Saturday, 6 December 2014

FAMILY HISTORY - UNEXPECTED CAUSE OF DEATH

Family History - Unexpected Cause of Death

I've recently been researching the Lait family, a branch of my father's family who originated from Lincolnshire and who ended their lives in Liverpool. In particular, I've been looking at details surrounding the life of my great(x2) grandmother, Mary Ann Lait (formerly Graham).
She was born in a tiny village called Raithby in Lincolnshire in 1853. Following her marriage to my great(x2) grandfather, Charles Augustine Lait, the family eventually moved to Liverpool and they had 8 surviving children.

Her death in 1904 was a tragic one, and one which surprised me when the death certificate was actually purchased and received. Instead of finding one of the more common causes for death (such as heart disease, malignant cancers, pulmonary disease and pneumonia etc.), her own was attributed to ‘shock and exhaustion due to burns received by her clothes accidentally catching fire on the 9th instant’. An inquest into her death had been held in Liverpool on 12th January 1904 but I have yet to find any further details about it.

I've since found that this was a relatively common accidental cause of death during those times, (both for adults and children), which is hardly surprising perhaps when you consider the widespread use of open fires, candles for illumination, and lack of flame-retardent materials for nightdresses and clothing in general.

Death Certificate - Mary Ann Lait

Considering the hardships my great-grandmother must have faced - a country girl who brought her family up within the bustling city, having to learn to survive within basic slum dwellings and yet successfully helping to raise 8 children - to end her life in such a way is a tragedy indeed.

In all my years of researching my family history, I've only ever had goose-pimples twice when I opened an envelope and read the contents. This was the first...

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

FAMILY HISTORY - WHERE WE LIVE - BERTRAM ROAD, LIVERPOOL

WHERE I LIVE?
Photo - National Archives

Details from the 1911 census on the property 5 Bertram Road in Liverpool. A search of Ancestry.com was made after receiving a request from my daughter, who currently rents a flat in the building. She was curious to see if we could find out who actually used to live there during the period when it was a single residential property.

Not only were we able to find out who lived in the house, (William Morton and his family), but also that he employed two servants.

The biggest surprise for my daughter was that the house, now split up into separate flats which are rented out, had 15 rooms in total.

This information was all obtained during a five minute search over a lunch-break in work. It just goes to show what you can achieve in your family history research if you know where to look.


Tuesday, 2 December 2014

FAMILY SOUND ARCHIVE - Recording Your Family Memories in Audio (Pt.1)

When researching our family history it is natural that we start to collect the information which is most obviously important for us to get things moving - all the paper documentation we can find; birth and death certificates, marriage and baptism records etc. 

We visit our elderly relatives, and have them relate to us the same old stories we might well have heard so many times before. Of course, the difference on this occasion is that we actually want to listen to them, and make sure that we extract every last bit of detail out of the tales of their early lives. Time waits for no man (or woman) as they say, and very often we will reach the point where we realize that the history of our family is important to us all too late, and the best source of our family data may be lost to us forever. During the visit we will undoubtedly sit in rapture on their couch as we listen with intense interest to our relative, nibbling on custard creams while we scribble details into our notebooks and pore over the folder of old photographs we have brought with us to try and jog their memory.

As I said previously such visits are vitally important to our continued research. However, this is not the only type of family information we should be asking about. When I first started collecting my family history data together, I thought that the most important thing for me to do would be to obtain a photograph of as many of the people within my tree as I possibly could. After ten years research, I’m reaching the point now where I can truthfully say that I have almost reached that goal. However, I’ve also realized that there is another, more important archive, which we should not ignore. And that is the archive of sound.

mary_dunn_flowers


The soundclip above is a short extract taken from an old cassette tape of a Christmas family party in the D’annunzio household in Childwall, Liverpool. It was recorded in 1981 and features Mrs Mary Dunn (pictured), my wife’s grandmother, doing what she loved to do best and singing ‘Lily of Laguna’ at the top of her voice with her family around her. I was one of those present with her on that December evening, playing my guitar and singing along with the choruses. It was a wonderful party and hearing this clip played even now, I can close my eyes and I’m back there again.

In this modern digital age, where nearly all of us has a phone fitted with both a still and a video camera, it is easy to forget that it was not always like this. There was an old thing called analogue - where we recorded sound onto cassette or reel to reel tape, or even directly onto acetate discs themselves.

It should be remembered that some of these items might still be around - tucked away in a shoebox and kept in Auntie Minnie’s wardrobe. You won’t know unless you ask the question… but one thing is certain, you should be asking it now, for neither your Auntie Min nor the tapes will be around forever…

In part two we'll take a look at what you can do with your discs and tapes once you've tracked them down....

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

FAMILY HISTORY - MIDDLETON TOWER HOLIDAY CAMP

This is the story behind two ordinary family photographs.
For years I had not thought much about them, but then I embarked on this current fascination of looking at the record of our family heritage, and realized that there might be more to these familiar images than I had initially thought.

welsh_eliz_group3_tonemapped
Betty, my Gran, Michael and Hannah having a meal at Middleton Tower

 The first image shows a small group from our family being served a meal in a restaurant. The second is an image of my aunt singing in a bar, with two members of the resident band backing her up. I had the first in my possession already, for it had been mounted in one of our family photo albums. The second was a new find, and one which only surfaced following my aunt’s passing in 2011. The fascinating part for me was the little-noticed legend featured in the bottom corner of both shots - ‘A Middleton Tower Holiday Picture’. It was only after I decided to do a little online research into this hitherto unheard of location that the backstory behind the photos gradually started to become clearer.

Middleton Tower was a holiday camp, situated on the north-west coast in Morecambe Bay, Lancashire. The camp, which originally opened in 1939, was managed by Pontins for the majority of its life until it closed in 1994. The site is now the location of a community of retirement homes. It was the usual practice in such places to employ a ‘house’ photographer - someone whose job it was to ensure that the holiday memories of the visitors of the camp would be captured and recorded. In these days of camera phones, iPad’s and computer tablets it is strange to think of a time when photography was quite an elite hobby, for even if your family was lucky enough to own a camera, (the box Brownie perhaps being the most common), the price of the film itself would be prohibitive for the majority of people. It was for this reason that the holiday camp photographer would be assured of being gainfully employed during their busy periods.

In the first photograph the subjects have been caught just settling down to eat their meal. This may be the reason why the older women, (my grandmother and her sister Hannah), look less comfortable with the situation. All they want to do is to get on and enjoy their food and instead they were being held captive by the photographers lens. The two empty seats in the foreground might belong to two people who were not part of the family group - strangers who vacated their seats temporarily to allow my family to be photographed on their own together - as it was common practice for campers to be encouraged to mingle with each other in such a way. In reality, the photos would be taken at different times throughout the day by the photographer. He or she would walk around the camp, paid to seek out likely suspects who were just going about their business of having a good time, and then talk them into posing for the shutter. After a few hours the photographs would be available for viewing and purchase in the camp shop. Ultimately this was meant to generate income and help with the advertising of the camp, so the photographer would try and ensure that they never took a bad shot - trying his/her best to have their subject posed comfortably smiling, eyes open as the flash went off, so that there would be more chance of the holidaymakers actually putting their hands in their pockets to buy them. The two photographs here have been printed on card, and have a postcard form laid out on the back. This meant that not only could the holidaymaker obtain a happy reminder of their holiday to keep for posterity, but they would also have the opportunity of sending the photograph back home to their nearest and dearest, and let their relatives all see just what a good time they were having during the holiday.

welsh_eliz_singingwithmike_tonemapped
Betty singing in the 'Wonder Bar', Middleton Tower

Middleton Towers also had a 2000 seat theatre, otherwise known as the SS Berengaria, which had been constructed in the style of an ocean liner. Also within the building was housed a restaurant, two lounges and a bar. My aunt loved to sing and had a mezzo soprano vocal range which would often be heard during family parties etc. as she entertained us. Betty never pursued music professionally, and so the photograph of her singing into a mike with the house band might have been taken during the ‘talent show’ - a form of live entertainment which would have been popular at the time. While studying the photograph more closely I had noticed a partially visible sign to the top left of the image, having ‘…der Bar’ written upon it. Within the online research material I discovered, I found a photograph of a map of the site, which had been scanned from a copy of the holiday camp brochure that had been previously released in 1955. This clearly showed several bars dotted around the site, (..the Clubhouse Bar, Tudor Bar etc.), and I then spotted an area labelled the ‘Wonder Bar’ within the main building itself.

It seemed that not only had I been able to find out more about the camp itself, but I’d now also discovered the likely location of the place where my aunt had been photographed during her actual performance. I was really pleased in the information I’d been able to find about the camp in the end, as it had moved the story of these postcards forward so much for me. I’d progressed from knowing only the slightest details about them, to now being able to tie the images down to a physical location and learning more about its history.  The ‘devil is in the detail’ as they say. And the story behind every photograph can be discovered if you are lucky, and also look hard enough to find it. I wonder how many other photographs like these lie waiting to be discovered within family albums elsewhere?

Thursday, 6 November 2014

FAMILY HISTORY - GERMAN BEERMUGS

GERMAN BEERMUGS

 German beermugs - given to me by my father

A pair of china beermugs given to me by my Dad before he died. 

He was left them by his uncle, William Laite, who he became close to after his mother died. Bill was in the Army and the rumour was that he brought them home after he had worked a stint over there.

They pride of place and are family heirlooms in our french dresser now. 

#Project365 #Photoaday #Beermugs

William Laite - our 'Uncle Bill'

Friday, 17 October 2014

FAMILY HISTORY - JOHN W. LAIT - DEATH BY FIRE


When I undertake research into my family history I learned a long time ago that it works best for me to keep looking slightly off-centre, even when looking for the most specific information on an individual. You never know what unexpected snippet of information is going to turn up, so I find its always worth looking a few pages forward, a few pages back, to see if there are any other bits of information which might correspond to another one of your family members.
And so it was with finding John William Lait.

The grave of my great(x2) grandfather - Charles Augustine LAITE
Image (c) 2014 - Graham Seaman 

I was carrying out research on the grave of my great(x2) grandfather, Charles Augustine (or as he latterly became known, Austin) Laite who is buried in Allerton Cemetary, Liverpool. Charles had been married twice, the first time to Mary Ann Graham, the second to Mary Ann Corkindale. The majority of the people in the grave are descended from his second marriage and so I was concentrating my research in looking at this family line.

I began to run through a few internet searches of the other names on the grave - Catherine, George E., Mary A. Laite etc., and it was while I was doing this that the following link showed up:

Coroner's report - Liverpool Mercury - 4 January 1894
Image (c) 2014 - OldMerseyTimes.co.uk

It was a report from the Liverpool Mercury from 4 January 1894 regarding the accidental death of a young lad, John W. Laite aged 12 years old, in Liverpool. The report states that ‘…on Christmas Day the deceased with his little brother in the absence of his parents, while playing near the fire with a paraffin lamp, spilled some oil on his trousers which caught fire. He was severely burned and died on Tuesday at Mill Road Infirmary.’
The verdict of the coroner was ‘accidental death’.

I had already found that this was a relatively common occurrence during the period as I had looked into other instances of accidental burning after finding another relative, my g(x2) grandmother, had suffered the same fate. I had previously thought that maybe this type of accidental death would be far more common for girls rather than boys. I felt that this might be the case as the deaths appeared to be linked to the type of clothing which the girls would have been wearing (flowing skirts and nightshirts etc.), and the fact that most coal fires in those days would have been open and not had a guard in front of it. However, the fact that the boy had spilled oil on his trousers meant that John’s death could possibly be blamed more on the type of flammable materials his clothes were made from, rather than the type of clothing itself.

The name John W. Lait seemed to be familiar to me, but after checking my database I found that he was not related to Charle’s marriage to his second wife at all.
I had only a small amount of information on my own John W. previously, but there could be little doubt in my mind that here was the son of Charles Augustine and his first wife, Mary Ann Graham, my great(x2) grandmother, whose cause of death aged 50 on 10 January 1904 was said to be ‘…shock and exhaustion due to burns received by her clothes accidentally catching fire on the 9th instant…’

Mary Ann LAITE - death certificate 10 January 1904
Image (c) 2014 - Graham Seaman 

I am waiting on the death certificate for John to be absolutely sure, but it would seem that here we have the most tragic of coincidences… Mary Ann’s son is horrifically burned on Christmas Day in 1894, and then my great grandmother suffer’s the same fate herself almost exactly 10 years afterwards.

For further information regarding some of the more common (and also uncommon) causes of death in the Victorian era, you can find further information on the excellent blog at Victorian Domestic Dangers.com


All Content (c) 2014 - Graham Seaman



Thursday, 16 October 2014

FAMILY HISTORY - GRANDFATHER'S LAST LETTER

I have a letter in my possession.

It is addressed to my father, who was then living at 25 Hughson Street in ToxtethLiverpool.
The letter was written by my grandfather Joseph Seaman, and I am led to believe that it was the last correspondence he sent to his son before he eventually passed away in 1961.

The letter written by my grandfather Joseph...

The text of the letter is as follows:

‘Hello Son…
Just a line to let you know that I have recovered from my ailment and am back at Delphside again. I would have wrote before but but with having no material for writing with me and of course with being ill I have not felt like doing anything at all believe me.

Well son don’t worry about me now because I am allright now to a certain extent I have to go back in a months time but I don’t suppose they will keep me in although one leg has gone septic since I have come out but I am under thier doctor so think it will be alright but you have enough worry of your own without mine well son don’t worry to much about it, because its just one of those things give my regards and thats the lot.

Dad.’

I haven’t yet found a photograph of my grandfather as an adult and my mother’s last memory of him is of a hospital visit she made to see him. She can’t recall which hospital, or just who went with her to visit him, but she does remember that he started to cry at the time. My Dad couldn’t visit as often as he would have liked to, and as can be seen by the content of the letter, it seems he was actively dissuaded to do so by his father himself.

In researching the letter I found that ‘Delphside’ was one of the previous names for a part of, what is now called Whiston HospitalPrescot, near Liverpool. The institution originally had opened in 1843 to house the mentally ill, but it also became a Poor Law Infirmary - a place where both the mental and physical health needs of the poor in the surrounding districts were catered for. At the time when my grandfather was there, the hospital had wards which catered for people with infectious diseases and also had a wing which provided respite care. I think my grandfather may have been in one of the latter wards when he composed the letter.

Joseph Seaman as a baby...

After I was given this document by my mother I was touched by it in a number of ways.

My grandfather’s written words provided me with a small insight into what he had been going through in relation to his health perhaps, and also went some way to support the facts my mother could remember about him. I had also been rather frustrated through not being able to find an adult photograph of him, therefore I found it an immense privilege to be able to hold in my own hands the three pieces of paper on which he had written.
However, I realized a little later that there was one further detail contained in the text which would perhaps prove to be more important to me than any of the others.

On the second page Joseph wrote to my father; ‘…but you have enough worry of your own without mine…’. The letter itself was not dated, however the postmark on the envelope confirmed that it had been posted at 6.30pm on 14 June 1956. This date was significant, for eleven days later a baby was born to my mother in Sefton General Hospital, Liverpool.

That new baby, the ‘worry’ my grandfather mentioned in his letter, was me.

Joseph eventually died on 18th December 1961 at Whiston Hospital after suffering a stroke, brought on by pneumonia and bronchitis. He was 58 years old - a year older than I now am as I write this.

From what I understand, my grandfather spent the final years of his life being treated in hospital, and not once does my mum remember taking myself or my brother in to visit him, a fact which I find very sad indeed. However, it gives me some satisfaction in knowing that although I did not get to physically meet him, I realize that at least on this one occasion I have proof that he thought of me.

I have certainly thought of him many times since.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

FAMILY HISTORY - ST.CHRISTOPHER PICTURE (1928)

ST.CHRISTOPHER PICTURE

This is a small picture of St.Christopher, the patron saint of travellers, which currently hangs in the porch of our home in ChildwallLiverpool.


I found the object hidden in a drawer in my aunt's home, buried under a collection of random papers, after she had passed away and we had the job of clearing all her possessions from the property. I remember the moment so clearly when I found it, because it was already familiar to me. I'd seen it many years before as an adult, when I had discussed its history with my aunt, but more importantly I also remembered the artifact from when I was a child.

According to my aunt this small object was handmade by my Norwegian great-grandfather, Peder Gerhard Ingebretsen (later to become translated to Peter Englebretsen following his naturalization in England). Peder was a merchant seaman and lived at the family home in Hughson Street, Toxteth in between his visits to sea. The property had a small vestibule which joined the main front door to the front room, and this picture was hung within it for many years, serving as a token which would hopefully bring good fortune and a safe journey to anybody who passed it on their way out of the house.


The picture itself is printed on a card which would more usually be kept in a purse or wallet. It is relatively small,  11 by 7 cms in size, and has a plain plywood backing with a glass front. Both have been smoothed down at the edges for safety. The three metal supports for the glass are held in by two panel pins and a loop of flat brown elastic is used to hang it from the pin at the top.

At the time I found it I asked my Mum whether she wanted to keep hold of the picture herself, but instead she stated that she would prefer it if I looked after it. I decided that I wanted the item to be seen rather than to be hidden away in the family history cabinet where I keep a few other precious possessions, and with this in mind I knew there could only be one place to display it. Our front porch... the single place where all visitors pass who come into our home.

From the information passed down from the family, I would calculate that this object is around 85 years old at the present time. It is rather satisfying therefore to think that the St.Christopher is still serving as a token to keep my own family safe, in just the same way that my great-grandfather had used it all those years ago.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

FAMILY HISTORY - THE BOMMIE (1959)

The photograph attached here shows a young three year old boy (yours truly) standing in an ordinary street in Liverpool in 1959. The house behind me was the home of my grandparents, Lizzie and William John (aka Jack) Welsh, and it was an ordinary two-up, two-down terrace in Toxteth, just like thousands of others in many similar streets throughout the city.

To the right of the house is what was known in Liverpool as a ‘bommie’. This was a flat area of land, sometimes rubble strewn, which represented all that remained of a building that had been destroyed during the German bombing raids during WW2. Even though it was probably thirteen years after the war had ended when this photograph was taken, it was not the general policy of the local Corporation to spend money rebuilding properties on small pockets of land such as this. What funding they did have was being spent developing new housing estates away from the city centre, out toward the green belt land which would eventually make up the suburbs. So while this piece of rough dirt and broken rubble might well have been a blight on the local landscape, along with countless others like it the land would become a playground for youngsters just like myself, until eventually the entire area would be cleared and redeveloped with new housing many years afterward.

Yours truly in dubious trousers outside my Gran's house in Hughson Street
This bommie had been a house almost exactly the same as the one my grandparents lived in until one fateful night during an air raid when the property took a direct hit from a German bomb.

At the time of the raid the occupant of the house, a lady called Mary O'Prey, was sheltering in my grandmother’s air-raid shelter in the back yard. There would have been plenty of space inside for several families, who would sit out the raid using orange boxes or whatever they could find for seats, wrapping themselves in blankets as protection against the cool night air - their faces illuminated by a couple of flickering candles as they would read or sing songs to their children in an attempt to reassure them. Some of the men would be absent during the raids. Just like Mr O’Prey and my grandfather they had a common duty to fulfill and would be out on the streets, air-raid wardens who braved the elements and the bombs to patrol their local area.

The sound from the bombs plunging down from the sky around them must have been deafening; with hundreds of explosions being heard from Dingle to the town centre as the shadowy swarm passed by overhead. The growing drone from hundreds of aero engines filled the air, but presently even these were superceded by the unmistakable whistle and banshee wailing of a German bomb falling worryingly close by. All would hold their breath and pull their babies closer to them, closing eyes and muttering words of comfort to themselves as the sound grew to a terrifying crescendo. It would have ended with a sickening thud, followed almost immediately by an enormous explosion - the sudden noise shaking the ground and also the strong brick walls which surrounded them. Slowly, as the noise died away and dust settled within the shelter, Mrs O’Prey was heard to turn to my Gran and say: 'There you go. You've lost your house Lizzie!". However, when the all-clear was finally given and everyone made their way wearily out of the shelter, it was only then that the woman realized it was, in fact, her own home which had actually been destroyed. The shock and devastation she had probably felt at that time just cannot be imagined.

And so it was that thankfully, my family was one of those who had the good fortune to survive those terrible nights in Liverpool. If it would have been any different, or the bomb had fallen a few feet further over to the left, then that three year old boy might well not be around to tell the story he’s telling now. However, my family were not the only individuals who had good fortune that night. As a postscript to this story I can reveal that the family had a pet dog which was reportedly in the house at the time of the blast. The dog was later found, shaken but alive, inside a house in Fernie Street about thirty yards away. It had been blown up into the air by the force of the explosion and sailed right through a back window of the property to land within the bedroom beyond!

Some of those same Fernie Street properties can be seen in the photo behind me but alas, the name or breed of the fortunate dog is not known.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

FAMILY HISTORY - 1/3 BAGNALL STREET

GENEALOGY - 1 & 3 BAGNALL STREET, LIVERPOOL
1 & 3 Bagnall Street, Everton


My grandfather, Joseph Seaman, was born in number 3 Bagnall Street on 5 August 1903, the small property on the right. The building at number 1, a former plumbers office, looks rather precarious and looks as though it may fall down at any moment! 

I traced the property on Google Earth initially before travelling there myself to take these photos. The majority of properties are boarded up and scheduled for demolition - if I'd left this until January the area might well have been cleared for redevelopment.

An ideal example of the saying....'If you decide to do something then do it quickly... you might not get another chance!'

Click on the photo above or follow the link here to find a selection of 6 photographs of the surrounding area....

Thursday, 2 October 2014

SEAMAN / LAIT - MARRIAGE CERTIFICATE - 1 SEP 1928

St.Catherine's church, Edge Hill...
pictured in 2006 before it was demolished
to make way for new housing.

Below is the marriage certificate for my grandmother and grandfather's wedding. This took place at St.Catherine's church, Edge Hill, Liverpool in 1928.

At the time Margaret LAIT was aged 27 and Joseph SEAMAN was 26. My grandfather's occupation was said to be a carter at the time they were married.

Joseph's address was given as 4 Lily Grove, Edge Hill... and Margaret's was 23 Moorgate Street.

Joseph's father's occupation was listed as a labourer, while Charles Graham LAIT was listed as an engineer.

Marriage Certificate - SEAMAN / LAIT - 1928

MARGARET ELEANOR GRAHAM SEAMAN - DEATH CERTIFICATE - 29 OCT 1947

Margaret Eleanor Graham SEAMAN (nee LAIT)

Seen below is the death certificate of my grandmother, Margaret Eleanor Graham SEAMAN (nee LAIT).

M.E.G. (as my cousin Anne and I affectionately christened her during our research conversations) unfortunately died very young, at only 46 years of age, and died following a massive heart attack. At the time she died she had been living with the family at 33 Moorgate Street, Edge Hill, Liverpool.

She died in hospital in Smithdown Road, Liverpool.

Notification of her death was made by my grandfather, Joseph SEAMAN, who was said to be employed as a general labourer at the time his wife died.

Margaret Eleanor Graham SEAMAN - Death Certificate 1947



JOSEPH SEAMAN - DEATH CERTIFICATE - 18 DEC 1961

My grandfather Joseph SEAMAN died in 1961 of bronchial pneumonia, plus other complications as can be seen by this death certificate. He was 58 years of age when he died, the same age I am now as I write this, and his occupation was given to be a carter on the railway.

By the time he died he'd spent quite a considerable amount of time out of his final years in hospitals of one form or another, both through long-term illness and also being seen as an out-patient. He finally died in Whiston Hospital near Prescot.

Joseph Seaman - Death Certificate 1961

CHARLES GRAHAM LAIT - BIRTH CERTIFICATE - 24 JAN 1874

This is a copy of my great-grandfather's birth certificate.

Charles Graham LAIT was born in East Saint Mary's Gate, Grimsby, in 1874. His father Charles Augustine LAIT was employed as a grocer's assistant.

His mother, Mary Ann, had the maiden name of GRAHAM. This name was consequently passed down firstly through their son; then to his daughter Margaret Eleanor (who was my grandmother), and then to me as my given name.

Charles Graham LAIT - born 24 January 1874



Monday, 29 September 2014

FAMILY HISTORY - NAILCLIPPERS

This photograph is a gentle everyday scene of my aunt giving the budgie a kiss in my gran's house in Toxteth.
Bluey, (for that was his name), was only allowed out of his cage under the strictest control, for it stood in the front room of the house very close to where the vestibule, front door and therefore possible 'budgie freedom' were located. Nevertheless, to all intents and purposes he was a happy soul - sitting on his perch chirruping away through the day, until - in the late evening - someone would throw a tea-towel over his cage in an attempt to urge him to shut up and go to sleep at night. There were a few versions of Bluey who lived in Hughson Street over that time, and each of them loved just as much as this particular little tyke was. Exactly why there were so many budgerigars processing through the house at that time I was never told, although the fact that the family also had cats living in the house might have had something to do with it!

welsh_elizabeth_budgie
Auntie Bet and 'Bluey' the budgie....

Anyway, I digress. All this idle chatting about budgerigars is just an aside really, for what I really wanted to talk about was nail clippers - more specifically, my auntie's silver-plated nail clippers with the hole in them. The hole? Yes, you read that correctly. A hole which had been perfectly formed and cut right through the blade. But how was this possible?

It's easy...

You know the score. When you're three years old you'll pretty much play with anything, and at times most of these things you really shouldn't go anywhere near. Of course you don't know this until later however, when a grown up - possibly your Mum or Dad - catches you out, gives you a smack behind the knees and yells 'Now that's naughty!' at you in a loud stern voice. The tears flow, you stop whatever you're doing, (permanently, if you know what's good for you), and life carries on. The majority of us will then grow up to be perfectly rounded individual's who will learn a valuable lesson from the event, and forever resist the urge to be scarred for life in the future, through being subjected to the occasional bout of corporal punishment. And so it was with me and the nail clippers.

I'd obviously picked them up from somewhere, and although I can't actually remember doing so, I must have thought to myself just how much like my Dad's wire cutters they looked, as he'd worked on the radio in the corner of the room earlier that day. You can clearly see the radio in the photograph. Also note the mains cable, that twisty brown cloth-covered stuff which was forever getting itself into knots, which snaked out from the shelf to disappear into the plug on the wall behind the budgie cage. Talk about a tempting sight!

Of course the difference was as follows:
a) Dad's wire cutters had rubber insulation on the handles, the nail clippers didn't.
b) Dad knew that above all else you should always respect electricity, and of this, I hadn't a clue.
c) Finally, Dad had carefully switched off the power at the socket and pulled out the plug before he went anywhere near the radio....
....and I'd done precisely zip!

The outcome therefore was somewhat inevitable.

With no adults in the room to stop me, I decided to follow my Dad's lead and have a go at rewiring the radio. As the blade of the nail clippers cut into the live mains cable there was an almighty bang and a very bright flash of light. The adults all came running into the room at once from the kitchen, and at first were somewhat confused because I was nowhere to be seen. According to what my Dad told me years afterward, they didn't quite know what was going on as there was a strong smell of burning insulation in the room and I'd apparently disappeared without a trace. It was only after they heard my groaning coming from underneath the sideboard, and spotted the nail clippers on the carpet with a perfectly round hole cut through the two blades, that they finally put two and two together and worked out what had happened. They picked me up and started consoling both themselves and me at the same time.

Clarks_Joyance_1950s
My saviour... Clarks shoes...

Somehow, incredibly, I'd survived. It could have been the insulating power of the thick soles of my Clarks shoes which saved me, but the force of the blast had blown me right off my feet and flung me at least eight feet across the room to land beneath the sideboard. According to family legend I started crying almost at once as I was extricated from under the furniture. I might even have cried a bit more after my Dad had screamed "Now that's naughty!" at me.

But the important thing is that I'm still here...and so are the clippers, now put away safely in the loft inside a keepsake box, away from the prying little fingers of my grand-daughter Paige. The budgie and the Clarks Shoes however, sadly, are no more.

FAMILY HISTORY - PALM HOUSE SEFTON PARK

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Palm HouseSefton Park (1957) - Mum Joan pictured standing outside the main entrance, with me in the pram just a few months old. I walked in through those doors 56 years later with a guitar slung over my back, to attend a photoshoot celebrating Tony Bolland's book launch about the famous music shop Hessy's in Liverpool. Must go back and see if that statue is still there! :-)

#Liverpool #SeftonPark #PalmHouse #FamilyHistory #Genealogy #Hessy's #FrankHessy #musicshop


Friday, 26 September 2014

FAMILY HISTORY - LIZZIE READING THE PAPER

To repair or not to repair….that is the question. Sometimes you just have to ignore everybody else and do things your own way - do what you feel is right. This is a photograph of my grandmother, Elizabeth Welsh, sitting in her front room in Toxteth, Liverpool, reading her newspaper.

I posted this photograph a little while ago on Facebook, and one of the comments made on it was that I should have it repaired as the person felt that this would improve the photo, and as it was such a precious keepsake, it deserved to be seen at its best. I considered the idea for a good while, and although I thought that this was indeed potentially a good idea, I eventually decided against it for a couple of reasons:

1) The original photograph is tiny - being only around 3 centimetres square in size - and this copy has been scanned at the highest resolution possible. The damage obscures part of my grandmothers face, and no matter how much time I might invest to work on it, I doubt that I would be able to make a totally invisible mend.
2) This is the photograph that I know well - even with all its imperfections - and to have it digitally repaired, remastered, trimmed and tucked, will not improve it in any way for me. I came to the conclusion that its probably best to leave it alone.
My Gran - reading the paper

And that is the point of course.

I know I could be accused of being selfish at this point, but the fact is I have grown up with this tiny piece of paper looking exactly the way it looks here. If I had it digitally repaired, even professionally, this work wouldn’t add anything else to the photograph for me. The damage shows that the image has been around a bit; careworn it might be, but now that I’ve scanned it and put it ‘out there’, the photo will potentially survive and outlast us all.
And this is where I’m being selfish. After all, this is my memory I’m sharing; no-one else’s.

So. This is my Gran - sitting quietly reading her broadsheet newspaper while my Grandad, (its more than likely to be him, although I have no real proof of that), takes her picture.

She’s wearing her round glasses and old pinny - the pinafore dress with the red and purple flowers on it which she wore around the house to protect her clothes underneath. The only times I remember seeing her not wearing this garment, would be on the odd occasion when she would get dressed up and go out somewhere - perhaps down to the pub at the end of the road with my Grandad, or out to a family ‘do’ somewhere in the vicinity.

The photo features the old range they had in the front room with several flatirons placed on its top. The range has a beaten copper fender around its base and a set of companion tools standing on the hearth. These were used to clean out the grate. It would be icy cold to the touch in the mornings and would be cleaned with black-lead; the graphite paste being first applied with a brush and then polished in with a cloth.

The folding dining table to her right - covered by a dark tablecloth - had two wings which could be brought upwards and supported from beneath when being used. I inherited this table many years later from my aunt, when my wife and I bought our first home. Sadly, it fell apart long ago and was beyond repair.
And then there is the television. This small monochrome TV which can be seen standing on the table in the corner, holds two special memories for me that I recall.

It was on that screen in 1966 that a nine-year-old boy called Graham watched the Beatles performing a live concert from Shea Stadium in New York. I followed every song avidly, singing along enthusiastically with as many of the lyrics as I knew at that time, and drummed along with Richie on a toy drum-set which had been erected in front of the settee.

And three years earlier, on my father's birthday in 1963, the whole family sat together and watched in shock and disbelief when it was announced that President Kennedy had been assassinated in Dallas, Texas. I was only six years old at the time, but I remember the emotion of the moment clearly; the adults in the room growing suddenly quiet to listen to the solemnity of the newsreaders voice as he made the announcement. And it was then that I also saw my Grandfather cry real tears for the very first time, and I couldn't quite understand why.

This is why I’m leaving the photograph in the condition its in.

Damaged as it is, it still represents all these things to me and will continue to do so into the future, and that fact is never going to change.

Hopefully, now that you have heard the full story behind it, you also might begin to see beyond the folds and ripped paper as I do.