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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 #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

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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #74

Dear Reader,

My article about SOE heroine Yvonne Cormeau is on page 36 of this month’s Seaside News 🙂

Did you know that the road to the IKEA in Valladolid, Spain is “Calle Me Falta un Tornillo” – “I’m Missing a Screw Street”.

Swans and ducks on a local pond this morning.

The Spanish Civil War. French journalist Raymond Vankers crossed the bridge from Irún, Spain to Hendaye, France to save a baby during the Battle of Irún, 6 September 1936.

Where the Sidewalk Ends, a 1950 noir movie, reunites Dana Andrews with Gene Tierney after the success of their 1944 classic, Laura. Where the Sidewalk Ends doesn’t quite match the class of Laura, nevertheless it is a excellent film with solid performances all round and a tight plot centred on one man’s path to redemption.

Occupied France, 1940. No petrol, so the locals converted their trucks to run on wood and coal.

November 5th was Bonfire Night in Britain. These are thought to be the earliest photographs of a bonfire. They were taken in 1853 by John Dillwyn Llewelyn at Penllergare in Swansea.

The Million Pound House

My ancestors in St Hilary owned Howe Mill, which recently went on the market for well over a million pounds.

I read about Howe Mill in a gazetteer that included this line ‘the Regency finery of Howe Mill’. The Regency refers to the period 1795 to 1837. However, further research revealed this entry, ‘Thomas David of Howe Mill was buried in 1699.’ Therefore, the mill existed in the seventeenth century and the Regency finery must refer to a refurbishment.

Howe Mill ground corn until the end of the nineteenth century. It was active in 1889, but maps published in 1899 list the mill as disused. It is situated within a twelfth century ringwork enclosure that might have served as the caput for the knight’s fee of Llandough. 

Howe derives from the Old Norse, haugr, which means hill, knoll, or mound. The Vikings settled, peacefully, in the Vale of Glamorgan in the ninth century so it is possible that my Viking ancestors acquired land that became a ringwork enclosure then a mill. Before 1699 their descendants sold the mill for a considerable sum of money. 

My St Hilary ancestors were wealthy. I know this because for many generations they held prominent places within the community. From a financial point of view they were lucky, probably because of a Viking who settled in the area and made his home on a piece of prime land.

Sger Beach this week.

My Ancestry

John Howe, my 6 x great grandfather, was baptised on 24 July 1726 in St Hilary, Glamorgan, probably a week after his birth. Sadly, many babies died within a week of their birth so baptisms were often swift affairs.

The son of Joseph and Elizabeth, John became a successful farmer. When Joseph died on 5 July 1742, sixteen-year-old John became the ‘man of the house’ and helped his mother to run the farm.

In 1753, John became a churchwarden, Petty Constable and Overseer of the Poor. Overseers of the Poor were chosen from the ‘substantial householders’ within the community and were elected at the annual vestry. Although elected for a year, they often served multiple terms over many years.

As Overseer of the Poor, John made a payment of £1 17s 6d for the making and binding of bibles, 1s for attending a coroner’s inquest and 7d for a pair of male stockings. He also awarded payments of a few pence to ‘the little boy of whom nothing else is known’.

This is John’s account of 1753, written in his own hand.

Continuing the story of John Howe of St Hilary, my 6 x great-grandfather, a successful farmer, churchwarden, Petty Constable and Overseer of the Poor.

The pivotal period of John’s life arrived in April and May, 1761. On 3 April 1761 he married 39 year old Mary Williams, a widow, also of St Hilary. Then his first son, John, my 5 x great grandfather, was born on 28 April 1761. That’s right, Mary was eight months pregnant at the time of her marriage. On 1 May 1761 John’s mother, Elizabeth, died aged 62. A marriage, birth and death within four weeks. A very stressful time for John.

More children followed at regular intervals: Anne, born 17 March 1763, William, 25 November 1764 and Joseph, 12 October 1767. 

William died on 20 April 1795, aged 19, and Mary followed him three years later, on 8 January 1798. Her burial record is the first entry on the parish register for 1798.

The parish register for marriages reveals that both John and Mary were literate and that John’s cousins, John and Margaret, witnessed the wedding. With his farm, community activities and mother at home, John was probably waiting for the right moment to marry. With his standing in the community, he was an eligible bachelor so Mary, four years older than John, must have been pleased with the match. Equally, she must have possessed qualities that set her apart from younger women. The couple spent 37 years together and I trust enriched each other’s lives.

John died on 23 February 1818, aged 91. For the time, he certainly led a privileged life. And through his family, farm and community activities I sense that it was a rewarding life.

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

Celebrating the Little Things

Things Children Say

A Young Writer’s View of Our Oceans 

Nature

Poetry 

Art

Classic Movies 

And so much more!

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #71

Dear Reader,

I made great progress this week with the writing of Branches, book two in The Olive Tree, my Spanish Civil War saga, and the editing of Operation Broadsword is nearly complete. My thoughts are turning to Operation Treasure, book four in my Eve’s War Heroines of SOE Series, and Stormy Weather, Sam Smith Mystery Series book eighteen, a novel about climate change.

Met some friends on the Bwlch this morning.

My latest translation, available soon, Invasion in Afrikaans. Also, delighted that Nelmari has agreed to translate Blackmail, book three in my Ann’s War series.

‘Potato’ Jones, captain of the cargo steamer Marie Llewellyn. During the Spanish Civil War, ‘Potato’ Jones ferried 800 refugees to safety. In total Welsh sea captains ferried 25,000 refugees to safety.

He also delivered fuel, food, medicines, guns and ammunition to the anti-fascists in Spain, breaking the blockade at Bilbao.

Cardiff International Brigade veteran Tom Williams: “The fight for democracy in Europe is carried on by the British ships carrying predominantly Welsh crews, and we are known on the continent as the ‘Welsh Navy’.”

Eve is back at #1 🙂

Merthyr Mawr this week

It’s a simple job, they said. We want you to wander down to Maddox Street and Conduit Street in Mayfair and attach the main telephone cable to a new support wire…

I’m reading George Orwell at the moment, his experiences in the Spanish Civil War. Very lyrical and insightful.

Meanwhile, no irony here…

With Joana and Sandra, started work on two new translations today, Mind Games, Sam Smith Mystery Series book eleven, into Portuguese and Operation Locksmith, Eve’s War Heroines of SOE book two, into German. Great respect for translators and the talent they bring to these projects.

Hands up if you’ve said or heard these words 🙂

Responding to QI, the other followers said ‘I’d won Tweet of the Day’ and ‘I’d won the Internet’ with this comment 😂

Incidentally, I received well over 1,000 likes, which is easily a record for me.

I’ve completed Operation Broadsword, book three in my Eve’s War Heroines of SOE Series, and now I’m looking forward to January 2021 and Operation Treasure, book four in the series, which is now available for pre-order.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08L9G7V4Z/

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx