Eleven questions.

Ariel, having been nominated as a Sunshine Blogger, had the task of answering several questions, and has responded by posting some of her own for her followers to answer if they feel so inspired. I thought I’d give it a go, and if you’d like to answer them too, feel free. Ariel’s blog is here:-

A Blog of Hours 

1. If you have a blog, what inspired you to start it? If you don’t have one, what put you off?

This is my blog part deux, as my first blog has disparu. But I started my first blog when we went to Australia on holiday, as a way to keep friends and family up to date on what we were doing without shouting it out on Facebook.

2. What is your greatest regret?

That I never saw The Beatles live. I was far too young, realistically, but whenever I meet someone who saw or met them I experience this pang.

3. Could you give up alcohol for, say, six months?

Possibly, but I would really miss it. I love wine, Katy cider and Disaronno!

4. Is there a painting or an artist that you have been particularly impressed by?

I saw The Candy Man by Alan Macdonald in the Walker Gallery in Liverpool. I call it Christ on a Bike and it makes me smile. I love everything about it.


5. If time and money were no object what would you most like to do?

Go and live somewhere else and explore, not just stay for a holiday. I’m thinking Provence, or Canada, as long as it was sunny and warm.

6. Can you name five things that you are grateful for?

My health, my husband, my two daughters, the fact that I had a career in a profession I loved.

7. Do you believe there is a deity, a Supreme Being, a spiritual power, or some such?


8. What, for you, would be the perfect holiday?

Being driven around ( I say no to driving on the right), being cooked for, but otherwise being left alone to do my own thing. Not going to happen!

9. Who would you say has been most influential in your life?

My parents I reckon.

10. If you can drive, do you enjoy it?

Yes, I enjoy driving, as long as I know where I’m going. I get stressed driving places I don’t know, especially cities with strange junctions and poor signage (which lane should I be in now?) though the sat nav helps immensely. And see above regarding driving on the wrong side of the road. Turning right in France and finding myself on the left of the road gives me flashbacks (and I did it twice in the same place!)

11. Chocolate: yes or no? Dark, milk or white?

Yes, milk preferred. Cadburys especially. Dark chocolate can be too bitter and white chocolate is yucky, and actually isn’t chocolate.

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James Tydeman: Transported to Tasmania for stealing beans.


James Tydeman was born in Suffolk in 1829.

He was baptised in Walsham-Le-Willows, where so many of my ancestors lived, on 27th December 1829. His parents are listed as James and Mary.

There is a death record for a James Tydeman in the Stow district of Suffolk in 1838.

The 1841 census records Mary, (36, born 1805) James, (12, born 1829) and William (3,  born 1838) living in Church Street, Walsham-Le-Willows. Mary is working as a “Wash Woman” to support her family.

In 1845 Mary married Robert Frost and according to the 1851 census is living with him and William in Palmer Street, Walsham.

There are several interesting things on this census. Firstly, William is described as ‘son-in-law’ instead of step son , which caused me some confusion. His age and date of birth comply with the previous  census. Robert is ten years younger than Mary, and is an agricultural labourer, very common in this area. But they now have a daughter, Sarah Ann Frost, born in 1847, who went on to be my great great grandmother.

This is our link to James Tydeman; where was he though, in 1851?

It’s a sad story, and it’s thanks to my grandfather Wilfred Gardiner, and his grandmother Sarah Frost/Clarke, that we know what happened.


A bundle of letters from James to his parents, Mary and Robert, have been passed down to me.

From 1848 James wrote to them from Bury St Edmunds Gaol where he had been imprisoned in 1846 for stealing beans. His sentence was 7 years. He had previously been imprisoned for house breaking in 1846 for 18 months.

The writing is beautiful and flowing, (probably dictated to a scribe), and the content is heartbreaking.

In his first letter dated October 1848 he tells his mother that he wishes he had taken her advice, and if he had he wouldn’t be in his current position. He says, addressing William,

“Brother, I hope you will be a good boy to your Father and never gamble for that have been the ruin of me. gambling is the first step of ruin. I hope this will be a warning to all my companions.”

He signs this letter, “your unhappy son”.

His second letter is dated April 1849, also from Bury St Edmunds Gaol. It seems James is unwell as he says,

“I am very sorry to think that I cannot send you a good report of my health for I get no better.” He asks Mary to send him a pocket handkerchief and is anticipating a visit from her in a month’s time.

