Category Archives: Glover

Recording a Family Autobiography

This June, just as we came out of lockdown, my mother was taken ill.  It turns out that she must have been ill for many months, but after seeing hardly anyone since late March, the change in her health and colouring appeared drastic when her sister-in-law dropped off some food for her.

Mary Brown

Tests and examinations were started but we knew from the start that things were looking bad.  Even before we received confirmation of the test results my brother and I were making arrangements to join her at her home in Cornwall for her last few weeks, me from Scotland and my brother from his new posting in the Gulf. 

Everyone from work had been working remotely since March in any case, so I spoke with my very supportive bosses and we agreed that I would be working mornings at my mum’s house and using up annual leave in the afternoons.  So I bought a monitor, arranged for internet access to be installed, and my husband made a 1,200 mile round trip from Scotland to drop me off.

My brother and I managed two treasured weeks with Mum at her home before she went into a local hospice.

On my first day down she surprised me by saying that she wanted me to type up her story.  Fine, I’m a secretary and a family historian, so I’m glad both came together for something so important.

Mum was a great organiser of parties and get-togethers, so had several occasional tables.  One of these was just the right size for me to get my legs under and to hold a laptop and mouse (I hate those curser squares laptops have!) and I was ready. I felt like a court stenographer, sitting at my little table.

We started at the very beginning, for, as the song goes, it’s a very good place to start.  I think that Mum had assumed she would focus more on her career and family, although just having her voice heard was of huge importance to her as she hasn’t always had the opportunity to speak her views and thoughts. 

Mary c.1947

However, I had so many questions about her childhood that I wrote pages about that.  What did she and her friends do after school?  Where did she play? What were her favourite things? What did her school uniform feel like? What was her favourite food?  How did her family celebrate Christmas? She eventually said in exasperation “Why are you so interested in this? It’s not interesting! I want to move on now.  No-one is interested in this!”  My brother and I said in unison “Yes we are!”  I told her I was going to Laurie-Lee her.

So Mum went on to tell me about her University days at London then Oxford, and her early jobs and holidays, her holidays pre-marriage and of married life with children in Norwich, her second career as a civil servant and computer programmer, the next stage of her life after separation from my dad, her love of badminton and walking.  She spoke of her return to Cornwall and the initial struggle to re-establish a social life which maintaining her love of culture and quenching her thirst for art, history and poetry, and for exploring new places.

Please do check out the story of Mum’s childhood in the Cornish fishing town of Newlyn: Memories of a Newlyn Childhood by Mary Brown.

After two weeks Mum was getting frail and in need of constant care and pain management, so when the place at St Julia’s Hospice came up she accepted it straight away.  She was keen to keep on with her story so I took along an A4 pad and a shorthand pencil and made notes leaning on the edge of her bed which I would type up in the evening before we moved on to the next stories.  It was also useful to have to make notes of what we were still to talk about in the time we had together, which was clearly running out fast as she was almost too weak to talk. 

We finished her story up to 9 months previously, when she had turned 80.  I could do that last part myself as I’d been at the week-long(!) get-together for family and closest friends which she arranged in a Norfolk cottage we hired for a week.  So instead I asked her about her favourite things, TV and radio programmes and their theme tunes, favourite music and artistes, the many places she’s been on holiday, about being a grandparent, her favourite perfumes and clothes shops and actors she’d seen on stage, which included Laurence Olivier.  Later when she was too weak to talk I read poetry to her, which might not have occurred to me if she hadn’t told me how important it was to her, and my brother read extracts from walking holiday guidebooks she’d used over the course of many happy holidays.

Mum passed away on 5th August and was buried on 18th August, and I went home a couple of days later.  Over the next two months I scanned more than 550 photographs and edited her story.  It came to about 50 pages, of which 10 were her school days.

If you’re thinking of doing this for relatives, hopefully without the pressing deadline, these are some points I would suggest both from writing mum’s story and from wider experience chatting to family:

  • Ask open questions, eg “What was it like?” rather than “Did you like it?”
  • Random questions like “What did it smell like?” can give unexpected results and give context not recorded by history books.
  • Be aware that some issues are too painful or shameful for older relatives to think about; they are not obliged to share everything private.
  • Don’t beat yourself up if you can’t remember quite what was said.  There came a point where I thought “I can’t read this sentence of notes, but I don’t think it’s essential to the paragraph”.
  • Record it if you can but after bereavement it may be very hard to hear your loved one’s voice for a long time.
  • You can keep it chronological; alternatively think about structuring what was said into themes, eg school days, festivals and celebrations, the war.
  • Have the first page as a simple title and ideally a photo of your family member or their home, don’t just launch into pages of text.
  • Share your work so it’s not lost to posterity, even if it’s just a family shared Cloud space like OneDrive.  Consider saving in in several formats.   A paper copy does not require superseded technology unlike eg a video does.  Even the large blog sites might not exist forever and their content may be lost. Some professions might have dedicated archives, eg teaching, nursing and military archives.  Other biographies may sit well in a local place archive (Mum’s is stored in Newlyn Archive) or family history society, or as part of a one-place study.

But above all, don’t leave it too late. I learnt so much about my mum but didn’t get much chance to actually discuss it with her.

Words and images copyright Lynne Black, First published on starryblackness blog, 22 November 2020.

#52Ancestors #26 James E Glover, Customs Man AKA Grandad

Jim Glover, Penzance Magpies AFC, 1938

Jim Glover, Penzance Magpies AFC, 1936

James ‘Jim’ Glover, my grandfather, was a Customs man. He was born in 1909 and grew up in Cattedown, Plymouth, Devon.  The second of the five children of Henry Alfred Glover and Florence Selina Dolton, he joined the Navy in his teens.  He was in the last group of men who trained on HMS Impregnable, the navy training ship and was promoted to be a writer on HMS Lucia fairly quickly. By 1931 he was working in Newlyn, Cornwall, as a Customs Officer.  There he met my grandmother, Mary Jelbert.

One year they went to the Helston Furry Dance with friends, and they saw a man with a stall selling cheap stockings – roll up, roll up!

London Man's Adventure, The Cornishman, 31 August 1939, from the BNA

London Man’s Adventure, The Cornishman, 31 August 1939, from the BNA

They bought a couple of packs, but when they opened them in the pub later they fell about laughing when they found their bargain stockings were full of holes. Grandad, however, was not impressed. What, he said, if an old lady had bought them to save her money and then found she’d been ripped off?  So they all headed back to the stall where Grandad stood at the back of the crowd, waving the holey stockings, shouting “Got any more of these mate?”  The trader was not happy, tried to shush Grandad and gave them their money back; he made a lot fewer sales that day…

That same day Granny paid for something and the seller counted accurately the change into his own hand then tipped it into Granny’s hand. Grandad, sharp-eyed customs man, immediately slapped the back of the seller’s hand and said “That one too!” and the final coin fell out from where the hawker had carefully slipped it between his fingers.

Grandad had a tattoo on his arm.  Once I asked him what it said and they both laughed; Granny said it was the name of ‘a bit of stuff’ he knew before her so he had scribbled it out.  They married in Newlyn and lived together for his work at various times in Plymouth, Grimsby , Poole and Newlyn.  Together they had three children.

Mary and James Glover with grand-daughter Lynne

Mary and James Glover with grand-daughter Lynne

Grandad was a keen sportsman, growing up in a sports-mad family.  He played football for various Cornish teams, and captained Penzance Magpies when they won the Penzance & District Charity Cup in 1938.  I found many match reports of his game in the Cornishman for that period in the British Newspaper Archive.  Sport is big in Cornwall!  All his life he would walk for miles a day, with his dogs Rusty, Bosun and Skipper.

When we used to visit when we were kids, Grandad would take my brother and I down to the beach in the mornings to play on the sand, or the rocks depending on the tide, to let Mum and Dad have a lie-in. In the evenings we liked it when he would take us down to the harbour and we would try to guess the registration ports of the fishing boats moored in Newlyn Harbour, sometimes four deep.  FY Fowey!  SS St Ives! GY – er Grimsby?  Yeah!

52 ancestors logoGrandad died in 1997 in Newlyn, Cornwall, leaving Mary, 3 children, 7 grand-children and 3 grand-dogs.

© Text and photos copyright Lynne Black, 25 June 2014

#52Ancestors #25: Henry Alfred Glover, docker and amateur vet

Henry Glover, census entry

Henry Glover, census entry

My Great-grandfather, Henry Glover, was born in April 1887 in Plymouth, Devon.  His father Walter Glover was a mason and his mother Emily Keast Glover was a housewife. Both had been married to other people before so in addition to his nine brothers and sisters he knew two half-brothers from Emily’s previous marriages.

He married Florence Selina Dolton in 1908 and they had five children of their own: Bill, Jim, Bertha, Walt and Harry.

When he was younger Henry worked as a horse driver in the draper industry, but later he worked as a docker.  He lost his job in 1925 with the fall of the ‘Geddes Axe‘ [Government cuts], but later found work again.  However, this was a mixed blessing as he was injured in an accident at the docks.

52 ancestors logoHenry had a reputation as an amateur vet so people would ask his advice about their animals.  The family bred racing dogs which needed a considerable number of long walks but the only dog allowed in the house was a lurcher called Toby.  They also had a cat called Smokey Joe – whenever the children stroked this bad-tempered cat their hands would come away filthy.

The family also had rabbits and pigeons.  Henry was the secretary of the local pigeon club and he had a special clock which worked off the pigeons race number for clocking the flying time of each pigeon  for races. Henry was also skilled at mending clocks and would fix other people’s clocks for them when they stopped working.

Their children were also keen sports fans, with success in boxing and in football.  He also encouraged their participation in the Scouting movement, a lifelong love for his youngest son Harry.

Grave of Henry A Glover and Florence S Dolton Glover, Efford Cemetery, Plymouth

Grave of Henry A Glover and Florence S Dolton Glover, Efford Cemetery, Plymouth

Other passions of the family were the Co-operative Movement and politics, and they hosted Lady Nancy Astor’s 1929 re-election campaign from their living room [see Fuelling Nancy].

Henry died in March 1949 and is buried in Efford Cemetary, Pymouth, with Florence.

© Text copyright Lynne Black 18 June 2014

#52Ancestors #19 Florence Dolton and a flock of Nightingales

I have come across 6 Florences so far in my Devon and Yorkshire families, born 1860,  1876, two in 1887, 1905 and 1950.

Image of Florence Nightingale

Florence Nightingale

Their inspiration, THE Florence Nightingale, was born on 12 May 1820, and started her nurse training in Germany.  By 1853 Nightingale was superintendent at a hospital in Harley Street and the following year she led an expedition of 38 women to manage the barracks hospital at Scutari, Turkey, during the Crimean War.  Not your standard nursing career experience.  She returned to England  in 1856 and in 1860 opened the Nightingale Training School at St Thomas’ Hospital in London.  She died in 1905.

Little Nurse Lynne

Little Nurse Lynne

When I was a kid I read Little Nurse Nancy. I wanted to be a nurse, had the outfit for it and everything (the baggy tights were non-regulation, my personal fashion statement).  Later I read all the Sue Barton books in quick succession; the thought that if I became a nurse like Sue I might have to run a hospital put me off for life.  I did join the St John’s Ambulance Brigade, however, and that gave me skills I’ve always valued.  I trained as a secretary at school and later college and have never regretted it, I was lucky to discover my vocation at the age of 10.

Last year when I was looking at family in Yorkshire I noticed on a non-conformist page from 1885 that Samuel (a miner from Leeds) and Ellen Nightingale had seized the day and named their daughter Florence.

So this week I had a quick look on Ancestry’s England & Wales Free BMD index for Florences.  Between 1853 and 1875 it showed me 149 Florence Nightingales born in England and Wales. I can’t tell you how many of those became nurses because a) I don’t have the time and b) I’ve now discovered I don’t have the inclination to be a statistician either. But if they did enter that profession it would have been a hard act to live up to!

52ancestorsMy great-grandmother was one of my six Florences: Florence Selina Dolton.  Born in 1887, she grew up in Plymouth, Devon, as strong as the stone her father William Dolton quarried.  She married Henry Glover in 1908 and they had four sons and a daughter.

Florence was very active in the Co-operative movement – some day I’ll see what archives might be available for that. Later she came across another strong female role-model: Lady Nancy Astor, when she and her husband Henry Glover hosted her 1929 re-election campaign from their living room, see:  Fuelling Nancy: Lady Astor and my Great-Grandmother.

© Text and personal photo copyright Lynne Black 1 May 2014
First published

#52Ancestors #18 Mary Jelbert: Love, pasties and earrings

This week I’m featuring another of my grandparents, Mary Glover, nee Jelbert, of Newlyn, Cornwall, born in 1919, whose 95th birthday it would have been this month.

Despite living some 350 miles apart I first met my Granny when I was just a few days old and my mum says we fell in love at first sight.  I was the first of her 7 grandchildren; my family has overlapped its generations recently so my brother and I are about 10 years older than our cousins, so having babies in the house was a bit of a treat for her.

Mary and James Glover with grand-daughter Lynne

Mary and James Glover with grand-daughter Lynne

We used to get down every year to Cornwall, sometimes twice (Easter and summer) if we were lucky. The kitchen was the heart of the house, and my Gran’s kingdom, but a vital outpost was my Uncle Stephen’s ice-cream shop in Newlyn (got lucky with that!).  This was later run by my Uncle Jim, and Gran worked there selling ice-cream and cream, so she was well known in Newlyn.

My Gran married a customs man called Jim Glover; he was from Plymouth but stationed in Newlyn when they met. Together they lived in Grimsby, Poole and in Plymouth for a while for his work, but her heart was always in Newlyn and that’s where they settled down long-term.

Gran was an amazing cook.  Sometimes Grandad would say to friends or people he met through work or in the pub “my wife’s from Cornwall, she’ll cook you a genuine Cornish pasty” and she would bake for them – sometimes she never even met the people she baked for! I still have her pasty recipe but never use it – waaaay too much lard!  But they were gorgeous…  Often she would open a cupboard door in the kitchen and there would be a fruit pie or joint of meat that she’d been baking in the morning, it was incredible.

52 ancestors logoTogether they had a son and two daughters who have lived round the country but all ended up back living locally.  My mum and aunt had the inconsideration not to get their ears pierced so when I turned 16 and my mum let me get my ears pierced (it was a more innocent time then!) Gran and I spent hours wandering round the shops in Penzance looking for earrings – one of my favourite memories of spending time together.

When I was older I couldn’t get back to Newlyn as much as I would have liked, as by then I was living in Scotland. Although it made it all the more special when I did, especially when I got to introduce her to her great-grandson in 1999.

© Text and photo copyright Lynne Black 1 May 2014
Content first published:

#52 Ancestors #14 Royal Marine Samuel Glover of Stonehouse

1860 Map of Stonehouse featuring Marine Barracks and Naval Hospital

1860 Map of Stonehouse featuring Marine Barracks and Naval Hospital

My great-great-great grandfather Samuel Glover was born in 1822 in Martock, Somerset, the son of William Glover and his wife, name as yet unknown.  His place of birth was a surprise as I didn’t know I had Somerset ancestors.  I haven’t yet worked out why he was born in Somerset when his father and he were Devon men! It was possibly a connection through his mother Mary, as his father William was born in Charles [Plymouth] and so were most of Samuel’s own children; only his eldest daughter Mary, born 1848, was born in Martock – had he and his wife Mary been back visiting family?

By the summer of 1841, when Samuel was 19, he was enlisted in the Royal Marines as a Private and was based in Stonehouse Barracks [now Plymouth]. There are some lovely old photos on this website: from c 1890, slightly later, granted, but still a fascinating glimpse into his workplace.

He met his wife Mary in the mid 1840s – possibly a bit of a scandal, as his first child Samuel was born in 1846 and the likely wedding date I have is circa November 1848 – coincidentally around the same time as their second child Mary’s birth. They went on to have 7-8 further children: Walter (my great-great grandfather) in 1851, Susan in 1853, James in 1858, Emma in 1859, John (died in infancy?) in 1860, John in 1862, Fannie in 1866 and Jane in 1868.

His father William died in 1854 and again there may be a Somerset connection – if I have the correct William Glover he died in Durleigh.

52ancestorsSamuel was still in the Marines in 1861 but was discharged in 1862. Nine years later in April 1871 he was recorded in the census as being a patient in the Naval Hospital. His son James had died in autumn 1869 then his wife Mary died in March 1870.  At the time of the census his children were staying at their home at 6 Admiralty Street, Devonport, ranging from Samuel (24, labourer) and Walter (20, apprentice stonemason) down to 3-year-old Jane.

Samuel married his second wife, a widow working as a laundress named Ann Webber (nee Angel) in 1872; Ann  had had 3 children with her previous husband: Frederick (1853), Alfred (1860) and Charles (1863) so maybe children on both sides would have given then a full houseful.

In 1881 and 1891 Samuel was recorded as a Royal Marines Pensioner; he died in the spring of 1893.

What I’d like to find out eventually about Samuel and Mary is what happened in 1870/1871 when their time together ended and Samuel was in the hospital – was he ill?  Injured? He did manage to live another 20 years after that point to the good old age of 71.  And what military action had he seen?  Had he fought in New Zealand, Mexico, Japan, Abyssinia?  The frequent arrival of children in the 1850s and 1860s would suggest he wasn’t away much!

I also need to try to discover more about Samuel’s parents and to confirm Mary’s maiden name.  Plenty of work still to do with this branch of my family.

[Samuel is only distantly connected by marriage to William Keast, my #52Ancestors #13 of last week, who worked as a clark at the Naval Hospital earlier in the 19th century; William was almost 50 years older than Samuel]

© Text copyright Lynne Black 2 April 2014

#52Ancestors #11 Walter Glover – life is not a soap opera

52ancestorsLast time I wrote about my Great-great Grandmother Emily Keast. I’ll now introduce you to her third husband, Walter Glover.

None of my Devon family are rich, and like my Yorkshire family several of them worked as miners.  Walter worked with stone too, but as a mason rather than a miner; he also worked in the tar pits for a while. Born c April 1851 in East Stonehouse, he was a stonemason’s apprentice by the age of 20 and worked as a mason all his life.  Walter’s children would point out to his grandchildren the houses that he built in Plymouth.

Walter married his first wife Susan Smith in 1877 but she died shortly after the April 1881 census and I haven’t to date found any children for them  He married his second wife Emily Keast (later Roston later Falkner) in St Peter’s parish in August 1883 and together they went on to have three sons, the second of whom was my great-grandfather Henry.

The family must have been going through a really rough time, or have generally lived in a really bad way.  By April 1911 Emily was in the local asylum and identified as a lunatic.  Her date of death is not known and I understand the records were destroyed in the war.  Walter died a couple of years later, on 9 December 1913.  It was a tragic end.

When I was down in Plymouth last year in the Archives I was looking through their catalogue and I came across a reference to one document which disconcerted me. It was a Coroner’s Report and I carefully unfolded the sheets of paper which were kept together with an old rusted staple.

His cause of death was noted as suicide whilst “temporarily insane” and he had been admitted in a coma to South and East Cornwall Hospital “taking a poison, to wit camphor or luminal”.  In his son’s testimony it was reported he had been drinking heavily before this.  It appeared that what had driven him to the drink – and despair – was a letter from the Retiring(?) Officer asking for money for his wife [presumably for her care?] and that had “affected his mind”.  He’d been suffering from a medical condition for a while for which he’d been prescribed something [it was hard to read – perhaps codine?] to rub into his leg and I got the impression that’s what he’d taken.

It’s so sad to think of their lives.  At first when I found out how many times they’d been married between them I thought it sounded like I’d found a really interesting story: my own family soap opera.  But the more I found, the more tragic it appeared.

The family never mentioned this to their grand-children, it was obviously painful and their dark, possibly shameful, secret.

I’ve seen some positive posters recently [eg My son seemed quiet so I asked him…] encouraging people to bring up the subject of suicide in conversation if they’re concerned about their friends.  It’s such a shame that a century after Walter’s death we still need to work to overcome the risk of stigma of being, or of knowing, someone with these thoughts and feelings.

One of my best friends, a first aider at her work, has also been given mental health first aid training.  I’d never heard of that before but I think this is a great step forward.

© Text copyright Lynne Black 8 March 2014:

#52Ancestors #10 The struggles of Emily Keast

I’ve been writing about my paternal grandmother’s Yorkshire ancestors, but I’ve not had much time recently to find out about new people, at least not enough information to blog about.

Actually I had worried that I wouldn’t have enough Yorkshire family to write about into February, let alone March so I’m glad to have discovered so much.  I’ll return to blogging about my Yorkshire family them later in the year when I have more information.

But for a few weeks my blog posts are going to feature my Devon family, mainly based in Plymouth, as I did a lot of research last year about my maternal grand-father’s family.  I’d wondered about doing this anyway as it’s the centenary of the merging of the three towns of East Stonehouse, Devonport and Plymouth and the timing seems neat.  I had the chance to visit Plymouth and chat with my 96-year-old great-uncle last year which was amazing, to hear of his life and of the family and stories he remembered. I was so inspired that I wrote about that in my first blog post last summer: Memories and interviews

Devon, then.  And I will start with my great-great-grandmother Emily Keast.

Emily was confusing to track down.  Born c 1847 in East Stonehouse, I eventually worked out she’d been married twice before she married my great-great-grandfather.

She’d had an difficult start to her life, being the illegitimate daughter of Ann Keast and a ‘Pianoforte maker’ called John Pool who didn’t stay around; she was brought up by her mother and grandmother.

Her first husband was John Roston and they married when she was only 19; their son Albert Thomas was born in 1867 when she was only about 21; John, a seaman, died in 1872 leaving her a 26-year-old with a young child.

She married William Faulker in December 1874.  Later census records list her son by John as Albert Thomas Roston Falkner so hopefully things worked out and William was happy to have a step-son living with them.  William was a private in the Royal Marines; he was stationed at their barracks in Stonehouse when they married.  What’s curious is that Emily had a daughter, Maud Ellen Falkner, in March 1874, 9 months before she and William married.  The order of events are unusual, but he was certainly listed on the baptism register in 1875 as her father.  Earlier in 1875 they’d had their second child, William Ernest Falkner.  Sadly William senior died in 1875, and young Maud died 18 months after him.

Emily was left with a 10-year-old, and a new baby.  By April 1881 she was working as a laundress in Plymouth and Albert, aged 13 by then, was working as an errand boy.

The mark of Emily Falkner

The mark of Emily Falkner

Two years later in August 1883 she married my great-great-grandfather Walter Glover.  Within 6 years they had 3 sons [or possibly 4, depending on the record you look at – Thomas on one record could well be a mis-transcription of James Glover].  Their second son Henry Alfred is my great-grandfather.

Poor Emily had a sad end.  I was shocked to find her in Plymouth Asylum, aged 65, in the 1911 census listed as a lunatic.  Sadly I’ll maybe never know what happened to her: a lot of records were destroyed by fire in the war, Plymouth being a key target.

Perhaps I’ll find her in 1921 when the census records are released.  But because of events in her husband’s life (more of that next week!) I suspect she didn’t live long after 1911. Poor woman.  Sounds like she had some exceptionally trying circumstances to cope with in her life, if they led to a mental breakdown it would hardly be surprising.

52ancestorsBit of a bleak story I know, but I thought I would not leave her story untold.  As a happy-ending Sponge-Bob kind of a girl it was sobering for me to hear her story.  The past is definitely not all rose-tinted, and I definitely got lucky with my personal circumstances.

It’s International Women’s Day today, by chance.  So I’ll dedicate this post to all the hard-working women of history, whose stories often remain untold and often their names un-recorded.

© Text copyright Lynne Black 8 March 2014:  ‎