Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Long-tailed Tits through a lens

Not often the Long-Tailed Tits hang around long enough in my garden for me to snap them with my digital camera through my hastily aimed and focused spotting scope.

Earlier today, a little flock of them breezed through, adults and juveniles. Giggling round the suet feeders. Swarming up and down the herbaceous borders, twittering pinkish brown and white dynamos attached to a cleft black tail like a ruler with white calibrations on the edges! Then they were gone again, this little family of half a dozen.

I'd never make it with the paparazzi, but I hope you'll enjoy my amateur shots of these tiny stars!

Long-tailed Tit (Aegithalos caudatus) at my suet feeder near Rotherham, South Yorkshire, UK
Long-tailed Tit (right) sharing the suet slab with a Robin
Acrobatic Long-tailed Tit with suet pellet gripped in its claw as it nibbled the treat

Friday, 26 August 2011

The Great Fire of Luncheon - a story if you need a smile over the hols!

You’re joking me, right?”

No mate. That’s what you said on the phone. That’s what I’ve written. That’s what you’re paying me for.”

Sign writers; couldn’t write their own name if it wasn’t taped in the back of their boxers. I said it clear enough:
The Great Fryer of Luncheon” I said. “Fancy font, curlicues or whatever you call those poncy swirly bits.”

Turn some heads, have a laugh. Now look at it. Right above the door, making me sound like ruddy Samuel Pepys grappling with Gordon Ramsay. No subtle chippy reference after all, thanks to this jobsworth.

It’s a license to print money, mate,” my cousin Nobby said to me and the missus, as we were driving him to the airport. He’s off to Australia to open another chippy there for ex-pats. I say he just has a crush on that Nadia Sawalha and fancies escaping to the sun instead of being stuck in sunny Plumstead. He’s had this chippy here since Uncle Horace passed away. Good turn over, nice little earner, catches the passing trade, you can’t lose.

So I do a bit of brainstorming with the wife and she has this flash of genius. Jane calls it ‘re-branding’. I call it a disaster-in-waiting. When the sign guy peels off the dust sheet I see the writing on the wall, literally.

The Great Fire of Luncheon’ it says in great magenta letters two feet high. Thank crikey we didn’t go for that flat fish logo in the catalogue. We might have ended up with a Technicolor Jaws slavering over the door. Anyway, I’m not one to stick fast, so I say to Jane, “Let’s go upmarket. Ditch the deep fat and go Bistro.”

How hard can it be? Jamie Oliver eat your heart out, just don’t book your holidays in Rotherham. The refit goes like clockwork and we put in these up-lights that stop you seeing what you’re eating and a bit of the old Rennie Mackintosh I saw once on the Antiques Roadshow. Then some mood music and a bit of silver service. I’ve stocked up with a load of crates of plonk in the back. Three Pinot Grigiots and Jane’s anybody’s. Health and Safety gave us the green light when the wrappers were still on the fish knives. 

It was over that weekend Jane said to me, “Can you cook all this stuff?”

That made me stop for a minute. Only a minute, mind, because I’ve never been much of a one for navel-gazing.

Cook it? What’s the point? There’s that little restaurant on the High Street that does takeaway deliveries. Why keep a dog and bark?”

So it’s into cruise control with Plumstead’s own Antony Worrall Thompson. Once we’ve taken the orders, out comes the complimentary carafe and while they’re getting a bit chillaxed after a hard day at the office, I’m ringing the ‘Fatted Calf’ for whatever’s required. I mark it up a bit, natch. I’ve my overheads, phone bill, free plonk and all that to cover, but I’m quids in at the end of the day as there’s no delivery charge for orders over twenty pounds within a radius of two miles and the ‘Fatted Calf’ is only just round the corner.

Sorted, love,” I says to Janey, cos I could see she’s going a bit EastEnders boom-boom-boom-bup-bup-buddly-buddly on me. But it was all working like a well oiled machine until 'that day', as we call it.

That day, when I rang the order through, the phone just kept on ringing.
Come on, mate,” I'm saying into the receiver, “get a shake on, we're getting busy this end.” We were, as well. The lads from the new solicitor's office on the High Street came in with their other halves as well as the usual steady flow of couples on a first date when he fancies a bit of the old Dutch courage and she fancies getting him blotto so she can go back and watch Sex and the City.

