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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #120

Dear Reader,

My latest translation, Eve’s War: Operation Sherlock, in Spanish.

Through my gateway ancestor Barbara Aubrey (1637 – 1711) I am directly related to the Welsh nobility including The Lord Rhys, Yr Arglwydd Rhys, Prince of Wales. A ‘bit of a lad’ The Lord Rhys married twice, had eleven mistresses and fathered at least twenty-four children. A successful leader for over fifty years he was “a man of excellent wit and quick in repartee.”

My ancestor Rev William Aubrey (1573 – 1646) was the rector of Pendoylon parish church. William married Jane Mathews (1580 – 1650), whose line takes my ancestry back to Robert de Vere, the Third Earl of Oxford. Robert was a Surety Baron who witnessed the signing of Magna Carta.

Pedigree chart: Jeremy Crick.

My ancestor Humphrey Mathew (1567 – 1651) owned Castell-y-Mynach a late medieval mansion remodelled in the early seventeenth century and largely refenestrated in the late eighteenth-early nineteenth century. Humphrey married Mary Lewis.

This branch of my family leads to seven Magna Carta Surety Barons: Hugh le Bigod, Roger Bigod, Gilbert de Clare, Richard de Clare, John de Lacy, William de Mowbray and Saher de Quincy.

Looks like Magna Carta was our family gathering 🙂

Image: CBHC

The Iveson/Iverson branch of my family arrived in Britain with William the Conqueror in 1066 – the surname Iveson derives from Ives or Yves the French for yew or bow. Initially, they settled in the north of England, and Scotland. In Scotland they formed the Clan MacIver.

Born in 1586 in Edinburgh my ancestor Abraham Iveson migrated to Gloucester County, Virginia in 1636. He accompanied nineteen other settlers. 

On 17 October 1636 Abraham was listed as a headright for James Vanerit who had acquired 1,000 acres of land in Elizabeth City County, Virginia from a Mr Stafferton. Stafferton was owed the land for providing the transportation of the twenty colonists, including Abraham.

Dated 26 April 1637, a bill of landing listing Joseph Clifton, a London merchant, showed goods conveyed on the Tristan and Jane of London to ‘Abraham Iveson, planter’, and several others. The settlers were in need of home comforts and supplies, which arrived on the trade ships from Britain. In return, those ships carried the planters crops, including tobacco.

Tobacco advertisement, 18th century.

The planers in Virginia were cultivating hay, cotton, wheat, peanuts, barely, but mainly tobacco. Captain Francis Willis owned 3,000 acres of land, four others including Abraham owned 1,000 acres, and fifty-five others owned smaller parcels. 

A patent dated 10 June 1651 stated that Mr Abraham Iveson acquired 655 acres of land on the southwest side of the North River in Mobjack Bay, Gloucester County. As well as a landowner and planter Abraham was a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses, the elected lower house of the colonial Virginia General Assembly.

Abraham married twice, in Scotland Rebecca Gifford and later in Virginia (after Rebecca’s death), Joan Towson. He had six children: Hugh, Sarah, Richard, Lucy, Elizabeth and Abraham. He died in Virginia, in 1655.

After Abraham’s death, on 9 October 1677, his second wife Joan made a gift of an African slave girl to her grandson William, son of James Kay. William was to receive the slave girl when he came of age, and the children of this slave were to be bequeathed to James’ other children. Witnesses to this transaction were William Kay and Abraham’s son, also Abraham.

The slave trade triangle. Image: Wikipedia.

What to make of Abraham and his family?

At the beginning in the seventeenth century, many Scottish people emigrated to America, Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand and South Africa. These emigrants included freemen who left Scotland to promote trade or to set up military outposts and way stations for merchant ships. They also included people fleeing poverty and religious groups fleeing oppression. Abraham’s status in Virginia suggests that he was in the freeman category.

No surviving documents link Abraham to the tobacco trade, but given the size of his landholding and the fact that tobacco was the main crop cultivated in Virginia it seems fair to assume that he was involved in the tobacco trade. To make money from such a harmful drug is morally dubious, but maybe we can forgive Abraham in this instance because he was ‘of his time’.

Virginia tobacco slaves, 17th century.

You could also argue that his slave ownership was ‘of its time’, but I find that a flimsy argument. By ‘owning’ people and restricting their freedom he knew what he was doing. Maybe he was kind to his slaves – I hope so – nevertheless, he did own them. 

Of my ancestors, Abraham is not alone in owning slaves in America and the West Indies. I will write about these ancestors in due course. Most of the ancestors I write about fill me with pride and I would love to have met them. Even though I’m not sure that I would have liked Abraham, I would have enjoyed talking with him too, if only to hear the moral defence of his position.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #93

Dear Reader,

While searching for ancestors who witnessed the Great Fire of London – an ongoing search – I discovered that my 10 x great grandfather Benjamin Troutbeck served on the 100 gun warship HMS Sovereign of the Seas, later renamed The Royal Sovereign. 

While serving as a mariner on The Royal Sovereign, Benjamin participated in two major battles, the Battle of Beachy Head (1690) after which he made his will, and the Battle of La Hougue (1692). The ship went down in 1697, the year Benjamin died. Coincidence? More research required.

‘The true portrait of His Majesty’s royal ship the Sovereign of the Seas’, a contemporaneous engraving by J. Payne

A romantic headline. Meanwhile, some of the sub-headlines are relevant today, and grim.

‘Wealthiest Woman in England Marries Penniless Poet – the Romance of Modern Times.’ The engagement of heiress Annie Winifred Ellerman to American poet and athlete Robert L. McAlmon is announced, Nottingham Journal, 14 March 1921.

My latest translations, the Spanish and Portuguese versions of The Devil and Ms Devlin, Sam Smith Mystery Series book fifteen.

Whitby Market Place 1880 by Frank Meadow Sutcliffe.

Nancy Wheeler, my 3 x great grandmother, was born in 1857 in Lambeth, London the twelfth and youngest child of Henry Wheeler, and the fourth child of his second wife, Mary Ann Thorpe.

As a teenager, Nancy worked as a servant for James W Micklefield, a lighterman, and his young family. Lightermen transferred goods to and from ships on the River Thames.

In May 1873, aged sixteen, Nancy left James W Micklefield’s employment because she was six months pregnant. On 1 June 1873, she married the baby’s father, twenty-five year old James Noulton, in St Mary’s, Lambeth.

Along with the social stigma of giving birth to an illegitimate child, Annie would have faced practical considerations for herself and her baby, therefore whatever her romantic feelings towards James Noulton marriage to him would have appeared the best option. Although the parish would have granted Annie some relief, without James’ support circumstances might have forced her to place the baby in a foundling hospital.

Illegitimacy in England was never common. During the post-medieval period the figure was under two per cent. That number increased to three per cent between 1590 and 1610 and rose again to three per cent in the 1700s. However, by the 1840s seven per cent of babies were born out of wedlock, a figure that decreased to four per cent in the 1890s. When Annie was pregnant with her first child she was not alone, for around a third of women were pregnant at the time they took their marriage vows.

A detail from Henry Nelson O’Neil’s 1855 painting ‘A Mother Depositing Her Child at a Foundling Hospital.’

Earlier, in 1866, eighteen year old James fell foul of the authorities and spent three months in Wandsworth Prison. His crime: he stole fifteen feet of lead. James’ prison record reveals that he was 4’ 10” tall with a lean left leg. Blue eyed and fair haired, he worked in the local pottery. James entered Wandsworth Prison weighing 6st 12lbs and left weighing 6st 8lbs. After his release, James does not appear in the criminal records, so presumably he’d learned his lesson.

On 31 August 1873, Nancy gave birth to James Henry Noulton, the first of six children she had with James. The family lived at 13 Salamanca Street, Lambeth, while James worked as a cement porter. Charles Booth’s poverty map of Victorian London reveals that Salamanca Street was a poor area with families existing on 18s. to 21s. a week.

Salamanca Street on Charles Booth’s poverty map.

After her marriage, Nancy changed not only her surname, but also her first name. She created a new identity for herself as Annie Noulton, and gave that name to her fourth child, my 2 x great grandmother, Annie Noulton.

My 2 x great grandmother Annie Noulton with two of her daughters, c1920.

Aged forty, James died on 20 December 1888 and on 22 May 1893 at St John the Evangelist, Walworth, Annie married widower, Frederick Thomas Canty, a stoker. The couple produced one daughter, Elizabeth.

On 8 May 1897, Frederick entered the county asylum. He died in the asylum on 20 June 1897.

After a hard life in a rough neighbourhood, Annie died on 27 July 1904 aged forty seven. In her forties, she lived at 39 Neville Street, LambethOn 6 August 1924, Eveline Downing died from an illegal operation in Neville StreetThe Coroner said that it was “a very unsatisfactory case that would have to be left undecided because there was a conspiracy of silence to defeat the ends of justice.”

Eveline Downing’s death remains a mystery, but what of Annie Noulton; why did she change her name from Nancy Wheeler? Her parents and upbringing offer an explanation and I will explore that in a future post.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #92

Dear Reader,

Book five in my Eve’s War Heroines of SOE series, Operation Sherlock is now available for pre-order 🙂

“Arthur is concerned about the Nazis’ latest terror weapon,” Guy said. “Rockets; they have the potential to cause death, destruction and chaos in Britain. He wants us to locate the launch site so that the RAF can bomb it.”

“How do we achieve that?” I asked.

“The Resistance in Paris think that they have identified the site,” Guy said. “Arthur wants us to confirm their suspicions.”

“Why doesn’t the local Sherlock network deal with this?” Mimi asked.

“Recently,” Guy said, “the Gestapo captured their wireless operator. Their network is in chaos. Trust is at a low ebb.”

I glanced at Mimi and noticed her pale, drawn features. As our wireless operator, she lived under constant stress; each transmission represented a moment of potential capture.

A trip to Paris sounded sublime. However, Mimi’s troubled expression reminded me that we were travelling into danger, potentially to our deaths.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Operation-Sherlock-Eves-Heroines-Book-ebook/dp/B08Y978SM6/

Electric cars are nothing new. Here’s one being charged in 1912.

From April 1807, Freedom of the City Admission Papers signed by my 4 x great grandfather James Richard Brereton of Shoe Lane, Fleet Street, London. Several of my ancestors signed these papers and entered into apprenticeships, in this case as a cutler. 

The text on this document is difficult to read, but basically it says that the apprentice was not allowed to visit taverns, gamble with cards or dice, fornicate or marry. Basically, he had to work for his master for seven years and not have any fun.

Later, James took his trade on the road as a tinker, marrying and establishing a family in Bristol. Sadly, he died shortly before his daughter, my 3 x great grandmother, Fanny, was born.

From our family archive, my great aunt Joan, 1924. I’ve studied this picture for years and still can’t decide if that’s her brother Roy at her side or a doll. What do you think?

My latest translations, Betrayal into French and The Devil and Ms Devlin into Spanish.

This week I discovered that my 12 x great grandfather, Rev Peter James Dent (1600 – 1671), was an apothecary 🙂

“Give me an ounce of civit, good apothecary, to sweeten my imagination.” – King Lear.

Picture: Italian pharmacy, 17th century (detail).

My 8 x great grandmother, Mary Troutbeck nee Ollyer, was the licensee at the Queen’s Head Inn, Gray’s Inn Lane, London. A young widow, she was a party to this case, heard at the Old Bailey on 22 May 1776.

Eighteenth century trial at the Old Bailey

The full trial account taken from the records at https://www.oldbaileyonline.org/

JAMES LECORES and WILLIAM GODFREY were indicted for stealing twenty-nine guineas, a half guinea, and eight shillings and six-pence in money numbered, the property of Daniel Dance , and a bank note for 20 l. the property of the said Daniel in the dwelling house of Mary Troutbeck, widow, May the 6th. (Approximately £3,000 in today’s money).

DANIEL DANCE sworn.

