Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Out on a limb ...

And so finally, the last branch of the tree ~ this is the mad half Irish / half Welsh side.

The side with the sweeping saga type setting, the scandal, the heartbreak ~ well, slight exaggeration maybe but there's plenty of hard drinking and involved!

Mum and Dad's wedding

So as I said my grandfather (that's him on the very RHS of the above photo) was a chef in the merchant navy, he was big and gruff and often bad-tempered .... well according to my father he was, but actually I remember someone who as a child I could wrap around my little finger. I would crawl into his lap at 7 o'clock on Tuesday evenings to watch the Waltons and on Sundays to watch Pot Black ~ the BBC's snooker show .... all the famous names, 1 frame of snooker, playyed to the bitter end, one slight problem. Yep, you guessed it a black and white TV ~ but me, my grandad and my gran were still hooked!

My grandad went to sea as a young boy with his father .... eventhough their home port was Swansea, Grandad's record of service shows him joining and leaving ships in ports all over the world. He had been to places that I could only dream about .... he'd followed ice-breakers into Russia, he'd travelled to Zanzibar and Dubai and Alexandria ~ can you even imagine how exotic those names seemed when I was a child? He'd travelled to Australia and NZ [oh I soooooooo want to go to NZ!!], he'd been so far south he'd seen icebergs and had seen flying fish!

He was away for a huge part of my dad's childhood but timely reminders and presents would arrive from around the world ~ jeans and rock 'n' roll on vinyl from America (just as Elvis was taking off), a coconut from the Bahamas (no envelope, dad's name and address were carved into the side of the coconut!), silks and amethysts for my grandmother from the far-east. My one true regret in life (other than holding on to Martyn John ... but then I was only 16) is that I never asked more questions and I never wrote all the stories down!

Having been a chef in the merchant navy you would excpect his food to be the stuff of legends .... actually probably not the kind of legends you would imagine to be at all honest. [Let's not even mention his jam tarts, my mother might be reading and her constitution couldn't take it!] Yes he was a chief steward and then a chef, but that was on oil tankers .... back when BP were still called Anglo-Iranian oil. He cooked for the men on the ship not the captains and officers. He cycled from kitchen to kitchen on the huge ships and regaled us with tales of shipwreck (happened twice), potatoes being cooked in ship's boilers (they'd run out of cooking fuel) and smuggling biscuits off the ship tucked into his socks (to feed the children of a Russian sailor who'd become his friend.)

from the left you have Elizabeth Ann Steele, Wilfred Denis, Beatrice Gladys, Edward John and William Paddison Collins

His father sitting in the rather grand chair above, next to my grandad* was a hard drinking Irish man. He came from southern Ireland and was a sailor pretty much all of his life. My grandfather told me a story of being in London with his father one winter and it being so cold that he followed his father (who was dragging his wooden chest of belongings) across the ice to the dockside because the Thames had frozen solid. That wooden chest is now my coffee table! He is so hard to track down on any census .... he was probably at sea at the time! There was a huge scandal when he married my great grandmother in January 1898 ~ she was the daughter of a gentleman farmer and she was marrying an Irish Catholic sailor! Can you imagine? Anyway .... marry they did and they went on to have 4 children. Unfortunately this branch pretty stops with great-grandad William as I cannot find his father Denis ..... my search shall continue!

His wife Elizabeth (daughter of the gentleman farmer) had an incredibly sad life, her mother died when she was 7 years old and then her father remarried a scant 6 months later and went on to father 8 more children .... a grand total of (hang on I need fingers and toes for this ... ) 17 children! So, if you are researching STEELE in or from Swansea/Glamorgan ... with that many children to his name, chances are they partly belong to me too!!

Her father (Henry STEELE) was oringinally from Wiltshire and came to Swansea as a police officer and went on to manage the Oystermouth railway. On leaving that position (which if the extract below from the Cambrian News of April 1868 is anything to go by was a dangerous job**) he bought Box Farm in Reynoldston and became a farmer and an ale-house keeper ~ beer and cider for the locals!!


