Month: February 2019

How to be civil in a Civil War? Always have a lemon drizzle cake to hand…

During my association with archivists and curators, I have noticed a definite trend towards lemon drizzle as a favourite (and I’m always happy to join in!). It’s fabulous to read a blog with such a slice of good humour

Gloucestershire Archives

When was the last time you smacked your funny bone? That’s an unfair question really, as I can’t remember when I last did it. Maybe you did it last week though. Or yesterday. There might even be someone reading these words right now and they are just about to reach out for a cup of tea and – wallop – the sharp edge of a table or chair goes right into their elbow joint.

I could write anything now, as they won’t be reading this at all. They will be grabbing their elbow instead, which will be fizzing with pain. The pain will slowly grow and steadily move up their forearm and into their fingertips. It will feel as though their entire arm has been attacked by twenty crazed cheese graters. Their face will be screwed up in agony and they will be attempting to recite all of the known…

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West Street, Aldbourne (c 1906?)

Kate Collier West Street Aldbourne

I believe this photograph may have been taken around 1906. I have no idea who the photographer was or his reason for setting up his camera in front of the Aldbourne village shop on that particular day. However, this copy of an old sepia photograph has a special meaning to me, as it has captured a moment in my great grandmother’s life. As she stood in the doorway of her shop, watching her children and their playmates pose for the photographer, she could not have imagined that, over a hundred years later, her great granddaughter would be writing these words in the hope that someone in Aldbourne might remember something or someone that was there on that day.

My great grandparents, Arthur and Kate Collier, only stayed in the village for eighteen months. Two of their children went to school there, and were taught by a formidable lady who went by the name of Miss Grant. No doubt Eva and Sydney made friends there and were perhaps remembered by Aldbourne families, once they moved away.

I ‘interrogated’ my father for information about this chapter in his family’s life only to be told that he couldn’t remember much. Interestingly though, as he talked to me he began to recall things that his father had told him about life in Aldbourne, namely that Arthur used to ride his bicycle, with a large basket on the front, all the way to Swindon for the shop’s provisions!

I believe that my family were happy in Aldbourne and had fond memories of the time they lived there.

As I look at the photograph on my desk I ask myself, once again, what was my great grandmother thinking, why is the boy holding the chickens and, most importantly, how did the photographer manage to keep thirteen children in order long enough to snap the photo?

Sadly I shall never know what my great grandmother’s thoughts were, although she may have been weighing up the possibility of her daughter falling off of the pump before the photographer had completed his task. However, with regard to the chickens and the identity of the brave man behind the camera I appeal to the readers of this article for enlightenment.

Julia Connolly – via Aldbourne Net (2012)
Parish News August 1971 – which pinpoints 1909 as a possible date for the photo
Parish News Collier Aldbourne

As a follow up to the story, I found this ‘letter of the month’ published in Tony Gilligan’s Parish News – written by Sydney Collier.

West Street 1935

West Street Clifford Brown 01

The Aldbourne Civic Society records list this postcard image as ‘West Street, 1935’. Just recently this version mounted on what looks like home-made poker work has been handed to me (with thanks to Robert Albright).

John Brown tells me that this was the Triumph belonging to his father, Clifford Brown

On the back there’s a note that the photo appeared in a calendar for 1947; the note is signed by ‘GWS’.

If I recall correctly, there was a Mr George Smith involved with the Aldbourne Photographic Society alongside Maurice Crane?

Any and all information welcome: does anyone remember Mr Smith or the calendar from 1947?

West Street Clifford Brown 02


Patrick McEvoy

Thank you to Michael Day for permission to use these photos.  I was extremely moved to hear from Michael today (18th Feb ) that he had visited Tower Hill Memorial and taken a photo of the panels listing the names of the captain and crew of  Dione II.

Freshford War Memorial by Michael Day

Freshford War Memorial by Michael Day Flickr

Patrick McEvoy was the youngest son of Charles McEvoy. Patrick was born in Aldbourne in 1915.  Following the death of his parents, he and older brother Christopher went to live with their Aunt Mary (McEvoy nee Spencer Edwards) in Freshford, Somerset.  Mary was the widow of Charles’ brother, Ambrose.

Just prior to the outbreak of the Second World War Patrick published a book, illustrated by Christopher, called ‘The Gorse and the Briar’.

A reviewer in the Rochdale Observer 7 January 1939 said

“The Christmas season has given me something I shall remember for a long time. It has given me a book which I shall treasure for its simplicity, its directness, its fascinating story, and last (but by no means least) for the clean wind which blows through the gorse and briar of its pages. Patrick McEvoy has the touch of a master, a better touch, I venture say, than the great Borrow himself, when it comes to dealing with gypsy life.”

British Newspaper Archive

In September, 1939, Patrick became a third engineer on a naval patrol boat; but he soon left this service to become a third engineer on merchant ships. It was while was serving in the Merchant Service that an enemy submarine attack brought his career to an end.

I recently discovered a website called ( which details the events leading to the sinking of SS Dione on 4 February 1941.  The account goes on to say that five crew members were picked up by the British steam merchant Flowergate and landed at Glasgow on 8 February 1941; sadly, Patrick was not among the survivors. His body was never recovered.

Michael Day Tower Hill Memorial McEvoy

Tower Hill Memorial by Michael Day Flickr

Michael Day Tower Hill Memorial McEvoy

Tower Hill Memorial by Michael Day Flickr

Patrick is commemorated on the Tower Hill Memorial, which commemorates the men of the Merchant Navy and Fishing Fleets who have no grave but the sea.  He and his brother Christopher, who was killed in action later in the war, are also remembered on the Freshford village war-memorial.

Newspaper Cutting of Poem To Pat McEvoy by James Angell

Newspaper cutting, date and source unknown but possibly written in the early 1950s (from Margaret Palmer)