I live at Camberwell: I lost a 20 l. bank note, twenty-nine guineas, a half guinea, and eight shillings and six-pence at Mrs. Troutbeck’s, the Queen’s Head Inn, Gray’s-inn-lane ; I took the money to Mr. Child’s at Temple-bar; the office was shut up; I came away, and while I was looking up at a house near Temple-bar, Godfrey came up and said, Farmer, what are you looking at? I told him I came to pay my rent to my landlord, and the office was shut up; he said he came out of Kent to a lawyer, and he supposed he was too late to meet with him; we walked together and he talked of some people in Kent; he mentioned the names of several I was well acquainted with; I said I would carry the money to Mr. Silway’s chambers, for I would not carry it back again; he said he would go with me and shew me his chambers; we went up Chancery-lane and crossed Holborn into Gray’s-inn-lane; we went about two hundred yards up and down, and then he said, if I would go into a public house we might have intelligence; we went into a public house, and he called for six-penny worth of Crank, and he asked me if I would sit down; I sat down, and in came the other prisoner and pulled out a purse of money, and said he had drank fourteen glasses of brandy that morning standing; he said he was a captain just come home: we went out from there, and he said he would shew me the way to Mr. Silway’s chambers; then we went into Mrs. Troutbeck’s and called for a bottle of wine; they hit my knuckles with a half-penny, and then asked me to put the half-penny under a bottle; while I was doing it they took the money out of my pocket; I saw the money in their hand, but they ran away so fast I could not speak; they broke a glass in their hurry in running out; the money was in a bag in my coat pocket.

When they run out you felt in your pocket? – Yes, it was gone; I saw the bag in their hands, and the note was in the bag.

Cross Examination.

Whose hands did you see the money in? – Godfrey’s.

Did you ever see these people before? – Never before; he appeared like a country farmer; I know them as well as any man in the parish I live in; I know Godfrey by his backside; I took him by the tail; I have been always positive to him; he was taken the Tuesday after the Duchess of Kingston’s trial. 

Elizabeth Chudleigh, Duchess of Kingston (8 March 1721 – 26 August 1788), sometimes called Countess of Bristol, was an English noble and courtier, known by her contemporaries for her adventurous lifestyle. She was found guilty of bigamy at a trial at Westminster Hall that attracted 4,000 spectators.

Was that a week or a fortnight after you was plundered? – I believe it was about a fortnight.

You knew the man immediately? – Yes; I pursued him every day; he owned he had the money; his friends offered me thirty pounds.

WILLIAM SWAN sworn.

I live with Mrs. Troutbeck: the prosecutor and three more came into our house on Easter Monday, and asked for a pot of beer; I told them we did not sell beer; then they called for a bottle of wine; I stood in the passage to watch them, lest they should go away and not pay the reckoning; three of them came out very sharp, and put two shillings in my hand; I asked my mistress how much it was, she said two shillings; I went in to see if there were any glasses broke, and met the old farmer coming out; a glass was broke; I asked him if he was to pay for the glass, he said he had lost enough: I know the prisoners are two of the men; they owned before the justice they had the money, but said they got it by gambling.

LECORES’ DEFENCE.

A parcel of people about me desired me to say so, and they would clear me; I was in liquor and did not know what I did.

GODFREY’s DEFENCE.

I leave it to my counsel.

Godfrey called four witnesses, who gave him a good character.

From the Jury to DANCE. Whether they used any other means besides that of the bottle to divert you? – Nothing in the world; there was no gaming.

How long might it be from the time you went in to the time they ran away? – Not above ten minutes.

BOTH GUILTY. Death .

Tried by the First Middlesex Jury before Mr. RECORDER.

The judge sentenced both men to death. However, their cases were respited. On 13 September 1776, after the respite, Lecores and Godfrey came before the court again. This time the judge sentenced them to three years on a hulk. 

The beached convict ship HMS Discovery, at Depford.

The Old Bailey case revealed that the Queen’s Head Inn did not sell beer, but it did sell ‘Crack’ and wine. The inn was situated in Gray’s Inn Lane the road by which Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones entered London. The lane was a popular hub for scholarly, legal and literary people. James Shirley the dramatist resided there and it was the favourite haunt of the poet John Langhorne.

Baptised on 14 November 1717 in Holborn, London, Mary Ollyer was the daughter of Richard Ollyer and Mary Thomas. She married William Troutbeck on 17 August 1739. Their marriage was recorded in the Clandestine Marriages Register, which suggests an air of secrecy. This pattern was often repeated on this branch of my family tree due to religious nonconformity.

William and Mary produced eight children in fourteen years. When William died on 24 March 1753 Mary became the sole owner of the Queen’s Head and with the aid of servants ran the inn, rubbing shoulders with and serving drinks to some of the leading literary figures of the age. No doubt, she talked with these people and discussed their literary projects.

Gray’s Inn Lane, c1878.
(c) Royal Academy of Arts / Photographer credit: Prudence Cuming Associates Limited /

In her autumn years, Mary bequeathed the Queen’s Head Inn to my direct ancestors, Daniel Cottrell and Mary Troutbeck who ensured that the public house prospered into the nineteenth century.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #83

Dear Reader,

Many thanks to my loyal readers for their pre-orders and for placing Stormy Weather, Sam Smith Mystery Series book eighteen, on the Hot 💯 chart.

Delighted to announce that my Ann’s War series will be translated into French 🙂

More translation news. We started work on two new translations this week both in Spanish: The Devil and Ms Devlin, Sam Smith Mystery Series book fifteen and The Olive Tree: Branches, book two in my Spanish Civil War saga. Many thanks to all my translators for their contributions to our translation projects.

Mom’s Favorite Reads

Happy New Year to All Our Readers!

In our New Year issue…

Surviving the Stone Age

Genealogy: Researching Your Family Tree

Nicolas Winton – The British Schindler 

Meditation

National Hat Day

Stories, Puzzles, Recipes, Humour, Poetry, International Bestsellers and so much more…

20 February 1927, the wedding of Louisa and John, my grand aunt and uncle.

The French Grand Prix, 1906.

Marseille, the setting for my Heroine’s of SOE story, Eve’s War: Operation Zigzag, drawn in 1886.

A Roll of Honour produced by the Powell Duffryn Steam Coal Company in recognition of company officials who served in the First World War.

Ancestry

Three letters from Ken Howe (born 13.3.1919 in Corneli, the son of Billy Howe and Gwendolyne Thomas). In 1940 when the call came Ken responded to the threat of fascism and joined the Queen’s Own Hussars. His letters offer an insight into life at the front and here is the first of them.

30.9.1940

Dear Sis (Priscilla) Handel (brother-in-law) and Clive (nephew),

Thanks for your letter, which I received this morning. Glad to here that you are all okay, as I am. I have just come from dinner, which wasn’t so hot, and after reading about that rabbit my mouth is watering.

Jerry was around here (Newmarket) last night dropping his eggs, but far enough from us. As long as he keeps that distance I’ll be quite satisfied. I was in Newmarket last night with one of the boys from our tent and we spent most of our time in a church canteen reading and talking and it was a pleasant evening, what with free tea and cake. We were issued with a suit of denim last week, the stuff that the Home Guards use, and we use it for our work. We look like Home Guards walking around our camp. There has been talk of us moving this week, but I don’t know if it is right or not.

It is getting cold in the night time now, and I woke last night with my feet like lumps of ice. I think I will have to get a hot-water bottle sez me. We have been on wireless training this morning and I was nearly sleeping on my feet. We are going out in tanks this afternoon, messing about.

I had a letter from Aunt Edie yesterday, and she said she hoped to see me on my next leave, remember the 48 hours.

Joan (sister) sent me some fruit and biscuits in her parcel and I’ve been doing alright the last two days. Well old girl this is about all the news this time so I will sign off. Give my regards to the sergeant (his father?).

Till the next time, love to all,

Ken

Here is the second letter written by Ken Howe of the 4th Queen’s Own Hussars. Undated, 1940.

We have been cleaning this place out today. We will be a long way from here (Newmarket) by Saturday. Well, Sis, I’m not feeling too good about leaving the old country. It’s been a lovely autumn day, with the sun out, and it brings back memories of South Cornelly, and walks in the moonlight with the boys. It will be a new experience like when I was called up, and I expect I shall get used to it.

Ken Howe’s third letter, 9.2.1941, Middle East Forces

Dear Sis, Handel and Clive,

Just a few lines to say how we are getting on here. We are doing alright so far, and we haven’t got much to grumble at. Elwyn and myself were in Cairo a few days ago on leave, and we had quite a good time there. It isn’t as modern as I thought it would be, and in the native quarters how it smells. We stayed at the barracks there and it cost us nothing, though the money doesn’t half go. I ordered two cushion covers from one of the shops, with our badge on it. They make them and post them duty free for the troops. I’m afraid it will take a long time before you have them, one for you and Joan.

While in Cairo we met a few of our boys who were in our squad in Catterick and we hadn’t seen them for months, and in one of the clubs for our troops I met a chap named Thomas. He owns the Swan in Nottage and he knows Handel and Roy Edwards well. Surprising how small the world is, eh. We went to see the pyramids and Sphinx and other sites.

We both played football yesterday afternoon for the squadron and had our snaps taken by one of the boys, so I’ll send you some on when they are developed. We have had a few sandstorms and boy is there a mess. There’s sand in your nose, eyes, everywhere, and they blow for hours. Well old girl I’m afraid this is all for now. Hoping you are all in the best of health as I am. Cheerio for the present.

Love to all,

Ken

The cushion covers, made of black velvet, were sent to Priscilla and Joan with the message ‘To Sis All My Love Ken’ embroidered on them.

In March 1941 the Queen’s Own Hussars were mobilised to Crete and then to mainland Greece in the forces gathered together at short notice to defend Greece. Sadly, Ken was killed in action on the 23.4.1941, the day the Greek forces surrendered to the Axis. He was twenty-two years old.

The Greek campaign ended with a complete German and Italian victory. In many respects it was a ‘pointless’ campaign for the British because they did not have the military resources to carry out big simultaneous operations in North Africa and the Balkans. Even if they had been able to block the Axis advance, a counter-thrust across the Balkans was impossible.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #78

Dear Reader,

Delighted that my Eve’s War Heroines of SOE series will now be translated into Portuguese, as well as Spanish and German.

27 October 1865. My 3 x great uncle, Thomas Reynolds, made the newspapers in a bastardy case, which wasn’t proved. Maybe it was coincidence, but after this incident he married two other Mary’s, in 1867 and 1875.

The perfect job for the dentophobic.

Byline Times intends to publish Byline Wales. Very excited to be in discussions with their editor about playing a role.

https://bylinetimes.com/

29 May 1858. Some things are timeless. The issue of vaccination.

Smallpox was a common killer in nineteenth century Britain. It spread rapidly and killed around 30% of those who contracted it and left many survivors blinded or scarred. In the 1850s, the government passed a series of laws that made vaccination against smallpox compulsory.

Ancestry

Mary Hopkin, born in 1818, my 3 x great grandmother, gave birth to five children: Thomas Reynolds born 1842, Margaret Howe born 1851, Hopkin Howe born 1853, William Howe born 1855, and Mary Ann Howe born 1858. However, only one of her offspring, my direct ancestor William, survived her.

Margaret Howe was born on 23 January 1851 in South Corneli, Glamorgan. Sadly, she died of ‘brain fever’ on 30 December 1853 in St Brides, Glamorgan. Through her husband, William, Mary had a number of relatives in St Brides, but it’s not clear why Margaret was there and why Mary wasn’t with her. Did Mary have the fever too and was too ill to look after her child? Whatever the reason for Mary’s absence, Margaret’s death was a deviating blow for the family.

Mary Ann was born on 20 June 1858 in South Corneli, Glamorgan. Like her mother, Mary, Mary Ann was a dressmaker. Amazingly, a letter written by Mary Ann in 1877 survives. 

As well as sentimental value, the letter is interesting in that it is written in English by a native Welsh speaker, it mentions using the recently installed railway network and, more poignantly, Mary Ann states that she is well ‘at present’. Mary Ann endured poor health throughout her short life and died on 21 January 1886, aged twenty-seven.

South Corneli, October 3, 1877

Dear Cousin,

I have taken the pleasure of writing these few lines to you in hopes to find you well as I am at present. Dear Cousin I could understand in Mary David’s letter the note you sent me that you was greatly offended to me and I don’t know the cause of you being so offended to me unless it is the cause of not sending your hat. The reason I did not send it because you told me you was coming to the tea party. You said that nothing would not keep you from not coming and I have not had no chance of sending it after unless I send it by train. Please write and let me know for what you are offended to me for. I am very uneasy ever since I did receive the note and I do think you don’t care much about me ever since you went away. I do only wish for you to write to me to tell me the reason by return.

So no more at present. From your cousin,

Mary Ann Howe

Mary Ann Howe died of ‘cardiac syncope’ or heart failure. Her brother, Hopkin, a Methodist Minister, was at her side. She died at Alexandria Road in Pontycymer, fourteen miles north of Corneli. What was she doing there? 

