Posted by Big John on November 22, 2013
Following on from my last post, I thought that if I continued my on-line research into my family’s history I might find at least one ancestor from the 18th or 19th century of whom I could be proud, for in the 20th century many members of my family had served their country in both war and peace, and a possible ancestor of mine, with the same name as me, is listed in 1415 as a “Yeoman Valettus Archer” on the muster roll of Henry V’s army at ‘Agincourt’.
I was hoping to find some record of, say, a soldier who had fixed his bayonet and held his ground in the British square at ‘Waterloo’ when the French cavalry charged, or of a young crew member on H.M.S. Victory, who braved the cannon balls at ‘Trafalgar’, or even a trooper at the ‘Charge of the Light Brigade’ who rode “Into the valley of death” with Tennyson’s famous “six hundred”: but no such luck; as once again my search turned up reports of petty theft, poaching and more sentences to ”hard labour”.
However, I did locate a copy of a newspaper dated 16th January 1832 which showed that my great-great-great uncle James was on a list of men who had volunteered to serve in The Royal Sussex Regiment of Militia.
At last ! .. I thought .. Could this be my family hero ?
I read on, and soon discovered that this was not to be, for, at the end of the list of names, there was an order to local officials for … “the Discovery and Apprehension of the foregoing Men who severally omitted to attend for Training and Exercise are deemed …
… DESSERTERS ” !
Posted in family, humour, nostalgia | 5 Comments »
Posted by Big John on November 18, 2013
This rather fierce looking old boy is my great-great-uncle Jesse who was born in 1841…
My ancestors had been farming folk ever since the 16th century and I suspect that they were a pretty ‘rough and ready’ bunch, the first one recorded as appearing in court was a ‘Yeoman’ John, it was in 1762 and for debt, although he was said to .. “have possessed a large stock of corn, hay and cattle” .. and Jesse’s father John (born 1816) died in 1876 .. “as a result of being thrown to the ground” .. in what was probably a drunken brawl, and his older brother John died in 1879, when an inquest at the local workhouse revealed that .. “he had died from injuries received on the railway” .. It would seem that he had fallen asleep (probably drunk) .. “alongside the rail” .. and been struck by a train ! In 1868 he had been .. ”sentenced to two months hard labour” .. when found guilty of larceny.
Now I knew that old John had ‘done time’, but I had to wonder what he had done that had deserved two months on the treadmill, turning ‘the crank’ or possibly breaking rocks ? .. Well I found out when trawling the web for more family history I came across this newspaper report of December 1867 …
(click on image to enlarge)
Blimey ! … He is described as .. “a respectable farmer” .. “charged with having stolen an overcoat, value £2.” (approx. £150 retail price today). It’s a good thing that he left the gloves, scarf and hat in the pub, or goodness knows what sentence he would have received.
Now before I leave my family’s somewhat ‘unsavoury’ past, I must report that my internet delve into history brought to light another sinner. This was old Jesse’s great uncle Simeon who was born in 1802, and in 1886 at the age of 84 pleaded guilty to the charge of ..”Attempting to commit an un-natural offence” .. He was discharged on a surety of £10 .. “to come up for judgement when called upon“. No details are recorded of the ‘offence’ nor any sentence, so we can only guess what happened to the old bugger, but he was 84 years of age, so the mind boggles, but, then again, the charge did say …
… “Attempting” !
Posted in family, humour, nostalgia | 4 Comments »
Posted by Big John on November 10, 2013
This weekend I set myself a little ‘Rememberance Day’ task, which was to clean and frame the medals which were awarded to my late aunt’s husband, my ‘uncle’ Bill who had served with the ‘Desert Rats’ during World War II.
I found these medals a few years ago when my aunt died, and apart from the Defence Medal 1939-1945 which was awarded to my father for his service as a volunteer in the London Fire and Rescue Service, they are the only ‘family’ medals I have, although many of my relatives served in both the 1939-1945 war and the terrible 1914-1918 conflict.
Bill survived the war although he was seriously wounded. He was a sergeant in The Rifle Brigade and his cap badge is on the left of the above picture. The badge on the right is a damaged Wehrmacht Panzer Combat Badge which I found with the medals. So perhaps as I remember my uncle on this special day, I should spare a thought for the German soldier who had worn that badge in the North African desert all those years ago, for he may not have been as …
… lucky as my Uncle Bill !
Posted in family, nostalgia | 1 Comment »
Posted by Big John on August 13, 2013
Not much time for blogging at the moment, but what a difference a week makes ! …
… Now for the kitchen ! :-(
Posted in family, humour | 4 Comments »
Posted by Big John on August 6, 2013
It’s only Tuesday and already I’m feeling pissed off !
Why ? … Well, this is the street right outside my front door ! …
… and this is my bathroom …
What more could you ask for in this hot weather ? … Traffic chaos and no bloody shower !
