Our 90 year old cyclist

Snip Aunty Jean Gower bike rideMy cousin, Maureen Burton (née Ormston) has just sent me a fascinating newspaper cutting about our Aunty Jean. Aunty Jean is actually our great aunt. Jane Ann Evans (née Turner) was born in Amble, Northumberland in 1896. After marrying a Welshman, William Daniel Evans in 1924, she moved to Swansea. The cutting shows Aunty Jean, aged 90, meeting stars Sue Pollard and Matthew Kelly after a cycle ride around Gower in aid of the British Heart Foundation.

5 years of blogging

Snip WordPress 5th anniversaryWordPress reminded me today that this is my 5th anniversary of starting to blog. My first post on Digging up the Ancients was made 24th Oct 2010. At that stage I knew very little about my family history so this has been an amazing journey. I have learned so much about the people, the places and the times. Elements of history and geography that flew over my head in lessons at school have found a new meaning because I can now relate them to my own family. So many interesting tales to tell, covering the full spectrum from lost loves to manslaughter and mayhem. I have found ancient ancestors and claimed new cousins. My adventure is now taking me beyond my grandparents’ yarns and the documented paper trail into the realms of genetic genealogy where more fascinating facts may be lurking.

Amble in old photographs

Snip Amble in old photographsThose of you who are on facebook and have ancestors from Amble may be interested in joining the group Amble in Old Photographs. This group was started a few years ago by Bartle Rippon and for a while there were only about a dozen of us who participated. Membership has increased exponentially over the past couple of months. Many fascinating memories are being published. Since Bartle is a published author, The Ambler editorial board have asked him to consider putting together a book with Amble memories based on input from the group. If you have any good material hidden away in your cupboards and drawers please dig it out and join the group.

My own experiences on there have been very positive as many previously dangling branches on my Henderson part of my family tree have now attached themselves to the right spot with a little collaboration from newly found family members in the group.

David Taggart Henderson (1894-1917)

WWI Plaque David Taggart Henderson 001When we cleared out my mother’s house back in 1999 we found an object in her cupboard which we were unsure about. Since neither of us lives in England, this was packed away in a box in my brother’s house and didn’t see the light of day for a while. When we dug it out again our curiosity was piqued and we decided to investigate what it was. It turned out be a “widow’s penny” given to the next of kin of those who lost their lives in World War One. This discovery set us off on the next quest. Who was this David Henderson and why did we have this wonderful memento? He was clearly a relative of my maternal grandmother, born Margaret Jane Henderson, but his name had never been mentioned before.

Further investigation showed him to be my granny’s cousin, David Taggart Henderson, son of her uncle John Henderson, born (1860-1898). Cousin David was only about 5 years older than my granny Meggy, so I assume there were quite close when they were growing up. John Henderson and his wife Mary lost another child in infancy, then Mary went on to marry John Baston and have a second family.

David T. Henderson can be found on the Amble War Memorial. He was an Able Seaman in the RNVR Hood Divsion and you can read more about him at this record on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. There is also a slightly damaged headstone cross memorial to him, his parents and his baby brother in Amble East Cemetery. I will add that to the blog another time.

Co-operative Wholesale Society (Coop)

Amble CoopHow many of you remember being sent to the “The Store” to pick up some shopping for your mother in your childhood? The Store was the term we used for the local CWS (Co-operative Wholesale Society) shop. They had grocery shops, hardware shops and more.

The Coop was founded by consumers who clubbed together to enable bulk purchasing. This was a way to avoid the extortionate pricing in company owned shops, e.g. those run by mine owners where workers only had one option for where to buy their produce. By paying a minimal sum to become a Coop member, people had the opportunity to buy their groceries at an acceptable price and also earn a dividend (which we referred to as the divi). The amount paid for purchases was recorded on a “cheque” after giving your 4-digit cheque number and the dividend was paid out annually. As children we all had our mother’s cheque number firmly implanted in our minds and rolled it out regularly with every loaf of bread, quarter of bacon or bag of flour we were sent to purchase.

The photograph shows Amble Harbour Coop on the left (beside where the women are walking). This Coop was managed by my Dad’s cousin, Ralphy Tweddle, until his retirement in the 1980s. Until reminded today by Ralphy’s son Les, I had forgotten that this was one of the first shops in Northumberland to introduce a self-service system, back in 1964. Just imagine the shock to the average Amble housewife of being able to pick her own goods directly off the shelf rather than stand in a queue and ask for each individual item with her neighbours listening to what she was buying. The Coop management were clearly men of vision, ahead of their time, as they were prepared to invest in training their staff in the new system and take the risk of losing customers with such a challenging innovation as self-service.

Ralphy actually gave me a kick-start on my family history research as he told me the names of the dozen Cracketts in the banner photo on my blog. One of the girls is his mother Dorothy Ann and the couple in the middle were his grandparents, Leonard Cracket and Mary Parkinson.

The Jarrow March 1936

Marshall Riley’s Army – Lindisfarne

In October thirty-six they took a trip,
The men who made the ships,
Searching for some kind of salvation.
With heads held high, and dignified,
The towns folk and passers by,
Held them in some kind of admiration.

March on, Marshall Riley’s Army,
Marching for your rights,
You’ve surely earned them.

Any among you who grew up in NE England in the 70’s can probably quote the whole song word perfect, but I wonder how many have reflected on the meaning. I remember heading for the library at the time to figure out what it was all about. (If you are wondering why I chose to link to that particular rendition of Marshall Riley’s army on youtube, it is because I was very probably in the audience at that concert !)

For some time now I have been mulling over a couple of unconnected questions, but had not decided who to ask about either:

  1. Why are there so many Cracketts in the Midlands?
  2. Did any of my family participate in the Jarrow March?

Both were answered for me today, before I even asked the questions, by my cousin Julie Crackett-MacFarlane, who published a comment on facebook with a link to a BBC History article about the dire employment situation on Tyneside in the mid 1930s following the closure of Palmer’s Shipyard. Her grandfather, Edmund Rudd Crackett (1907-1974),  who is my 3rd cousin once removed, was born in Jarrow, County Durham. In his early thirties he joined the Jarrow March to London in October 1936 to fight for the right to work and provide for his family. It was Edmund who subsequently made the decision to uproot his family and move to the Midlands in search of employment, where they established a thriving group of Cracketts in the Sandwell area.

A big thanks to Julie for triggering my thoughts on this subject and giving me permission to publish a post about her grandfather and mention her as a contributor.

Granny Crackett had full overview

Back door Granny CMy Granny and Granda Crackett had a rather unusual house. The front door was on Church St. and the back door was on Wellwood St. and the ground floor corner of the property was a shop (not theirs).

This photo (courtesy of Stan on facebook group “Old Amble in Photographs”) shows her back door. Opposite the Congregational church. Just past the crossroads and before the traffic sign. Those of you who grew up in Amble in the 50s. 60s and 70s may remember granny. Often to be seen at the back door. Knitting needles in hand and ball of wool in pinny pocket. And if you dared to sit on the Congs church wall she would chase you. She also sold Longstaffe’s bus tickets and vegetables from the allotment from her kitchen.

My problem as a child was that from this central position she had a full view of every possible way to go up or down through the town. Even on my bike I couldn’t whizz past her fast enough for her not to see which way I was going and ask me the next day where I had been !!