Saturday, 27 December 2014

Villains and Heroes - One Family on Find My Past

Record Category Headings on FMP
Yesterday (Boxing Day) Find My Past sent me yet another promotional email telling me that they had added more records to their website.  This is all well and good, but finding anything on their *@~%#!* website has been quite difficult since its 'upgrade' in April.  

The old searches on the census returns that let you go straight to an address have been lost somewhere in the depths of their site and there are now dozens, if not hundreds (I have no idea!), of little data sets arranged under a very few general headings, see the list in my screen shot on the left.  The only way to make certain you get a hit in the data set you want is to (a) know the data set exists in the first place and (b) head straight to it via the A to Z index of record sets, the bottom option on the list.  Which makes it a bit difficult if you DON'T know that a particular record set exists.  The Search All option does not return results from all the record sets - unless you leave the 'Where' option blank (ie don't put in Sheffield or Barnsley) meaning that you end up with dozens of entries to scroll through that you hadn't wanted at all.  The only way to reduce the number is then to apply filters - but of course again you have to know what you are looking for to do this.

The record set that piqued my interest yesterday was this:  
"Over 11,000 Yorkshire, Sheffield Quarter Sessions 1880-1912. The court of Quarter Sessions was established in 1880 and its initial function was to hear criminal cases. The court sat every quarter, usually in January, April, July and October and, after each session, a Calendar of Prisoners was published to record the personal details of people tried at the session and their offences."  A bit of retrospective experimentation showed that this record set is categorised under Institutions & Organisations in the list above.  Would I have been able to guess that?  Not sure ...

My connection to family history in Sheffield is via my children (now well and truly grown up and left home) and my first husband (who shall remain nameless if you don't mind).  I investigated that family tree more than 20 years ago when I was a single mother on benefits (so that tells you something about our dysfunctional family) because it was impossible to find a job that fitted in with dropping primary school age children off at school for 9am and picking them up again at 3pm.  I used to spend the time between in Sheffield Archives - it kept me busy and saved on gas and electricity at home too! This is also when I started studying with the Open University.

Purely alphabetically I tried searching in the Quarter Sessions records for Atkinson and recognised a name in the list of results almost immediately.  Arthur William Atkinson was one of the great, great grandfathers of my children and an ancestor I had always felt was a good 'un as he worked as a blacksmith all his life.  Unfortunately I was about to discover that hard work does not always equate to being a good man.  The entry I had found was a transcription that showed Arthur, of 81 Porter Street, Sheffield, was charged with the malicious wounding of his son and that he went to trial on 5 July 1904.

Results for Arthur William Atkinson in All Records on Find My Past
Out of interest I tried searching for Arthur William Atkinson in the All Records search - I put in Sheffield and did not get a hit on the Quarter Sessions record, however putting in Yorkshire brought back 1,403 results which did include it, halfway down the second page of results under Courts & Legal.  So despite the new record set being specifically to do with Sheffield entering Sheffield in the All Records search is the WRONG thing to do!
Still on Find My Past I looked Arthur up in the Sheffield newspaper of the time, the Sheffield Evening Telegraph.  I have got fairly good at filtering the newspaper records by name of the paper and by date - the only thing that annoys me is that if you go a step too far on the filtering you can't step back, you have to clear the ALL the filters and start again.  I fail to understand how the exact same record set, British Newspapers, can be offered to the public by the same company, BrightSolid, via two different front ends with two entirely different search engines.  The search on the British Newspaper Archive is much superior to the Find My Past version. 
Sheffield Evening Telegraph 12 May 1904 
The above newspaper cutting (part of a longer report) from May 1904 shows his initial appearance in the Police Courts where he is committed for trial at the Quarter Sessions.  A report of the Quarter Sessions themselves on 6 July 1904 showed that he pleaded guilty of common assault and was bound over to come up for judgement if called upon.  However in order to find the second cutting I had to change my search to look for Atkinson only as his first names appear distorted on the page and have not been OCR'd correctly.  Fortunately I had the date of the trial from the Quarter Sessions index so could narrow down my search by date to hits in July 1904 only. The BNA search engine allows you to set date as a parameter at the offset - on FMP I have to apply layer after layer of filter to get the same result.

Sheffield Evening Telegraph 3 July 1918
While I was searching for mentions of Arthur William Atkinson in the Sheffield newspapers I was made happier to come across an entry for him which shows the family in a much better light.

This snip shows Matthew Jubilee Atkinson (born 1897 of course, Queen Victoria's Jubilee year!) as a Lance Corporal in the York and Lancaster Regiment in 1918.  He has been awarded the Military Medal for Bravery.  There in the caption are his parents, Mr and Mrs Arthur William Atkinson, now of 82 Carver Street.  

To be honest I haven't done a lot of research on the soldiers in this family tree - so I was surprised to see that the article notes that Matthew would be 21 on 3 August 1918.  As it also states he enlisted on 17 August 1914 that makes him only 17 years old at that time.

So here is a young man who enlisted underage at the outbreak of the war, apparently with the knowledge of the authorities, fought (according to the snip) at several large battles, Loos in September/October 1915, the first day of the Somme 1916 and the fighting on the Somme against the German advance in March of 1918.

I do know that Matthew re-enlisted in the army after the war and that later he emigrated to Australia.  Long ago a family member from his branch contacted me from over there.  I wonder if they know that he won the Military Medal?

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Why Do I Research First World War Soldiers' Stories?

Since this time last year I have been deeply involved with the Barnsley War Memorials Project however my interest in the First World War and the experiences of the men and their families goes back a lot further.  

I have been researching my family history since 1992 but at that time there were very few easily accessible resources available for the First World War. It is hard to remember what it was like without online searchable databases, but 20 years ago most research was done from microfiche and film, transcriptions and original records on site in local Record Offices and Archives.  For me the major breakthrough was the Army Service (and Pension) Records coming online on the Ancestry website in 2007, when it became so much easier to research soldiers if your man's records were in the 40% of the burnt records (the majority of the Service Records were destroyed in the blitz in WW2) that survived.  Medal Index Cards had been available from the Public Record Office online from shortly before that - but at a cost (unless you were actually in the Public Record Office in Kew) and of little use if your man had a common name (these are now also on Ancestry).  I appear to have started saving images of soldiers' entries from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website in 2008.  So much has changed over the past seven years!  Even the CWGC pages use to be a snazzy overall purple colour quite unlike the cool grey and striking red and green of today.
A CWGC snip from 2008

Connaught Cemetery September 2009
I discovered that a large number of the OH's relatives were involved in the war.  My own family tree is less well populated by soldiers - I suppose that is the contrast between his family in urban, industrialised Barnsley and my North-Eastern families many of whom came from predominantly rural areas, with a bit of coal mining on one side or from coastal towns concerned with sailing and ship building on the other.  By the time the OH and I travelled to Belgium in 2009 to visit the battlefield cemeteries with Leger Travel I had already researched enough of our WW1 soldiers to print out a page full of names and references to check should we go to the correct memorials and cemeteries.

I gave a talk to the Friends of Barnsley Archives in March 2013 based on three of the OH's relatives' experiences of WW1 using photos we had taken in 2009 of Tyne Cot, the Menin Gate and the Connaught Cemetery near Thiepval where Frank Armitage is buried.

My interest has been expressed on this blog by a series of First World War Soldier Stories beginning in April 2013 with Frank (see the eponymous tab above for links to all the stories) and from July 2013 was directed into Barnsley War Memorials after a request for another talk for the Friends of Barnsley Archives to be given in November 2014.  As 2014 would be the first year of the Centenary of the First World War a talk booked for November had to be about the war and as the date of the booking would fall the 10th of the month it seemed appropriate to try to pull together sufficient information on local memorials to reflect the concentration on Remembrance which we were sure would pervade by then.

A fellow historian got to know about my interest in WW1 War Memorials and I was asked to attend a meeting to discuss the possibility of some kind of group to collate a Roll of Honour of Barnsley's WW1 Fallen.  In the course of each of our own research paths we had both discovered that Barnsley Council had not produced a list of names of the Fallen after WW1, unlike many other towns and cities across Great Britain.  Sheffield has a Roll of Honour kept in the Town Hall, and I had used a transcription of it in my research into my first husband's family history in the 1990s.  Fortunately there aren't many Tom Appleby Dunbars in the world as the list only gives very brief details, name, number, rank and regiment.  Incidentally this list can now be consulted online at the Sheffield Soldiers of the Great War website.  The lack of a similar memorial in Barnsley seemed slightly shocking, but surely something that could be relatively easily amended.  Ah, the innocence of those early discussions!

The Barnsley War Memorials Project was formally constituted in March of 2014 with a committee of Chair, Treasurer, Secretary and Information Officer, later co-opting a Council Liaison Officer when it became apparent that this would be helpful.  As the lady who had called the original meeting was keen to pursue her own research projects she is not a part of the constituted Project, however she continues to submit research to Barnsley Archives on an independent basis.  She recently presented two folders of research about the men named on the Barnsley Holgate Grammar School Old Boys WW1 Memorial Plaque (now on display in the Cooper Art Gallery) to the Archives.

The Barnsley War Memorials Project now has a website, created using Blogger software, just like this blog, but now fronted by a dedicated domain name which appears to give it a little more credibility with organisations and individuals who look down upon 'blogs'!  We also have a Facebook page and a Twitter account.  I have had to do a bit of up-skilling to learn to manage these various forms of social media - but in my opinion you need to use every available option to publicise a project, from newspaper articles to tweets!

BWMP newsletter December 2014
My regular duties as Secretary include answering emails, creating web pages for individual war memorials, creating Barnsley Soldiers Remembered webpages from information submitted by family members of soldiers from the Barnsley area, and writing and distributing a monthly digital newsletter.  There are now eight issues all available to download from the Newsletters tab on our website. I also post on the Facebook page and regularly Tweet to pass on our updates and to generally make people more aware of the work of the Project.

I have been well booked for talks in 2014.  I spoke to a conference in Leicester about the ins and outs of WW1 research; I have spoken to the Friends of Darfield Churchyard on some of the men on their memorials and to the ladies of Holmfirth Womens Institute on Families in World War One.  My talk on "Who Wanted War Memorials?" was well received in November and can be seen in two parts on YouTube and I have since given a talk on the Barnsley War Memorials Project itself raising some useful petty cash for our Project.  I also gave short talks on the First World War to two primary schools in the Cudworth area in November and hope to be invited back next year.  I took part in the launch of the South Yorkshire Through Time webhub at Experience Barnsley by giving a brief talk on the progress of the Barnsley War Memorials Project and explaining how we use social media to connect with the public.

I enjoy researching other people's Soldier Stories and in the past year through them have discovered a wealth of other resources that could be applied to my own family history.  Some of these are featured in the most recent edition of the newsletter (see left), Almanacs, local newspapers, community websites, Absent Voters Lists.  Others that I can think of are the wealth of books on the subject of War Memorials and the First World War that are available - Barnsley Pals by Jon Cooksey is particularly useful (and Pen & Sword, the military book publishers are based in Barnsley) but I have also enjoyed more general books like Memorials of the Great War in Britain by Alex King (looking at the symbolism and politics of Remembrance), The Origins of the First World War by Annika Mombauer (the title says it all!), Empires of the Dead by David Crane (the story of Fabian Ware the man behind the CWGC) and most recently A Kingdom United by Catriona Pennell (which looks at popular responses to the outbreak of the First World War).  

I have been an enthusiastic first adopter of the Imperial War Museum's Lives of the First World War website.  I now have Communities set up on the site for many of the War Memorials in Barnsley and have remembered over 700 men - but there are so many more ...

I am also more aware of the growing number of local websites around the country created by groups carrying out their own research into War Memorials and the Great War.  I particularly like the Tynemouth World War One Commemoration Project as they have been working for some years now and have lots of ideas that we would love to 'borrow'.  One is a map of the local area with spots to indicate where each Fallen man had lived - they do a great Powerpoint presentation which shows these maps and spots changing over the period of the war.  They also recently featured on a BBC television programme.  Brilliant!

There are also a host of books produced by these local groups and organisations who are researching the history of their own area during WW1.  Most recently Kingstone Remembered (as seen in the December newsletter above) but also see Royston and District in the Great War (which I wrote about last year) and Lest Cudworth Forgets written in 2004 by the Cudworth History and Heritage Group.  This year there have also been two books from the Penistone History Group, one about the men on the Penistone War Memorial and one about the men from Thurlstone and Hoylandswaine.  There has been a booklet from the Billingley Village History Group on the men from their village who fought, fell and returned home (see issue 4 of the BWMP newsletter for details) and a book from the Worsbrough History Group on the names on the Worsbrough Dale War Memorial at St Thomas' Church. 

This means that the experience of assisting with a large borough wide project has given me additional insights into co-operating with other local groups, improving my own research and widened my understanding of the background, politics and social history of the First World War - which is not a bad thing!

So, why do I Research First World War Soldiers' Stories?  Because I find them fascinating slices of early 20th century social history - because they intertwine with the wider history of this country and the rest of Europe - because many of my own ancestors were touched by the issues that I am now coming to more fully understand and appreciate.  Because they are relevant to everyone, young and old, that's why!

Thank you for reading - and please visit the Barnsley War Memorials Project website, have a look at the huge list (500+) of memorials we have discovered in the past year, view some of our photos and search the site for your own family names, then maybe take a side step and and read some of the Barnsley Soldiers Remembered stories linked to the memorials which can be found on the companion site.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Finding a Nurse in the Absent Voters' List for Barnsley in World War One

I have just added a page to the Barnsley War Memorials Project website that is like a blog post in itself.  So for all my followers on this blog here's a link.
An extract from the 1918 Absent Voters' List (thanks to Barnsley Archives)
I am transcribing the streets that make up the parish of St John the Baptist in the Barebones area of Barnsley.  There are 140 men on the war memorial for this church and I have been researching them on and off for the past year.  Many of the OH's ancestors and relatives lived in the area although none of them appear to be named on the memorial.  There was a streak of non-conformity in the OH's family and I think I need to track down more of the chapel memorials to find the missing names.

In the snip above I was pleased to see a nurse listed.  This won't be a very common occurrence as despite a universal franchise for men over 21 being brought in towards the end of the war women still had to be over 30 and fulfil certain property qualifications to have the vote.  And of course they had to be serving abroad to appear in this list.  That narrows it down rather a lot!

Katherine Sarah Blackburn was a doctor's wife living in the big house on Sheffield Road, Barnsley which is now the Warren House Dental Practice.  She was born in 1879 in Hartlepool, Co Durham and had been married to Vernon Kent Blackburn, a physician and surgeon, for six years by the time of the 1911 census.  They had two children, John Kent Hartley Blackburn aged 5 and Olga Mary Blackburn aged 3 in 1911.  They married in the September quarter (Jul, Aug, Sep) of 1904 in Newport in Wales and Katherine's maiden name was Shotton, a great northern name and one that features in my own family tree!

I look forward to researching her in more depth ... having found that link to Durham I won't let this one go in a hurry! I also want to know what took her to Salonica as a nurse in WW1, that will be a great story I'm sure.

Friday, 14 November 2014

Not a Moment to Myself These Days!

*space bar on my laptop is sticking, so apologies for any run together words!*

Since August I have been so busy with work for the Barnsley War Memorials Project, and happily so well (relatively), that I haven't had a moment to myself to write a blog post.  
This blog began two years ago as a way of talking to the larger world about my problems and my ambitions.  Well, one of my ambitions is over - I have now finished at the Open University as their fees are ridiculous.  I achieved another degree, not that I really wanted or needed it, I would rather have just had the option to continue dipping in and out of the OU modules as it suited me for the rest of my life.  I am still disabled ... well that wasn't going to change whatever the government think, but apart from my knees (and that's a story in itself) and a tendency to frequent visits to the toilet when I'm tired and worn out, I'm mostly coping with that OK now.  I have a hobby that keeps me busy, at home, on the computer and with once a week trips to Barnsley Archives to meet a friend for a change of scenery and the occasional glass of Pinot Grigio.
I still have no income, unless you count £35 a month from the talks I give, although I see that more as expenses for the travel, books, photocopies and sheer time it takes me to put a talk together.  Apparently, according to Barnsley Museum's new guidelines I am a business though, so they currently can't display my leaflets, leaving me with few outlets to advertise my willingness to give talks!  Circular or what?
S70 4HX on Right Move
We still haven't sold the other house, the OH spends so much time at work, or at the other house or just busy with CAMRA stuff that I am beginning to feel unmarried ... we are just about to change estate agents for the second time.  In three years only one couple has been to visit the house and they were friends of the OH.  It's a nice house, 3 bedrooms, sitting room with Adam style fireplace and sliding doors to balcony, proper shower and a bath, modern oak doored kitchen (built in oven, ceramic hob) adjoining dining room with built in floor to ceiling bookshelves, deceptively spacious (the photo really doesn't do it justice), and it's got a garage which is an unusual thing so close to a town centre.  Only 15 minutes walk from Barnsley Railway Station, shops, pubs and takeaways nearby, nice compact low maintenance mature garden, with strawberries, gooseberries, blackberries and tayberries!  

Ok, advert over!

So how come I've got time to write a blog post today?  Well, firstly I'm still in bed.  After the busy week I've just had my knees have decided to quit!  I dislocated my left knee twice in three weeks recently and it took much longer to go back into place the second time.  As I result I've been walking with a stick for a while.  Of course limping puts extra stain on the other leg and after three talks, a book launch and the usual trip to the Archives this week they have now told me they want a rest.  Secondly, due to the three talks mentioned above now having occurred I am having a little breather before I get back to work creating web pages for the Barnsley War Memorials Project (mostly war memorial gravestones) and researching the soldiers on my own chosen war memorials, St Lukes, Worsborough Common and St John's Barebones.  

