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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #81

Dear Reader,

My historical novels are great fun to write, but it’s always lovely to return to Sam, a bit like returning home after a holiday. Here’s Stormy Weather, book eighteen in my Sam Smith Mystery Series, available for pre-order from today.

Pregnant in a pandemic. My life is never dull. While Alan and I set about the pleasant task of selecting a name for our baby, Faye interviewed candidates for the role of maternity leave assistant.

Our plans were going well until a friend was murdered. The evidence pointed to a hitman, a professional killing. A further murder underlined the fact that the stakes were high, that someone had a secret to hide. 

Who was behind the murders? And what was the secret they were desperate to hide?

Stormy Weather, an investigation that threatened my life, and my baby’s, a case that revealed that greedy men are prepared to kill anyone and anything, including our planet.

Stormy Sunday

Amazing to record that over a quarter of a million of my books have now been downloaded. I honestly thought that if that figure reached a hundred it would be remarkable. Many thanks to everyone who has made this possible.

Swansea Market, 1880.

🎼🎼🎼 Oh the Deadwood Stage

is a-rollin’ on over the plains 🎼🎼🎼

Deadwood, South Dakota, USA, 1876

On 19 December 1778, Marie Antoinette gave birth to her daughter, Marie Thérèse, in front of 200 people. Her maid said, ‘The persons who poured into the chamber were so numerous that the rush nearly killed the Queen.’ These persons included two chimney sweeps who climbed on the furniture to get a better view.

Locals use German military equipment as they man the barricades during the liberation of Paris, August 1944.

The 1930s, fashion Canadian style. Cone-shaped face masks to protect your face in a snowstorm.

Now aged 99 and resident in New Zealand, Phyllis Latour is the only surviving female SOE agent from the Second World War. She served in France under the code name ‘Genevieve’. You can read my appreciation of this remarkable woman here

https://hannah-howe.com/eves-war/phyllis-latour/

Ancestry

My 2 x great grandfather, William Howe, was born on 3 March 1855 in South Corneli. His parents were William Howe of St Brides and Mary Hopkin of Corneli. He was baptised on 6 April 1855, Good Friday.

In 1861 William was living with his parents and siblings, Hopkin and Mary Ann. Lodgers, David and Ann John, also lived in the house. The census shows that William was attending school and his main language was Welsh.

Newspaper reports of the time show that William’s father, also William, owned a bank account, which suggests that the family were careful with their money and had a few spare pennies to stash away for a rainy day.

By 1871 William had left school and found work as a servant, farm labouring for Thomas Powell in Newton Nottage. He was one of three farm labourers and two domestic servants working for the Powell’s. One of the domestic servants was Mary Jones. Mary introduced William to her sister Ann, and the couple started courting.

On 13 November 1876 William won five shillings for plowing half an acre of land with a pair of horses within four hours. Five shillings was the equivalent of a day’s wages for a skilled tradesman.

On 5 December 1878 William married Ann. Ann was born in Corneli on 22 April 1854, the youngest child of David Jones of Merthyr Mawr and Ann David of Margam. William was still working as a farm labourer at the time of his marriage. Interesting that when William recorded the family birthdays in the Howe family Bible he did not know the exact date of Ann’s birthday. A typical man?!

William and Ann were married at Hermon Methodist Chapel in Bridgend, a grand chapel for a grand occasion. They signed their names, thus proving that they were literate, and the marriage was witnessed by William’s brother, Hopkin, and Ann’s friend, Mary Phillips.

William and Ann, c1905

By 1881 William had returned to Corneli. Along with his wife Ann, he lived with his father-in-law, David Jones, and their baby daughter, Mary Ann, born in 1879. A niece, Elizabeth Burnell, Mary Jones’ daughter, was also living in the house. Elizabeth Burnell was living with the Howe family because Mary Jones was suffering from a chronic mental illness that stayed with her for the rest of her life. The family were now in North Corneli and William was working as a railway packer. 

Around this time William would walk three miles to Newton – and three miles back – three times a week to receive lessons in English and other subjects. Each lesson cost one penny. 

William became Headman in South Corneli and through his learning he helped the villagers with their reading and writing. Another duty of the village Headman was to lead the band of mourners as they carried a coffin from home to burial ground, many miles sometimes, over fields and mountains. He was living at a time of changing attitudes, and he seized the opportunity to improve himself and give help and support to the less educated in his village, a Howe trait that can be traced back many generations.

