Sunday, 26 May 2013

Old photo investigation part 5 -- Nancy Hamilton

My only photo of Nancy Hamilton
My last hunt for clues to the people in my old photos (from the collection of Henry Fitzgerald Reynolds) and their families focuses on Nancy Hamilton, seen above in the photo taken on Brean Down on 19 September 1931, when she was 23. Nancy's grandfather was Henry's uncle (he was one of Henry's mother's brothers) so I think that makes her his first cousin once removed.
     Nancy was born on 30 June 1908 in Ulverstone, a small town on the north coast of Tasmania, Australia which had only really started to develop when the railway had arrived there less than twenty years previously.
The story of Nancy's family -- her grandfather in particular -- is incredibly interesting but it has already been thoroughly researched by one of Nancy's distant relatives and it wouldn't be right to claim any of her research as my own. Anyone researching the Hamiltons of Fintra online can't fail to find her research, which she is incredibly generous about sharing (I'm not sure if she'd want to be named online). Suffice it to say, in brief, that Nancy's grandfather was Richard Hamilton, born in Ireland in 1826. One interesting little side story that I've discovered myself concerns Richard's aunt Isabella (his mother's sister) who married a gentleman called Thomas Moores, a cheese and ham wholesaler in London with a house at 90 Farringdon Street. According to the 1841 census, Richard went to live with this aunt and uncle at Farringdon St, almost certainly in order to study. He would have been fifteen then so he probably stayed there for a few years until he completed his studies. They had no children of their own.
     On Thursday 24 September 1846 a very curious thing happened at the house. It was still owned by the Moores but was unoccupied for a period (perhaps while they travelled abroad), so they had left it to the care of a couple, Mrs and Mrs Taylor. On this Thursday an aristocratic lady drew up outside the house and made inquiries there about a child that she had heard about. Mrs Taylor went off to fetch her daughter from Chandos St -- she did in fact have a three-year-old son (who was illegitimate). She sold the child to the lady for a down-payment of half a sovereign. Not long afterwards the woman came back and showed them the boy, who was now sleeping, stripped of his ragged clothes and 'now superbly clad in new clothes, and hat and feathers of the most tasteful and expensive kind'. The woman promised to return five days later to give the mother more money, up to a total of £5. This story was told in the Sunday Times but I don't know if there was any follow-up -- if there was I haven't found it.
     So, back to Richard Hamilton, who joined the navy before marrying a girl from very close to his home at Fintra, Alicia Barrett. They went to live in South Africa where Richard wanted to be a farmer. Sadly Alicia died giving birth to her second daughter. Her two girls seem to have been sent back to Ireland to be brought up by their aunt Clara Barrett. Meanwhile Richard married for a second time, a woman who had been born in England but who had also emigrated to South Africa, named Margaret Mason. Richard had a chequered career in South Africa, trying his hand at a number of careers, including diamond-mining, but eventually returned to Ireland to try to raise money against his future inheritance from his mother (who had the Fintra estate in trust) in order to fund a new venture in America. While he was detained at Killybegs (where the Fintra estate was), it seems he may have fathered an illegitimate child with his dead wife's sister Clara -- a boy named Douglas. While his wife and children waited in South Africa for him to send for them, Richard set off to San Antonio, Texas without very much money, intending to work for a couple of years, learning the lie of the land, until he could realise his assets in Ireland. Sadly, he never made it to San Antonio as he died on the train journey from the East Coast, possibly of alcohol poisoning.
     Nancy's father was Richard Robert Ernest Hamilton, the eldest of Richard's eight children with Margaret Mason. He was born in 1865, the same year as 'my' Henry. In 1881, according to the census, he was staying with his great-aunt Isabella Moores, just like his father before him. By now she was living alone (her husband Thomas had died in 1870) at 129 Holland Road, West London, with just the services of a cook and a housemaid. Richard was studying Law while he was there. Once qualified, he emigrated to Tasmania, settling in Ulverstone near Launceston, Tasmania's second town.
He married Margaret Phillips in November 1895 and I believe this was their house, in New Street:
It doesn't look as grand as I expected but it's on quite a big plot of land. Richard was quite a key player in Ulverstone, carrying out business functions solidly for decades. He was an estate agent with an office in Ulverstone's main street, Reibey Street. He was also a government valuer, chairman of Ulverstone Football Club and secretary of the Leven Marine Board for just short of forty years. He didn't seem to do anything glamorous, just solid, money-making ventures and some property development.
     He and Margaret had three daughters, Connie Loo (born 1897), Jessie Fintra (born 1902 -- I love that they named her after the ancestral home) and Nancy (born 1908). In 1904 Richard also fathered another child who was named Robert. Robert's mother was Rhoda King, who I believe was a servant in Richard's household. The illegitimate child was fostered out to a local woman, Mrs Greeney, who fostered a great many children both privately and for the state. She was a good woman. Robert was renamed Eric Reginald Greeney by his new guardian and later he changed his name again to Reg Greer. He was Germaine Greer's father and she wrote an excellent book about her search for the key to the mystery about him, Daddy We Hardly Knew You, published in 1990. She is an amazing genealogist. She's also 'my' Nancy's 'half-niece'!
     Unlike some of her relatives, Nancy does not seem to have had an exceptional life. She evidently took part in lots of school activities and sporting events as she grew up. It's possible to track her through mentions in the local newspapers. For instance, on Thursday December 20th 1923 Nancy played Catherine Parr in a 'spooky sextet' of the wives of Henry VIII at the end-of-term speech day at Church Grammar School, Ulverstone. 'Each child in turn delivered a little speech very effectively'. As part of the same event Nancy played a Huguenot, the Comte de Caerhout, in the closing entertainment, 'The Trap', about the Huguenot Massacre on St Bartholomew's Eve. Her character-acting was 'outstanding', the paper said. Nancy won prizes for arithmetic, sewing and popularity (the latter voted for by the other pupils). She played a lot of tennis.
     Nancy was soon to leave to go to finishing school. When she came back to Ulverstone she threw herself into the local social scene. She was named Belle of the Ball at more than one of the many dances and balls that took place. The papers lovingly described what seem like all the ladies' outfits so that we know that Nancy wore 'black georgette with inlets of lace' on one occasion and 'satin-trimmed net' on another.
from the Burnie Advocate of 1 July 1932
At the end of March 1931 Nancy travelled to England on the SS Mongolia, disembarking in London on 3 April 1931.
This postcard of the SS Mongolia was sent from Gibraltar during the voyage Nancy was on
Almost all we know of her adventures in the old country is that when she first arrived she stayed at St Christophers Buildings, Wigmore St and that she visited her cousin Henry and went for a walk by the sea near Weston-super-Mare. That must have been towards the end of her stay as two weeks later she had embarked on the SS Strathnaver, a brand-new ship making her maiden voyage to Australia. The ship sailed on 2 October 1931. Here's the page from the passenger list showing Nancy's name:

The Burnie Advocate noted her safe return on 18 November 1931:
Of course it was expected that Nancy would marry and she duly did. She married Henry Charles Room, scion of a local family. I don't have a photo of Henry but there's one of some of his family, taken in the 1910s, when Henry must have been a child:
This photo shows Henry's grandfather, James Henry Room, front centre, surrounded by five of his children, including Henry's father, Bill Room, standing behind his father. The others are Henry's uncles and aunts, Harry, Dick, Mary and Edna
I don't know the date of their wedding, but it must have been before 1935 as on Wednesday 6 November 1935 the local paper noted the following:
A few years later there was a mention of a visit home from the mainland with a little girl called Margaret. Trawling through the Australian census records it's possible to glimpse the family, moving from home to new home, some of them back in Tasmania. Henry was a bank clerk. I've only really found one interesting trace of him which is that on Friday 8 January 1954 Henry knocked over a cyclist (17-year-old Arthur Pyers) in his car on the street where their current residence was, Goldie St in Wynyard, a little town along the coast from Ulverstone. The poor boy suffered 'severe abrasions to the head' but there doesn't seem to have been any sort of court case.
     Apart from that, Henry is elusive. I haven't found the date when he died but Nancy seems to have outlived him by a number of years as she appears on her own in the censuses for a long time, right up until 1980 when she was living in a small house in Auburn Road, Hawthorn, a suburb of Melbourne. Again, I haven't found the date of her death.
     Nancy wasn't famous or extraordinary, but I have hugely enjoyed hunting down all the little mentions of her that I've been able to find, in an effort to bring her to life. This post concludes all the stories that I've been able to squeeze out of those photos found in a flea market in Brighton. Well, almost all of them, but those lesser tales may have to wait.

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Old photo investigation Part 4 -- Thomas Reynolds

You'll remember Henry Fitzgerald Reynolds from the very first of his photos that I found, taken in 1931. I blogged about it here. When I went back to Brighton that second time I also found this photo that I thought might be of Henry -- it's a much older photo, so he should look younger (though he seems to look exactly the same age in all the photos I have of him that are definitely him) but I'm not convinced it's actually him. There are no clues written on the back. What do you think?

In this post, I'm going to track back through Henry's father's ancestors, rather than his mother Matilda's (her family were the Hamilton's of Fintra). Henry's father was Walter Reynolds, born in Melton near Hull in 1839 and one of four children of Andrew Fitzgerald Reynolds (born 1795) and Mary Thompson (born 1798). Andrew Fitzgerald Reynolds was descended from a long line of Irish gentry, so you may wonder what he was doing in less-than-glamorous Hull and I think I can shed some light on that. The family lived at Melton Hall, demolished in the 1950s. The land was developed as the Melton Hall housing estate, one of the roads of which is Reynolds Close, surely in remembrance of the family who had lived in the Hall. Only the coach house seems to have survived the redevelopment:
Andrew Fitzgerald Reynolds was born in Ireland, the son of Thomas Reynolds and Harriet Witherington, both born in 1771. This is where it gets really interesting, but also where my history knowledge gets extremely ropey, so I apologise if I make any errors.
This weeny picture is the only image I can find of Thomas Reynolds -- 'my' Henry's great-grandfather. His father, Andrew, had made his fortune in Dublin manufacturing woollen and silk poplins and other textiles -- he was credited with introducing silk manufacture to Ireland. Thomas was born on 12 March 1771 at 9 West Park Street, Dublin. He was one of fourteen children, of whom six died in infancy.
     When Thomas was eight years old he was sent to Dr Crawfurd's School in Chiswick, as a parlour-boarder. He was there for four years and in his last year spent all the holidays at the house of the artist Joshua Reynolds (who must surely have been a relation), who taught him to draw. In 1783 he went to a Jesuit seminary in Liege, Belgium. Returning to Ireland aged 17, in 1788, he inherited money from his father (which he would not actually be able to access until he was 21) who died shortly after his return -- although significantly less than he might have inherited, had the advent of cotton fabrics not drastically reduced the income from his father's firm and landed him in debt.
     It was while he was living at home with his mother that he accompanied a young lady to a masked costume ball. As part of his costume Thomas had been wearing a diamond pin in his hat which was worth a lot of money. When he rolled home the next morning, the hat pin was missing. He told his mother that the girl had needed money (it's not quite clear whether she 'demanded' money or was in genuine need) and that he had given her all his cash along with the pin so that she could pawn it. He intended to redeem it in a few days' time. Thomas's mother considered it a matter of theft and wanted to call in the police -- but Thomas said that the pin was his to do with as he wished (he had inherited it some time previously). There was an unholy row and Thomas fell ill from all the stress. He stayed in bed with a 'putrid fever' for seven weeks and there were fears for his life.
     As soon as he could, Thomas went on a European tour with his best friend from school, hoping to improve his health. From Rotterdam, to Paris, then through Switzerland to Italy; they returned to Paris at the height of the French Revolution. Only a few days after he arrived there the Bastille was stormed. Frightened by what was unfolding, he hurried back to Dublin. Life continued pleasurably there.
     On 25 March 1794, when Thomas was 23, he married Harriet Witherington, whose family owned a drapery business on Grafton Street in Dublin. Harriet was one of ten children, including a sister four years older than her called Martha.

Martha/Matilda Witherington
Back in July 1785, aged 18 (some accounts say she was 16) Martha -- who changed her name to Matilda -- had eloped with Theobald Wolfe Tone. Wolfe Tone is famous as one of the Society of United Irishmen, a group which first formed with liberal ideas of reforming the Irish Parliament but which then evolved into a revolutionary group, inspired by the American and French Revolutions. The Society had formed in October 1791, a month after Tone had published a highly influential pamplet, "Argument on Behalf of the Catholics of Ireland", which argued for unity between Protestants, Catholics and Dissenters to throw off the English yoke.
The United Irishmen in 1798 including Wolfe Tone, at the back in profile and Lord Edward Fitzgerald, far right
In line with the French Revolution, the Society's ultimate aim (at the beginning) was to separate religion from politics. Their movement spread quickly thanks to the dissemination of pamplets, newspapers and ballads. Spokesmen (I'm sure they would all have been men) travelled the country to recruit new followers.
     In February 1793 France declared war on Britain and, shortly afterwards, the Society of United Irishmen was outlawed. By 1794, when Thomas Reynolds became Wolfe Tone's brother-in-law, it was an underground movement dedicated to bringing about a revolution against English rule. That same year, a 'memorandum' that Tone had written for private consumption, describing Ireland as 'ripe for revolution' came to the attention of the English government. Several people were arrested but Tone was able to arrange to emigrate to America, where he arrived in May 1795, with Martha. Apparently he disliked the Americans, finding them less 'revolutionary' than he had hoped.
     From America he was able to travel to Paris where he persuaded the French to send a force of 15,000 men to invade Ireland in order to overthrow the British. The idea was that the Irish people would then rise up, following the French lead. The expedition set off in December 1795 with Tone on board one of the 43 ships in the fleet and it was only thanks to severe gales that the attack failed. Apparently Tone was full of contempt for the French sailors who held back from trying to make land.
The failure of the French invasion of Ireland by Gillray
Wolfe Tone stayed in France and continued to try to raise troops to invade Ireland. Three much smaller attacks were made in 1798, one of which Tone accompanied. On 12 October 1798 the ship he was on surrendered to the British and he was taken prisoner. He  was swiftly tried and condemned to be hanged a month later but committed suicide before the sentence could be carried out.
     Meanwhile, back in early 1797, Thomas Reynolds had joined the United Irishmen, having been invited to do so and seemingly thinking the Society was only intent on helping the lot of the disenfranchised, oppressed Catholics. Not long after this he was given a cheap lease on Kilkea Castle in County Kildare through the good offices of Lord Edward Fitzgerald, another leading United Irishman. It was a lucky break as he was apparently virtually bankrupt by this point. He and Harriet went to live there:
Kilkea Castle
On 19 February 1798 Thomas attended a meeting of the United Irishmen in Leinster and, according to his account, only then realised just how revolutionary their intentions were -- that they intended to overthrow the government by armed force. Terrified, he turned informer. His son (Henry's great uncle), also called Thomas, later wrote an immensely long and almost obsessively detailed biography of his father that attempted to set his actions in a positive light: that he was motivated by a desire to save his country from the horrors of bloody revolution -- and also that many unscrupulous people with whom he had had (unbelievably complicated) financial dealings took the opportunity of the affair to ruin his reputation.
     Thomas acted as a witness at several of the trials of the conspirators -- in fact he was treated with such hostility by their lawyers that it seemed as if he himself were on trial. But they were found guilty whereas he received the freedom of the City of Dublin from the grateful government. He hoped the affair had blown over and took a house in Leinster Street in Dublin, but there was intense hostility towards him from the Irish people and he wasn't safe. His house was attacked by a mob at least once and there had been attempts to assassinate him. Fearing for his safety, the family fled to Allonby, a tiny place on the Cumbrian coast, across the Irish Sea.

