Members’ meeting

The meeting took the form of a series of talks by individual members who have researched various aspects of family and local history.
Jessie Tindale, who is from Folkestone, talked about the work that has been done in in Folkestone to recognise the sacrifices made during the First World War. Folkestone has a particular link with Canada as the Canadian Cavalry were based there and many Canadian servicemen were buried there. Jessie recalled that as child at a local primary school they all went to the cemetery on Canada day to lay flowers on the graves. She also spoke about a link to Edith Cavell and the Unknown Soldier as they were both brought back to this country using a special vehicle.
Chris Tysterman née Cook spoke about her family’s butcher’s shop which was in the High Street, Wisbech. She talked about the layout of the house which was on four floors including cellars and attics and she remembered as a child seeing and hearing the Salvation Army Band marching on Sundays to play on the Market Place; she also recalled having seen elephants going along the High Street to advertise the circus. Chris was 14 when her father sold up because of competition from supermarkets although her brother continued with a catering business. The subsequent history of the property was less happy as the building was divided into flats and one of the occupiers started some renovations by knocking out the fireplace and chimney in the basement without bracing or putting in joists. The chimney went all the way up the building and the tenant in one of the higher flats became alarmed by the creaking and left, fortunately as the entire 4 floors collapsed; no-one was hurt but the tenant’s cat was missing and turned up some weeks later. The gap left by the building remains to this day. Chris also had photographs of the house.
Jenny Clingo spoke about borrowing a book from the society’s resource collection. The book was about an agricultural labourer and she thought it would provide her with useful information about life on farms in the area. Much to her surprise she discovered that the author had worked for great uncle and there was lots of information and anecdotes about her family as well as photographs of her own family members. Jenny’s grandson went on the internet and was able to buy her a copy of the book and she returned her borrowed book the following month!
Another member told the story of a Scottish family who moved from Edinburgh to Essex. An orphaned child called Emmy also from Edinburgh was a house servant and through various links came to work in the Essex house. She formed a relationship with the son of the house and had a child. The son was sent back to university and was told that Emmy had left; in a way she had: the bodies of her and her child were thrown into the well and it was sealed. In 1979 a new owner took on the property and demolished the servants’ quarters and the well cover was damaged. The owner saw a ghost and then his son also saw it. The story was then researched and the information about the grim history of Emmy was revealed.
Bridget Hunter then talked about finding an exercise book that led her to the story of ancestors of hers who had moved to Buntingford having had 10 children in 13 years. Mary was irritated by her husband who left her while he went off drinking, she got her own back on Thomas by making it appear that the house was on fire. I wonder what the repercussions were.
Bridget also told us about the grim ends of some of the family of her Orkney ancestors. Some of the information was gained from newspaper reports. David Smith was a son of her great great grandfather and he was killed after the horse he was working with bolted and dragged him across the plough and then kicked him. The doctor attended but there was no hope.
More family members were tragically killed when, in 1863, a boat carrying cattle between the islands was caught in a gale and holed. The cattle were being taken to Donald Smith’s croft and David Craigie Smith who would have been 13 or 14 was drowned; John Smith, Donald’s son was also drowned but not found for a further four months. A tragic outcome of a necessary journey.
Margaret Lake then told the story of one of her mother’s sisters: Beatrice Mary Balmer born in Appleby in 1908 and died in Appleby in 1998. In those ninety years she led a very eventful life which involved training to be a nursery nurse and having to return home after she contracted meningitis; she then assisted her father in his role as Borough Survey or for Appleby and was involved in all sorts of civic activities such as the Silver Jubilee celebrations in 1936 and the Coronation in 1938. In 1939 at the age of 31 she enlisted in the army and this was the start of a whole new chapter. She served throughout the war and was on duty at the Nuremberg Trials. She was enrolled as a Subaltern when the women’s army became part of the regular army. She was awarded an MBE in 1952 and finally retired in 1957 at which point she became a PA to the owner of the Drambuie Liqueur Company. In this role she travelled extensively an was involved in organising the first fund raiser for the WWF with the Duke if Edinburgh as the Patron. She went to lunch at Buckingham Palace and travelled on the Queen Mary. When she retired to the Appleby area she helped to found the Friends of the Lake District Charity and the Appleby Society and was involved in many other projects. She led a very full and busy life.
[Margaret Lake ]

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