By 1891 four more children had appeared in the Howe household: Christiana in 1881, Evan in 1885, Elizabeth in 1887 and William David in 1890. Sadly, William David died on 20 May 1891. The family were now living in South Corneli, two doors down from Ty Draw. The house had three rooms and William was working as a stone quarryman in the limestone quarry. His parents, William and Mary, lived next door.

William’s handwriting, recording the family’s birthdays in the Howe Bible

In February 1895 William had a life threatening accident in the quarry, which was recorded in the South Wales newspapers.

In 1901 William was still working in the quarry and his family were living on Porthcawl Road, South Corneli. Now, they had a four-roomed house. They also had four more children: William, born in 1892, Margaret, born in 1894, Priscilla, born in 1897 and Edith, born in 1899. Along with Elizabeth and Mary Ann, all were living at the house. William was now bilingual; he could speak Welsh and English. And although his mother, Mary, had died in 1897, his father, William, still lived next door.

The workforce at Corneli Quarry, c1920 when William was foreman 

Along with a host of other people William Howe was fined five shillings on 16th February 1906 for not sending his children to school. He was a platelayer on the railways at this time and the fine is interesting because it seems to go against his character of a well-respected member of the community and chapel. Also, William was a firm believer in education so he must have had a good reason for not sending his children to school. Unless any further evidence comes to light, we can only guess at his reasons.

By 1911 William and Ann had been married for 32 years. All the family, except Christiana, were living in a five-roomed house in South Corneli. William was an excellent gardener and grew fruit and vegetables to support his family and augment his wages.

Tragedy struck the family when on 6 November 1913, Priscilla, William and Ann’s daughter, died during an operation. She was sixteen years old. Evidently, Priscilla had a sweet voice because she sang at the Corneli Literary Society concert in December 1909.

William’s wife, Ann Jones, died on 29 February 1916 of Bright’s disease. She was sixty-one. Ann was buried at St Mary Magdalene, Mawdlam, plot A118. The census described Ann as a ‘housewife’, but one suspects that there was much more to her than that. She gave birth to nine children and no doubt supported her husband in the running of their home and allotment. In all probability, she shared William’s Methodist beliefs, although the fact that she was buried at Mawdlam and not at Capel-y-Pil adds an element of mystery.

By the 1920s William had become one of the elders at Capel-y-Pil Methodist Chapel. Therefore he was in the company of some of the leading land owners in the area. His house in South Corneli was called Lilac Cottage and William was now a foreman at the quarry. In his youth, his ambition had been to become a Methodist Minister. However, family finances dictated that only his older brother, Hopkin, could train for the ministry.

Elders of Capel-y-Pil, c1930. William is seated, third from left.

On 14 May 1933 William died at ‘Woodview’, North Corneli. His son, Evan, was at his side. The Howe family continued to live at Lilac Cottage in South Corneli while William was buried with his wife, Ann, at St Mary Magdalene, Mawdlam.

Lilac Cottage, home to my 3 x great grandparents, William and Mary, and my 2 x great grandparents, William and Ann. 

In the twentieth century, William David Howe, his wife Gwendolyne and their children lived in Lilac Cottage, followed by my great grand aunt, Mary Ann and great grand uncle, Evan. Mary Ann lost a leg as a child and Evan was blind in later life. Both were great ‘characters’. 

Painted by Priscilla D Edwards, nee Howe.

A Christmas card from 1876.

Merry Christmas!

Hannah xxx

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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #57

Dear Reader,

“But I, being poor, have only my dreams; I have spread my dreams under your feet; tread softly because you tread on my dreams.” – W B Yeats

I enjoyed the movie Lucie Aubrac this week and would place it in my top ten. I love the Continental style of filmmaking where the camera lingers on a scene and facial expressions say more than words. Some of the linking scenes were dialogue and music free, yet the story flowed effortlessly.

Lucie Aubrac is a French movie and I viewed it in its native language. I find that subtitles draw you into a story and make it more compelling. It’s a true story and I knew the outcome. All the same, the movie is gripping from the opening dramatic scene to its heartfelt conclusion.

A fitting cinematic tribute to a remarkable woman.

One of my favourite actresses, Eva Marie Saint, was 96 on 4th July 2020. Happy birthday and thank you for your wonderful films.

A record-breaking sales day for my books and Sam’s Song at #1 for the ninth time. Difficult to get excited with so much going on in the world, but many thanks to everyone who supports my books.

The birth of speech. And it all went downhill from there 🙂

René Descartes as Nostradamus?!

Of course, he actually said, “Cogito, ergo sum.” – “I think, therefore I am.”

One for the album. Nice to see my latest Sam Smith Mystery, Looking for Rosanna Mee, alongside Ian Rankin in the Hot 💯. We will publish Looking for Rosanna Mee in September.

I see my new keyboard is well equipped for the modern age…

Bicycle-taxis, Paris, spring 1945. Research for my Eve’s War Heroines of SOE series.

This week in 1932, the Great Depression in America reached its lowest point. After the 1929 Wall Street Crash, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell. Disaster followed for investors, alongside further declines in consumption, production and employment.

Also interesting on this front page: ‘State Plans to Roundup Tax Dodgers’. And, ‘Jury Believes Her Story’. I’m intrigued to know what her story entailed.

Written in the 1970s, the lyrics are still highly relevant today.

An inspiration for my Eve’s War series, Nancy Wake was one of the most remarkable women of World War II. Born in New Zealand and brought up in Australia, she married a Frenchman and became a leading figure in the Marseille Resistance. In 1943, she joined the SOE and was heavily involved in the liberation of France.

This DVD arrived from New Zealand today and I’m looking forward to watching it.

An in-depth article about Nancy Wake will appear on my website in the near future.

Don’t believe everything you hear. Don’t believe everything you see. This is a stationary image.

Some ideas to lift your mood. Try to achieve at least three a day.


Resistance Couples – Hélène and Philippe Viannay

Hélène Victoria Mordkovitch was born on 12 July 1917 in Paris after her Russian parents had emigrated to the city in 1908.

A brilliant student, Hélène attended the Sorbonne where she studied geography. There, in September 1940, she met her future husband, Philippe Viannay, a philosophy student seeking a certificate in geography.

Hélène Viannay

Opposed to the Nazi occupation of France, the couple decided not to escape to London. Instead they created an underground newspaper, Défense de la France, publishing the first issue on 14 July 1941. The journal took its motto from Blaise Pascal, “I only believe stories told by those witnesses who are willing to have their throats cut.”

Despite the dangers of producing an underground newspaper, Défense de la France remained in production until the Liberation in August 1944. By that time the newspaper regularly reached half a million readers, the largest circulation of the whole clandestine press.

Philippe Viannay

Hélène and Philippe married in 1942. Their first child, Pierre, was born the following year while the couple were on the run from the Gestapo. Along with the newspaper, Hélène also organised the mass production of false identity papers for Frenchmen resisting deportation to the forced labour camps in Germany.

In 1944, Hélène joined the Ronquerolles Maquis, a Resistance group led by Philippe. After her husband was injured, Hélène coordinated the group and participated in the liberation of France.

After the war, the Viannays created the Centre for the Training of Journalists (Centre de Formation des Journalistes) in Paris, which continues to this day. In 1947, they also founded Les Glénans (Le Centre nautique des Glénans), which initially served as a convalescent centre for deportees and battle-weary résistants. Hélène managed the association from 1954 until her retirement in 1979.

The Canadian journalist Caitlin Kelly, who studied with Philippe Viannay at the Centre in Paris, later described him as “the most inspiring man I’ve ever met.”

In 1991, Hélène participated in the creation of the Prix Philippe Viannay-Défense de la France, a prize awarded annually to works promoting resistance to Nazism in France and elsewhere in Europe.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

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Sam Smith Mystery Series

Europe by Book

Today, I’m launching a new venture, Europe by Book. I’m starting with a Facebook page. A website and more outlets will follow.

This year, Plovdiv is the European Capital of Culture, so it is a good place to start our tour of Europe by Book.

In 1855, Hristo G. Danov created the first Bulgarian publishing company and printing-press. Furthermore, the city can boast Bulgaria’s first public library, the Ivan Vazov National Library, founded in 1879 and named after the famous Bulgarian writer and poet Ivan Vazov. Today, the library houses over 1.5 million books.

Do you have a favourite Bulgarian author, either from the past or present? Please comment so that I can share your favourites with my readers 🙂

https://www.facebook.com/EuropeByBook