So, that's it ... I'm still searching. If I find anything momentous I will let you know ... my list of missing is long, but I'm finding more and more each day! So, all you blogging family historians out there .... here's my list of names; all help greatfully received!

BAYLIS (Thornbury, GLOUCESTERSHIRE / Swansea), COLLINS (mainly Swansea), EVANS***(Carmel, CARMARTHENSHIRE), DAVIES*** (Ogmore Valley), GIBBON (Ogmore Valley, Vale of Glamorgan), HACCHE (South Molton, DEVON / Swansea / anywhere in the world), PHILLIPS (GOWER), STEELE (WILTSHIRE / GOWER / Swansea).

*Oh by the way, that's the lesbian great-aunt in the middle ... wouldn't want you to miss out on the scandalous bits!
** Mind you he was in a pub when it happened!
*** The word's needle in a haystack have nothing on looking for DAVIES and EVANS in Wales ~ I truly do know this, but I am nothing if not hopeful :o)


Lisa said...

I'm first! (heh)

I don't have time to read this right now, I'll do it after I finish work tomorrow (12.30pm)...just wanted to be your first commenter lol

Have a great day!

Magpie said...

a friend of mine is called Steele, i'm not sure where they originate from, they used to own a farm in cheshire...

my grandad was welsh, and my father in law was in the merchant navy too...

i love looking at old photos, i don't know who half of mine are though...


Scouser said...

Just popped in to say HI, Michele sent me.

Mother Damnable said...

Fascinating, really interesting family history!

Hello Michele sent me :>)

Karen said...

What great photos and what wonderful family stories. 17 children?! That's crazy!

Michele sent me. Congrats on being the site of the day!!

Indigo said...

Hi Jo! Congrats on being the site of the day! Oh I remember your wooden chest that your grandfather lugged around. Wasn't it the oldest item you owned?? Michele sent me today my dear, and I love brindle boxers too, and you gave your dog coffee?????

Rene said...

Hi, Michele sent me.

My mother's side of the family is really into geneaology and have traced the family down to a time when it was first names only. How they did this, I don't know. They are a mixed bag of nationalities. For some reason, they all ended up in Utah *shudder*

Carl V. said...

Sounds like a fascinating and interesting man. Loved the address carved into the coconut thing...can't imagine the post office would let one do that today.

BTW, 'Hello' from Michele!

colleen said...

I've done some geneoloty too. I love to see what I'm made of...or what I've been made from! Hello from Michele's and Loose Leaf.

Nienke said...

Hello, Michele sent me.
I wish I knew that much about my family history. Great story.

chronicler said...

Hi from Michele's today! What a great story! I feel for you on tracing your charts. Mine just about ends in Glouscestershire with my grandad. Surname: Bourne.

chelle said...

Hi Michelle Sent Me!
Wow! Cool family history! I have no clue about mine! Kudos!

Terri said...

Hi...Michelle sent me. Congrats on being the Site of The Day.
Enjoyed reading your family history and seeing the photos. Good luck in your continued search.

Fizzy said...

WOW what a lot of comments.
I love this. I don't know that much about my families,I know that an uncle who married into my mother's family (welsh/cheshire boarder) spent a lot of time researching out history in that area... I had to laugh though cos you said that reseraching Evans and Davies as surnames in Wales i nigh on impossible... well our family names are Jones and Lloyd. We have Jones marrying Jones on our family tree (and they were related!!!)

Sandy said...

Michele sent me over. Congrats on being site of the day.

How wonderful to have tracked your family history like this.

srp said...

Here from Michele.
Congratulations on being the site of the day.
How great to be able to know stories from the past. I am fortunate to have several Aunts who do this for our family.

Fi said...

Fascinating Jo! You've done a grand job researching your family tree :)

Lisa said...

Ok, so I'm 24 hours later than expected...see? even more reason for me to leap at the opportunity of being first when I can lol

17 children!?!? Blimey, christmas and birthdays must've been extremely difficult I reckon.

And how fabulous that the old wooden chest is now your coffee table....I love that.