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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #130

Dear Reader,

My latest translation by Nelmari, the Afrikaans version of Sam’s Song. Available soon 🙂

My latest genealogy article appears on page 48 of the Seaside News.

Another scene familiar to my London ancestors, High Street, Camden Town, c1890.

This week saw the longest game in World Chess Championship history, 136 moves. Eventually, Magnus Carlsen’s rook, knight and two pawns proved too strong for Ian Nepomniachtchi’s queen. Carlsen currently leads the fourteen game series 4 – 3.

Arranging our Christmas decorations with the usual suspects 🌲

I’ve traced the Gadsden branch of my family back to 1086 and the Doomsday Book. At that time the name was recorded as Gatesdene. The family were living in Hertfordshire. Maybe they arrived with William the Conqueror, or shortly after. That said some sources suggest that the name Gadsden has English origins relating to ‘valley’.

A page from the Doomsday Book

The early Gadsdens were well-to-do, landowners who relative to the times enjoyed comfortable lifestyles. For most branches of the family this pattern continued into the nineteenth century.

The Gadsdens mixed with the nobility and moved in royal circles. An example: John of Gadsden was a physician to Edward II and Edward III, the first Englishman to hold that appointment. John wrote a book, Rosa Anglica, the first English textbook on medicine, which compiled the medical knowledge of his age. 

It is believed that John of Gadsden was familiar with the method of distilling fresh water from saltwater. This process, desalination, was thought to be a modern discovery.

Some of John of Gadsden’s contemporaries regarded him as a genius, the ‘brightest man of his age’. He was a philosopher, a philologist, a poet, he was skilled at manual operations and bone-setting, and he was a great oculist. He was skilled at physiognomy and wrote a treatise on chiromancy. A great dealer in ‘secrets’, he also performed ‘miracles’.

John’s greatest skill was in concocting ‘receipts’, potions. However, some people doubted his wisdom and regarded him as a superstitious quack. His doubters accused him of ‘laying baits’ for the delicate, the ladies and the rich. 

When small pox afflicted Edward II’s son, the future Edward III, the king called for John of Gadsden. John’s ‘prescription’ was to dress his patient in scarlet and ensure that everything about the sickbed was made of scarlet. John worked on the ‘sympathetic’ concept, which stated that the colour red cured inflammation. Quackery or not, the king’s son duly recovered ‘without a mark on his face’.

John wrote his book, Rosa Anglica, while resident at Merton College, Oxford. The source of his material stemmed from the Arabians and the moderns ‘who had written in Latin just before him’. His book was an encyclopaedia of all his potions and it offers an insight into the medical practices of the day, as applied to the nobility and common people.

The preface to Rosa Anglica

John wrote ‘Rosa Anglica, or Practical Medicine From Head to Foot’, between 1304 and 1317. His book contained four tracts on urine (a key to medieval medical diagnosis and treatment). The original manuscript was owned by All Souls College, Oxford, a leading centre of medical studies in Europe during the fifteenth century.

In his preface to ‘Rosa Anglica’ John wrote, ‘Just as the rose excels among flowers this book excels among textbooks on practical medicine.’ Clearly, he didn’t suffer from undue modesty.

John found time to be prebendary of St Paul’s. He also held theological posts at Chipping Norton and Chichester. Chaucer knew of him and mentioned him as the ‘Doctor of Physik’.

So, was John of Gadsden a genius or a quack? I suspect that he was a bit of both. Here’s an example of his quackery, a cure for toothache. John recommended that you should extract a tooth by smothering it with the fat from a dead green tree frog, cow dung or partridge brain. For the tooth to grow back, you should apply the brain of a hare to the gums. Clearly, this was nonsense and liable to do more harm than good. Yet, editions of his book were published in 1502 and 1595, and for centuries read throughout Europe.

A dentist with silver forceps and a necklace of large teeth, extracting a tooth c1365.

