Burntwood Family History Group
   Home      Journal 2018 07-09 Volume 26 Number 3
Extracts from Burntwood Family History Group Journal
 
 
 
 
 
July - September 2018
 
 
 
 
Vol 26.3
 
Contents of this issue.
 
 
View From the Chair 1
The National Civil War Museum 2
Commonwealth War Graves at Burntwood 3
Worldwide Cousins and Brick Walls 5
History or Hysteria? 7
Reviews of Talks by Guest Speakers
Steve Booth on ‘Chimney Sweeps and Climbing Boys’ 8

Ann Featherstone on ‘Music Hall’ 11
A Bevin Boy 14
The Duke of Wellington’s Despatch 17
Burden of Proof 18
This Issue's Cover Photograph 19
Useful Addresses 20
Transcriptions on CD Available for Sale 21
Programme of Speakers - Back cover

 
View From the Chair

Time has flown by again – and the wonderful summer is already becoming a distant memory. Last time, when I wrote about the wonderful Monday evening talks, I mentioned March 12th, when our speaker couldn’t get to us because of floods. Judy Hubble commented on the phone that just when you thought you had come across every possible circumstance, something else would always come along and surprise you. And so we turned up for our July talk, which was entitled ‘My Colonial Cousins’ by Mary Bodfish. While the Mining College itself was open, none of the rooms were! Steve was very enterprising, and established that we could get into our room, by going into the kitchen and climbing in through the serving hatch, but we decided that it might not be the best plan. A Health and Safety problem? In the end, Mary Bodfish was paid and sent home, to be re-booked for next year, and Chris did a great job of getting a refund from the council to cover our losses.The problem was a communications mix up with the new caretaker, and hopefully we won’t face that problem again. So what could possibly go wrong next? Our next meeting, on 10th September, is our Annual General Meeting, and can I encourage you all to come along and participate, please? As ever – and this seems to be common in so many organisations – we are always looking for people to step up and help with some of the roles. Jane does a wonderful job booking talks for us, and tells me she has next year virtually planned, but she would still like an apprentice to learn the role next year, so that she can pass this on. And then we will be on to our next trip with Leger holidays, to visit the ‘Crimson Coast’. Our last trip was fantastic, so we are all looking forward to this one. It fascinates me how one thing leads to another. I joined BFHG a few years ago, to trace my family tree, and I have made some progress (it’s on my ‘to do’ list for retirement). An advert in the paper led me to come along to a talk on the suffragette movement, coming to the talks regularly, and somehow going onto the committee at an AGM, then on a trip to France, standing under my uncle’s name on the Thiepval monument. So you just never know where joining or volunteering will lead to. Helen Bratton, Chair, BFHG, 2017–2018
 

The National Civil War Museum

Have you traced any forbears who were alive during the Civil War? If so, the National Civil War Museum in Newark is well worth a visit. It also incorporates an exhibition concentrating on the fascinating subject of the battlefield medicine. Who would have thought that the idea of a universal health service perhaps stemmed from 1642, when Parliament passed an act assuming responsibility for the medical care of soldiers and their families? The first military hospital was also established. This benevolence sadly lapsed after the Restoration. We also assume that the idea of treating post-traumatic stress as a medical condition is fairly recent. During the Civil War, soldiers suffering from the condition were given a prescription for trips to take the waters in such places as Bath!
 
Commonwealth War Graves at Burntwood by Christopher Graddon

You will find St. Matthew’s Hospital Burial Ground on the corner where Coulter’s Lane meets St. Matthew’s Road. It is a peaceful spot, much of it now given over to a wildflower meadow. However, a mown grass footpath leads to the graves of nine soldiers from the First World War and, as you would expect, these are maintained meticulously by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. The nine men spent their final days in St. Matthew’s Hospital, but can any more be discovered about their families and their lives before they went off to serve their country? I managed to find out a little more about one of the soldiers, Thomas Edward Woolley, who was born in 1876. I was fortunate that his attestation papers are among the few that have survived. Thomas signed up at Ripon on 11 December 1915, and was attached the following day to the Army Reserve. He was mobilized on 2 November 1916 and posted to the 12th Company Royal Garrison Artillery on 18 November 1916. A second set of attestation papers, dated 11 November 1916, show him as then being 40 years and 4 months old and 5 feet 7¾ inches tall. Thomas was a grocery traveller before he joined the Army. On 11 February 1913 he married Jessie Nelson in Uttoxeter, and the couple had a daughter, Margaret, who was born on 23 October 1916; her birth was registered in Lichfield, and the couple were then living at Moseley Terrace, 13 Frog Lane in Lichfield. Thomas was discharged from the army on 28 February 1917, no longer physically fit for war service. His records state that he was of good character but was suffering from “general paralysis and insanity”, and his pension papers make it clear that his military service had contributed to, and had aggravated, his mental state. This most likely explains his admission to St. Matthew’s Hospital, where his register number was 10593. Gunner Woolley died on 28 September 1918, and was buried on 3 October. His funeral was attended by his wife, mother and father, sister and brothers.Please contact Burntwood Family History Group if you can shed any further light on Thomas’s life and family. We would also be pleased to receive information on the right other soldiers who are buried in St. Matthew’s Hospital Burial Ground, and will print what comes forward in future editions of our Journal. Perhaps BFHG members would like to take on the challenge of researching one of the soldiers. Their names and details follow:

·        18613 Private Sidney Ager died on 11 March 1919 and was buried the same day; he was 37 when he died and his funeral service was attended by his wife, father, sister and brother. He served with the 13th Battalion Somerset Light Infantry and his St. Matthew’s Hospital register number was 10892.

·        79632 Private John Frederick Craddock died on 13 November 1918 and he was buried on 19 November 1918; he was 24 when he died, and his funeral service was attended by his father, sister and a friend. He served with the 89th Training Reserve Battalion and his St. Matthew’s Hospital register number was 10787.

·        T/392381 Driver John Davis was 26 when he died on 13 April 1920; he was buried on 20 April 1920 and his funeral service was attended by his aunt and a friend. He was born at Wigtown, Scotland, and his gravestone records that he was late of 27 High Street, Wigtown. He served with the Horse Transport Companies of the Royal Army Service Corps. His record at St. Matthew’s Hospital records his surname as Davies rather than Davis; his register number was 11158.

·        17226 Private James Blackney Massey died on 6 January 1920 at the age of 36; he was buried the same day. He served with the Royal Army Veterinary Corps and his St. Matthew’s Hospital register number was 11002.

·        95/11664 Private James Dawe McDonald was 29 when he died on 3 August 1920; he was buried the same day. He served with the 11th Battalion The Queen’s (Royal West Surrey) Regiment, and his St. Matthew’s Hospital register number was 10883.

·        201355 Private John McGuiness was 38 when he died on 16 October 1917; he was buried on 22 October 1917 but, sadly, his wife arrived too late on the day and missed the service. He served with the 2nd/7th Battalion Worcestershire Regiment, and his St. Matthew’s Hospital register number was 10643.

·        RME/3853(S) Private William Horatio Startin died on 25 October 1918; he was buried on 31 October 1918, and the funeral service was attended by his wife and sister-in-law. His St. Matthew’s Hospital register number was 10916 and he was 50 when he died. He served with the Royal Marine Engineers.

·        45763 Driver John Sutton was 24 when he died on 30 September 1920; he was buried the same day. His St. Matthew’s Hospital register number was 10929, and he served with the 67th Battery, 20th Brigade Royal Field Artillery.
 
Worldwide Cousins and Brick Walls by Kaye Christian
 
I admit that I am not in any way an expert on DNA testing. However, when I first had myself and some family members tested, I was totally clueless – whereas now, a year or so later, I am just mostly clueless. Many family historians are tested, and/or arrange for family members to be tested, in the hope of breaking down ‘brick walls’ in their ancestry that normal paper-based records viewed online or in person have been unable to breach. Additionally, it is very reassuring to discover a DNA match who shares your researched ancestry, proving that your deductions were correct. The tests are very easy to use – a few scrapings from the inside of your cheek or a sample of saliva, collected in the comfort of your own home and sent in by post, with notification of your results arriving via your personal email. You do need to have a working knowledge of computers and the internet to view and action your results and matches. There is DNA Masterclass available online, written by Mr Peter Calver (see link later) which is very helpful, and he is far more knowledgeable than myself. He has a website, www.lostcousins.com, which, with a little input of census information, can result in you finding lost cousins around the world. You can use the website free of charge, but if you find a cousin and wish to message them, there is a small membership fee. Peter also produces a regular free newsletter that is well worth signing up for. I only have personal knowledge of DNA testing with two of the testing companies: Ancestry DNA and FamilyTree DNA (FTDNA). There are others, such as 23andMe and Living DNA but, although they offer extra information and maybe better results, I believe they are comparatively expensive. Both Ancestry and FTDNA have offers on most of the time, purporting to celebrate some event or other (Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Bank Holidays, etc) so the timing of your DNA test can save you a few pounds. FTDNA offer three types of tests: Y-DNA, MtDNA and Family Finder, whereas Ancestry offers just one test: autosomal (this is the same type of test as FTDNA’s Family Finder test).
 
Y-DNA tests are for males only, and test the male gene, the thoroughness of which is denoted by the number afforded to the name of the test and the cost, with the cost going up in relation to the number allocated to the test. The test shows results of matches in a male’s paternal line. I have been lucky enough tofind three male relatives who have agreed to be tested to level Y-37DNA (the minimum recommended). Although it seems logical that anyone who matches a person with, say, the surname PENNY should, in theory, also have the same surname, I have yet to find anyone amongst the many matched results for my three male relatives tested who shares the expected surname. To date, I have had no useful results from these three Y-37DNA tests.

MtDNA Both men and women can have this test, although it will only show results of matches along your maternal line (e.g. your mother, your mother’s mother, her mother, etc). It is recommended that you have the MtDNA Full Sequence test, which I have had tested myself. Personally, I would not recommend this type of test to family historians as any results will be very limited, and probable matches will be far too back to be of any useful help in conjunction with paper records. I certainly have had no helpful matches.

Family Finder/Autosomal Test. This is the test that is most useful to family historians, being the only test that Ancestry offer (autosomal), with Family Tree DNA naming it the Family Finder test. The results of this test can be uploaded to other websites to find even more matches, e.g. Gedmatch, MyHeritage, DNA Land. If you test with AncestryDNA, then you can also upload the autosomal results to Family Tree DNA (Family Finder) and view matches at no extra cost. Family Tree DNA also accept uploads from MyHeritage and 23andMe. After uploading, you can unlock all Family Finder features, which include the Chromosome Browser, myOrigins, and ancientOrigins, for only $19 US. If you test with Family Tree DNA or other companies, then you cannot upload your results to Ancestry. I personally find Ancestry matches more user friendly to view and process, because of the way they are displayed, with Family Tree DNA being rather more complex. I have tested with both Family Tree DNA and Ancestry, and would suggest testing with the latter for ease of use and the fact that you can upload your Ancestry results to Family Tree DNA for more matches (though not vice versa). You do not need to be a fully paid Ancestry member to see and contact your matches, although some extra features are only available if you are a member. To date, I have managed to confirm DNA matches to two distant cousins first discovered many years ago using conventional methods – one in California, the other in Australia. I have also made contact with over 20 new distant cousins around the world with whom I share DNA, and I also have paper research to prove their relationship with myself – plus, of course, they have been able to provide me with much more personal information about their branch of my family, much of it with accompanying photographs.

I’m closing with links to the websites mentioned, and suggest you get yourself a copy of the DNA Masterclass by Peter Calver when your results are viewable. Be brave, and good luck!

·        Lost Cousins (Peter Calver) – www.lostcousins.com

         (link to an old newsletter containing the DNA Masterclass – https://www.lostcousins.com/newsletters2/wedding18.htm#Masterclass

·        Ancestry DNA – www.ancestry.co.uk

·        Family Tree DNA – www.familytreedna.com

·        MyHeritage – www.myheritage.com

·        23andMe – www.23andme.com

·        LivingDNA – www.livingdna.com

·        Gedmatch – www.gedmatch.com

·        DNA Land – www.dna.land

History or Hysteria? You couldn’t make these historical facts up!
 
Robert Liston, doctor and accidental murderer. Scottish surgeon Robert Liston is said to have carried out an 1847 surgical amputation so quickly that he cut off his assistant's fingers as well. A spectator is said to have died of shock, and both the assistant and the patient died of sepsis. Liston remains the only person to kill three people in the course of one operation.

Caesar was ransomed for too little money. Julius Caesar was kidnapped by pirates in his early career. He laughed at their initial ransom, saying it was too little and told them to raise it. He also told them that once it was paid he would track them down and kill them. They laughed. After it was paid, he found them and crucified the lot of them.

The Chinese Navy can make great hot chocolate. In the war between China and Japan in 1894, the Chinese Navy was at a distinct disadvantage. While the Japanese had guns, the Chinese had cocoa powder. They had been given this because it was cheaper than gunpowder. We're sure that you can guess who won this conflict.
 
Reviews of Talks by Guest Speakers

Reviewer: Sheila Clarke - May 2018: Steve Booth on ‘Chimney Sweeps and Climbing Boys’

Steve Booth is a popular speaker on historical topics which often involve elements of local history relevant to our family search. He began by pointing out the Staffordshire connection with the eventual abolition of the iniquitous practice of using small children to clean chimneys. He said that he should change the title of his talk to ‘Chimney sweeps and climbing children’, because girls were used as well as boys. He showed us a picture of Francis Wedgewood, grandson of the founder of the Wedgewood Pottery Company in Etruria, Josiah Wedgewood. Francis played a part in eliminating the use of child sweeps, particularly in north Staffordshire. In the film ‘Mary Poppins’, the sweeps danced on the rooftops with their brushes. The type of brush they were brandishing were not in general use at the time the film was set, and the life for climbing children was not joyful and fun as portrayed. Flues could be as narrow as nine inches in diameter, such as one at Buckingham Palace. A small child would edge their way up through spaces that twisted and turned, until finally reaching the group of chimney pots on the roof. This rise could be as much as 150 feet. The sweep carried a scraper in one hand and a brush in the other. The idea arose that chimney sweeps bring good luck at a wedding. Steve commented that good luck never entered into the equation! The use of chimney sweeps increased particularly when local bylaws stated that all chimneys should be regularly swept. No town or village was without tales of houses being burnt down because of chimney fires. Building methods were used to maximise the size of the building on a particular piece of land. This meant that the second storey would be wider than ground floor, and the third storey wider still. Very often it was possible for people to shake hands from a window on the third floor with someone on the third floor of the house on the opposite side of the narrow street. From 1750, coal became more plentiful and cheaper. Smoke in the chimney would gradually cool, creating soot and resin. On windy days, sparks could set fire to this combustible material and the fire spread rapidly to adjoining properties. Sometimes, chimney fires would be started deliberately to burn away the deposits. In country areas, geese would be lowered headfirst down the chimney, and the flapping would dislodge the soot. Most households used master chimney sweeps. These master sweeps had a ready supply of children from orphanage, workhouse, or from families fallen on hard times, giving these youngsters ‘useful employment’. The cost of the childwas four gold sovereigns – a large sum for an impoverished family, who would sometimes sell off a ‘spare child’. An indenture was drawn up so the child belonged to the master sweep during their trade apprenticeship. Running away was not an option. The favourite age for the child was six or seven – small enough to squeeze through constricted spaces, because narrow chimneys drew the fire well. If the child survived the hazardous seven years as a climbing boy, they too could become a journeyman, or perhaps a master sweep; but death or a disastrous accident was a more common outcome.

During the late 18th century, an act was passed which made it illegal to employ a child under eight. However, these children had no record of their birth date, so the act was largely ignored. James Hanway, an eccentric inventor and MP, tried to improve conditions but this, too, was ineffective. In 1828, Joseph Glass invented a chimney sweeping machine which, if used, was more efficient than a child. However being more efficient caused vast amounts of soot to be rapidly dislodged and fall onto carpets, to the annoyance of the householder. The equipment was also expensive to buy. Ten children could be purchased for the same money. Master sweeps were constantly on the lookout for houses that used top quality coal, which meant it would produce top quality soot. They sold soot to farmers as fertiliser, and also to paint manufacturers. Some people thought that soot was good for teeth cleaning! The climbing boys’ day would begin around four in the morning, and cleaning chimneys usually ended around 7am. During that time, up to ten chimneys could be swept. The climbing child would wear loose clothing, so that if they got stuck they could wriggle out of their clothes and escape. A wide fustian hat was also worn, to add some protection for the head. Eyesight, hearing and lungs were affected, and many sweeps developed skin cancers in their teens. A novice sweep would often be followed up a chimney by one that had more experience. They would use knees and elbows to push themselves up, caterpillar-like. The experienced boy would stick pins in the other’s feet if they were too slow. The master lit straw in the hearth to ‘encourage’ any boy who became stuck. In 1833, in Newcastle-under-Lyme, a six-year-old boy was badly burned when he fell into the fire the master sweep had lit. The householder reported him to the police, and he was fined. Cases of children dying as a result of suffocation after becoming stuck in the tight angles of flues were reported. In 1831, a London magistrate fined a master for beating an eleven-year-old sweep in the street. The child turned out to be a girl, and she had been working for the master for several years. After each chimney was swept, the apprentices would bag up the soot ready to be sold. They would also be used to tout for business. They would then return to the master’s house and given a meal, probably consisting of potatoes, fatty meat and bread, together with watered-down ale. The master sweep had to promise that their apprentices would attend church, be fed and kept clean. However, keeping clean often meant just the visible parts, such as face, arms and legs. Elbows and knees which became raw after climbing would be washed in brine. Eventually, these sores would become calloused over. The children would use the sacks of soot as pillows and cover themselves with empty sacks to sleep and keep warm at night.

Anthony Ashley Cooper, Lord Shaftsbury, owned most of London in the 19th century. He was also a campaigning reformer. In 1834, he set out to improve the conditions for climbing children. He bribed MPs to pass the law that no child under ten could be forced to be a chimney sweep. This law was often flouted because of the lack of birth records. The master and the sweep would be brought before a magistrate, and the magistrate would ask the child if he wished to be a climbing boy. Charles Dickens admired the reforming work done by Lord Shaftsbury. In his book ‘Oliver Twist’, Gamfield, a vicious master sweep, wishes to take Oliver to be a climbing boy. However, the magistrate thwarts the plan because of Gamfield’s treatment of boys he had previously ‘trained’, and he was aware of how frightened Oliver was. The minimum aperture size for flues became part of building regulations. Rectangular chimney apertures could be no smaller than 14 inches × 9 inches, and the diameter of circular apertures no smaller than 12 inches. Headlines in a Manchester newspaper of 1851 reported that a master sweep had the contract to clean the flues around a steam engine. He failed to wait until the boiler had cooled. The boy he used passed out and his lifeless body was removed five days later. His skin had burnt away. The master was imprisoned for this crime. The judge commented that death was more kind to the boy than his master. In 1854, a law was passed which stated that no child under 16 years could enter a room in a property where chimney sweeping was taking place. Even then, this law was often flouted. In Staffordshire, the potter Josiah Wedgewood was a friend of William Wilberforce, and also against the slave trade. Francis Wedgewood had the same moral compass as his grandfather, and he became the driving force behind the Hanley Society for the abolition of the use of climbing boys. They bought eight sets of brushes which master sweeps could hire, with the sweetener that they could keep the soot to sell. Using climbing boys instead would result in a hefty fine imposed by a magistrate. However, Thomas Kinnersley, the chief magistrate, brought a master sweep and three children down from Cheshire to clean the chimneys in his house. In spite of the adverse publicity, it was decided to prosecute. The sweep asked the court that if he paid50 guineas to the poor house, could the case be shelved. This amount of money would be beyond a humble sweep, so it is probable that Thomas Kinnersley supplied the funds. The money was accepted and the case dropped. In the north of the county, the use of climbing boys declined. In Stafford and Lichfield, however, magistrates were inclined to throw prosecutions out, and the south of the county carried on as badly as ever.

In 1863 Charles Kingsley wrote ‘The Water Babies’, the story of a climbing boy’s adventures, for his son Greville. Charles Kingsley was appointed as Dean of Westminster Abbey and he, Queen Victoria and Lord Shaftsbury all wished to abolish the use of climbing boys. The final catalyst was the death of a 7½-When his body was removed, he had been badly burned. Shaftsbury was so incensed that pointed an accusing finger, and shouted at the Hall’s owner during a debate in Parliament. In 1875, Shaftsbury finally managed to get a bill through Parliament which stated that no chimney sweep could be used unless he had a licence from the police. This eliminated the use of children in the trade. Shaftsbury died in 1885. This account of use of children to sweep chimneys was horrifying to our ears. The reforming work Lord Shaftsbury did throughout his life was commemorated by the ‘Angel of Charity’ statue by Sir Albert Gilbert in Piccadilly Circus, now known as ‘Eros’. Steve pointed out that the ‘shaft’ had left the angel’s bow and was now ‘buried in the ground’. August 2018: Ann Featherstone on ‘Music Hall, The Singers and the Songs’. In Victorian times, people flocked to the towns and their expanding industries in search of higher wages. Have you ever considered what your ancestors, who may have been among them, did with any leisure time they had? Ann Featherstone highlighted one form of entertainment which grew and flourished in these expanding urban areas; the Music Hall. Until 2014, Ann had been a lecturer in Theatre History at Manchester University. She explained that one aspect the students ‘couldn’t get’ was the Music Hall because they, unlike older members of our group, had no experience of the later stages of the genre, such as ‘Sunday Night at the London Palladium’ and the non-PC ‘Black and White Minstrel Show’. During the 1830s and 1840s, the hub of an expanding urban area was the public house. The successful pub was situated on a corner plot with as many doors as possible, to entice patrons and encourage them to spend. The publican in Victorian times was an important man, some even serving on town councils. They were entrepreneurial, looking for the ‘next big thing’. To expand their businesses, they often rented rooms to societies such as gardening clubs, glee clubs and penny banks. On Friday nights, a pretty young woman might get up and sing. After the song ended, there would be a rush to the bar, so they would offer her free drinks if she sang a song every hour or so. Wednesday night was the ‘slack night’. To encourage extra custom, publicans began investing in pianos, and sometimes engaged semi- professional singers and musicians.

A redundant stable at the back of the premises could be an opportunity to build a Music Hall, with a small stage at the front – just enough room for one or two singers or musicians. There would be tables for patrons, and waiters were employed to serve and promote drinks. A divider segregated the seating area from people buying drinks from the bar. To get around by-laws which made it illegal to charge to enter a drinking establishment, tokens were sold to those intending to sit and watch the show, which could then be exchanged for drinks. We were shown a photograph of the gallery at a Musical Theatre. The audience sat on long tiered benches with a central isle. Formidable ushers, often brawny women, were employed as ‘packers in’ to push people along the rows as close together as possible. Lighting in most of these establishments was by gaslight, which gave a mellow flickering light kind to any aging artists. We observed that the clientele were dressed in their outer garments, complete with hat, gloves and scarves. They smoked if they wished. An apocryphal story stated that in one theatre, the hot air from the lights and the audience rose to the cold ceiling and produced brown rain, which then fell on the people beneath. Anne then turned to the performers. New innovations occurred in London before the provinces, where changes sometimes lagged years behind. A popular form of venue was the Song and Supper club. These were like gentlemen’s clubs. One such establishment was the Cider Cellar, situated near Drury Lane theatre. This was open ‘late until early’, opening after the theatre closed and closing around 5am. Its clientele were men who wished to drink or eat after they had been to the theatre. They were able to listen to entertainers such as Billy Ross, very popular in the day. His most popular song was ‘Sam Hall’, a song about a murderous chimney sweep who was about to face the gallows. Billy dressed the part and acted as well as sang. The song was sung on the hour, every hour. Although Billy Ross sang other songs, he was more or less a one-song wonder. Ann gave us a fine rendition of ‘Sam Hall’. George Leybourne started working life as an engineer, but moved from the midlands to London. He wrote the lyrics for several songs with which we are still familiar. Alfred Lee wrote the music. We were able to join Ann singing ‘Champagne Charlie’ and ‘The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze’. George Leybourne, too, dressed the part and acted as he sang.

Albert Chevalier came from ‘middle class’ stock, but the themes of his songs resonated with many in his audience. They told a story. For example ‘Knocked ’em in the Old Kent Road’, was about ‘Bill’ who was left a donkey cart, so had ‘gone up in the world’ according to his neighbours. ‘My Old Dutch’ was the story of an old infirm couple who were on the point of entering the workhouse where, even though married, they would be separated from each other, never to see one another again. This was common practice at the time. Men and women would be housed in separate wings of those institutions. When Chevalier sang this song there would not be a dry eye in the house. Many listening would face the same uncertain future. We were shown a photograph of Gus Elen, who was known as the Coster Comedian. Coster was short for costermonger, another name for a market trader. Nellie Power became a child performer at the age of eight. A song was written ‘exclusively’ for her by George Ware. This was ‘The Boy I Love is up in the Gallery’, and suited her voice and style. However, George Ware sold the song again, this time to Marie Lloyd. Nellie Power was unable to do anything about this, because Ware said that he had changed the song somewhat. Throughout her life, Nellie Power suffered from chest complaints, a condition quite common among Music Hall performers. At that time, it was usual for an artist to perform at one theatre and then go on to other venues throughout the evening. This meant that they were constantly going from hot stuffy theatres, out into a cold night and then into another hot stuffy music hall. There could be six different bookings throughout an evening. Later, to maximise their takings, Music Hall owners insisted that an artist would not perform at another nearby venue during that evening – a rule not welcomed by the performers. Ann Featherstone went on to talk about Miss Katie Lawrence, singer of ‘Daisy, Daisy’, and Vesta Tilley, who dressed as a young gentleman about town and was so convincing that she received love letters from young women after singing, ‘Following in father’s footsteps’. Ella Shields, another woman who dressed as a dandy, sang ‘Burlington Bertie from Bow’. Ann gave spirited renditions of all the songs and we were invited to join in. Vesta Victoria became popular after singing ‘Daddy wouldn’t buy me a Bow-wow’, and ‘Waiting at the Church’. Marie Lloyd, born in 1870, had popular hits such as ‘Oh, Mr. Porter’; and ‘My Old Man Said Follow the Van’, a song about a couple doing a ‘moonlight flit’ because they could not pay the rent. The Music Hall brought entertainment relevant to ordinary working people during the Victorian and Edwardian age. It is a pity that many members were unable to attend the talk; they missed a very enjoyable evening.

A Bevin Boy by Pam Turner

I have always known that my dad spent some time being a Bevin Boy during WW2, but I never really knew much about his time in the pits, or about Bevin Boys in general. I don’t ever recall Dad talking about it when he was alive. Mom did pass on a few snippets of info but, much to my regret, I never pushed her for the full details, mainly because I got the impression that it had only taken up a very short period of his life – maybe just a few months at most. Recently I acquired a copy of Dad’s RAF records, which showed he had entered the service in September 1946. This date was a lot later than I had originally thought and, also, I noticed that his occupation was listed as a miner. As far as I was aware, Dad had worked in the steel industry since he had left school in 1939 aged 15, so I was rather puzzled by this. To find some background knowledge on the Bevin Boys, I decided to search the internet to see if I could find some records info on how, why or when Dad worked down the mines. Dad (Sidney Joseph Oakley) was quite an intelligent man but, due to his family not being very well off, his dreams of higher education were a non-starter. After a brief spell as a shop boy, he went to work for Graham Firth Steels in Walsall and trained as a skilled toolmaker, something he was very good at. It was in 1942, when he turned 18, that he first applied to do National Service in the RAF. Dad saw this as a way of improving his knowledge and education, as well as doing his bit. Unfortunately, the RAF would only accept him if his boss would release him from his job which, sadly, he wouldn’t, because he was making things that were helpful to the war effort and was also a good worker. This setback, however, did not put Dad off. He continued to apply again and again until, in August 1944, his boss finally released him from his job. When WW2 started, the government didn’t make mining a reserved occupation and, as a result, a lot of men in the industry saw an opportunity to get out of the mines by joining up or transferring to the munitions industry, where the pay was better. As a result of this, by 1943 there was a massive shortfall of miners, so Ernest Bevin, the minister for Labour and National Service, was commissioned with finding a way of filling the gaps. Bevin initially tried to recruit all retired or ex-miners; he had 100,000 names, but only managed to get 25,000 to accept. He then put an option out to all conscripted young men to swap the front for the mines, but this was mostly unsuccessful. After this, he appealed to sixth form scholars to volunteer, which didn’t reap any rewards. Finally, he was left with one option, which was to compel men to work in the mines.

From December 1943, it was decided that one of Bevin’s secretaries would pull a number from a hat each fortnight, and any man who was liable for conscription that week whose National Service number ended with that digit was sent to the coal face to become a ‘Bevin Boy’. This ballot made no distinction on the men, their education past experience or suitability. Unfortunately, in August 1944, at the age of 20 when Dad thought he was finally going into the RAF, his number came out of the hat and he was ordered to report for mining duty. There was apparently a means of appeal, and it is telling that over 40% of the men balloted did appeal. I do know that Dad was one of these, but the Government was unsympathetic and, of the 8,700 appeals, only 466 were successful. Apparently he was very upset at being sent down the pits, particularly as his brother, some cousins and friends were all accepted into the forces. He felt it very unfair that, after trying for two years to get into the services, he was being prevented from serving just by some quirk of fate. Bevin Boys were apparently given six weeks training and then sent to work with overalls, hard hat and boots. Any other tools they needed, they had to purchase themselves, which was not easy in wartime Britain. Dad did his training at Kemball Pit in Stoke-on-Trent, but where he was placed after that I do not know, other than it was local to Walsall. Some men were placed quite far afield and had to be billeted with miners’ families, who treated them with suspicion because they feared they would take the jobs of the regular miners who had gone to fight. It is noted that Welsh-speaking miners would often refuse to talk to Bevin Boys in English, or would make them work with pit ponies that only understood orders given in Welsh.

Bevin Boys did not wear uniforms or badges, and being of military age and without uniform caused many to be stopped by police and questioned about avoiding call-up. Since a number of conscientious objectors were sent to work down the mines as an alternative to military service (this was a different system from the Bevin Boy programme), there was sometimes an assumption that Bevin Boys were ‘Conchies’. Some people apparently called them cowards and put white feathers in their hats. All these men had wanted to do was serve their country, either in the battlefields, seas or skies of Europe, but instead they were subjected to a crude lottery and sent underground to mine for coal. For 18 months, 21,800 men were conscripted in this way. The scheme was hugely unpopular, and when Bevin was asked whether young recruits could have a psychological examination to see if they were temperamentally suited to coal mining, he replied simply: ‘No’. Apparently, if you didn’t report for duty you were fined and, in some cases, sent to prison, only to be sent back to the pits again on release. I do know that Dad was fined on several occasions for not turning up for work. In June 1945, my parents got married and it is quite telling that Dad’s occupation on the marriage certificate is as a steel worker rather than a miner, leading me to believe he didn’t want to acknowledge his time as a Bevin Boy.Dad did finally get into the RAF, but not until September 1946, 12 months after the war had ended, completing two years in the pits. Bevin Boys were not demobbed along with conscripted troops; in fact, it wasn’t until 1948 that the last of the boys were released. When demobbed, forces conscripts had the right to go back to their previous jobs, were awarded service medals, received demob suits and were lauded by the nation. Bevin Boys received none of these accolades. Also, if one had been killed in a mining accident, his family received no compensation, and those invalided out received no pension. The civilian defence medal was awarded to police, fire, ambulance and even WRVS workers at the end of the war, but Bevin Boys received nothing. They were a panic measure to cover an official blunder.
 
In 2008, the Government finally recognised the Bevin Boys by issuing a medal to all surviving men who had served in the pits – sadly too late for Dad, who died in 1993. I don’t think he would have applied for it had he still been alive, and his reluctance to talk about it makes me think it was an episode of his life he wanted to forget about. I know he would have been totally unsuited to working in the pits. He also had an intense dislike of the Labour Party – something I never quite understood, but on finding out the true story of the Bevin Boys I can now see why. Ernest Bevin was a Labour politician and was solely responsible for the plight of the Bevin Boys and they way they were treated. I know  many people will say that it was no picnic in the services, and that mining was important to the war effort. However, if it had been made a reserved occupation from the start, they wouldn’t have had a shortage of men. I am still at a loss to understand why they took my dad out of a useful occupation that he knew well and was good at, just to put him into another useful occupation that he knew nothing about and was totally unsuited for. He was only one of many thousands of young men who had this rough deal thrust upon them; some coped very well, but a lot didn’t. I am aware that not all mining communities were hostile towards the boys but, at the end of the day, this particular episode in WW2 could have been avoided if only the Government had thought things through properly. Sources of information I have used include articles written by George Winston in 2016 and Elizabeth Grice of the Telegraph in 2008, as well as the website ‘The Forgotten Conscript’ (http://www.theforgottenconscript.co.uk/), where there is a wealth of information about the Bevin Boys, including some details from call up records. Most of the records were destroyed by the government, apart from the Midlands region, which were sent to the National Archives. This has been very fortuitous because, as my dad was from Walsall, they contain details of when he was called up and where he trained.

The Duke of Wellington’s Despatch by Christopher Graddon

The Duke of Wellington was the much-decorated general who defeated Napoleon twice. For many of his era, and subsequently, he was the epitome of the British character. Yet, even the Duke of Wellington still had to answer a flurry of petty questions generated by bureaucrats in London. He wrote the letter below to the National Office in August, 1812, in response to some trifling expenses for which he was being held accountable. Things don’t really change much, do they?
 
Burden of Proof by Keith Stanley

“What is truth?” This is a question that has occupied philosophers and theologians for centuries. It is central to our justice system. Do the members of the jury believe one version of events, or another – often radically different – version? Even in the English legal system, there are two standards that can be applied. Criminal cases use the test of ‘beyond reasonable doubt’. The jury is asked for a verdict of ‘guilty’ or ‘not guilty’ (which is not quite the same as ‘innocent’!). Civil cases can use the less demanding ‘balance of probabilities’ when passing judgement. What criteria do you use when researching family history? When I started researching Patrick, my Irish grandfather, I paid a company to undertake the initial work. Armed with the day and month of birth, subject to some uncertainty on the exact year, they produced a detailed history of a man called Patrick Stanley. He was born in Kildare, one of ten children. One of his brothers took part in the 1924 (Chariots of Fire) Olympics. At last there was an ancestor with an interesting back story! I had no reason to doubt what I had been told. The researcher said that a nephew was still alive. I made a phone call and spoke to a lovely gentleman but, early in the conversation, it became clear that there was no connection between our families. His uncle Patrick lost a leg in the War, became a police officer in London and never married. My Patrick had both legs, was a hairdresser, married and had three children. So that research had been a waste of money! If there hadn’t been a living relative, then I would have had no reason to doubt the story. I would have believed it until I subsequently obtained my Patrick’s military record. This shows that his next of kin in 1916 was said to be Edith Delves. She married Patrick in 1920, so she wasn’t actually his next of kin at the time. This piece of information provided a cross-check. I then knew that I had the right person. The military record says that he was born in Roscommon. The 1911 census shows him in Dewsbury, living with his sister, with his place of birth Roscommon. His sister is also referenced on the military record. In my mind, this is proof ‘beyond reasonable doubt’. My answer to my own question is ‘it depends’. As I go further back, then I accept greater uncertainty. Tracing the wrong grandfather is far more serious than looking for the wrong great-great grandfather. But there is a caveat. Stanley is the family name of the Earls of Derby. If I found a possible connection to the nobility, then I would check and double-check all of the intermediate chain of evidence. I have various entries in my files marked ‘probable’ and ‘possible’. At intervals I revisit these connections, to see if thereis any way that I can upgrade the level of certainty. You must make your own decision.

A couple of quotes to finish:

·        “History is bunk” (Henry Ford)

·        “Our perspective on the past alters. Looking back, immediately in front of us is dead ground. We don’t see it, and because we don’t see it this means that there is no period so remote as the recent past. And one of the historian’s jobs is to anticipate what our perspective of that period will be...” (Alan Bennett).

There is another well-known quote from Alan Bennett’s ‘The History Boys’, but it cannot be reproduced in this publication!

This Issue’s Cover Photograph

Calder Crossing Bridge, Shenstone, Staffs. Photograph: Alan Betts

Our cover photo this issue features a new bridge that was been officially opened in Shenstone on July 28, 2010. The ribbon was cut on Calder Crossing by Susan Calder, wife of the late Jim Calder, who was the founding chairman of the Little Holms Lammas Land Management Committee and to whom the bridge is dedicated. The bridge, which crosses Footherley Brook and path, are fully accessible so that everyone can get to the public open spaces at either end of the crossing. The Parish Council worked with local school children, groups and residents on the plans for the crossing, which they can use to get to local beauty spots, Lammas Land and Little Holms, for walks and wildlife education sessions. Cllr Sheila Beilby, Vice Chairwoman of Shenstone Parish Council, said:

“It is thanks to Jim Calder’s vision and hard work that it has been created, and I hope it is a fitting tribute to his memory.

Shenstone Parish Council was able to go ahead with its plans for Calder Crossing thanks to £30,000 funding, secured by Lichfield District Council through Section 106 Agreements.


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