Tag Archives: England

The 106 Year Old Postcard

So, just who was the mystery man who sent my Gran a postcard in 1915?  For many years, I have held in a box of family history memorabilia a small item – a postcard.

Life, (bringing up children, and work), prevented me from finding out more about this postcard before now- sent by a stranger to my Gran who, born in 1900 was just 15 years old.  Who was this mystery man, I wondered? Now, in the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, I have no excuse and plenty of lockdown time.

I had often looked at this flimsy piece of history over the years and wondered… And so, at last, I started my research into Pvt. John Harold Polfrey.

As it happens, all the information I needed was on the postcard that my maternal Gran, Edith Bevan had received  106 years ago.

World War 1 was in its second year and during this  ‘War to end all Wars’ citizens, even children, were asked to send to the soldiers at the front gift parcels of random gifts. So, Edith had sent a gift parcel of cigarettes and tobacco to an anonymous soldier serving with the British Expeditionary Force.

In due course, Gran received a reply to her gift.  It was written in pencil on a flimsy khaki coloured postcard addressed to:

Miss E. Bevan,  29 Elliot St.  Devonport.

No County or Country was added but the county was Devon, in England and on the front of the Post Card, is the Censor’s stamp. The first word is blurred, but I assume it reads ‘READ by the censor. There is no stamp, but it is francked [1]  ‘Army Post Office 33’ and the date is 5th Jan 1915.

 

The message reads:  ‘Dear Madam, I have received your gift parcel of cigarettes and tobacco and would like to thank you sincerely. Hoping your New Year will be as happy as you deserve, I beg to remain yours thankfully

Name: Pte. J. Polfrey No. 10089

Regiment (or ship) A Sqdn. ? Hussars? Calvary Brigade

Black dots can be seen on the postcard, and I believe these are the censor blacking out the number of the Hussars and Calvary Brigade, so you would not know where the soldier was serving.  After scanning the postcard and editing with the photos, I think the numbers are 4th Hussars and 2nd Cavalry.  I thought his name was PALFREY but again, with today’s photo scan software, I was able to read it as POLFREY.

John H. Polfrey was born in Fulham, in the southwest of London, England on the 5th of July, 1894 and enlisted on 20th May 1913. He would have been about 19 years old.

He joined the 2nd Cavalry Depot, 4th Hussars (The Queen’s Own).

The 4th Queen’s Own Hussars was a cavalry regiment in the British Army. First raised in 1685 it saw service for three centuries, including the First World War and the Second World War. The Colonel-in chief was Sir Winston Churchill.  The 4th Hussars deployed from Ireland to the Western Front in 1914, remaining there for the entire First World War (1914-18).

They took part in the Retreat from Mons, the First and Second Battles of Ypres (1914 and 1915) and several other engagements. In 1958 the 4th amalgamated with the 8th King’s Royal Irish Hussars and became The Queen’s Royal Irish Hussars. [2]

Pvt. John Polfrey would have seen a great deal of action in his young life and was awarded three medals for his services. The 1914-15 Star (or Silver War Badge),  The British War Medal, and the Victory Medal These three medals are also known as ‘The Trio’ **

1914-1915 Star (Silver War Badge)

This collection includes records of British soldiers who survived World War I and were discharged from the ranks for honourable reasons of illness or injury. In September 1916 such men were honoured by King George V with the institution of a special award, the Silver War Badge.  Also known as the Mons Star, the medal is a bronze star with a red, white and blue ribbon, reflecting the French Tricolore. It was issued to British forces who had served in France or Belgium from 5 August 1914 (the declaration of war) to midnight 22 November 1914 (the end of the First Battle of Ypres).   [3] [4]
 
The British War Medal:
The silver or bronze medal was awarded to officers and men of the British and Imperial Forces. [3]
 
The Victory Medal:

The British version depicts the winged figure of Victory on the front of the medal and on the back, it says ‘The Great War for Civilisation 1914-1919’.  To qualify, an individual had to have entered a theatre of war (an area of active fighting), not just served overseas. Their service number, rank, name and unit were impressed on the rim. [3]

 
Some men sent home after sickness or injury came under the close scrutiny of the public since many were perceived to be shying away from their duties to the country and were treated with contempt and sometimes violence.
 
The 1914-1915 Star (Silver War Badge, that Pvt. Polfrey was awarded) was intended to be worn with civilian clothes.  It had been the practice of some women in England to send white feathers, a traditional symbol of cowardice within the British Empire, in an attempt to humiliate men, not in uniform.  [4]

 

Pvt. Polfrey was discharged on 11 December 1917 and although I searched,  I could not access the reason for his discharge, although receiving the British War Medal meant that he was “discharged from the ranks for honourable reasons of illness or injury”.  So, I concluded the records possibly could have been burnt in the London Blitz of WW2.

After the War in the 1939 Register of England and Wales Mr Polfrey was living in Uxbridge, Middlesex, England, (where, coincidentally, I was posted as a Medic to RAF Uxbridge, Uxbridge, Middlesex in the 1960s). His occupation was a Catering Manager.

In addition, on the My Heritage site, there is a family photo of Mr Polfrey, with the caption ‘Pop receiving the OBE with his wife and daughter’ there is no date, but it looks to be the mid-1950’s. I was curious as to what Mr Polfrey had received the Order of the British Empire Medal for, so further searching provided the following information.
 
“1952 New Year Honours (section Officers {OBE]  John Harold Polfrey, lately Catering Manager, Festival of Britain”. [5]
 

After 14 years of war rationing, which did not end until  4th July 1954, the Festival of Britain opened six years after WW2, on the 4th of May 1951. It celebrated the inventiveness and genius of British scientists and technologists probably in an effort to allow the citizens of Britain to feel that life was going to be better. [6]

What a valuable member of society Mr Polfrey proved to be!

Mr Polfrey died at the age of 92 in May 1986 in Torbay, Devon England, my home county.

RIP Mr Polfrey.

Notes

[1]  https://www.britannica.com/topic/franking

Franking, a term used for the right of sending Letters or postal packages free of charge. The word is derived from the French affranchir (“free”). The privilege was claimed by the British House of Commons in 1660 in ‘A bill for erecting and establishing a Post Office,” their demand being that all letters addressed to or sent by members during the session should be carried free.  https://www.britannica.com/topic/frankin

[2] www.nam.ac.uk/explore/4th-queens-own-hussars

[3 ] https://www.iwm.org.uk/history/first-world-war-service-medals

[4]  https://www.forces-war-records.co.uk/blog/2015/12/10/the-silver-war-badge-and-kings-certificate-of-discharge

[6] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Festival_of_Britain

** Acknowledgements

Image of Silver War Badge courtesy of Martin Fore.   greatwar.co.uk/index.htm

https://www.researchingww1.co.uk/ww1-wound-stripes

*** All photos with permission of the Polfrey Family.

An additional informative link:

https://www.researchingww1.co.uk/ww1-wound-stripes

The unwed moms of the North Yorkshire Moors

Ye Olde Homestead: Farndale, Yorkshire moors. Farndale-holidays.co.uk
To see other notable landmarks, including Castle Howard visit https://farndalecottages.co.uk/out-and-about/heritage/

While cobbling together my fathers’s family tree 1, I discovered that his paternal Nixon line2dies out in 1834, when Robert Nixon is born in Marton, North Yorkshire, taking his surname from his mother, Hannah Nixon of nearby Kirkdale. Their reputation is redeemed five years later in 1840 when Hannah marries Christopher Neesam of Osmotherly shortly after she gives birth to a second child, a girl.

There’s no record of Robert’s birth or who Robert’s real father is – and, thanks to further research, I think I know the reason why.

Judging from my father’s family tree,unwed motherhood was not unusual among these Yorkshire farmers.

Church records from rural Yorkshire in medieval times and beyond back up my observation. They reveal that unwed mothers were, indeed, commonplace even way-back-when and the number of unwed mothers in that place only increased over the next few centuries, most notably in the northern ridings.3

As it happens, Yorkshireman Robert Nixon, Hannah Nixon’s illegitimate child, gets married in 1857 to a kindred spirit, Martha Featherstone. Martha, too, had been born out of wedlock in 1835.

Martha’s mom, Mary Featherstone of Pickering, like her mother-in-law Hannah Nixon Neesam before her, gets married a few years later, in 1840, to one Joseph Shaw. 6

Oddly, the DNA cousin matches/tree matches suggest my father is related to both Joseph Shaw and Mary Featherstone,* so this could be a case of a very delayed marriage, for whatever reason.

Maybe that is Hannah Nixon’s case, too. However, I’ve yet to find any Neesam DNA connection to my father’s tree.

In the small town of Rudby (7 miles from Marton, just north of the moors) as much as ten percent of women had children out of wedlock in the early 1800’s. These unwed mothers were stigmatized not only for religious reasons but because they were costly to the town. Sadly, the ‘bastardy wages’ paid to these mothers didn’t do much to end their woe or improve their children’s prospects. An illegitimate child was twice as likely to die in infancy as a child with legal parentage.

Local authorities in Rudby believed that most unwed mothers were the result of ‘courting couples’ where the young man involved was simply marriage-averse, sometimes preferring jail time to tying the knot. It didn’t help the situation, they said, that many unmarried tenant farmers were content with their ‘live-in’ servants (sic).

Modern scholars examining these same records acknowledge that adultery and incest (and, let’s face it, rape) inflated the number of unwed mothers in England but, they think, not to any great degree.4

Grim history, indeed, but my research findings do get brighter.

According to another source5, unwed mothers in the country did have it better than their counterparts in more urbanized areas. A more stable population likely made for a better support system for these women.

In fact, unwed mothers in 18th and 19th century rural Yorkshire weren’t even expected to name a father. A gal in the family way just told her own mom who gathered up her hat and shawl and headed out to find an eligible young man to take the bio-father’s place. (Practical people, those Yorkshire farmers.)

Unwed mothers were also protected by the old Norse superstitions still adhered to by many. One of these superstitions maintained that pregnant women had magical powers, so they were not to be crossed.

The workhouse in Helmsley, hometown of the Nixon clan from the 1800’s onward. Unmarried mothers might end up here to pay off their ‘bastardy’ support, where they were allowed to nurse their child but twice a day. 3

.

The street in Helmsley where the Nixons lived in 1911. My grandfather, Robert Nixon, was born here in 1890. In 1911, he was a footman at Duncombe Park. Supposedly he got a girl pregnant right about then so he was sent out to Malaya in 1912 to be a planter. Family myth says this woman was either a fellow servant or the Earl’s daughter. Considering the high cost of going to Malaya in the day and that posts in Malaya were given out to sons of richer men, I suspect the woman was from an important family. This would have made a great sub-plot on Downton Abbey, a fictional story that unfolds in the same area.

1. I admit that I mostly used other people’s research to compile my tree. My father, a child of the Raj, told me little about his British roots. The only information I had to go on was that his mother’s father was a Methodist minister and that some of his ancestors were hanged for sheep stealing. See Border Reiving Ruffians. Also see Dissenters and Poets.

But after I compiled his tree with ancestors from places like Helmsley, Farndale and Appleton-le-Moors, I discovered, through DNA, that the ‘cousin trail’ matches on Ancestry supports the tree, 100 percent, at least for the first few generations. My father has matches both in centimorgans (dna) and tree with people on all branches of the tree.

