Rob Roy McGregor, Three Wars, and the Sinking of The Lisbon Maru (part2)


As we saw in Part 1 The McGregor Family I’ve been tracing isn’t that of the Scottish Outlaw Rob Roy McGregor, rather they were Presbyterian Weavers from Glasgow, Godfearing Govan weavers and Fishers, then agitating street rioting anti-exploitation Calton Weavers as the Industrial Revolution crept in and changed their world forever.

The Glasgow Weavers were Protestant Loyalists to the British Crown, whilst fiercely fighting for their rights, this can be seen in their flag of association pictured below.

govanweavers2

Their Trade Association had been established since 1756, before the birth of America as an Independent Nation.  Their motto is that of the Town of Govan “Nihil Sine Labor” and translates as “Nothing Without Labour” and the slogan on their flags reads “For God, King, and Covenant” a strong message for a Labour Society.

The changes that forced the Family to reassess their future in Scotland was amplified by the economic collapse of Scottish Banks, followed by the American Civil War, from which the Weaving Industry in Glasgow would never recover.  Many of the family fled to Massachusetts and served with the Union against the South, returning to life in the Mills as hard as that they’d left in Scotland.

Strike!

Erosion in pay an conditions over time lead to increased Union organisation and activity in the areas of Massachusetts and Pennsylvania that the weaving McGregors had settled in.   Between 1881 and 1925 there were over 7,000 strikes involving nearly 3,000,000 workers in Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, many of these strikes were in Heavy Industries like Mining and Iron Working, but textile factories soon came under union pressure.

The conditions of Weavers and other Textile Workers culminated in the Bread and Roses strike of 1912, in Lawrence Massachusetts, the epicentre of early McGregor settlement in the States.

“As we come marching, marching, we battle too for men,

For they are Womens’ children, and we mother them again.

Our lives shall not be sweated from birth until life closes;

Hearts starve as well as bodies; give us bread, but give us Roses!”

1912_Lawrence_Textile_Strike_1

This strike made National headlines, when, after a statutory reduction in working hours for Mill Workers, the Mill owners reduced their wages, and strikes followed.  The Authorities brought in Militia and turned fire hoses on strikers in the freezing streets, strikers fought back by braking Mill windows.   A confrontation between Police and Strikers lead to a Policeman being stabbed and Anna LoPizzo a female Striker being shot dead by a bullet to the chest, despite eye witness testimony, the local authorities tried unsuccessfully to frame three Union officials for the killing, and after a short period of incarceration they were freed when evidence showed that they were not involved in the riot.

annalopizzo

On a grander scale there was a conspiracy by a Mill Owner and various other parties to have dynamite planted on Union premises, this failed when a building contractor who had witnessed the discussion of the plan, came forward to testify to what he had seen, however he never took the stand before a Grand Jury, as he died, conveniently, by “suicide” shortly after receiving the summons.

Eventually troops were called out on the streets, and there were standoffs and violence between strikers and fully armed soldiers.

Standoff_between_militia_and_strikers,_Lawrence,_Mass[1]

The situation finally got taken into Federal Courts when parents of strikers attempting to send their children to safety by train with friends and relatives in Philadelphia and New York, were brutally attacked by the Police had their children dragged off of the train to be forced to stay, in many cases, without food at their parents’ homes in Lawrence.

Lawrence_Strike_Cartoon[1]

This was the last straw, and federal intervention, and Union steadfastness, alongside the exposure of the various illegal attempts to set-up the Unions for crimes they did not commit, swung public opinion in the strikers favour, and improved conditions were won.

For the McGregors in these uncertain times, the family were affected in different ways.  The family had lived through, and undoubtedly took part in the Calton Riots in earlier generations in Glasgow, and there was no doubt a fine tradition of dissent, and Unionised fighting for rights going right back to the 1700s, so there is little doubt in my mind that at least some of them were active in the various strike activities they encountered in the USA.  The core of the Family stayed in weaving, but some moved to other areas where conditions were better, some continued in specialist tasks like Tapestry Weaving, but mechanisation and a massive influx of cheap labour from Italy and other parts of Europe and even Syria, deskilled Weaving jobs and depressed wages.

Birdseye_view_of_Lawrence_mill_section_showing_areas_occupied_by_different_nationalities[1]

McGregors On The Move

Some of the McGregors wound up in Philadelphia, and it looks as if James McGregor may have been active in the strikes, as we find him living under a false name (he had adopted his Mother’s Maiden name of Craig) in Rhode Island for sometime, before eventually returning to Philadelphia many years later.  He took this as far as marrying and raising a family under the false family name of Craig, so it is likely that he may have been in fear of persecution by the authorities as well as the risk of finding himself blacklisted.

strikers

A game of International Chess by US vested interests

These uncertainties in the Weaving Community forced some members of the McGregor Family to seek more peaceful occupations, and in the case of the Submarine Commander Rob Roy McGregor’s Father, Francis “Frank” Alexander McGregor this meant joining the US Navy on 29th June 1891, at Fall River Massachusetts.  Frank was 5ft 4ins, with Blue Eyes, Reddish Hair, and a Freckled Complexion, he just about made it in having slight knocked knees, and was skinny being four pounds under the official minimum weight for his height, although this was waived when he was signed up. He was sent to Recruiting Station St Louis for training.

Frank would join at the perfect time to see some foreign travel, in his case to Cavite in the Spanish Colony of the Philippines in 1898, accompanied by a tattoo of the US Flag on his Right Arm.  Frank’s trip was a result of the blowing up of the American Warship Maine in Havana Harbour, the spark that ignited the Spanish American War.

Spain had been losing power on the world scene since the Peninsular War in the early 1800s when The leader of the British forces in the Spanish Peninsular, The Duke of Wellington, assisted by Portuguese and Spanish Guerrillas, had thoroughly defeated Napoleon’s forces in Spain. Years of civil strife followed, fuelled by the Anarchist movement in Europe. Late in the 1800s Spain gained some stability, but the previous weakness at the centre of Spanish politics and the successful overthrow of Spanish rule in Mainland South and Central America had encouraged liberation movements in far flung colonies, notably Cuba, The Philippines, and Guam. Most of these places had been under Spanish rule for 400 years, and Cuba in particular was thought of as a Province of Spain by the Spanish rather than a colony (a parallel to the British attitude towards Ireland).

 

At the same time there was a movement to expand America’s interests on the World Stage by a number of powerful men in American public life, the US had already mounted an illegal invasion of Hawaii in 1893, that came about because of civil unrest instigated by a fifth column of US Sugar Planters and Missionaries living on the Island agitating over a period of decades. The US invasion, unsanctioned by the US Congress, and therefore to all intents and purposes illegal, was hastened by the fact that the Hawaiians had leaned towards Great Britain for protection in the past, to the point where the British Government had provided troops and ships in 1843 to protect the Islands from the French, honourably pulling out after a few months when the danger had past, in stark contrast to the US approach in the following decades. The legacy of this Hawaiian-British relationship is defiantly proclaimed in the Union Jack flag still flying in the corner of the Hawaiian state flag!

Flag-of-hawaii-flying

After the invasion the Monarchy of Hawaii was replaced with a puppet Republic largely controlled by US Commercial (Sugar) interests, but this was too precarious for the expansionist forces in the USA, and in 1897, shortly before the outbreak of the Spanish-American War, an attempt to officially annexe the Hawaiian Islands was put before congress and defeated, the defeat in part driven by pressure from the signatures of 21,000 native Hawaiians protesting at the attempt to rob them of what little sovereignty they had left, but a year later, given the likelihood of war with Spain, the US desire for a naval base in the North Pacific was too tempting a prize to be left un-stolen, as the USA would badly need a stopover point for resupply en-route to the Spanish possessions in the Philippines if they were to consider an invasion. So all pretence of protecting the independence of Hawaii was dropped, and an annexation bill was passed, effectively robbing Hawaii of any chance of independence and self determination.

A confrontation with Spain was guaranteed when ships from the newly developed and highly powerful US fleet were dispatch to various Spanish areas of interest, culminating with the sinking of the Battleship Maine in Havana harbour killing over 260 of her crew. At the time the blame was firmly placed on a Spanish mine by the US authorities, but later investigations point towards an explosion caused by the poor quality coal used on the ship which gave off a high flammable gas in in the area of the ship’s ammunition magazine. Whatever the cause, the sinking of the Maine ensured that War would be the likely outcome with the Americans adopting the slogan “Remember The Maine, to Hell with Spain!”

USS_Main__(ACR-1)_blowup_grande

Explosion Aboard the Battleship Maine, Havana Harbour

Frank McGregor turned up as a Gunner on the USS Culgoa in 1898.  Now the Culgoa was an interesting ship, built in Sunderland on the North East Coast of England, she was sold to the US in 1898, and Frank was part of the first American Naval Crew.  The Culgoa was the epitome of Anglo-American friendship.  Although Great Britain was technically neutral in the Spanish American War, it sold the Culgoa to the American Navy as a modern refrigerated merchant ship rather than a commissioned Naval Vessel, which meant that she could buy meat from ports of the British Empire and without technically breaking British Neutrality, she was also capable of producing and transporting Ice.

USS_Culgoa

All this despite the fact that she had a US Navy Crew (pictured below) and Guns, including Gunner Frank McGregor.  Frank steamed aboard Culgoa whilst she plied her trade between Cavite and Manila supplying the American troops with meat and ice.

culgoacrew

The War  took very little time and few casualties on the American side. The main Spanish garrison in Manilla had little stomach for the fight after seeing their slightly antiquated fleet sent to the bottom of Manila Bay by the vastly superior US Fleet, and offered to put up a token resistance just to save face, as long as the US forces didn’t allow their Filipino insurgent allies take control of the town or molest the surrendering Spaniards. There was some confusion, and some units of US soldiers were involved in heavy fire, but overall the “attack” went as planned.

manilabay

If anything it went too well, as, now in possession of the Capital, the US Government decided that rather than handing the Philippines back to the Filipinos, they would replace the Spanish themselves and rule the country as a colony. It was no surprise that the Filipinos didn’t take to this idea, and immediately opened a guerrilla war against American forces as they had for many years against the Spanish. The war was barbaric on both sides, fought in the jungles and villages of the Philippine Islands, and was a foretaste of conditions in Vietnam 60 years later. However, the US forces were so well armed and provisioned that it was a forgone conclusion that they would eventually overrun Filipino resistance.

Culgoa was officially commissioned into the US Navy during this period of the American-Filipino War.  She was refitted in the British Crown Colony of Hong Kong, and made a number of trips to Brisbane Australia, also part of the British Empire, to purchase meat and other supplies for the American troops in the Philippines. It looks likely that Frank was a member of the crew during this period.  Culgoa sailed back to the States, to New York via the Anglo-French controlled Suez Canal in 1901, and was temporarily decommissioned, this ties in with Frank’s known movements, we find him back in the states getting married in Washington in 1902, to Lydia Schmidt, a local girl, the daughter of German settler immigrants.  By 1904 the couple are in Rhode Island where their first two sons are born.  By October 1906 Frank has retired from the Navy and by 1910 is living with wife and kids in Seattle on his Navy retirement pension, which must have been hard.  In 1907 their third son Rob Roy McGregor, the Submarine Commander, who would sink the Lisbon Maru was born in Seattle.

 

The First World War.

Come the outbreak of the Great War in 1914, the USA increased Naval recruitment in response to events in Europe.  This gave Frank the opportunity as an experienced Naval Gunner to find employment back in the Navy in Seattle.  He would stay in the Navy throughout the War, reaching the rank of Chief Gunner in 1918.  At the end of the War and through the 1920s, Frank continued working in the Naval Office of the Line based in New York. He died in 1934.

By 1917 John William McGregor, Frank’s youngest brother, followed Frank’s example, joined the Navy in 1917 and moved to Charleston South Carolina in service as Naval Quartermaster.  He spent most of his wartime career in convoys between the US, Ireland, England, and France, transporting supplies to American troops in Continental Europe.  he left wartime service in 1919, but was still working as a Chief Accountant in the Navy in the 1920s.  He would die in 1924.

The Vagaries of Chance and Choices that affect History.

So Rob Roy McGregor was brought up in what had become a Naval family, despite having no previous Naval connections, coming from a staunch Protestant Unionised Family of Lowland Scots Weavers.  The course of the American Civil War and its affect on the transatlantic Cotton trade, had lead the surly and riotous Calton Weavers to leave Glasgow and travel to Massachusetts and then Pennsylvania, fighting for their rights against a system that was stacked against them in the New World, before seeing a better option in the US Navy where their careers blossomed, and the family thrived to the present day.

It was a series of world events, and choices of economic necessity that would all lead to Rob Roy McGregor finding himself looking through a submarine periscope at a Japanese military convoy, and giving the order to fire his torpedoes that would sink an armed Japanese Transport Ship the Lisbon Maru, and set off a series of event that would culminate in my search for the families of both survivors and of the crew of his submarine USS Grouper.

 

Postscript

….and in a happy coincidence I can report that just prior to publication of this update, our efforts to track down the McGregor Family have been successful.  I hope that my humble contribution to their family story will be appreciated, enjoy.

 

 

Advertisements

Rob Roy McGregor, Three Wars, and The Sinking of the Lisbon Maru (Part 1)


The Lisbon Maru

As anyone will know who has read these pages recently, I have been helping a Documentary Film Company to research the descendants of the Lisbon Maru, a Japanese armed Merchantman being used to transport captured Commonwealth personnel in WW2, that was sunk by US Submarine Grouper without knowledge of its cargo of prisoners.  As part of this research I have also been tracing the descendants of members of the Grouper’s crew  in the USA.USS_Grouper;0821405

Doing such detective work always brings up some interesting finds, and reinforces the overwhelming part that chance plays in historical events, ranging from an ancestor taking a ship going one way rather than another, or macro-events in world history having an influence on micro-decisions in Family History, that generations later put various players into contact with each other on the world stage or the field of battle.

One such story was with the tracing of the descendants (still ongoing) of the Skipper of the Grouper, Rob Roy McGregor.  Rob Roy McGregor was a brave, highly skilled and intrepid submarine Commander, winning three Silver Stars for sinking and damaging more than 36,000 tons of enemy shipping in the Pacific during WW2.  RunSilentRunDeep

He eventually retired as a Rear Admiral, and acted as Military advisor on the film Run Silent, Run Deep, starring Clark Gable and Burt Lancaster.

However the quirks of history that put him in that submarine on the fateful day go right back into his Scottish Ancestry and make for interesting reading, including three wars but NOT, alas, his namesake Rob Roy McGregor the Highland Outlaw!

NOT Rob Roy McGregor The Outlaw!

One of the sad things about family history from a professional point of view is that people seem obsessed with finding someone famous in their Family Tree, to the point of fantasy.  Ignoring both evidence, and lack of evidence, connections are made on the back of wishful thinking and a need to feel a connection to someone “important”.  This was brought to the fore in the McGregor Family research where everyone seems to want to be descended from the Outlaw Rob Roy McGregor.

Having looked into the Family Tree, I can honestly say that there is no evidence at all for a direct descent from the Outlaw Rob Roy McGregor to the Submarine Commander Rob Roy McGregor.  The family of the Submarine Commander first come into the historical as Lowland Scots living in Govan from the 1600s, as McGreggars, a different etymology, a different area of Scotland – way further south than the Outlaw, and at best only a tenuous link to the Clan name to connect them, which by definition, is not the same as a name that has a genetic relationship with the surname (anyone could take a Clan Name, it was an act of social or political allegiance to a particular leader, not necessarily a sign of a genetic relationship).

17th & 18th McGreggars

185_a_18[1]Govan where these McGreggars came from, was on the Southbank of the Clyde and would in future generations become part of Glasgow. During the 17th and 18th centuries it was a Lowland Coal and Iron Mining area, families not engaged in mining  worked as Weavers making cloth for women to turn into clothes for the menfolk working in the mines, and for selling on to more densely populated areas such as Barony on the North of the Clyde (later to become the core of Glasgow) and to Edinburgh.

We know our McGreggars plied their trade as Weavers in this area for many generations, becoming skilled hand loom weavers, mainly supplying the local demand, alternating with Salmon Fishing in the Clyde when times were hard in the Weaving Industry.  During the 18th Century Weaving was mainly a limited home based activity, and Scotland would lag slightly behind England in Industrialising.

20181014_033813[1]

Not so “Bonnie” Prince Charlie

In 1745 parts of the Highlands rose in rebellion against the Hanoverian Crown of Great Britain, but contrary to popular myth, this rising was not universally followed by Scots.  It was especially unpopular with three main groups, the mainly Presbyterian Protestant Working Classes of Lowland Scotland, the City dwelling Middle Class Commercial interests who feared disruption to trade, and the Lowland Political Upper Classes who held their positions subject to the British Crown.  Glasgow in particular was very unsupportive of Bonnie Prince Charlie and what they considered his uncivilised and ragged arsed Highlanders. It can be safely surmised that the McGreggars would have been hostile to the uprising being both Lowlanders and Protestants.

charlie[1]

After having a request rebuffed by the Burghers of Glasgow for substantial sums of money to support his cause, Bonnie Prince Charlie blew through Glasgow, coming in like a warm wind, trying to win the Gentry over with Balls and Socialising, but left like a cold breeze, having failed to win new friends.  Frustrated that he couldn’t raise substantial sums of money from the Town, he demanded that the Town provided his men with new cloth outfits to replace the weather worn cloths they had arrived in, effectively raising a tax paid in cloth and garments against the local people, which would have hit the McGreggars as weavers and providers of cloth.  This wasn’t forgotten in Glasgow, and the Town subsequently provided a Militia that fought for the British/Hanoverian Crown against the Jacobites in a number of engagements.

As the 1700s progressed, rebellion was put down, and Georgian Great Britain became pre-eminent.  The main problems faced by the McGreggars was ensuring their living standards were kept up, as by the late 1700s a Master Weaver could earn up to £100 per year (over £170,000 in today’s money), these profits were driven by demand for good cloth in the North American Colonies .  Journeymen weavers like the McGregors could earn a good wage, but in the 1780s Master Weavers operated a cartel, and began to suppress the wages they paid to the journeymen weavers they employed.

This came to a head in 1787 when the Journeymen Weavers rioted in Calton, breaking their Masters’ machines and burning the contents of cloth warehouses.  Unsuccessful attempts by Glasgow Council to suppress the riots with local law officers made the panicked Council call in Regular Troops, the 39th Regiment of Foot, who although called The East Middlesex Regiment, had an elderly Colonel from a Scots family and was mainly comprised of Irishmen.  Given that Great Britain had lost her thirteen Colonies in America a few years before, and riots had caused havoc in London a few years before, riots were always severely reacted to, so a Magistrate “Read The Riot Act” and when the Weavers still refused to disperse, the troops opened fire killing three rioters and wounding many others.  The small number of casualties is an indication that the Troops didn’t exactly have their hearts in it, being mainly Irish with a Scots Colonel, and had little appetite for shooting unarmed civilians, other than to make sure that the civilians in question didn’t look to exercise violence in their direction.  Various other outbreaks of riots were subsequently dispersed by the troops with no fatalities.

riots

Early 19th Century Weavers and Industrialisation

The coming of the 19th Century brought more intensive weaving practices to Govan with a Silk Mill being erected in 1824, and Steam Power coming in to the Mills to enhance production.  The days of the Hand Loom weavers working from home were numbered as more and more skilled workers were drawn to the Mills.  The downside was the loss of independence, a gradual depression of wages, and once Steam power was introduced to drive the weaving looms, a greater element of industrial danger.

Glasgow in the early 1800s showed a pattern of gradual deterioration for the Weavers, more Riots flared against low wages and automation pitching small scale weavers against the factories and their workers, but all such risings were quelled by the military, to the advantage of the Factory owners.  The situation became bad enough for the Government to give paid assistance in 1820 and 1821 for Glaswegian Weavers to emigrate to Canada.  The McGreggars changed their name to fit the more common form of McGregor, and held on in Glasgow.  The Calton Weavers developed a reputation for violent disorder.

By the 1840s the situation became particularly bad for the Weavers, with low wages, and job pressure during the Irish Potato Famine in the late 1840s, when the Factory owners were able to take in many Irish Immigrants on low wages.  To make matters worse, some factory owners made a point of mainly employing women and children as they could pay them less than men.  Despite this the McGregors still managed to get by, but were feeling the pinch.  In addition sectarian rivalries began to grow as Irish Catholic Immigrants  vied with Scots Protestants for jobs and living space.

The McGregors were by the 1850s and into the 1860s spread across, Calton, Barony, and Gorbals whole families of McGregors working in the factories with parents working as Hand and Power Loom Weavers, and Cotton Yarn Dressers, and older children working as “Twisters”.  Even before compulsory education was introduced, the McGregors adhered to their Presbyterian Roots, unlike many Weavers they ensured that their younger children all received an education.  However the McGregors must have felt increasingly alienated and marginalised in the strange new Glasgow they now lived in.  The Population had quadrupled in 50 years, and living conditions became overcrowded and intolerable.

annan-thomas-old-b20090-141.jpg

The Impact of the American Civil War

When the Confederacy fired on Fort Sumter on April 12th 1861, it not only raised the curtain on hostilities between the states that would last until 1865, but as a by-product of the North’s blockade of the South, the war collapsed the cotton weaving trade across Great Britain, almost to the point where Great Britain considered entering the War on the Confederate side to break the blockade (it was only the issue of slavery that prevented this).

In Glasgow the Cotton Weaving Trade had already been hit by a world financial crisis in the late 1850s, to be followed by a 90% drop in raw Cotton imports in the 1860s.  This wiped out the small scale hand loom weavers, and forced the big factories to lay off hundreds of workers.  To make matters worse, the authorities in Scotland took a different view to the English when it came to granting temporary relief to the able bodied unemployed, in England it was usually the case that the unemployed could receive some food and shelter for them and their families via the workhouse, or even temporary “outdoor” relief which didn’t require being in the Workhouse, and as bad as the reputation of the Workhouses were, they did temporarily ward off starvation.  By contrast in Scotland many authorities by a strict and penny pinching view of the rules, refused to give any relief to unemployed able bodied men or their families.  This caused a crisis, and lead to a partial relaxing of the rules, especially as many philanthropists donating directly to help the poor, throwing opprobrium on the inaction of the Scots’ Civic Authorities.

annan thomas old B20090 12[1]

Such a collapse for the McGregors, meant at best hardship, and at worst destitution and starvation.  Any working members of the family could support those not working for short periods, but unemployment going on for years was something the family couldn’t survive.  By the end of the American Civil War, the Cotton factories in England had found other sources for Cotton, notably from Egypt, and the Northern US Cotton Mills had survived by temporarily switching to Wool and turning out Military Uniforms for the Northern Armed Forces.  Unfortunately the Cotton Factories in Glasgow made little use of the first source, and couldn’t adapt to the second, and so never fully recovered from the collapse in the Market.

Leaving for America

The McGregors were left with few options if they wanted a reasonable standard of living.  Perhaps the most adventurous and most risky was emigration to America.  It was this option that a number of the Family members went for.

Archibald arrived in 1854, and found work in Lawrence Massachusetts as an Operative in a Weaving Mill.  He would be listed on the Union Military draft of 1863.

Helen McGregor married Currie Anderson in Glasgow, Currie followed his Brother-in-Law Archibald, arriving in the States in 1859 as a Gas Fitter, before joining the 4th Battalion Massachusetts Infantry in 1862. Before returning and working as an operative in a Lawrence Mill.

Still Pictures ID: 64-M-191 Rediscovery number: 06989 06989_2008_001

By 1860 Moses McGregor was a Weaver in Andover Massachusetts.

James was in Portsmouth Massachusetts in the 1860s, he married Ann Craig in Lawrence Massachusetts in 1867 and worked as a Mill Operative.

All of these McGregors raised families in Massachusetts.  So the American Civil War, unlike the Jacobite risings, had a direct impact on the trajectory of the McGregors, both in affecting their job opportunities in Scotland, and their settlement in the USA, as well as pitching some of the family into actual fighting.

It is no accident that the McGregors made for Massachusetts, and Lawrence in particular, as the settlement along the Merrimac River had been built as a commercial enterprise with trade in mind.  By the eve of the US Civil War, Lawrence was a bustling manufacturing hub, with Factories lining the riverside.

New_England_factory_life_--_'Bell-time.'_(Boston_Public_Library)[1]

In Part 2 we will see how our line of the Family progressed from James McGregor and Agnes Craig.

 

 

 

 

 

Finding Missing Family Members


Sometimes finding individuals who died 150 years ago can be easier than finding those who died recently, or are still alive, but this is exactly what Time Detectives™ are sometimes asked to do.

We were recently approached by a client we have worked with before, a member of the Redknapp Family (yes Harry’s relations) to help track down an Uncle who was believed to have died, but contact with him and his children had been lost over the years.

Finding such records for very recent deaths when you have no details can be problematic, and takes careful research, in this case a trawl of all the Redknap and Redknapp death records up until fairly recently failed to show any positive hits.  This meant that we had to step back into the history of the individual concerned, and then carefully moving forward through marriages and children’s births to pin point the geography of the Family.  In this particular case, we hit upon census, polling, and Merchant Navy records to confirm addresses and relationships over time.

Along the way a picture builds up of a man who travelled the world serving in the Merchant Marine, running the gauntlet of German U-Boats, this allowed us to find him on a ship in New York.  We also found him on the Thames as a Lighterman, that had been a Redknapp Family trade for 200 years (you can read more about the Redknapps on the River Thames here – The Redknapp Family History Part 1; Origins, Redheaded Merchants on the Thames).  So he had a full life, and eventually retired to Essex, his life was fascinating in itself.  merchantseaman

The last area we searched turned up a hit on a funeral service that seemed to fit the identity of the man concerned, but contained very few details of anything other than the funeral service itself, but gave us a rough date to go by.

Once the trail started to dry up, it was necessary to come down to the man’s children, this was made harder as he had daughters, meaning that when they married, there was a name change bringing an extra layer of complexity to the search.  If they disappeared from the records, was it because they married, or because they died?  In this case, one daughter died, and two married.

At this point research has to centre more on old telephone directories, lists of voters, and sometime social media.  The search is helped if the people concerned have middle names, and also if their married names are less common.  Our search took us back to Essex, and to a number of streets across a fifteen year period, gradually narrowing the number of likely people, until we were confident that we had found our client’s relations, and could pass on the information for them to make contact direct, although there is the option of Time Detectives™ making first contact if there is the worry of what the reaction will be, fortunately that wasn’t the case in this instance, the Family had just drifted apart over the years, as is often the case.

Lastly we investigated local Newspapers, and Emergency Service Records, to see if we could find more information concerning our client’s Uncle, and sadly we did.  He had tragically died in an accidental house fire.  This information was passed on to our client.

So a Family reunited and a mystery solved.

redknapfireLFB

 

 

 

Published in: on February 26, 2019 at 6:39 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , ,

Liberating Bergen-Belsen


tankgroup

Today is Holocaust Memorial Day

My Uncles and my Dad served in the Army idad1942n World War 2, I was brought up on stories of their adventures, like my Dad, Lenny McNeil, lying about his age to follow his brothers into the War.  Dad served in the Infantry, then as a Despatch Rider (a “DR” or “Don Roberts” as they were nicknamed) in France and Belgium, and then as a driver of all types of vehicles, including a Tank Transporter, which he went AWOL with, parking it up in the back streets of Peckham, when he was meant to be driving it to Dover, so that he could see my Mum before he went overseas. A Copper banged on the door of the little terraced house in Vaughan Road, and told him he had to move it as it was blocking the traffic, so my Dad promptly shoved the keys to the enormous vehicle into the Copper’s hand, and said:
“Here’s the keys mate; you f***king move it.”
Then shut the door and left the bemused member of the Constabulary staring at the knocker, mouth agape. Needless to say Dad was back in the Transporter’s cab and off down the Old Kent Road to the Coast a couple of hours later.
But amongst all these stories of cheeky  working class Cockneys with a healthy lack of respect for authority, sometimes leading to spending time in Military Prisons, there was one story that I never heard until the protagonist had died, my Dad’s older half Brother, Uncle Albert. (Top right in the picture above the swastika flag).  That was his story of the Liberation of Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp.
Albert was the second oldest Brother, his sunansheadrname was Drew, and he was one of two boys from the marriage of my Grandmother and her first husband, Harry Drew, an Army Deserter and Deal Porter who worked in the Surrey Docks and the Canals of Peckham before World War 1. Deal Porters like Harry carried huge loads of “Deal” or wooden planks, on their shoulders offloaded from barges to be shipped off on horse drawn carts to builders merchants and carpentry shops.  This was a really tricky job requiring skill and massive strength, negotiating narrow walkways between boats, docks, and canals, with a hundred weight of lumber on your right shoulder. Unfortunately Harry missed his footing one day, and was plunged into the filthy water of the Docks and pinned under the weight of lumber he was carrying. He was pulled out alive, but had taken in a lot of the filthy dock water, and he died a few days later from Pneumonia.

arthurpatrickmcneil(01)
My Nan was left to bring up two sons and a daughter on her own. Things looked up when she met my Grandfather, Arthur Patrick McNeil, a Foreman in a Tin Works, they fell in love and married, he went off to fight in World War 1, and managed to survive, although damaged by gas.  They raised three sons and two daughters, as well as a daughter who died young from a measles outbreak after World War 1.  The boys grew up, and like Arthur, went off to War when World War 2 broke out.

Their adventures formed the background that I grew up with, and each one had their own little twist to their experiences on the battlefield.  Many years later, when I was all grown up, and they were all dead, except for my Uncle Sid, I heard a story from Uncle Sid that had never been mentioned before.  I was speaking with Uncle Sid by phone as he lived in Australia, where he had emigrated to after the War as a “Five Pound Pom”.  Sid lived in a Sidney suburb called Cabramatta, what he called “the wild west” of Sidney because of all the drug gangs and shoot outs there. I mentioned the picture of Uncle Albert on his Tank with the Nazi Flag, and he started telling me the usual funny and exciting stories about Albert fighting his way across France and capturing the Nazi Flag shown in the picture, then appearing on the front page of the Daily Sketch for his efforts. He then dropped a bombshell,  Uncle Sid asked me if I knew that Uncle Albert had helped Liberate Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp.
I was quite shocked to hear this, as it had never been mentioned before. The story unfolded that Uncle Albert and his Tank Regiment had been sent to Bergen-Belsen because the Germans had asked for a temporary truce because of an outbreak of Typhus at the Camp. A group of Tanks went fully prepared for a trap (if an officer from HQ told you that it was safe to enter an area, it was always assumed that you were actually going in to the area to see IF it was safe!).  The first Tank took the gates of the camp down by driving straight through them to make sure the Germans inside knew they meant business. They entered what they thought would be some form of Prison, but instead found Hell on Earth.
These were men who were by no means soft. My Uncle had killed at a distance, and close up, they risked their lives every day, he understood that sometimes it was just you or the bloke you were fighting, it wasn’t personal.  Jumping out of their Tanks and forming a perimeter, they were met with heaps of bodies; civilians, men, women, and children, casually stacked like sacks of rags. At first this scene of death was accepted as just a result of disease, but gradually it dawned on the British Soldiers that this was more than that, these people had been starved and worked to death. Still they didn’t quite blame the Germans as there were so many bodies, and it looked as if the German Camp authorities may have just been overwhelmed by the numbers that they couldn’t deal with.
As they moved further into the camp, and saw the arrogance and contempt of the guards for their charges, the Penny dropped, and it became obvious that this was, if not a death camp as such, still a place were the weakest and most defenceless were worked to death, and allowed to die stripped of all human dignity.  The anger in the men began to rise.  Even in battle they had not seen horror on this scale, or with this level of casual sadism.

It is worth saying again that my Uncle and his comrades weren’t soft, they killed for a living, and weren’t particularly bothered by it in the heat of Battle.  They had had a world of compassion knocked out of them by a combination of a hard upbringing in the back streets of South London, and participating in the terror of armed combat, but this was something different.  Such pointless cruelty against people who couldn’t defend themselves was beyond their grasp.

While they were trying to take all this in, shooting was heard, and Albert and his friends found some of the young German guards, many barely more than psychotic teenagers, shooting starving inmates for trying to take Potatoes from a pile behind one of the huts. The damn broke, and Uncle Albert and his friends shot some of the guards, and knocked others out cold with fists and pistol buts. As is always the case with sociopathic bullies, once faced with men who could fight back the Nazi guards suddenly lost their appetite for a fight, and instead bolted to the Camp Kommandant for protection. Luckily for them, some British Officers intervened, and warned the Kommandant that if any more inmates were shot, then the British would line up and shoot the guards on a one to one basis. Despite being flabbergasted that inmates stealing food would be allowed to get away with it, the Kommandant had no option but to agree.
Once the camp was secured, other units came in, and it was deemed sensible to move the Tanks on for good Military reasons, and to make sure Uncle Albert and his mates didn’t risk getting put on a charge for shooting any more Nazis without due process, which was highly likely to happen.  The war was nearly over at this point, but those last few months were pursued by Uncle Albert and his Regiment with renewed ferocity. The young men who had come from the back streets of South London to fight in Europe had been hardened by the experience, but knew that were fighting for the right reasons when they entered Bergen-Belsen.

family backyard

My Dad and his Brothers all came back alive, probably to a great extent by cannily disobeying orders. They supported Millwall all their lives, Uncle Albert even had a trial for the team before the war, but decided that being a bus driver would be a better career choice.  None of them were afraid to use their fists if necessary to stand their ground in Peckham, and I’ve witnessed the bunch of them bundle a violent criminal gang out of a pub on one New Year’s Eve,  and I watched my Dad take on two burglars single handed who were trying to force entry to our house, as I said they were hard men.  But despite all stories I was frequently told growing up by my Dad and his Brothers, what my Uncle had seen made his story of Bergen-Belsen was too horrific to bring back to mind, even for these hard men, perhaps something about what Uncle Albert had seen was the reason he didn’t smile much in photos after 1945, as you can see in the group photo above. I can fully understand why he wanted to forget it, but equally: We never must.

 

Published in: on January 27, 2019 at 5:35 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , ,

Pandemic (Part 3)


The Black Death

In Pandemic Part 2 we saw how the Justinian Plague opened up the former Roman Colony of Britannia to domination by the more plague resilient Sub-Roman “English” of the East of the Island over the less genetically well adapted Sub-Roman “British” in the West of the Island.  Now we shall see the how the Mediaeval Black Death became a blessing in disguise for the Serfs of England who survived it, and was the catalyst that broke the back of Serfdom, freeing up the general English Populace to far greater rights and freedoms than they’d ever known before.

1340s  Worse than Mid-Summer Murders: The Lost Villages of England

vanessacuddeford

A few years back Time Detectives became involved in tracing the Family History of a UK TV presenter called Vanessa Cuddeford. An interesting name, with it’s origin being problematic. It appears to be derived from “Cuthbert’s Foird” Cudde being a nickname for Cuthbert, and on this reasoning we would expect it to have been derived from a village called Cuthbert’s Ford or Cuddeford. However such a place does not exist in the UK. A mystery to start with?
The only clue is a mention of a place called Cuddeford in a mediaeval text from 1301 referring to the De Clyfford Family who held lands and knight’s fees in “Cuddeford and Coombe” and , “Awlescombe” villages. None of these places now exist with those names, but “Awliscombe” is a village outside of Honiton in Devon, and it is therefore likely that there is a lost mediaeval village of Cuddeford in the same area. Awliscombe is about a day’s walk from the Exeter area where we first find the Cuddeford family.
It is very likely therefore that the Cuddeford family, were itinerant peasants without their own surname, who left their home village probably around the 1350s in the aftermath of the Black Death, when the population of England was reduced by a third. Whole villages were wiped out by this outbreak of Bubonic Plague., and once a village falls below a certain level there is little or no work and any survivors leave to other communities, generally within a day’s walk, and it is from this flood of local refugees going on a Journée  i.e. an old French word for a “the amount of travel covered in a day” (Jour = Day) that we get the English word Journey (which literally meant a day’s travel).  This combination of plague, and commercial necessity, emptied many villages across the English countryside, many were abandoned and never recovered, exactly as the Town of Silchester had at the end of the Roman Period (covered in Pandemic Part 2).  The village of Cuddeford disappeared perhaps in the space of a few weeks.

1300s A Mongol Khan decides the fate of a West Country Family

Mongols

The plague had originated in the Black Sea Steppes when the Genoese fortified trading post of Caffa was besieged by the angry Khan of the Mongol “Golden Horde” in punishment for the Italians ignoring his authority. Things took a turn for the worse when the plague erupted in the camp of the besieging Mongols, and in order to avoid both further infection of his own army, and to spread the infection among the Genoese, the Khan had the bodies of plague victims loaded onto his catapults, and hurled over the walls into the city. This is likely to be the first reliably documented case of Biological Warfare in History!

kaffaFleeing from the siege, the plague, and the Wrath of Khan, the Genoese put to see in their remaining galleys and headed off across the Black Sea to head back via Byzantium to Genoa. But the plague was with them, on some ships the entire crews died before reaching home, and large Genoese Galleys manned by blackened corpses drifted like ghost ships for some time on the Black Sea.
The few that did make it back, brought their diseased bodies, and flea infested rats with them to spread the plague in the major trading port of Genoa. Within months it had spread across the Mediterranean, and on to France, where a ship from Bristol was loading up with wine in a port in Gascony, one of the West Country sailors became infected with the plague here, and by the time the ship reached port in the coastal village of Melcombe in Dorset, he was badly sick, and the plague now taking the Pneumonic form spread on the breath, he brought the infection into the Kingdom of England, for good measure the ship sailed on to it’s home port of Bristol, ensuring that the plague would also have an entry point there.

peasantsploughing1
The plague averaged about a mile a day in its spread, the little village of Cuddeford lay immediately in its path from two directions, it would have taken about two months before the first signs of coughing and swellings at the armpits and groin would have manifested themselves in the village, and by the autumn of 1348 the Church graveyard would have been full, and by the winter there would have been corpses in the cottages, village lanes, and fields. There would not have been enough able people left to bury the dead. On average three quarters of people who came into contact with the disease caught it in it’s aggressive form, half of these died. That’s on average, however in small villages with many people marrying locally and effectively having little diversity in the gene pool, it was apparent that whole villages were dying out through lack of resistance.

plough

Every European alive today who had ancestors in Europe at the time of the plague is descended from someone with a degree of natural immunity, all others died out.  So who was left? In our case, Vanessa’s ancestors had enough immunity to survive and flee the dying village of Cuddeford for a thresh start elsewhere. We know they did this as their surname bears their heritage, i.e. the place they came from, not where they lived when they acquired the name. There is no point in calling everyone in a village by the village’s name, this only happens when they leave it for somewhere else.
The Cuddeford name, like many in England, therefore, in a very real way, owes its origins to a Mongol Khan’s attack on a Genoese trading outpost in the South of Russia.

1300s -1600s The End of Serfdom

As the workforce in many areas had been wiped out, the small rag-tag band of survivors from the village of Cuddeford, now called “The Cuddefords” named after the village they had fled, suddenly became a commodity in great demand by landowners, . Although against the Law at the time for peasants to leave their home Parish and seek work elsewhere, many peasants fled their home villages and could find work for landowners who offered higher wages to those willing to relocate and risk the law in doing so. Once in the new area, these peasants would have been called by the name of their old village for identification purposes, and this would eventually have become their surname, especially once they were being counted for the Poll Tax in the 14th and 15th centuries and required a surname to be identified for tax purposes.

peasantsploughing2Although it would take some time and a peasant’s revolt in the 1380s to help achieve it, the Black Death, thanks to the Khan of the Golden Horde, would ensure that peasants in England would no longer be serfs, but would be free men and women. This the Cuddefords would be after walking for a day heading for the City of Exeter, finding their way barred by the panic stricken burghers of the city, afraid to admit more plague victims, they made it to the village of Ide just outside the City of Exeter, where landowners with a more pragmatic mind realised that if they weren’t dead from plague now, then they probably never would be, and were very welcoming of a fresh family to gather the hay and thresh the corn on newly inherited lands. every cloud has a silver lining, for those marked out by genetic luck and ambition. The family would remain in Ide (pictured below) for the next 300 years.

Ide_Ford

Pandemic (Part 2)


 

In Part 1 of this series we spoke about the first Plague Pandemic for which there is reliable evidence.  This took place at the end of the Neolithic/beginning of the Bronze Age, and resulted in a 90% replacement in Britain of Neolithic Genes with Bronze Age Beaker Culture Genes from the near continent.  A catastrophic event for one population, but a golden opportunity for another.

We will now see how a similar event 3,500 years later would give similar results and change Britain into England.

Here Come The English

Englishsubroman2

The idea of “Anglo-Saxons” is largely a nonsense, a modern term with no real historical meaning when applied to a single population group. There were Angles, there were Saxons, there were Jutes, there were Frisians, there were Franks, and various other North German tribes originating from Denmark down to the Rhine and south into the Netherlands and Belgium who migrated to Britain during the later Roman period. They originally came over in the 3rd and 4th centuries A.D. a good 200 years before the popular histories would suggest that they arrived in the C5th.

They came mostly as settlers, traders, and mercenaries, in numbers that the Romans chose not to control, as once in Britain they could be taxed and recruited into Roman Army and Navy ranks.  The people they settled among in the South and East of Britain almost certainly spoke a Germanic derived Belgic language not that different from that spoken by the new arrivals, and not “Celtic” as was spoken in the West of Britain. It was most likely at this time English started to become adopted as an amalgam of the old Belgic and new North Germanic languages spoken by the dominant population of the South and East of Britain. This explains the rapid take up of English after the collapse of the Roman Empire, i.e. it had already been here for about 200 years.
This Germanic element to the Romano-British population was so important, and so dominant in the East of the Roman Province of Britannia that in 286 A.D. Carausius, a Belgic speaking German of the Menapian Tribe serving as an officer in the Roman Navy, mutinied, took the Classis Britannicus Fleet with him, and set up an Independent Sub-Roman state on either side of the Channel, but with Britannia as his main power base. His Kingdom lasted for 12 years until he was murdered by his Finance Minister, a man called Allectus, he lasted for 3 years, and was deposed when the Romans eventually re-invaded Britain.

carausius

Coin of Emperor Carausius

So by the C5th we have the scene set, with a Romanised, largely Belgic/Germanic speaking population in the East of Britain, and a largely Romanised Gaelic/Goidelic (Celtic) speaking population in the West of Britain, the educated parts of both populations would have been bi-lingual in the local language and Latin. Once the Roman administration left with the Roman Legions by about 410 A.D. a power vacuum formed and local tyrants filled it with their armed retinues.

These “Tyranni” in the East started recruiting Continental German mercenaries just as the Romans had, and were very successful in using them against external threats from Picts, Irish, and Scots raiders, but became dependent on them, to the point where the newcomers took over in the East. Thus the Sub-Roman Eastern British swapped Latin speaking leaders for German speaking ones, but the bulk of the population remained the same Steppe derived genetic population that had come over with the Bell Beakers 3,500 years before. So how did this particular Belgic/Germanic “English” faction of the Island come to dominate?

Justinian Plague

Initially these Belgic/Germanic speaking Sub-Roaman groups made slow progress in pushing West against the Latin/Celtic speaking Sub-Romans on that side of the Island. These Western populations were descended from a slightly different genetic population, mainly Bronze Age derived again, but containing a large population input from Iberia rather than the steppes.

The big collapse of the Sub-Roman “British” or “Welsh” (Wealas the Old English word for foreigners, a cognate of Welsch in Swiss German) in the West of Britain, that allowed the “English” (misnamed Anglo-Saxons) to push them to the edges of the Island of Britain, and across the Channel to Brittany (which is named after them) came in the C6th. This date is important.

In 547 Maelgwn of Gwynedd known as The Dragon of the Island, a High King of the

Justinian

Emperor Justinian

North Welsh (British) with his seat of power on the Island of Anglesey, was struck down in the Church at Rhos by “The Yellow Plague” that then went on to ravage Ireland in 548-549 A.D., and reoccurred in Britain from 555-562 A.D.  This Yellow Plague is associated with the “Justinian Plague” so called because it was contracted by the East Roman Emperor Justinian (who survived it). This, once again, was Yersinia Pestis the Black Death, spread yet again by a movement of peoples, this time thanks to the Huns bursting into Eastern Europe and passing the disease onto German tribes who they either subdued, or pushed across the borders into the Roman Empire. The pestilence was low level and endemic for some time, before erupting with renewed virulence in the C6th devastating the Eastern Roman Empire and the Persian Sassanid Empire.

