What’s in a Name?

What’s in a Name?

I am researching deeper into the life of Charles Harry Newland Cutting, my maternal grandfather, as part of the 52 ancestors in 52 weeks project, guided by Amy Johnson Crow.

Charles Harry Newland Cutting!

What a grand name! I wonder where he got these names from? Who was this grandfather of mine, a man I had never met? He may have been someone I visited as a small child back in England in the late 1940s; but I don’t remember him at all. What did he look like? Was he a gruff, bearded fellow with a portly figure? What was he interested in? What was his occupation? Who were his family and how did they live?

I need to start with what I knew and build up an identity for him as I researched and uncovered his special story. Every ancestor has revealed a story for me – a picture of the past – enabling me to find out a little more about me. So I am keen to find the hidden gems about grandfather Charles and what his life was like as a small boy, a young man, a father and a breadwinner.

All successful family history research begins with a Research Plan: start with a question of what you want to discover and use your research skills on the Internet to find answers. My family tree was my starting point today, a jumping off point to research more about this ancestor. I store the tree in Ancestry.com.au and update it when I am focussed on family history. 


‘What were the beginnings for Charles H. N.’?

‘Where did he get the names Harry and Newland from?’

The UK Census for 1881 was the first point on my itinerary, and in this document I uncovered a few interesting facts about his family living in Kensington. The transcript of the census listed the household members at 290 Portobello Road, East Side, as Elizabeth Mead 74, Sarah Cutting 47, Charles Cutting 45, Frank J. Cutting 11, Charles H. Cutting 9, and Sidney H. Cutting 7.

As I unpacked this information, I focussed on individual facts and branched out from each one. First, their residential address in Portobello Road sparked my interest. This location has featured in my social history lessons about England; it is the home to Portobello Road Market, one of London’s notable street markets, known for its second-hand clothes and antiques.

Using Google, I searched for this address and discovered that it is now The Cloth Shop, a family owned business, and they now stock its shelves with antique linens, vintage quilts and antique glass vessels. Their website provided wonderful photos of the premises as it looks today, and I saved one of these to add to my collection. I wondered what it was like as the residence for my ancestors back in 1881.

290 Portobello Road, the home of Charles Harry Newland Cutting, now a cloth shop.

Second, I noted that Elizabeth Mead, aged 74, lived with the family. I wondered about her relationship to Charles and viewed the archived copy of the Census to reveal that fact. It listed her as Mother-in-Law and her birthplace as Wiltshire! Okay, further pieces of the puzzle now jumped into place; she was my maternal great grandmother; the mother of Sarah Cutting. If she was 74 in 1881, then her birth year was 1807. These facts enable me to verify her records later. The 1881 census lists Charles Harry Cutting as my great grandfather; a Carpenter, born in Hampshire.

It was tempting to follow these leads and investigate this earlier generation immediately; however, I knew how important it is to avoid taking research too far too quickly. I needed to remain focussed on Charles Harry Newland Cutting. 

The Baptism record for Charles H. N. recorded his name as Charles Henry and his father as Charles Henry as well. They listed Sarah Cutting as his mother; this tallied with my records so far. Curiously, I wondered about the validity of the name Harry at this point. Was it just used in later records as a popular nickname for Henry? And was Henry the actual middle name for my grandfather?

Life for Charles H. N. as a small boy living in Kensington, London; especially in the Portobello Road, would have been colourful. Especially on Saturdays, when the Portobello Market was on. Some research on Portobello Road linked me to images of what it has looked like and what treasures it has provided for the shoppers for over 150 years.

Portobello Road keeps much of that magic, mystery and romance today. Most famous for its half-mile-long antique market (the largest in the world), they transform the street every Saturday into a glittering treasure arcade.

Modern day reference to the Acklam Village Market in my research, also piqued my interest. The word Acklam stood out for me; they listed it as the address for Charles H. N. on his Baptismal record for November 26, 1871. The Baptism record listed the residence as 156 Acklam Road, and his father as a Carpenter and Joiner. A little more research, was required to find details of this early residence in the 1871 census. For this I needed to go to the records for his father Charles Harry and locate the family; the small family unit were listed as living at Ackland Road, but the census did not mention the house number. Looking at the census pages either side of that one, I could see another young Cutting family just two houses away. The head of that household was James Cutting, another Carpenter by trade, and his family – his wife Amelia and son James, just 3 years old. In fact in that road, there were several trades people; including Carpenters, Painters, Shop owners and Railway Guards.

Next question! What was family life like in this era for the tradesmen in Kensington?

To answer that question I explored Twile.com – a very useful site that creates a timeline for your family tree, based on the era and the location. From that timeline I realized that the electric light bulb had not yet been invented; this happened in 1879 – so I imagined the house that the Cutting families lived in the early 1870’s were dark and they would have to use gas lamps or candles to light their rooms. So some further historical research to find out more about the houses my ancestors lived in.

The houses were cheap, most had between two and four rooms – one or two rooms downstairs, and one or two rooms upstairs, but Victorian families were big with perhaps four or five children. There was no water, and no toilet. A whole street (sometimes more) would have to share a couple of toilets and a pump.

National Archives

Charles was one of four brothers; that I know from their birth and baptismal records, stored in the records for their mother Sarah Ann Newland. His older brothers, twins Francis James and Harry Newland and a younger brother Sidney Harry. Harry Newland died as a young boy of 4, but the other brothers lived well into their seventies or eighties. From this I deduce that the three brothers were healthy and well nourished!

Next Research questions! Where did the boys go to school? Where did they learn their trades?

Are you looking for advice on creating your Family History Blog posts? Try my free course, Blogging in the Past Lane!

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks

I have decided to take up this challenge for the year to boost my family story writing activities. Wish me luck!

Ancestral Challenge 2021!

Family History Preservation is my passion! I help others with their family history research and guide them in preserving their stories for generations to come. You will find more information about those in my website. The focus for me in 2020 was to generate online courseware and create a batch of support documents for fellow beginner genealogists. (You gain access to those through a shared Google Drive.)

This year I wish to focus on building my repertoire of stories for my tribe and practice what I preach. There are many approaches to writing your ancestral stories, and there are many websites and blog sites devoted to the process. What I needed was a way, to gain inspiration, guidelines for content and for motivations for consistency. Therefore I have accepted the ’52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks’ challenge from Amy Johnson-Crow.

As I begin my planning and plotting for weekly stories of my Ancestors, I realise that I need inspiration and motivation to consistently engage with family history EVERY week in 2021. I was delighted to see the first of such inspirations in my email from Amy, displaying the weekly themes for the month of January.

Weekly Challenge 2021

January Themes

Week 1 (Jan. 01-10): Beginnings
Week 2 (Jan. 11-17): Family Legend
Week 3 (Jan. 18-24): Namesake
Week 4 (Jan. 25-31): Favorite Photo


  1. Choose the clan, the ancestor and the family events to write about to fit these themes each month.
  2. Plot my story lines and Track my progress in my Ancestral Cards in Trello.
  3. Publish one to four WordPress blog posts per month here.
  4. Share in my social media accounts, especially my newest group Family History Preserved.

If you need help in the process of writing your Family History Blogs you will find my Free Course beneficial to get you started. Try Blogging in the Past Lane if you want to preserve your family history stories in blogs.

Cecil Allery: 1900-1985

Memories of Dad, Cecil Henry Allery

1900 in London, UK

The turn of the century was an interesting time in the United Kingdom, when huge changes were taking place. The parish of Richmond in Surrey had a population of about 20,000 people, had excellent transport links to London (trains, trams and omnibuses) and was emerging as a sought after residential and commercial location.

Residents were kept informed by no less than four local newspapers:- the Thames Valley Times was published each Wednesday and the Chiswick Times on Fridays. The Richmond & Twickenham Times and the Richmond Herald appeared on Saturdays.

Richmond at that time had a military presence, being home to territorial forces of the 6th Battalion East Surrey Regiment under the command of Major W. Merrick. They were based at the Drill Hall on Park Lane. 

Source: Richmond Surrey in the Great War.

My dad was born on 25th April 1900 at 70 Beaumont Avenue in Richmond, Surrey and later christened at Christ Church, Richmond. Cecil was interested in motor mechanics from an early age and this was to feature in his life both at home in England and after emigrating to Australia in 1948. He and his brothers were motor car enthusiasts and they spent a great deal of time in the ‘workshop’ at Hook Road, Surbiton.

Word War 1

On the 23 May 1917 Cecil enlisted in the Royal Flying Corps. I am sure that the death of his own father on the 5th of April, just 20 days before Cecil’s 15th birthday in 1915, would have influenced his choice to enter the military. In fact we think he may have even enlisted as a 14 year old, given some of the service records found in his genealogical history. His 1917 enlistment number was 82153 and he has this information stored in the Forces War Records: 

C H Allery, 82153

Before transfer to R.A.F. from R.N.A.S. or R.F.C.- Rank:- Boy, Trade:- Boy Service/ Airforce Pay:- 1s. 0d. Terms of enlistment- Open Engagement Rank / Boy.

With a birth date of 25th April 1900, strictly speaking he was not yet eligible. Nevertheless, with determination and some creative registering, he became a Boy Artificer. An artificer is a member of an armed-forces service who is skilled at working on artillery devices in the field. The specific term ‘artificer’ for this function is typical of the armed forces of countries that are or have been in the British Commonwealth. I can only imagine how his mother would have felt at this decision. To see her eldest son embrace the military life and be away from home, would have been crushing for Harriet.

In the supply area the Royal Corps had responsibility for weapons, armoured vehicles and other military equipment, ammunition and clothing and certain minor functions such as laundry, mobile baths and photography. Cecil was skilled in automobile mechanics – even at this tender age – and he specialized in the maintenance of military vehicles as an Artificer. By the end of World War 1 he is listed with the regimental service number of 2636 and has the rank of Sergeant Mechanic. Perhaps Cecil’s time in service was to be less dangerous – as he did not see action overseas – but remained in England as part of the essential ground force of engineers and mechanics who maintained and repaired the military vehicles used in war. 

One intriguing story about Cecil’s recovery of the Log Book of the German Cruiser ‘SMS Emden’, and subsequent donation to the Australian War Museum, is handed down in the family. The Emden was scuttled in the Cocos Islands in November 1914. But I do not know how he recovered the log book, or where he was at the time.

The SMS Emden had been cruising the Indian Ocean and Southeast Asia, wreaking havoc on allied trading ships since the outbreak of the war in August 1914. Captain Karl von Müller was famous on both sides for sinking 27 ships while only taking one life when the Emden ventured into the Indian Ocean in early November 1914.

Peace time

In later records, Cecil was listed as a Taxi Driver, a Mechanics Assistant and small business owner; ‘Tolworth & Surbiton Car Hire & Repair Service’.


Cecil married Winifred Edith Cutting on 23 July 1924. He and Winifred eloped (motor bike & sidecar) on a Wednesday half day. They were married in the Registry Office in Kingston. Cecil listed his father as William Frederick NOT Walter Frederick (Master Tailor) and Winifred listed her father as Charles Henry Cutting (Master House Decorator). At this time Cecil is living at 55 Ellerton Road, Tolworth, Surbiton and Winifred is living at 13 Park Road, Kingston about a 20 minute drive apart.

Their first child, Marie, was stillborn in 1925 – a very sad beginning to parenting for them both. Their second child, Pamela Marie, was born on 9th March, 1927 in Kingston. Her life story will feature later in my blog. Their first son John Keith was born on 21st April 1929.

During the late 1930’s Cecil and Winifred set up another business, a Bicycle Shop and in the 1939 England and Wales Register it is Winifred who is listed at the Cycle Dealer. By this time the Allery family were living in Hook Road, a long street of significant history in Kingston-on-Thames. Their daughter June Patricia was born on 2nd July 1934 in Kingston.

Life at Hook Road was always discussed as idyllic by my brothers and sisters. A few old black and white photos of family groupings on a picnic rug in the garden remain as images of gentle, safe time for the Allery family. Or was it?

My Dad’s life was changed forever when he witnessed the death of his younger brother, Ted, at the tragic accident Brooklands in 1933. 

I now realise now, in hindsight, why my Dad was so against his own sons entering into the sport of car racing, and how much family conflict that caused. Losing his younger brother – a young man of 28 – in the horrific pile up at the race track in Brooklands, would scar him for life.

World War 2

Cecil enlisted once more in the ‘E’ Reserve on the 25th August 1939 at the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough Airfield in Hampshire. Cecil’s special skilled trade was then a Reserve Fitter for Aero Engines. His enlistment number is 2636 and he has this information stored in the Forces War Records: Before transfer to R.A.F. From R.N.A.S or R.F.C – Rank: Sergeant, Trade – Driver (M.T.)

Airforce Pay- 6s 0d Terms of enlistment, Open Engagement./ Rank Sergeant Mechanic. Rank 2nd Driver.

On 15th September In 1940 twins son Michael and Brian were born. Their birth place and the incident that immediately preceded their birth is another family story handed down with great pride by the two boys.  

Winifred, heavily pregnant, was a passenger in Dad’s taxi as he was taking them to safety during the bombing of London in that early part of the war. A sniper was focussing his barrage of bullets on supply trucks that were on their way to provide support for soldiers based north of the city. The taxi was caught up in this melee, and my Dad took the car off the road and sheltered underneath a concrete bridge. Of course, this sudden and alarming danger caused Mum to go into labour.
Dad drove the taxi to a village nearby to seek help and Mum was taken into one of the houses owned by a Russian lady, Madam 
Nirishnikov. The twins were born and cared for by this Russian family for the first few days of their lives. [Mum did not know that she was having twins, and only had a set of clothing for one child with her. The Nirishnikov’s provided the extra clothing, baby blankets and carrying baskets for the two boys.]

This period of time was known as The Blitz – and the Bombing of London was to continue until May 1941. My older siblings lived through this time, experiencing all of the horrors and deprivation that The Blitz delivered. 

I remember hearing some stories from my brothers about the sound of the Doodle bug bombs that were heard in and around London during their first few years – these bombs had a devastating effect on much of the English residential areas and many people died. The twins were warned about NOT travelling too far from home in their miniature push-pedal cars because of that danger, even in the so called safety of Hook Road. 

In June 1944, the Germans started sending V1 Flying bombs to bomb London. … A doodlebug was really a bomb with wings. It looked like a small aeroplane and had no pilot – a bit like a cruise missile, but slightly bigger. Thousands of these doodlebugs were launched against London.

Treasured artefacts from Cecil’s time in service during World War 2, include his uniform, medals and enlistment records. One less valuable, but poignant, item has been in my possession for some long time – his Housewife Sewing Kit – containing all that a soldier would require to carry out any repairs to his clothing when necessary. Inside it would contain a thimble, two balls of grey darning wool (for socks), 50 yards of linen thread wound around card, needles, brass dish buttons (for Battledress) and plastic buttons for shirts. The Housewife was often contained within a Holdall and stowed within the man’s haversack. I remember this well used item and cannot help but see the immediate link with this Sewing Kit and his father’s trade as a Tailor. I imagine my Dad having learned his sewing skills at his father’s knee – then having to grow up rapidly when his own Dad passed away at the age of 45 – and putting an old head on young shoulders.

By September 1944, when my Mum was pregnant with me, Cecil moved his family to Married Quarters, Eglyws Brewis near St Athan in Wales. The twins, Michael and Brian and June Patricia went with them. Pamela Marie was completing her nursing exams in Kingston and John was already in the Navy. In her 1944 diary Pamela recounts the day-to-day life in London as a 17 year old and tells her story of lost love. [An older post for another day.]

My brother John remembers being asked to get extra orange juice (limited on the ration books of the time) and wondered why. He was not even told that I was on the way. The first that my sister Pamela knew of my arrival was when she was in hospital herself recovering from an appendectomy. I was born at the Cardiff General Hospital on 31st May 1945.

Cecil was discharged from the R.A.F. on the 21st September 1948.

Demobilisation processes had stepped up since the Great War and special arrangements were put in place by the government to assist the millions of returning soldiers to re-assimilate back into civilian life. Often this took some time and priorities were given to men and women over 50 and those who held key skills that would be beneficial to post-war reconstruction. The release process began on June 18, 1945, about six weeks after V-E Day.

The Allery clan, parents and six children, had just 4 idyllic years in Surbiton after the war whilst Britain was recovering. My brothers and sisters all finished their schooling in Surbiton – my twin brothers at one of the Junior Schools and my older sister and brother at one of the High Schools. By then my eldest sister Pamela was working as a Registered Nurse in Kingston Hospital. There was little talk of the horrors of war, at least none that I remember, in our happy family home. 

More than one million London houses were destroyed or damaged, and more than 40,000 civilians were killed, almost half of them in London.

A week before being officially discharged from the RAF, on 14 September 1948, Cecil sailed to Australia on HMS Strathaird. An immigrant, pioneering a new lifestyle for the family, he had left at home at Hook Road; his wife Winifred and six children, Pamela, John, Patricia, Brian, Michael and Carole. The plan was for all to follow within a year, once a new home had been purchased. Dad would often tell us that, during his journey on sea, he had shared a cabin with a famous boxer – I had to verify that by looking up the Ship’s Passenger Lists – and found that he did indeed share with ‘Sugar Ray Robinson’.

On 14th April, in 1949, my family disembarked at Melbourne, and followed Dad to set up house in Moonee Ponds, Victoria. We earned some minor fame as one of the larger immigrating families to travel on board the HMS Orcades. We came to make a new life at ‘Elsinore’, 11 Laura Street and we were photographed by the local newspaper to have our ‘5 minutes of fame’. Dad had also secured a small Bicycle Shop business in Puckle Street and we were on our way into personal and financial security in our Australian adventure.

Cecil Henry Allery had come a long, long way from Boy Artificer at one shilling a week!

Winnie Allery: 1903-1987

Memories of Mum: Winifred Edith Allery

“I wish that there were some wonderful place called the Land of Beginning Again…!”

Land of Beginning Again, Louisa Fletcher

My mother’s voice, from long ago, still rings in my head. Pitched low and melancholy, she would recite this as a prelude to her motherly advice on life and living. That recording is lost to us! (It was inadvertently displaced on moving house.) Sadly there is now little remaining of her physical presence here on earth, but she is remembered still, for all that she was in spirit.

Winifred Edith Cutting

I can visualise her image if I peek into my memory banks; her smiling face at 20, at 50 and the slightly more wrinkled one of 80 years of age. I recall the soft feel of the folds of her paper thin skin as I attended to her needs. And the sweet fragrance of Lily of the Valley, her favourite scent. “You were beautiful once, and strong”. The time she needed a hip replacement springs into my mind when I recall her strength and her agony with barbaric procedures in a public hospital. Thank God this surgical operation has improved in recent years.

“I wish I could return to that time Mum, and give you the support you needed.”

I remember the sound of her calling me into the shop at Macrina Street; “Carole! Your turn to serve the customers now! I’ll be in the kitchen.” She knew how to juggle her family and business commitments and to get all the family involved in the day-to-day running of the general store. I am pretty sure she knew just how many Mars bars were missing at the end of a day!

I blushingly recall the day she caught me skinny dipping in the local pond at the end of our street! Trying hard not to laugh, I scrambled into my clothes, and followed her home sheepishly. “The boys made me do it,” had no effect on her or on the severity of my punishment. Packing my small brown suitcase with my book, teddy and pyjamas I would make the trek to my friend’s house at the other end of Stanley Avenue. “I am running away!” I would say with five year old bravado. Winnie just smiled and made a phone call.

“Carole is coming to stay overnight again, I will pick her up in the morning. That okay with you?” she would say, as soon as I had left the house.

“So long ago! Those days of my childhood are carefully filed away.”

I remember her sharp response when my phone calls had tapered off; “Oh, you’re still alive then?” My ‘hey days’ in my twenties did not include parental guidance. Then I remember quite clearly how delighted she was when I was married, and when my first child was introduced to her, and then my second child. I needed her advice then. “Being a mother is everything!” she would say.

“Kind hearts are the gardens, Kind thoughts are the roots, Kind words are the flowers, Kind deeds are the fruits!”

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

And I remember her tears the day Dad died! After receiving the call from the police on the 1st November 1985 I raced to be by her side in their tiny flat in Harris Grove. She was calm but sorrowful and explained how Dad had fallen in a heap at the end of the bed that morning. Her anxiety was palpable as she was unable to assist him, but, she had the presence of mind to call triple O. She was able to tell the sergeant that the key was in the meter box and he could let himself in. By the time I arrived she already had her cup of tea and was able to think clearly about what was needed to be done. Those days of my adult relationship with this frail woman are also carefully filed away.

“Hello Mum”, I said each time I visited her in the Angliss. Swallowed my tears when she would say to her nurse, “She is just like my daughter”!

Winifred Edith Allery was born on the 18th of March 1903. She married my Dad on the 23rd July 1923 and together they celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary in 1983.

Winnie, as my Dad would call her, was the steady hand and the soft heart in our family. She gave birth to seven children, from 1925 to 1945, a 20 year span of nurturing. Her first child, a girl, was stillborn and she held on to her one photo of that child all of her life. It went with her to her grave. All her other six children survived her.

She withstood the turbulence of coping with her eldest surviving child, also a girl, who was later to be diagnosed as Bipolar. Pamela was a headstrong teenager and I can see from her diary entries of 1944, that she would frequently row with Mum and there would be tears and angry words. I recall how Mum would despair at Pamela’s behavior in later years, especially when this required frequent stays in ‘Larundel’ Psychiatric Ward. Mum never gave up on Pamela, though, frequently sharing her home for short and long stays. Sharing her wisdom with her when she was permitted and giving her hope, when she felt there was none.

“Oh if I could talk to Mum now we would have so much to share!”

Winnie reluctantly gave her eldest son John, her blessing to join the Navy at the tender age of 16 and later the RAF. “He is following in his Dad’s footsteps.” She would say! But I bet she was crumbling inside. My brother John has now passed on, but I do remember his own ramblings.  He remembered mostly the ‘hey days’ of his twenties, especially the freedom experienced as a young man on board the ‘Orcades’ during our emigration to Australia in 1949.

I wonder how Mum coped with six children on board during this long sea journey – alone. Dad had already sailed the previous year, to pave the way for us. She remembers the times when the twins, nine years old at the time, would be frequently barred from the adult swimming pool or when she was called to discipline them for causing havoc on ‘A’ Deck. And I imagine she had a devil of a time supervising her 4 year old, 14 year old, and 22 year old daughters.

Her patience was long suffering.

Winnie came from solid stock – her father Charles Cutting – was a carpenter and her siblings were all employed in commercial trades. Her mother Mary Jane instilled in her the need for domestic skills and had a strong influence on her parenting skills. Winnie was the eldest of six and was frequently called upon to help with the triplets, the twins and the other younger siblings of her tribe. 

Her brother Reg was very fond of his sister and kept a photo of her in his wallet. This was later to be the start of her relationship with my Dad, who often admired the girl in the photo, and decided to write to her during his days in the RAF. At the end of world war one, he asked Reg to introduce him to her. Their romance was not condoned by her parents at the time, and was one of the reasons why Winnie agreed to elope with my Dad in 1923.

Winnie’s trade was Bookkeeping and she kept the books for her father’s business in Surbiton. This skill was to be revisited later in her life when they started up a Milk Bar business in East Oakleigh in the 1960’s and a Service Station and Restaurant business in Bendigo in the 1980’s. Mum’s cooking was plain and simple, but filling and satisfying. Sunday roasts were always a favourite with the family – with many of her children aiming to eat quickly so they could get seconds.

Her Yorkshire Puddings were matchless.

Winnie also possessed some unique qualities that may have their roots in her celtic heritage. We always said that she could have easily been a ‘white witch’, practicing her art in the moonlight. Perhaps her Welsh ancestors handed down this ‘wiccan’ philosophy – however, she was consistent in her beliefs and advice. “Turn over your silver in the light of the full moon”, she would say. “Prosperity will be yours.” “Don’t put new shoes on the table. That will bring bad luck”. Or “see a pin, pick it up, all the day you’ll have good luck”.

At twenty past the hour, when all went quiet at the table, she would say, “Another angel passing!”

British Custom when all goes quiet in a conversation

Winnie had a special place in her heart for her grandchildren and her great grandchildren. She was always delighted to have them visit her and tell her their stories. There were always some stories for them too, ones that she had stored up for them – from the old days. She carefully stored her photos in her albums and would frequently bring these out to share with anyone who visited her. She lived on for two more years after Dad died and required extra assistance for her daily needs. Her own daughter Pamela, stayed for a while, then her sister Violet, and finally she was admitted to the Hospice in FernTree Gully.

She always insisted, “Don’t put me in an old age home!”

Advice from Avril Moore, 2016

Winifred passed away quietly at 8 o’clock in the morning, on the 5th of January 1987 at The Angliss Hospital in Ferntree Gully. I was there at her passing and was privileged to feel the power of her leaving.

Yet another angel passing!

Multiple Births: Edwardian style

Grandmother Mary Jane Robinson: her impact on me!

Mary Jane was a woman of mystery to me. She had left this earth before I could know her – I don’t count the 9 short years I was on this earth at the same time. As a 4 year old I had no real sense of belonging and with a world shattered by war, there were huge upheavals in my family – we emigrated to Australia in 1949. By May 1954 she had died at Surrey, Northern – a fact revealed to us by mail in our new home in Victoria. I do not remember the impact of her death on my mother, but I am sure it would have been devastating.

I wish I had known Grandmother Mary Jane! Such strength in the face of adversity – in this story I reveal the characteristics I have earned from her.

When Mary Jane Robinson was born on 9 June 1872 in Croydon, Surrey, her father, George, was 36, and her mother, Mary, was 39. She married Charles Harry Newland Cutting on 16 June 1901 in Enfield, Middlesex. They had seven children during their marriage. She died in May 1954 at the age of 82, and was buried in Surrey.

1872 – 1954 there is a whole life in that little dash.

Mary Jane gave birth to twin boys on 19 October 1901, just 5 months after their marriage. Obviously their marriage was hastily arranged and was conducted away from the family seat in Croydon. Mary Jane Robinson married Charles Harry Newland Cutting in Enfield, Middlesex, on 16 June 1901 when she was 29 years old. The Marriage took place at the Parish Church of St Andrews with their friends, the the Goodalls, in attendance as witnesses. Her sister and brother-in-law were also in attendance, Edith Mary and Charles Howells.

The marriage certificate states that both were living at Southbury Road, Enfield at the time of the wedding. Their fathers were listed on the certificate, but I suspect that they did not attend. Charles Harry was a 23 year old plumber. Six years difference in their ages – I wondered if this was to become an issue.

Giving birth to twins would have been challenging for Mary Jane. Especially under the circumstances with gossiping neighbours to consider. The boys were born in Croydon Infirmary (the site of the old Workhouses) and they were baptised in November 1901 back at St James Church in Surrey.

It was not long before Frank was shipped out to live with his Auntie Edie, and he spent most of his life living apart from his twin brother. I always asked why my Uncle Frank lived in one house and my Uncle Reg in another when they were young. The 1911 census lists both my Uncle Frank and my Auntie Violet as living at 70 Gloucester Road, Croydon with Edith Mary and her husband Charles Howells, a Carpenter who was born in Glamorganshire, Wales.

My mother Winifred Edith was born in 1903 and she would tell me of how close she was to her brother Reg but estranged from her brother Frank.

I noted the further multiple birth of triplets for Mary Jane in 1906. Harry, Ron and Violet were born in Kingston Infirmary and their arrival would have caused a great deal of disruption to the household. Taking care of several young children under the age of six would have been tough for Mary Jane. So having farmed Frank out to his Auntie Edie, Mary Jane could focus on the triplets. Harry was the weakest and needed much of her attention. He died just one year later; and I suspect he died from one of the most virulent diseases of the times – in 1900, pneumonia and influenza, tuberculosis, and enteritis with diarrhea were the three leading causes of death.
I noted with surprise (from Trove) that there was a King’s Bounty in place in that era for women who had multiple births. Then I discovered (from the Manchester Courier 9 November 1906) that the Mayor of Kingston-on-Thames, where my grandmother lived, had applied for the King’s Bounty on her behalf. Three gold sovereigns were awarded to the recipients of this bounty.
The Edwardian era or Edwardian period of British history spanned the reign of King Edward VII, 1901 to 1910. There were many boys named Edward during this period and many girls named Alexandra.
In 1906 Mary Jane is once more dealing with multiple births again, at the age of 34 as well as grieving for the loss of Harry and the estrangement from Frank. I am so sad for her. I wonder how much her children realized the hardships she faced.

There was also the intriguing story of how Grandmother Mary Jane was seen chasing Grandfather Charles Harry up the stairs brandishing a knife, from two sources, my eldest brother John and my cousin Sally. John first told of the incident and Sally filled in some details.

It appears that Mary Jane had caught Charles Harry red handed in an affair with a younger woman (infidelity would certainly have caused anger and potentially violence.)

In searching through some further records for Grandfather Charles I came across a reference to Alma ? ? who was 24 at the time of their meeting as colleagues in the same workplace. Was she the object of the infidelity?

Mary Jane lived with Charles until her death, so my guess is that they resolved their infidelities or at least did not let them breakup the family home.

By the time I came on the scene in 1945, the last of my mother Winifred’s six children, I was totally unaware of such family matters and did not begin to ask questions until Grandmother Mary Jane was long dead.

The multiple births continued in my own siblings; my closest siblings were twin boys born in 1940 – and I do know how much of a shock their arrival was to my parents. There is a story surrounding their birth that was often told to provide the context for their turbulent arrival.

“It is the height of the Battle of Britain, 1940 and on Sunday, 15 September, the Luftwaffe launched its largest and most concentrated attack against London in the hope of drawing out the RAF into a battle of annihilation. Around 1,500 aircraft took part in the air battles which lasted until dusk.[4] The action was the climax of the Battle of Britain.[16]” Source: Wikipedia

Birth in the Blitz! (Read the account from Cecil’s point of view)

Winifred and Cecil were attempting to escape the strafing of bullets from a sniper as they traveled north to Oxford after fleeing the city of London. My mum was heavily pregnant. Dad was driving and he took the car beneath a bridge for safety and it was there that Mum went into labour; not surprisingly.

The next objective of course was to get Mum to safety to give birth. The bridge was outside a small town and at the edge of the town were a few houses to which Cecil drove the car. Astonishingly the owner of one house, Madam Barishnikov, a Russian Lady,came to my mother’s rescue. She took Winnie into her house and helped as a midwife; my brother Brian appearing fairly quickly. Surprises all round when Madam Barishnikov announced to my mother, that there was another child still to come out. Mum had no idea she was having twins; a few moments later my brother Michael was born.

Then there was a flurry in the household to get two sets of infant clothes and blankets and to care for them all whilst the Luftwaffe was still swooping.

I have often imagined what this tumultuous time meant for my mother. But, I think my mother’s own strength of purpose was a legacy from her mother, Mary Jane, who had survived the perils of World War 1 and the multiple child births before her.

Multiple births occurred for my siblings but skipped me, thankfully. Both my brother and my sister had twins in the 1950’s and 1960’s.

Thanks to my Grandmother Mary Jane I too have strength of purpose and owe my business enterprise, and style of parenting to her legacy.

Revisiting Ancestors : Jemima and the Will

Imagine her surprise when she listened to the reading of the will of her late father! As the eldest of the clan Rosina thought she would receive a substantial financial legacy, but she did not expect to be given the four properties at 46, 48, 50 and 52 Elton Road, Norbiton, Kingston-on-Thames.

Tears of joy were her first response! She then looked into her step-mother’s shining eyes and sat up a little more formally in the leather chair in the study at 196 Commercial Road, Peckham. She was attending the formal ceremony of reading the will of her late father Samuel John Allery.

“What about all my brothers?” She asked the solicitor.

“They have all been catered for – your father has ensured they will each receive a yearly salary, and their share of the Tailoring business!” Replied Ernest Hopkins Hazel, head solicitor of Portland House, Basinghall Street, London. He then read the entire will to the family gathered there at Jemima’s house. This was the day that Probate of the will and codicil for Samuel John Allery, Master Tailor was granted to Jemima Mary Ann Allery and Dave Bertie Allery, 3 August 1922.

Jemima sat grimly through the reading and held on to Dave’s hand. Dave listened intently to the news of becoming a trustee of the Allery estate along with his mother.

six allery brothersAll her boys were there that day, Dave, Benjamin, Frank, Sydney, Ernest and Edward, All her step-children were in attendance too, Henry, Rosina, Jessie, Louisa and George, as well as their families. They were quite a crowd gathered solemnly in the study with its book lined walls and comfortable leather seats. Jemima was proud of her family and had arranged this event herself with the help of Dave.

“Do you think they will all come?” she asked her son. “I will need you send out formal invitations to attend the reading at 196 Commercial Road, please.” That seemed so long ago as she was still reeling from the impact of her husband’s death. She stoically held onto her grief and made the proper plans.

She smiled when she heard of the salaries to be held in trust for the children of her late step-son Walter. Fifteen shillings a week – a legacy that was fitting for that small tribe. She nodded approvingly when she heard that her eldest step-son, Henry John, was to inherit the four properties of 4,6,8 and 10 Crown Street, Camberwell. She smiled again when she learned, for the first time, the sum total of the Allery estate – 9,826 13s. 3d. Her fears were allayed, she and her two sets of children were well catered for.

Jemima thought back to the day of the funeral and how sorrowful everyone had been at the burial site at the Old Cemetery, Forest Hill Road, Camberwell, just one week after the death of her beloved Samuel. From the middle of January 1922, in his 75th year, Samuel became ill and was cared for by Jemima at home until she could no longer do so. The months of May and June, whilst he was in palliative care, were a huge drain on her strength. She knew that on his death, she would become the head of the family and she doubted her own ability to support her large family whilst she was grieving.

However, she was able to lean on her son Dave Bertie, a successful business man, running his own House Decorator firm and employing several of his own family as tradesmen. Jemima felt more confident that she would live out her days in comfort and as the solicitor read out the last portion of the will, she sighed and slumped into her chair. 

“Time for fortifications Mama?”, said Henry, as he offered her a tray of sherry. By the time all the glasses were passed around, to all those old enough to consume the liqueur, Jemima had revived and was back in matriarchal mode once more. She took the will in its envelope from Mr Hazel and carefully stored it in the family safe. She knew there was no need for any contesting of the will among her tribe – they were all beneficiaries that day.

0014 Samuel John ALLERY Will




Great Grandmother Jemima: Freedom of the city

035 Jemima Mary Ann Blackburn 1852 - 1944Great Grandmother Jemima became a second wife for my great grandfather Samuel John Allery in 1884. At the age of 32 she took on the task of parenting the 5 children from his previous marriage to Mary Ann Hall, and during her 30’s and 40’s gave birth to six boys of her own. Just two years between each of them, her band of young men were her greatest legacy. Her boys all lived to a great age, served their country in the first World War and built their own businesses and dynasties.

This story is about two significant periods of her life; her role as a mother to six boys to Samuel, and her role as a widow for 20 years after his death.

The first part of the story is set in 1889 when her third son Frank Joseph was born. By this time they were living in Camberwell, an elegant suburb south of London.

Letter from Samuel:

0014 London Freedom of the City Admission Papers Samuel John ALLERYI discovered the Freedom of the City of London certificate for my great Grandfather Samuel John Allery dated 3rd September 1889. I wondered if Samuel would need to collect this certificate after signing it and then considered how such a trip would impact on his wife Jemima who had given birth to their third son on 13th October 1888, just a year prior to the award. A letter describing how important this award was for the Allery Tailoring business was something that I imagined him writing to his wife, at the time.

3rd September 1889

Dear Jemima,

I am sorry to be away so long from you, especially so soon after the birth of our new son. I hope that you are in good health. Is Rosina looking after the little ones for you?

My journey to London was worth it and I am proud to have received the Freedom of the City of London certificate. Quite an accolade for a middle-aged tradesman, and one that my father would have been most proud of.

Our certificate will be displayed in our premises at 59 Carter Lane, but I would also like it to be a special gift for our children. I want to encourage them to become tailors too. I have such dreams for Dave Bertie, Benjamin Robert and now Frank Joseph.

There is much to look forward to as we build our little empire. Rest assured I did see our solicitor today too and the new will now lists each of our sons as heirs to the Allery & Sons Tailoring business.

Soon my travels will be over for a while and I am looking forward to a few days at home with you my love! Give my love to the children and tell them I have small gifts for them, if they are well behaved.

Please ask Rosina to send the carriage to meet me at Camberwell Station. I will be home by the end of the week.

All my love

Your loving husband


Drawing down the moon! 1847

Drawing down the moon! 1847

She sat gazing at the last harvest moon at Samhain on the eve of 31 October 1847. There were to be no more harvest festival frivolities for her, she had work to do. The house was cold and the wind blew through the cracks beneath doors and windows chilling her fingers as she wrote her diary entries.

Her Grandmother’s legacy was drawing her into another adventure; she remembers now that exciting moment of discovery of the ‘Book of Shadows’.

Eons ago Elizabeth Evans, her grandmother, was held captive in the Castle at Haverfordwest. When Mary rescued her, her grandmother had revealed the existence of the Book of Shadows, her grimoire of a practising Wiccan.

Mary’s words were marching across her paper in rapid succession as she pulled on her memories; she referred to this process as ‘drawing down the moon’. It was not quite the same as the Wiccan ritual involving the goddess and speaking as another, but definitely embraced the feeling of needing no ship to fly through the air, and being free from her weight. Her memories of real and imagined events were mixed with the folk lore she learned from her Grandmother.

The Grimoire was a treasured possession, although humble in appearance. Its black metallic cover was worn in places and its clasp no longer prevented its opening. Mary held it now reverently and moved her hand slowly over the bindings to check for any other signs of wear and tear. She opened it to the first page where the words of the poem were scribed in her grandmother’s flowing calligraphy, and scanned the first three stanzas. She knew these words by heart!

Aradia appears from dark places unknown
Healing followers approaching her throne
Stronger than the hardest warrior last
Drawing down the moon from times of past

Power of Three, she preaches the law
Future sealed from actions of old lore
Energy you bring, returned three filled
Say, ‘An’ ye harm none, do what ye will’

I am wiser than the wisest owl
I am truer than the moon above
I am faster that the rivers below
Between heaven and earth, I do rule

In her diary Mary continued to write the stories and the adventures she learned from her grandmother. The story of the Song of Lore was now ready to be revealed and she was eager to complete this chapter in her journal on this night of Samhain; a night when spirits could freely enter the world. This is a time to remember those who have passed on, celebrate the Summers end and prepare for Winter months ahead. The Sun God and earth fall into slumber, as the nights lengthen and winter begins. She could feel the spirit of her grandmother hovering close by and hear faint whispering beneath her door.

Mary was being guided by the Song of Lore!

Grimoire: Shadow Hunter 2022

Grimoire: Shadow Hunter 2022

8 December 2022

Room 301, Elmwood Precinct

The final words blurred on her screen, behind the blinking cursor. Her decision to send now was dancing agonizingly in her mind. The incessant rain kept slashing at the window, and she felt another migraine looming. Reluctant words and phrases kept repeating themselves over and over in her brain.

Right time, wrong place, right place, wrong time!

Clicking keys echoed softly in the room as she completed her task and air printed. Pain was throbbing in her temples as she turned away from the glow of the screen. Turning her chair from the desk she unlocked the brakes and wheeled herself to the large cedar wood chest at the foot of her bed.

From the outside the chest appeared as an ordinary box for her treasures – only one per room. Her grandchildren were always mesmerized whenever she opened it for them and told her stories. They never suspected that it held a dark secret. All her siblings had long passed and none of them ever knew of the codes, the secret compartment or its contents.

She unclasped the lock, now rusted and worn, to open the lid. The metallic jingle of the plates and gears inside the lid reminded her to be cautious. Peering into the wooden chest she slid back the metal plate on the upper left side to reveal the code. The automatic code reset, each time it was opened and closed, would prevent the secret contents falling into the wrong hands.

Her diaries, notes, stories and maps were all carefully collated into boxes within the chest. She had spent years in tracking her ancestors and uncovering their connection to Welsh Wiccans; all the family history was contained in these boxes. Carefully she removed each memory box and set them aside on the floor.

She moved the sliders to their designated positions on the lid, carefully avoiding bumping the large disc in the centre. Each slider unlocked a segment of the disc and when fully opened, a secret panel at the base of the chest was revealed. She slid the metal panel back along its tracks – bringing a frisson of excitement, as sparks sizzled briefly in the dark interior.

Here lay the Book of Shadows, the blackened grimoire she had found after years of searching; the answers to special family powers. Removing the grimoire, she placed the packet of printouts inside the front cover and then locked the book back in its hiding place. Each of the memory boxes were then replaced. She closed the lid and returned to her desk.

Now it was time to reveal the Wiccan ways to her eldest granddaughters. between them they could unlock the secrets and right the wrongs of the past.

She opened her special mail and attached this cryptic message:

Elmwood Precinct 301

Open chest. Remove Memories. Use code. Solve Mystery. After I am gone!

Your loving Granna May.


Furious Fiction 2: The Convoy

By five o’clock that evening the sky was bright red above the mountain ranges and the hot northerly winds continued to blow the smoke into the township below. Visibility was reduced to 100 metres and the lights from the convoy were shrouded in haze. Craig walked to the front of the line and climbed into the cabin of the lead vehicle. His smart phone sounded the alert for the evacuation relaying to the families in their vehicles behind him. He exchanged a look with Sandy as he switched on the ignition and roared the V8 diesel engine into life. Adjusting the rear vision mirrors he announced: “It is time to go!”

“We are in God’s hands now!” Sandy said as Craig slowly maneuvered the Humvee across the car park, towards the exit to the highway. Craig’s hands trembled a little with the effort; worried about the enormity of this responsibility. He had kept his recently diagnosed health problems a secret from everyone except Sandy. Her experience in the field as an Army Medical Officer had been a strong support for him. It was Sandy who had given him the strength to lead this convoy and it was serendipity that she was assigned to his crew!  He was determined to succeed in this final act of bravery.

The countdown to the evacuation had been an anxious time for all the residents of the town. They had been on high alert for many days as the extreme weather conditions continued to worsen. Fire plans were in place and everyone had done what they could to protect their properties, moved their animals and prepared for the worst. The final call to evacuate was sent from the Victorian Government emergency services on 2nd January 2020.

Craig and the crew from the local Army Base had been deployed to the small isolated town days earlier and had been inundated with questions and concerns from the local community members. “How can we get out? When are we leaving? Where are we going?” Caring for their concerns and needs had kept Craig and Sandy focused on their task ahead.

They knew that the community members were exhausted from the constant heat and smoke-filled air during the days prior to New Year’s Eve, and that they were apprehensive about leaving their homes. They had helped families pack for their departure to the nearest relief centre. Adults had packed their family photos, documents, torches, mobile devices, chargers, clothing, toiletries, food, water, cash and medicines for 3 days; while kids had packed clothing, towels, blankets, pillows, their pets and favorite Christmas gifts. They had stayed vigilant, watching news broadcasts, and checking fire incidents in their VIC emergency apps on their smart phones.

Craig had registered the names of everyone online, to let people know they were safe. Sandy had all the medical supplies required. They were ready – the lives of 240 souls were in their hands!

“We can do this!”  – Craig said. “This is our call!”