Tags: first names, Lancashire, nicknames, Oswaldtwistle, research
Nicknames were common usage in all parts of Lancashire in the nineteenth and early twentieth century, including around my birth town of Oswaldtwistle.
Many people were known by a nickname rather than by their own name. In my Grandfather Thompson’s family, some of his brothers and sisters were known as Jem (James), Lize-Ann (Elizabeth Ann), Math-Ann (Martha Ann), Telly (Elizabeth Ellen), Pee (Peter). The youngest was my grandfather Edward, who became known outside the family as Teddy Waffer.
Many times people were also known, not by their official surnames, but in reference to their father’s nickname. Thus “Teddy Waffer” was Edward, son of “Waffer”, his father Peter Thompson’s nickname. Peter, a coke burner, got the nickname from his habit of calling water “waffer” instead of the usual dialect word “watter”.
Gobbin Tales, a book of stories told by Oswaldtwistle “elders” about their younger days, gives many examples of names like this around the place.
There was “Bet o’ Peyes” – Elizabeth, daughter of Peter, whose real surname was Tomlinson; “Jud o’ Jeff’s” was George, son of Jeffery. There was a chap in Ossie called Bill Holland. His dad was also Bill, and his grandfather was called Bill, but surname of Cunliffe. So the second Bill was known as Bill o’ Cuns’ – Bill, son of Cunliffe, and the youngest was known as “young Bill o’ owd Bill o’ Cuns”!!
Sometimes, through having the same first or surname, people were known by their occupation, or by a certain characteristic of manner or appearance. Three who shared the surname Johnson were, variously, “Knocker-up Johnson”, “One-arm Johnson” and “Mrs Deaf Johnson”. “Baccy Dick” was so called because he took snuff.
Christian names were often limited in number and ran in families. It was therefore sometimes difficult to work out who was who. It is no wonder nicknames became so prevalent. When researching, you have to double-check that the James or John or George that you’ve found is the right one and not a cousin or uncle.
Even Oswaldtwistle itself has its own nickname. It is usually shortened to “Ossy”. So I’m an “Ossy” lass who came to “Oz” and became an “Aussie”!
Do you have nicknames in your family? What are their origins?
© Linda Visman 16.04.14 (367 words)
Tags: Battle of Jutland, Dead Man's Penny, Grand Fleet, HMS Norbrough, HMS Opal, HMS Valiant, HMS Warspite, James Atkinson, Royal Navy, Scapa Flow, World War I
HMS Warspite – pass
In August 1915, when my grandfather, James Atkinson (Mum’s father) was 21, he was called up for service in the Royal Navy “for the duration of hostilities”.
In October, he joined HMS Warspite as an Ordinary Seaman. He was a stoker, which meant he fed coal to the furnaces that operated the steam engines. It was a dirty job – and a dangerous one in wartime. If the ship were torpedoed or sank, the odds against surviving for those working below decks were very high.
The name HMS Warspite has long been a part of British naval tradition. The first sailed under the command of Sir Walter Raleigh in 1596. The eighth is a nuclear submarine.The seventh Warspite, a mighty battleship, a superdreadnought, fought her way through both World Wars, seeing action in some of the greatest naval engagements of the twentieth century.
On 31 May 1916, Warspite took part in the first and largest engagement in her career, the Battle of Jutland.
Warspite’s steering jammed after she had attempted to avoid collision with her sister-ship Valiant. Her captain decided to stay on course, in effect going round in circles, rather than stop and reverse, a decision that would have made Warspite a sitting duck.
Warspite received fifteen hits from main armament guns from the German capital ships, which resulted in considerable damage, so that she came close to foundering.
However, these manoeuvres had the effect of saving the HMS Warrior, for the Germans switched their attention from that badly damaged cruiser to the more tempting target of a battleship in difficulty. This gained her the eternal affection of the crew of Warrior, who believed Warspite‘s actions were intentional.
The crew finally regained control of Warspite after two full circles, though the actions undertaken to stop her circling had the negative aspect of potentially taking her straight to the German High Seas Fleet. So the order was given for Warspite to stop to allow repairs, after which she was underway once more.
During the battle, Warspite was holed 150 times and suffered fourteen killed and many wounded. She sailed for home, despite considerable damage, after being ordered to do so by the commander of the 5th Battle Squadron. On her journey home, she came under attack from a German U-boat which unsuccessfully fired two torpedoes at her. A second attack occurred soon after, with another torpedo launched but missing her.
Only a short while after that incident, Warspite confronted a U-boat directly in front of her; she attempted to ram the U-boat but failed. She safely reached Rosyth, Scotland, where her damage was repaired.
James was promoted to Able Seaman a couple of months after the Battle of Jutland. He served out the war, and was demobilised in February 1919 as a Leading Stoker, having received training as an electrician.
HMS Opal – fail
James Atkinson’s younger brother, Frederick, joined the Royal Navy on 13th February 1917 “for the duration of hostilities”. After training, he was appointed as an Ordinary Seaman to HMS Diligence, but was transferred to the “M” class destroyer HMS Opal.
HMS Opal, like HMS Warspite, was a part of the Grand Fleet at the Battle of Jutland. She also participated in other major fleet sorties during the next two years, as well as pursuing her regular duties of minesweeping, convoy protection and anti-submarine patrols in the North Sea.
On the 12th January 1918, HMS Opal and her sister ship HMS Norbrough ran aground and were wrecked in northern Scottish waters, on the east side of South Ronaldsay Island, Orkney Islands.
Both ships were serving with the Grand Fleet flotillas, and were returning to base at Scapa Flow from patrol off the east coast of the Orkneys on a pitch-black night and in a blizzard. They both ploughed into the rocks of Clett of Crura, halfway down the east coast of South Ronaldsay Island.
In the terrible conditions, just one man survived out of a total of 180 men; an able seaman found 36 hours later stranded on a cliff ledge.
A Court of Enquiry later found that the leading destroyer, Opal, had not made sufficient allowance for sea conditions during course changes.
Frederick Atkinson was among those killed – he had just turned 19. After Fred went down with HMS Opal, James and Fred’s sister, Ethel, wouldn’t look at opals; she always claimed they were unlucky. I don’t think if Fred’s body was ever recovered.
The site of the wrecks is classified as an official war grave.
Do you know much about the naval battles of WWI? Did you lose a relative as a result of the war?
(c) Linda Visman 15.04.2014 (788 words)
Tags: love, Oswaldtwistle, parents
Ernie was fourteen when he first saw Agnes. Of course, he didn’t know her name until much later. At the time, Ernie was working as a butcher’s boy. As well as delivering meat on his bicycle, he used to clean the floors, the equipment and the meat trays in the windows.
One day he looked out of the butcher’s shop window, and noticed a girl about his own age gazing into the window of a gift shop across the road. He watched her until she entered the shop, noticing how pretty she was, and how gracefully she moved. He said to himself then, ‘That’s the girl I’m going to marry’.
It was several years before he saw her again. His family had changed where they lived, and his route to the engineering works where he was an apprentice moulder now ran along the main street of Oswaldtwistle.
As Ernie rode his bike to work, he noticed three girls walking along arm-in-arm. The middle girl was laughing, and her whole being seemed more alive and beautiful than anyone around her. It was the girl he’d seen looking into the shop window.
Every day, Dad rode his bicycle hell-for-leather to catch a glimpse of the girl of his dreams as she walked to or from work. She was always with the other two girls, and she always seemed to be laughing. Bur Ernie never even approached her.
After some time, the group of girls no longer appeared. Ernie had to get used to the idea that he wouldn’t see her walking along Union Road again.
In 1938, Ernie’s family moved again, this time to a new Council housing estate at Trinity Street. Soon afterwards, Ernie’s mother asked him if he’d seen the new people who’d moved in next door.
“There’s a pretty lass coming home now,” she said.
Ernie looked out of the window to see a lovely girl slapping away the hand of the man building the front fence. She walked through the gate and strode into the house with a straight back, not answering the offending worker.
“I know that girl,” said Ernie. He also thought she had lots of spirit.
“Well, she seems to be a good worker,” said his mother. “She’s always cleaning the windows that face our yard.”
Some days later, Ernie walked out of the back door. At the same time, the girl walked out of hers. The doors faced each other, and it was impossible for them not to notice each other. Was her exit planned? They both approached the dividing fence.
The girl looked at Ernie and spoke her first words to him.
“How old are you?”
“Can you dance?”
“If I can’t, I’ll learn,” he said.
Ernie and Agnes went dancing the following weekend, and barely missed a weekend after that.
They were married in November 1941, just before Ernie, who’d joined the RAF, went off to Canada. He would learn to fly there in the newly established Empire Training Scheme. It would be almost a year before they saw each other again.
And that’s how my parents met. They had been married for almost fifty-three years when Agnes (Mum) died in 1994.
Do you know how your parents met? Did they ever tell you?
© Linda Visman 14.04.2014 (554 words)
Tags: family, family support, kith and kin, migration, separation of families
Kith: Old English cȳthth, of Germanic origin; related to couth. The original senses were ‘knowledge’, ‘one’s native land’, and ‘friends and neighbours’. The phrase kith and kin originally denoted one’s country and relatives; later one’s friends and relatives. This is the only way ‘kith’ is used nowadays.
Familial relationships used to be the basis of community in past times, and still are in small village societies where people still live in smaller groups. Such communities are mostly made up of ‘kith and kin’, who depend upon each other for security and support, especially in difficult times.
Grandparents would often care for children so that parents could provide for their families. But as societies grew larger and more sophisticated, this interdependence lessened, especially with the industrialisation of western societies. People paid others to do what family normally would have done.
In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries,, periods of huge waves of international migration, families lost that cohesiveness. They were split apart and millions never saw their children or their parents again
That was the case for my father when we migrated from England to Australia in 1954. Dad never saw his parents again. Mum only did because her parents and brother followed us out here. I have never seen any of the relatives we left behind, and most of them are now gone.
There has also been considerable migration in the past fifty years within countries as family members have to move to find work. My own five sons were scattered across Australia at one time. Four of them have settled closer together now, though one still lives overseas. But they all live too far away for me to see them more than two or three times a year.
There do appear to be indications that families are again having to rely on kith and kin for support. With the high cost of childcare, and the need for both parents to work, relatives, especially grandparents, are increasingly taking on the role they traditionally had.
I just wish my sons lived close enough that I could, at least occasionally, be a minder for my grandchildren.
How much contact do you have with your family? Are they scattered, like mine, or are they close by? Is it better to have some distance between you and them, or would you prefer they were close by?
© Linda Visman 12.04.2014 (360 words)
Tags: Catholic schools, education, Mary MacKillop, Mother Mary of the Cross, nuns, sainthood, Sisters of St Joseph
In early 1956, Dad bought land by the shore of Lake Illawarra and moved our caravan there. By then we’d been living in the van for almost two years.
The four of us kids left St John’s Catholic school which we’d attended in Dapto to go to St Paul’s in Albion Park. Both schools were run by the Sisters of St Joseph – nicknamed the “Brown Joeys” because they wore a brown, rather than a black habit.
The Sisters of St Joseph had established St Paul’s Catholic Primary School in 1882 to serve the needs of the Albion Park Catholic community. Initially known as St Joseph’s, the single building school commenced with three sisters and fifty students. In 1940 the school assumed the name of the parish patron, St Paul.
When we attended there were still only three classrooms and three sisters teaching there. They lived in the convent house next to the school grounds.
The order of the Sisters of St Joseph was started by a woman who was officially canonised as Australia’s first saint in 2010. She was Mother Mary MacKillop, now known as St Mary of the Cross.
Mary Helen MacKillop, born in 1842 in Melbourne, was the first of eight children to Catholics Alexander and Flora MacKillop, who had migrated to Australia from Scotland. The family was poor but the children were all well educated by their father.
Mary worked hard to help the family and at age eighteen, went to Penola as governess to her aunt and uncle’s children, and also taught other local children.
In 1966, with help from Father Woods, her spiritual advisor, she set up a school in an old stable. Her sisters, Anne and Lexie taught with her. Later that year, Mary and Lexie dressed as religious postulants, their way of showing their dedication to God and to the education of poor Catholic children.
In 1867, Mary became the first sister, Mary of the Cross, and Mother Superior of a new order of nuns, the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart. The order embraced poverty and their focus was to teach the poor and those in remote areas of Australia. The order grew to become one of the largest in Australia.
The Head Sister when I was at St Paul’s school was Sr Mammertus. She was very strict, and most children – and even parents – were afraid of her. My favourite nun was Sr Therese, who was young and considerate, quite different to the others. There were only three rooms in the school building, so all classes were multigrade.
I don’t know if it was any harder being taught by the sisters, but the kids at St Paul’s, which has grown enormously, are now taught by lay teachers. With the turn away from religion by many, the religious life no longer holds the attraction it once did, and there are not many nuns now. Even where they do exist, most no longer wear the hot, drab and bulky habits of their predecessors.
What has been your experience of religious nuns? Do you remember the (almost) light-hearted animosity between children at Catholic and non-Catholic schools?
© Linda Visman 11.04.2014 (566 words)
Tags: inspiration, Kate Forsyth, writing ideas, writing prompts
What should I write about? How should I write it? It could be a blog entry or a short story or a poem they’d like to write. Some writers cannot easily bring ideas to mind, whilst others have no problems finding inspiration.
I went to a Writers’ Festival last weekend and attended a “Conversation” with a well-known Australian author. Kate Forsyth has a number of books already published, with four more coming out this year and another four next year. When asked if she ever gets writers block, she said, “Never”. She has more ideas than she can possibly write about.
However every writer isn’t so inspired, so where does one go to find ideas? There are many sources, and some of them are right next to you. Here are some places to go:
- Incidents you have seen or heard about
- Newspaper stories
- Family members and their foibles
- Your own life experiences
- Historical events, family history
- Reading other people’s writing
- Writing prompts in books or on websites
- People you see on the street and elsewhere
- Other people’s lives
- Writing competitions.
There are so many sources of inspiration for writing topics that, if you cannot come up with something, then you must have a problem that is preventing you from seeing them.
I use all of those sources that I have listed, and I have probably forgotten others too.
Here is an acrostic poem that I wrote back in 2005:
I wonder whence ideas come?
Not always when expected -
Sometimes when you’re feeling great, and
I’ve also found, at certain times,
Rational thought in not important;
Amazingly, ideas come
To minds that seem quite mordant!
In point of fact it’s oft asserted, and
Observation does support it, that
Nine out of ten ideas come – when sitting on the toilet!
Do you have difficulty in coming up with ideas for writing? Where do you go to find them?
(c) Linda Visman 10.04.2014 (334 words)
Tags: Bill Cosby, Elizabeth Gaskell, Emily Dickenson, home, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Maya Angelou, song and poetry, TS Eliot, William Jerome
The word ‘home’ evokes strong feelings in people, more than most words. There are many sayings about it – “Home is where the heart is” and “There’s no place like home”, among others.
Many poems and songs are written about home, expressing a love of and a longing for home, or a desire to leave it.
However, when we look at a dictionary for a definition, we get one that in no way reflects those feelings.
The UK Oxford Dictionary: the place where one lives permanently, especially as a member of a family or household.
Free dictionary has nine definitions of the word, and most of them also relate to a place or structure wherein one dwells. But one of those meanings does actually capture what really lies behind the word for most people:
Home is: a. An environment offering security and happiness; b. A valued place regarded as a refuge or place of origin.
Of course, home is not always a refuge or a place of safety and security, but when it is written of in song and poem, that is what it means.
Home is where one starts from, T. S. Eliot.
Where thou art, that is home, a poem by Emily Dickinson.
So, what happens if a person travels a lot and does not ‘settle down’ in one place? Does that person have no home; or if they live in many different houses in different places?
My brother has travelled and lived in a small camper van (mobile home) for many years. Does he have a home? He certainly does – his home is his van.
And my own situation: ever since I first married at the age of twenty, I have lived in more houses in more places than I can remember. The longest in one place, until where I now live, was six years. Have all of those places been a home to me?
Yes, they have; all of them. As Maya Angelou says, I long, as does every human being, to be at home wherever I find myself.
It is not the building or place that makes a home as far as I am concerned. Some of the homes in which I lived weren’t the best, others have been lovely.
The condition of the house, flat, caravan, etc, made no difference to me. It was and still is the people with whom I share that place with.
Until I was twenty, it was my parents and siblings, even when we lived in a caravan. Then it was my husband and our children, until we separated. After that, it was other people with whom I lived and whom I felt close to.
Any old place I can hang my hat is home sweet home to me, the title of a song by William Jerome.
What does home mean to you?
© Linda Visman 09.04.2014
Tags: ancestors, Australia, culture, descendants, differences, England, families, family history, forebears, genealogy, research
Genealogy has several meanings, but the one I focus on in my interest and activity is this: the study of family ancestries and histories.
To many people, genealogy means making their family tree. They look up names and dates and relationships and places, but that is as far as they go. All they want is a chart they can display in a book or on the wall. But to me – and to other serious researchers – genealogy involves many different facets apart from, but also including this.
What is the point of knowing names and dates if you don’t know the people, their relationships within the immediate and extended family, the places they lived, what they did for a living, their place and station in society, their religious and political beliefs? You can’t know a person at all unless you know all these things and unless you know about the times and culture in which they grew up and lived as adults.
Knowing all these things gives us a background to our grandparents’, our parents’ and our own lives. It puts us into a context that can give us a much greater understanding of who we are and how we came to be who we are within our family and society as a whole.
I started researching my family history for a college assignment back in 1976. I had to talk with my parents and anyone else I could in order to complete the assignment. I had always been interested in history but, when I went to school, history revolved around religion and politics, gods and kings. In undertaking this new task, my interest in personal and family origins was ignited.
I worked on researching my background for the next thirty years. Because I was born in England and we had emigrated to Australia when I was only five years old, it was a slow process in the first twenty-five years. I had to do everything through the postal service – applying for my grandparents’ marriage certificates, their birth certificates, etc.
It was a matter of slowly working back through the generations to verify names, dates, places, occupations, and so on.
Along with this slog through the records was a parallel course of research, centred on learning about the times in which my ancestors lived, so that I could catch a glimpse of how they might have lived.
Because those times were different from my own, I had always to remember that they had different beliefs to mine, different laws and understandings, different ways of doing things, and different ways of living. I could not judge them by the standards of the present, for their world was a different one to mine.
In the end, I published a 136-page family history book in 2002, which I expanded to a book of 278 pages in 2005.
I haven’t done much work on the family history since then, as I changed the focus of my interest to other kinds of writing. But I am pleased to say that my interest in genealogy has been inherited by my youngest son, who is carrying on with the original research I did on his father’s side of the family.
I hope that, when I die, I can bequeath my considerable research materials to the National Archives of Australia or to the one in the UK. I don’t think my son has enough room in his house to keep them!
Do you have any interest in the history of your family? Have you done any research, or gathered oral evidence from family members? Have you created a book for your family to share their origins with them?
© Linda Visman 08.04.14 (605 words)
Tags: culture, Eurasian, family, indigenous people, migrant, mixed race, remote area, teaching, writer
2. I dislike all forms of institutionalised religion, especially those that insist you must believe only in their doctrines. I think these have been the cause of a great deal of anguish and violence in the world. I was brought up a Catholic, but it was my parents, not the church who gave me a moral foundation; the church just gave me a lot of guilt.
3. I am a serial monogamist: My first marriage lasted sixteen years; my second relationship lasted twenty good years; I have now been happily married, for the second time for nine and a half years. 4. From my first marriage I have five wonderful sons and six beautiful grandchildren – another due next month. My husband, who was Dutch, has two sons and a daughter, and four lovely grandchildren. We are a very Asia-oriented family; which is a good thing given Australia’s proximity to Asia. Of our combined (eight) children’s spouses, one is Japanese, one Chinese Malaysian, one Chinese and five Caucasian of Anglo descent. Five of our ten grandchildren are Eurasian.
5. I have two brothers and two sisters, and we are all older than we want to be.
6. In this country I have lived in two states (NSW and South Australia) and one territory (Northern Territory), in regions ranging from sea to central desert and other inland areas. I love it all.
7. During the 1990s, I was a teacher, head teacher and principal in two schools in Aboriginal communities located far from Alice Springs in the Northern Territory. Those years were hard in terms of the effort I put into my work, but I loved my time there. The people are very welcoming and they know when they are being bull-shitted. Like any people, if you’re straight with them, care for and respect them, they will love and respect you.
8. I have wanted to write all my life, but until I was 57 in 2005, I thought I couldn’t do anything other than essays and reports (though I did them well). Then my husband encouraged me to try creative writing. This has opened up a well-spring of stories, poems and novels. I have published one YA novel, two children’s novels are almost ready for publication, and I am well into another YA novel. I have also been writing this blog since January 2010, and it has been great for both myself and my writing.
Is there something about you and your life that’s a bit different? Share one interesting fact about yourself.
© Linda Visman 3rd April 2014 (445 words)