The Justinian Plague spread through Southern Europe, and from there reached the “British” ports in the West of Britain who had continued to trade widely with the Mediterranean, whereas the focus in the “English” East of Britain was trade with Northern Europe.  The Britons in the West of Britain, therefore came into contact with the Justinian Plague first and longest in the British Isles, because of its introduction via trade with the Mediterranean.  They also suffered more as they carried less genes from Steppe populations, with lower innate resistance to the plague that had built up in the Steppe/Germanic derived population in the East of Britain, now known as the “English”.
The plague therefore disproportionately affected the British and opened the way for an English resurgence, with Anglian, Saxon, and Jutish lead “English” armies (comprised numerically mostly of Steppe/Belgic derived East Britons) sweeping West.  The historical records reflect the impact of the plague; the major town of Caer Celemion in Hampshire (Calleva Atrebatum to the Romans, Silchester to the English) went from being a major organised Romano-British power, to total collapse around 560 A.D. Strangely, rather than being marched into and settled by the expanding English from the East, the Town was avoided by the English as being cursed for more than a couple of centuries.

silchester-south-gate

So instead of adopting the well defended walls and buildings as their own as they did in other conquered urban areas, the English shunned the site, concentrating on the former Roman Town of Winchester (Caer Gwent to the British, Venta Belgarum to the Romans – the main Belgic settlement, and therefore inhabited by a steppe derived population with some resistance to plague) and Dorchester-on-Thames, previously in Belgic Catuvellaunian territory prior to Roman Domination, and therefore again containing a population with steppe derived plague resistance. By contrast the devastated town of Caer Celemion, Calleva Atrebatum – the settlement of the Atrebates, was according to leading Archaeologists not heavily settled by an incoming Belgic tribe, rather it was taken over by an incoming Belgic elite, with many of the populations therefore carrying “Western British” genes – less resistant to plague.

The plague paved the way for Britain to give birth to England, and for the South and East of the Island to dominate the North and the West for the rest of its history.

Sutton_Hoo_helmet_reconstructed

In Part 3 we will see how the well known occurrence of the Black Death in the C14th century shaped the class population dynamics of Britain, and gave us very specific surnames.

If you would like your own Family tree researched and your Family Biography published feel free to email us at: paulmcneil@yahoo.com

 

 

 

Published in: on October 26, 2018 at 6:00 pm  Comments (2)  
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Pandemic (Part 1)


A recent blog post Bring Out Your Dead brought up a topic that comes up in a number of Family Trees that I have traced.  This looked at the effect of various Pandemics on modern history, and this has lead me to write up in this blog post covering the surprising effects of Pandemics on the people of Great Britain.

The latest research on Ancient DNA has thrown up amazing insights in to the effects of ancient Pandemics on the people of Great Britain.   There have been three Pandemics that substantially affected the demographics of the British Isles in Prehistory to Historical times.

Pre-Historic Plague

39332579[1]

Whilst lounging by the pool in Lindos on the Greek Island of Rhodes reading “Who we are and how we got here”  by David Reich, I came across some startling facts about the pre-historic population of Great Britain.  The book is a very good read, with the caveat that the author has been forced to put a whole chapter justifying his socialist tendencies to the “Thought Police” within the academic community who have hounded him for some of his findings that don’t fit with their perverse world view.  So, putting such snowflakery aside, his actual findings are utterly fascinating.   The book is well worth purchasing for anyone interested in Genetic Family History.  Also I’d recommend reading it by your private pool at the Lindos Blu Hotel just as I did.

 

The passage that caught my eye was the following:

“… the bacterium Yersinia pestis was the cause of the fourteenth-to-seventeenth-century CE Black Death, the sixth-to-eighth-century CE Justinianic plague of the Roman Empire, and an endemic plague that was responsible for at least about 7 percent of deaths in skeletons from burials across the Eurasian steppe after around five thousand years ago.”

This was startling.  Let’s start with the earliest, Late Neolithic/Early Bronze Age Plague.  That Pandemic of plague was brought by the expansion of the Yamnaya Steppe culture in the Bronze Age, that saw a 90% replacement of Neolithic Genes by Bronze Age  Yamnaya Culture Genes showing a population replacement that separates the earlier periods of Stonehenge’s dominance to the later periods of Stonehenge’s adaption to a Bronze Age Culture.  This 9:1 distribution of genetic legacy is what is seen in modern indigenous British Citizens.

Genetic scientists working with Archaeologists have established that Yersinia Pestis the Black Death bacillus, has left its DNA in a large number of Yamnaya corpses, indicating that it was endemic amongst Steppe populations in the Bronze Age around 5,000 years ago.  However given that there was no population collapse associated with this infestation, it would seem that the Yamnaya Steppe derived population had built up a genetic resistance to the infection.

When these people moved West into Europe, they brought their steppe based disease with them, introducing it to Neolithic populations who had no natural resistance, causing population collapse within a couple of generations, and opening the way to their majority replacement by the Steppe Bronze Age Culture.  This first recorded Pandemic showed a pre-bubonic plague, i.e. the plague form spread by fleas, but still the pneumonic form that was spread but coughing, sneezing, and kissing.  This coincides historically with the rise of the “Corded Ware” culture that swept across central Europe around 4,900 years ago.

Bell Beakers and Language

About 200 years after this, around 4,700 years ago, the Bell Beaker Culture exploded across Western Europe, eventually making it to Britain.  Although the Bell Beaker Culture started in indigenous peoples in Iberia, it seems that by the time it moved North, it had been taken up by people with a steppe ancestry, not the previously indigenous Neolithic Peoples.  The Bell Beakers reached Britain, contrary to previous theories, not just by trade, but with a whole new population, this is apparent in the aDNA (Ancient DNA).   the people who brought the Bell Beakers had little if any Iberian or Neolithic Genes, their Genes were overwhelmingly from the Steppes.  Going by the genetic signatures, it looks as if this replacement population originated from the near continent, especially around the modern Netherlands.  Once again the dramatic, up to 90%, collapse of the pre-Bronze Age Neolithic population of Britain in the face of the Bell Beaker phenomenon, points to a disease driven reduction in population at the time, hosted by new immigrants.

Bellbeaker_map_europe

Bell Beaker Finds in Europe

This movement of people also explains the arrival of Pre-Celtic Indo-European Language families into the Eastern British Isles.  All thanks to the first wave of plague that we have discovered.

In the next instalment we will see how the next wave turned Britain into England.

If you would like your Family Tree researched, and your Family Biography published, then please feel free to contact Time Detectives at: Paulmcneil@timedetectives.co.uk

 

Murder, Mayhem, and Mutiny Scotland


When researching a Family Story and Family Tree for clients we can sometimes find half forgotten, epic stories, that have borne their ancestors along on the tide of history.  This was one such case where we found a Durham Mining Family had roots in the North of Scotland in one of the last inter-clan invasions of Scottish territory.  In this case it also lets us pinpoint the actual moment when the surname was adopted, which is very rare in family history.

The family’s name of Larnach is extremely rare, even in Scotland. The accepted origin of the Larnach name places it in Argyll Scotland. Tradition has it that the Clan is descended from the 5th century King Loarne who gave his name to Lorne in Argyll. The generally accepted derivation of the name is from the Gaelic “Latharnach” meaning “a man from Lorne”.  Now you wouldn’t call a man from Lorne a man from Lorne if you were all living in Lorne.  So, despite what the accepted authorities say, the actual surname could never have originated in that area.  Rather, like most names with a geographical element to them, the surname must have originated when people from Lorne left Lorne and went somewhere else, so the families may have originated in Lorne, but the surname didn’t.  This is backed up by the records,  where we find that almost all the recorded instances of the surname Larnach before modern times are not in Argyll, they come from Caithness on the other side of Scotland.  In fact there are no Larnachs other than this family in Caithness and occasionally the Orkney Isles, in any records from the 18th and early 19th centuries. So Larnach was a name applied outside of Argyll to a man from Lorne in Argyll. If this is the case why did they travel so far? The intriguing answer may point to a family adventure taking in Clan battles and Jacobite uprisings.

To find out how the Larnachs travelled from Argyll to Caithness, we have to look at the turbulent 1600s, and a Highland Laird with a reputation as a rogue.

A follower of Slippery John

1680Slippery John

John Campbell was the son of Sir John Campbell of Glen Orchy in Argyll and a member of the Scottish Parliament. In1672 he was the chief creditor to George Sinclair 6th Earl of Caithness, and as surety for the debt, held claim to the Earl of Caithness’s Lands and Titles. When the Earl died without a direct male heir,and still owing the debt, John Campbell of Orchy claimed the Earldom of Caithness by default. In1678 he married the dead Earl’s widow to reinforce his claim and save himself having to pay her a £1,200 per anum annuity.

Needless to say the rest of the Sinclairs of Caithness were not happy with the family Earldom being bartered away over gambling debts, and so John Campbell’s claim to the title of Earl of Caithness was challenged by disgruntled members of the Sinclair Clan.  This move was led by George Sinclair of Keiss. Keiss waited till John Campbell travelled to Parliament in London, then seized former Sinclair properties around Weik (Wick) one of the main Caithness towns, and thereby denied John Campbell the rights to the Earldom by force majeure.

Now John Campbell was not a man to back down and also a man of action, so in 1680, he sought redress through the Government’s Privy Council, who confirmed his rights, and instructed the Chief General in the North of Scotland, Lord Dalzell, to support the Campbell claim with troops and money. Backed by Government in law, finance, and arms, and having raised a force of Highlanders from his Argyll Clan followers including an ancestor of our client.  John Campbell marched his force from Perth to Wick. Sources claim that he had between 800 and 1,400 followers. The discrepancy in numbers is interesting, and may show the difference in numbers between his Clan followers and the Government Troops who were ordered to join the expedition..

Once in Caithness, John Campbell followed the letter of the law, sending Government proclamations to be read at the larger towns, to warn of his approach and offer a bounty for any who actively turned against the Sinclairs. On the march to Thurso John Campbell managed to outflank the Sinclair forces, who moved camp to confront the Campbells. John Campbell made two attempts to parlay with the Sinclairs and give them the opportunity to disperse, but his first envoy was sent back under a torrent of abuse, and his second was captured and taken prisoner, against the accepted rules of warfare at the time. Undeterred The Campbells marched on Thurso, only to find the main approaches to the town protected by Sinclair cannons, that promptly subjected the Campbells to cannon fire. In a last-ditch attempt to gain peaceful access to Thurso, John Campbell sent a herald, but the man was forced to flee for his life from the hostile acts of the Sinclairs.

The Campbells decided to march south to Wick, the Sinclairs decided to follow. John Campbell was wily as well as brave, and decided to improve his odds of winning by a pair of ruses. He arranged for one of his agents to deliberately run a ship aground near the Sinclairs’ camp, this ship carried a cargo of Whiskey that John Campbell realised the Sinclairs would salvage and drink. He read the situation well, the Sinclairs did indeed spend the night drinking whiskey and carousing.

The following day the Sinclairs woke up nursing hangovers, and marched out of Wick to confront the Campbells who had marched towards the town. The Campbells halted their march and made much of performing a hasty retreat, and upon seeing this the Sinclairs  enthusiastically pursued them.  But John Campbell had planned this event, and the retreat was merely a ruse to draw the Campbells pell-mell to Altimarlach where a group of his troops had hidden in a gulley.

The Campbells drew up past the hidden gully to their forward flanks, and looked to makle a stand with their inferior numbers. of men.  To the Sinclairs the Campbells looked like so many bare arsed savages, bare footed and trouserless.  This was a clash of two separate ethnicities; the Campbells were descended from the savage Scots who had invaded Scotland from Ireland (mainly Ulster) in the 5th century and given Scotland their name.  The  Brythonic speakers they replaced called them “Gaels” which meant “Savages” a name still proudly bourn by Scots and Irish to this day.  By contrast the men of Caithness, were descended from the Norse who had invaded from Scandinavia as Vikings, mixed with the ancient Picts (non-Gaelic speakers)  who were indigenous to Northern Scotland before the Scots got there.  The men of Caithness with their Pictish/Norse ancestry wore trousers and shoes, preferred to live in larger coastal towns and generally saw their western Scots neighbours as savages, with good reason.

Despite their hangovers from the drinking the night before, the Norse-Pictish Sinclairs attacked the Scots Campbell line. The Campbell’s held, and cat-called the Sinclairs, for being soft for wearing breeks (trousers) and shoes, whilst the Campbells were barefoot and in plaid (a type of kilt). The Campbells fired off a volley and with John Campbell in the fore, drew their Claymore swords, hefted their shields, and charged barefoot at the Sinclairs, at which point the surprise attack from the men hidden in the gulley was launched. This combination attack broke the Sinclair line and forced them to flee. The Campbells pursued the Sinclairs slaughtering them in the pursuit, and chasing the remnants into the River Wick where they drowned. So many Sinclairs were killed that the Campbells were able to pursue across the river dry-shod over their bodies.

After the battle the Clan Campbell Piper Finlay ban McIver, would compose the tune “The Campbells are coming” with the line “…the carls wi’ the breeks are running before us…” referring to the Sinclairs in their breeches. It is as part of this army of “bare-arsed savages” that the Larnachs, coming to Caithness from Lorne with Slippery John Campbell originated, running with their swords across the River Wick over the dead bodies of the slaughtered Sinclairs.  It is very rare in a Family History, that a surname’s origin can be pinpointed so precisely to an historical event.

John Campbell, his victory complete, kept the title of Earl of Caithness for about 6 years, giving land and farms to his followers, and employing them as tax collectors and in other overseer roles. John Campbell was later dispossessed of his claim by the Scottish Parliament, who ruled that a Title to an Earldom is not one man’s possession to be sold for a debt.  None the less Slippery John Campbell reaped the reward of receiving other titles in exchange for his lost title, and became Earl of Breadalbane and Holland (a district in Scotland), Viscount of Tay and Paintland (ancient “Pictland”) and Lord Glenorchy, Benederloch, Ormelie and Wick, thereby keeping a hold on lands in Caithness, especially around Wick. He was described by a British Government Spy, John Mackay as:

“Grave as a Spaniard, wise as a serpent, cunning as a fox, and slippery as an eel.”

Given the Larnach name derived from “a man from Lorne” in Argyll, it verifies that the ancestors of my client were among the hundreds of men of Argyll who invaded Caithness with John Campbell. It would explain the family living in the area near Wick where John Campbell had his power base, and where his followers held lands and property. This would have made the Lanarchs unpopular in the area as their sponsor Slippery John Campbell, was viewed as a military dictator by the locals who he ruled with an iron hand, enforced by his local followers including the Larnachs.

First Records Late 1600s – Early 1700s

The written records throw up a few Larnach entries for Caithness at Watten (on the road from Wick to Thurso) during the very early part of the 1700s, given the rarity of the name these were undoubtedly relatives of this line, and I managed to piece together a rough tree of these early generations which was presented to the client.  Some of the entries were necessarily speculative due to the sparsity of records, but given that there appears to be only one recorded Larnach Family in Caithness Scotland by the 1700s, i.e. this client’s  Larnach line, the tree fitted the timings of various births and marriages etc.

Foul Mouthed Larnachs

One interesting entry in the court sessions for 1701 directs the town of Wick to:

“…put up ane cock-stool.”

Followed by

“Alexander Larnock and his wife are appointed to stand publicly, and to pay 20 shillings Scots for the crime of cursing.”

So one of the earliest generations of Larnachs in Caithness were a hard swearing couple in Wick, for whom a stool was erected for their public shaming. No doubt being followers of Slippery John Campbell didn’t endear them to the locals.

Jacobites

After the English Civil War, the restoration of Charles II, and the ousting of James II due to his Catholic loyalties, Slippery John took the oath of allegiance to William III (William of Orange, the new Dutch Protestant King of Great Britain) in 1689. John Campbell was seen as a useful agent in the highlands, and in 1691 was paid a large sum of money by the Government in London to payoff Jacobite Highlanders and gain a truce in hostilities. He did manage to arrange a truce, but did so whilst keeping the whole of the money for himself. When called before Parliament in London to account for what had happened to the money he famously said:

“The money is spent, the Highlands are quiet, and this is the only way of accounting between friends.”

William III’s reign was violent in the highlands, with Clans using the excuse of wearing a Red Coat and a King’s Commission to settle scores with rivals, as well as pitching Highlanders against Lowlanders. So bad was Slippery John Campbell’s reputation amongst many Scots that he was blamed for many acts of betrayal, many years later Sir Walter Scott even implicated him as the chief planner of the Glencoe Massacre of 1692, where the MacDonalds were slaughtered by the Campbells who were guests in their homes, but there was no evidence to support that claim. Although this massacre is sometimes blamed on the English, the men in Redcoats who did the killing were almost entirely Scots, and many Argyll Campbells.

In 1707 both the Scottish and English Parliaments voted to be united in a single political realm of “Great Britain”. Many people in Scotland were against the Union. Some Scottish Protestants were afraid that the rigorously democratic makeup of the Scottish Kirk would become Anglicised, to be given over to rule by Bishops, rather than the congregations. Most Scottish Catholics were against a Protestant Hanoverian King ruling Scotland, and wanted a return of the exiled Stuart line of Kings. Using a network of spies, including the author of Treasure Island Daniel Defoe, the English Government judged the mood of the Scottish people as heavily against Union, with DeFoe stating that there were

“99 Scots against Union for every 1 Scot for it.”

A significant, dangerous, and profitable part was played in these troubles, by the man who had brought the Larnachs to Caithness, their aristocratic sponsor “Slippery” John Campbell of Glen Orchy and Breadalbane. His actions would have direct consequences for the lives of the Larnachs as his sworn men.

Many Highland Scottish Lairds like Slippery John, were afraid that the rule of English Law in Scotland would replace their far reaching ancient rights and take away their power. So to counter this popular opposition, the English Government bought the votes of Scottish Parliamentarians with bribery, prompting Robbie Burns to compose a couplet on the matter:

“We’re bought and sold for English Gold,
Such a Parcel of Rogues in a Nation.”

Slippery John voted against the Union, gave some support to a proposed French intervention, but did not put his name to anything in writing. It is highly likely that the Larnachs would have opposed Union at this time as political opinion was set by the local Laird.

Discontent blew up in 1715 with a Stuart Jacobite uprising, Slippery John pleaded old age and infirmity to avoid travelling to Edinburgh to pledge allegiance to the crown, instead he travelled to the Jacobite camps, as one of the local Caithness Sinclairs put it:

“…to trick others, not to be tricked, and to obtain a share of the French subsidies.”

sherriffmuirHe received a large amount of French money in return for pledging 1,200 men for the Jacobite cause. In fact he only sent a small force of 300 men, and withdrew them after the first inconclusive battle with the forces of the crown at Sheriffmuir, where the Jacobites were stopped in their march on Perth, by another a relation of Slippery John, another John Campbell, the 2nd Duke of Argyll (pictured below), and incidentally “Lord Lorne”.  Slippery John died two years later in 1717, and so avoided being tried for supporting the uprising.

Slippery John’s half-hearted support for the rising and his early withdrawal of his men back to their homes, may have saved the Larnachs from either perishing in battle at Sherriffmuir, or from the crown’s legal retributions against known rebels in the years following.otherjohncampbell

Given that the leader of the Government forces at Sherriffmuir was the hereditary Lord of Lorne, the former Argyll home of the Larnachs, it is not surprising that they took no part in the uprising and I could find no Larnach names mentioned in documents accusing people in Caithness of rebellion, so they survived without any recriminations, unlike some of their neighbours.

Their descendants gave rise to my client’s family who ended up penniless in the Durham Coal Mines, right through to modern times, and ironically also one of the richest families in Australia and New Zealand.  Neither side of the family was aware of the other.

But that is another story.

 

If you would like your Famiy Tree researched and your Family Story researched and written up as a true personalised Historical Narrative, the size of a Novella, then contact Time Detectives on paulmcneil@timedetectives.co.uk

War Crime Victims : Time Detectives helps to find the Descendants of the Lisbon Maru


 

Lisbon-maruTime Detectives have recently become involved in tracing the relatives of British POWs who died in October 1942 aboard a Japanese Transport ship named the “Lisbon Maru”.

The ship was transporting 700 Japanese Troops plus 1,816 mainly British and Commonwealth POWs to camps in Japan, when on 2nd October 1942, she was intercepted by American Submarine USS Grouper.  The USS Grouper, correctly identifying the Lisbon Maru as an armoured Japanese transport ship, engaged her with torpedoes and sank the ship.

USS_Grouper;0821405

As the ship went down the POWs were locked in the holds by their Guards, some POWs managed to breakout and escape, but were shot on deck and in the water by Japanese Guards and Japanese escort ships.  Eventually Chinese fishing boats in the area managed to pick up survivors, and after some confusion, escaped POWs were also picked up by other Japanese vessels. Tragically 828 POWs died in the incident.

Chinese screen writer and producer Fang Li, who runs Laurel Films, has set out to make a documentary showing the human side of the story, and would like to trace living relatives of the Lisbon Maru POWs.  Major Brian Finch has been appointed as the UK Liaison for the venture, and Time Detectives has agreed to provide Genealogical detective work to help contact relatives.

If you, your family, or anyone you know had a relative who was on the Lisbon Maru, please feel free to drop us a line at Time Detectives:

paulmcneil@timedetectives.co.uk

Or direct to Major Brian Finch on the email in the attached appeal for information:

Lisbon Maru Documentary

 

The good news is, that we are finding relatives of the victims, ensuring that the men will never be forgotten.  Below is a wonderful display of medals and a photo of Kenneth Hodkinson, sent in by his niece  Jean Clements.

HodkinsonKenneth

Other relatives are being tracked by Time Detectives constructing their Family Trees from the Victims’ ancestors down to living relatives.  A fascinating and worthwhile Project.

We are looking for families of the victims of the sinking of the Lisbon Maru, and those of the crew of USS Grouper, if you can help please feel free to contact us here at Time Detectives.

paulmcneil@timedetectives.co.uk

 

 

100 years of the Royal Airforce


The Royal Air Force in World War Two undoubtedly saved Great Britain from Nazi invasion, and thereby ensured the triumph of Democracy over Totalitarianism for Europe and the rest of the civilised world.  This was happened when Great Britain stood alone with it’s Commonwealth against Nazism, the most powerful and evil regime the world had ever seen.  The USA was standoffish and equivocal, the Soviet Union busy carving up Eastern Europe in alliance with the Nazis under the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact.  The job of stopping the tide of Nazi conquest was left on the shoulders of a small country supported by it’s loyal Colonies of every creed and colour.

It is fitting therefore on this the 100th anniversary of that brave fighting arm, to mention a couple of members of the RAF that we turned up during our family History research for a couple of families.

The First World War

Canadian Air Acealfredatkey

Alfred Clayburn Atkey was born 16 Aug 1894 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and died 10 Feb 1971.  Although born in Toronto, Alfred’s family headed west to a town called Minebow, Saskatchewan in 1906. When he was old enough Alfred returned to Toronto to work at the Toronto Evening Telegram as a journalist. In 1916 he joined the Royal Flying Corps as a probationary Second Lieutenant.

By September 1917, he was a bomber pilot flying Airco DH.4 with 18 Squadron. May 1918, he was flying a Bristol F 2B fighter/reconnaissance aircraft with “A Flight”, 22 Squadron. Along with Lt CG Gass who was his gunner/observer, he claimed 29 aircraft all shot down within one month.

plane
In terms of number of claims, Atkey was the top Allied two-seater pilot of the war. His total number of aircraft claimed shot down was 38 (comprising 13 and 1 shared claimed destroyed, 23 and 1 shared ‘Out of Control’). Gass his rear gunner contributed some 13 of these claims (himself the most successful gunner in the RFC/RAF).

Alfred Atkey’s rank was Captain upon leaving the Royal Air Force at the end of the First World War.  he received the Military Cross with Bar. The following was written about him in the London Gazette:
“For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. When engaged on reconnaissance and bombing work, he attacked four scouts, one of which he shot down in flames. Shortly afterwards he attacked four two-seater planes, one of which he brought down out of control. On two previous occasions his formation was attacked by superior numbers of the enemy, three of whom in all were shot down out of control. He has shown exceptional ability and initiative on all occasions.”

The following was written when he received the MC Bar:
“For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. During recent operations he destroyed seven enemy machines. When engaged with enemy aircraft, often far superior in numbers, he proved himself a brilliant fighting pilot, and displayed dash and gallantry of a high order.”
Alfred married Irene Marshall in 1919 at Portsmouth in Hampshire, more or less within sight of the Isle of Wight where his ancestors had emigrated from 64 years before.
The couple then migrated to the USA, were in the New York area in 1920, and Alfred took the first steps to naturalisation in California in 1924.

naturalisation

For whatever reasons, the marriage didn’t last, and in 1942 Alfred remarried Dulcie May Boadway, they would have four children.

(For more about Alfred Clayburn Atkey’s Family History, see Time Detective’s blog entry here: A Canadian WW1 Knight of the Air, and his son an Arctic Circle Knight of the Road

World War Two

A Hero’s Grave in a small French Town

Tracing through the generations, sometimes a name stands out that catches the eye.  One such was a distant cousin of the Family I was tracing among generations of miners in the Durham Coalfields.  Conrad Larnach.

61-squadron-lancaster-iii-w5002-qr-l-crew-w800

Conrad joined the RAF in WW2, and on the night of 15th August 1943,  “The Pride of London” the Lancaster Bomber Conrad was serving in as Bomb Aimer was engaged above France by German fighter Pilot Leutnant Detlef Grossfuss.

The bomber was badly shot up by machine gun and cannon fire, caught alight, and turned upside down in mid-air. Some of the crew attempted to bail out from the burning upended plane, one Sgt Matthews, although badly burned, managed to get out of the plane, open his parachute and evade capture, finding refuge with local French householders who took him to the French Resistance.  the Resistance protected him for three months, until a daring night time pickup in November 1943, by an RAF Lysander aircraft allowed him to make his escape back to Britain.

Sgt Matthews reported that he was told by the local French citizens that the Bomb Aimer, Conrad Larnach, had also managed to get out and land by parachute a distance away from the crashed aircraft, but being badly injured was found by a German Patrol.  This German Patrol instead of capturing him and taking him back as a prisoner, executed him by shooting him as he lay n the ground injured and defenceless.  They then took his body back to the crashed plane to make it look like he had died in the crash. The other members of the crew all appear to have died in the crash having failed to leave the plane. The only body found more or less intact in the plane was Conrad’s reinforcing the story of his execution.

The Germans buried the remaining bodies in the local cemetery at Rugles, and forbade the local French citizens from attending. However at daybreak the following day the Germans were shocked to see that the locals had risked arrest and execution to come out in the night to cover the Airmens’ graves in flowers.

headstone

A local French teenager also reported that for a few days after the crash, he saw a German Luftwaffe Officer come to the sight of the crash every morning to stand in silence looking at the wreckage before standing to attention, saluting, and walking away. His identity is not known, but he may have been Leutnant Detlev Grossfuss the Pilot who had shot the Lancaster down.

The Grave is still tended in immaculate condition at Rugles in Haute-Normandie.

conradlarnachgrave

By a very strange coincidence I was holidaying in Normandy a few years ago, and stood in front of this grave at the time. To see the affection that the French citizens of the village had lavished on the plot in gratitude for the young men’s sacrifice, still to this day, was truly touching.
The photos included here were found at: http://www.aircrewremembered.com/matthews-victor.html
And
http://www.aerosteles.net/stelefr-rugles-lancasterstele

 

If you would like to have your Family Tree Professionally researched, and your Family Story written as an il;lustrated bound booklet to share with your friends and family, then please contact paulmcneil@timedetectives.co.uk for details of our unique service.

 

 

 

%d bloggers like this: