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Dear Reader #95

Dear Reader,

Nice to receive correspondence from readers who enjoy my books and wish to discuss the subject matter. My Eve’s War Heroines of SOE Series has generated a lot of interest in that respect.

My DNA result indicated that my ancestors were in the Caribbean. Now, this record suggests that my 7 x great grandfather Edward King was baptised in St Michael Parish, Barbados on 6 October 1722, aged two. What were his parents, Thomas and Anne, doing in Barbados? Were they involved in the sugar plantations? More research required…

Sulham House, home to the Wilder branch of my family. The Wilders arrived in Britain during the second half of the fifteen century, possibly from Bohemia.

My latest translation, Stardust in Portuguese.

I’ve traced one branch of my family tree back to Lord Tancrède (Tancred) “the Viking” aka de la Ville Tancréde, born c880 in Schleswig-Holstein, Denmark. One of the foremost Vikings of his generation, Tancrède built a castle on a spur overlooking the Seine.

“Tancarville castle was the seat of one of the most powerful lineages of the Pays de Caux. This family, grand officers of the crown, were as mentioned, early landowners in the Lillebonne region. Infamous in Knightly accomplishments and during the ducal epoch, becoming that of the Hereditary Chamberlains of Normandy.” 

Tancarville Castle – le Château Fort de la Ville Tancrède

The April 2021 issue of Mom’s Favorite Reads!

In this month’s issue…

Do Pets Really Make You Healthy?

Memories of Ireland

Author Features

Escape to Simplicity 

Women of Courage 

Plus, interviews, photography, puzzles, poems, short stories and so much more!

My 6 x great grandfather Jasper Wheeler was born in 1745 in Westminster, London. He married Mary Cherien on 24 May 1773 and the couple had two children, including my direct ancestor, Thomas Wheeler.

At this stage, little is known about Mary. Further research is required. Her surname suggests French origin and the marriage and birth dates suggest that her son Thomas was born out of wedlock.

The scene of Jasper and Mary’s wedding, St George the Martyr, Queen Square, Holborn (Picture: Wikipedia).

Jasper earned a living as a pawnbroker in Kew Road, Richmond. He rented a property from Henry Edmead and his rent at 16 shillings was considerably higher than the eight other tenants who rented property from Henry Edmead.

Richmond contained areas of great poverty, although on the whole it was well-to-do. I sense that Jasper and Mary straddled these two worlds, living in modest comfort while dealing in the main with people who had little money.

Pawnbrokers, with their distinctive symbols of three golden balls, were integral to working class life in the 1800s. Their symbols were initially associated with St Nicholas who, according to legend, saved three young girls from destitution by loaning them each a bag of gold, paving their way towards marriage.

The Pawnbroker’s Shop, Harry Furniss, 1910.

Modern pawnbroking began with the Pawnbrokers Act of 1800. Lord Eldon, who promoted the Bill, admitted that he had used pawnshops in his youth. The Act increased the interest rate to 20 percent per year with licence fees set at £15 in London and £7 10 shillings in the countryside. Although sometimes associated with crime and stolen goods, a report in the Victorian era concluded that only one in 14,000 items were pawned dishonestly.

Often referred to as ‘Uncle’, quite often the pawnbroker was the difference between a regular meal and starvation. Indeed, some communities boasted more pawnbrokers than public houses, the pawnbroker lending money on anything from bedlinen to cutlery, from jewellery to furniture, from tools to the family’s Sunday best clothes.

With the workhouse an ever-present threat, pawning became acceptable, a way of life. Families, and pawnbrokers, recognised a regular pattern, centred on Saturdays and Mondays. A family, usually through the wife, would pledge its clothing on Monday then redeem it on Saturday, after pay day. Suitably dressed, the family would attend church on a Sunday, then resume the pawning cycle, the pawnbroker earning his living from the interest charged.

The Pawnbroker’s Shop, 1876. 

The entrance to a pawnbroker’s shop was usually via a side-street. In Sketches by Boz, Charles Dickens offered this description of a pawnshop near Drury Lane, ‘which affords a side entrance for the accommodation of such customers as may be desirous of avoiding the observation of the passers-by, or the chance of recognition in the public street’. The door, ‘half inviting, half repelling the hesitating visitor, who, if he be as yet uninitiated, examines one of the old garnet brooches in the window for a minute or two with affected eagerness, as if he contemplated making a purchase; and then cautiously looking round to ascertain that no one watches him, hastily slinks in…’

Although associated with the working class, a pawnbroker also received visits from the middle and upper classes in need of instant cash. Due to the sums involved, these clients offered the pawnbroker richer pickings and a chance to make sizeable profits from the transactions.

The pawnbroker was entitled to keep and sell items valued at under ten shillings once the redemption period of one year and seven days elapsed. Items valued at over ten shillings were sold at public auction.

No one described the scene better than Charles Dickens, ‘several sets of chessmen, two or three flutes, a few fiddles…some gaudily-bound prayer books and testaments, two rows of silver watches…numerous old-fashioned tables and tea spoons….cards of rings and brooches….cheap silver penholders and snuff-boxes…silk and cotton handkerchiefs, and wearing apparel of every description…’ 

Charles Dickens, 1868.

Did Jasper exploit the poor, or offer an essential service? He made a living from their poverty. However, he also placed food on their dining tables. With little support from the state, the pawnbroker was an essential member of the community.

Jasper’s Will – he died in late January 1812, aged 67, and was buried on 2 February – makes no mention of his wife Mary or his son Thomas. Instead, he bequeathed money to a widow, Elizabeth Tibbs, and her family. Was this bequest a business arrangement or the result of a romantic relationship? I suspect the latter. Given that Jasper and Mary only had two children it suggests that Mary died young. But what of Thomas?

Although there is no record of Jasper falling foul of the law, the Wheelers were regular visitors to the Old Bailey. More about that, and Thomas’ fate, in a future post.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #90

Dear Reader,

Ideas for my Sam Smith mysteries usually appear a year or more before I write the stories. My latest idea in development, for book nineteen in the series, has an international flavour with characters from America, and France as the main setting. More news and pre-order details in future weeks.

My latest translation, Operation Zigzag in Portuguese. Available soon 🙂

A lovely find from 1839. Hannah Thorp, my 5 x great grandmother, in Pigot’s Directory as a straw hat maker 🙂

This picture, one of a series by George Orleans Delamotte, is titled ‘Ostler at Margam, 1818’. By coincidence, my 4 x great grandfather, Richard Morgan, was an ostler at Margam in 1818 🙂

An intriguing find, the union of my 8 x great grandparents, James Cottrell and Elizabeth Vincent, recorded in the Clandestine Marriage Register.

Another intriguing find from the Cottrell branch of my family, a Marriage Allegation and Bond signed by my 7 x great grandparents Daniel Cottrell and Mary Troutbeck on 9 October 1767.

Marriage Allegations and Bonds were signed by couples in a hurry or requiring privacy. Reasons included:

1. The bride was pregnant (in this case she wasn’t) or the groom was on leave from the Army or Navy.

2. The parties differed greatly in age, such as a widow marrying a much younger man or an old man marrying a young woman (not applicable here).

3. The parties differed in social standing, such as a master marrying a servant.

4. The parties differed in religion or did not attend the parish church because they were Nonconformists or Roman Catholics (this is the most likely reason for Daniel and Mary marrying in this fashion because the Cottrells were renowned nonconformists).

5. The parties were of full age but still faced family opposition to their marriage.

The Birth Certificate and the Blank Space

The youngest of seven children, my 2 x great grandmother, Margaret Jones, was born on 15 October 1871 in the village of Laleston, Glamorgan. Her parents, James and Margaret, had moved east from Carmarthen to Laleston to work on the land.

Initially, Margaret found employment as a maid. Then she married coal miner Thomas Jones (in Wales it’s very common for a number of intertwining branches to carry the surname Jones). The couple moved to North Corneli where Thomas worked in the nearby newly opened Newlands Colliery. The couple had ten children and family legend states that each week when the working members of her family returned home from the coal mines Margaret told them to place their wages on the living room table so that she could control the finances.