A change is afoot though, and the next letter, dated October 24th, comes from the Defence Hulk Convict Settlement in Gosport.This was one of the decommissioned ships which were used as floating prisons.

James says ,”this place agrees with me very well” and that he is feeling better, but he also says,

” But we cannot tell What a Day may Bring forth for Death May Come when we Are Not aware of it.”

He also pleads,

“Send my love to my Master and Mrs and in hope you will send me all the Good News you can”, which makes me wonder if he is hoping for a pardon.

The next letter is from November 1850, still at Gosport.Optimistically he hopes that he will,

“In a few months to again be restored to you.” He is desperate to be home and is anxious about his family’s wellbeing. He says he has been ,”acting as cook”. He sends regards to Mary Ann Death; I wonder if she was his girlfriend at home.

The next letter, from March 1851, is in response to a letter from Mary and Robert sent two months earlier. He explains the delay is due to the fact that he had sent a reply in error to ‘Walter’ Frost rather than Robert and his letter was returned to him from the ‘dead Letter office London’. He explains that the Governor has given him permission to write, but in a post script he says further that although he isn’t allowed to write more frequently than once in three months, they can reply immediately .

This letter and the two following are interesting as the notepaper used includes the Convict Establishment rules for writing letters. Included are such instructions as,

“All letters of an improper or idle tendency either to or from Convicts, or containing slang or other objectional  expressions will be suppressed.” Letters are “for the purpose of enabling [convicts] to keep up a connection with their respectable Friends , and not that they may hear the news of the day”.

James’ next letter is dated 7th June 1851.He says that ,

“In all probability I may be moved to another place, where I cannot inform you, at present should such be the case, I shall no doubt be allowed to write to my friends immediately on my arrival…”

He signs off, “Believe me to remain My Dear Father & Mother Your Unfortunate Son James Tydeman.

The last letter is dated 10th January 1852 and is from Dartmoor Prison. The official notes on the letter’s second page say,

“The Convict has been received here, under a Sentence of Transportation, and will remain until removed according to Law…No visits are allowed”

Poor James says he is uneasy at not hearing from his parents for over 6 months. He says,

“I was told when I was at Portsmouth that when I had completed the half of my time I should be restored to my liberty in this Country. But now I can see no signs of it.”

He is still hoping that “ a petition or a private letter to Sir George Gray”will help his case. He asks his parents to,

“take this letter to Mr George Finch and tell him I am very sorry for what I have Done And I hope he will Do something for Me Towards Getting me my liberty”. In that case, he says that,

“you shall see by my future life and conduct that I am become a useful member of society.”

My Grandad reports that in with these letters was a small piece of paper with this address:

Pestonjee Bomanjee. Van Dieman’s Land. Ober Town, (I wonder if this is a mishearing of Hobart town)

The ship Pestonjee Bomanjee  left England on 18th April 1852 and arrived at the Van Diemens Land colony on 31st July 1852. There were 292 convicts on board.

digitalpanopticon.org is a magnificent resource through which I have found further information on James. The digitised documents tell me that he was 5’ 4 1/2” with black hair and dark eyes. He had a tattoo on each arm, one a heart with a cross and the other an anchor. He had an oval face, fresh complexion and (like me) he had a low forehead. Like his step father he was a farm labourer.

He was given 2 conditional pardons, I expect one for each offence, gaining a certificate of freedom on 7th July 1855 when he was 27.

Wikipedia entry on Tasmanian convicts.

I next found him getting married on 26th November 1866 to Louisa Denner. She was 17 and he was 35. They married at the Chapel in Fingal, Tasmania. He is described as a labourer and she can’t write, so signs the register with a cross. Sadly they didn’t have much time together as Louisa died inAugust 1877 of lung disease. I found all this information on Find My Past.

With the help of family trees on FamilySearch and Ancestry I found that they had a daughter, Roseanne, in March 1868

After Roseanne they had a daughter in February 1872, unnamed on her birth registration. Sadly, a son, James, only lived for a month before dying in March 1876 of an insect bite. More tragedy in 1877 as another daughter, Louisa, was born on 12th August 1877, but died on 30th August of convulsions. As her mother, Louisa had died on 28th August their death entries are adjacent in the Fingal registration book.

Roseanne, under the name Rose Ann Tidiman married James Curtis in November 1885.They had a son, Thomas Henry in January 1888. Sadly, I found her death under the name Rose Curtis in April 1889. The cause of death is given as burning so, like her mother, an early marriage and an early death.

This is where I lose track of James.

Going back to his brother William, though, I find he became a policeman. He married, moved to Wiltshire and had 2 daughters and 6 sons, one of which also became a policeman. None of William’s descendants are called James.

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Share A Meal with World Vision UK

I love this blog post from Erin so much that I’m reblogging it.

Musings of a So-Called Shutterbug

I love food, and I love sharing food. Coming into the Christmas period (let’s face it, it’s really soon) we start to think about family, getting together and sharing food and drinks. But it’s easy to forget those in other countries facing diversity.

To promote awareness, World Vision UK have launched the #shareameal appeal to raise money for the refugee children in Bidi Bidi, Uganda, along with Great British Bake Off’s star baker Selasi.

EOB (5)

Selasi recently visited Uganda to see how we could make a difference.

“It’s heartbreaking to see pain and hunger etched onto the faces of orphaned children and hear their harrowing stories of rape and violence. It is vital that, as a community, we come together to do what we can to help provide these kids with a better future.”

Thousands of children flood into Uganda’s refugee settlements, escaping civil war in South Sudan. Many of these…

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Illuminating Blackpool.


When I retired two years ago I joined the Red Hat society in order to meet new people and to be within a group to go on trips etc.
I had been impressed by the sight of the Raging Grannies in Victoria, BC, all dressed up in their finery and having a good time, and it turned out that my neighbour Lynn and another good friend of mine were already members of a similar group, and recommended the Red Hats to me.
We meet monthly at a garden centre cafe and I’ve joined the book group and quiz team. We’ve visited the Globe theatre, the National Memorial Arboretum and been out for meals and to the theatre.
Then the annual convention came up. It was held in Blackpool, a place I’d never been, and Lynn and I decided we needed a trip away so we booked a sea view room.
Five of us went from our local group, or chapter, one of whom was our ‘Queen’.
Now, I’m a plain and simple person who doesn’t go in for frills and embellishments on clothes, but I’m all for a bit of fun.
The title of the convention was ‘Illuminating Blackpool’ so sparkles and lights on costumes and hats were encouraged. I did wear some sequins and sparkle but some of the ladies’ costumes were beautifully flamboyant; they’d put so much thought into their get-ups.
Our hotel , The Imperial, was a very good one, as was our room.

We were well fed and we had dancing on the first two nights; those ladies had some moves!
Our transport was two vintage trams, but we weren’t far from the North pier and the Tower so Lynn and I walked along the prom on the times when it wasn’t raining.
En masse we caused quite a spectacle.
We had afternoon tea at the Tower ballroom, which was a mixed experience. We were squashed onto our reserved tables, unable to sit at adjacent vacant ones though they remained empty. I sat with some Bristol ladies; one of the joys of the convention was chatting to others from different parts of the country. The tea was cold by the time I was seated with them. I ate two sandwiches and a scone with jam, but something upset my tummy which made me feel unwell for the rest of the day. I did manage a dance with Lynn though; one she knew the steps to so I could soon catch on.
So I’ve danced at the Tower Ballroom!

Leaving the ballroom, it was warm and sunny and we spent some time reading the Comedy Carpet opposite the Tower. Such a fascinating piece of art that had us chuckling in recognition. At last I found a Victoria Wood sketch, my favourite comedian.
The gala dinner that night was spectacular, the room done up as for a wedding reception. Each chapter had their photo taken in a room which contained a framed photo of the Beatles (minus George) taken in that very room in July 1964.
Lynn and I swam in the hotel pool the next morning, Lynn trying a jacuzzi for the first time!
We had lunch in Harry Ramsden’s with our MK group celebrating our Queen Mary’s birthday. Delicious food but very filling.
That evening we went to a nightclub, Viva Blackpool for dinner, which we couldn’t do justice to as we were still full of fish and chips. The entertainment there was disappointing. The comic will never be featured on the aforementioned carpet. The Jersey Boys tribute was very loud, the lights were dazzling, and the ‘Frankie Valli’ was so off key a few times he had us squinting.


Lynn and I enjoyed walking back to the hotel rather than getting the tram, looking at the illuminations. There were even lights on the sea and the sky.
Before we left, one of the ladies who organised the convention read out her own poem which sums up the Red Hat ethos.
With her permission I reproduce it here:


Something strange can happen when you reach the age of fifty
You think that you’re still young at heart, you still feel rather nifty
But something has descended down upon your pretty head
And you find that you don’t like it, that much can be said.

It’s a cloak you cannot see and it makes you quite invisible
To all around, you’ve disappeared, no longer a desirable
When you were young, the boys would call and whistle from the scaffold
But it’s deadly silent now as you walk by when you are seen as “old”.

No-one opens doors or gives their seat up on the bus
You wonder if you’re really here or just a cloud of dust
No-one lends a hand as you struggle with your shopping
They strut right by, phones stuck in ears, it really is quite shocking.
Well, I know a little secret that will save you from obscurity
It never fails with certain ladies of let’s say, “maturity”
Dress yourself in purple, put a hat on your head
Add a pair of snazzy shoes and handbag, all in red

Get yourself together with some friends all dressed alike
And venture out , heads held high , it’s quite a powerful sight
You soon find people stopping in their tracks just to admire
This vision of such loveliness, you’ll find that you inspire.

They say “you all look wonderful” “you’ve brightened up our day”
“What is it that you represent, why do you dress this way?”
And youngsters stop, take out those wires that were plugged in their ears
And come to have a chat with these quite glamorous old dears.

You cross the road and find that you have caused a traffic jam
As people crane from car windows to witness all this glam
And tourists click their cameras and ask you all to pose
They want to wear your hat all trimmed with flowers and red bows.

It really is incredible to think you will be found
On a Japanese tourists Facebook page that’s seen the world around
No longer deemed invisible you are now a true celebrity
Bringing joy to people’s faces, a red and purple effigy.

So dump that beige old cardy that you used to hide behind
As you shuffled around Sainsbury’s with your trolley full of wine
Break open a bottle and celebrate your beauty
After all, it’s only keeping up your new found Red Hat duty.

The cloak of invisibility can stay with Harry Potter
Who can hide inside from Voldermort , who was an evil rotter
Our secret is quite simple and it’s sure easy enough
Red Hat ladies do not hide, they go out and strut their stuff.

© Amanda Lawrence – Queen Minx 2015

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Dad’s poem.

This is one of many poems that I found among Dad’s writings.

It’s surprising to realise he was only 15 when he wrote it, given its geographical and historical knowledge and mature musings about a future peaceful time.

He loved the county of Norfolk to the end.

The Norfolk Coast

The Norfolk Coast divides itself in three.

At Hunstanton and Wells there are the flats
Where cockles, crabs and other shells are found,
And tides go out as far as you can see
And come again with great rapidity.

At Sheringham and Cromer are the cliffs
And boulders where the periwinkles hide
And where the seas break high on the sea wall.

Sea Palling’s where the cliffs turn into dunes
On which the blue-green, sharp-edged grasses grow
That cut your legs (and don’t I know!)
The dunes at Horsea once broke through one spring
And flooded all the land for miles around
With sea water which made the crops turn brown
And killed the fish in rivers far inland
And wrecked the peaceful homes of many men.

The dunes continue right along the coast
Through Hemsby with its famous seaside camp,
And Caister where the dunes begin to die
To Yarmouth where they disappear because
The Corporation built a promenade.
Now Yarmouth is a holiday resort
Where people used to flock in summertime
And spend their money on the pleasure grounds.
But now the Government will not allow
The people to go to our Eastern shores
Which have barbed wire spread all along the beach.
Therefore the landladies will have no trade
And must evacuate unless they find
Some army officers to cater for.

And so we must await the happier times
When England will be all at peace again
Before we see the Norfolk Coast once more
And watch the children playing on the shore

Ian Rowarth
July 1940

Not to be reproduced without permission.


Photo credit Alan Marshall.

Taken 39 years after he wrote the poem, this photo is of Dad at Mundesley, Norfolk, in September 1979.

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Dad’s short story.

Through my interest in researching my family’s history and due to Mum moving house on her recent marriage, I’ve become the custodian of boxes of memorabilia.

It’s mainly photographs, letters and other documents, all fascinating to me. The selection most recently passed on, and which I’ve only just started sorting through, includes poems , limericks and stories written by my Dad, Ian Rowarth. Dad loved literature, had a Goon-like sense of humour and a strong Christian faith. As a young man he served in the RAF in World War 2 and never lost his interest in aeroplanes, often running outside to identify what was overhead. Later on he went some way towards achieving his pilot’s licence.


With Mum’s permission I’m publishing this untitled story here for your enjoyment.


Well, I enjoyed that trip. It’s lovely morning except for the haze, damn it. A good thing I recognised that village, or else I should have been lost. Of course there’s always the radio to fall back on and a good job too, or I should have gone for a burton before now. How did in the last war fighters get on I wonder – but they were fair weather flyers. They probably went down to read the signposts anyway.

Look at that cloud What a beautiful golden billowy edge , what wonderful pastel shades of grey and yellow. I’d like to go and fly round it and admire it and play with it , dive in and out of it, cut little bits off it with my prop, but I want a silver kite to do that with, not a drab thing like this. I would dirty it with this kite, and besides, my guns might frighten it.

Wake yourself up man, you’ve got to land. Pity, I don’t want to land just yet today, it’s such a lovely morning. Oh, yes, permission to land. Radio again, you see. Can’t do without it. Must I go down? It’s good to be alive up here, but when I get on the deck things will be dull and ordinary. Now for landing. Where’s the runway? Curse this haze. Altitude, air speed. Right. Throttle back. Goodbye sky, I’ll be seeing you, and I hope you’ll still be feeling happy next time. Wheels and flaps down. So long, sky. Runway here I come. Altitude, air speed. Put the hood back, God, I nearly forgot. Just in case I prang, and why should I prang on a day like this? No crosswind and I know my kite.

Hey, what’s the red Very * for? There’s no obstruction on the runway. Well, I’d better open up. What’s it for though? Wheels and flaps up. Good God, I’ve only got one wheel down. I didn’t notice that , which comes of thinking about clouds. Now what am I going to do? I’ll try to put the wheels down again, and I hope they both go. Go down, wheel, go down, go down, Won’t you go down? No.

Now I’m properly in the mire. What shall I do? What can I do? I’d better put the wheel up and fly round and think about it. Oh hell, I haven’t put the props up yet. There, go up, blast you. Bloody good job something works anyway. Come on, wakey wakey or else you won’t get down all in one piece. What am I going to do? Shall I bale out? It’s the easiest way out, isn’t it? Or shall I land , and if so, how, with no wheels or one wheel? If I bale out I shall save myself but the kite will go down and I don’t know where it will land. Might hit a house and kill a lot of people, but if I land it at worst it will only kill one. But that one isn’t just ‘one’ to me, and I don’t want to die. Must I die anyway? If I land on the one wheel I can balance till I’m quite low and then I’ll tip over onto the wing , and if I do it on the grass it shouldn’t be so bad. Yes, that’s what I’ll do. I’ll land, right on the edge of the runway so that the wing will drop on the grass, or mud, which would be even better. What if I boob though? Suppose I bounce and get unsteady? I’ve had it then. I would be bashed into pieces, maybe burnt and killed. While I keep flying I am alright. My body is perfect, every muscle works properly. I am fit; able to run, jump, swim and do anything, but what shall I be like in a few minutes time? A nasty mess of blood, torn muscles and broken bones? Why should this happen to me on a lovely day like this. Eileen will be out with the kid, shopping. She doesn’t know anything about it. She mustn’t know; I must get down safely. I must, I must for her. I will do it.

Now for a careful straight approach. Right, I put the wheel down. O.K. Now straighten out and throttle back. Flaps. Watch airspeed and height. Keep yourself calm now. Here comes the runway. Give her a little rudder to get over to the edge. Careful, now. I’m down. Now hold her down. Gently, gently. Now hold tight. Here we go.

God, when will it stop scraping? Ah, the engine is still going even. I’m not hurt at all. Hell, what a relief. But I must get out in case the kite takes fire. Switch off everything. Oh, lovely earth, it’s good to feel you.

I didn’t make such a bad job of it after all, did I?

Ian Rowarth

Not to be reproduced without permission.


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The National Memorial Arboretum.

When a trip to the  National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire was suggested to our Red Hat group I was interested, having seen a Countryfile programme from there quite a while ago.
But even so, I had only vaguely understood the significance of this remarkable place.
Entry is free, and on arrival our coach was met by a volunteer member of staff who welcomed us and confirmed our reservation on the land train which tours the site.
It’s worth seeing the exhibition as you go in which gives an overview and information about the memorials. There are individual stories too, and a chance to record your own memory for others to hear. There’s a small charge for this, and here you also get a piece of audio equipment that you can use on your way round the Arboretum to hear information about particular memorials.

The train ride costs £5 and lasts 50 minutes. There’s a pre-recorded commentary and it stops twice on the route for anyone who wants to alight and visit adjacent memorials.
The site contains over 300 memorials of many different kinds. It doesn’t take long before a particular memorial gives your heart a jump of recognition and sorrow.
In addition to memorials for those who died while in the forces , for individual regiments and victims of battles, there are many other types, for example the Twin towers memorial , a road traffic accident memorial, a Stillbirth and Neonatal death charity (SANDS) memorial,and I was pleased to see a TOC H memorial TOC H  with its distinctive lamp as my Grandad Bill was a keen member.

There’s also a GCHQ memorial that, ironically, we couldn’t find. NB, do pick up a map as you enter; we didn’t!

The train continues slowly around the grounds, skirting the river Tame.
Of course there are the trees, over 40,000 of them of many different species. Individual trees have small plaques and there is an avenue of London plane and chestnuts dedicated to and funded by the police.
The War Widows wood was sponsored by those women who waited in vain for their men to return from conflict.
In the centre, and raised high on a mound, is the Armed Forces Memorial , dedicated to those who have been killed on duty or by terrorists since the end of World War 2.
To quote the guidebook ,”It is not just service men and women who have made sacrifices. Behind every name on the memorial there are the wives, husbands, partners, parents, children and colleagues who loved them and who live with the pain and consequences of their loss every day”.

After the train ride we had a couple of hours to look around, and I think I only saw a small proportion of the arboretum.
As it’s such lovely site with so many trees and flowers there were birds flying around; of particular note were the many pied wagtails.
Our Red Hat group attracted attention and questions about us as we wear our distinctive purple and red – we took in turns to answer!
There was also a visiting group of service veterans, dark jackets full of medals.
There’s a cafe, coffee shop, and also a chapel where a daily act of remembrance takes place, clean loos and a well stocked gift shop.
A heart warming and heart breaking place to visit. I would like to return and see what I missed on this visit.

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My Irish connection.


Dublin skyline.

I knew that my Mum’s family contained an Irish ancestor, but until I started doing family history research I didn’t know who it was.
It turned out to be Arthur Henry Conlan, who married my great great grandmother Annie Smith in 1875.
From censuses I found out that in 1881 Arthur, known as Harry, and Annie Conlan were living in Sudbury, Suffolk, not far from Annie’s parents Walter and Ann Smith. On the census it’s recorded that Harry was born in Ireland, but not where in Ireland.
All three of their children had already been born by 1881.They were Annie Emma Maud, my great grandmother, known as Maud, born in 1875, Walter Harold born 1876 and Ernest Arthur born 1880.
Harry was working for the Great Eastern Railway, and he had a set back in May 1882 according to the Bury and Norwich Post. The report says,
“Harry Conlan, a goods porter at Chappel station and formerly employed at Sudbury station, was shunting some trucks when we was knocked down and a wheel of a truck passed over his leg which was very much injured. He was removed to the Sudbury Hospital and the issue of this was his uncertain.”


Harry Conlan at Twyford.

Thankfully though injured he survived, and in 1891 he and Annie were living in Twyford, Norfolk. Harry is on the census as a ‘Railway Gate Man’. On this census his birthplace is stated as Ipswich, and 30 years have been added to their ages! His injury is noted in the last column, “( illegible in Railway Accident).”
Only Walter and Ernest were living at home; Maud was back in Sudbury living with her grandparents Walter and Ann, working as a drapers’ assistant.
In 1901 Harry and Annie were still in Twyford and Harry was still a Railway Gateman. On this census we have more information about his place of birth; County Dublin is specified.
No children were at home. Walter was boarding in a house in Sudbury, working as a commercial traveller.He worked for Slee & Co, vinegar brewers. Ernest was boarding in East Dereham, Norfolk, working as a railway porter.( He later became the chief inspector at Thorpe Railway station in Norwich.) Maud was also lodging, in Petersfield in Hampshire, still working as a draper’s assistant . She married Frederick Brett the following year.

Harry died in 1910, and is buried in Bury St Edmunds, (see previous blog post.) In 1911 Annie is living with Walter and his family in West Road, Bury, very close to the cemetery, in a house called Roscommon; a tantalising clue. Harry’s death certificate is in the name Henry Arthur Conlan.

So I found him through censuses and by his death certificate . I’ve been unable to find his birth certificate, and I doubt I will. In Ireland compulsory birth registration didn’t come in till after his birth. Even if he had had a certificate it could have burnt in the Public Record Office fire in 1922, which was housed in the Four Courts building by the Liffey,( more of that later.) I’ve been unable to find a baptismal record either.


