More Olfactory memories

January 18, 2016 at 2:00 am | Posted in 1950s, England, Experiences, Memoir, The Senses | 16 Comments
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Last week I wrote about the smell of pine trees and the memories they evoked fifty-five years later. There are a few other aromas that also strongly evoke memories of my childhood.


1. Bacon and baked beans


All my life I have loved the smell and taste of bacon and baked beans. Whenever I have had it, I think of being on the moors back in England when I was little. I didn’t know why this memory always came with this aroma until Dad told me (when I was in my fifties) that he and Mum used to take us for walks out on the moors of Oswaldtwistle. When we were there, Dad, a former Rover Scout, would light a fire and cook up bacon and beans for us. It was a special treat that we didn’t have very often.

When we go camping now, we have eggs and baked beans, with either bacon or sausages, at least once during the trip – my husband has always loved it too.


Sausage, egg, b.beans camping

On one of our trips



2.  Cut grass on a warm day

 Occasionally when I have been driving in the country, I have come to places where council slashers have been busy cutting the long grass along the sides of the road. Sometimes an aroma hits me, and I am taken back to my early childhood in England. I have discovered that the right smell is only there when the cut grass is long and dry, and the air is warm but not too hot. I didn’t know then why this wonderful smell affected me so much – I love it, it brings me a great feeling of happiness.

Whilst visiting Dad over Christmas in 2005, I mentioned it to Dad. He said he always loved the smell of new cut hay in the fields back in England. It was then that I realized what the odour was. Haying time was a great time for kids then. I had picked up those feelings, along with the aroma of hay being cut on a warm day in autumn before I was five years old. They have stayed with me all these years.


Cutting hay in meadow

Cutting hay in a Lancashire meadow today



3. An Isolation Hospital

 When I was about three years old, I had glandular fever and had to go into the isolation cottage at Blackburn Infirmary, where I spent some weeks. It would have been about 1951. I remember being in a cot and wanting Mum and Dad to come and take me home. They weren’t allowed to come in, and I could only see them, and they me, through a window.

There was a smell there that, when I come across it today, always takes me back to that memory. I’d always thought the smell was chloroform, but that wouldn’t be right. It is more likely to be the old kind of cleaning alcohol that was used when giving injections. The modern alcohol cleanser doesn’t seem to have the same smell.


Blackburn & East Lancashire Royal Infirmary early 20thC

The isolation ward was in a cottage at the back of the main hospital


Because of a later association with this odour, another memory also springs to mind. It is of walking past a mobile medical facility that used to occasionally park in the area in front of the shops at Albion Park Rail when I was probably about 10 to 13 years old. I think it was the TB testing unit.



Linda Visman






Christmas Day, 1950s

December 21, 2015 at 2:00 am | Posted in 1950s, Australia, Family History, Growing up in the 1950s and 60s, Religious rites, Special Occasions | 8 Comments
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Going away for a holiday in summer – or at any time – was unheard of in our family when I was growing up. However, the Christmas holidays were always a wonderful time of the year, as they were for all kids. Christmas Day was, for us coming to Australia from England, so different that we may as well have been in another world.


Good King Wenceslas Christmas card sent by Royal Doulton in the 1950s



I still remembered the grey, drab, cold and usually wet days in Lancashire. Sometimes it did snow too. On Christmas morning, we would be rugged up in a coat and hat, with leggings and boots, and a mackintosh, to walk the mile or so to St Mary’s Catholic church for Mass.

How different was the two-mile walk to 7am Mass in Australia. We would set off, without breakfast, just after six o’clock. Our little home was in Albion Park Rail, but the hall where Mass was held was in Oak Flats. Almost always, the day would be clear and bright with no sign of drizzle or smog, and no smoke-blackened stone buildings. Instead of wet or icy stone footpaths, we walked along long, dusty streets that were usually hat as well.

Mum and Dad wore their Sunday clothes, as did we, but instead of the heavy clothes of England, they were light cotton shirts, or dresses (usually made by Mum) and sandshoes (usually freshly whitened by Dad). I remember skipping along the street, light-hearted and happy. The lake was on our left as we walked to church, and the new-risen sun shone from a blue sky onto its still waters, making it gleam and glisten. Everything looked fresh and clean.

There were few houses along our street, and hardly anyone was about so early. But whenever we did see someone, we would call out “Merry Christmas!” and they would respond with a smile and a similar greeting. This made the day even more special.


Aussie Xmas greetings

A wide creek marked the boundary between the two little villages and the halfway point in our walk. An old wooden bridge, missing many of its planks, spanned the creek. We thought crossing it was an adventure, but Mum always called out for us to be careful. It was later replaced by a higher one, still of wood and but with handrails on the sides. We’d stop in the middle and watch the ducks swimming in the water – how many would there be there today?

Mum and Dad would catch up with us at the other side of the creek and we’d climb the steep rise to the road above. This took us to the centre of Oak Flats village, where Mass was held in a small, community hall made of fibro.

Mass was still said in Latin then, but we would follow it with our Missal, that gave both the Latin and English words of the priest and altar boys. It was often boring on other days, but on Christmas morning there was a special joy and reverence that was missing on normal Sundays. I loved listening to the story of the birth of Jesus in the manger, the coming of the shepherds and the wise men.

The walk home included anticipation of breakfast, but also of what we would find under the Christmas tree we’d decorated with bits of tinsel, crepe paper streamers and a star made from cardboard covered with silver paper from Mum’s cigarette packet. With little money to buy presents, we usually received home-made gifts, or clothes we needed for going to church. There were no large items like bikes or doll’s prams.

However, one Christmas, Dad made wooden scooters, one for me and one for my younger sister. Another year, she got a cowgirl outfit and I, being a tomboy, received a cowboy outfit. Apart from the scooter and the cowboy outfit, the best present I ever received as a child was two children’s books of adventure stories. They were the first books I ever owned and I treasured them for many years.

Those years, from age six to ten, were the happiest of my childhood, and the best Christmases that I can remember.

Best wishes from me in Australia to all you lovely blog visitors for a wonderful Christmas, wherever you may be in the world.

Aussie outback Xmas greetings

© Linda Visman

Memories of England (1)

January 12, 2015 at 7:25 pm | Posted in 1940s, 1950s, England, Family, Memoir, Oswaldtwistle | 8 Comments
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This is the first of my entries for Monday Memoir. I am using the Monday Memoir logo from my friend Queasy Peasy’s blog. Thanks to her inspiration, I intend to post entries in this category each Monday.



My Early Childhood

I was born in Oswaldtwistle, Lancashire, England in 1948, and lived there until my family migrated to Australia in February 1954. The Lancashire climate is humid, and the cotton industry flourished there in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. When I say the climate is humid, I mean that it rains a lot there!

Remains of Rhyddings Mill, Oswaldtwistle

Remains of Rhyddings Mill, Oswaldtwistle

There were many huge red-brick cotton mills in and around the town, carding, spinning and weaving cotton products for domestic and overseas markets. There were also all the support industries, such as dyeing and maintenance. Streets of terrace houses had been built by mill owners for their workers. It was in such a terrace house, a “three-up-three-down built of stone, that I and my older brother and my two sisters were born.

By the 1950s, the cotton industry had been killed off by cheap imports from places such as India, and engineering had taken over as the major industry of our district. My father had been a moulder before World War II, but joined the R.A.F. in 1941. When he returned home after he was demobilized in June 1946, he hated being in a foundry and worked outdoors whenever he could.

Mum & Dad with my older brother, 1945.

Mum & Dad with my older brother, 1945.

I have very few concrete memories of my life in England, even though I was old enough to begin school there after the summer holidays until we left in mid-winter. I attended St Mary’s Catholic School with my older brother and sister. We walked over a mile there and back each day in sun and wind, rain and snow and sleet. The only memory I have of school is sitting next to a girl who had head lice; I didn’t like her.

Mum, me & my older sister, about 1950

Mum, me & my older sister, about 1950

Here are a couple of earlier memories that I do have:

Hospital – I was in isolation at Blackburn Infirmary, suffering from glandular fever; aged about 2-3 years.

I’m in a cot. I don’t like being in a cot. I’m standing in the cot and holding the bars, and looking at the door. There is a smell. I don’t like the smell and I don’t like being here. Mummy and Daddy are coming. I can see them. Maybe they will take me home today.

Me and my siblings 1953

Me and my siblings 1953

Toy HorseI am about 2-3 years old

I’m on my horse outside the front of the house. The house is on Roe Greave Road. It is made of stone and is big and solid and dark from all the smoke. All the houses are joined together and there is a whole street of them with doors opening onto the footpath. The footpath outside the house runs between the front wall and the cobbled street. My horse is made of wood and has wheels. I push it along with my feet, but every time it comes to a nick in the footpath it stops, and I have to lift the front wheels over it. It is a bit heavy, but it’s good fun.

 My brother and I playing on the footpath in front of our house c.1950

My brother and I playing on the footpath in front of our house c.1950

Leggings – I am about 3-4 years old

We are going for a walk. It is winter and here is snow on the ground. Mummy is putting on my leggings for me so my legs won’t get cold. I have a coat on over my dress. My leggings are made of thin leather and they are soft and brown. They cover my legs from my shoes to my knees. There are lots and lots of little buttons down the sides and Mummy has to do them all up. I love my leggings and all the little buttons, but I can’t do them up myself.



Buttercups and Bluebells

We’re all going for a walk up to the Top Reservoir, my Mum and Dad, my two sisters and my brother and me – Sheelagh is in her pram. Buttercups cover the ground, bright and golden and cheerful. When I pick one I hold it up to my face. When you hold them up to your face the gold shines on you. Little bits of yellow powder fall off the flower and cover my nose. We come to a glade. Farther on there are trees around, and under them are carpets of bluebells. The whole ground is blue.

When we get to the moors near the water, we have a picnic. Dad cooks baked beans and bacon on a fire. I feel good.

Buttercups – looking over Oswaldtwistle in 2010

Buttercups – looking over Oswaldtwistle in 2010

© Linda Visman

Old Wangi Wangi Power Station

November 2, 2014 at 9:51 pm | Posted in Australia | 15 Comments
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Wangi Power Station 01

As we come into our little town from either direction, I always look across at the old power station. When we go for a walk up and over the top of our hill, the big old building is laid out before us, and I always want to stop and look at it.

Wangi Power Station 03

There is always something about it that draws out a strange feeling of familiarity and belonging – like seeing an old friend I have been missing for a long time but not knowing where I last saw them. I want to just gaze at it, bring it closer, work out what it is that draws me so strongly.

Most people see the building as ugly. It is long, high and basically rectangular, constructed with red brick and with rows of windows along its extensive sides – most of them now broken by vandals. Its three huge chimneys have been location finders and home-coming beacons for boats on Lake Macquarie since the power station was constructed in the 1950s.

The power station took ten years and 1,000 men to build, the last to be built by the NSW Government Railways before the main responsibility for NSW power supply was transferred to the Electricity Commission. It was also the last Railways power station to close. The plant poured its power into the electricity grid from 1956 to 1986.

Wangi Power Station & the adjacent colliery (Image 5163 -Lake Macquarie City Library)

Wangi Power Station & the adjacent colliery (Image 5163 -Lake Macquarie City Library)

A coal-fired operation, the Wangi Wangi Power Station drew its fuel from one adjacent colliery and others nearby. It was actually one of the first power stations to be sited adjacent to its supplying colliery and, for its first five years of operation, was also the largest power station in NSW. These factors are among the major reasons for the building’s heritage listing.

Wangi Power Station 02

Since the insides of the building were gutted of its furnaces, transformers and associated equipment in the 1990s, it has been left almost derelict – though its lawns, trees & shrubs are still kept in order. There has been talk for the last twenty years of the building undergoing retail and/or housing development, but so far nothing has come of whatever plans have been submitted to Council.

Regarding my strange attraction to the old red brick building, I recently had a realisation of where it has come from. I was born in a Lancashire cotton mill town and spent the first five years of my life there before we migrated to Australia. There were lots of spinning, weaving and dyeing mills still standing at that time, though most have since been demolished.

Stone Bridge Mill, one of Oswaldtwistle's cotton mills

Stone Bridge Mill, one of Oswaldtwistle’s cotton mills

The long brick wall of one of these, Rose Mill, ran along the alley behind our home in Oswaldtwsitle. Our home itself was in one of many stone-built two-storey terraces that were constructed to house the mill workers. Our terrace was built in the 1890s. When I was researching my family history, I discovered that my paternal great-grandfather had actually lived and, in 1917 during WWI died, in the three-up-three-down terrace home Dad had bought during WWII and where I and my then three siblings were born.

Roe Greave Rd, Oswaldtwistle 2014 - Google Earth

Roe Greave Rd, Oswaldtwistle 2014 – Google Earth


Where I grew up in Australia, and in most of the other places I have lived in since I was twenty, there were no large brick buildings. On the odd occasion that I go to Sydney, I love to see them there. But it is the power station that stirs my emotions the most.

I have a feeling that it is subconscious memories and feelings from my early childhood being drawn out by the sight of this building. And those buried memories must be happy ones, because I feel happy as well as nostalgic whenever I gaze on it.

The three stacks of the old power station, seen from the lake.

The three stacks of the old power station, seen from the lake.

(c) Linda Visman

Long-lasting Odours

May 10, 2014 at 1:08 pm | Posted in Experiences, Family History, Nature | 8 Comments
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Smell Memorable


At times, I have been struck with a strong memory at the exact time I notice a particular odour. There is no thought to the response; the memory is just there – a simple Pavlovian reaction to a stimulus.




Memories are often aroused by odours that we smelled in the past. Apparently, olfactory stimulation is the most direct line to memory in the brain. Odours can set down strong connections, and bring back people, places and events even from our earliest years.

There are two odours in particular that evoke this response in me. Both of them are associated with walks in the country, and they go back over sixty years to when I was a young child in the former cotton mill town of Oswaldtwistle in Lancashire, England.


Oswaldtwistle Moor (by(Orphan Wiki)

Oswaldtwistle Moor (by(Orphan Wiki)


The first is the delicious odour of bacon, eggs and baked beans being cooked on an open fire out on the moors. Dad and Mum used to take us for walks along country lanes, over hill and dale and open moor. Sometimes we’d go to where the town’s two old water reservoirs overlooked the countryside.

My little sister would be in the big cane pram, while us three older kids walked. Dad would sometimes carry me, the third child, on his shoulders. As well as my sister, the pram carried a frypan, billycan, eggs & bacon wrapped in newspaper, and a can or two of baked beans, plus cooking and eating utensils.


Egg,bacon campfire


When we stopped, around midday, Dad would start a fire and cook up this most wonderful of treats for us. It is a meal that I still relish, and as my husband does too, we have it every couple of weeks. That wonderfully evocative odour has created new memories now, as well as bringing back those long-ago ones of my childhood days in the English countryside.

The second odour is one I had forgotten until, one day, I was driving along an open country road in western NSW, Australia. It was probably about twenty or thirty years after we’d left England.


Central West NSW

Central West NSW


The weather conditions were just right. It was a warm autumn afternoon and I had the car window open. Thick dry grass alongside the road had just been slashed by the local Council as a safety measure. The breeze carried the smell of freshly-cut, sun-warmed hay to my nostrils.

Again, I was immediately transported back to the days when Dad and Mum took us walking in the country. We’d pass several farms along the way, where farm labourers were out performing the task of cutting the long autumn grass and tossing onto haystacks.





The feeling that welled up as my brain processed that odour so many years later was one of great pleasure, enjoyment and belonging. The conditions have been just right only a few times since that day, but when they are, my memory reacts in just the same way. Smell Memory janettoon

What odours evoke strong memories or emotions in you?


© Linda Visman   09.05.14 (504 words)


R is for Roe Greave Road

April 21, 2014 at 8:34 am | Posted in Family History, History, Ways of Living | 11 Comments
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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)


O is for Ostracism

April 17, 2014 at 9:46 am | Posted in Family History, Psychology, Society, Ways of Living | 9 Comments
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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 | 10 Comments
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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)


L is for Love at First Sight

April 14, 2014 at 8:42 am | Posted in Family History, Society, Ways of Living | 7 Comments
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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)

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