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Thursday, 2 July 2015

Learn More about Family History and Local History

Are you interested in improving your family history and local history knowledge and skills ?

The University of Dundee Centre for Archive and Information Studies offers courses to develop your skills in particular areas.

They're offering a webinar on 16 July from 12.30pm to 1.30pm so you can find out what's on offer and ask questions.

It's hosted by #AncestryHour.

To take part, you need to register.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Lowick and District’s Response to the Belgian Refugees 1914 – 1915 - part 3

This is a continuation of the Lowick and District’s Response to the Belgian Refugees 1914 – 1915 - part 2.
Alternatively, see all the previous parts of the Lowick and District’s Response to the Belgian Refugees 1914 – 1915, together.
It was performed as a "radio play" in Berwick Guildhall on 25 April 2015 at Discover Berwick’s First World War Story. Researched and written by Julie Gibbs.

Thomas William Wilson Boal, extracted from Berwick Advertiser 17 June 1915
Thank you Border Woman. Now ladies, you have no excuse, there are plenty of ways to help.

You have heard that most of the refugees speak only Flemish. To get a true understanding of their ordeal we need a Flemish speaker to visit them and update us. Who better, than Mr Thomas William Wilson Boal, a gentleman of Berwick and a Flemish speaker to boot. 

Mr Thomas William Wilson Boal      
Good afternoon. Even if you do not know me, you will be familiar with the Leeds Clothing Store in West Street, of which my father has been proprietor for over 20 years. I assist him of course when I have the time, but I am also a well-known sportsman. I have been prominently identified with the Berwick Cycle Club for the last 23 years and was the First Honourable Secretary of the Northern Cyclists August Meet. Aside from my sporting interests, I am the secretary of the Berwick Young Liberals.

 However the reason I am here now, is to make use of my Flemish, which I learnt while at school in Antwerp. I met two young men from the Belgian party, shortly after their arrival. They are staying with other members of their family, Van der Meiren by name, at South Berrington, in a cottage granted by Mr Middlemas. They are cabinetmakers by trade and being anxious to find work, Mr Middlemas and an Interpreter took them to Berwick. Like all the other refugees excepting one, who has a smattering of French, they can only speak Flemish. While talking to them I was accompanied by my niece Miss Sinclair and her family, who came back from Antwerp when the War broke out. Miss Sinclair also speaks Flemish. She had a conversation with the two young men – aged 17 and 16 respectively – who appeared to be delighted in meeting at such a place someone with whom they could converse.

They come from Malines or Mechelen, which is situated in the north of Belgium between Antwerp and Brussels. Before the war, it was a thriving city of about 60,000 inhabitants, many of whom worked in the railway industry or in the artisan furniture business. There was also an important market gardening activity in and around the area.

The young men were thirsting for news. They had left Malines, they said, when the shells began to burst around the town. The Germans were then about 2 hours (7 miles) away. All distances in Belgium are measured by time. They were anxious to know if the Germans had got into Malines. They had been unable to get information. On leaving they had gone to Antwerp where they remained for a month, and then tried to get back to their home, but were unsuccessful. Finally they had been compelled to come to England. They are now as comfortable as can be at South Berrington.

I am intending to visit the Van der Meiren family. Here I am, just outside their cottage. Above which and their neighbours, hang the Union Jack and the Belgian Flag with staffs crossed – typifying British national hospitality for the brave people on whom the first brunt of German invasion fell.  Hopefully you will understand enough of our conversation.

Goeie avond  (Good evening) Frau Van der Meiren. I am Mr Boal. I have already spoken to your sons, but what can you tell us about your family and your escape from Belgium?

Frau Van der Meiren 
Goeie avond  Mijnheer Boal.  As well as my two sons, Julius and Frans, I have a little daughter, Maria Jozefina, aged 2½. 
The Van Puyenbroeck family
In the next cottage is Mijnheer and Frau Van Puyenbroeck and their three children, the youngest a sturdy little fellow of about six. We rejoiced greatly when we discovered one another as neighbours here, after the flight from Mechelen, for we had known one another in the ruined town which was once our home. My husband was a baker’s vanman, and daily delivered bread at the house of the Van Puyenbroeck’s, who were employed at a Mechelen meuble-mackers.

(The Van Puyenbroeck family stayed in South Berrington cottages before moving to Glasgow in 1915. The photo was taken in November 1918 in Bournemouth.)

 Mr Boal      
That is ‘cabinet makers.’

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

More about the Hattle Family

I separated this from the earlier post, Thousands of Miles by Taxi, a Trip by Thomas Hattle, who emigrated from Berwick to South Africa in 1901 so as to have one post about Thomas Hattle and his family.

From Alan Hattle:
The 1829 will of Thomas Hettle/Hattle (my great-great-great grandfather, of Windmill Hole in the Borough of Berwick), mentions a son, Jess, "who is at present in America". I have not established whether this Jess(e) stayed in America and/or had any children. I did have some data on another distant Hattle cousin who moved to Massachusetts in the 1800s, but my files were lost in a fire and I need to explore that line again. There were at least two other Hattles (one a female married to a Robertson) who made it to South Africa at some stage, but those are also lines I wish to explore more.

While most of my ancestors and their families remained in the Berwick/Berwickshire/Borders area, a few ventured further afield in Scotland.

A first cousin, 4 times removed (Thomas Hattle, born 1832, son of Young Hattle and Isabella Lyal(l)) emigrated to Canada, and there is a growing branch of the Hattle family in Ontario.

I would be thrilled to hear from locals in Berwick who have links to my family.

If you would like to contact Alan, please comment below with your email address (the email address won't be published).

Monday, 29 June 2015

Thousands of Miles by Taxi, a Trip by Thomas Hattle, who emigrated from Berwick to South Africa in 1901

From Alan Hattle:

My paternal grandfather, Thomas Hattle, was one of ten children of John Hattle and Isabella Elspeth Burgon(e), and apparently the only one to emigrate.

A brother, James Burgon Hattle died in 1915 in an accident aboard the HMS Macedonia while in the Falklands on service during World War I, and is buried in the cemetery at Port Stanley.

Thomas had six children (all born in South Africa) and 19 grandchildren, most of whom stayed in southern Africa, although some descendants have since emigrated to New Zealand and Australia, and one has spent many years teaching in China. He was born on 19 February 1876 in Berwick, worked in the Telegraph Department of the North British Railway Company from 1890 until 1901 when he secured a job in the post and telegraph offices of the Cape of Good Hope, based in Port Elizabeth.

Thomas Hattle must have been an interesting and determined gentleman (unfortunately he died when I was a small child so I never really got to know him).  He made a taxi trip covering some 4,714 miles, which appears to have been (at that time at least) a world record.

Berwick Advertiser, 24 August 1939
Newcastle Weekly Chronicle 2 September 1939
An article in the Port Elizabeth Advertiser, 18 March 1947 said:
"Thousands of Miles by Taxi
P.E. Man Recalls an Adventure

A recent report emanating from Cape Town to the effect that a Mr. R. Oliver, a businessman from India on holiday in the Union, had employed a taxi to carry him from Cape Town to Mombasa – a distance of nearly 6,000 miles – has prompted a Port Elizabeth man, Mr. Thomas Hattle, to relate his story concerning what he regards as the longest taxi trip ever undertaken by a South African.

In fact, two overseas newspapers, the Berwick Advertiser and the Newcastle Weekly Chronicle, published accounts of Mr. Hattle’s long taxi ride of just under 5,000 miles driven all the way by a Port Elizabeth taxi-driver, Mr. S. Blom. The feat took place in 1937 and both overseas papers printed the story in 1939 when Mr. J. H. Curle, noted English traveller and author, set out on a 2,500-mile taxi trip which the American Press claimed as a world record.

Mr. Hattle’s trip of 4,714 miles occupied a full month and embraced travelling over some of the country’s worst roads and frequently over mere footpaths, over steep passes and through swirling rivers. His task was concerned with telephone development study in the vast Transkeian territories as far north as Port St Johns.

An interesting feature of this trip was the meeting of Mr Hattle and Chief David Dalindyelo of Moekezweni. The Chief acted as interpreter to His Majesty the King when the Royal Family visited Umtata a week or two ago, and in 1937 he took great pride in signing his autograph in Mr. Hattle’s notebook, which is still in the latter’s possession.

Since Mr R Oliver is not expected to reach Mombasa until April 1, it is possible that the achievement of Mr Hattle and his driver, Mr Blom, in covering 4,714 miles in a single taxi trip in the same car, stands at the moment as a record for this country and possibly a world record."

He must have indeed been a very fit man, as I recall seeing a report in which it was noted that he never took a sick day off in his long career. Of interest is the attached note confirming that 10 years before his retirement (1936, at age 60), he had accumulated 644 days of leave credit. Sadly he was only paid out for 180 days!
644 days of leave credit
During my grandfather's boat trip to South Africa in 1901, and his first months in South Africa, he wrote a long detailed account of his adventures and impressions (including an account of his train journey from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth), and this journal was published sometime in late 1901 / possibly early 1902 in several long instalments in the Berwick Advertiser (possibly headed 'Diary of a Berwick Man').

Thomas Hattle's son, John Burgon Hattle (my father) was a meteorologist, and had the distinction, as a wartime Major in the South African army, of opening the meteorological station on the remote South Atlantic island of Tristan da Cunha, and operating it for many months during the World War II years. As a child, before the destructive Tristan volcano, I remember him frequently receiving letters from the many friends he made among the island community.

I would be thrilled to hear from locals in Berwick who have links to my family.

If you would like to contact Alan, please comment below with your email address (the email address won't be published).

Lowick and District’s Response to the Belgian Refugees 1914 – 1915 - part 2

This is a continuation of Lowick and District’s Response to the Belgian Refugees 1914 – 1915 - part 1.
It was performed as a "radio play" in Berwick Guildhall on 25 April 2015 at Discover Berwick’s First World War Story. Researched and written by Julie Gibbs.

Now ladies, if by late October, you are still unclear as to how you can help, ‘Border Woman’ will put you straight.  You no doubt read her regular ‘Women’s Work and Interest’ column in the (Berwick) Journal.

Border Woman    (22 October 1914)

Good Afternoon,
‘Women of Berwickshire', let us put our shoulders to the wheel and see what we can do, now, immediately, to help our friends and allies, the Belgians. Just imagine how it must feel to leave everything behind and then be plunged into a country in which you cannot make yourself understood by your neighbours – in which it is extremely difficult to glean news even of what has happened in your own land since you left it.
 I implore you not to say, “There is so little that I can do. I have had so many calls on my purse lately” – every one of us can do something, and every one of us must do all that lies in her power; and please, when you are asked to help, do not say “Yes, yes, but they’ll have to find some work to do.” Find some work to do! You cannot imagine how anxious they are to find work, nor how difficult it is to find it. Those who have a home in a farm cottage will probably be given odd day’s work by the farmer, but as winter comes on, and the odd day’s work is more and more difficult to find, we must help and help and help again.

To begin with, all who have “summer cottages,” or unoccupied furnished homes, can offer to lend them free of rent and taxes. The War Refugee Committee promises to put only responsible people of the educated classes into such houses - people who will understand how to take care of them. While few of us possess such a house, all however, can help with the Belgians of the working class, by finding every suitable empty cottage in the country, and buying, begging or borrowing furniture and then asking all one’s friends to guarantee a regular weekly contribution towards helping that family through the winter – 3d (1p) to 2s 6d (12½p) a week – whatever they are able to promise regularly in money or kind.

If you cannot help in this way, there are already 59 Belgians in the Ancroft, Lowick, Haggerston, and Cheswick districts. In the two former, the organisation is under Mr Riddell and Mr Middlemass, South Berrington; Mrs Crossman, of Cheswick House, and Mrs Leyland, of Haggerston Castle, are responsible for between 20 and 30. The Belgians who have come are extremely thrifty, industrious, and intelligent- indeed it is wonderful how well they have been able to make themselves understood, although three weeks ago they did not know a word of English. The families are in need of furniture, clothing, boots, food, and money. And if your children have toys or picture books that they could put into the parcels for all the poor mites, I think it would be very nice.

 Let it be quite clear that no portion of the Belgian Relief Fund has yet been used for this work; all that has been expended so far, has been sent to Belgium. The cottage people themselves are helping up to the limit of their capacity, but help from outside is really much needed.

(Border Woman  sits down.)

Lowick and District’s Response to the Belgian Refugees 1914 – 1915 - part 1

Researched and written by Julie Gibbs.

[This production, performed as a "radio play" in Berwick Guildhall on 25 April 2015 at Discover Berwick’s First World War Story and is a shorter version of that presented by the Lowick Heritage Group in December 2014, with a cast of five: Richard Black, Sarah Burn, John Daniels, Rev Victor Dickinson, Amanda Worlock.]

During this performance you will hear from some of the local characters who chivvied, reported and helped in both personal and official capacities and from a refugee herself.

The German invasion of Belgium on 4th August 1914 resulted in approximately 250,000 Belgian Refugees seeking refuge in Britain.

With little time to prepare, central and local government agencies worked alongside the voluntary War Refugees’ Committee and the several thousand local committees, to provide food, shelter, clothing, employment, education and medical care.

Newspapers played a vital role in emphasizing the fate of ‘poor little Belgium’; the needs of the brave Belgian refugees and our duty to help.  From August onwards, appeals appeared on behalf of the Belgian Relief Fund, set up to help those still in Belgium; and for hospitality in Britain, for those forced to leave their homes.

The thousands that came from Ostend and Flushing, through the ports of Folkestone and Tilbury were received by the Government in London and provided with accommodation until they could be allocated places in the country.

The Aliens Restriction Act, 1914, prohibited aliens from living in an area running inland for a distance of 10 miles and upwards, for almost a continuous chain on the east coast of England and Scotland, to prevent German spies from impersonating Belgian refugees. Northumberland to comply, established ‘colonies’ in Allendale and Hexham and other nearby towns. Any aliens already living in a restricted area could remain but had to register with the local Police. The Northumberland, Newcastle and Tyneside Belgian Refugees’ Committee complained in December, that they had many more offers of hospitality than refugees. They expected five hundred to be in the county by the end of that month but could accommodate more.

 Berwick and the surrounding villages were quick to offer assistance. In September, the Mayor started a Borough Subscription List for the Relief Fund for the Belgian Nation; while the Sheriff asked for offers of hospitality in Berwick-upon-Tweed and its neighbourhood.

Mrs McCreath, of Ord Villa, collected a large amount of clothing for the refugees, which she forwarded in two wooden boxes, to London, for which she received grateful thanks.

The Berwick Journal dated 24th September 1914, offered the following advice-

Where it is not possible to offer hospitality to a mother and children, one lady might pay the rent for two or three empty cottages in a Berwickshire village. Others could then provide furniture or a regular supply of food, such as bread, milk, and eggs; while others again could make or buy clothing for the refugees. With a little organisation a scheme of this sort, might be started in every village in the county, and I am quite sure many willing helpers would at once come forward. All that is needed is one energetic lady in each village to get the scheme started.

Collections were taken at every gathering, religious or social.  The Berwick Cycling Club held a Smoking Concert in September, to raise money for the Belgian Relief Fund. It was attended by Mr Jacques Jobe, a mining student at Liege University, who happened to be staying in Berwick with his uncle, Mr Simmen, Confectioner Maker and Caterer. Mr Simmen from Switzerland and his wife from Belgium had both become naturalised citizens in 1902. Mr Jobe, who played the Belgian National Anthem at the concert, will feature later. Over £5 was raised.

A correspondent writing for the Berwick Advertiser 9th October 1914 will take up the tale.

Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen

 Within the past week, forty Belgian refugees have arrived at Haggerston Castle from Beal Station. They have been quartered on the estate, at Lowick, and the farm of South Berrington, occupied by Mr Middlemas. Among those on the estate is a woman with a family of six children, three little girls and three little boys. There is also a boy of fifteen from Malines working with the gardeners on the estate. He seemed to be quite happy and pleased to be working with two Englishmen. Asked why he had left Belgium he merely replied he had to fly because the Germans were coming. The boy could speak French fluently, but the majority of the refugees in the district mainly spoke Flemish. Mr Jobe paid a visit to the estate and conversed to the best of his ability with the mother of the six children. They are staying in a cottage and before the door, the Belgian flag was flying. She said her husband was working at the Central Station Antwerp. While Mr Jobe was cycling down the drive, his handkerchief, which has the colours of the Belgian flag on it, was fluttering from his pocket, and five little boys – belonging to another family – who were sitting on the grass at the roadside stood up and raised their hats. Mr Jobe asked them where they had come from but as they spoke Flemish he could not get a direct answer, but they managed to explain that they had come from a house in the country, probably a farm. At South Berrington there is one family consisting of a husband and wife and two boys aged 15 and 17.  Mr Demant, a Technical Translator, brought them from Newcastle and interpreted between them and the farmer. The husband and the two sons were cabinetmakers. Mr Middlemas was in Belgium recently, but left when war was declared.

Great excitement prevailed in the village of Lowick last Thursday evening, when the Belgian family of refugees, comprising husband and wife, husband’s mother, and five children arrived. Their presence in this quiet little village has made the effects of this Great War clearer than ever before. Deepest sympathy is extended to them in their sad plight, because evidently they had to leave their home that would be very dear to them, with just what they were wearing. They came from close to Antwerp, and if anyone had an interview with them who could speak Flemish, they would probably have a story of the great sufferings they endured before arriving at a haven of safety.

It is to be hoped that their sojourn in Lowick (be it long or short) will be happy and pleasant, because without a doubt our safety in a great measure is due to the Belgians staying the initial advance of the Germans at a great loss of life. They kept the door shut so to speak until the Allies were better prepared. So let that sacrifice be repaid by one and all of us giving what we can to help them in their time of need.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Get Help with your Family History at Berwick Guildhall, This Weekend, 27 and 28 June

The next event in the Berwick 900 Festival is Berwick’s Garrison Through The Ages, which is on at the weekend, 27 and 28 June.

There'll be an exhibition in the Guildhall about soldiers and their lives, as well as a stand for family history enquiries.

So if you're wondering how to start your family history, need some help with the records, you've hit a brick wall, come along between 1pm and 3pm and let us help you.

If you;d like to share your family stories on our blog or need help with researching them, come and see us.

Don't ignore what's happening outside; the Armed Forces Day Parade starts at 12 noon on Saturday 27 June and includes a pipe band, cadets, and former servicemen and women.
Just a few minutes walk away are Berwick’s historic ramparts and this weekend there’ll be authentic period soldiers’ encampments beside the ramparts.

More details on the Our Garrison Story & Armed Forces Day Parade programme.

The Guildhall is in Marygate, Berwick-upon-Tweed. Map.