When the empty page or screen stares back at you defiantly, why not write about your history, or your family history? Sometimes it becomes a project in itself, sometimes it inspires something else, sometimes it serves to keep the writing hand and the writing mind in practice.
here Lois Elsden reflects on her grandfather, who she didn’t know very well – but did anyone know him? he died when she was twelve, but she has always been fascinated by the private and complex man.
A fascinating life
Trying to discover more about ancestors is always tricky, even people from recent times; I remember my grandfather very well, even though he died in the 1960’s. He was a fierce man, and I was always very nervous of him, but I think he was a kind man and I think he loved children in his own rigid Victorian way. He was quite distant to his own children, and although he led a fascinating life, they were never that interested in his stories, I guess maybe thinking some of them were slightly exaggerated.
Before the first World War he went to Brazil to Manáos; I think he must have been a gifted linguist because he picked up several languages, and once when a stranger speaking no known tongue was found lost on Cambridge station, grandpa went along to the police station and was able to sort out the man’s problems, speaking to him in his own language… maybe Portuguese, or maybe some other Brazilian language.
My aunty who had a very difficult and complicated relationship with him, became fascinated by our family history, long after grandpa had died. I came across some notes she made, trying to remember things he had said… you can tell from her handwriting that she was elderly herself at the time.
As you can see, part of her notes are in short-hand – she was a secretary for most of her working life; grandpa always said he was ‘a yeoman of England’ – was that just descriptive of his ancestry, or were ‘The Yeomen of England’ some sort of club or friendly society? The notes seem to suggest that: ‘yeomen of England; volunteers in reserve to repel any enemy, guardians of the country. Always around the coast’. At Littlehampton he became a yeoman.’ He was born and brought up in Littlehampton…
The next little note refers to the T.D.; I think it should have been the T.F., the Territorial Force which began in 1908, and included yeomanry brigades.
She mentions the H.A.C., the Honourable Artillery Company, and she mentions that just below the word ‘sharp shooter’… this is just a mystery which may never be solved, although there is plenty of information on the H.A.C. Grandpa also was a mason, but that again is something I have no knowledge of.
And finally, Brazil, his journey to Brazil which had such an impact on him… my aunty mentions the Brazilian Tramway, apparently the Manáos Tramways & Light Company, was registered in London on 12 January 1909… could grandpa have been working for the company in some capacity? As an accountant or auditor maybe? Another mystery
Here is a link to Lois’s books published on Kindle: