Thursday 29 June 2023

Not Fit For a Soldier!


Hot on the heels of yesterday's revelations, today I discovered a reasonably close relative, a first cousin twice removed (my gran's cousin), who had a humiliating experience when he joined the Army towards the end of WW1.  His Army record shows he was 18yrs 11mths old when he joined up.  A former farm labourer (a Waggoner), he had brown hair, brown eyes and a fair complexion.  Reasonably tall at 5'8", there was nothing of him as he weighed barely 8 stone (116 lbs).  His chest was just 33 1/2" with 1 1/2" expansion.  He was scarcely in a league of his own size wise, having read plenty of Army records which record similar physiques, and think of the Bantam Regiments.  Keith's great uncle was only 5'4" tall (his mum was about 4'10"!)  That's what a poor diet does for you.

    He joined the 3rd Battalion Northants Regiment and was posted for duty on the 22nd May 1918, his ship leaving from Southampton for the Front.

    It was soon noticed that despite passing the physical tests, things were not as they should be. Walter had a Disability - quite a big and meaningful disability sadly - as he has a speech impediment in the form of a stutter.  Not just a bit of a stutter when he got flustered either, "has stuttered since childhood" as one officer wrote down, didn't really quite cover the enormity of his disability.

His final Medical assessment show it plainly:  "He is quite incapable, through his hesitation in speech, of doing military duty.  He would be useless as a sentry."  Harsh words indeed, but worse was to come. "Stutters very badly.  Almost incapable of speech.  States (he has been) the same since 9 yrs.  Physique and health good."  Then the remark, written by some Doctor who added the final damning endictment in the margin: "Not fit for a soldier."  I hope to God Walter never read it.  He was discharged in April 1919 "No longer physically fit", having been presumably kept away from the main theatre of war and given menial tasks to carry out.  Perhaps that stutter saved his life - who knows?

    He returned home and in the 1921 census was living with his parents and working as a General Labourer. He married in 1928 and died in the 50s.  He and his wife were not blessed with children (which happens more often than you think - I suppose it balanced out the dozen or more that other families had).  

    So Walter, you are not forgotten, and I wouldn't mind betting that you were a natural with horses, who didn't give a damn about whether you stuttered or not.  (My gran's line were very good with animals).  Which just leaves me wondering, what the hell happened to him when he was just 9 years old, to affect him so badly he never overcame it? Or was it a fault in the wiring of his brain?  We'll never know. 

    He was more fortunate than his almost namesake, who I found recorded dead from Shell Shock in Bolton (having been shipped home).  Another namesake (but totally different Army number) was in the Sick Bay at Catterick Barracks with Venereal Warts (!) and several other men had Gonorreah and one Syphalis.  Just to balance out the Influenza, Anal Fissure, Bronchitis, Lumbago, etc.

Wednesday 28 June 2023

What women did to survive - Jeannie Jenner, an elusive soul


She's a fairly distant relative of mine, the "wife" of a first cousin, twice removed, but somehow I got dragged into researching her story.  She started off as just a married name on a census - I shall call her Jeannie Jenner, but finding her birth and birth name really took some hard work. She had an unusual Christian name - I assumed it was a shortened form - as it was - BUT it was her middle name.  I only found out her given name when I researched some of her children's births and got "Richardson" the surname. . .  Censuses and records said she was born in Rugby, in Birmingham, in Warwick, in Worcestershire. I drew a blank everywhere.  It wasn't until the 1921 census that I got the Big House name where her father worked and tracked her down.  I've changed all the names in case anyone she's related to happens to read this and is shocked.  Highly unlikely I know, but that's just me.

When she was born in rural Warwickshire, life looked like it held a gentle future - village life, marrying an Ag. Lab and settling down to having children year on year, with parents nearby and everyone who meant anything to her in the same village.  Jeannie attended the village school with her siblings and had no fears.  Her dad was stud groom at the Big House and they had a lovely tied cottage in the grounds.  Then he died, and everything changed.  They had no home, no money and had no option but to ask Granny B for help and went to live with her in London - 10 of them all told, in a couple of rooms in what we would call a "house of multiple occupation" - about 30 people crammed into one tenement. 

By the time she is 20 she turns up staying at a pub on the Isle of Wight with her first "husband", a man nearly old enough to be her father (he is 36).  But hey, he's a Comedian and is fun to be with and she feels SO grown up and she is out of Granny's overcrowded rooms.

Life continues to throw curved balls though, and by 1895 we find her in the Workhouse, "in labour". Did her family throw her out?  Her namesake little "Jeannie Richardson" is born and within a few months, has died.  

Then dependable "Albert Jenner" comes into the picture and the children start appearing like clockwork - one every couple of years, as soon as the protection offered by breast-feeding ended and doubtless Pennyroyal helped when she could afford it (it's an aborifacient - Keith's gran used to use it . . .)  They lived with his mum to start with (for whom London must have seemed horribly busy and life financially a struggle after rural Devon). Then she died and they were on their own, playing happy families with an increasing brood.  She was pregnant with her ninth child (3 of whom have already died) when her "husband" died, aged only 40.  The census shows us with just the three youngest children - including "Alice", the baby.  Scrawled across the page "Other Children in W******** Parish Home."  These were pretty well the three oldest ones, and even there they didn't stay put as "Bert" ended up at Chorlton in Manchester in the Ragged and Industrial Boys Home, where he still was in the 1921 census.

I couldn't find Alice anywhere.  Nor ever any marriage for her mother (either with the Comedian or Albert Jenner) until she marries  Mr D in 1924.  However, there was a May D born in the same year as "Alice".  I have made my own conclusions as Alice never shows up again.  A little fib on Jeannie's behalf on the census . . .  A son with the same new father also puts in an appearance.  Then in the 1921 census, two of the siblings are in a flat paid for by Mr D.  Written beside each of them was Step-daughter - only the first one had "step" crossed through, so it looks like Jeannie and Mr D may have been having an affair before her husband died.  Perhaps she had to nurse him.  Perhaps they had fallen out of love due to the hardships and privations they suffered.  Who knows what we would do in that situation, desperate for help and love and money.

They eventually married - after she had given birth to 11 children and buried 3.  They appeared to live happily ever after and I am still in the process of trying to trace missing children. 

 If you find this a boring post - sorry, but it cried out to be written.  "Jeannie" has been remembered and I'm glad about that as she had a tough life, one way and another.

Tuesday 27 June 2023

Patrishow Church, Part II


Just this one photo shows what a special place this is.  That barrel vaulted ceiling (late 15C) and the fabulous rood screen and loft. As you can see, the walls are liberally adorned with panels of texts and earlier paintings such as a Royal coat of arms and a Doom Figure.  This is a Grade I listed church and you can easily see why.

The font - well, what can I say.  This is a survivor from the much earlier church dedicated by Herewald prior to the Norman invasion.   It dates from c. 1055.  "The rim is carved with two rolls terminating in leaves, and inside this the inscription MENHIR ME FECIT I (N) TE (M) PORE GENILLIN in Hiberno-Saxon miniscules.  Cynhillin was Lord of Ystrad Yw." (Pevsner: Powys). Ystrad Yw is a parish a couple of miles out of Crickhowell.  It is perhaps the oldest font in Wales. (National Churches Trust).

The parish chest doesn't merit a mention with Pevsner but Tam and I thought it probably 13th/early 14th C.  It was hewn from a complete oak tree and now contains cleaning things rather than anything liturgical!

The faded remains of the Royal coat of Arms.

17 is so young to die.

A pretty flower arrangement at the bottom of the rood screen shows the church is still much-loved and cared for.

An amazing survivor.  Mind you, this is 4 1/2 miles out of Crickhowell and so perhaps Cromwell's lot weren't even aware of its existence.  It dates to c.1500.  There are some similarities to the beautiful rood screen at St Margaret's but this is crisper and more detailed and has the lovely tracery too. "The parapet itself is of muntin with panels of Late Perp tracery patterning which strengthens the screen's shimmery character." (Pevsner). 

Details.  No faces as you have at St Margaret's, but dragon snouts instead, covering the joins with the beams!!  The carvers had such fun making these.

Beautiful crisp vines and "water leaf" but muggins here missed the dragons at the ends which Pevsner writes about (there's always something you miss).  I must return to find them. . . and enjoy the wonderful atmosphere again.  Apparently I also missed the apostle figures too . . .

There are apparently 14 memorials dating from between 1757 and 1804,and many with strongly coloured and gilded floral borders, all the work of the Brute family and their followers.

Looking towards the Altar.

Memorial windows dedicated to Caroline and John Powell, of the parish.

The colours in this little side window were magical.

The steep hill we climbed up, having parked where 3 other cars were parked.  I wasn't sure if there would be a parking space by the church and places to turn were few and far between.  Apparently the Holy Well is just where we parked - one responsible for at least two miracles: a leper was cured by its waters back in the 11th C and left a bag of gold in grateful thanks - which was used to build the church. In more recent times a woman had had an operation on her foot and was still in great pain, until visiting the well (and presumably bathing her foot in it), whereupon the pain receded . . .  

At the churchyard cross, it is written that  Giraldus Cambrensis accompanied Archbishop Baldwin, who preached here in 1188. Their tour of Wales was to raise awareness of the Crusade Campaign and presumably gather men to fight in its cause.

This is perhaps my favourite church of all those that I have visited in our part of the world. It is certainly very special and worth journeying to.

Sunday 25 June 2023

Smelling like a tart's armpit!

 The subtitle for this should be Patrishow Church, Part 1.  To round off a lovely weekend with both our daughters here, after Gabby had gone home, Tam and I went out to find a church I knew I would struggle to find on my own so I took advantage of Tam's Satnav and we went to Patrishow Church beyond Crickhowell.  I have to say, it was slightly worrying as the road got narrower and narrower until it was barely the width of an old hay wagon - they must have measured an inch either side of the edge of the wagon wheels!  But we found it!  And W.O.W.

What a spot. The views were stunning and the church truly belonged there.

St Issui's church, where he was buried.

The lychgate is pretty ancient, though tidied up in Edwardian times, and the church has roots back to when the Normans arrived, although St Issui was  there in the 6th C and the church truly feels linked to his time.

Even this little outbuilding was of a venerable age and look at how thick the stone roof tiles are!

I think the Lord of the Manor belongs here as much as anyone else.

The end of the church with St Issui's chapel in front of it.

The Preaching Cross.

St Issui's chapel was also unlocked and we went in for a quiet moment.

St Issui's statue.  He holds a Reliquary in his right hand.

A slightly wonky window reminded us we were just the other side of the valley from crooked half collapsed Cwmyoy Church.

Part of a broken memorial to a beloved wife, on the floor of the chapel.

Time to go inside.  That will be in Part II.

The stoop inside the porch.

Looking back towards the lytchgate.

We came home via Crickhowell.  A slightly blurry photo of the beautiful hanging baskets in the town.

I hope you all had a lovely weekend too.

Oh - and the title - Tam and I had to slather ourselves in Avon Skin so Soft before we went - it vanquishes biting insects, but you smell, as I said, like a Tart's Armpit with it on!!!

Thursday 22 June 2023

Time to Think and Be Mindful . . .

 It is lovely and fresh out and a cool 11 deg. at the moment.   I am hoping that the VERY worst of the pollen is fading a bit now.  I managed a walk yesterday morning - not that far, and just in the town. I couldn't find anywhere to park (there was some very ignorant parking - a pick up truck taking up the middle portion of a parking space for two cars.  That seems to happen regularly.  People can be so inconsiderate).  Anyway, I ended up at the side of the Groe, over by the school, and walked up into town that way to get the paper and my prescription.  I had a lovely chat with the lady at the paper shop, and then wandered over to the Local History Society shop and had a natter in there.  Then as I walked back, a good chat with the lady who has a collectables shop.  Builth is such a friendly place.

I'd like some more of these Hardy Geraniums -  this one is Black Beauty.

The Mullein, which has got LOTS of smaller flower spikes on to last for weeks.  The top leaves are soft and felty, but the giant ones at the base are smoother.

OK, not sure what has happened here.  I noticed these proto-buds??? in the centre of a spent flower on rosa Belle de Crecy.  Perhaps I should not have dead-headed them but seen if they would carry on to bloom?  Never seen this before.

Dahlia Gardenetta Peach.  I got two of these last week.

A nameless Dahlia.  It has gone in a planter which DID have Cosmos seedlings in, until they were nobbled by slugs on a recent wet night, and then Ghengis took to using it as a bed - hence the repurposed seed-stack shelf over a corner of this and an entire planter of what is left of another Cosmos planting.  I should have started them off in trays in May.

I couldn't resist this pot of Pinks, which I had just the container for as the Oxalis which had been in it was another winter casualty.

The cobbles - all done by hand, and obviously still a work in progress, but it has been let go for a long time and it goes two sides of the stable yard.  The last people used chemicals to control the weeds, but that doesn't remove the soil in between the cobbles, and I would NEVER use poisons to control weeds.  

It is very therapeutic working out here when it is cool (I have to work early or late, as in full sun it is punishing.)  It is mindful work, I have spent hours pondering family history conundrums, or just thinking of the folk I have discovered, thinking of the past.  That includes the recent past and I got to the bottom of the friendship breakdown, which seemed to begin when Keith got his diagnosis and I became a full time carer. A few of us were in a little chat group which started many many years ago now.  As I got sympathy and attention, there became an obvious "edge" in Lost Friend's posts, which became worse and worse.  As long as they got the attention and could be top dog, things were ok.  Last week there was a climax and I'd had enough.  There is a word for the condition, Narcissism.  Looking at the symptoms, gosh, spot on . . .  It is such a relief not to be walking on eggshells any longer.

Hope that those who want sunshine are enjoying it.  I worry about our shared private water supply so won't say no to a bit more heavy rain. :)