My St John's Community on Lives of the First World War
I have been creating communities on Lives of the First World War - I do find this quite soothing, the satisfaction of finding the soldiers and flagging them up as "Remembered" and attaching them to a Community so other people can see who belongs with who.  LFFW got off to a rocky start as far as I could see, unless you were already an experienced family or military historian the original interface was very daunting.  However a recent change, adding the Timeline view, has fixes a lot of the problems with making the site easy to understand, I think.  There are a lot more prompts to help casual visitors add stories and images and the chronological layout as you add more and more information encourages you and makes the soldier's story easy to follow. 

Part of James A Warden's Timeline
*I have just had to swap to Internet Explorer to edit this post as Firefox was doing all kinds of odd things - it might have been my fault - I tried to paste a picture directly into the post - silly me!*

As a beta tester, and for allowing IWM to use my Communities in their publicity and as a 12 month subscriber to Find My Past I have collected over two year's free managerial access to LFWW.  This allows me to create and manage Communities, search and view premium content and that's about it really.  Given that anyone can add an external link to another pay per view site or add documentary evidence of any other kind to prove the facts about the soldiers to only real benefit to paying (if you already have a subscription to Ancestry or the Genealogist say) is the ability to make Communities.  So pay £6 for a month, do it quick and then don't pay again unless you find you need to add a lot more people to your community I suggest.

If I can set up Communities for the other volunteers of the Barnsley War Memorials Project, or in the case of the new Worsbrough Dale book, based on existing publications, then non-subscribers will be able to find their relatives more easily based on which area the man came from ... that's my plan. 

So I have a Community for Cudworth and one for Worsborough Common and one for Monk Bretton for example.  I just keep linking the men in, the fallen and the survivors, whenever one comes to my attention.

I really need to send a couple of emails today as well, but I'm prevaricating about that - shouldn't do really.  And a book might turn up in the Amazon Locker in our local Co-op later today, and I need to buy a Chronicle - which reminds me that I'm weeks behind on taking the cuttings from the Chron.  And I'm booked for a talk in December which I haven't really thought about yet.  Oh drat ... too much stuff. 

Better go and do something useful. 

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Too poor and ill for a Post Office Account?

Red filled oval with the words Post Office in white
Since the government is determined to pay everyone their benefits into a bank account these days I expected opening one of the new current accounts at the Post Office to be plain sailing, but no, something I said or ticked on the form didn't fulfil their criteria and I was sent away head hanging knowing I'd failed at yet another attempt to be a normal everyday person.

Let me explain, as you may not have read many, or indeed any of my blog posts before:

I was diagnosed with a couple of chronic illnesses about eight years ago now.  Due to my increasing tiredness and appalling sick record at work my employers attempted to 'terminate' my contract when my application for early retirement due to ill health was turned down because, according to the doctor at the local pension authority, I would be fit to return to full time work within three years.  Eventually, with support from friends, I was able to hold out for redundancy and officially left my employment in early 2011.  I hadn't been at work since the summer of 2009.  And, as you can easily calculate, I have not miraculously become well enough to work in specified time period, and even the DWP agrees I am still unfit for work, although not unfit enough to get Employment and Support Allowance beyond the one year cut off.

I am now wholly dependent on my husband (the OH) for food, clothes and a roof over my head.  This is not what he signed up for when he married me - at that point I had a good job, I even earned more than him towards the end of my job.  Fortunately we had paid off our mortagage before I was made redundant - but that's another story!

Four metal spoons in a row

These days, if I am careful and count spoons (read this article for an explanation of spoons), I can get about a bit, go to the library for a local history meeting and the Archives to do some research.  I don't go 'out' anymore, unless the OH takes me in the car, and I used to love real ale pubs and beer festivals.  This summer for the first time in 22 years I have not gone down to London to work (as a volunteer) at the biggest beer festival in Britain - the Great British Beer Festival at Olympia, because in order to qualify for the free accommodation you have to work a certain number of hours a day and I just can't manage it any more.  CAMRA, who organise the event, have been much, much more accommodating than my 'real' employers ever were, they have allowed me to work split shifts for the past three or four years so that I could go and get my head down for a few hours on an afternoon and they transferred me to a desk job about six years ago when it became apparent I just couldn't manage the hours and effort needed to be a Bar Manager any longer.  

Last year I began to give local and family history talks for a small fee, which just about covered my expenses (paper, printing, leaflets, photocopies and the OH's petrol money for taking me to Sheffield and places even further afield), and mostly I get paid by cheque.  Little local history groups and church groups don't generally keep large petty cash funds and it is perfectly usual for me to turn up and the cheque has already been written and signed and I am given it even before I begin to set up, let alone speak.  

Red filled rectangle with Santander in white and a sort of flame on a plate logo.

 At the end of June our local branch of Santander was closed, at no notice at all. We had been told it was to close in July and then apparently one afternoon in June two men turned up and closed the branch telling the staff that that was it, with no notice to them either! I had been accustomed to paying in my cheques there and any others the OH receives as the co-ordinator of his work's lottery syndicate (no, they never seem to win anything!) and as the branch was only a few hundred yards from our house it was well within my normal capability to get there.  I did ask at the local Post Office, but at that time all they could offer was envelopes for me to post the cheques to our bank's central offices.

The nearest branch of Santander is now in Barnsley, four miles and a ten to fifteen minute bus ride away, plus about a five to ten minute walk through the town centre from the bus station to the branch.  Not far on a good day, but on a bad or even on a middling day, it is a step too far for me.  So when I saw that the Post Office was going to start offering current accounts targeted at people on low incomes or on benefits I thought, "This is perfect, I'll have one of those!".  

Extra encouragement to change banks had been provided by my last couple of experiences trying to pay cheques into the branch of Santander in Barnsley town centre where they had queried my latest talk expenses cheque (for just £35) because it wasn't made out to my full name.  I am one of those not uncommon people who is known by my middle name rather than my official first name ... and the Family History Society I had spoken at had written the cheque out to the name I am known by, and as I mentioned, had it ready for me when I arrived, not that I would have thought it was necessary to get my full and precise name on the cheque ... I can easily prove I have two names - they are both on my full photo id driving licence for goodness sake and both are listed on our bank account too!  Unnecessarily fussy in my opinion. 
Three Post Office gift cards, one pink, one blue and one black in an offset pile.

