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Wednesday, 23 May 2018

A Stretcher Bearer in the Field: 52 Ancestors - Wk.21

“Military” is this week's  theme for Amy Johnson Crow’s year-long prompt “52 Ancestors in 52 Week’s”. I have written before on my blog about my great uncle George Danson (1894-1916),  but it is such a poignant tale, that  I make no apologies for featuring  again this post from 2013. 

 "I had to assist the wounded at a dressing station and stuck to it for about 40 hours. It's blooming hard work being a stretcher bearer in the field.”   
These were the words of my great uncle George Danson, written three weeks before he was killed on the Somme in September 1916.
One of the many embroidered cards sent from Flanders by her sons 
 to my widowed great grandmother, Maria Danson, nee Rawcliffe.  
George Danson was the youngest of nine sons, of James Danson and Maria Rawcliffe of Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire.  Born in 1894, he was followed three years later by the birth of an only daughter Jennie.  The photographs and memorabilia shown here come from my great aunt Jennie's collection.

George (above) was the favourite uncle of my mother and aunt,  and they had fond memories of him, perhaps because he was nearest to them in age and took on the role of the big brother. I can see why in the photograph of him above.  George worked on W.H. Smith bookstalls at different railway stations in Lancashire and West Yorkshire.

George joined the Royal Army Medical Corps in 1916 and I was lucky enough to trace his service record on www.ancestry.co.uk  as many were destroyed  in the Second World War.  On his enlistment,  George's  medical report stated he was 5'3" tall,  weighed 109 lbs. (under 8 stone), with size  34 1/2 chest and he wore glasses - so a slight figure to be a stretcher bearer in the turmoil of war on the exposed front line.

Also amongst the family papers were two letters written on  headed paper of the British Expeditionary Force.  A letter of 19th March 1916 to his eldest brother Robert sai
"I will tell you one thing it is no easy job the army life today and I am of the opinion as most of the chaps are here they won't be sorry when it is all over."

The second letter of 23rd August 1916 was to Frank, the brother nearest to him in age:
 "At present we are abut 8 miles behind the firing line. I had to assist the wounded at a dressing station and stuck to it for about 40 hours. It's blooming hard work being a stretcher bearer in the field. On Friday I was in a big bombardment and will say it was like a continual thunder and lightening going off. As I write there are blooming big guns going off abut 50 yards away every few minutes. Don't I wish that all of us could get home. Wouldn't that be great, lad, there's a good time coming and I hope we shall all be there to join in."

But "the good time" was not to come.  Three weeks later, and a week after his 22nd birthday,  George was killed on 16th September 1916 at the Battle of the Somme, and buried in the Guards Cemetery, Les Boeufs, near Albert. 


 A photograph of George's grave, sent to his mother, 

The image conveys in a stark way the reality of war amid the mud and blood that George must have experienced - and contrasts with the pristine white of the more lasting memorials that we recognise today. 


George remembered on Poulton War Memorial 
 along with his brother John who died in 1917.


52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks 

Thursday, 17 May 2018

A Journey into Rocky Memories - Sepia Saturday

Take a journey into rocky memories with this week's Sepia Saturday prompt, as we visit India,  New England . the  Scottish Borders, the Lake District,  Brimham Rocks in Yorkshire, Staffa off Scotland's west coast and Marsden Rock at South Shields, County Durham.  Beginning with an ideal match with the prompt photograph.


My husband's uncle Matty (Matthew Iley White) of South Shields, County Durham is among this group of soldiers perched on a rock in India.   Matty  served in the  Durham Light Infantry in India 1933-1937, as listed in his service book below. 

Boulder Rock near Waterville Valley, New England. We had visions of getting lost on a walk  in the woods here, relying on the signposting rather than a map. Fortunately we made it back to our hotel.

 A 1930's photograph of my mother (left) and father (right) , but I have no idea who the girl in the middle is.  I am also guessing that it was taken in the Lake District which they often visited and where they got engaged. 
A large rock in the Lake District - near Keswick c.1988  I don't know how I was adventurous  enough to climb to the top - I could not do it now. 


To North Yorkshire  - and the Brimham Rocks, huge balancing rock formations  with spectacular views over the Niddersdale Moors. With a labyrinth of paths and plenty of hiding places, be warned,  this is a great place to lose children who can hunt for rocks with weird names such as  Dancing Bear, The Eagle and The Gorilla, The Smartie Tube and balance on the Rocking Stones.  In the care of the National Trust. 


Little  daughter  on a little rock surveying the land above  Hawick in the  Scottish Borders, c.1976.  It must have been a good summer as the  countryside  looks unusually  dry.  

A windy day as daughter, now a lot older, is perching again on a rock on the Isle  of Iona, looking across to Mull.  

Staffa lies 9 miles off the Isles of Mull and Iona.  Its most famous feature is Fingal's Cave,  a large sea cave located near the southern tip of the island some 60 feet high.   The sight  of the rocks and the sound of the sea inspired composer Felix Mendellsohn to capture his visit  in 1829 in "The Hebrides Overture". Other famous visitors made the journey there =  John Keats, Sir Walter Scott, Joseph Turner and Robert Louis Stevenson.  Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were rowed into the cave on the royal barge in 1847. 
Approaching Fingal's Cave on the Island of Staffa.

A view from the top - quite a climb on steps cut into the rocks,  with a rope to hold on to  as a safely aid! 

One lost sheep - perched high  on the Isle of Mul


A journey  to South Shields at  the  mouth of the River Tyne - home of my husband's mariner ancestor

Marsden Rock is a 100 foot sea stack which lies 100 yards off the cliff face.  Believed to be once  a smugglers' haunt,  it is now the home of seabird colonies.   In 1803 a flight of steps was constructed up the side of the rock. In 1903 several choirs climbed onto the rock to perform a choral service.   My husband spent his childhood here, with the beach a favourite playground. In a way this is an historic photograph, as in 1996 the arch collapsed, splitting the rock into two stacks. The smaller stack was decreed unsafe and demolished.  
Among the cliff face rocks at Marsden  c. 1983 

 Daughter (left) with her cousin and dog Cindy - with matching hairstyles!  c.1983 

Copyright © 2018 · Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserved

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their family history and memories through photographs

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Monday, 14 May 2018

A Tribute to Five Generations of Mothers: 52 Ancestors - Wk 19

""Mothers' Day  is the theme of week 19 of Amy Johnson Crow's prompt series "52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks".

Profiles of Mothers in my family history have featured prominently  on my blog,  including in the  "52 Ancestors" series.  Here I pay a photographic tribute  to five generations of mothers in my immediate family.   

My Great Grandmother Maria Danson, nee Rawcliffe (1859-1919).
Maria Rawcliffe was the seventh  of eight daughters (five surviving infancy) and her  mother died when Maria was six years old. Not surprisingly her father went on to marry again and Maria became part of an extended family that included four half sibings and three step siblings.  Maria married my grandfather at the age of 18, and they had ten sons (two died in infancy) and finally an only daughter.  Two sons lost their lives in the  First World War.  So Maria's life provided a  great source for my family history stories.

Widowed Maria with her granddaughter Annie Maria, c.1916

My Grandmother Alice Danson, nee English,(1884-1945) 
Alice's early life remains a mystery and is my major ancestral brick wall, for, in over twnety years of researchh, I  have been unable to trace a birth certificate for her and so  find out the name of her mother.   The suspicion is she could have been illegitimate and that the  father's name given on her marriage certificate was a false one for the sake of respectability.  The  1911 census gave her birthplace as Bolton, Lancashire and I was always told we shared the same birthday - September 23rd - and this was confirmed by the 1939 Register.  Alice died when I was a baby, so I never knew her and her children seemed reluctant to answer any of my questions on  her life before she met my grandfather.   

Given that Alice is wearing a corsage, I always wondered if this was a wedding photograph. Why did I never ask a question about this? 

Alice with her four children, Edith, Kathleen (my mother), Harry and baby Billy.
Taken 1916 when William was due to go to war. . 

My Mother - Kathleen Weston nee Danson (1908-1999)   
My mother was apprenticed as a tailoress at the age of 14, and I often think of her motto as "Happiness is Stitching".  She was a very talented lady in all kinds of crafts and created a home-based dressmaking business. She  was still making her own clothes and a patchwork quilt in her 80's.  She was also a "joiner" - as we moved around with my father's work, and she gave me a lesson in joining in local activities, making friends and creating an interesting  life for herself.


Myself  -  with My Daughter

My Daughter with Her Daughter 



52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks

Friday, 4 May 2018

"Oh, I Do LikeTo Be Beside the Seaside!" - Sepia Saturday

A happy group of people enjoying the seaside, smile  at us from this week's Sepia Saturday prompt photograph, which looks to be taken in the 1920's. I have the ideal match below. .

On the left, wearing the cloche hat is my husband's Great Aunt Pat, beside her daughter Annette - with unknown friends. Judging by the fashions and the age of Annette,  it  was most likely  taken in the late 1920's  on the beach at Margat in Kent,  where the family lived.

I am a Blackpudlian - born in the famous north west seaside resort of Blackpool, Lancashire,  famed for its golden beaches and its tower. Modelled on the Eiffel Tower and built in 1894, Blackpool Tower  rises to 520 feet - facts drummed into us at school. 
 A surprisingly empty Blackpool beach with the Central Pier and the famous Tower in the background.
The earliest picture of me enjoying the beach.  I reckon this was taken June 1945, as my father here was in uniform.   I know that he had leave between marking VE Day in Germany and then being posted to the Far East. 

Toddling along with my father. 

Our own family holidays were taken in Bournemouth on the south coast of England, where a great friend of my mother ran a small hotel. All the ingredients of  traditional 1950's seaside fun were there - setting up deckchairs, playing  on the beach, making sandcastles, eating icecreams  taking donkey rides, exploring rock pools. 

 With my mother.  Every summer she made me a new sun dress and I remember this one in green and white  polka dots, with shoulder straps on my dress and a bolero to go over it.  
it must be a photographic quirk that Dad appears so sunburnt in the photograph above, because he did not lead a particularly outdoor life to get that brown.  

Digging holes with my brother.    You can tell this must be the 1950’s - those were the days before the anti-smoking  campaigns and  my father is happy to enjoy his cigarette, long before he ditched the habit.  Goodness knows why I  was I wearing a hated rubber swimming cap, as I could barely swim at this stage?    I suppose to keep dry my long hair which was  usually in plaits.   

A happy picture of my brother  looking very natty in his knitted bathing suit and sunhat.

Digging down to Australia?  

Little Gloria, here is   engrossed in something in the sand but keeping a firm hand on that big ball!   c.1935.   

 My daughter  (in the middle) enjoying a donkey ride on Blackpool beach. This was taken in Blackpool in the school  October half term holiday, so not exactly summery.

Daughter  and her cousin with their dogs on the beach  at South Shields, County Durham, with Marsden Rock in the background. 

 A beautiful, peaceful beach to ourselves amidst the wonderful scenery on the Isle of Iona, looking across to the Isle of Mull in the Scottish West Highlands. 
Our dog enjoying the water on Mull, with the ferry to Iona in the background. 

And if you cannot get to the beach, why not enjoy some sandy moments  at home?  Granddaughter having fun in her sand pit.     


 Finally join in the  seaside fun, with this popular music hall song from 1907 - "Oh I do Like to be Beside the Seaside".

Video for song oh i do like to be beside the seaside


Sepia Saturday gives an opportunity for genealogy bloggers  
to share their family history and memories through photographs.


Click HERE to head off to the beach with  other Sepia Saturday bloggers.