While Reynolds was in the north of England he received an official letter from the British government offering him a pension of £1000 a year for life to compensate him for the total ruination of his life following his actions in exposing the planned Irish revolution (his son thought this sum wholly inadequate). The British also presented him with this medal:
 Thomas took his family back to Dublin but the government there urged him to leave as they couldn't guarantee his safety. They gave him letters of introduction to people of high standing in England, including the Prime Minister and on 1st January 1800 he left Ireland for good and moved to London with Harriet and his two young sons. They bought a house in Portman Square but life amongst the well-to-do of London meant that their outgoings exceeded their income and they decided to move to Swansea. On their way to Swansea they found that they were passing within three miles of the small town of Usk, where Harriet's sister Catherine was living with her husband and one of her brothers, Henry Witherington. This brother had testified against his brother-in-law Thomas at the conspiracy trials and so Thomas refused to go to the house to visit them. They put up at an inn and sent word that they were there, so that Catherine could come to see her sister. That same day, according to Thomas's son's account, Henry Witherington turned up at the inn and retracted everything he had said at the trial and asked for Thomas's forgiveness, which was given. The wounds having been healed, Thomas and Harriet changed their plans and rented a house in Usk instead.
extract from The Life of Thomas Reynolds, 1839
Henry Witherington's marriage, referred to above, was to Maria Bird, one of the six daughters of Colonel Henry Bird who lived in a Gothic house in the middle of nearby Goitre Wood:
Colonel Bird had been a soldier in America, during which time he had reportedly rescued a young European girl who had been captured by Native Americans during a raid on her home and brought up as a Native American. She was called Elizabeth Hicks and she married the Colonel. He built the house in the middle of Goitre Wood in an effort to replicate something of the wilderness he had experienced in America. Colonel Bird died in 1800 but Elizabeth outlived him by 42 years.
The sign of the local pub commemorates the couple.

Thomas Reynolds and his family moved back to London, via Bath. They also spent time in Sidmouth after all the children had been ill with measles.
Sidmouth in 1803

Sidmouth and the surrounding area was a hotbed of reform-minded English aristocrats who happened to be sheltering a number of radical Irishmen while they planned their next assault on the hated British occupiers of Ireland. It suited them to be on the south coast of England as much of their support was coming from revolutionary France, just across the Channel. When Thomas arrived there, simply looking to help his children to convalesce, they believed he'd been sent to spy on them. Threatening letters were sent and nasty gossip was spread. Soon they were hurrying back to London.
     As before, the Reynolds couldn't afford to live in London and Thomas had to find something else to do. He managed to get the position of Postmaster (of the English postal service) in Lisbon, with the promise that as soon as a consulship came up, it would be his. So it was that in 1817 Thomas was offered the post of British Consul in Iceland -- which may have seemed something of a poisoned chalice. He only accepted the post on the understanding that he would do the job at arm's length, from Copenhagen, although he did visit Reykjavik in the summer of 1818.
from Thomas's son's account of their visit to Iceland
Reykjavik in the early 19th century
After a year or so, he transferred the consulship to his son, also called Thomas, and in fact the younger Thomas met his wife Caroline Ross, a Dane, while he was living in Copenhagen. But although Thomas had hoped that the British government would keep their word and give both his sons posts so that they could earn a living, in 1822 there was a key change at the Foreign Office and the new Foreign Secretary, George Canning, declared that neither Thomas or his sons would ever be given any position by him. In a final effort to find peace and, perhaps, prosperity, at last, the family moved to Paris, perhaps a surprising choice of home as it was bristling with the very Irishmen who had become Thomas's arch enemies when he supposedly informed on them back in Dublin in 1798. His son's biography is full of accounts of slights and threats -- whips were shaken at his wife and daughters in the Tuileries gardens, duels were fought. 'My' Henry's own grandfather, Andrew Fitzgerald Reynolds, fought a duel with pistols with his father's chief irritant, Thomas Warren, in which he accidentally fired off his only bullet before he had taken aim at Warren. Warren then had as much time as he wanted to fix his gun on Fitzgerald (as he was known), but failed to kill him.
     Thomas Reynolds died of cholera in his house on the Faubourg Saint Honore on 18 August 1836. His body was interred in a vault in Welton near Hull, close by Melton, where a family friend was the vicar. Henry's grandfather went to live at Melton Hall (and practise as a barrister), perhaps to be close to his father's burial place. One gets the feeling that the terrible travails of Thomas's life had bound them all tightly together, in a bid for sheer survival. Perhaps they wanted to be near him even after his death, to protect his resting place. The family probably also wanted to continue to keep their heads down, given the strength of feeling against them in Ireland and among supporters of the Irish cause, and no doubt Hull seemed as safe a haven as anywhere.
Welton church
My Henry was born in Hull on 8 June 1865.

I hope you're enjoying these tales spun from old photographs. I think I have just one more to tell -- coming soon...

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Print in process

Recently I signed up for a print swap organised by Lesley. I put myself in for this in much the same way that Jaz volunteered to be Project Manager in the first episode of the new series of The Apprentice, ie without thinking first -- and we all know what happened to her in the boardroom...
     There was quite a good reason why it might not have been possible for me to do the print swap. I currently have nowhere to do art and no art materials to do it with. You remember my mad little office?
The usual shocking mess...
I also had a table in our sun room to do art on but the roof leaked onto it and things kept getting spoiled. Something had to give so we have bitten the bullet and are having a posh hut built in the garden. That meant my office had to be emptied:
Wow, it looks so much bigger empty!
 Then this happened to it:
yes, we've got a portaloo...
Then we were boarded in -- no light for us for a few months (or a lot less, anyway). We've become hobbits.
And beyond the chipboard this has been going on:
So no space for me to be creative and all the stuff for being creative with is in storage. Hmm. All I've got at the moment is my computer (perched at the bottom of the stairs -- can't complain, though) with a lot of images saved on it and a paper bag containing the old photos I've been buying lately. You can see some of them at the top of this post. I absolutely love these old images and my first (and only) thought was to do something with one or some of them. I suppose I could have done just a really high-quality scan of one of them and printed it nicely on some good paper. Maybe this one:
Or I could alter the colour:
Or I could add some text:
Or combine two images:
By this time I was getting a bit frustrated with the old photos, lovely though they are, so the above idea combines two other sorts of images that I really like -- images captured from television and blown-up details from old postcards. They don't work very well together, though -- or not here. I decided to focus on the old postcards. I've quite often isolated little scenes in very animated postcard views where something seems to have been unintentionally captured by the photographer. I've blogged about it before here. I started off by isolating this woman from a much busier scene -- I tried various colourways:
The woman comes from this postcard, below, and I love the way she seems to be all alone in the scene in spite of the other people around her:
But the idea was going nowhere. So I switched to a different postcard:
There's so much going on in this one, but one area in particular caught my eye:
What is this young girl doing striding along the beach in a red coat? I like the two tall boys as well. My first instinct was to isolate them
Then I had the idea of printing the background on an inkjet printer and printing the figures on top on a laserjet printer which gives a shiny finish. So I had to separate the figures from the background:
It was suprisingly difficult to cut out the figures as they blended into the background so much and they ended up looking fat somehow. Then printing on two different printers was a nightmare! So difficult to get the feet and the shadows to line up exactly. But I quite liked the test prints I did. I also added some text...

This was going to be my print. The main element of interest was the contrast of the shiny-surfaced figures and the matte background. Here's a picture to show that:
I liked it and it seemed to make doing a digital print have some raison d'etre -- you couldn't easily get this effect any other way.
     The final step of the process was to buy some nice thick paper and make my limited edition of ten prints. Unfortunately, this is where the whole thing fell down, because on the posh paper the laserjet didn't print shiny. There was barely any difference between the two surfaces -- not enough to make it the key 'selling point' of a print. At that point I decided to start again almost from scratch. I tried to think of another characteristic of digital images that would make a print special. I decided to focus on variable transparency. I collected various sets of images and overlaid them with varying degrees of transparency. In fact the set I tried first turned out to be the one I liked best but I also tried:
The Eiffel Tower
The Statue of Liberty
Blackpool Tower
You need a fixed point that can anchor all the different images so that it appears at 'full strength' whilst all the other elements are more gauzy. In the end, this is the print I went with:
The picture makes itself, in a sense, because the position of each layer is fixed around the anchor point. You can alter the order of the layers and make some of them less or more see-through but the overall shape can't change. I like the Pisa one because it has the most interesting overall shape and I like the strong splashes of colour at either side. The choice of subject is not so much because I have any strong love of the Leaning Tower of Pisa but because it's an iconic image that has been reproduced countless times in postcards more or less since the advent of photography and from many different standpoints. A combination of eight of these images, all with the Tower as a common element, makes for an intriguing print and fulfils my main criterion of making an end-product for the swap that could only have been done with the tools available to me.
     I must thank Lesley for coming up with the idea of the swap because I've really enjoyed doing my bit for it. I haven't been doing much art for a while, mainly due to my new obsession with genealogy -- this project got me thinking visually again and was an interesting exercise in process -- each step was taken in response to some lack in the previous stage until I arrived at something I liked.