Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Dreadful Calamity at Church Gresley

This article formerly appeared on my now defunct South Derbyshire Graveyard Rabbit blog, posted on 2 August 2009.

77th Edition of the Carnival of Genealogy: Disasters

The theme of the 77th Edition of the Carnival of Genealogy, hosted by Miriam Robbins Midkiff at AnceStories is disasters which our ancestors lived through. True to form, I'm being somewhat contrary. Apart from stepping sideways to my sadly neglected South Derbyshire Graveyard Rabbit from the slightly less neglected Photo-Sleuth home, my entry for the carnival concerns a disaster which affected a member of my extended family, but he wasn't an ancestor and, sadly, didn't live through it.

The 1820s and 1830s marked a significant decline in the fortunes of my Payne family from South Derbyshire. They had farmed in Church Gresley parish since the turn of the century, on some 78 acres of land purchased by my ancestor Peter Payne (1732/33-1813). By the time his son, another Peter, and his wife died in 1839, the land was all gone, sold to pay debts incurred from mortgages raised some years earlier.

Image © National Coal Mining Museum for England and courtesy of My Learning
Children being hand-winched down a vertical shaft.
Illustration from Report of the 1842 Royal Commission into Children's Employment (Mines)
Image © National Coal Mining Museum for England and courtesy of My Learning

In the mean time, however, a mathematics teacher from Repton by the name of George Gregory had in 1823 started a coal mine on land leased from Peter Payne. As shown in the parish overseer's accounts, Peter Payne had himself beeing supplying coal to local residents as early as 1821, but this was probably taken from surface workings. Gregory's sinking of a shaft to a depth of 90 feet was the first systematic development of the underground coal resources in Church Gresley proper.

Image © National Coal Mining Museum for England and courtesy of My Learning
Children working in a narrow underground roadway.
Illustration from Report of the 1842 Royal Commission into Children's Employment (Mines)
Image © National Coal Mining Museum for England and courtesy of My Learning

After leasing more of Peter Payne's land in 1825 Gregory sank a second, much more ambitious shaft and extended the lease in 1826 to the entire 78 acres. According to Colin Owen (1984), "his attempt to establish a large colliery proved to be a personal disaster, but ultimately led to the foundation of one of the area's leading collieries." He discovered a new seam in 1829 located 270 yards below surface, and in 1832 the colliery was "in good order, with an efficient steam engine for drainage and whimseys able to raise 300 tons of coal per week." Another shaft sunk in 1831 proved to be his undoing, as he was financially overstretched, and he was declared bankrupt in June 1834. An 1833 report described working conditions as "unpleasant and dangerous, the mine being very hot and full of vapour and water. In the event of a major accident,such as a boiler explosion or engine failure, escape through the single shaft would have been almost impossible."

Image courtesy of East Riding of Yorkshire Media Library
Young driver, Brown Coal Mine, West Virginia, 1909, by Lewis W. Hine
Image courtesy of East Riding of Yorkshire Media Library

In 1833 the colliery was purchased from the assignees J.T. Woodhouse and Willis Bailey and developed with a new shaft by Peter Fearnhead, who sold it to the Moira Colliery Company in 1835. The company also purchased the remainder of the Payne landholdings in Church Gresley, heralding a period of enormous growth of the colliery and its eventual position as one of the largest producers in South Derbyshire. On 14 February 1838, however, a serious accident occurred at the colliery when a steam engine boiler exploded, killing four boys on the surface, as related in the coroner's inquest reported in The Derby Mercury of 21 February 1838. The four boys John Boffey (18), James Bacon (8), John Smith (15) and Thomas Badkin (15) had been warming themselves by the boiler on the frosty morning prior to the explosion.

By 1841 the area being mined had been increased to 475 acres, and a report prepared by Dr Mitchell on behalf of the Employment Commissioner stated that "there were 65 men and 27 boys in employment whose ages ranged from 10 to 70 years. Wages varied from 8d to 3s 4d per day, plus allowances of coal and ale. Boys were employed mainly in opening and shutting doors, sweeping the railways, attending horses and assisting the men in various ways."

Image © and courtesy of Coal Mining History Resource Centre
Coal pit head, 1843
Image © and courtesy of Coal Mining History Resource Centre

The ground bailiff of the mine Joseph Dooley described the system of working:
There are men who go down at night to repair the roads, shift the wood that supports the roof, and also hole the coal; about 12 or 14 go down at night, the other half of the holers work in the daytime.

There would not be room if they all worked together. About two boys go down to assist the men at night to remove the rubbish out of the gate roads ... The holers come up, if they think fit, when they have done their day's work. The fillers and boys remain until they have filled and sent off what the holers have dug. They go down about six in the morning, about six men at a time ... They are paid by the ton, and the more work the moremoney, from 3s. to 4s. a day. They come up sometimes at seven and sometimes it may be eight. The butties reckon with the men once a fortnight and pay the money on the Saturday.
By the early-1840s, most of the Paynes had either died or departed from Church Gresley. My 3g-grandfather, another Peter Payne (1801-1845), was a carpenter and was working in nearby Burton-on-Trent. His younger brother Henry Payne (1808-1834) had been a veterinary surgeon, presumably looking after pit ponies in the coal mines, but had died in 1834. Another brother Frederick died in 1846, while the youngest brother William Payne, also a veterinary surgeon, emigrated to Pennsylvania to work on the coal mines there. Two sisters married and moved away around 1840ish.

The eldest daughter Harriott Payne (1803-1850) had married a brewer's labourer Thomas Bagnall (1805-1836) and had five children, but in 1836 Thomas was accidentally run over by a wagon and killed. The accounts of the Church Gresley Overseer of the Poor contain numerous entries relating to Harriott between May and November 1836. By June 1841, two of the older boys Henry (12) and Frederick (10) were working at the Church Gresley pit. It was probably two or three years later that her youngest son William also started working at the pit.

Some time during the morning of Tuesday 30 March 1847 Harriott received the shocking news of a terrible accident at the pit. The manner in which she was told, and her reaction can only be imagined. The events as described at the Coroner's inquest were reported in a much more matter of fact way in most of the newspapers throughout the British Isles, including The Morning Chronicle, The Preston Guardian, The Leeds Mercury, The Ipswich Journal, Lloyd's Weekly London Newspaper, The Belfast News-Letter, Jackson's Oxford Journal, and of course The Derby Mercury (7 April 1847).

On Tuesday, the 30th ult., about half-past five o'clock in the morning, fourteen colliers, men and boys, got into the cage at the Church Pit, Church Gresley, to be let down to their usual employment. Daniel Batch, the engine man, let them down, but when they had descended about forty yards, he heard one of the wheels crack, and immediately stopped the engine. He ran to the pit mouth, and found the drum running fast, the spur wheel having broken, and fallen under the drum. The cage was precipitated to the bottom of the pit, which is 270 yards deep; the rope broke off the drum, and went down the shaft, although longer than the depth of the pit. It was between nine and ten o'clock before a rope could be attached to the pumping engine, and another cage let down, when the bodies of the dead and dying were drawn up. A fearful scene presented itself. It appeared, from the evidence of Francis Wood, a collier, who had previously descended, that the rope had fallen upon the men in the cage, and that when it was got off them, he and others took out Joseph Walters, dead; John Large, nearly dead, and since deceased; William Bagnall, dead; William Chamberlayne, seriously hurt, since dead; George Bakewell, who died that morning; Edward Baker, dead, and another, whose name did not transpire, the inquest over whose remains will be held in Leicestershire. The remaining men and boys, six in number, were so dreadfully injured, that it is doubtful they will recover. Five or six medical men attended, and every attention paid to the poor sufferers.

An inquest was held before Mr. Sale, coroner, on Wednesday last. Joseph Dooley, the ground bailiff, and John Wilcockson, engineer at an adjoining colliery, were examined.

Image © 2007 Brett Payne
The gravestone of William Bagnall at the parish church of St Mary & St George, Church Gresley, Derbyshire
Image © 2007 Brett Payne

Sacred to the Memory of William Bagnall
who died March 30, 1847, aged 11 years.
By sudden death the thread of life was broke
Dreadful the hour and awful was the stroke
Sleep on dear child and slumber in the sod
Thy mar'd frame in dust and thy soul with God.
The Church Gresley parish register shows that seven boys and men were buried on Friday 2 April, with the notation, "These were all killed by an accident at the Gresley Colliery adjoining the Church Green."
The seven funerals took place at Gresley church, on Saturday afternoon. The solemn service was performed in an impressive manner by the Rev. George Lloyd, M.A., curate,amidst a large concourse of spectators, who attended on the solemn occasion, there being not less than 1,000 present. The gloom and sorrow of so large a number of persons in this quiet and retired village Church-yard, can more easily be imagined than described. One of the other sufferers died on Saturday morning, making eight already dead.
The eighth fatality Thomas Chapman (14) was buried on Sunday 4 April, while William Shepherd (21) lasted a few days longer. His burial was recorded on Tuesday 13 April.

Harriott herself only survived a little longer, dying at Church Gresley in December 1850.

This disaster has a special resonance for me. In December 1987, nine months after the 140th anniversary of the Church Gresley colliery accident, I was visiting an underground gold mine in Western Australia as part of my job and was involved in a near fatal accident myself. Although not related to any equipment failure, I fell 65 feet (20 metres) vertically down to the bottom of a shaft. I was very lucky to survive without any permanent serious physical injuries, albeit after flight to Perth courtesy of the Royal Flying Doctor Service and a three week stay in hospital, and I will admit to not ever having worked undergound since.


UK Census 1841-1901 Indexed images from

International Genealogical Index (IGI) from the LDS Church & FamilySearch

General Register Office (GRO) Index to Births, Marriages & Deaths from FreeBMD

19th Century British Library Newspapers collection, from Gale Cengage Learning

Church Gresley Burial Registers 1813-1920 on microfilm from the LDS Church (FHL Film No. 1785837) of original records held at the Derbyshire Record Office, Matlock, Derbyshire.

The Leicestershire and South Derbyshire Coalfield, 1200-1900, by Colin Owen, publ. 1984 by Moorland Publishing Co. Ltd., Ashbourne, Derbyshire & Leicestershire Museums (Publication No. 55), ISBN 086190124 X

Charles Hallam Payne (1870-1960)

This article formerly appeared on my now defunct South Derbyshire Graveyard Rabbit blog, posted on 13 November 2008.

I would like to dedicate this blog to my great-great-uncle Charles Hallam Payne (1870-1960) who, as the family record keeper, has possibly been the person most responsible for the saving of a large number of Payne family-related documents, photographs, heirlooms and mementoes, many from the 19th Century. Several others, including my grandfather Charles Leslie Payne (1892-1975), father Charles Bernard Payne (1928-2006), aunt Barbara Ellison - and of course myself - have inherited the hoarding genes, not only ensuring the survival of these important artefacts, but also adding to the pile, year by year. However, it is to Uncle Hallam (as he has always been referred to by family members) that we owe our gratitude for the survival of such a detailed record.

I have previously used other portraits of Uncle Hallam on Photo-Sleuth (Dale Cottage article), but this more casual shot encapsulates much of what he means to me, and is perfect for illustrating this introductory Graveyard Rabbit article. Since he died in July 1960, some seventeen months before I was born, I never met him and have therefore had to rely on photographs and recollections by my father and aunt to build up my own mental picture.

Image © and courtesy of Barbara Ellison

Hallam was 89 years old when this photo was taken, in the summer of 1959. He is standing in the Church Gresley churchyard, with his right hand on a Payne family gravestone. It is possible that my father, who visited England in 1959, the year before Uncle Hallam's death, took the photograph, although I am not sure about this.

Image © and courtesy of Barbara Ellison

There are two prints of the photo in my aunt's collection, one of which has the inscription in black ink (possibly Uncle Hallam's hand), "Peter Payne's Tombstone at Church Gresley." In addition, my aunt has written in blue ink, "1959" and "C.H. PAYNE HALLAM." The gravestone is a large one, and in fact commemmorates the lives of four members of the Payne family, as is revealed by a transcript of the inscription (Monumental Inscriptions, St Mary & St George, Church Gresley, publ. on microfiche by the Derbyshire Family History Society):
Peter Payne who departed this life on the 14th June 1839. Anne Payne wife of Peter Payne who departed this life on the 11th Novr. 1839. Also Henery Payne (Veterinary Surgeon) who departed this life on the 27th June 1834 aged 26 years. Also Sarah Ann Payne who departed this life on the 1st March 1803 aged 2 years. Flattery on tomb stones is but vainly spent. A man's good deeds are his best monument.
Peter and Anne Payne were Hallam's great-grandparents, while Henery [sic] and Sarah Ann were siblings of his grandfather Peter Payne (1801-1845). Although he never knew any of them - even his paternal grandfather died long before he was born - Hallam was well aware of who they were, and I think it interesting that, in his last couple of years, he was making sure that he passed on this knowledge to other family members. Although he and his wife ("Aunt Sarah") never had any children of their own, four of his brothers and sisters had produced plenty of nephews and nieces.

Image © 2007 Brett Payne

Last year I was very fortunate to be able to visit the parish church of St Mary & St George at Church Gresley with my family, and hunt for the Payne and other gravestones. It was also very lucky that my brother Hallam (standing at second from left, above), named after the "fabulous uncle," was able to join us.

Image © 2007 Brett Payne

The gravestone of Peter and Anne Payne and two of their children is still in excellent condition, despite its large size. I will be writing more about the Church Gresley churchyard and some of the people who are interred there, but I was very impressed on the whole at how well maintained it is. Unfortunately, the church was locked, which prevented us from going inside, so that will have to wait for the next visit, hopefully before another five decades have passed.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Whitehead family of Derby

Image © and collection of Brett Payne Image © and collection of Brett Payne

These two cabinet card portraits from the studio of Pollard Graham of Derby and Burton-on-Trent were recent purchases on eBay. Imagine my surprise, therefore, when they arrived in the post and I read the inscriptions on the reverse.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne Image © and collection of Brett Payne
with E.A. Whitehead's Compliments Feby 1897
and, in an identical hand
with R.D. Whitehead's Compliments Feby 1897
A quick check of the census records confirmed my suspicions. Richard David Whitehead (1860-1928) and his wife Elizabeth Ann née Barnett (1860-1898) were the parents of the brothers Vincent, Cecil and Maurice Whitehead. They, in turn, are the subjects of a portrait in my Aunt Bunnie's family photograph collection (shown below), which featured in a previous post of mine at Photo-Sleuth.

Image © and collection of Barbara Ellison
Vincent (at back), Cecil (left) and Maurice (right) Whitehead
Large format mounted print (Mount 140 x 165 mm, Print 73 x 99 mm)
Taken by unidentified photographer, c.1914, probably at Derby

The question posed in the original article about the Whitehead family was to do with how they might be related to my Payne family. I'm really no nearer to finding an answer, but I'm writing about them here in the hope that some day a reader may be able to shed some light on the matter for me.

Richard David Whitehead was born in Manchester in early 1860, to a warehouseman David Whitehead and his wife Jane née Binks. As a young man he went into his father's profession, and is shown as a warehouseman after his marriage to Elizabeth Ann Barnett in the 1881 Census of Hulme. Over the next ten years, however, his career advanced most impressively. Their first three children Vincent (1881), Cecil Barnett (1884) and Minnie Burton (1888) were born in Manchester, but by the time of Maurice's arrival in late 1890 they had moved to Derby. Two more daughters Dorothy and Ethel were born in 1892 and 1895.

In Derby Richard was employed as a science teacher by the then recently formed Derby School of Art and Technical Institution, which shortly afterwards became the Derby Municipal Technical College.

Image courtesy of Google Books
Byzantine Capital from Sta. Sophia, Constantinople
from The Principles of Ornament by James Ward, 1899

In August 1891 The Derby Mercury reported that Richard D. Whitehead had,
... completed the Art Class Teacher's Certificate, which qualifies [him] to teach an art class under the Science and Art Departments ... receiving a commendation from the examiners at South Kensington,
and had submitted a series of drawings for the Art Masters Certificate, comprising
[an] outline drawing of a figure from the antique, outline design for a panel, sheet of diagrams showing the elementary principles of ornament, and a sheet of perspective problems.
In September 1895, he was awarded:
Examinations held under the City and Guilds of London Institute - Brickwork and masonry: Honours Grade, First Class, and silver medal, highest positions in the Kingdom, Richard D. Whitehead.
Image © and collection of Barbara Ellison
Vincent Whitehead (1881-1925)

By the time the reports of prizes at the Municipal Technical College for 1896 were published, his eldest son Vincent had joined him, appearing in both the Elementary Art Examinations and the Engineering & Technological Section honours list. Richard was continuing with his own education, achieving a 1st class prize in Honours level Building Construction. Further entries appear until at least 1900.

Elizabeth Ann Whitehead died at Derby in late 1897 or early 1898, possibly in child birth. Richard remarried three years later, to Martha Ann Wheatcroft (1868-1939) who had been listed as a housekeeper in the Whitehead household in 1901.

Image © and courtesy of Brighton & Hove Trading Standards Service
Image © and courtesy of Brighton & Hove Trading Standards Service

The 1901 Census shows Vincent as a "Weight Adjuster Weights Office," which presumably refers to the Weights & Measures Offices, situated in the County Council Offices in St Mary's Gate, Derby. Vincent married Lily May Alcock (1880-1958) at Derby in 1904, and between the birth of the first son (also Vincent) in 1906 and their second (Eric) in 1909, they moved to West Bromwich. There he was employed by the Borough Council as an inspector of weights and measures. Vincent died in 1925, his wife Lily in 1958, both in West Bromwich. Their son Vincent Whitehead (1906-1950) married Viola Parker (1906-1979) at West Bromwich in 1931 and they later moved to Crewe in Cheshire, but it is not know whether there were any children.

Image © and collection of Barbara Ellison
Cecil Barnett Whitehead (1884-1937)

After a brief spell in the army (he was serving in the infantry at Chatham Barracks, Kent in 1901) Cecil married Lilian Perry (1885-1965) at Derby in 1909. They had at least two children, Frederick Richard (1910-1974) and Victor James (1918-1995).

Image courtesy of Wikimedia commons
Image courtesy of Wikimedia commons

The 1911 census describes Cecil as a railway gasman, presumably working in the goods staff department at Midland Railway. Frederick Richard Whitehead married Violet Lilian Taylor (1911-1973) at Derby in 1937.

Image © and collection of Barbara Ellison
Maurice Whitehead (1890-1917)

Richard and Elizabeth's youngest son Maurice Whitehead joined the Army in January 1909, attesting at Leicester, having previously been employed as a page, kitchen porter and waiter at the Midland Railway Hotel in St Pancras, London.

Image © Bernard Renshaw and courtesy of Military Regimental Cap Badges UK
Image © Bernard Renshaw and courtesy of Military Regimental Cap Badges UK

He was initially posted to Jersey, where he served in the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the King's Own (Royal Lancaster Regiment) at Fort Regent and Elizabeth Castle. Then, in January 1912, after having been based in Dover for three months, the regiment shipped out for India, where he remained until November 1914, stationed variously in Bombay, Lucknow, Lebong, Barrackpore and Calcutta. After returning with the regiment to England, he did not proceed with them in January 1915 to France, but was transferred to the 3rd Reserve Battalion, based in Southampton, and given a promotion to Lance Corporal a month later.

Image © and courtesy of North East Medals
Image © and courtesy of North East Medals

In August he was transferred again, to the 1st Garrison Battalion of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, based in Gibraltar, where he remained until July 1917. Yet another series of transfers sent him, via Rouen to join the 10th (Service) Battalion of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, arriving "in the field" on 26 August, and immediately being promoted to the rank of Sergeant.

Image © Aerodata International Surveys and courtesy of Google Earth
West of Zonnebeke village, 8 April 2007

Soon afterwards, his unit, one of four in the 76th Brigade which formed part of the 3rd Division, must have been moved east of Ypres in preparation for a major attack on the German front lines. This took place on 26th September and resulted in the storming of what remained of the village of Zonnebeke, simultaneous with the Battle of Polygon Wood immediately to the south, conducted by two Australian Divisions. Some time during the attack, Maurice Whitehead was reported missing. His body was never recovered, but he was presumed killed during the assault somewhere immediately west of Zonnebeke village, probably in the area covered by the portion of satellite image shown above.

Image © The National Archives and courtesy of
1901 Census: 60-68 Normanton Road, Derby

I still haven't found the connection, if indeed there is one, between the Whiteheads and the Paynes. However, the 1901 Census record did provide an intriguing potetial clue. Living three doors away from the Whitehead family, at 62 Normanton Road, are the Hogg family. Constance May Hogg (1889-1918) married my grandfather Charles Leslie Lionel Payne (1892-1975) in November 1917, while he was home on leave from the war in France. He returned to duty with the 6th Brigade Canadian Machine Gun Company a few days later.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
Constance "Con" May Hogg
, c.1917

"Con" died in my grandfather's arms during the influenza epidemic a year later on 20 October 1918, less than two months after he had been wounded by machine gun fire east of Arras, and while he was still recuperating. Although they had been married for almost a year, they had only spent a matter of days - a couple of weeks at the most - together during that period.

Was Con friendly with the Whitehead family? And did this photograph of the Whitehead brothers belong to her? Several of the Hogg children were similar ages to the Whitehead children, and it seems a distinct possibility.


British Army WWI Service Records, 1914-1920, Maurice Whitehead (1909-1917), 80 pages, National Archives, Courtesy of

England & Wales, Birth, Marriage & Death Indexes, 1937-1984, National Archives, Courtesy of

Soldiers Died in the Great War, 1914-1919, War Office, Courtesy of

England & Wales, Birth, Marriage & Death Indexes, National Archives, Courtesy of FreeBMD

Anon (1891) 1891 Census of Derby, Derbyshire: Whitehead family, 53 Silverhill Road, Litchurch, NA Ref. RG12/2735/106/46/306, National Archives, Courtesy of

Anon (1891) Derby School of Art and Technical Institution. Examination Results & National Awards, The Derby Mercury, 26 August 1891, 19th Century British Library Newspapers, Gale CENGAGE Learning.

Anon (1895) The Derby Municipal Technical College. School of Art & Engineering and Science Sections, The Derby Mercury, 20 September 1895, 19th Century British Library Newspapers, Gale CENGAGE Learning.

Anon (1896) The Derby Municipal Technical College. School of Art & Engineering and Technological Sections, The Derby Mercury, 21 October 1896, 19th Century British Library Newspapers, Gale CENGAGE Learning.

Anon (1897) Municipal Technical College. School of Art & Engineering and Technological Section, The Derby Mercury, 15 September 1897, 19th Century British Library Newspapers, Gale CENGAGE Learning.

Anon (1899) Municipal Technical College. May Examinations, The Derby Mercury, 27 September 1899, 19th Century British Library Newspapers, Gale CENGAGE Learning.

Anon (1899) Kelly's Directory of Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire & Rutland, London: Kelly's Directories Limited, Courtesy of the University of Leicester's Historical Directories

Anon (1900) Derby Municipal Technical College, The Derby Mercury, 18 July 1900, 19th Century British Library Newspapers, Gale CENGAGE Learning.

Anon (1901) 1901 Census of Derby, Derbyshire: Hogg & Whitehead families, 62 & 68 Normanton Road, NA Ref. RG13/3213/81/37/249-252, National Archives, Courtesy of

Anon (1901) 1901 Census of Chatham, Kent: Chatham Barracks NA Ref. RG13/732/46/21/14, National Archives, Courtesy of

Anon (1911) 1911 Census of Derby, Derbyshire: R.D. Whitehead family, 39 Wilmot Street, NA Ref. RG14/20/9/03, National Archives, Courtesy of

Anon (1911) 1911 Census of Derby, Derbyshire: C.B. Whitehead family, 114 Yates Street, NA Ref. RG14/20/8/95, National Archives, Courtesy of

Anon (1911) 1911 Census of West Bromwich, Staffordshire: V. Whitehead family, 29 Law Street, NA Ref. RG14/17/3/16, National Archives, Courtesy of

Anon (2008) Battle of Polygon Wood, 26 September 1917, Australians of the Western Front, 1914-1918, Department of Veterans' Affairs and Board of Studies NSW.

Anon (2010) Railways, Staff Records: Appendix 2 - Staff trades and occupations, National Archives Research Guides

Baker, The King's Own (Royal Lancaster Regiment) and The Royal Welsh Fusiliers, The Long, Long Trail

McCarthy, Chris (1995) The Third Ypres - Passchendaele: The Day-by-Day Account, London: Arms & Armour Press, ISBN 1854092170

Ward, James (1896) The Principles of Ornament, London: Chapman & Hall, 224p, Google Books

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Mansour sisters in Edinburgh

Image © and courtesy of the extended Binnie family
Latifa Middleton and Gamila Binnie,
standing next to the cannon Mons Meg,
Edinburgh Castle, Scotland, June-July 1932
Image © and courtesy of the extended Binnie family

Over at Photo-Sleuth I have talked about the importance of photographs in documenting pilgrimages, how they help to maintain contact between distant branches of the family, and can provide a sense of history for families long since disconnected physically from their ancestral homelands. I scanned this photograph in February 1998 from the collection of Gill's Aunt Maud, before we emigrated from Zimbabwe a year later. Gill's paternal grandmother Gamila Binnie née Mansour (1897-1993), at right, is standing with her sister Latifa Middleton née Mansour (1905-1987) in front of what looks like an enormous cannon. According to my notes made during a visit by Maud in May 1998, she told me that it was taken in 1933 at Edinburgh Castle, and that Gamila was heavily pregnant with her fifth child, John. Edinburgh was the birth place of Gamila's husband George Hinton Binnie (1898-1965), although he had lived in Egypt ever since the end of the Great War, working as an inspector for the N.A.A.F.I. (Navy, Army and Air Force Institute) in Cairo.

Image © and courtesy of Ian Boyle & Simplon Postcards
Postcard of the P. & O. ocean liner T.S.S. Bendigo
Image © and courtesy of Ian Boyle & Simplon Postcards

George and Gamila were married at Cairo on 13 September 1919, and their three daughters Maud, Dorothy and Virgina were born between then and 1925. In July 1926 George had taken Gamila and their three very young children for a trip back to Edinburgh, and they had returned to Scotland again in the summer of 1929.

Image © The National Archives & courtesy of
Image © The National Archives & courtesy of
Passenger manifest for the Binnie & Middleton families, T.S.S. Bendigo
Arrived London 12 June 1932 from Port Said
Image © The National Archives & courtesy of

Actually they arrived in London on 12 June 1932. It was the third visit for Gamila and her daughters, although this time, as the passenger list for the P & O liner T.S.S. Bendigo shows (click on images above for full pages of manifest), they were accompanied by toddler Leo, sister Latifa and Latifa's two year-old daughter Teresa (Tess).

Image © and courtesy of David Nelson
Latifa, Teresa and Dick Middleton
Postcard portrait, Cairo, Egypt, c.late 1930-early 1931
Image © and courtesy of David Nelson

Latifa had married Richard James "Dick" Middleton (1902-1931) at Cairo in October 1926, and their daughter Tess was born in May 1930. Judging by Tess's apparent age, they must have visited a studio there for this family portrait shortly before Dick was killed in a motorcycle accident on 25 March 1931.

After disembarking the Binnies went directly to Edinburgh, where they strayed with George's parents at 36 Angle Park Terrace. Latifa and Tess appear to have first stayed in London and later joined the others in Edinburgh.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia Creative Commons & the Tropenmuseum
Postcard of the Nederland Royal Mail liner Christiaan Huygens
Image courtesy of Wikipedia Creative Commons & the Tropenmuseum of the Royal Tropical Institute

Image © The National Archives & courtesy of Find My Past
Passenger manifest for the Binnie & Middleton families, Christiaan Huygens
Departed Southampton 25 July 1932 for Egypt
Image © The National Archives & courtesy of Find My Past

The Binnie and Middleton families returned together to Egypt after a stay of six weeks, departing from Southampton on 22nd July aboard the Christiaan Huygens, a Nederland Royal Mail ship en route to Java in the Dutch East Indies via the Suez Canal. The Binnies would make further visits to Scotland in 1936 and 1939, before the Second World War broke out.

Image © and courtesy of Anis Francis
Hanna Wakim, Mona Saikily and Ronald Thomson
Mieh Mieh, nr Sidon, Lebanon, 29 April 2010
Image © and courtesy of Anis Francis

Latifa's daughter Madeleine and her husband Bill have recently paid a visit to the Latifa and Gamila's birth place, the village of Mieh Mieh, located just outside Sidon in southern Lebanon, where they were hosted by cousins still living there. This follows a trip there by another cousin, Maud's son Ronald Thomson, a few weeks ago (above) ...

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
Hanna Wakim and Lesley Payne
Baalbek, Lebanon, 25 May 1997
Image © and collection of Brett Payne

... and one which Gill and I made to Lebanon in May 1997 (above and below).

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
Gill (& Louise) Payne, Mona Saikily and son, Matta and Rita Wakim
Anjar, Lebanon, 26 May 1997
Image © and collection of Brett Payne

The tradition is continuing.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Background to La Diaspora Continua

I created this blog sometime ago with the intention of using it to post articles about my family history which wouldn't really fit into the format and/or scope of my other blogs Photo-Sleuth, Grandpa's War and The South Derbyshire Graveyard Rabbit. Well, I've done a lot of work on Photo-Sleuth and almost none on the others in the last year or two, while this blog totally fell off the radar. However, there are several topics in the various Geneablogger Carnivals and other events which would be far better suited to La Diaspora Continua, and using this blog may well get me stimulated to write articles about my own ongoing family history research on a more frequent basis.

A little background to the name of this blog is perhaps in order. As I have described in an article entitled Connecting the Diaspora on the footnoteMaven's blog Shades of the Departed it was an expression that my father coined - well perhaps it didn't exactly originate with him - to explain the impending departure of his children and grandchildren from the land of our birth. He wasn't happy to see us leave, but of course he comprehended its inevitability, and the fact that it continued the pattern set by him and various ancestors. He emigrated to what was then Southern Rhodesia from Derbyshire, England in 1952, while my mother arrived in 1960 from Amsterdam. His father, after being born in Chicago during a brief attempt by his parents to settle in the United States, had emigrated to Canada prior to the Great War, but returned to Derbyshire in 1921.

My Payne family were farming and coal mining in rural South Derbyshire back as far as the late 17th Century, with brief forays into the nearby counties of Staffordshire, Warwickshire, Leicestershire and Lancashire. Other ancestral branches came from Nottinghamshire, Norfolk and Yorkshire. On my mother's side, the main branches originate from Friesland (Leeuwarden, Dokkum, Woudsend), Utrecht (Loosdrecht) and Den Haag ('s Gravenhage). Eventually, I hope to document as many of these branches as possible, and perhaps some of my wife Gill's family too. They are just as interesting, originating from England, Scotland and the Lebanon, and with some branches being traceable back to the time of the Conquest. I hope family members and other researchers alike will enjoy reading this material, and I look forward to hearing from some of you. Please feel free to post comments to articles or contact me privately by email. Your input will be most welcome.