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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #80

Dear Reader,

It’s very satisfying when readers enjoy your books and this comment about Eve’s War: Operation Locksmith is particularly pleasing. “The writing has such historical authenticity it made me feel as though Eve had written her own story. Highly recommended.” 🙂

The brave Americans who fought fascism in the Spanish Civil War. “Somebody had to do something.”

A Mercedes 35 hp motor car, 1901. Designed by Wilhelm Maybach and manufactured by Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft of Cannstatt, Germany, these cars achieved great success in the early years of motor racing.

The Eiffel Tower under construction, 1887-1889.

An example of the sabotage work undertaken by my SOE agents Eve, Guy and Mimi in my series Eve’s War Heroines of the SOE.

One of the great deception plans of the Second World War. British soldiers moving inflatable tanks on the south coast, 1944. The idea was to confuse the Nazis about the size of British forces and the D-Day landing zones. Amazingly, the plan worked.

Ancestry

My 2 x great grandfather, William Howe, married Ann Jones in 1878 and they had nine children. However, before exploring their lives there is a mystery to solve: why was their nine year old niece, Elizabeth Burnell, living with them in the 1880s?

Elizabeth Burnell was the daughter of Ann’s sister, Mary Jones and  Thomas Burnell. Elizabeth had three sisters, Mary Ann, Louisa and Esther, so to unlock the mystery we must explore the records associated with the Burnell’s.

The son of John Burnell and Elizabeth Poole, Thomas Burnell was born on 13 September 1846 in Minehead, Somerset. John was a farm labourer and Thomas began his working career aged fourteen as a plough boy.

In his early twenties, Thomas made his way to Wales, to the New House Inn in North Corneli to be exact, where he lodged while working as a haulier, a miner responsible for transporting coal within a coal mine. We are in the 1870s and Thomas is one of thousands of men who have arrived in the South Wales Valleys to mine the ‘black gold’, the rich seams of coal.

During the summer of 1871, Thomas found himself in Newton-Nottage. It’s highly likely that he was working on the land as an agricultural labourer at this time and that he met Mary Jones there because she was working as a servant at Grove Farm, Newton-Nottage.

Thomas and Mary married on 12 September 1871 at the parish church of Newton-Nottage. Thomas was a labourer, which confirms that he returned to the land. They signed their names with a mark, as did their witnesses, Evan Lewis and Jane Hughes. Evan was Mary’s half-brother and Jane was, presumably, a friend.

Thomas and Mary’s four daughters were born in 1872, 1873, 1877 and 1879. The gap in 1875 is suspicious. Did Mary miscarry that year, or was she and Thomas living apart for some reason? Thomas had returned to the coal mines as a coker and was living in various locations as he sough employment. In normal circumstances, his wife Mary would have moved with him.

While Elizabeth lived with my 2 x great grandparents, William and Ann, Mary’s other children, Mary Ann, Louisa and Esther, moved around the South Wales coalfield with their father, Thomas. Meanwhile, where was Mary?

Mary was born c1849 to David Jones and Ann David. She had an older half-brother, Evan Lewis, and a younger sister, my 2 x great grandmother, Ann Jones. Therefore, a small family for the Victorian era. 

Mary’s father, David, a labourer, was 51 when she was born, while her mother, Ann, was 37. There is a disjointed feel to this branch of my family, with many gaps in the historical record, inaccuracies with ages and unconventional relationships. I sense that these people were struggling for companionship and materially to survive.

Mary Jones gave birth to Esther Burnell on 5 June 1879 at the Level Crossing, Ty Newydd, Llangeinor. Esther’s birth wasn’t registered until 14 July 1879, which suggests Mary was not well after the birth. I’ve managed to track down her full medical record and it reveals that she was indeed ill, so ill in fact that she had no option other than to enter the local asylum.

Mary Burnell was admitted to Angelton asylum on 19 May 1880, aged 29. A collier’s wife, her location was listed as Bridgend and Cowbridge, which suggests that her family was constantly on the move in search of employment.

Mary’s medical record states that her first ‘attack’ was of seven days duration the cause ‘probably puerperal’ and therefore related to the birth of her fourth daughter, Esther. The doctors did not regard Mary as epileptic or dangerous, but they did list her as suicidal because she tried to throttle herself. Also, her husband Thomas had to lock up all knives, ropes and ‘other articles with which she could have destroyed herself.’

At this stage, Mary had been ‘dull’ for four months, ten months after Esther’s birth.

Mary’s medical record states that, ‘She says she has committed a sin against the almighty for which she will not be forgiven. And that she is eternally lost and that I have sold her to the Devil.’

Mary was admitted on 19 May 1880, but she was in the asylum on 20 and 27 April when she ‘slept a little, took food, but was very dull and miserable.’

Angelton Asylum

In May, Mary passed the time with her sewing. However, she experienced a major psychotic episode on 9 May when she cried loudly and threw herself on the ground. She imagined that she was a snake and had married the Devil instead of her husband.

This pattern of sewing and disturbing delusions continued throughout the summer.

In September 1880, Mary stated that she had ‘done something seriously wrong.’ Her behaviour was good, but sometimes she could be ‘silly’.

There was no change in Mary’s condition for over a year. On 11 February 1882 she broke some windows and cut her hand. Was this a suicide attempt? The doctors didn’t think so and made no mention of attempted suicide in their notes.

The note dated 12 December 1883 is potentially revealing. ‘This woman is rather reserved, getting into solitary corners apart from her neighbours. Her memory is deficient and her morals have apparently been loose.’ Could this imply that Thomas was not Esther’s father and that the birth triggered guilt about an affair followed by a psychotic reaction?

By June 1884, Mary had become,  ‘A rather troublesome woman, often interfering with others and at times destructive. Very demented.’ This pattern of behaviour continued until December 1885 when Mary settled down.

However, by June 1886 Mary was ‘foolish’ again. She suffered from housemaid’s knee throughout the summer. The nurses bandaged her knee, but she kept on removing the bandage. Nevertheless, her knee healed.

On Christmas Eve 1886, Mary stated that she had been in the asylum for eight years. In reality she had been there for six years. She also stated that she had been in Heaven and that it was a room with glass walls, which housed Jesus. She was industrious and always kissed the floor after washing it.

As the years rolled on, the pattern continued. The staff at the asylum regarded Mary as a good worker who saw herself as sinful. She heard voices at night from the spirits in the loft and regarded the other patients as her sheep.

While Mary suffered in the asylum, her husband Thomas Burnell continued to work in the coal mines. He needed help to look after his children and enlisted Mary Williams as a ‘housekeeper’. However, the couple soon became lovers and in the space of eight years produced five children. Obviously, Thomas had decided that his wife Mary would never leave the asylum and that he had to get on with his life. The hard graft of coal mining took its toll on his health, however, and by 1896, at the age of fifty, he was dead.

On 24 September 1889 while working in the kitchen, Mary threatened to ‘cut her little head off’ twice during the day. As a result, the staff confined her to the ward under constant supervision.

On 7 February 1891, the doctors transferred Mary to Parc Gwyllt, a new hospital that housed patients deemed incurable. After eleven years of psychiatric care the doctors decided that Mary’s condition would not improve.

Parc Gwyllt Asylum

By 1896, Mary’s profanity and sexual delusions were becoming more pronounced, which resulted in regular obscene outbursts. This pattern continued for the next seven years.

During January 1903, Mary was ill with influenza and an attack of facial erysipelas. She made a good recovery and returned to stable physical health.

