Time for home…

I’m writing this sitting up in Business Class on SingaporeAir. We left Zurich at 11:45am and it’s now 7:20pm in Switzerland and 1:20am in Singapore. We are somewhere in the middle. I enjoyed my glass of champagne before take-off and another when we were airborne. We had a delicious lunch served on board: Singapore Chicken Satay, followed by Marinated Shrimp with Pickled Melon. For the main course I had Gaeng Kiew Waan Talay (Thai style green curry seafood with vegetables and rice) and then for dessert, Apricot Tart with Balsamic Mousse. I hope it reads as good as it tasted.

Now we are meant to be sleeping and I’ve had two tries but my mind just says that I don’t sleep in the afternoon so I’ve watched Where the Crawdads Sing. I really loved the book and I enjoyed the movie. I’m also half way through Elvis and am enjoying that too. We missed them both at the theatre. I brought a book to read but when I started it, I realised that I’d already read it. Now that’s frustrating. I have plenty of books on my iPad so I could be reading them but it’s not the same.

This is such a long flight. It’s not much fun here but I can’t imagine what it’s like in economy. We still have another four hours to go. Ugh! Were the 30 days we had in Europe worth the pain of the flights? Of course they were!

I hear you asking what were the highlights. Without a doubt, the best part was the week we spent in Wiltshire with my cousin, Kay, my niece George and our patient men who gladly came along and participated in our family history quest. Then we had that wonderful day in Swindon when we caught up with cousin Wendy and our wonderful genealogical friend, Fran and met cousin Christine and many other cousins. I still haven’t sorted out in my mind who is whom in some cases. I’ll have to ask Wendy and Christine to put a name to all the people in the photos for me.

We visited all those beautiful places where our ancestors lived- Bradford on Avon, Westbury, Lacock…. It was wonderful and now I’ve got lots to do to record it all on my family tree.

The Swiss Mountain scenery was everything I hoped it would be and riding the trains through that scenery was great. It even snowed for us in St Moritz – the first snow of the season. I loved all of that. Every bit of it. It was stunning.

However, we were very disappointed with the Travel Marvel Alpine Train Tour. It was not run by Travel Marvel. They have an arrangement with Great Rail Tours who actually organise the tour. Our itinerary stated that Travel Marvel promise luxury travel of the highest standard and premium accommodation. Some of our hotels did not provide premium accommodation and the organisation of the tour left much to be desired. It was not luxury travel.

In the past, we’ve organised our own travel. In 2015, we travelled around Spain by train staying in appartments for six weeks and we had a great time. Managing your own luggage is difficult when you’re getting off on on trains, some with three steps and limited luggage storage aboard. We could do it then. But we are older now and have a few issues we didn’t have then. We were worried whether we could manage. So we booked a luxury tour with full porterage, thinking we’d pay someone to do the hard work for us. Except it wasn’t luxury travel and a lot of the time we had to manage our own luggage. It was very difficult for us. Other guests on the tour were very helpful and took care of us but we weren’t their responsibility.

We had thought that we might do a similar trip on the trains of New Zealand but we won’t be doing another Travel Marvel tour anywhere.

STEAM museum at Swindon

I’m celebrating. My body clock has realigned. Lights out at 10ish, wake about 6:30. Thank goodness!

Yesterday we returned to Swindon to visit Steam which is a museum telling the story of Great Western Railways. Everyone agreed that it’s one of the best museums they’ve seen. So many of the men in our family worked here and many did their apprenticeships there.

The first was my GG Grandfather, Frederick ALLEY, who moved his family to Swindon about 1869, 1870 and he started work as a labourer. Prior to that he was a cordwinder or shoemaker in Trowbridge. By 1881 he was a machine man and his son Frederic Ernest (my grandfather) was apprenticed as a boiler maker. His younger sons became apprenticed as they reached the age of 15. Twins, Frank & Jesse, we’re too; Frank as a tin smith and Jesse as an engine painter. Jesse’ apprenticeship was for 6 years! Others of the family joined the company too. When Frederick retired he was instrumental in forming an organisation for the retired men & he was secretary of it for many years.

When we arrived at Steam we were very happy to meet up with Fran and Wendy once more. (Christine was too busy getting ready to fly to the Greek Islands). Wendy showed us a wonderful old family bible given to my GG Grandmother, Elizabeth GOULD, by her mother Ann GOULD née MILLARD on her 21st birthday. It has all the family dates written in the front. What a find!

A page from the bible

I’ll tell the story of the museum in pictures

The wheels used initially. It was 7ft
It was tough. Only 10 minute toilet breaks or you were docked pay

Life was tough. There was no safety equipment of any kind not even noise protection and there were many horrible accidents. The company built a whole town of housing and set up a health system which became the beginning of the National Health.

We really enjoyed our visit to Steam to see how and where our ancestors worked.

Beautiful Bradford on Avon

This share house is working very well in Freshford. Yesterday Graeme produced eggs on toast for breakfast and a joint effort led by Ben produced a very tasty spaghetti bolognaise accompanied by a fresh salad for dinner. It’s great fun being all together and making deeper connections.

After breakfast Ben drove us to the Railway Station in Bradford on Avon along some very dubious roads – they are very very pretty roads but they wind and weave; the hedgerows are high and you can’t see ahead of you. Why does the GPS do this to us, I wonder?

At the station we met our guide for the day, Phil Arthur who is an accredited guide for SW England. We were very pleased we hired Phil for a couple of hours because he was so very knowledgeable and he explained the history of the town and what life would have been like for our ancestors who lived there back in the 1800s.

My grandmother was Rose YORK who was born in Trowbridge which we will visit on Wednesday but going back from her, the YORKS, HARRINGTONS and HUDDS lived in Bradford, I should have taped Phil’s talk because I’ve forgotten so much of the detail. I think the first written record of Bradford was 1152 but it is much older. Roman ruins have been found, as you would expect with it being so close to Bath. It is named because it provided a crossing place or ford across the Avon River.

The bridge across the river with its funny jail where drunks were thrown to sober up. They were said to be “under the fish and over the water”. Look closely and you will see the fish on top of the jail.

There’s an amazing Saxon Church which has had many uses, apart from worship, over time even as a storage place for the wool industry which our family was involved in

Many of our family were in the wool trade. Up until the 1850s it was a domestic industry with people doing the work in their homes. The clothiers were wealthy men who lived in flash houses and allocated the various stages of the process to the weavers or dyers etc

A clothier’s home.

Meanwhile the workers such as our lot were very poor, lived in crowded houses in crowded street and the whole family worked hard.

Most of the worst areas have been demolished and replaced with better housing.

In the 1850s woollen mills were introduced, all built beside the river which of course became very polluted. Big vats of urine were heated and used to clean the wool. It was a very unpleasant place to live and work. By the early 1900s the industry was finished but Bradford was saved by a rubber industry

An iron duke used in the rubber industry., started by the MOULTEN family.

The Holy Trinity church here featured heavily in the lives of our family with many baptisms, marriages & burials. We didn’t have time to chase down individual people.

The Holy Trinity Church, Bradford on Avon
Kay, George and I behind the font where our lot were baptised
The church was refurbished with money gained from the sale of a valuable old painting of Jesus which was found hanging on the wall in the church.

Some of the men in our family were masons. The church was built from stone dug from an area just behind it. I imagine there would have been plenty of work for masons with all these beautiful stone buildings.

Bradford is such a beautiful place now but life here for our family in the 1800s would not have been fun!

An old woollen mill, now apartments
The lovely old tea house built in the 1500s. We didn’t have time for scones with jam & clotted cream today. David and I were lucky enough to do that in 2016.
A view looking across the river and up the hill.

David and I caught the train back into Bath to visit the dentist who said to pop in on Monday if I was still having trouble. But he wasn’t working yesterday so that was a waste of time. David did find new shoe laces which had been on our shopping list for about 6 weeks so that was something.

Kay & Ben & George & Graeme headed off to Stonehenge which was about a 40 minute drive.

Ben’s pic of Stonehenge. Looks great

A wonderful gathering of the Alley Clan

Yesterday, at The Kings Arms, a lovely old pub in Swindon, there was a gathering of more than 30 descendants of Frederick ALLEY and Elizabeth ALLEY née GOULD, my great great grandparents and their spouses. Many thanks to my second cousin, Wendy BURROWS and third cousin, Christine PRICE and Fran BEVAN, a wonderful genealogist who linked me into the ALLEY family when I first started my journey to see where I came from after discovering that I was adopted. These three ladies organised the day for us.

Who are all these people & where do they fit in our tree?

The room was a buzz of noise. Everyone was very busy chatting, catching up with old friends or making new connections and establishing how we were related. I have to admit that I cannot remember the names of all those people or place them in the tree. Thank goodness we will meet with Wendy in Swindon later in the week and she will sort us out.

My grandparents were Frederick Ernest ALLEY and Rose YORK. They had 5 children and descendants of three out of the five were here. William Frederick was the eldest and Kay PROSSER is his granddaughter. George was the second son and Colin McMurdy is his grandson. Their third child was Louisa and as far as we know she never married or had children. Then came my father, Sidney Herbert who is Georgina’s grandfather as her Dad George was my big brother. Last was Grace but Kirsty JUDD, her great granddaughter was unable to be with us.

Christine PRICE, David EDELMAN and Colin MCMURDY

After lunch, we went to the Radnor Street Cemetery where Frederick ALLEY, Elizabeth GOULD and their son Edgar Gould ALLEY are buried in the one plot, Section C, number 3526. Fran had researched and prepared her tour well, of course, as she writes a wonderful blog about the cemetery, nearly every day. The cemetery was created for the non-conformists and as Frederick and his family were very involved in the Baptist Church, this was where they were buried. Andy BINKS joined us to show us the on-site chapel where the services took place.

Frederick and Elizabeth had 18 children. Sadly 7 of them died as babies and three are buried in this cemetery. There are no records of where they were buried so Fran suggests that they would have been in a massed grave. So sad! How would you cope with that?

The plot where Frederick, Elizabeth & Edgar are buried. Wendy had placed flowers on it on Friday.

Frederick’s brother, George Richman ALLEY, had seven daughters and one son. Those ALLEY women were all amazing women, living to great ages and achieving much. Fran is particularly excited by the story of Emma Louise HULL née ALLEY who was a suffragette campaigning for the right for women to vote. She had three short spells in jail, even though she was not a militant campaigner.

Emma Louisa HULL née ALLEY
The chapel and its bell tower. The bell would have been rung for funerals
The grave of George Richman ALLEY

We all had a wonderful day, a simple dinner at home and I was early to bed. I’d like my body clock to adjust a bit better so I could stay up later and sleep past 4:30. Maybe tonight?

Travelling again

It’s been ages since I’ve blogged and even longer since we’ve been out of Australia but over the last couple of days we have safely, but wearily, travelled to the UK and we are now very comfortably settled into our home for the week in Freshford, a beautiful little village in Somerset. It’s just over the border from Wiltshire; which is why we are here.

Also with us are my Canadian cousin Kay & her husband Ben and my niece, Georgina (George as she likes to be called) and her husband Graeme from Geelong in Australia. They are all from a ‘Victoria’, just not the same one.

So why are we here? We three women are all descendants of Frederick Ernest ALLEY and Rose YORK and we have traced the ALLEY and YORK families back to somewhere around 1750 in Wiltshire. We are on a pilgrimage to go back in time and to visit the places where they lived and died. More of that in the following days.

George, Graeme, David & I travelled by train from Paddington to Bath Spa on the Bristol line on the Great Western Line through Swindon which was very relevant to our current search. There we met up with Kay & Ben and since our hire car wasn’t ready we caught taxis to our home for the week.

We have a delightful 6 bed home in Freshford and the whole area is so pretty. Here are the Victorians chatting (the men about football and the women sharing family pics) meanwhile David was catching up on the news from home

This is “The Freshford Inn” where we had a refreshing ale and a delcious dinner last night. David and I were very weary so we came home to bed (only 200m or so but very steep) and left the others to party.

It promises to be a wonderful week and we are all looking forward to tomorrow when we meet some of our relatives who still live in England. What fun!

“The Things We Cannot Say”

I’ve been very lax with my blogging lately but I’ve just read this great novel by Kelly Rimmer, an Australian author & I want to spread the word about what a great read it was. The story begins with childhood sweethearts, Alina & Tomasz, in rural Poland just before WWII. We then meet Alice, in America in 2019. Alice & her husband have two children, Pascale, a brilliant 10 year old, & Eddie who is on the Autism Spectrum.. Alice loves her grandmother, Hanna, a great deal but Hannah is not expected to live long.

This is a mystery, a love story, a family history story……. it was just a great read. I didn’t want to put it down and I won’t tell you anymore as I don’t want to spoil it for you.

Another book I’ve really enjoyed lately was “Foreign Correspondence” by Geraldine Brooks, another Australian author. This is a memoir and begins with Geraldine sharing the joy she received from having international pen friends when she was young. I know just what she means as I corresponded with teenagers in England, Brazil, South Africa and Vietnam & I loved receiving those letters. Geraldine then went on to become a foreign correspondent and the memoir lets us see what life was like. It was a very enjoyable read.

I’ve been busy for some time now researching my Couch ancestors from Port Isaac in Cornwall so I can write their stories. My GG Grandparents, Elizabeth Couch & her husband, Isaac Hawker migrated to Melbourne Australia in 1862. It’s an interesting journey I’m on. I think I’m related to nearly every one of the original families from Port Isaac, at least by marriage. I’ve read a couple of books as part of my research & they include photos of and stories about my relatives. Both of these books are by Geoff Provis (I’m even related to Geoff by marriage). The books are “The Fishermen of Port Isaac” and “The Seafarers of Port Isaac”.

It’s a very strange world at the moment. I’m very lucky that I can fill my days with reading wonderful stories, researching the story of my family and playing bridge online. It was very difficult when we couldn’t see the grandkids but the easing of restrictions has made life more pleasant.

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!