U is for Uniform

April 24, 2014 at 11:35 am | Posted in Family History, History, Society, War and Conflict, Ways of Living | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,


A2Z-BADGE-000 [2014]


My grandfather's unit, 1915.

My grandfather’s unit, 1915.

Definition of Uniform: 1. Having one form… 2. A distinctive dress of uniform style, materials and colour worn by and identifying all the members of a group or organisation, esp, a military body, school, etc. (The Macquarie Dictionary).

There are very few people in Australia who have not worn a uniform at some time in their life. Almost all schools here have dress codes that include wearing a uniform – even if many students hate it and try to create variations.

My graduating high school class 1965.

My graduating high school class 1965.

Uniforms are worn to create a feeling of belonging to the group. The idea is to become identified with it to the extent that you will be loyalty, and give your best to it. Sporting teams are a perfect example of this, where every member must work together to get the best result. Wearing the team uniform illustrates their commitment to that.

We didn’t get colour photos then, and there was no way we could adapt our school uniform either. The uniform colours were: maroon tunics and blazers; white shirts; grey trousers for the boys; ties were maroon and gold stripes.

Young Small Schools Champs 1978My sons attended a one-teacher school – two of them for all of their primary school years. Each year, individual children were selected from the small schools in the region to play in one team to play soccer at the regional sports carnival. To create that sense of one-ness that’s needed in a team, the boys (of course it was boys then!) wore a common uniform.


Here are three of my sons on Anzac Day in 1984.

Here are three of my sons on Anzac Day in 1984.

Other groups also identify themselves with the uniform their members wear. Four of my sons belonged to the Boy Scouts.  With their troop they participated in the annual Anzac Day march, as well as other observances.


Even in individual sports, a uniform can indicate that a person is committed to that sport.

Rhee Tai kwon do

Rhee Tai kwon do


Of course, the most obvious uniforms are worn by police or military forces. The uniforms serve two main purposes: one is to identify their role within a in society (to uphold the law or to defend the country); secondly, to give cohesiveness and a sense of mutual support to that group. There are other reasons too, of course.



My paternal grandfather, British Army WWI

My paternal grandfather, British Army WWI

My maternal grandfather, Royal Navy WWI

My maternal grandfather, Royal Navy WWI











 My father, RAF WWII

My father, RAF WWII

My mother's brother, British Army WWII

My mother’s brother, British Army WWII














How often have you chosen to, or had to, wear a uniform. Do you agree that uniforms have value; or do you see them as negating individuality?


© Linda Visman 24.04.2014  (446 words)


T is for Toys: or how kids through the years are entertained

April 23, 2014 at 9:16 am | Posted in Experiences, Mental Health, History, Ways of Living, Family, Family History | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

A2Z-BADGE-000 [2014]


helmsdale-children-playing-marbles c1940s

Children playing marbles, c1940s

Times have changed since I was a child – and even more since my parents were. One of the ways that is very obvious relates to the toys we played with in those our grandchildren do. It was not always what we played with, but also their relative importance, and how toys and new ways of doing things have developed over time.

1920s doll& pram  Mum didn’t talk much about her childhood, and she died before I was able to spend real time with her, so I don’t really know anything about her actual toys. However, I can guess that she would have had dolls, perhaps a pram, and I know she would have had books.

Dad could tell me about his childhood activities. His toys, like Mum’s, reflected society’s gender expectations. What he had would always have been his preference1920s pedal car B anyway, as he loved making things and anything to do with machinery. When he was seriously ill as a four-year-old, his older cousin, also named Ernest, bought him a pedal car and hung it in his bedroom for when he was well again.

Along with other young boys, Dad played marbles and collected cigarette cards featuring famous sportsmen and historical figures. The cards people collected when I was young were put out by a clothing manufacturer, Stamina (no longer existent, and cigarette cards were still available, though not as widely. They are the same thing as the Pokemon or other cards that kids of today collect and play with. And toy cars, dolls and prams still bring joy to little kids.

When Dad was a bit older, his father traded poached game animals for things like Meccano sets and parts, and electric components to make crystal radios and speakers. Dad thus got a good grounding in skills that would serve him well in later years.

Crystal radio set 1930

Crystal radio set 1930


Meccano parts

He would also make things for his younger brother and sisters out of cereal boxes and whatever he could find. Before he was able to buy himself a bike, he found parts to create one. It had no brakes, only a piece of cloth for a seat, and wonky wheels, but it went hell-for-leather down the hill!

When we were young, we made billy-carts out of old pram wheels, a wooden box and planks of wood. Like Dad’s bike, they had no brakes, but they could be steered with ‘reins’, and if you were going too fast down the hill, you could (hopefully) steer into the long grass at the side of the road.

My sons made billy-carts too, and I was glad they did, because it showed creativity and initiative and a willingness to take a chance. All our generations suffered bruises and scrapes, but that was all part of the enjoyment.

Three of my boys & their billycart

Three of my boys & their billycart

We were also good at using whatever was available – for example, sticks became guns or swords or bows and arrows. A sheet became a cubby-house or the sail of a ship, or a cloak.

My 5 boys with their bikes in 1982

My 5 boys with their bikes in 1982

My boys had bicycles, though I never did – my parents couldn’t afford them. Instead, Dad made wooden scooters for me and my younger sister, as well as other toys, also from wood. My little brother got a bought pedal car at three years of age, but that was to help him exercise his polio-affected ankle. Dad also made him a metal scooter when he was a bit older.

Books have always been an important part of all our lives. Dad loved to read, as did Mum – as I did and most of my children, and as my grandchildren do now. Books are valued possessions. Dad didn’t own any when he was a child, and had to rely on the local library. When he was older and able to buy them, he and Mum had a small collection.

stack of books 04I didn’t own books either until my ninth birthday, when I received two. The library was a favourite place to go – when there was one. My children always had books, though not nearly as many as their own children have now. Things like that are much cheaper and more easily obtained nowadays, as well covering a much wider range of genres and interests.

Radio provided entertainment for my parents and also for us until we were teenagers. Then we got television. That took up some of the time we used to fill with toys and other activities, but we were restricted in when we could watch it. We were always encouraged to go out and create our own entertainment.

My children watched TV, but we also restricted their viewing. We also travelled and engaged in other activities. My grandchildren don’t watch nearly as much TV as many of their their peers, but they do have access to a lot more educational programmes than we had. However, my kids are also keen that their children reap the benefits of an outdoor life.

The biggest apparent difference between the toys of my generation and those of children now is the access to electronic devices that didn’t exist in earlier iPadyears. Although traditional toys are still a part of most children’s growing up, and the quality of those toys is much better, many children begin to use electronic devices at a very early age. That is what they want – easy and portable access to creation and adventure in other worlds and realities rather than in the real world. But perhaps that’s not too different to reading books and make-believe play; it’s mainly the format that has changed.

I suppose that wherever kids are, they will find something to play with. Whether it be creating a toy from almost nothing or receiving elaborate and expensive ones from their parents, whether building crystal radios or using an ipad or a Wii, what is important is the fun, the search for adventure, the learning, the exercise of creativity and initiative.

It might also be whatever will keep the kids occupied and out of their parents’ hair.


What were your favourite toys when you were a child? What did your parents have? Do you think children get as much out of their toys as the kids in your day or your parents’ day did?


© Linda Visman 23.04.2014  (1,076 words)


S is for Seashells and Stones

April 22, 2014 at 10:11 am | Posted in Nature, Australia, Ways of Living, Family, Travel, Family History | 4 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

A2Z-BADGE-000 [2014]

seashells &stones


I love shells, and I love stones too; shells and stones of all shapes and sizes and textures. The beach is made up of fragments of shells and stones and many shells and various kinds of rock have their own beauty.

From the time I was about six or seven years old, we had access to the beaches of  Shellharbour and Kiama in eastern NSW. Like many kids do, I collected shells. I always wanted to create something using them, but didn’t know how.

When I was about fourteen, I worked out what I could make and drew the outline of Australia on a piece of plywood. I filled in the outline with small shells I had collected from the beach – mainly from Shellharbour. Then I drew the more complex outline of the British Isles on another piece of board and filled that in with small shells too. Both were finished with a couple of coats of varnish.

My shell map

My shell map

I hung them in my room, where they stayed until I got married and left home. I forgot all about them for a long time.  Almost 45 years later, as I was checking through a cupboard at Dad’s, I was really surprised to come across the one of Britain. It was in fairly good shape and had only lost a few of its shell.

Mum was also a shell lover, even more than I was. She  decorated objects with shells too. Dad made things from wood for her – a small wishing well and a wheelbarrow are two I particularly remember. She covered them with shells and made very attractive ornaments from them.


Wheelbarrow: made by Dad, decorated by Mum

Mum also took things like mirrors and pictures, and dressed them up with shells – small or large, depending on the size of the mirror. I have the small mirror that hung in their bathroom for many years, and another from their bedroom. However, the one from the front room was just too big to keep!

One of Mum’s smaller mirrors

Mum also bought larger shells that she particularly liked, and a couple of wall plaques that featured seashells. Dad kept everything after she died in 1994. When he died last year, all the shell items except those that I been given, were sold as part of his estate.


A few of Mum’s shells

After Dad retired in 1981, he and Mum made occasional trips around the state, towing a small caravan. On those trips, Mum was always on the lookout for nice shells, and rocks too. One of the pieces of rock she collected from out west served for many years as the front doorstop at their home. It now resides on our verandah.

Mum's quartz door stop

Mum’s quartz door stop

I have collected unusual stones and rocks for many years, not by following slavishly in Mum’s footsteps though. I gained a love of them after I’d been married and living out west, far from my parents for some years. I learned a bit about the types of rock, like igneous, sedimentary, metamorphic and so on, and usually had some stones and rocks around the place.

My piece of petrified tree branch.

My piece of petrified tree branch.

For a few years, Mum and Dad collected small pebbles, and Dad polished them in a tumbling machine he made himself. He made bracelets and pendants for Mum from polished stones. I now own one of each of them – nobody else among my siblings is interested.

Pebbles on the shore, Lake Macquarie, NSW.

My youngest son is a geologist – I think he loves stones too. Maybe I had some sort of influence on that – I’d like to think so.

I haven’t gone into why I love shells and stones here; maybe it would be too hard to sort out any particular reasons for it. I just know that I love their beauty, their colours, their textures and their composition, and I am amazed at their variety. Rocks are the basic component of our world, and if they weren’t here for us, we wouldn’t be here either.


Gorge in Karijini National Park Western Australia

Rocky Gorge in Karijini National Park Western Australia


Do rocks, stones, seashells affect you at all?  What do you like or even dislike about them? Do you collect natural objects, or make things from them?


© Linda Visman  22.04.14  (709 words)



R is for Roe Greave Road

April 21, 2014 at 8:34 am | Posted in Family History, History, Ways of Living | 2 Comments
Tags: , , , , , ,

A2Z-BADGE-000 [2014]


Roe Greave Rd 2014 Google Maps

Roe Greave Rd in 2014. From Google Maps

Roe Greave Road was originally an unpaved road at the south west corner of Oswaldtwistle that led from Union Rd, the main thoroughfare, to Rhoden Rd and the farms on the edge of town. It was later cobbled – possibly when the nearby cotton mills were built.

I cannot discover the meaning of Roe Greave, except that there was a Roe Grove I discovered on a 1848 map in that area. So perhaps it was the site of a grove of trees, and the name changed from grove to greave. The Roe part of the name may refer to the roe deer, a small forest deer that was once native to Britain, but had died out there by 1800. Oswaldtwistle certainly existed at least as far back as the 13th century, so perhaps the name originally referred to a small forest where roe deer could be found. This is all my own supposition.

Oswaldtwistle, about 1950

Oswaldtwistle, about 1950

A row of stone terrace house was built along Roe Greave Rd about 1870s or 1880s to house mill workers and their families at Rose Mill (later to be known as Houghton’s Mill). I believe it was there in the 1891 census.

Houghton’s was a large brick weaving mill that backed onto Roe Greave Rd and ran alongside the backs of many houses there. A laneway ran between the towering wall of the mill and the double-storey terraces.

The back wall of the tiny terrace house yards had access to the alley via gated chutes in the wall to the coal scuttle for each house. Coal would be delivered by cart (later truck). One day, when we were going out and I was wearing a new red coat (I was 2 or 3 at the time), I went missing. Mum & Dad found me eating coal in the coal scuttle.

Mum with her dog at the door of #139. 1940s

Mum with her dog at the door of #139. 1940s

Another small gate opened to a place where household rubbish was left. A contractor would come and shovel it out from the laneway side into the sanitary cart.

The toilet was also in the back yard, a brick outhouse in a corner that had a ‘tippler’ toilet. One day, Mum caught my brother trying to put the cat down the hole.

At some stage possibly in the second decade of the 20th century, and perhaps because the mill employed fewer workers, the homes in the row were sold to individuals who either lived in them or rented them out.

Agnes & Ernie Thompson in back yard at Roe Greave

Agnes & Ernie Thompson in back yard at Roe Greave, c.1946.

During WWII, in about 1943/44, my parents bought number 139 in the row of terraces. The house was a three-up-three-down. That is, there were three rooms upstairs and three downstairs. Between 1945 and 1950, my older brother & sister, myself and my younger sister were born there (no hospital for most then).

Me & my siblings, 1951

Me & my siblings, 1951

The front doors of the terrace houses opened directly onto the footpath that ran alongside the street. We would play on the pavement with our trike. We also had a sit-on horse with small wheels but no pedals. I remember pushing it along with my feet, but having to lift it up every time I came to a ‘nick’ in the flagstone pavement.

PaulineThompson &trike.at139 Abt.1950

My sister on our trike. Note flagstone pavement.

We lived at 139 until we left to come to Australia in early 1954. My mother’s brother took over payments on the house and lived there for some years, then sold it at a handsome profit.

Mum & her 3 girls on Roe Greave Rd, c.1952

Mum & her 3 girls on Roe Greave Rd, c.1952. Note the cobblestone street surface.

When I was researching my family history, I discovered that my great-grandfather Peter Thompson had rented the very same house during WWI and that my grandfather lived there before he joined up. Peter Thompson died at # 139 Roe Greave Rd in 1917. I found it satisfying to find that, unknown to my parents, we’d already had a connection to the house before they bought it, and that four of Peter’s descendants were born in the house where he died.

139 Roe Greave Rd 2014, Google maps

139 Roe Greave Rd (centre door) 2014, Google maps


Do you still remember the house where you were a child? Are any of your family members still there?


© Linda Visman  21.04.14  (702 words)


Q is for Quotations

April 19, 2014 at 9:10 am | Posted in Family, Family History, Mental Health, Philosophy, Ways of Living | 10 Comments
Tags: , , , , ,

A2Z-BADGE-000 [2014]



There are often certain people in one’s family or circle of friends who are known for the things they say or have said. They have often become part of family lore, associated with that person, often with either a laugh or a grimace.

It can be the same with our friends too. For instance, the normal response to discussions about a problem from a woman we know is a sigh and the comment, “But what can you do?” Another always says, “It’s a worry”.

My family has its own little quirky sayings, and many seem to have rather a philosophical bent. It is mainly two people who had sayings they used quite often, sayings that have been passed down through the generations. In many ways, these favourite sayings illustrate aspects of their character, as they express beliefs they adhered to and lived by.


Teddy Thompson 1949, with a grandson & his faithful dog Monty.

Teddy Thompson 1949, with a grandson & his faithful dog Monty.

The adages of my grandfather Teddy Thompson, the poacher and WWI veteran, who died in 1950, have been handed down by his son Ernie, my father. Here are a few:

- “If you see a man walking towards you down the same side of the street and he crosses to the other side, he owes you money. If he crosses from the other side to yours, you owe him money.”

- “Income: one pound; out go: 19 shillings and sixpence– a happy man. Income one pound; out go one pound and sixpence– an unhappy man.”

- “Laws are made fer them as keeps ‘em.”

- When Granddad was in the army, he used to play a betting game called Crown & Anchor. He always made money when others lost theirs. That was because he followed his own advice: “Always be the banker, they’re the only ones who win.”


Ernie Thompson 2007, aged 86

Ernie Thompson 2007, aged 86

Dad had lots of sayings too. Some were his own, but others were ones he heard that reflected his own open and positive attitude to life. In his later years, he quoted them often.

- When asked how he was, he would say: “top of the world”. Everyone in the district identified Dad as the ‘top of the world’ man. He later expanded this to, “top of the world, fighting fit and getting younger every day.”

- When someone said it was a nice day, Dad would reply in one of two ways: 1. “Every day’s a nice day; sometimes the weather’s better than others”; or 2. “If you can get out of bed and walk away from it, it’s a good day.” Then he would add, “ Do you realise how many people couldn’t do that this morning?”

- When someone talked about ‘a problem’, Dad would say, “There are no problems in life, only challenges”.

- If he was a bit late for a meal and you told him it was getting cold, he’d say, “It’s a poor belly that can’t warm up a bit of cold food”.

- When we talked about how hard it was to do anything about the problems of the world, he’d say, “Do what you can, for as many as you can, however you can, wherever you can, for as long as you can”.

- Dad was legally blind (10% decreasing to 3% vision) for the last twenty years of his life. When anyone mentioned it as a problem, he’d say, “No it’s not. I look in the mirror and I don’t see any wrinkles; and every woman looks beautiful to me”.

- When walking through a large shopping mall with his tapping stick, he had enough vision to see the movement of people. He said, “As I walk along, they separate like the bow wave on a battleship”.


Agnes Thompson Eng.1974 (2)

Agnes Thompson on a visit to England 1974

Mum had a few of her own common expressions too.

- About a pushy person: “S/he’s not backward at coming foreward!”

- Two expressions of amazement that came from Oswaldtwistle were: “Well, I’ll go to our house!”; and “Well, I’ll go to t’top o’ t’stairs!”

- When something was done well, she’d say (and so would Dad): “Go to the top of the class and kiss the teacher!”

- When something was done well enough: “It’s as near as makes no never-mind.”

A saying she liked, but which applied to neither her nor Dad was, “Patience is a virtue, possess it if you can. Seldom found in women, and never in a man.”

Well, that’s probably enough!

If you woke up

Do you have sayings in your family that have been passed down, or that identify a certain member of the family?


© Linda Visman 19.04.14  (699 words)


P is for Poacher

April 18, 2014 at 9:21 am | Posted in Family History, History, Philosophy, Society, Ways of Living | 9 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

A2Z-BADGE-000 [2014]



No, not that poacher. The one I’m talking about isn’t a gadget that cooks eggs.

I mean real poachers, the people who nick (pinch, steal) animals that don’t technically belong to them.

But I don’t mean poachers who take endangered wildlife, kill them and cut off their horns or tusks, and leave their bodies to rot either. Nothing like that!

The poacher I am talking about is the one who takes animals that are abundant, like rabbits and hares, pheasants and partridge from the estates of a wealthy landholder in early 20th century England.


My grandfather, Teddy Thompson, was a poacher, and a very good one. He knew the countryside – the woods and the moors – and the animals and plants that lived there better than most people.

He netted rabbits and hare, and snared or shot the birds. He made his own nets and was a champion clay-bird shooter. Throughout the Great Depression he fed his own family – and others too – when they would otherwise have been in dire straits. He kept the larder stocked and he didn’t get caught.

ER Thompson, Ern,Eddie,Edna

Teddy kneels behind his daughter. My dad is the eldest son, on the right.

Legally, he was breaking the law. Morally, he considered what he did justified. The wealthy landowner didn’t hunt these animals for food – only for sport. Also, the notion of privilege that the game laws embodied was abhorrent to him. The wealthy didn’t need a permit to net or shoot rabbits, whereas the lower classes had to purchase a licence, and at a significant cost, given their meagre income. They also had strict limits on where and how many they caught.  Teddy considered it wrong that people should have special rank and privileges just because of the station they were born into.

Dad told me many stories about what Teddy did. Among them are a couple I will share.

He used to catch pheasant and partridge and sell them to well-off  and eager businessmen in the town. Sometimes, the man would pay in cash, which helped pay the rent. At other times, Granddad would ask if the fellow had meccano or electrical stuff his son might no longer need. Dad always had plenty of parts to make crystal radios, which he then sold. He also made things for his parents, as well as his younger brother and sisters.

One time, a farmer asked Teddy if he would catch some rabbits to put in his fields for his son to shoot. Teddy netted the twenty animals the farmer had requested, and went to collect the money he’d been promised. But the farmer reneged on the promise. That night, Teddy went back to the farm, caught the twenty rabbits again and set them free elsewhere.

Edward&EdwardR Thompson &dog Abt 1946 (2)

Granddad may not have been law-abiding in some ways, but he was a very moral man. He was willing to go against laws or customs that he saw as unfair. My father also learned to hate the injustices of the class system that he grew up in, and always admired and respected his father for standing up against them.

One example where this is evident was at the interview Dad had on completion of his flying training. This interview was in front of about five senior officers “all showing off their medals and gold braid”, and would determine the rank that each man would be given before being assigned to a squadron.

Dad said the interview went well, as he’d gained high marks and shown a lot of talent as a fighter pilot. Indeed, he was at the top level of the group that was passing out, and had better results than most of the upper class men – those who would automatically be given an officer’s commission.

RAF pilot wings

The last question of Dad’s interview came from the biggest brass at the end of the row. “What does your father do for a living?”

Dad was incensed that what his father did would have any bearing on the rank he would be given. Teddy was a fire beater (stoker) of a steam engine in a cotton mill, but that isn’t what Dad answered.

“He’s a poacher, Sir”.

Dad didn’t receive an officer’s commission. He was given non-commissioned rank instead.

What do you think of traditional social divisions? Is it morally right to prevent someone from feeding his family just because he comes from a lower level of society?


© Linda Visman 18.04.14  (715 words)

O is for Ostracism

April 17, 2014 at 9:46 am | Posted in Family History, Psychology, Society, Ways of Living | 5 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

A2Z-BADGE-000 [2014]


It was some time in 1914 when Teddy and Hannah first met as they walked along the grimy back lanes of Oswaldtwistle to the cotton mills where they both worked. Teddy would have been 21 years of age and Hannah 19 or 20.

Unknown courting couple, early 1900s

Unknown courting couple, early 1900s

I imagine them eventually saying hello, as you do when you see each other every day, possibly even twice a day. I suppose they started chatting as they walked, gradually learning more about each other, and coming to look forward to those early mornings and late evenings.

I know that they came to care for each other. Teddy did everything he could to get Hannah to go out with him. He was trying to court her, but she was adamant that it wasn’t possible. There was a reason for Hannah’s reluctance that had nothing to do with her feelings.

Hannah was a weaver in the mill, an occupation higher than most jobs. Weavers often made better money that other mill workers. She was the daughter of James, who also worked at the cotton mills. However, James was an engine tenter, an overseer in charge of the steam engines that operated the machinery in the mill. As such, he was of a higher social class. He was also a Catlow, originally de Catlow (from the Norman Invasion), a family of once-wealthy landowners that could trace its presence in Oswaldtwistle to at least the 12th century.

James Catlow and family in 1916. Hannah is third from the right, behind her father.

James Catlow and family in 1916. Hannah is third from the right, behind her father.

Teddy was the son of Peter Thompson, a coke burner; burning coal to make charcoal. It was a dirty job and left to the poorer people to perform. Teddy himself was ‘just’ a labourer. They were working class people and as such were looked down upon by most of the better off.

Although Hannah cared for Teddy, she knew she would greatly suffer from her father’s disapproval if she went out with him. Even talking with someone like Teddy would have angered that proud man, let alone admitting that Teddy had asked her to marry him.

Teddy was very upset at Hannah’s rejection, which he could neither understand nor accept. The Great War had broken out at the end of 1914. In early 1915, distressed at the social norms that separated him from Hannah, Teddy volunteered and joined the British Army. He arrived in France in June 1915.


In 1919, aged 25, and with four years of hell in the trenches behind him, Teddy returned from the war a more determined man. Hannah was 24 and still unmarried. Teddy renewed his pursuit of her and she eventually gained the courage to defy her father, who had told her she would be ostracised from the family if she married the man she loved.

They married in July 1920. True to his word, James Catlow never spoke to her again. He also forbade his other children from having any contact with their sister. It wasn’t until after James’s death four years later that any contact was resumed. Even then, it was not too cordial – James had done a good job on several of the family.

However, in 1932, Teddy and Hannah’s son Ernie (my father) was invited to be a pall-bearer at the funeral of his cousin Walter Catlow. Ernie also became friends with his cousin Miriam Catlow, a friendship that lasted until Miriam’s death in the late 1990s.

The only known photo of Teddy & Hannah together. 1947

The only known photo of Teddy & Hannah together. 1947

That’s how my grandparents (Dad’s parents) met and married, and stayed happily married too, until Teddy died of cancer in 1950, aged 57.


Have you come across anything like this in your family? What happened in the end?


© Linda Visman  17.04.14  (623 words)




Nicknames – in Oswaldtwistle

April 16, 2014 at 11:01 am | Posted in Family History, Society, Ways of Living | 8 Comments
Tags: , , , ,

A2Z-BADGE-000 [2014]


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”!

There&Back Again Lane sign


Do you have nicknames in your family? What are their origins?

© Linda Visman  16.04.14  (367 words)


M is for Maritime Manoeuvres – a pass & a fail

April 15, 2014 at 8:39 am | Posted in Family History, History, War and Conflict | 2 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

A2Z-BADGE-000 [2014]


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.

James Atkinson HMS Telemachus WWI

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.

HMS Warspite

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.

James Atkinson & Agnes Moxham c.1918-350

James married Agnes Moxham a few months after returning home.



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.

Fred A 1917

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.

HMS Opal 1917

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.

WW1 Memorial Plaque aka the Dead-Man's Penny

WW1 Memorial Plaque aka the Dead-Man’s Penny

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)

L is for Love at First Sight

April 14, 2014 at 8:42 am | Posted in Family History, Society, Ways of Living | 4 Comments
Tags: , ,

A2Z-BADGE-000 [2014]


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.

Agnes (left) walking with a friend, about 1936. Age 16

Agnes (left) walking with a friend, aged 16 in 1936.

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.

Agnes&ErnestThompson wed.1941-350 (2)

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)

Next Page »

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com. | The Pool Theme.
Entries and comments feeds.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 267 other followers