In August 1908, Mary imagined that she was married to Samuel Butler, 4 December 1835 – 18 June 1902, author of the semi-autobiographical novel, The Way of All Flesh, a book that attacked Victorian hypocrisy. At this point, Mary called herself Mary Burnell-Butler. Butler never married. Indeed, he had a predilection for intense male friendships, which are reflected in several of his works. One wonders why Mary felt attracted to him.

Samuel Butler

The final entry in Mary’s medical record, dated 20 January 1909, stated that she was ‘mentally feeble’ and suffered from auditory hallucinations. 

Mary Burnell, October 1909.

Aged 67, Mary died on 19 January 1919 at Parc Gwyllt of heart disease, ‘duration unknown’. Her death certificate also acknowledged that she suffered from dementia.

Mary’s daughter, Elizabeth, left my 2 x great grandparents home to nurture her own family. In 1891 she married William Cocking and the couple had six children.

And what of Esther? After a tough upbringing she established herself in the world. At the turn of the century, she moved to Cardiff where she was employed as a servant, looking after a middle-aged man, Aaron Rosser. The 1901 census described Aaron as an ‘imbecile’. Undoubtedly, Esther knew about her mother and decided that the goal in her working life was to help others less fortunate than herself.

Mary’s sins, were they imagined or real? To Mary, they were real, yet her medical notes make no mention of any facts to suggest that she had sinned. In the Victorian asylum, therapies were basic with little hope of offering a cure. Mary worked and the asylum provided food and a bed, but for 39 years she suffered with her delusions, her mistaken beliefs born out of physical illness, the attitudes of a deeply religious community and a susceptibility to mental health problems doubtless inherited from her ancestors.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #77

Dear Reader,

Published today, The Olive Tree Book Two: Branches.
Separately, young nurse Heini Hopkins and successful novelist Naomi Parker travel to Spain where they take opposing sides in the Spanish Civil War, learning life lessons about love and war.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B08P3R6SF7/

An elf tells me that Santa will deliver a DNA kit at Christmas to help with my genealogical research. I expect to find Welsh, English, a bit of Scots and maybe a few Irish strands. The big question is, do I have any Scandinavian ancestors? Howe is Old Norse. Picture: Wikipedia.

Local gossip from 30 May 1868, which I’m sure would have reached the ears of my 3 x great grandmother Mary Hopkin. Two women fighting over chilblains.

Wales as seen from the international space station.

The USA team for the People’s Olympiad bound for Barcelona, July 1936. This was an anti-fascist response to the Nazi Olympics. The People’s Olympiad was due to begin on 19 July, but was cancelled because of a fascist coup attempt.

Two hundred athletes from around the world fought in the Spanish Civil War including Chick Chakin, fifth from right, who was shot by Franco’s fascist forces in 1938.

Campbell Pleasure Steamers at Cardiff Docks, 1910. 

From Victorian times well into the twentieth century my ancestors used to take day excursions on these paddle steamers with Ilfracombe being a popular destination.

Gloves say so much…

Delighted that Santiago will start work this week on the Spanish translation of Operation Broadsword, book three in my Eve’s War Heroines of SOE Series. Meanwhile, here’s one we made earlier.

This probably means I have a minute left today 😉

On 25 November 1942, the SOE in cooperation with the Greek Resistance destroyed the heavily guarded Gorgopotamos viaduct. This was a major success for the SOE and their biggest operation to date.

To follow the crowd or take a moral stand?

Derby County players offering a Nazi salute during their 1934 tour of Nazi Germany.

Goalkeeper Jack Kirby, left, refused.

I’m Jack Kirby.


Ancestry

William Howe, my 3 x great grandfather, was born on 31 August 1823 and baptised on 14 September 1823 in Southerndown, St Brides, Glamorgan. His parents were John Howe 1786 – 1856 and Christiana John 1795 – 1874.

In 1841, William aged eighteen was working as an agricultural labourer on Cadogan Thomas’ farm in Merthyr Mawr. In common with all agricultural labourers he moved from farm to farm in search of work. In the late 1840s his travels took him five miles west to South Corneli where he met his future bride, my 3 x great grandmother, Mary Hopkin.