Many of John’s methods were based on superstition while others were crude. However, whether through luck or good judgment he formed a formidable reputation. 

John was a man of his time. Thankfully, over the centuries we have made advances in medicine. But we should also consider that future generations will look back on us and reckon that some of our methods were based on quackery and that they were crude.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

For Authors

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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #126

Dear Reader,

Some chart news. Operation Zigzag, book one in my Eve’s War Heroines of SOE series, is #1 on the Amazon charts while Operation Cameo, which I’m currently writing, is a #34 hot new release. Many thanks to all my readers for making this possible.

Through Ellen, born c1320, daughter and heiress of Sir Gilbert Strongbow, I’ve added a Strongbow branch to my family tree. I wonder if this entitles me to free cider 🤔

As mentioned above, Operation Cameo is now available for pre-order. You can find full details here https://www.amazon.com/Operation-Cameo-Eves-Heroines-Book-ebook/dp/B09K82MQNY/

A view familiar to my London ancestors, the Strand looking west towards Trafalgar Square, 1890.

Just asked my youngest son, “What do you want for Christmas?”

“A skeleton.” (He’s thinking of becoming a doctor).

“Where are we going to keep it?”

“The front room.”

Welcome to the Addams family.

In this month’s issue of Mom’s Favorite Reads…

New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author Joanna Penn interviewed by Wendy H Jones

Plus…Art, Author Resources, Flash Fiction, New Releases, Photography, Poetry, Puzzles, Recipes, Travel and so much more!

The son of Zephaniah Thorpe and Margaret Entwistle, my direct ancestor Ralph Thorpe was baptised on 14 March 1753 in Bolton-le-Moors, Lancashire.

A warper, a common trade in Lancashire with its proliferation of cotton mills, Ralph moved south in the early 1780s and plied his trade in Essex and Norfolk.

A cotton warper oversaw the industrial process of winding threads from various bobbins on to a warp beam, which had one large bobbin at the back of the loom containing all the warp threads. These threads would gradually unwind during the weaving process, producing the cloth. Warping was the second stage of cotton cloth production, following winding.

A warping machine. Image: Wikipedia.

On 9 December 1783, Ralph married Mary Wakefield in Wanstead, Essex. The couple produced six children including my direct ancestor Thomas Thorpe who, on 9 October 1814, married Mary Ann Freeman and settled in Essex.

Mary Wakefield died on 25 February 1796. A few months later Ralph spent some time in St Thomas’ Hospital, London. That the couple were ill at roughly the same time suggests that they were affected by a transmittable disease. One possibility was smallpox.

Ironically, that same year, 1796, Edward Jenner demonstrated that an infection with the relatively mild cowpox virus conferred immunity against the deadly smallpox virus. His research was crucial in the development of the smallpox vaccine, the first effective vaccine against a contagious disease.

Painting by Ernest Board. Dr Edward Jenner performing his first vaccination on eight year old James Phipps, 14 May 1796.

St Thomas’ Hospital originated as an Augustinian infirmary in the twelfth century and was dissolved in 1540. In 1551 the hospital was refounded by royal charter and functioned as a general hospital for the sick-poor, including sufferers of venereal disease. 

Endowments gave St Thomas’ a degree of financial security. Nevertheless, they still charged patients admission fees, a policy that was condemned by the hospital’s critics for limiting the ability of the very poor to access its services.

A central court of governors governed the hospital and they could number over two hundred. These governors were wealthy individuals who gifted £50 each to the hospital.

Old St Thomas’ Hospital, Southwark, 1739. Image: The Wellcome Library.

The original St Thomas’s Hospital survived the Great Fire of London in 1666. However, upgrades were needed and between 1693 and 1720 more than £37,000 was raised in order to create an elegant classical structure around three spacious courtyards. The rebuilt hospital had nineteen wards, including two foule wards for venereal patients and a cutting ward with room for more than 400 patients. Male and female patients were strictly segregated, as were the venereal patients.

The medical staff included physicians, surgeons and an apothecary, who was not allowed to marry or run a private practice. The nursing staff included a matron, sisters and nurses. The sisters and their nurses lived in the hospital and had to be single or widowed. 

St Thomas’ catered for patients with a wide range of medical and surgical conditions although they did exclude people classed as ‘incurable’ or ‘insane’. Patients were not allowed to stay longer than three months, after which time they were deemed incurable. Ralph left St Thomas’ Hospital on 9 June 1796. Therefore, he must have entered a month or so after Mary died.

St Thomas’ Hospital treated large numbers of patients. In 1800 the total number of inpatients was more than 3,200 with a further 4,700 outpatients. In wartime the patients were often supplemented by large numbers of wounded soldiers and sailors.

‘Taking Physic’. Image: The Trustees of the British Museum.

The death rates at St Thomas’ were relatively low, although it must be remembered that the hospital did not admit ‘incurable’ patients. In 1726, 4,873 patients were cured while 392 died, a mortality rate of 7.4 percent. In 1735, 4,688 patients were cured while 307 died, a mortality rate of 6.1 per cent. This pattern of mortality rates continued throughout the century.

The patients could be disruptive with harassment, petty theft and ‘ward wandering’ reported. Some patients ran away before the completion of their treatment, especially venereal patients who were subjected to the deeply unpleasant and extremely painful mercury-based ‘salivation’ therapies.

Having recovered, but without his wife, Ralph returned to Bolton-le-Moors where, on 23 January 1803, he married Mary Holden. Ralph died on 28 August 1826 in Bolton-le-Moors.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

For Authors

#1 for value with 565,000 readers, The Fussy Librarian has helped my books to reach #1 on 32 occasions.

A special offer from my publisher and the Fussy Librarian. https://authors.thefussylibrarian.com/?ref=goylake

Don’t forget to use the code goylake20 to claim your discount 🙂

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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #121

Dear Reader,

I’ve received messages asking me when Operation Cameo, book six in my Eve’s War Heroines of SOE series, will be available. I’m pleased to say that the book will be listed on all major platforms as a pre-order later this month.

The earliest photograph to feature people. The Boulevard du Temple 1838 by Louis Daguerre. Because the exposure lasted for several minutes the moving traffic in the busy street left no trace. Only a shoe polisher and his client remained in place long enough to appear on the printed image. Sam mentions this in my latest Sam Smith mystery, Damaged.

Summer 1915, C Company, The Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regiment, Number Nine Platoon. This picture includes my 2 x great grandfather Albert Charles Bick. 

On 25 September 1915 the Royal West Surrey Regiment engaged in the Battle of Loos, which resulted in 80% British casualties, including Albert, when the generals gassed their own men.

A State Lottery was recorded in 1569. The tickets were sold at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, pictured c1560.

A poem written in Welsh c1920 about my 2 x great grandfather William Howe. Lines include: ‘He deserves all the praise he receives’. ‘A Christian in his warm home’. ‘William Howe is a godly saint for getting us all to pray again in the chapel with the children’. ‘We will enjoy a big feast at the Sunday School’. ‘We will sing his praises when we meet in heaven’.

My latest article for the Seaside News appears on page 36 of this month’s magazine.

I’ve traced the Bick branch of my family back to the fifteenth century. They settled in Badgeworth, Gloucestershire and lived there for hundreds of years. My branch of the family moved to London in the Victorian era, but you can still find Bicks in numerous numbers in Gloucestershire.

Unfortunately, the records for the Bicks of Badgeworth are not extensive, but I have uncovered a few nuggets of information that add details to my ancestors’ lives.

The surname Bick is of Dutch and German origin. It derives from the Middle Dutch and Middle High German word bicke meaning pickaxe or chisel. The name was associated with stonemasons and people who worked with pickaxes and chisels.