Let me give you one example: When I discovered, using a stranger’s tree, that my father had a great grandmother, Anne Nesfield from Sleights, this explained his rather silly middle name to me. My father signed his name P N F Nixon, as in Peter Nesfield Forster Nixon.

The Nesfield clan of Ugglebarnby etc. Yorkshire is a well established. My father is a close genetic match with someone else with this Anne Nesfield in his tree. These genes make great rugby players as both sides have world-class players.

2. In genetics, the male Y chromosome haplogroup (or set of common alleles passed from father to son) is a much valued tool used by historians and ethno-anthropologists to track historical population movements back to the bronze age and even farther. All haplogroups are assigned letter and number signatures. My Yorkshire father Peter Nixon’s Y dna haplogroup is I1 Z63. I1 is the most common haplogroup in Northern Europe.

Apparently, my father’s Z63 subgroup dominated Northern Germany before the arrival of Charlemagne (who infamously lopped off the heads of thousands of male Saxons) and has has deep origins in Jutland (Denmark). Yorkshire is the most Anglo Saxon region in all England.

3. Hastings, R. P. Poverty and the Poor Law in the North Riding of Yorkshire: 1780-1837. Unwed mothers often had to repay their bastardy wages by employment in the Workhouse. In Victorian Times in Helmsley, as recommended by the authorities, mothers in workhouses were permitted to nurse their children only twice daily. The infants’ diet was supplemented with ONE meal of cow’s milk sweetened with sugar.

4. ibid ( That seems odd to me as I know that Emmeline Pankhurst turned to woman suffrage advocacy when she saw so many young teen patients in her husband’s Manchester clinic who were pregnant by incest.)

5. Gillis, J.R. For Better For Worse: British Marriages from 1600 to Present.

6. There is no birth record for either Robert Nixon or Martha Featherstone. Census records are what the genealogies go by.

 

My father’s ancient heritage on mytrueancestry.com.

I found this on Youtube, an interview with Tamara Hoggarth, born 1860 in Marton. (The poster says “She’s speaking English, I promise.” According to his blurb, she also had an illegitimate child before marrying

Here it is

Leaving school at 15 Years Old

Leaving school at 15 was the normal thing to do in 1960’s England.  Unless, at 11 years of age, you passed the ’11+ exam’ and went to a High School or a Technical college, which you attended until you were 16, and then university was offered.

 I can remember the day I took that 11+ exam. in 1956. All these kids, strangers to each other, crammed into a large Church hall from early morning to late afternoon. When we wanted to go to the toilet, a teacher accompanied us. I can recall, picking my way through stones, bricks and rubble, to get to the outside ‘loo’  debris that was still leftover from the war years. England was slow in some areas to re-build, bomb sites were still our favoured playgrounds, and besides, more important buildings were needed, such as homes.

I obviously did not pass the 11+  and now I feel that was probably due to a rather turbulent childhood.  Mum and Dad, although divorced when I was seven, got back together again. However, when I was 11 she met my stepfather and decided to marry him, so once again, we left my father. Nobody explained anything to you in those days and all this was happening whilst I was supposed to be taking a day-long exam – at 11 years old – to determine my future!

However, I did quite well at school usually coming in the first top 10 out of classes of 33 or more. I was 15 years old in November 1960 and still wearing white ankle socks when I left school! That last Friday that our class of 15-year-olds were to leave we had cakes and lemonade in the Church hall and that was that. Goodbye, now go and find a job!

This rather battered piece of paper from the headmaster stuck together with tape, served as a ‘Reference’ whilst searching for a job. The Headmaster could not even spell my first name correctly!

“To whom it may concern Marion (Spelt wrong!) Bulford has been a pupil at this school for the past four years. She is a girl of good average ability, possessed of a quiet and pleasant personality, always polite and extremely well behaved and exceptionally willing and helpful. She can be given some measure of responsibility and is at present doing good work as a House Captain. She has taken part in all normal school activities, and her attendance throughout has been very regular and punctual. Signed George H. Smart, Headmaster.

After Christmas, in January 1961, I went looking for a job. I went into Plymouth ‘town’ as we called it and went into every shop I could see to ask if they needed any help.

One shop asked me to return for an interview. They offered me the job, and so, I started in a shop called ‘The Remnant Shop’  which had bolts of leftover materials, buttons, ribbons all the accoutrements for making your own clothing and for some strange reason, christening frocks for babies.

I worked in their upstairs office with only the boss and me, separated by a curtain. I did the opening of mail, typing, filing, and posting customers’ orders.  In those days, customers would send a letter with money in them, and a request for material. I would go to the shop floor, measure and cut the material, parcel it up and take it to the post office.

One day, after the ‘junior’ on the shop floor left, the supervisor told me, that the junior had left, and so now, I was the junior and I would have to clean the toilets on the main shop floor.

I was horrified! I might be a lowly shop girl, but there was NO WAY I was going to clean toilets. I told the supervisor this, who told the ‘boss’. I had to go and see him.

He told me, that Beryl, the supervisor, had said it was not the first time I had refused to do a job. That was a lie. This was my first job and I was very unlikely to refuse anything asked of me. I told him in no uncertain terms, that Beryl was a liar and I did all I was ever asked to do, but I did not want to clean the toilets.

He responded ‘Either you clean the toilets or leave’

I said, “No, I will not clean toilets, but I will give a weeks notice’

‘No, he said you can leave now’. So I did

. I got my coat and bag, and head high, walked down the stairs from his office, out through the shop floor and away into the crowds of shoppers to the bus stop to go home. I did not know what else to do. I think I was in shock! I had actually refused to do something an adult had told me to do… I was normally such a good little girl!

When I arrived home,  I fell into my Mums’ arms sobbing that ‘I have been sacked’ (The shame of it all!) I was convinced that I would NEVER get another job after being sacked. That day was the worst day of my life. My Mum did not seem as upset as I was and told me it would be alright and not to worry.

Usually, my Mum was not one to fuss over you or listen to your tales of woe, but that day she made me a cup of ‘milky coffee’ a treat for us, known nowadays as a Café au lait and I sat in the sitting room, relaxed and enjoyed the coffee. I was so upset at the time, but looking back, I think now, ‘Good for me”!!

My Dad went into the shop a few days later and demanded that I get paid for the days worked otherwise, I don’t think the shop would have sent me my pay. 

So, thanks to my Dad, this is the letter I received

The “National Insurance Card” mentioned was a card that was carried with you, to each job and stamped every week you worked.

However, the drama of it all subsided and I continued my evening classes where I was taking English grammar,  typing and shorthand. I rather liked the office work. I continued to look for a job and got one within a few days, so crisis over. This one was in a shoe shop. And so it continued for a few years, nothing but dead-end jobs that went nowhere.

However, once I reached the age of 18, I decided to join the WRAF – Women’s Royal Air Force –  I was accepted and life took on a far different life for me. It turned out to be the best thing I ever did!

You can read my four-part adventures in the WRAF, here:

  1. https://genealogyensemble.com/2020/01/02/dear-miss-bulford/

2.   https://genealogyensemble.com/2020/04/22/dear-miss-bulford-part-two/

3.  https://genealogyensemble.com/2020/04/29/__trashed-4/

4. https://genealogyensemble.com/2020/07/01/dear-miss-bulford-part-four/

Notes

In the 1944 Education Act, schooling in the United Kingdom was rearranged so that children would be entitled to free education between the ages of 5 and 15. So children aged 5-11 would attend a primary school, and children aged 11-15 would attend a Secondary school. At this time there were three types of Secondary schools – Grammar Schools, Secondary Modern Schools and Technical Schools or Colleges.

Each school was designed to fit in with the child’s capabilities, so a grammar school would suit those who were academic and wanted to go onto university, whilst a Technical School suited those who wished to pursue a trade, with a Secondary Modern fitting somewhere in between.

All children took the 11 Plus exam in their final year of primary school and based on their performance in this exam, they would then go onto one of these three types of secondary school.  The 11+ exam in use from 1944 until it had been phased out across most of the UK by 1976.

http://www.the11pluswebsite.co.uk/history-of-the-11/

The not-at-all wicked stepmother – Part 1 (The Unsung Hero)

Elizabeth Fulcher emigrated to Montreal, Quebec, from England in 1961 at age 23, to fulfill a teaching contract at a private girls’ school. Little did she know that within two years time she would marry my father, a widower 20 years her senior, and become step-mother to his four children aged six to 14.

Does the movie “The Sound of Music” come to mind? Perhaps…but we couldn’t sing and, thankfully, our father didn’t blow a whistle to discipline us!

July 1938 was a busy time at Friston Hall1, the village between Saxmundham and Aldeburgh, north of the river Alde in Suffolk on the East Coast of England. Elizabeth and her twin sister, Diana, were born and their sister Margaret (Maggie) was only 11 months old. They were often mistaken for triplets much to Maggie’s dismay.

Map of Suffolk area near Aldeburgh with Friston (north of the River Alde ) and Iken (south of the River Alde)

Some six years later, during Hitler’s last offensive air attack during WWII, the empty family home was doodlebugged1 in August 1944. Luckily, all three girls were at their cousin’s birthday party.

Their father, Henry Fulcher (1906-1985), moved the family to one of the farm cottages while their mother, Tweedie Mann (1908-1952), retrieved whatever could be salvaged from the bombed main house. During their nine month stay in the farm cottage, they endured outside plumbing and indulged in weekly baths in a tub by the fireplace.

When Elizabeth and her family eventually moved back to the main house, they all slept together in the dining room, as the upstairs remained in shambles and the chickens occupied the lounge.

As the war raged on, families all over Britain managed their food frugally with coupons. The farm labourers “enjoyed” extra rations twice a year but they only lasted a week.

There was always enough food because we lived on the farm. At one point for breakfast, we each had a third of an egg on toast with a third of a rasher of bacon which was rationed. We would have cereal before this, so we weren’t hungry”.

Elizabeth’s father ran a small dairy farm in Friston as well as his father’s dairy and prize winning barley farm in Aldeburgh. He sold his father’s farm in 1948 to buy another in Iken five miles away across the river Alde. “Poplar Farm” consisted of 13 separate properties – three farmhouses and ten cottages – and 800 acres of land. The local milk truck collected the milk produced by the 60 Friesians1 (dairy cows) daily which supplemented the farm’s income from wheat, barley and sugar beet.

Around this time, the three young girls were sent away to St. Felix Boarding School2, some 30 miles away from the farm. Elizabeth, only ten at the time, remembers: “I didn’t like it there, as I was afraid of the teachers. I would cry every time someone spoke to me. I couldn’t remember the poems we needed to recite, and I couldn’t spell well either”.

Elizabeth, Margaret (Maggie) and twin Diana – 1949 – Poplar Farm, Iken, Suffolk, UK

Two years later, in 1950 when the twins were 12 years old, the birth of their brother Roger surprised the family. And just two years after his birth, while the girls were still away at boarding school, their mother died suddenly from polio.

Auntie Marion4 looked after Roger and Henry when Tweedie first died in July and stayed with us for the summer. We went back to school in September. We were worried about Roger, he was only three years old. Auntie Ophie came to look after Roger, but she had a bad temper, and our Father wasn’t very involved. No one said Roger had down syndrome, they just said he was slow.”

The whole class came to Poplar Farm for a picnic and a swim at Iken Cliff to celebrate the twins’ graduation from boarding school. One of their school friends, Judith, came as well and it was her mother Eileen who eventually married the twins’ father Henry in 1957.

Eileen stepped into multiple roles as Henry’s wife, farm accounts manager, step-mother (especially to Roger) and encouraged a more social lifestyle. As an example, she hosted a catered party for 120 guests for Elizabeth and Diana’s 21st Birthday.

Elizabeth, being more athletic than academic, excelled at sports. “The only people we knew growing up were farmers or teachers and we didn’t want to stay on the farm so we became teachers”. She pursued a degree in Physical Education at a teacher’s college in Aberdeen, Scotland while her twin attended teacher’s college in London.

After teaching for a couple of years in Aberdeen, Elizabeth wanted something more and accepted a job with the Trafalgar School for Girls in Montreal, emigrating to Canada in 1961.

And “more” was what she found!

1https://wiki2.org/en/V-1_flying_bomb as accessed 2020-07-17

2https://wiki2.org/en/Holstein_Friesian_cattle as accessed 2020-08-24

3https://wiki2.org/en/St._Felix_School as accessed 2020-07-17

4Auntie Ophie and Auntie Marion were Tweedie’s sisters

Plucky Police Constable

On the 26th December 1912, the SS Tripolitania, a steam cargo ship from Italy on its voyage from Genoa to Barry Wales for coal, had beached on the Loe Bar, near Porthleven in Cornwall England. The weather had been and was still a vicious South Westerly gale with 100 mph winds, rain, huge churning waves and blowing sand which made it difficult to see anything.

One of the first men on that beach, waiting for the RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution) to arrive and assist, was the local Police Constable, (PC) Francis Bulford – my future grandfather. He could clearly see the crew on the vessel’s deck as the bow dashed onto the sand and heaved up and crashed down again and again.

Police Constable Number 106, Francis Bulford

The wreck had the sea on one side of her, and Loe Bar on the other side. The Loe bar is a half mile wide shingle bank – also referred to as a rocky beach or pebble beach – which separates the Loe, the largest natural fresh water lake in Cornwall, from the sea.  Loe Bar was originally the mouth of the River Cober which led to a harbour in Helston. However, by the 13th century, the bar had cut Helston off from the sea and formed the pool.

Loe Bar 1993 Aerial View Helston Museum.org

Loe Bar has a well-earned reputation for being treacherous and over the years several lives have been lost. The combination of powerful waves, a steep slippery shingle bank and vicious currents make it a very dangerous stretch of beach, and there is a local rumour that a freak wave here claims a life every seven years. At the end of the day, the best advice is to heed the signs and don’t even think about swimming here. [1]

On that day after Christmas, 1912, the steamship SS. Tripolitania was still rising and trying to ground in the violent weather. PC Bulford could just make out a  rope hanging over her starboard bow. Then, to his horror, he saw a deck hand start to slide down the rope.

He shouted to him ‘Wait a bit’! intending to let the boat properly ground before attempting a rescue, but the crew member either not hearing in the loud gale winds, or not understanding English, slid down the rope and dropped onto his hands and knees, into the surf.  At that very moment, an enormous wave lifted the steamer, swept around the port bow and rushed back, bringing with it the sailor who was swept against the ships’ side and disappeared. “I should not be surprised in the least if his body is recovered, that it is found he was killed by being caught under the steamer’s bilges” said PC Bulford when interviewed later. [2]

The rest of the crew remained aboard until the steamer was properly grounded. By that time villagers and the RNLI crew from the Penlee Lifeboat had joined the PC. Together, they all ran out and grabbed the crew by the hands, to lead them to safety.

The Steamship SS Tripolitania grounding on Loe Bar 26 December 1912 PHOTO

Photo © Of the late W.F. Ivey and Graham Matthews (Grandson of W.F. Ivey) [3]

By this time, the beach sand was saturated with sea water and the rescuers’ feet were sucked down.  Meanwhile, the wind was blowing and tossing so much sand into eyes and mouths they could barely see. The rescuers placed handkerchiefs over their own mouths and the crewmembers’ mouths and dragged and pushed and pulled everyone to safety.

The Cornish Times – below – stated, that “Life-saving apparatus arrived soon after the SS Tripolitania struck, but their services were not required”

That day, the 28 members of the crew were saved but one, and his body was never recovered. In addition, two of the crew of the brave Penlee Penzance Royal National Lifeboat Institution, Janet Hoyle, died of pneumonia the following Thursday. [6] All these men were volunteers.  See notes below.

 

SS. Tripolitania The Calm After The Storm [4]

Once the storm was over, attempts were made to refloat the ship, by removing much of the shingle from the seaward side, but they failed. She was eventually scrapped in situ.

 

Digging out the SS Tripolitania PHOTO

Photo © Of the late W.F. Ivey and Graham Matthews (Grandson of W.F. Ivey) [5]

By the way, the meaning of the word ‘Abaft’ above, which I took to be a typing error means according to the Oxford Dictionary, “In or behind the stern of a ship” It is a nautical adverb. Plucky’ is an adjective meaning “Having or showing determined courage in the face of difficulties” Francis Bulford born 28 October 1884 died 25 March 1963 was my plucky Grandfather. RIP.

Follow this link to read another story of my Grandfather here:

/https://genealogyensemble.com/2018/10/10/all-in-a-days-work/

SOURCES:

[1] https://www.visitcornwall.com/beaches/west-cornwall/helston/loe-bar-beach

[2] Cornish Times Newspaper Clipping. In Possession Of The Bulford Family Archives

[3, 4, 5 ] http://www.helstonhistory.co.uk/w-f-iveys-shipwrecks/tripolitania/

[6] http://www.rnli-penleelifeboat.org.uk/About%20us/PastCoxswains

NOTES:

William Nicholls – Coxswain 1912-1915

Mr William Nicholls was appointed Coxswain on 3rd July 1912 and was the Coxswain of 2 reserve Penzance lifeboats. William was instrumental in the choice of the Janet Hoyle from the shipyard.

During his time on the Janet Hoyle, she launched twice in service, the first being an extremely dangerous mission to the SS TRIPOLITANIA on boxing day 1912.

In a letter, dated September 1959, Coxswain William NICHOLLS recalls the launch to S.S.TRIPOLITANIA as follows:

“My most arduous lifeboat service took place in 1912. On Boxing Day, at 8.00 am, the Coastguard called at my house in Penzance. He brought a message that a steamer was drifting disabled across the Bay. Neither the Sennen or Newlyn boats could go out, and so the message was passed to me. A strong gale (100 m.p.h) was raging; shop fronts at Penzance were blown in and boats overturned in the harbour, Penzance Pier Head being under water. At 8.30 the boat was in the water, all reefs taken in, and away. I have often thought of the appearance of the Bay when I rounded the pier head. The seas were pitiless, and the first one aboard completely filled the boat. I remember thinking that this was my last trip! I thrashed about 8 miles, opening up all the Western land, and then, seeing nothing of the ship, came about, and edged towards Porthleven, where the broken sea was worse. I was, from there, signalled by green rocket to ‘recall’  The vessel, S.S. TRIPOLITANIA, had gone ashore on Loe Bar, near Porthleven; and to judge the height of the seas, she was thrown at dead low water to twenty feet above high water. She remained there for years until broken up for scrap. There were only two lifeboats afloat on that day, my own, and the Plymouth boat, which was blown ashore in Jennycliff Bay inside the breakwater. The stemhead of my boat split from the planking, and the lovely paintwork smashed in spots into the drab first coat. She looked like a spotted leopard. Two of my men died on the following Thursday from pneumonia, which shows the terrible conditions we had to face on that service.”

 

 

 

 

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/

 

 

This Place We Now Call Home

The Air Canada plane starts its descent and I look down out of the window. It is a dark November afternoon and I can see nothing except a few pinpricks of light on the ground. After regularly flying around densely populated Europe, this is a shock. Where are the towns? The people? What have we come to?

It is November 17, 1978 and here we are with our two boys, seven and five, landing at Mirabel Airport near Montréal, Quebec, where my husband, John, will start a new job.

We stand in a long line and wait. First there is an interview with a customs official who tells us that we can collect our boxes of “chattels and household effects” in a few days. Then on to the Immigration Officer who asks us about Geneva, where we had been living, and England, where we were born, and then examines our papers. We then talk to a pleasant lady who gives us information on schools and local businesses, and a telephone number to apply for our SIN cards (our what?). Finally, we can collect our luggage and leave. We have been admitted to Canada!

John sets off to find our car hire and when he returns driving a huge Plymouth Volare, the kids are thrilled. Cars of this size are not often seen in Europe. As we start to drive, it seems very dark; there are few lights on the motorway – or highway – as we soon learn to call it.

Our youngest child, Owen, awake since we left Geneva, finally falls asleep in the back seat as we head downtown to our temporary home, an efficiency apartment in a downtown hotel.

The next morning when we switch on the TV, we are confronted with the horrifying story of the Jonestown Massacre¹ a religious cult leader has killed all his followers with poisoned punch. The story is revealed in great detail, and we find the television coverage quite different from the French, Italian and German media we were used to (and could hardly understand) in Switzerland. We feel quite naive.

Finally, we venture outside for breakfast, choosing Ben’s, right across the street from the hotel. The boys are thrilled to see two policeman at the counter, their backs to us, wearing guns.

In that high, carrying voice of the very young, Owen pipes up, ‘Are they real guns Mummy?’ He has never seen a policeman with a gun before. The policemen smile and wave at the children, but we feel nervous after the shocking TV news, and now policemen wearing guns?

Breakfast was, how shall I say it? Different. Bacon with pancakes and maple syrup? We give it a try. It’s not bad, but it’s a strange taste for us. Coffee is served without asking if we want it; we prefer tea. And the food portions are enormous. We stagger out, well fed.

Soon it starts to snow and the children are delighted, but by late afternoon, when it is still snowing, we are staggered. When does it stop? (FYI, in late April the following year.) We tell the hotel concierge we are going to take a walk. He eyes us and says, ‘You will need boots and winter coats. Try Eaton’s, just a block down there.’ We venture out and cannot believe how deep the snow is. I tiptoe down the street in my high heels, feet freezing.

In England, we have just one heavy coat, shoes and one pair of boots for all the seasons. In Switzerland, we only use boots for skiing, so all this new clothing is strange. We buy hats, scarves and warm gloves too, and we soon appreciate how important it is to be warmly dressed in winter!

Eventually, we move into our house and the time comes to register the boys for school. We decide to send them to a French school since they studied in French in Geneva. The elementary school principal is amazed, as we are obviously English, but in our fractured French, we insist.

Owen, who will be six years old in February of the coming year, is outraged that he is deemed ‘too young’ to start school full time. He can only attend half a day until the following September. He has been in school since he was three!

I had never learned to drive, and now I had to learn quickly if I wanted to go anywhere. So, in February, 1979, I took my first driving lesson on the frozen streets of the West Island. Slipping and sliding down the streets I go, with the sweat running down my back! I am very, very nervous. I do not even know how to work the wipers, plus, my youngest son is in the back seat – no safety belts then – since I don’t know anyone who could babysit while I have my lesson. Stress after stress for the first few years. Typical of most immigrants, I should think.