Mary had led an eventful life before she met William. Born on 27 August 1818 in South Corneli and baptised on 20 September 1818 in St James Church, Pyle, Mary was the daughter of Daniel Hopkin  1781 – 1864 and Anne Lewis 1783 – 1863, both agricultural labourers.

By 1841, Mary’s brother, Hopkin, had died aged twenty while her sister Anne had married David Price and moved to Neath. Along with her younger sister, Margaret, Mary lived at the family home in South Corneli. However, she was conducting an affair with a young agricultural labourer, Thomas Reynolds.

The family home also contained Mary’s niece, Anne Price. Anne was born in 1839 and she lived with her grandparents, and later Mary, into adulthood. Then an orphan, fifteen-year-old Anne Beynon, joined the family. Anne was the daughter of John Beynon and Anne Nicholl, who owned a shop in Corneli. John died in 1837 and his wife Anne in 1832. With Anne Beynon facing destitution, it was generous of the Hopkin family to take her into their home.

Mary Hopkin’s relationship with Thomas Reynolds produced a son, also called Thomas, born in 1842. The couple did not marry and Thomas senior died in 1845.

So, when William Howe met Mary Hopkin in the late 1840s she was a single mother. Mary earned a living as a dress and hat maker. She used to walk fifteen miles from Corneli to the market at Neath to sell her wares. Her sister Anne probably walked with her to the market and there she met her husband, David Price.

The thirty mile round journey was obviously worth Mary’s while so it’s fair to assume that she was a talented dressmaker. She was also physically fit and one would imagine quite slender.

William Howe and Mary Hopkin married on the 24 August 1850 at St James’ Church in Pyle with Mary’s sister, Margaret, and Catherine Lewis as witnesses. William signed the marriage certificate with a cross, so was not as literate as his father or grandfather. Mary was pregnant when she married William. However, unlike her affair with Thomas Reynolds, she sustained this relationship for the rest of her life.

An exciting discovery, the family home of my 3 x great grandparents, William Howe and Mary Hopkin. They lived three doors down from Ty Maen, ’the big house’, which places them in plot 122. A small village. Everyone must have known everyone else. Image: National Library of Wales. Date: 1847.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #76

Dear Reader,

Fanning the flames of love…

Paul Robeson, singer, actor and activist, in Madrid, January 1938 in support of the Spanish anti-fascists during the Spanish Civil War. Picture: Yale Library.

In Operation Treasure, Eve discovers that Gestapo officer Hauptsturmführer Klaus Raab shares her love of painting. Raab enjoys crude nudes whereas Eve is a fan of the Barbizon School.

The Barbizon School of painters focused on Realism, which developed through the Romantic Movement. The School takes its name from the village of Barbizon, situated near the Forest of Fontainebleau where many of the artists gathered.

An example from the Barbizon School, Charles-Émile Jacque’s Shepherdess and Her Flock, 1878.

Today, 19 November 2020, would have been Gene Tierney’s 100th birthday. Here’s my article about the Hollywood star and mental health advocate.

https://hannah-howe.com/2017/09/13/gene-tierney/

On 20 November 1945, the Nuremberg trials began. Judges from America, Britain, France and the Soviet Union sought justice for millions killed during the Holocaust. Twenty-four Nazi political and military leaders stood trial and nineteen were found guilty when the tribunal concluded on 1 October 1946.

The phrase ¡No pasarán!, They shall not pass! is most closely associated with the Spanish Civil War. However, it was also used by a Frenchman, General Robert Nivelle, at the Battle of Verdun during the First World War, Ils ne passeront pas!

The art of cutting cheese.


My 4 x great grandfather, John Howe (yet another John), was baptised on 26 February 1786 in St Hilary, Glamorgan. Baptisms usually took place within a week of birth, so his birthday was around 19 February 1786. 

