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Thursday, 29 May 2014

Military Memories 30: Lest We Forget

Over the past month  I have featured the members of my immediate family who served in two world wars.  I finish this Military Memories Challenge by highlighting the way we remember  those who served and those who died.  LEST WE FORGET. 

I persuaded my father  to write down his memories and Dad's own words form the basis of this family history narrative (left) ,  supplemented by letters written to my mother  in 1944 and photographs from the family collection.  It was a very enjoyable and at times moving project to read Dad's own words and compile this tribute.

I was also proud to contribute Dad's story  to the BBC "People's War"  - a major project where the public were invited to post wartime memories  online.  An archive of 47,000 stories and 15,000 images was the result.   

From national memorials to small village crosses we remember those who were killed in war, including my two great uncles John and George Danson. 
The Cenotaph in London began as a temporary structure erected for a peace parade following the end of the First World War  but following an outpouring of national sentiment it was replaced in 1920 by a permanent structure and designated the United Kingdom's primary national war memorial.   Designed by Edwin Lutyens and built of Portland Stone,  the memorial was unveiled by King  George V  on 11 November 1920, the second anniversary of the end of the war. The unveiling ceremony for the Cenotaph was part of a larger procession bringing the Unknown Solider to be laid to rest in his tomb in Westminster Abbey.

The term "Cenotaph" relates to a monument  to honour those who died,  whose bodies are buried elsewhere or have no known grave. 

 Minto War Memorial, near Hawick in the Scottish Borders

Taynuilt in Argyll, Scotland

Clitheroe,  Lancashire, England 

Commando Memorial at Spean Bridge in the Scottish Highlands.
 It overlooks the training areas of the Commando Training Depot
established in 1942 at Achnacarry Castle.

  Isle of Iona, looking across to Mull

War Memorial at Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire 
with the names of my two great uncles John and George Danson

Copyright © 2013 · Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserved

Sepia Saturday - Hair Days

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

Books, studies and statuettes don't feature in my photographic collection, so  I am playing it very safe with this prompt, by focusing on the key feature - long hair - or in my examples longish! 

My great aunt Jennie Danson (1897-1986) was,  by all accounts,  quite a feisty character.  She was the only daughter and last child of James Danson and Maria Rawcliffe of Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire, 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 she was eight years old, and two brothers John and George died in the  First World War.

The oldest photograph c. 1909 of Jennie  shows her to be around 12 years old,with longish hair.  Other photographs have featured before on my blog. 

In leaving school, Jennie went to work in Poulton Post Office.  Her daughter Pam recalls a story that during the First World War, a telegram was received at the Post  Office for Mrs Maria Danson.  Fearing the worst, Jenny was allowed to run home with it.  Fortunately it was good news to say that brother Frank was in hospital in Malta but was doing well.    

Was this a group (below)  of Jennie's work colleagues, given they were all dressed in the  same skirts and blouses?   Names on the reverse -  Gerty Roskell, Jennie Danson, Annie Jolly, Margaret Porter, Madge O' Rourke, Edith Jackson, with Gertie and Jennie putting on show their long plaints. 

A complete change of style and I love this photo (left) of Jennie, with the iconic 1920s hairstyle.  She  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.  Jennie married Beadnell (Bill) Stemp in 1929.  

Pigtails to Ponytails characterised my look as a child, complete with kirby grips and ribbons.  I was not allowed to wear it loose. However on village gala days and on special occasions, my hair was wound into rags overnight  to hopefully create ringlets - which soon fell out.   


By my early teens my hair was long.  It was washed and rinsed in rain water or brown vinegar - my mother's idea of beauty treatment and it took ages to dry in front of the fire - no hair dryer to speed the process up.  How on earth did the girl in the prompt photograph manage to dry her  long locks in winter? 

Below  is the only photograph I have of me in my teens.  You cannot see my pony tail down my back, but what struck me now is how similar the pose and fringe is to my Great Aunt Jennie's (above)  some forty years earlier. 

Some years later,  I too went for the chop with this  typical 1960's look. 

Click HERE to see how other Sepia Sepians have viewed this show of long hair.

Copyright © 2014 · Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserved

Friday, 23 May 2014

Military Memories 24: Postcards from Flanders

Today's theme - Communication


Alice with Edith, Kathleen,
Harry & baby Billy c.1916
Postcards from Flanders, sent by my grandfather William Danson to his family back home, are the most prized items in my collection of family memorabilia and have featured before on my blog.  They  were kept in a shoebox in the cupboard by the fire in my grandfather's house and it was a treat as a child to be allowed to look through them.  They are made more poignant by the penciled messages from William to his wife Alice and children Edith, Kathleen, Harry and baby Billy - left. 

Grandad was a taciturn labourer, He never spoke about the war and would never have put into words the sentiments expressed (in French) in the cards he sent to his wife Alice.


Dear Alice, received your letter allright.  I have landed back at the Butt and am in the pink.  I have had a letter from Jennie and am glad you have word of Tom.  You loving husband, Billy xxx.  [7 February 1918]


Below, a postcard to my mother, Kathleen.    The postmark is September 2nd 1917, and her 9th birthdqy was on September 8th.  Written in feint pencil, it is a rather  difficult to deciphe. 

A postcard sent to my Aunt Edith 

Dear Edith, I am sending you a card and hope you like it.  I am allright.  Look after mother and baby.    From your Dad. 

 A card sent to baby Billy Danson from "His loving Dad". 

William had joined the King's Own Royal Lancaster Regiment and was awarded the Military Medal for "conspicuous gallantry and determined devotion to duty in action at Givency on 9th April 1918".

 William and Alice, c.1916

Copyright © 2014 · Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserved

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Sepia Saturday - Doll Memories

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

What has struck me in writing for Sepia Saturday is how limited the photographs were in my childhood -   either taken on a seaside holiday  or formal school portraits. Of course there was no flash for the average home camera - so no photographs of Christmas, birthday parties, or playing inside - nor do I have any taken in winter. So finding photos  for this prompt was a challenge.     

There were occasions when I stayed overnight with a friend (and vice versa), but the term "sleepover" had not yet reached us from America,  and it was very much a one-to-one arrangement - not a group of friends.  Even so we chatted into the night and did not get much sleep.  I cannot remember any photographs being taken of the occasion.

The same pattern continued with my own daughter and this is the nearest I can come to this week's theme - as she snuggled down in bed  with her menagerie  of furry friends. 

She  was never a particularly "teddy" girl - panda was her favourite.   Here is Scottie dog, with two owls perched on top of him and alongside  two pandas, a  koala  bear present  from Australia and a  Brownie, knitted from a pattern in "Woman's Weekly" magazine - a great source of ideas for home-made toys for children. 

What struck me in the prompt photograph is the girls looked quite grown up (by today's standard) to be playing with dolls.  

I was a "dolly girl" -  I loved my dolls  which, as my mother was a dressmaker, were the smartest in the street.  With my best friend, Carol, we would wheel  our dolls' prams up and down the street  and put the dolls in their cot (an old box), with a crocheted blanket and lace trimmed pillow and quilt cover, again  courtesy of my mother, or set up the doll's tea set for a tea party.

My dolls were not particularly sophisticated, though I had one that said "Mama" if you pressed it in the right place.  My mother made rag dolls, but my very special doll she made me in 1953 for the Queen's Coronation, with a long fur trimmed purple velvet train, and embroidered, beaded dress.  I so wish now I had kept it as a family heirloom.   

I had a "Last Doll" for my 11th birthday, which seems in today's lifestyle, really old for a doll. The inspiration came from the book "Sarah Crewe or the little Princess", by Frances Hodgson-Burnett, where Sarah was given a grand doll with an extensive wardrobe on her 11th birthday.   I saw the book serialised on television and decided that would mark the end of my "dolly" era - it didn't really,  as I went on to collect costume dolls. 

And no - I have no photographs of my dolls at all.

Around the age of 8, my own daughter had a collection of Cindy dolls - the British version of Barbie, I think - with a lovely wardrobe of clothes again made by  my mother.  

My  little granddaughter shows not the slightest interest in dolls but  she too  struggles to find  a place in bed amongst the myriad of soft toys.

So dolls remind me of my own childhood and my mother's talents - with.   below.  some of the dolls she later made for craft competitions and displays.

An Upside-down Cinderella Doll

My mother Kathleen Weston, nee Danson
Click HERE to discover more about Sleepovers, Dolls, Bedrooms & Banners

Copyright © 2014 · Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserved