William and Alice Rowe: flaming torches, stinky fish and older years in 19C Cornwall pt4

On 20 June 1837 Queen Victoria became queen after the death of her uncle William IV.  At that time shoemaker William and Alice Rowe were settled with a large family in Street-an-Nowan, Newlyn, Cornwall. You can read the earlier part of their story here: Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.

That year their eldest son John, by then working as a mason, married Sarah Sampson in neighbouring Penzance; her father was a butcher with a shop and home on Market Jew Street.  In 1839 William and Alice became grandparents when Sarah and John had their first of eight children, Elizabeth.

On 6 June 1841 the census recorded shoemaker William and Alice living in Street-an-Nowan.  Grace and Alice were both at home and working as female servants; Patience (11) and Elizabeth (9-10) were still children.  Youngest child James wasn’t with his parents that evening.  I haven’t confirmed a location for eldest son John for that particular night but his family were living in neighbouring Penzance on Market Jew Street where his wife and daughter were living in her butcher father’s house.  Maybe he was away looking for work as a mason.


Tolcarne Inn, Newlyn

In June 1841 their oldest daughter Mary Ann had been a servant in the Tolcarne Inn over the Combe; on 21 May 1843 she married a fisherman called Thomas Rowe (no relationship known) in Paul Church.

Pigot’s Directory 1841 reported about Newlyn that in addition to fishing pilchards and mackerel “A valuable lead mine is in the parish, as are several chalybeate springs.  There are two annual fairs held here—on the first Tuesday in October and 8th November”.

Early in spring 1844 Alice became ill with Phithesis: ‘pulmonary tuberculosis or a similar progressive wasting disease’.

However there was happiness in summer 1844 when their daughter Alice Daniel Rowe married fisherman Bernard Victor in Trinity Wesleyan Chapel, Newlyn on 10 June. She moved to neighbouring Mousehole where Bernard lived and fished. Their oldest child, Gamaliel ‘Gift of God’ Victor was baptised on 24 November 1844 in Paul Church.  Bernard had an interest in the Cornish language and spoke with local old people to record words for posterity as the language was dying out.


Mousehole Harbour

Around about this time (c1844) William’s eldest son John and his young family moved to Wales for him to find work as a mason.

On 9 March 1845 Alice, William’s wife of 33 years and mother of his 9 children, died in Newlyn aged 51.  Their youngest son, James Daniel Rowe, was only 10 at that time.

In March 1851 William had his three daughters Grace, Patience and Elizabeth living with him in Foundry Lane, Street-an-Nowan. Grace had become a straw bonnet maker, so perhaps she’d enjoyed working with her father as a girl and/or preferred making bonnets to being a female servant as she had been ten years before. Patience and Elizabeth were still living at home but with no profession recorded.  Youngest son James was working on the Brittania fishing boat in neighbouring Mousehole.

That was the year of the Great Exhibition at Chrystal Palace London.  A local woman, 84-year-old Mary Kelynack of Tolcarne, became famous nationally by walking nearly 300 miles to London to see the Exhibition, carrying a basket on her head.  There she met the Lord Mayor and took tea – preferring that to wine – with the Lady Mayoress; she was presented with a sovereign.   She was also presented to Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.


Paul Church

Two years later William’s daughter Patience Daniel Rowe married mariner Thomas Tonkin Tremethick on 23 January 1853 in Paul Church; William’s first Tremethick grand-child Joe was born on 8 December 1853.

A curious midsummer custom went on in Mount’s Bay in June[1]. On 23 and 28 June tar barrels were lit and flaming torches swung in the streets.  Bonfires were lit in Marazion, the Mount, Newlyn and Mousehole so the Bay “glows with a girdle of flame”.  Young people played ‘Thread-the-needle’ along the streets:  “Lads and lasses join hands, and run furiously through the streets, vociferating “An eye – an eye – an eye!” at length they suddenly stop, and the two last of the string, elevating their clasped hands, form an eye to this enormous needed, through which the thread of populace runs, and thus they continue to repeat the game until weariness dissolves the union.” Unsurprisingly the following day was a lot quieter, with people idling with music on the water (called ‘having a pen’orth of sea’).”


Boase Street, Newlyn, with mid-path drain

Newlyn at the time may have been scenic but smelt rather overwhelming[2]:  “They are a colony of fisherman, with narrow paved lanes, glistening with pilchard scales in the season – with external staircases and picturesque interiors, of which glimpses are obtained through an open doorway or window.”   However they “may call to mind the semi-barbarous habitations of some foreign countries – such as Spain. The perfume of garlic fills the air, and other odours not so sweet hasten the step of the traveller. These arise from little enclosures which front every cottage door. They are neatly bordered with stones or shells, and consist – not of a flower-bed, but of a dunghill, formed chiefly of the refuse of fish, in which the process of decay is hastened by the activity of many unhappy-looking fowls and pigs.”

On 7 October 1859 William’s youngest son James Daniel married Catherine Jaco. She was a Newlyn girl and the daughter of Master Mariner Benjamin Jaco.  They had the first of their 8 children in January 1860, Benjamin Jaco Rowe [my ancestor].

A few weeks later William became a great-grandfather when John’s oldest daughter Elizabeth had a daughter out of wedlock in Wales – she and the baby’s father Phillip Tripp later married in Madron on 20 March 1862.


Looking up Foundry Lane

On 2 April 1861 William, still working as a shoemaker, was living at 2 Foundry Lane, in the Street-an-Nowan area of what is now Newlyn. His dressmaker daughter Grace was still living at home with him.  Another daughter, Patience D Tremethick, was living next door at number 3 with her merchant mariner husband Thomas and their five young children; the oldest being 7 and the youngest just 10 months old.

Oldest son John had been widowed in the early 1860s and he remarried on 17 December 1865 in Madron; his wife was a widow called Cecilia Paynter Stevens who had children of her own and lived for a few years in New Zealand.  Around 1866 John’s daughter Elizabeth and her husband Philip Tripp moved away; she died, he put two youngest boys in an orphanage where they lived for many years until the family tracked down the surviving son.

In 18 Sep 1867 his grand-daughter Mary Wright Victor [Alice and Bernard’s oldest daughter] married naval carpenter Edward Albert Kelynack in Newlyn St Peter. Mary stayed in Newlyn for the first years of her marriage while Edward was away at sea, living with her aunt, bonnet-maker Grace Daniel Rowe, William’s second daughter.

William saw his grandson Joe Tremethick start with the West Cornwall Railway in Penzance in 1868; Joe ended up working his way round England with the Great Western Railway.


Paul Cemetery

William died on 15 December 1869 of old age and exhaustion. His caring eldest child Mary Ann Rowe was present at his death and she registered his death the following day.[3]  He was recorded as 81, although on balance of the evidence of baptisms and the 1841 census he was probably only 76.  William was buried on 19 December in Paul Cemetery up above Newlyn.

Words and photos © Lynne Black, 1 October 2016

[1] Murray’s Handbook for Devon and Cornwall 1859, P185

[2] Murray’s Handbook for Devon and Cornwall 1859, P189

[3] Death certificate 1869, Penzance registration district, Cornwall, entry 494.


William and Alice Rowe: shoemaking, family, storms and wrestling in 19C Cornwall pt3

William and Alice, both born c1793, grew up in West Penwith district, just a few miles from Lands End, Cornwall. You can read the story of Williams’ childhood in
William Rowe 1793 pt1: Boyhood in a poor Cornish fishing town and their early married life here in part 2: William Rowe, Cordwainer of Newlyn and Alice Daniel of Sancreed.

Photo of Foundry Lane, Newlyn

Foundry Lane, Street-an-Nowan, Newlyn

William and Alice’s son and fourth child James was baptised on 16 June 1822 but died young. Their daughter Alice was baptised on 31 October 1824 and sixth child Thomas was baptised 19 August 1827. Next came Patience Daniel who was baptised on 15 March 1830, all were baptised in Paul Church.

Times continued to be hard for the ordinary people; the summer of 1823 was a wet one with the rain delaying the gathering in of hay and beating down corn so it would not ripen.  However signs were good for the pilchard harvest.

In April 1827 there was the ‘melancholy circumstance’ when ‘A very fine and fast-sailing-fishing-smack, named the Blucher… manned by six men and a boy’ left Newlyn for Bristol but the weather worsened; they were heading for Padstow but the smack and her crew were lost when the boat ran onto the Dunbar Sands and “Five widows and eighteen children are left to lament the disastrous event that has deprived them of their natural protectors; the unfortunate deceased were all men of excellent character”.[1]

On Monday 24 September 1827 there was local excitement when a wrestling championship was held in a field on the Newlyn-Penzance road with two champion wrestlers “Mr [John] Polkinghorne, the champion of England, and Mr Richard Saundry, in his day the champion of the west, were the well-chosen umpires.”

The very enthusiastic Morning Chronicle reporter wrote that “At twelve o’clock the sight was very imposing – some thousands of the most athletic young men that the world can produce (each of whom would have honoured Leonidas at the Straits of Thermopylae, Bonaparte in passing the Bridge of Lodi, or even Wellington himself in the battle of Waterloo), seated or standing in perfect silence and order, and with intense interest, to witness and participate in a sport for which their ancestors were so justly renowned.  It was impossible for any man, deserving that name, to behold the spectacle of so many manly youths assembled on such an occasion, without emotions of admiration and delight, and without congratulating himself as belonging to the species.  It was a sight and occasion, as connected with the maintenance of strength, courage and agility, among the people, worthy the countenance, presence, encouragement, and support of Majesty itself.”[2]

Another heavy storm in Mounts Bay was reported in November 1828 and the Dove broke its moorings and made for Newlyn: “A boat was launched at Newlyn, but only three persons could be found to venture out; these were Mr Pearce, the agent for Lloyd’s at Penzance; Lieut. Hearle of the Preventive Service at Mousehole, and Mr Nicholas, carpenter of the Dove, who was on shore on duty.  This being the case, the boat could not be got off, and the spectators hastened to the beach, where the crew of the Dove strove to get a line on shore but were unable to do so, in consequence of the offset of the waves.

“The fisherman brought the ropes of their nets, and after great efforts, a rope was thrown on board by Mr Pearce, at the eminent risk of his life.  The connexion once secured, other ropes were got from the vessel to the shore, and in about half an hour the whole of the crew were rescued from their perilous situation.  Lieut. Stocker was the last person who left the vessel.  As it was supposed that one of the crew was missing, Mr Pearce volunteered to go on board to see for him, which hazardous enterprize he effected, having been twice washed from the gunwhale by the tremendous sea that was running.  No person being visible, he returned, and afterwards it was ascertained that all the crew were safe.”[3]

On 26 Jun 1830, in his gilded world, George IV died and his brother became William IV.

Meanwhile back in Newlyn, in December 1830, another storm pounded Newlyn and the Sherborne Mercury reported that “Gwavas Quay, the road of communication between Street-on-Nowan [SIC] and Newlyn Town [the two parts of what’s now Newlyn] is quite beaten down, and the road from Penzance to Tolcarne has been overflowed in such a manner as to be rendered totally impassable.”[4]

William and Alice’s daughter Elizabeth was baptised on 5 December 1832 and their ninth and final child, my ancestor James Daniel Rowe, was baptised on 30 March 1835 in Paul Church.

The final part of William and Alice’s story is written here.

Words and photos © Lynne Black, 14 August 2016

[1] Bell’s Life in London and Sporting Chronicle – Sunday 15 April 1827, P1, BNA

[2] Morning Chronicle – Tuesday 02 October 1827, P3, BNA

[3] North Devon Journal – Thursday 27 November 1828, P3, Col 4, BNA

[4] Morning Post – Thursday 09 December 1830, P4, Col 4, BNA

Photo of Newlyn Beach, Cornwall

William Rowe, Cordwainer of Newlyn and Alice Daniel of Sancreed pt2

Shoemaker William Rowe of Street-an-Nowan [Newlyn], Cornwall, married Alice Daniel, a blacksmith’s daughter from neighbouring Sancreed parish, on Saturday 17 October 1812 in Paul Parish Church up above Newlyn.  See Part 1 of his story here.

Alice was expecting the first of their nine known children, Mary Ann Rowe.  They baptised Mary Ann on Sunday 17 January 1813 in Paul Church, and got on with settling in to life as a young family.


Sancreed Church exterior

On 19 January 1817 a hurricane raged which destroyed some of the foundation stones of neighbouring Penzance’s pier and injured much of its dry dock.  ‘It being a spring tide the water rose an unusual height; the green between Penzance and Newlyn was torn up, and the soil in several places washed away’ and ‘at Newlyn and Mousehole on the west, and at Marazion on the east, the effects were dreadfully felt’[1] [Some things do not change; the green between Penzance and Newlyn was torn up as recently as February 2014.]  ‘The sea rose mountains high and impelled by the wind, went up much further on land than ever remembered. The may-pole at Marazion, which had, for many years, braved the fury of the storm, was washed away, with the cliff whereon it stood.  The back premises of the Commercial Inn were through down, and a fine cow carried out to sea.’

Photo of Newlyn, Old Harbour, at low tide

Newlyn, Old Harbour, low tide

‘The greatest sufferers are the poor fisherman of Newlyn and Mousehole; the boats which were hauled up beyond high water mark, being dashed to pieces.  Many of the boats for the mackerel and ling fishery were fitted up: the loss to the poor fisherman will be almost irreparable, as the season will soon commence and they cannot provide new boats. At Street-Nowan [SIC] near Newlyn, many houses have been washed down.’[2] Street-an-Nowan, the lower part of Newlyn, is likely to have been the area in which William, Alice and baby Mary lived so they must have been terrified.

In 1811 Prince George had become Prince Regent and I’ve found a couple of intriguing references to his domestic situation and the reaction of the people of Newlyn; they seem to have favoured his wife, the colourful and popular Caroline of Brunswick.

On 28 Jan 1817 the Prince Regent was on his way to open Parliament when there was an assassination attempt.[3] On 2 August 1817 the Royal Cornwall Gazette published a letter to him with a long list of names of men across the area, swearing loyalty to him and repeating “assurances of our loyal and unalterable Attachment; and to express our Indignation at, and Abhorrence of, the late treasonable Attack on the Sacred Person of your Royal Highness…..”

However William and Alice’s would have been busy following the birth of their second child: their first son John Rowe was born in Newlyn and baptised 24 August 1817 in Paul Church.

On Tuesday 7 July there was a shocking event in Newlyn reported widely and “witnessed by several hundreds of spectators.  At Newlyn, near Penzance, a swarm of bees suddenly alighted on a boy’s head, and remained there for a considerable time.  The boy, almost terrified to death, was required to smoke tobacco, to preserve him from being injured.  In the mean time a hive was procured and held over his head for some time; when by degrees the bees all entered it, without inflicting the least injury on the boy.”

Later that year, in November 1817, there was mourning in the country when Princess Charlotte, popular only child of the Prince Regent and Princess Caroline died in labour, giving birth to a stillborn son.

William and Alice’s second daughter, Grace Daniel Rowe, was born on Tuesday 7 December 1819 in Newlyn.  She was the only family member to be baptised a Wesleyan Methodist; the baptism took place on 7 January 1821. This was the first time William’s trade was recorded: he was a shoemaker.

At that time the road from Penzance to Newlyn, hurricanes permitting, “was over a level green about a mile in length, passing through the village of Street-an-Nowan, which contains about 300 inhabitants; in it there is a respectable meeting-house belonging to the Methodists, where divine service is regularly performed; there is also in this village a Sunday School for poor children.”[4]

In November 1820 [now] Queen Caroline was found innocent of charges of infidelity brought against her by her husband, [now] King George IV and Newlyn erupted in joy:  “Last night’s mail having announced the joyful tidings of the Queen’s victory over her vile accusers, this morning was ushered in by the display of flags of almost every description at the mast heads of the different vessels in this port, and on poles in many parts of the town and the neighbouring villages of Newlyn and Mousehole.  Subscriptions have been entered into for defraying the expenses of bonfires, tar barrels, &c and at this moment there may be seen on the opposite hill, over Newlyn, a quantity of tar barrels, reflecting their vivid flames in the mirror of water below, whilst on the rocks, near the shore, bonfires innumerable blaze up and enliven the scene.
“Long live Queen Caroline,” – “Queen Caroline for ever,” – may be seen on almost every hat, and in every varied form and colour, whilst parties, preceded by music, parade the streets, and rend the air by their acclamations of “Long live Queen Caroline.”  A requisition has been made to the Mayor, to illuminate the town on Wednesday night, and several large dinner parties have already formed at the hotel, and the respectable Inns, to celebrate the glorious 10th of November, in a manner that may not be unworthy the great victory that day obtained by her most gracious Majesty Queen Caroline.”[5]
Queen Caroline died in August following year; she had been denied entry to Westminster Abbey for the Coronation held the month before on 19 July 1821.

Please see my next post for the next part of William and Alice’s story: William and Alice Rowe: shoemaking, family, storms and wrestling in 19C Cornwall pt3
Words and photos © Lynne Black, 7 August 2016

[1] The History of Mount’s Bay, comprising Saint Michael’s Mount, Marazion, Penzance, Mousehole and &c &cm 1820, pp48-50, Internet Archive

[2] Exeter Flying Post – Thursday 30 January 1817, P4, Col 3, via BNA


[4] The History of Mount’s Bay, comprising Saint Michael’s Mount, Marazion, Penzance, Mousehole and &c &cm 1820, P63, Internet Archive

[5] Morning Chronicle – Friday 17 November 1820, P3, Col 3, Accessed via BNA



Photo of Newlyn Harbour from Newlyn Beach, Cornwall

William Rowe 1793 pt1: Boyhood in a poor Cornish fishing town

photo of Paul Church

Paul Church

William Rowe was born c1793 in Newlyn, Paul Parish, in the West Penwith area of Cornwall.  He was the second son of labourer James Rowe and his wife Patience (nee Rodda).[1]  William was baptised aged 2-3 on 29 Mar 1795 in Paul Parish Church[2].  His was the first generation to be born in Paul Parish; his parents were from St Buryan parish.

I’ve found two brothers and a sister for William: James was baptised on 3 October 1790 and Ann was baptised on 23 September 1792.  However she died in infancy and was buried on 8 June 1793. Younger brother Thomas Rodda Rowe was baptised on 13 January 1802, all in Paul Parish Church.

William’s childhood years were those of the French Revolution, of war with France and the Regency. During those wars a battery was located on the road between Newlyn and Mousehole “forming a great security to the Bay, from enemy’s ships, or privateers, should any of them be induced to visit any part of it.  Adjoining to this battery stands a furnace for the purpose of making shot red hot.  During the war, this battery was governed by a small party of the royal artillery.”[3]

Times were hard in West Penwith and when he was about 7 in 1801 the family would have been hungry as a result of the high price of wheat.  It was reported in the London Courier and Evening Gazette on 20 April 1801 that in St Austell, 40 miles away, the tinners had tried forcing farmers to sell it at an affordable price by threatening to put nooses round farmers’ necks until they signed a document promising to sell it at an affordable rate; but they were taken into custody at St Mawes. In Helston the Volunteer Cavalry found it hard to keep order until most of the local farmers came forward and promised to sell wheat the following Saturday at ‘two guineas, and barley at one guinea the bushel’.

In Penzance two Newlyn men petitioned the Mayor that he reduce the prices in Newlyn; but when he chose not to listen they ‘assembled on their own authority’.  The constables and military were called out and further ‘mischief was prevented’ but the disturbances kept many country people away from selling their goods at the markets.[4]

In 1806 there was a call for designs for a bridge across the small river Coombe in Newlyn which divided the Paul and Madron parishes. The bridge was to ‘to contain in length about seventy feet and in breadth about eighteen feet ’. Designs were due to be considered at the General Quarter Sessions of the Peace in January 1807 with the target for completion 6 October 1807.

In October 1809 there was a huge gale, and the ‘L’Eole, a French prize to the Surveillante and Medusa frigates, laden with salt, &c, arrived in the Mount’s Bay a few days ago, and being driven by the gale from Gwavas Lake, ran for Newlyn Pier, but got upon the rocks, where she now lies’ and it was doubtful she could be rescued as the gale still continued.

Photo of altar of Paul Parish Church

Paul Parish Church

In August 1812 a good crop of potatoes, was reported, which coupled with a good haul of pilchards and hake, ‘greatly relieved the poor in Cornwall from the pressure occasioned by the high price of corn’.[5]

So it would have been on a slightly fuller stomach that William married Alice Daniel, a blacksmith’s daughter from neighbouring Sancreed parish, on Saturday 17 October 1812 in Paul Parish Church up above Newlyn.

Their story continues here: William Rowe, Cordwainer of Newlyn and Alice Daniel of Sancreed

Words and photos © Lynne Black, 31 July 2016


[1] A DOB for William of c1788 DOB is indicated by his death certificate and the 1851 & 1861 censuses. However even though they match, I believe that William was the third child and not the first, given his baptism year 1795 and the fact he was stated on the 1841 census as being 50. Age at marriage isn’t indicated in the record.

[2] Paul Baptism registers accessed via Cornwall OPC website and FindMyPast

[3] The History of Mount’s Bay, comprising Saint Michael’s Mount, Marazion, Penzance, Mousehole and &c &cm 1820, pp75-76, Printed and sold by J Thomas, via Internet Archive

[4] London Courier and Evening Gazette – Monday 20 April 1801, P3, Col 2, via BNA

[5] Caledonian Mercury – Saturday 09 February 1811, p2, col 1, Lloyds’ Marine List, Feb 5th


Meeting the Ancestors too early: Genealogy vs Healthy Living

exercise-posterI work with several public health researchers and colleagues who are generally healthy and sporty. I, a sedentary secretary, am not. I frequently see new public awareness films, infographics such as this one, healthy living campaigns and awareness-raising: doing X minutes of exercise per day can reduce your chances of cancer and/or diabetes and/or heart disease by 30%.  And I share the information with others and continue sitting at my desk.

Genealogy, my winter hobby, doesn’t help at all to change this.  I tend to come down early at the weekends when the house is quiet and just spend some time searching and writing my ancestors’ stories. I don’t live near the places I am researching so can’t conveniently walk down to the archives or stroll round the cemeteries looking for graves.  And as all the information I have access to is online, it doesn’t get me healthy.

However some of the health awareness must be sinking in, as last year I bought my beloved standing desk off a colleague.  Its name is Ergotron (obviously with a name like that it’s a male desk). I have found that I get hungrier more quickly and am taking from that experience that it’s speeding up my digestive process, like removing a kink from a hose, so that’s one quick and obvious indication that I’m doing something right.  It’s not meant to be used for long periods instead of sitting, as that can lead to different ailments such as varicose veins, but instead for the user to vary between sitting and standing fairly often.


Step Count Challenge trophy 2016 – oh yeah🙂

We all die in the end, and being dead doesn’t scare me, but I would like to put off dying for a few more decades thank you very much.  So this spring when several colleagues in my work area formed teams for a walking challenge – the Step Count Challenge  run by Paths For All – I was super-keen and very organised about raising my daily walking totals.  And with dedication and good company (and good views like the photo of my local Ochil Hills) I lost half a stone in two months just by walking more.  And really got to know my colleagues a lot more, which was really nice.

I had been really ashamed prior to the start of the challenge about my almost total lack of activity at the weekends, and now this Challenge has finished I continue to make a point of going for a walk on both Saturdays and Sundays, even if only trudging round the shops. And I find that I have more energy on Mondays as a result and can usually bounce off to Zumba quite the thing.  There is a shorter version of the spring challenge this autumn and I have friends who hadn’t come across the spring one who now interested in trying it.

So I plan to keep walking and getting fitter. So much better to discover ancestors’ lives through census returns than to communicate with current family by knocking three times at a séance!

© Lynne Black, 18 July 2016

John Ernest Victor, from Devon to the USA, to the Somme

John Ernest Victor was born in Devonport in 1890, the sixth child of John Victor and Eliza Crewes. His father was a Cornwall-born hammer-man in the docks and Eliza was the daughter of a carpenter. They’d already lost a son and daughter, and their next daughter also died young, they had a further daughter, Eliza May, so John would have grown up with four sisters about the house.

Blue-eyed, brown-haired John Ernest saw his older sisters settle down, and became an uncle. He became a plumber and gas fitter apprentice.  In 1907, aged 17, he attested into the Royal Garrison Artillery Territorial Force (Devonshire RGA unit); he still had 3 years and 9 months to complete on his apprenticeship at that point. He became a Gunner with the RGA and received annual training on the Maker Heights and the Staddon Heights.

In 1911 when he was 21 he joined the Royal Navy.  He served on the Vivid (the cadet ship I believe rather than the Naval base), but in November 1911 was invalided and spent four months in Plymouth Hospital.  I’m love to know the background to these intriguing remarks, perhaps about a gratuity: 10/- Grat. for raising/saving the Vivid” Nov 1911.


Naval discharge notes for John Ernest Victor, 1911

John left hospital in March 1912 and perhaps fancied a new start as in July he headed for New York on the White Star Line’s Majestic.

I had previously lost track of his story, but I was contacted in June 2016 by my distant cousin Chris.

In 1914 after the start of the First World War John returned to England.  He traveled to Glasgow via Londonderry on the Caledonia where he enlisted into the Essex Regiment. He served as a Lance Corporal in the 9th Battalion.

Exactly a hundred years ago today, on 3 July 1916, John Ernest Victor died in action on the third day of the Battle of the Somme.  He is commemorated at the Thiepval Memorial. There is a commemorative page here.

Grateful thanks to Chris for getting in touch and sharing John’s story.

Lynne Black, 3 July 2016



EU Referendum 2016: A twist in our timeline

Often when I’m thinking about my ancestors, preparing to tell their stories, I wonder about how they reacted to society’s changes, how they heard what was about to happen, and how they felt when it did.

Well the morning after Britain’s EuroRef vote, I know that if they’re anything like me they’ll feel dazed.  We’re at one of those key story turns in these isles’ history, 1603, 1649 and 1660, 1707, 1745, 1838, 1901, 1914, 1939 and now 2016.

After all the bile, paranoia and deceit which bubbled up in the UK, after the some politicians’ factless assertions and downright lies about the legal position and [lack of] plan for the future, after the wilful political disregard and trashing of informed expert opinion and advice, and of murder, the day after the election has arrived.  It does make me wonder why the hell we bother with election predicting and opinion polls.

This YouTube film is really interesting, I wish this had been shown instead of endless shouty debates: Professor Michael Dougan on the EU Referendum as he spelled out the anticipated timelines in the event the UK votes to Leave in a really clear way.

The Leave campaign were reported on Twitter last night as conceding, Boris Johnson was looking more rueful and tousled than usual and Nigel Farage looked grim.  I saw journalists were begging witnesses to this to phone them to report their account so that the news can be driven by 140 characters and a photo.

And now the result has been confirmed as Leave and David Cameron will be stepping down as PM in October.

So what now?

The break up of the United Kingdom I believe.  With the SNP having issued a statement about the votes cast within Scotland it is only a matter of time before IndyRef 2 is announced and the nation votes again to stay with either Europe as an equal state or be governed by millionaires in Westminster and treated as a partner they don’t respect but don’t want to lose. Well, that’s my take on it, we’ll see what happens.

Emergency laws will be re-written without normal  parliamentary process as our recent legal system is written allowing for EU law.  The UK Government had already quietly announced a bill for this Parliament during the Queen’s Speech but not yet picked up by satirists (as far as I’ve seen) chipping back at citizens’ rights, which Amnesty are flagging up.

The rights of ordinary people will be chipped away, and eventually risk being handed to the tender mercies of global corporations through the evil which is TTIP.

To quote Queen Amidala of Star Wars: “So this is how liberty dies. With thunderous applause.”

So already the shock is wearing off, without the enormity of the vast changes ahead sinking in I suspect, and my brain is clicking through various ways of coping, Plan A, Plan Chalk, Plan Cheese, Plan Random.

And at some point soon I will need to buy a TV after I’ve thrown something handy at all the smug faces which are about to parade across it.

But, like my ancestors I suspect, I would like stability, I would like a job and I would like to pay my bills. Some priorities don’t really change that much.

© Lynne Black, 24 June 2016