It looks like I’m directly related to Sir Rhys ap Thomas (1449–1525) loyal supporter of Henry Tudor, Henry VII. Some sources claim that Sir Rhys personally delivered the death blow to King Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth, using his poleaxe. More about this in future posts.
My latest translation, the German version of Eve’s War: Operation Locksmith, available soon. Sandra has translated seven of my books and is always a pleasure to work with.
The oldest surviving diving suit in the world, from Finland, early 18th century.
During the Second World War, R.V. Jones was the Assistant Director of IntellIigence (Science) and a man Churchill knew he could trust.
When the Nazis introduced a radar system called Wotan, R.V. Jones figured out how it worked by assuming that it used a single beam. He based his deduction on the fact that the Germanic god Wotan only had one eye.
More family tree news. Possibly my greatest family history discovery to date. I traced my tree back to the Welsh nobles and their genealogies link my family to one of the greatest figures in Welsh history, my 23 x great grandfather, Rhys ap Gruffydd (1132 – 1197), The Lord Rhys, ruler of South Wales.
Strange phenomenon. I named my character Eve Beringar in my Eve’s War series because I liked the name. Now, I discover that Eleanor Beringar of Provence, Henry III’s wife, is my 23 x great grandmother. She was renowned for her beauty, learning, writing and as a leader of fashion.
The Hodsolls were lords of the manor in Ash, Kent during the medieval period. Later, they owned considerable amounts of land and property in Kent, Sussex and London.
My 12 x great grandfather, John Hodsoll, was born in Cowfold, Sussex in 1534. His first wife, Anne, died at a young age and he married his second wife, Faith Thomas, in Cowfold in 1557.
A gentleman farmer, John enjoyed a comfortable lifestyle. With Faith, he produced at least eight children, seven of them girls, along with my direct ancestor, William Hodsoll.
John enjoyed a long life, dying in 1618 in Cowfold, aged 84. He left a detailed Will, which offers an insight into his life.
John left approximately £2,000 in his Will, mainly to his ‘beloved wife, Faith’, and their children. That sum equates to 110 years of a skilled craftsman’s wages. He also left his vast estates to his family.
A servant, Caesar, and the poor people of the parish were also beneficiaries of John’s Will. Caesar received £5, the equivalent of 100 days wages for a skilled craftsman, while the poor received ‘the summe of three pounds sterling apeece’.
The affectionate tone of John’s Will suggests that he truly loved Faith. Along with money and land, she received ‘all such mares kyne and calves with all such hay corne fodder and provision of victualls for houshould as shalbe belonginge unto me at the tyme of my decease, plate and houshold stuffe, and her weddinge ringe and one paire of Braceletts of goulde w’ch I lately gave her and one ringe of myne with a deathes heade lately belonginge to my first wife.’
John lived most of his life durning the Elizabethan era and would have witnessed the devastating plague of 1563, which claimed the lives of 80,000 people, William Shakespeare’s plays, the exploits of Francis Drake, the Anglo-Spanish war, the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots, and the death of Elizabeth I.
Faith was the daughter of the Reverend Tristram Thomas, Rector of Alford in Surrey. Her name and upbringing suggest that religion played a key role in her life, in this instance Protestantism. In regard to religion, she lived during a turbulent time, but doubtless benefited from Elizabeth’s support for the Protestant Church.
John and Faith lived during the glory days of the English Renaissance, when literature, art, music and architecture flourished. A remarkable time to be alive.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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’.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.