Come on, come on,” I'm going into the receiver like an old Gary Glitter record when suddenly the answer phone kicks in and I'm hearing this plummy speaker phone voice:
I'm sorry. 'The Fatted Calf' will be closed until Monday next, due to a family bereavement. We regret being unable to serve you at this time, but look forward to welcoming you when we reopen after the weekend. Thank you for your understanding.”

Jane comes through to fill up some of the glasses and she sees me there with my mouth open, staring into space.
Have you rung them yet, Dave? One of the girls is debating whether to order your famous quail with cucumber and peppermint jus. Peppermint jus, Dave! Where's your head at, tonight?”
So I tell her the news and she just looks at me like I've completely taken leave.

Well, there's only one thing for it, honey bun, beloved. You're going to have to do exactly what it says on the tin. You're going to have to step up to the white imitation porcelain square dinner plate, and actually be a restaurateur.”

Jane does an impressive line in comedy when it's called for; most often when it's not. I put the phone down and flick through the phone book but no restaurants are making what's on our menu. That's all down to the “Fatted Calf”. They've rubbed shoulders with Egon Ronay, somewhere down the line, which is why I now find myself up the proverbial creek without said paddle.

I tentatively ring a couple of places further away, but they either don't do deliveries or we're out of their area.

Jane's schmoozing and each time she comes back to see how I'm getting on, she makes one of her little comments.
Get a wriggle on, Dave,” she says, “the natives are starting to get twitchy. We don't need the background muzak any more with all those executive bellies rumbling.”

I look in one cupboard, then another. Then I push my head in the chest freezer. It's actually looking quite appealing to leave it in there. Bare, apart from some frozen vol-au-vents and a tub of cookie dough ice cream. 

Then I have a look in the fridge: left over lasagne verde that Jane buys because she thinks green means it's healthy; half a bottle of brown sauce that I buy in because my dad always had it with his corned beef sarnies for work; eggs, bacon, hash browns, all the breakfast stuff. Perhaps we could ask the patrons to stay over and I'll do them a full English as compensation.

There's a huge plastic bag of baby potatoes with some wilted salad, scotch eggs and two packets of mini pork pies, one with pickle, one with apple. That's something me and Jane can't compromise on, so the pies are sort of a his and hers selection. There's white bread rolls on the counter, and those rye cracker things that Jane has to make up for it when she's been at the cookie dough deluxe.

I can hear the hubbub in the front of house getting a bit more lively. I'm hoping that's the free booze though time's ticking by. My mind does a little juggling with those ingredients but then I realise it's now or never; do a runner or run them up some grub, sharpish.

I grab a frying pan out of the bottom cupboard and look around for some oil. Every proper establishment in our game has its signature dishes, so perhaps it's time I left the 'Calf' with its Peppermint jus and its balsamic vinaigrette and got our clientele's palates buzzing with some all-new flavours.

I find some garlic butter, a bit dried at the edges but serviceable and that gives me a bit of a confidence boost. I tie on an apron. It's got fake boobs and striped like a butcher down below, but I'm on a roll, so I stride into the front and shout:
Ladies and gents, tonight you're in for a treat. Our usual dishes are being suspended for one night only in order to introduce you to our brand new special gourmet menu. These dishes have been a long time in the production, and as we value our customers very highly, we would appreciate your feedback...on the feed.”

This seems to go down reasonably. Nobody cries. Nobody starts eating the place mats. Nobody screams and pulls the table cloth off, and more importantly, nobody leaves.

Jane starts clinking the bottle against their glasses to cover my exit, talking about how her genius husband is expecting to be asked onto the advisory panel for Ready Steady Cook very soon, though he's such a connoisseur, he's had to turn them down a couple of times for their disregard of the requirements of the more discerning palate such as we cater for here.

I can still hear her going on loudly about me in the background while I stick a couple of the scotch eggs into the pan with the garlic butter and grub around for the rest of the starter ingredients. We'll deal with the mains and desserts later.

There's some ready-grated cheddar in the fridge door next to the piccalilli and pickled onions. It isn't actually cheddar, it's that half fat nonsense, but who's counting? I sprinkle some over the scotch eggs (giving my trade secrets away, here) and bang it all under the grill.

I plate up and bung on some wilted salad. Well, not wilted in the traditional sense, but this is gastronomy at the cutting edge, after all. It's pretty limp, anyway. I do one of those streaks of brown sauce that all the chefs do today. Not enough to satisfy, just enough to make the plate look a cross between dressy and messy so you wonder whether you can get away with licking it off before the waitress comes back. I daub a quenelle of piccalilli on each plate; they don't all stay as quenelles, mind, a few slump a little, but what the heck, I've got my mains to churn out, yet.