The politics too were a bit of a surprise, as it seemed everyone was fleeing down the 401 to Toronto. A few days of reading the newspapers told us why. Apparently a law called “Bill 101”² had been passed the previous August and the ‘Anglos,’ as we soon learned to call ourselves, were leaving Quebec. It appeared we had arrived in a province in turmoil.

The noises in our house were also unfamiliar. At first when we heard the furnace starting up in the basement, we were all startled, but we quickly got used to it. Another puzzler was having to buy a brush for the car and a shovel for the driveway. Why? We soon found out that if we did not copy our neighbours and clean the car of snow and shovel the drive, we simply couldn’t get out!

One night, we heard the city snow blower and trucks clearing the snow very late at night, and we all leapt out of bed to check what the noise was. It was scary; all small things, but so different from living in England and Europe.

We experienced many ups and downs as we got used to life here. Perhaps the hardest thing was to adapt to the extreme cold winter weather, and then to the hot, humid summers (yet again, we needed to buy more appropriate clothing), but despite all that, we like it here. Almost 40 years later, our sons are fully bilingual and attended college and university. I have to say that Quebec has been very good to our family as we continue to build our own little dynasty, in this place we now call ‘home.’

Notes

¹ http://history1900s.about.com/od/1970s/p/jonestown.htm

² https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charter_of_the_French_LanguageThe Charter of the French Language (French: La charte de la langue française), also known as Bill 101 (Law 101 or French: Loi 101), is a law in the province of Quebec in Canada defining French, the language of the majority of the population, as the official language of Quebec.

Bomb Sites, School and Rebuilding A City

My first memory as a child born at the end of WW2, was of playing mainly in our streets and neighbouring streets.  I was still very small, but I do remember the barrage balloons still flying high in the sky, floating gently on the breeze, and we would lie on the ground and watch them. It was many years before I realised what they actually were, which was a large balloon anchored to the ground by cables and often with netting suspended from it, serving as an obstacle to low-flying enemy aircraft.

We would play among bricks wood rubble, stones large slate roof tiles and broken water pipes, in a site at the end of our street. The reason for all the rubbish was because it was a bombed site. A house, like the ones in our street had once stood there but no more. We had adventures in those bomb sites especially with the broken water pipes. What young child can resist playing with water? Especially if you can make dams and ponds with all the available stones bricks and wood. It was a sad day when the water was eventually turned off.

We also knew not to play in a bomb site with tape around it, as that likely contained an unexploded bomb. There were parks in Plymouth, but because of the massive damage caused by bombs dropping on this Royal Naval city, these had still not been cleared of the debris and were dangerous.

When I started school, at three years of age that same rubble was negotiated as we walked over it to get to the school building and again, when I was 11 and starting at the ‘big school’ – the same one my mum had gone too – there were still signs of war damage.

Shortages of everything was acute. Years later we had no books in our school. The teacher had one for each subject, which he or she would read aloud to us and then pass it around. We had paper pen and ink, but no copy books to write on, only a sheet of paper. Later, copy books were issued when I was about 14.

School was OK, but all the teachers were old and not very interested in anything new and certainly they did not catch my interest  but I did love History, Geography and reading. English comprehension writing and spelling were favourites too. Sums were completely beyond me, and nobody cared to go over it again if I got lost, or to take the time to explain anything. There were about 45 children in each class so on reflection, there must not have been much time to explain everything again, but just to get the lesson over with.

Re-building our country was a long time coming It was the early 1950’s before the clearing of bomb sites even began, and I grew up in the 60’s watching our city being completely razed and then rebuilt.

Years later as English social history became an interest, I was to learn about the Anglo-American Loan that helped the rebuilding of our country. ¹ ²

¹https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anglo-American_loan

“The Anglo-American Loan Agreement was a post World War II loan made to the United Kingdom by the United States on 15 July 1946. The loan was for $3.75 billion (US$57 billion in 2015) at a low 2% interest rate; Canada loaned an additional US$1.19 billion”

By the way, these loans were eventually paid off in full, in 2006!”

²BBC NEWS | UK | UK settles WWII debts to allies

“It is hard from a modern viewpoint to appreciate the astronomical costs and economic damage caused by this conflict. In 1945, Britain badly needed money to pay for reconstruction and also to import food for a nation worn down after years of rationing.  “In a nutshell, everything we got from America in World War II was free,” says economic historian Professor Mark Harrison, of Warwick University. “The loan was really to help Britain through the consequences of post-war adjustment, rather than the war itself. This position was different from World War I, where money was lent for the war effort itself”

Below are newspaper cuttings that my Gramps saved during the war and gave to me for a project I had to write for school about our ancient city. They show Plymouth before and after the blitz, and were the kind of bombed sites I played in as a child.

These two photos show Plymouth City Centre before, in 1939 and after an enemy raid in 1942. I find the captions very interesting.

img_20161102_0005img_20161102_0003

Below, St. Georges Baptist Church a before and after view 1942

george-st-baptist-church-1942

Plymouth Shops before and after the Blitz

plymouth-shops-before-and-after-raids

Credit given for photos from ‘The Plymouth Evening Herald’ Plymouth, Devon UK.

The Family Secret

By Marian Bulford

My Gran told me that her mother Lilian, did not like her very much and was not very nice to her, and consequentially for some peculiar reason Lilian did not like my mother or me, either.

I remember Lilian as a very stern presence so I steered clear of her. She did live with my Gran for a time, but by the time I was a teen, she had moved to another daughter’s house to live, so I never had much contact with her.

A photo below shows the four generations myself, Gran Mum and Lilian and I do not look very happy to be in this photo!

When my mother found out she was pregnant with me, 2 years after being married, she told me that Lilian said “Well, you made your bed now you have to sleep in it” Not a very nice thing to say about becoming a Great Grandmother! I never did understand why she did not like us and what she meant by that remark but years later, I was to find out.

For a while, I lived with my Grandparents from 11 years to 14 years. They were very strict but loving and Gran and I went everywhere together, to church the church fétes and shopping trips. Gran taught me to cook and bake.

One day, Gran wanted to go and see her mother who was living in Okehampton, Devon, a train ride away from us in Plymouth.

A train ride, what a treat! I was about 14 and we lived a very quiet life. Off we went, sandwiches and tea packed for the two-hour train journey to visit great-grandmother Lilian.

After my  Gran’s meeting with her mother lunch with the cousins and visiting, it was time to go. We had the train carriage to ourselves.

‘That was a lovely day, wasn’t it Gran?’ In answer, Gran burst into tears I was astounded, my Gran crying? She never cried.

I put my arm around her and asked her ‘Gran! What is the matter are you sick?” she cried some more, blew her nose and then said “I am a bastard”

Well! You could have knocked me down with a feather. Gran NEVER swore let alone say THAT word.

Eventually, she calmed down and I asked her what she was talking about. She must have been very very upset to divulge her mother’s secret to her young grand-daughter.

Apparently, Gran wanted to be baptized in the Church of England, and needed her birth certificate and to eventually claim her Old Age Pension, she also needed this document. That was the purpose of our visit.

When Lilian heard that Gran wanted her Birth Certificate SHE burst into tears and said that she hoped she would be dead by the time her secret came out.

Then, she had to reveal the reasons why she was so upset. Lilian was by then in her late 80’s and told Gran that she had given birth to her in the Leicestershire work house, because she was an unmarried mother. When she received Gran’s birth certificate it had stamped across it, in very large letters the word ‘ILLEGITIMATE’  Lilian had ripped it up and threw it away.

Lilian had, like many before and since, become pregnant at 17. The father Thomas was a Royal Navy Cooper a master carpenter. They met and she became pregnant. My Gran told me years later, that Lilian told her that she ‘fell off the style (or kissing gate) and never got up’ When Thomas did eventually come home from sea, they married. Gran was then three years old so yes, she WAS illegitimate for a while, but the parents had married, just a little late!

This seemed to be the reason Lilian did not like my Gran very much and Lilian did show a great deal of resentment towards Gran, my mother and me.

 

The four generations

IMG_0002
Standing, left Gran. Standing right my mother Front: Marian and Great Grandmother Lilian, 1948

This article is a continuation of a previous story, called “Illegitimate”

https://genealogyensemble.com/2015/07/13/illegitimate-2/

 

Illegitimate

Illegitimate
by Marian Bulford

In the March 31st 1901 UK Census Lilian Mary Symons was listed as a ‘servant girl/domestic’ in Leicester, Leicestershire in the employ of Mrs. Mary Whatnall, ‘Retired Lunatic Asylum Matron’ Mrs. Whatnall’s niece also lived in the house.¹

The 18 year old Lilian had, the previous November 25th given birth to a daughter. The father of the baby was a Royal Navy Cooper and master carpenter Thomas Bevan whom Lilian met when she was 17. They had started to court, but neither of them realised she was pregnant when Thomas left for sea. He was gone not knowing he was to be a father and Lilian had no contact with him for the next three years.

Lilian was the oldest in a family of five. Her father was a jobbing gardener and her mother a housewife so they would have had no means to take care of Lilian and another child.

How Lilian must have felt at that time, being pregnant and unmarried is not known, but I can only imagine how she would have had to approach her family and tell them. She also had to tell them that she did not know where Thomas, the father was.

Lilian’s father Thomas Symons unsuccessfully searched for Thomas and he also wrote to the Royal Navy regularly to find out the father’s whereabouts, but to no avail.²

In the 1900’s in the United Kingdom, unmarried pregnant women were often disowned by their families and the work house was the only place they could go during and after the birth of their child. There were no fees, but hard work was expected of the inmates. ³

According to my family, although Lilian was not ‘disowned’ by her family she did give birth to her baby and her child’s birth certificate states the child was born in the ‘Leicestershire Workhouse’.

In addition, the original birth certificate also had the words ‘ILLEGITIMATE’ in large letters stamped over the entire certificate. Lilian immediately tore it up and threw it away. 4

Lilian’s circumstances definitely changed, as I have a wonderful photo of the child at two years old and she is dressed in a very attractive dress with a matching dolly. These are not the usual working attire for someone living in a 1902-era work house and tape recordings of family told me her parents looked after the baby daughter and Lilian went to work for Mrs. Whatnall.

Thomas Bevan did eventually return from sea and Lilian and he got married on 25th April 1904 when the child was three and a half years old.5

In the 1911 Census 10 years later, Lilian is the ‘head’ of a household with three additional children. They lived in the Royal Navy Port of Plymouth, Devon England and Thomas was once again, back at sea.6

The couple went on to have four more children, who all lived to adulthood, including my grandmother, Edith, who had no idea she was born out of wedlock until she was 65 years old, but that is another story!

 Sources:
1 1901 UK Census at Ancestry.com
2 http://www.workhouses.org.uk/life/entry.shtml
3 Family tape recordings
4 Certified copy of a Birth Certificate, Leicestershire City Council, England
5 Registered marriages in April, May and June 1904 Leicestershire, England at Ancestry.com
6 Family tape recordings

Photos Below:

Lilian Mary Symons b. 1882

Lilian Mary Symons 1899

Edith Bevan 1902

Edith Symons Bevan 1902

Thomas Bevan b. 1876

Thomas Bevan, RN

Australia, 1908