UK Trip 3 May 2005: Hayes family in Somerset

Continued from UK trip 2 May 2005: Heathrow to Bath | Khanya

We woke up at at Pickford House, Beckington, at 5:00 am, to the sound of birds singing, and the sun rising over the Somerset fields. Went down to breakfast at 7:30, and then set off for Bristol to fetch my second cousin Mary Jane Conway. We drove through Norton St Philip, to miss the Bath traffic, but the road was still pretty busy, and signposting got less adequate the closer we got to the centre of Bristol, so we ended up going around under the Clifton suspension bridge, which was a nice thing to see anyway, but had difficulty finding the area where Jane Conway’s house was. We stopped to ask at an estate agent’s, and when we eventually found it there was nowhere to park, so Val went in and brought Jane out, and then we went off to Kelston, travelling through Bitton, where our great great grandparents James Andrew Hayes and Catherine Chaffey were married in 1846, but didn’t see the church, which was off the road. But at least we got a picture of what the village looked like.

We found Upper Lodge, Kelston, without difficulty, and Josephine Tsegaye, our 5th cousin, was there with her sister Catharine Stokes, and we chatted to them about the family history, and I got Catharine’s information up to date, as well as the details of her children.

Hayes cousins: Josdephine Tsegaye, Mary Jane Conway, Catharine Stokes, Stephen Hayes. Kelston, Somerset 3 May 2005

Hayes cousins: Josephine Tsegaye, Mary Jane Conway, Catharine Stokes, Stephen Hayes. Kelston, Somerset 3 May 2005

They had a Liberal Democrat poster outside their gate. There was to be a general election, but the political campaigning seemed more subdued than in South Africa, with most of the posters being smaller. We had seen mostly Liberal Democrat ones, and a few Conservative ones, but very few Labour. In South African cities election posters were tied to every lamp post, but here they were tied to people’s fences, so one could guess the political affiliation of the residents.

Looking at the family history: Steve Hayes, Josephine Tsegaye, Mary Jane Conway, Catharine Stokes. 3 May 2005

Looking at the family history: Steve Hayes, Josephine Tsegaye, Mary Jane Conway, Catharine Stokes. 3 May 2005

After lunch we took Jane Conway to Winscombe, Somerset, where our great great great grandparents Simon Hayes and Rachel Allen were married in 1814, and took photos of the church, and got copies of the parish magazine.

The road to Winscombe, at the foot of the Mendip Hills in Somerset 3 May 2015

The road to Winscombe, at the foot of the Mendip Hills in Somerset 3 May 2015

The church of St James was quite a way from the centre of the village.Simon and Rachel Hayes had four sons, one of whom died young. The other three moved to Bristol where they were builders and carpenters.

St James's Church, Winscombe, Somerset. 5 May 2005

St James’s Church, Winscombe, Somerset. 3 May 2005

We then went to Axbridge, to see where our great grandfather William Allen Hayes had spent the latter part of his life as landlord of the Red Lion pub, and my grandfather Percy Hayes had grown up. William Allen Hayes had married Mary Barber Stooke, and was first a builder in Bristol before moving to Axbridge to run the pub.

The building that was formerly the Red Lion pub in Axbridge High Street, though when we saw it in 2005 it was no longer a pub but a private house.

The building that was formerly the Red Lion pub in Axbridge High Street, though when we saw it in 2005 it was no longer a pub but a private house.

The Red Lion is no longer a pub, but a private house. Nevertheless, Jane, bold as brass, knocked on the
door and asked if we could have a look inside. It was now owned by an American couple, David and Juliet Maclay. David’s family were from Boston, and he does historical restorations, and offered us a cup of tea and showed us the library he had built upstairs, which was very kind of him to do for complete strangers. He also had an interesting icon of Ronald Reagan making a speech, with Henry Kissinger and others floating round his head like demons to tempt him, and side panels showing American atrocities in various parts of the world.

Icon of former  US President Ronald Reagan in the old Red Lion pub in Axbridge 3 May 2005.

Icon of former US President Ronald Reagan in the old Red Lion pub in Axbridge 3 May 2005.

We went to the square, and took some photos of the church, and a woman was coming to lock it just as we got there, but let us look at it. She said she locked it because she was the one who lived closest.

Parish church in Axbridge, Somerset. 3 May 2005

Parish church in Axbridge, Somerset. 3 May 2005

We drove up the Cheddar Gorge, and took some photos there as well, and then took Jane home. It was interesting to see the Cheddar Gorge, as that was where my grandfather had grown up, and we have some photos in an old family album that show it.

Cheddar Gorge, Somerset 3 May 2005

Cheddar Gorge, Somerset 3 May 2005

It was after 7:00 pm, so the traffic was not too bad, and we drove in through Bedminster where the Hayes family had lived in the second half of the 19th century. On the way Jane Conway commented about the election, and said how horrified Mummy would have been that there was a Labour
government, and at the thought of the Tories not being elected. We found that rather strange and wondered how many other people of her age (77) would take their political opinions from their parents so unquestioningly. There was still no parking outside Jane’s house, however, so we said goodbye
to her at the gate, and drove back to Josephine’s house via Bitton and Kelston again.

Josephine’s father, Crofton Hayes, had also been in the building trade, and had had a firm of shopfitters. He had a large house near Kelston, and two of his daughters lived in the attached lodges, though the main house had been sold after he died.

Upper Lodge, Cleeve Hill, Kelston, Bath, home of Josephine and Ezra Tsegaye. 3 May 2005

Upper Lodge, Cleeve Hill, Kelston, Bath, home of Josephine and Ezra Tsegaye. 3 May 2005

We were hoping to meet Josephine’s sister Lydia Curtis, whom she said had most of the historical information on the family, but by the time we got there it was too late to go to see them, so we chatted to Josephine instead, and she told stories about some members of the family. We were also sorry not to meet Josephine’s husband Ezra, who had been ill. He was originally from Ethiopia.

We drove back to Beckington quite late that night, and were beginning to be quite familiar with that road.

Continued at UK Trip 4 May 2005: Somerset, Devon & Cornwall.

Index to all posts on our UK trip here UK Holiday May 2005

UK Trip May 2005

Ten years ago, on 1 May 2005, Val and I set off on a holiday trip to the UK. We didn’t have this blog then, but I’m in the habit of rereading my diary for 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 and 60 years ago, so I thought I’d make a kind of blog record here, as a reminder. I’ll put most of the family bits in this blog, some some of the parts where we visited friends I might put in one of our other blogs, but will have links so that anyone interested in following them in order can do so.

Because of our interest in family history, we hoped to visit relations, some of whom we had never met before, and also some of the places our ancestors had come from. We also hoped to visit old friends.

Val had visited the UK in 1971, and I had gone there for postgraduate study at St Chad’s College, Durham, from 1966-1968. It was over 30 years since either of us had been there, so there were many changes, some expected, and some not.

“Come receive the light”. Paschal Nocturns at St Nicholas, Brixton, 1 May 2005

Index to all posts on our UK trip here UK Holiday May 2005
We left on Easter Sunday, so the day began in church, or rather outside the church, with the reading of of the resurrection Gospel and the Paschal greeting, at the Church of St Nicholas of Japan in Brixton, Johannesburg. We took some members of our Mamelodi congregation to the service as well.

The Paschal Liturgy was done in great haste, and Fr Mircea did not have the Easter Kiss before the Homily of St John Chrysostom (which he got me to read, and I read it from Hapgood’s translation, which is quite powerful). But we did have it at the end, and we did not have the Romanian bread and wine ceremony.

We took Johanna Ramohlale and her friend to the hostel at the medical school, and got home about 4:30 am. Went to lunch at the Dros, and all had lamb shanks and ice cream. Then came home and packed, and Jethro took Simon to work, and then took us to the airport, and dropped us off there.

We went through check-in and immigration, and then tried to change money
into pounds, but everywhere we tried had run out. We took South African Airways Flight SA234 to London, which left at 20:05, and had seats right next to the galley. Dinner was beef potjiekos and rice. In-flight films I watched were Ladies in Lavender, about two elderly sisters in Cornwall who found a Polish violinist on the beach, and the Lemony Snicket film about a family of orphans who are trying to resist a wicked uncle trying to deprive them of their inheritance. I slept through part of it, but don’t think I missed much.

Continued here.

Index to all posts on our UK trip here UK Holiday May 2005

Trimming a tree

Back in the spring we took some photos of the thorn tree in the corner of our garden, all over yellow catkins. Now it is autumn, and the catkins have all turned into seedpods. We thought it might be interesting to take pictures at various times of the year to show the changing of the seasons, but then a couple of weeks ago we lost half of it, when some of the bigger branches broke off and fell down.

Fallen branches from our tree

Fallen branches from our tree

So we had to get some people to cut up the fallen branches and take them away. They made pretty quick work of it with chain saws.

Workmen cutting up the fallen branches

Workmen cutting up the fallen branches

Within a couple of hours the fallen branches had gone, and they trimmed a couple of others that looked a bit dangerous.

FalTree3And now our tree reminds me a bit of Aslan, when he was shaved for the slaughter.

The trimmed tree

The trimmed tree

 

Proposed trip to Western Cape: August 2015

In August 2015 we are hoping to visit the Western Cape to do some family history research, and also to see living relatives and friends.

Since we are now both retired, it will probably be the last chance we will ever have to go on such a holiday trip, and to visit the Cape Archives for research.

We are hoping, in particular, to find out more about the Morris, Stewardson and Dixon families, and ones related to them. Members of all these families were traders in what is now Namibia from 1840 onwards, They would trade manufactured goods (cloth, knives, axes & guns) for cattle, ostrich feathers and ivory. They would drive the cattle overland to Cape Town for market, replenish their stock-in-trade, and return by sea to Walvis Bay.

So we hope to travel down the N14 to the Northern Cape, with stops at Kuruman and Aughrabies Falls. The N14 joins the N7 at Springbok, and we hope to spend a few days at Kamieskroon, exploring that area, which the old-timers passed through on their way between Damaraland and Cape Town. One of the places that has been mentioned in their journeys is Leliefontein, the Methodist mission station, and one member of the Morris clan, Thomas Morris, is said to have lived there at one time.

Another Morris, Abraham, also lived in the area when he was on the run from the Germans. He was one of the leaders of a rebellion against German rule in South West Africa in 1904. Sorting out the relationships between the various members of the Morris family is difficult, and a lot depends on compiling a chronology to show which members of the family were in which places at what times.

The area, called Namaqualand, is also famous for its wild flowers in spring, so we are hoping to see some of them too.

The families that livedf in or passed through Namaqualand are not the only ones we are interested in, of course. We’ll be looking up others — Green, Tapscott, Decker, Falkenberg, Crighton, MacLeod/McLeod, Growdon and many others in the archives as well, and, we hope, in real life too.

Devil's Peak, Cape Town, 2011

Devil’s Peak, Cape Town, 2011

When in Cape Town we usually stay at the Formula I Hotel (called something else now). It’s reasonably cheap, and very conveniently placed for going to the archives. The problem is, it’s very inconvenient for just about everything else — it’s in a semi-industrial area, so there is nothing to do there in the evenings, and nowhere in the vicinity where one can even get something to eat. But we hope that after the archives close at 4:00 pm we can visit family and friends, so if you know us, and wouldn’t be averse to a visit, please contact us and let us know (see form below).

While in the Western Cape, or possibly on the way home, we hope to pay another visit to the Orthodox Centre at Robertson, and perhaps also to the Volmoed Community at Hermanus, to meet John de Gruchy and put the finishing touches to our book on the history of the Charismatic Renewal in South Africa, which we hope to have ready for publication by the end of the year.

We are planning to return via the Eastern Cape and Free State, though with less definite ideas about the route. Quite a lot will depend on what we find in Cape Town, and whether we need to look at the Methodist Church archives in Grahamstown.

I’ve been twice up the N7 from Cape Town to Windhoek, in 1971 and 1972, but on both occasions I passed through Namaqualand in the dark, so neither of us has ever actually seen it before.

If you would like to meet us when we travel to the Western Cape in late August/early September, please use the contact form below so we can get in touch to let you know when we will be around and arrange to meet. Please note that whatever you type in this form will be seen only by me — it is not public! It will help us to see who we should try to get in touch with on our travels.

 

Beyond the Orange: trading families in Namibia

Beyond the Orange: Pioneers in a Land of Thirst and PerilBeyond the Orange: Pioneers in a Land of Thirst and Peril by Marius Diemont

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In May 1844 Frank Bassingthwaighte, a blacksmith turned sailor, was at St Helena Island when Thomas Lawton a trader from Walvis Bay came aboard his ship, and recruited him to work for him and and his partners, so he transferred to the Susan and went back to Walvis Bay with Lawton, whose partners, Ben Dixon and James Morris (erroneously referred to as Thomas Morris in the book), had a contract to supply meat to the British garrison on St Helena.

This book is the story of Frank Bassingthwaightte and his eldest son James, several of whose descendants still live in Namibia today.

Frank Bassingthwaighte married the boss’s daughter — Rebecca Dixon — which did little to advance his career, since they lost the contract a few years later, and the partnership broke up. The Dixon family moved to the Northern Cape, where they had a farm, and the Bassingthwaightes also lived there for part of the time, and young James stayed with his grandparents until he was 9 years old, and then went back to Namibia to join his parents, and found himself kept busy working as a herdboy, wagon driver and various other jobs.

The Bassignthwaightes were sometimkes farmers, sometimes traders, and sometimes hunters, but their hard work did not make them rich, and they had long thirsty treks through the semi-desert country of the Northern Cape and Namibia with little to show for it except dead oxen and horses that had died of thirst.

Towards the end of his life Frank was infirm and could not do much, but he still travelled around with his son, apparently loving the wandering nomadic life.

James Bassingthwaighte married Philipina Von Schlicht — according to her father she was marrying beneath her — and they had several children. She died young, and James brought up his family as a single parent. The Germans took over Namibia, and the Bassingthwaightes lost the family farm at Neuheusis because they lived in such remote areas that they did not hear of the regulation requiring them to register it until it was too late.

In the First World War the South Africans invaded and took over from the Germans, and threatened to intern James Bassingthwaighte as an enemy alien. They asked his nationality and he replied, “I am the son of an Englishman, born in this country. During my life I have lived under the rule of Hottentots, Hereros and Germans. I don’t know what I am, but perhaps you bcan tell me.”

It’s an interesting story of hard lives, well told.

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That’s the end of the review on Good Reads, but there are a few things to be added. The James Morris referred to above was the brother of my wife Val’s great great great grandmother Frances Morris, who married Frank Stewardson (also mentioned in the book as having been mauled by a lion). The book was recommended to me by another descendant of the Stewardson/Morris family, Jean Mary Gray, when I mentioned to her that we were hoping to visit the Northern Caspe later in the year to see some of the places these ancestors passed through in their travels. It turned out that the publisher, Gabriel Athiros, is a mutual Facebook friend, and he very kindly sent us a copy of the book free of charge.

I noted that there are a couple of inaccuracies in the names in the book, but that is not surprising. It took us more than thirty years of family history research before we found out the first names of Francis and Frances Stewardson, and we are still trying to sort out the Morris family. We do know that the partner of Ben Dixon and Thomas Lawton was James Morris, not Thomas, though his father was Thomas, and he had a brother and two nephews named Thomas. One of the nephews may have taken over the business after the partnership dissolved.

Death of Joan Pearson (1924-2014)

The other day we were heir-hunted, by two firms that specialise in tracing relatives of people who died without leaving a will, and so learned of the death of Joan Pearson, Val’s first cousin once removed. In the 40 years of doing family history we had not been able to find her address, and so contact her directly, and so we only learn something about her after she died.

Joan Pearson was the daughter of Gilbert Pearson, a watchmaker of Whitehaven, Cumberland, England, and part of a fairly large family of Pearsons. Gilbert Pearson married Maud Dixon in 1922, and they had two daughters, Joan and Barbara, neither of whom married or had any children.

As far as we know, Joan and Barbara Pearson worked in the civil service. Joan worked in the Colonial Office and is said to have spent some time in Uganda, where her great-uncle, Charles Pearson, had been a pioneer missionary in the 1880s.

So, having learned of her death, we found this:

PEARSON Joan OBE formerly of 13 Wharf Mill. Died peacefully on 3rd September 2014, aged 89. Sister of the late Barbara. ———- Funeral service at Basingstoke Crematorium on Thursday 16th October at 11.45am. Flowers welcome or donations, if desired, to Alzheimer’s Society (Winchester Branch) c/o Richard Steel & Partners, Alderman House, 12-14 City Road, Winchester, SO23 8SD or via http://www.rsponline.co.uk (Hampshire Chronicle, 9 Oct 2014)

The OBE was presumably for her work in the civil service, and I also have a vague memory that she or her sister Barbara were involved in secret intelligence work during the Second World War.

The nice thing about being contacted by heir-hunters (whose activities have been documented in several TV shows) is that it provides an opportunity for members of different branches of the family to get in touch with each other again. The rather worrying thing is, when someone dies intestate, and apparently in an old age home, whose living relatives have to be told of her death by specialist firms of heir-hunters,  what happens to her stuff. I don’t mean her money — I doubt there will be much of that, since she was presumably living on a civil service pension, much of which would probably be going to her care in an old age home.

But what happens to family photos and papers? Will they just be tossed out by someone who doesn’t care, and doesn’t care whether anyone else cares? Perhaps there are letters and diaries documenting her time in Uganda, or some interesting information about the family history. Maiden aunts and uncles are usually good sources of such things.

The good thing is that it has got members of the scattered Pearson clan communicating with each other again. The sad thing is that one learns more about a relative after they have died than when they were alive.

 

So few are free

So few are freeSo few are free by Lawrence George Green

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Lawrence G. Green‘s books follow a similar pattern, and there is a certain amount of repetition. He tells the same story in more than one book, sometimes with more or less detail.

This one deals with the west coast of southern Africa, from the Cape to the Kunene, with anecdotes of out of the way places, and characters who played a minot role in history. As a journalist he collected notes on all sorts of topics, and every now and then he would work them up to a story with a connecting theme, and in this one the connecting theme is the places on the “Diamond Road” and the Skeleton Coast.

As I’ve already noted about his Thunder on the Blaauwberg not all of his tales are accurate. He is a raconteur, not a historian.

We have several of his books on our shelves, and the story of how this one came to be on our shelves is almost like one of his stories. It has been in our bookshelf ever since I can remember, and has the inscription, “To Frank Hayes, the most genuine of pals, from Tromp van Diggelen.”

Frank Hayes was my father, and Tromp van Diggelen was my godfather, and it is just the kind of book he would give as a gift to a friend, because he loves such stories, and lived them himself. Like Lawrence George Green Tromp van Diggelen loved to go on journeys to out-of-the-way places, drawn by tales of lost cities and buried treasure. In his youth he was a wrestler, and later he was a physical fitness instructor, and my father, originally one of his pupils, became one of his friends.

I’ve been pulling the books off the shelves and rereading them for reasons related to family history. A researcher is trying to find out more about the life of Abraham Morris (1866-1922) the guerrilla fighter against the Germans in Namibia in 1906, and leader of the Bondelswarts Rebellion in 1922, in which he was killed.

Abraham Morris’s mother was Annie Schyer of the Bondelswarts, and the story is that his father was a white trader named Morris. My wife Val’s ancestry is part of the Morris family, who were traders in Namibia, so there is a possibility that Abraham Morris was related to us — but how? There were two James Morrises, cousins, each with a brother William, who could possibly have been his father. So we search books like this looking for tiny clues that could place one or other of the Morrises in the right place at the right time to be Abraham’s father.

This book mentions Abraham Morris only briefly, Thunder in the Blaaurberg gives more detail. But it has plenty of fascinting stories about various places and events.

One of the places of particular interest was the Leliefontein Methodist Mission Station, near Garies in the Northern Cape. It was a place where traders between Namibia and the Cape often called in the 19th century, and many people passed through there.

Other stories that interested me were those of the 1934 floods in Namibia, when the highest rainfall was recorded. It was the highest recorded up till then, and has never been exceeded since. When I lived in Windhoek 40 years ago there were still people around who remembered the floods of 40 years before, and there were signs in improbable places showing the levels that water in the rivers had reached then. Green tells several stories of the floods from people who actually experienced them. He also tells of odd characters and eccentrics, like the one who built a castle in the desert, and those who tried to climb lonely mountains, and, rather more sadly, those who kill baby seals for their fur.

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