Here he is, the man himself,” I notice Jane is swaying slightly, even though she seems to have taken her heels off. Not too formal, casual but welcoming, that's our way. She helps me serve up and there's a real buzz starting round the room.

Ladies and gents, I present our exclusive new starter, oeuf sauté with wilted salad and a quenelle of crudites à la moutarde jaune. A votre santé!” French GCSE comes in handy, at last. It never did in Ibiza.

The punters are all busy chewing so I hare back into the kitchen to look for the next hotchpotch of ingredients. I need to go for more substantial this time, so I winkle out the bag of baby potatoes and fling open a couple more cupboards. There's the lasagne verde, of course, and a line of microwavable packets of savoury rice. That'll do for the carb fix.

Now for the protein. I end up back at the fridge where the only protein I can spot is the pork pie selection. I get to work with a knife and teaspoon, gouging out their innards onto a baking sheet. Offal's very popular these days, so maybe I could pass these pie fillings off as something similar. I put the bacon and hash browns in the pan for good measure.

I'm mashing the potatoes when Jane comes in carrying the crockery from the starters.
Nobody's got food poisoning yet, as far as I can see,” she says, reaching under the counter for a couple more bottles of Blue Nun. She's crashing about in the sink when I start to gloat.
Mains is pork paté with bacon and hash served with mashed baby spuds and a whole raft of subtle and innovative sides. Sorted. Then it's out of the freezer with your cookie dough delight smothered in a bit more alcohol and drinking chocolate powder and job's a good 'un.”
I ate it.”
Ate it? Ate what?”
The ice cream. I had a midnight feast at eleven o'clock. I think I left a little bit in the bottom of the tub, just in case I get the munchies before I do the supermarket run.” I can see she isn't joking.

One of the guys staggers into the kitchen, tie askew by this point, a bit flushed and merry, looking for the gents, so Jane waltzes back out with him while I stick the insides of the pies on the plates in a bit of horseradish sauce with the mash and some dollops of white bread soaked in gravy, which is a new kind of dumpling, the way I sell it to them in my best jovial host mode. I've had it with fancy. Needs must.

Jane's rarely wrong, but this time she's way off. There isn't even a lick of ice cream in the empty tub. It must have been a heavy night. That's why there are all those blinking rye crackers on the counter, to redress the balance.

I eye these up, with dessert on my mind. I do a bit of a find and replace for any sign of fruit, but nothing's doing.

I didn't bother investing in one of those expensive solid marble mortar and pestles, so I get the rolling pin and start giving the rye crackers a good going over. Could have done cheese and biscuits, but I've used all the cheese and anyway, that is SO seventies.

Jane comes in tutting and frowning to see what the noise is, and I manage to keep the blunt instrument focussed on the task in hand. I'm glancing round wondering how to make the crackers less dry; sweet, moist and melt-in-the-mouth would be good, too, but I'm not going to push it at this late stage.

That bloke who came in here's very chatty. I think he's impressed. Keeps asking where you get your inspiration,” Jane giggles as she necks the dregs of the Blue Nun without bothering to decant it into a glass.
Gotta keep the customer satisfied,” I mutter as I put some black pepper on the rye crumbs. Well, it works on strawberries. It's supposed to get your juices flowing so everything tastes more intense. I can see the dishes are maybe lacking a little je ne sais quoi so I do some fancy spoon work with half a jar of marmalade and some treacle topping stuff we never used out of a hamper our Doreen won from the old folks' bazaar last Christmas, and we're in sight of the winning post.

When I'm clearing the dishes and Jane's showing out the last of the diners, I notice a few tips under the mats. A bit of my sweet Seville sauce left on the occasional plate, but nothing major, so I'm ready for an early night and a private pat on the back. Never again. Then I see the card on the table by the window.

This is where your chatty mate was sitting, wasn't it?” I say to Jane as she turns the 'Closed' sign round with a long overdue burp.

Excuse me, soggy muesli” she says, as per.
He's left his business card, if we ever need a solicitor with no taste buds.”
Jane snatches the card off me before I can turn it over.
Joe Collinger. Food and Wine critic of the Saturday Standard,” Jane looks a bit blank, but it is late. 
It's only the local freebie paper, but it's a start. We're taking on more staff next month when I can get the paperwork sorted out. They're queueing up for a job here waiting tables.

Joe did us a great write-up, and the review online got loads of hits. We've set up a Facebook page, but Jane deals with all that when she's Twittering with her girlfriends. I'm back in the kitchen, dreaming up all these new dishes.

Tastes like home but with a twist. You'll be laughing from the moment you catch sight of the quirky name over the door. What cookery lacks today is comedy. Mine hosts Dave and Jane have changed all that. Theirs is the most comical bistro this side of the Thames,” wrote Joe in his article.

I read the other week that 'The Fatted Calf' is selling up and shutting down. It's a competitive world, and with us on their doorstep, who can blame them?

Bon appetit!

Wednesday, 24 August 2011


How can I mirror your vague-eyed Pre-Raphaelite smile?
Weaving the warp and weft backward and forward
Weaving the weft and warp forward and backward
Staining with startling dyes

All the diaphanous winter is melting
Back from the bones of the Japanese cherry

Now the narcissus is whispering and cringing,
Crystal and chiffon and vicious like Springtime

Moon of the meadows, forgetting the hunter
Lifts on suburbia, lemon and cadmium pale

Starfish and samphire all cambered and charming,
Dashed with the drumming and dripping of summery spray

And the seasons are whirling
And the colours are wheeling

I am the cog in your clockwork and cycle
Risky phlogiston is setting the marshes on fire

*This is actually the lyric to a song I wrote some years ago. Intermittently I still return to it. The music keeps changing slightly but the words always seem to say a fraction of what I want to say about my synaesthesia, the way my senses blend sights and sounds and tastes together. So I've said it. Thanks!

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

There is a heavy sea astern! Song for a drowned ancestor

No grave marker for my cousin three times removed.

His death certificate gives his place of death as "170 miles NE x ENE of Spurn". Miles out at sea, far beyond where Spurn Point drizzles its thin finger into the wild North Sea off the Yorkshire Coast.

The date was etched on his family's memory.

6th February 1897. The day when a freak wave, attacking like a sea-monster from behind, stopped our George ever coming home to them from the fishing grounds.

His full name was George William Barrass. He was eldest child of my great great grandmother Charlotte's middle brother Samuel, who was a keelman like most of his kin before and after him.

Hull docks, on the North Sea coast of eastern Yorkshire at the mouth of the River Humber

Samuel married George's mother Clara Clark, in 1861. She was a Lincolnshire lass, born near the famous landmark that dominates those flat acres, Boston Stump, at a tiny place called North Forty Foot Bank. Their family of six sons grew up on the sailing keels and around the docks in the port of Kingston-upon-Hull, at the sea end of the Humberhead Levels in bleak and beautiful East Yorkshire.

Boston Stump in Lincolnshire, the nearest town to where George Barrass' mother Clara Clark was born in 1839

The boys in order were:

George William (b 1864) the subject of this blog post, had to step up and look out for his younger brothers when, aged just 42, their father died of TB, and their mother, seeking solace in the bottle perhaps, as she was forced away from life on the ships to the fate of a poor charwoman, died of cirrhosis of the liver five years later aged 45.

Clark (b1867) named for his mother's maiden name, a lighterman on the Humber

Arthur (b 1870), who was already with his younger brother Alfred in the Seaman's Orphanage in Hull after his father's death, indicating Clara could not care for the older boys and could only look after the two youngest

Alfred (b 1872), a seaman; his army records from WW1 show he had brown eyes and was 5 feet 4 inches tall. He had a scar from an operation on a right scrotal hernia and like his brother Arthur, suffered from rheumatism and debility caused by exposure. He had a catalogue of misdemeanors during military service, including absence, fighting on guard mounting parade, using obscene language to an N.C.O., creating a disturbance in the barrack room at 10.10pm and disobeying an order, drunkenness, found in women's quarters contrary to standing orders and being absent from duty again. Then more drunkenness, not paying the proper compliment to a superior officer and insolence to the Company Sergeant Major. Never a dull moment with our Alfie! His character is still listed as "Good"!

Robert Sunter (b 1873) called after his maternal grandfather, a Lincolnshire shepherd. As his father couldn't spell, no doubt the Hull registrar of births couldn't make sense of the name "Sumpter" and Robert's middle name is the nearest approximation to the sound the clerk could arrive at from proud father Sam's instructions!

Samuel (b 1876), the baby of the family, taken under the wing of his eldest brother to be shown the ropes at sea. His life ended suddenly aged 31 when he accidentally fell from a waggonette in Hull and died the following day from fracture of the skull, laceration of the brain and haemorrhage. This makes his part in the tragic tale of his eldest brother George all the more poignant.

When George and Samuel signed on to be part of the five man crew on the fishing smack "Amy Isabel" and set sail with the Great Northern Fleet on 11th December 1896, George was the third hand and young Sam the deck hand on the fleeting fishing cruise. George left his wife Martha Jane and their little five year old daughter Ada ashore.

A Victorian fishing smack from the port of Hull
When dawn broke on the morning of February 6th, the sea seemed quite calm enough to allow the fleet to land the fish and the 'Amy Isabel's captain, Danish skipper Peter Poulson, saw the usual signs that all was well to proceed with boarding the fish.

Brothers George and Samuel and the second hand, Joseph Harrison were to crew the smack's little boat, 20ft long, 3ft deep and 6ft wide. The boat was in 19 fathoms of water. The sea was moderately choppy, but nothing to cause the seasoned sailors concern. 

60 or 70 other ships in the fleet were all around them. What harm could they come to? The Admiral of the fleet, John Atkinson, skipper of the "Mountaineer", let the signal for "boarding" fish be hoisted at the foremast of the carrier ship "Eastward" to which all the fish from the various vessels would be rowed in little boats just like the one where the Barrass brothers were that morning.

The boat, fitted with a rope life-line, rove through the keel, extending fore and aft on both sides, set out towards the carrier ship. 17 boxes of fish were duly loaded and stowed on it and the launch went without incident.

Old wholesale fish market in Hull docks

Joseph Harrison, second mate, was standing pushing the after oar, while young Sam, the deck hand, was pulling the forward oar on the port side. George, the third hand, was sitting keeping the boat stable in the stern sheets.

At around 9am, the 'Amy' lay at the port bow of the carrier steamer "Eastward", about 200 to 250 yards away. Her little boat had got half way across from their own ship to the "Eastward" when disaster struck. 

Suddenly, Sam saw that a huge wave was rising threateningly behind them. He shouted to the other oarsman, Joseph Harrison on the starboard side:

"There is a heavy sea astern!"

Joseph looked round, and in his terror at what he saw, dropped the oar. Almost immediately, the huge wave rolled right over the boat and swamped it, sinking it instantly. It was never recovered. Neither were the boxes of fish or the oars. But these were the least of the losses that day.

When Sam spluttered to the surface, he was relieved to find George very close to him. He saw that Joseph Harrison was lying quite still and lifeless face down a few feet away from them. Nearby, like a saviour in a storm, he made out another little boat like theirs, the one belonging to the fishing smack "Smiling Morn," which had ridden the wave that sunk them. She was only a few yards away and surely within easy swimming distance.

The brothers swam towards the other boat. As Sam was pulled into it, with George only a foot or two behind him, he saw his brother sinking, exhausted from his efforts, only seconds from certain rescue. His body, and that of Joseph Harrison, was never recovered.

The 'Amy Isabel' returned to her home port of Hull, arriving two days later on the 8th of February. What it was like for Sam to be the only survivor, to tell the news to waiting friends and family, his sister-in-law Martha Jane and his little niece Ada, we can only guess. Seafaring families are used to tragedy. But nothing can prepare you for such losses when they intrude into your loved ones' lives without warning.

Sam gave evidence at the inquiry into the incident, which can be read here:

Report into the tragic loss of the 'Amy Isabel's boat and two members of her crew 6th Feb 1897

I wrote this song in the video below, in memory of the heroes who sail out to face the perils of the ocean. It's partly in the form of a lullaby for Ada, the little daughter our George left behind, sung from the point of view of his grief-stricken widow Martha.

Its images include the superstitions of the fishermen's communities, such as never saying goodbye or looking back so as not to incur bad luck on a voyage. Some wives even carried their husbands onto the ships so they didn't get their feet wet!

The final verse also mentions the superstition that a baby's 'caul', (that part of the amniotic sac that occasionally emerges on the head on a new born baby), is considered lucky. A caul was preserved in the maritime community as an object of wonder, believed to protect its keeper from drowning.

The title and chorus of the song is "Round, Round." I wrote it knowing that in singing it, the words could also be taken as "Drowned, Drowned,"and the meaning there is, of course, not unintentional on my part.

I sing it in tribute to my long lost distant cousin and all my seafaring and sailing ancestors, to whom I dedicate it with love and profoundest respect:

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Ahoy there! Message in a virtual bottle!

Horace Barrass, nicknamed 'Pegleg' because of his homemade leg crafted from driftwood (not illustrated!). Photo via the Humber Keel and Sloop Preservation Society. They used a slide of this image in their 40th Anniversary exhibition in 2011. Photo enhanced by Mr D Mitchell, husband of my 6th cousin. Do you know the origins of this picture? The keels on the left appear to be the 'Lady Ina' and the 'Eccles John'. Do you know the names of the people in the photo? I would be SO grateful to learn more! (Photo taken in 1957 at Ferriby Sluice, Lincolnshire, according to writing on the back)

You might remember back in May last year, I told the story of my ancestor Horace Barrass, or "Pegleg" as he was affectionately known around Doncaster, Yorkshire and on the canals where he was a master mariner and keel captain sailing the local waterways between Sheffield and Hull.

Horace (1889-1976) lost his leg in an incident with wire as a young man, and later made his own substitute leg out of driftwood. This leg and its owner became a familiar sight in the area and something of a local legend!

A distant relative of mine was brought up in the village where Horace lived, canalside Stainforth near Doncaster. She recalled how, as a young girl, she had visited the outside lavatory near her grandma's house in the village, only to find the door seemed to have been jammed shut from the inside, as a prank, by a wheelbarrow handle. So she thought.

Ferriby Sluice, North Lincolnshire

 She ran to tell her grandmother and when they returned to investigate, the "blockage" was found to be Horace, sitting on the loo with his driftwood limb braced against the door to repel unwelcome boarders! Most people whistle to announce their presence in the outside facilities. Our Horace had his own unique way of keeping intruders at bay!

Full tale here: Captain Pegleg in the loo and all the merry Barrass crew

Ferriby Sluice, South Ferriby, Lincolnshire. Scene of many a launch of our keels onto the Humber

The Hope and Anchor pub at Ferriby Sluice, North Lincolnshire. A welcome sight to the homecoming mariner!
I've had the privilege two or three times in recent years of sailing with other descendants of the keel families among my ancestors, on the last fully operational keel boat under sail, "Comrade." We set sail each time from the very spot pictured in the photo of Horace and his chums.

The good ship 'Comrade', the only Humber keel still working under sail

'Comrade' was restored and crewed by members of the "Humber Keel and Sloop Preservation Society" from instructions and guidance given by retired keelman Fred Schofield, who also came from my ancestral home village of Stainforth. His book 'Humber Keels and Keelmen' is like the ultimate bible of all things keel!

Keelman Fred Schofield's wonderful book

 I've actually been at the tiller of 'Comrade' to help (or hinder?) her crew in the steering of this beautiful ship right under the Humber Bridge! The captain did say that my Barrass ancestors would be turning in their graves. I felt very close to them indeed. Several ancestors drowned while sailing their keels, so it's quite a miracle my efforts didn't ground her! One of my ancestors even managed to shoot himself fatally in the arm while attempting to shoot a crow from the deck!

The Humber Keel and Sloop Preservation Society. Website here: Humber Keel and Sloop Preservation Society website

This year, the 40th Anniversary of the founding of the 'Humber Keel and Sloop Preservation Society', was celebrated by an exhibition at South Ferriby, from where the keel 'Comrade' and her sister ship the sloop 'Amy Howson' now sail regularly to give interested members of the public a taste of how their ancestors lived and sailed on these amazing vessels.

The keel 'Comrade' and the sloop 'Amy Howson' approach the Humber Bridge

It was at this exhibition that my lovely sixth cousin Ann (possibly seventh cousin, that still being a moot point in our genealogy!) saw the fantastic photo of the group of mariners and their families at the top of this blogpost, on display as a slide.

Nothing was known about it, except that the original photo had written on the back that it was taken at  "Ferriby Sluice, 1957". Ann knew about my Horace from my research into my family tree and hers. She had little doubt this must be him. Or some huge coincidence: two men in their sixties with a missing leg, in this small waterways community. She sourced the photo and was generously sent a copy, which her husband Don, a keen amateur photographer, enhanced just a little, to make it even more crisp.

So it came at last into my possession.

If you too have been bitten by the family history bug, you can imagine what a joy it was to gaze at last on the features of my third cousin three times removed!

Who are the people round him? His wife Mary Elizabeth Flora Scott? His children Eva, Frank and Gordon? Other friends, family and locals from among the watermen and women, mariners and sailors in our blood?

I dearly hope someone reading this now or in the future may know much more than I do about this photo, so together we can discover more about our roots and the stories behind the faces. 

Please do get in touch if you recognise anyone or anything here. I would love to hear from you.

Comrade sailing on  the Humber