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Sunday, 11 November 2018

How One Village in 1918 Marked the Armistice and its Aftermath.

Few communities and families could have escaped the impact of the First World War.  Here is how the village of Earlston in the Scottish Borders greeted the news of the Armistice in November 1918, and witnessed its aftermath  - replicated in events across the land.

The end of the First World War came at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month – 11th November 1918.

“The Southern Reporter” of  November 14th  shared the good news: 

“The Berwickshire News" gave a much fuller report of the celebrations in Earlston:

“On Monday the news came though that the German delegation had signed the armistice. The first indication of the news was the sounding of the factory buzzer – a sign that something unusual had happened. Then closely followed by the bell of the Parish Church and the Corn Exchange, the raising of the flag at Rhymer’s Mill and the display of flags and bunting throughout. Factory workers were given a half holiday and the whole place was moved and stirred by the welcome news.

Between 12 and 1pm, a thanksgiving service was held in the Parish Church Hall conducted by the Rev. Walter Davidson in a manner highly acceptable to the large gathering of men and women. Groups of people gathered on the streets to discuss the joyful news.

In the evening there was an impromptu concert in the Corn Exchange with money raised going to the Earlston Comforts Fund".



1918 - The Spanish Flu Epidemic:   During the pandemic of 1918/19, over 50 million people died worldwide and a quarter of the British population were affected by this deadly virus, which was first reported from Spain. It hit people who had endured austerity and food shortages due to the war, and it was before the advent of antibiotics and anti-virus medicine.   The death toll was 228,000 in Britain alone.

"The Southern Reporter" of 28th November 1918 reported on the fourth week of closure of the school due to the influenza epidemic, with the church also closed for the previous two Sundays.  

1919- Peace Celebrations: These were held across Berwickshire  on 19th July 1919.  In Earlston  a grand picnic and sports day was held at Cowdenknowes, courtesy of Colonel Hope, followed in the evening by the lighting of a beacon on the Black Hill and a grand display of fireworks which excited the crowd.
                                           Berwickshire News:  15th July 1919

 1920 - Welcome Home Dinner: "Welcome home to the returned soldiers, sailors and women's auxiliary of Earlston parish and district". 

This was the greeting on  the 23rd of April 1920, when Earlston paid tribute to its serving men and women of the First World War, by hosting a dinner in their honour in the  Corn Exchange.  Chairman for the occasion was Colonel Hope of Cowdenknowes, and the dinner  was followed by the toasts and a programme of musical entertainment, with cigarettes provided by Mrs Mitchell of Carolside. 

This souvenir programme is in the collection of the Auld Earlston Group.   

This particular card bears the name of H. R.  Aikman, 2nd Lieut. K.O.S.B.  i.e. Henry Aikman who also gave a reply to the toast to "The Boys who Fought and Won", and was on the  Earlston War Memorial Committee. 

Henry had a very close' personal  connection with the occasion.  He, his twin brother William  and older brother James  all served  in  the First World War with the Kings Own Scottish Borderers. William had worked at Rhymer's Mill, served in the Earlston Territorials as bugler, was a renowned shot and  an active member of Earlston Rugby Club, Golf Club and Bowling  Club.   But he  was presumed killed on 12th July 1915 in the Dardanelles Campaign.  He is remembered on  the Helles Memorial in Turkey and on Earlston War Memorial.  

Women were also included in the event, but unfortunately  we know nothing about the women from Earlston who served in the First World War, most likely as nurses.  

1921 -Unveiling of the War Memorial

In the 1911 census,  Earlston's  population stood at 1749,  with 801 male and 948 females. The First World War saw forty-nine men losing their lives in the conflict  - their names recorded  on the War Memorial, unveiled on Sunday 13th  November 1921.   In a service of dedication in the square, it was unveiled by Mrs Hope, wife of Colonel Hope of Cowdenknowes, who was chairman of the War Memorial Committee,  
Earlston War Memorial, November 2017

November 2018 - Earlston's Fall of Poppies
in commemoration of the end of the Great War one hundred years ago.
Created by members of Earlston Parish Church.  

 Primary 6 & 7 pupils gather for a short ceremony at the War Memorial
7th November 2018.


