Tuesday, November 07, 2006

A history lesson, a long trip and a sad ending

So cast your mind back a bit. On 27th January 1756 Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born. Around the same time (actual date unknown but estimated at 1757) one John Tiffin was born in Cumbria. Unlike the young precocious Wolfgang, John went on to become a farmer and he and his wife, Mary Porteous, had 7 children. All very boring I hear you say and you'd be right to think that, except John Tiffin and Mary Porteous are actually quite important to me because they were my great great great great great great grandparents on my dad's maternal line!

The photo on the right is Holme Cultram Abbey in Cumbria and it's where John is listed as being born, although in fact I suspect it's just where he was baptised, as were I believe all their children. The motorcycle in the photo is mine, and this was one of today's destinations in my 420 mile round trip to Cumbria and back. Sadly the Abbey "went on fire", as they say in Glasgow, in June this year when some local little bastards set it alight, basically destroying it and its contents including irreplaceable records. Twats.

As an aside, also descended from John and Mary was a man called Arthur Ernest Tiffin (known as Jock Tiffin) who in 1955 was the third General Secretary of the British Transport and General Workers' Union (TGWU). Jock was my 2nd cousin 4 times removed! Basically his grandfather and my great (x4) grandfather were brothers.

Another destination today was Barrow in Furness. And yes it was also related to my family tree. My great great grandparents on my dad's paternal line were Henry Pittock (a Yorkshireman) and Sarah McIntosh (from Dundee). They and five of their children, including my great grandmother Sarah Ann Pittock, lived in 23 Napier St in Barrow in Furness at the 1881 census, although by the 1891 census they had moved to Motherwell and had several additions to the family. Henry was at various times a Steel Hammerman and an Iron Smelter and I guess the reason the family moved from Cumbria to Lanarkshire was that this was probably the time the iron & steel industry was expanding rapidly in Motherwell. But I digress. The house in the centre of the photo is 23 Napier St, although I'd guess the pebbledash finish and satellite dish probably weren't there in 1881!

Of interest, well to me anyway and this is MY Blog after all, is that in the 1891 census, when Sarah was about 16, the Pittock family lived at 29 Ann St in Motherwell (a street which is no longer in existence) and next door at number 27 lived a family including an 18 year old boy called John. Yes, you've guessed it, my great grandfather literally married the girl next door! In fact they married on 29th December 1893 in Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Motherwell, my home church and where I started my choral singing in the 1970's. Or in fact they actually would have been married in what is now the church hall which was built as the church and which is now in danger of being demolished to make way for flats. From the Glasgow & Galloway Diocesan Website:

Holy Trinity had it origins in a meeting held in the Dalzell Arms Hotel on April 25th 1882 to consider the possibility of starting a Mission in Motherwell in connection with the Episcopal Church in Scotland. A congregation gathered and services were held in Mrs Keith's schoolroom until, in June 1884, a corrugated iron church was opened. This building is now the church hall. A building committee entered into negotiations with the Duke of Hamilton for a building site, and the foundation stone of the present church was laid on 29th September 1894. The new church, built in red stone and dedicated to the Holy Trinity on September 28th 1895 is Early English in style. The building was consecrated on November 21st 1896.

On a related note, related to genealogy, not Holy Trinity Church that is, the best description I've ever read about why tracing your family tree can be so interesting is the following by Bill Bryson from the introduction to A Short History of Nearly Everything

"Not only have you been lucky enough to be attached since time immemorial to a favoured evolutionary line, but you have also been extremely - make that miraculously - fortunate in your personal ancestry. Consider the fact that for 3.8 billion years, a period of time older than the Earth's mountains and rivers and oceans, every one of your forebears on both sides has been attractive enough to find a mate, healthy enough to reproduce, and sufficiently blessed by fate and circumstances to live long enough to do so. Not one of your pertinent ancestors was squashed, devoured, drowned, starved, stuck fast, untimely wounded or otherwise deflected from its life's quest of delivering a tiny charge of genetic material to the right partner at the right moment to perpetuate the only possible sequence of hereditary combinations that could result - eventually, astoundingly, and all too briefly - in you."

On a sad note, while travelling back to Glasgow this evening I was in a line of traffic approaching the wee town of Ulverston (I think it was) doing no more than 30-40mph when suddenly with no warning I was aware of something large and black appearing under the front wheel of the bike. I felt a bit of a bump, no more, and on looking in my mirror I saw the black labrador then being hit by the van behind me and dragged along underneath for a bit. Of course we all stopped, but by the time I had pulled in safely and walked back, shocked, several people had lifted the badly injured animal onto the pavement where it died a short time later. I think by then it wasn't aware of anything as it was showing no signs of distress or pain and was unconscious, so I sincerely hope it felt no pain after the initial collision. Within seconds of me arriving back at the scene, just after the dog had been moved to the pavement, the police arrived and took charge. Fortunately both the driver and passenger of the van which hit the dog after me, and the driver of the HGV directly behind them, all said right away that they had seen the animal sprinting out from a gap in the fence straight onto the road and into the side of my bike without me having a chance to see it never mind react to it. It upset me, I have to say, that the animal died and that I had hit it, but I don't feel any guilt because it ran out into me, I genuinely wasn't speeding, and 3 independent witnesses saw the whole thing and without being asked told the police that it wasn't my fault. Doesn't stop me being sorry about it though. Although I do wonder where the owner was and why it wasn't wearing a collar. Anyway, it was a wee while before I felt like carrying on with my journey, but I'm home now and well on the way to being dry and thawed out. A nice long hot bath will be the order of the day fairly soon.

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