Now, I had trouble finding Harry and Annie’s wedding record as well. I drew a blank until my cousin Evelyn came up with some helpful information.
A little more background so you know my relationship to Evelyn.

Frederick and Maud Brett had 5 children; Norah, my grandmother, Patricia, Bridget, Eileen, Evelyn’s mother, and Frederick Arthur, known as Arthur. So my mother Geraldine and Evelyn are cousins. Evelyn has family records and photographs passed on to her from her mother Eileen, which includes information about a judge from Dublin called Charles Harold Walker.
There is a photo of him – a serious elderly man, grey haired and wearing spectacles, a gown and an ornamental chain. On the back is written, presumably by Eileen, ,”Charles Harold Walker Q.C. of …Bray, Ireland…Great Grandfather.”



And tantalisingly, there is a letter to Maud (calling herself Mrs E. Walker Brett) from the secretary of the President of Ireland , written in December 1938. It reads, “I refer to your…proposed biography of your grandfather, the late Charles Harold Walker, Q.C., LL.D., and to express his Excellency’s opinion that you would get useful information from The National Library, Dublin…and the British Museum.” (No such biography has been found!)

So I looked for Harry and Annie’s marriage under the name Walker, and there they were. They married in London, at Christchurch, Greyfriars, Newgate. Arthur Henry Walker married Annie Smith on 9th January 1875; his father is named Charles Walker, profession not noted.

This is now my dilemma. Harry didn’t use the name Walker after his marriage as far as I can see. The family was known as Conlan, apart from in Maud’s letter quoted above.
Was Charles Walker Harry’s biological father, or was he unofficially adopted, or a ward?

Charles Harold Walker was born in Dublin between 1797 and 1807 according to censuses and Trinity college Dublin records. He achieved a BA then an MA then became LLB and LLD. He was a barrister at the Four Courts and I’ve found many references to him in local papers and in Griffith’s Valuation records.
In 1861 he was living in London with his wife Louisa (nee Moritz or Morris) and daughters Mary Ann, Emma and Frances Sophia. In 1871 Charles and Louisa were in Guernsey, but he died in Bray, near Dublin. While in Dublin I obtained a copy of his death certificate , which says he was born in 1804, and died in 1884 of ‘general decay’. Under this in the cause of death column it says ‘some years certified’ which I don’t understand. The death was registered by his daughter Emma, who still has the surname Walker.
I can find no official link between Arthur ‘Harry’ Conlan and Charles Harold Walker.
I will continue to search.

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Chasing the Toons.

When my Grandad (the family genealogist at the time) first met my husband, who came from Hinckley in Leicestershire, he asked him if he knew the Toons.

He did know some Toons, but it turned out they were the ‘wrong ones’ and we weren’t related to them.
The Toons were a well known family in Earl Shilton, close to Hinckley.
J. Toon and Sons Ltd, a large hosiery factory, was started by Job Toon in 1850.
Job had three sons Alfred, James and Carey Job and one daughter, Matilda. Alfred and James followed Job into the firm and took over control when he died in 1889.


Alfred married Alice Harriett Smith, a sister of my great great grandmother Annie, daughters of Walter and Ann Smith of Ballingdon cum Brundon on the Essex Suffolk border, as described in a previous blog post .
It intrigues me how these two met. As nearby Sudbury had, and still has, a silk weaving industry, I wonder if this silk supplied the Toon factory and somehow a connection was made.
But I found Alice on the 1881 census boarding in Leicester along with Selina Parmenter from Great Cornard , both putting their occupation as school mistress. They were lodging with a Mr and Mrs Nichols, and Mr Nichols was a hosier, so maybe that was how they came to know each other.
(My father’s mother was born in Leicester 17 years after this census and became a school mistress, but that’s another story and some potential Leicester research for me!)

Alfred and Alice had four boys and two girls. All four boys, Carey Job (another one!), Ronald, Stanley and Gordon, joined the family firm. All four fought in the Great War, and all four came home. Gordon married and had two daughters, but died in his 30’s as did his wife.
Ronald became a local councillor, having a road named after him, but died in 1939. According to his obituary in the Leicester Mercury, 13th March 1939, he ‘had been a leading figure in the life of the Hinckley district. He was chairman of the Hinckley council and a great friend to the poor.’


My aunt and cousin can remember attending the wedding of Carey’s daughter Jean, so at that time the different branches of the family were still in touch.

Alice, Alfred’s wife, died in 1917. I was surprised to find out that in 1918 Alfred married Alice’s younger sister Jessie. I did some research after a friend I told this to exclaimed that this was illegal, and discovered that it had been until the law was changed in 1907.

You’ll remember that old Job Toon had three sons? Well, back to James, who to my further surprise, married Alice and Jessie’s sister Frances in Sudbury in 1891. There must have been something about those Smith girls!

I wondered where they were all buried. Having had success in Bury St Edmunds, and having been moved by visiting my Conlan relative’s resting places (one being Annie nee Smith) I tried to find this out. Maybe they were in Hinckley’s huge Ashby Road cemetery, where Alan’s parents and grandparents are?
Hinckley council had no record of them. Nor did the Earl Shilton parish council, but they did say that here was a small burial ground behind the United Reformed Church, previously the Methodist chapel.
I knew the Toons were Methodists and that James Toon founded the local church. So I emailed the local Methodist circuit contact, who replied that he had forwarded my enquiry on to a member who is a Toon descendant.
It turns out that this lost cousin of mine, a granddaughter of Gordon, regularly visits these graves, and she sent me photos of the gravestones, confirming that all three Smith sisters are there.

We met on a very chilly morning, exchanging much family information. What an unexpected bonus to actually meet a previously unknown relative and fill in gaps in each other’s family history knowledge . She passed on to me a photocopy of a document produced in 1950 to celebrate ‘A Century of Hosiery Manufacture ‘ from which 3 of these illustrations are taken.

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Surprised by bricks!

While in Bury I spent a happy morning mooching in the Record Office.
I hadn’t ordered any documents and didn’t have any burning questions to answer.
So I just browsed the shelves and came across “Sudbury Survey – A history of the industries of Sudbury, Suffolk”, published in 1948. It comprised typewritten sheets clipped together, each section written by a different local person.

Having found my g x 3 grandparents on the censuses from 1851 to 1901 I knew that Walter was a brickworks foreman, then manager, in Sudbury.
So I was interested in the section in “Sudbury Survey” that covered the subject of bricks.
I learnt that in the mid 1800s there were 7 brickyards in that area, 2 where Walter lived in Ballingdon, the Victoria brickworks and Allen’s
Allen’s, the book told me, “…supplied the bricks for the Albert Hall and Kensington Museum, the bricks being transported by barge to Manningtree and transferred to London boats.”
Allen’s was in production from 1812 to 1939, employing 100 men. The local sand and brick earth produced 2 coloured bricks, the Red and the Brimstone or Suffolk White.


Several different coloured bricks on this house!

I really hoped that this was where Walter worked. This would have made an interesting section in my fictional Who Do You Think You Are programme!
So on to Sudbury from Bury St Edmunds, stopping off in the beautifully preserved village of Lavenham.

A bit of background:
Walter Smith was born in 1825, at midnight according to the wonderfully detailed information my cousin has passed on to me, the eldest son of Robert Valentine and Eleanor Smith of Clare, Suffolk. He had 6 sisters, though one died at 2 1/2 before he was born. His grandparents William and Mary lived I Dickleburgh, Norfolk.
Walter and Ann Smith married at All Saints church Sudbury on Christmas day 1849. Ann, nee Goody, had lived near the church. According to the 1841 census she lived in Church Street, All Saints parish with her parents Joseph and Harriatt Goody.
Walter and Ann had 12 children, two died as infants and one at 13. Annie, my 2 x g grandmother was the eldest of their children. Three other daughters married into the Toon family of Earl Shilton.



We stayed at the Mill Hotel in Sudbury, on the edge of town by the water meadows . We could see the tower of All Saints church from our room, and if the weather had been kinder we would have followed the riverside walk and over the bridge into Ballingdon.
As it was we explored the town, visiting the library, Heritage Centre, Gainsborough’s House and the Vanners silk factory shop before the heavens opened and we retreated to the comfort of the hotel.


I took the opportunity to search the newspaper archives on Find My Past to see what else I could find out about the brickworks and narrow down which one Walter worked at.
I was pleased to discover from the Bury and Norwich Post and Suffolk Standard June 5th 1888 that Walter was indeed the foreman at Allen’s brickworks, having worked there between 40 and 50 years at the time.
This information was in a report of the drowning of a young man who ferried workers across the river and Walter was a witness.

So we had an interesting time in Suffolk, finding out more about the family and exploring the countryside, and finding bricks much more interesting than I’d expected.

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