In many respects, Thomas and Margaret were a typical working class couple. However, Margaret harboured a secret. When she left Laleston to begin her family with Thomas, she left behind a son, Edward Robert Jones.

Throughout his childhood, Edward Robert Jones lived in Laleston with his aunt and uncle. Born before Thomas and Margaret married, it’s clear that Edward Robert was not Thomas’ son. So, who was his father? The mystery deepens because the space on Edward Robert’s birth certificate for his father’s name was left blank.

Margaret gave birth to Edward Robert out of wedlock, a scandalous thing for a woman to do in the Victorian era. Throughout my ancestry, I’ve discovered many pregnant brides and ‘shotgun weddings’. On every occasion, apart from this one, the father married the illegitimate child’s mother or at least acknowledged the child. 

As well as the psychological factor, it was important for the mother to identify the father so that she could receive maintenance for her child. The blank space on this birth certificate suggests that the father refused to acknowledge the child. That happened on occasion, but the mother could always challenge him. In Edward Robert’s case, the father remained anonymous. For what reason? Did he have something to hide?

The story, repeated throughout the generations, is that Margaret worked as a maid for John Picton Warlow in Laleston House, the ‘Big House’ in the village. That seems logical because in 1891 John Picton Warlow employed two housemaids along with a cook and a nurse. Furthermore, when Margaret moved to Corneli she named her home ‘Laleston House’.

Laleston House, Laleston

Everything points to the family stories being true – Margaret worked for John Picton Warlow as a maid in Laleston House. But who was John Picton Warlow?

The son of Captain Thomas Warlow of the Bengal Engineers and Mary Prudence Ord, John Picton Warlow was born on 6 November 1837 in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh, British India. When John was two years old his father died and the family returned to Britain. 

As a teenager, in 1854 John joined the East India Company in Madras, India. A successful career involving regular international travel followed. This included spells in India, South Africa and Turkey. 

John married three times and fathered at least twelve children. In 1865, a year after the death of his first wife, Josephine, John suffered a breakdown while in India and returned to Britain where he stayed with his cousin, Miss Turbervill, at Ewenny Priory. The Turbervill’s have a long lineage in Glamorgan dating back to medieval times and they are, incidentally, my direct ancestors. 

Ewenny Priory, from ewennypriory.co.uk

In 1891, John inherited the Turbervill Estate of Ewenny Priory and changed his name to Picton-Turbervill. He served as High Sheriff of Glamorgan and as a Justice of the Peace. It’s often been recorded that privileged Victorians took advantage of their servants. Did John take advantage of Margaret?

During the time Margaret worked for John, he lost his second wife, Eleanor. However, by the time Margaret gave birth to Edward Robert, John had married his third wife, Caroline. Would a husband cheat on his new wife?

Margaret died in 1945 and the gossip within my family, amongst ancestors who knew her, suggests that Edward Robert’s father resided at Laleston House in Laleston. If John was not the father, is there another candidate? All the servants at the ‘Big House’ in Laleston were female, so that leaves John’s three of age sons, one of whom was named Robert…

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 #79

Dear Reader,

Reading, you know it makes sense.

Exciting news. Sam’s Song is #1 in Australia. Sam is also top five in America, Brazil, Britain, Canada, France, India and Spain while Operation Zigzag is top five in Spain and France, and Betrayal is #1 in America 🙂

My 3 x and 2 x great grandfathers, both William, worked at this quarry so would have been aware of this shocking incident. Maybe they witnessed it.

The apartment of Gustave Eiffel in the tower he designed, 1909.

A Christmas card sent to Sergeant Major Fear in 1918. From The People’s Collection Wales.

Frost on the sand dunes this week.

Mary Francis, a friend and neighbour of my 3 x great grandmother, Mary Hopkin.

At 12.15 a.m., on Thursday 17 September 1890, Mary Francis, also known as Bopa, died; she was 110 years old.

Mary Francis hailed from Llansamlet, near Swansea. According to her obituary in the Glamorgan Gazette she was born on the 15th August 1780, the youngest of seven daughters.

Around 1810, Mary arrived in Corneli where she worked as a servant to Owen Howells at Pen-y-Mynydd Farm. Her first husband was a collier named Griffiths. In search of work, the couple returned to Llansamlet, only for Mr Griffiths to expire when he fell into a canal. A widow, Mary went into service at Aberavon.

Mary’s fortunes changed when she returned to Corneli to work on Ty Tanglwst Farm. There, she met one of the farm-hands, David Francis. The couple married on 21 May 1814 and they settled at Ty Capel, adjacent to the chapel, where Mary lived for the rest of her life.

Mary Francis had six children, four of whom were still alive at the time of her death. Her mother, reputedly, lived until she was 111 years old and she is buried at Llansamlet. Mary’s husband, David, died on the 2 November 1839, aged fifty-nine, and so Mary lived as a widow for a further fifty-one years.

The Gazette remembered Mary as an industrious, respectable woman whose faculties remained clear until her closing years. Apparently, she could distinguish people at a considerable distance and her hearing and mind were well preserved. 

Physically, she was short and of small proportions and, like many of her generation, she could neither read nor write. Throughout her working life Mary was employed on various farms in the neighbourhood and was also in demand as a midwife and feather cleaner.

When she was seventy years old Mary broke her leg in an accident and from that point on she was compelled to seek parish relief. Of a religious disposition, Mary regularly attended Capel-y-Pil; she had a fine voice and she loved the hymns. When she could no longer attend the chapel the Rev. E. Williams, himself eighty, would visit her at home.

In her younger days Mary would frequently walk with my 3 x great grandmother, Mary Hopkin, fifteen miles to Neath market to sell their homemade dresses.

Unfortunately, in the last two years of her life Mary was confined to her bed, except for a few hours when she would sit by the fireside. During those final years people would call on her and leave donations.

When Mary Francis died her body was covered with a white sheet strewn with sweet scented thyme and rosemary. She was buried at Mawdlam Church and an estimated 1,000 people attended her funeral.

————-

Life for my 3 x great grandparents, William Howe and Mary Hopkin was hard, typical of working class Victorians. They lost four of their five children, in infancy, young adulthood and middle age. They also lost three of their grandchildren.

William’s working life reflected the changing landscape. Instead of a lifetime spent labouring on the land, he left farming in his twenties to become a collier in the recently established coal mines. He returned to the land only to work in the local limestone quarry during the second half of his life. Meanwhile, Mary was a dressmaker walking fifteen miles to the market to sell her dresses. Social life for the family revolved around the Methodist chapel.

Mary had strong material instincts. She brought up her niece, Ann Price, and looked after an orphan, Ann Beynon. Later, she brought up her grandson, Edward Reynolds. Her house was a home for waifs and strays.

On 12 July 1897, aged 79, Mary died of ‘senile decay’. Her son, William, was at her side. The inscription on her gravestone, written in Welsh, reads, ‘To walk in honour to the land of peace. May the good lord return her soul to me.’

Those words on Mary’s gravestone were obviously written by William. He died of bladder and prostrate disease, and exhaustion, on 31 December 1903. Edward Reynolds’ wife, Rachel Thomas, was at his side thus maintaining a link with the Reynolds family that existed for sixty years.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #75

Dear Reader,

My latest translated titles, Stardust, Sam Smith Mystery Series book ten, and Eve’s War, Operation Locksmith, both in Spanish.

The calm after the storm, Paris 1947.

An amazing week for my Eve’s War Heroines of SOE Series. Operation Zigzag is #1 while Operation Broadsword and Operation Treasure are top twenty hot new releases. This landmark is dedicated to all the remarkable men and women of the SOE.

So now we know…

An autumnal view of the Goylake River.