The Post Office current accounts have been on trial in the north of England for some time and have just been rolled out in our area (according to the lady in the Post Office in Barnsley this morning).  I received an email yesterday  - I had registered my interest online - telling me that I could now open an account and that if I switched accounts before the end of August I would be given a £100 gift voucher.  Wow!  Free money! Yes!

I printed out my copies of my proofs of id (they now expect you to provide your own photocopies) and filled in the form for the account switch.  I was going into town today anyway to visit Barnsley Archive for a bit of First World War soldier research so I planned to call at the main post office, which had been indicated on my email, afterwards.

According to their website "Pop into one of our account-opening branches and fill in an application form. We’ll process it while you wait and aim to open your account there and then."  Hmm, that is the point it all started to go wrong.  I gave them my switching form and id documents and I said quite distinctly, "I want to open a new current account and I want to switch my present bank account to it and claim my gift voucher please."  Her first question, looking down at my part completed switching form, "Have you already opened a current account with us as I need to put your new account details on this form?" "No," I replied, "I want to do that now, as I just mentioned to you." "Oh, yes, you did say that ...."

You cannot open one of these accounts online - it says that on the website.  The lady cashier behind the counter then said to me, "Have you filled the form in online?", me, "Err, no, there was no way to do that."  Cashier, "Oh, well I'll have to ask you to fill in the form in one of our booklets", me, "Yes, OK - do you a have a chair, I'm not very good on my feet today, I am disabled".  They let me sit in the little office they have for interviews to fill in the five or six page form.  I was even given a Current Account freebie pen!  Filling the form in online would have been much more sensible, I could have typed instead of writing and it would have saved a lot of hassle for the staff.

The lady in that office looked through my form, supposedly making sure I had filled it in correctly, but then she explained that she hadn't done the training on the new accounts yet, but that they were sending her on a three day course next week (A three day course in checking peoples' forms when they open a bank account? What?)  After that I had to go back to the counter and wait to be seen again, more standing up, and wait some more while the cashier entered all the details I'd just written in the tiny boxes on the form onto her computer.  She was not qualified to check my id which was a necessary part of the process, but the lady from the office said she'd deal with that afterwards (Well, I am glad she's done that course - wonder how many days that took?)  Meanwhile I was drooping, leaning more and more on the counter, putting my head down on my bag, shuffling my feet to spread the aches and pains around a bit and hoping it would all be completed soon.

Computer Says No around the David Walliams Little Britain character sat at a computer

Then the computer said no!  The cashier explained that the system had timed out while it was checking my data and that the only option on her screen was to abandon the application.  I wasn't having that - having got there and filled in the form by hand and waited and stood up for so long wanted my new account and I wanted my £100 gift voucher!

The cashier consulted with the lady from the office - then she phoned someone.  She came back to the counter - remember that all this is happening in full public view in the middle of a busy town centre Post Office - and she began to read code numbers off the screen to the person on the other end of the phone.  I was still leaning and drooping.

Eventually she put down the phone and said that she'd been told to give me back all my forms and id and to tell me that I would be contacted within ten working days with a decision on my application.  Oh, yeh!  "Did I fail the credit check?" I said.  "Oh, no," she said, "The system just timed out checking your application."  "What does that mean?" I asked.  "Oh, it's just the system, I don't know." she replied. I protested that in two weeks ('cos ten working days is a fortnight) I would have timed out for qualifying for the gift voucher as that application needed to be made before the end of August.  She took me and my forms back to the lady in the office ... who said the same things, reassuring me that next week, after she had done the training, she would be able to sort out my problems if I didn't get a response within the ten working days.  

Err, my gift voucher ... the email, only sent yesterday ... less than two weeks deadline ... sort out my new account there and then ... I tried and tried but to be honest both ladies were powerless, the computer had said no! and that was it.

So I came home and wrote a blog post about it ... as it helps stop me crying.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Too tired to Research; Why I'm tired ... and did you know it's Raining?

It's been a busy eight days or so and I'm frankly astonished I've held up so long.  Last night my legs barely carried me up the stairs and this morning I don't want to get out of the warm, soft, bed, which has a wheely table ideally positioned for typing, reading and eating.  In fact so far I've only got up to forage for food, clean my teeth and put the last but one load of washing in the tumble dryer (as the washing line outside is quite out of the question in the current monsoon).

So, what have I done this week:
Last Sunday I attended the unveiling of the Dearne Towns War Memorial at Bolton upon Dearne Cemetery. The OH took me in the car, so actually it wasn't a very arduous day, although we did do a quick trip to the supermarket too and the ceremony in the morning had involved a lot of standing up unsupported while the OH took photos.
The Northern General Hospital in Sheffield
On Monday I had a hospital appointment in Sheffield (I wrote about this journey last year, it's always a doozy).  It should have been four bus rides, a total of an hour and half travelling each way, but a huge hole in the 'leading up to peak hours' 265 timetable caught me out on the way home (I had just missed one and had a 50 minute wait for the next) so I added a devious move via Chapeltown and caught a train instead which actually got me back to Barnsley at about the time the 265 was due at the hospital.  Still, total time out of the house exceeded five hours, and I travelled on five different buses and a train!

On Tuesday I rested - well that was the theory - actually I cleaned, gardened, cooked, and typed up stories about the unveiling of war memorials.  Odd how even on a rest day you still need food ... Oh and there was the upsetting discovery that my talk for the Friends of Barnsley Archives, booked by them last September, about Barnsley War Memorials (link to poster), which I am going to do on 10th November at 7pm in the Learning Lab at Experience Barnsley, had not made it into the Experience Barnsley brochure about 'The Road to War' which was launched this week.  Being tired I got very emotional and the OH had to do a lot of hugging and reassuring me that I wasn't being purposely overlooked because I'm rubbish.  It later transpired that it wasn't included because it attracts a charge - which is made to raise money for the Archives - all the other events listed are free.

James Hirst, who has no known grave,
remembered on his parents' grave at Wombwell
On Wednesday I was collected by a friend in his surprisingly cool car (can't say more as I don't want to a) identify the chap and b) embarrass said chap) and whisked off to Wombwell Cemetery.  We knew the Friends of the Cemetery were 'in' on Wednesday mornings and we hoped they'd be able to help us in our search for War Memorial Gravestones.  Unfortunately their priorities don't particularly match ours and although a gentleman has created a file of soldiers who are buried in the cemetery (CWGC gravestones - we aren't particularly interested in them per se) and of men from Wombwell some of whom are remembered on their family gravestones the referencing and mapping was insufficient for us to be able to go straight to the plots.  So we opted for the 'walking up and down the aisles' approach.  My colleague on one side of the cemetery and myself on the other.  

Within an hour I'd photographed 15 gravestones, 11 of them War Memorial ones and four which were probably actually burials - useful for information for our project even so.  It had started to spit with rain so I went and had a sit down in the Friends' building at the Cemetery entrance and met up with a lady I know from the Archives.  Back out again after twenty minutes or so I soon racked up a total of 23 War Memorials gravestones and 93 photos!  That was enough for me, an hour and a half slow walking up and down, I was finished!  But my colleague, who doesn't know me very well yet, was keen to continue and it was another hour or so before he was ready to take me home.  I wasn't much use for anything else that day.  

On Thursday I visited Barnsley Archives in the Town Hall.  Several of my friends and some of the Archive staff commented on how tired I looked.  Fortunately searching the digitised Barnsley Chronicle is quite soothing and I always bring along my own laptop riser and wrist rest to make life easier.  I managed about two and half hours, with breaks to help a visitor from Kent who was having trouble using the other copy of the Chronicle and to chat with various friends.  Well, that's the other reason I go, it's a cheap way to meet people and socialise.  You just have to buy some printouts (40p a sheet) and they'll let you stay for hours!  There wasn't even any reason to rush home that day as the OH had left at 7am for the Great British Beer Festival without me.  The first time in 22 years I haven't gone down to London for the summer.  Yes, another reason I'm a bit down at the moment.  But I am keeping up with events on Facebook and Twitter!

On Friday I could stay in, so another rest day.  I wrote up three Barnsley Soldiers Remembered stories that I'd had on file for a while.  My ToDo list for the Barnsley War Memorials Project (BWMP) is horrendous.  I am the Secretary and main creator of the web pages and run the Facebook and Twitter accounts too.  I am also researching three war memorials of my own (they do overlap a bit - that's why I'm doing three) and helping out with a couple of others (one of our researchers lives in Woking so he can't get at the Barnsley Chronicle as it's only available in Barnsley Archives).  My new boots, bought with money from my Mum, arrived, and on opening turned out to be the wrong colour  - since when is 'honey' anything like black?  Grrr!  They will have to be returned - to Germany of all places!
Poster for WW1 Event

On Saturday I had promised to attend the Thurnscoe Local History Group's WW1 Event.  A friend's mum had told me (via Facebook) which bus to catch and where to get off, so I had a well worked out plan for the travel - it's only a 15 minute ride in a car to Thurnscoe from our house according to Google Maps but rather longer on the bus.  Of course the car was not an option as the OH has gone to London ...

What I didn't know was that the rain on Friday night had damaged and some said flooded, Barnsley Bus Station, to the extent that it was (and as far as I know still is) closed.  When my first bus arrived in Barnsley we were all told to get off at the Railway Station.  Passengers for Thurnscoe and Wombwell and other places on the south and east of Barnsley were being directed to Sheffield Road to catch onward travelling services.  I don't expect you to be that familiar with Barnsley, so I'll just explain that from the Railway Station to Sheffield Road is about half a mile walk and involves either going through the undertoft of the markets (strong smell of fish) and around the multi-story carparks that they cleverly built blocking the pedestrian routes into town or by walking through the pedestrian areas and through the Alhambra shopping precinct (this route only works in the day time as when the shops are closed you can't get through the Alhambra).  Either way it's a long walk and involves several slopes and sets of steps or long ramps.  They had made no arrangements for the elderly or disabled.  I saw one old couple head towards the taxi rank to get a ride up to Sheffield Road - but I can't afford that.

I had a five minute connection for my onward 219 bus to Thurnscoe, well, of course, I missed it as it took at least ten minutes to get to Sheffield Road.  Sadly if the Cudworth bus driver had told us about the bus station being closed I could have bailed out a stop early and cut through to Sheffield or Doncaster Road (slightly further along the route) avoiding the town centre altogether, but that's with the benefit of hindsight.  The other people at the stop told me my next bus to Thurnscoe was the 226, I had researched this one, it takes longer to get there but at least I'd be moving.  It wasn't due for another twenty minutes or so though.  While I was waiting I noticed that there were no SYPTE (South Yorkshire Transport) people on the site to help travellers find the right buses, if the stop a bus was meant to visit was already occupied (and there are only two bus stops on that stretch of road) then the buses were pulling in anywhere and relying on the passengers to spot them and make their way to them.  The 226 pulled in at the very bottom of the layby and an elderly lady had to be given an arm by a chap to rush there before it pulled away.  

I hadn't bargained on the reality of the actual length of time it was going to take to get to my destination via this route - over an hour!  Good job I'd prepared by eating and drinking nothing since 5am.  With a tour of Wombwell (wave to War Memorial on the way past), Cortonwood (wave at War Memorial), Wath upon Dearne (out of area for us but wave to War Memorial all the same), Bolton upon Dearne (ooh, already been here this week, wave at both War Memorials), Goldthorpe (nope, haven't a clue where the church, library or Working Men's Club are relative to my position so no waving possible) and finally Thurnscoe, I arrived at the Rainbow Centre two hours and fifteen minutes after I'd left home!

Thurnscoe's War Memorial - I've seen it!
The display was great and the man I had arranged to meet very friendly.  He has agreed to allow BWMP to use his photos of church windows and other hard to access and hard to photograph memorials.  Result! and very grateful thanks!

I was directed to the Thurnscoe War Memorial, well I couldn't go all the way there and not visit could I?  Photo on left.

I had been given some helpful advice about buses too and decided to try the alternative route that Travel South Yorkshire had suggested in order to avoid Barnsley town centre on the way home.  This involved a bus to Great Houghton and a change to another bus direct to Cudworth where I live.  Looks sensible on the map ... Ha!

The 219 (which does go all the way to  Barnsley, but that wasn't my plan) turned up on time and I asked the driver where was best to get off in Great Houghton - another place I'd only ever been driven through by the OH before.  I really didn't comprehend the complexity of the apparently simple task of changing buses in the village.  The 219 driver helpfully told me that the 26 (the bus to Cudworth via ATOS and Grimethorpe) would stop any of the stops in the village where he stopped.  So I got off near the church, well you never know I might have time for a look around.  Hmm, a quick look at the timetable on the bus stop showed I'd missed the connection by about five minutes and the 26s were only once an hour.  I went and had a look at the church as there was no seat in the bus stop.  It was shut, of course, but I sort of waved at the War Memorial which I would like to see in real life one day.  Photo on the BWMP web page by the chap I'd been talking to in Thurnscoe incidently.

I carried on walking, in search of a bus stop with seat nearby if not at the stop, past the chapel (closed, of course, but wave at War Memorials anyway) and on down to the Miners' Welfare Hall which has a War Memorial but the BWMP hasn't got a photo good enough for a transcription yet, so another one I'd like to see in person one day.  There were seats outside the hall and a bus stop just beyond the grounds so I waited and tried to read the Barnsley Chronicle I'd bought in Thurnscoe in the rather gusty winds.  I and some others are not particularly happy about the plan of a Barnsley councillor, Joe Hayward, and Dan Jarvis, one of our MPs, to campaign for a new memorial to the Barnsley Pals in France.  Yes, the Pals lost lots of men there, but what about the rest of Barnsley's casualties, the other 4000 Fallen and the thousands of men who came home wounded and traumatised. 

Finally on the right bus, after a couple of false alarms, and the bus filling up to standing room only with people wearing red polo shirts at ATOS (must have been shift change) I eventually got home at about 4pm.  I'd left at 10.15am.  So another long day, and a lot of walking.  I would have gone straight to bed, except I'd stripped it for washing that morning, so I had to get the hoover out (I'm allergic to dust mites along with everything else so the bed has to be hoovered every week!) and put on the new bedding.  Sooooo tired! 
Great British Beer Festival Tannoy seat and Radio seat in the office
But to cheer me up my daughter had posted some pics on Facebook of the Great British Beer Festival Organiser's Office team working well without me.  Kinda wish I was there for the friends and a bit of beer, and having seen the pics on Facebook this morning of the rain and the puddles they've got in Olympia, oddly missing it even more as it will be exciting down there today.  

Well that was my week - and I might get up in a while, maybe after lunch - or then again I might not, after all you can watch tv on the internet these days from the comfort of your bed!  And I have soooo many War Memorial photos to catch up on!

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Unveiling and Dedication of the new Dearne Towns War Memorial

Frequent readers of my blog will know that the reason I have time to write blogs, visit War Memorials and do research in Barnsley Archives is that I have a couple of annoying illnesses which limit my capacity to do a full day's 'proper' work.  They also interfere with my ability to get around - I no longer drive and walking is best done when I have someone to lean on.  However that doesn't stop me having a good time if I try and last weekend was a really good one.  

The OH is a keen CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) activist and on Saturday we managed to combine visits to photograph War Memorials (three new ones found hidden in Darton Church) with a beer festival at the Wortley Men's Club where he had to take part in the presentation of their Barnsley CAMRA Club of the Year Award.  On Sunday it was the long-awaited dedication of the new memorial at Bolton upon Dearne Cemetery, followed by a trip to ASDA (OK, not so exciting but the shopping still has to be done!)

Now the upshot of this gadding around is that when I woke up on Monday morning everything hurt and some bits hurt and were stiff as well - I was doddering around like a zombie for most of the day, not helped by a four hour round trip (on public transport) to Sheffield for one of my regular hospital appointments.  As a result I have only just (Tuesday morning) managed to pull myself together to write about the ceremony at Bolton upon Dearne on Sunday morning - sorry about the delay - I think I may have just talked myself out of any deadline limited jobs that might have been on offer too!
Peter Shields opening the ceremonies (all photos by NC)

The Dearne Memorials Group, Peter Shields, Peter Davies and Peter Finnegan have been working towards this day for a long time.  Thousands of pounds have been raised and the stonemasons, C T Butterfield and Sons, were good enough to start work without the full monies having been paid, so don't hesitate to drop something in one of their collection buckets or donate via the Dearne Memorials webpage if you get the chance.

The ceremony was well attended with Deputy Mayor Councillor Ken Richardson and Leader of the Council Councillor Steve Houghton present along with representatives from the local British Legion and Scouts Groups bearing flags, a police bugle player and a well behaved group of local Dearne Valley school children who carried out the actual unveiling.  As you can see from the photo above there were also a trio of re-enactors in WW1 uniform who added a poignant note to the proceedings, especially as one of them looked to be quite young, just as our soldiers were when they went enlisted in 1914-1918.  The whole thing was captured by a crew from BBC Look North and the piece was shown on the Sunday evening news.

Peter Shields reminded us that the memorial bears the names of 295 men and women from the Dearne towns of Bolton, Goldthorpe and Highgate.  210 of them had been miners.  Fr C R Schaefer, vicar of Goldthorpe and Hickleton, blessed the memorial and later the Revd Karen Beechham from the local Furlong Road Methodist Church spoke a few words.
Children from local schools laying wreaths
The children played a role throughout the ceremony, working as a team to unveil the memorial, laying wreaths and later placing poppy crosses to remember lost relatives.  It was great to see them taking part and I am sure they will remember the day for a very long time.
A trio of WW1 re-enactors in costume paying tribute

Tea and cakes were on offer in the Methodist Church afterwards where I had a chance to see many more of Peter Davies' photos of local Memorials and stained glass windows.  I made a point of shaking Peter Shield's hand and telling him, "A job well done".

The Inglenook Fireplace memorial at Old Lacewood School site

Afterwards the OH and I walked up to see Bolton upon Dearne's original memorial, at the former Bolton Junior Boys' School site on Furlong Road which was also open for the day.  Rescued by a group of local people a few years ago it stands in a small garden just set back from the road. Although there is a memorial plaque in St Andrew's Church (which I haven't got a photo of yet) for a long time the memorial at the school was the only one easily accessible by the whole community.  It remembers 45 men who had been scholars at the school.  The group which support this memorial have researched the names and are in the process of writing a book about the men and the history of the area.

Bolton upon Dearne and the Dearne Towns now have a new central memorial, but I do hope that all the smaller memorials around the district are not now neglected in its favour.  I am sure that won't be the case ... but just a thought.  Bring them all to the attention of the public in these centenary years, and find those hidden ones!
WW2 Memorial in Furlong Road Methodist Chapel
One last thing - as the OH and I were going out of the door of the Methodist Chapel we spotted this - it is a small brass plaque to the "Sacred Memory of the Men of Bolton upon Dearne who during the War of 1939-1945 in the Service of their Country Paid the Supreme Sacrifice".  In other words it's a War Memorial by the Imperial War Museum's definition, presumably rescued from the older chapel next door when the congregation move to the new building.  I'll be adding this to the Barnsley War Memorials Project log next ... so please remember this ... even the smallest plaque on a table, a vase, a cross, a chair, can be a War Memorial and they should all be respected equally!

Friday, 1 August 2014

Roundup of Barnsley WW1 Centenary Events this Weekend

I was already aware of a couple of WW1 centenary events arranged for this weekend, but when I bought a Barnsley Chronicle this morning I was surprised to see that there is quite a lot going on if you know where to look.

For me the most important is the dedication of the new Dearne Towns War Memorial at Bolton upon Dearne.  After all it's not every day Barnsley gains a brand new, long awaited, War Memorial.
Completed memorial ready for dedication (photo from Peter Davies)

The dedication will be at 11am in the Bolton upon Dearne Cemetery, everyone welcome, lots of room for people to view the new memorial.  It lists nearly 300 men and women who gave their lives during the First and Second World Wars from Bolton upon Dearne, Goldthorpe and Highgate. There are some pictures of the memorial under construction here along with an image of the list of names that has been seen around the area for the past year publicising the campaign to raise money for the memorial.

Also on Sunday:

Darton All Saints Church will be open for silent prayer and reflection between 12 noon and 1pm and 7.30pm to 8.30pm. 
Display of photos and short biographies of the WW1 Fallen at St Edwards (photo from KingstoneHistory)
St Edward the Confessor at Kingstone will be holding a WW1 vigil service at 4pm with a display of pictures and information about the men on the their memorial plaque

Penistone Royal British Legion will be holding a short remembrance service at the war memorial in the Market Place at 11am.  Remember that a book was recently published about the men on the Penistone Memorial, I wrote a post about it here.

At Emmanuel Methodist Church on Huddersfield Road at 9.45am on Sunday Alison Saxby is talking about the Ministry of the War Graves Commission.

On Monday:

The Royal British Legion will be at Asda on Monday from 10am to 4pm with their stall.  They will be selling a book about the Barnsley Pals along with their usual fund-raising items.

Ardsley Christchurch are holding events all day, beginning with Morning Prayer at 8.30am.  From 9am to 4pm there will be refreshments available and a presentation will be running twice an hour for 15 minutes about the 153 men who feature on their War Memorial plaque.  At 8.45pm there will be an evening vigil service.

Billingley History Group are holding a film show with refreshments, presented by Jackie and Andrew Oates, in the Village Hall at 7.30pm on Monday on the men who are named on their two memorials.  At the end of the evening the intention is to walk down to the memorials to light candles there.

At Cudworth St John the Baptist Church there will be Evensong at 6pm followed by a reading of the names on the War Memorial.  A book about each and every man on the Cudworth Memorial called 'Lest Cudworth Forgets' (£5 - don't pay more on ebay!) is available from the Cudworth Local History and Heritage Group who meet at the Cudworth Centre of Excellence (aka the library) on Wednesday mornings, 10am to 12noon.

The Church of St Thomas and St James at Worsbrough Dale is having a time of reflection and prayer at their War Memorial at 4pm on Monday afternoon.
The memorial at St Luke's, Worsbro' Common in the 1920s
before the railings were erected (photo from Janet Shafer via Facebook)

At St Luke's Church Worsbrough Common on Monday at 3pm there will be a service of remembrance in the church grounds where their War Memorial is situated. The church is especially appealing for anyone who lost relatives in WW1 to come along.  If it rains arrangements have been made to hold the service in the Church itself. 

Worsbrough Village Church, St Mary's, is holding a World War One vigil from 10.30am.  There will be a short act of worship with everyone welcome to attend the event which will continue until 12.30pm.  Their war memorial plaque is inside the church and this is a great opportunity to visit it and remember relatives.

The Holy Trinity Church at Thurgoland will be open for reflection between 2pm and 4.30pm on Monday with a talk and reflection on how war affects families at 7pm given led by church member Matthew Nicholson.  (I have no pictures of the memorial plaques and rolls of honour that I know exist in Thurgoland church ... please could someone take some photos for me?  Contact if you can help.)

Silkstone All Saints Church will be open all day on Monday for prayers, meditation and reflection and there will be a candlelit vigil between 10pm and 11pm - which runs alongside the national 'Lights Out' event.
Darfield's impressive WW1 Memorial plaque in All Saint's Church (photo by me!)
Darfield All Saints Church will also be open on Monday from 10am to 12 noon and from 4pm to 7pm.  The Church registers will be available for people to view and inside the church, together with some beautiful memorial windows and plaques, is a very unusual memorial, the battlefield cross that marked the grave of Charles Sorby, the vicar's son, who was killed in WW1.

Hoylandswaine's St John the Baptist Church will be open for prayer on Monday and there will be candlelit vigil between 10pm and 11pm.

Emmanuel Methodist Church on Huddersfield Road are holding a combined event on Monday evening.  At 7pm there will be a Concert of Remembrance with Dodworth Miners' Welfare Brass Band and the U3A choir.  Entry by ticket only - ring Barnsley 293759 for more information.

If I have missed anyone out please get in touch - and please let me or the Barnsley War Memorials Project via Facebook or Twitter, know about your WW1 Centenary Events for the next four years.

Lest We Forget!