Threesomes from other Sepia Saturday bloggers.  
Copyright © 2013 · Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserved

Monday, 19 August 2013

Celebrating Three Blogging Years - Thankful Thursday

August 21st is my third  Blogiversary!   It has been a great three years and has far exceeded my expectations.

I relish the blog experience of telling my family history stories to a wider audience (instead of boring my family), discovering this different style of writing, coming up with a title and content that appeals - and making new contacts with fellow enthusiasts.

When I started, my main concern was "Is anyone finding this and more importantly actually reading it?" A few arms were twisted with friends and relations to sign up as my first followers. But let's face it, although we enjoy writing,  recognition from others is a great motivator, and I must admit to being an eager reader of comments received.   

My initial target was one posting per week.  I thought I would soon run out of material, but the prompts from www.geneabloggers.com and inspiration from other bloggers has been so stimulating,  Retirement helps! 

What have been the milestones in my third  blogging year?

  • Being listed among "Top 50 Genealogical Blogs you Need to Read" in the  Australian magazine "Inside History".  A special thank you to my Australian readers.

  • Achieving  103 followers - thank you to everyone for signing up. 

  • Becoming  a regular contributor to Sepia Saturday which give bloggers an opportunity to share their family history through photographs. I am amazed at the ingenious interpretations of the weekly themes,   and the supportive comments from fellow Sepians.

  • Taking part in the April 2013 A-Z Challenge.   My theme was  "A Sense of Place" which was a chance to reminisce on places I had visited, or were connected with my family history.  Keeping up with a posting a day (Sunday off) was certainly a challenge but I made it!  

  • This past year I have spent more time writing than researching  and was pleased to complete three volumes - on my father's life and on my mother's Danson family - with more material for blog posts.

What hasn't worked?
  • Unfortunately this past year has been marked by a big increase in spam comments and I have put some moderation in place.  The worst effect is the impact on my page views.  I used to check  very regularly my statistics page to see which posts most appealed to readers, but there is no point now as the figures are so out of kilter.   

And Next Year?
  • My  brain is still buzzing  with ideas for both research and writing up, so I look forward to my fourth year in such an all-absorbing hobby. 

Thank you to everyone for their support.   
I appreciate it very much.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Happiness is Stitching - Sentimental Sunday

Kathleen & Edith Danson

"Happiness in Stitching" could be my mother's motto. 
For her to go into a fabric shop was like going into a jeweller's.   If she sat down, she was rarely without a needle in her hand.  She was a creator in patchwork, crochet, collage, knitting, embroidery, smocking, dolls and dresses, with dabbles into  millinery, lampshade making and china painting.

 My mother Kathleen (Kay) Weston, nee Danson was born in 1908 in the small town of Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire.  Her older sister Edith was equally talented and from their photographs they clearly enjoyed fashion.
At the age of 14 Mum was apprenticed to be a tailoress and was still making her own clothes in her 80's - though on a much more sophisticated machine than the old treadle she began on.  

Modelling one her dresses

Mum set up her own dress-making business from home  and continued this throughout her life.  In the 1950's this meant working in the spare bedroom which was icy cold in winter and hot and stuffy in summer.  I remember one time when my little brother - a typical boy into everything - got hold of her oiling can, filled it with water and proceeded to "oil" the sewing machine!.  He was not very popular!


I benefited from cutting up old Butterick and Simplicity pattern books and creating characters and "schools" from the fashion figures. 

My brother and I in outfits made by my mother c.1948
  See the smocking on the baby dress & cross stitch embroidery on my blouse.

My Sunday coats always had velvet collars, embroidered with flowers and a matching bonnet.  In summer I always had a new sun dress with bolero.  
In my sun dress - 1950'  
Our village held an annual gala day and Mum was in demand for helping with the costumes.
Costumes Mum helped make  for the local Staining Gala Day
I am front left kneeling - early 1950's.

I don't know how my brother ever agreed to take part in a fancy dress parade, and wear dyed red tights as a Yeoman of the Guard.  The costume was adapted from an old red suit of Mum's. 

As a child,  I had the best dressed dolls on the street and especially remember my Coronation Doll of 1953 with its  white dress and long embroidered purple velvet train. I do now regret  not keeping it as a family heirloom.  One of my favourite toys was, a now very politically incorrect, hand-made Golliwog with his  checked trousers, red jacket and bow tie.  Sadly I have now photographs of these toys and dolls.
Thirty years on,  my daughter was the recipient of nursery collages, soft toys, a Cindy wardrobe, costume dolls, crochet waistcoats and fashion jumpers.   Mum was also an active member of the Women's Institute (W.I.)  and regularly took part in craft competitions, displays and demonstrations.   Here are some wonderful examples of her work.

An Upside-down Cinderella Doll



Mum stitched this patchwork quilt when she was in her 80's. 
She lived to the age of 91.


 And of course Mum made my wedding dress -
here  arriving at the church with my father.

I don't have Mum's skill, but I have inherited her love of handicrafts and she left me with tangible memories
of a very talented lady.
[Note:  I have posted a number of articles before  on my mother's talents,  but I wanted to pull them all together  - hence this  tribute}

Copyright © 2013 · Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Sepia Saturday - Time for Tea

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

Hats were an obvious choice for me with this week's prompt, but I had featured head ware  last year, so opted instead for the teatime theme.

An Edwardian picnic?

An unidentified postcard in the collection of the Heritage Hub, Hawick

I remember this copper kettle (below)  sitting in the hearth of my grandfather's house and was always led to believe  it was his mother's - my great grandmother Maria Danson, nee Rawcliffe.   I was absolutely  delighted when it eventually passed down to me.

Complementing the kettle is this tea-set, which,  (according to her granddaughter), Maria acquired by collecting coupons from a newspaper offer. 

My great grandmother Maria Danson, nee Rawcliffe (1859-1919) 
Pink seemed to be  the favoured colour for the "best" tea-set and I have pieces from both my grandmother Alice  and my mother's wedding china. 

The wedding china (above)  of my grandmother Alice Danson, nee English (1884-1945)

Wedding china of my mother Kathleen Weston, nee Danson

 My mother, Kathleen and Aunt Edith were both assiduous needlewomen and the tray cloth (below) is just one small example of their fine work.   How sad that the art seems to be dying.  I must admit I would be too afraid to use embroidered tablecloths and tray cloths,   fearing spills - and that would present another test of my laundering skills!  


A family group from the 1950's


Onto the 1950's.  This picture was taken by my aunt when we were at one of our favourite picnic stops.  One notable time, when we were heading off on holiday, Mum excelled herself 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 did not have a  fridge then).  We had to stop somewhere and find a cafĂ© for lunch. My father got the blame here, as he was always chivvying us get a move on and get away, whereas 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!
Looking back Mum and Dad were so formally dressed, especially my father in jacket, collar and tie.
Here we are a few years later and with a messier picnic in progress.  My father had adopted a more casual pose, but Mum is wearing a coat and I suspect it was not over warm and we were using the car as a shelter. But never mind - we are enjoying our picnic!
Click HERE to pop along to other bloggers tea-time stories.