Getting a more rounded picture

Yesterday I mentioned I had come across something about my great-grandfather Louis who died in 1895, just before his fiftieth birthday. Because his children were so young when he died, and because they were not exactly close to his family, we don’t really know much about him.

yesterday I discovered that he had been interested in the arts, and had been involved in the setting up of a Mutual Improvement Society, in Denman, New South Wales in the 1870’s. this showed he was not only interested in ‘the arts’ but that he was keen to be involved, and was elected as secretary.

A little more investigation and I come across another aspect to him, he was interested in cricket too! When he came to England in about 1880, did he support the Aussie cricket teams who toured over here? I hope he did! His interest led to him joining the Bombala Cricket Club – I’m not sure as a player or supporter – he would have been twenty-eight years old:

Manaro Mercury, and Cooma and Bombala Advertiser
Wednesday 5 November 1873

The annual general meeting of the Phoenix Cricket Club was held on Saturday evening at the Commercial Hotel, Mr. Jones in the chair.
The following gentlemen were proposed as members of the Club and duly elected: Messrs. I. Levy, .J. Lanhorn, E. C. Sutton, J. Coronel, M. Solomon, L. F. Walford, A. Joseph, and T. Ryan.
According to the rules of the club, the election of office bearers for the ensuing season took: place at this meeting. The following gentlemen were unanimously elected: Mr. H. M. Joseph, J.P. President; Mr. W. V. M. Cooks, J.P., Vice-President; Mr. C. L. Tweedie, Secretary; Mr. K. Johns, Treasurer. Committeemen: Messrs. Coronel, Grace, Gleeson, Wallace, Levy, Asher, Button, J. Whyte, Strickland, and Mears. Messrs. Levy and Wallace were appointed captains of the practice ground.
The days appointed for practice are Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays in each week. It was proposed by Mr. Wallace and seconded by Mr. Thomas – ‘ That Rule IX (prohibiting all who are not members of the club from practising or in any way making use of the property of the club) be strictly adhered to.’ This was carried without a dissenting voice.
It was decided that the season be opened by eleven members of the club playing fifteen all comers on Monday, the 10th instant, the challenge to appear in the local papers. A vote of thanks to the officers of the past season having been carried, the meeting adjourned

So there he is, a member of the club, proposed and elected, L. F. Walford – Louis Frederick. It’s interesting to note that maybe he wasn’t the only Jew, there are other Jewish names, Levy, Solomon, Joseph and  Asher.

Getting to know him

My great-grandfather died just before his fiftieth birthday in 1895; his children were very young, so their memories of him were not that clear, especially as he may not have lived with them all the time… Although he, Louis, never married anyone else, he didn’t marry my great grand-mother, Lois, either. The reason? He was Jewish and she was not. My mum and her sisters knew her grandmother Lois, and there are plenty of stories about her as an old woman, and what sort of character she was in her old age. But Louis? We knew nothing apart from his name and that his family were very well-connected and very rich.

I have always been interested in family history, and the mysterious relationship between Louis and Lois, and I have done a lot of research, and even more speculation! He was born in Tasmania in 1845 to a very rich merchant family. When they returned to London, he remained in Hobart, and then moved to the Australian mainland – or maybe he just travelled between the two. I have a lot of records of him in his role in import/export , and of him as I guess a sort of land agent, arranging the sale of land and property.

I have quite a lot of facts, dates mostly, but no sense of him as a person… until I came across this gem. In 1872, he was living in Denman, New South Wales, and it seemed he was actively interested in the arts – well, how marvellous! My husband and I are passionate about the arts in all their form – literature, poetry and writing, painting, drawing, etching and sketching, music – listening and playing… every aspect…

In this newspaper report, Louis F. Walford is elected as honourable secretary of a proposed School of Art (not a just painting school as it suggests now, but a forum for talks and discussions as well) and Mutual Improvement Society.

Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser

Tuesday 19 March 1872, page 4


A preliminary meeting was held on the 20th Feb., at the Royal Hotel Denman, to take into consideration the desirability of establishing a School of Arts or Mutual Improvement  Society, and the formation of a library.
It was resolved to call a public meeting for the furtherance of the above object, and Mr Nicholson was requested to act as secretary pro tem. A public meeting was held on the 5th instant, when Mr. Brecht being called to the chair, Mr L. F. Walford proposed, and Mr. Murphy seconded “that a society be formed in Denman, to be called the Denman Mutual Improvement Society.”
This motion being unanimously carried, twenty gentlemen immediately gave m their names to be enrolled as members, 2s. 6d. entrance fee, and 10s annual subscription being settled upon. It was proposed by Mr. Ross, and seconded by Mr. Graham, “That the Secretary write to the Rev. William White, for permission to hold the meetings in the school room. ” – This Mr White kindly granted.
A meeting was held there last evening when Mr Edward White was elected president, Mr G. A. P. Kibble vice-president, Mr G Nicholson treasurer, Mr. L F Walford hon. secretary, Mr Jno. Wood librarian, and a committee of ten gentlemen for the management of the society.
Its commencement will have a very good opening on March the 20th, when a very popular debate and a selection of choice readings will take place.
We cannot do better than recommend this laudable endeavor to the notice of the philanthropic, and diffidently suggest the advantage it would be to these beginners to receive a few donations of books and periodicals, and we trust their number of member before long may be largely increased. They are loud in the praise of the hon. sec.. of the Muswellbrook School of Arts, who has tendered them assistance and much kind information.

Now I know an aspect to his character I can relate to, he was interested in things, he was social and no doubt sociable, he had the ability to speak in public and be in a position in a society, he had an appreciation of education and the arts…

it is only one aspect of the man, but suddenly I feel such a bond with him!

My family story in 10 objects… number 2

Object 2: My dad’s diary from August 28th to September 10th 1937

My dad (Donald or Snick) was born in 1919 in Saffron Walden in Essex; he was christened in Peterborough Cathedral, but spent most of his life in Cambridge until our family moved to Somerset in 1967.  From an early age his best friend was Sammy, and in 1937, just after his eighteenth birthday, the pair of them set of on a holiday cruise. They kept a diary which is fascinating reading! It is interesting for many reasons, not just as an insight into the carefree pre-war world of two young men who had just left school, not just a record of the way young people were eighty years ago and what to us seem simple pleasures, but as a personal story to us, his children and grandchildren.

The lovely details of what they ate, how they entertained themselves with sing-songs, how they knew all the people along the river and in the old pubs, their knowledge of the fish and of fishing… what an idyllic picture it portrays:

We started this afternoon from Banham’s Boatyard at 2:30 p.m. under a beautiful clear sky and a slight breeze behind us. After successfully passing through Baits Bite and Bottisham locks, we settled down for a nice long stretch of water. We did not hurry and at 5:15 p.m. we stopped about 1/2 mile from Ely and had some tea. We then pushed on to the Cutter Inn at Ely where we moored for provisions etc.
Half an hour later we were off again and after travelling along  magnificent stretches of water we came within a quarter of a  mile of Sandhill Road Bridge, Littleport. We put ashore here for the night and moored our craft securely before having a short and unsuccessful attempt to fish the water round about us.
We went for a stroll after dark along the bank, the air being cool after the sunny afternoon. On our return we wound up the clock and made our beds and in a short while we were “dead to the world.

Sammy at the wheel

We woke on Monday morning at 8:30p.m. and this was shortly followed by a brisk swim in the river the water being very cold. After dressing and attending to the engine, we took a trip down to the farm which was about 1/2 mile away and collected the milk which we had ordered. Breakfast was soon prepared after we had returned.
The remainder of the morning was spent in fishing and exploring the neighbouring copse on the other side of the river. For dinner we had corned beef, beans and potatoes followed by pineapple and condensed milk. In the afternoon we decided to go for a ramble round by a wood, passing the old mill, which we had previously explored, on our way.
We had to push our way through long distances of rushes which came about shoulder-high, and climb overhanging trees to get across marshy pools and streams. It was while we were groping our way along, that we found a couple of swans eggs which we found after we had broken them; they were very antique. In fact we made our way from them as quickly as possible.
After uselessly trying to stalk two wood pigeons, we returned for tea. In the evening we fished, Snick catching nearly all the roach in the net.
As my pen has run out I shall have to continue in pencil until we can buy some.
The evening at the Dragon resulted in a very close and exciting dart match between the Cambridgeites and the Fenites. The Fenites one by two matches to one. It was all due to “Old Percy” who, by the way has forsaken his “bombers.”


This morning we had our usual swim, the weather being lovely and warm with the sun shining. We had breakfast and cleared the boat up and went to fetch milk from the farm. We then made our way to Wilton Road Bridge and walked 1 1/2 miles to Wilton where we bought some chops and provisions. We arrived at Cross Water again in time for dinner then had a good rest to work off the effects. The afternoon was spent in sun bathing and fishing and finished with a long swim through the locks. My luck was in as far as fishing was concerned this evening and several good specimens of roach were landed.

Lovely potatoes with a big lump of butter

After the usual routine of swimming and breakfast we decided that we would walk into Lakenheath for some pollard and stores. It was quite an interesting walk about 4 miles along the bank of the lode river. We saw half way along the bank where they were installing a large pipe to contain fen drainage from the small fen into the large fen.
After dinner as it was rather windy we played at cribbage and fished, likewise in the evening. Another pleasant evening in the Dragon was spent playing darts with the landlord’s daughter and a regular customer. Percy was engaged in a game of dominoes with the people from the auxiliary yacht “Spree” which came up this evening.
This morning was the most doubtful morning for a swim but we stuck it out and felt very much aglow afterwards. The whole boat was cleared out n put shipshape and after saying goodbye to the landlord we left Crosswater Staunch at 11 a.m.
Our destination was Denver which proved a very pleasant and warm cruise with the sun full on our backs. The wind dropped and the sky was streaked with clouds and it was just the right weather for the trip.
We moored on the west bank at Denver at 1:20 and went to see Mr Beasly who told us that we should be able to go through between 5 o’clock and 5:30 p.m. to Overstaunch. We manged to get through the lock at Denver at 5:55p.m. on the first level of the tide. The Hundred Foot was very uninteresting and although we made good speed we had to moor the boat 1 1/2 miles away from Earith Suspension Bridge at 8:30p.m. We were rather anxious during the night in case the level should fall and we went out to look at 12 o’clock, 2: a.m. and 5:0 a.m Luckily everything was alright except the extremely cold night.
When we were at Denver we noticed that where the water from the Ouse met the Hundred Foot there seemed to be a big sand bank shelf across the river. After a conversation with the lock keeper, Mr Beasley, we were told that it was only the freshwater meeting the slat sea water. Mr Beasley also told us that the locks were a hundred years old.

Sammy and Snick and Jim with his accordion

At 7:30 p.m. we made our way to Overstaunch which we reached at 8:15. We went to see Mr and Mrs Ellis at the “Boat” as we found it was now called. Breakfast was the next item on the menu and after this we went through the lock and moored above the staunch.
We enjoyed a perfect swim round the lock and superb dives into the deep clear water from the diving board just off the pier. Unfortunately Donald was doing some submarine exercises and cut his foot on  a broken bottle but it has been washed and bandaged and seems alright at the moment. At any rate, he is running around the boat swatting wasps at the moment.
Dinner consists of lovely potatoes with a big lump of butter and a tin of peas followed by a tin of pineapple.
We have a perfect evening swim in front of the boat and after baiting up, we hope to get some real good fishing, nothing under 2lbs!!!
We fished all afternoon and in the evening until we could not see and then made our way to “The Boat” where Mr and Mrs Knight were. We had a good talk and after being given some lovely young spring onions we went aboard for supper, where we had cheese and onions.

We rose at 6:30a.m. this morning and fished in the swell below the staunch. Don caught a little silver bream.
We learned from Mr Knight the Snick spaniel, Digger, had been destroyed on Friday as it was suffering from liver trouble.
Boiled eggs were served up for breakfast with very hot coffee. Round about our boat are real enthusiastic fishermen who came yesterday about 8p.m. and who are still fishing now. The best part of it was that they didn’t have a touch all night! I think our rest in bed was a bit more sensible.

We managed to get up this morning at 8:15a.m. and we had finished breakfast and cleaned up by 9:30a.m. we went for a walk across the fields to Brands Farm to get some milk. We found that the milk was under contract for the Milk Marketing Board and so she had none to give us. we ordered a dozen eggs there, and two large loaves and were promised a pint and a half of milk next milking time.
We went into Bluntisham where after a while we managed to find a general store where you can buy anything but meat.
We returned for dinner and served up veal and ham roll with potatoes and baked beans followed by apricots.
Though we fished in the afternoon we did not do much good and so in the evening we decided to spin for pike with the spinners which Mr Knight kindly brought from Donald’s. Donald fixed up his tackle on the fly rod and I had my roach rod with a 4lb silk line. Anyway we both landed a pike about a pound a piece. We had to stop after a little while as the light had gone.
When we entered “The Boat” we found a big party, Mr and Mrs Knight and George, Mr and Mrs Bradshaw and Jim, Leslie Holt, Earnie King and Gus King. After “Earnie Ting” had proved himself at a game of darts Jim Bradshaw then fetched his piano accordion which he could play very skillfully and we began a sing-song. We soon moved into the room with the piano and there we had fine solos, duets, trios, presented by many friends. Mrs Bradshaw played the old-time music for the “old boys” while Jim gave us popular dance tunes fr “us young ‘uns.”
It was very late we had seen everyone off in their cars. George Knight and Jim Bradshaw slept in the hut and after seeing them safely in bed we soon found ourselves asleep in our own little boat.
P.S. Swim below the staunch at 11a.m.

The old mill

We were up again at 6:15a.m. and Don and George went shooting and Jim and I fished. Jim was the only one in our party who did any good, with a few, small, silver bream.
After our breakfast which consisted of three rashers of bacon, an egg and 4 fried tomatoes we went for a swim just below the staunch.
A sing-song on the old gate on the bank was then proposed. The sun was very hot.
In the afternoon we fished for eels and Don got two nice ones which we are going to fry. I only caught two bootlaces which we used for baiting the dead lines which we put out at night.
We heard an interesting discussion on fishing the river between Mr Knight and some other gentlemen who came down this evening in a big white boat from Hemingford Grey. We turned in for a good night at 11:30p.m.

We had a late morning this morning and we did not get up before 9:15a.m. We had a large breakfast of bacon & eggs and fried tomatoes and then proceeded to wash down the boat from stem to stem and after checking over the engine and ticking her over, we went to say cheerio to Mr Ellis. Mrs Ellis had one of her Queen’s Pudding’s for us but we were not staying at the staunch for dinner but when she said she’d make it for us Friday we promised our return.
At 12 noon we left our moorings at the staunch and pushed on to St Ives, where were  to pick up Mr Nunn on the Thursday and arrived there at 12:15a.m. just below the staunch where we made our moorings.  We changed our clothes and went to look at St Ives and finally had a  very nice lunch at a café opposite the market place. On our return we fished but were not successful in catching anything really big. Only a few dace in fact. This continued throughout the evening. An at supper time we turned in and played cards until 11:0 p.m.

It was quarter to nine before either of us woke this morning and after lighting the primus we soon had breakfast ready. We went into St Ives and bought some food. We returned as it was spotting with rain and the rain came on faster as we put up the awning for the first time. We were surprised at the size of the awning which fitted over the complete stem of the boat.
The rain continued to fall heavily until about 4 o’clock in the afternoon during which time we listened to the wireless, played cards and had a sing-song.
When the rain had cleared up we wrapped up as it was cold and went prepared to meet Mr Nunn off the train but were disappointed to find that there were no more trains from Cambridge that night. We spent the rest of the time walking all round St Ives and after paying a visit to ‘The Robin Hood’ where Don had a friend, we bunked at about 11:30p.m.

The lock at Denver; Mr Beasley’s cottage was probably the white one by the lock gates.

Today looked more like a summer day early this morning and although there was a slight breeze blowing, the sun was out.
We squared everything on board and cast off from St Ives at 10:15. From that moment until we reached the Pike and Eel at Over, we had very little water to move in. We had to test the water all the way with a boat hook.
Eventually we reached Overstaunch and we went through the pen with the Explorer. We moored below the lock at 11 o’clock. We went to see Bill Ellis and as Mrs Ellis had promised, she had made us one of her special Queen’s Puddings which we devoured with great relish, also tucking a few sausages in the odd corners.
We proceeded to Hermitage Lock at 1:30p.m. and arrived at 2:15p.m. On the way we saw Mr Pleasants and Mr Webster and after stopping for a chat we forged ahead.
We arrived at the Fish and Duck at 4:0p.m. having a fairly slow journey. The barges were all up the river containing gault for the banks. The river was not wide enough for us to give full throttle because the water crashed against the banks and swamped them.
A gentleman from the ‘Madame’ came aboard to look over the boat that he would have taken had we not nipped in and ordered before him. He was fed up with the 2 stroke engine in his boat which would not keep running.


They finished their holiday and the diary. Two years later my dad was called up to serve his country as a paratrooper in the World War; he must have often thought back to those peaceful, happy days on the river.

The mystery of Great-Aunt Caroline

My husband had always been told by his father, the story that his great-great-aunt had run a pub in Gosport in Hampshire. His father, he doesn’t think had ever been to the pub, but he knew the name of it and the fact that Caroline had been the landlady.

So last weekend, we visited Gosport, found the pub, took pictures and went inside and had a pleasant couple of hours chatting with the friendly people there. We weren’t exactly sure when Caroline had been in residence, and whether she was here when the present building was in existence (probably built about a hundred years ago) or whether she had been landlady of the previous pub of the same name which had had a thatched roof and had burned down.

We were very pleased with our adventure but it was only when we were back at our hotel and I tried to pin down Caroline and the pub when I found a difficulty. I could find no trace of her listed as landlady, and what is more I could only find details of her life in Portsmouth where she and her husband had a shop not far from where Charles Dickens was born. Maybe it was her daughter, also Caroline, maybe young Caroline had the pub with her husband George… but no, I couldn’t find any connection between her and the pub.

So what had gone wrong with the story my husband’s father had told him? He was so sure of the name, so sure of the pub’s name and location… where had the error arisen? I ferreted about a bit more in the details I already had, to see if there was another Caroline somewhere in the family tree… and yes… I came across an even more distant woman, a great-great-great-aunt of my husband, a Caroline but not with his surname, his great-great-great paternal grandfather’s sister. Could she be the woman who had the pub? back then it would have been the one with the thatched roof… I must investigate further!

I have not given surnames but I will when the story is complete – even if I don’t find the answer!

I have written several novels, the Radwinter series about a  character who solves fictional genealogical mysteries… If you haven’t read them yet, here is a link to them and my other e-books:

Family history stories

I mentioned the other day that i am going to start another writing group, this time about family history, and how you can tell your own life story, or your parents, or your distant ancestors you’ve discovered on or GenesReunited or whatever. I want to get people to think about how they pass on all they know to others, their children or grandchildren, or people interested in their village, or even their house!

I have very vague memories of my grandparents homes – I know these days with all the photographs we take it is easier to record things, but even so, looking at a photo of the room I’m in now – a lot of it would be a mystery to future generations… for a start it is a tremendous muddle, there are loads of things made of paper which might not be used in the future, there are CDs – which even these days young people don’t necessarily have, and there are all sorts of things which just seeing a picture of in twenty, fifty or further ahead would be inexplicable.

My maternal grandparents lived in a big house, which I only later realised was not theirs but rented. Were there carpets on the floor? I don’t remember… rugs? I don’t remember. There was obviously no central heating, but were fires lit in every room? I have no idea. There was a kitchen, and now I think about it a vaguely recall a kitchen table, a sink by the windows, shelves or maybe a dresser – but am I really remembering that or is it just an amalgam of other old houses I visited as a child? I must have gone upstairs, I might even have slept there, but I can remember nothing, or do I remember looking out of a back window across fields?

I never knew my paternal grandfather, he died a month before I was born, but I do remember the small terraced house where grandma lived, but not really in any detail, and again the memories fuse with others, and sort of shimmer and change as I think about them.

When I start my new group, old houses and buildings will be one of the things we will think about – it’s up to them whether they write about them or not!

My featured picture, by the way is of the Portland Arms Hotel in Cambridge, where my dad and his brother and sister grew up. I have been in it several times as an adult, and have many stories about it!

Writing life stories

I run two creative writing groups, and although they are quite different essentially we talk about writing, discuss different aspects of the craft, share ideas and share what we have written – at the end of each group I offer suggestions for what to write about next time, but they are just that, just suggestions and members can write whatever they like!

I write here on my blog a lot about my family and the history of people who came before, and I explore different ways of telling my ancestors’ stories… I have thought for quite a long time about starting another writing group, based on how people can tell the stories of their lives and of their families lives.

I have wondered about this for a while, and in fact I wrote about it here before, and outlined the sort of things I might cover:

  1. Life story
  2. My story
  • My life in music/sport/theatre etc
  • My travels
  • School story/ college/university/training/forces
  • Work story
  • Romances/adventures/interesting tales
  • My life and my belief
  • My fantasy life
  • My hero/heroine someone I admire
  • spooky experiences
  1. My childrens’ story
  2. My family’s story
  3. My genealogical research story
  4. Story of a place
  5. Story of a person, a character from history or a person who’s alive today
  6. Tales my parents/grandparents/uncles and aunties told me
  7. Imaginary person’s life story
  8. How things have changed
  • Birthdays
  • Christmas/Easter/ Whitsun/harvest/bonfire night/Halloween/advent
  • School
  • Children… ‘when I was young…’
  • Families
  1. Food, recipes, meals
  2. Travel writing
  3. Particular events –personal/national/historic… I remember where I was when…

These are only thoughts, a framework to hang writing on, and of course it depends on the people in the group and what they want!

My ponderings have come to the real thing, a date has been set, Monday 24th April – the fourth Monday of the month! I can only accommodate a certain number of people at home; if lots of people want to join, then maybe I will have to find somewhere else to hold the meetings!

By the way, my Radwinter stories, a series of four novels are about someone’s genealogical rese\arch, and how he writes the story of his family… if you have not read them yet, and not read my other novels either, here is a link:

My family story in 10 objects

Object 1: Louis Walford’s match case

This little match case belonged to my great-grandfather, Louis. My grandma was his middle child, with two older and two younger brothers. He died when she was only seven, and her youngest brother was only three. We have a picture of him, but as a family we only had a very sketchy idea who he was – my grandma died when I was only eight so although I remember her, I don’t remember her ever talking about him.

I’ve always had a fascination with him; he “married” my great-grandmother Lois, after whom I was named, and I was intrigued from being a child by the similarity in their names, Lois/Louis. He was born Louis Moses in Tasmania, but he and his brothers changed their names to Walford, and that is the name our family had… although, actually, Louis and Lois didn’t ever marry. How very brave of them in the 1880’s – how very brave of her. They didn’t marry because he came from a very observant Jewish family, and she was Christian. I have found out a little more about Louis through my family research… but there are still many unanswered questions.

Maybe it isn’t a match case, but it is made of snake or lizard skin and I just wonder if it is something Louis brought with him from Tasmania. The picture above was painted in Tasmania, and maybe Louis had his little case in his pocket, maybe he had a cigarette or cigar case too – maybe they matched the little item I have. I won’t ever know…