Loved reading about some of my female ancestors

I’ve just read Struggle and Suffrage in Swindon – Women’s Lives And The Fight For Equality by Frances Bevan.

My first contact with Frances came about a few years ago when I searched for Radnor Street Cemetery on Facebook and her name popped up. I found that she researches the lives of the people buried in this old cemetery and writes their stories. She also leads tours of the cemetery on one Sunday per month through the warmer months. The cemetery is in Swindon, a railway town in Wiltshire about a ninety minute drive west of London. Consequently I can’t go on the tours but I can read her stories and since many of my Alley family, my paternal line, are buried there I really enjoy reading them.

In fact, it was through communicating with Frances that I found and have met some cousins who are very special to me. When Frances asked me if I knew Wendy Burrows who was also searching for information about Frederick Alley, it lead me on the journey to find my cousins. We went to Swindon where Frances, Wendy and her husband, Frank, David and I enjoyed a wonderful day together. We have since met and stayed with my lovely cousin, Kay Prosser, and her husband Ben in Victoria on Vancouver Island and they have been to stay with us in Brisbane. When you discover at 52 that you were adopted, finding and meeting and becoming close to your birth family is very special. It gives you back your sense of identity and you know where you fit in the world.

Reading about the women in my family in Struggle and Suffrage in Swindon is also special and I really appreciate the work that Frances does. My Grand Great Uncle, George Richman Alley had one son and seven daughters. The daughters are pictured Below. Amelia Annie Alley and her sister, Ethel Gertrude Alley had a millinery business at 90 Victoria Road. Ethel Gertrude Alley married William Hewer and they ran the Oddfellows’ Arms. The youngest sister Eva married George Babington and they opened a drapery store next door to the milliners. Mabel Alley was awarded the British Empire Medal for Meritorious Service in 1960 as she was sub Post Mistress at Westcott Place for more than fifty years.

Emma Louisa Hull, née Alley, another of the sisters, was a member of the Women’s Freedom League and was active in the fight for the vote for women. She was arrested twice and imprisoned for short times.

Eileen Kostitch, née Babington, was the daughter of Eva Alley & George Babington fought with the Yugoslavian forces against the Germans in World War II. She died there of ill health and is buried in Western Bosnia.

I think there have been some amazing women in my family!

Details of life in Swindon and of the women who fought for women’s rights can be found in this well researched book. I found it fascinating.

Beautiful beaches at Porto & Matosinhos

We are now in Portugal for the first time. We docked here at the industrial port near Matosinhos this morning and caught the shuttle bus into Porto proper, about a thirty minute drive along the beautiful coastline and beaches. This was my favourite part of the day.

The surfers were out on this lovely sunny day but the breeze by the water was cool still.

Once we passed the mouth of the Douro River, there were many fishermen and small boats with outboard motors. It reminded me of the years of my childhood that I spent at Donnybrook on Pumicestone Passage just north of Brisbane. There my parents had a multifaceted small business: a corner store, boats for hire, an unofficial post office and, as well, we sold petrol (with an old hand operated petrol pump). At the same time, Dad was a professional fishermen and crabber. Of course, our boats were inboards as there were no outboard motors at that stage.

I found the town of Porto itself to be quaint and so steep. Not good for the knees. We had a frustrating time here as we had booked tickets on the yellow vintage hop on hop off bus. We waited 50 minutes for it to come and then the driver’s reader wouldn’t read my e ticket which had assured me that I didn’t need a printed ticket. So he wouldn’t let us on. Very frustrating. Then we climbed some very steep steps to the market which wasn’t open and didn’t open until midday. More frustration! We did find a coffee and two excellent Portuguese custard tarts. We enjoyed them. Two coffees and two tarts for a total of €4. Amazing!

I do love to use a nice pen that feels good in my hand and there is a great pen shop here that we lingered in. They also stocked beautiful sets of coloured pencils for serious artwork. I have a lovely set of pencils that I haven’t touched in a few years. I think I’m getting the urge to get them out again. All very tempting but I resisted. The other shop which severely tempted me was quite a large hat shop. I very nearly bought a stylish black and white hat but David convinced me that I wouldn’t get it home in immaculate condition and I should buy one at home. So I will.

The streets are very interesting, so steep and narrow and the buildings are several stories high. Shops occupy the ground floor of many.

We wandered around until our knees were done (mine anyway) and then went to catch the shuttle back to the ship. Another 45 minute wait!

Now I’m waiting for a turn in the laundry. At least David brought me a lovely coffee!

The secrets of The Marais, the old Jewish Quarter

We’ve wandered the old Jewish quarters of quite a few European cities and we always find them interesting. Today we did a walking tour with a young man named Emmanuel who grew up in a Jewish Family but is not a practicing Jew. His grandparents managed to escape Paris to America in 1942 because he was a physicist. Emanuel is a film maker & photographer and he personalised the tour by talking about specific people. It was very interesting.

Firstly we noticed the beautiful cakes in the window of the shop where we met. There a family from San Francisco joined us for the tour. We returned to this shop at the end of the tour to catch our metro but, of course, we took home some goodies to have with our cup of tea when we got home.

There are many beautiful old buildings in this area. Originally Dukes & wealthy people lived in them but during the revolution many escaped or were killed, leaving their homes empty and they became neglected and dilapidated making them cheap to rent. Jews migrating from Eastern Europe came to France as it had a policy of freedom of religion and they took up residence here.

The plaque above is a Memorial to the family who lived in this house in 1942 but were deported and exterminated because they were Jewish.

We were permitted to enter this synagogue which was used by Jewish people during World War II when they were not allowed to worship under the Occupation of the Nazis. It was a secret synagogue and is still used today. A young man was there studying the Torah.

It was lunch time and there were long queues at some shops which all sold kosher food.

During the occupation this was a Jewish school but the students were not taught any traditional Jewish learnings. One of the teachers was Joseph Migneret who assisted 252 of his pupils to escape from the Nazis and this plaque honours him. I think that number is right but I could be wrong.

The street below had its name changed to honour non Jewish French citizens who assisted Jews to escape the Holocaust and did this without any prospect of payment. As you can see there are many names on the wall of the street which honours them. It is the Street of The Just.

Emmanuel had planned to finish the tour at Notre Dame but all the streets are closed off. I imagine this is to allow investigation of the fire and to begin the clean up and rescue of whatever can be saved. David and I went as close as we could to get the following photo

And I’m very happy to report that I found a very delicious, traditional onion soup and now I feel we can leave Paris happy tomorrow. We’ve been to Giverny to see those spectacular gardens of Monet. We’ve seen his wonderful work in Musée de L’Orangerie and his work as well as that of the other impressionists in the Museé D’Orsay and at the Foundation Louis Vuitton. We’ve had our incredible day in the Somme with Myriam discovering the story of our family members who fought in WWI.

We’ve bought and eaten delicious food from the markets and restaurants. We’ve wandered some interesting streets and laneways. We’ve loved our cute little apartment and tomorrow it is time to move on. Will we ever return to Paris? Who knows. But I can tell you that I love Paris in the Spring time – in fact anytime!