It works in Netscape using GENE 4.2 . and can be imported into Generations Family Tree on a PC running Windows XP If you have any problems please let Edith know and she will personally send you the file as an attachment.
You can download Macintosh Genealogy Software from http://www.ics.uci.edu/~eppstein/gene/
Letters to Edith
Letters to Felicity
I will be brief as I would imagine you are rushed off your feet with
library matters, but I wondered if you may be interested in this snapshot of
Higher Bleakdale taken last summer on a very pleasant day in early June.
The person in the picture is my brother Hargreaves, my home is close by and
Slagthorpe is out of shot to the left - a distance of about 10 miles as the
Thank you Margery
- It does look to be rather a cool day
by our standards
Higher Bleakdale in June, showing a present day Toadblower
From Miss Margery Toadblower-Fairfackson
1 February 2002
Dear Miss Tintwhistle,
It was with great disappointment that I notice from this new World Wide Web thing that internet 1901 census returns for Great Cockup have failed to materialise. I get a distinct feeling from your Statement however that I might, just MIGHT have family connections with your village and I give a few pertinent details below.
My father, Reginald Fairfackson, was born about 1900, no further details available. He was always very cagey about his origins but at the end of his life his geriatric ramblings often included the words, ‘Great Cockup’, ‘Fairfax’, ‘manse’ and ‘parlour maid’. His mother’s name was Gertrude Toadblower incidentally, and when she died I found amongst her possessions a train timetable dated Winter 1901, an old post card showing the main street of Great Cockup and a very small pair of blue baby bootees.
Perhaps I ought to come down to Great Cockup to take advantage of your very generous library opening times and do a bit of research, perhaps I could book a 15 minute session on your computer. Maybe whilst with you I could be of some help as you are obviously under a lot of pressure ? I don’t have a laptop but I could bring my small portable typewriter and my glasses.
A final note ? please tell the Vicar that if he is interested in Victorian Eroticism I have found a good website which I accidentally came across whilst trying to log on to the Great Cockup internet site.
The Old Stables
1 February 2002
My Dear Margery
Since I received
your letter I have been very busy in the fiche department and have uncovered
enough material to make it very certain that we are related. The 1901 Census
for The Manse, Great Cockup, reveals one Gertie Toadblower, born Lower
Cockup, whose occupation is given as Parlour Maid, aged 19. The Census
of 1891 reveals a family of Toadblowers in Lower Cockup with a Gertrude
aged 9 and an Albert aged 12, clearly siblings. Now Albert was my Grandfather,
he married Emily Hartley from Upper Cockup (There are lots of Cockups around
Amongst their many children were Vincent, young Jamie’s Great grandfather, and Charlotte, my mother who married Henry Tintwhistle - the Tintwhistles were nub grinders, a craft that has sadly died out, and they orginated from Gloucestershire.
Now about your father. A regular guest at the Manse in those days was Neville Fairfax, one of the Fairfax family that fought for The Crown during the Civil War. A dashing young man, he was known to be one for the ladies, and when young Gertie fell, she refused to name the father of her child. Mysteriously, Neville Fairfax never visited Great Cockup again. Sadly he died in the Boer War when he mistook a keg of gunpowder for something to drink. I don’t known where Gertie went to have her child, but she never returned to the village and I remember Uncle Vincent saying that his Grandmother Prudence (Your great grandmother) died of shame plus a large amount of gin.
Please do join me with your typewriter - as for the vicar, we are not speaking presently. He has asked for some inter library loan art books to help him with his life drawing classes at college. Personally I think it is disgusting but Mr Scurvy says never mind, it means he’ll leave the choirboys alone. What do you think he means?
2nd Febrary 2002
My dear Cousin Edith,
I am so excited about your letter and at last I can unravel the mystery of my father’s origins. I spent yesterday evening drawing out the family tree on the back of my pension book, which was a much more entertaining pastime than watching the tv, and I think I now have our relationship sorted.
I can now tell you what happened to poor Gertie after she fled The Manse in 1901 with baby Reginald. Her train journey in the depths of winter brought her to another branch of the Toadblower family. My sessions in the public library squinting at the usually upside down back to front microfilm (why do they never rewind it onto the rells correctly?) of the 1851 census reveals a Jonas Toadblower born 1830 in Great Cockup, who apparently left the village under something of a cloud (perhaps you can fill me in?), and after much travel he settled in the industrial town of Slagthorpe on the Lancashire / Yorkshire border. Eventually he met a local girl, Effie Ramsbottom youngest daughter of a tripe maker, and in 1855 after a whirlwind courtship they married. They had 10 children. His daughter Amelia married in 1885, she had 9 children in quick succession and it was to this family that poor Gertie and baby Reginald fled in their hour of need. Times were difficult; the accommodation was sparse, a back to back 2 bedroom terraced house with communal toilet and outside coal store ? I remember my father telling me how the children had to sleep 4 to a bed.
Money was scarce but work was to be had in the local mill, Stubbins & Blackshaw, and leaving Reggie in the care of his aunt, Gertie became an apprentice Shuttle Sharpener. However fate was not kind and in 1912 she suffered a terrible accident when she fell under a fully operational Stevensons Bucking Ass Felt Coupling machine, (according to the local newspaper of the time whilst under the influence of alchohol), and as a result was terribly disfigured facially. Probably because of this disfigurement she never married.
I am fascinated to hear of my grandfather Neville Fairfax as the name is not unfamiliar to me and I seem to have a memory of my Grandmother Gertie mentioning ‘Nev’. It was always difficult to understand what Granny said because of her dreadfully twisted mouth and her disconcerting wandering eye (all a result of her fall into the machinery I fear). Also, the family circumstances did improve dramatically in the 1920s ? but I fear this letter is getting too long.
I can well understand why you are not speaking to the vicar, being a librarian is a tricky job, and can you explain what my refresher button is please? It sounds as though it is something I ought to be pressing yet Mr Davis says not to. Does the vicar have a refresher button? I would love to make the journey to Great Cockup, however my typewriter ribbon has frayed badly and I must find someone to fix it, then I shall be back in action.
The Old Stables
I must apologise for not writing sooner but I felt that I had to be certain about my facts before revealing the truth to you about Jonas Toadblower.
You are quite correct that Jonas appears on the 1841 Census for Great Cockup, aged 11. Along with three sisters, Millie 12, Daisy 14 and Violet 17. Josiah Toadblower is Head of the household and is described as a Widower, Blacksmith and Farrier.
An 1849 Trade directory for Great Cockup includes the business “Josiah Toadblower and Son, Blacksmiths and Farriers” So clearly Jonas’s move North happened between 1849 and 1851.
I was intrigued by a long standing rumour that all was not right with the parentage of the last Lord Sedgeby who died in 1925. Amongst the lower orders of the village he was always referred to disrespectfully as “The Toadblower Lad”. Elias Cruckhouse, aged 90 and practically resident in the Pig and Piccolo tells me he remembers the funeral and people in the crowd of onlookers making a reference to the fact.
When Jonas Toadblower was a young man. Lord Peter Sedgeby, then in his late fifties, courted a pretty young lady, Jane Fairfax, and they married in 1847. Lady Jane was very beautiful; her picture hangs in Sedgeby Hall, now a National Trust property where I work as a volunteer guide on a Sunday during the summer months. Her most treasured possession was her grey gelding Hermes and her journal, now on display at the Hall records her affection for him. Indeed the Sedgby accounts ledger reveals that she supposedly spent a huge sum of money at the local farriers where in her journal she claimed that Hermes was shod far more regularly than is likely, by “a handsome young man with the body of an honest artisan”. It seems that something other than hot iron was pressed against the Toadblower anvil.
In 1850 Lady Jane Sedgeby gave birth to an heir. Newspaper accounts of the time noted that the celebrations where surprisingly low key, and Lady Jane’s journal records that her husband slipped into a melancholic state from which he never recovered. He died in 1858 and the eight year old Henry became the last Lord Sedgeby. Henry married into the Widdowsons, who made a fortune in Malaysia and were big in surgical rubber. Unhappily he died childless aged 75.
Some say that Jonas was paid to leave the village, others that he was threatened and fled for his life. With his skills it is hardly surprising that when he moved North he was able to find work in the manufacturing industry.
Josiah was well looked after by the widowed Lady Jane, who kept him in work until the end of his days. The splendid gates at the entrance to Sedgeby Hall came from the Toadblower forge.
Did Lady Jane and Jonas ever meet again in secret? Was Effie his true love and Lady Jane just a woman who trifled with him and paid the price? Perhaps we will never know.
You ask about refresher buttons. Yasmin has been very patient with me and says that one can think of them as something that is virtual rather than on the keyboard. I’m not sure where this leaves me but they do appear to be something more in our heads than in the real world, and in that sense I am sure that the vicar has several of them.
Hoping to meet you soon
My dear Margery
I am somewhat disturbed to have received this letter tonight casting some doubt on your story about Gertrude Toadblower. Naturally as we are cousins I prefer to accept your story but I have had to place Mr Jit Sweatmore's story on our web site letters page in the interests of fairness and impartiality. I do hope you will understand
Oh dear - confusion reigns and I am
far too tired to think properly.
All I can say is that my dear old disfigured Granny does not sound much like
'Gertie the Goose' heaven forbid! I do have in my possession her birth
certificate which I hope will clarify the position. She was born on 27th
April 1882 at Farriers Cottage, Cow Pat Lane, Lower Cockup, her father's
name is given as Isaac Toadblower, Blacksmith and mother Prudence
Francine Toadblower (formerly Leblanchet) and she signed her own name
- Granny always insisted that her mother was of French descent. In earlier
correspondence between us you indicated that the census for 1891 revealed
a Gertrude and brother Albert, who was your Grandfather so we should share a
Great-Grandfather in Isaac Toadblower and a Great-Great Grandfather in Josiah
Toadblower. What a pity Isaac isn't listed on the 1841 census - perhaps he was
away from Great Cockup on that day.
I do hope this helps to sort out our relationship, which I am convinced
is genuine. Perhaps Midge Jit-Sweatmore Toadblower' s Gertie is a different
young lady, or perhaps he is telling 'porkies' to get his letter onto the
World Wide Web.
I have a guest in the house for a few days, my brother Dr Hargreaves
Toadblower-Fairfackson, whom you may have seen recently on the television as
he is a renowned expert on ear cloning - a brilliant doctor and an absolute
master in his chosen field. He has been suffering from exhaustion recently and
thought some bracing Pennine air would do him a world of good. The recent
65 mile / hour gales of late have perked him up enormously.
It is good that you now have Mrs Fairfax-Widdowson on board - is she any
relation to Neville Fairfax? Do thank Yasmin for giving insight into the
workings of refresher buttons, I will now bear in mind that they are
The rest of your welcome and informative letter I will read and digest
tomorrow as the hour is late and I must away to my bed, but I do thank you
for your interest - it is proving to be a fascinating story!
With Best Wishes,
Dear Cousin Margery
I fear that we
are both getting tired and historical errors are creeping into
our family history. We are both guilty of a transcription error in that
Gertie was born in 1882 not 1862, as I originally told you - you will see
that the birth certificate has been stained which makes it difficult to read,but that is no excuse as I had checked the census returns. Had Gertrude beenborn in 1862 Neville would have been seeing a 39 year old, which hardly seems likely -though you and I know that women and port improve with age.
However it appears
that Mr Jit Sweatmore is an imposter with a silly name and
an even sillier story so I think we can safely say it was a hoax. I spent a
large part of today securing Gertie's birth certificate which I have placed on
the internet for you to see at your leisure - although I believe you akready
have a copy.
I would be interested
to hear your story of the Toadblower change of fortunes
in 1920s Slagthorpe. There are still 1000 people a day logging on to the libray
site to follow the story.
I hope your guest
is not tiring you too much. The ocassional good whiskey is
vice of mine too. I saw the program on ear cloning and believe that there are
some things we should not tamper with.
Cousin EdithDear Cousin
PS I Think this settles the argument :
Dear Cousin Edith,
It is such a relief to know that the deadful Midge Jit Whatever His Name Is is off my back - I could hardly sleep last night for thinking that such a common imposter should be trying to wreck our stimulating new relationship. Well done putting Gertie's birth certificate on the internet, my copy also is very difficult to read incidentally, but here we have prove beyond doubt. I too had noticed that Gertie appeared to be a rather elderly 'fallen women' who really ought to have had more sense at her age and I am glad that the error has now been rectified. The errors can certainly creep in when receiving so much information at once and one has to be so careful when dealing with such important matters! I cannot imagine how you are coping with the volume of interest shown in Great Cockup, what a good job you have Felicity to help.
I have a busy day today. Hargreaves has taken the dogs, spaniels named Emily and Branwell, out for a long walk on the high fells, he said he might try to get as far as High Crag over Bleakdale Fell. He has his hip flask of whiskey and his Kendal Mint Cake so he should be ok. He has decided to stay with me for at least an extra week as he is enjoying the gales and
horizontal rain so much. He says his research institute at the St.
Fergusson Hospital in Manchester owe him for all his television appearances
Tonight I have my night school class down the valley at the village hall in Under Bleakdale (incidentally we are about 7 miles from Slagthorpe as the crow flies). I have decided this winter to attend a class on mediaeval
tapestry work. It will be good to have a break from supplying Hargreaves
with food and whiskey - he can look after himself for a change.
Your loving Cousin,
PS. I will
certainly continue with the story of the Toadblowers, all I need is time
to get my facts in order - suffice to say for now that Reggie, a
bright boy, certainly raised his family out of the mire.
In your letter to Miss Margery Toadblower-Fairfackson you say
that your mother was Charlotte Hartley of Upper Cockup. Having Charlotte
as my own name makes me wonder if perhaps we are related- incidentally
did you know that the Australian Pocket Oxford Dictionary gives" a pudding
of cooked fruit" as the meaning of "charlotte"? Many Australians
tend to be rather disrespectful of the finer things of life, such as any
names other than Paddy and Bruce, but one would have hoped for better things
from a publication claiming connections with OUP. The larrykin
influence here is really most unfortunate, and widespread,
and the potato famine has a lot to answer for.
Coming back to our possibly being related. My grandmother was also called Charlotte- I was named after her although she had died before I was born and so I never met her. My elder brother, Percival, remembers her, although to be precise,what he remembers is her button boots which were at his eye level as he sat as a small child on the carpet in front of her. My grandmother grew up in eastern Somerset near the border with Glos. Do you think it possible that in their Gloustershire days (which census shows this?) the Tintwhistles and one of my grandmother's parents knew each other- maybe even to the point of taking the verb in the biblical sense of the word? This would account for us both having the name Charlotte in our families.
Charlotte Hamilton-Whitmore (Mrs)
Dear Mrs Hamilton-Whitmore
Zak is on my computer at the moment so I have hand written my reply. Craig says that he will ask Zak to send it when he is in the right mood. Apparently his MP3 player is not working so we are all keeping out of his way.
I will pop this letter into the post this afternoon. It may well reach you before the E mail.
My knowledge of your culture is limited to listening to The Seekers and Watching Rolph Harris on the television. I once caught part of Dame Edna somebody but switched over to a nature program. I also tried to read The Female Eunuch but found it very offensive.
I do find it endearing that so many of you Antipodeans cling so hard to the mother land. It makes it hard to understand Republicanism, especially when Our Queen and her children are such role models of British family life.
I'm afraid that it is wishful thinking on your part that you have a Great Cockup connection, at least on present evidence. Charlotte was a very common Victorian name. I know for a fact that the Tintwhistles never went into Somerset. Nub grinding was divided into guilds with Templar connections (though this is unproven) and I have records left by my father which I am pledged not to share and to destroy should I die childless, an instruction written into my will to be carried out by Mr Terrington my solicitor and long time friend.
Do keep in touch Charlotte, and if you find fresh evidence I would be happy to investigate it.
Dear Miss Tintwhistle,
Thank you for your kind reply to my
enquiry about us being related
through our common name Charlotte. The friendly tone of your letter helped
me over the disappointment of us not being cousins.
You did say that new evidence would be needed to establish any relationship
between us. Maybe I have found this evidence, and while it is not yet
conclusive and my son Hargreaves is facksing away for further details,
may I summarise the evidence to date?
From your clear succinct Statements about affairs at the Library,
I realise that you value these qualities in correspondence so I shall be
as brief as possible.
The cousin who has proved she is related
Miss Margery Toadblower-Fairfackson , fortunately has a very distinct
surname- what a boon such small mercies are in family history.
My son, Hargreaves, has often told me that he has a device by
which one can trace surnames and while I had no idea what
he meant, other than a phonebook. I spent most of the night thinking
about ways Miss Toadblower-Fairfackson and I might be related.
Perhaps her father, Reginald Toadblower-Fairackson, had married someone
connected to my family? perhaps this was my mother's sister about whom
she never spoke? Many possibilies came to mind.
So first thing this morning- 5.30 am
- I telephoned my son, Hargreaves,
and explained the situation to him. For some reason he seemed to find
it hard to grasp what I was talking about. In the end he said he would
to come to my house and search the net to help
me sort it out. I didn't know what net he was talking about -
the only net at my house is the hair net I wear at night to extend the life
of my perm- an army widow's pension these days doesn't go as
far as it once did .
Hargreaves said he'd bring his
laptop with him.
I must confess I felt some alarm about the moral propriety of this
suggestion, but as you yourself had said there was one at your Library
I felt it must be above board. He arrived shortly after my phone call and
with his laptop connected to the net- or so he said, even though I
couldn't see any net, he looked at what he said was a free marriage sight
- again I felt some concern as Hargreaves is a bachelor. He typed in the
name Toadblower-Fairfackson, pressed some buttons
(were they refresher buttons? I asked and he looked amazed at
my knowledge of technical jargon) and eventually
on the screen there came : Reginald Toadblower-Fairfackson
and Margery Hargreaves , Ramsbottom, 8b 12, March Q 1937.
My son Hargreaves assures me that this means these two were
married in 1937, although I myself would like a little more evidence than
that about being married,and I am not at all sure where Ramsbotton fits in.
Then Hargreaves said we could go to
a free births sight and see what we
could find about children with this surname and 8b. I am pleased to say
that the children with this surname and 8b , were born well
after 1937 and there is one Margery amongst them. There is also a
Hargreaves and this leads me to think we may have some hard evidence
about us sharing cousins. My mother's surname was Hargreaves and she has
always said that there is a family tradition in the female line to use
this surname as the eldest son's Christian name.
Hargreaves noted down the details of
these two births and is going to
facks away, whatever that means, and get their birth certificates which
he assures me will show their parentage.
So I wait breathless for this facksing away to produce the evidence that
will show that you and I are related and maybe we shall finds ourselves able
to use use the term"cousin" even if rather loosely.
With best wishes,
Good luck with your searches Charlotte
Yesterday whilst surrounded by family trees and paperwork, and trying to compile more information on the Toadblower Saga (I thought I would start with the much travelled Jonas), I chanced to look at your letter page and
was astonished to see there a letter a Charlotte Hamilton-Whitmore (Mrs), who with the help of her son Hargreaves and nets and laptops, has apparently unearthed evidence of a marriage between Reginald Toadblower-Fairfackson and
a Margery Hargreaves in 1937. This would indeed appear to be my father's marriage and my mother was indeed Margery Hargreaves after whom I am named. It is most intriguing as our family also has a tradition of using Hargreaves
as a Christian name as evidenced in my brother, one of my brother's children also bears the name. I know that my mother had siblings but some mystery surrounds a younger sister named if I remember correctly, Emily Charlotte, and with whom my mother had lost touch in their youth. I vividly remember that my mother's eyes would fill with tears at any mention of 'Australia'.
My brother Hargreaves says that I must get a copy of our mother's birth certificate as a quick hunt through the attic has failed to produce one. He he says I need to look at Saint Catherine's Index and this is as clear as mud (of which we have a great deal around here at the moment), but how a Saint can help with birth certificates I have no idea. However this
afternoon Hargreaves is taking me to Slagthorpe Public Library where apparently for some strange reason Saint Catherine keeps a copy of her Index.
Mrs Hamilton-Whitmore sounds to be a fine person and I will be most interested to hear what evidence she can find to support her feeling that we are related. I am hopeful that this can be proved as I would far rather have the delightful Mrs Hamilton-Whitmore as a relation than the Sweatmore brigade! I notice with alarm that Midge Whatever is still besmirching the proud name of Toadblower, despite overwhelming evidence which proves him/her to be a fraudster. Poor Gertrude would turn in her grave if she could read his slanders.
I am somwhat alarmed that my brother Hargreaves shows no sign as yet of wanting to go to his own home. Instead he has been browsing through catalogues and has today ordered a selection of Outdoor Gear - a complicated anorak thing described as a 'Three-in-One with Hidden Hood feature' in Vibrant Yellow and complete with hidden pockets for maps, compasses, pens, pencils, emergency flares, Kendal Mint Cake and hip flasks, a pair of stout leather walking boots with Himalayan gauge soles, Peruvian Yak Wool thermal gloves (hand knitted by local villagers in the high Andes to help sustain the local economy) and a selection of 1:50000 Ordnance Survey maps covering the entire Pennine region. What do you think he is planning?
Your loving Cousin,
Dear "Cousin" Edith,
My delight when I read the
letter to you from Miss Margery Toablower Fairfackson in which she
says it seems very likely, indeed almost certain , that she and I are cousins,
is unbounded, and has put a whole new perspective on my life now that I
have established having a living relative at "home". Would you be so kind
as to see that she receives a copy of this letter? Perhaps one of
the young people from Qinuseless have what I believe is called a photocopier.
From their non-results in connection with the 1901 census,
making a photocopy for you could give them some job satisfaction. The arrival
of the marriage certificate ordered for me by my son Hargreaves is eagerly
awaited. I have spoken to Australia Post Head Office explaining
that I am expecting some evidence of a marriage to arrive in a large
envelope and to ask that care be taken not to bend
it. The young girl who answers their phone was not particularly
co-operative and indeed said she did not know why one wanted or needed
evidence of marriage, and asked why was I fussing about all this.
I have taken the liberty of including in this letter a small photo of myself as I thought Cousin Margery- what a delight to thus address someone from "home" in that manner- might be interested, and indeed even wish to reassure herself about the type of Australian to whom she seemed now to be related. The photo is the most recent I have of myself, taken about 1940 and is the one that my late husband, Brigadier-General Augustus
Hamilton-Whitmore DSO always carried with him, saying that it evoked such happy memories. Amongst other things, you and Cousin Margery will be able to see that I have always been conscious of the need to protect my skin against the harsh Australian sun by wearing a large hat. The Australian Cancer Council says "Slip, Slop, Slap" is the .way to avoid skin cancer, but I cannot see how this would have any beneficial medical advantage and
there seems to me something rather indelicate about this suggestion- indeed it is suprising that a group of Doctors- even Australian doctors- would advocate such behaviour.
With very wishes,
Almost your cousin, Charlotte
Thank you so much for the photograph Charlotte. Zak was very rude and said that you cannot be Australian because there are no corks around your hat - that Crocodile Dundee character has a lot to answer for. I will certainly pass your message and photograph to your "cousin" Margery.
10 February 2002
Wait no more. I have managed, because of my position at the library,
to obtain a copy of the marriage certificate that you have been waiting
so patiently for. I do apologise for its very damaged condition due to
a flood some time ago at our local Records Centre. Your are indeed related
to Margery Toadblower-Fairfackson and of course to me
Dear Cousin Edith,
Thank you for your kindness in getting
the copy of the marriage certificate
of Reginald Toadblower-Fairfackson and Margery Hargreaves. It is so much
more agreeable to obtain family information privately, rather than through
public channels such as Australia Post. Being able to be discrete and thus
avoid broadcasting family information is such a comfort.
Zak was, as you so correctly
pointed out, very rude about my hat having no
corks around it. At first I was very disconcerted about this remark, but
after a good cup of tea- Australians drink a lot of tea, at least those who
are not down at the pub do-I realised from what you had said earlier about
the Quinuseless employees, that they are indeed young and as you correctly
say, Crocodile Dundee has much to answer for- unfortunately, the Australian
Government seems to like that film as it has doubled Australia's export earnings,
whatever that means.
The photograph Cousin Margery
sent you of her brother Hargreaves out
walking is most interesting but I am not sure if there is a family likeness
evident - my lorgnette is not sufficently powerful to reveal her brother's facial features.
Whilst we are talking about photographs I must apologise for the mistake
made when I sent you the most recent photograph of myself. It was taken in
1960, 40 years ago, not 1940 as I said. It's easy to see how such a mistake came
about. When I told my son Hargreaves of the mistake he said not to worry and
people would assume I had had a senior's moment when giving this incorrect date. I am not quite sure what that meant- if fact, there is quite a lot said by
Hargreaves about which I am uncertain.
There is so much to tell both you and
cousin Margery. But before I launch
into that I wonder if I might ask another favour of you? Could you please ask
Cousin Margery if the included photo is of members of her family ?
It has been amongst my mother's treasured papers and she has always refused
to name the people here. It is obviously a photo from"home"- one can see
that from the clothes worn- if it were taken in Australia the women would
be wearing bikinis.
I do hope things at the Library are
settling down for you,
With best wishes,
Thank you for the photograph which I am passing to Margery. A letter from her arrived this evening enclosing a birth certificate which I am forwarding to you. I am sure you will be thrilled by its contents.
11th February 2002
After my fruitless session with Saint Catherine and her index in
Slagthorpe library the other day, curtailed because Hargreaves was getting
bored and fancied a walk, I had another hunt in the attic. Eventually I
unearthed an old suitcase crammed with letters, postcards and documents and
amongst which was a copy of the very birth certificate I wanted.. I have
enclosed a copy and you will see that my mother was born in Batley Bridge
which is a small market village in west Yorkshire - if you remember your
history lessons you will, I imagine, be familiar with the name as it is the
battle site of a decisive Roundhead victory in the Civil War, in fact it
marked the turning point of the conflict.
I wonder if you would be so kind as to forward this document to the good
Mrs Hamilton-Whitmore as it is looking increasingly likely that my mother
Margery and her mother Emily Charlotte were sisters and if she has her
mother's birth certificate we can compare the details of our parents. The
photograph she sent to you shows a most striking woman and I can see a
strong resemblance to my side of the family. Perhaps we can find out why
there was no contact between the two sisters, although interestingly, whilst
perusing the suitcase full of documents in my attic, I found a boomerang, 3
unused postcards of Alice Springs, the marvellously readable autobiography
of Rolf Harris, and a photograph of a very large person (male) with a full
beard, wearing a large hat with corks dangling on strings around the edge
(is this the sort of hat Zak was talking about?) and drinking from a bottle
which appears to be labelled 'Fosters'. Oh yes, and there seems to be a
large kangaroo in the background.
Whilst reinforcing my Australian connections however I must not forget
the proud name of Toadblower and my connections with you dear cousin. I
must start of course with Jonas who fled Great Cockup in great haste and
finally settled in Slagthorpe. I have a studio photograph of Jonas, taken I
would think in the 1880's when Jonas was in his prime. He appears to be an
impressive fellow, with a fine head of hair, top hat resting on the table
beside him and his favourite whippet sitting at his feet. Did you know he
became a Gasket Oiler? But I will save Jonas for my next letter as time is
Hargreaves is being very evasive and won't answer the telephone in case
it is Saint Fergusons. I have no idea what he is up to but a couple who
call themselves Richard and Judy rang today - they said something about
appearing on their show. What show? Who are they? Is he going into light
The sun shone this morning for half an hour or so. We tried to have a
barbeque in honour of our new Australian cousin, but it was so windy it kept
blowing the firelighter out so the idea was abandoned.
Margery with love
Thank you so much for the certificate, which arrived just after a letter from your newly discovered cousin Charlotte in Australia. She wonders if you can identify any of the people in the photogtaph she included?
At first I wondered if the gentleman in the photograph could possibly be my father Reginald and the seated lady his mother Gertrude, until I realised that this lady's face is blemish free and if you remember I told you poor Gertie had been badly disfigured due to an argument with a power loom in 1912. Also a comparison with photographs of my father shows this gentleman to be of a different build. If you look closely at the photograph I have sent to you of my brother on one of his moorland rambles last summer, the facial features differ from those of the gentleman in Charlotte's photograph and my brother is very like his father in appearance. Another observation which may thow some light on who these people can be - the terrain does not resemble Slagthorpe as it is far
too verdant, in fact it could be Down South, and the ladies are not wearing overcoats, which indicates a warm climate. No - please let Cousin Charlotte know that unfortunately I do not recognise them, but they do look a jolly bunch of people whoever they are - in fact a 'fun crowd' as my youngest nephew Arthur Hargreaves Toadblower-Fairfackson would say.
With best wishes,
Cousin Margery's find in the
attic of her mother's birth certificate
confirms beyond doubt that she and I are first cousins. What a happy
thought, and also the corollary that you and I, Edith, share a cousin. In
the past my mother Emily Charlotte Hargreaves has spoken to my brother Percival and me of our grandmother Charlotte nee Briggs, and the certificate's birth date of
1906 fits in with my mother's birth in January 1908 in Yorkshire.
The photograph Cousin Margery says
she has found of a very large person
(male) with a full beard and wearing a large hat with corks around it, and
drinking from a bottle labelled Fosters( perhaps Margery could look more
closely as it is more likely that the label says FourXXX) is almost
certainly a photograph my father, Bruce Prawn. Perhaps also, but maybe it
is just out of the photgraph, there is a BBQ shown, as my father was a very
successful BBQ manufacturer until he blew himself up when testing a new
model gas-bottle pressure gauge. The photograph may well have been a
promotional one, advertising his BBQs- he was so successful that most
Australian households now have a Prawn BBQ and indeed some who seek
celebrity status for themselves talk about putting prawns on the barbie,
which I find rather distasteful , considering how my father died.
I am beginning to get the hang of this
family history business, and so have
just been to the local Public Library - that is not nearly as vulgar as it
sounds, and the librarian, Sheila, is a mature person like yourself, Edith.
Sheila was most helpful when I explained that I understood the English had a
St Catherine who looked after all the births and marriages information -
what a busy person St Catherine must be- and asked did we have an equivalent
Australian ? I said that I realized of course that in Australia it would
more likely be someone from FourXXXX who would be doing such a thing. Sheila
astonished me by saying that some of the births and marriages are on the
net here- what a huge net this must be I thought-, and she said I may well
be able to find my parent's marriage there. She showed me the Library's
laptop - a different model to that which my son Hargreaves uses, but she
assured me it will still produce reliable infomation. She has booked me in
for 30 minutes on the net - I don't quite know what that means but didn't
want to ask too many questions at our first meeting. So tomorrow morning I
shall be back at the Library at 10.30am, and am looking forward to my first
venture into the net - I am not going to tell Hargreaves about this- it will
be a delightful surprise for him as he frequently mutters things about it
being time I got into the 20th C. Of course as soon as I have this
information I shall pass it on to you and Cousin Margery, as it is so good
to share things within the family.
Until tomorrow then,
How fascinating to think that the photograph I have of the gentleman with
corks around his hat is probably non other than Cousin Charlotte's father
Bruce Prawn. He is certainly a marvellous example of Australian manhood
and with a fine antipodean name. I have looked very carefully for a BBQ in
the photograph, which is in very poor condition, but all I can see is a pile
of what looks like scrap metal positioned just to the left of the kangaroo.
Mr Prawn's alchoholic beverage does indeed carry the wording 'FourXXX'
(partially obscured) and he is also wearing a rather fetching apron and
holding a vicious looking cooking implement.
Inspired by Cousin Charlotte's successes in her Australian library,
yesterday I got Hargreaves to deposit me in Slagthorpe's equivalent whilst
he went to buy an all weather tent and a biography of Richard & Judy -
goodness knows why - and with a great deal of help from a bespectacled young
man called Charlie Codswallup, who says he is head of the Local Studies
Department, I spent several fruitful hours looking for the northern branch
of the Toadblower family. Taking the evidence found in my searches and
linking it to family stories I can now start to relate the story of Jonas
Toadblower after he was hounded out of Great Cockup in 1850 or thereabouts.
Family tradition has it that he fled initially to America to make his
fortune, perhaps we will never know how he filled his time there, but by
1854 he seems to have settled in Slagthorpe and quickly courted and married
Effie, a daughter of Fred Ramsbottom, a local character and proprietor of a
tripe shop. A trade directory of 1855 lists a Frederick Ramsbottom - Offal
Specialist. Apparently Effie, who worked in her father's shop, resisted
Jonas's amorous attentions as she was deeply suspicious of his motives.
According to Granny she resisted for 2? weeks before she succumbed. Effie
was a comely lass with long dark hair and it is easy to see why Jonas fell
for her as she served him with his Bladder Wort in Vinegar, wearing her mop
cap, clogs and overalls. It must have been difficult for Jonas initially in
the town as being from the South no-one would have understood a thing he was
talking about and he must have been teased unmercifully for his peculiar
Southern accent. (It is even rumoured that he and Effie communicated in
sign language in the first months of their relationship.) However he was a
stalwart fellow, of good humour and pleasant demeanour and he quickly won
the heart of the ravishing Effie. In 1855 they married and went on to
produce 10 children, one of whom was Amelia and it was to this cousin Amelia
that the disgraced Gertie and baby Reginald would eventually come to live.
As you rightly surmised, Jonas, with his skills as a Blacksmith in Great
Cockup, found little difficulty in finding work in the local mill, Stubbins
& Blackshaw - Weavers of Fine Cottons. He started work in a lowly position
but with his southern charm and incomprehensible accent he quickly rose to
Head Gasket Oiler with responsibilities covering an entire weaving shed. I
still have his large brass oiling can to this day which is proudly displayed
upon an oak dresser in the hall. Over time Jonas was to integrate into
Slagthorpe with an enthusiasm which knew no bounds and the community took
him to their hearts. I suspect that it was a relief to him, after the
horrors of his departure from Great Cockup and the loss of his Lady Jane, to
be able to immerse himself in honest Northern culture and he soon shed his
Southern veneer, bought himself a flat cap and a pair of steel tipped
leather clogs and rented a back to back terraced cottage down by the canal
on a cobbled street down which a small boy on a bicycle would deliver bread
daily. He joined the Oilers and Fettlers Working Mens' Club, eventually
holding the post as Chairman, and shortly after his marriage he acquired his
first whippet - Mad Jack of Slagdale.
So this is a flavour of your missing reative, Edith .......... but enough
for now as I am sure that deadful census fiasco is playing havoc with your
working day and you have better things to do with your time than read
lengthy missives from The North.
Dear Cousin Edith
I scarcely know where to begin. It has been such a dreadful day. All seemed rosy when I set off for the Library at 10 am for my 30 minutes on the net, and was so looking forward to Sheila helping me as she had offered. We sat down at the laptop and she connected to the New South Wales ( that is a state in Australia in case you have not heard of it- so little is known about this country beyond its borders) BDM site as she called it, then she typed in "Bruce Prawn". For some reason I don't quite understand, she seemed to think this is a distinctive name, and would make my search for information simpler. Very quickly there came of the screen a marriage between Bruce Prawn and Emily Charlotte Hargreaves in September 1929 in Black Stump , NSW.
Up to this
point I was beginning to think modern technology very desirable but
when I realized that September 1929 was only a year before I was born ,
the question became, where did this leave my mother and my brother
Percival? And to have such information so publicly displayed !
I was quite overcome, and Sheila must have wondered what had happened
to me. In my handbag I always carry smelling salts and fortunately
she had the presence of mind to look in my handbag. As I
came to I heard one of the young librarians ask Sheila if the old girl had
anything in her bag worth pinching . Such an attitude to library patrons
would not exist in Great Cockup County Library with you, Edith, in charge, I am sure.
Of course I didn't tell Sheila what had made me feel faint- such matters should only be discussed within the family. If only my husband, the late Brigadier-General Algernon Hamilton-Whitmore DSO were still aliv he would know what action to take in this crisis. In his absence all I could do was go home and have a strong cup of tea. I was almost tempted to drink some of the cooking sherry as that is the only thing stronger than tea in the house, but as I took it out of the cupboard below the sink, I thought to myself that the slippery slope begins in little ways- that metaphor seems a bit mixed up but so am I after this morning's revelation.
The big decision now is, whom do I confront for the truth? Percival? or my very aged mother who is in a nursing home? After some careful thought (with a clear head, as fortunately I had not succumbed to the sherry temptation) I decided it more likely that my mother will know the circumstances of Percival's birth rather than Percival, even though both were present. I am spending this afternoon preparing for a visit to the nursing home tomorrow and trying to think of tactful ways to ask Mother about how Percival came into existence, before Bruce Prawn's arrival on the scene..
I don't mind this family problem being shared with Cousin Margery, but would appreciate it if that is as far as this goes. It is such a delicate situation, and I have my son Hargreaves' sensibilites to consider. I will get in touch with you after my visit to Mother.
Your rather disturbed
My Dearest Charlotte
How very sorry I am to hear about your shocking revelations. I am sure that there will be an explanation to this apparently difficult situation. Try to keep out of the heat dear. If you find yourself panicking, breath into a brown paper bag. For some reason this will calm you down. No the incident in the library would not happen here; we are all very honest except for Mr Scurvy, who, without a 'Movement Order' moved his 27 sheep from the top paddock through the gate to the bottom paddock during the recent foot and mouth outbreak.
25 February 2002
My Dear Margery
I have had some very devastating news from a 105 year old who casts doubt on Reginald's parentage. It seems that Gertie may have been paid handsomely by the aristocracy to register Reginald as hers and flee the village with the baby. Of course at 105 my informant may be in a state of dementia but she sounds as bright as a button - though I may contact her nursing home to check. Of course Gertie would still be her mother in all but biology. Neville, it seems, is still the father.
28th February 2002
I am a bit lost as to what is going on here. I gather a 105 geriatric is saying Reginald my father is not Gertie's natural son. What relationship does the 105 year old geriatric claim to Reginald? This raises some doubt as to whether or not I am related to you, Edith and this is most disturbing. I must go back into the attic and see whether the old suitcase can throw any light on the matter, although my initial thoughts are that if Gertie was handsomely paid by the aristocracy in 1901 then what on earth happened to the money? Gertie and baby lived in abject poverty with Amelia and family in a disgustingly small cottage in Slagthorpe. Things only improved much, much later when Reginald, who by some miracle was blessed with a high intelligence, passed his entrance examination to Slagthorpe Grammar, and eventually made a mint of money in the construction industry.
Your confused cousin,
27th February 2001
Oh dear oh dear, yet more disturbing news this time from no lesser personage than Dame Minnie Hornblaster. Once over the shock of the letter I realised that if this revelation was correct it distanced you and I, Edith, and we could no longer call ourselves cousins as Gertie would no longer be my natural grandmother. However after a reviving glass of sherry I would raise the following pertinent points. If Dame Minnie really was 5 years old in 1900, then by now she must be fast approaching 107 years of age which begs the question, are her powers of reason and recall of the events of 102 years ago, stll intact. Also what incentive was there for Gertie to take on this burden? Was she financially rewarded? If this was the case then what on earth could have happened to any monies received, as Gertie and baby lived in abject poverty with Amelia and family in a disgustingly small cottage in Slagthorpe after fleeing Great Cockup.
With these thoughts whirling in my head, and after another glass of sherry I decided to continue with my searching of the attic, specifically the old suitcase stuffed full of letters and documents. These things must have been up here for years, most likely brought here by Gertie when she came to live here, with her son Reginald my father, in her later years. I found many letters, some from Gertie's mother, and settled down to read them, soon becoming lost in the Edwardian world of Great Cockup. Suddenly I was disturbed by a very large bang emitting from behind the cold water storage tank and the light went out. Shaken, I gingerly backed out of the attic, downstairs to find Hargreaves's mega wattage, halogen alpine camper's torch and returned to the attic to investigate the noise. I could find nothing that could have caused it but as I cautiously felt behind the storage tank my fingers touched upon an envelope which on close inspection contained a certificate of some sort. Imagine my delight, when back downstairs and in the daylight, I saw that it was my father Reginald's birth certificate, which Hargreaves has now copied for me so I can send the enclosed to you.
I realise that Gertie could have falsly claimed the child as her own so perhaps this birth certificate proves nothing, but we have a difference of birth dates here - Dame Minnie says the baby she helped deliver was born in 1900, yet the baby of the birth certificate was clearly born well into 1901.
Had perhaps Gertie assisted with the placement of an earlier baby who was most definately not hers. There is a note on the front of the envelope which enclosed the birth certificate, in Gertie's laborious handwriting she has written 'to spare Reginald this must be hidden'. I think in her simple way she thought that by hiding the evidence her dear Reginald could be spared the knowledge that there was no father named on his birth certificate.
I am still reading through Prudence's letters to her daughter but hopefully they will shed further light on exactly what occurred in Great Cockup in 1901. However as a further possible aid to help clear up the mystery I must mention the 'Toadblower Mark'. Have you heard of this? This is a very distinctive birthmark which as I understand it, the Toadblowers have always borne - in my case it is in a rather intimate place which I prefer not to mention. My father bore the mark, as did Gertie and indeed my brother bore the birthmark on the end of his nose until one of his surgical cronies insisted on removing it. May I ask you Edith, if it is not too personal, do you have the Toadblower Mark? It is of a very distinctive shape and I am sure that if we share this blemish then it is proof that we also share the same bloodline.
Reginald's certificate enclosed
28 February 2002
My Dear Dear Margery
You can have no idea how pleased and relieved I was to receive your letter and the copy of Reginald's birth certificate. As to the Toadblower birth mark I do find this a very indelicate subject to talk about and mention it here only in the interests of truth and justice. If you mean a small heart shaped pale rasberry coloured mark then yes I have one. An American Serviceman I knew as a young woman once kissed mine and called it his "little Valentine". Up to that time I had never noticed it. I think it is safe once again to refute Dame Minnie's claims.
Yours With GREAT relief
10th March 2002
I spent yesterday in the Local History Department of the public library in Slagthorpe and young Charlie Codswallop, the librarian in charge, has helped me enormously. For several hours we stared at microfilm of the census records and my eyes were very tired, in fact when I got home I needed a very large glass of sherry to help them re-focus. However the records proved to be most rewarding, Jonas and Effie did indeed appear to have 10 children but how many survived into adulthood I don’t yet know.
In 1861 the family were living in Back Mill Bottoms, a very poor area of Slagthorpe near the canal and the properties have long since fallen down or been demolished. At this time Jonas, occupation Gasket Oiler and his wife Effie had 3 children, Josiah aged 5, Frederick aged 3 and Charlotte aged 1 …… and where Jonas housed his whippet, Mad Jack, I would not care to speculate. By the time of the 1871 census, Branwell aged 8, Sarah Jane aged 6, Amelia aged 4, Patrick aged 2 and Emily aged 6 months had joined the family. So did also, I am given to believe, several more whippets and a coop full of racing pigeons. In 1881 Anne aged 8 and Clarence aged 1 ? an obvious biological hiccup ? had joined the family but there is no mention of Josiah or Frederick who were perhaps married by this time. Charlotte is still there, but Sarah Jane and Emily are not mentioned. The family were now living in a slightly bigger house in Railway Terrace so perhaps the finances had improved somewhat. This terrace of houses exists today and it is good to see that the family now enjoyed the benefits of a tiny back garden, which must have been a great relief to the descendants of Mad Jack the whippet.
The 1891 census confirms what I already know of Amelia's family from chats with Mary Anne, their youngest child who at almost 94 years of age is still in fairly robust health and living at the Happy Meadows Residential Nursing Home on the outskirts of Slagthorpe and whom I regularly visit. My father Reginald was particularly close to Mary Anne and her elder brothers George, who was born in 1900, and Eddie who was born about 1897, as they were closest to him in age.
the 1891 census reveals Amelia and her husband Henry Scuttle, occupation
given as Warp Knotter, living at 87 Stubbins Street, with Jonas aged 6,
Charlie aged 4, Emma aged 2, and baby Priscilla aged 1 month. (Stubbins
Street was condemed as unfit for habitation in the 1960s, subsequently
demolished and a large bowling alley and car park built on the land).
On the enclosed family tree (hopefully slightly larger than the last one) I have added the other children mentioned above, and also the twins Albert and Victoria who were born about 1894.
How different this all sounds to the rural life that Jonas left behind in Great Cockup. This isn't to romanticize a life that could be very hard but Slagthorpe does sound a grim place.
On quite another matter I have received a letter from that dreadful Scurvy man's solicitor saying that in asking him (heatedly I admit) how he intends to reach his pig sty without trampling on my rhubarb I am judged to have harassed him.
The world has gone mad.
18th March 2002
I do hope your difficulties with the Scurvy family are being resolved to your satisfaction and that Messrs.Terrington, Terrington & Hutton are justifying their no doubt hefty fee. Fortunately I enjoy a good relationship with our neighbours over a shared track access, although a combination of the weather, Joe Sludgemore and his JCB make a good job of gouging out great potholes in the track and he offers no help with filling them in. Consequently at the moment getting off the premises is a bit like driving across the surface of the moon.
22nd March 2002
I have spent another day in the attic perusing the contents of the suitcase and look what I have found - a letter to Gertrude addressed to her at 87 Stubbins Street, Slagthorpe, from her mother Prudence, dated 20th October 1901, and originally sent with enclosures. Obviously Prudence had not yet succumbed to her gin drinking and shame but she was well on the way. The letter is most difficult to read due to the meandering handwriting (possibly gin induced) and the French overtones, Prudence being of course French. I have typed it out for you, words and misspellings exactly as written but with punctuation added by me to ease comprehension.
Ma chere Gertie,
'Ow my 'art bleeds for you. Mon dieu ! You are in se wild North, so far away from your 'ome in belle Cockup. Votre pere, 'e ees so angry and 'e sais never menshon se name Gertrude agane in 'is presence. I must rite in secret, 'e must not know of this lettre. 'E and your brother Albert went up to le Manse last week shouting vengeance on that bounder Fairfax, le ravager of a good daughter and sister and despoiler of le nome de Toadblower, but they wer sent away an' told Fairfax 'ad left in an 'urry for South Afrique to fite les Bores. They wer so angry wen thay come 'ome that I 'ad to shut myself away in le closet an 'ave a gin.
I 'ad to go up to Sedgeby Hall yesterday to see old Lady Jane and she sends baby clothes for Reggie and also une lettre pour cousin Jonas an' she says ask Gertie to make sure 'e reeds le lettre in private.
'Ow ees Amelia et toutes les enfants? 'Ow do you manage in sat tiny 'ouse? At least you 'ave a job at le mill but take care ne fall pas dans les formidable machines, we 'ere terrible tales of 'ow 'orrible it is to work in le mills Up North. Do you 'ave enoeuf clothes? I sink it must pleut all le temps and be tres froid. Dus cousin Jonas still 'ave 'is chiens and 'is birds living in le 'ouse?
Se scandal of your 'asty departure from Grate Cockup is making moi tres malade but I 'ave discovered that une mug de gin gives moi courage to face les neighbours, although je ne comprend pas why they should feel so 'igh and mitey since that plus jeune fille Cicely Scurvy 'ad those twins last year born at 6 months and weighing 7 lbs each.
We 'ave a new family cum to live in Grate Cockup, les Tintwhistles who say they originated in Gloses, Glosc, Glosteshire (sory) Gloucestershire (le vicar 'as called and 'e wrote that for moi). They 'ave a large brood of enfants an' your brother Albert's little girl Charlotte is very fond of one of their little boys, Henri. Les Tintwhistles are sumthing called nub grinders, but no one 'ere 'as a clue wot that meens
I 'ave run out of news but I will rite agane wen votre pere ees out, giv my love to Amelia an' family and thank them from moi for givin you an 'ome.
2 April 2002
Lovely to hear from you with this news. Iam sorry that I have taken so long replying, but the Census Online efforts behind the scenes continue to be stressful.
Letters to Edith
Letters to Felicity