England, Genealogy, Social history

All In A Day’s Work

The local Police Constable (PC) was tired. It was early morning and he had been on duty all night.

Time for home and he was looking forward to a nice cup of tea and a big breakfast with his wife. Maybe a chat with some of his children, before they departed for school. Then a nice long sleep.

It was a beautiful day, the 7th February 1923 in West Cornwall, England. The PC was riding home from his night shift on his bike to his village of Nancledra, so although the wind was brisk, he was warm.

He was coming home from the Police Station at Porthleven and was half a mile from home when he heard someone shouting. It was Mr Andrew Curnow a local farmer. He was waving his arms shouting something and beckoning to the PC. “Here we go again”, thought the Constable.

A few of the villagers were gathered at the top of a large disused mine shaft peering down. This was the Giew Tin Mine the only active tin producer in 1921 and 1922 but closed just that year, in 1923.

The PC rode over to Mr Curnow who was by now agitated and excited.  ‘Quick! he shouted ‘ My dog has fallen down the Giew mineshaft!”

They could hear the dog’s frantic barking. The tall PC strode into the knot of people and they stepped aside to let him see what they were all peering at, down the long, dark shaft.

The PC looked down the steep shaft but could see nothing. Quickly he decided to enter the shaft and rescue the beagle. ‘Get me a rope, quickly’ he shouted.

Mr Curnow was aghast……..this was a disused narrow, crooked vertical shaft and who knew how far down the dog was. But the PC insisted and Mr Curnow ran off. The PC took off his jacket and rolled up his sleeves. he knelt on the grass and peered down. This shaft was a twisted one, but he could hear the frantic yelps and barking of the beagle.

Mr Curnow ran back with a farm hand and by now attracted by the shouts and activity more locals were gathered around the hole. Together, they roped up the PC and lowered him into the shaft. It was very dark so that after a few minutes they could only hear the PC’s voice. ‘Lower’ he kept shouting ‘Lower’

They continued obeying his instructions until…….silence. They all looked at each other faces grave. Suddenly the rope moved and the PC shouted ‘Got ‘im’ Pull me up!

With renewed vigour and a newfound strength the men, by now sweating with the effort of keeping the rope steady, heaved and pulled until the head of the PC and the beagle appeared at the top of the shaft!

Everyone grabbed both the PC and the dog. The beagle jumped up on his master barking hysterically whilst the PC lay on the grass sweating and panting. Everyone cheered. They all agreed that the old mineshaft should be covered over to prevent another accident.

This brave Police Constable was my Grandad, Francis Bulford. Born 28 October 1884 died 25 March 1963. RIP.

PC Francis Bulford with his wife, Emily Marion, and five of his eleven children

Below, the newspaper account of the rescue.

 

 

Giew Mine, near Nancledra Cornwall, England

Notes Of Interest On Cornish Mining

The closure of the tin mines in Cornwall was never about running out of resources – it was in response to competition from cheaper tin from abroad. South America and China are still major players in tin extraction and production. The collapse of the world tin cartel in 1986 being the last nail in the coffin of tin mining.

The Giew mine is known to have been working from the mid-eighteenth century. In its time Giew has been known as Gew, Reeth Consols, Trink and St. Ives Consols. The remaining buildings centered around Frank’s Shaft are only the easternmost of a number of shafts all working the area. The engine house dates from 1874.

This was part of the re-working of Giew Mine started in 1869 by Thomas Treweeke. Other shafts, running from east to west include Blackburn’s, Robinsons Engine, Martins, Ladock Shaft and Giew Engine Shaft where it joined Billia Consols Mine. It produced tin up until 1922.

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/long_reads/cornish-tin-mining-mines-industry-cornwall-south-crofty-mineral-start-ups-a8240601.html

In Cornwall, the ingression of water was the worst problem in shaft mining. A deep mine is a bit like a water well. You have to pump the water out constantly. The steam engine driving a pump was the answer to allowing deep mining in Cornwall.

http://www.cornishmineimages.co.uk/giew-mine/

You may wonder why Cornwall had the mineral mines that the rest of Britain missed out on. There is a simple geological explanation. During the late stages of the cooling of the mass of granite that makes up a lot of Cornwall, fissures opened up in the granite when it was still molten, and more hot molten rocks bubbled up through the granite from the earth’s interior. These new rocks contained many minerals, and as they crystallized they formed mineral lodes – tin, copper, zinc, lead and iron with some silver.

Because the ore-bearing rocks formed in this way, rather than being sedimentary rocks like coal (hence coal is laid down in great flat plates), they have to be mined vertically rather than horizontally.

Each fissure has to be mined straight down into the earth. Each fissure needed a separate mine. Therefore a great many vertical shafts were needed, rather than the one shaft that was used in coal mining. 

There were no other substantial buildings in a typical mine. Given that many of the mines were small and vertical, they did not invest in cages to haul the miners up and down, instead, access to the mine was by ladder, a tiring part of the daily toil of the miners.

http://www.cornwall-calling.co.uk/mines.htm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

England, Genealogy, Huguenot

The Huguenot of England, Part 2

French Persecution of the French Huguenots

At the end of the 17th century, 60,000 to 80,000 Huguenots settled in the South West of England and were known as Britain’s first refugees.

The ‘Currant Examiner’ of September 1681, contains this quote that resonates today:

Plymouth Septem. 6. This day came in hither a small bark from Rochel, (La Rochell) with thirty nine poor Protestants, who are fled for their Religion: They report that five or six Boats more full of these poor distressed Creatures parted from those parts at the same time; and we hear that one of them is already put into Dartmouth. [1]

As I read the piece it appeared that the refugees were, in fact, heading towards Plymouth, where for centuries, the Devon ports were very familiar just as the Devon mariners were familiar with the Channel Islands and the continental seaboard.

This article continues my story of the Huguenot of England and in particular, South West Devon. https://genealogyensemble.com/2018/04/25/the-huguenot-of-england-part-1/

Bristol, Stonehouse, Plymouth, Thorpe-le-Soken Parish Registers of the English Huguenots

What prompted my interest in Huguenots? Well, I was searching online for places to visit on my next trip ‘home’ when I came across a reference to the Artist Dennis Severs’ house. The website told me: “Dated from approximately 1724, Dennis Severs had purchased a house at 18, Folgate Street, next to Spitalfields in East London and there, he created a time capsule of a Huguenot silk weaver family from 1724”. [₂]

I had no idea what a ‘Huguenot’ was so I decided to find out. I took a trip around the internet and discovered some interesting tidbits.

For instance, the Huguenot Society of Great Britain and Ireland (Yes! we have a society!) tells us that the Huguenots were known as Britain’s first refugees and goes on to say “there are many inhabitants of these islands who have Huguenot blood in their veins, whether or not they still bear one of the hundreds of French names of those who took refuge here – thus bringing the word ‘refugee’ into the English language” Who knew? [3]

They were actually welcomed to England by King William III in a Declaration.

Dr William A. Pettigrew, Reader, School of History, University of Kent wrote:

As King William III’s Declaration above makes clear, a distinguishing feature of this migration was the explicit state support it received. Six months after William of Orange had landed to take the throne of England The Declaration was printed in London in April 1689. William had long supported the plight of the Huguenots. His support was not altruistic because he understood the assistance this powerful group of refugees could offer him in his war with the French King who had persecuted the Huguenots – Louis XIV. The Declaration offers the historian a useful insight into the official government approach to the Huguenot arrival.

The Declaration clearly shows how William expected the English to welcome Huguenot refugees because of a presumed empathy with them born of the shadow of state persecution extended by William’s predecessor, James II”

Here’s one Huguenot refugee’s success story from the Independent newspaper.

For 270 years after 1724, a Hampshire paper firm, Portal had – literally – a license to print money. In 1685, Henri de Portal and his brother, Pierre Guillaume were terrified refugee children, smuggled out of France in wine casks and sent on a perilous sea journey. It took the young Portals from Bordeaux to Southampton. Henri opened his mill in Whitechurch in 1712. Within a decade he had found his fortune through a banknote paper contract”. [4]

Although I was born and raised in Plymouth, England, I was very surprised to learn that the Huguenot and Walloons settled in my hometown and Stonehouse.

Kathy Chater in her book “Tracing your Huguenot Ancestors” states: “One of the major problems researching Huguenots in Devon is the impact of the bombing of the Exeter record office during the Second World War when many documents were destroyed. All the wills, for example, have been lost, although a project to reconstruct them is underway. However, it seems that even before this the records of the two Exeter Huguenot churches had disappeared”[5]

This could be one reason that I had no idea that Huguenots lived and worked in my part of the country. I wonder, is there a possibility of Huguenot ancestors in my family? Another avenue to explore!

Our ‘Mother Church’ in Plymouth is called St. Andrews and is designated a minster which is “A church that was established during Anglo-Saxon times as a missionary teaching church, or a church attached to a monastery”. [6]

An interesting note concerning St. Andrews Church is this:

Plymouth and East Stonehouse: A nonconformist congregation formed in Plymouth 1681, and closed c1762, the remaining members joining the Batter Street Presbyterians. Some records of their children are listed as ‘births of dissenters’ in the Plymouth St Andrews and the East Stonehouse Anglican registers. A conformist congregation was formed in 1681 in Plymouth, from which an East Stonehouse congregation split off in 1691. These congregations used St Andrews Church and first its Chapelry at East Stonehouse and then a Church (with separate registers) there. The Plymouth and East Stonehouse congregations merged in 1785 and were dissolved in 1810. For details of the extant pre-1840 registers see under Church Records in the respective parish pages. [7]

Some churches allowed Huguenot worship outside of normal C of E services. (C of E means Church of England) and St Andrew was one of the main parishes in Plymouth that has registers where the Huguenots recorded baptisms starting at the back of the register.

This has been a very interesting journey and learning experience about a group of people who lived worked and died in my part of the World and of whom I knew nothing – until now.

SOURCES

http://www.huguenotsofspitalfields.org/the-huguenots-of-dartmouth.html [1]

https://www.dennissevershouse.co.uk/ [2]

https://www.huguenotsociety.org.uk/history.html [3]

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/refugee-week-the-huguenots-count-among-the-most-successful-of-britains-immigrants-10330066.html [4]

Book “Tracing your Huguenot Ancestors” by Kathy Chater Page 38“ [5]

virtuallinguist.typepad.com/the…/the difference-between-a-minster-and-a-cathedral.html [6]

http://www.genuki.org.uk/big/eng/DEV/ChurchHistory/Huguenot [7]

NOTES

These books on the Huguenot of South West England are of interest.

Bracken, C.W. The Huguenot churches of Plymouth and Stonehouse. Trans. Devon. Assoc. 66, (1934) pp.163-179.

Currer-Briggs, Noel and Gambier, Royston. Huguenot Ancestry, Phillimore & Co. (2001) 160 pp. [ISBN: 1860771734]

Lart, Charles E. The Huguenot Settlements and Churches in the West of England, Proceedings of the Huguenot Society of London, vol. 8, (1901-4) pp.286-298.

Lart, Charles Edmund. (ed.) Registers of the French Churches of Bristol, Stonehouse, and Plymouth. Huguenot Society of London pubs. vol. 20. Spottiswoode and Co. (1912) [Includes Plymouth baptisms 1733-1807; marriages 1734-1740; burials 1733-1734.]

Peskett, Hugh. Guide to the Parish and Non-Parochial Registers of Devon and Cornwall, 1538-1837, Torquay, Devon and Cornwall Record Society; extra ser., v (Printed for the Society by The Devonshire Press) (1979).

Pickard, Ransom. The Huguenots in Exeter. Trans. Devon. Assoc. 68, (1936) pp.261-297; 76, (1944) pp.129-131.

Rogers, Inkerman. The Huguenots of Devonshire, Bideford, Gazette Printing Service? (1942). [BL DSC L70/1555]

Smiles, Samuel. The Huguenots: Their Settlements, Churches, and Industries in England and Ireland, (1972) 448 pp. [ISBN: 0806304979]2    

 

 

Genealogy

The Huguenot of England Part 1

The Huguenot Cross.

A window at Canterbury Cathedral England where Huguenot descendants still worship every Sunday, in French.

‘Huguenot’ What does that mean to you? For me, living in Quebec, Canada it is a part of Quebec and France’s history but did you know that England also has a vast amount of history about Huguenot? I was amazed to learn that!

After I recently read a short article about English Huguenot, it made me want to find out how and why they ended up in England.

The Edict of Nantes (french: édit de Nantes), signed in April 1598 by King Henry IV of France, granted the Calvinist Protestants of France (also known as Huguenots) substantial rights in the nation, which was still considered essentially Catholic at the time.

The Huguenot were Protestants in a largely Catholic populated country and after Louis XIV cancelled their civil rights granted to them by the ‘Edict of Nantes’ in 1685, about 50,000 fled France across the English Channel.¹

Once in England, they spread out not only to London but to 20 towns from Canterbury to Norwich, Plymouth to Rochester. As time went on, many of them drifted towards the Church of England and names became anglicized. Ferret became Ferry and Fouache became Fash most often due to mistakes made by English clerks!

In the 1600’s, Huguenot in England was called Journeymen journéee – ‘day’ in French – because they were, yes! paid daily. Journeyman is a word still in use in England today. Huguenot homes included a feature that marked a journeyman weaver home or a ‘sign’ such as the one below.

This Spindle is the Sign of A Silk Weaver On A Huguenot House in Spitalfields, London England

They set about settling in and transformed their homes to suit the valuable silk trade. They enlarged the windows in the attic to let in the maximum light for the weavers and designed a staircase positioned right by the front door to allow access to the upper floors without entering the workshop. This protected the expensive silks from dirt and soot from the streets. As the silk trade in the East End took off, they formed a community of working-class tradespeople that transformed Spitalfields into “Weaver Town”.

These talented artists brought to England many high-skilled trades. In addition to being famous for their silk weaving and beautiful fabrics, they brought to England paper-making, hat makers cabinet makers watchmakers gunsmiths goldsmiths jewellers and many more skilled trades.

By 1710, at least 5 percent of the population of London – then around 500,000 – were French Protestants. In the French enclaves of Spitalfields and Soho, that proportion was much higher.  London soon had 23 French Protestant churches. Within a few years, a society totally unacquainted with mass migration had given a home to the equivalent – in terms of today’s population – of 650, 000 new arrivals.

According to one estimate, one in every six Britons has some Huguenot ancestry. Some famous Huguenot names in England include Simon Le Bon, from the pop group Duran Duran actor Sir Laurence Olivier, author Daphne Du Maurier and Samuel Courtauld (1793 – 1881) an English industrialist who developed his family firm Courtaulds to become one of the leading names in the textile business in Britain.²

Today, in the lively East End area of London, there is an area known as Spitalfields. Home to artists, creative fashions and food, Spitalfields is well known for its history of silk weavers. Fournier Street – built in the 1720’s – with its grand old Georgian terraced houses of the master weavers attracts visitors each year.³

There is a thriving Huguenot Society of Great Britain and Ireland formed in 1885.

In Fournier Street, at number 18 the elegant home belongs to the Artist Denis Severs. He bought a dilapidated 10 room property in 1979 and used it to re-create a Huguenot home for his own pleasure. Word got around and it has now been open to the public for 35 years.

https://www.dennissevershouse.co.uk/

Huguenot Silk Weavers Houses on Fournier Street

There is still so much to write about the English Huguenot so look out for part 2.

Sources:

¹https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edict_of_Nantes

²http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/refugee-week-the-huguenots-count-among-the-most-successful-of-britains-immigrants-10330066.html

³https://oldspitalfieldsmarket.com/

https://www.huguenotsociety.org.uk/

NOTE:

This link is to the ‘Huguenots – Index of Names’ within Quebec.

Posted by Genealogy Ensemble author, Jacques Gagné.

https://genealogyensemble.com/2015/03/06/848/

 

 

Genealogy

Dad, The Old Bailey, and Me

Recently, I was in the Montreal Courthouse accompanying a friend selected for Jury duty.

It was a four-hour wait so I had time to drink my coffee, look around and daydream. I watched as many lawyers dressed in black robes rushed in to buy coffee and dash out again. Others sat casually with clients over legal documents and I could tell they were lawyers only by their stiff white collars.

As I sat there, a distinct memory came back to me from my last courtroom visit to the Old Bailey in London, England when I was 13.

After my parents’ divorce when I was seven, I infrequently saw my Dad, but in 1958 he took me on a holiday to the capital. My dad was tall and dark and a very quiet, introspective man. I was a chatty individual but, somehow, we had a meaningful time together. At the end of our holiday, he bought me presents to take home, for my mum and sisters. He never told me he loved me, but I have a lovely memory of a man I never really understood or got to know and I like to think this was how he showed his love.

Me and Dad in London, 1958

It was a wonderful holiday, just the two of us. We visited The London Palladium Theatre and saw a show; we shopped on Oxford Street; we went to the London Zoo and Trafalgar Square where I fed the pigeons and had my portrait drawn in pencil by a street vendor, we even ventured to Soho, a notorious part of London frequented by prostitutes, drug dealers and ‘Teddy Boys. ‘So exciting’!

The Old Bailey was built in 1673, it’s predecessor, the medieval version had been destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666. During the Blitz of World War II, it was bombed and severely damaged. In the early 1950s, it was reconstructed and, in 1952, the restored interior of the Grand Hall of the Central Criminal Court was once again opened by the Lord Mayor of London.  This was the Old Bailey we visited. Although the Old Bailey courthouse was rebuilt several times between 1674 and 1913, the basic design of the courtrooms remained the same. [1]

I remember the entrance to that grand hall. It was like a palace, huge and so beautiful.

The Grand Hall Inside The Old Bailey, the design mirrors the nearby dome of St Paul’s Cathedral

My Dad and I sat in the visitors’ gallery to watch a trial. I have no recollection of the details of the trial. I was too busy looking around at the wood-panelled walls, the prisoner, the solicitors, the policemen and, of course, the judge. He was dressed in a red robe and a horse-hair wig and sat slightly raised on a dais so he could gaze down upon the proceedings.

The ‘accused’ or ‘prisoner’ as they referred to him stood at the ‘bar’ or ‘dock’ with his Solicitors and Barristers (as lawyers are called in England). These 1950’s British lawyers were attired in flowing black robes like the 2018 Montreal lawyers, but with stiff-winged collars with two bands of linen in the front of the neck.  They also wore wigs. And what wigs!

Type of Wigs Worn In Court

Some were white, signalling that a lawyer had just started out in his chosen profession; others were yellow with age, signalling more experienced lawyers. To me, all of the lawyers in the courtroom looked stern and forbidding.

Proceedings moved very slowly with no drama. After a few hours, I got bored and Dad and I left for lunch.  But still, what a memory! And how very different was the Old Bailey courtroom compared to the modern Montreal Courthouse where informality seems to be the rule.

[1]  https://www.oldbaileyonline.org/static/The-old-bailey.jsp

NOTES:

A court is held at the Old Bailey eight times a year for the trial of prisoners for crimes committed within the city of London and the county of Middlesex. The crimes tried in this court are high and petty treason, murder, felony, forgery, petty larceny, burglary, etc.

This link below shows Court Cases being heard today, at the Old Bailey.

https://old-bailey.com/old-bailey-cases-of-interest/

When I visited the Old Bailey, everyone was attired in wigs but that is now changing in England. For non-criminal cases, lawyers and judges will cease wearing wigs and I cannot help but feel sad that yet another centuries-old custom has gone.

Here is a 2 -minute read on the subject.  https://www.reuters.com/article/us-britain-wigs/wigs-off-as-britain-ends-courtroom-tradition-idUSL1287872820070713

Unfortunately, now strict security measures make it impossible for visitors to go into the main body of the building. However, the clip below, shows the Lord Mayor of London opening the newly restored Old Bailey in 1952. This was the hall I entered in 1958 with my Dad.

 

England, Genealogy

The Bulford Kiwi

Not many families have a big bird named after them.

Well, we do! It is a New Zealand Kiwi bird and it is carved into the chalk hills in Wiltshire, England. It has been there since 1919, so close to famous, ancient Stonehenge, yet virtually unknown.

During my genealogy searching online for family members, like many researchers, I ‘Googled’ my surname, Bulford, but I would always get sent to ‘Bulford Camp’ in Salisbury, Wiltshire, in the UK, which is a large Army camp that was established in 1897.

The Bulford Army Base is still in use today alongside Bulford Village and the Church. Many times, over the years, family members would go to Bulford to get our photos taken with the Village sign.

My Uncle Roy Bulford Circa 1960’s
Marian, Bulford Camp sign. 1993. No longer a country road!  

Bulford Village grew up on the gravels beside the river Avon. The meaning of Bulford is difficult but the most likely explanation is ‘the ford where the ragged robins grow’ or ‘ragged robin island’.  Bulut is Saxon for ‘ragged robin’ and in the 12th century the name was Bultesford. ¹

The Bulford Kiwi is carved on Beacon Hill above the military village of Bulford on Salisbury Plain. Hill figures, or geoglyphs, ² are designed to be seen from afar rather than above and are a phenomenon especially seen in England. The letters “N.Z.” are 65 feet (20 m) high.

This one was carved after the First World War by the Kiwis (as the New Zealanders were called), eager to get back home. Apparently, no troop ships were immediately available and the troops had a few riots in protest, so officers decided that they should be kept busy by carving a Kiwi into the chalk hills!

In 1919, the Canterbury and Otago Engineer Battalions started their work. The design was drawn by Sergeant-Major Percy Cecil Blenkarne, a drawing instructor in the Education Staff, from a sketch of a stuffed kiwi specimen in the British Museum.

In real life, Kiwis are a nocturnal, flightless bird about the size of a chicken with long legs and beak. The kiwi’s muscular legs make up around a third of its total body weight and can outrun a man. The chalk Kiwi’s body covers 1.5 acres (6,100 m2).

Kiwi Bird found only in New Zealand

The site was surveyed and the design put on to the site by Sergeant-Major V.T. Low of the education staff. From the Kiwi’s feet to the top of its back is 420 feet (130 m) and the beak is 150 feet (46 m) long.

In the years after the Kiwi’s creation, the Kiwi Polish Company – the very polish used to shine our forces’ issued marching boots – maintained the Kiwi through their offices in London, employing local villagers to do the work. Although it had “little if any advertising value [for the company]”, they explained their interest in its upkeep as its being a memorial to the New Zealand troops.³

The chalk Bulford Kiwi

 

SOURCES

Bulford parish itself is rectangular, extending eastwards from the banks of the river and the boundaries have remained unchanged for more than a thousand years. In the Middle Ages, there was a settlement called Hindurrington, to the north of Bulford church, that was also on the river gravels. The name may have originated because the settlement was at the back of Durrington, which was on the other side of the river.[1]

http://bulfordparishcouncil.org/history-bulford-village.html [1]

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hill_figure Info about the chalk figures in the UK [2]

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bulford_Kiwi shoe polish [3]

FOOTNOTES

Hill figures are cut in the grass to reveal the chalk and include the Cerne Abbas Giant the Uffington White Horse, the Long Man of Wilmington as well as the ‘lost’ carvings at Cambridge, Oxford and Plymouth Hoe.

For further photos of the chalk Kiwi follow this link:

https://www.google.ca/search?q=Bulford+Kiwi+photos&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&client=firefox-b&gfe_rd=cr&dcr=0&ei=M88tWo3VE8XL8AfXvqzIBQ

England, Genealogy, Social history

Floods!! Then And Now

‘Here it comes’  Dad yells out and we all rush to the front door with our brooms. Sweeping frantically we try to stop the flood water creeping into the house but to no avail.

With all the news about the Harvey Irma and Jose hurricanes and the resulting floods and damage, I was reminded of our house when I was about 9 years old in 1954. We lived in Watts Cottages, St. Levan’s Road Plymouth in Devon England. There were four cottages situated in a small park, in a pretty grassy ‘dip’. and St Levan’s Road outside the park’s elegant metal railings was the main road for cars and buses. Upon opening our garden gate it led directly to the grass and the park. It was idyllic,  except for one thing…..It flooded when it rained heavily. Plymouth is a very hilly area and our cottages were situated in that dip.

Shortly after my father bought the house, our neighbours could not wait to tell Dad that the four cottages flooded when rain was particularly heavy. Of course, nowadays a sale like that would never happen but this was only 9 years after WW2 and housing in our Naval city were in crisis. Thousands of people lived in prefabs – prefabricated homes built quickly after the war, intending to last for 10 years –  and many families lived together, due to the bomb damage and shortages of homes, so for my Dad to find this pretty cottage, next to a recreation field and a main bus route was wonderful.

Side view of the Cottages in the park from the recreation ground, Our cottage was the third from the left.

We had lived in our home for about a year before it flooded. It had rained heavily all day and suddenly, the garden had a few inches of water in it, which rapidly became two feet. It crept towards the front door. When Dad had heard about the flooding from the neighbours, he had built a waist-high cement wall and a wooden door to slot in place when it rained. He was hopeful that this would keep the water out of the house – it didn’t.

After our frantic efforts to sweep the water out, it was obviously a useless exercise so my Dad made Mum me and my baby sister all go upstairs, whilst he waded out the front door to try and clear the sewer drain, which was outside our gate in the park area. He was over 6 feet tall, but soon, the water had reached his chest. We all watched the drama unfold from our bedroom window. He managed to get the drain cover off, and a huge fountain of water shot up into the air! It kept going for ages and we waited for the flood waters to recede but it did not happen and I must admit that at nine years old, it was kind of exciting to see! All the neighbours across the street were watching too. Buses stopped on the main road to watch the huge fountain of water cascading over the park. Such drama! What excitement!

The aftermath the next day was not so much fun though. No kind of help from anyone in those days. We just waited for the flood waters to subside, and then started the usual clean up. No Fire Engines to help pump out the water, no help from the local city officials, no shelters no home insurance just us, Dad Mum and me sweeping out all the stinking mud and trying to dry everything out.

None of the surrounding homes (pictured below) suffered flooding as those four cottages did, and always afterwards, the place smelled of mould and damp. No wonder I was always sick with bronchitis. It took many years – 18 actually – before those cottages were officially condemned and boarded up.

Long before then the residents including us had just moved out and left behind their dreams and investment. It took another 7 years before they were bulldozed and grassed over. The local council did then, once officially condemned, pay residents a nominal fee but nothing like the money put into our homes.

Front view of the site today, after the demolition of the Cottages, still a pretty site. The bare green area was where the cottages were situated. You can see how the area slopes downwards.

I have to admit that when I went back to England one year and visited the park, it was a shock to see the houses gone and an empty spot grassed over. It did make me sad and although the victims of the recent Hurricanes had a far, far worse time of it than we ever did, I do know exactly what they went through afterwards…..

 

 

Quebec, Social history

The Driving Lesson

I pace the floor nervously. Where IS he? How much longer do I have to wait? He is already 30 minutes late!

It is 23 January 1979 and I have been in Quebec, Canada for all of three months and today is my first driving lesson – EVER. I have never even sat behind the driving wheel of a car. In England, I walked everywhere pushing the children in my Silver Cross upright pram and later, we caught a bus. In Geneva where we had been living previously, we had a small VW Beetle and my husband drove it. Here, we have what to me is a huge car, and I am supposed to learn how to drive it? I am a nervous wreck. My son Owen, aged 5 has to come with me, as I do not know anyone to care for him, and the thought of Owen in the back seat with ME and my first driving lesson has me really worried.  My appointment was for 10 am. At 10:30 I call the school to ask where he is. They tell me he should be there, and to make alternative arrangements when he arrives.

WHAT? All that worry and a sleepless night to make alternative arrangements?! My fear makes me angry. The driving instructor eventually arrives 40 minutes late, claiming to have been ‘ringing the bell’ and I was not answering. I tell him he is very late and I called the school to ask where he was. Then, HE gets annoyed and informs me he has to go or the other client will be ‘tearing his hair out’ plus, I cannot expect him exactly on time in ‘these conditions’ These conditions being heavy snow, wind and ice which is not ideal  for a first ever driving lesson, but what do I know?

I tell him to leave and I am going to cancel future lessons with this school. I shut the door and cry and cry I feel like a failure. I’ll never learn to drive. Eventually, I mop up and call the school and demand a refund. The director was very kind and said the instructor was wrong trying to justify his lateness.  He would make another appointment. ‘Not with HIM’ I rage. No, another person he soothes. I put the phone down, have another cry. I feel so frustrated, angry nervous and very alone. I wept for most of the day. Two days later, after 2 and half hours of snow clearing another strange ritual, I have my first driving lesson.

The instructor this time is a Welsh man and he is very patient telling me to relax. Ha! relax? No way! The sweat is actually running down my back and I can’t stop trembling. How do I work the window wipers in this snow? Put the heater on? Which side of the road am I supposed to be on? Why is there a ‘Stop’ sign at every corner? I manage to get to the next street and it is covered in thick ice. A water main has burst, and the street is like an ice rink or what I would imagine an ice rink to be, having never seen one. Oh! the anxieties and fears of being a newcomer.

Eventually, I do get my driving license, and today I love to drive but those few fraught months of learning is something I will never forget but the bonus is, that driving in snowy icy weather here in Quebec is a breeze for me now! I have no fear.

 

 

England, Genealogy, Social history

Isn’t The Internet Wonderful?

For quite a few years, I have been doing genealogy, and although I have found many many family names, I had never actually met any family members associated with my research.

