What Makes a Life?

I love newspaper archives. I have waded enthusiastically in when one of my youngsters had had a project on the Industrial Revolution. When I had studied this turmultuous period at school, I had found it dull, dry and uninteresting. Wading into The British Newspaper Archives had taught me just how wrong I was. Perhaps having children descended from the starving weavers who had marched in an attempt to save their own lives and livelihoods, had helped to bring it to life. I now view the word” weaver”(Links to actual footage of workers leaving the mills in 1901).with excitement.

I never expected to find this amazing footage of millworkers leaving a factory-On a personal note I had a relative who had worked briefly in the Lancashire Woollen mills in the 1920s. She had often told me how she had been the only other woman wearing a hat, coat and shoes(being from the south of England) instead of a shawl and clogs (as see in this film). This had led to her being gently teased.


The trouble with me and newspaper archives, is that I get really caught up, as if I am reading some great novel.  I often skip straight to the end to find out the conclusion, before I can bear to read the painful bits in the middle.

It comforts me when I learn that an individual lived to a reasonable age and did not end up dying destitute in a workhouse. I was shocked to discover at least one family member who had died in the dreaded workhouse in the relatively recent past of the twentieth century. I love it when a story with an unpromising beginning, seems to end in a quiet, relatively comfortable old age-or as in the case of one individual I studied, they turn from a life of crime, to the more sedate pastime of prospecting. I guess I still seek the “Happily Ever After”. I love to read the glowing tributes to individuals who have struggled their whole life but who seem to have inspired love in friends and family. I remember a particularly touching episode of Everybody Loves Raymond where Ray decided to write his father’s obituary, while he was still alive. A sentimental story of Frank’s softer side emerges, when it is revealed how he had quietly showed affection to the children’s pet rabbit.


I have come across a few such deeply personal, touching obituaries and to me they are worth more than gold…

Alan Sachs

Death is more universal than life. Everyone dies but not everyone lives.

There is no greater legacy than learning that somebody has inspired genuine love and affection in those they have left behind.

Documentary about the historical films of Mitchell & Kenyon, who produced the film showing the mill workers.


Documentary about voices in Edwardian England.








My Grandmother’s Favourite Sayings

My grandmother had a wide variety of sayings which she used regularly. As they come to mind, I will write them here with commentary.


You have to eat a peck of dirt before you die.


Pile of Dirt 2

I can personally attest to the truth of this one, given the things my son has put in his mouth over the years.


Worse things happen at sea.

I always put this one down to the fact that she had lived through two world wars.


It’ll all come out in the wash.

I am not sure if I ever really understood this one. I think it means it will all be all right in the end. Also it doesn’t matter if things are slightly uneven or unfair.

Further research below:

Something that you say in order to tell someone not to worry because mistakes 
or problems willnot have a serious or permanent effect It was the wrong thing
to say, but don’t get too upset,
I’m sure it’ll all come out in the wash eventually.
It’ll all come out in the wash. (n.d.) Cambridge Idioms Dictionary, 2nd ed.. (2006). Retrieved August 21 2017 from http://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/It%27ll+all+come+out+in+the+wash


It’s harder where there’s none.

If anybody  had ever complained that they had too little of something.


Laugh and the world laughs with you. Cry and you cry alone.

Ella Wheeler Wilcox

If we were ever sad


If you haven’t got anything good to say, don’t say anything.

I actually have this on a fridge magnet, stuck to the fridge.


A place for everything and everything in its place.

Still working on that one. 

Brainy Quotes .com attributes this one to Benjamin Franklin.


Waste not, want not.

My Grandmother had encouraged us not to write on envelopes for birthday cards etc. so they could be re-used.





I’m back..

Welcome back to me. My blog got overtaken by my life for a while-getting youngsters through vital exams and a wide variety of other dramas. Instead of writing about history, I have effectively been creating my own. It is interesting to think about the way in which my story might be put together in the future by family historians.

I know the thrill of discovering an old photo or a newspaper article about somebody in my tree. Some colourful individuals have their own folder. whilst others remain practically anonymous. I wonder what kind of digital footprint I have left. these last last few eventful months.

Now to get back to business..

My Quirky Cowkeeper Ancestor

Perhaps one of the quirky details about my ancestor was that he was able to keep dairy cows in the middle of London! Hard to believe the area which was once rural is now part of the busy metropolis.

Unfortunately it would appear that the quirks of this particular ancestor were actually illegal, much as he might have tried to convince the magistrate that he sold two brands of milk -milk or the cheaper “milk with water”.

There were two defendants each blaming the other. My ancestor supplied the milk, whilst the other had collected the milk for sale. Quirky Ancestor(henceforth referred to as Q. A.)had claimed that he had seen the milk seller add water to the product. Naturally the milk seller stated water had already been added.by Q.A.

Q.A.  the seller suggested he(the milk seller) had conned the inspector on a previous occasion by “accidentally”spilling the milk when he the inspector had come to collect a sample.The seller stated Q.A. had laughed at this.

When cross-examined about the fact that Q. A. had laughed at his co-accused’s story, Q.A had responded cheerily,

Well who could help it?

I have to say I recognise both the cheeky humour and similar phrases being used by other relatives over a hundred years later, although not about crooked exploits.

Q.A. got a reprimand because as the magistrate pointed out, he had readily admitted

allowing the co-accused’s wrongdoing. although he had escaped the five pound eleven shilling fine, which his co-accused had received.

I must admit I believe Q.A. was extremely fortunate on this occasion.

Perhaps the magistrate had also had a sense of humour.

My Quirky Ancestor who Joined up Accidentally

I used to love visiting my Grandmother. I am so glad I spent so much time with her and listened to her stories.

She had been an attractive and cheeky redhead, whose fiery temperament at the time had led her into a few misadventures(including the time she had left her brother and his friends up a tree, when she had been posted as a lookout, whilst they had helped themselves to apples(scrumping)).

She had led an interesting life and I loved to learn her perspective on the historical periods,through which she had lived.

My Grandmother recalled the horrors of WW1, including having had a. brother who was gassed at the Somme however she could also recount some of her more light-hearted memories from the period.

Recently I was recalling  for my children how she had accidentally joined up in WW1. She was looking for work and when she saw an opportunity to gain employment as a waitress, she had taken it.

She later founď out she was actually working for the military. I never learned more about her time as a waitress for the air force of the time. (My Grandfather had been in the Royal Flying Corps) yet she had never mentioned their paths crossing then. Actually I have no idea how they met.

It is amazing to me(and also a little scary) the idea that anybody could accidentally find themselves doing military service. Did she sign something?, though I doubt my Grandmother was the only one who found her way into the military this way..

Little Miss Whoops