John’s parents were John Howe and Cecily Lewis, wealthy farmers. However, in 1799 the government introduced the first-ever income tax and that tax put a dent in the family’s finances. After over a hundred years of farming in St Hilary, they moved away. John moved ten miles west to St Brides.

A Victorian Gazetteer described St Brides as, ‘A parish in the Hundred of Ogmore, in the county of Glamorgan. It is situated on the coast of the Bristol Channel, at the mouth of the River Ogmore. A special interest attaches to it as one of the earliest seats of the native princes. It has still some vestiges of the ancient castle of Dyndryfan (Dunraven), the traditional residence of Caradoc (Caractacus), and considerable remains of Ogmore Castle, a fortress of equal antiquity. The church is ancient, and has some fine monuments of the Butler and Wyndham families. The Calvinistic Methodists have a chapel in the village. Along the coast are several large and curiously-formed caves, one of which, of great depth, is called the “Wind Hole.”’

St Brides was a larger parish than St Hilary and therefore offered John greater employment opportunities. However, the population of St Brides actually declined throughout the nineteenth century, from 914 in 1841 to 621 in 1891.

It’s interesting that this branch of my family, over hundreds of years, continued to move west, in John’s case six miles along the coast to Tythegston, where he met his bride-to-be, Christiana John, daughter of Evan John, 1755-1832 and Mary 1757-1837.

A topographical dictionary of 1833 stated that the population of Tythegston stood at 404. The parish contained good arable and pasture land along with coal, iron ore and clay for making bricks. The parish also contained a school for ‘the gratuitous instruction of poor children.’

Christiana was born on 31 December 1795 and baptised on 6 January 1796. Her name became popular in the Howe family and can be found in numerous generations. It would seem that unlike her husband, John, she did not receive a formal education because when the couple married she did not sign her name, applying an ‘x’ instead.

Christiana was pregnant when she married John on 17 April 1819, in Tythegston. She gave birth to Edward in St Brides on 22 July 1819. William, my 3 x great grandfather, followed on 14 September 1823, along with Mary in 1827, Evan in 1828, Thomas in 1831, Richard in 1833, Cecily in 1836 and, at the age of 43, John in 1839. Christiana’s husband, John, worked as a thatcher while she obviously had her hands full at home.

The introduction of the census in 1841 opened a window for genealogists by providing more details about our ancestors. That said, the 1841 census was basic with names, approximate ages and occupations. Places of birth were often confused or deliberately misrepresented (so a person could claim local poor relief) with places of residence. In contrast, the 1851 census was more detailed and reliable.

The 1841 census found John Howe in St Brides with his wife Christiana and three of their children, Thomas, Richard and John. 

In 1851, John was living in Ogmore in the parish of St Brides with Christiana and two of their children, Cecily and John. John senior was a thatcher, a decent trade that earned him £75 per annum, a good wage considering that labourers earned £40 and women £10 per annum. Living in Ogmore as a thatcher it’s almost certain that John worked on the roofs of these cottages in nearby Merthyr Mawr.

As we struggle with Covid, so our ancestors had to combat cholera. Between 1829 and 1851, cholera invaded many communities. The outbreak in 1848 claimed 52,000 lives in England and Wales. Over time, communities improved their sanitation, but the connection between good health and care of our environment is still a lesson we struggle to learn.

John died, aged 70 (some records incorrectly state 73) of ‘old age’ on 24 December 1856 and was buried two days later. His son, Richard, witnessed the death certificate with a cross. 

In 1861, Christiana was living with her daughter, Mary, also a widow, at the age of 34. Ten years later, Christiana was living alone next door to a miller, where her daughter Cecily was a servant. Her son, Evan, lived next door.

Christiana died on 10 July 1874 aged 78 of ‘cancer and general decay’. Her son Evan was present and he applied his mark on the death certificate. John and Christiana are buried together in St Brides churchyard. 

The Howe family, tight-knit and prosperous in St Brides and St Hilary, now dispersed to various parts of Glamorgan where they experienced mixed fortunes.

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 #73

Dear Reader,

In 1925 Hugo Gernsback, an inventor, writer and magazine publisher designed a helmet that would shut out all external sounds so he could concentrate on his writing. He called it ‘The Isolator’. This is how I write 😂

During the Spanish Civil War, Albacete was a loyalist stronghold. However, in July 1936 Franco‘s fascists staged a coup there only for the loyalists, pictured, to defeat them nine days later. Albacete is a location featured in Branches, book two in my Spanish Civil War Saga, The Olive Tree.

And he‘d bought a new mask and swag bag too…

Noreen Riols talks with candour and humour about training SOE agents, seduction and wartime love.

Our liquid amber tree in all its autumnal glory.

25.10.1944, Boxtel, the Netherlands. Defending a family from the Nazis.

Highlights of being a writer…developing the spark of an idea into a story, receiving kind words from readers who enjoy my books, working with talented translators and narrators. A translator recently: “I’m excited to work with you.” You couldn’t ask for a greater compliment.

Books save lives. These images are from an exhibition held in Madrid in 2012. They show ‘wounded’ books used as barricades by Loyalists and International Brigade volunteers at the Facility of Philosophy and Letters during the 1936 siege of Madrid.

I’ve taken my family tree back to 1663 with the discovery of my 8 x great grandfather, John Howe, born in St Hilary, Glamorgan. Pictured, (Wikipedia) the 14th century parish church at St Hilary where John was baptised. I’m now searching for his wife and children.

I’m researching the family of my 8 x great-grandfather, John Howe, born in 1663. I’ve discovered that he had at least four children. The gap between Joseph and Rebecka strongly suggests that he had at least four more, but they are lost to the historical record.

No further details are available for Rebecka and John junior, but Priscilla married Thomas Deer and they had at least one daughter, Ann, born 23 July 1738 in St Hilary, Glamorgan.

John’s fourth child, Joseph, is my direct ancestor and my next task is to learn more about him.

Priscilla was a very popular name in my family and it featured in every generation well into the twentieth century. The choice of Joseph and Rebecka suggests that their father, John, was a devoted Christian and a regular attender at the parish church of St Hilary.

There is no mention of John’s marriage or his wife – women were often overlooked in the historical record – and in the seventeen century the trade or craft of a person was not often recorded, unless they were landowners or skilled artisans. St Hilary was an agricultural community at the time so it seems highly likely that John and his family worked on the land.

My 7 x great-grandfather, Joseph Howe, was born in 1693 in St Hilary, Glamorgan. He married Elizabeth, c1711, and they produced four children, Elizabeth, Dorothy, Mary and John. The gaps in the historical record suggest that the couple had at least four more children; they brought up a large family, which was common until the second half of the twentieth century.

Little is known of daughter Elizabeth and Mary while, sadly, Dorothy died within days of her birth, another common occurrence for the time. John is my direct ancestor, and more about him next time.

In the late seventeenth century into the early eighteenth century the population of St Hilary stood at around 150 with Welsh the dominant language. Formal education was rare in those days, but from 1675 a charitable trust, the Welsh Trust, ran a small school in the village with ten pupils attending in 1678. Religion was central to this form of education and lessons were conducted by vicars and churchwardens.

St Hilary was an agricultural community so Joseph probably worked on the land. He died on 5 July 1742. Elizabeth survived him by nearly nineteen years and died on 1 May 1761.

At this stage, the Howe family had been in St Hilary for a hundred years, and more. And they would remain there for another generation, thanks to my 6 x great-grandfather, John.

Yesterday, I discovered that one of my ancestors owned a property valued today at well over £1 million. More details after more research. Meanwhile, the question is, where’s my share of the family fortune?!

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx