Stories Far and Near

I love scandals in the family – preferably in past generations, of course.

Bessie-sm

Bessie Bullough 1913 – 1992

My dad’s cousin, always known to me as Auntie Bessie, was supposed to have traced the family back to Cornwall in the 1600s whereupon the two distinct family lines were said to split into pirates and lunatics. At that point she gave up.

At least that was the story, but I never got the chance to talk to her about it before she died. Sadly it doesn’t appear to be true. I’ve done a lot family research myself, but there’s no Cornish connection – though the family goes back to Dorset and Somerset.

I’m reminded of the standing quotation from the TV show, ‘House’ – ‘Everybody lies.’

My Great-Great-Grandfather, Fletcher Fletcher, (so good they named him twice!) came from New Hall in Staffordshire, close to Burton on Trent, but his son, Benjamin James Randal Fletcher moved up to Castleford (Yorkshire) to work in the mines in the 1870s and told everyone he came from St Ives in Cornwall. It’s even in the family bible – though in a slightly different hand as if it’s an afterthought.

A cousin suggested that since Staffordshire miners had a reputation for strike-breaking, no one looking for work in a mining community wanted to admit that’s where they came from. If I could grab Benjamin’s spirit in a seance I’d really take him to task for that one. It took me ages to track him down. You wouldn’t think there would be many Fletcher Fletchers in genealogical/census records – and there aren’t, only 6 in total anywhere in the country – but, of course not one of them in Cornwall, so I was looking in the wrong place for years!

Samuel Robinson1

Samuel Robinson 1835 – 1905. My Great-Great Grandfather

Benjamin did well for himself. He married Emily Robinson, daughter of Samuel Robinson who was not only a colliery viewer (a mine manager) in Castleford, but also ended up with his own pub (The Victoria) and a rather large and impressive tombstone as a monument. Possibly as a result of who-you-know, Benjamin ended up as a undermanager in a colliery, though neither he nor Emily made old bones, and the Fletcher children were brought up by their oldest sister, Mary, who married Sam Bullough shortly after her parents’ deaths. Kudos to Mary for keeping the family together, but as a career teacher (yes, even in the era around the First World War) it was Sam who did most of the bringing up after he got back from the trenches. Sam and Mary had only one child who survived and that was Auntie Bessie (a career teacher who never married and who literally wrote the book on new methods of teaching music and movement in the heady days of arts teaching after the Second World War). Bessie’s photos came to me after she died. Sadly, though we looked through all her papers after her death, there was no trace of the family research she was supposed to have done. Did she do it? I can’t imagine she’d have thrown it away if she did. Are we back to the ‘Everybody lies,’ thing?

The more I dig into genealogy, the more I realise that stories come from everywhere, and family history can be just as good a source of inspiration as anything else.

lock lane infants-sm

Lock Lane Infants, Castleford, circa 1911. Mary Robinson Fletcher, top left. She married Sam Bullough later the same year and continued teaching all her working life..

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About Jacey Bedford

Jacey Bedford maintains this blog. She is a writer of science fiction and fantasy (www.jaceybedford.co.uk), the secretary of Milford SF Writers (www.milfordSF.co.uk), a singer (www.artisan-harmony.com) and a music agent booking UK tours and concerts for folk performers (www.jacey-bedford.com). She's also a Home Office / Border Agency licensed sponsor processing UK work permits (Certificate of Sponsorship).
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2 Responses to Stories Far and Near

  1. Love old photos and family history. You never know what you’re going to find out!

    • Jacey Bedford says:

      Exactly. My family history is ‘small’ – i.e. I know I’m not going to discover I’m related to dukes and earls or discover that Great Great Great Uncle Charlie captained a ship at the Battle of Trafalgar, but there are all kinds of interesting bits. My family were nailmakers and coal miners for generations. I even did an Ancestry DNA test which showed up mostly British and Northern European, with a bit of Viking (which in this part of the world is not surprising). The only vaguely interesting bit is a 1% Indian/Asian, but that’s probably so far back I’ll never find it.

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