In 1882, the people of Pontycymer built the Bethel Methodist Chapel (pictured) with modifications added in 1885. The design incorporated a Romanesque style with two storeys, a gable-entry plan and round-headed windows. It seems highly likely that Hopkin was visiting the chapel, accompanied by his sister, Mary Ann. Mary Ann fell ill and was taken around the corner to a house in Alexandria Road where she died. 

Because of her letter, I feel close to Mary Ann as an ancestor and remain grateful for her words and the insight into her life.

My 3 x great grandmother, Mary Hopkin, gave birth to Thomas Reynolds on 15 January 1842 in South Corneli, Glamorgan. Thomas’ father, also Thomas, died three years later.

In 1851, Thomas was living with his mother and stepfather, William Howe, and attending the local school. At nineteen he was a carter on a local farm, Morfa Mawr, and in 1867 he married Mary Rees who gave birth to a son, Edward, eighteen months later.

Mary died soon after the birth and while Thomas worked on a farm closer to his mother’s home, Edward lived with his grandmother.

Thomas married Mary Morgan on 15 May 1875 in their local church at Mawdlam. Three children arrived in four years: William 1876, Jenkin 1877 and Catherine 1880. Thomas was a railway packer at this time, living on Heol Las in North Corneli.

Mary died on 13 October 1886 and Thomas died five years later, on 11 March 1891. He was 49.

Thomas left a will bequeathing £79 7s 0d to his son Edward, the equivalent of two horses, eight cows or 242 days pay for a skilled tradesman.

For my 3 x great grandmother, Mary Hopkin, now aged 72, this was a bitter blow, the loss of her third child. Sadly, more tragedy was to follow.

In regard to family life, Mary Hopkin’s second son, Hopkin Howe, followed a similar path to his half-brother, Thomas Reynolds.

Born on 16 June 1853 in South Corneli, Hopkin lived with his parents, siblings and cousin, Anne Price. Anne married David John, who joined them in the family home in South Corneli. This was a significant event for Hopkin because David John was a blacksmith and he taught him the skills of his trade.

In 1871, Hopkin was living with a Welsh family in Stockton, Durham while he plied his trade as a blacksmith. Stockton was the home of the railway and Hopkin’s skills were in great demand.

When Hopkin returned to Wales he changed career. He became a Methodist Minister. The chapel had always been central to the Howe family and it was Hopkin’s great ambition to become a minister. Having saved enough money to finance his training, Hopkin toured South Wales as a preacher of the gospel. 

26 March 1891. A happy occasion for my 3 x great uncle, Methodist minister Hopkin Howe, marrying David Morris and Mary Jane John.

Hopkin married Elizabeth Jones in 1884. This event brought great pleasure and tragedy. Elizabeth gave birth to a daughter, Elizabeth May Gwendoline Howe, on 27 November 1885, but died in childbirth. Deprived of her mother, baby Elizabeth died in infancy. One can only imagine how these events tested Hopkin’s faith.

Hopkin married again, Sarah Ann Jones, in December 1890 and he continued to tour South Wales preaching the gospel. However, he died four years later, of a lumber abscess, an infection in his spinal cord, on 19 February 1894. He left a will bequeathing £119 to Sarah Ann, the equivalent of a year’s wages. 

My 3 x great grandmother, Mary Hopkin, was 75 at this time. She still had her husband, William, at her side and her only surviving son, also William, lived with his family next door to her.

——-

Marie-Madeleine Fourcade led the French Resistance during the Second World War. This exchange of messages with British Intelligence (MI6) explains how she assumed command.

N1 = Georges Loustaunau-Lacau, founder of Alliance, the French Resistance network.

POZ 55 = Marie-Madeleine Fourcade.

“N1 arrested this morning STOP Network intact STOP Everything continuing STOP Best postpone parachuting next moon STOP Confidence unshakable STOP Regards STOP POZ 55”

From MI6: “Who’s taking over?”

“I am STOP POZ 55”

The Second World War. Inside an Anderson shelter on Christmas Eve.

In this month’s bumper issue of our Amazon #1 ranked magazine…

A Celtic Christmas, stories, articles and gift ideas based on a Celtic theme. Plus seasonal features to entertain you during the festive season and all your regular favorites.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx