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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Paying my respects to the Conlans.


Following a family wedding in Norfolk we extended our visit by returning to Suffolk.
We stayed at the Premier Inn in Bury again, conveniently located opposite the Record Office.
On the Sunday morning I attended the morning service at St Mary’s, a five minute walk from the hotel, a church where some of my Brett and Wade ancestors were married  and probably attended.

I had a very warm welcome. The vicar’s wife sat with me and chatted away, and the couple in the pew in front turned and spoke to me several times.
I enjoyed the service though I didn’t know any of the hymns.
Sunday afternoon I walked to the cemetery in order to find the graves of Arthur, Annie and Walter Conlan.
I had been unsure about how to find the grave locations, but an online enquiry to the Bury St Edmunds council started a friendly correspondence with Sue who gave me the information I needed.
Helpfully, she listed the names on the adjacent plots in addition to the grave and compartment numbers.

The map at the Kings Road entrance to the cemetery is ‘upside down’ as you look at it, i.e. You are standing at the top of the map. It took a passing visitor and a helpful ex cemetery employee who looked over his fence to orientate me . With this help I stated my search for the graves.
Arthur, listed as Henry (his middle name) and Annie share a common , or unpurchased plot, along the boundary wall of West Road.

As no family live in Bury now, it’s unsurprising that the plot is in poor repair. It’s surrounded by stone, which is inscribed with their names and dates they ‘fell asleep’, Arthur in 1910 and Annie in 1924. Arthur’s name here is Harry, the name the family called him. ( A man of many names; a different story!)
Walter, their son, lies very close to them, just the other side of a path. He died in 1936 and is in a double plot by himself, as his son Harold bought the plot for both parents but his mother Elizabeth moved away, to where I haven’t discovered.
Sue at the council suggested the council could purchase the vacant plot from us, but as Harold didn’t marry or have children as far as we know, and as I’m not directly descended from him, it’s an offer we can’t take up.
Walter’s plot is also surrounded by stone, and there is a vase within it.
I had taken a table decoration from the wedding reception which I divided into three and placed them on the graves.


It felt good to visit.
Having done this I walked up West Road and found number 40 where Walter and Elizabeth had lived with Harold and their two daughters. Annie and Harry/ Arthur also lived there towards the end of their lives.
They called their house Roscommon. I take this as a clue to our Conlan ancestry, though as yet I have no proof!

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Why I Love Milton Keynes

I love this blog post from my daughter Erin on the event of Milton Keynes’ 50th birthday. You hope that your children will be happy in the place you’ve chosen to bring up your family and I’m so glad she’s liked it enough to stay.

Musings of a So-Called Shutterbug

Milton Keynes is celebrating its 50th birthday today so I thought I’d share some of the reasons why this New City is a place I love!

I have lived here for most of my life (bar 2/3 years somewhere in the middle where I lived just outside) and even though it’s been the butt of people’s jokes, I still firmly believe it’s an awesome place to live. Here’s why:

  • Milton Keynes was built a New City, with the environment, industry and lifestyle in mind. It has excellent links to London (be there on the train in less than an hour), redways (paths that run alongside or under the main roads, tarmacked in red) that allow you to travel through the town on bike or by foot almost completely without having to brave dangerous dual carriageways.


  • The buses have always and probably still are unashamedly always late. You might as well burn the timetables…

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Number project.

Well, mission accomplished!
When I started this number project over two years ago I had no idea how long it would take me to find numbers from 1 to 100. I suspected I might never finish it!
To start with I wanted to photograph the numbers exactly in order and if I’d continued that way I dread to think how long it would have taken.
I began to see ‘juicy’ numbers that I hadn’t yet reached and so bent my rules a bit so I could grab any within the next group of ten.
This was soon abandoned and I begun to collect any good photos and kept them by.
The prize for the most frustrating number goes to 61. As I related,  here , I  caught a 61 bus in Birmingham which crawled through the twilight and the traffic so it was dark and I was late when I alighted. So I missed my opportunity!
I have been overly excited to spot a number that I’ve been searching for, and at times it was hard to explain to the friends I was with exactly why! It has been frustrating too, when that longed for number just didn’t appear. I’ve also missed a number or two due to embarrassment , such as the clutch of table numbers behind the counter of the Waitrose café. Didn’t have the nerve to get my camera out!
It’s been an interesting project though and I know I’m going to continue to spot numbers; I just won’t photograph them!

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