Friday, 8 June 2018

#52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks. Week 23: 'Going to the Chapel'

Week 23 prompt -  'Going to the Chapel'
Reminiscence of John Cottam

A last dab of powder on her nose and in the mirror Elizabeth sees him again.  Her joy turns to sorrow.  She hears mother’s words, “You carry the looks of your father and ’tis your young brother James who carries his ways.“ 

Twenty-three years gone yet we still miss him so.  I think the suddenness of it broke mother’s heart.  

Father loved working for the Railway.  They say he was a hard worker who learned quickly and lived by God’s law.  A strong man for his height.  Little schooling yet moved right up to engine driver at only 29 years and carried his pride inside.  

That last morning he left with lunch package and thick coat for the Nottingham/Toton run.  Mother always rose early to see him off and as usual he gave her extra kisses for us when we stirred.

If only he hadn’t got out to check the brakes … if only the other shunting hadn’t happened…

Thomas the fireman said father was always careful and checked things ‘proper’.  They didn’t know eight other wagons were being shunted nearby.  It was so dark and foggy at five o’clock that morning. With God’s help, he may not have seen anything.  But I know he would have heard it.  Too late.  I shiver and cry … all those carriages going over him. 

Not the time to dwell though.   
I will go now to the chapel to be wed.  I know father would be happy for us.  I must keep my thoughts to that.

St Elphin's Church, Warrington, Lancashire, England


John Cottam: 28 Aug 1831 Winwick, Lancashire, England – 09 Oct 1860 Nottingham Meadows, 
Nottinghamshire, England.  (My Great Great Grand-Uncle – Mum’s Father’s Father’s brother)
Elizabeth Pashley Cottam: 1854 – 1890, daughter of John Cottam and Rebecca Pashley (1831-1869).  Elizabeth married David Rankin Apr- Jun Qtr, 1883 at Warrington Lancs, England.

Newspaper articles: 
Nottinghamshire Guardian, 11 October 1860, “Fatal Accident on the Midland Railway”
Derbyshire Advertiser and Journal, 12 October 1860.  “Fatal Accident at the Nottingham Station”


Thursday, 31 May 2018

#52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks. Week 22: 'So Far Away'

Week 22 Prompt: 'So Far Away'
Watching the excited passengers moving up the gangway of the ship “Ann Milne” a middle-aged woman caught my eye.  There was nothing exceptional about her style of dress that attracted me.   It was her shuffling and stumbling gait slowing down the throng, that caught my eye.  She kept looking back, not at the crowd, but to the sky past the pier and into the distance.  

It was clear that her family was encouraging her as they nudged her forward.  She alternated between wringing her hands and holding them in prayer.  Her shawl had slipped to her shoulders and the severe hairstyle, pulled up into a greying bun, revealed a tear-stained face.  I could see the shake of her head and the heave of her shoulders as she wept.  

She was all reticence and despair.  Something was stopping her from wanting to board the ship. Something or someone she could not bear to be parted from.   Her long black skirts swirled about the railing as if they too, wished to stay behind.


This is a fictional story about my maternal Great Great Grandmother - Eleanor Wells nee Fry who was pregnant when she left England for Australia with her husband and 4 surviving children.  She was leaving behind 3 young ones in graves.

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

#52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks. Week 21: 'Military'

Week 21 Prompt: Military

I have many relatives who were in the military and served in wars and have written about some already. This time I am selecting one who is not a close relative and I know very little about him,  but it touched me when I first came across him.  

Frank Ernest WELLS born 02 November in Hawthorn a suburb of Melbourne, Victoria.  His parents were Henry Wells and Annie Mary Gavin. He was the fourth son of 6 and had 3 sisters.  Two of his brothers, Alex and George, served in the war also.
Frank is my 1st cousin 2X removed. We are both great-grandchildren of Thomas and Eleanor Wells. (My Maternal side.)

When Frank enlisted for World War I on 14 August 1915, he was a single man, 26 years old, Roman Catholic living in Hawthorn.  He was a carpenter and joiner having completed a 5-year apprentice under his father Harry (Henry) at Bendigo, Victoria.  Five foot 8” tall, weighed 9 stone, fair complexion with blue eyes and brown hair.

Service Record for Frank Ernest WELLS

He had already served 5 years in the 2/8th A.I.R.  I tried to find out what this service was, but a response letter from the National Archives explained that they were unable to find Frank’s previous service. So the ‘2/8th AIR’ listed in his records will remain a mystery. (See Letter below)
On completion of his recruitment training, he was given leave to spend Christmas at home with the family at Quarry Hill, Bendigo.

Pte Frank Wells Service No: 4624, sailed away to war on the ‘Themistocles’ with a number of Bendigo boys on 28 January 1916.  

He arrived in Egypt in preparation to head into a theatre. Initial posting was at the Ferry Port.

Frank was… ‘part of The 58th Battalion raised in Egypt on 17 February 1916 as part of the expansion of the AIF. Roughly half of its recruits were Gallipoli veterans from the 6th Battalion, and the other half, fresh reinforcements from Australia. Reflecting the composition of the 6th, the 58th was predominantly composed of men from Victoria. The battalion became part of the 15th Brigade of the 5th Australian Division.’ (AWM)

It was only five months later that Frank contracted Spanish Flu’.  Frank’s parents received the terrible news that he was dangerously ill with enteric fever in hospital in Cairo, having been admitted on 16 June. 

His mates would have headed on to France whilst he was in hospital. 

Frank died 8 days after being admitted on 24 June 1916 in the No 4 Auxiliary Hospital, Abbassia.  It is said that more soldiers died of Spanish flu’ than those killed in the war.  He was buried the day he died in Herli, Grave M125 at the New RC Cemetery at Cairo, Egypt.  

Index No E9 Cairo War Memorial Cemetery: WELLS Pte Frank Ernest 4624.

Cemetery at Cairo.

Poor Frank had only just got to war and was struck down with illness and died before facing battle.

Two packets of his personal effects were returned to his father and consisted of:  Comforter, Money belt, 2 Knives, Pipe, Biblical book ‘Key to Heaven’, Diary, Matchbox containing 2 coins, Badge, Button, 2 Miniature Monkeys, Handkerchief. The other packet contained: Identity Disc with charms and keys, Leather wallet, Papers, Notebook, Postcards, Ring (stone missing), Wristwatch, Strop, Holdall with 2 combs, Razor and Housewife.
In December 1921 his mother Annie Mary signed for a Memorial Scroll, in February 1922 for a War Medal and in August for a Memorial Plaque.

Packet that held Frank's Personal Effects

In searching through Frank’s army files I found an interesting letter that piqued my curiosity. It looked like Frank had left behind a sweetheart or at least a very dear friend who was close enough to write to the army about Frank’s welfare.

Letter from Miss M Robson

Return letter from Army to Miss M Robson.

I tried to track down Miss M. Robson of Elsternwick but couldn’t find any leads.  I felt sad for her and all others who were in relationships with young men who were lost at war.  I do hope that she had a happy life. 



National Archives of Australia
National Reference Service
Reference: NAA1000072090
Dear …,
Thank you for your enquiry regarding the military service of Frank Ernest Wells.

Our Melbourne office holds two series that relate to your enquiry:
B4747 – Army militia service records, 1901 – 1940
B4717 – PMF (Permanent Military Forces) and Army Militia Personnel dossiers, 1901 – 1940

I conducted a search in both series; however I was unable to identify any related records.
These series are both incomplete, thus the absence of a record does not necessarily indicate that a person did not serve; rather it means that such a record, had it existed, was not retained by the Department of Defence for subsequent transfer to the Archives.

Thank you for your interest in the National Archives.
Anna Koh
Reference Officer,  National Reference Service

Friday, 18 May 2018

#52 Ancestors in 52 Days. Week 20: Another Language.

Week 20: Another Language
The first time I heard my father on the telephone - I thought he was speaking a different language.  I would have been about 11 years old so Dad would have been about 53.  He had been in Australia for 45 years, having come out from Scotland with his family in 1912, however he sounded as if he had just stepped off the ship.

Talking to him person to person I didn’t notice his accent (although others did comment on it). But when I answered the phone to his call - I didn’t know who this man was.   

The ship the Pearce family travelled on - ‘SS Demosthenes’.  
Her maiden voyage from London to Melbourne via Cape of Good Hope in 1912  was made in 36 days. (photo in family possession)

Dad kept his accent all his days and he died in 1982, aged 78.
He had many little Scottish phrases that we children still remember.
When we were little he called us ‘Bonnie wee lassies” and he used to get us to say: ’t’s a braw bricht minlicht nicht the nicht, Mrs Wricht’  meaning: It’s a brilliant bright moonlight night tonight, Mrs Wright. Then he would laugh at our efforts.  Another saying I remember was:
“Ah dinnae ken, Ah’m sure” meaning I really don’t know.
And he loved to say Rabbie Burn’s Selkirk Grace before dinner:
‘Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it,
But we hae meat and we can eat,
Sae let the Lord be Thankit!’

My father holding me when I was about 3yo, and Dad about 45yo in 1949, at our extended family picnic spot, Keadys Bridge near Euroa, Vic. (Family photo)


He was a very loyal Scotsman and set up the Burn’s night, the Ladies Highland Pipe Band and the Highland Games in Shepparton.
Dad also recited the poem: ’To a Mouse’ at family gatherings and: 'Address to a Haggis' on Burns Night.

‘To a Mouse’ 
(On Turning Her Up in Her Nest with the Plough,
November, 1785.)

Wee, sleekit, cowrin, tim'rous beastie, 
O, what a panic's in thy breastie! 
Thou need na start awa sae hasty, 
          Wi' bickering brattle! 
I wad be laith to rin an' chase thee, 
         Wi' murdering pattle!

I'm truly sorry Man's dominion 
Has broken Nature's social union, 
An' justifies that ill opinion 
         Which makes thee startle
At me, thy poor, earth-born companion 
         An' fellow-mortal!

I doubt na, whyles, but thou may thieve; 
What then? poor beastie, thou maun live! 
A daimen-icker in a thrave 
         'S a sma' requet; 
I'll get a blessin wi' the lave, 
         An' never miss't!

Thy wee-bit housie, too, in ruin! 
Its silly wa's the win's are strewin! 
An' naething, now, to big a new ane, 
         O' foggage green!
An' bleak December's win's ensuing, 
         Baith snell an' keen!

Thou saw the fields laid bare an' waste, 
An' weary Winter comin fast, 
An' cozie here, beneath the blast, 
         Thou thought to dwell, 
Till crash! the cruel coulter past 
         Out thro' thy cell.

That wee bit heap o' leaves and stibble, 
Has cost thee monie a weary nibble! 
Now thou's turned out, for a' thy trouble, 
         But house or hald, 
To thole the Winter's sleety dribble, 
         An' cranreuch cauld!

But Mousie, thou art no thy lane, 
In proving foresight may be vain: 
The best-laid schemes o' Mice an' Men 
         Gang aft agley, 
An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain, 
         For promis'd joy!

Still thou are blest, compared wi' me! 
The present only toucheth thee: 
But Och! I backward cast my e'e, 
         On prospects drear! 
An' forward, tho' I cannot see, 
         I guess an' fear!

Robert Burns

'Address to a Haggis'

Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face, 
Great Chieftain o’ the Puddin-race!
Aboon them a' ye tak your place,
       Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy of a grace
       As lang 's my arm. 

The groaning trencher there ye fill,
Your hurdies like a distant hill,
Your pin wad help to mend a mill
       In time o’ need,
While thro’ your pores the dews distil
       Like amber bead. 

His knife see Rustic-labour dight,
An’ cut ye up wi’ ready slight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright,
       Like onie ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,
       Warm-reekin, rich!

Then, horn for horn, they stretch an’ strive:
Deil tak the hindmost, on they drive,
Till a' their weel-swall'd kytes belyve
       Are bent like drums;
Then auld Guidman, maist like to rive,
       Bethankit hums.

Is there that owre his French ragout,
Or olio that wad staw a sow,
Or fricassee wad mak her spew
       Wi’ perfect sconner,
Looks down wi’ sneering, scornfu’ view
       On sic a dinner?

Poor devil! see him owre his trash,
As feckless as a wither'd rash,
His spindle shank a guid whip-lash,
       His nieve a nit;
Thro’ bluidy flood or field to dash,
       O how unfit!

But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread,
Clap in his walie nieve a blade,
       He'll make it whissle;
An’ legs, an’ arms, an’ heads will sned,
       Like taps o' thrissle.

Ye Pow'rs wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o’ fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware
       That jaups in luggies;
But, if ye wish her gratefu’ prayer,
       Gie her a Haggis!

Robert Burns
(from The Canongate Burns: the complete poems and songs of Robert Burns (Canongate, 2001). First printed in The Caledonian Mercury in 1786)


Friday, 11 May 2018

#52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks. Week 19: 'Mother's Day'

Week 19 Prompt: 'Mother's Day'

My little story today is about my 6 X Great Grandmother - Anna McBean, who was born about 1670 in Inverness, Scotland.  
She married Donald McIntosh/Mackintosh and was mother to my  5 X Gt Grandfather Alexander Mackintosh.

Parish Record of birth and baptism of Alexander McIntosh 
son of Anna McBean and Donald McIntosh.

Alexander married Christian Ross
Their son John married Margaret Morrison
They named their son Alexander and he married Isabel Cairns
They had Richard who married Elspeth Gary  
Then their daughter Isabella Mackintosh married James Finlay Lumsden
They had a daughter also named Isabella - Mackintosh Lumsden and this is where my family name comes in - she married Francis George Pearce  - my father’s parents.

Sadly I haven’t found out anything about Anna to get to know her at all or to share in my story.

One thing I do know though is that she would not have had a Mother’s Day celebration in those days. So I am saluting her today and thanking her for being the oldest proven grand-mother in my family.

Monday, 7 May 2018

#52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks. Week 18 - 'Close Up'

Week 18: 'Close Up'

When we went on a Family History Trail in Great Britain in 2015, I tried to visit all the places my ancestors came from and where they were baptized, married and buried.

I think the one place I felt the most goosebumps was when I visited my father's hometown and the house he and the family had lived in. I went as close up as I could, climbing the stairs and knocking on the door.  Unfortunately, there was no one at home.  It is a strange feeling to walk in the same place as your father did when he was young and living on the other side of the world.

On the 29 May 1904 my father was born in a small house perched on the side of a rise at the end of the row of houses.  No 40 Dean Park, Peebles, Peeblesshire, Scotland.

A new door at No. 40

The row of houses at Dean Park

No. 40 Dean Park, Peebles

The earliest photo I have of my father.
He is in the centre, with his two sisters Sarah (L) and Isabella/Tibbie ((R)

My father (L), mother (C) and brother (R) in the 1960's.

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

#52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks. Week 17 - 'Cemetery

Week 17 Prompt: 'Cemetery'

I met a newly found relative of mine in Australia who is also a very keen genealogist.  We share ancestors on my maternal side and we pool our findings.  She had been to England a few years ago and found out as much as she could on the Palmer family of ‘Forest of Dean’ in Herefordshire.  However, there was one burial she could not find.  Esau Palmer (1807-1857) who was meant to be buried in the cemetery at the Baptist Chapel in Ross.  

I promised her I would do my best to track him down for her.  So in 2015 whilst travelling in the UK and on my family history trail I had this brilliant idea that as it was Sunday we should attend church at the Ross Baptist Chapel.  My ancestors there had been very religious and attended the Chapel.

It was a very musical service and an interesting video was shown on people-trafficking all over the world and how we can help prevent it. Then a sermon on “The first Commandment”  The preacher was a good communicator and had a bit of fun along the way.
After the service, we joined the congregation for coffee and a digestive biscuit.    We introduced ourselves and found a lady who said that there hasn’t been a cemetery there for years, that it is now all carpark.  BUT she said her children had once found some old gravestones under the Pipe organ in the church when they were exploring.  I asked could we see them please and she said it would be difficult as they were now under the floor with a door panel over them and filing cabinets on top !!!  She asked her husband and then came back and said that he wouldn’t be able to do it this week - no time.  I said we were only here today and tomorrow and pleaded that I had to see them before I go, having come all the way from Australia.  
‘Was there someone else who could help? - or could John and I do it ourselves now ?’  She went off again and eventually came back with her husband who said he would have a look with us, after all.  

So the men moved the heavy stuff and lifted the trapdoor.  Put an extension ladder down the black hole.  The husband went down first to trial it and then down I went squeezing my chest through a hole it didn’t fit. Then my husband peered through from above. No room for anyone else really.  Luckily there were a couple of little lights down there.   And so down into the dungeon we were.  
Lo and Behold  I found 2 Gravestones covered in rubble on the ground/floor down there.  The last of the stones that were still visible apparently.
The husband scraped away what he could of the rubble so we could try and read them.  I had some paper in my hand so folded that up and tried to scrape with that also. Made a little headway to clear enough to read some of the inscriptions. Sadly no luck with them being ours :(    
But I felt honoured to be seeing these gravestones in memorial of someone’s ancestors from the district, that are lost to everyday sight.  
One was for a daughter Harrietta Eliza and a boy JS Griffith aged 15 who died in March 180(9)
The other one we couldn't remove all the rubble and the part we cleared was probably the middle section which had a quote from the bible. I tried to take some photos in the dark.
They were very hard to take as you could only crawl onto them and the lights cast big shadows.

Although the search had proven fruitless for finding Esau's grave, I was very thankful to the couple for helping us and allowing us to look.  
Once we were out again and dusted down, the lady checked with the new Records officer at the Church - if there were any records available to see.  She told us that there are none there now - they have all been given over to Hereford Records Office.