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Saturday, 17 March 2018

The Tragedy of John Danson - 52 Ancestors: Week 12

MISFORTUNE is this week's theme for  Amy Johnson Crow's series "52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks”. 

My great uncle John Danson (1879-1917) encountered  much misfortune in his lifetime, culminating  in an even  greater tragedy for his family.  

John's Life before 1916

John was born in 1879, the second of eight surviving sons of James Danson and (1852-1906) and Maria Rawcliffe (1859-1919) of Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire.  An only daughter Jennie completed the family.

In the 1901 census,  John was described as a joiner, like his father.  Three years later he married Sarah Haydon Lounds with the certificate giving his occupation as postman. 

But married happiness was short-lived. for  Sarah died of TB  in 1906 at the young age of 21, a year after the birth of their daughter Annie Maria.  John moved with Annie back to his mother's home.  In the 1911 census he was listed as aged 31, a steward in a working mens'  club.


 Annie with her grandmother Maria Danson and young aunt Jennie. c.1909

John become a gunner in the Royal Field Artillery, and  according to the entry in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Website (www.cwgc.org), he   died 17th May 1917, aged 38,  buried in Moorland Cemetery, Poulton.  But the entry was bare of any details, apart  from the next of kin being named as his mother Maria Danson.  

Many World War One Service records were destroyed in World War II and  little is known about John's soldier role. Other World War One websites on casualties and service records failed to identify any information.

The Mystery 
Something of a puzzle  surrounded John's  death, with a story that "Granny had to fight to get his name on the Poulton War Memorial in the Square".  Why?  Also John  was not listed  on the war memorial in St. Chad's Church  below the name of his youngest brother George Danson.  Why not? 

I have a distinct memory of my mother's cousin, (John's niece) telling me  about 12 years ago that John had committed suicide as a prisoner of war.  If so,why was he buried in Poulton Cemetery which did not seem possible if he died in Germany.  Nor could I trace any records for World War One prisoners of war. 

A local historian researching the names on Poulton War Memorial got in touch with me, and related that John had died at Tidworth Hospital in Hampshire whilst training at army camp,  without serving abroad.   

The local paper  "The Gazette News" of 25th May 1917 reported:
"Gunner John Danson, RFA who has died in Tidworth Hopistal, Hants was interred in the Poulton Cemetery on Tuesday afternoon.  The deceased soldier who lived at 2 Bull Street, Poulton has been in H.M. forces nine months.  He was formerly a postman and steward at the Poulton Institute.  Three of his brothers are still serving with the forces, two in France and one in Malta, and another the youngest was killed eight months ago".
Because John had not served abroad, he was not entitled to any medals.

So the "prisoner of war story" proved incorrect.  Had I assumed the POW context from hearing the word "camp" - I will never know. At the time paying over £9 for a death certificate seemed expensive for one small piece of information on a sideline of my family history. 

Finding out the Truth
 I made use of the new service being trialed by the  ***General Register Office of England and Wales  to provide  a pdf file  of certificates, at the much more reasonable rate of £6.

The truth on the circumstances of John's death was found.  In a stark statement, the cause was given as "Cutting his throat whilst temporary insane" - a tragic ending for a man who had already experienced sadness in his life.  

At 38 years old and as a family man, was the trauma of being catapulted from a small rural community  into military life, too much to bear? 

We are so used to thinking it was young men who were called up to fight  in the First World War, but the
Military Service Act of  January 1916 specified that single men aged 18 to 40 years old were liable to be called up for military service. This was rapidly extended in July of that year to include married men.   

*** A second trial of the pdf service is currently available -  but just for birth and death certificates - not marriages. 

John died as happiness was beckoning.  For he had become
engaged to be married to Dorothy Chisholm (left).  In the collection of Jennie Danson (John's sister)  was a postcard photograph of John and Dorothy addressed to young Annie with the date May 4th 1917, thirteen days before John died.

John's fiancĂ©e Dorothy became one of the thousands of women of her generation  who after the war never married.  But the  Danson family continued to maintain a close link with her. She lived alone in a  bedsitter and I have  memories as a child  of visiting her with my mother and aunt. 



John's Gravestone in Moorland Road Cemetery, Poulton.
 Poulton War Memorial in the Square, with St. Chad's Church in the background

John remembered on Poulton War Memorial 


52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks

Sunday, 11 March 2018

52 Ancestors: Wk 11 - A Lucky Link with a Third Cousin

LUCK  is the theme for this week's prompt from Amy Johnson Crow's  "52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks".

My good luck came when an unknown third cousin, Stuart,  discovered my blog and made contact.  Even better he lived only 50 miles from me, so we could  easily meet and spend afternoons,  sharing research, old photographs and memorabilia. As a result I was given  a wonderful boost to my blogging activities in terms of family stories and images, just when I felt I was coming to a halt with my own material. 

Our Background 
We shared the same great great grandfather Henry Danson (1806-1881) of Poulton-le-Fylde, near Blackpool, Lancashire.   Henry and his wife Elizabeth Calvert had nine children - their  eldest chld Elizabeth (1831-1885) was Stuart''s great grandmother, whilst the youngest child James (1852-1906) was my great grandfather - both born at Trap Farm, Carleton.

So Elizabeth was 21 years older than her youngest brother.  She married Thomas Bailey, whose family lived on an adjacent farm with the picturesque name of Bready Butts.  Six children were born,  the youngest Mary Jane in 1877, Stuart's grandmother  and so cousin to my grandfather.
 A modern photograph of Breedy Butts Farm, Carleton
where Thomas Bailey grew up 

The story, however, has sad overtones.  Elizabeth died in 1885, aged 54, followed a year later by her husband Thomas, leaving a family orphaned with her two young daughters  only 12 and 8 years old.  Margaret went to live with her eldest sister Elizabeth, with  Mary Jane joining  the household of her older brother Henry in Blackpool.  

At the age of 28, Mary Jane married John William Oldham in 1905 at St. John's Church, Blackpool, but she continued to face tragedy in her life, when her youngest daughter Hilda  died aged 6 in 1915.   
John and Mary Jane with baby Hilda and older daughter Elsie, c.1909.  

Seven years later, Mary Ellen was sadly hospitalised and remained there until her death in 1945.   
The Oldham Connection
Mary Jane's husband John Oldham was the only son of a  firm of well established carters and coal men in Blackpool,in a house with a large yard, hay loft, tack room. and stabling for around 7 horses.


On the death in 1939 of John Oldham his daughter Elsie (left) took the helm with her husband Arthur Stuart Smith. She also ran   her hairdressing concern as "Elise"  run from the family home. where she promised "Bobbing Shingling and Marcel Waves."  This lovely evocative advertising blotter below  is in the family memorabilia. 


Family history takes us in all kinds of directions and Stuart's family connections, although not my direct ancestors,  added a new dimension.
  • Poet John Critchley Prince (1808-1866),  well-known in his time as a writer of poetry  in the Lancashire dialect.

  • The Smith Family with their origins  on the island of Unst, off Shetland, the most northerly island of Britain.  Many of the family down the generations had the middle name of Ingram, after the local minister. A move to the mainland took place between 1861-71. John Ingram Smith became the catering manager  at the famous Winter Gardens entertainment complex in Blackpool.  John's  son Edward Stewart Ingram Smith as a young man had a sensitive and artistic air, but the impact of serving in the First World War at the age of 44 took its toll on him. 

    Ruins  of a  Smith family croft of Heogland on Unst.
    • The Dower Family  of Aberdeenshire,  with William Dower appointed by the London Missionary Society as a Wesleyan Missionary in South Africa,  setting  sail there in 1865 with his new wife Jesse. 
William and Jesse Dower  in 1913
  • The Alan Blumlein Connection  - Wiliam and Jesse;s daughter, married a German mining engineer Semmy Joseph Blumlein of Jewish descent. They settled in Britain and Semmy took out citizenship in 1903.  Their son Alan  Dower Blumlein (1902-1942)  has been described as "the greatest electronic engineer of the 20th century", notable for his many inventions in  telecommunications, sound recordings, television and radar.  He died at the young age of 38 during a secret trial of an airborne radar system.
You can stumble across some amazing stories when you start to delve into sidelines of your family history.  Stuart's contact with me was my lucky day  - and I haven't even mentioned the war-time tales, the wealth of wedding photographs down the decades or the charming children's photographs that have found their way into my blog posts. 

 Arthur Stuart Ingram Smith (1908-1979)

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks


Monday, 5 March 2018

52 Ancestors: Wk. 10 - My Feisty Great Aunt Jennie Danson

“A Strong Female” is the theme of this week’s prompt from Amy Johnson Crow’s series “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” and  my choice for this accolade falls on my Great Aunt Jennie Danson (1897-1986).

I have vague memories as a child of Jennie visiting her brother's house (my grandfather),  but she moved south to the English Midlands and we moved north from Lancashire,  we never met regularly.    But I am in touch with her daughter, and  she has given me family stories, photographs and memorabilia  that convey a lovely, lively picture of Jennie  -  and by all accounts she was a feisty character - note that determined look on her face in this, the oldest photograph I have of her, taken c.1909. 

Jennie  was born on Christmas Eve 1897, the last of eleven children (two not surviving infancy), the only daughter of James Danson and Maria Rawcliffe of Poulton-le-Fylde Lancashire -  a large family living  in a small terraced house and joined later by young, orphaned granddaughter  Annie. 

A Strong,  Supportive  Daughter
Jennie was only eight years old when her father James died, an,  as the only daughter,  was particularly close to her mother Maria (left) .A year later,  her eldest brother  Harry died at the age of 30 .  Jennie must  have been 16 years old when the First World War broke out, which saw five Danson brothers serving.   In  September 1916, George, the brother nearest to Jennie in age, was killed on the Somme a few weeks after his 22nd birthday.  Eight months later, second  eldest brother John tragically killed himself whilst in army training, leaving his motherless daughter an orphan - two events which devastated her mother and contributed to her death in 1919. 

A Fiery, Loving Sister
Jennie was born  to a family of eight older brothers - George then aged 3, Frank 5, Albert 7, Tom 9, William 12 (my grandfather), Robert 16, John 18 and Harry 20.  Jennie soon learned to hold her own in the predominately male household, with her favourite brother -  George (right).  Following their mother’s death in 1919,  Jennie  took over the  reins of the household, looking after her four brothers still unmarried and living at home, plus her young niece Annie who had been orphaned.

A Good Friend
On leaving school, Jennie went to work in Poulton Post Office.  Her daughter Pam recalls a story that during the First World War, a telegram was received at the Post  Office for Mrs Maria Danson.  Fearing the worst, Jennie was allowed to run home with it.  Fortunately it was good news to say that Frank was in hospital in Malta but was doing well.    

Was this a group (below)  of Jennie's work colleagues, given they were all dressed in the  same skirts and blouses?   Names on the reverse -  Gerty Roskell, Jennie Danson, Annie Jolly, Margaret Porter, Madge O' Rourke, Edith Jackson.

All these names also feature in a wonderful  collection I inherited of around 50 postcards/photographs  of Jennie's friends.    Was it the custom to exchange such photographs?  Perhaps faced with  a household  of all those brothers, Jennie  was especially grateful for the company of her female friends and their families. 

One of the many photographs in Jennie's friendship  collection - labelled Grannie Jolly
An Independent-Minded Person  
Jennie was determined to lead her own life.  She shocked her mother by cutting off he long haired plait  and adopting the 1920's fashionable short cut.



According to her daughter, Jennie by her late twenties decided she had had enough of fulfilling a domestic role for her four brothers,  who showed no inclination to marry and set up their own home.  So  1929 saw her marry Beadnell (Bill)  Stemp at St. Chad's Church,  Poulton.  This move prompted her brothers all to get married in the following few years!

Marriage and Family

 The local newspaper reported on the wedding in effusive  journalistic  style that makes entertaining reading.
"A wedding of much local interest took place in the Poulton Parish Church on Saturday afternoon the bride being Miss Jennie Danson daughter of the late Mr and Mrs James Danson, Bull Street and the bridegroom Mr Beadnell Stemp, son of Mr and Mrs B. Stemp, Jubilee Lane, Marton.
The bride,  who was given away by her brother Mr R. Danson,  was stylishly gowned in French grey georgette, veiling silk to tone.  The bodice which was shaped to the figure was quite plain, with a spray of orange blossoms at the shoulder, while the skirt, which was ankle length, was composed entirely of five picot edged scalloped circular frills, and the long tight sleeves had circular picot edged frilled cuffs in harmony.  Her hat was of georgette to tone with uneven pointed dropping brim, having an eye veil of silver lace and floral mount.  She carried a bouquet of pink carnations with silver ribbon and horsehoe attached,

Mrs H. Ditchfield [Annie], niece of the bride), wore a gown of delphinium blue georgette, the corsage being in silver lace as also the edge of the handkerchief pointed flare skirt.  Her hat was in georgette to tone, in picture style and she carried a bouquet of blue irises in harmonise.

The little bridesmaids, Miss Peggy Danson (niece of the bride) and Miss Nellie Stemp (niece of the bridegroom) were daintily attired in primrose and eu-de-nil georgette, the picot edged circular skirts made to correspond to the dress of the bride, and they wore Dutch hats in harmony, and both carried posy bouquets, with long streamers of ribbon to tone with their dresses.

The reception was held at the home of the bride’s brother after which the newly married couple went to Chester where the honeymoon is being spent.

The bride travelled in a dress of picky beige double georgette, the skirt which was circular scalloped, with coat of faced cloth to tone, with collar and cuffs in brown skunk fur.  Her hat had a dropping brim of brown felt, while the crown was made o ribbon in shades of orange, reseda and fawn." 

Ten years on in 1938,  and with the Blackpool area in a state of economic depression, Bill took the big decision to seek for work in the English Midlands.  Jennie duly joined him with their young daughter Joan and daughter Pam was born shortly afterwards. But the move was difficult for Jennie.  She had left her large extended family behind and found  the housing and the industrial environment uncongenial,  after the coast and country air in the Fylde. But the family  made various moves to better housing and life continued on  as  she enjoyed a close relationship with her daughters.  

The older Jennie  - but the determined look is the same! 

Jennie died in 1986 at the age of 89, leaving to her daughters a legacy of memories of her own mother Maria,  tangible family artifacts such as her mother’s tea set and jewellery,  a large collection of  photographs (with names inscribed on the back) and other family memorabilia, much relating to her two youngest brothers Frank and George.  

Jennie was truly a strong woman  who, like her mother Maria,  demonstrated resilience, determination and commitment to her family throughout her life.  

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks


Sunday, 4 March 2018

Tales of Three Boys - Sepia Saturday

This week’s prompt photograph show a large group of boys sitting in row.

My contribution ranges from a small group of schoolboys, c. 1904; my father’s football team, c.1926; and my husband, as a Cub Scout  c.1948 - each with its own background story.

George Danson (1893-1916) - A Poignant Story

My great uncle George from Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire stands on the left with a small group of boys and their teacher Mr Lord.  I reckon George looks about 12-13 years old.
Ten years on in 1916 he was serving in the First World War One as a stretcher bearer in the field .  Just one week after his 22nd birthday he was killed on the Somme.  Did the boys and their teacher in this photograph suffer the  same fate? 

John P. Weston (1912-2003) - A Proud Footballer 

My father who grew up in Broseley,  near Ironbridge, Shropshire, was a football enthusiast all his life, but often expressed his disappointment that a school team photograph had been lost (thrown out) by his family.  With only a vague indication of date, I contacted Shropshire Archives and received an entry in the school log book about the team’s success - partial progress.   But then I discovered Broseley  Historical Society online, sent a query and they traced the photograph in a local paper - Success!  

My father is on the right of the middle row, identified as "Perce Weston'.  I always thought he hated his middle name Percy, and never used it, but he seemed to be known by that as a child.

I persuaded Dad to write down his Broseley boyhood memories and he wrote: 
"When my school team entered a cup competition. I was vice-captain and we got to the final - and won the cup, the first ever for Broseley.

One of the supporters took a carrier pigeon along with us and set it loose at the end to let Broseley know the result and to prepare a welcome, as we were bringing home the cup! "
The pigeon was obviously  an ancestor of Twitter!

This is the earliest photograph I have of my father and I am so grateful to the Society for filing this gap in my family history.  

A Courageous Lad  - Neil Donaldson 
A photograph of my husband as a Cub Scout  in South Shields,  County Durham, in 1948 when he was presented with the prestigious  Cornwell Badge, awarded to members of the movement who had shown courage in exceptional circumstances. 

The Cornwell Badge was in memory of Jack Cornwall V.C. who died when serving as  a young 15 year old sailor on HMS Chester at the  Battle of Jutland in 1916. The Victoria Cross (VC), is the highest award available to the armed forces for gallantry in action. 

John was a keen scout in his home town and in his honour the Boy Scout Association instituted  the Cornwell Scout Badge, awarded for outstanding acts of  courage and endurance in the face of adversity.  


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

Click HERE to find more boyish tales from Sepia Saturday bloggers.

Monday, 26 February 2018

52 Ancestors Wk 9 - GGG Grandfather Henry Danson’s Will

Wills are this week's  theme from Amy Johsnon Crow's  blogging challenge  "52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks" and I have chosen to write a profile on my GGG Grandfather. 
I was lucky enough to find a range of documentary evidence on Henry's life,  including his Will  which provided a wealth of information on the family.  

  Henry Danson's Signature on his Marriage Bond  below.

Who was Henry Danson? 
My G G G Grandfather Henry Danson was baptised 27th January 1767, the  son of John Danson and Margaret Fayle of Carleton, near Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire.   Nineteen years later in 1786  he married 20 year old Elizabeth Brown.  A marriage bond was raced at Lancashire Record Office and the church register  entry found on Ancestry.co.uk  - both featuring   Henry''s signature (above).    I find it  particularly fascinating seeing an ancestor's hand writing,

A Marriage Bond was a promise between two people, normally the groom and a friend or relative (in this case Henry's brother-in-law John Bryning) that if the marriage proved invalid in the eyes of the law,  they would pay a penalty to the church of a substantial sum of money - £200.   

Marriage licences could be obtained as an alternative to having the banns read.  They enabled marriages to take place at any time and were useful  if the marriage had to take place quickly or be kept quiet for some reason.   Henry and Elizabet's first born child, daughter Margaret was born seven  months after the wedding - was this the reason for the licence?  
Their marriage  entry in Register of St. Chad's Church, Poulton, 1786

  Testimony to Henry's standing in the small community of Carleton (319 inhabitants in 1831)  was given by a listing of his property in the Title Schedule of 1838.  He name was also on the board listing sidesmen in  St. Chad's Church, Poulton.

The children of Henry and Elizabeth 
In the years 1787-1811  eight  children were born to the marriage - documented on Ancestry and the Lancashire Online Parish Clerk's Project.  But family life was not without its troubles. 
  • Margaret, born 1787, married before the age of 17, bricksetter Roger Riding, but was dead by the time her father made his will in 1833.  
  • John, born 1789 at the age of 21 was served with  a Bastardy Bond, ordering him to contribute to the upkeep of his "said bastard child",  a daughter born to Ann Butler of Marton. John  died  and was buried in 1836. 
  • William, born 1791 died 1833.
  • Peter, born 1794 remained unmarried and made his home with his younger brother Henry,  
  • George, born 1797 - with no further information on him trace.  
  • Ellen (Nellie)  born 1799 - no further information traced.
  • Henry, born 1804 - my great great grandfather.
  • James, born 1811, died 1827 at the age of 15, with a note in the Index to Quarter Session Records  at Lancashire Record Office, of the  coroner claiming  travel expenses to go to the post mortem.  Unfortunately no further details have been found on the circumstances of James' young death.
Henry's Death and the Contents of his Will 
Henry died 21st October 1839, at the age of 71 - his wife six  months later, both buried in St. Chad's Churchyard,   But four  of their  children  are known to predecease them -  Margaret, John, William,  and Jame.

 The first page of Henry Danson's Will.

The Will of Henry Danson, yeoman,   is dated 1833, six years before his death. It was beautifully written in copperplate but very short on punctuation.

It unfortunately does not give an address beyond the village of Carlton, near Poulton.  However the Family Bible indicates that the family were living at Trap Farm, Carleton. 

The Legacies
"To my dear wife Betty all my hosuehold  goods, plate, china, linen and hosuehold furniture  for and during her natural life....I also bequeath for her natural life one clear annuity of thirty pounds.

Unto my son John Danson the sum  of 100 pounds to be paid to him after the decease of my said wife.
Unto the five children of my deceased daughter Margaret Riding, the two children of Elizabeth Busby  (a deceased child of my said daughter Margaret)  teh sum of one huyndred and fifty pounds in six equal shares, the chidlren of the said Elizabeth Busb taking one of such equal shares beteen them. 
Unto my three sons John, Peter and Henry Danson and my daughter Ellen equally to be divided...as tenants in common...lands, tenements, and heriditments, monies, live and deadstock, personal estate and effects.  

I do appoint my two sons John and Henry  and William Butcher of Little Bispham  executors of this my will".
The will raised some interesting poins -  middle son Peter was not named as executor along with his brothers   Was he perhaps not regarded as fit or suitable in some way ? Peter never married and in the 1841 and 1851 censuses was in the household of his brother Henry until his death in 1866.   Morevoer George is not mentioned - had he died?  No information has been traced on him.  

As a follow up to the will, I traced online an index to Death Duty Records held at the National Archives (www.nationalarchives.gov.uk), and found an entry relating to Henry Danson. I had to use someone in London to obtain copies for me and again it is so fascinating to have records relating to an ancestor of so long ago. The quality of the copies was not great, but they did confirm the names of the legatees and importantly gave the name of Margaret Riding's children -  Henry Riding, Abel Rriding, Ellen (M?), Kitty K(?) and Mary M )?).   I am pleased to add them to my family tree

It was left to son, another Henry,  (1806-1881) to continue the Danson line as my great great grandfather.

Friday, 23 February 2018

On the Job - Fish Girl to Family HIstorian

'Lorine of Olive Genealogy invites us to list the paying jobs we have held, as part of a project to record our own life for future generations. 

So what was my working life like?
  My employment history could be summed up as
 "Fish Girl to Family Historian"

1.  Fish Girl 
My first job the summer I left school was helping out at a fishmonger's  in Leith, Edinburgh,  owned by a friend's father who was looking for some one to fill in for holiday cover. I was way out of my comfort zone, but I stuck it out for the short period -  gutting some fish (for making herring rolls, I think), washing down the slabs and I managed somehow to cope with the cash side - maths was never my strong point and this was before the days of electronic tills. At home we ate healthily from the left over stocks of fish I took back to Mum.

2. Shop Girl for Cakes, Books & Tartan Trash 
For future holiday jobs, as a student I opted for a less messy side of retail, ranging from a busy bakery counter (dreaded having to make up the cardboard cake boxes in a hurry as I was all thumbs) to selling what we called "tartan trash" to tourists on Princes Street in Edinburgh - think garish,  red,tasteless Stewart tartan souvenirs. 

My favourite was a bookshop where I enjoyed tidying the shelves and making sure everything was in order from the Pan and Penguin paperbacks in their familiar white and orange covers to the Classics, bound in mock midnight blue leather.     

One Christmas I worked in a general stationery store that sold calculators and was clueless when facing questions such as "Why was this one more expensive and what did it do?" 

I can't recollect receiving anything that could be called "training" - you were just expected to turn up on time, wear an often ugly overall, pick up procedures, work hard, have plenty of stamina to be on your feet all day, be respectful to superiors, especially if there was the dreaded visit from Head Office, get on with the job - and sink or swim. Life could  be  boring if there were not many customers around, but if the shop was busy,  it became a good source of anecdotes when I met up with fellow students,  as we exchanged horror stories of our holiday jobs. 

3. Library Assistant  
I had various Saturday and holiday jobs in Edinburgh City Libraries, most memorably getting stuck in a mobile library on a hill in a snowstorm one Easter!   My colleague was desperate to get back into the city, as he had tickets for a Beatles concert - this was the time of Beatlemania.

4.Trainee Librarian  - On An American Adventure   
Having always lived at home, I took the plunge to spread my wings move 3000 miles trans-Atlantic to work in the USA for a year as part of an exchange scheme for trainee librarians.  My  placement was at Radcliffe College, the sister college to Harvard in Cambridge, Mass., near Boston. I loved New England, and before I retunred home  took advantage, with another British girl I met, of taking the Greyhound bus offer of "99 dollars for 99 days of travel" around the States - a wonderful time. 

Radcliffe Library, Cambridge, Mass.  
 Setting Out on a Journey across America

5. Information Officer 
My first professional job after a year at Library School was back in Edinburgh where my task was to set up an resource centre for a small organisation involved in youth and community work.   After two years, it was time to move on and widen my experience.

6.Referene Librarian - At the Cutting Edge
My second professional job  was  at  Edinburgh's College of Education with a remit to set up a Modern Studies Information Resource. This was long before the Internet, and the role involved setting up project files of ephemera - mainly press cuttings and leaflets, and compiling source lists for students. I got to look through all the quality daily papers - a great job and nothing boring about it.    I had always fancied working as a newspaper librarian, or as a BBC researcher, so this was coming close to it.  

7.School Auxiliary 
I moved to the rural Scottish Borders on my marriage and could not get a library post, so worked as an infant school auxiliary, where  my key aptitude was the fact I could play the piano.   This was just before the introduction of paid maternity leave, so I had to give it up six month’s into my pregnancy.

8. Tourist Information Assistant at Hawick

Note no computer, an old fashioned telephone and no uniform - just a name badge.  I was working in the town's main car park, in  a portacabin with no electricity and you had to make use of the public toilets across the car park.   One year the season was extended  into October and I was given a gas light which terrified me.  I was so afraid I would knock it over and set the cabin alight.

8.Tourist Information Centre Manager
A promotion to the largest and busiest centre in the Borders at Jedburgh - a gateway to Scotland. I was no longer working on my own there and I had a  company of colleagues who remain friends today.  Things had moved on a bit,  though we were not yet into the computer age.  We now had a stylish uniform - which echoed the fashion then for all things tartan.

It was never dull as we helped visitors get the most out of  of their holiday and the work was a source of many  humorous anecdotes. I loved this job - meeting people from all over the world, answering questions, preparing displays, promoting retail sales, and compiling fact sheets.  I was in the right place!

9. Visitor Service Manager
I was head hunted to Head Office - so a promotion!   I must admit I missed the contact with visitors and the satisfaction gained from answering enquiries. I struggled a bit with the strategic aspects of the role e.g.   "Susan, What is your vision for the future of the information network?"   But computers came in and I  benefited from an excellent training programme and qualified as a Trainer and Assessor for the Scottish Qualifications Authority. I served on two national committees and appreciated the supportive network I was part of  across Scotland.

But the work environment does not stand still - restructuring took place and I found myself facing redundancy - devastating!  I felt "on the shelf",  "past my sell by date" etc. etc.   (I  could write at some length on that experience!)

10. Freelance Tourism Administrator
I had a lot of support from the industry  at my position (or rather lack of it! and I quickly set up a small business providing administrative support to three local tourism bodies  - organising meetings, training sessions, and projects etc. plus being  a mystery shopper, visiting  tourist information centres across Scotland. 

11. Archive Assistant - Back to My Roots.
But fate was also on my side!  Within six weeks of unemployment, I had a part-time job in the local studies department  of the library service - so my background in librarianship and history still counted for something and I was able to combine it with the freelance work. 

12, Enquiry Researcher - my final post. 

The local studies transferred to the Heritage Hub, at Hawick as part of a new major town regeneration project.  My role involved dealing with the more in-depth enquiries through the remote research service - the majority of them  family history.   Ny previous training was not wasted,  as I presented public FH workshops, and staff training sessions,   served on an Ancestral Tourism committee and wrote a series of Source Lists that I was particularly proud of.  

It was at the Heritage Hub that I was first introduced to the idea of blogging  - and here I am eight years later with my own blogs!

How many people can say they found a job linked to a hobby - and we all know that family history can be exciting, adventurous and never boring!

The last ten years of my working life were great - and redundancy turned out to be  one of  the best things workwise that happened to me.  

So History, Librarianship and Tourism served me very well.