Saturday, July 28, 2007

He muster done somefink wrong

"You see! If I let you leave the house right now, you'd be in prison, fighting whores for cigarettes." says Prudy Pringleton to daughter Penny in Hairspray. As it turns out, my mother's ancestry seems to be riddled with convicts, transported to Australia between 1790 and 1840.

As a follow up to the recent Old Bailey post, I located the ship's convict register for the Neptune of the Second Fleet. This shows my 4x great-grandfather, Tom Golledge/College in the right-hand column. The Neptune's journey was a horrific experience for these convicts, as recounted here.

Another of my maternal ancestors, James Wales, is getting his past fleshed out with new information on the convicts. The convict musters of early NSW are now online care of, and provide the closest thing to a census for that period.

His NSW marriage certificate indicated he was born in Yarmouth, but I had not located any Wales family on the Isle of Wight. I suspected he may have been from Great Yarmouth in Norfolk, and that is indeed where the convict records place him. Convicted in Norfolk in 1835, he was sentenced to 14 years transportation, and landed in the colonies in 1837.

I'm now on the track of John Cox, born in NSW in 1830, he appears to be the son of two convicts, William Cox (of Hampshire?) and Mary Welsh. William Cox was under a death sentence initially, so between that and Tom Golledge's Neptune voyage it's a wonder I'm here at all.

I saw the film-of-the-musical-of-the-film Hairspray last night. I was a little apprehensive, as I loved John Water's original film in 1988, and the musical adaptation in 2002. I was lucky enough to have been living in Seattle when that had its world premiere, and got to hear Harvey Fierstein's famous 4-note range in his turn as Edna Turnblad. This time John (Grease) Travolta played that role, up against Michele (Grease II) Pfeiffer's arch-bitch Velma Von Tussle. Unfortunately I missed the opening 2-3 songs as the Crewe cinemaplex box office had but a single ticket seller on a Friday night and the long line dragged and dragged. Lots of young girls dressed a la mode de Paris Hilton. Both script and Marc Shaiman's clever yet joyous songs seemed to go way over the head of most of the audience.

Finished Kyril Bonfiglioli's pre-prequel to the Mortdecai thrillers, All the Tea in China. It's an amusing enough tale of a young adventurer seeking his fortune in mid-19th century China, but tends to get bogged down in minutiae and Bonfiglioli's obsession with food.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Not stoked

Man of Fire, fleeing Stoke.

Yesterday we had a very quick trip into Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent's central area. It must be the drabbest, least appealing city centre I've found in the UK to date. Today, we revisted Chester, whose Tudor buildings disguise an otherwise conventional English high street.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007


Newsletter photo taken in Venice in March 2007.

My first news of the morning is that I'm now a patron of Barking Mad, the Australian lobby group for owners of companion animals. This follows a series of email exchanges with Eedra Zay, the group's energetic founder.

Since I first wrote about Barking Mad here, they've managed to secure access to Sydney's bus network. This is most welcome news, since Bondi and I are accustomed to using the UK's bus and train network without any fuss, not to mention comparable networks in France, Germany, Italy etc. Lack of access to trains, ferries and outdoor tables at cafés are my other pet peeves in Sydney. While it no longer affects me directly, restrictions on accommodation for pet owners is another huge issue.

On that score, I should show some perverse gratitude to Meriton, as they are one of the prime motivaters for this journey. In 2004 their salespeople assured me that I would be able to purchase a particular apartment in central Sydney AND have my dog there. However after laying out money in the settlement process, their legal people rejected this, refusing to budge on the additional pet clause that the sales people asked for. I had one of the last laughs, because the apartment languished unsold for months more as Sydney property prices dropped, and then the block's body corporate voted to make it pet friendly. So Meriton lost money on broken promises, and I have visited 28 countries around pet-friendly Europe. Every cloud has a furry lining.

We're leaving Wales today just as the sun decides it might like to show for longer than a few minutes. However the effects of the disastrous flooding around the River Severn require that we drive up to Crewe today on the coast route via Aberystwyth, and then across Snowdonia, some of my favourite scenery in all of Europe.

Next week we begin a longish sojourn in Scotland, our first chance to return since walking from Fort William to Inverness along the Great Glen Way in 2005. We're starting with a few days on the Isle of Arran, and then we have the remainder of August in Edinburgh, timed to coincide with all of its festivals. I'm hoping to get up to the Orkneys (Skara Brae!) and Hebrides (sea kayaking!) after that.

The Grey Havens

Grey skies over Pembroke forshadowed a less than exciting day after the weekend's Potterdammerung. After lunch we ventured to some of the most south-westerly parts of Pembrokeshire: Dale, Little Haven and Broad Haven.

James gave me a quick history lesson,recounting how Henry Tudor returned to Britain, landing in Dale (above, but not in a Mirror dinghy) in 1485. From there he marched to Bosworth Field, where Richard III was slain and Henry took the throne.

Ways to die in Little Haven

Bondi took to the waters in Little Haven (above) which surprised me greatly, because even though he enjoys a swim, he finds waves, even gentle ripples, rather disconcerting. A young man whom Alison had passed on the "Malamute, Malamute, 8, no, Malamute" mantra, in turn told his friend that Bondi was an Alaskan mally ... dude.

The one picture that I missed getting was of a gentleman in shorts and long socks out walking his black rabbit, on a leash. Long socks! Really!

Pining for cheesecake.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Taking a trip to the quay of Lawrenny

Today I took Alison and James out to lunch at their nomination of the Quayside Tearoom in Lawrenny. It's somewhat off the beaten track, in a corner of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park , but the food and friendly owners make it a real find for this part of Wales.

After lunch, where I introduced them to the joy of a jug of Pimm's, we took one of the circular walks overland. We returned for coffee and cake, where I cunningly took the opportunity to take some photos of A&J on behalf of their photo-starved children.

With the rain still in abeyance, we went on another walk around Garron Pill, a hidden waterway with a somewhat spooky atmosphere.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Pottering about in Pembroke

The bell rang at about 8.30am, a deathly hollow sound. It was the post with a delivery of 607pp of Harry Potter. The day's reading was set out before me, although not without interruption. James and Alison took us out to Freshwater West Beach, where the Welsh National Surfing Championships are held. There were over a dozen hardy souls out on boards today, mostly enrolled in a class. Bondi had a mad romp on the sand, trying to impress a bewildered border collie.

We stopped in for tea, scones and cake at Auntie Vi's Bosherston cafe. All the staff recognise Bondi from 5 photos of him and me arranged around her salon, and Vi was quick to pronounce that I had been there in late January. [ I checked and it's 6 months to the day.] I was interrogated on my subsequent travels, and specifically directed to describe how I got from one point to another. That was OK for my short trip to Sweden in February, but fortunately for all of us I didn't have to step through 105 days of travel around Europe in my car after that.

Our last stop for the day was a part of the Stackpole Estate that I had not seen before, with a glorious view down one of the lakes.
Harry Potter was finished around 11.30pm. I was glad to have it out of the way on what is probably the only day that one could safely read it without being advised of its ending.

Friday, July 20, 2007

The Old Bailey

We drove west to Pembroke again, headed for cousins Alison & James. It's a very wet run, as Britain overflows with the tears of readers worried that Harry Potter and friends are going to die in the concluding volume of the series.

Over dinner we run through our halting advances in family history knowledge, especially over our common ancestry in north Wales.

I've been reviewing holes in my own pedigree, especially relating to some of my convict ancestors (on my mother's side). Alison suggests I try the Old Bailey's online records for trial transcripts of transported convicts. Here I unearth the record for my earliest Australian ancestor, Tom Golledge/Gollege/College, transported for 7 years for stealing a "cornelian seal set in gold".

One of my goals is to locate where all my ancestors originated from prior to Australia, a task about 80% completed. I stumble across 3 sources that add some more details to the family background of Irish immigrants on my mother's side. They show these ancestors came from Cavan and Galway, and also provide a lot of information about siblings of my direct forebears and the names of families they married into. I'm intrigued that the names Kelly, Kelaher and McCosker might indicate I'm related to people I worked with in one company.

Day on Wye

I spent an age on Tuesday getting up to London to collect my laptop. I'd contacted DHL through their tracking site on Friday, asking them to hold it in Pembroke, but they didn't get around to responding to me until 4 days later, when I was an hour outside of London. When I picked up the laptop, I found that Acer had basically squandered the month it had spent with them, without making the unit much better. Where once it wouldn't charge, it now turns off totally at random, and not all the keys on the new keyboard work. That was after £280+. The unit was also returned with the note that instructed them to call me before despatch to obtain the new address.

After that, a night in Gloucestershire and then on to Hay-on-Wye, Wales' book town, my sa-nav directing me through the Vale of Ewyas. I thought I'd exhausted Hay's stocks on my preceding 3 visits but spotted some old editions of Beverley Nichols titles in one window that I grabbed for a small sum.

We're staying with Ross and his menagerie, our first visit in 18 months. The menagerie has been enhanced with the addition of Meep, an affectionate wiry-haired terrier. Sadly, Judy, Bondi's playmate on earlier visits is on her last legs.

Four of us set out to Builth Wells, for a walk along the Wye. The river is high and fast, swollen by the almost unremitting rain. Bondi steps into a shallow area to lap up as much fresh water as he can manage, while Meep dances around on the shore. Back in town, Ross takes me to the local second-hand book store, where I snap another paperback copy of Thurber's The 13 Clocks & The Wonderful O for 50p.

Bondi and Meep

On to Pembroke tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Muzzle under the wrist

Maureen hinted that I should get out my digital piano for an airing, which prompted Bondi to come over and beg for attention. He actually enjoys piano music, or perhaps it might be that he senses I enjoy playing, and he picks up on that. Anyway, when he decides it's time for him to get attention, he uses his muzzle to lift my wrists away from the keyboard.

I'd playing an arrangement given to me by my friend David in Prague last month. I haven't printed it off yet, so I'm just using my old Tablet PC directly on the music stand.

Today is my last day in St Austell for now. Tomorrow it's off to Gloucestershire with a long diversion to London to pick up my repaired laptop. The Acer repair-centre ignored the instructions (written and telephoned) to call me before despatching, so as to get my updated address. Since their repair centre is just up the road in Plymouth, it's doubly frustrating, grrr, but given their track record for customer service, hardly unexpected.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Last night I dreamed I went to Toad Hall again

Fowey (rhymes with Illinois) is another pretty little seaside village within the St Austell area, and the perfect destination for yet another cold, wet Cornish summer's day. Rising steeply from the water, it is necessary to park at the top edge of the village and cautiously shuffle down to the mini-maze of streets below.

Fowey was home to Daphne du Maurier, her seaside house Menabilly inspiring Rebecca's Manderley, and the savage (s)eagulls undoubtedly having some input into The Birds.

Fowey Hotel, where Kenneth Grahame recovered from a bout of pneumonia and began writing Tales of the Riverbank, served as a template for Toad Hall in the fully fledged Wind in the Willows.

Tony and Maureen joined us mid-afternoon for a romp on Par Sands.

Early dinner further west at the fishing village of Mevagissey, which has operated under this name for about 700 years.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Lanhydrock Festival

Bondi tries to levitate toast

Walked Bondi a mile or so into the centre of St Austell at lunchtime. Not much of note, although the Norman church looked interesting from the outside. Much of the downtown area is undergoing a facelift and so the usual disruptions are in place. I spoke to a couple who said they owned a malamute pair, recently enhanced by a litter of 8 puppies(!).

The afternoon and evening were spent at Cornwall's biggest outdoor music event, the Lanhydrock Festival in the grounds of the Georgian Lanhydrock House outside of Bodmin.

Front man for Fiendish Sudoku

The Wailers Band

First up were the horn-enhanced (but u-challenged) Men of Splendor, followed by Wire Daisies, Zambula, the Levellers, and finally the Marley-less Wailers. The Wailers Band started off with a reggae version of Norwegian Wood and then worked through the usual suspects, mixed in with newer works until a 10.45pm close.

The final fireworks were mostly engulfed in the smoke they produced. I'm surprised they didn't cut this part of the programme short as the smoke overtook the crowds pretty quickly.

Normal weather service returned with the resumption of rain just after midnight.

Tinners and Surfers

Microfiche: wedding certificate for Oliver Woolcock and Jenepher Vercoe, 1781

The rain returned with a vengeance today. I drove down to Truro to visit the Cornish Records Office. There I inspected parish records from St Austell, St Blazey and Charlestown until my eyes could stand no more faded, spidery lettering. I did uncover a few tidbits of information, such as that my Woolcock ancestors had married into the Verco(e)/Varco(e) family in two successive generations. I was the recipient of a David Verco scholarship when I was at the University of Sydney ( I assume named after this man ) and it might be interesting to see if there is a family link.

Maureen mentioned there were to be some Aussies competing in surf events at Watergate Bay today, but I missed the bit about it starting at 7pm. When we got there around 4pm, the beach was nonetheless quite busy with surfers even though the weather was totally antithetical to sun-worshippers. Bondi and I had an umbrella'd walk up and down the beach, spoke to a number of other Aussies, bought a stale sausage roll (Bondi got most of it) and then retreated into the mire of Friday afternoon Cornish traffic.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Paternal map

European locations

While in St Austell, I've managed to dig a little deeper into my Cornish ancestry as I have family here up until about 1820. After updating my family tree, I've made some baby steps towards turning this into a geography of the past, by transferring all the places of their births and deaths to a Google Map. The map here shows just the locations for my father's side, and that was about 3 hours work. I'm sure someone could write a PERL script to map points from a GEDCOM file . It's the sort of thing I would expect "next generation" family tree programs to be doing.

Click the map titles to go to a full Google Maps page, which allows zooming. The maps above and below are the same except for centring and zoom-level.

Birthplace Deathplace Lived and died in same place

Australian locations

Thursday, July 12, 2007


Greater St Austell incorporates a number of small villages where my ancestors lived. Besides St Austell itself, there was St Blazey (named after an Armenian bishop, St Blaize) and Charlestown.

Charlestown has been used as a backdrop for the films of Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca and Jane Austen's Mansfield Park. My great-great-great grandmother was born here in 1812 to a family of tin miners.

Down by Charlestown Dock there is a shipwreck and heritage centre which notes that Charlestown was home to the mother-in-law of the inventor of gas lighting, William Murdock. We skipped the tour.

Bondi quickly starts to make himself at home in Tony and Maureen's kitchen.