Newspaper extracts sourced on Find My Past - British Newspapers
A post that first was published on the blog of the Auld Earlston Group 

Friday, 9 November 2018

Discovering a Third War Memorial to my Great Uncle George Danson

My great uncle George Danson (1894-1916) of Poulton-le-Fylde,Lancashire has featured in a number  of my blog posts.  He was a stretcher bearer in the First World War and was killed on the Somme, a week after his 22nd birthday. He was buried in the Guards Cemetery, Les Boeufs,  France and also remembered on the war memorial of his home town, below the name of his brother John. 
But  it is thanks to a reader of my blog, that I learned the existence of another War Memorial that lists George’s name - in Todmorden,  a cotton mill town in Calderdale, West Yorkshire, where George was working at the time of his enlistment.


1916 saw Conscription introduced in Britain. George was working as a  W.H. Smith bookstall manager at Todmorden Station.   I was lucky enough to find  on Ancestry his service record, as many were destroyed in bombing in the Second World War. This 

At his enlistment, George's address was given as 17 Barker Street, Harley Bank, Todmorden.  His medical report stated he was 5'3" tall, weighed 109 lbs. (under 8 stone), with size 34 1/2 chest and he wore glasses - a slight figure to be a stretcher bearer in the Royal Army Medical Corps.  

I turned to the 1911 census online  and found the Dodd family at  17 Barker 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.  The photograph below  was found amongst the collection of George's sister Jennie, who wrote the inscription on the back.


Two letters that George wrote to his brothers Tom and Frank are among  the family's treasures.  

The second letter of 23rd August 1916 was to Frank, the nearest to him in age of his seven brothers.  It reads 
"At present we are about 8 miles behind the firing line. I had to assist the wounded at a dressing station and stuck to it for about 40 hours. It's blooming hard work being a stretcher bearer in the field. On Friday I was in a big bombardment and will say it was like a continual thunder and lightening going off. .  .... As I write there are blooming big guns going off about 50 yards away every few minutes.

Don't I wish that all of us could get home. Wouldn't that be great, lad, there's a good time coming and I hope we shall all be there".
Sadly  it was not to be.  George was killed on the 16th September 1916, according to the records of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.  Below is a newspaper cutting from a local newspaper, sent to me by my Todmorden contact.

The article noted that George had worked at Todmorden for 12 months, lodging at Harley Street.  
 "He was well known and highly esteemed by his wide circle of friends in Todmorden and was a fairly regular attender at Todmorden Parish Church" 
 His corporal wrote:
"He was one of my stretcher bearers and gallantly doing his duty over open and dangerous ground, which became subject to severe enemy shellfire. He continued steadily bearing his burden, and was only stopped by a shell which took his life and that of his comrade beside him".

Approx. 670 names  are listed on the large war memorial. 


Unfortunately George's name has been  wrongly engraved as "Dawson", but there is no question that it is George Danson,  my great uncle.


This photograph marks George's resting place and was sent to his widowed mother Martha Maria Danson.  It is a stark image and contrasts sharply with the sad beauty of the later gravestones at the Commonwealth War Graves sites across the world.
My cousin standing behind George's Grave at the Guards Cemetery, Les Boeufs, France.
The War Memorial in the Square at Poulton-le-Fylde, George's birthplace.  In the background is St. Chad's Church where George sang in the choir. 
George's name below that of his brother John 


George remains one of my favourite ancestors in my family history story. I must admit it had never occurred to me to look  to Todmorden for any information on him  and I was delighted to receive this contribution from my Todmorden contact. 

You will find more posts  on George at:
A Stretcher Bearer in the Field
George Danson, a Man of Many Roles 

Thursday, 8 November 2018

Famous Men Remembered in Stone: Sepia Saturday

Statues, monuments and plaques are a natural focus for my camera, so this prompt,  was right up my street.   In  this selection,  I take a tour of statues in  Edinburgh and the Scottish Borders, with a look at some  leaders of men and sporting heroes. There are no family connections, but it is a post filled with history.

This statue of the DUKE OF WELLINGTON, victor against Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815,   show him on his favourite horse Copenhagen. The statue was erected in 1852,   outside the building that houses  the National Records of  Scotland, a "must visit" destination if you are researching  Scottish family history. 

This statue of ABRAHAM LINCOLN is  thought to be the only monument to the American Civil War outside the USA.  It   was erected in the Old Carlton Burial Ground. Edinburgh in 1898 in memory of the Scottish soldiers who fought  in the American Civil War on the side of the Union.   It features a freed slave and   one of Lincoln’s famous quotations "To preserve the jewel of liberty in the framework of freedom". A bronze shield bears the old US flag, and is wreathed in thistles to the left, and cotton to the right to signify the two countries. 

Calton Cemetery (below), just off Princes Street,   was opened in 1718 as a non-denominational burial ground and is the resting place of prominent merchants and other notable worthies of the city.    

If you think you may have ancestors buried in Old Calton Burial Ground, there is an excellent  website listing all the names - click HERE to find out more.  
SIR WALTER SCOTT (1771-1832) was born in Edinburgh, but grew up in the Borders and later made his home at Abbotsford on the banks of the River Tweed, near Melrose. He was internationally  renowned as a historical novelist, poet,  playwright and historian. The Scott Monument (below)  is a prominent feature in the centre of Edinburgh and believed to be the second largest monument to a writer in the world. 

 WILLIAM WALLACE was the Scottish Patriot during the Wars of Independence when he  defeated an English army at the Battle of Stirling Bridge and became  Guardian of Scotland until his defeat at the Battle of Falkirk  in 1298. He was captured  In 1305, handed over to Edward I of England  who had him summarily hanged, drawn and quartered for high treason.   
His statue near Dryburgh Abbey in the Scottish Borders,  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. 

WILLIAM CHAMBERS (1800-1883)  was born in Peebles in the Scottish Borders and moved to Edinburgh  in 1814 to work in the book-selling trade.  He soon branched out into publishing,  founding in 1832 with his brother Robert  the firm of W. & R. Chambers.   He was a keen advocate of popular education,  and the firm became known in particular for its dictionaries.

The business  prospered,   and William was made Lord Provost of the capital city. He was responsible for many city developments including the restoration of St. Giles Cathedral. His  statue is in in street that bears his name, by Edinburgh University and The National Museum of Scotland.  He also gifted to his native town of Peebles  the Chambers Museum and Library. 

From war, writers  and politics to three local and international sporting heroes commemorated in  Wilton Lodge Park,  Hawick, in the Scottish Borders.

 HIZZY - STEVE HISLOP (1962 -2003) was born near Hawick  and became  a Scottish motorsycle racer, winning the Isle of Man TT eleven times, the British 250cc Championship and British Superbike Championship.  He died in a  helicopter crash near Hawick in 2003.  Every year motor cyclists gather for an annual run through the Borders,  visiting places connected with the biking legend.  This statue was unveiled in 2005 in Wilton Lodge Park, near his own biking hero - Jimmy Guthrie (below) - both remembered in exhibitions at Hawick Museum.  

Motorcycle Racing Champion, JIMMY GUTHRIE (1897-1937( was called "Hawick's Racing Legend."  He was born in the town and achieved success after success, holding many world records and European championships.  His last race was at the German Grand Prix where he was killed on 8th August 1937.  The train carrying his body to the German frontier had a military escort and his funeral in Hawick was attended by thousands with a three mile  long cortege.  Public subscription resulted in a statue being erected in 1939 at Wilton Lodge Park, near to the Museum, where  an exhibition commemorates his life
Known as the "Voice of Rugby", Bill McLaren (1923-2010) was born and brought up in Hawick.  He became a PE teacher and journalist, whose own rugby playing career had been halted by serious illness.   But he achieved fame as a radio and TV commentator, known throughout the rugby world at home and abroad.  He was greatly respected for his distinctive tongue, his skill with words, his unbiased commentating,  his knowledge and meticulous preparation, compiling detailed anecdotes and notes on players, matches, and teams.   His archive is now housed at the Heritage Hub in Hawick.   Memorial busts to Bill McLaren have been unveiled in both Hawick and at Murrayfield, Scotland's international rugby ground in Edinburgh.
Sepia Saturday gives bloggers an opportunity
to share their family history through photographs

Click HERE to find other Sepia Saturday contributions on this week's theme

Copyright © 2018 · Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserved

Friday, 2 November 2018

My Bearded Great Grandfather James Danson: 52 Ancestors - Wk. 45

"Beards" is the topic of this week's prompt from the year long series  "52 Ancestors".

As far I know, only one of my ancestors wore a beard  - my great grandfather James Danson (1852-1906) of Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire. 


Little knowledge has come down through the family on James Danson,  who died before the birth of my mother and aunt. Anecdotal evidence does not reflect creditably on him - he was by all accounts of his other grandchildren a bit of "a ne-er do wel"l - in contrast to the obvious respect for “Granny” - a view reinforced by the  only photograph I have of James,   sitting merry with a drink  in Poulton stocks.


The  starting point for research into  my great grandfather was the family bible which recorded his marriage in 1877 to 18 year old Maria Rawcliffe and the birth of their  first four sons - Harry, John, Robert and Albert (who died in infancy)  - entries petered out after that. Not recorded were the births of five  more sons William (ny grandfather), Tom, another  Albert, Frank and George, and last child in 1897 an only daughter (Jennie)

It was ironic that Maria,  one of eight sisters,  and James with six sisters (and two brothers) should go on to have nine sons before their only daughter Jennie in 1897.  

The 1881 census saw James,  a joiner,  was  living at Pott's Alley, off the Market Square at Poulton-le-Fylde. In the various literature on Poulton, Potts Alley earlier in the century comes in for some condemnation, described as “the town’s slum quarter….contained some of Poulton’s most squalid over crowded properties…..the subject of severe criticism in a public health report of 1852”.

The census also provided the  information that enabled me to trace  James birth  certificate.  He was born at Trap Farm, Carleton [near Poulton], third son and ninth child of Henry Danson, yeoman. and Elizabeth Calvert.  Henry later became toll collector at the nearby Shard Bridge over the River Wyre in the parish of Singleton. 

Trap Farm, Carleton, photographed  c. 1998.  
The farm is still there, but has since been renovated from  this dilapidated state.  

Barrett's  1904 General and Commercial Directory  for the Fylde area of Lancashire listed James Danson, joiner of 2 Bull Street, Poulton - a row of terraced houses just off the Market Square, which around the 1960's was demolished to make way for a small shopping centre. It must have been a crowded household for the large family. 

James died at the age of 53 on 20th September 1906.  An informative  report in "The Fleetwood Chronicle and Fylde Advertiser" of 28th September noted:
"The deceased gentleman who was 53 years old was a native of Poulton. His father was toll collector at Shard Bridge for 14 years.  Mr Danson had been ill for seem time but had only recently taken to his bed.  The chief mourners were Mrs Danson (wife), Messrs Robert, John, Tom, Willie Danson (sons) and Mr John Danson (brother from Clitheroe), Miss Cookson (niece), Mrs Riley, Mrs Roskell and Mrs Geo Riley (sisters-in-law), Mrs Porter, and Mr Threlfall.  There were a number of beautiful wreaths."
There was no reference in the funeral report to James' first born son Harry who died a year later at the age of 30, nor to the younger sons Albert, Frank and George, and  only daughter Jennie, but perhaps as children (under 14 years of age),   they did not attend or  did not warrant a mention.

James was buried in Moorland Road Cemetery, Poulton-le-Fylde, leaving his  widow, with a large family, with only son John away from home and married.  


A new headstone for James Danson and family was erected a few years ago by his surviving granddaughter, to replace  the original one which was badly worn away.  The white stone behind remembers James's second son John who died during the First World War whilst in army training. 

James' wife,  Maria died in 1919, aged 60, having experienced the loss of four of her nine sons - in 1887 baby Albert,  eldest son Harry died  in 1906,  and John and George in the First World War. 

Above  is the uncropped version of the first photograph which was found in the  collection of my great aunt Jennie. Very fortunately she had written names on the reverse.  Poulton-le-Fylde  is a small town east of its more famous neighbour the seaside holiday resort  of Blackpool.  Poulton, though,  has the far longer history, noted for the old church of St. Chad's, referred to  in the Domesay book of 1086.  Poulton market square has a stone slab table for selling wares, and for those who fell foul of the law the old whipping post and stocks. All are still standing to be seen today. 
Adapted from a blog profile first posted  in February 2011.  


52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks

Thursday, 25 October 2018

Military Tribunals in the First World War: Millitary Monday

Have you been frustrated in tracing what your British male ancestors did in World War One? I recently came across a new area of research, whilst working on a local history project.  Reports in the local press of W.W.1 Military Tribunals are full of personal details of men, who sought exemption from service in the armed forces for a variety of reasons. 

Conscription in the First World War came into force in March 1916 in Britain.  It  specified that single men between the ages of 18 and 41 were liable to be called-up for military service,  unless they were widowed with children or ministers of religion. The age was quickly extended to married men in May 1916, and was raised  further to 50 in April 1918.  

Ireland was specifically  exempt from conscription in the light of the unrest there, culminating in the Easter Uprising.
Military Army Soldiers Walking Armed Unifo 

The Role of Military Tribunals
These  were set up to hear applications for exemption from conscription. Although the tribunals were best known for their attitude to conscience objectors, most of their work dealt with domestic and business issues.  Men could apply on the basis of doing work of national importance, such as in war industries;  for domestic or business hardship, or for medical unfitness.

I found that my local newspapers reported regularly on tribunals  across  the Scottish Borders, and below are a some typical instances from 1916  involving men from the village of Earlston.   Often a temporary reprieve was given, but I was surprise to read that this was generally  for a few weeks only.
  • A butcher from Redpath had been trying to sell his business as a growing concern and asked for deferment to allow him to collect outstanding debts.  He was granted a postponement of six weeks, with a stipulation this would not be extended and he must be prepared to serve.
  • Earlston hairdresser & tobacconist, John Rutherford, who claimed financial hardship, in consideration that he had built up a small business and needed to wind up matters. He was given a temporary reprieve from service.

  • Five claims were made for farm workers at Fans Farm.   Given exemptions were George Simpson, who had three brothers serving, and ploughman/steward Peter Hume;  two were refused -  Ralph Hume and David Adam Borthwick; whilst Joseph Borthwich was given temporary exemption.
  • Master baker of Earlston,  Walter Utterson was given an “absolute exemption." 
  • A  china merchant in Earlston appeared before the tribunal a second time and stated that he supported  his elderly grandparents in their late 70’s,  and he still needed to make arrangements for his business to be carried on.  The tribunal opposed the appeal. 
  • William Holland, aged 34 of Earlston,  claimed he was unable to complete contracts for his work as a slater and chimney sweep, doing all the work around Earlston.  He had six children to support and a lot of farm steadings to repair. His claim was refused.

  • George Blair, partner with a plumbing firm in Earlston,  claimed that to lose one of his men, meant practically abolishing his business. Claim refused.

  • Henry Rutherford of Rutherford's, Agricultural Engineers in Earlston,  claimed that losing men to the armed services would jeopardise the needs of the farms in the area.  Exemption granted on the basis of his work being of national importance.

  • John Mather, hardware merchant of Earlston,  was granted exemption as unlikely to be medically fit for service. 

  • The President of the Earlston Co-operative Society petitioned on behalf three workers:   John Brash, manager was granted a temporary exemption until the end of stock-taking  and that a man was found to take on his duties;  baker John Burrell,  was given an “absolute exemption", with van man Walter Brotherston’s claim  refused.

Records Available
The records of the Military Tribunals were deliberately destroyed after the war, apart from two sets of records   - those for Middlesex, England, held at the National Archives at Kew in London; and those for The Lothians & Peebles in Scotland, held at the National Records of Scotland in Edinburgh. 

So local  newspapers remain  the key source of information.  My regional Archive Centre holds these on microfilm, but unfortunately they are not indexed, meaning you have a tedious trawl through the relevant years of 1916-18. However the newspaper archives online were invaluable in tracing the information on Earlston men  - on FindmyPast and on the  British Newspaper Archive. 

My message - it is worth while exploring these records - you never know what you might find!  Good Luck!

[Silhouette image courtesy of  Pixaba]


Facts and Figures:
Earlston is a rural village in the old county of Berwickshire, now part of the Scottish Border and situated 30 mile south from Edinburgh.   The parish includes the estates of Mellerstain, Cowdenknowes and Carolside, the farming community at Fans and the nearby small  settlement of Redpath.

The population in 1911 was  1749.  Ten years later according to the 1921 census it was 1641.

49 Earlston men died in the First World War and  are named on the village war memorial, a number from the same family.  

Earlston War Memorial - November 2017


Military Monday is one of many daily prompts from Geneabloggerstribe.com