Oh ! … and before I forget ‘she who must be obeyed’ has gone to stay with our daughter for a few days …
… So it’s not all bad news then ! …
Posted in family, humour, rant | 5 Comments »
Posted by Big John on March 13, 2013
Yes, of course, Auntie had a rich ‘benefactor’ ! .. In fact he was an extremely wealthy ‘City Gent’ who owned a country estate near my aunt’s cottage and a London mansion near to the Mayfair apartment where my aunt lived when she was in town. I can remember seeing a photograph of her with a group of ’toffs’ riding on the nearby fashionable Rotten Row in Hyde Park. I found her up-market address, with it’s ‘MAYfair’ phone number, in the on-line records of the 1930′s London telephone directory.
I only found out recently, from an older cousin, that my aunt had a son who she left in the care of my grandparents, while she went back to the high life in London’s West End. Tragedy struck when the child died when his mother decided that she would take him away for a few days holiday. My grandfather never spoke to her again, and, later, her rich lover dumped her when he discovered that he was sharing ‘her favours’ with a dashing RAF pilot at the start of World War II. She joined the ‘ATS‘ !
I always assumed that my aunt must have enjoyed her life with the girls in the ATS, as at that time, she shared her home with another young woman named ‘Bobby’. She called herself ’Jo’ although her name was not Josephine or Joanne. As I recall, and from what I see in photos from those days, Jo and Bobby favoured short hair, men’s shirts, slacks and ‘sensible shoes’ !
The family never saw much of my aunt after that time, although she did turn up in the early 50′s driving an MG sports car and with a very pleasant ‘sporty’ bloke in tow who she said was her husband. From then on she used the title ‘Mrs’, although I don’t believe that she was ever married. The next time she put in an appearance, ‘hubby’ was long gone and so were any signs of affluence.
The old girl died about ten years ago, and I last saw her when she asked me to take along a few photographs of her in her young days, so that she could show the other old folks, in the care home where she lived, just what a gay young thing …
… she had been back in the days when ‘gay’ meant something different: although in her case I’m pretty sure that she would have been quite happy and ‘proud’ to be labled with the modern definition of the word.
When I arrived at the care home she was at the point of saying farewell to another visitor; a rather ‘dapper’ looking, but frail old man with cropped white hair, wearing a three piece tweed suit and neat collar and tie. I heard a whisper of .. “Goodbye Jo” .. and then he nodded at me and walked slowly away down the corridor. It was only then that I noticed his very small feet and those highly polished ’sensible shoes’ ! .. I wonder ..
… could it have been ?
Posted in family, humour, nostalgia | 5 Comments »
Posted by Big John on March 7, 2013
My mother had nine brothers and sisters, all now departed from this life, although there might just be one ‘black sheep’ brother still knocking around, although I suspect that he is ’as dead as mutton’ by now, as he would have spent most of his eighty something years staggering from pub to pub.
I must say that I got along fine with my mum’s family, although there was one sister who, for some strange reason, I tended to avoid as a child, and who never seemed to quite ’fit in’ with the rest of the family, as she had a rather haughty ‘posh’ voice and a somewhat flamboyant and overbearing manner. Not what you would normally expect from a working class girl from a back street in Brixton.
Sometime ago, when searching through some family documents I came across a postcard written by this aunt during the 1930′s and sent from Budapest. On the front was a picture of the River Danube and on the back she described a luxurious train journey across Europe and the joys of staying in the grandest of hotels: and this at a time when most people could not afford even a couple of days seaside break at Margate.
In the old family photo album there are a number of pictures, taken during the 1920′s and 1930′s, of my aunt as a beautiful young woman …
… showing her in the latest fashions, posing by her car and in the garden of her country cottage. Expensive holidays ? .. Latest fashions ? .. Car ? .. Country cottage ? .. How did a girl who’s mother is recorded in an earlier census as, ”taking in washing”, afford such things ?
Well the answer may be obvious, but …
… you will have to wait to find out.
Posted in family, nostalgia | 5 Comments »
Posted by Big John on March 1, 2013
I know that the NHS has been falling down badly in some areas recently, but I must say that at ‘local’ level, as an old fart, I have few complaints; for I have regular blood tests to check on my liver and kidney functions, my blood sugar level and the PSA level of my prostate ‘thingy’. I also have regular consultations with my GP regarding my blood pressure and general health, during which I lie (as does everyone) about how many units of alcohol I consume each day.
Now I have been asked if I would like to be screened for bowel cancer, which, of course to me, was a ‘no-brainer’ as my father died of the disease.
However, even in this most serious of subjects I have found some ‘light relief’, for I expected to be asked to attend a clinic to undergo tests, but instead I received, by mail, a self-testing kit containing three orange coloured envelopes, six small cardboard sticks and instructions as to how to transfer small samples of my faeces to the envelopes via the sticks ! Royal Mail would do the rest !
I won’t go into details, but for those of you who have read A. A. Milne’s ‘Winnie-the-Pooh’, or seen the Disney movies, this procedure, in no way, resembles …
… the game of ‘Pooh Sticks’ !
Posted in family, humour | 5 Comments »