I've mentioned before that I published an ebook about my dad's World War II Diary. He was in the Fleet Air Arm of the Royal Navy and in 1943 he was sent out to an air base near Freetown in Sierra Leone, West Africa.
On New Year's Day 1944 it sounds like my dad and his pals had enjoyed their celebrations despite the equatorial climate and being hundreds of miles away from home:
"Rang in the New Year well and truly on the ship’s bell.
Nearly all the officers and ratings were in various stages of inebriation.
The first lieutenant vainly trying to drink someone’s health from a bottle with the top still on.
Foul taste in mouth this morning due to excess of port wine."
You can read more about it on my Tinned Variety Blog if you're interested in that era and the photograph collection is on our Spurwing ebooks website as well.
The ebook presents my dad's diary with a series of annotations I made. Like so many veterans of that war, my dad never talked about his experiences much when we were children. We knew he'd been to Africa and also to Australia and the South Pacific but that was about it. Sadly he died in 1978 taking his memories with him. It wasn't until many, many years later when the diary surfaced in an old suitcase in the loft that we began to get interested and the idea for I Think I Prefer the Tinned Variety was born.
Do you have a Smith in your family?
It's so frustrating at times when you're trying to fill out the details of the past and you can only manage to piece together a small part of the story.
We have a friend who had the prescience in 1969 to tape record his grandmother talking about her life when she was in her early seventies and had still got strong re-call of what had gone on. He's recently transcribed the tapes and published them as an ebook and it makes fascinating reading. His grandmother was Flo Smith and he's called the book Flo Smith - Now and Then.
My grandmother was a Smith before she was married but we're not related to Flo and her descendants.
My Smiths are very interesting too because they graduated from working as agricultural labourers in the early nineteenth century to being canal labourers by the middle of the century. My great grandfather Joseph Smith (1849 - 1923) eventually became a canal inspector with a house on the side of the canal.
On the other side of our family, Michael has Smiths as well. His great grandmother was Sarah Anne Smith (1854 - 1946) and her father was Daniel Smith whose occupation (in 1878) was a Thames Policeman. Presumably he would have been involved with the rescue and aftermath of the S.S. Princess Alice Disaster: the worst ever shipping disaster on the River Thames in September 1878 with the loss of over 600 lives. Staggeringly at the time, the Thames River Police were equipped with rowing boats and took ages to reach the scene. One of the outcomes of the subsequent inquiry was that the police were told to get steam boats.
I read somewhere once that everyone has a Smith in their family but I can't remember where I read it or find any supporting evidence on the internet. I wonder if it's true? Have you got a Smith in your family tree or is it just an urban (s)myth?
Happy New Year and all best wishes for 2014.
In my last post I mentioned a postcard sent by Jack Galley to his sister-in-law Edith Smith which had a portrait of Edwardian actress Miss Mabel Gilman on the front. In her postcard collection Edith had several other portraits of Edwardian celebrities. As well as being very popular with the public, postcards were used extensively by actors, actresses and all those involved in theatre and entertainment for publicity and promotional purposes.
Mabel Gilman was born in California in 1874 and commenced her theatrical career in London in 1896. Later that year she opened on Broadway and for the next ten years she had a very successful career in a number of hit shows. In 1905, at the height of her career she met steel millionaire William Corey who lavished gifts on Mabel including jewels, a chateau in France and a million dollars. Corey persuaded his wife to agree to a quickie divorce in Reno before the new couple established a high-society life style at the chateau entertaining many guests in the years before the First World War. The marriage didn't last and Mabel was divorced from Corey in 1923 although she kept the chateau. She was interned by the Nazis in 1940 but released in 1942. She died in 1960 aged eighty six.
Gertie Millar, a very famous theatrical star of the day, was born in 1878 in Bradford where her parents worked in the textile industry. As a child she appeared in pantomime before starting out as a singer and dancer in the music halls. She re-located from Yorkshire to London to appear in variety shows and she became a Gaiety Girl. These were the chorus girls of musical comedies and originated in the 1890s at the Gaiety Theatre in London. The girls were very popular because they appeared on stage in bathing costumes and in the latest fashions. They were respectable, elegant young women who were at the centre of London's night-life. Many of the girls were so popular that wealthy gentlemen would wait at the Stage Door for the opportunity to take one of the girls out for dinner after the show. In some cases marriage and even entrée into the nobility was the result. Gertie began to star in musical comedies and in 1902 was married to the theatrical composer Lionel Monkton who wrote several hit songs for her. She continued to have starring roles in a number of musical plays and was even sent to appear on Broadway. She became one of the most photographed women of the Edwardian era. With changing tastes after World War One, Gertie retired from the stage in 1918 and her husband died in 1924. Two months later she married the Earl of Dudley who himself died in 1932. Gertie survived him and remained Countess of Dudley for another twenty years and died in 1952 aged 73 years.