It’s likely that the Bicks arrived in Gloucestershire from the Netherlands or Germany in the early Middle Ages. My branch of the family feature in many land deeds during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. These deeds indicate that they farmed land as yeomen. However, they were never described as ‘gentlemen’, which suggests that there was no link with the gentry.

Bick sons married the daughters of the following families: Meek, Fawkes, Spring, Blush, Izod and Netherton. Evocative names. These families were also of the yeomen class. The name Fawkes suggests a link to the infamous Guy Fawkes. However, Guy was from York and it is unlikely that my ancestor, Jane Fawkes, was closely related to him.

From the land, my Bick ancestors became innkeepers, running coaching inns. George was a popular name over four successive generations. George ‘the second’ – 22 October 1668 to 3 June 1738 – was an innkeeper in Badgeworth. Some of the Bicks left wills, but they are difficult to read and those that are legible contain only basic details of modest inheritances for sons and daughters.

The Bick ancestor who captured my attention was Thomas Bick, born 1575 in Badgeworth. He died in 1623 of the ‘pest’, also known as the pestilence or plague. The plague is an infectious disease caused by the bacteria Yersinia pestis, which mainly infects rats and other rodents who become the prime reservoir for the bacteria.

Seventeenth century plague doctor with protective mask and clothing.

The Pestilence was a bubonic plague pandemic that occurred in Afro-Eurasia from 1346 to 1353. The plague created religious, social and economic upheavals with profound effects for the inhabitants of the time. It also drastically altered the course of European history.

Further waves of the plague swept over Europe throughout the fourteenth to seventeenth centuries. Certain years were more blighted than others, including 1623 the year that Thomas died. That bout of the pestilence lasted until 1640. It reoccurred again in 1644–54 and 1664–67. 

The 1664 to 1667 episode was the last major epidemic of the bubonic plague to occur in England. In 1665-66 it swept through London producing the ‘Great Plague of London’. Then, in September 1666, the ‘Great Fire of London’ destroyed the city. Some people speculated that the fire killed the pestilence, although records suggest that the disease was already on the wane. My London ancestors were caught up in the ‘Great Fire of London’, but more about them in future posts.

London 1665.

As we know to our cost, when we abuse nature and animals we create pandemics. Our ancestors did not have the scientific knowledge to appreciate this, but we do; there is no excuse.

Along with the pestilence, our ancestors died from a range of diseases and illnesses. Here is an example from 1632 with a few definitions.

Cut of the Stone – The surgical removal of a bladder stone

French Pox – Syphilis

Jawfaln – Locked jaw

Impostume – An abscess

King’s Evil – A tuberculous swelling of the lymph glands

Livergrown – Liver disease, possibly caused by alcoholism 

Murthered – Murdered

Planet – To be stricken with terror or affected adversely by the supposed influence of a planet

Purples – Purple blotches on the skin caused by broken blood vessels, indicative of an underlying illness, such as scurvy

Rising of the Lights – A condition of the larynx, trachea or lungs

Tissick – A cough

Tympany – Bloating

The saddest entry on this list, and the largest in number, is chrisomes and infants. Chrisomes refers to a baby less than a month old, which indicates that the start could often be the most dangerous period of a person’s life.

Stay safe. Wishing you well.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

For Authors

#1 for value with 565,000 readers, The Fussy Librarian has helped my books to reach #1 on 31 occasions.

A special offer from my publisher and the Fussy Librarian. https://authors.thefussylibrarian.com/?ref=goylake

Don’t forget to use the code goylake20 to claim your discount 🙂

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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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Mom’s Favorite Reads

Mom’s Favorite Reads eMagazine May 2019

Published today, the May issue of Mom’s Favorite Reads!

In this issue…

An exclusive interview with Mark Coker, CEO of Smashwords, a must-read for all writers and readers.

Plus, articles, short stories, puzzles, humour, health, travel, interviews and a special promotional offer for authors.

View or download your FREE copy here