Category: Famous Connections

Harvey's childhood homes in a painting in Nelson Mandela's house

Category: Famous Connections

Going through some old family papers, I came across part of a magazine article which was kept by Harvey's parents. It shows Nelson Mandela in his house. What is remarkable is that there's a painting in the background depicting the houses in Fore Street, Newlyn where Harvey lived when he was a child.

Nelson Mandela in his house
Nelson Mandela in his house

Close-up of the painting on the wall
Close-up of the painting on the wall

I don't know this particular painting but there have been many paintings of this view produced over the years, particularly by the Newlyn School of Artists.

The houses photographed in 2018
The houses photographed in 2018

There have been quite a number of changes to the properties since the painting was completed but you can still see the likeness to the modern-day photograph.

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Aerial photograph of Kalat Fort - 1934

Category: Famous Connections

The 31st May - being the anniversary of the 1935 Earthquake in Quetta, I thought I'd have a rummage around in Harvey's Grandad's archive where I found a number of aerial photographs. Regular followers may remember that Cyril Ellen was in the RAF and, during this period, he was the Squadron Leader of No 5 (A.C.) Sqdn based in Quetta.

Whilst many of the photographs are loose, some are labelled on the back. The remainder appear in a report entitled Annual Flight Through Mekran - 1934. The photographs were taken in November of that year and little would they have known about the devastation which was to follow six months later.

This particular photograph appears to be labelled Kalat Fort, although I stand to be corrected if I've misread the writing. The earthquake in Balochistan, British India (now part of Pakistan), caused destruction in almost all the towns close to Quetta including the city itself and tremors were felt as far as Agra, now in India. The largest aftershock occurred on 2 June 1935. This however did not cause any damage in Quetta but the towns of Mastung, Maguchar and Kalat were seriously affected by this aftershock.

Kalat Fort circa 1934
Click the image for a larger version.

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The R.A.F.'s Account of the Earthquake in Quetta in 1935

Category: Famous Connections

Harvey's grandparents were in Quetta, which was then in British India, during the devastating earthquake in 1935. I've published a page about the event which includes an excerpt from the RAF Operations Books giving an account of the earthquake - Harvey's grandfather was in command of No 5 (AC) Squadron at the time. As the account is quite long I've selected some extracts which are featured below...

The time at which the first shock of the earthquake occurred is given officially as 0306 hours on 31st May, 1935. The night was fine but dark as there was no moon.

The Royal Air Force lines comprising No. 3 (Indian) Wing, No. 5 (AC) Squadron and No. 31 (AC) Squadron were in the direct line of the Earthquake.

The greatest shock awaited the rescue party when it reached the airmen's lines. What had once been the Airmen's Barracks was now nothing but a series of detached heaps of brick rubble with the tin roofs resting, torn and twisted on the top. A few survivors were wandering among the ruins in a stunned condition, calling to trapped inmates. A few were desperately digging down with their bare hands trying to release their buried friends.

... there was no light, great clouds of dust, cut off what little help they could have hoped for from the stars, all electric light cables were down, dawn did not come until about 6.30 a.m.... they had nothing to dig with except their hands... their work was continually being undone, by fresh tremors, which occurred at frequent intervals during the first few hours, often reburying a victim who had just been on the point of release...

Immediately before dawn a battalion of the Punjabis, who had been on a night march, came to our assistance and, as they brought with them their trenching tools, were of immense value and greatly speeded up the rescue work. At about 8 a.m. a section of light tanks arrived and were at once set to work pulling the heavy roofs off the ruins.

The last survivor was extracted at noon. The last body was removed at about 4.p.m. A bull terrier was found alive and uninjured 36 hours after the disaster...

It was found that many of the victims died from suffocation.

Aftermath of the Quetta Earthquake 1935
Aftermath of the Quetta Earthquake 1935

If possible the buildings occupied by the Indian Air Force personnel and followers were in an even worse condition than those of the British Airmen and not a single man escaped uninjured. Owing to the fact that many of the followers had entire families sleeping in their quarters the death roll was enormous and it is impossible to give an accurate estimate of the casualties in this part of the camp.

The aircraft hangars which were of steel construction stood up to the earthquake, though most of the brick walled flight offices fell in or were damaged. Such was the violence of the shaking, however, that all the aircraft had been thrown about inside and dashed against each other or into the walls. Inspection showed that only three out of the twenty seven held by the wing were fit to fly.

After some hours work these three aircraft were extracted from the hangars... By 10 a.m. the machines were in the air.

The main effected area was found to extend about 70 miles South from QUETTA many small towns and villages being completely wrecked. The death roll was later estimated as 56,000 of whom 25,000 died in QUETTA.

...during June, the entire R.A.F. personnel less a small salvage party were moved to R.A.F. Depot, Karachi.

Digging for kit and the bodies of Indian Followers continued during the first week of June. For the first two nights the airmen lit fires between the ruins of their bungalows and slept in tents under whatever blankets and kit they had been able to salve... By the 2nd the camp had become very insanitary. Decaying bodies in the gaol and nearby villages began to smell very strongly, drains were blocked... All work was carried out by men working with first field dressing pads tied over their mouths and noses.

It was decided to evacuate the camp and airmen moved into tents in the Queen's Lines... The Officers lived in tents on their Mess Lawn and had their meals in the open.

On 1st July, 1935, only a small salvage party remained in Quetta collecting documents equipment and furniture. The remainder of the Squadron in Karachi continued to repair the damaged aircraft.

Battle of Trafalgar veteran or a tall story?

Category: Famous Connections

When Israel Edwards died in Australia in 1877, there were a number of obituaries printed in the press in both Australia and England. There are, however, some inconsistencies in Israel and his wife, Susanna's, story.

Just how old was Israel?

Israel's obituary mentions he was aged anything bewteen 102 and 106 years old when he died. Nevertheless, assuming he was baptized as a baby in 1786, he was more than likely about 91 years old.

One article says that Israel was widowed at the age of 60 and implies that Susanna died before the family emigrated in 1847. Israel would indeed have been about 60 in 1847 but Susanna didn't pass away until 1860 after the family had been living in Australia for 13 years so Israel was nearer to 74 years old at this stage.

Susanna was supposedly 21 when she married Israel in 1818 and he 45. There were apparently objections raised by her friends because she was so young. Her death record states she was 23 years old when she married and he would actually have been about 32, approximately 9 years age difference rather than the exaggerated 24 years.

Did Israel really assist Vice Admiral Lord Nelson when he died?

The age discrepancies are not the only problem. Israel was supposed to have served in the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic Wars and to have been present at the Battle of Trafalgar on the Victory when Nelson was killed. One artcicle goes so far as to say that Israel ran to pick up Nelson as he fell.

Death of Nelson
Detail from The Death of Nelson by Daniel Maclise (Houses of Parliament, London)

This sounds a little far-fetched to me and further investigation shows no surviving evidence to support the fact that Israel was in the Navy and he does not appear in a search on the Trafalgar Ancestors website. The story goes he left the navy before he was entitled to a pension which may give him a little benefit of the doubt.

Israel's brother, Angel, did enlist in the Army Reserve in 1803 but Israel's contribution may have been a tall story which he told his children, either for fun and they believed it, or for any number of other reasons. We shall probably never know the truth.


One thing to say is that the journey to Australia in 1847 would have been a brave thing to do at the time, not least because the ship they sailed in lost her main top mast near Madeira in a heavy gale and so they had to return to Plymouth and set sail again almost a month after setting off the first time.

The family moved from Adelaide to Victoria in about 1852 and, if the obituaries are to be believed, Israel worked on the diggings for a couple of years. Victoria's first Gold Rush started in 1851 so the reason for the move to Victoria appears obvious. What is not so clear is why they emigrated in the first instance but this may have had more to do with conditions at home.

The Irish Famine was ongoing in 1847 and this would have affected mainland Britain too. Indeed, Israel's nephew and niece-in-law, Israel Edward Ball & his wife, Ann (nee Dearing), both died in that year along with their infant son. The effects of the Corn Laws and their Repeal may also have contributed to the decision to emigrate. This link gives an example of the hardships these laws brought about and which were suffered by a North Devon farm labourer and his family. There's just no knowing what life in North Devon was like for Israel and Susanna but it must have been hard and they probably looked to Australia for a better way of life.

The obituaries can be found on Israel and Susanna's family page.

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Wishful Wednesday: Great-aunt Cissie poses for Newlyn School artist

Category: Famous Connections

Cissie Barnes, aged 17Harvey's great-aunt, Cissie Barnes, sounds like 'quite a gal'. She posed for Newlyn School artist, Dod Procter, for the picture, 'Morning', which caused a bit of a stir at the time. Cissie (real-name - Sarah) was just 16 years old when she modelled for the painting, which shows her reclining on her bed having a morning snooze.

Painted in 1926, the picture was voted Picture of the Year at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition of 1927 and was bought for the nation by the Daily Mail newspaper. It was also displayed in New York, went on tour for 2 years and became part of the Tate collection. The painting now hangs in the Tate Modern Gallery in London.

Cissie was born, and grew up, in Newlyn, Cornwall, and it's understood that Dod Procter painted her several times. I can only imagine Cissie might have enjoyed some short-term notoriety when the picture hit the headlines. Amongst the family archive is a newspaper cutting which shows a photograph of Cissie standing in one of her father's fishing vessels wearing a sou'wester hat, waterproof coat and boots. It was taken when she was 17 years old and the caption refers to Dod Procter's painting.

It's with some regret that Harvey never met, or even knew about, his great-aunt Cissie, especially as it appears she was still alive when Harvey was growing up. Even more ironic is that she resided in Plymouth in her latter years, which would have coincided with some of the years Harvey spent living in the same city.

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Military Monday: The Defence of Rorke's Drift

Category: Famous Connections

After my recent stay in hospital, Harvey (my hubby) decided to cheer me up by presenting me with a large print of a famous painting by Alphonse-Marie-Adolphe de Neuville entitled 'The Defence of Rorke's Drift'. The print measures approximately 110 x 75cm, including the frame, and hangs conveniently in my stairwell.

Followers of my blog will know that I'm distantly related to 716 Pte. Robert Jones V.C., who took part in the battle on 22nd/23rd January 1879. Whilst there are many different paintings of the event, this is my personal favourite.

The Defence of Rorke's Drift by A de Neuville
The Defence of Rorke's Drift by A de Neuville
(Click the image above to see a larger version.)

Created in 1880, the original oil painting was commissioned by the Fine Art Society in London. It was bought by the Art Gallery of New South Wales in 1882 and is still amongst the collection to this day.

The caption underneath the print reads…

22nd January 1879

On January 22nd 1879, during the Zulu War, the small British field hospital and supply depot at Rorke's Drift in Natal was the site of one of the most heroic military defences of all time. Manned by 140 troops of the 24th Regiment, led by Lieutenant John Chard of the Royal Engineers, the camp was attacked by a well-trained and well-equipped Zulu army of 4000 men, heartened by the great Zulu victory over the British forces at Isandhlwana earlier on the same day. The battle began in mid afternoon, when British remnants of the defeat at Isandhlwana struggled into the camp. Anticipating trouble, Chard set his small force to guard the perimeter fence but, when the Zulu attack began, the Zulus came faster than the British could shoot and the camp was soon overcome. The thatched roof of the hospital was fired by Zulu spears wrapped in burning grass and even some of the sick and the dying were dragged from their beds and pressed into desperate hand-to-hand fighting. Eventually, Chard gave the order to withdraw from the perimeter and to take position in a smaller compound, protected by a hastily assembled barricade of boxes and it was from behind this barricade that the garrison fought for their lives throughout the night. After twelve hours of battle, the camp was destroyed, the hospital had burned to the ground, seventeen British lay dead and ten were wounded. However, the Zulus had been repulsed and over 400 of their men killed. The Battle of Rorke's Drift is one of the greatest examples of bravery and heroism in British military history. Nine men were awarded Distinguished Conduct Medals and eleven, the most ever given for a single battle, received the highest military honour of all, the Victoria Cross.

[Why Military Monday? This phrase has been included in the title in order to take part in Blogging Prompts at Geneabloggers]

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Workday Wednesday: Fighting the Zulus at Rorke's Drift

Category: Famous Connections

716 Pte. Robert Jones V.C.Last week, whilst I was in London for the day, I paid a visit to the Imperial War Museum. I had a specific reason for going - I wanted to see the medals on display in the Lord Ashcroft Gallery, in particular, those which were awarded to Robert Jones V.C. (1857-1898).

I am related to Robert in two ways; his maternal grandfather, Richard Fryer (1792-1862), was my 4 x great-grandfather, and his maternal great-grandparents, Benjamin Pitcher and Sarah (nee Rice), were my 4 x great-grandparents. Put another way, he was my half 1st cousin 4 times removed as well as my 2nd cousin 3 times removed.

From the letters in his name, it is already apparent that Robert earned the Victoria Cross. In addition, he also received the South Africa Medal (1877-79) with 1 clasp: 1877-8-9.

716 Pte. Robert Jones of the 2nd Battalion/24th Regiment of Foot (later the South Wales Borderers) in Natal, was awarded the Victoria Cross for an act of gallantry in the defence of the hospital at Rorke's Drift against the Zulus on 22nd and 23rd January 1879. The following citation was published in the London Gazette...

War Office, May 2, 1879.
THE Queen has been graciously pleased to signify Her intention to confer the decoration of the Victoria Cross on the undermentioned Officers and Soldiers of Her Majesty's Army, whose claims have been submitted for Her Majesty's approval, for their gallant conduct in the defence of Rorke's Drift, on the occasion of the attack by the Zulus, as recorded against their names, viz.:-
Regiment: 2nd Battalion 24th Regiment.
Names: Private William Jones and Private Robert Jones.
Acts of Courage for which recommended: In another ward, facing the hill, Private William Jones and Private Robert Jones defended the post to the last, until six out of the seven patients it contained had been removed. The seventh, Sergeant Maxfield, 2nd Battalion 24th Regiment, was delirious from fever. Although they had previously dressed him, they were unable to induce him to move. When Private Robert Jones returned to endeavour to carry him away, he found him being stabbed by the Zulus as he lay on his bed.

In 1964, the Battle of Rorke's Drift was immortalised in the film, Zulu, which starred Stanley Baker and Michael Caine. 716 Pte. Robert Jones was played by Denys Graham.

The Lord Ashcroft Gallery was full of prestigious medals and equally impressive stories of brave men and women. In addition, we should always remember the noble efforts of the thousands of ordinary soldiers, sailors and airmen who have fought, and in many cases, laid down their lives, in the numerous conflicts throughout the ages.

The Imperial War Museum, London
The Imperial War Museum, London

[Why Workday Wednesday? This phrase has been included in the title in order to take part in Blogging Prompts at Geneabloggers]

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Follow Friday: Addie Wells & children - Titanic Records at Ancestry

Category: Famous Connections

RMS TitanicA little while ago I discovered that my husband, Harvey, is distantly related to three survivors of the Titanic. To commemorate the 100th anniversary, Ancestry have released a range of records in relation to the disaster of 1912 .

Addie Dart Wells (nee Trevaskis), and her two young children, Joan and Ralph Wells, were travelling in 2nd class and managed to board life-boat number 14 before being picked up by the Carpathia. Among the records the family can be seen on the Titanic's Outward Passenger list, the Passengers Surviving/Missing list and the Carpathia's Passenger list.

Addie was the great-grand-daughter of Harvey's 3 x great-grandparents, John Barnes & Ann (nee Dawes) from Newlyn, Cornwall, near Penzance. Addie was also from Newlyn and would perhaps have known Harvey's predecessors, his direct line having lived in Newlyn right up to the millennium.

Another useful website about the Titanic is the Nova Scotia Archives. The Wells family appear on the document entitled, List of Second Class Passengers.

[Why Follow Friday? This phrase has been included in the title in order to take part in Blogging Prompts at Geneabloggers]

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Talented Tuesday: Supporting the Magpies - a wise choice after all

Category: Famous Connections

When I was growing up I didn't have a great interest in football. My elder brother used to be, and still is, extremely enthusiastic about the sport and so I adopted a favourite team when I was about 9 years old. That team was Chelsea, picked out simply because I liked the colour they wore. Since those days, I've become an avid football fan and it's good to see the team doing so well in the last few years.

Where is all this leading, I hear you say! Bear with me, there is a genealogical point here. Back in the 1970's you may remember two footballing brothers with the same surname as me – Terry and Kenny Hibbitt. I can still see Terry in Newcastle's black and white strip and Kenny in the distinctive gold of Wolves. Hibbitt, being a relatively unusual name, particularly with this spelling, I often wondered if we were related.

So recently, I set about researching the brothers' ancestry and, to my surprise and delight, I found a connection. We are/were (sadly Terry passed away in 1994) fifth cousins. My 4 x great-grandparents, Luke Hibbit and Mary (nee Leerin/Leeson?), were Terry and Kenny's 4 x great-grandparents too. They are descended from the couple's son, Luke, whereas I am descended from their son, Amos.

My brother supports Plymouth Argyle (well it's tough but somebody has to) but his son supports Newcastle United for reasons unknown. However, it now seems my nephew's team choice wasn't so obscure after all.

[Why Talented Tuesday? This phrase has been included in the title in order to take part in Daily Blogging Prompts at Geneabloggers]

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Amanuensis Monday: When Stephen Dando met Thomas Paine

Category: Famous Connections

Stephen Dando was my 5x great-uncle, the son of John Dando & Ann (nee Brothers), my 5 x great-grandparents. Born in Rodborough, Gloucestershire, in about 1770, he came from a Non-conformist family who were in the hat manufacturing business.

In 1785, Stephen moved to New York, where he lived until his death in 1851. His hat store was situated near Broadway. He also became an agent for a publication known as The Christian Advocate and Journal. Stephen was a religious man who had often heard John and Charles Wesley preach and he also held anti-slavery views.

Stephen Dando evidently met the famous radical propagandist and pamphleteer, Thomas Paine, who died in 1809. What follows is a letter to the editor of The Liberator (Boston, MA) from one EJ Webb, dated 1st July 1848 and published on Friday 9th May 1851.

The writer appears to have known Stephen Dando for a long time and thought of him as a decent and honest but misguided man who, in his opinion, had been used by a number of clergymen to deride the memory of Thomas Paine, whom the writer much admired......Read more »
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