This Edwardian celeb was Miss Phyllis Dare. Born in 1890, she was the youngest of three children. Her father was a solicitor's clerk and the family lived in Chelsea, London. Phyllis made an early arrival on the theatrical stage aged just nine years when she played one of the Babes in "Babes in the Wood" alongside her sister Zena as the other babe. She continued to perform for the next couple of years and then she left the stage to concentrate on her studies. When she was only thirteen she received a marriage proposal from Lord Dalmeny but his family did not approve and he was sent away from London. Two years later Phyllis was back on the stage but again left suddenly and re-located to a Belgian convent to continue her studies. Any rumours that she was pregnant remained just that. She returned to London the next year to take over the lead in "The Belle of Mayfair" and aged just sixteen she was established as a major player on the London stage. She went on to star in plays, pantomimes and musical comedies and fell in love with the composer Paul Rubens. He had written several songs for her and they became engaged. Unfortunately Rubens died of consumption in 1917 before they could marry. Phyllis went on to star in several further musical shows before turning to straight plays and films in the 1930s. She retired to Brighton in 1951 and died there in 1975 aged eighty four years.
I've added some more postcards of Edwardian Celebs to Postcards for Miss Smith in the Archives plus some beautiful Raphael Tuck "Connoisseur" series that have never been used but were a part of Edith's collection.
I've previously mentioned the postcard collection passed on to me by my mum. The postcards were all sent to my great aunt Edith Smith in the early years of the twentieth century.
Edith received this postcard from her cousin Ethel and it was sent to wish her a Happy Christmas. The words and the edges of the flowers are all outlined in glitter and I think it's a really pretty postcard.
Once the idea of picture postcards had caught on there was an explosion in their use. The Post Office's own figures showed that 312 million postcards were sent in 1895; this had ballooned to 734 million by 1905 and peaked at a staggering 926 million in 1914. Considering the population of Great Britain was around forty six million in 1914 this was an average of 20 postcards a year for every man, woman and child in the country.
Postcards could be used for important communications between family members because the service was so reliable. After the introduction of the Penny Post in 1840 and increasing literacy throughout the nineteenth century new generations of literate people needed and wanted to communicate with each other. Increased industrialisation resulted in greater mobility and families splitting up and the need to keep in touch was ever greater. With a reliable, cheap postal service the postcard was ideal for small talk, gossip, holiday messages, arrangements, romance, Christmas and Birthday greetings. There were half a dozen deliveries each day in the largest cities and at least two in all but the most remote of places. An appointment or arrangement could be made for the next day or even later in the day with a high degree of certainty that the message would be received.
For example, the card below was posted in Wigan at 8.30pm on April 12th 1906. Jack (Edith's brother-in-law) was clearly confident that the message would be delivered in time to give advance notice of their arrival.
I've added some of the postcards Edith received as Birthday Greetings to The Archives.
On 24th December 1851 Elizabeth Buckley married George Henry Hall at the parish church in High Hoyland, Yorkshire. She was twenty one and he was twenty three.
This lovely photograph of Hoyland Parish Church is © copyright Steve Fareham and licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Licence and I found it on a wonderful website called Geograph which aims to collect photographs and information for every square kilometre in the U.K.
Anyway, back to the story.
Elizabeth's father, John Buckley (1797 - 1870), was a farmer and her mother was named Sarah (1811 - 1901). John and Sarah had eleven children of which Elizabeth, born in 1831, was the oldest: Fanny Anne (1833), Rebeccah (1835), Benjamin (1838), Hannah (1840), Mary Ann (1843), Robert (1848), William (1850), John (1851), Henry (1853) and Frederick (1856). Amazingly, after all that child-bearing, Sarah lived until she was ninety years old.
Elizabeth's surname, Buckley, is not a typo for one of our main family names: just a coincidence.
Elizabeth and George had four children: Eliza Ann in 1856, Arthur in 1860, Sarah Elizabeth in 1867 and Mary Adelaide in 1870. All their children married and had childen and by the time of her death Elizabeth had eleven grand-children. There's more information about their life together on a previous blogpost.
Elizabeth was my great great grandma: her daughter Eliza Ann was the mother of my grandmother, Elsie Smith (1885 - 1952). Elizabeth died in 1904 although her husband lived on for a further six years.
On 22nd December 1853, George Gooding married Ann Lord at the Parish Church, Rochdale, Lancashire. He was a widower aged twenty four years and she was one year younger.
Only two years earlier George had been living with his parents in Suffolk where he was a carpenter and his father was a bricklayer. How he came to be living over 200 miles north is a mystery.
After their wedding George and Ann lived at her home town of Spotland, Lancashire and George continued his trade working as a joiner.
They had two daughters: Minnie born in 1865 and Emma Jane born in 1871.
In the 1870s they moved to Newchurch, Lancashire and as well as working as a joiner, George set up a refreshment house. This was successful and he gave up joinery and employed two young women to work as waitresses in his refreshment house. When she was old enough Emma Jane worked as a waitress there as well and the establishment became known as a Coffee House.
Later on in life George changed careers again and became an insurance agent. He died in 1913 and left £167 (over £16,000 in today's money) to his daughter Emma Jane and her husband.
George Gooding was my great-great grandfather. A few years ago I was asked by my aunt and uncle to take charge of a wooden cabinet which had been passed on to them by their father. He had been given the cabinet by his mother (Emma Jane Gooding) who had been given it by her father (George Gooding). The cabinet has an inlay of marquetry (small pieces of wood) on the top which are quite nicely done but not perfect; you can see some of the lines drawn to guide the cabinet maker. I think this piece might have been made by George when he was an apprentice and learning the skills of joinery and cabinet making: if so he would have probably made it in the 1840s so I guess it now qualifies as being an antique!
Sidney Henry Buckle was born in Firvale on 17th December 1881.
He was the fifth child of John Henry Buckle and his wife Elizabeth who had seven children altogether. Also born on 17th December 1881 was Sidney's twin sister Sarah.
John Henry Buckle was a coal miner at Kiveton Park Colliery which had been sunk to the north of the parish of Harthill with Woodall (on the Yorkshire / Nottinghamshire borders) in 1866-68. The land was owned by the Duke of Leeds who refused to allow houses for the colliery workers to be built on his land. A stretch of land at Fir Vale, on the edge of the village, was not owned by the Duke and houses for the miners were built there between 1868-70 and that's where Sidney Henry was born.
Ten years later John Henry had become a colliery deputy which according to the Coal Mining History Resource Centre means that he was the man who set the pit props, laid out the tramroads, placed brattices in the boards and looked to the safety of the mine and the miners. There's a very interesting description of the job of a colliery deputy at British Genealogy and also The North of England Institute of Mining and Mechanical Engineers.
By 1901 John Henry had been promoted further and had re-located his family to Royston in South Yorkshire where he, his sons and his brothers were employed at the Monckton Colliery.
Sidney was first employed as a pit pony boy at Kiveton Park Colliery before he became a miner and later a colliery ropeman at Monckton. The ropeman maintained and repaired the wire ropes used for shaft winding and rope haulage purposes.
In 1908, aged twenty seven years, Sidney Henry married Elsie Smith at the parish church in Royston. They had two children: Vernon born in 1921 sadly died while still a baby and Norman (1924 - 1978). This photo is Norman with Sidney and Elsie. My guess is that they had this picture taken to celebrate his first birthday. They were quite old parents (especially for that era) as Elsie was 39 and Sidney was 43 when Norman was born.
Throughout his married life Sidney lived at Church Hill in Royston. Elsie died in 1952 and Sidney moved to a pre-fab on Common Lane, Royston. In the 1960s he moved to an elderly person's bungalow nearby.
Sidney Henry Buckle was my grandfather. When I was about six or seven years old he used to take me and my sister for walks in the countryside around the mining village where he continued to live until the end of his life. As we walked round he told us stories about his life as a pit pony boy. He'd started when he was twelve years old. The highlight was when we passed a field where he said the ponies spent their summer holidays; apparently they got two weeks above ground and presumably that was enough to keep them going for the rest of the year. We always used to stop there and eat a bag of butterscotch sweets. Whenever I see images of pit ponies I'm always surprised at how big some of them are; certainly some are Shetland pony sized but others were much taller. Check out this link for stacks of images and you'll see what I mean.
In the 1930s Sidney temporarily lost his sight and was unable to work. The family story is that there was no National Assistance available as they owned curtains, rugs and a piano in their home. The means test required that all "luxuries" had to be sold before any benefits could be received. Somehow, presumably with help from their relatives, they managed until Sidney was able to return to work; and they didn't sell the piano.
Another family story is that one day at the pit Sidney noticed there was a serious flaw in one of the cables he was working on. This was reported to the company and a terrible disaster was averted. As a reward for his vigilance the grateful management awarded him a bottle of wine every year at Christmas. For a man who enjoyed a pint of Guiness (or several) this must have been the highlight of his year!
Sidney died in 1969 just a few weeks before his eighty eighth birthday.
George Henry Hall was born in Clayton West, (sometimes known as West Clayton), Yorkshire on 11th December 1829.
He was the eldest son of Thomas and Ann Hall who had seven children altogether. The Pigot's Directory of 1841 shows that Thomas Hall was the landlord at the Woodman Inn, Park Mill, West Clayton which he ran for the next forty years along with farming 12 acres. (This is the pub now.)
In 1851 George Henry Hall, aged twenty two, was a corn miller living in the home of his grandfather, also named Thomas Hall, who lived in Park Mill, Clayton West as well.
George married Elizabeth Buckley in 1851 and during the next ten years they had three children and moved to Marshall Mill where George was employed as a labourer in the corn mill.
George continued to be employed as a corn miller; he and Elizabeth had another child and they moved to Monk Bretton. According to the White's Directory 1860, the mill at Monk Bretton was owned by Jackson and Watson and employed several corn millers. (It doesn't appear to have been on a river-side so presumably it was a windmill.)
George and his wife lived at Monk Bretton, at Number 6, Burton Bridge, for the next thirty years and George continued to be employed as a corn miller for most of his life.
George Henry Hall was my great-great grandfather; his eldest child was Eliza Ann Hall who became the mother of Elsie Smith, my grandma.
Rose Joseph died in Brighton on 5th December 1969 aged eighty one years.
At the time of her death she was living in a property right on the sea-front at Marine Parade in Brighton where her last years in employment had been spent as a waitress.
Born in Aldgate, City of London, in 1888, she was the seventh child of Marks and Clara Joseph. They were both Polish immigrants who had arrived in the U.K in the 1870s and settled in the East End of London.
On 3rd February 1896 (aged almost eight years) Rose was admitted to the Jewish Free School and her address is recorded in the school admission register as 17, New Street which was where the family lived for many years. At that time the school leaving age in England was eleven but in 1899 it was planned to raise it to twelve. Rose left the school in April 1899 presumably to avoid having to stay on at school for a further year. What she did next is a matter of conjecture but as two of her sisters were cigar makers she may have gone into that industry.
However on 24th May 1910, aged just twenty two years, she boarded the Cunard liner S.S. Ivernia and travelled by herself from Liverpool to Boston. How amazing is that! Her name is recorded in the passenger list along with hundreds of others who made the journey to a new life.
S.S. Ivernia had been launched in 1899 and although fitted with electricity and refrigeration it was not one of Cunard's luxury vessels; it was designed to transport the huge immigrant trade from Europe to the U.S.A. There are a couple of drawings of the ship on the Cunard heritage website. There were 164 first class cabins; 200 second class cabins but 1600 third class cabins. The third class cabins could accommodate 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, or 12 persons and had access to an open promenade area, smoking area and ladies room. In addition there was a third class passengers covered promenade area with lavatories and baths. Ivernia was exceptional in that the ship had the largest funnel ever fitted measuring 60 feet in height. Unfortunately Ivernia was torpedoed in January 1917 and sunk with the loss of 120 lives.
Rose was the great aunt of my husband, Michael Murray. She lived with him and his mother for a while in the early 1960s. He can remember she taught him to play Patience and when he asked her why she went to America she said it was to be a nanny for a family in Park Lane (maybe Park Avenue) but she left because she didn't like the husband. She returned to England and lived for several years with a friend who sold postcards in Blackpool. In the 1920s she returned to America where she saw a man jump out of the train carriage and on another occasion saw a man shoot someone dead in a train. Michael's mother told him Rose had promised her a diamond ring but it was given to her younger sister when she was eighteen (in 1930) and the memory still rankled. His strongest memory of Rose is coming home from school and finding her unconscious, their flat filled with the smell of gas (poisonous coal gas in those days) and getting an ambulance to take her urgently to hospital. Expecting gratitude for saving her life, he visited her in hospital. "Why didn't you leave me to die you B*%&*+!?" she demanded in great annoyance and soon afterwards took herself back off to Brighton.
This postcard is dated 1909 and might be a view Rose saw when she initially arrived in Boston in 1910. Who knows? She took her story with her to her grave and that's where it remains.
I'm a former primary school head teacher now enjoying family history, e-publishing and gardening. I'm the author of "Cabbage and Semolina: Memories of a 1950s Childhood" and was delighted when the book became an Amazon 2015 bestseller in the Social History category. I'm the founder of Spurwing Ebooks which is at http://www.spurwing-ebooks.com for book details and information about new releases and special offers. Details of my books are at https://www.amazon.co.uk/C.-Murray/e/B009R7CRVC and the other books I've published are at https://www.amazon.co.uk/Michael-Murray/e/B007AQZMZK