However,  a few years ago I was contacted via ‘Friend Reunited’ a now defunct website, by a second cousin on my Dad’s side. Samantha was my cousin Cheryl’s daughter, and she was looking for members of the Bulford family for her parent’s anniversary genealogy gift. Through Sam, I was united with Cheryl, her mother and my first cousin and from there, more first cousins I had never met.

My parents divorced when I was seven, and after that, I never had further contact with my paternal side of the family. This was SO exciting! There was Diane, my Aunt Sylvia’s daughter, Cheryl, Aunt  Florence’s daughter and Joanna, Uncle Roy’s daughter. All familiar names but people I had never met or even thought I would ever meet. We all contacted each other via the internet in great excitement, and exchanged the information we had all collected, and they sent me photos I had never seen, of my Dad’s family.

After numerous emails, we all decided to meet in the UK when I went over for my annual holiday. As this was the paternal side of my family, we met in Cornwall where my father and my cousins’ mothers and fathers were all born. I met, once again after 68 years my Uncle Roy, the last surviving member of the 11 children born to my father’ family.

We all met at the apartment Uncle Roy lived in with his wife, Aunt Evelyn. They had made us all Cornish Pasties, a local treat. Uncle Roy was 94 then, and Auntie Evelyn was 90 (both still alive today!) and my Uncle looked so much like my father, I became quite emotional. Uncle Roy’s sons David and Jonathan were there too with their sister Joanna and suddenly, just like that, I had five cousins! I had brought photos and they had some too, which we all pored over. I learned so much about the family in that short visit, to add to my family tree.

I showed David and Jonathan a photo of me, aged three that was taken on a beach in Newquay, one of the last visits to my Dad’s family before the divorce, and wondered aloud where it could have been taken. David took me by the hand to the balcony of the apartment opened the door and pointed. David said ‘This is Towan Beach where your photo was taken’ and there before me as in my photo, was the beach and the houses on the cliff behind me, still prominent today. Then I did cry.

The next day, we all had a family reunion Sunday lunch with wives and children, in the local pub. We reminisced we took photos and promised to keep in touch, which we have done so every year for the last 6 years. Every year I visit the UK we have our Bulford reunion usually in the West Country at a local pub, and each year I find out more about my Dad’s family. Photos, war records, marriages, deaths, some researched information I had, that my cousins did not know about were all shared via the internet. PLUS a recently found USA Bulford branch too, which is to be the basis for another story.

The internet, isn’t it just amazing and wonderful?

 

Marian circa 1948

Towan Beach Newquay, Cornwall UK

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Genealogy, Research tips

Details! Details!

Sometimes, being confined to just 500 words for our Genealogy Ensemble blog is hard to do. I love to talk and so, when writing a story I do tend to write as I talk. Fast, detailed and expressive. Well, at least I like to think that is the way I write!

For instance, in a story about my family immigration to Canada I wanted to included my very first driving lesson ever, with as much detail as I could. A little too much detail…..

The weather the ice the roads, my fear. I used them all in that story. I was then 32, and it was my first time behind a wheel, scared and nervous not knowing how to work the windshield wipers, sweat running down my back with my youngest child in the back seat as I could not get a baby sitter – I did not know anyone yet – and the absolute fear of being in control of a car. I still had not included all the stress of that day, such as waiting for the instructor to arrive, he was very late, due to the severe weather conditions and also angry with me, because I had called the school, to ask where he was. A great start to a first lesson.

I was advised that my story whilst interesting, could be edited a lot more. I never thought of doing that! I fear I will lose so much of interest in a story but I was gently reminded that this driving experience within the immigration story, was another story in itself. Well, yes, it was rather long I had to admit, so out it went for another day and another story. Lesson learned.

My Oxford Thesaurus comes in handy. I use it more frequently now, to try and write subtly using maybe one word for descriptions instead of two or three and also try to eliminate redundant words such as “the reason is because” and use instead “because” Now, I find myself listening to young people using ‘like’ before and after every sentence and thinking ‘that could be eliminated from your speech!’

It is hard to remove words, I love all the “details” but if we all have to abide by the 500 words rule for our blog then I too, have to find a way. (I just deleted ‘to do it’ at the end of that sentence, so maybe I am learning).

I have to ask myself, can I cut out all the ‘details’ use fewer words and still be interesting? I am going to try and my new motto will be, ‘If in doubt cut it out, or use fewer words’

PS: I managed to confine this story to 452 words!

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