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      From Tanganyika with Love

      continued  ~ part 4

      With thanks to Mike Rushby.

      Mchewe Estate. 31st January 1936

      Dearest Family,

      Life is very quiet just now. Our neighbours have left and I miss them all especially
      Joni who was always a great bearer of news. We also grew fond of his Swedish
      brother-in-law Max, whose loud ‘Hodi’ always brought a glad ‘Karibu’ from us. His wife,
      Marion, I saw less often. She is not strong and seldom went visiting but has always
      been friendly and kind and ready to share her books with me.

      Ann’s birthday is looming ahead and I am getting dreadfully anxious that her
      parcels do not arrive in time. I am delighted that you were able to get a good head for
      her doll, dad, but horrified to hear that it was so expensive. You would love your
      ‘Charming Ann’. She is a most responsible little soul and seems to have outgrown her
      mischievous ways. A pity in a way, I don’t want her to grow too serious. You should see
      how thoroughly Ann baths and towels herself. She is anxious to do Georgie and Kate
      as well.

      I did not mean to teach Ann to write until after her fifth birthday but she has taught
      herself by copying the large print in newspaper headlines. She would draw a letter and
      ask me the name and now I find that at four Ann knows the whole alphabet. The front
      cement steps is her favourite writing spot. She uses bits of white clay we use here for

      Coffee prices are still very low and a lot of planters here and at Mbosi are in a
      mess as they can no longer raise mortgages on their farms or get advances from the
      Bank against their crops. We hear many are leaving their farms to try their luck on the

      George is getting fed up too. The snails are back on the shamba and doing
      frightful damage. Talk of the plagues of Egypt! Once more they are being collected in
      piles and bashed into pulp. The stench on the shamba is frightful! The greybeards in the
      village tell George that the local Chief has put a curse on the farm because he is angry
      that the Government granted George a small extension to the farm two years ago! As
      the Chief was consulted at the time and was agreeable this talk of a curse is nonsense
      but goes to show how the uneducated African put all disasters down to witchcraft.

      With much love,

      Mchewe Estate. 9th February 1936

      Dearest Family,

      Ann’s birthday yesterday was not quite the gay occasion we had hoped. The
      seventh was mail day so we sent a runner for the mail, hoping against hope that your
      parcel containing the dolls head had arrived. The runner left for Mbeya at dawn but, as it
      was a very wet day, he did not return with the mail bag until after dark by which time Ann
      was fast asleep. My heart sank when I saw the parcel which contained the dolls new
      head. It was squashed quite flat. I shed a few tears over that shattered head, broken
      quite beyond repair, and George felt as bad about it as I did. The other parcel arrived in
      good shape and Ann loves her little sewing set, especially the thimble, and the nursery
      rhymes are a great success.

      Ann woke early yesterday and began to open her parcels. She said “But
      Mummy, didn’t Barbara’s new head come?” So I had to show her the fragments.
      Instead of shedding the flood of tears I expected, Ann just lifted the glass eyes in her
      hand and said in a tight little voice “Oh poor Barbara.” George saved the situation. as
      usual, by saying in a normal voice,”Come on Ann, get up and lets play your new
      records.” So we had music and sweets before breakfast. Later I removed Barbara’s
      faded old blond wig and gummed on the glossy new brown one and Ann seems quite

      Last night, after the children were tucked up in bed, we discussed our financial
      situation. The coffee trees that have survived the plagues of borer beetle, mealie bugs
      and snails look strong and fine, but George says it will be years before we make a living
      out of the farm. He says he will simply have to make some money and he is leaving for
      the Lupa on Saturday to have a look around on the Diggings. If he does decide to peg
      a claim and work it he will put up a wattle and daub hut and the children and I will join him
      there. But until such time as he strikes gold I shall have to remain here on the farm and
      ‘Keep the Home Fires Burning’.

      Now don’t go and waste pity on me. Women all over the country are having to
      stay at home whilst their husbands search for a livelihood. I am better off than most
      because I have a comfortable little home and loyal servants and we still have enough
      capitol to keep the wolf from the door. Anyway this is the rainy season and hardly the
      best time to drag three small children around the sodden countryside on prospecting

      So I’ll stay here at home and hold thumbs that George makes a lucky strike.

      Heaps of love to all,

      Mchewe Estate. 27th February 1936

      Dearest Family,

      Well, George has gone but here we are quite safe and cosy. Kate is asleep and
      Ann and Georgie are sprawled on the couch taking it in turns to enumerate the things
      God has made. Every now and again Ann bothers me with an awkward question. “Did
      God make spiders? Well what for? Did he make weeds? Isn’t He silly, mummy? She is
      becoming a very practical person. She sews surprisingly well for a four year old and has
      twice made cakes in the past week, very sweet and liberally coloured with cochineal and
      much appreciated by Georgie.

      I have been without George for a fortnight and have adapted myself to my new
      life. The children are great company during the day and I have arranged my evenings so
      that they do not seem long. I am determined that when George comes home he will find
      a transformed wife. I read an article entitled ‘Are you the girl he married?’ in a magazine
      last week and took a good look in the mirror and decided that I certainly was not! Hair dry,
      skin dry, and I fear, a faint shadow on the upper lip. So now I have blown the whole of
      your Christmas Money Order on an order to a chemist in Dar es Salaam for hair tonic,
      face cream and hair remover and am anxiously awaiting the parcel.

      In the meantime, after tucking the children into bed at night, I skip on the verandah
      and do the series of exercises recommended in the magazine article. After this exertion I
      have a leisurely bath followed by a light supper and then read or write letters to pass
      the time until Kate’s ten o’clock feed. I have arranged for Janey to sleep in the house.
      She comes in at 9.30 pm and makes up her bed on the living room floor by the fire.

      The days are by no means uneventful. The day before yesterday the biggest
      troop of monkeys I have ever seen came fooling around in the trees and on the grass
      only a few yards from the house. These monkeys were the common grey monkeys
      with black faces. They came in all sizes and were most entertaining to watch. Ann and
      Georgie had a great time copying their antics and pulling faces at the monkeys through
      the bedroom windows which I hastily closed.

      Thomas, our headman, came running up and told me that this troop of monkeys
      had just raided his maize shamba and asked me to shoot some of them. I would not of
      course do this. I still cannot bear to kill any animal, but I fired a couple of shots in the air
      and the monkeys just melted away. It was fantastic, one moment they were there and
      the next they were not. Ann and Georgie thought I had been very unkind to frighten the
      poor monkeys but honestly, when I saw what they had done to my flower garden, I
      almost wished I had hardened my heart and shot one or two.

      The children are all well but Ann gave me a nasty fright last week. I left Ann and
      Georgie at breakfast whilst I fed Fanny, our bull terrier on the back verandah. Suddenly I
      heard a crash and rushed inside to find Ann’s chair lying on its back and Ann beside it on
      the floor perfectly still and with a paper white face. I shouted for Janey to bring water and
      laid Ann flat on the couch and bathed her head and hands. Soon she sat up with a wan
      smile and said “I nearly knocked my head off that time, didn’t I.” She must have been
      standing on the chair and leaning against the back. Our brick floors are so terribly hard that
      she might have been seriously hurt.

      However she was none the worse for the fall, but Heavens, what an anxiety kids

      Lots of love,

      Mchewe Estate. 12th March 1936

      Dearest Family,

      It was marvellous of you to send another money order to replace the one I spent
      on cosmetics. With this one I intend to order boots for both children as a protection from
      snake bite, though from my experience this past week the threat seems to be to the
      head rather than the feet. I was sitting on the couch giving Kate her morning milk from a
      cup when a long thin snake fell through the reed ceiling and landed with a thud just behind
      the couch. I shouted “Nyoka, Nyoka!” (Snake,Snake!) and the houseboy rushed in with
      a stick and killed the snake. I then held the cup to Kate’s mouth again but I suppose in
      my agitation I tipped it too much because the baby choked badly. She gasped for
      breath. I quickly gave her a sharp smack on the back and a stream of milk gushed
      through her mouth and nostrils and over me. Janey took Kate from me and carried her
      out into the fresh air on the verandah and as I anxiously followed her through the door,
      another long snake fell from the top of the wall just missing me by an inch or so. Luckily
      the houseboy still had the stick handy and dispatched this snake also.

      The snakes were a pair of ‘boomslangs’, not nice at all, and all day long I have
      had shamba boys coming along to touch hands and say “Poli Memsahib” – “Sorry
      madam”, meaning of course ‘Sorry you had a fright.’

      Apart from that one hectic morning this has been a quiet week. Before George
      left for the Lupa he paid off most of the farm hands as we can now only afford a few
      labourers for the essential work such as keeping the weeds down in the coffee shamba.
      There is now no one to keep the grass on the farm roads cut so we cannot use the pram
      when we go on our afternoon walks. Instead Janey carries Kate in a sling on her back.
      Janey is a very clean slim woman, and her clothes are always spotless, so Kate keeps
      cool and comfortable. Ann and Georgie always wear thick overalls on our walks as a
      protection against thorns and possible snakes. We usually make our way to the
      Mchewe River where Ann and Georgie paddle in the clear cold water and collect shiny

      The cosmetics parcel duly arrived by post from Dar es Salaam so now I fill the
      evenings between supper and bed time attending to my face! The much advertised
      cream is pink and thick and feels revolting. I smooth it on before bedtime and keep it on
      all night. Just imagine if George could see me! The advertisements promise me a skin
      like a rose in six weeks. What a surprise there is in store for George!

      You will have been wondering what has happened to George. Well on the Lupa
      he heard rumours of a new gold strike somewhere in the Sumbawanga District. A couple
      of hundred miles from here I think, though I am not sure where it is and have no one to
      ask. You look it up on the map and tell me. John Molteno is also interested in this and
      anxious to have it confirmed so he and George have come to an agreement. John
      Molteno provided the porters for the journey together with prospecting tools and
      supplies but as he cannot leave his claims, or his gold buying business, George is to go
      on foot to the area of the rumoured gold strike and, if the strike looks promising will peg
      claims in both their names.

      The rainy season is now at its height and the whole countryside is under water. All
      roads leading to the area are closed to traffic and, as there are few Europeans who
      would attempt the journey on foot, George proposes to get a head start on them by
      making this uncomfortable safari. I have just had my first letter from George since he left
      on this prospecting trip. It took ages to reach me because it was sent by runner to
      Abercorn in Northern Rhodesia, then on by lorry to Mpika where it was put on a plane
      for Mbeya. George writes the most charming letters which console me a little upon our
      all too frequent separations.

      His letter was cheerful and optimistic, though reading between the lines I should
      say he had a grim time. He has reached Sumbawanga after ‘a hell of a trip’, to find that
      the rumoured strike was at Mpanda and he had a few more days of foot safari ahead.
      He had found the trip from the Lupa even wetter than he had expected. The party had
      three days of wading through swamps sometimes waist deep in water. Of his sixteen
      porters, four deserted an the second day out and five others have had malaria and so
      been unable to carry their loads. He himself is ‘thin but very fit’, and he sounds full of
      beans and writes gaily of the marvellous holiday we will have if he has any decent luck! I
      simply must get that mink and diamonds complexion.

