Thursday, 18 August 2016

The Elephant in the Room

I have been away for well over a year but I can safely say I have not sat entirely idle in all that time away. I was out and about "walking my black dog". What do I even mean by that? This post may help to explain but for readers' sakes I will keep it as brief as possible.

Coming to the end of 2014 and into 2015 I hit a rather rude emotional bump in the road. I was ready to give up on life. I had no motivation and very little inspiration. I started, with all good intentions, the National November Writing Month in 2014 but after four days I ran out of steam and stopped. By the beginning of 2015 I hit rock bottom completely. In the following months, my marriage was announced as having ended amicably. This 'end' had been on the cards for many years previous but the realisation and the actuality of it further compounded my already fragile state of mind. I wanted out.

What followed can only be described as the elephant in the room. The black dog. Depresssion. I was put on suicide watch and medication. I was given the option of psychological treatment but I declined. I couldn't face yet another round of sitting opposite a stranger, banging on about my troubles (yes, I have had counselling in the past but more about that later). I tried to "cheer up" and "keep calm and carry on" but inside I was at the end. I turned to the one thing I knew best (but I didn't know it at the time); my thirst for knowledge. I turned away from genealogy and family history, books and novels, blogs and online guides and turned my attentions to a whole new realm. Japanese idols. This may sound very strange but wait, bear with me.

I have long enjoyed listening to Korean and Japanese pop music (known as K-Pop and J-Pop) but my interests grew deeper and more focused by the start of 2015. One particular artist had caught my eye and I was hooked. What I didn't know then though, was that these artists had been around for 16 years! What I know now (thanks to somebody pointing it out to me) was my thirst for knowledge kicked in and I began a whole new research venture. After all, I had 16 years to cover! I threw myself whole and soul into finding out their back catalogue of music, concerts, as well as their individual and group acting pursuits of the last 16 years. The artist I speak of has five members in it, so that was five lots of work I had to investigate and immerse myself into. Suddenly, I had no time for anything else. I stopped reading books, I stopped writing, I stopped blogging!

In July of this year, I hit another intense low (the reasons for which I shall with-hold here) and a visit to my Doctor had me back on suicide watch but this time a mental-health care plan was firmly drawn up. I had no option left to me but to explore the elephant in the room once and for all, and talk to a psychologist. I swallowed my pride and made the phone call I had resisted making for well over a year. I will admit I was still reluctant but a tiny voice resonated deep within me. The voice of my ancestors.

When I go back and look through my family tree there were those who suffered the most devastating emotional blows. Families torn apart by death and disease, families shamed and sent packing with no financial or emotional support, women who had no choice but to send their children away only to end up dying alone in a workhouse, boys sent to reformatory school and one who was even sent to Australia for menial larceny crimes. My ancestors have lived through and braved the odds that were stacked high against them, all throughout time. Today, they still stand silently by me and I strongly believe they have done since I was born. I was meant to tell their stories, and I was meant to write. I just forgot about that for a little while. I made a diversion in the road but I am grateful for that diversion. I cannot say otherwise.

Now? Well, I am still in therapy but I am no longer on suicide watch. I am reading again, every day. This past month I have even read books I bought years ago and never touched. I have recently been on the Find My Past website and unlocked houses on the 1939 Register. I have pulled out boxes full of research books and files and put them on my writing desk. I am working on my second novel again. I am blogging again!

The moral of this post is don't ever be ashamed of depression. Take that meddlesome "black dog" out for a long walk and stretch its legs, and don't be afraid of the elephant in the room asking for acknowledgement. There is a wealth of options for help out there. Options our ancestors never had, never spoke of, never thought of.

With this blog post, I humbly celebrate my fifth bloggiversary with all of my ancestors who are walking right beside me. There are still so many stories to be told!

Friday, 17 July 2015

On Hiatus

I know that I have been away for several months but I plan to resume blog posts in the very near future - both here, and at my other history blog site Relics of Beccles. I cannot promise they will be as regular as they once were, but I will definitely be keeping this treasured family history blog site running so please do re-visit and you just may find a new post. Thank you!

Friday, 17 April 2015

Winifred Ellen : 100 Years

This is a very special post which is dedicated to my paternal grandmother, Winifred Ellen Waters, who was born on this day 100 years ago.

Nannie Freda taught me many things but most of all she taught me the true meaning of family and its history. She always encouraged me to explore my family history and to write about it. She often said I had the gift for writing, as did her own mother Eva who wrote articles for the church newsletters. Nannie also taught me the full appreciation of home and what it means to have roots. Beccles was her home for almost all of her life, and my love of home comes from her. Whenever I write about Beccles, I feel as though she is controlling my pen.

I miss you every single day Nannie but I know that you are a constant guiding light in my life, and I am forever grateful for your presence. I love you.

Monday, 24 November 2014

James "Jumbo" Jolly

I have previously posted about my great grand-uncle James Jolly, particularly at times of Remembrance. He was killed in action on this day, one hundred years ago. The Great War was barely three months old when James was fighting on the front lines during the First Battle of Ypres.

James Jolly, circa 1899

James Jolly was born in 1880 in Bungay, county Suffolk. He was the son of William Jolly and Emma, nee Clarke. James was baptised at Bungay Holy Trinity Church on 16 November 1881. He joined the Norfolk Regiment at around the age of 19 and served with the 2nd Battalion in the Boer War from 1899-1902.

James' nickname was Jumbo. This could have stemmed from the fact that he had large ears. Bless him.

In 1894, when James was thirteen years old, he was sent before the Bungay Petty Sessions (with H. Rider Haggard presiding) for stealing seven rabbit traps, the property of Mr C French of St John Ilketshall. James did not work alone, he was with Arthur Ward and his brother Herbert Ward, and Edward Barber. Arthur Ward, who was twelve years old at the time, would go on to become my great-grandfather.

When war broke out in 1914, James served with the 1st Battalion Norfolk Regiment and was sent to France. According to the website the 1st Battalion formed part of the 15th Brigade, 5th Division and landed at Le Havre in August 1914. The 5th Division were involved in the following:
The Battle of Mons and subsequent retreat, including the Action of Elouges
The Battle of Le Cateau and the Affair of Crepy-en-Valois
The Battle of the Marne
The Battle of the Aisne
The Battles of La Bassee and Messines 1914
The First Battle of Ypres

James Jolly, circa 1914

Grey field of Flanders, grim old battle-plain,
What armies held the iron line round Ypres in the rain,
From Bixschoote to Baeceleare and down to the Lys river?

Merry men of England,
Men of the green shires,
From the winding waters,
The elm-trees and the spires,
And the lone village dreaming in the downland yonder.
Half a million Huns broke over them in thunder,
Roaring seas of Huns swept on and sunk again,
Where fought the men of England round Ypres in the rain,
On the grim plain of Flanders, whose earth is fed with slaughter.

--- Margaret Louisa Woods (1845-1945)

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Bussey Woodrow

My second great granduncle Bussey Woodrow was born in Fulham, county Middlesex in 1842. He was the first born son of my three times great-grandparents, Bussey Woodrow and Louisa Powell.

Bussey is a unique name, and one I had not heard of in my family history until I received my two times great-grandmother's birth certificate in the post. My first thought on reading the father's name was that it said "Bufsey". Of course, I now realise the written meaning of the double S in transcripts. According to the Ancestry website Bussey means:
English (of Norman origin): habitational name from any of several places in Normandy, France: BoucĂ© in Orne, from which came Robert de Buci mentioned in Domesday Book, Bouce (Manche), or Bucy-le-Long (Aisne). All are named with a Latin personal name Buccius (presumably a derivative of bucca ‘mouth’) + the locative suffix -acum.Altered spelling of German Busse.
I am yet to determine where the name originated from to be used in my family.

Bussey Woodrow was a Letter Carrier, and he lived in various places within the London area including Belgravia, Hanover Square and then later, in Battersea. During his life time he was married three times and had at least five known children. His first wife, Mary Ann, died after they were married for two-and-a-half years. Perhaps she died in childbirth? She was just 25 years old. Around six months later, Bussey married Susannah Catchpole with whom he had five known children, all boys: Harry, Bertie, Walter, Frank and Ernest. Susannah died in 1896, aged 48. The following year Bussey married Emma Chapman.

Bussey joined the British Postal Service on 12 February 1866 as a Letter Carrier. The occupation title was changed to Postman in 1883. This is reflected in the census returns where Bussey's occupation before 1891 was recorded as Letter Carrier and from 1891 onwards, Postman.

The Illustrated London News, 1860

Today we have airplanes, trains, ferries, motorcycles and motorised vans to deliver all of our mail items across the world. We have a raft of express delivery services, airmail and seamail choices, and vending machines that supply stamps. Before Bussey became a Letter Carrier in the 1860s, horses and coaches were the main method of delivering mail. This was an idea first formed by John Palmer, a theatre owner in Bath, who used carriage services to transport props and actors around the countryside. In 1782 Palmer took his idea of using carriages to transport mail around the country, to London where the Chancellor of the Exchequer, William Pitt, accepted the idea and in 1784 an experimental mail coach journey succeeded in paving the way for a faster, more efficient postal delivery service. The development of the railway saw the demise of the mail coaches, with trains first used for delivering mail in 1830. Later in the 19th century, London would also undergo a massive change with the introduction of the Underground rail system.

In Bussey's time as a Letter Carrier he would have walked the congested London streets hand-delivering mail to businesses and residences in his designated area. He would have walked in all elements of weather, including thick fog and snow. His mail bag would have been made of cloth, which attracted mice so most Post Offices had to employ cats to catch and kill the mice. Horses and ponies were used to deliver mail up and down the country even after the demise of the mail coaches as they pulled the mail carts and vans until the 1930s when motorised vehicles replaced a great many horse-drawn vans (except, of course, for the more remote areas). The last horse-drawn mail van was seen in London in 1949. Bicycles did not become fully popular until the 20th century.

Horse-drawn Mail Cart, 1887

Bussey Woodrow died in May 1905, aged 68. He was buried at West Norwood Cemetery in Lambeth. Among the notable burials there are Isabella Beeton, Sir Henry Tate and Dr William Marsden. In 1911 Bussey's widow, Emma Woodrow, was living with her sister Sarah in Kentish Town, St Pancras. It is believed that Emma Woodrow died in 1913 (Wandsworth area) but she could have died in 1928 in St Pancras. Bussey's brother, Frederick John Powell Woodrow, lived in Putney which is an area most familiar to my maternal family history. My two times great-grandmother Louisa Woodrow, who was Bussey and Frederick's sister, also lived there as a married woman.

If you have any Postal Service ancestors, I urge you to visit The British Postal Museum & Archive at There is so much to see there, and it includes just about everything you would ever want to know about the postal service. It has sections for family history, school and further education and provides an extensive history of the Royal Mail dating back to the 1600s.

Monday, 22 September 2014

The Live Bait Squadron : Centenary

Today marks 100 years since the sinking of three Cressy-class armoured cruiser ships, HMS Hogue and her sisters HMS Aboukir and HMS Cressy. All three ships were hit by German U-Boat torpedoes in the morning of 22 September 1914.

The three ships which were to become known as the "Live Bait Squadron" were patrolling in the North Sea when they were torpedoed without warning. The combined total from all three ships was approximately 837 men rescued and 62 officers, and 1,397 men lost.
HMS Hogue

One of these men was my great-grandfather, Albert Humphries. Born in 1884, he lied about his age to join the Royal Navy in 1899. He served a total of 12 years, and joined the London Police Force in 1907. Ill-health prevented him from staying with the Force, taking retirement in 1911. When World War One broke out, Albert joined the Royal Naval Reserve and was posted to HMS Hogue. His commander was Reginald A Norton. Both men survived.

In November 1914, my great-uncle was born. His given name was Reginald Norton Humphries. The Norton name was passed from Reginald to his son and daughter and to his grandsons.

The Times newspaper, September 1914
My great-grandfather's name (top, right)

We will remember them. Lest we forget. God Bless them all.

For more information please see this wonderful website: and Albert Humphries' details have been kindly added by Henk van der Linden:

Friday, 29 August 2014

One Lovely Blog

I've been nominated for the ONE LOVELY BLOG Award by the very lovely Elizabeth Lloyd (thank you for thinking of me). You can find her Lovely Blog Award post here

If I've nominated your blog, please don't feel under any obligation to join in with this; I was just pleased to be nominated so that I could share the blogs that I like.

Here are the rules for the One Lovely Blog Award:

• Thank the person that nominated you and link back to that blog. 
• Share seven things about yourself – see below.
• Nominate 15 bloggers you admire – also listed below (or as many as you can think of!).
• Contact your bloggers to let them know you've tagged them for the One Lovely Blog Award.

Seven Things About Me

1. I love Family History

Ever since I was a child, listening to all the stories my grandmother Freda told me about the family and about the town I grew up in, I have loved it. When I had my daughter there was a strong voice within me that told me to get back into it and pursue it seriously. I took the baton from my mother who had made some inroads into her side of the family. Armed with a notebook I had kept years before, I made a start and have never looked back. My daughter turns 13 next week and I haven't finished yet.

2. Which leads me to my second best love...Beccles

I grew up in the Suffolk market town and even though I left to live in Australia with my Mum at the age of 12, I have never forgotten my roots. Beccles is deep within my heart, and firmly under my skin. I am currently writing a house & street history on Peddars Lane, where I grew up in the 1970s. My e-published novella, Symphony of War, is based in Beccles and I also write a blog about the history of the town called Relics of Beccles. I did have a Twitter account of the same name but I gave it away when it became harder to only tweet 140 characters at a time! My second novel is also based in Beccles and loosely utilizes some of the factual history of the period in which it's written (1912).

Beccles from the Church Tower, 2014
Taken by Brett Ford @ Guru Photo Genix

3. I love Writing

From a very early age I loved to write stories and English was always my favourite subject at school. When I was a little older I became a lover of writing letters and when I moved to Australia that passion flourished as I wrote regularly to my father and grandmother. In my teenage years writing left me (well, I left it) and for a long time stories stayed dormant inside me until I was in my mid-twenties. Even then, I only got so far as the fifth chapter before I threw it away. Then I met my husband. He has spent the last twelve years encouraging me to let loose the inner demons and to start writing again. If it wasn't for his support, I wouldn't have started blogging and writing again. Symphony of War would exist only in my head.

4. I love Cats

I had several cats growing up but it wasn't until 1996 that I really learned what loving a cat meant. I had some nightmare times with Oliver "Ollie" Twist but he came into my life at the right time and he left it only two years ago. In February this year, my husband and I rescued an 18-month-old female cat from the Cat Haven. She has a forever home with us now and we love her to bits. Her given name was Spearmint but we call her Minty Moo.

5. I love London

Don't ask me why, I just do. Whenever I go there, I feel my heart swelling with a deep pride to be British and I can't stop smiling. I love the Underground smells, I love the Embankment, I love the alleyways, the pubs, the lamps, the Thames, the architecture, the whole atmosphere. I walk taller when I'm in London. I watch anything if it is set in London. I read books that are set in London, especially in Victorian London.

Victoria Embankment, London

6. I love Historical Novels/Historical Crime

I cannot get enough of them, especially ones that are set in England. I devour all books by these authors: Kate Morton, Sarah Waters, Essie Fox, D.E. Meredith, Charles Dickens (<3), Lynn Shepherd, Tracy Chevalier, Lena Kennedy and Ruth Park. I love reading all things Victorian Crime such as Squizzy Taylor, Eugenia Falleni, William Palmer and Constance Kent.

7. I love Supernatural

Since its inception in 2005, I have been avidly following the trials and tribulations of those gorgeous hunks, the Winchester brothers, Dean and Sam. I can't get enough of the show and now that my daughter has become a fan, I get to watch the whole series from scratch.


My blog nominations:

A Visitor's Guide to Victorian England
The Virtual Victorian 
Family History Across The Seas
Dance Skeletons
Jottings Journeys and Genealogy
Lone Tester HQ
Desperately Seeking Surnames