Wednesday, 30 December 2015

It felt like I'd met a long lost relative...

A funny thing happened at a Cancer Council Morning Tea. A fellow parishioner, Colleen, and I got talking about family history. As I explained my Kerr tree to her she said "I used to know some Kerrs". Instead of pursing her old Kerr neighbours she recalled knowing a man Jimmy who was a colleague her father's at the railways and who lived at Neutral Bay.  As a child they used to go there for Hogmanay (Scottish New Year). I finished her sentence. "His wife's name was Lavinia and his kids were Alf and Billie".

It turns out her sisters and parents spent a lot of time holidaying and socialising with my grandparents. My Nanny generously gave them a money gift for New Year. My Uncle Bill remembered the rowdy Hogmanay New Years parties he longed to be away from and the holidays to the Woy Woy on the Central Coast as the railways families took advantage of their holiday railway passes.
June and Colleen c 1948
 Sadly I had known her mother Peggy too but never knew of this link with my grandparents history.
Colleen and I agreed to get together to share memories and and help me identify some  photos if possible.
My Nanny Lavinia with Margaret (Peggy) Campbell and little Colleen

She had photos of my Grandfather James and we identified photos of the holidaying Campbell Family including little Colleen.

I felt I had grasped a little more of my family story and that she was like a a long lost relative.

Hugh Campbell with Colleen and June  and James "Jimmy"Kerr right
A bit of a mystery woman, I had been channelling my Nanny who died when I was 4 for weeks. -revisiting her Church, Convent workplace and her home.  Well done Nanny- could you please send me some hints about your mother? 

Sunday, 27 December 2015

DNA - a new Ancestry journey

So my husband and I bought ourselves genealogy DNA testing kits for Christmas. What else?
You all know I’m a family history addict.  I’ve got a lot of stories and branches of the family tree on the go. In addition I have made great progress during the year moving back a couple of hundred years with some lines. 

Along the way i have made several discoveries about my ancestors (Kerrs, Gadsbys, Murphys, Johnstones etc) and those of the Fords, Hudsons, Cassidys. In determining our ancestral lines it has  thrown up several questions about our longer term pedigees- Yes the ancestors spent years in the same country even county. The dark skin, red hair and family whispers still pose questions. Were they Nordic invaders or Black Spanish marauding the Irish. More recently I suspect we  have  refugees from religious oppression from some parts of Europe.

I’ve searched parish records, cemeteries, newspapers, Births, deaths and marriage certificates. Even so I have hit some road blocks. Having heard DNA information expands your Genealogical research we’ve ordered the spitcups and we getting ready to send in our saliva.

I’ve no idea how it all works and if indeed it will throw up anything of interest. 

Perhaps I should have done a little research before I bought but Ancestry had a special and so on and so forth. 

Watch this space –it takes six to eight weeks.

Friday, 25 December 2015

Being at War at Christmas 100 years ago....let's remember

I thought as it was 100 years ago these photos might be of interest. I believe these photos were taken around Christmas probably to send to those back home in England.

Featured in these photos are members of the Lancashire Fusiliers "still happy in 1915" According to James' son Michael the LF's were in Gallipoli for Christmas 1915.

Two of these injured soldiers were my husband's grandfather James Edward Cassidy and his mate and future brother-in-law Harry Duckworth of Bury England.  James who enlisted on 3rd September 1914 (aged 21 yrs) - Private 280583 was a member of  1st Seventh Lancashire Fusiliers. James was injured in June 1915 after arriving in early May 1915 in Gallipoli. His injury was to the head, arm and heart- his heart being saved by a medal in his tunic pocket. After being in hospital in Malta for 6 weeks he returned to Gallipoli until Christmas 1915. James' full story is published in November 2014 of this blog.

Merry Christmas to all my readers


Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Kerr Cousins- a tangible entertainment legacy! (Music Hall Story Part 4)

The McBride cousins were from  my paternal Great Grandmothers side. My direct line- the Kerrs had a minor involvement in the Music Hall scene. My Dad’s cousins Ann and Mary Kerr,  own  a 1926 theatre poster advertising the  Palace Theatre in Lawn St Paisley. Great Uncle Frank Kerr was billed  in a variety act  under the stage name of "Frank E Rayner" (E Rayner being the  name of an  Australian relative). He was one of the many who performed as a Hebrew impersonator at the time. I can’t help thinking he would be run out of town in these politically correct times.

He was billed along side  acts such as King and Bentley, a natural conversationalist, “clever comedian” Nicholas Rimsky , and the Gordon Brothers Acrobatics Act. The mind boggles at the concept of a “funny acrobatic Chinese act “ and a Hebrew impersonator  being played in the 1920s in Glasgow. Frank went on to become a Cinema/ Theatre manager. In the early days of motion pictures the films were promoted by personal appearances by the stars.
Dame Anna Neagle's personal appearance promoting her movie  "Sixty Glorious Years" (Frank to her left)

Frank Kerr on stage with Herbert Wilcox (l) and Anton Walbrook (r) on the Bedford stage

 Sadly he met an early death on Christmas Day 1953 as a result of an accident at the Cinema.

 James Kerr (my Grandfather) top left in a Scottish Minstrel band c1920s

My grandfather James Kerr, is  pictured here playing in a Scottish minstrel band before he left Scotland for Sydney. One assumes this was a weekend job or he was part of an amateur performance band.  A letter written to my Nanny, Lavinia Kerr nee Strelley who was still back in Glasgow at the time, tells of a young James newly arrived in Sydney looking for employment and of his frustration at missing out on one job because they needed him for singing and dancing!

I'm told that music and singing is the "Scottish way". The Sydney Kerrs became audiences not performers. My uncle, Billy Kerr, recalls the family regularly visiting the Burns Club in Sydney to enjoy the entertainment and friendship. He  remembers  the ruckus of the Scottish New Year celebrations when he was growing up. He remembers the visitors staying over because they had sung and drunk whiskey all night. I think his words were “passed out all over the lounge room”.

James singing a Scottish tune during his retirement cruise to his homeland in Scotland. This was to be a catch up with remaining McBride relatives  (1960s)

There was an old piano in James and Lavinia’s house at 35 Park Ave Neutral Bay. It was supposedly purchased because my Dad had a hankering to play and he had short lived lessons as a child. I had never seen him show any interest when it was moved to our house after James' death. The banjo from the minstrel band found its way to the family home too where they lay abandoned and forgotten until my father's death.

No-one ever learnt  to play my grandfather’s piano. I think most of my clan were standing well behind the stage door when the creative arts were given out. Some of James’ Great Grandaughters enjoyed amateur performances of various musicals during their school days.  In the end, even though the great grandkids were fighting over who would have it, the old and neglected piano would never get played by anyone related to the surname Kerr. We sold it with the house. 

And what of my grandfather’s banjo that hadn’t seen the light of day for 40 years? Well that’s the good news story. An expert in the field told us it was hand built and would fetch $20,000 (£10,000) if we had it restored. Now that’s an entertainment legacy!!