      The frustrating thing is that I cannot write back as I have no idea where George is

      With heaps of love,

      Mchewe Estate. 24th March 1936

      Dearest Family,
      How kind you are. Another parcel from home. Although we are very short
      of labourers I sent a special runner to fetch it as Ann simply couldn’t bear the suspense
      of waiting to see Brenda, “My new little girl with plaits.” Thank goodness Brenda is
      unbreakable. I could not have born another tragedy. She really is an exquisite little doll
      and has hardly been out of Ann’s arms since arrival. She showed Brenda proudly to all
      the staff. The kitchen boy’s face was a study. His eyes fairly came out on sticks when he
      saw the dolls eyes not only opening and shutting, but moving from side to side in that
      incredibly lifelike way. Georgie loves his little model cars which he carries around all day
      and puts under his pillow at night.

      As for me, I am enchanted by my very smart new frock. Janey was so lavish with
      her compliments when I tried the frock on, that in a burst of generosity I gave her that
      rather tartish satin and lace trousseau nighty, and she was positively enthralled. She
      wore it that very night when she appeared as usual to doss down by the fire.
      By the way it was Janey’s turn to have a fright this week. She was in the
      bathroom washing the children’s clothes in an outsize hand basin when it happened. As
      she took Georgie’s overalls from the laundry basket a large centipede ran up her bare
      arm. Luckily she managed to knock the centipede off into the hot water in the hand basin.
      It was a brute, about six inches long of viciousness with a nasty sting. The locals say that
      the bite is much worse than a scorpions so Janey had a lucky escape.

      Kate cut her first two teeth yesterday and will, I hope, sleep better now. I don’t
      feel that pink skin food is getting a fair trial with all those broken nights. There is certainly
      no sign yet of ‘The skin he loves to touch”. Kate, I may say, is rosy and blooming. She
      can pull herself upright providing she has something solid to hold on to. She is so plump
      I have horrible visions of future bow legs so I push her down, but she always bobs up

      Both Ann and Georgie are mad on books. Their favourites are ‘Barbar and
      Celeste” and, of all things, ‘Struvel Peter’ . They listen with absolute relish to the sad tale
      of Harriet who played with matches.

      I have kept a laugh for the end. I am hoping that it will not be long before George
      comes home and thought it was time to take the next step towards glamour, so last
      Wednesday after lunch I settled the children on their beds and prepared to remove the ,
      to me, obvious down on my upper lip. (George always loyally says that he can’t see
      any.) Well I got out the tube of stuff and carefully followed the directions. I smoothed a
      coating on my upper lip. All this was watched with great interest by the children, including
      the baby, who stood up in her cot for a better view. Having no watch, I had propped
      the bedroom door open so that I could time the operation by the cuckoo clock in the
      living room. All the children’s surprised comments fell on deaf ears. I would neither talk
      nor smile for fear of cracking the hair remover which had set hard. The set time was up
      and I was just about to rinse the remover off when Kate slipped, knocking her head on
      the corner of the cot. I rushed to the rescue and precious seconds ticked off whilst I
      pacified her.

      So, my dears, when I rinsed my lip, not only the plaster and the hair came away
      but the skin as well and now I really did have a Ronald Coleman moustache – a crimson
      one. I bathed it, I creamed it, powdered it but all to no avail. Within half an hour my lip
      had swollen until I looked like one of those Duckbilled West African women. Ann’s
      comments, “Oh Mummy, you do look funny. Georgie, doesn’t Mummy look funny?”
      didn’t help to soothe me and the last straw was that just then there was the sound of a car drawing up outside – the first car I had heard for months. Anyway, thank heaven, it
      was not George, but the representative of a firm which sells agricultural machinery and
      farm implements, looking for orders. He had come from Dar es Salaam and had not
      heard that all the planters from this district had left their farms. Hospitality demanded that I
      should appear and offer tea. I did not mind this man because he was a complete
      stranger and fat, middle aged and comfortable. So I gave him tea, though I didn’t
      attempt to drink any myself, and told him the whole sad tale.

      Fortunately much of the swelling had gone next day and only a brown dryness
      remained. I find myself actually hoping that George is delayed a bit longer. Of one thing
      I am sure. If ever I grow a moustache again, it stays!

      Heaps of love from a sadder but wiser,

      Mchewe Estate. 3rd April 1936

      Dearest Family,

      Sound the trumpets, beat the drums. George is home again. The safari, I am sad
      to say, was a complete washout in more ways than one. Anyway it was lovely to be
      together again and we don’t yet talk about the future. The home coming was not at all as
      I had planned it. I expected George to return in our old A.C. car which gives ample
      warning of its arrival. I had meant to wear my new frock and make myself as glamourous
      as possible, with our beautiful babe on one arm and our other jewels by my side.
      This however is what actually happened. Last Saturday morning at about 2 am , I
      thought I heard someone whispering my name. I sat up in bed, still half asleep, and
      there was George at the window. He was thin and unshaven and the tiredest looking
      man I have ever seen. The car had bogged down twenty miles back along the old Lupa
      Track, but as George had had no food at all that day, he decided to walk home in the
      bright moonlight.

      This is where I should have served up a tasty hot meal but alas, there was only
      the heal of a loaf and no milk because, before going to bed I had given the remaining
      milk to the dog. However George seemed too hungry to care what he ate. He made a
      meal off a tin of bully, a box of crustless cheese and the bread washed down with cup
      after cup of black tea. Though George was tired we talked for hours and it was dawn
      before we settled down to sleep.

      During those hours of talk George described his nightmarish journey. He started
      up the flooded Rukwa Valley and there were days of wading through swamp and mud
      and several swollen rivers to cross. George is a strong swimmer and the porters who
      were recruited in that area, could also swim. There remained the problem of the stores
      and of Kianda the houseboy who cannot swim. For these they made rough pole rafts
      which they pulled across the rivers with ropes. Kianda told me later that he hopes never
      to make such a journey again. He swears that the raft was submerged most of the time
      and that he was dragged through the rivers underwater! You should see the state of
      George’s clothes which were packed in a supposedly water tight uniform trunk. The
      whole lot are mud stained and mouldy.

      To make matters more trying for George he was obliged to live mostly on
      porters rations, rice and groundnut oil which he detests. As all the district roads were
      closed the little Indian Sores in the remote villages he passed had been unable to
      replenish their stocks of European groceries. George would have been thinner had it not
      been for two Roman Catholic missions enroute where he had good meals and dry
      nights. The Fathers are always wonderfully hospitable to wayfarers irrespective of
      whether or not they are Roman Catholics. George of course is not a Catholic. One finds
      the Roman Catholic missions right out in the ‘Blue’ and often on spots unhealthy to
      Europeans. Most of the Fathers are German or Dutch but they all speak a little English
      and in any case one can always fall back on Ki-Swahili.

      George reached his destination all right but it soon became apparent that reports
      of the richness of the strike had been greatly exaggerated. George had decided that
      prospects were brighter on the Lupa than on the new strike so he returned to the Lupa
      by the way he had come and, having returned the borrowed equipment decided to
      make his way home by the shortest route, the old and now rarely used road which
      passes by the bottom of our farm.

      The old A.C. had been left for safe keeping at the Roman Catholic Galala
      Mission 40 miles away, on George’s outward journey, and in this old car George, and
      the houseboy Kianda , started for home. The road was indescribably awful. There were long stretches that were simply one big puddle, in others all the soil had been washed
      away leaving the road like a rocky river bed. There were also patches where the tall
      grass had sprung up head high in the middle of the road,
      The going was slow because often the car bogged down because George had
      no wheel chains and he and Kianda had the wearisome business of digging her out. It
      was just growing dark when the old A.C. settled down determinedly in the mud for the
      last time. They could not budge her and they were still twenty miles from home. George
      decided to walk home in the moonlight to fetch help leaving Kianda in charge of the car
      and its contents and with George’s shot gun to use if necessary in self defence. Kianda
      was reluctant to stay but also not prepared to go for help whilst George remained with
      the car as lions are plentiful in that area. So George set out unarmed in the moonlight.
      Once he stopped to avoid a pride of lion coming down the road but he circled safely
      around them and came home without any further alarms.

      Kianda said he had a dreadful night in the car, “With lions roaming around the car
      like cattle.” Anyway the lions did not take any notice of the car or of Kianda, and the next
      day George walked back with all our farm boys and dug and pushed the car out of the
      mud. He brought car and Kianda back without further trouble but the labourers on their
      way home were treed by the lions.

      The wet season is definitely the time to stay home.

      Lots and lots of love,

      Mchewe Estate. 30th April 1936

      Dearest Family,

      Young George’s third birthday passed off very well yesterday. It started early in
      the morning when he brought his pillow slip of presents to our bed. Kate was already
      there and Ann soon joined us. Young George liked all the presents you sent, especially
      the trumpet. It has hardly left his lips since and he is getting quite smart about the finger

      We had quite a party. Ann and I decorated the table with Christmas tree tinsel
      and hung a bunch of balloons above it. Ann also decorated young George’s chair with
      roses and phlox from the garden. I had made and iced a fruit cake but Ann begged to
      make a plain pink cake. She made it entirely by herself though I stood by to see that
      she measured the ingredients correctly. When the cake was baked I mixed some soft
      icing in a jug and she poured it carefully over the cake smoothing the gaps with her

      During the party we had the gramophone playing and we pulled crackers and
      wore paper hats and altogether had a good time. I forgot for a while that George is
      leaving again for the Lupa tomorrow for an indefinite time. He was marvellous at making
      young George’s party a gay one. You will have noticed the change from Georgie to
      young George. Our son declares that he now wants to be called George, “Like Dad”.
      He an Ann are a devoted couple and I am glad that there is only a fourteen
      months difference in their ages. They play together extremely well and are very
      independent which is just as well for little Kate now demands a lot of my attention. My
      garden is a real cottage garden and looks very gay and colourful. There are hollyhocks
      and Snapdragons, marigolds and phlox and of course the roses and carnations which, as
      you know, are my favourites. The coffee shamba does not look so good because the
      small labour force, which is all we can afford, cannot cope with all the weeds. You have
      no idea how things grow during the wet season in the tropics.

      Nothing alarming ever seems to happen when George is home, so I’m afraid this
      letter is rather dull. I wanted you to know though, that largely due to all your gifts of toys
      and sweets, Georgie’s 3rd birthday party went with a bang.

      Your very affectionate,

      Mchewe Estate. 17th September 1936

      Dearest Family,

      I am sorry to hear that Mummy worries about me so much. “Poor Eleanor”,
      indeed! I have a quite exceptional husband, three lovely children, a dear little home and
      we are all well.It is true that I am in rather a rut but what else can we do? George comes
      home whenever he can and what excitement there is when he does come. He cannot
      give me any warning because he has to take advantage of chance lifts from the Diggings
      to Mbeya, but now that he is prospecting nearer home he usually comes walking over
      the hills. About 50 miles of rough going. Really and truly I am all right. Although our diet is
      monotonous we have plenty to eat. Eggs and milk are cheap and fruit plentiful and I
      have a good cook so can devote all my time to the children. I think it is because they are
      my constant companions that Ann and Georgie are so grown up for their years.
      I have no ayah at present because Janey has been suffering form rheumatism
      and has gone home for one of her periodic rests. I manage very well without her except
      in the matter of the afternoon walks. The outward journey is all right. George had all the
      grass cut on his last visit so I am able to push the pram whilst Ann, George and Fanny
      the dog run ahead. It is the uphill return trip that is so trying. Our walk back is always the
      same, down the hill to the river where the children love to play and then along the car
      road to the vegetable garden. I never did venture further since the day I saw a leopard
      jump on a calf. I did not tell you at the time as I thought you might worry. The cattle were
      grazing on a small knoll just off our land but near enough for me to have a clear view.
      Suddenly the cattle scattered in all directions and we heard the shouts of the herd boys
      and saw – or rather had the fleeting impression- of a large animal jumping on a calf. I
      heard the herd boy shout “Chui, Chui!” (leopard) and believe me, we turned in our
      tracks and made for home. To hasten things I picked up two sticks and told the children
      that they were horses and they should ride them home which they did with
      commendable speed.

      Ann no longer rides Joseph. He became increasingly bad tempered and a
      nuisance besides. He took to rolling all over my flower beds though I had never seen
      him roll anywhere else. Then one day he kicked Ann in the chest, not very hard but
      enough to send her flying. Now George has given him to the native who sells milk to us
      and he seems quite happy grazing with the cattle.

      With love to you all,

      Mchewe Estate. 2nd October 1936

      Dearest Family,

      Since I last wrote George has been home and we had a lovely time as usual.
      Whilst he was here the District Commissioner and his wife called. Mr Pollock told
      George that there is to be a big bush clearing scheme in some part of the Mbeya
      District to drive out Tsetse Fly. The game in the area will have to be exterminated and
      there will probably be a job for George shooting out the buffalo. The pay would be
      good but George says it is a beastly job. Although he is a professional hunter, he hates

      Mrs P’s real reason for visiting the farm was to invite me to stay at her home in
      Mbeya whilst she and her husband are away in Tukuyu. Her English nanny and her small
      daughter will remain in Mbeya and she thought it might be a pleasant change for us and
      a rest for me as of course Nanny will do the housekeeping. I accepted the invitation and I
      think I will go on from there to Tukuyu and visit my friend Lillian Eustace for a fortnight.
      She has given us an open invitation to visit her at any time.

      I had a letter from Dr Eckhardt last week, telling me that at a meeting of all the
      German Settlers from Mbeya, Tukuyu and Mbosi it had been decided to raise funds to
      build a school at Mbeya. They want the British Settlers to co-operate in this and would
      be glad of a subscription from us. I replied to say that I was unable to afford a
      subscription at present but would probably be applying for a teaching job.
      The Eckhardts are the leaders of the German community here and are ardent
      Nazis. For this reason they are unpopular with the British community but he is the only
      doctor here and I must say they have been very decent to us. Both of them admire
      George. George has still not had any luck on the Lupa and until he makes a really
      promising strike it is unlikely that the children and I will join him. There is no fresh milk there
      and vegetables and fruit are imported from Mbeya and Iringa and are very expensive.
      George says “You wouldn’t be happy on the diggings anyway with a lot of whores and
      their bastards!”

      Time ticks away very pleasantly here. Young George and Kate are blooming
      and I keep well. Only Ann does not look well. She is growing too fast and is listless and
      pale. If I do go to Mbeya next week I shall take her to the doctor to be overhauled.
      We do not go for our afternoon walks now that George has returned to the Lupa.
      That leopard has been around again and has killed Tubbage that cowardly Alsatian. We
      gave him to the village headman some months ago. There is no danger to us from the
      leopard but I am terrified it might get Fanny, who is an excellent little watchdog and
      dearly loved by all of us. Yesterday I sent a note to the Boma asking for a trap gun and
      today the farm boys are building a trap with logs.

      I had a mishap this morning in the garden. I blundered into a nest of hornets and
      got two stings in the left arm above the elbow. Very painful at the time and the place is
      still red and swollen.

      Much love to you all,

      Mchewe Estate. 10th October 1936

      Dearest Family,

      Well here we are at Mbeya, comfortably installed in the District Commissioner’s
      house. It is one of two oldest houses in Mbeya and is a charming gabled place with tiled
      roof. The garden is perfectly beautiful. I am enjoying the change very much. Nanny
      Baxter is very entertaining. She has a vast fund of highly entertaining tales of the goings
      on amongst the British Aristocracy, gleaned it seems over the nursery teacup in many a
      Stately Home. Ann and Georgie are enjoying the company of other children.
      People are very kind about inviting us out to tea and I gladly accept these
      invitations but I have turned down invitations to dinner and one to a dance at the hotel. It
      is no fun to go out at night without George. There are several grass widows at the pub
      whose husbands are at the diggings. They have no inhibitions about parties.
      I did have one night and day here with George, he got the chance of a lift and
      knowing that we were staying here he thought the chance too good to miss. He was
      also anxious to hear the Doctor’s verdict on Ann. I took Ann to hospital on my second
      day here. Dr Eckhardt said there was nothing specifically wrong but that Ann is a highly
      sensitive type with whom the tropics does not agree. He advised that Ann should
      spend a year in a more temperate climate and that the sooner she goes the better. I felt
      very discouraged to hear this and was most relieved when George turned up
      unexpectedly that evening. He phoo-hood Dr Eckhardt’s recommendation and next
      morning called in Dr Aitkin, the Government Doctor from Chunya and who happened to
      be in Mbeya.

      Unfortunately Dr Aitkin not only confirmed Dr Eckhardt’s opinion but said that he
      thought Ann should stay out of the tropics until she had passed adolescence. I just don’t
      know what to do about Ann. She is a darling child, very sensitive and gentle and a
      lovely companion to me. Also she and young George are inseparable and I just cannot
      picture one without the other. I know that you would be glad to have Ann but how could
      we bear to part with her?

      Your worried but affectionate,

      Tukuyu. 23rd October 1936

      Dearest Family,

      As you see we have moved to Tukuyu and we are having a lovely time with
      Lillian Eustace. She gave us such a warm welcome and has put herself out to give us
      every comfort. She is a most capable housekeeper and I find her such a comfortable
      companion because we have the same outlook in life. Both of us are strictly one man
      women and that is rare here. She has a two year old son, Billy, who is enchanted with
      our rolly polly Kate and there are other children on the station with whom Ann and
      Georgie can play. Lillian engaged a temporary ayah for me so I am having a good rest.
      All the children look well and Ann in particular seems to have benefited by the
      change to a cooler climate. She has a good colour and looks so well that people all
      exclaim when I tell them, that two doctors have advised us to send Ann out of the
      country. Perhaps after all, this holiday in Tukuyu will set her up.

      We had a trying journey from Mbeya to Tukuyu in the Post Lorry. The three
      children and I were squeezed together on the front seat between the African driver on
      one side and a vast German on the other. Both men smoked incessantly – the driver
      cigarettes, and the German cheroots. The cab was clouded with a blue haze. Not only
      that! I suddenly felt a smarting sensation on my right thigh. The driver’s cigarette had
      burnt a hole right through that new checked linen frock you sent me last month.
      I had Kate on my lap all the way but Ann and Georgie had to stand against the
      windscreen all the way. The fat German offered to take Ann on his lap but she gave him
      a very cold “No thank you.” Nor did I blame her. I would have greatly enjoyed the drive
      under less crowded conditions. The scenery is gorgeous. One drives through very high
      country crossing lovely clear streams and at one point through rain forest. As it was I
      counted the miles and how thankful I was to see the end of the journey.
      In the days when Tanganyika belonged to the Germans, Tukuyu was the
      administrative centre for the whole of the Southern Highlands Province. The old German
      Fort is still in use as Government offices and there are many fine trees which were
      planted by the Germans. There is a large prosperous native population in this area.
      They go in chiefly for coffee and for bananas which form the basis of their diet.
      There are five British married couples here and Lillian and I go out to tea most
      mornings. In the afternoon there is tennis or golf. The gardens here are beautiful because
      there is rain or at least drizzle all the year round. There are even hedge roses bordering
      some of the district roads. When one walks across the emerald green golf course or
      through the Boma gardens, it is hard to realise that this gentle place is Tropical Africa.
      ‘Such a green and pleasant land’, but I think I prefer our corner of Tanganyika.

      Much love,

      Mchewe. 12th November 1936

      Dearest Family,

      We had a lovely holiday but it is so nice to be home again, especially as Laza,
      the local Nimrod, shot that leopard whilst we were away (with his muzzleloader gun). He
      was justly proud of himself, and I gave him a tip so that he could buy some native beer
      for a celebration. I have never seen one of theses parties but can hear the drums and
      sounds of merrymaking, especially on moonlight nights.

      Our house looks so fresh and uncluttered. Whilst I was away, the boys
      whitewashed the house and my houseboy had washed all the curtains, bedspreads,
      and loose covers and watered the garden. If only George were here it would be

      Ann looked so bonny at Tukuyu that I took her to the Government Doctor there
      hoping that he would find her perfectly healthy, but alas he endorsed the finding of the
      other two doctors so, when an opportunity offers, I think I shall have to send Ann down
      to you for a long holiday from the Tropics. Mother-in-law has offered to fetch her next
      year but England seems so far away. With you she will at least be on the same

      I left the children for the first time ever, except for my stay in hospital when Kate
      was born, to go on an outing to Lake Masoko in the Tukuyu district, with four friends.
      Masoko is a beautiful, almost circular crater lake and very very deep. A detachment of
      the King’s African Rifles are stationed there and occupy the old German barracks
      overlooking the lake.

      We drove to Masoko by car and spent the afternoon there as guests of two
      British Army Officers. We had a good tea and the others went bathing in the lake but i
      could not as I did not have a costume. The Lake was as beautiful as I had been lead to
      imagine and our hosts were pleasant but I began to grow anxious as the afternoon
      advanced and my friends showed no signs of leaving. I was in agonies when they
      accepted an invitation to stay for a sundowner. We had this in the old German beer
      garden overlooking the Lake. It was beautiful but what did I care. I had promised the
      children that I would be home to give them their supper and put them to bed. When I
      did at length return to Lillian’s house I found the situation as I had expected. Ann, with her
      imagination had come to the conclusion that I never would return. She had sobbed
      herself into a state of exhaustion. Kate was screaming in sympathy and George 2 was
      very truculent. He wouldn’t even speak to me. Poor Lillian had had a trying time.
      We did not return to Mbeya by the Mail Lorry. Bill and Lillian drove us across to
      Mbeya in their new Ford V8 car. The children chattered happily in the back of the car
      eating chocolate and bananas all the way. I might have known what would happen! Ann
      was dreadfully and messily car sick.

      I engaged the Mbeya Hotel taxi to drive us out to the farm the same afternoon
      and I expect it will be a long time before we leave the farm again.

      Lots and lots of love to all,

      Chunya 27th November 1936

      Dearest Family,

      You will be surprised to hear that we are all together now on the Lupa goldfields.
      I have still not recovered from my own astonishment at being here. Until last Saturday
      night I never dreamed of this move. At about ten o’clock I was crouched in the inglenook
      blowing on the embers to make a fire so that I could heat some milk for Kate who is
      cutting teeth and was very restless. Suddenly I heard a car outside. I knew it must be
      George and rushed outside storm lamp in hand. Sure enough, there was George
      standing by a strange car, and beaming all over his face. “Something for you my love,”
      he said placing a little bundle in my hand. It was a knotted handkerchief and inside was a
      fine gold nugget.

      George had that fire going in no time, Kate was given the milk and half an aspirin
      and settles down to sleep, whilst George and I sat around for an hour chatting over our
      tea. He told me that he had borrowed the car from John Molteno and had come to fetch
      me and the children to join him on the diggings for a while. It seems that John, who has a
      camp at Itewe, a couple of miles outside the township of Chunya, the new
      Administrative Centre of the diggings, was off to the Cape to visit his family for a few
      months. John had asked George to run his claims in his absence and had given us the
      loan of his camp and his car.

      George had found the nugget on his own claim but he is not too elated because
      he says that one good month on the diggings is often followed by several months of
      dead loss. However, I feel hopeful, we have had such a run of bad luck that surely it is
      time for the tide to change. George spent Sunday going over the farm with Thomas, the
      headman, and giving him instructions about future work whilst I packed clothes and
      kitchen equipment. I have brought our ex-kitchenboy Kesho Kutwa with me as cook and
      also Janey, who heard that we were off to the Lupa and came to offer her services once
      more as ayah. Janey’s ex-husband Abel is now cook to one of the more successful
      diggers and I think she is hoping to team up with him again.

      The trip over the Mbeya-Chunya pass was new to me and I enjoyed it very
      much indeed. The road winds over the mountains along a very high escarpment and
      one looks down on the vast Usangu flats stretching far away to the horizon. At the
      highest point the road rises to about 7000 feet, and this was too much for Ann who was
      leaning against the back of my seat. She was very thoroughly sick, all over my hair.
      This camp of John Molteno’s is very comfortable. It consists of two wattle and
      daub buildings built end to end in a clearing in the miombo bush. The main building
      consists of a large living room, a store and an office, and the other of one large bedroom
      and a small one separated by an area for bathing. Both buildings are thatched. There are
      no doors, and there are no windows, but these are not necessary because one wall of
      each building is built up only a couple of feet leaving a six foot space for light and air. As
      this is the dry season the weather is pleasant. The air is fresh and dry but not nearly so
      hot as I expected.

      Water is a problem and must be carried long distances in kerosene tins.
      vegetables and fresh butter are brought in a van from Iringa and Mbeya Districts about
      once a fortnight. I have not yet visited Chunya but I believe it is as good a shopping
      centre as Mbeya so we will be able to buy all the non perishable food stuffs we need.
      What I do miss is the fresh milk. The children are accustomed to drinking at least a pint of
      milk each per day but they do not care for the tinned variety.

      Ann and young George love being here. The camp is surrounded by old
      prospecting trenches and they spend hours each day searching for gold in the heaps of gravel. Sometimes they find quartz pitted with little spots of glitter and they bring them
      to me in great excitement. Alas it is only Mica. We have two neighbours. The one is a
      bearded Frenchman and the other an Australian. I have not yet met any women.
      George looks very sunburnt and extremely fit and the children also look well.
      George and I have decided that we will keep Ann with us until my Mother-in-law comes
      out next year. George says that in spite of what the doctors have said, he thinks that the
      shock to Ann of being separated from her family will do her more harm than good. She
      and young George are inseparable and George thinks it would be best if both
      George and Ann return to England with my Mother-in-law for a couple of years. I try not
      to think at all about the breaking up of the family.

      Much love to all,



        William Housley’s Will and the Court Case

        William Housley died in 1848, but his widow Ellen didn’t die until 1872.  The court case was in 1873.  Details about the court case are archived at the National Archives at Kew,  in London, but are not available online. They can be viewed in person, but that hasn’t been possible thus far.  However, there are a great many references to it in the letters.

        William Housley’s first wife was Mary Carrington 1787-1813.  They had three children, Mary Anne, Elizabeth and William. When Mary died, William married Mary’s sister Ellen, not in their own parish church at Smalley but in Ashbourne.  Although not uncommon for a widower to marry a deceased wife’s sister, it wasn’t legal.  This point is mentioned in one of the letters.

        One of the pages of William Housley’s will:

        William Housleys Will


        An excerpt from Barbara Housley’s Narrative on the Letters:

        A comment in a letter from Joseph (August 6, 1873) indicated that William was married twice and that his wives were sisters: “What do you think that I believe that Mary Ann is trying to make our father’s will of no account as she says that my father’s marriage with our mother was not lawful he marrying two sisters. What do you think of her? I have heard my mother say something about paying a fine at the time of the marriage to make it legal.” Markwell and Saul in The A-Z Guide to Tracing Ancestors in Britain explain that marriage to a deceased wife’s sister was not permissible under Canon law as the relationship was within the prohibited degrees. However, such marriages did take place–usually well away from the couple’s home area. Up to 1835 such marriages were not void but were voidable by legal action. Few such actions were instituted but the risk was always there.

        Joseph wrote that when Emma was married, Ellen “broke up the comfortable home and the things went to Derby and she went to live with them but Derby didn’t agree with her so she left again leaving her things behind and came to live with John in the new house where she died.” Ellen was listed with John’s household in the 1871 census. 
        In May 1872, the Ilkeston Pioneer carried this notice: “Mr. Hopkins will sell by auction on Saturday next the eleventh of May 1872 the whole of the useful furniture, sewing machine, etc. nearly new on the premises of the late Mrs. Housley at Smalley near Heanor in the county of Derby. Sale at one o’clock in the afternoon.”

        There were hard feelings between Mary Ann and Ellen and her children. Anne wrote: “If you remember we were not very friendly when you left. They never came and nothing was too bad for Mary Ann to say of Mother and me, but when Robert died Mother sent for her to the funeral but she did not think well to come so we took no more notice. She would not allow her children to come either.”
        Mary Ann was still living in May 1872. Joseph implied that she and her brother, Will “intend making a bit of bother about the settlement of the bit of property” left by their mother. The 1871 census listed Mary Ann’s occupation as “income from houses.”

        In July 1872, Joseph introduced Ruth’s husband: “No doubt he is a bad lot. He is one of the Heath’s of Stanley Common a miller and he lives at Smalley Mill” (Ruth Heath was Mary Anne Housley’s daughter)
        In 1873 Joseph wrote, “He is nothing but a land shark both Heath and his wife and his wife is the worst of the two. You will think these is hard words but they are true dear brother.” The solicitor, Abraham John Flint, was not at all pleased with Heath’s obstruction of the settlement of the estate. He wrote on June 30, 1873: “Heath agreed at first and then because I would not pay his expenses he refused and has since instructed another solicitor for his wife and Mrs. Weston who have been opposing us to the utmost. I am concerned for all parties interested except these two….The judge severely censured Heath for his conduct and wanted to make an order for sale there and then but Heath’s council would not consent….” In June 1875, the solicitor wrote: “Heath bid for the property but it fetched more money than he could give for it. He has been rather quieter lately.”

        In May 1872, Joseph wrote: “For what do you think, John has sold his share and he has acted very bad since his wife died and at the same time he sold all his furniture. You may guess I have never seen him but once since poor mother’s funeral and he is gone now no one knows where.”

        In 1876, the solicitor wrote to George: “Have you heard of John Housley? He is entitled to Robert’s share and I want him to claim it.”

        Anne intended that one third of the inheritance coming to her from her father and her grandfather, William Carrington, be divided between her four nieces: Sam’s three daughters and John’s daughter Elizabeth.
        In the same letter (December 15, 1872), Joseph wrote:
        “I think we have now found all out now that is concerned in the matter for there was only Sam that we did not know his whereabouts but I was informed a week ago that he is dead–died about three years ago in Birmingham Union. Poor Sam. He ought to have come to a better end than that”

        However, Samuel was still alive was on the 1871 census in Henley in Arden, and no record of his death can be found. Samuel’s brother in law said he was dead: we do not know why he lied, or perhaps the brothers were lying to keep his share, or another possibility is that Samuel himself told his brother in law to tell them that he was dead. I am inclined to think it was the latter.

        Excerpts from Barbara Housley’s Narrative on the Letters continued:

        Charles went to Australia in 1851, and was last heard from in January 1853. According to the solicitor, who wrote to George on June 3, 1874, Charles had received advances on the settlement of their parent’s estate. “Your promissory note with the two signed by your brother Charles for 20 pounds he received from his father and 20 pounds he received from his mother are now in the possession of the court.”

        In December 1872, Joseph wrote: “I’m told that Charles two daughters has wrote to Smalley post office making inquiries about his share….” In January 1876, the solicitor wrote: “Charles Housley’s children have claimed their father’s share.”

        In the Adelaide Observer 28 Aug 1875

        HOUSLEY – wanted information
        as to the Death, Will, or Intestacy, and
        Children of Charles Housley, formerly of
        Smalley, Derbyshire, England, who died at
        Geelong or Creewick Creek Diggings, Victoria
        August, 1855. His children will hear of something to their advantage by communicating with
        Mr. A J. Flint, solicitor, Derby, England.
        June 16,1875.

        The Diggers & Diggings of Victoria in 1855. Drawn on Stone by S.T. Gill:

        Victoria Diggings, Australie


        The court case:

         Kerry v Housley.
        Documents: Bill, demurrer.
        Plaintiffs: Samuel Kerry and Joseph Housley.
        Defendants: William Housley, Joseph Housley (deleted), Edwin Welch Harvey, Eleanor Harvey (deleted), Ernest Harvey infant, William Stafford, Elizabeth Stafford his wife, Mary Ann Housley, George Purdy and Catherine Purdy his wife, Elizabeth Housley, Mary Ann Weston widow and William Heath and Ruth Heath his wife (deleted).
        Provincial solicitor employed in Derbyshire.
        Date: 1873

        From the Narrative on the Letters:

        The solicitor wrote on May 23, 1874: “Lately I have not written because I was not certain of your address and because I doubted I had much interesting news to tell you.” Later, Joseph wrote concerning the problems settling the estate, “You see dear brother there is only me here on our side and I cannot do much. I wish you were here to help me a bit and if you think of going for another summer trip this turn you might as well run over here.”

        In March 1873, Joseph wrote: “You ask me what I think of you coming to England. I think as you have given the trustee power to sign for you I think you could do no good but I should like to see you once again for all that. I can’t say whether there would be anything amiss if you did come as you say it would be throwing good money after bad.”

        In September 1872 Joseph wrote; “My wife is anxious to come. I hope it will suit her health for she is not over strong.” Elsewhere Joseph wrote that Harriet was “middling sometimes. She is subject to sick headaches. It knocks her up completely when they come on.” In December 1872 Joseph wrote, “Now dear brother about us coming to America you know we shall have to wait until this affair is settled and if it is not settled and thrown into Chancery I’m afraid we shall have to stay in England for I shall never be able to save money enough to bring me out and my family but I hope of better things.”
        On July 19, 1875 Abraham Flint (the solicitor) wrote: “Joseph Housley has removed from Smalley and is working on some new foundry buildings at Little Chester near Derby. He lives at a village called Little Eaton near Derby. If you address your letter to him as Joseph Housley, carpenter, Little Eaton near Derby that will no doubt find him.”

        In his last letter (February 11, 1874), Joseph sounded very discouraged and wrote that Harriet’s parents were very poorly and both had been “in bed for a long time.” In addition, Harriet and the children had been ill.
        The move to Little Eaton may indicate that Joseph received his settlement because in August, 1873, he wrote: “I think this is bad news enough and bad luck too, but I have had little else since I came to live at Kiddsley cottages but perhaps it is all for the best if one could only think so. I have begun to think there will be no chance for us coming over to you for I am afraid there will not be so much left as will bring us out without it is settled very shortly but I don’t intend leaving this house until it is settled either one way or the other. ”

        Joseph’s letters were much concerned with the settling of their mother’s estate. In 1854, Anne wrote, “As for my mother coming (to America) I think not at all likely. She is tied here with her property.” A solicitor, Abraham John Flint of 42 Full Street Derby, was engaged by John following the death of their mother. On June 30, 1873 the solicitor wrote: “Dear sir, On the death of your mother I was consulted by your brother John. I acted for him with reference to the sale and division of your father’s property at Smalley. Mr. Kerry was very unwilling to act as trustee being over 73 years of age but owing to the will being a badly drawn one we could not appoint another trustee in his place nor could the property be sold without a decree of chancery. Therefore Mr. Kerry consented and after a great deal of trouble with Heath who has opposed us all throughout whenever matters did not suit him, we found the title deeds and offered the property for sale by public auction on the 15th of July last. Heath could not find his purchase money without mortaging his property the solicitor which the mortgagee employed refused to accept Mr. Kerry’s title and owing to another defect in the will we could not compel them.”

        In July 1872, Joseph wrote, “I do not know whether you can remember who the trustee was to my father’s will. It was Thomas Watson and Samuel Kerry of Smalley Green. Mr. Watson is dead (died a fortnight before mother) so Mr. Kerry has had to manage the affair.”

        On Dec. 15, 1972, Joseph wrote, “Now about this property affair. It seems as far off of being settled as ever it was….” and in the following March wrote: “I think we are as far off as ever and farther I think.”

        Concerning the property which was auctioned on July 15, 1872 and brought 700 pounds, Joseph wrote: “It was sold in five lots for building land and this man Heath bought up four lots–that is the big house, the croft and the cottages. The croft was made into two lots besides the piece belonging to the big house and the cottages and gardens was another lot and the little intake was another. William Richardson bought that.” Elsewhere Richardson’s purchase was described as “the little croft against Smith’s lane.” Smith’s Lane was probably named for their neighbor Daniel Smith, Mrs. Davy’s father.
        But in December 1872, Joseph wrote that they had not received any money because “Mr. Heath is raising all kinds of objections to the will–something being worded wrong in the will.” In March 1873, Joseph “clarified” matters in this way: “His objection was that one trustee could not convey the property that his signature was not guarantee sufficient as it states in the will that both trustees has to sign the conveyance hence this bother.”
        Joseph indicated that six shares were to come out of the 700 pounds besides Will’s 20 pounds. Children were to come in for the parents shares if dead. The solicitor wrote in 1873, “This of course refers to the Kidsley property in which you take a one seventh share and which if the property sells well may realize you about 60-80 pounds.” In March 1873 Joseph wrote: “You have an equal share with the rest in both lots of property, but I am afraid there will be but very little for any of us.”

        The other “lot of property” was “property in Smalley left under another will.” On July 17, 1872, Joseph wrote: “It was left by my grandfather Carrington and Uncle Richard is trustee. He seems very backward in bringing the property to a sale but I saw him and told him that I for one expect him to proceed with it.” George seemed to have difficulty understanding that there were two pieces of property so Joseph explained further: “It was left by my grandfather Carrington not by our father and Uncle Richard is the trustee for it but the will does not give him power to sell without the signatures of the parties concerned.” In June 1873 the solicitor Abraham John Flint asked: “Nothing has been done about the other property at Smalley at present. It wants attention and the other parties have asked me to attend to it. Do you authorize me to see to it for you as well?”
        After Ellen’s death, the rent was divided between Joseph, Will, Mary Ann and Mr. Heath who bought John’s share and was married to Mary Ann’s daughter, Ruth. Joseph said that Mr. Heath paid 40 pounds for John’s share and that John had drawn 110 pounds in advance. The solicitor said Heath said he paid 60. The solicitor said that Heath was trying to buy the shares of those at home to get control of the property and would have defied the absent ones to get anything.
        In September 1872 Joseph wrote that the lawyer said the trustee cannot sell the property at the bottom of Smalley without the signatures of all parties concerned in it and it will have to go through chancery court which will be a great expense. He advised Joseph to sell his share and Joseph advised George to do the same.

        George sent a “portrait” so that it could be established that it was really him–still living and due a share. Joseph wrote (July 1872): “the trustee was quite willing to (acknowledge you) for the portrait I think is a very good one.” Several letters later in response to an inquiry from George, Joseph wrote: “The trustee recognized you in a minute…I have not shown it to Mary Ann for we are not on good terms….Parties that I have shown it to own you again but they say it is a deal like John. It is something like him, but I think is more like myself.”
        In September 1872 Joseph wrote that the lawyer required all of their ages and they would have to pay “succession duty”. Joseph requested that George send a list of birth dates.

        On May 23, 1874, the solicitor wrote: “I have been offered 240 pounds for the three cottages and the little house. They sold for 200 pounds at the last sale and then I was offered 700 pounds for the whole lot except Richardson’s Heanor piece for which he is still willing to give 58 pounds. Thus you see that the value of the estate has very materially increased since the last sale so that this delay has been beneficial to your interests than other-wise. Coal has become much dearer and they suppose there is coal under this estate. There are many enquiries about it and I believe it will realize 800 pounds or more which increase will more than cover all expenses.” Eventually the solicitor wrote that the property had been sold for 916 pounds and George would take a one-ninth share.

        January 14, 1876:  “I am very sorry to hear of your lameness and illness but I trust that you are now better. This matter as I informed you had to stand over until December since when all the costs and expenses have been taxed and passed by the court and I am expecting to receive the order for these this next week, then we have to pay the legacy duty and them divide the residue which I doubt won’t come to very much amongst so many of you. But you will hear from me towards the end of the month or early next month when I shall have to send you the papers to sign for your share. I can’t tell you how much it will be at present as I shall have to deduct your share with the others of the first sale made of the property before it went to court.
        Wishing you a Happy New Year, I am Dear Sir, Yours truly
        Abram J. Flint”

        September 15, 1876 (the last letter)
        “I duly received your power of attorney which appears to have been properly executed on Thursday last and I sent it on to my London agent, Mr. Henry Lyvell, who happens just now to be away for his annual vacation and will not return for 14 or 20 days and as his signature is required by the Paymaster General before he will pay out your share, it must consequently stand over and await his return home. It shall however receive immediate attention as soon as he returns and I hope to be able to send your checque for the balance very shortly.”

        1874 in chancery:

        Housley Estate Sale


          Murder At The Bennistons

          We don’t know exactly what happened immediately after the death of Catherine Housley’s mother in 1849, but by 1850 the two older daughters Elizabeth and Mary Anne were inmates in Belper Workhouse.  Catherine was just six weeks old, so presumably she was with a wet nurse, possibly even prior to her mothers death.  By 1851, according to the census, she was living in Heanor, a small town near to Smalley,  with John Benniston, a framework knitter, and his family. Framework knitters (abbreviated to FWK should you happen to see it on a census) rented a large loom and made stockings and everyone in the family helped. Often the occupation of other household members would be “seamer”: they would stitch the stocking seams together.  Catherine was still living with the Bennistons ten years later in 1861.

          Framework Knitters


          I read some chapters of a thesis on the south Derbyshire poor in the 1800s and found some illuminating information about indentured apprenticeship of children especially if one parent died. It was not at all uncommon,  and framework knitters in particular often had indentured apprentices.  It was a way to ensure the child was fed and learned a skill.  Children commonly worked from the age of ten or 12 anyway. They were usually placed walking distance of the family home and maintained contact. The indenture could be paid by the parish poor fund, which cost them slightly less than sending them to the poorhouse, and could be paid off by a parent if circumstances improved to release the child from the apprenticeship.
          A child who was an indentured apprentice would continue a normal life after the term of apprenticeship, usually still in contact with family locally.

          I found a newspaper article titled “Child Murder at Heanor” dated 1858.

          Heanor baby murder

          A 23 year old lodger at the Bennistons, Hannah Cresswell, apparently murdered a new born baby that she gave birth to in the privy, which the midwife took away and had buried as a still birth. The baby was exhumed after an anonymous tip off from a neighbour, citing that it was the 4th such incident. Catherine Housley would have been nine years old at the time.

          Heanor baby murder 2


          Subsequent newspaper articles indicate that the case was thrown out, despite the doctors evidence that the baby had been beaten to death.

          In July 1858 the inquest was held in the King of Prussia,  on the Hannah Cresswell baby murder at the Bennistons.

          The King of Prussia, Heanor, in 1860:

          King of Prussia Heanor


            Gladstone Road

            My mother remembers her grandfather Samuel Warren’s house at 3 Gladstone Road, Stourbridge. She was born in 1933, so this would be late 1930s early 1940s.

            “Opening a big wooden gate in a high brick wall off the sidewalk I went down a passage with a very high hedge to the main house which was entered on this side through a sort of glassed-in lean-to then into the dark and damp scullery and then into a large room with a fireplace which was dining room and living room for most of the time. The house was Georgian and had wooden interior shutters at the windows. My Grandad sat by the fire probably most of the day. The fireplace may have had an oven built over or to the side of the fire which was common in those days and was used for cooking.
            That room led into a hall going three ways and the main front door was here. One hall went to the pantry which had stone slabs for keeping food cool, such a long way from the kitchen! Opposite the pantry was the door to the cellar. One hall led to two large rooms with big windows overlooking the garden. There was also a door at the end of this hallway which opened into the garden. The stairs went up opposite the front door with a box room at the top then along a landing to another hall going right and left with two bedrooms down each hall.
            The toilet got to from the scullery and lean-to was outside down another passage all overgrown near the pigsty. No outside lights!
            On Christmas day the families would all have the day here. I think the menfolk went over to the pub {Gate Hangs Well?} for a drink while the women cooked dinner. Chris would take all the children down the dark, damp cellar steps and tell us ghost stories scaring us all. A fire would be lit in one of the big main rooms {probably only used once a year} and we’d sit in there and dinner was served in the other big main room. When the house was originally built the servants would have used the other room and scullery.
            I have a recollection of going upstairs and into a bedroom off the right hand hall and someone was in bed, I thought an old lady but I was uncomfortable in there and never went in again. Seemed that person was there a long time. I did go upstairs with Betty to her room which was the opposite way down the hall and loved it. She was dating lots of soldiers during the war years. One in particular I remember was an American Army Officer that she was fond of but he was killed when he left England to fight in Germany.
            I wonder if the person in bed that nobody spoke about was an old housekeeper?
            My mother used to say there was a white lady who floated around in the garden. I think Kay died at Gladstone Road!”

            Samuel Warren, born in 1874 in Newhall, Derbyshire, was my grandmothers father.  This is the only photograph we’ve seen of him (seated on right with cap).  Kay, who died of TB in 1938, is holding the teddy bear. Samuel died in 1950, in Stourbridge, at the age of 76.

            Samuel Warren Kay Warren

            Left to right: back row: Leslie Warren. Hildred Williams / Griffiths (Nee Warren). Billy Warren. 2nd row: Gladys (Gary) Warren. Kay Warren (holding teddy bear). Samuel Warren (father). Hildred’s son Chris Williams (on knee). Lorna Warren. Joan Williams. Peggy Williams (Hildreds daughters). Jack Warren. Betty Warren.


              William Marshall’s Parents

              William Marshall  1876-1968, my great grandfather, married Mary Ann Gilman Purdy in Buxton. We assumed that both their families came from Buxton, but this was not the case.  The Marshall’s came from Elton, near Matlock; the Purdy’s from Eastwood, Nottinghamshire.

              William Marshall, seated in centre, with colleagues from the insurance company:

              William Marshall



              William and all his siblings were born in Fairfield in Buxton. But both Emma Featherstone 1847-1928, his mother, and John Marshall 1842-1930, his father, came from rural Derbyshire. Emma from Ashbourne (or Biggin, Newhaven, or Hartington, depending on what she chose to put on the census, which are all tiny rural places in the same area).

              Emma and John Marshall in the middle, photo says “William Marshall’s parents” on the back:

              Emma and John Marshall


              John Marshall was a carter, later a coal carter, and was born in Elton, Derbyshire. Elton is a rural village near to Matlock. He was unable to write (at least at the time of his wedding) but Emma signed her own name.

              In 1851 Emma is 3 or 4 years old living with family at the Jug and Glass Inn, Hartington. In 1861 Emma was a 14 year old servant at a 112 acre farm, Heathcote, but her parents were still living at the Jug and Glass. Emma Featherstone’s parents both died when she was 18, in 1865.
              In 1871 she was a servant at Old House Farm, Nether Hartington Quarter, Ashborne.

              On the census, a female apprentice was listed as a servant, a boy as an apprentice. It seems to have been quite normal, at least that’s what I’ve found so far,  for all teenagers to go and live in another household to learn a trade, to be independent from the parents, and so doesn’t necessarily mean a servant as we would think of it. Often they stayed with family friends, and usually married in their early twenties and had their own household ~ often with a “servant” or teenager from someone else’s family.

              The only marriage I could find for Emma and John was in Manchester in 1873, which didn’t make much sense. If Emma was single on the 1871 census, and her first child James was born in 1873, her marriage had to be between those dates. But the marriage register in Manchester appears to be correct, John was a carter, Emma’s father was Francis Featherstone. But why Manchester?

              Marshall Featherstone marriage

              I noticed that the witnesses to the marriage were Francis and Elizabeth Featherstone. He father was Francis, but who was Elizabeth? Emma’s mother was Sarah. Then I found that Emma’s brother Francis married Elizabeth, and they lived in Manchester on the 1871 census. Henry Street, Ardwick. Emma and John’s address on the marriage register is Emily Street, Ardwick. Both of them at the same address.

              The marriage was in February 1873, and James, the first child was born in July, 1873, in Buxton.

              It would seem that Emma and John had to get married, hence the move to Manchester where her brother was, and then quickly moved to Buxton for the birth of the child.  It was far from uncommon, I’ve found while making notes of dates in registers, for a first child to be born six or 7 months after the wedding.

              Emma died in 1928 at the age of 80, two years before her husband John. She left him a little money in her will! This seems unusual so perhaps she had her own money, possibly from the death of her parents before she married, and perhaps from the sale of the Jug and Glass.

              I found a photo of the Jug and Glass online.  It looks just like the pub I’d seen in my family history meditations on a number of occasions:

              Jug and Glass


                The following stories started with a single question.

                Who was Catherine Housley’s mother?

                But one question leads to another, and another, and so this book will never be finished.  This is the first in a collection of stories of a family history research project, not a complete family history.  There will always be more questions and more searches, and each new find presents more questions.

                A list of names and dates is only moderately interesting, and doesn’t mean much unless you get to know the characters along the way.   For example, a cousin on my fathers side has already done a great deal of thorough and accurate family research. I copied one branch of the family onto my tree, going back to the 1500’s, but lost interest in it after about an hour or so, because I didn’t feel I knew any of the individuals.

                Parish registers, the census every ten years, birth, death and marriage certificates can tell you so much, but they can’t tell you why.  They don’t tell you why parents chose the names they did for their children, or why they moved, or why they married in another town.  They don’t tell you why a person lived in another household, or for how long. The census every ten years doesn’t tell you what people were doing in the intervening years, and in the case of the UK and the hundred year privacy rule, we can’t even use those for the past century.  The first census was in 1831 in England, prior to that all we have are parish registers. An astonishing amount of them have survived and have been transcribed and are one way or another available to see, both transcriptions and microfiche images.  Not all of them survived, however. Sometimes the writing has faded to white, sometimes pages are missing, and in some case the entire register is lost or damaged.

                Sometimes if you are lucky, you may find mention of an ancestor in an obscure little local history book or a journal or diary.  Wills, court cases, and newspaper archives often provide interesting information. Town memories and history groups on social media are another excellent source of information, from old photographs of the area, old maps, local history, and of course, distantly related relatives still living in the area.  Local history societies can be useful, and some if not all are very helpful.

                If you’re very lucky indeed, you might find a distant relative in another country whose grandparents saved and transcribed bundles of old letters found in the attic, from the family in England to the brother who emigrated, written in the 1800s.  More on this later, as it merits its own chapter as the most exciting find so far.

                The social history of the time and place is important and provides many clues as to why people moved and why the family professions and occupations changed over generations.  The Enclosures Act and the Industrial Revolution in England created difficulties for rural farmers, factories replaced cottage industries, and the sons of land owning farmers became shop keepers and miners in the local towns.  For the most part (at least in my own research) people didn’t move around much unless there was a reason.  There are no reasons mentioned in the various registers, records and documents, but with a little reading of social history you can sometimes make a good guess.  Samuel Housley, for example, a plumber, probably moved from rural Derbyshire to urban Wolverhampton, when there was a big project to install indoor plumbing to areas of the city in the early 1800s.  Derbyshire nailmakers were offered a job and a house if they moved to Wolverhampton a generation earlier.

                Occasionally a couple would marry in another parish, although usually they married in their own. Again, there was often a reason.  William Housley and Ellen Carrington married in Ashbourne, not in Smalley.  In this case, William’s first wife was Mary Carrington, Ellen’s sister.  It was not uncommon for a man to marry a deceased wife’s sister, but it wasn’t strictly speaking legal.  This caused some problems later when William died, as the children of the first wife contested the will, on the grounds of the second marriage being illegal.

                Needless to say, there are always questions remaining, and often a fresh pair of eyes can help find a vital piece of information that has escaped you.  In one case, I’d been looking for the death of a widow, Mary Anne Gilman, and had failed to notice that she remarried at a late age. Her death was easy to find, once I searched for it with her second husbands name.

                This brings me to the topic of maternal family lines. One tends to think of their lineage with the focus on paternal surnames, but very quickly the number of surnames increases, and all of the maternal lines are directly related as much as the paternal name.  This is of course obvious, if you start from the beginning with yourself and work back.  In other words, there is not much point in simply looking for your fathers name hundreds of years ago because there are hundreds of other names that are equally your own family ancestors. And in my case, although not intentionally, I’ve investigated far more maternal lines than paternal.

                This book, which I hope will be the first of several, will concentrate on my mothers family: The story so far that started with the portrait of Catherine Housley’s mother.

                Elizabeth Brookes


                This painting, now in my mothers house, used to hang over the piano in the home of her grandparents.   It says on the back “Catherine Housley’s mother, Smalley”.

                The portrait of Catherine Housley’s mother can be seen above the piano. Back row Ronald Marshall, my grandfathers brother, William Marshall, my great grandfather, Mary Ann Gilman Purdy Marshall in the middle, my great grandmother, with her daughters Dorothy on the left and Phyllis on the right, at the Marshall’s house on Love Lane in Stourbridge.




                The Search for Samuel Housley

                As soon as the search for Catherine Housley’s mother was resolved, achieved by ordering a paper copy of her birth certificate, the search for Catherine Housley’s father commenced. We know he was born in Smalley in 1816, son of William Housley and Ellen Carrington, and that he married Elizabeth Brookes in Wolverhampton in 1844. He was a plumber and glazier. His three daughters born between 1845 and 1849 were born in Smalley. Elizabeth died in 1849 of consumption, but Samuel didn’t register her death. A 20 year old neighbour called Aaron Wadkinson did.

                Elizabeth death


                Where was Samuel?

                On the 1851 census, two of Samuel’s daughters were listed as inmates in the Belper Workhouse, and the third, 2 year old Catherine, was listed as living with John Benniston and his family in nearby Heanor.  Benniston was a framework knitter.

                Where was Samuel?

                A long search through the microfiche workhouse registers provided an answer. The reason for Elizabeth and Mary Anne’s admission in June 1850 was given as “father in prison”. In May 1850, Samuel Housley was sentenced to one month hard labour at Derby Gaol for failing to maintain his three children. What happened to those little girls in the year after their mothers death, before their father was sentenced, and they entered the workhouse? Where did Catherine go, a six week old baby? We have yet to find out.

                Samuel Housley 1850


                And where was Samuel Housley in 1851? He hasn’t appeared on any census.

                According to the Belper workhouse registers, Mary Anne was discharged on trial as a servant February 1860. She was readmitted a month later in March 1860, the reason given: unwell.

                Belper Workhouse:

                Belper Workhouse

                Eventually, Mary Anne and Elizabeth were discharged, in April 1860, with an aunt and uncle. The workhouse register doesn’t name the aunt and uncle. One can only wonder why it took them so long.
                On the 1861 census, Elizabeth, 16 years old, is a servant in St Peters, Derby, and Mary Anne, 15 years old, is a servant in St Werburghs, Derby.

                But where was Samuel?

                After some considerable searching, we found him, despite a mistranscription of his name, on the 1861 census, living as a lodger and plumber in Darlaston, Walsall.
                Eventually we found him on a 1871 census living as a lodger at the George and Dragon in Henley in Arden. The age is not exactly right, but close enough, he is listed as an unmarried painter, also close enough, and his birth is listed as Kidsley, Derbyshire. He was born at Kidsley Grange Farm. We can assume that he was probably alive in 1872, the year his mother died, and the following year, 1873, during the Kerry vs Housley court case.

                Samuel Housley 1871


                I found some living Housley descendants in USA. Samuel Housley’s brother George emigrated there in 1851. The Housley’s in USA found letters in the attic, from the family in Smalley ~ written between 1851 and 1870s. They sent me a “Narrative on the Letters” with many letter excerpts.

                The Housley family were embroiled in a complicated will and court case in the early 1870s. In December 15, 1872, Joseph (Samuel’s brother) wrote to George:

                “I think we have now found all out now that is concerned in the matter for there was only Sam that we did not know his whereabouts but I was informed a week ago that he is dead–died about three years ago in Birmingham Union. Poor Sam. He ought to have come to a better end than that….His daughter and her husband went to Birmingham and also to Sutton Coldfield that is where he married his wife from and found out his wife’s brother. It appears he has been there and at Birmingham ever since he went away but ever fond of drink.”

                No record of Samuel Housley’s death can be found for the Birmingham Union in 1869 or thereabouts.

                But if he was alive in 1871 in Henley In Arden…..
                Did Samuel tell his wife’s brother to tell them he was dead? Or did the brothers say he was dead so they could have his share?

                We still haven’t found a death for Samuel Housley.




                  Ay, the framework knittin’ were ‘ard work, but it were our own, and better by a mile than what come next. We ‘ad the frame in our home and all the family helped, the girls’d be the seamers and the spool threaders and many a fine stocking we made in our cottages, until those industrialists and capitalists came to our fair dales with their factories and such and took our livelihoods from under our noses.

                  We ‘ad a needle maker in our village, a miller and a baker, and a dressmaker. We ‘ad farms and a dairy and a butcher, and all the old families in our parish ‘ad their place. There’s always those that find work hard, and those that find it rewarding, but even them as found the framework knittin’ ‘ard soon changed their tune about the framework knittin’ being hard when they was doubled over under gods green earth all the day long in the coal mines.

                  Ay, the changes wrought upon our fair parish wreaked an unholy disruption upon the face of village life.  It were the inclosures act what started our downfall, when our common land was took from us, that were indeed the beginning of the end of our fine community of largely honest souls, and even the good nature of the gent from the hall and the Parish poor fund couldn’t halt the downfall.

                  Ay and I’ve traveled to the future and seen the ungoldy sight of it now. The old farm on the turnpike road surrounded now by house upon house and not an onion nor a carrot to be seen growing in their gardens, and the fronts all hardened floors for those contraptions they move around in, and empty all day long with not a sign of life until nightfall when they all come home and go inside and shut the doors, and never a one passing the time of day with their neighbours over the garden fence, and not a chicken or a cow in sight.

                  There’s no needlemaker now, and the mill’s been knocked down, and there are painted lines on all the hard roads, although I will say that ugly as they are they don’t get near so rutted and muddy when the weather’s bad.

                  I can’t stay long when I visit the future with that woman who comes to call upon us asking questions. I can’t stay long at all.


                    Nora moves silently along the path, placing her feet with care. It is more overgrown in the wood than she remembers, but then it is such a long time since she came this way. She can see in the distance something small and pale. A gentle gust of wind and It seems to stir, as if shivering, as if caught.

                    Nora feels strange, there is a strong sense of deja vu now that she has entered the forest.

                    She comes to a halt. The trees are still now, not a leaf stirs. She can hear nothing other than the sound of her own breathing. She can’t see the clearing yet either, but she remembers it’s further on, beyond the next winding of the path. She can see it in her mind’s eye though, a rough circle of random stones, with a greenish liquid light filtering through. The air smells of leaf mould and it is spongy underfoot. There’s a wooden bench, a grassy bank, and a circular area of emerald green moss. Finn thinks of it as place of enchantment, a fairy ring.

                    Wait! Who is Finn? Where is this story coming from that whispers in her ear as she makes her way through the woods to her destination, the halfway point of her clandestine journey? Who is Finn?

                    She reaches the tiny shivering thing and sees that it is a scrap of paper, impaled on a broken branch. She reaches out gently and touches it, then eases if off the branch, taking care not to rip it further. There is a message scribbled on the paper, incomplete. meet me, is all it says now

                    The crumpled up paper among the dead leaves beside the path catches her eye.  No, not impaled on a branch but still, a bit of paper catches her eye as the mysterious  ~ ephemeral, invisible ~ story teller continues softly telling her tale

                    Finn feels dreamy and floaty. She smiles to herself, thinking of the purpose of her mission, feeling as though it is a message to her from the past. She is overwhelmed for a moment with a sense of love and acceptance towards her younger self. Yes, she whispers softly to the younger Finn, I will meet you at the fairy ring. We will talk a bit. Maybe I can help

                    But wait, there is no meaningful message on the crumpled paper that Nora picks up and opens out. It’s nothing but a shopping receipt.  Disappointed, she screws it back up and aims to toss it into the undergrowth, but she hesitates.  Surely it can’t have no meaning at all, she thinks, not after the strange whispered story and the synchronicity of finding it just at that moment.  She opens it back up again, and reads the list of items.

                    Olive oil, wine, wheat, garum…. wait, what? Garum? She looks at the date on the receipt ~ a common enough looking till roll receipt, the kind you find in any supermarket ~ but what is this date? 57BC?   How can that be?  Even if she had mistranslated BC ~ perhaps it means British Cooperative, or Better Compare or some such supermarket name ~  the year of 57 makes little sense anyway.  And garum, how to explain that! Nora only knows of garum in relation to Romans, there is no garum on the shelves between the mayonaisse and the ketchup these days, after all.

                    Nora smooths the receipt and folds it neatly in half and puts it in her pocket.  The shadows are long now and she still has some distance to walk before the halfway village.  As she resumes her journey, she hears whispered in her ear: You unlocked the blue diamond mode. You’re on a quest now!

                    Smiling now, she accelerates her pace.  The lowering sun is casting a golden light, and she feels fortified.


                      “What’s with the lucha libre mask, Bronkel?” Godfrey asked as he ushered the short tense man in the living room. “I’m not sure that’s very sanitary… Protects everything but the mouth…”

                      Bronkel didn’t feel like answering and at once asked for Elizabeth Tattler.

                      “… and don’t tell me she’s got another pitiful excuse for not delivering! Listen, she’s just the worst! And let me tell you that I’m not exaggerating. I’m also managing GRRAOU —yes, George fucking R.R.A.O. Urtin, and this guy’s been at his pentalogy since 25 years. So, I got my fill about lame excuses.”

                      “Her readers are devotees, you know. They know hers is a difficult craft. Warping and woofing words around like she does, so gloriously. Everybody but you Bronkel seem to understand that it’s not commonplace, it’s a treasure earned with patience and devotion.”

                      “Devotees for sure. They have a saint’s patience I can grant you that, and luckily for her!” Bronkel drank the inch of gin bottoms up. “And where is she, by the way? Will she not deign face me?”

                      “Oh, I think she’s err… busy at the moment. She’s rehearsing a scene from her last book for accuracy… with the gardener.”


                        I’ve been up since god knows what time. Got up for the loo and couldn’t face going back to the awful nightmares.  That girl that came yesterday said she’d been having nightmares, she said it was common now, people having nightmares, what with the quarantine. I think I might have just snorted at the silly girl, but when I woke up last night I wondered if it was true. Or maybe I’m just a suggestible old fool.

                        Anyway, I stayed up because lord knows I don’t want to be in a city in America at night, not waking and not dreaming either. I’ve had a feeling for a long time, and much longer than this virus, that it was like a horror movie and it would behoove me not to watch it anymore or I’d be having nightmares.  I didn’t stop watching though, sort of a horrified fascination, like I’d watched this far so why stop now.

                        In the dream I was on a dark city street at a bus stop, it was night time and the lights were bright in a shop window on the other side of the sidewalk.  I had a bunch of tickets in my hand all stapled together, but they were indecipherable. I had no idea where I was going or how to get there.  Then I noticed the man that was by my side,  a stranger that seemed to have latched on to me, had stolen all my tickets and replaced them with the rolled up used ticket stubs.  I made him give me back my tickets but then I knew I couldn’t trust him.

                        Then I realized I hadn’t finished packing properly and only had a ragged orange towel with bloodstains on it.  So I go back home (I say home but I don’t know what house it was) to pack my bags properly, and find a stack of nice new black towels, and replace the bloody orange one.

                        I’m walking around the house, wondering what else I should pack, and one room leads into another, and then another, and then another, in a sort of spiral direction (highly improbable because you’d have ended up back in the same room, in real life) and then I found a lovely room and thought to myself, What a nice room! You’d never have known it was there because it wasn’t on the way to anywhere and didn’t seem to have a function as a room.

                        It was familiar and I remembered I’d been there before, in another dream, years ago.  It had lovely furniture in it, big old polished wooden pieces, but not cluttered, the room was white and bright and spacious. Lovely big old bureau on one wall, I remember that piece quite clearly. Not a speck of dust on it and the lovely dark sheen of ancient polished oak.

                        Anyway in the dream I didn’t take anything from the room, and probably should have just stayed there but the next thing I know, I’m in a car with my mother and she races off down the fast lane of an empty motorway. I’m thinking, surely she doesn’t know how to take me where I have to go? She seemed so confident, so out of character the way she was driving.

                        I got up for the loo and all I kept thinking about was that awful scene in the  city street, which admittedly doesn’t sound that bad. I won’t bother telling the girl about it when she comes to do my breakfast, it loses a little in the telling, I think.

                        But the more I think about that lovely room at the end of the spiral of rooms, the more I’m trying to wrack my brains to remember where I’ve seen that room before.  I’ve half a mind to go back there and open that dark oak bureau and see what’s inside.


                        In reply to: Story Bored


                          BORED 2 

                          Inter-dimensional fancy dress party

                          picture one:

                          Irina peruses costumes for the fancy dress party using her latest blue-crystal activated hologram. “I loooove the parrot headwear,” she says to the nervously hovering Mr R, “but the question is, will my bum look big in the unicorn dress?”

                          picture two:

                          Fox, embarrassed by his lack of costume, over-compensates. “This is where the party is, you nerds!” he shouts. “Last one in the water is a rotten egg!”

                          picture three:

                          Sanso (dressed as a thought-form and rather put out to find that everyone thought he was a common garden slug) was waxing lyrical to a Pig he thought was Arona. “Sometimes those things which tie us down are more mental than physical, but in your case, I think not.”

                          “Hey, leave me out of this,” says the Pig, “I just wandered over from the farm yonder to see what all the racket was.”


                          In reply to: The Stories So Near


                            WHERE ARE THEY ALL NOW ? 🗻

                            a.k.a. the map thread, and because everything happens now anyway.

                            POP-IN THREAD (Maeve, Lucinda, Shawn-Paul, Jerk, [Granola])

                            🌀 [map link] – KELOWNA, B.C., CANADA

                            It looks like our group of friends live in Canada, Kelowna.

                            Kelowna is a city on Okanagan Lake in the Okanagan Valley in the southern interior of British Columbia, Canada. The name Kelowna derives from an Okanagan language term for “grizzly bear”. The city’s motto: “Fruitful in Unity”

                            Interestingly, Leörmn the dragon from the Doline may have visited from time to time : Ogopogo / Oggie / Naitaka

                            FLYING FISH INN THREAD (Mater/Finly, Idle/Coriander/Clove, Devan, Prune, [Tiku])

                            Though very off the beaten track, the Flying Fish Inn may be located near a location that was a clue left as a prank by Corrie & Clove on the social media to lure conspiracy theorists to the Inn.
                            🔑 ///digger.unusually.playfully

                            It seems to link to a place near documented old abandoned mines.

                            🌀 [map link]  – SOME PLACE IN THE MIDDLE OF AUSTRALIA, OFF ARLTUNGA ROAD

                            DOLINE THREAD (Arona, Sanso/Lottie, Ugo, Albie)

                            This one is a tricky geographical conundrum, since the Doline is a multi-dimensional hub. It connects multiple realities and places though bodies of water, with the cave structure (the Doline) at its center, a world on its own right, where talking animals and unusual creatures are not uncommon.

                            It has shown to connect places in the Bayou in Louisiana, where Albie & Mandrake went to see the witch, as well as the coastal area of Australia, where they emerged next in their search for Arona.

                            At the center of the Doline is a mysterious dragon named Leörmn, purveyor of precious traveling pearls and impossible riddles. We thus may infer possible intersection points in our dimension, such as 🔑 ///mysterious.dragon.riddle a little North of Hawaii, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

                            However, the inside of the Doline would look rather like Phong Nha-Ke Bang gigantic cave in Vietnam.

                            NEWSREEL THREAD (Ms Bossy, Hilda/Connie, Sophie, Ricardo)

                            It is not very clear where our favourite investigative team is located. They are likely to be near an urban area with a well-connected international airport, given their propensity for impromptu traveling, such as in Iceland and Australia.

                            For all we know, they could be settled in Germany: 🔑 ///newspapers.gone.crazy
                            or Denmark 🔑 ///

                            As for the Doctor, we strongly suspect his current hideout to be also revealed when searching from his signature beautification prescription that has made him famous in connoisseur circles: 🔑 ///beauty.treatment.shot at the frontier of Sweden and Finland.

                            LIZ THREAD (Finnley, Liz, Roberto, Godfrey)

                            We don’t really know where the story happens; for that, one would need to dive into Liz’s turbulent past, and that would confound the most sane individual, starting with keeping count of her past husbands.

                            As a self-made powerful best-selling writer, we could guess she would take herself to be the JK Rowling of the Unplotted Booker Prize, and thus would be a well-traveled British uptart, sorry upstart, with a fondness for mansions with character and gardeners with toned glutes. Of course, one would need the staff.

                            DRAGON 💚 WOOD THREAD (Glynnis, Eleri, Fox/Gorrash, Rukshan)

                            This story happens in another completely different dimension, but it can be interesting to explore some of its unusual geography.

                            The World revolved around a central axis, and different worlds stacked one upon the other, with the central axis like an elevator.

                            We know of

                            • the World of Humans, where most of the story takes place
                            • the world of Gods, above it, which has been sealed off, and where most Gods disappeared in the old ages
                            • Under these two, the world of Giants exists, still to be explored.

                            At the intersection of the central axis of the world and the human world, radiates the Heartwood, a mystical forest powered by the Gem of Creation which has been here since the Dawn of Times, and is a intricate maze, and a dimension in itself. It had grown around itself different woods and glades and forests, with various level of magical properties meant to repel intruders or lesser than Godlike beings.

                            The Fae dimension is a particular dimension which exists parallel to the Human World, accessible only to Elder Faes, and where the race originated, and is now mostly deserted, as Faes’ magic waning with the encroachment of humans into the Forest, most have chosen to live in the Forests and try and protect them.


                            In reply to: The Stories So Near


                              Newer developments

                              POP-IN THREAD (Maeve, Lucinda, Shawn-Paul, Jerk, [Granola])

                              Granola is popping in and out of the stories, exploring interacting more physically with her friends through Tiku, a bush lady focus of hers.
                              Luckily (not so coincidentally) Maeve and Shawn-Paul were given coupons to travel from their rural Canada town to the middle of Australia. Maeve is suspicious of being followed by a strange man, and tags along with Shawn-Paul to keep a cover of a young couple. Maeve is trying to find the key to the doll that she made in her secret mission for Uncle Fergus, which has suddenly reappeared at her friend Lucinda’s place. She’ll probably is going to have to check on the other dolls that she made as well.
                              Jerk continues to administrate some forum where among other things, special dolls are found and exchanged, and he moderates some strange messages.
                              Lucinda is enjoying Fabio’s company, Maeve’s dog, that she has in her care while Maeve is travelling.

                              FLYING FISH INN THREAD (Mater/Finly, Idle/Coriander/Clove, Devan, Prune, [Tiku])

                              The mysteries of the Flying Fish Inn seem to unravel slowly, like Idle’s wits.
                              Long time family member are being drawn inexplicably, such as Prune and brother Devan. The local bush lady Tiku is helping Finly with the catering, although Finly would rather do everything by herself. The totemic Fish was revealed to be a talisman placed here against bad luck – “for all the good it did” (Mater).
                              Bert, thought to be an old flame of Mater, who’s acted for the longest time as gardener, handyman and the likes, is revealed to be the father of Prune, Devan, Coriander and Clove’s mother. Mater knew of course and kept him around. He was trained in codes during his time with the military, and has a stash of potentially dangerous books. He may be the key to the mystery of the underground tunnels leading to the mines, and hidden chests of gold. Devan is onto a mystery that a guy on a motorbike (thought to be Uncle Fergus of Maeve’s story) told him about.

                              DOLINE THREAD (Arona, Sanso/Lottie, Ugo, Albie)

                              Mandrake & Albie after a trip in the bayou, and looking for the dragon Leormn’s pearls and the sabulmantium, have finally found Arona after they have emerged from the interdimentional water network from the Doline, to the coast of Australia in our reality, where cats don’t usually talk.
                              Albie is expecting a quest, while the others are just following Arona’s lead, as she is in possession of a mysterious key with 3 words engraved.
                              After some traveling in hot air balloon, and with a local jeep, they have arrived at a local Inn in the bush, with a rather peculiar family of owners, and quite colorful roster of guests. That’s not even counting the all-you-can-eat lizard meat buffet. What joy.

                              NEWSREEL THREAD (Ms Bossy, Hilda/Connie, Sophie, Ricardo)

                              Ms Bossy is looking to uncover the Doctor’s surely nefarious plans while her newspaper business isn’t doing so well. She’s got some help from Ricardo the intern. They have found out that the elderly temp worker who’s fascinated by the future, Sophie (aka Sweet Sophie) had been the first subject of the Doctor’s experiments. Sophie has been trying to uncover clues in the dreams, but it’s just likely she is still a sleeper agent of the Doctor.
                              Despite all common sense and SMS threats, Hilda & Connie have gone in Australia to chase a trail (from a flimsy tip-off from Superjerk that may have gone to Lucinda to her friend journalist). They are in touch with Lucinda, and post their updates on social media, flirting with the risk of being uncovered and having trouble come at their door.
                              Sha, Glo and Mavis are considering reaching out for a vacation of the nursing home to get new free beauty treatments.
                              In his secret lair, the Doctor is reviving his team of brazen teafing operatives: the magpies.

                              LIZ THREAD (Finnley, Liz, Roberto, Godfrey)

                              Not much happened as usual, mostly an entertaining night with Inspector Melon who is quizzing Liz’ about her last novel about mysterious messages hidden in dolls with secret keys, which may be her best novel yet…

                              DRAGON 💚 WOOD THREAD (Glynnis, Eleri, Fox/Gorrash, Rukshan)

                              Before Rukshan goes to the underworld land of Giants, he’s going to the cottage to gather some of his team of friends, Fox, Ollie etc. Glynis is taking care of Tak during Margoritt’s winter time in the city. Margoritt’s sister, Muriel is an uninvited and unpleasant guest at the cottage.
                              Tak is making friends with a young girl who may have special powers (Nesy).
                              The biggest mystery now is… is the loo going to get fixed in time?


                                The so-called Police quickly left when they noticed there wasn’t much on the travellers, and that they didn’t look threatening.

                                If you’re looking for a place to stay the tallest one said you should go to the Hoping Spice Hospice, it’s not far away from the main street, just three blocks north of here. He looked at the sky, where the waxing gibbous moon was rising.

                                I wouldn’t stray too much outside if I were you. The desert black jackals are restless this time of year. He looked at Fox who was fidgeting suspiciously. The lack of sleep and being back in human form when they were called by the Police made him nervous.

                                Then, we’ll be on our way. Peace be upon you, Constable. Rukshan said, pushing forward.


                                The Hospice was an unassuming building, like all the other mud brick houses, except it probably had been lime washed in the past, and patches of the external wall had whitish spots shining under the moon sky.

                                The veiled nurse in charge of the night service was sternly quiet, and guided them to a common room. Almost all the beds were full, and the patients seemed to have a fitful sleep.

                                “What are those?” Olliver said before Rukshan could shush him. He was pointing at the oil lamps regularly spread across the room, which were shining with a dancing faint blue light.

                                “Spirits…” whispered Fox gloomily “Captured spirits…”


                                  One spring day in 1822, so the story goes, Emerald Huntingford was walking the family dog on the extensive family estate, when the dog ran into a densely wooded area in hot pursuit of a rabbit. This was not uncommon, however on this occasion Emerald whistled and called but the dog did not return to her. She ran back to the house and shouted for her brother, Nigel, to help her find the it.

                                  After several hours of frantic searching, for it was a much loved family pet, and just as they were beginning to despair, they heard whimpering coming from a hole in the ground. They cleared away the brush covering the entrance to the hole and saw it went some way into the ground and it was here the unfortunate dog had fallen. It was too deep for them to enter unaided, so while Emerald sat with the dog and called reassuringly down to it, Nigel ran for assistance. With the help of ropes and several strong farm workers, Nigel descended into the space. To his amazement, he found himself in a clay filled dome with shallow entrances going off to other underground galleries. At that time, with his focus on the injured dog, he had no inkling of the extent of it. It was later on, after they had time to explore, that the Huntingfords started to comprehend the amazing world which existed under their land.

                                  Word spread, and they were offered a substantial amount of money by a mining company to mine the land. Locals, and others from further afield, wanted to visit the doline and many would try and do so, with or without seeking permission from the Huntingfords first. Some argued that if you don’t own the sky above your land, why should you have claim to the ground beneath?

                                  The Huntingfords were wealthy and had no need or desire to sell the rights to their land. Eventually, their patience worn thin by the aggressive mining company and invasive tourists, they decided to defend their claim to the doline in court; a claim which they won. From that time on, as one generation of the family passed the secrets of the doline to another, guards were employed to keep watch over the entrance, that none may enter the underground world without the approval of the family.

                                  And it seems none had, until now.


                                    All of a sudden, Godfrey flung the peanut butter jar he was holding to the ground where it smashed into dozens of glittering fragments.

                                    “Silly me,” he said. “How clumsy! Clean that up will you, Finnley.”

                                    Finnley glared at him, torn between annoyance at being treated as a mere cleaner and relief at having an excuse to leave the room and dispose of that darn sack, once and for all.

                                    Common sense won. There is plenty of time to make him pay for that, she thought.

                                    “Right you are, Sir,” she said, with an inadvertent roll of the eyes. “Right away, Sir.”


                                      “Dammit,” said Yorath, “your lyrical way of talking about those old decrepit things reminded me that I’ve promised a fresh load of provisions to the old woman in the forest, what’s her name already.”
                                      Margoritt Loursenoir?” ventured Eleri, who usually was the one who couldn’t remember names too common. It did help that she was an avid reader, and that Loursenoir happened to be an author that she’d liked.
                                      “Yes, her. You could come with me you know. There’s surely plenty to pique your interest on the trip to the forest, surely a few discarded things you’d like to grab for a later tinkering.”
                                      “You know how I hate snow and the cold…” she mused for a while. “But at least some dry air will be welcome…”


                                        Eleri hadn’t seen hide nor hair of Yorath for several weeks, not since the last supermoon.. Her stocks of elerium were depleted, but she knew he would return in time. What was time anyway? The timing was always perfect, that was really all one could say about time.

                                        When the timing was right, she knew that the right people would be drawn to her crafts. It was not a matter of advertising her magical wares in the usual way, no, it was a matter of allowing the magnetic pull. She was a magician after all, not a salesman, and her creations were not for everyone.

                                        Her suppliers of materials were not the usual ones, although she did use ordinary common or garden ingredients as well from the local builders merchant. Yorath had appeared as if by magic ~ it was true, these things did happen ~ just at the right time. Her method had been perfected, but the recipe was missing one vital ingredient although at the time she had not known for sure what that ingredient might be. Then her old friend Yorath appeared, returning from his travels in the greenly mist drenched mountains of the far east.

                                        “I thought those temples had claimed you forever, dear one,” she said. “How good it is to see you! And how fetching that red silk is,” she added, eyeing his jacket. “I must give further consideration to the colour red. That really is a most appealing shade of cherry.”

                                        Yorath smiled his famous smile, the smile she had missed so much. “I have something for you, Eleri, something more fascinating than my red silk jacket.”

                                        And that was how it started.


                                        In reply to: Scrying the Word Cloud


                                          story worse bed known
                                          imagination exit refugees come
                                          discussion shoulder fun common
                                          hope himself earth situation smell
                                          completely side understood work


                                          In reply to: Scrying the Word Cloud


                                            job seems try getting second
                                            certain dream leaving mean
                                            sat quiet wondering run thread
                                            island door common
                                            continued self leader concrete

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