You thought that beautiful woman was holding her parasol in her left hand simply because she was left-handed. However, her actions might reveal something totally different…

Men and women of the French Resistance during the summer of 1944, probably after the liberation of Paris.

Family History

John Howe, my 5 x great grandfather, was born on 28 April 1761 in St Hilary, Glamorgan. His parents, John and Mary, were successful farmers so it’s probable that John spent his formative years learning the business of farm management.

The parish register confirms John baptism. Note the small number of births, marriages and deaths in the parish between 1760 and 1762.

John married Cecily Lewis on 1 January 1785 in nearby Cowbridge, Glamorgan. The location is significant because for well over a hundred years all of the Howe’s activities, including births, marriages and deaths, had centred on St Hilary. The family was branching out, which ultimately would lead to mixed fortunes.

Cowbridge was a market town so it’s easy to imagine that John met Cecily there while on farm business. Cecily was born in Cowbridge in 1764 and the custom was that marriages took place in the bride’s parish.

Some genealogists list Cecily’s parents as John Lewis of Swansea and Elizabet Humphreys, but I have found no records to confirm that fact. Lewis is a very common surname and without cross-references it is difficult to identify the correct ancestor. 

The parish record reveals that John was literate, but Cicely signed her name with a cross. The witnesses were John’s younger brother, William, and John Jenkin, a ‘Gentleman’ of Cowbridge, which confirms that at this time the Howe family were still members of the gentry.

Continuing the story of my 5 x great grandparents, John Howe and Cecily Lewis. The couple married on 1 January 1785 in Cecily’s home parish, Cowbridge, Glamorgan. Five children followed: John (yet another one) my 4 x great grandfather, born 26 February 1786 in St Hilary, Glamorgan; Cecily, born 20 January 1789 in St Hilary; Priscilla, born 13 November 1793 in St Hilary; Richard, born 1 January 1797 in St Hilary – what a wonderful twelfth wedding anniversary present that was; and William, born on 1 February 1799 in St Hilary. Sadly, young Cecily died on 20 April 1798.

Well into the twentieth century, on average a couple produced a child every twenty-four months. However, John and Cecily’s children were born three or four years apart, hence ‘only’ five additions to the family.

Like his father before him, John was an Overseer of the Poor. In 1796-7, he paid 2s 6d to ‘Ten men in distress coming from the sea.’

In 1798, the Howe family featured in the Land Tax Redemption register twelve times, far more than any other family in St Hilary, which indicates that they were farming more land than anyone else in the parish.

Early in the nineteenth century, John and his family left St Hilary, moving ten miles west to Coity, breaking the family’s bond with the parish. Why did they leave? 

By 1799, the Napoleonic wars had taken their toll on Britain. The British royal treasury was running out of money to maintain the royal army and navy. Soldiers were starving and His Majesty’s navy had already mutinied. For Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger, the solution was simple: impose an income tax. Under the Act of 1799, all citizens who earned above £60 were to pay a graduated tax of at least one percent. Those with an income of over £200 were taxed ten percent. Some people regarded the tax as a patriotic duty while others complained. I don’t know what John Howe thought of the taxes, but it seems they were the reason he moved his family to Coity.

The impressive nature of John and Cecily’s gravestone suggests that the couple lived in some style in Coity. By this stage the family had become scattered, living in various towns and villages throughout Glamorgan.

After 49 years of marriage, Cecily died  on 7 May 1834, aged 70 while John died on 4 February 1835, aged 73. The couple are buried together in Coity. 

Tugged away from their St Hilary roots, future generations of the Howe family lost their gentry status. Although a member of the family did become deputy prime minister of Britain in the 1980s, most branches led humbler lives, including John and Cecily’s son, John, my 4 x great grandfather.

Which classical composer are you? Apparently, I’m Schubert.

“You have a natural curiosity and enjoy finding out what makes people tick. You are a bit of an idealist who wants to make the world a better place, and you like to help others improve. You might sometimes appear stubborn, but you are only staying true to your values.”

https://www.bbc.co.uk/archive/what-classical-composer-are-you/zscrydm

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx